Friday, June 30, 2017

I see what you did there

Yesterday I saw an advertisement that included this line:

"Become a Mentor Today!"

Today I got a "let's not have another preterm baby, mmmmkay?" packet in the mail and the header for their newsletter is this:

"Learning Moments"

Emphasis, in both cases, is original to the content.

As an amateur graphic designer and linguist with the utmost appreciation of a good pun, I'm begging you:


(As in I want you to stop, get it? Haha. (Not funny, I know.))

A name for baby

When we told the kids that this baby was a boy, I presented a list of names that Andrew and I had compiled, just to test the waters (because naming a child when your other children have opinions is a little more difficult than when you just get to choose).


"Yahoo!!" the children whooped, dancing around the room excitedly. "Alexander! His name is Alexander! His name is Alexander!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I said. "This was a poll, not a vote."

"She'll come around," Andrew said with a smirk.

Miriam's maternity misconceptions

When we told the kids we were having a new baby, one of the very first things they requested was to feel it kick. Although I had felt a few flutterings, I explained to the children that the baby wasn't quite strong enough to feel his kicks from the outside quite yet. A few weeks later, however, there was one morning when the baby was kicking up a storm, so I called the kids in to feel him moving.

I thought they'd be more excited about it, but they honestly weren't that excited at all.

Rachel gave a little, "Huh."

Benjamin put his hand on my belly declared, "Yup! I felt 'im!" when I knew full well that he hadn't felt anything (because if I didn't feel anything from the inside there's no way he felt anything from the outside).

Miriam was the most animated, yanking her hand away from my stomach and squealing, "Ew! It feels like milking a cow!"

"Like milking a cow?!" I sputtered.


"Feeling your little brother move feels like milking a cow?"


"I don't think you're entirely qualified to make that comparison," I sniffed, "Having never milked a cow."

No one has asked to feel the baby move since then (it's been weeks), but perhaps they'll be more interested in feeling the baby when he starts to really wobble around in there.

Choice and accountability

This evening, after I had all the kids in bed, I sat down for my traditional "dark lunch" (six (small) square meals a day, baby), and Andrew actually sat down at the table with me (!) to have his second quasi-meal of the day.

"Ahhh," he sighed as he stuffed a big bite of quesadilla (totally gourmet meal) in his mouth. "A hot meal with a little flavour to it."

I must've given him a funny face because he got a little defensive and said, "Hey, I've been living off of, like, oatmeal on campus. I was in such a groove today that I didn't even cook it."

"What?! Why?! You know that stuff takes, like, a minute to make..."

"Not when you have to get up and walk from your office to the kitchen," he pointed out. "I was just in a really good place in my writing but I was also hungry so I just opened the packet and sprinkled it in my mouth."

I grimaced at him.

"It was kind of gross," he admitted.

"That's it," I said. "I'm never getting a PhD."

"Yeah, don't," he said. "PhDs are the worst."

You'd think this might stir up some empathy within me and encourage me to, like, pack him a lunch or something domestic like that. But, you'd think wrong.

I'm pulling off three meals a day for five people at home (plus, I'm trying to eat for two), so he can pack his own lunch. He's a smart man, he'll be fine. Plus, there's plenty around the house ready to grab: granola bars, yogurt, fruit, nuts.

Sometimes suffering is a choice.

Like when you choose to eat a raw oatmeal packet.

Or when you choose to pursue a PhD. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Oh, poop.

Yesterday I took the kids swimming and Zoë decided, once again, to take a little nap while we were cuddling in the deep end. Soon after she fell asleep, Benjamin bolted out of the pool to the bathrooms.

I've spent the past few weeks training him to use the men's bathroom. He's spent his whole life trailing after me in the women's bathroom so that is where he feels at home but we had an unfortunate run in with some overprotective parents who got really upset with me for allowing my then-four-year-old boy to use the women's restroom.

The problem was that he needed to go potty so he ran off to do so and I didn't follow him quite fast enough because I was coaxing Zoë out of the pool. Apparently—and I totally believe this—he pulled his pants down "early." But then their rant went on to say that he had "exposed" himself "indecently" to an impressionable young girl of eight, who ran to tell her father about "the boy in the girl's bathroom showing his private parts to me."

"He is four years old," I tried explaining. "I'm sure he pulled his pants down before he was in the stall but I'm equally sure it wasn't for the pleasure of exposing himself to anybody. It was because he's recently potty trained and was trying to make it to the toilet in time."

I was told he should be sent to the men's bathroom to take care of his needs if he can't "wait" until he's in the stall to drop his shorts.

"He still needs help pulling up his pants when he's finished," I objected. "Sending him into the men's bathroom alone won't solve his exposure issues since he'll probably end up waddling out to have me help him fix his swim shorts. He's just a little boy."

Kudos for talking with your daughter about these issues and kudos to her going to you when she felt there was an issue. You're doing something right and have an open channel of communication. That's great. We've had these conversations with our children also. But, let me remind you, again, that he is four years old. Not fourteen. Not forty. Four. He left babyhood, like, yesterday. He wasn't showing his private parts off; they were just there. No ill intent. He doesn't know any better. He is four. I don't know what else to tell you but please keep yelling at me in front of all these people.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Li'l prankster

Yesterday while Rachel was in the shower, Andrew taught Zoë a few hilarious pranks.

Now, Zoë isn't one to take to new things very quickly—not even birthday cake or water (two things she loves now, after multiple exposures). She has turned up her nose at pretty much everything ever presented to her since birth. But pranks? She took to those immediately (at least as the one on the dishing out end of things).

First they filled a cup with cold water and dumped it on her.

While Rachel was shrieking in the shower, Zoë ran shrieking out of the bathroom.

"Throw! Aich-o! La-lo!" she managed to say between her laughs. "More! More! More throw!"

Next they turned off all the bathroom lights and the same thing happened—Rachel started shrieking out of consternation while Zoë was shrieking with glee.

"Dark! Aich-o! More dark! More!"

She was clapping her hands and absolutely begging to get Rachel again.

"Are you a prankster?" I asked her.

"Dup," she said.

I'm sure eventually Andrew will regret teaching her these little tricks...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lost time accidents

Today I was making dinner and Zoë was watching. She loves to "see!" while we work in the kitchen, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because observing and doing is how children learn about the world. She loves to fetch spoons and hot pads or whatever we might need while we cook. The downside, of course, is that she's a limit-pushing toddler.

When I took the pan off the stove to take to the table, I reminded her it was time to climb down from her stool and cautioned, "The stove is still very hot. Don't touch!"

She looked at me with defiance, stuck out one little finger, and touched the stove—just to ensure I wasn't making stuff up.

I wasn't.

She crashed to the floor from her perch, wailing about "HUUURRRRT!"

Well, duh. 

We ran her finger under cold water until her "ow-me" felt "kay" again. She hopped down and went to play with her siblings (who were busy in the living room creating a masterpiece out of DUPLO), only to run back to me minutes later screaming, "HUUURRRT!!! More la-lo! More la-lo!"

So I helped her hop back onto her stool so she could run some more cold water over her finger. 

Here's a sad little Zoë:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Happy Birthday to me

The children spent the morning fighting until I lost it with them and cried, "It is my birthday! I have no presents. I have no cake. It's raining and Dad took the car so we can't even go anywhere. The least you can do is get along for a little while!"

They tried a bit harder after that, but it was still a little bit of a letdown of a birthday. 

We tried to turn things around in the afternoon by walking to the pool (in the rain), swimming (in the rain), and walking home from the pool (in the rain). We were lucky it was just drizzling instead of the downpours we've had the past few days. 

When I was on swim team we'd occasionally (at least once every summer) have what was called "Hell Week." You can probably imagine what that entails—a whole lot of sets and drills that no one really wants to do. I think it was meant to push us to our limits. Or to help us appreciate the next week when the coach went back to normal instead of the crazed coach of fury from Hell Week. 

It's not my favourite phrase, but it is what it is.

Andrew is in Dissertation Hell Week(s) right now. He's writing and writing like he's running out of time because, quite literally, he is. He has everything planned out and outlined and is just picking off sections and pounding them out. He's gone before we wake up (unless someone has a doctor appointment), he doesn't get home until bedtime, and then once the kids are in bed he's back to the old grinding stone until well past midnight. 

Zoë at 2 years

This morning Zoë had her two-year check-up. She's tallish (34.5 inches; 69th percentile) but rather thin (24 lbs; 16th percentile), which the doctor said was fine compared to how chubby she was at 6 months because breastfed babies tend to do that (chunk out before petering out).

Zoë was so excited to get to go to the doctor—really she was just excited that she was going to get to leave the house with Mommy while everyone else had to stay at home with Daddy. But she also loves stethoscopes and was excited that the doctor was going to listen to her heart. She happily put on her shoes and marched out of the house. She happily strode across the parking lot and bravely announced that she wanted to be the one to set off the sensor for the automatic door.

But once we were inside and she started to remember what goes on in a place like this she wasn't so happy about being there anymore. She did not want to go back there when the nurse called her name, but she followed anyway and cooperated for all of her measurements. Then she sat on my lap and cried until the doctor came in. Even though I explained that she wasn't going to have any shots she just couldn't relax.

Right now she negates a lot of things by shaking her head. So she'll say exactly the thing that she doesn't want but will shake her head while saying it.

Whenever Andrew gets her into her pyjamas she always reminds him, "Tickle!" but with a head shake, so, don't tickle!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Afternoon adventure

We went to the museum after lunch for some much needed time away from our half-packed house. Today was a perfect day for it because the rain is taking a break (it's a rainy, rainy week 'round these parts) and yesterday's storm cooled things off nicely so it wasn't too hot. The museum wasn't too crowded, either, because half of it is closed. 

One of the exhibits houses some endangered red wolves as part of a breeding program. They finally saw some success and a litter of pups was born a couple of months ago. Puppies sound a lot like children because—wouldn't you know it?—those little wolf pups managed to sneak out of their enclosure!

While they pose no threat to people (yet), they closed off the wilderness area while they searched for them. They found a couple on the outside of the fenced area on Tuesday evening. Their dad was trying to feed them regurgitated meat through the fence when they were spotted.

The last little pup had to weather yesterday's storm all on her own—the torrential downpour and lightning-filled sky must have been frightening for such a little thing! She, too, found her way back to the enclosure on her own this morning (though she had to be helped back inside). 

I think they spent the rest of the day looking for pesky puppy escape routes and sealing them up.

Anyway, because half the museum was closed off to visitors a lot of people chose not to visit the museum. But we did! Even though we didn't get to see the baby wolves we still had a fun time. 

We visited the farm:

A Benjamin blunder

Last night we were on a walk and Benjamin was his usual uncontainable self, running ahead to "beat" everybody, running back to "find" everybody, suddenly stopping to look at this or that, "flying" around like a dragon, yanking on his little sister's arm, yelling at the top of his lungs. You know, that kind of thing.

I saw a t-shirt awhile ago that mused "I'm a mom. I work from son up to son down."

There's little I can do to wear this child out. Today we went for a walk after breakfast, then we walked to the pool, swam for three hours, and walked home. Then he played outside in the heat. And he still didn't go to bed easily.

But I digress.

We were out walking yesterday and he was being boisterous and wild. We were coming up to a big van parked on the side of the road (which he managed to avoid running into; no small feat for him) and he loudly proclaimed, "I'M GOING TO KICK MY BUTT!" meaning, of course, that he was going to run with such vim that his heels would be making contact with his rear end.

So, anyway, he hollered these words and then took off running goofily past the van, only to come to a screeching halt when a couple of rather amused-looking neighbours stepped out from the other side of the van.

Benjamin was mortified. The rest of us burst out laughing.

Andrew pointed out that his mortification proves that although we rarely see evidence of it within our own four walls, the boy is picking up social cues (and recognized that he just pulled a nice faux pas). So he is learning...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Acceptance letters are exciting

Andrew and I were excited when we got into BYU.

We were excited when he got accepted at AUC.

We were excited when he got into BYU (again).

We were excited to be here at Duke.

But this morning FedEx rang our doorbell and delivered what is, perhaps, the most exciting letter of all—a job offer! We'll be heading back to BYU (because we just can't get enough of that place) for a one-year assistant professorship. We have no idea what we'll be doing beyond this one year, but at least we have a one-year plan in place.

We've been sitting around biting our nails for quite some time, and although we still have quite a few ducks yet to get in line, at least we know what direction to prod those unruly ducks.

Why Miriam had that not-so-sharp pencil at the piano

Miriam has been busy transcribing a song (Down in the Valley) on the piano. She began plucking the tune out by ear and then asked for a blank page of sheet music so she could write it down. She's doing a great job, from my layman's view.

She just finished with the melody and realized that although she decided on the key of C, every F was sharped and her song began and ended on D. At first she thought it might be in the key of G, due to the F sharp, but the D part was boggling her mind.

At ukulele one day, my friend Laura told us that you can usually tell what key a song is in by its ending note. My mind was blown (but that's pretty easy to do when it comes to music theory). Anyway, having remembered this little tidbit, Miriam decided that her song must be in the key of D major—with an F sharp and a C sharp (even though there is no C in the song).

All she's got to figure out now is what her left hand is going to do.

I was not doing this kind of thing when I was seven.

(I also wasn't stabbing people with pencils, but, you know...)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Backstabbing little sisters

Rachel let out an ear-piercing scream, stormed off to her room, and slammed the door. 

"What now?" I asked, my patience already worn tissue paper thin by today's shenanigans.

"You told us to clean our rooms so we could go to the pool," Miriam explained.

