Monday, April 30, 2018

Bear World

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

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

Here are some obligatory animal pictures:

Up to Idaho

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

It's not eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonna make my garden grow

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Generation gaps

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

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

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

He said nothing but ran upstairs and hopped into bed.

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shut your mouth and listen to your lullaby!

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

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Moses supposes our noses are roses*

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

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

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

"It's not that," she quavered.

Trash to Treasure

This part was written on Friday night:

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Oh, brother(s), where art thou?

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Alexander at 6 months

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

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

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

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

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

At six months, Alexander is...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Benjamin's kindergarten performance and time with cousin James

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Gamelan Bintang Wahyu

We did it—baby and I—we survived a full semester of gamelan! It certainly wouldn't have been possible without a lot of outside support, mostly child-tenders: Josie and my mom who took turns pacing the halls of the HFAC with Alexander during rehearsals, Grandma and Grandpa for helping with the kids at home, and Andrew, of course, for making his schedule work with mine and getting dinner on the table and the kids into bed every Thursday and Friday, not to mention my kids being on their best behaviour both when they accompanied me to class and when they were left at home.

At lot goes in to getting Mom off to school, so thinking about ever going to graduate school (a dream that's been on the back burner for the last decade or so) has my head spinning. This was just a one credit class and...oh, boy! It was enough!

(Of course, it's a fine arts class, so that one credit hour translated into four hours of rehearsal every week. Silly fine arts credits. I honestly don't understand why they are the way they...)

Tonight we performed at BYU's Evening of Percussion, which was so fun! We had a dress rehearsal in the afternoon so it made for a bit of a long day, but I went back home with my mom for dinner and to let Alexander nap so that broke the day up a bit. The poor little guy had had enough after dress rehearsal and couldn't believe we were going back to campus for more. He screamed for Auntie Josie the entire time we were performing (which was quite a while because Odradek alone was more than twenty minutes long). I could hear his cries echoing through the halls the minute we left the stage area so I sprinted towards them until I found that little stressed-out pair (Alexander because "where's Mom?!?!" and Josie because Alexander wouldn't stop crying). He was quite happy to see me. 

Anyway, Andrew took some pictures from the audience (he brought Rachel, Miriam, and Benjamin to watch; Zoë stayed home with Grandma and Grandpa). Oddly enough, he sat right in front of my dad's cousin Jolene—she was there to watch her son Jordan play with the Panoramic Steel group. She recognized our kids and said hello to them by name, which threw them off because they certainly didn't recognize her (when's the last time we had a Duggar reunion?—let's do one this summer)!

Anyway, I am in the very back in the middle (behind those tall guys in the middle) and my mom is on the right sitting on the risers...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Morning has broken, like the first morning...

It was a morning not unlike any other morning—full of teasing and screaming and fighting and yelling. And maybe the kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing...but maybe they weren't.

I don't know. I was upstairs sitting on the couch, pumping.

Tangent time: To be honest, I was ready to start weaning off pumping. I mean, Alexander is six months old (or will be on Saturday) so I've been pumping for about half a year now. I've donated 4232.5 fluid ounces (33 gallons (Rachel is doing a unit on measurement so she should know that's 132.25 quarts, 264.5 pints)) of milk! It can be a bit of a burden, but it's a labour of love. Still, it's simply more of a challenge to do with a (fussy) baby on the cusp of mobility than with a sleepy newborn so I'd been thinking of retiring the pumps. But then my friend Joy sent me a message about her sister, who was desperately trying to get her baby to eat. She hadn't been able to nurse him and he'd been failing to thrive on formula (plummeting off his growth chart). He's doing better on breastmilk but he's not quite out of the woods yet.

So he's my new motivation for sitting on the couch pumping...while my children run amok downstairs in the mornings. It's fine. Usually. I mean, they're generally good children.

This particular morning, however, they were overly good. Or, at least, one of them was.

Benjamin had come upstairs and was being all crazy so I asked him to go downstairs to work on his chore: putting away the clean dishes. He actually complied and thundered down the stairs to get to work.

Everything was fine until all three of his sisters started screaming at him at once.

"Benjamin! Benjamin! Benjamin!" his older sisters chorused (Benjamin is a very common refrain at our house) while his younger sister screeched unintelligibly at him.

"You guys!" I hollered from the couch before...




Thursday, April 12, 2018

Yoo-hoo unto Jesus!

The most recent hymnal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in 1985 (a pretty easy year for me to remember). The hymnbook prior to that was published in 1948.

Quite a few changes happened between those two publications, but my favourite is the change to How Firm a Foundation, hymn #66 in the brown 1948 edition:

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You who unto Jesus, you who unto Jesus,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Feeling Preachy

As he would put it, Benjamin "preached" his first family night lesson today.

For part of his primary lesson yesterday he received a mission call and a name tag and he was ready to head out into the world and share the gospel. He drew a picture of The Book of Mormon and decided he wanted to give it to the bishop, so Grandpa walked him over to the bishop's house to make the delivery. Poor Benjamin froze when the door opened, which is odd considering how talkative he usually is, and eventually, but still saying nothing, held out his drawing to the bishop's daughter.

"It's for your dad," Grandpa explained.

On the walk home Benjamin observed that missionary work is pretty scary but he was going to do his best to overcome his fears, like a good missionary would.

Over dinner he remarked that as soon as he "prepared the gospel" he was going to head out to preach some more. He even planned on wearing his name tag to school.

Not wanting to dampen his spirit, but also not wanting him to think that he really has to go around "tracting" the neighbourhood, we had him give a family night lesson on missionary work today and we talked as a family about how we can share the gospel.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Dying easter eggs (and dying of the stomach flu)

Between sessions of general conference on Saturday we helped Grandpa prune the fruit trees and pile the branches. The kids wanted to make a teepee out of the branches but mostly gave up after tying three of them together, so I did the bulk of the work for them, thinking, of course, that it would provide them with hours of imaginative play over spring break. I would be wrong in this regard, of course, but anyway...

Naanii and Uncle Patrick came over between the second session and priesthood session so they could help me help the children dye Easter eggs (Daddy had gone up to Grandpa Frank's house in Salt Lake to watch priesthood session). It was nice to have some extra hands on...hand.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

2018 Easter Egg Smackdown

Ah, the Easter Egg Smackdown, that beautiful annual tradition of fun, mess, and tears! 

This year we had to squeeze in the smackdown between sessions of General Conference. Andrew wasn't around for dying Easter eggs (again) so I called in my mom and brother for backup (more on that later). I wasn't planning on having all the eggs compete (we made a lot because we were going to have a lot of family over for Easter dinner) but Andrew made up the bracket without me present and included every single egg—all 33 of them (minus a few that were too cracked to compete)!

Here are a few of the contenders...

Miriam's BB-8:

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Easter Baby

Alexander didn't really participate in the Easter Egg hunt. In fact, like Audrey, he wasn't even very interested in the egg that we handed to him. But he certainly was adorable sitting in front of our daffodils!

Egg Hunting

The Easter Bunny visited us on Saturday, just to make sure we knew it wasn't a joke (since, you know, Easter fell on April Fools' Day, which was also General Conference). The kids found their Easter baskets filled with books and candy (except for Alexander, who got a solitary plastic egg in his basket, which I'm honestly not even sure he touched before one of the other kids took it away from him (it's the thought that counts)). Rachel also got a mini first aid kit in hers, which she was most excited about. She's our super-duper-prepare-o-matic, always getting a first aid kit to carry whenever we go out hiking.

Benjamin was most excited about the George Washington biography in his basket: