Friday, July 20, 2018

Big Rock (June 30)

I had a goal to be completely finished chronicling our trip to Canada by tonight, but I fear that won't likely happen at this point. Life just keeps on happening. I either have to find a way to write faster or have life slow down...

Benjamin was hovering beside me while I was writing about the trip Rachel, Miriam, Alexander, and I took to visit the Okotoks Erratic (back in May) and the number one question he had was, "When did I go to that place?" followed up with, "Where's the picture of me there?"

So naturally when he realized that he'd be coming to Canada with us this time around he immediately began pestering me about visiting Big Rock. We finally got around to it on Saturday afternoon (after the Canada Day festivities). My cousin Heather came along again, bringing her kids and Sara Beth's Anna along with her. We had a blast!

A Visit to Vulcan (June 29)

With a population of 1,917, Vulcan is no bustling metropolis, so I don't recommend it as a destination vacation. However, its small town charm is—dare I say?—out of this world. It was perfect for a little afternoon fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Piper's Graduation (June 29)

"So, how was graduation?" my friend Kaly asked me. 

"It was good," I said. "The weather was perfect. Beautiful, really."

"Huh," she said. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about a graduation. I was expecting you to say long and boring! Good, perfect, and beautiful aren't words someone usually uses to describe a graduation."

Perhaps that's true, but the most recent graduation I attended was Andrew's PhD ceremony and although that was also a good, beautiful, proud day it was also hot, long, and boring. Compared to that Piper's graduation was a walk in the park...literally.

École Secondaire Highwood High School traditionally holds their graduation at George Lane Park and the graduands (not a typo (rather it is the intermediary status of having completed the requirements for your degree but have yet to be awarded the degree (and it's typically only used in the Commonwealth))) marched to the park from downtown. 

The day started out a little chilly, but soon warmed up to a tolerable 16°C/60°F (much nicer than the 33°C/92°F on the day of Andrew's graduation). Here are a few shots of everyone waiting for the ceremony to begin...

Auntie Josie let Zoë play some games on her phone (so Josie's the new favourite):

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Our FHE ledger

I'll admit I scoffed a little when I found out my progenitors kept a ledger of minutes for their family home evenings. How formal of them, I thought, to have kept such a detailed record of such an informal event.

And then I remembered my blog...

Now, I don't keep minutes of family night, per se, but I think I've discussed enough family home evenings in great enough detail to be guilty of the very thing I was scoffing at, and, truthfully, only part of me was laughing about the family night ledger. The other part of me was ecstatic and grateful to have this glimpse into the past.

So without further ado, I will give you a glimpse into our FHE for the past couple of weeks.

Tonight we took things easy. I pulled out the illustrated Book of Mormon Stories book, had all the kids pick a number between 1 and 30, added those numbers up, and opened the book to 53, which was the story of when "The Sons of Mosiah Become Missionaries." That particular story is only one page long, however, so I backtracked a bit and assigned the children the story "Alma the Younger Repents" as well.

Then I shooed them off to the basement, telling them to set the timer for twenty minutes and then to read the story together, assign roles, pick out costumes, rehearse, and come back to perform it for me and Andrew.

It was the quietest family night we've had in quite a while!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Alexander at nine months

At nine months, Alexander is...

  • Ginormous! He had his well-child check today and was 19 lbs. 12 oz! So he's basically huge, though still only at the 50th percentile. At 27.9 inches, he's on the short side of things right now, but I'm sure that he's saving up his girth for future upwards growth spurts.
  • Teething like a maniac. He's had his two bottom teeth for a while and has added his eye teeth on top. They broke through the first week of July (one while we were up in Alberta and the other once we'd gotten back to Utah). His two front teeth have been giving him plenty of grief but have yet to make their appearance, so he's a little vampire baby. A whiny, drooly, chewing-on-everything vampire baby.
I also had fangs when I was nine months old

George Lane Park (June 28)

Communication is a beautiful thing, especially when it saves you a forty minute drive into the city (only to have to turn right back around again). Frustratingly, we made the drive from High River to Calgary to meet up with my niece Amy at Fish Creek Park, but she texted my mom while we were en route to say that she wouldn't be able to make it, which we obviously didn't find out until we had arrived. Fish Creek Park is rather large and I suppose we could have done some hiking, but we were really hoping to let the kids play at a park and the only playground within the park is fenced off and you have to pay to get in (we're all quite positive that it was free when we were living there).

