Monday, September 17, 2018

Wacky Weather

The first thing we did this morning when we woke up, our lungs heavy with smoke, was check the air quality index. Conditions were once again hazardous, with an AQI of around 450, so the kids caught a ride to school with a neighbour.

Very luckily for us, air doesn't usually sit stagnate in our valley and by mid-morning the winds had shifted and the smoke started to blow away from us, as if our community had collectively stood up and twirled around while chanting, "White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit," (which, according to childhood folklore, will chase campfire smoke away from your face).

Our AQI was only around 150 when the children were dismissed from school, which is still considered unhealthy, so I picked the kids (and our neighbour) up from school.

Since it had been a half day and the children (mostly Benjamin) were bouncing off the walls, I thought it would be a good time to make good on my promise to take them swimming because I wasn't very well going to send them outside to play in toxic air (not that our inside air is much better). The pool is in the town north of us, however, and their air has consistently been better than ours so it was lovely to escape the heat and smoke.

When we got home we found Grandpa picking peaches in the front yard.

"We're in the green!" he said happily, which meant our AQI was at or below 50, a good level.

The kids laid out their towels and stretched out in the backyard to finish drying and have been enjoying getting some outside time, though the winds are shifting again and I have a feeling we will be nearly suffocating again soon.

Yesterday our air quality was particularly good, and though there was no rain in the forecast, it rained. We had just gone to pick up some couches from a neighbour down the street (and now we have enough places for our entire family to sit!). Our neighbours had been trying to get rid of them for a couple of days. They'd left them sitting on the driveway with a "FREE" sign on them, but it's been so wildly windy that the sign kept blowing away.

"I even tried safety pinning a sign to them," our neighbour said. "But the wind even ripped that one away!"

We were lucky to have seen the posting so quickly. We've been trying to find a different couch for over a year now.

Anyway, we were just in the process of tossing our old couch cushions down the stairs when Zoë started jumping up and down and yelling, "It's raining! It's raining! It's raining!"

"Yeah," Grandpa said. "It's raining couch cushions!"

"No! It's raining rain!" she squealed.

We all ran outside to see and were delighted to find a rainbow dancing across the sky, where we've grown used to seeing nothing but plumes of smoke.

You can see how windy it's been—the trees are really being whipped around

A concert in the park (September 2)

Would you believe me if I told you I still have a list of posts to write about this summer? I'm sure I will get around to some of them. Other will probably remain unmemorialized here. 

The problem is we just keep doing things. And doing things. And doing things. 

Time just won't slow down for us!

Two Sundays ago (already!) we went to a concert in the park with my mom. It was touted as a Latin American Music Festival, but it ended up being not quite what we had expected so we didn't stay too long. We did, however, arrive with plenty of time before the concert which meant we got to watch the set up crew, which was quite comical. 

The concert was, instead of a Latin American Music Festival, more like a musical devotional in Spanish, which is totally cool if that's what you're going for (but that was not what they were going for with the way they advertised it). It was run by some sweet couple missionaries who were just doing their best to draw a crowd, I'm sure, and they all took their jobs very seriously.

The men setting up chairs were hilarious

I had packed a picnic dinner for our family (except for Zoë and Andrew, who had elected to stay behind so that Zoë could play with Riley) and so we sat down to eat it in a very roomy row. One of the men came up to me and warned me that our row was going to be an "exit" row so I'd have to move my stroller before the concert started. I happily complied and parked our stroller at the end of our row. He then told me I couldn't park our stroller there because he was going to add a few chairs to the end of our row, so I moved our stroller again. 

We watched this man (and another one) rearrange chairs and straighten rows, then do it all over again. One of them would so something and the other one would come along and undo it. They moved the rows closer together, then they moved the rows farther apart, then they took away the front row and moved it to the back, then they took away the chairs they'd added to the end of every row (including ours) and made another row in the middle (which meant that I could have left my stroller at the end of our row after all).

They were still rearranging chairs when the concert started and continued to shuffle things around through the entire first performer's ticket. 

My mom and I were beside ourselves trying to keep from laughing while watching them.

"They are worse than a group of women setting up a potluck table!" I whispered to my mom.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Alexander at 11 months

Clichés are the only words I can think of to describe how it feels to admit my sweet baby boy is eleven months old. Pick your favourite one. I'll go with, "I can't believe my baby is eleven months old!" and "Time has just flown by!"

Yet here he is, eleven months old...

Galloping through the grass, full speed ahead

Pole Creek Fire

I drove the children to school this morning. It's so incredibly smokey outside that we woke up with our lungs hurting and I didn't want the children exerting themselves too much. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I hope she knows she's strong

My cousin's daughter's husband passed away suddenly Sunday evening. I don't know the whole story. In fact, the details I do know leave more questions than answers (what was he doing on the train tracks in the middle of nowhere at 9:45 in the evening?). I'm not particularly close with this cousin or her daughter, but still this strange event is hitting a little close to home.

They had only been married a little over a year. They have a beautiful little boy.

And now Chauncé is a widow and a single mother. She's young. Rosie's age.

This is one of my worst nightmares—having my husband die and leaving me with a bunch of young children to raise—and it's now Chauncé's reality. I don't know what to do or say to help (other than contributing to funeral expenses, which you can do at any Mountain America Credit Union under the account “Nick Torres Memorial Fund” or you can Venmo a donation to @Nicks_Memorial_Fund).

I hope, more than anything, that she knows she's strong, that she comes from good stock.

We had a lesson on family history work in Relief Society this past Sunday and as luck would have it I've also been feverishly working to finish up a little family history book for my children to flip through so the stories of our ancestors have been fresh on my mind. The point was brought up (she said, using passive voice, even though she herself made the comment (but then someone else brought it up again later so it wasn't just me, okay?)) that knowing one's family history increases resilience.

As I've been looking through the histories of our ancestors I've noticed that they've all gone through some pretty gut-wrenching tragedies.

Milky milestone

When I input this evening's pumping session to my spreadsheet I realized that I hit a milestone of sorts—6912 ounces! That's 54 gallons of milk. 

My original goal was to hit about 72 gallons of milk (since that's approximately how much a baby might consume in the first year of life), but I honestly don't know that we'll get there considering I quit my morning pumping session mid-June. It was just getting too crazy trying to squeeze that in every morning with all the kids home from school and Alexander getting mobile.

I mean, when it was just me, Zoë, and Alexander in the mornings and all Alexander ever did was this:

...pumping in the mornings was relatively easy. Once he got mobile it was...not so easy.

Miriam's first day at college (kind of)

Benjamin and I are slowly making our way through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban together and I have to say, I'm feeling a little bit like Hermione lately, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everything seems to fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Andrew teaches his classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, Benjamin and Rachel both have soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays this month and Miriam, who chose not to continue with soccer, started an organ class at BYU that meets on...Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The kids' soccer schedule changes from week to week, as far as what time their games are at, so some days are more hectic than others. Today certainly ranked up there. This Thursday will probably be worse.
Thursday's schedule (with the time/place blocked out)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Topaz Internment Camps

When Andrew was in grade four, studying Utah history, he learned about the Topaz War Relocation Center and has wanted to visit ever since, so it's been on our bucket list for years. We figured it would make a good family outing because Miriam should be learning about it this year and Benjamin is obsessed with having "history time." The rest of us enjoy history, too, so it was a win for everyone.

I was rather impressed with the museum. It far exceeded my expectations and was really quite beautifully done. We first watched a few introductory movies, one of which was largely illicit home video footage taken by Dave Tatsuno, an internee at the camp, on a smuggled camera. It's one of two home videos to be accepted into the Library of Congress. Both films were interesting. 

We enjoyed wandering around the museum for a bit until we were interrupted by an employee, who asked us if we were planning on visiting the actual site because Jane Beckwith, who has been pushing for recognition of Topaz since the mid-80s and who helped found the museum, was currently giving a tour over at block 22. So we paused our museum experience and headed over to Topaz for a tour.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

An interview with Zoë

After we told the tale of Zoë's disappearance to Andrew he asked her what she was thinking, which she didn't have an answer for, so he tried a different version of the same question (you'd be surprised at how rewording the very same question can elicit a very different response).

"What was your plan?" he asked her.

"My plan," she said confidently, "Was to look both ways!"

She hadn't even made it to the intersection before she was picked up, but she was heading to the crosswalk and was intent on going home (as safely as possible, looking both ways before crossing the street). I'm sure she wasn't lost because she has walked that route so many times (at least 180 (because that's about how many times we picked Benjamin up from school last year) but in reality many more times than that) so I was wondering why she was crying.

As far I've been able to decipher, she was upset when Rachel told her she couldn't go home when she wanted to but had resigned herself to waiting. She went over to play at what my kids call "The Pirate Ship," but then she grew bored and decided she wanted someone to play with her. Rachel was busy with Alexander and Benjamin wouldn't even stop running around so she could ask him and Miriam was in a bit a bad mood and told her no quite rudely.

This was the last straw for Zoë.

She was trying to be happy and obedient by staying at the park to play but no one would play with her, so she stormed off towards home (where she knew Riley was waiting to play with her).

And then she was abducted rescued.

It took us all weekend to tease the story out of her, but now we sort of have her point of view of the whole ordeal.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Oh, where, oh, where has my little girl gone?

Sheesh! It's going to take me a long time to get everything in my brain back together after this!
Let me begin by stating that Zoë is in the basement safely watching Llama Llama with her cousin and brother, so the children are all accounted for. 

For whatever reason, I signed up to be room parent again this year for not one, not two, but three classrooms. I'm co-room parenting for two of the classes, so it shouldn't be too bad (that's what I tell myself every year). I was the only person to sign up in Miriam's classroom so I'm all alone there (but her teacher is super low-key and I have a long list of volunteers so even that shouldn't be too taxing). Anyway, today was the room parents orientation and instead of dragging my little ones to it and making them behave for all of thirty minutes, I sent the whole brood to the playground together. 

"This is the first time I've let Rachel tend the baby at the park," I remarked to my friend Ashley as I sat down. "So I'm a little bit nervous."

"That's got to be a good feeling," she laughed as her baby bounced on her lap and her six-year-old begged for a cookie. 

"Older kids certainly are nice to have around," I told her.

Because it's true. Older kids are way nice to have around. 

Anyway, with three teachers to meet with, I was at the meeting for about a half hour. Less than, really, because I was in full-on panic mode at 4:09 and the meeting only started at 3:30. 

So, I finished up the meeting and my friend Kara sent me packing with extra snacks.

"I know how many kids you have," she joked. "You can take some of this home."

"But not too much," I told her. "Because they're all at the park so I have to carry all this stuff there."

Thus, balancing cups full of cookies and grapes and cinnamon cake on a makeshift tray of file folders filled with room parent information, I made my way to the playground where I found my children (or at least most of them) happily playing. 

They descended upon me like a flock of vultures and made quick work of the treats Kara had sent me with. But...

"Where's Zoë?" I asked of my little lover of treats. It was weird she wasn't getting in on the action because treats

"I don't know," Rachel said, puzzled. "She was right here."

"Zoë!" we called as we hunted around the playground. "Zoë!"

She was not at the playground. We quickly ran to check the bathrooms. She was not at the bathrooms.

"I don't know where she could have gone!" Rachel said. "She was just here playing at the little-kid area! She had asked to go home but I told her that we had to wait for you. She said, 'Okay,' and then climbed up into the pirate ship and... She was just here!"

"Then she can't have gotten far," I said, scanning the horizon for a bright orange shirt. 

But there was no bright orange shirt to be seen. 

