Thursday, June 21, 2018

So instead we went to Iceland

It's the first day of summer, so naturally today was supposed to be quite a bit hotter than it has been so far this year. We've mostly stuck to home this week so I suggested that we go off on an adventure—an easy, shady river trail to Dripping Rock where the kids could splash in the cool mountain water!

I carefully planned out my route so that I could avoid hopping on the highway (because this girl doesn't hop on the highway) and once the kids were loaded in the van we took the circuitous route through town only to find that the one road that would connect me from Canyon Road to East River Bottoms Road (3400 E) is closed due to construction.

Now that I'm looking at the map again, I suppose we could have driven all the way past the cemetery (we ended up driving there, anyway) and hopped onto Scenic Drive. Or I guess 1400 E would have eventually gotten us to East River Bottoms as well. But I'm not a very adventurous driver and running into that "Road Closed" sign killed my ambition.

So instead we made our way to Centennial Park—a very hot and sunny alternative. Still, it was fun to explore a new playground. There were no swings, which Benjamin (who recently learned how to pump) was disappointed to discover, but there was a lot more to climb on and several more slides.

Here's Rachel climbing a support pole (not technically part of the playground):

Floor Ice Cream Scandal

While Andrew was dishing out ice cream this evening, I was flipping through the little instruction/ideas manual that came the science kit Benjamin got for his birthday. It claims to have "over 50 ideas!" does. But more than half of them require items not included in the kit. Some ideas only include items not included in the kit. And that thing is rife with spelling words.

In the middle of my criticism of this booklet, Andrew flipped a gigantic scoop of ice cream out of the container. It flew through the air and fell on the floor.

I snorted and laughed, "Honestly..."

Andrew examined the glob of ice cream and announced, "It's fine."

He plopped it in a bowl and continued scooping. I continued to tell him the silly things the science booklet was instructing us to do.

"Cut a small strip of regular white coffee filter paper and put it to your tongue. Keep it on your mouth for 5 seconds. Now you know what regular paper tastes like," I read.

But, honestly, I think every child knows what regular paper tastes like already. And why does it have to be coffee filter paper. Why not just regular paper?

The point of that exercise, in case you were wondering, is that approximately 70% of people in the world (according to our booklet) can taste the bitterness of a PTC strip. So, once you taste regular paper and then taste a PTC strip you'll know whether you fall into that 70%. (This 70% thing checks out on Wikipedia, so that's reassuring).

The book also tells you how to make a red cabbage indicator (hint: boil red cabbage) but then doesn't tell how to use it, so you'll just be left with a pot full of cabbage water wondering why.

Blog stuff

Andrew, who served me floor ice cream this evening, has been trying to wean me off of Picasa for several years now. He says my computer is the only computer in the entire world that still has Picasa installed. He tells me it hasn't been updated since 2015, which in computer years means the program is a relic. He installed Lightroom on my computer and shoots me judgmental stares whenever he sees I have Picasa open instead.

Lightroom simply has a steeper learning curve (says the girl who has been using Picasa since its early days (circa 2006 for me) so maybe the learning curve isn't true and I'm just a creature of habit).

One reason I couldn't give up Picasa, though, was that making collages was so easy (and comfortable) and I didn't want to be throwing things into Photoshop all the time (because that also has a relatively steep learning curve). When I blog I just want things to be easy.

Enter Adobe Spark.

It's free.* Its interface is relatively user friendly (at any rate, it has so far seemed easier and more intuitive than, say, other Adobe programs that take quite some time to really master (says the girl who only ever took one design class (and it was so long ago that we used Quark) so mostly is self/husband-taught in InDesign). And, the final products look pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I used it to make the Boise/Stockholm collages!

In a future installment: Andrew drags Nancy, kicking and screaming, over to WordPress...

* Though apparently if you don't own it, Adobe slaps a watermark on the finished project. We have a Creative Cloud subscription so there's no watermark for us (typesetting-husband perks).

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Meanwhile, back in...

Earlier this month I attended the Mormon History Association conference (in Boise—oh, boy!), which was my first professional conference in years. Soon after we moved here, I did an interview with Heather Stone, who was collecting oral histories of women who had moved from a Mormon-minority community to a Mormon-majority community during their Young Women years (12–18) sometime between 1975 and 2000.

I first moved to Utah in 2000 so I just barely made the cutoff!

She presented at MHA, but wanted to do a "public history presentation" and rather than simply present her findings, she brought along some of her interviewees as a sort of "display." So I, along with five other women, prepared a 7-minute monologue drawn from stories we told Heather during our interview.

It honestly was difficult for me to squeeze what I wanted to share into seven minutes and I wasn't really sure that what I was saying was particularly noteworthy. But also, I suppose it didn't matter because the whole idea was that it was simply a collection of stories, and everyone has a story.

Oddly enough, I was nervous to share my stories out loud. I feel fine sharing things here—on the blog—for all the world to read, but telling parts of my story to a room full of people was rather difficult. To be honest, I had the same catch-in-my-gut feeling when a secretary at the Sanford school asked if she could forward my post about graduation to the rest of the school to read. Like, I guess I know people read my blog but also I don't think that many people read the blog (we have numbers on this so we know the audience isn't exactly wide). It spooks me a little when people admit to reading my blog even though I know full well that it's public.

Poopy face

"Mommy, I need you to help me wipe my bum!" came the cry from the bathroom.

Though I prefer to potty train my children fairly young, I don't expect them to take care of hygiene on their own for quite some time. In fact, I strongly discourage solo wiping because there are simply some things that I'd rather take care of myself, especially when it comes to bathrooms (which give me the skeevies).

Just the other day, for example, I heard Zoë tinkering around in the bathroom and asked her what she was doing. "I'm just cleaning the toilet!" came her reply and I just about died because the very last thing I wanted was a three-year-old splashing toilet water all around the bathroom (ew, ew, ew).

When Andrew bathes the kids he will put the lid of the toilet down and sit on it; the very idea is enough to make me ill.

So to avoid getting poopy messes all over the place, I train my kids to call me to wipe their bums until I think they're old enough to wipe themselves. Sometimes, however, children seek independence earlier than I'd like and today was one of those days. I walked into the bathroom and found Zoë hunkered down by the toilet, rather frustratedly picking bits of soiled toilet paper from her fingers. Poop was smeared all over the toilet seat. It was a rather big mess.

"It's on my hands!" she cried in mortification. "I can't do it!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Poetry without borders

Yesterday the church announced that they'll be releasing new versions of the hymn book and children's songbook. They have a survey up for people to take so members can share things they like about the books as well as things they don't. And they've asked for submissions of new works and so forth.

Poetry swirls in my brain constantly, though I don't write much of it down, but I thought it would be fun to try to write some song lyrics to submit. I think my chances of creating anything noteworthy is slim, not because I don't think I'm capable of writing well but because I think I'm incapable of escaping the slightly silly, slightly sarcastic tone my poetry is wont to take.

It's a family curse, I swear.

As proof, I offer first to you poem Andrew's ancestor, Joseph Stacey Murdock, wrote:

Come, listen to a prophet’s voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the way of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.
We’ve found the way the prophets went
Who lived in days of yore.
Another prophet now is sent
This knowledge to restore.

Monday, June 18, 2018

At the dinner table

"Merci," Miriam said.

"De rien," I answered.

"Gracias," Rachel said a few minutes later.

"De nada," I replied.

"America," Benjamin said.

We all looked at him and blinked.

"What?" I asked.

"America," he repeated, patiently yet expectantly.

Murmurs of confusion swirled around the table.

"Ugh!" he said, throwing up his arms in great frustration. "Washington, DC, guys! Come on!"

And when still no one caught on he added quietly, "But aren't we playing Name That Capitol?"

In his defense, we've been playing that game at the dinner table a lot recently so I can see how he thought that we were perhaps playing that came, what with the call-and-response format my exchanges with the girls had taken.

In our defense, weren't playing that game so we had every right to be confused.

Those Durham days we used to know... (May 10–14)

After stumbling off the plane (red-eye flights with a baby in tow are a terrible idea, FYI) we took the shuttle to the rental car place where we picked up our economy car. Book an economy car online was a bit of a gamble because there wasn't really a way to request a four-door vehicle—we'd either get a two-door or a four-door—so when they handed us the keys and pointed to a tiny black car in the parking lot I panicked a little. We obviously had not scored a four-door vehicle.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Buffets and Bowling

Yesterday the kids and I played a game of bowling on the Wii (and—not to brag, but—I totally won; with a couple of turkeys my score was well over 200) and then they were talking about how fun it would be to go bowling in real life (you know, because clearly we're awesome at bowling (according to the Wii). So this afternoon the kids and I headed into campus to meet Andrew at work for a family date.

We went to the Cannon Center for dinner. The older three kids all chose to have the chicken-fried steak/mashed potatoes/mixed vegetables plate for their main course while we were lucky to get Zoë to eat "fruit poops."

Oh, you haven't heard the fruit poop story? Well that's because I feel like I hardly have time to sit down to write anymore because someone is always crying (stop crying, children, so I can write your histories). 

The short and sweet version of this story is that I do my best to avoid serving my children "sugar cereals," the exception being their birthdays when they get to choose whatever birthday cereal they want. Their most popular birthday pick is Lucky Charms (or whatever rip-off brand is available) so Zoë hasn't yet been exposed to a wide variety of sugar cereal. 

When we went up to visit Auntie Emily's family back in April, we stayed at a hotel that had free breakfast and their little buffet included Froot Loops (or whatever rip-off brand it was) and Zoë was 100% sure that she wanted those. But she was also wearing rainbow pyjamas so she was pretty darn cute with that bowl of Froot Loops. 

"Hey, Zoë!" Benjamin said good-naturedly. "You loop like a fruit loop!"

She turned to him in disgust and snarled, "I am not a fruit poop, Benny!"

April 29, 2018

Duke Graduation Ceremony (May 12)

Andrew defended his dissertation on July 21, 2017; we moved on July 24, and after arriving in Utah he had a couple of weeks to submit his revisions. He officially graduated on September 1, but his diploma didn't arrive in the mail until September 24 (which was quite a while ago).

September 24, 2017
So it felt a little odd to fly back to Durham to attend the graduation ceremony in May. We feel at once like we've just left (it hasn't even been a year!) and that graduate school was eons ago (it's been almost a year!); whichever way we happened to be feeling at any given moment, it was wonderful to go back to North Carolina (if only for a few days). 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Little lies and language learning

"Benny peed in his pants!" Zoë tattled (somewhat triumphantly—because she really had him this time!) after flinging the back door open.

"He did what?!" I groaned.

He hollered at her to get back outside, "Zoë!"

She ran back outside and he told her a few things and she poked her head back inside to announce sheepishly, "Benny did not pee in his pants."

Clearly this was a matter that needed to be sorted out, but I certainly didn't want to be the one to do it. I was tired. It had been quite a trying day and—did I mention this?—my husband was no help (because he was in Sweden). I sighed heavily (it's yogic) and went outside.

"Hi, Mom," Benjamin said, meeting me at the door. "I'm going to tell you The Truth."

"Great," I said. "That's exactly what I want."

"The truth is: I didn't pee in my pants."

"Fabulous. Then tell me what you did do."

"I just did."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

End of the school year

Benjamin had his last day of school on May 18—which means he's been out of school for nearly a month already! He was quite excited for the end of the school year, mostly because he thought he'd immediately move into grade one (he was obsessing about "practicing making [his] lunch" so that he could be ready for the big day). He was a little let down when he realized he had the whole summer to kill before he'd get to move up a grade.

Our rising first grader

Monday, June 11, 2018

No good can come from bad

I have a million other things to write about but I feel like today would be a good day for Flashback Friday to end its hiatus (it's Monday, though, so perhaps we'll call today Memory Monday) because I've been searching through the archives and though I referenced this story in passing I never really told the story.

Certain current events, however, have made this story seem even more harrowing than I think it felt at the time. I was terrified and angry at the time, yet also felt this sense of control because what was happening felt too ludicrous to be allowed. Surely the border control officer was joking. The very idea was laughable; no one in their right mind would allow it. So of course it couldn't happen, wouldn't happen.

And it didn't happen. Not to me.

But apparently it is happening!

And perhaps I'll talk about that a little bit, but first, the story:

In 2009 we were living in Egypt—a full-blown dictatorship at the time—and my friend Jaehee (a Korean citizen) had to exit the country in order to renew her visa. Since her husband and my husband were both in the middle of their master's degree programs and couldn't take time off of school right then (and, as American citizens, had the option to renew their visas without leaving the country), I told Jaehee that I would be happy to go on a trip out of the country with her. Though I didn't have to leave Egypt to renew my visa, either, I'm always up for an adventure!

We researched the safest/easiest/cheapest place for two women—and one toddler, because 21 month-old Rachel would also be joining us—to fly to and settled on Greece. So we booked our tickets, arranged some hotels, and jetted off across the Mediterranean Sea for a wonderful Hellenic holiday.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Benjamin is six!

Technically he's six years old and one week (and, frankly, we're simply happy he's made it this far into his seventh year because this week has been quite the week).

A true southern boy (who still asks nearly daily to return to North Carolina (and then Zoë will pipe up, "My old house is in Norf Ca-o-wina!")), Benjamin requested chicken and waffles for his birthday dinner, which was delicious for all and very messy for some.

Alexander was covered from head to toe in strawberry gunk, so while I gave him a bath and Grandpa did the dishes, Andrew took the big kids into the basement to play the Wii. "If you can help clear the table," he said as if it was a real sacrifice on his part, "I guess I can play a round of MarioKart with you guys."

Ordinarily Alexander isn't a huge fan of being cleaned off, but he did enjoy having the tub to himself. So maybe bathing isn't what he finds so awful. Perhaps it's his bathing companions...

Alexander in the bath (definitely not Benjamin; Benjamin had hair (glorious hair))

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Millennial Falcon

This year Benjamin wanted a Star Wars cake. More specifically, he wanted a reprise of rainbow Darth Vader cake from his fourth birthday, but my cake stuff is still packed away so instead he settled on a Millennium Falcon cake. Andrew assured me it would be super easy—"It's just a circle with two points sticking out," he said, ignoring the finer details of the cake. 

I'm such a Star Wars luddite that my children kept calling me out for saying Millennial Falcon rather than Millennium Falcon. Apparently this is an important distinction. Rachel even pulled up a meme to mock me with:

Thanks for that, Rachel.

I keep calling it the Millennial Falcon just to make her roll her eyes at me and moan, "Moooooom!" in that exasperated way only a preteen can manage.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

This boy

Six years ago, on a beautiful Sunday like this one, my sweet little Benjamin came into the world in a flurry of excitement and panic. Far more panic than excitement, truthfully. In fact, I'm not even sure it was a beautiful day because I spent the entire day crying in the hospital. 

Andrew is reading over my shoulder as I type this and he assures me it was a beautiful day. From my memories it looked pretty okay through the window. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, birds were chirping, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was beautiful.

I remember.

Because I remember staring out the window and wondering how such an awful thing could be happening on such a beautiful day.

What I don't remember is how many times I said no.

"You're in labour," they told me.

"No, no, no," I insisted. "No. No, I'm not. No, no, no."

"Sweetie, you are going to have this baby today."

"No. No. No." I pleaded. "Please! Just make it stop!"

"You've progressed too far. Nothing is working. The baby is coming."

"No, please, no! It's too soon. No. No. No."

I hovered between shock and denial for what felt like hours, shivering uncontrollably beneath piles of heated blankets. Alas, no amount of begging or bargaining will stop the inevitable and I did go on to have a baby that day.

I had a beautiful baby on that beautiful day:

Benjamin on his literal birth day

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Red Ledges

We've just finished our first week of summer break (by the way, the kids are out of school (I haven't written about that yet because I'm drowning in writing fodder)) so to celebrate making it out alive, we went on a family adventure. 

I feel like we haven't done many family adventures lately (I realize we just went to Idaho and then the girls and I went up to Canada and then Andrew and I went to North Carolina...shhhhhh) because we've been so stressed out over living life in limbo. We still have no solid plan for the future so we're embracing our back up plan, which will include another year of job hunting. While we're grateful for the work we have for the coming year, something a little more steady would be nice. 

Part of embracing our back up plan is reinstituting weekend adventures (you know, when Andrew's not off at conferences/interviews). So last weekend we hiked the Y (obviously) and this evening we went up Diamond Fork Canyon to do a little hiking at Red Ledges.

Red Ledges is like a worm hole from the Wasatch Front to Southern Utah—complete with red rocks, greenery, and blue sky! 

Our goal was to find the little arch we'd read about, but apparently I didn't read about it took closely because we ended up first taking the trail that heads into the canyon, which was surprisingly strenuous (my opinion of the trail was probably tainted by the fact that I decided to take a turn packing the baby around and because I didn't know where all the cliffs were on the trail and a certain someone (*cough* Benjamin *cough*) kept scampering up ahead of everyone on the path.

Anyway, before we got to the strenuous part, we had spent some time enjoying the red walls of the canyon for a while.

Here's Miriam showing off her new haircut:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hiking the Y

I thought, for some reason, that we'd last hiked the Y in 2012 but my sources tell me it was actually 2011, so 7 years (and three children) later, we decided it was high time to ascend again and made The Y our inaugural hike of 2018. (I should probably mention that Rachel and Miriam hiked it with Uncle Patrick in October of last year). 

Here's our crew (minus Daddy and Alexander) before heading up the mountain:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Do you read me?

We've had a few moon boots incidences this week in which we've completely misinterpreted what the other has said.


One day Grandpa had taken our van to the temple because Andrew had the car and Karen needed her car. Andrew was surprised when he got home to find the van gone but his family at home. I was in the kitchen working on dinner.

"Where's the van?" he asked when he got inside.

"In the backyard," I replied.

"You're...eerily calm about that," he said.

I looked at him funny.

He looked at me funny.

Crickets chirped.

"I'm typically pretty calm when the kids are playing nicely in the backyard..." I explained.

"Oh!" he said. "I didn't know you were talking about the kids!"

"Well, what were you talking about then?" I asked. "You're the one who brought up the kids!"

"Did not! I was talking about the van. It's not in the garage."

"Oh!" I laughed. "Your dad took the van. I thought you said, 'Where's the Benj?' No wonder you thought I was going crazy!"

Zoë is three!

Zoë's birthday heralded Heiss Family Birthday Season. Be prepared for so many pictures because although 2018 was technically a party-free year* we decided to have a "small family gathering" anyway. The problem with that (or benefit of that, depending on how you look at it) is that our family is ginormous and we ended up with our family of seven plus "just a few" sixteen others:

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The sweetest prayers

Lately Zoë and Benjamin have been praying about the wackiest (and sweetest) things.

On her birthday, Zoë was giving the blessing on the food and she said, "Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the day. Thank you that it can be my birthday. Thank you for the food. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! Please bless the food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

And we just about died.

Benjamin said this evening's dinner prayer and had been caught in a couple of lies earlier in the day, so he said, "Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for this day. Thank you for the food. Please bless the food. Please bless that Daddy can not get me into trouble anymore and we're thankful that we can still watch Black Panther tonight. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

Again, we just about died.

And it's a good thing we still let the kids watch Black Panther because telling the truth was one of the themes of the movie so I can bring it up at FHE on Monday when we have a lesson about honesty.

"...the truth I chose to omit..." and "...we had to maintain the lie..." are quotes that come to mind.

Anyway, Benjamin always includes random things about his day in his prayers—things like being grateful he could jump on a trampoline or that he could roll down a hill or that he as able to draw a really cool picture—and it reminds me that prayers should be like that. Prayers should include the little things we're happy about and grateful for in the minute-to-minute details of our life.

Sometimes I get so caught up with the frustrations of life that I forget to sit back and enjoy the small daily victories and blessings.

Hands down the sweetest Benjamin prayer of late, though, was when he said, "and we're grateful that we can make Alexander smile just by kissing his cheeks!"

Llama Llama Cake-o-rama

For her birthday, Zoë wanted a strawberry Llama Llama cake so a strawberry Llama Llama cake is what she got!

She helped me make the cake on Monday. We used an easy strawberry cake recipe that I found online (because we didn't have a strawberry cake mix on hand and I'm not at a point in my life where I can bake a cake from scratch and also decorate it (shoot—it takes me three days to get a birthday cake together at all)):

1 box white cake mix 
1 small package strawberry jello
1/2 cup milk 
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup fresh strawberry, finely chopped

It turned out rather delicious and it was hardly more complicated than the regular instructions on the box (thank goodness).

On Tuesday I whipped up a batch of buttercream frosting and a batch of marshmallow fondant. I dyed the fondant all sorts of colours and then I let all four kids (excluding Alexander because he isn't a kid yet, obviously) go wild. They each made their own pattern, which we rolled flat, and then cut into "quilt squares" for Llama Llama's bed.

My perfectionism, patience, and tolerance for mess-making were pushed nearly to the breaking point, but the kids enjoyed themselves.

Whenever I have ideas like this I think, "I can totally handle four kids playing with fondant and powdered sugar. This will be fun!"

And then about in the middle of the execution of the idea my mind starts screaming, "Why did I think I could handle this?!? Everyone I love and everything I own is covered in powdered sugar and I think my left eye is twitching!! There is no recovering from this!"

But then we get to the finished product and I see how proud the kids are of their work and it makes all the chaos and clean up worth it (at least, that's what I keep telling myself). 

The quilt isn't quite what I envisioned, but it's our quilt. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Grumpy gal

Zoë is among the grumpiest of babies/toddlers/preschoolers to have ever graced the planet (and one day she'll just have to own that fact).

Though cute as a button, she was born scowling at the world. We had a short honeymoon period and then—BAM—colic hit, hard. According to Wikipedia, colic is defined as "episodes of crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child," and is most likely to resolve by six months of age. "Rarely" will it last up to one year (I'm fairly convinced Zoë falls into this category; in all honesty, it's possible she's still colicky).

While we were away (in Durham for Andrew's graduation, which is still on my list of things to write about) and Andrew's parents were holding down the fort for us, Grandpa noticed that Zoë screams in her sleep.

"Does she have nightmares?" he asked.

"Probably," I shrugged, "But she doesn't ever really seem frightened by them. I imagine her nightmares are along the lines of: she asked someone if she could do or have something and they said no."

Cue endless screaming.

It's fine. It's fine. It's fine.

She's a whole lot better now than she used to be. And I've had screamers before (I'm looking at you, Rachel). We'll get through this.

Just know that this is the face I wake up to every morning (even on her birthday):

Happy birthday to this sweet thang

Thursday, May 24, 2018

In which Alexander shows off his teeth

Hey, everybody! Want to see my teeth?

Splash Pad, take one

Since the older girls both had "water day" at school yesterday (part of that last-week-of-school rigour) I took the little kids to the splash pad for their own day of water fun yesterday. It was a still a little chilly (I was surprised it was even open before Memorial Day) and it rained on us a little bit (which is slightly irrelevant considering we were there to get wet), but we still had fun!

Here is Benjamin and Zoë hanging out on the terrace by the splash pad:

The highway is just behind them, but I think the view is otherwise quite beautiful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Behold! The gender neutral bathroom!

Given the story making headlines in our local news currently, it's high time I posted a picture of this—a gender-neutral bathroom:

It's located in my old high school (my niece Piper's current high school), but it didn't used to be there. Instead there was a restroom for females and a restroom for males. And all was well in the world.

Except for, you know: (1) restroom bullying, (2) restroom vandalism, (3) the stupid partition-style bathroom stalls where you can peek under/over/through the cracks.

Then gender equality happened and *BOOM* these gender neutral bathrooms were installed. And the world ended.

Except (just kidding) it didn't!

In the beginning...

Before spending time in Alberta we first had to get there! We checked the girls out from school halfway through the day on Thursday (May 3) so we could get a decent number of driving hours under our belt without feeling too exhausted. We drove from Spanish Fork to Raymond without any significant hiccups. Our gas station stops aligned perfectly with Alexander's eating schedule and he was content to play and sleep in his carseat while we were driving. 

Here he is feeling happy:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Idaho to home (May 7)

I was going to say that this post would wrap up my Canada trip, but then I realized that I began posting about this trip achronologically because I completely skipped the beginning! But I'll get there, I'll get there. 

So this is the end of our trip. 

Because Patrick had his own vehicle to drive back down to Utah, Josie rode with him to give him some company. My kids and I rode with my mom. We caravanned down to Ucon, Idaho, where our vehicle stopped to spend the night (Patrick and Josie drove the rest of the way home). The drive was fairly uneventful, aside from a pretty spectacular rainstorm through Monida Pass (I think that's where it was, anyway). 

It was fun to get to see Burt and Kathi's new home and to visit with them for a bit. Kathi made us pancakes in the morning, which the girls really enjoyed. Burt's father is my grandfather's cousin, which makes Burt and my mother second cousins, which makes me second cousins once removed with Burt, which makes my children second cousins twice removed to Burt (I'm pretty sure).

As my mom's cousin Lavon (who is my children's first cousin twice removed) said, "It doesn't matter how we're related. We're family!"

I agree that it doesn't matter how we're related (though it sure is interesting to figure it out) because often how closely you feel related has to do more with time invested in a relationship than it does in bloodlines. 

My grandpa and Burt's father were very close cousin/friends, so their children grew up feeling more like cousins (rather than more distant second cousins) so, you see, it doesn't matter how we're related; we're family.

Here we are together:

In the loop

This whole school year I have felt blindsided by so many projects and activities. Field trips, class parties, and most recently, business day. Miriam came home from school one day last week, nearly in tears, because at dismissal her teacher had said, "Remember to bring your business project for tomorrow!" 

Miriam, who was also feeling a little blindsided, pressed for more details and her teacher, sending off vibes of impatience, told her that she was supposed to have come up with a business idea, including having a good/service to "sell" and a poster to advertise and so forth. She sat down to write what she'd learned in a letter to me presented it to me at home, nearly in tears.

"I wish I would have known about this sooner! Or that we had more instructions! Or anything!" I vented and then I hopped on Facebook to ask the neighbourhood moms what they knew about business day. They were all rather well informed. 

I asked Miriam if she'd forgotten to give me a paper about it. I asked the Facebook moms if I'd missed a paper about it. Apparently there was no paper about it. 

So Miriam and I (and the internet) brainstormed for quick and easy business ideas. 

And then we rummaged through our craft supplies and churned out about 100 of these little guys:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Okotoks and Big Rock (one and the same, technically)

We stopped by the Leavitts' for lunch on Saturday (May 5th) and three generations of cousins had fun visiting together. My mom and Lavon are cousins and grew up feeling particularly close because Lavon was so much younger than her siblings. 

Lavon and my mom

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Alexander at 7 months

When we were in Durham this past weekend we stopped by our old neighbourhood, Eno Trace, and I could resist popping Alexander into the swings at our neighbourhood playground because all of my babies (save Rachel) have spent time in these swings and it just felt altogether fitting and proper that we should do so.

One fell mashed-potato swoop

"Take these scissors out and bring back three or four green onions from the garden," I instructed Rachel.

We didn't plant them, but the former owners of our house did, so they're out there in the vegetable garden just waiting to be harvested.

Rachel went out and snipped off the very tips of the green onions and presented the puny nubs to me.

"Yeah, so, like...I mean, I want the whole stalk," I told her. "Cut near the bottom."

She went back out and brought in a whole fistful of pungent greens which I started adding to the mashed potatoes (we had "IKEA" for dinner again: cranberry sauce, meatballs, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables). But then I noticed that...uhhhh...these weren't green onions.

They were certainly green, but they weren't hollow. It was a little too late to pick them all out, but what could they be? Chives? Leeks? Those are also hollow...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Good mom, bad mom

I probably don't have to tell you how crazy my month has been so far (largely because I have been telling you). Suffice it to say, I have only been home for six days this month. So. Hello.

I've been having trouble keeping up with laundry, let alone everything else. In fact, in between my Alberta trip and my North Carolina trip I just washed and dried the clothes and left them sitting in baskets, unfolded because I literally didn't have time to fold them before leaving again.

But they were folded and (largely) put away by the time we got home, thanks to my wonderfully helpful oldest daughters (and my mother-in-law, too).

Anyway, we didn't get home until after bedtime on Monday and so we first saw the children on Tuesday morning. Miriam flounced around in her cute little dress from Mexico and said, "Do you know why I'm dressed all fancy? It's because Ms. Dickson told us to because it's our performance today and we have to look nice!"

And I did my best to look like I was not panicking and said, "Oh, yeah. What time is that at again?"

"2:00!" Miriam chirped.

Phew! I could totally have my act together by 2:00. I was afraid she was going to say 9:00 and my brain was screaming, "You just stepped off a plane! You are exhausted and you need a shower ASAP!" But 2:00? 2:00 I could do.

Amy and Scarlett

On Saturday morning (May 5th), we headed up to Calgary (pronounced /CAL-gree/ or /CAL-guh-ree/ if you're local (never cal-gary)) to visit with my niece Amy and her daughter Scarlett. This was my first time meeting them, so it was rather exciting. 

My sister was rather young when Amy was born and was subsequently placed Amy for adoption. I was only eight at the time and wasn't privy (or even aware) of all the dialogue prior to the making of this decision, but I'm sure it was a painful and complicated decision to make. I have no doubt, though, that it was a positive decision for Amy's future. She was adopted by a wonderful couple!

Though it was technically a closed adoption (not that that was necessarily what was desired, but it simply was (I feel like open adoptions are more common nowadays (having contact with one's birth family seems healthier, mentally, than having no contact) but this was the early nineties and it was what it was)), my mom knew the name of the family who had adopted her.

Several years ago a cousin of ours ended up being Amy's leader in Young Women (our church youth program for girls 12–18), which spurred on some letter writing (to Amy's adoptive parents at first) and eventually to an online relationship (hello, Facebook) and finally a formal meeting we're family again. And it's great! My family has visited with her each time they've gone up to Alberta and she even came down to Utah with Scarlett a couple of summers ago. 

But I missed all of that because I was busy living in North Carolina, so this was my first time meeting her! It was fun to get to know her a bit.

She remarked that everyone is always telling her how much Scarlett looks like Scarlett's father (which I totally disagree with because I think Scarlett looks so much like Kelli did when she was a little girl) but that she can see that Scarlett must look something like our side of the family as well because she fits in with her cousins so nicely (technically my children are Amy's cousins and are first cousins once removed with Scarlett but we do so enjoy blurring generations in my family—Scarlett falls between Miriam and Benjamin).

Footloose and family time

The weekend of Piper's play was quite packed with activity, mainly relating to the play. She not only had performances on both Friday and Saturday evenings but had a Saturday matinee show as well! 

Here's Piper taking a few minutes to visit with Alexander while she got ready for her show on Friday night:

High River Highlights (May 4–6)

Visiting what was once home nearly two decades after leaving it is rather surreal. Everything is different, but also the same. The differences, in this case, were heightened by the 2013 flooding.

Gone are the railroad tracks, the grain elevators, Extra Foods. But the lakes are still there, my (ninth) childhood home looks much the same, and many of my friends’ parents still live in the same houses they always have. New to the town is a Tim Horton’s, a few fun-looking playgrounds, several traffic lights and pretty much everything south of the highway.

Perhaps some of those things are not-so-new, but (as I mentioned) it’s been a while since I last visited. The town is about twice the size it was when we moved there (13,000 in 2016 vs 7,000 in 1996), though growth has been a bit sluggish in recent years (down to about 5% (from 15 to 30% in the nineties and early two-thousands)), probably again due to the massive flooding the town experienced in 2013.

Reflecting on the halcyon days of small town life, however, I’m  not sure that slow growth is a terrible thing. No traffic lights is a thing I could really go for! And while the town is small enough that it still has only one high school, it’s big enough that you actually have to specify which Tim Horton’s you’re visiting (because there are two of them—it also has two wards now (or a ward and a branch)). So it’s small by some standards, but bustling by others.

At any rate it was nice to get back for a visit, even if it was a quick one.

My sister lives quite close to our old High River house, just down the street from my friends’ parents. Since she lives in a basement apartment and had a couple of her kids and Uncle Patrick staying with her, Alexander and I stayed at the Lilburns’ with Auntie Josie and Uncle David (Naanii stayed at the Thompsons’ with Rachel and Miriam). It was nice to be within walking distance of Auntie Abra’s place, even if I was initially a little apprehensive about crashing at the Lilburn's. My friend had a rather strained relationship with her parents as a youth and filled my head with all sorts of ideas about how tyrannical her parents were. Turns out they're not the least bit tyrannical. They're super nice (so I'm glad that both she and I got to figure that out).

Uncle Patrick and I took the kids to the corner park, where Auntie Josie used to escape to when she was a toddler. She was such an escape artist! Our neighbors knew to keep their eyes peeled for her and when someone would inevitably come running from our house in a panic, they’d calmly point us in the direction of either the playground or (slightly more worrisome) the lakes.

It’s a pretty dinky playground but is perfect for toddlers. Alexander seemed to have gotten the most satisfaction from this outing.

This chipmunk is original to my High River days

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The week in review

I just can't seem to keep still lately.

While I was in Idaho last weekend my mom texted me to ask if I would like to come up to Canada with her and Josie (and my big girls, who they were already planning on taking). Hmmmm...let me ice cold?

Rosie had been planning to go with them but ended up staying home to work some extra hours which freed up her space in the van, so I could come with the baby (who, I'm learning, I should call by his name—Alexander—more often rather than simply calling him "the baby" because everyone I came across complained that they knew all my other children's names, but not the baby's name because I always refer to him as the baby)* and "one other child."

But which one?!

Such a hard decision to make! But Andrew and I had a thirty second conversation about it and decided that he and Benjamin could have a boys' weekend at home while the rest of us had a girls' (+ baby) weekend abroad and that would be fine. They'd go to McDonald's and watch Star Wars and he'd have the time of his life. So that was the decision.

But then my mom started worrying that Benjamin would feel left out (and, frankly, I'd worried about this, as well) so we decided that if we took our van instead of my dad's van we could fit all of my children in. It would be a tight squeeze on the way up there with all eight seats filled, but Josie was planning on riding back to Utah with Patrick, who decided that northern BC wasn't for him right now. That meant we wouldn't be too too crowded on the way home.

So Andrew started planning a bachelor weekend for himself.

But then I began having second thoughts. Considering how dreadful the ride up to Idaho last weekend had been (Zoë wetting her pants, wanting to stop to use the potty every half hour, all the screaming Alexander did, all the poking and name-calling from the children who were all sitting too close together). Plus the idea of taking care of all five of them on my own (with the help of my family, but still...that's not the same as having Daddy with us) was daunting, especially the thought of trying to get all of them to behave like quiet, tidy, respectful houseguests. And then it wasn't a terribly long trip—I couldn't imagine dragging them all the way up there only to turn around and come back.

It would be miserable.

"I'm not so sure about taking all four kids up with me..." I remarked to Andrew.

"Five," he responded gravely (but jokingly, holding up five fingers). "We have five kids. Suddenly I'm not so sure about you taking all the kids up there, either. I would want five kids to come back..."

In my defence, I don't think I was counting the baby (ALEXANDER) as a kid. The baby was always a given—if I was going, he was going. It was the other four who were in question.

My mom had begun to have second thoughts as well, for many of the same reasons I had been worried, and even Reid was arguing strongly against taking all the kids with me. After much deliberation (obviously) we (the parents and grandparents) settled on leaving both Benjamin and Zoë at home for a weekend with Daddy. I would take Rachel, Miriam, and Alexander with me.

Benjamin and Zoë were fine with this. Daddy said he'd take them to McDonald's (yay!) and on Friday they could have a Star Wars party (May the 4th be with you!) so they were thrilled to be left behind.

Those headed to Canada left on Thursday afternoon. We drove up to Raymond to spend the night.

Those left behind in Utah went to McDonald's for dinner on Thursday. They spent some time at the play place.

Those of us in Canada on Friday woke up to visit with Janet and Shawn Navratil (my mom's cousin's wife and son), who put us up for the night. Then we visited the museum at Fort Macleod, which was fun, before pressing onward to High River. We attended Piper's play that evening.

Those of us in Utah went to kindergarten, spent the afternoon playing at home, and then started our Star Wars party. Unfortunately, the Star Wars party ended early when Benjamin threw up all over the place. Sad day.

Those of us in Canada on Saturday went to a waffle breakfast at the church before heading up to Calgary to meet/visit with my niece Amy and her daughter Scarlett. Then we went to Okotoks to visit my cousin Heather and her kids. We played at Big Rock. And then we returned to High River for another viewing of Piper's play (we had to split up our party so that someone was available to watch the baby).

Those of us in Utah spent the day cleaning up sick messes. Benjamin experienced what Andrew dubbed diarromit—when you have diarrhea and need to vomit at the same time. Poor Benjamin walked into the bathroom and pulled down his pants to go diarrhea but then decided that throwing up was more urgent. So he turned around to put his head in the toilet and started throwing up, but his diarrhea couldn't wait and he sprayed all over the bathroom. Poor Andrew had to clean that up. Fun times.

Those of us in Canada on Sunday bid farewell to friends and family and embarked on the long journey south. We stayed the night in Idaho at my mom's cousin Burt's house.

Those of us in Utah on Sunday either stayed home from church with sick Benny or attended church with Grandma and Grandpa (you can probably guess who did what). Benjamin seemed to be feeling better so Andrew gave him breakfast, but then Benjamin crashed and wanted a nap. With Benjamin sequestered in his bed, Andrew took the opportunity to use the bathroom, which was a mistake. While Andrew was sitting on the toilet, Benjamin burst into the bathroom. He saw Daddy on the toilet and clapped his hand over his mouth in an absolute panic.

"The sink! The sink!" Andrew cried, but he was too late.

Benjamin's stomach unleashed its contents all over the bathroom floor...and Daddy.

So that was fun for them.

Those of us in Idaho on Monday visited with Burt and Kathi. We drove to Idaho Falls, enjoyed the temple grounds, and walked along the Snake River to enjoy the falls. Then we visited with Auntie Emily and her family before hopping in the car to finish up our drive home.

Those of us in Utah spent the day recuperating. Benjamin did not go to school (he didn't go to school today, either). Daddy did not go to campus (as he had hoped to do).

We were all very glad to be reunited.

We were also very glad that we decided to leave Benjamin at home.

And Zoë. She's rather a forgotten figure in this story. She spent a lot of time alone this weekend (or alone with Grandma/Grandpa/Daddy) and loved being an "only child" for a while (since her sisters and the baby were gone and Benjamin was out of commission there was no one to fight with and, from what I hear, she was an absolutely gem of a child all weekend).

So, that's the brief overview of the past few days, but I have plenty of pictures and more detailed stories coming soon (assuming, that is, I can hammer out a few blog posts before we leave for Durham...tomorrow night)!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


I like having words for things. Like, laryngomalacia. I don't know that it was super important in general that we had a word for Alexander's breathing, but it was important to me. 

And now I have a word for Benjamin: echolalia.

I'm not sure exactly when this started, precisely, because all children repeat what they hear (that is, after all, how language is learned) but recently, within the past several months, he's been doing it more, which is odd because children usually grow out of it around age two or three. And I swear Benjamin did. But now he's doing it again. A lot. 

For example, I'll say, "Benjamin, you need to get your shoes on," and he'll mutter after me, "You need to get your shoes on," then will pause and say, "Okay, Mom!"

Or I'll say, "Do you want to go for a walk?" and he'll repeat (under his breath), "Do you want to go for a walk?" before answering, "Yes!"

Or, when I'm reading to him, he'll mumble along with me, only slightly behind. I used to think he was actually reading along with me (and perhaps he is?) but he is 100% unaware that he's doing it. Like, I've asked him about why he repeats everything I say and he legitimately has no idea what I'm talking about. 

Here's about how a conversation addressing his echoing goes down:

"Benjamin, why do you repeat everything I say?"

"Why do you repeat everything I say?" muttered softly, followed by his usual booming voice saying, "What do you mean, Mom? I don't do that!"

Sand Dunes at St. Anthony

It's rather surprising to stumble upon towering (sometimes 400 feet!) sand dunes in the middle of the rolling prairie. Yet here they are, left behind some 10,000 years ago when ancient lakes in Idaho began to dry out and their sandy banks started blowing away, only to collect on the skeletal remains of extinct volcanoes, forming massive dunes. They're pretty impressive and so seemingly out of place. 

But one should never say no to a romp in the sand dunes, whether they're in North Carolina or Idaho or Egypt. They're just too much fun!

Here are some of the little ones (Logan, Zoë and Maren) playing in the sand:

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bear World

The first stop of the day on Saturday was Bear World, which our family hadn't been to since we drove Auntie Emily up to see Uncle Morgan four days after returning from their mission(s) to Nauvoo (where they'd met). That was all the way back in August 2010. They got married in December. And the rest is history!

Our little caravan drove through the park to see the animals: bison, bears, elk, bears, mountain goats, more bears, so many bears. We considered trying to cram into two cars (because if we paid by the carload that would certainly be less expensive) but after the ride up to Idaho, Grandpa thought it would be best if we took three cars: Emily and Morgan with their four kids, Andrew and me with our five kids, and he and Grandma in their quiet car all by themselves. As it turns out, paying per person was cheaper than paying per vehicle (on account of having so many toddlers with us; they're free) and it was the first day the park was open so admission was half off (and the place was relatively packed).

Here are some obligatory animal pictures:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Up to Idaho

Andrew flew in from Miami on Wednesday afternoon, though he didn't get home until around dinner time after taking the train (my mom picked him up from the station and brought him home to us). He spent all day Thursday at work and then remembered on Thursday evening that he had a workshop on Friday that he had to present at, which was rather bad timing because we'd planned to head up to visit his sister on Friday afternoon...

So instead of comfortably spreading out between two cars, the kids and I ended up in the van with Andrew's (poor) parents and he got to drive up to Idaho by himself after the conference.

The drive up (for us) was such a disaster that Andrew ended up arriving to the hotel while we were still unloading the van, even though he'd left hours after us. It's typically a 3.5 hour drive but between traffic and children it took us over five hours to get there.

Probably fifteen minutes into our drive Zoë announced that she had to go potty.

Friday, April 27, 2018

It's not eggs

One day a week we help tend Riley while his dad is at work. Technically, Grandma tends Riley, but it's so exciting when cousins come over that where Riley is Zoë is also, so it ends up being a bit of a group project (which is fine). He's a sweet little boy, but oh! Riley Days are hard. 

Whether it's a good Riley Day or a difficult Riley Day, we know that Zoë will be supercharged with emotion. I think it has something to do with competing with Riley for the two/three-year-old slot. She has to compete with him for everything (and he with her). There's no awe between them. Zoë doesn't look up to Riley like she does to, say, Gavin or Benjamin—the big kids! Nor does she have compassion on him for being a little kid, like, say Alexander or Arwyn. 

Riley is her equal, her peer. She loves him and she has a lot of fun with him (and he with her). But their relationship is also quite...dramatically charged. 

So we just know that Riley Days mean an increase in toddler tantrums. And that's fine. Because figuring out life is difficult for everyone (perhaps especially two/three-year-olds). On Riley Days we blow off Zoë's influx of emotion with a shrug and an, "Oh, she's just having a Riley Day."

With that preamble, let me show you last week's Riley Day, which was a lot of fun!

Zoë and Riley played in the backyard together while Benjamin was at school. They rode bikes and swang (is that right? it's late and swang feels funny but I's late...) on the swings and hung out in the teepee together:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Gonna make my garden grow

We finally got around to getting the garden ready. I suppose that's one upside to having moved to a colder climate—a few extra weeks of procrastination (if we had waited until now to plant our garden in Durham it would surely have been too late for peas, but I think we're still within the window for this hardiness zone).

Here's a cute picture of Alexander and Zoë in the "car cart" at the hardware store:

Generation gaps

My kids have no idea how to answer the telephone or leave a voice message. Their door etiquette is also lacking—Miriam opened the door shortly after dinner and when the visitor asked if her grandpa was at home she simply chirped, "Yes!" and then skipped away—not to find him, just away. We had to instruct her to go find Grandpa so she ran all around the house looking for him, only to return to the door and announce with a flourish, "He's going to the bathroom!"

This same person knocked on our door around 9:00 this evening (it was a church key exchange) and Benjamin, who had taken a post-bedtime trip to the downstairs toilet (since the upstairs toilet was occupied), opened the door on his way upstairs.

"You're not in bed yet?" she asked (because, should five-year-olds really be flinging the front door open when it's dark outside? Luckily I can see the front door from the upstairs).

He said nothing but ran upstairs and hopped into bed.

We have a bit of work to do with our children in these areas.

But, seriously though, who does things like call or drop by without texting first these days?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shut your mouth and listen to your lullaby!

Today was one of those days where every last ounce of patience had been ruthlessly drained from my body by bedtime. So ruthlessly drained was I that when I walked in to sing lullabies to Zoë and Benjamin (because even tiring, nerve-frazzling days require lullabies sometimes) and Benjamin piped up in his nasally, whiny tone, "I want two songs!" I snapped back, "Well, I don't know if you'll get two songs!" and Zoë chided, "Mom, be nice to Benjamin!"

"I'm trying to be nice," I told her through gritted teeth.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A funny thing happened on the way to the...

Zoë had "quiet time" in the basement after church today. She cried like she was being sent to the executioner when in reality she was only being sent downstairs to play (it's was Benjamin's week to have quiet time in the bedroom and, well, "it's [her] bedroom, too!"). She was doing such a good job at quiet time that I asked Andrew if he had turned on a show for her. He proudly told me that he had not. She was playing

But then he went downstairs to check on her and found her fast asleep (but she only fell asleep after she'd tucked in her t-rex, because that's important). 

"That's crazy!" I said. "Do you think she's starting to need naps again this late in her waning toddlerhood? Cuz..."

Moses supposes our noses are roses*

We have lived here for—what?—eight, nine months now and we still haven't gotten over how dry it is here. Andrew's hands are so dry and cracked it's not even funny and the children have started having bloody noses at random. Rachel was getting them so frequently that we finally thought to get her some nasal spray to help keep things...moist. It seems to have helped her.

One day she was in a particularly sour mood after school and she kind of bit my head off when I asked her to practice the piano. I wanted to just ignore her attitude, but when I heard her sniffling at the piano I decided I had better check on her.

"Rachel, honey," I said. "You know that piano practice is a daily thing. I'm not trying to be mean about it and hope I didn't sound angry when I asked you to practice. I thought I asked you normally but if I raised my voice, I'm sorry."

"It's not that," she quavered.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Trash to Treasure

This part was written on Friday night:

Our ward is having a Trading Tables event tomorrow, which I suppose they're technically calling a Clothing Exchange (or something). I wasn't in charge of it, which was a nice change after heading it up for the last five years! But I've forgotten how nice they are for a cheapskate like me.

Instead of meeting the morning of to sort through things and then "shop" right away, we brought things in this evening to sort...but we also "shopped" a bit as we sorted. Some of us "shopped"...a lot. I always do. But, seriously, I took over five bags of cast-offs and only returned home with two. So, I mean, that's pretty good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Oh, brother(s), where art thou?

David moved up to Prince George in December (I think) and although he's been to Utah several times since then, it's only ever been for a day or two on his way to somewhere else. Last weekend (right when we were getting over the stomach flu) he came down again to move his things from our parents' house up to his place. He braved our germs and spent Saturday playing games at our house.

Alexander at 6 months

Alexander had his six month well-child check yesterday, which went well, and he got his vaccinations which he did not take well (he spent all night feverish and fussy).

He weighed in at a walloping 17 lbs. and 1 ounce and was 26.14 inches long, my biggest baby at six months old (and my smallest (full-term) baby at birth)!

Here are the stats for the other kids at six months (there is no blog post for Zoë because her six-month check was the day after we returned from our visit to Utah for my Grandma Layton's funeral and I just never got to blogging about taking her to the doctor, but I did look up her paperwork (so filing cabinets aren't completely defunct (though I guess I could have just as easily looked up her stats online because Duke's online system is fantastic like that, but I didn't think of that because our clinic here isn't so fancy))):

Alexander: 17 lbs. 1 ounce and 26.14 inches
Zoë: 16 lbs. 13.8 ounces and 26.18 inches
Benjamin: 14 lbs. 13 ounces and 24 inches
Miriam: 16 lbs. even (more or less) and 25 inches
Rachel: 16 lbs. 8 ounces and 27.5 inches

He is certainly growing well (the rolls on his thighs have rolls!) though if he's anything like my other children his growth will start tapering off right about now. And that's fine by me because he's so heavy!

At six months, Alexander is...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Benjamin's kindergarten performance and time with cousin James

Two weeks ago* Benjamin's kindergarten class had their end-of-the-year performance.

It seems odd to me to have all the end-of-year activities so early: the musical and Benjamin's performance in March and the choir concerts the beginning of April. I wondered why for about two seconds before I realized that it's due to end-of-year testing, which has become almost a sacred, silent ritual in elementary schools. As if stressing children out by enforcing strict silence and making them feel like their little lives depend on doing well is healthy for them.

I mean, I understand the reasoning behind testing. It's nice to know the answer to that ever burning question: is our children learning? It's nice to collect data to form policy. It's nice to know who is falling through the cracks and who is getting it. It's nice to try to figure out why.

But stop stressing the children out about it. Stop stressing the teachers out about it.

Just collect your data and move on, without linking scores to wages or other ridiculous stuff like that.

That way we can stop saying "end of year" in March. Because that's just crazy talk.