Both Alexander and Zoë had fallen asleep, however, so we decided to just head back to High River to play at George Lane Park (a park is a park is a park), rather than wake them up and have them be grumpy and still have to make the drive back to High River later.

A couple good things came of our pointless trip, however. One was that we finally saw a tow truck. I had made up some travel BINGO sheets for the kids, which only Rachel and I really got into. She and I were racing to see who could get a blackout the fastest. It didn't take us long to see a speed limit sign or a horse or even a limo but we could not find a tow truck. We were on the road for a thousand miles over three days and we hadn't seen a single tow truck!

Finally on the way up to Calgary we saw a tow truck, and not just any tow truck. We saw a tow truck on a tow truck! The tow truck being towed away was burnt to a crisp (there were also firetrucks on the scene). I don't know what happened but it must have been pretty wild. At least we got our blackout.

The second good thing was a drive-by spotting of my...eighth?...childhood home (I'm pretty sure it's #8). 49 Deerpath Road, quite near Fish Creek Provincial Park—a duplex unit just on the other side of the field (only when we lived there they were yellow with brown trim; now they're a gentle blue):

My house is...not actually visible in this picture
Seeing Amy would have made the trip all worth it, but as it was it wasn't entirely a bust,  guess...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Harriet Jarman Layton's song

I learned today that when my great-great grandparents instituted family home evening in their house (August 3, 1921)  they (1) kept minutes* and (2) gave everyone a calling, such as class leader, organist, chorister, and treasurer. They needed this last position because (3) they charged weekly admission—5 cents (in 1921, which is worth about 66 cents today), to be used "for some good purpose." Granted, by the time this particular notebook of FHE minutes began, the children in the home were mostly grown (my great-grandfather, Russell Layton, the youngest, was 18 years old; his oldest sister Verna (who was the scribe for the minutes) already was married), so this was more of an extended family FHE.

Inside this book is a song that my great-great-grandmother wrote in March of 1936 (after immigrating to Utah in 1882 as a 12-year-old girl):

The Lord a work he has commenced, its greatness none can tell. 
To gather up the righteous in Zion for to dwell. 
We are his sheep and know his voice. We'll follow none but him. 
To Zion he will gather us, his praises for to sing. 

To Zion we will go, will go. To Zion we will go. 
We'll leave this old sectarian world. To Zion we will go. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A laundry confession

Way back in January I put up a post on Facebook about sorting laundry with Zoë. She was helping me decide whether items were light or dark and did just fine until we came across Andrew's black and white checked shirt, which just about broke her brain because it was light and dark.

It got 33 comments, people. 33! Who knew people were so passionate about laundry?

My cousin Sara said, "I think the whole sorting-lights-and-darks thing is a big conspiracy. I wash all my clothes together all the time, and no one seems the wiser."

My friend Aubrey said, "I also wash all my clothes together on a cold cycle. Done."

My friend Crystal said, "I sort....but sometimes when I'm feeling super lazy I just throw them all together."

My cousin Wendy said, "I wash everything on cold delicate, so... I never sort mine either. Not a problem."

My cousin Michelle said, "I only wash whites and jeans separately (well, and towels and bedding of course). Everything else together, unless it's a dark color that's brand new. But once I know it's done bleeding it goes in with everything else. Anything to make it easier! (We have way too many clothes!!)"

My cousin ArLene said, "I wash towels and whites separate from everything else with warm and hot water. Everything else just goes in together and I wash with cold water."

There were a few die-hard sorters—my mom, my cousin Jenna, my friend Tamsin—but by far the majority of commenters were set on convincing me that sorting my laundry was a huge waste of time. Hallelujah, we live in the age of colourfast fabrics, right?!

I have remained a dedicated sorter these past six months or so but today... Well, today I had the privilege of going to the temple to support my niece Rosie, who took out her endowment. It was my first time going to the temple since Alexander was born and it was a doozy of a day to attempt such a feat. He stayed up screaming his head off until the wee hours of the morning and then we had to leave the house before 8:00 in the morning (ugh). I was so tired (Andrew probably was, too) but Andrew and I survived the session and were so happy to be there for Rosie!

The kids survived without us (and I think Reid and Karen survived the children), but we were anxious to get home, where I knew I had a pile of wet, stinky laundry (and a fussy baby) waiting for me.

Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump (June 28)

On the morning of June 28 we headed to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump to meet up with my parents and visit the interpretive center there. Andrew was rather excited to go when he learned that it's a UNESO World Heritage site, due to it being "one of the oldest, most extensive, and best preserved sites that illustrate communal hunting techniques and the way of life of Plains people." Other buffalo jump sites were, to put it politely, prematurely "excavated" (read: raided) by settlers who didn't care about preserving a record for history (or about allowing the aboriginal people access to their hunting lands). Often railroads would run along cliff sides, which is where the jumps occurred. Head-Smashed-In, however, was a more remote location so it remained untouched—and in use—until about 200 years ago.

I didn't take many pictures, but that's alright because Benjamin thoroughly enjoyed the experience and has obsessively been drawing pictures of it ever since. Here we are getting our wrist bands at the entrance to the museum:

heDsmahst ni bafulo jump

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Across the 49th parallel (June 27)

Crossing the border for us was relatively easy. I think we were the second car in line or something. My poor parents, however, were stuck in line for quite some time when they reached the border hours later. There was a long line of cars and they were stopped both while exiting the United States and when entering Canada, so I'm glad we crossed the border when we did.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chip Pizza

We'd had a rather big lunch on Sunday afternoon—some very tasty fajitas, before Richard and Diana hit the road—so dinner only needed to be a small supper. We had plenty of leftover rice and beans (I think Andrew thought he was feeding a small army) so Andrew decided he'd make some bean dip that we could have with nachos, which Zoë helped him make.

They spread the chips out on a cookie sheet, topped the chips with cheese, and broiled them in the oven.

It was quick, it was simple, and Zoë was so proud to have been chef's helper, even though she evidently had no idea what she had been helping to make.

On Monday when I was floating around ideas for dinner, Zoë said, "How about chip pizza?"

"Chip pizza?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "I'm very good at making chip pizza."

"What is chip pizza?" I asked.

"Oh, you know," she said.

"I really don't."

"I made chip pizza with Daddy last night!" she said, affronted.

I thought back to Sunday evening. What had we eaten...?

Oh. Nachos. Chip pizza.

It's almost poetically descriptive, really.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (June 27)

We stopped by the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls before driving up to Alberta and were immediately greeted by an enormous Newfoundland dog, which is the same breed of dog Captain Lewis purchased to accompany their Discovery Corps on their expedition. This particular dog, I was told, weighed 204 lbs and was as gentle as could be. He seemed to love the attention he got from Benjamin (who loves dogs) and Zoë (who loves to do everything Benjamin does). 

Don't you love the way his jowls are melting all over the floor?

Monday, July 09, 2018

Celebrating freedom (June 30–July 4)

History, to quote the Arrogant Worms, "is made by stupid people." 

My cousin Craig was remarking on Canada Day about how the Pax Romana Period was, theoretically, the most blissful time on earth (at least within the Roman Empire and its intended conquests). That would be hard to prove, however, because compared to other more volatile periods of history, little is known about Pax Romana. There were five "good emperors," none of whom achieved remarkable fame due to the peace and prosperity of the region during their reign. 

It's like in the Book of Mormon when years are summarized by the laconic phrase, "they did have continual peace in the land." 

In other words, it was very boring. And boring, as my father-in-law has reminded me on more than one occasion, is how you want life to be. Probably because boring is peaceful and exciting is...entropic. It's danger and near-misses. It's broken arms and stitches. 

Exciting can be exhilarating, but it very often also leads to pain and sorrow. 

Boring may be boring, but it's also good. 

And so begins the reason of why we celebrate Canada Day. My father-in-law asked this question over dinner on the Fourth of July, because every American knows why Independence Day is celebrated, right? It's to commemorate the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress declared their independence from Great Britain and dramatically went about asserting their newfound freedom with the Revolutionary War. 

Rockets glared red, bombs burst in the air, there was havoc of war and confusion of battles. Or so I've been told. 

So what is the reason for Canada Day?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Words are all that he has to take my heart away

"You're my favourite," Andrew told me last night.

"Favourite what?" I asked.

"Favourite everything."

"Favourite everything?" I challenged.

"Yup. Favourite wife, favourite..."

"Flavour of ice cream?"

"Mmmhmm. Yes, that," he said. "But not a lot of places carry that flavour so I always have to get cookies and cream instead."

I may have had to roll my eyes at many, many pick up lines over the last 12.5 years of marriage (ranging from, "Do you have a scripture marking system?" to "Your hair is the colour of old wood."), but finally, Andrew came up with a line so smooth that it at least had me laughing. 

Sidewalk chalk and cookies

"You will never get caught up with blogging," Andrew warned me, "If you keep visiting with people and doing things!"

I know. It's true. Life has been very rich lately, full of friends, family, and fun. Today, for example, we took the kids up to Salt Lake City, on a whim, to visit the Church History Museum (which was fantastically designed) and to see the Christus statue (which we skipped when we took the kids to Temple Square at Christmas because the line was a mile long (almost); there was no line today). We also schlepped them up to the Capitol Building for a little tour. And then we came home and the girls played a game (Pirate's Cove) with Richard and Michael. And then the grown ups stayed up and visited.

And here we are, even further behind than I was before.

But instead of getting caught up today I'm just going to write about Benjamin because he's so sweet.

As an end-of-the-year present, his teacher gifted each student a piece of sidewalk chalk and a booklet of games to play with the sidewalk chalk. It sat ignored in his backpack (along with everything else he'd brought home at the end of the year) until we were packing for our trip to Canada. I couldn't find the backpack Benjamin usually packs in (it was in Miriam's closet—I found it after we got home) but I did find his school backpack so that's what he had to pack in. We had to empty it out first, however (don't judge), which is when we found the forgotten gift.

Finding a forgotten treasure (like a $5 bill in the pocket of your winter coat...or a gift your teacher had given to you a month previously) is as good as receiving something brand new, so Benjamin was all excited about his gift again.

Today he wanted me to play a game with him and since Zoë was out shopping with Andrew and the girls were both occupied at the piano(s) and Alexander wasn't letting me get any work done, anyway, I figured I could take some one-on-one time with Benjamin.

So I said, "Sure, buddy. We can do that. What game do you want to play?"

"This one," he said, flipping to a page titled Follow the Path.

There was a little illustration of stepping stones, which looked easy enough to replicate, so I said, "Great. Let's do it!"

"Okay, first we have to make some cookies."

Thursday, July 05, 2018

So many cousins!

We have had so much cousin time lately; the kids have been in heaven. "I didn't know we even had this many cousins!" one of them exclaimed to me. And they honestly may not have known it even though I was well aware of the plethora of cousins out there.

My kids—at least my older kids—don't have many cousins their age (on my side of the family the cousins are doing things like graduating from high school and getting married, while on Andrew's side of the family the cousins are mostly just babies) so they really enjoyed meeting their extended family. 

Lewis and Clark Caverns (June 26)

We left quite early on Tuesday morning so that we could make it up to Lewis and Clark Caverns with enough time to go on a tour and make the drive to Great Falls (where we had a hotel booked). The children were really wonderful little travelers. I mean, sure, we may have plied Zoë with fruit snacks and screen time...but she didn't scream the whole way so it was well worth it!

The other kids had their fair share of treats and screens as well, but we also played some car games and read books and looked out the window. But, man, those screens are as good as having a divider between the children. No fights broke out in the backseat at all!

When I wasn't tossing snacks at the kids in the backseat, I mostly busied myself by watching the prairies and mountains roll by my windows. I always bring a book to read but am also always far too fascinated by the scenery to do so. 

We were stopped for a while, waiting for a pilot car to lead us through some one-way construction mess, and all these birds started congregating on the fence (having watched Hitchcock's The Birds, we were all a little worried.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Before I delve into the 1685 or so pictures we took on our trip to Canada (and that's no exaggeration (and does not include however many we snapped with our phone cameras)), I'm going to take a minute to brag about Andrew.

Not only did he drive me and our handful of children up to my home and native land—and then back down again—he woke up with the baby this morning and took him out to run errands. This was Alexander's first errand run with Daddy while Mommy slept in.

I had about 100 ounces of breastmilk that I'd pumped and frozen while we were on our trip and it was considerably thawed by the time we arrived home yesterday so I needed to find someone who could use it, like, today. My go-to gal said she didn't think she'd be able to use it quickly enough so I set out to find someone who could. I was messaging people for quite some time last night, checking out milk exchange boards and so forth. I messaged the dad of the little boy whose mother had passed away (but didn't get a response) and tried to contact a few other people before I finally stumbled upon the sister-in-law of a friend on one of these milk-needing forums.

