Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Our FHE ledger

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

And then I remembered my blog...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Alexander at nine months

At nine months, Alexander is...

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

George Lane Park (June 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Harriet Jarman Layton's song

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A laundry confession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

heDsmahst ni bafulo jump

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Across the 49th parallel (June 27)

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chip Pizza

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

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

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

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

"Chip pizza?" I asked.

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

"What is chip pizza?" I asked.

"Oh, you know," she said.

"I really don't."

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

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

Oh. Nachos. Chip pizza.

It's almost poetically descriptive, really.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (June 27)

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

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

Monday, July 09, 2018

Celebrating freedom (June 30–July 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is the reason for Canada Day?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Words are all that he has to take my heart away

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

"Favourite what?" I asked.

"Favourite everything."

"Favourite everything?" I challenged.

"Yup. Favourite wife, favourite..."

"Flavour of ice cream?"

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

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

Sidewalk chalk and cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 05, 2018

So many cousins!

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

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

Lewis and Clark Caverns (June 26)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm a pretty lucky lady.

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

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