Saturday, November 17, 2018

Karen's Memorial Service

We're still at the point where every day seems like a milestone of sorts. Today's milestone was, of course, Karen's memorial service, which was a difficult but beautiful day.

Katharine read the life sketch that Reid wrote, which prompted both tears and laughter from those in attendance, and then Rachel got up to read a poem that Sarah wrote. It was really quite a lovely poem and I wished a thousand wishes that Sarah could have expressed those tender feelings to her mother while she was still alive, not so much for Karen's sake but for Sarah's sake.

That's not to say that Karen would not have benefitted from hearing those words while she was alive because I think she would have. But she still got to hear those words.

Rather, I wish for Sarah that she could have approached her mother with the same tone that she did in her poem while her mother was still alive because I think it's a lot harder for those in our earthly sphere to wait than it is for those on the other side. And I think Sarah needs to know that her mom loved her so much it hurt. It will take awhile before Sarah can hear those words (but perhaps she will learn to feel them).

Somehow it will all work out.

Speaking of Sarah, we recorded the service for her. The prison wouldn't let her video-call into the service, nor would they allow us to send in a taped service, but they did say we could send her an audio recording, so that's what we did.

Andrew and Emily played a beautiful duet on the piano and cello (respectively) of Karen's favourite hymn: I Stand All Amazed.

We had three musical numbers and it was quite comical because everyone remembered that Karen's favourite hymn was I Stand All Amazed, so Emily brought down the sheet music for Andrew to learn when she came down last week. Reid and Karen's BYU ward put together a choir and announced that they had selected a piece—I Stand All Amazed. And then Miriam wanted to play and organ piece since Grandma has consistently been ward organist for about 45 years and had been helping Miriam with her organ studies. Miriam chose...I Stand All Amazed.

We joked about having it be the opening and closing song, too, and making an announcement about everyone opening up to hymn number 193 and then just leaving their books open because it was the only song we'd be singing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Funeral Eve

One week.

We've somehow managed to stumble through one week.

This evening we had dinner at Aunt Linda's house with so many aunts and uncles and cousins we haven't seen in years. It was good to get to visit with them again.

We left the children at home with a slew of babysitters (Naanii, Aunt Josie, my mom's coworker and friend, Janet, and a trio of eleven-year-olds (Rachel and two friends); my dad was there for a while as well), and it was a good thing we did because they ended up babysitting ten of the Heiss cousins (our five plus Emily's four and Jacob's one (though I suppose since Rachel was one of the babysitters she wasn't really being babysat)).

It was nice, but weird, to not have to worry about feeding any little people. Apparently we need to get out more.

My sister Kelli supplied pizza for those who stayed at home, which was so sweet of her.

Tomorrow will be Karen's memorial service, which she was adamant would be a celebration of her life, not a sad affair at all. So we'll do our best to celebrate even though we are sad. I mean, of course we were all so happy to have had her in our lives. But this sadness is heavy. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fall Arts Festival

Life right now is rather painfully marked by before and after. It hasn't quite been a week.

We went through the leftovers in the fridge—was this meal from before or after she died? 

The shower door was scheduled to be installed today—by her, before she died.

I recently found a random handout from when Grandma and Grandpa were substitutes for Benjamin's primary class just a few weeks ago. Somehow it's strange to me that his paper (listing one of his talents as "I draw pictures for Grandma!") is still kicking around the house but Grandma is not.

Rachel wrote and submitted a story to the school's art festival before Grandma died as well.

My girls have been enjoying WWII era historical fiction and for Miriam's birthday Grandma gave her a whole stack of books that Rachel had helped her pick out, including several about WWII. Grandma, who was always a little bit about the pomp and circumstance—the presentation—handed them to Miriam, unwrapped

Perhaps that should have been a clue of how horribly she was feeling. Not wrapping presents, I mean.

I keep looking back for clues, for something—anything—that we could have picked up on or done differently. I should probably stop, but it's where my mind keeps drifting so it must be part of the grieving process.

Anyway, Rachel submitted this story to the school's art festival (before Grandma died) and on Tuesday (after Grandma died), we went to the award evening at the school where we found Rachel had been awarded first place in the literature category for grades five and six.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Grandma's Eulogy by Miriam

Miriam wrote this on Friday morning last week. She's a sweetheart.


Thank you for coming to this mortal life.  We all love you!!

Grandma’s eulogy

Some things that grandma did for me is love me so, so, so, so, so, so, so, much. I love her and will miss her very much. I cannot wait to see her soon! I know that I will be able to see her after this death & life. I love her so much and will miss her so much.

One reason why I love grandma is that she is very kind to herself and others. She loves almost everyone she meets. She loves all of her grandchildren very much. One thing I remember that was kind is when she took us to Las Vegas and we went to lots of places like the M&M Factory, Hoover Dam, The Strip, and the Coca Cola Factory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Footie pyjamas, with the feet cut off...

I took a nap today. I went down when I finally got Alexander down (he skipped his morning nap so it wasn't until the late afternoon) and planned to wake up around the time the kids should get home. By the time I rolled out of bed, Miriam was home, snuggled with Zoë on the couch, watching a show.

"Where are Benjamin and Rachel?" I asked.

"I dunno," she said. "I came home right away because it's an organ day and I have stuff to do."

"You're just sitting on the couch watching TV..." I pointed out.

"Yeah, but..." she started.

I waited around for a few minutes to see if Rachel and Benjamin would show up. They didn't.

"But really," I said. "Where are they? Like, they should definitely be home by now."

I pride myself on being a bit of a renegade in this generation of helicopter parenting, choosing to embrace a more free-range style of parenting, but I'm also feeling a little paranoid recently and I wanted to know where my kids were.

I checked my phone and there was a missed call from the school (but no voicemail (children: leave a message)).

"Oh, no!" I recalled. "Rachel said she was going to go to a friend's house to finish a project after school. Why didn't you wait for Benjamin? We talked about this at FHE last night when we went over the calendar!"

"I didn't remember!" Miriam objected. "It's not my fault!"

"No, no. It's not your fault. I just wish you would have remembered. I wish I would have thought to check my phone sooner. I wish a lot of things!"

I called the school back but Benjamin wasn't there.

"Maybe he's trying out for the school play," the secretary suggested.

"He's in grade one," I said (the play is only open to grades five and six).

"Oh, then he's not trying out for the school play," the secretary said, now sounding as worried about this situation as I did. "He's just a little guy. Okay. I can do a school-wide page for him."

With my burrito

Author's note: I started this post before everything with Karen happened. We had been planning on joining her on a humanitarian trip to Mexico, which was just another reason to learn Latin American Christmas music. We aren't going to Mexico anymore, but when I was humming Los peces en el río, Karen said she recognized the song from something. I told her it was a Spanish Christmas song and she insisted it was from a movie or something but later decided it was from an old Christmas record of hers. It was a little early for Christmas music but she didn't mind that I couldn't get it out of my head and she laughed and laughed when I told her about mi burrito sabanero.

Now that Ruth's in the family (my brother David's new wife) we've felt a little more motivation to learn Spanish (she's from Argentina) so as I've been putting together Christmas music for our little ukulele group I've found myself focusing on music from Latin America. I could probably just ask Ruth what songs she sang at Christmastime as a child, but I've actually been having a lot of fun finding songs on my own.