So I messaged my friend (because I knew my message wouldn't go to her spam folder, where I'm assuming most of the other messages I sent went to) and she called her sister-in-law and, long story short, Andrew went to drop the milk off for this other baby to use this morning.

On the way to deliver the milk he stopped at the grocery store to pay for the fireworks that he'd noticed he hadn't yet paid for. He had run to the grocery store last night to pick up some Independence Day celebration goods (corn on the cob and fireworks and the like) and upon reviewing the receipt before going to bed he noticed that the trip had been much less expensive than he imagined it should have been. As it turns out, the big box of fireworks he thought he'd purchased hadn't scanned properly—so it wasn't on the receipt and our total was about $30 less than what it should have been.

He had gone to the store to pay for the fireworks because, as he told me (jokingly, yet not jokingly) in a text message (I had texted him to ask where he and Alexander were), his soul "is worth more than $29.95!"

I'm a pretty lucky lady.

This morning words from The Sound of Music are running through my mind as I think about my wonderful husband: somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good...

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Friday, June 29, 2018

Notes on our Canada trip

I'm sitting here in the basement of my friend's parents' empty house (they are on a trip to England), listening to my sweet baby boy honk away in the next room. All of the children are asleep (including the honker) and it's quiet, or at least about as quiet as has been for a while.

We took three days to drive from Spanish Fork to High River, stopping at the Lewis and Clark Caverns, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, the Tour Alberta Milk River Center, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. We spent one night in Great Falls and one night in Raymond and now we're finally here.

Spreading the trip out was fun to do—we saw some interesting things and never got too sore from sitting in the car—and the kids have been phenomenal little travelers. Rachel has been such a helpful baby tender, snack distributor, and restroom companion (she has helped Zoë while I've been changing Alexander's diapers). Miriam has sitting in the backseat between Benjamin and Zoë and has been helping them get their shoes set up and playing games with them and opening snacks and finding lost shoes. Benjamin has been doing his best to keep quiet with books and movies. Zoë has been doing her best to remember to say, "Please, may I have...." rather than "I WANT..." Alexander has mostly been calm as well.

Our first pit stop, in fact, was Idaho Falls! We talked about how funny it was that we just flew from Spanish Fork to Idaho Falls because when we took the kids up to Idaho in April it was disastrous!

Things went very smoothly this time around (though I must admit to having a slightly raging headache anyway).

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday stuff

Last week Benjamin came down for dinner and proudly announced, "Well, I've finally done it! I put holes in the knees of my Sunday pants!"

He's a little bit hard on clothes, this one.

To his commendation, Benjamin wore them nearly weekly for nearly a year. To his condemnation, they're the pants he so sneakily wore to go hiking in Grover when they were brand new.

Birthday business

The local branch of the company Andrew's father works for is closing down (don't worry; Reid still has his job (he's worked remotely for several years now)). Their official last day was on Friday and so after everyone had left for the day (and forever) we showed up to scavenge (since Andrew's dad was in charge of shutting things down). 

The kids had a blast running around to all the offices and grabbing the whiteboard markers that had been left behind. We picked up a few erasers, too. Zoë was in charge of carrying a few and ended up getting really messy. 

"Did you put that eraser on your face?" Grandpa asked when he saw her.

"No," she answered.

"Okay," Grandpa said. "You've got a little something on your nose..."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dripping Rock

We did not make it to the Icelandic Festival this weekend, but we did make it to Dripping Rock! My mom came down to visit with us for a while (since yesterday was my birthday and we didn't have a big shindig) so we took her out hiking with us. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Alexander at 8 months

I have a confession to make: I forgot how old my own baby was.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somehow instead of rounding down when people asked me how old he was I started rounding up. That's out of character for me because I always want my babies to stay little. Alexander is rather ginormous so I think it's pretty clear that he's not going to stay little and somehow, like I said, I just started rounding up.

By the time he was actually 8 months old I had convinced myself that he had been 8 months old all along and thus thought he was now 9 months old. But then—after tallying things up on my fingers—I realized that he was truly only 8 months old.

So suddenly my baby is littler than I had been thinking he was! I've gained an entire month of his life back, folks! Perhaps that is the way to make them seems smaller—rounding up instead of down.

Whatever the case, Alexander is 8 months (and one week) old. Here's what he's up to:

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: