Sunday, September 30, 2018

One more story about Benjamin's PT conference

There were only three chairs around Benjamin's teacher's desk but we needed four, so Benjamin told Zoë she was welcome to grab a chair from a desk and bring it over. She did and we all settled in to listen to Benjamin's teacher's glowing assessment of him thus far.

When it was time to go, without prompting, Benjamin pushed in all the chairs around the table. Then he grabbed the extra chair and cheerfully said, "I'll just put this back from where we borrowed it. Gotta keep our classroom tidy!"

"See?" his teacher beamed. "He's so helpful even outside of school hours!"

And again I just stood there all slack-jawed, thinking of how wonderful it is that it takes a village to raise a child because I am certainly not getting these kinds of results on my own (I know because I've rarely witnessed an occurrence such as this at my house (I'm just happy he's behaving this way somewhere)).

Writing slump

While looking at my posting history this year, I realized that am on track to have the fewest number of posts ever (excluding 2006 because I started this blog that year in August). Andrew says I need to just go through Facebook to jog my memory about stories I haven't written about yet, so perhaps I'll do that and you can expect a large number of short posts in the near future.

Looking at my history:
►  2018 (210)
►  2017 (324)
►  2016 (308)
►  2015 (384)
►  2014 (352)
►  2013 (310)
►  2012 (339)
►  2011 (389)
►  2010 (334)
►  2009 (420)
►  2008 (537)
►  2007 (367)
►  2006 (57)
we can see that following the years I've had babies (aside from Rachel) my frequency of posting has gone down rather dramatically.

In 2009 I posted 420 times, but only 334 in 2010.
In 2012 I posted 339 times, but only 310 in 2013.*
In 2015 I posted 384 times, but only 308 in 2016.
And in 2017 I posted 324 times and it's certainly going to be quite a bit lower in 2018.

* I think that with Benjamin being born in the middle of the year and his birth and our subsequent move being so stressful that I didn't post as much in 2012 to begin with so 2013 didn't see quite as much of a dive.

In addition to being in a baby fog, I've been pumping as well (which is quite a time-suck, no pun intended). So that's my theory about my writing. If I get close to 300 posts this year, we'll be lucky.

Babies are hard.

The good news is that my numbers should beef up in 2019.

When parenting goes a little less perfectly

"Whatever you're doing, don't stop! It's working!"

That's what Rachel's teacher told me at parent/teacher conferences.

If only she knew...

Benjamin slept in until nearly noon today, which is highly unusual for him. I woke him up a few times before he finally got up, but he kept falling back asleep. When he finally got out of bed, his sisters teased him a bit about needing breakfast when everyone else was feeling ready for lunch.

"What?" he asked peevishly. "I stayed up all night watching television, so of course I'm tired!"

"You did not stay up all night watching television!" they said.

"I did so!" he insisted.

He seemed so genuinely honest that I began to wonder if he had. I went to his bed and found Andrew's iPad with a set of headphones. The battery had been completely drained.

Andrew was out doing the grocery shopping so I texted him to ask him if we'd possibly forgotten to tell Benjamin to go to bed last night.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

When parent/teacher conferences go perfectly

In addition to soccer (for Rachel and Benjamin) and organ (for Miriam) and statistics (for Andrew), we also had to squeeze in parent/teacher conferences as well. Because Rachel's soccer game was in the evening, I went ahead and signed up to visit with her teacher right after school. By the time I got to the sign up sheets for Miriam and Benjamin's class, however, only evening slots were left so I signed up for evening slots (which was just as well, I suppose since Miriam had to leave right after school for her organ class).

The little kids and I met the big kids after school (stopping on our way to visit with Daddy, who had come to pick Miriam up from school so he could take her to campus) and had a lovely visit with Rachel's teacher.

She's doing well, is always on task (her teacher couldn't believe that I ever have to tell her to stop reading at home because she never reads when she shouldn't at school), completes her work and helps others complete their work. Her only complaint is that Rachel writes using such a tiny font size that she almost needs a magnifying glass to read her work.

Rachel's growing up to be a pretty cool kid. She is talented in so many ways, she puts forth her best effort, and bravely tries new things. She's also gracious, willing to explore the path less travelled, and is just as happy (if not happier) in a backup role as she is front and center. I think it's neat that she is perfectly happy accepting "less glamorous" roles; she makes "second fiddle" look good. What I mean to say is best served by a number of examples:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My little skinny Greek-bound brother*

My little brother's all grown up and moving to Greece this Friday to begin a graduate degree in Cultural Heritage Materials and Technologies at the University of Peloponnese in Kalamata. A bit of a mouthful, but terribly exciting! 

We had planned to have a farewell party for him on Sunday, but then he ended up having to go back to San Francisco to sort out an issue with his visa (you can only apply for long-term visas in person), so we cancelled the party. Rosie and Austin didn't get that memo, though, so they showed up on Sunday, anyway. It was wonderful to get to visit with them but they were probably shocked at the state of our kitchen.

Rachel, Miriam, and I had arrived home from stake choir practice mere minutes before Rosie and Austin showed up. We'd missed out on having dinner with Jacob, Shayla, and Carter (unfortunately; though I hear a good time was had by all). Riley was over as well. That made for four kids three and under, which made for quite the mess (as Auntie Emily can probably testify to since that's pretty much her daily life). The kitchen was a disaster, but Rosie and Austin came in to visit and have a sample of Rachel's raisin bread anyway (Rachel has made bread (in the bread machine) every Sunday the last few weeks: just a plain loaf at first, and then an apple pecan loaf, and then raisin (she has big plans for this Sunday—a "spring" bread recipe that calls for orange zest (she's very excited about that part))). 

I'm happy to report that the kitchen was much cleaner for today's party!

(Probably still not perfect, but at least better than it was on Sunday).

We spent the first little while outside playing. Our air quality has been top notch lately, getting up into the hundreds at time, but usually below 90, and well below 400+. It feels great to be able to say, "Go outside!" to my kids again!

Anyway, we have a badminton net set up in the backyard right now. Andrew brought it home a few weeks ago after he and Rachel had gone shopping for soccer cleats. I'd mentioned wanting to get a set to play while we were at Grover (because horseshoes isn't really my jam) but we couldn't find summer-fun toys anywhere. It was a nice surprise. So, the net is up and the kids have been going out every day after school and sometimes when Alexander isn't terribly whiney I join them. We played a bit of badminton this evening, in between our visiting.

Here's Benjamin enjoying Rosie's lap while Matthew looks on:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Black Sheep

You won't find this information on Andrew's CV, but he's been moonlighting as a typesetter for the past eight years (off and on due to weird bureaucracy issues, but mostly on). He's mostly worked for the Maxwell Institute at BYU, doing typesetting for the METI project (Middle Eastern Texts Initiative), doing side-by-side layouts of old Arabic texts and their English translations. He did some other projects for them as well. More recently he's been typesetting books for BCC press.

What can I say? Sometimes when you're trying to get through grad school with a handful of kids those graduate stipends need a little supplementation.

When we found ourselves in the painful predicament of not knowing what we were going to be doing for employment this school year, bids for Andrew's time started flooding his inbox. People were begging him to take on projects and he gladly took them on (even though they cluttered up his schedule) because we have five little mouths to feed.

Now that we have sufficient employment for this school year I'm beginning to question the wisdom in taking all these projects on (between teaching his classes, trying to remain dedicated to his research projects, applying for jobs left and right, and trying to knock out these extra projects he's been ridiculously busy). It seemed like the wise thing to do at the time and (fingers crossed) he'll soon finish all his extra projects and things will simmer down a bit.


One can hope.

Anyway, one of the projects that Andrew has been working on is in the final stages of pre-production and we're all super excited for it at our house. The Maxwell Institute is releasing a study copy of The Book of Mormon and it's beautifully done, if I say so myself (and I do (and not only because I'm in love with the typesetter but because the typesetter did a phenomenal job)).

Blair Hodges wrote a lovely blog post introducing it, which you can read here (and you can preorder it here if you feel so inclined (it comes out in December)).

Scipio Petting Zoo (August 8) and ruminations on current events

We don't often take advice from Aunt Sarah (especially recently) but when we do, we visit the Scipio petting zoo! She visited the zoo with some secret "friends" shortly after being released from jail last year and recommended that we take our children there sometime. 

Honestly, I don't know that this attraction is worth the drive for its own sake (it's not) but it's certainly worth stopping by on your way through to somewhere else.  

When we canceled our plans to explore Goblin Valley on our way home from Grover this summer (due to the Coal Hollow fire, which had closed down some roads we'd need to get home), everyone was a little disappointed, so Grandma suggested that we make a pit stop at the petting zoo on our way home, and that's what we did.

There was a good variety of animals to visit: sheep and goats, bunnies, emus, a baby zebra, some zonkeys, a camel, alpacas, llamas, and some tortoises. 

Here's Grandma showing Zoë how to be brave around the goats:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Where there's smoke...

We humans are highly adaptable, which is sometimes good, I suppose, and sometimes not. My toddlers, for example, tend to be incredibly clingy individuals and hate whenever anyone takes their spot on my lap (or anywhere else they had chosen to sit). So Benjamin is well-trained in getting up in the middle of story time to switch sides with Zoë, who often wanders in and out, inevitably demanding to sit on whichever side of me he's currently sitting on because that's her spot and she wants to sit next to Mom and she absolutely can't sit anywhere else. She will literally come and wedge herself between me and him, so he'll just sigh, stand up, and move to my other side.

Now that Alexander is getting older and has begun asserting himself in the same manner, it's Zoë's turn to be adaptable (or "flexible" as I'll tell her). 

Alexander will come and wiggle his way between me and her and she'll squawk and fuss.

"Zoë, flexible seating arrangements, remember?" I'll coach her. "Be flexible."

She'll huff and puff and get up and move to the other side. 

I have a feeling that my toddlers aren't as interested in sitting by me as they are in displacing their siblings. It's totally a power move, an attempt for the toddler to assert their dominance, but it helps their older siblings learn to be adaptable. (Any ideas on how to teach the youngest child such a thing?)

Other times being adaptable isn't so great. For example, despite yesterday's crystal clean air, we woke up this morning ensconced, once again, in a layer of smoke. It wasn't nearly as bad as it has been, but it was still noticeably smokey.

At around 8:30, Andrew told the kids to get their shoes on and start walking.

"You're making them walk to school?!" I asked.

"It's not that bad out," he said. 

"276!" I said, checking the AQI on my phone.

"Yeah, that's a lot better than 480," he said.

"Sure. It's only a 'health warning of emergency conditions,'" I said. "It's not like a full-blown health alert or anything. Just a warning of emergency."

"Fine. I will drive them," he said. 

Talk about lowering your standards! Sheesh! If it's not a health crisis, we're fine!

Broken Jars

This morning while I was on the kitchen floor on my hands and knees (for the third time since last night (I should mention that Andrew also swept the floor last night (twice; on his birthday!)) picking up stray shards of glass with a wet paper towel, Andrew's sister was loaded into a transport van and transferred to the state prison.

She's been on our minds (and in the news) a lot lately, and so my mind started playing with a story that I'll call The Parable of the Broken Jar.

A breath of fresh air (literally)

Our air quality index has hovered between 20 and 30 all day today and we're frankly not sure what to do with ourselves. Our neighbours texted to offer to drive the kids to school (we've been taking turns since the AQI has been in the high 400s every morning recently) but I said I was going to be a mean mom and make them walk, so they walked to school this morning.

I think they were glad to walk, honestly.

They walked home from school and announced that they'd gotten to go outside for all of their recesses. I could be wrong, but I think the teachers were just as happy about that as the students were.

The sky was blue and clear and buzzing with activity. Helicopters were busy carting water and fire retardant into the canyon (which Benjamin and Zoë found thrilling and Alexander found rather confusing). Because today was relatively cool and breezeless, firefighters created a burn-line today (essentially a controlled burn ahead of the fire, as I understood it), which should have made even more smoke.

I'm not really sure where all the smoke is going because aside from a few smoldering spots on our side of the mountains, we can't see anything other than some haze in the canyon. There has to be a lot of smoke on the other side because the fires are still quite active (though they're about 25% contained now) and we could see the mountains silhouetted against red-orange smoke last night.

We're simply grateful to not be choking over here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


We have finally finished preserving our peaches.

Well, technically I'm waiting for the canner to boil so I can set the timer for a half hour to process the last four quarts of peaches so we're not quite done yet. If we're lucky, though, we'll end up with all four quarts when we're finished.

It seems like we've been dealing with fruit forever.

Last week a friend of mine posted a picture of her impeccably organized storage room with the caption, "Applesauce, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, red pepper jelly, spaghetti sauce, Saskatoon pie filling, apple pie filling, peaches and pears! It’s been a busy two days! I still have a few more batches to do."

And I about died. Because how in the world did she do all of that on her own?!

We have had four adults working on our fruit and we've managed to procure: 6 pints of spiced plum jam and 32 quarts (inshallah) of peaches. Oh, and two of our jars of peaches exploded in the canner (so we should have had 34 quarts but what can you do? (turn it into peach leather, that's what)) and I knocked a jar off the counter onto the tile floor and it shattered into a billion pieces.

Luckily my friend Jamie posted the following on Facebook: "It is currently 12:25am. We are waiting for the water in the canner to boil so we can start a 35min timer on pear sauce. Ellie will be awake in no more than 7 hours. Everything is sticky. I think we have made a terrible mistake."

And I was like, "Jamie, you are my spirit animal."

I don't know why canning feels so overwhelmingly difficult to me? Is it the fact that I always have children underfoot? Is it the fact that even when we wait to can things after bedtime the baby inevitably wakes up screaming? Do I have butterfingers? Or does everyone break a jar every now and then?

I just keep telling myself this will all be worth it in February when I'm getting anxious for the peaches to be on again. Home canned peaches are the best!

Karen has been keeping a tally of our efforts this year (which Benjamin was rather excited to see because he's learning about the tally system in school). In case you're interested, we've done:
  • 35 trays of plum leather
  • 6 pints of plum jam
  • 11 trays of pear leather
  • 60 ounces of dried peach slices (27 trays)
  • 84 trays of peach leather
  • 32 quarts of peaches
  • 4 gallon bags of frozen peach slices
And we're still waiting to can some pears and make some applesauce.

And we're exhausted. And everything is sticky.

But it will sure be yummy later on...

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. 

Thursday, September 13, 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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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)

Tuesday, September 11, 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?!). 

Tuesday, September 04, 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)):