"She's probably just headed home," I said. 

"Do you want me to run home to see if I can find her?" Rachel asked.

"Yes," I said. "I do. And I'll call Grandma."

I wanted Karen to head outside to see if she could see Zoë approaching from her end (it's a pretty straight shot from our house to the park), but it took me a while to explain what was happening (I'm not at my finest when I'm panicking) and by the time I had finally done so Rachel was talking to a couple at the intersection. 

"It's all good," she called out to me as she calmly made her way back across the field.

"What do you mean it's all good?" I asked, jogging up to meet her. "Where's Zoë?"

How could it be all good without Zoë?

The couple at the corner didn't have her but they said they called the person who did have her. Some lady driving by had noticed a little girl running along the sidewalk, crying. She asked the couple at the corner if they recognized her and they did not, so she left her cell phone number with them so that they could call in case someone came by looking for a little girl.

Rachel had been running down the sidewalk calling Zoë's name, which I thought was silly because clearly Zoë wasn't anywhere close enough that she could have heard her name being called. But because she had been running down the same sidewalk screaming Zoë's name, the couple on the corner figured she belonged to the missing little girl they'd just seen.

They didn't have the little girl's name, because she wouldn't tell them, but she did tell them that her mom was Fancy Nancy. Once Rachel confirmed that her mom's name was indeed Nancy, they went ahead and called our Good Samaritan. 

She had driven Zoë to the school to see if anyone in the office recognized her. 

They didn't. 

How?! I'm not sure because she was just in there with me at 3:30. Our receptionists aren't very observant. Just saying. Because remember that one time one of my children called me from school and the receptionist couldn't even tell me which child of mine it was, let alone if they child had brown hair or then Kenzie's mom ended up bringing Rachel lunch? They maybe need to pay a teensy bit more attention.

Anyway...the lady who had her said, "She said her mom's name is Nancy if that helps."

My friend Kara, who was in the teacher work room cleaning up from the room parent orientation, ran into the office and said, "Oh, my goodness! That's Zoë! Her mom was just here! She's in my ward!"

Kara and the other lady gave Zoë the choice of riding back to the park with either one of them and Zoë wisely chose Kara (because the other lady was a complete stranger). So, soon Kara arrived with Zoë in tow and delivered her to me, completely free of judgement ("We've all been there," Kara said). Our Good Samaritan followed soon after.

"I hope I didn't make things worse!" she said (and I said it was fine, though in retrospect I think she really did make things worse).* "I just saw her running down the sidewalk crying and I knew something wasn't right about that. So I asked her her name and she wouldn't tell me. So I asked her her mom's name and she said it was Nancy."

"It is," I said. "Nice to meet you."

"And then I asked her if her mom was at the park and she said no."

"I wasn't at the park, I was at the school," I said. "But she was at the park," I added, putting my hand on Rachel's head. 

"See? I thought she'd come from the park. I should have asked if she had a sister or babysitter at the park. But I just figured someone at the school would recognize her."

And thank goodness someone was at the school to recognize her! I do wish she hadn't made Zoë get into her car because that's a lot of re-teaching we'll have to do. You never get in a stranger's car! 

So, dear reader, if you ever find a lost child, go ahead and WALK them to a safe place (or call the police because I was minutes away from calling them myself) but don't put them in your vehicle and start driving them all over the neighbourhood!

Anyway, we have Zoë back and we're all much less panicked now, though, as Benjamin said, it did take us quite a while to put everything in our brains back together after a scare like that. 

"Here's a secret," he told her (with ample attitude) when we got home. "Never do that again!"

Agreed. We had a long talk about how she can't decide to just leave a location by herself. She is only allowed to leave with the big person who has been charged with tending her (so, like, her sisters...not a complete stranger). And she's never, ever to get into a stranger's vehicle (because although she was picked up by a good stranger...gah...I can't even write the other part of that sentence). 

Hopefully she's learned her lesson. 

Poor Rachel was worried not only about Zoë being missing but because she felt like the whole thing was her fault, so after we had Zoë back safely she was worried about getting into trouble.

"I thought you would be mad at me," she said. 

"Oh, no," I told her. "I used to babysit Josie, so...I know. I know."

Josie was a little escapee (particularly as a three-year-old). She'd disappear all the time and we'd find her off at the park by herself, down by the lake by herself, heading to a friend's house by herself, coming home from a friend's house by herself, or, if we were lucky (and quick enough) running down the alley at full speed to get to one of her favourite places. We could hardly keep tabs on that kid!

And sweet level-headed Miriam taught me another valuable lesson on prayer. While I was panicking and my mind was going a mile a minute (Who do I call? I want to call Andrew but he can't do anything. So do I call the police? It's probably too soon to call the police. Do I call Karen? Should I leave someone here in case she comes back to the park? Where else could she have gone?) I know I was also pleading with my Heavenly Father to just let Zoë be alright. But I did not take time to quiet my mind and say a dedicated prayer and wait for any sort of answer.

But Miriam did. 

"After we looked in the bathrooms, I prayed about Zoë," Miriam said. "That's why it took me a little while to catch up to you. I think we got an answer to my prayer, though, because there were so many people to help us."

She is such a wonderful kid (they all are)!

We're all very grateful that Zoë is safe and home and that we had so many wonderful helpers (both in heaven and on earth, as my Uncle Bruce remarked last night (about our job situation, not this situation, but it's true for many situations)). 

* Honestly, while I'm grateful this lady wanted to help, had she not put my child into her vehicle, Zoë would have seen me walking (or I would have seen Zoë walking) because she picked her up next to the soccer field (so not very far from the park at all)! Just...if you're a good stranger, don't make children get into your car because...just don't. Walk with them. Call the police. Don't put them in your car.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Soccer season

Only Rachel and Benjamin are playing soccer this season, and, of course, I'm using the word "only" lightly because they're both playing on the same day, naturally, which complicates things immensely. As luck would have it, however, Rachel and her good friend Tayah are on the same team so we've been able to carpool with them. 

So I've been taking Benjamin to soccer and the girls will ride with either Andrew or Tayah's family, though I suppose I should, at some point, go to one of Rachel's soccer games since she's the one most invested in soccer. Watching Benjamin is a bit painful, he's quite aloof out on the field, which is surprising because he begged to do soccer for a full year (we didn't do soccer at all last year), but also not surprising because he's a six-year-old boy.

Here he is not paying attention to what his coach is saying (in the green camo shorts):

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Zoë's first day of preschool

Today was Zoë's first day of our little neighbourhood co-op preschool. She has been rather anxious for her first day ever since her big brother and sisters went off on their first day of school. It's a relatively low-key affair (one day a week for 1.5 hours), but it offers a little glimpse of what life will be like with only one child at home (how weird will that be?!) and had me momentarily panic at the prospect of one day having no little babies at home (how weird with THAT be?!). 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Big babies

When we arrived home from our Labour Day adventures, we found we had company over. James and April had stopped by with their baby and ended up staying for dinner. It was fun to get to visit with them and cuddle with their little baby. 

Did I say little? He's basically ginormous, but he's younger so he cuddles like a wee baby so that totally counts. 

I've mentioned before that Alexander is somewhat hefty, as far as my babies go. By nine months he had already hit 19 lbs. (which is heavier than three of his siblings were at one year). At 10.5 months old I'm sure he's even bigger now, but James and April's baby puts him to shame. In fact, he almost looks downright scrawny next to their baby (once you learn that their baby is only 3.5 months old). When I held them at the same time they felt about the same weight, though I'm sure Alexander is a smidgen heavier (but he holds himself up a bit better so that helps take some weight off).

Here's Rachel juggling the two of them on her lap (Alexander's little friend did not appreciate his advances, even though Alexander was being (mostly) gentle (he loves other babies)):