Los peces en el río, for example, seemed like a rather odd song to me at first. It's a great song for learning the verb "to drink" because the chorus goes, "pero mira como beben los peces en el rio, pero mira como beben por ver a Dios nacido. Beben y beben y vuelven a beber! Los peces en el rio por ver a Dios nacer."

I was like, "Why fish?"

But they're just watching the Virgin Mary go about her work, tending to her sweet baby, from the river. They keep coming back to watch because they just love watching her and that baby, which is a rather sweet sentiment.

Also, the song has her washing diapers and I love that!

I had never thought about Mary washing diapers before but I'm sure she spent plenty of time doing menial tasks like that. Life can't be awash with halos all the time.

The song is sacred, but also fun.

I've also been learning Mi burrito sabanero, another fun song (that makes rather repetitive use of the verb "to go," so it's another great song for hammering in those conjugations).

When I was first reading over the lyrics, however, I stupidly* wondered, "Why a burrito?"

But then I realized that the better question was, "Why not a burrito?"

I mean, we sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, figgy pudding, and wassail. Who am I to draw the line at burritos? Burritos are yummy and they are a traditional Christmas food in Andrew's family, anyway.** Maybe a sabanero is a special Christmassy burrito sauce that evoked all sorts of warm childhood memories for people...

And then I read the English translation: the song is about a little donkey!


Now, I knew that burrito meant 'little donkey,' but the picture that pops into my mind when you say the word burrito is not a little donkey. When you say burrito, all I see is a snuggly-wrapped bean-filled tortilla of joy.

But a donkey makes sense. I mean, if you're going to Bethlehem you'd probably want to take a donkey rather than a burrito, right? But, honestly—why not take both? Is it even up for debate? Do we really even need a taco about this?

* This is a post about Christmas music so I thought throwing in a Christmas word would be appropriate.

** Karen's family grew up having burritos (fried burritos) for Christmas and she continued the tradition with her family and we have tried to continue it with ours. Andrew told me that his grandparents often called them "burros" rather than "burritos," so I said, "Why? Couldn't they find any small tortillas?" I think I'm so funny.

Object permanence

They bring us food, I think, to remind us we're alive,
And a hug to remind us we are loved.

Coaxing us out of our numb stupor
They fill us with comfort, inside and out.

And we take it eagerly,
Greedily. Like a tired infant

Who needs his mother's arms around him
and his mother's milk inside him.

His thirst unquenchable
As he discovers temporal object permanence

Our hole unfathomable
As we navigate celestial object permanence.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Unintentional Poetry

Zoë's Bedtime Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father
My grandma was sick
And now she is dead
We are so sad
In the name of Jesus Christ

A Week of Google Searches (from Andrew's phone)

spanish fork hospital
payson hospital not ihc insurance
payson hospital address
sepsis symptoms
sepsis mortality
sepsis prognosis
how to fold wheelchair
kidney failure signs
liver failure signs
ammonia in blood
sepsis causes
sepsis contagious
quality of life after sepsis
reduce ammonia in blood
when was dialysis invented
how does dialyzer work
ammonia too long brain damage
medical exemptions run red light or speeding
heart rate when dying
agonal breathing
scientific name for death rattle
how to write an obituary

A week  of Google Searches (from Nancy's computer)

what the living do
causes of pneumonia
blood sugar 162
cold sepsis
septic shock
sepsis death rate
dare to be up and doing
sepsis mortality rate
sepsis deaths
how long to recover from sepsis
fhe preparing for death
sepsis patient wake up
sepsis unconscious four days
preparing children for death
prepare children for live-in grandparent to die
crust club
potassium effect on heart
breathing just before death
breathing pattern before death
agonal breathing
what is a wake
losing a parent as a young adult
never suppress a generous thought
how to write an obituary

Miriam's Worry (and the answer)

I can't remember
The last thing
She said to me.

Whatever it was,
It meant
I love you.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My cup runneth over

Today was the primary children's sacrament meeting presentation so we packed a fistful of Kleenex and headed to church. Auntie Emily was still here so she came with us and my mom and Auntie Josie showed up as well, so our bench didn't feel any less squishy than it would ordinarily be. But, oh, every last thing seemed to bring me to the brink of tears.

I started sniffling when they announced Karen's passing over the pulpit but I didn't really start crying until the middle of the opening hymn (yes, I lasted all the way until the opening hymn) and my mom started bawling right beside me.

We sang Teach Me to Walk in the Light and who knew it was such a tear jerker!?

Come, little child, and together we'll learn
Of his commandments, that we may return
Home to his presence, to live in his sight—
Always, always to walk in the light.

Both my mom and I were crying by the time we reached the third line.

I guess that's what the Plan of Salvation—the Plan of Happiness—is all about: preparing to return home to live with Heavenly Father. I wish saying goodbye wasn't so difficult to do, but it just is—even though we know there is "help and happiness ahead," and even though we've been flooded with tender mercies. It's still just hard.

But we can do hard things.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I had one job

My job on Thursday was to be home for hospice deliveries.

First came her pain-management medication.

Then came her box of hygiene supplies.

Finally the bed and oxygen arrived.

I had to sign for it all and learn how to use it all and the very idea of having to do any of it filled me with trepidation. I've seen hospice equipment before and I know children care for their ailing parents all the time. I just felt woefully unprepared to be caring for an ailing parent.

Karen was just up and talking to me last week, I thought. I should not be preparing her death bed today. 

But life is funny that way.

Reid had asked if I would make up the bed for her, with a mattress pad and some sheets and blankets. They don't have any twin sheets any more. In fact, we have all their old twin sheets. So I said that wouldn't be a problem.

But then I went upstairs to retrieve sheets and realized that all the ones I had on hand were plastered with characters from Blue's Clues or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fitted sheets we'd gotten from Reid and Karen had worn out long ago (and now that I was staring into a drawer dancing with cartoon characters I distinctly remembered tossing the plain pink sheets and the flowered sheets because they'd split right down the middle and I all I had left of those sets were the flat sheets). I had some plainer sheets on a couple of the kids' beds, but I'd have to peel them off and wash them in order to have them ready and I just didn't think I could deal with that.

Besides, I didn't think the kids would really want their favourite set of sheets to be the sheets that Grandma died on (this is assuming they had a favourite set of sheets at all, but sometimes they're choosy about which sheets end up on their beds so...that sounds like favoritism to me).

So I texted my friend Kara to ask if she had anything a little more dignified than Blue's Clues sheets on hand. She said that she did and she would bring some over when she dropped off a freezer meal for us later that afternoon. Soon Kara was at my door with a frozen lasagna, frozen rolls, a bag of salad, and some cinnamon rolls. Oh, and a set of sheets.

I thanked her, Tetris-ed her meal into our freezer, and then pulled out the sheets.


Beautiful things

The past couple of days have been quite the bouquet of emotions. Our front door has been a revolving door with people coming and going all day long, staying only for a brief hug or to drop off a meal, or staying to chat for hours and clean our microwave. It's been exhausting (especially so for Reid) to tell the story over and over again but at the same time it's been healing (she said sagely after two days of grieving (I'm sure more grief is coming)).

We probably had a hundred people stop by yesterday (and that's no exaggeration).

My favourite vignettes from the past couple of days are:

Thursday night and Grandma's passing

When Reid and Emily arrived home from the hospital last night they were somewhat somber.

Shortly before they were about to leave the nurse informed them that Karen's potassium levels were causing her heart to beat arrhythmically again (they had managed to get her potassium levels under control when she was first admitted), which was a sign that she was preparing to pass on. Reid asked if he should stay, but the nurse told him to go home to get some rest. She would call if things seemed to be getting close to the end.

Josie asked my mom if they could stop by to see her before going home and before we knew it, Miriam (who at 9:30 was just coming downstairs to brush her teeth, the little bedtime evader), Josie, my mom and I were heading to the hospital.

When the nurse came to see what business we had at the ICU so late at night, I explained that Reid had sent us to say goodbye to Karen. "Oh, by all means," she said and then bent down to reassure Miriam, who was staring with panic at the sign that said 'no visitors under the age of 12.' "We make exceptions for children under these circumstances."

These circumstances.

I hadn't seen Karen since Saturday night when she was awake and talking (somewhat) and still looked like herself more or less. When I saw her last night the change was jarring. She didn't look like herself at all, but we bravely filed into the room anyway to say goodbye.

"Hi Karen," I...blurted.

I don't know that blurted is the right word. It was a blurt and a choke and a sob all rolled into one.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Telling the children

When Reid told me that Karen had fallen in the wee hours of the morning on November 1st, I had a distinct impression in my mind: "This is how we lose her."

That thought caught in my heart and I worried and worried until finally Karen emerged from her bedroom, calling out to Zoë and Alexander to come see her, just has she had done every morning for the past year.

"Where's my baby? Alexander!" she'll call and he'll take off like a rocket from wherever he is, trying to get to her as fast as he can. Zoë is no different and as soon as she hears Grandma calling will quickly drop whatever she's doing to greet her.

"Oh!" I said in surprise when I saw her face. "That's actually not quite as bad as I was expecting, though I'm sure the bruises will darken over time."

Inside I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

What had those words meant? That one day we'd lose Grandma after a fall.

But not this day. This day she was fine. She was up and at 'em. She was cuddling her grandbabies.

Her pain, however, intensified throughout the day and she finally decided she had better get checked out. I offered to drive her to the InstaCare, but she said she'd have Reid take her and it's a good thing, too, because they were sent from the InstaCare to the ER, which is where they found the pneumonia.

A small case of pneumonia. Nothing to worry about...until she couldn't wake up and this whole nightmare started.

Those words have been running through my mind all week.

This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her.

I denied those words; how silly they seemed. I think I even used a Christmas word on them and accused them of being stupid. She fell. I get it. But she's not going to die. Don't be ridiculous!

I bargained with those words. Fine, she would die of sepsis at some point but not this time because this time she was going to be alright. This time she was going to come back to us. Later on, years down the road, a similar event would happen and then she would go. Just not today. Please not now. Don't take her away yet.

But as the hours and days dragged on, I accepted those words. Oh. I see.

This. Is. How. We. Lose. Her.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Alone together

I have many heavy things to write about so first I will write about some lighter matters. Actually, it will probably be a mix of heavy and light because I tried to jump right to the funny bits but I couldn't do it. I'm so, so deeply sad. I was grasping at words for this sadness—it's bereavement, isn't it? That's the only word that encompasses these feelings.

I am so ridiculous that I made Andrew keep a light on when we went to bed last night because I just needed the light on whenever I opened my eyes. But also I can't sleep with the lights on so I wore a sleeping mask so that it would be dark enough to sleep, but so that all I had to do to be in the light again was to lift the mask.

I'm not a complicated person at all. Why do you ask?

Tears seem unstoppable in the dark.

I'm so very lonely, you see. The house is so quiet, so very empty. I'm not used to being the only adult around. I'm used to chatting with Karen during the day. I'm used to setting Alexander down to accomplish a task (laundry, cooking, dishes, whatever) and having him crawl off to find Grandma because—lucky boy that he is—he knew that if Momma wouldn't hold him that Grandma would. It was very helpful for me and those two were as thick as thieves, Alexander and Grandma.

The house has felt like it's swallowing me so I've been grateful for people who've stopped by to make me less alone. Sister Fenn came by yesterday just to chat with me, and then I took the kids to visit Aunt Linda, and then we went to a baby shower just so we didn't have to be home alone.

Today Uncle Jacob, Aunt Shayla, and Carter came over so that they didn't have to feel alone alone and the kids and I didn't have to feel alone alone. They came so we could feel alone together.

Jacob helped me clean the bathrooms and floors and get ready for the open house we have planned for Grandma. Miraculously, Alexander let Jacob hold him. Shayla has been a low-ranking member of the short list of people Alexander permits to hold him. Jacob has been a high-ranking member of the long list of people Alexander screams about whenever they enter the room.

But not today.

Today Jacob just went over and picked Alexander up and Alexander let him do it.

Jacob and Shayla even took Alexander downstairs to play (Alexander was napping when they arrived and Carter was not-so-patiently waiting to play with Baby Xander) without me.

It was amazing!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

It seems like yesterday...

In the entry way to our house stand four spooky gingerbread houses.

Grandma constructed the houses, carefully carving each piece from a graham cracker and pasting them together with royal frosting. Then she patiently helped the kids decorate their houses.

I have no pictures of this because it was the Tuesday before Halloween and I had taken Miriam to BYU for her organ lesson (and then went to gamelan). I had left Zoë, Benjamin, and Rachel behind with Grandma—just for a little while—even though she wasn't feeling great because that was literally the only time we had left to decorate gingerbread houses before Halloween. Andrew left campus around the same time that Miriam and I arrived, so she wasn't alone with them for very long. Just long enough to finish decorating their houses by the time Andrew got home.

Since Miriam had missed out on decorating her house, she rushed home from school last Wednesday and asked permission to do her house. Grandma helped her set all the candy out again and warmed up some frosting for her to use and then left her to it.


I don't want this sadness

I have watched Death creep inch... 
Until, finally, 
It makes its move,
Bringing grief, 
But also relief.

I have seen Death rob
Cradles, wombs, wedding beds.
Striking randomly, 
It leaves in its wake
Anguish, sorrow,
Pain-filled tomorrows.

I have known Death from afar,
As a fact of life, as clinical.
It has taken—family, 
Friends, strangers—
Slowly and sudden, 
This angel unbidden.

I hear Death knocking
At my door—not for me—
For one I love.

I don't want this sadness.

It's time to learn, Death says.

Come in.

My mom is doing NaBloPoMo this month, which has been great because she's already shared so many wonderfully interesting stories. Today she said that it was amazing to her how writing daily has spurred ideas in her mind. 

I haven't committed to NaBloPoMo publicly (until now), but I did so privately. Unfortunately, I'm having the opposite experience. Though I have a lot to write about my words are seizing up inside of me, instead of flowing out in a verbose river of prose, they're leaking out in poetry, quite unsure of themselves (and whether they'll be able to stay the flood of emotions behind them).

I am not a poet, but words are good for my soul (so I'll keep trying to write something every day).

For an update on Karen, see here.

(Is that link a TLDR link? Let me sum up: her status as not changed. She is critically ill but in stable condition.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Halloween 2018

Wednesday was a rather busy day and with orchestra in the morning I didn't have time to snap a picture of Rachel before school. I also didn't get around to snapping a picture of Zoë before her preschool Halloween party because she was in such a sour mood that we were running late by the time I'd convinced her to put on her costume and head out the door.

But I did manage to take pictures of the other three! 

Here's Benjamin dressed up as Neville Longbottom—notice the earmuffs and the mandrake:

Monday, November 05, 2018

Alexander's first words!

Alexander, still not walking, has at least finally started talking. He mostly communicates by grunting and pointing. He will occasionally say "momma" (or variations on that theme). But other than that—nothing. 

When he had his check up not too long ago, the doctor asked what words, if any, he was using consistently (other than "mama" and "dada," which should be a given (but which really aren't for Alexander)). I was like, "Yeah, none, so..." 

But on Sunday when we were leaving to go to church, with half our brood because half of us were too sick to go, Alexander both waved goodbye and said bye-bye.

I wouldn't define it as "clear as a bell." Rather it was a garbled, "Bluh-bluh," but we'll take it!

And then this morning he was playing on a toy cell phone and he put it up to his ear and said, "Eh-o?" which I can only assume was his attempt at, "Hello?"

Good news: Benjamin found his lunchbox

Want to see what a bagel topped with cream cheese looks like after several weeks of neglect?

I'm curious about where this lunchbox was hiding because I know it was not in the lost and found when we first looked. And Benjamin swears it wasn't in any of the lunchbox buckets (each class has a big bin to carry lunchboxes around in). It just...turned up one day looking like this.

We're glad to have it back, anyway.

Usually I (try to) make him finish his leftover lunch as part of his after school snack. In this case I did not.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Dare to be up and doing

There is a line that runs through my mind occasionally, but I don't know where it comes from, at least not precisely. Part of me wants to attribute it to my Grandpa C because I know that he recited poetry often (according to his personal history he was a Tennyson man), though I don't recall him ever reciting poetry to me (of course, I only knew him after his stroke, so...). It is a line from a poem, but it is also a line of scripture, so perhaps that's why it pops into my mind occasionally, though in my mind it is wrong.

"Dare to be up and doing" is the line.

It doesn't quite come from Longfellow's A Psalm of Life (1838), which states, "Let us, then, be up and doing," nor is it quite from Alma 60:24 (translated in 1829), which states, "begin to be up and doing."

Perhaps it's just my mind smashing a bunch of well-known and oft-quoted lines together?

I don't know where it came from, but I like it.

A guest post from Reid (to appease the masses)

I totally stole this from his blog, which can be found here.


When I got back to my computer screen Sunday morning, the website for the Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah's was still displaying. It was right where I left in, at the bottom of the Contact Us page showing the phone number of the hospital.

I called that number less than 24 hours ago and just now got back to my computer.

I called on behalf of Karen, my wife. But to understand why we need to go back in time a few days.

Sunday, October 28

Karen had been burdened with an infrequent cough and mild muscle aches. It is the beginning of flu season had she had recently received her flu shot, so she thought it was just a persistent cold that would go away on its own.

So she declared that she was sick.

We all pitched in to minimize what she needed to do for the next couple of days. Nancy, our daughter-in-law, did all she could to remind the five grandchildren to “leave grandma alone so she can rest.”

While such instructions worked well with Rachel and Miriam, who are older, Benjamin, Zoe, and Alexander didn't quite understand the concept of “leave grandma alone.” So Karen did not have the most peaceful of recovery time, but how can resist a visit from a grandchild?

Wednesday, October 31

There was no demonstrable improvement in her health Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday evening we had tickets to see a live show of Lore, a podcast of spooky, semi-historical stories at BYU. She was concerned she was not going to be able to make it to the show. She really wanted to go. So she pumped up on non-drowsy medicines and had a purse-full of cough drops.  We went to the show. She was fine during the performance but I could tell the event had drained her strength so I was glad to get her home as soon as possible

For the past few months, she has struggled going to sleep. Her biggest fear was to lay in bed and not be able to sleep. Part of her sleeping problem stemmed from the constant pain she suffered in both her feet from diabetes. A while back, she was prescribed a painkiller for her feet that has the uncanny ability to put her to sleep in a matter of minutes.

This has created a series of comical sleeping experience. On many occasions, I have found her sleeping on her keyboard in her office. When she was up late making birthday cakes for three of the grandchildren, she fell asleep at the kitchen table. So, on several occasions, I would roam the house looking for where she had fallen asleep.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she took a cough medicine to help settle her lungs before she went to bed. This cough medicine included a powerful sleeping agent. Now she was taking two sleeping agents at the same time. This significantly decreased the time it took for her to fall asleep and greatly improved her quality of sleep.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Do you or I or anyone know?

I still need to write about Halloween (let's be honest—I still need to write about a lot of things! I still have a list of things to write about from summer break!) but Halloween festivities seem rather trivial in light of recent events.

Though I can't find any evidence of it, I seem to recall my mom's cousin Mary repeating the adage "Life is fragile!" on Facebook (several times). Usually I just smile a little as I look at the hearts and flowers surrounding her reminder. It's true. Death, it seems, is almost as common as birth.

Somehow, even though my brain knows this, I sometimes feel like I'm still in that super-human phase of life—that phase where I'm untouchable. Like, sure, pain and death exist for other people but not for me.

My friend's brother passed away the day before Halloween from an accidental heroin overdose. She had just moved her little family, nine days before, to China. So as you can imagine, she's feeling all sorts of ripped apart right now. My heart broke for her as she described her sorrow.

Life, as they say, is fragile.

When death is for others it feels so matter-of-fact.

When death is knocking at your door it gets personal. It feels like blinking in and out of consciousness. It feels like chaos and like peace. It feels like forever and all at once.

And that is only for the living.

My grieving friend, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, who writes beautiful serious poetry shared a beautiful poem about grieving called What the Living Do by Marie Howe. Rachel has been alluding to this poem as she shares going through the actions of, for example, getting her children dressed in their Halloween costumes while drowning in agony.

As a somewhat sassy poet of an entirely different genre, my thoughts turned to the traditional English/American folk song Oats and Beans and Barley Grow. It goes like this:

Oats and beans and barley grow
Oats and beans and barley grow
Do you or I or anyone know
How oats and beans and barley grow?

But my mind wasn't on oats and beans and the only words screaming in my mind were: "Do you or I or anyone know?!?!?!!!"

Friday, November 02, 2018

Stories upon stories upon stories...

How does someone come up with so many beautiful words?

I just finished Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and it was simply beautiful. I started reading it while I was lying on the floor beside the crib while Alexander was taking forever to fall asleep and I had to grab a paper from Miriam's floor ('twas easy because her room is a bit of a mess) to use as a bookmark for a passage that stuck out to me because of something my mom said to me this week (she said that I need to write, not that she was nagging me to write, just that she was telling a truth about me):

"My uncle says that when you tell stories, it's like letting out all the scared inside of you.... It's like you help stuff make sense" p. 41.

But then I couldn't stop marking passages. It's a book that explains so eloquently that we're all a little bit broken and which illustrates the ideas (if not a little too obviously) that we can be someone's safe harbour. There were so many words I wanted to remember forever.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Retweeted by a past-PM

The day before Halloween, Andrew texted me to say, "I just had a former Canadian PM retweet me."

"I hope it's not Kim Campbell," I thought to myself. 

But it was Kim Campbell, which is fine, I suppose. She simply wasn't very well-liked as Prime Minister (in fact she very often ranks dead last). But, like, whatever. It's still cool. 

She falls on the conservative end of the spectrum but scrolling through her twitter feed to find this retweet (the Right Honourable Kim Campbell retweets a lot of stuff which almost makes the fact that she retweeted Andrew less amazing, but not really) revealed that I agree with her on quite a bit, which, I told Andrew, just goes to show how liberal conservative Canadians are!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Term one report cards were sent home this Monday (all three kids are doing just fine) and I was anxiously awaiting them when the kids got home because earlier in the day I had gotten the following email from Miriam's typing teacher (or "keyboarding" instructor):

I read that and I just about died.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Originality is not his strong point

Benjamin read somewhere (in her little biography at the end of the 4th Harry Potter book) that JK Rowling started writing stories at age six.

"Wait a minute," he said. "I'm six! I'd better start writing!"

"It's never too soon," I told him and off he ran to his bedroom with a paper and pencil.

We didn't hear from him until we called him back out for scriptures and prayer. He came out proudly carrying a freshly written story and asked me to read it.

"Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming-of-age. He wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the Quidditch World Cup," I read.

"Pernicious!!?" Andrew said, nodding approvingly. "That's my boy!"

"Wait. You think he wrote this?" I asked Andrew. "The fact that our six-year-old used (and spelled) the word 'pernicious' correctly didn't raise any red flags for you? He didn't write this. He copied it from the back of the book!"

"But that's piracy!" Rachel spluttered, but when Andrew and I started laughing she had second thoughts about her word choice. "I mean...that's something that sounds similar to piracy and has a similar definition to piracy but which is not piracy. It'''s...plagiarism!"

"That's the word!" I applauded.

Andrew later said he thought perhaps Benjamin had just been reading some Fancy Nancy books or something. Pernicious, after all, is simply a fancy word for terrible.

But, no. He simply copied JK Rowling's words down verbatim. Mimicry is the highest form of flattery, is it not? He is working on his own writing as well, but it just comes with practice.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Miriam is nine! (She's so nice we celebrated twice)

Miriam turned nine on Thursday. I for one would like to know how she managed that. How did my sweet little baby turn into such a lovely half-grown little lady? I honestly cannot fathom it. Her babyhood is so fresh in my mind that it's sometimes shocking that she's a living, breathing nine-year-old.

I loved all my babies, but her babyhood is much more vivid in my mind than other memories. Perhaps because she was born at such a precious time in our lives. Egypt will never be far from our hearts. We still cherish the friendships forged there and often recall the adventures (and misadventures) we went on and the lessons we learned. We did a lot of growing and stretching in Egypt.

Once you drink from the Nile, the saying goes, you will always return. 

Though we've yet to return physically, we frequently dip into our memories.

Miriam doesn't remember anything about her birthplace at all, but she is rather fascinated with ancient Egypt and requested a pyramid cake for her birthday this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Much overwhelm: the pudding that broke the camel's back

Monday is Rachel's day for dishes right now, which is only relevant so that you know that because it was Monday (1) was Rachel's dish day and (2) was family night. It was a particularly rushed evening for family night because things have simply been particularly rushed lately. On Monday morning we had taken the three little kids to apply for their passports, which meant Andrew got to campus late, which meant he felt obligated to stay a little later, which mean we had dinner later, which meant we were scrambling to clean up from dinner and get to our family night activities before bedtime.

We decided that we'd leave the dishes to do for later (our meal wasn't extravagant so honestly there weren't many cooking dishes (and I had already done the dishes from lunch and breakfast so it was really just the plates we'd used for eating on and some containers from leftovers, I think)) and jumped into family night.

After family night we rattled off the same getting-ready-for-bed list that we recite every night (which, for whatever reason, our children cannot seem to get ready for bed without):

  • Get on your pyjamas
  • Brush your teeth
  • Go potty
  • And so forth
If we miss saying an item they will surely forget about doing it and when we say, "Why haven't you brushed your teeth?!" they'll say, "You didn't say to brush your teeth. You just said to get ready for bed." No matter how many times we explain that getting ready for bed means doing all the things they still pull this routine regularly. 

Oh, but then we forgot that Andrew had made a treat for family night: pudding. 

So we said to scratch the teeth-brushing. We'd go from pyjamas to pudding to teeth to scriptures and prayer. Rachel somehow got behind in this process (I think she got hung up making her lunch) so when she came up for scriptures and prayer she was not in her pyjamas and she hadn't brushed her teeth, nor had she done the dishes. 

She managed to get her pyjamas on before we'd corralled the rest of the kids for scriptures and prayer and then as we dismissed them went through their list of things to do.

"Zoë, go potty and hop into bed. Benjamin, put your papers into your backpack, go potty, and hop into bed. Miriam, finish tidying your bedroom and hop into bed. You still have some reading time. Rachel, you need to brush your teeth and wash the dishes."

"But I haven't had any pudding yet!" she objected (because I think pyjamas were requisite to get a dish of pudding).

So Andrew appended his statement. "Rachel: pudding, dishes, teeth. Go!"

And with that she flew into a tizzy. She yanked the baby gate open and stormed down the stairs, angry words flying, feet pounding. 

"Rachel!" I gasped, shocked by her outburst (though this is probably mere foreshadowing of those dreaded teenage years, I'm sure someone will point out). 

I followed her downstairs and asked what was the matter. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

One year stats

Alexander had his one-year well-baby visit this morning. The nurse warned me that it would be a tough appointment because he needed shots and labs done today but it ended up being extra tough because his labs didn't go well, which meant she had to repeat them three times.

So the poor boy ended up with four shots (two in each leg) and two finger pricks. The first time his iron level was 9.4, which is too low, so the nurse came back and squeezed his poor little thumb again. This time his iron level was 9.7, which is still too low, so the doctor poked his head in and said we could either try another finger prick, but in a different location, or we could do a complete blood count (which is a lot more involved than a quick jab to the thumb). This third finger prick worked like a charm and he passed his iron test. The doctor seemed to think that third test was the most accurate because Alexander is growing so well.

He is 21 lbs. 1 oz. and 29 inches tall and is the picture of health.

We just have to wait around for him to walk and talk now. And when I mentioned that he still insists on being swaddled in order to sleep soundly the doctor assured me that wasn't a problem because if he really wanted to break out of the swaddle, he could. He assured me that eventually Alexander would give up swaddling (but that if it comes down to it we can always give his roommates a tutorial when we send him off to college—"just wrap him up real tight").

I'm sure he'll eventually decide that walking is a necessary thing as well, but so far he's perfectly content to crawl, climb, and be carried.

So soapy it hurts

Last night before Andrew washed his hands he opened the soap container and added more water to it. It's one of those foaming soap bottles. We've been reusing the same bottle for a long time; we just add regular liquid soap to it (about a quarter of the way full) and then fill the rest with water, shake it up, and—presto!

It's not an exact science, however, and sometimes the mixture ends up too watery. Other times it ends up too soapy. This time it was a little soapier than it should have been, which is why Andrew had added more water.

"Too soapy for you?" I asked with feigned indignation (I had been the last one to refill it).

"Yeah," said Andrew. "It's too soapy for my shirt."

"So soapy it hurts?" I asked him.

"Uhhhhh...sure," he said, obviously confused by my remark. Shaking off his confusion he said, "But did you get my reference?"

"I did," I said patronizingly. "Did you get mine?"

"I did not," he said.

"It's the second line of the song you referenced."

"Oh. I don't really know that song."

"I could tell."

I know that song from Encino Man, which I remember watching several times as a child. From my memories this is a very funny movie and I still quote it every now and then ("Shoo, fly, don't bother me...'cuz you belong to my friend Link!"). Andrew doesn't think he's ever watched that movie (probably because he didn't have older siblings because I doubt I would have watched it in the 90s if I hadn't have had older siblings).

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


The other day when Riley was over, they (along with Benjamin) were in the backyard playing with the sidewalk chalk. I heard some funny scraping noises on the side of the house and looked out of the window to see those two three-year-olds had abandoned the sidewalk and were drawing on the side of the house, which isn't a terrible thing to do because it will wash off but it's best to be in the habit of drawing where one ought so I decided to intervene. 

I opened the back door and Riley and Zoë leapt away from their graffiti. 

"Who's been drawing on my house?" I asked in a silly storybook villain voice (like the troll from The Three Billy Goats Gruff or the witch from Hansel and Gretel).

"Not me!" they both said, each accusing the other with their little pointer fingers.

Unfortunately for Zoë, she's reached the age of self-incrimination because I'm pretty sure Riley didn't put that Z-O-E on the wall (though the series of vertical lines belong to him (if you look closely you can see that Zoë is written in green chalk and the lines are done in a turquoise colour (blue and green are actually rather difficult for me to tell apart and I always call things green that others think are blue or think things are blue when others swear that they're green so I dunno—those two colours are distinct in that picture, right? One of them is green-ish and the other is more blue (at least in my opinion))).

The three smalls

This little man was probably the most frustrating one to take pictures of. By the time we got home his pants, which were woefully caked with mud and salt, had dried and he wasn't even able to bend them. It's a good thing he's a cute, funny kid.

We did quiet a bit of snacking on the way out to the salt flats (a two-hour drive from our house), having left right around lunch time without much lunch in our bellies. When we were very nearly there, Benjamin asked if he could have a packet of applesauce.

"Not right now," Andrew said. "We're nearly there—only eleven minutes to go."

"I can eat an applesauce in ten!" Benjamin quickly countered.

"Well, that's not really the poi..." Andrew started to say before Benjamin cut him off with...

"I can eat an applesauce in one!"

He did not get his applesauce, but that was quickly forgotten because...water. My kids cannot resist water. (Oddly enough, last weekend I found a paper about Benjamin wanting to go leaf peeping and then we did; this weekend he brought home a paper about going to the beach and I was like, "Oh, buddy! The beach is too far away!" but then we ended up splashing around in salt water anyway, though we weren't really expecting to find as much water as we did (and that particular rest stop isn't always a lake, either, that lucky little boy)).

Monday, October 22, 2018


At first we were going to take family pictures on Saturday but then we decided we wouldn't because we hadn't decided on a location or a wardrobe or anything and we were running out of time to make such suggestions. But then Rachel suggested that we take family photos at the salt flats and this Saturday was the only date available for such an outing for quite some time so we decided we'd go for it. 

The idea was one part brilliant and one part messy, messy, messy

It was quite the adventure, that's for sure!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Glen Ray's Pumpkin Patch

We've been watching Riley more frequently than usual recently due to a change in his daycare situation. Knowing that my children were all going to be home today and tomorrow, I suggested to Karen that we take them all to a pumpkin patch place so they didn't go stir crazy but then she got sick so instead Reid and I ended up taking the kids out. 

I had found a place called Bert's online but other than an address I couldn't find much information, so we drove to the address, which was out in the middle of nowhere, and found nothing. So we decided we'd head over to Jaker's. On our way to the highway, however, we stumbled upon Glen Ray's Corn Maze and Grandpa pulled into the parking lot, declaring, "Let's just go here!"

So that's what we did and it was a pretty fun place, though I think I enjoyed Jaker's more (but that could be my attitude's fault than the place's fault). 

The first con would be the price. It's $4 for general admission and $4 for the corn maze, which of course the kids (Rachel and Miriam specifically) were super excited about doing. Plus there were other add-ons, like I believe it was $15 for the spooky corn maze and $2 for each additional train ride. It felt like things could get pricey real fast (and we all know how I feel about that). Agrotourism is great, but, like...shouldn't be as outrageous as Disneyland (which I also believe shouldn't be outrageously priced).

Jaker's is $3 for everything, but they don't have a maze through actual corn stalks (they do, however, have a hay bale maze, which I didn't do because I only had Zoë and Alexander with me, but that's just as much fun (or not fun, depending on how you feel about mazes)). 

The first pro of Glen Ray's would be that it wasn't nearly as crowded as Jaker's was. We got to ride the little tractor train right away, which Benjamin and Riley were both terribly excited about. Rachel volunteered to take Alexander, who wasn't thrilled about the idea, and Zoë cried and screamed and said she'd only go on if she could sit on Miriam's lap (so Miriam let her). They all had varying levels of fun...

The con for Jaker's would be that it's a super popular place so it's quite busy (but that's really only a con because I don't like crowds)...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pokemon and crushes

I found my sweet little Benjamin taking care of his cousin Riley in the kitchen this morning. I had been wondering who he had been talking to—counting backwards with the microwave timer and prattling on about all sorts of things—and it was sweet to see that he'd made oatmeal for the two of them (complete with a sprinkle of chocolate chips to make it "special").

"Oh, hi, Mom!" he said when I popped into the kitchen where he was on a stool, wiping out the microwave. "I put too much water in this bowl and it kind of exploded all over the place, so I'm just cleaning it up!"

I helped him finish cleaning it up so he could get down to business (our mornings are rushed sometimes and he needed to be eating, not cleaning) and he sat down by Riley to eat his breakfast.

"Oh, you do have to take me to school today," Benjamin said (I'd told him this last night but he didn't believe me). "Rachel is at orchestra and Miriam is at choir—on a Wednesday!"

Due to fall break their extracurricular schedules collided; ordinarily orchestra and choir don't fall on the same day.

"But don't check my pockets, Mom. Never check my pockets," he added.

"Why not?" I asked. "What have you got in there?"

"Nothing," he said. "Maybe some acorns. I am an acorn collector, you know."

"Oh, I know that about you. I do," I said. "But you wouldn't happen to have any Pokemon cards in there as well, would you?"

"Yes," he sheepishly admitted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Alexander at 12 months

Although I managed to get all the other kids in for their well-child checks at the beginning of this month, Alexander's appointment isn't until next week so I don't have official stats for him yet, though my guess is that he is about 22 lbs. He's catching up to Zoë at an alarming rate.

At one year, Alexander...

Jaker's Pumpkin Patch

This morning we went to Jaker's Pumpkin Patch with our neighbourhood co-op preschool. Part of me always feels a little guilty when I go do fun things while the kids are in school, but it's only fair to the little ones still at home that we do, right? After all, when my big kids were the little ones we would go out and do fun things!

Alexander's cake

For Alexander's birthday cake I made a double recipe of the Incredibly Moist Pumpkin-Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from the Betty Crocker website. The base of the recipe is a boxed cake mix, just as a disclaimer (I'm not culinary goddess), but the mix-ins take things up a notch. Almost everyone seemed to like it, but the birthday boy (and girl) seemed to enjoy it so that's what really matters.

FHE Quidditch Practice

As room mom (x3) I'm suddenly in charge of putting together several Halloween parties. I also volunteered to be on the "safety week" committee at school, thinking that safety week would be, like, in April like it was last year. But, no. This year safety week falls the same week as Halloween because if I'm planning things I may as well be planning things. 

I don't have to do anything for Benjamin's class because my co-room mom is taking the party on since I've been organizing literacy center volunteers. Phew.

For Miriam's class I decided we'd have a Harry Potter theme and I came up with four stations, each representing a different class (or sport, in the case of Quidditch) from Hogwarts. And then when no one was stepping up to plan the 6th grade party (they have a big joint party with all four classes) I suggested we just do more or less the same thing and build our stations around a Harry Potter theme.

I've been floating my ideas to the girls to see if they think they'll be fun or not but I'm always a little unsure about whether my ideas will work the way I think they will. Having taken a handful of pedagogic classes (and having taught in numerous situations), I know that I am an excellent lesson planner. I am much less good at executing my ideas than I am about having them. 

"Fails to command the room..." and so forth.

My lesson plans always got top marks, but my teaching evaluations were never as positive, so I thought that perhaps I should test out an idea or two before the big day (so I could scratch activities that were a complete flop). Tonight for FHE we played Indoor Quidditch (or Quidditch Pong...or Potter Pong...I don't know what to call it). It's definitely a take on beer pong, but instead of putting beer in the cups I put trivia questions because, well, we're teetotalers (and also my target audience is children).

Monday, October 15, 2018

Finders keepers

This morning Benjamin couldn't find his...

  • pants
  • home-reading book
  • socks
  • shoes
  • jacket
  • jacket (again)
And he left his lunchbox at school again so will, yet again, be visiting the lost and found. 

The items he was missing this morning were subsequently found...
  • in his dresser (the issue, specifically, was that he hates wearing jeans and only ever wants to wear sweat pants but only had jeans in his drawer; we should probably get him more sweat pants)
  • by the television (where he also found the Humphrey book he's been reading (in a whole stack of books sitting there))
  • in his drawer (shocker)
  • in his shoe box (the issue, specifically, was that he'd jumped into the river when we went hiking on Saturday and his shoes were still too wet to wear out in this cold weather so we had to find a different pair of shoes but then we could only find one shoe of his back up pair because the other shoe was in Grandma and Grandpa's shoe box)
  • on the couch upstairs (after lamenting, "Why is the couch all full of stuff again?!" because he'd cleaned it off the other day (the answer to that question was, "Because you guys cleaned off the bottom stair yesterday by putting everything on the couch instead of putting anything away!")
  • on his head (he'd put the hood on his head and was walking around with the rest of it flapping behind him like a cape and when I asked him to put it all the way on he ran to the coat rack and panicked because he couldn't find his jacket)
"It is on your head," I seethed as calmly as I could. 

He also whined this morning about how he's not allowed to take books from home to school (his sisters, on the other hand, get to do it all the time). I pointed out that he's also not allowed to take school library books home (first graders (or grade oners)) have to keep them in their desks at school. I then pointed out that we'd spent the entire morning searching for things that he'd misplaced (or simply didn't look for long enough to find) so having him cart books around from three different sources would be a disaster. 

Taking his home-reading book back and forth between school and home is plenty responsibility for him!

Alexander's party

Well, he did it! Alexander is one! He's survived his siblings for a full 365 days and is still going strong.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Zoë and the Delectable Cupcakes

The children always want to help me decorate birthday cakes, which is great...but also not great. I love that they want to help and I want to cultivate their skills, but at the same time...I have a vision, children! Too many decorators spoils the cake.

Today while the older kids were out with Naanii and Bumpa (to see Jane and Emma and to have lunch at Wendy's (and running into Uncle Jacob, Aunt Shayla, and Carter there)), I let Zoë decorate some cupcakes that I'd baked with some leftover batter. She had so much fun and got all of her cake-decorating jealousy out of her system, leaving me in peace to work on Alexander's cake alone.

Here are a few pictures of Zoë having a blast making her "delectable" cup cakes:

There's a Fancy Nancy book called Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes and Zoë adores that book (adore is fancy for really liking something). She now loves using the word delectable.

Leaf Peeping

On Friday Benjamin's writing prompt during literacy centers was, "What are you looking forward to this weekend?"

This was his answer:

It says: I am going leaf peeping this Saturday! I am going to look at leaves! It is going to be fun! I will see red, orange, and yellow! I jump in the leaves!

After reading that how could we not take the kids on a little foliage tour this weekend? I mean, I had mentioned that we should go leaf-peeping before the leaves all drop but I hadn't necessarily meant this weekend (which turned out to be a little busy—but when is life not busy these days?), but we didn't want to let sweet Benjamin down when he wanted to do such a simple thing.

Speaking of adventures in motherhood...

I called Poison Control today. It's only our second time calling between five children and over eleven years, so I'd say that's not too bad.

Rachel had gone outside with the kids this afternoon because I needed to work on Alexander's birthday cake. He only ever wants me...unless there is outside time to be had and then he'll happily leave me. So outside they went.

She set him in the grass to help Benjamin and Zoë with some bubbles and when she picked him up again she found him chewing on...mushrooms. Our backyard is filled with them (so we tend to keep an eye on Alexander when he's out there but he's got a penchant for mischief making (and he's quick about it)).

Honestly, I wasn't terribly worried about it.

My little brother Patrick once prompted a visit to the ER after my mom found out that he'd been scavenging mushrooms in our yard in PoCo. He was fine.

So I wasn't terribly worried, but worried enough to try to identify the variety of mushrooms growing in our yard, to research what symptoms to look for, and to debate whether we should be calling Poison Control or our pediatrician.

Poison Control won out simply because I know from our previous interaction with them (and from stories from friends) that they are 100% non-judgemental and are 100% helpful (they actually will give you advise over the phone whereas all I've ever gotten from talking to nurses on the phone is, "Well, we can't tell you what to do over the phone...").

They told us to watch him for nausea and vomiting, which should happen within 24 hours if he ingested anything poisonous (which they doubted was the case because they've never had a single case of a child getting sick over lawn mushrooms (now, had we been up in the canyon we might have had more reason to worry, I was told)).

So far he's good. They're going to call me tomorrow to see how he's doing.

I'm sure he'll be fine.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Motherhood: A daily adventure

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
—Matthew 11:9
Yesterday I took Zoë and Alexander to school for the October Birthday Lunch so that we could have lunch with Miriam. We didn't pack actual lunch, however, because I'd just gotten home from volunteering in Benjamin's classroom when it was time to leave again. Instead I grabbed an assortment of snacks from the pantry assured the children (and myself) that we'd have actual lunch when we got home.

Miriam found us in the cafeteria and we found a table together and visited while we ate. Alexander rather vocally kept asking for food so I kept offering him bites of fig bar. He'd only ever take teeny weeny nibbles, however, which is out of character for him. And then I noticed that in spite of the small bites he was taking his cheeks were bulging.

"Are you even swallowing?" I asked him. "What have you got in there?"

Sometimes he keeps food in his mouth for a long time without swallowing, but fig bars dissolve into mush pretty quickly so I couldn't imagine it making such a big lump in his cheek. He also has a habit of sticking his tongue into the side of his cheek and when I ask him what's in his mouth there's nothing in there at all but his tongue, little faker! 

This time, however, he opened his mouth to show me what was inside and a rock popped out—a pretty big one, too!

"Where did you get this?!" I asked him.

He refused to say (on account of: he can't talk yet) and I have only deduced that he either:

A) Found it in the "bib" pocket of his jacket (he sometimes puts things in there)
B) Found it on the seat of his stroller (he sometimes puts things there)
C) Had it in his hand the entire morning (having found it in the house because sometimes we leave rocks lying around (and by "we" I mean Benjamin and Zoë) because he will find something he likes (often a spoon or a car) and will carry it around all day)

That doesn't really narrow it down, but I know it wasn't in his mouth before we left the house because I nursed him (and his mouth was most assuredly empty for that activity).

I'm just glad I found it before he choked on it!


Last night Uncle Jacob and Aunt Shayla stayed for dinner. The kids and I are participating in the Beehive Book Club again, where we read a bunch of books and write reviews in order to narrow down the "long list" for the book reward to a "short list."

It's nice to be on this side of the list narrowing for once (job market joke).

Anyway, Shayla loves to read so I invited her to join us and they ended up staying for dinner. Andrew had gotten some cook-at-home pizzas from Costco and we decided to eat on paper plates, which is not very environmentally sound but it sure does cut down on clean up time!

The kids were goofing around as they were setting the table and Zoë started crying when Benjamin threw something at her. I didn't see what happened but Rachel did and she began to berate him.

"Benjamin! Why would you throw a fork at her?!"

"It wasn't a fork!" he retorted. "It was a knife!"

"That makes it worse!" she shrieked.

Fortunately we were using disposable utensils to go with our disposable plates so getting hit by a flimsy plastic knife really didn't hurt Zoë (she was simply being melodramatic, as per her usual).


Like all my children, Alexander loves dishes. He loves when it's time to put the clean dishes away because he can help pull them out of the dishwasher and throw them all over the floor or bang on them with spoons and so forth. He also loves that the dishwasher door remains open because he loves to climb on the door.

All my babies have loved this (along with many other babies in the world, I'm sure).

Alexander, however, takes things a step farther and will climb into the bottom rack and onto the utensil holder and, as far as I can tell, is rather intent on getting from there to the top rack (his next goal being the counter top, and then climbing up the light fixtures to the ceiling, probably).

He was standing on the utensil holder, trying to get into the top rack, when I came out from putting something away in the pantry.

"Hey, buddy!" I said, pulling him down. "This is not your personal jungle gym."

Then I started washing a cookie sheet left over from last night (we didn't have cookies, but Andrew did make crostini to go with the pizza) and while I was doing that he starting scaling the dishwasher racks again.

"Mom! Mom! Mom!" Zoë cried. "He's doing it again!"

"Alexander!" I chided. "This is a dishwasher, not Mount Everest! Get down!"

"He's not getting down, Mom!" Zoë said, stating the obvious. "Get him down! Get him down, quick! Mom! Mom! Get him down! Mom!"

"Just a minute," I said, rinsing the cookie sheet and balancing it on top of the other clean dishes stacked on the counter to dry. "I only have so many hands..."

"You don't have so many hands!" she objected. "You only have two!"

"You're right," I said. "I have exactly two hands and that's not very many, which is why I can't do everything at once."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Faster than slow

Zoë came running when she heard the *zthoop*zthoop*zthoop* of the tape dispenser.

"Why are you taping that book?" she demanded.

I rolled my eyes a little and said, "Who are you—the book repair police?"

I know taping books isn't good for them but little fingers, likewise, aren't good for books and we have a lot of little fingers around this place. Taping books makes my book repairing brother shake his head but the last time I asked him what I should do instead of taping a book up he said, "Honestly, I would just buy a new copy. The book isn't worth the cost of the materials or time it would take to repair it."

And so I tape my books. Because I'm not buying new copies of everything that gets destroyed.

I'd rather not have to tape my books up, but we have a book monster living with us. He is faster than fast and is drawn to books like flies to honey. They were the one thing that could convince him to try to crawl. His main method of locomotion was squawking his head off until a big person came to pick him up and I'm not sure why we felt the need to motivate him to be independent but we did. He learned to crawl and now he's constantly attacking books (also he refuses to walk and when he gets bored of crawling with squawk his head off until a big person comes to pick him up; we keep coaxing him to walk on his own (I'm sure we'll come to rue the day he does)).

One of his more annoying habits (aside from ripping full pages out of books) is taking a board book, opening it to the middle of the book, and then trying to close it against the spine, inside out. He has snapped a handful of board books completely in half this way and it drives. me. nuts.

Zoë was still waiting for a proper answer so I sighed and said, "I'm taping this book because Alexander destroys books faster than..."

"Slow?" she asked.

Yes, my dear. Alexander destroys books faster than slow. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Little ones

We've had Riley over the past couple of days and he'll be over tomorrow as well. He and Zoë have actually been getting along fairly well. At any rate they're much better at getting along than they were a year ago (and they're much better at following the rules in the basement when they're left alone together (they've only flooded the bathroom sink or torn apart Grandma's craft room or gone wild in the Lego area occasionally)). They constantly fight about ownership, but are two peas in a pod:

Rachel helped me take all the kids over to the church parking lot to ride bikes/scooters. It was rather chilly and lightly drizzling but they kids seemed to have fun. I put real shoes on Alexander for the first time (more to keep his socks on than anything because he's not walking yet). He was pretty cute in them:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Canadian Thanksgiving (or: Why isn't our InstantPot instant-ing?!)

Due to Rachel's Monday evening soccer awards ceremony we had to postpone our annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. Tuesdays are usually somewhat crazy, so we planned on having Thanksgiving dinner today (because Thursday is far too crazy). Unfortunately, I forgot that Rachel had a doctor appointment this afternoon after school (and then we sat and waited for the doctor for over an hour before we were finally seen) so today ended up being a little crazy as well!

Plus they were out of the flu shot so we have to go back again.

All four of the older kids have had their annual check ups now, though. I was going to do them all on the same day but Rachel had a field trip the day of our appointment so I had to cancel her slot and reschedule her for today. Alexander's well-check is scheduled later this month.

Rather generally, they're healthy kids.

They're all tall and thin for their age (even Benjamin; I never thought I'd hear a medical professional tell me, "He's rather tall for his age!" but here we are) except for Miriam, who is short and thin for her age. On the way home from the doctor she said, "I've just decided that I'm going to be the shortest person in the family. That way I won't be disappointed when I am."

Anyway, Rachel's doctor appointment took forever and then we rushed home to whip up a Thanksgiving feast. I don't know if you've ever tried to whip up a Thanksgiving feast but there is a reason people take all day (week?) to prepare for Thanksgiving. Doing it in one afternoon is tough, but I threw the potatoes (both sweet and regular) into the InstantPot so they were ready to mash by the time we got home. 

So all that was left was the turkey (we just got some turkey breast), cranberry sauce, stuffing, and green beans. No big deal.

Miriam made the cranberry sauce more or less on her own. I guided her while I made some topping for the sweet potatoes and put the turkey in the InstantPot (which really lives up to its name). I set the turkey to cook for a half hour after looking at various recipes online and hoped for the best. 

By the time we had everything prepared the turkey timer was just about over so we waited those last few moments, released the pressure, and stuck in the thermometer. "89 degrees!" Andrew exclaimed."That's not even near done! We know from West Wing that it's supposed to be 165!"

Considering we had put raw (not frozen) turkey breasts into the InstantPot this was rather odd to hear. I can cook frozen chicken breasts in a half hour. Why was our InstantPot not instant-ing?!