"Yes, but why did Rachel scream?"

"Because I was playing the piano."

"Yes, but why did she scream?"

"Because I told her to give me one minute, so she started counting to one minute, but she was counting too fast, so I told her so."

"And that made her scream?"

"Well, she got mad and started playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star really loudly on the piano."

"Yes, I heard that part. But what made her scream like that?"

"She was playing so loud that I couldn't even think!"


"So...I stabbed her with a not-so-sharp pencil."

Mmmhmmm. That's the kind of day we had. The kind of day where one of your sweet-natured little girls stabs the other in the back with a (not-so-sharp (but sharp enough to have left its mark)) pencil.

Fortunately we're all friends again. The girls are even having a sleepover in Rachel's room tonight (though one of them didn't think it was particularly fair that she is now having "lights out" time while Rachel is having "extra show" time, but one of them has a hole in her back and the other does not, so it looks pretty darn fair to me).

Tomorrow we're going for a stab-free day.

Setting that bar real high.

Swimming solo

It felt like a billion degrees today, though it was only in the high 80s, so we were quite surprised when we arrived at the pool and found we had it—in all its lukewarm glory—to ourselves. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pool naps, eczema, and getting married

Andrew took the van in for a tune up today, in preparation for its maiden (at least at our hands) voyage across the continent, so the kids and I walked to the pool this afternoon for a swim. In the past we've often walked, but in recent history walking to the pool and then swimming and then walking home has been a little tiring. Nevertheless, it's what we did. And we had fun.

We played for a couple of hours and Zoë even had a nap.

She can get quite wild at the pool, jumping in, paddling over to the side, and climbing out to do it all over again. She didn't ever want anyone to catch her, screaming at them, "No! No! No!" while waving her little palm at them (her older sisters, in particular, kept trying to catch her). She's quite confident in her little puddle jumper (and even without it).

Eventually she got plum worn out and wanted me to hold her, which, in the pool, I can do!

Not lifting anything over 20 lbs. is quite a difficult command to follow when the little 20-something lbs. person in your house has been used to being carried around for her whole life. We still get some good snuggles in the rocking chair or sitting on the couch or lying in bed together, but it's just not the same as being carried around.

Sure, she's gained quite a lot of independence since I began refusing, at my doctor's orders, to pick her up (if by "independence" you mean "allowing Rachel to carry her around," which I do, because in the past she was a strict "momma only" girl), but I think she feels like there's a part of her life missing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Parked cars and cupboard doors

Today while we were out on a family walk, Benjamin ran into a parked truck and gave himself a lovely goose egg. We were all just walking along when there was a loud *clunk* followed by a tremendous amount of screaming.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Learning about life

While going through Rachel's end-of-year papers, I came across a rough draft of a poem about mothers (I assume it's a rough draft because it's similar to but not the same as the one she wrote in the Mother's Day card she gave me).

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Containing contaminants

We didn't go swimming today, although everyone would have loved to.

In celebration of the end of the school year, we took the kids to Barnes and Noble to pick out their summer reading book (read any eight titles and choose a free book; not a bad deal) and then took them out to dinner at Cracker Barrel (we had a gift card to use) before coming home to watch the new Beauty and the Beast with Hermione Granger and Matthew Crawley (I mean, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens).

In the middle of the movie Zoë sprinted off to her little potty, making it in time only to half-way sit on it before exploding diarrhea into her potty, onto the floor, and even spraying the wall a bit.

Andrew was a champ and cleaned her up and got her into the bathtub in the kids' bathroom. I watched her in there while Andrew cleaned up the mess she'd made in our bathroom.

A couple rounds of this later, the movie ended and we were getting the kids ready for bed. Andrew had wrapped Zoë in a towel (again) and laid her on the bed, ready to slap a nighttime diaper on her at lightning speed before she could poop all over him. Apparently she was done with that end of the spectrum, however, because instead she threw up all over our bed and the towel and herself.

While Andrew, my hero, dealt with that, I made the other kids clean everything off their floors, remove superfluous stuffed animals and blankets from their beds, and pick out a throw up bowl to sleep with.

You can never be too careful.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Goodbye to Easley

Today was the last day of school, so I picked up the girls and took some goodbye pictures. 

Here's Miriam with Ms. Gillie:

GD, round 3

I feel like I won today. Not only did I get my 17P shot, but I also got full, official support for not taking the 3-hour glucose test because, yes, I failed my first one-hour test. When the coordinator (or whoever) called me to let me know that I'd failed and started explaining the test, I kind of cut her off, explaining that I'd already seen my results online and would like to decline the 3-hour test in favour of beginning treatment immediately.

"Oh, I don't know..." she hemmed. "It's very important to get an accurate diagnosis..."

"Is it, though?" I asked. "I had gestational diabetes with my last two pregnancies so my chances of getting it again are pretty high already. Considering I failed the one-hour test, I don't think my chances of passing the three-hour test are very good. Even if I do pass the three-hour test they'll have me retake the one-hour test in a couple of weeks, which I will probably fail, which means I'd have to take another three-hour test. Why put myself through all of that—keeping the drink down and getting my blood drawn and finding childcare... I would rather just not and call myself diabetic."

"I'll have to talk to the doctor about it and get back to you," she said, but she never did.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Medical Covfefe

Due to Benjamin's spontaneous premature delivery, I'm a marked woman. I fell into the high risk category with Zoë and I'm high risk this time around as well. There's no way around it, really.

With Zoë they had me take 17P, a progesterone injection, to help relax my uterus (which can be quite cantankerous) and convince my body not to go into labour. Under its patented name, Makena, this injection is quite cost prohibitive—about $1000 per week for about 20 weeks!

(If you looked at that link, you'd see that each injection is only 1 mL, which costs only (haha) $767.98, but they send you an "extra" fifth mL in each monthly shipment just "in case" you mess up a dose, so it winds up being more expensive due to the fifth dose you aren't using every four weeks).

I have consistently had private insurance but my insurance wasn't willing to cover this medication with Zoë so we applied for medicaid, and medicaid covered it, and Zoë was born healthy at full term. Hooray.

Still, the whole story behind the cost of this medication makes me fuming mad.

Wrapping up the school year

Yesterday the kids had their end-of-year celebrations and since I'm one of three room parents in Miriam's class and the room parent in Rachel's class, I got to do a bit of the planning and carrying out of said celebrations (they are always celebrations; never parties (school is not for partying)). 

Fortunately, one of the other room moms in Miriam's class took over the bulk of the planning and grade four decided to do a grade-level celebration, which meant I got to plan in conjunction with the room parents from the other grade four classes because...I'm kind of feeling overwhelmed with life right now. I don't know how I would have pulled off two end-of-year activities on my own, so I'm glad I didn't have to!

Miriam's celebration was first. A pizza lunch was planned for both Miriam and Rachel, but I only paid for us to eat with Rachel's class (since we worked it out to be cheaper and, well, at this stage in our lives I'm kind of a major cheapskate) so before we went into Miriam's class I spoke with Benjamin about how we were only going to Miriam's party to take some pictures and help. We were not going to eat because we were going to eat with Rachel's class in just a little while. So were we going to eat anything? No. No, we were not going to eat anything.

Next thing I know, he's eaten two pieces of obviously our little talk really sank in.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Miriam's musings

It's the end of the school year, which, along with the regular craziness and relief, is also bringing a bit of heartache. I signed the forms to withdraw my kids from their school today since they won't be going back next year; I guess this gives them permission to forward whatever is necessary to the new school...or something. It was just another nail in the coffin of this chapter of our life in Durham.

Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye, so I'm a little sad the year is ending. But at the same time I'm relieved that all the class parties will be over with (tomorrow!) and that we can kiss our alarm clocks goodbye. I'm also excited to see all the work the kids have been hiding at school.

Sure, 90% (or more) of it will end up in the recycling bin but there are some real gems in there, as well. Today Miriam brought home her writing folder.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Benjamin is 5!

We celebrated Benjamin's birthday throughout the day, starting with presents because we figured we'd have a happier day if he was able to playing with his new things rather than merely anticipating their arrival. 

His big sisters gave him some frisbees and Naanii and Bumpa sent a dragon fireball popper toy that was a huge hit. The kids had fun playing with those for quite some time in the morning. 

Zoë gave him a package of socks because somehow his socks are no where to be found—all of them! They're just gone. I suppose it's about time he got some new socks, anyway, since his old ones are a couple of years old, but still. How do you misplace all your socks?

When he opened them he said, "What?! Zoë! Mom bought these. You just wrapped them! I don't know if that counts..."

Lazy two-year-old. 

He was happy to have new socks, though.

Ichabod Ruggles

I had my second ultrasound today. This time it was transabdominal, thank goodness ( because the one to determine the due date was transvaginal not very much fun). Baby is very clearly a boy and everything is measuring beautifully. The only thing we couldn't get a clear picture of was his face because...

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Book walk

Last night I took the kids on a walk before bed and they were very excited to find a bin of books in a neighbour's yard marked "FREE." They rifled through the bin and each found a treasure (or two or three) to take home.