Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hiking the Y

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

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Do you read me?

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

******

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

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

"In the backyard," I replied.

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

I looked at him funny.

He looked at me funny.

Crickets chirped.

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

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

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

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

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

Zoë is three!

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The sweetest prayers

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

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

And we just about died.

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

Again, we just about died.

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

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

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

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

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

Llama Llama Cake-o-rama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, May 25, 2018

Grumpy gal

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

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

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

"Does she have nightmares?" he asked.

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

Cue endless screaming.

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

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

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

Happy birthday to this sweet thang

Thursday, May 24, 2018

In which Alexander shows off his teeth

Hey, everybody! Want to see my teeth?


Splash Pad, take one

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

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


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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Behold! The gender neutral bathroom!

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


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

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

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

Except (just kidding) it didn't!

In the beginning...

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

Here he is feeling happy:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Idaho to home (May 7)

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

So this is the end of our trip. 

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

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

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

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

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

Here we are together:

In the loop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

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

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

Lavon and my mom

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Alexander at 7 months

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

One fell mashed-potato swoop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Good mom, bad mom

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

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

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

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

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

"2:00!" Miriam chirped.

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

Amy and Scarlett

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footloose and family time

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

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


High River Highlights (May 4–6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This chipmunk is original to my High River days

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The week in review

I just can't seem to keep still lately.

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

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

But which one?!

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

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

So Andrew started planning a bachelor weekend for himself.

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

It would be miserable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that was fun for them.

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

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

We were all very glad to be reunited.

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Echolalia

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

And now I have a word for Benjamin: echolalia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Dunes at St. Anthony

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

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

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