Friday, March 22, 2019

You know it's been a long and trying semester when... pull the calendar up on your phone to see if anyone has signed up for office hours with your professor husband and tell your children, "I'm just checking to see if Daddy can come over a little earlier today."

And by over I naturally mean home because he lives here, duh.

Even if sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Guess what? Ahoy! Benjamin bikes! He's a biker! He bikes!

I've been trying to teach Benjamin how to ride a bike for quite some time. He figured out the tricycle pretty fast but lacked the patience required to learn how to ride a bike. Or a scooter. Or even to pump on a swing.

You'd think that those sorts of things would be attractive to my active little boy, but you'd be wrong because my little boy was too active to sit still long enough to learn how to do any of them!

He couldn't sit on a swing long enough to learn how to pump his legs (though he did manage to figure it out this past summer). Whenever I'd try to get him to try he'd sit for all of five seconds before popping back off the swing so he could run around.

We had the same issue with his scooter (though he did manage to figure that out earlier this year on a warm winter day). Whenever I'd try to get him to try he'd furiously pound his pumping leg against the sidewalk for five or six steps, then throw his scooter aside and start running around.

Likewise, I could not get him to sit on a bike for more than a few seconds at a time before he'd hop off and start running around like wild.

(Spoiler alert: While he was working with Benjamin today, Garrett wondered aloud how Benjamin hadn't learned to ride without training wheels "yet," but this is why—I honestly couldn't get him to sit still long enough to sit on a bike).

It was frustrating because very clearly he is a child who needs this sort of outlet, but he pushed against learning anything. He seemed to lack the coordination, the balance, the determination, the desire to learn any of it. It wasn't quite as frustrating as trying to teach him to eat was (hello, NICU days) because this wasn't a matter of his survival, but it was still rather frustrating because it was a matter of my survival (or at least my sanity).

Learning to swing was a marvelous thing for him.

Learning to ride his scooter was even better (I can't tell you how many "scooter walks" we've gone on recently (he scooters (and Zoë scooters) and I push Alexander in the stroller)).

Learning to ride his bike would make this a childhood trifecta! His summers could be carefree and glorious if he would just sit. on. his. bike. long enough to learn how to pedal.

An artsy-fartsy weekend

Growing up, f-rt was considered such a vulgar word in my home that to this day I cannot hear it without cringing. Andrew's home was the very same way. So very naturally, the word still goes largely unused in our home (though, weirdly, many of our siblings use it with reckless abandon, which, I mean, like, to each their own,! How does it not grate your ears, guys?!).

Oddly enough, however, the phrase "artsy-fartsy" does not bother me in the slightest, so that would be the one use of the word f-rt that I would consider appropriate.

And that's just the kind of weekend we had—an artsy-fartsy one! It was a long weekend because the children didn't have school on Friday and BYU had Friday off for spring break day. It felt marvelous to get to take things slow Friday morning. Rachel went to the temple with some friends. We puttered around the house. And then we headed out to the Springville Museum of Art, which we've somehow never been to even though it's amazing!

Alexander at 17 months

I missed writing about Alexander at 16 months, which is a shame because that's right when he learned how to walk! Oh, well. He's 17 months old now, which means we're just one month away from entering nursery (not that I think he'll go without a fight).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Rachel's Cinderella

Rachel was kept hopping on Wednesday and Thursday with four performances of Cinderella! We skipped her matinee shows and instead hit her evening shows. Andrew had to work late on Wednesday so Grandpa and I took the little ones and saved seats for Naanii and Auntie Josie. On Thursday Andrew and I took the kids again (since Andrew hadn't seen it yet and I didn't want to stay at home with all the kids). 

Not Rachel

Saturday, March 16, 2019

An Eggs-tra Special Pi Day

I made quiche for dinner on Thursday—Pi Day—with Zoë's help, of course. I can't seem to do anything in the kitchen without her help (except when it comes to putting away the clean dishes, which is her actual kitchen job). 

I cracked fifteen eggs into a bowl (because our family is somewhat ginormous) and let her whisk them up. I added some spices, some milk. She kept stirring while I went to check on how the pie crust was coming along. Because we were in a rush to get dinner on—Rachel had curtain call for her school musical at 5:00—I decided we'd make mini quiches in a muffin tin (which I would refer to a as a tart: a small "open pie" (with no crust on top), but definitions of pie vary wildly, it seems, so you might not refer to it as a tart simply because it's a miniature pie). Tarts bake much faster than pies!

Anyway, Rachel and Miriam were given the task of filling muffin cups with pie dough but, being the inexperienced pie makers that they are, they were taking forever to get it done. Miriam was working the dough so much in her hands it was warm and goopy by the time she pressed it into the muffin pan; Rachel was stretching her dough so paper-thin that she kept poking holes in it. So I showed them (again) how to quickly make a ball and flatten it and spread it in the muffin cup. We were all three rolling dough in our hands when I heard a slurping sound from behind us. 


Friday, March 15, 2019

Thankful Tree 2018

We put up last year's Thankful Tree on Canadian Thanksgiving—October 8, 2018—and just took it down today—March 15, 2019. We got distracted from it for a while (hello, November) so I don't think it ever got quite as full as it could have. But also it was nice to have it stay up as a reminder that we have so much to be grateful for. But considering it outlived Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day (and St. Patrick's Day and Easter are right around the corner), it was high time for it to come down.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Today's schedule

I thought that it would be an interesting exercise to write out today's schedule sequentially:
  • 7:00: wake up with the baby (after working until 1:30 AM, nursing the baby at 2:00 AM, getting up with Andrew's alarm at five-oh-something, and then again at six-oh-something).
  • do Rachel's hair and make-up (she had a play performance today; this is not a typical thing)
  • 8:00: drive Rachel to school because she had to be there early and we ran out of time to have her walk.
  • 8:30: walk Benjamin to Brynn's house so he can walk to school with Brynn
  • 9:30: walk Zoë to preschool
  • 10:00: put Alexander down for a nap (daylight savings is messing with his schedule because he hasn't taken a morning nap for months...and then we switched time and he's been a mess) and squeeze in a twenty minute nap for myself.
  • 11:00: pick Zoë up from preschool
  • 11:15: check Benjamin and Rachel out from school for return dentist appointments (they had check ups last week and my children always have cavities no matter how well we brush their teeth or how much I encourage healthy eating—I was just visiting with a mom whose daughter was chugging a soda and had a bag of jellybeans in her hand (just for an after-school snack) and she bragged that her children can eat whatever they want and have just never had cavities and I just...whatever....because my children aren't allowed pop or candy on a regular basis and I'm fairly militant about dental hygiene and yet...we're always coming back in for dental work). Miriam and Zoë did not have any cavities this time around; Zoë (and Alexander) still came with me to the dentist (Miriam stayed home sick). Zoë thought this was funny because she went on a field trip to the dentist yesterday (and got a dentist goody bag with a toothbrush) and visited our own dentist last week (and got a dentist goody bag with a new toothbrush). She was a little upset when she wasn't handed a dentist goody bag with a new toothbrush when we left today!
  • 12:15: check the kids back into school (our dentist is efficient (and funny (and good at what he does))).
  • 12:30: feed the kids lunch (I forgot to mention that I helped get them breakfast; I did that) and then settle Zoë and Miriam in with a movie and wrestle with Alexander while I try to work.
  • 3:00: put Alexander down for another nap (again, he's been down to one nap for months now, but daylight savings...boy...I dunno) and squeeze in another twenty minutes for myself. 
  • 3:30: take a shower (with Alexander).
  • 3:50: redo Rachel's makeup (because she washed it off after her performance) and start some water boiling for dinner.
  • 4:30: send Rachel back to school for curtain call and eat dinner (Grandpa mercifully came upstairs to finish making (boxed) macaroni and cheese for dinner).
  • 5:00: stand in line to buy tickets for Rachel's show.
  • 6:00: watch show.
  • 7:00: begin bedtime routine—stories, jammies, teeth brushing, scriptures, prayer, lullabies, back rubs, and more stories (On the Banks of Plum Creek) while I sit on the couch to nurse Alexander and Zoë and Benjamin lie in their beds and try to settle down.
  • 8:30: the house is somewhat silent and I begin some decent uninterrupted work.
I also did a bit of laundry, changed several diapers, tidied up the living room, and did many other things I'm sure I've forgotten to mention. Thinking about today's schedule made me realize that my days are really quite full (this isn't nothing; this a lot) so I should probably stop feeling that I never accomplish anything.

Mid-mom crisis

I just finished editing the manuscript of book a couple of Andrew's colleagues wrote. They gave me about three days to turn around a 300+ page manuscript, which ended up being a rather intense deadline because—have I mentioned?—I'm also a stay-at-home parent.

Interestingly, I've been worrying a lot about the eminent collapse of my stay-at-home empire lately. I feel like I'm entering another phase of reinvention in my life and that's somewhat scary. Although I realize I have years of "at-homing" yet to do, we—I—have a lot of changes coming up in the next few years that I need to prepare myself for.

  • I have spent the past 12+ years pregnant or nursing or both, but soon (within the next six months) I'll suddenly be doing neither. 
  • After this school year Zoë will have one more year before she begins kindergarten and then I will have only one child at home during the day. That hasn't been the case for nearly ten years.
  • Alexander is going to eventually begin school as well. 
  • ...AND THEN WHAT?!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Grandpa Frank's 90th Birthday (February 23...well, 26)

We celebrated Grandpa Frank's 90th birthday on February 23 (though he was still three days shy of 90 then) and I finally got around to cobbling together a family picture where everyone is more or less looking at the camera with a somewhat normal face on:

Andrew's family is picture-averse, as a general rule. My family could stand around taking pictures for hours. I mean, sure, half of us might be gritting our teeth, moaning, "Take the picture already," behind our grins, but we will stand there until the photographer thinks they have captured the shot they were going for.

Andrew's family does not do this. Andrew's family grimaces at the camera or will duck out of the frame or hold something in front of their face or pull a goofy face.

So you can imagine the reaction everyone had when Grandpa Frank asked for a picture. But how can you say no to this face:


Hobble Creek Canyon

It snowed on Friday evening—big chicken feather flakes that had everyone's windshield wipers furiously dancing—and doubled Andrew's commute time. We made individual pizzas, watched Into the Spiderverse, put the kids to bed, and when we got up in the morning all the snow had already melted—which the children found rather disappointing because they'd been looking forward to going sledding on Saturday morning.

"We are still going sledding," I reassured them.

But, like, what if all the snow melted?

"Look at the mountains," I told them. "There is still snow in the mountains."

The mountain snow was what was relevant to our plans for the day because we'd planned to go sledding up Hobble Creek Canyon at Karolla's house.

"This isn't very much snow," Benjamin remarked from the backseat when we first entered the canyon.

"We're not very high up the mountain yet," I said.

As we drove the snow got deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and our fears turned from not enough snow to too much snow.

"Will this snow fall on me?" Benjamin asked.

"No," I told him (but truthfully...sometimes).

Here's Benjamin standing on a wall of snow by the road:

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Snacks and things

Ever since Alexander has learned to climb onto the table we've had to limit a couple of Zoë's favourite things: play-dough and painting. Alexander simply isn't very good at either activity though he is rather passionate about wanting to join in! 

Today Zoë asked if she could get the play-dough out and I told her we could try it but that I wasn't sure how it would work with Alexander around. In the past he's started eating it right away. Today, however, he was very interested in all the tools we have to use with the play-dough and carefully watched and mimicked what Zoë was doing. 

He patted and rolled and stuck cookie cutters into his bit of dough like a big boy (then he'd hold the whole mess up, cookie cutter and all, and pout, "Mom?"—he never quite managed to pull a cookie cutter back out of the dough and wanted help every time).

Those two were doing such a good job together that I decided I could take a little break from supervising their play to work on some math problems, so I got my books and set up my work station across the table from them. I actually got quite a bit done—it worked so much better than when I try to work while they're colouring (because then Alexander wants to either colour in my workbook or he shoves his picture in my face every two seconds for approval). 

I glanced up every few minutes to see how they were doing, to praise their creations, to help dig cookie cutters out of dough, and to reassure Zoë that "it's okay to make mistakes."

Boy, do I really need to internalize that, myself! I get so frustrated when I don't understand something right away but she just says, "I mixed the play-dough colours but it was only an accident and it's okay to make mistakes, right, Mom?" and completely forgives herself. Luckily, I was on a roll this morning, math-wise, and didn't have to erase much (unlike last night when I should have been soothing myself with, "it's okay to make mistakes"). 

Anyway, I looked up from my book once and noticed Alexander was making an awfully sour expression. 

"What's up, Alex?" I asked. 

He shook his head no (which means either "no" or "I don't know" right now) and then I noticed he was chewing a little bit. 

"Did you eat some play-dough?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Yeah. I told you not to do that. It's pretty yucky stuff. Is it yucky?"

He nodded but continued chewing.

"Do you want to spit it out?" I asked, holding out my hand. 

He slowly stuck his tongue out, balancing a mangled ball of play-dough on its tip.

"There. That's better," I said, scraping all the blue bits from his tongue. "Don't eat any more, okay? It's yucky."

And Zoë said, "Mom, he just made a mistake. It's okay to make mistakes, you know."

"I know," I agreed. 

If she can keep remembering that—and picking herself up off the ground—she will go far in life.

Alexander's first hair cut

Alexander woke up this morning and the back of his head was, as usual, an absolute mess. I tamed it with some water and a comb, but then I thought to myself, it's time. So I took the scissors and started cutting off his sweet baby locks—but only on the back and sides, I left the top of his head untouched because it's just so fluffy!

The hardest part for me was definitely taking that first irreversible snip.

The hardest part for him—besides sitting still—was when I brought out the vacuum to clean up the carnage. Mostly he happily coloured, occasionally twitching his head to one side or the other when he thought I was tugging on his hair too much.

And now he looks like a little boy (but that's all a ruse because he's still my baby).

Here's what he looks like now:

I was going back through my pictures to see if I could find a good picture of bed head (I know I took one...recently...?) but I had to stop because it was making me regret having cut his hair at all because his hair will never be the same.

But also his hair was getting rather ridiculous. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

March tales

March is national reading month, which the children are celebrating whole-heartedly. Their celebration is, of course, spurred on by their school because I wouldn't have known it was national reading month otherwise. Part of their celebration is an at-home read-a-thon where the kids are asked to read above and beyond the twenty minutes per day that is usually required of them.

Benjamin's class has a goal to have each child read 125 minutes this week, so 25 minutes more than their regular 100 minutes. This should bring their classroom total up to 3000 minutes—and if they reach their goal they get to have ice cream at school next Monday (a thrilling prospect).

Benjamin, however, is under them impression that he alone is responsible for reading 3000 minutes this week (that's fifty hours of reading) and he has been doing his best to accomplish this.

Yesterday he read for 90 minutes. Today he read for over 120 minutes.

This does not include mommy-led story time.

It's a nice change from his usual after school craziness and I think it's safe to say that his class will meet his goal (even if half the class slacks off).

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Alexander's cast removal

Alexander's cast was removed on Wednesday morning, which was quite the ordeal for him. Although it had been a month since we'd last been to the doctor's office he seemed to remember that his last visit had not been a fun visit—with the doctor examining his sore arm, the cold, scary x-ray table, followed by the trauma of casting! He was not happy to be back in that place.

Well, he was happy at first because they have some fun toys in the lobby, but when they called his name and we went back to our room he was as nervous as could be.

The poor nurse took his temperature—just sliding the thermometer across his forehead—and he wigged right out and turned around in my lap so he could wrap his arms around my neck while he howled.

"I'm going to go find someone to help you hold him down for me because I don't think he's going to cooperate for us..." she said, leaving the room.

She came back with a second nurse who helped me hold him down while the first nurse picked up the cast saw and went to work. Alexander squirmed and cried enough to work up quite a sweat by the time the cast came off his arm (which didn't take long at all).

Then he sat and pouted on my lap until the doctor came in to examine his arm.

Alexander did not want the doctor to touch him, but the doctor concluded that he didn't seem to be in any pain (compared to how miserable he'd been when we brought him in to get his cast put on).

The doctor wanted to make sure he had a full range of motion in his hand, so he tempted him to use his hand by offering him a tongue depressor.

"Do you want this?" the doctor asked, holding it out for Alexander to take.

Alexander took it—with his left hand (not the hand the doctor had been hoping he'd use)—but to show that he was not friends with the doctor he immediately handed it to Zoë.

Benjamin's book report

Despite Benjamin's teacher only wanting him to be reading at a level M when he finishes grade one (which means she hasn't tested him to move reading levels and hasn't been giving him any sort of challenging reading material all year long), he brought home a book report today about his favourite book, which is currently Little House on the Prairie.

This makes sense because (A) we've been reading through the series, but also because (B) it's like history time (his favourite pastime) and (C) it's been teaching him a lot about how to be a mountain man, which is still his chosen profession (though he's since decided that he could also like to go to school to be a doctor because that would only help him when he goes off to be a mountain man and because he was born in the year of the dragon and that's something kids who were born in the year of the dragon tend to do (and he wrote about this in a school assignment as well and I'm sure his teacher found it puzzling but...that's just what our dinner conversations are like sometimes)).

Anyway, here's his report:

Friday, March 01, 2019

Student-led conferences

Yesterday we spent a long afternoon at the kids' school for their student-led parent-teacher conferences. Their teachers had each prepared about 20 minutes of material for their students to slog through with their "guest," which was...meh.

On the one hand, it was interesting because I got to see what they were doing at school.

This has not been year. For me, I mean. My kids are doing fine.

I feel a little bit like I'm treading water—trying to find a job, getting a job, trying to buy a house, dealing with Karen's death, the day-to-day of a rather difficult semester for Andrew—so things like, I dunno, signing reading logs has gone out the window (those things are the absolute bane of my existence). I basically have no idea what my children are doing at school, except that I know that they're doing fine.

That's what their teachers keep telling me: no missing work, high achievers, no behaviour concerns, etc. That's just what a parent wants to hear about their child(ren). And so I'm pleased. And also, I have just kind of checked out in that regard.

I'm still involved—I read with them and I help them study things they don't understand...I just expect them to come to me about things they don't understand because I don't have the energy to stay on top of what they're each learning at any given time.

So it was nice to see exactly what they're doing on a daily basis.

Speaking in church

Typically, soon after a family moves into a new ward they are assigned to speak so that they can introduce themselves to the congregation and so forth. At least, that's been our collective experience thus far so I'm going out on a limb and saying that it's typical.

But we weren't asked to speak when we first moved into this ward (and neither were Andrew's parents). I wasn't entirely sad about this because we'd spoken twice in rapid succession shortly before moving away from Durham and I don't particularly enjoy public speaking. So we thought that, perhaps, they simply didn't necessarily ask new families to speak in this ward. Fine.

We soon learned, however, that they certainly did ask new families to speak and we'd simply eluded that norm. It became a bit of a running joke for us, wondering how long we could go without speaking—or if we'd ever speak in this ward.

Andrew's dad tried to out us by brazenly telling the bishopric that our family had never spoken, but instead of asking us to speak they asked him to speak (which is only fair since he hadn't spoken either). But a few weeks later we got the call asking us to speak in sacrament meeting.

So what follows are the talks that Miriam, Rachel, and I gave. Andrew spoke as well but I don't have his talk on my computer. Our topic was "Each of us has the potential to become like our Father."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A little stair scare

Alexander should be getting his cast off tomorrow, fingers crossed.

When he first got it on my friend Kari warned me that it would be so stinky by the end. Her baby boy broke his arm at our neighbourhood playground in Durham while I was teaching swimming lessons to his older brothers. He fell off the wiggly bridge and cried and cried and cried—the same other-worldly wails Alexander was making when he broke his arm.

He ended up pulling off his cast while in his crib one day and it was so close to the time he was supposed to get it off anyway that the doctor decided to just let it be.

I don't doubt that his cast was stinky at the end of four weeks—four hot, humid weeks in the middle of a typical southern summer!

Alexander's cast really doesn't smell very badly (at least not that I can tell from the little sniffs I've given it), but we've only had to endure four chilly, dry, bleak mid-winter weeks. I'm sure it would smell worse under other circumstances.

We've done pretty well at keeping it clean—always slinging it up in an old grocery bag when he eats and so forth—but it's still getting pretty grungy.

He's been pulling the stuffing out of his thumb hole, the purple has about rubbed off the palm of his cast from all his crawling around, and it's just pretty dingy-looking. It will be nice to have it come off!

The other day when we were getting ready to leave for Grandpa Frank's 90th birthday party (which was on Saturday although his birthday wasn't technically until today (he's birthday buddies with my brother, David)), Alexander gave me quite a scare.

Prelude to Spring

It's days like today, when I'm so totally ready for spring, that I'm glad I live where I do because we had a beautiful prelude-to-spring day here. It was a balmy 57°F, the sun felt warm, the breeze was gentle, and the long-silent playground echoed with children's laughter.

Four of those laughing children were my own (the fifth was at her organ lesson). We soaked up every possible minute at the playground before coming home to make dinner.

My cousins—Michelle and Shannon—meanwhile, were on Facebook comparing temperatures where they live—in North Dakota and Idaho, respectively—and although I know that I tolerated living in such cold places for years, seeing those -17°F and -7°F (again respectively) temperatures made me shudder.

At the same time, it's days like today, when I'm still wearing fuzzy socks and a jacket to the park, that I'm glad to be moving back to the south. I don't think I ever quite adjusted to the cold weather up here. The playground was full of children—and parents—in t-shirts and shorts, and though I know that I have run outside to play on the first warm day towards the end of winter wearing similar attire, today I stood out a bit in my puffy jacket and fuzzy socks.

Follow the...what now?

Rachel was in charge of our Family Home Evening lesson today. We told her to look at the Come Follow Me manual and go to town. So she did. She prepared a fabulous lesson...for last week.

It didn't take us very long to figure out her "guess the topic" hangman opener because, well, The Sermon on the Mount was pretty easy to figure out since we learned about it last week. But we went ahead and had her give her lesson anyway and we had some good discussions.

At the end of her lesson she passed around paper and pencils to everyone and asked us to write down something we thought was interesting from the lesson and then she collected them and read them out loud. This was actually a very entertaining thing to do because even though we all wrote down serious, well-thought-out answers, some answers were easily misconstrued to be silly.

For example, when she got to Andrew's she couldn't quite read his writing, which is, to be honest, perfectly fair. His writing is so poor it could rival any medical doctor in an "illegible prescription" contest. It's simply awful. He once suggested to me that I keep a pen and paper by the bed so that I could jot ideas down there, rather than take notes on my phone (I think I'd had some autocorrect issues with some things I'd typed when I checked my notes in the morning) and I was like, "Please tell me you don't do that!"

He enlists my help in deciphering things he writes down in the middle of the day! I can't imagine trying to work out his middle-of-the-night scrawlings!

Anyway, she got to his paper and read, "The...Satan gives us a...good pattern for life. What!? Who wrote this!?!"

"Must've been Dad, I think," I said, because he was already cracking up over her misinterpretation.

"Not Satan!" he finally choked out. "S-O-T-M! S-O-T-M! The Sermon on the Mount!"

We like to turn as much as we can into acronyms at our house and had his writing actually been legible she might have been able to piece together what he was trying to say, but his sloppy O turned into an A and his sloppy M morphed into what was possibly an AN.

Then she pulled out Benjamin's passive-aggressive note, which said (in beautiful, well-controlled six-year-old handwriting), "reading the sermin on the mont AGAIN" and we all burst out laughing.

It was a good lesson.

We're a week behind in Come Follow Me now, but it was a good lesson.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nights at the Museum

On Friday night Rachel went to a sleepover and the rest of us were itching for something to do so we headed to BYU for their "Nights at the Museum" activity. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, other than knowing that the museums were open extra late, but when we arrived we were handed a paper with a scavenger hunt of sorts. The employee gave us the hook—that if we finished the scavenger hunt by visiting all five museums we would win a water bottle—and the kids (Benjamin, especially) were sold.

Our first museum was the Museum of Peoples and Cultures. In addition to the regular exhibit they also had the back of the museum open and had booths set up with students exhibiting their work. One of the exhibits was on Nabatean pottery from Petra—they have some of the thinnest pottery found in the world and no one quite knows how they were able to make it so thin. It was kind of fun to get to talk with the students about pottery after reading Uncle Patrick's paper on pottery.

Next we hit up the Paleontology Museum, which was by far Alexander's favourite. We really need to take him back there when it's a little less crowded (and a little less past his bed time).

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What math?

This morning I went to a meeting with some of the curriculum committee members for our school district. Such a thing might seem somewhat pointless since we're moving at the end of the school year, but my friend, who is in charge (as a parent volunteer) of the "gifted" program at our school was asked to come in and meet with the committee because she'd been asking them so many questions. She didn't want to meet with the committee alone because she was afraid she'd buckle under pressure, so she asked a couple other parents to come in with her.

Zoë had preschool, so I just sent her off pretty much as I normally would on a Wednesday morning, and I asked my ministering sister to watch Alexander for me. She bravely said she would. Actually, she's offered over and over again to watch Alexander but I've been too nervous to leave him with her because he's a screamer.

Anyway, he did fine for her! After I dropped him off at her house, he screamed and screamed and screamed until she loaded him into her car to go to brunch with her friends (at a fast food joint with a kiddie area; she also brought her preschooler). She said he sat on her lap perfectly calm the entire time they were at the restaurant. And then he started screaming again the minute she started buckling him back into his car seat to bring him back to me. So, all in all, he did much better than I expected.

The meeting went well, and my friend got all her questions answered and I learned a bit about how the gifted and talented program works. I felt a little silly if they asked me if Rachel was in the advanced math group. I was like, "Yeah. I don't even know. I, uh, know she's doing fine. It's been quite the year for us."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cute casts are costly

I had a series of Zoë stories lined up to share, one of which is how she found a toilet paper roll and put it on her arm like a cast (because she might be a teensy bit jealous/curious about her brother's cast). But instead of telling you about her cuteness I'm only going to share pictures of her with her cardboard cast and complain about the healthcare industry a little bit.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Rachel's first temple trip

This afternoon Rachel and I went to the temple to do baptisms with some friends of ours.

We haven't taken Rachel to the temple yet because we've heard horror stories about the wait times to do baptisms. People were waiting sometimes four hours. We didn't see how it would be possible to coordinate a babysitter for an unknown period of time.

My friend who went with us said she just asked one of the Laurels (a young woman from our congregation between the age of 16 and 18 (or going on 16 these days)) to babysit for their younger kids and since this particular Laurel knew how crowded the temple has been lately they just told her that they didn't know when they'd be back.

That's all well and fine when your youngest is six (as my friend's youngest is).

It's less well and fine when your youngest is one (and still a nursling at that).

Going out—for any reason—is just complicated with babies. So this afternoon I left the kids in Andrew's care and Rachel and I went to the temple (because it's one thing to leave your baby with your husband for however long versus leaving your baby with a stranger for however long; I mean, the baby will still scream but Daddy can handle it).

We lucked out, though, and the baptistry was really quite empty when we got there. We hardly had to wait at all, but soon the waiting room was full so we were glad we got there when we did! We breezed right through.

It was wonderful to get to spend some one-on-one time with Rachel and to visit the baptistry again. I haven't done baptisms for the dead since Andrew and I got married (we went weekly back when we were dating/engaged but then we had other things to do in the temple).

Rachel got to take five family names to be baptized and confirmed for, mostly from my paternal grandmother's side—Naomi Ruth Chason, for example, who was born in Cairo, Georgia (over a hundred years ago)!

I hope Rachel had a wonderful time as well.

It was nice to be in a quiet, distraction-free place for a while where we can sit and soak up stillness and peace and think about our relationship with Heavenly Father. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Valentine's Day and Karen's Birthday

This was a busy (and rather dichotomous) holiday for us, abounding in revelry but not without sorrow.

I was in charge of three Valentine's Day parties this year, which was a lot and had me feeling rather stressed out. I knocked the preschool party out on the 13th. Since I had the preschool kiddos last week as well as this week, I was able to stretch a project out over two weeks. I had the kids cut some hearts out of salt dough last week and this week we painted them (we did that first thing in the morning so that they would have plenty of time to dry before it was time to go home).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Orphan socks

Miriam's teacher assigns her class a chore to do at home every week. This week's chore is to do their own laundry, which Miriam said she informed her teacher she already does. But I wonder if she told her teacher why she does her own laundry.

Technically she and Rachel work together to do their laundry, which works out nicely because between the two of them they make a good sized load with a full week between washing days.

Rachel started doing her laundry last year when I decided that she was old enough to help fold laundry. So instead of folding her laundry for her, I'd just sort her clothes into a basket for her to fold on her own. The problem then became that she'd never get around to folding anything so by the time I came to collect laundry from her room I couldn't tell what was clean or dirty because it was all just thrown about her bedroom.

I told her that if I can't tell what's clean (because it's in your dresser put away) or dirty (because it's in your dirty clothes basket), I guess I don't have to wash anything because it's certainly not my job to sniff every article of clothing in her room to decide whether it needs to be washed or not.

And that's how Rachel came to be in charge of her own laundry.

Miriam joined her ranks late last year when she went on a rampage through the house, trying to find a pair of clean socks, a futile mission.

"You need to be better at getting the laundry done!" she snapped at me. "I don't have any clean socks left!"

Facial hair

I already wrote about how Zoë described a moustache as an "extra eyebrow" last month, but our questionable understanding of facial hair continues. We were reading a book the other day (Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager, and which I found to be alright but not read-aloud-twenty-times-a-day good) and in it the antagonist threatens to string his henchmen up "by their nose-hair" if they don't do his bidding.

"Well, it looks like that middle guy got lucky," Benjamin said, pointing to the only un-moustachioed henchman in the bunch. "He doesn't have any nose-hair."

I explained to him that moustaches and noise-hair are two different things entirely. He seemed baffled by the idea that people have hair in their noses (because young children don't). I'm sure this idea will seem less baffling to him in a few years.

Today, Zoë asked me why men don't have "eye-flashes."

Animated characters typically have eyelashes when they are girls and do not have eyelashes when they are boys, which is ridiculous because very clearly males and females both have eyelashes.

Anyway, she asked me, while posing daintily and fluttering her eyelids, "Why don't men have eye-flashes? Can they not flash their eyes like women can? Watch me flash my eye-flashes! They're so flashy!"

I told her that sometimes artists don't draw eye(f)lashes on men because they're too busy drawing on their extra eyebrow. Because some misconceptions don't need to be corrected right away.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Writer's block

It's weird, and hopefully a phase, but certainly weird, that I feel like I have less to write about now that I'm taking this class. It's supposed to be inspiring and sometimes it is, but sometimes it's intimidating instead.

I'm already about a month into the course and I still don't know what I want to write. The trick, I suppose, is to keep doing it anyway.

I've been thinking lately about how my opinions of things have changed over the years. For example, when I was younger I enjoyed art, but was only ever really impressed when an artist could capture a realistic representation of their subject—when I didn't have to wonder what the artist was going for or whether the artist was in their right mind while creating their masterpiece.

Realism and impressionism—Monet and Manet—were both very comforting to me, depicting the world as it appeared, how it should be. People are people, chairs are chairs, everything is lovely and dependable and predictable. This was beauty. This was art. Clearly these artists had studied the world around them with a discerning eye to be able to so accurately transcribe life's details on canvas.

Van Gogh began interjecting his emotions onto the canvas, muddying the subject matter, which my younger self callously noted lessened the quality of his work. When I was first introduced to Picasso I remember being floored that he was even considered famous. His art was abominable.

(I should probably let the record show that these were my thoughts as an elementary school student).

Saturday, February 09, 2019


Late in October, Karen was on the phone with her sister Linda and Linda mentioned how she was just looking at tickets for Wicked. Karen enjoyed musicals and rather liked Wicked so she asked Linda to book a few tickets for her—because Reid doesn't particularly like Wicked Karen decided she'd invite Rachel and Miriam to join her.

She asked me in secret if it would be alright if she took them and I said that of course it would be! So she booked the tickets and was planning on gifting them to the girls for Christmas. Both girls love the musical and have been singing the songs since they could talk, basically, so I knew they'd be very excited when they opened them.

Karen wrote out the check to Linda on Thursday, November 1. And then, know.

We took her to the hospital that Saturday and by Thursday, November 8 we were all preparing to say goodbye to her, which we did in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, November 9.

We still gave the girls the tickets, but instead of going on an outing with Grandma, the girls went on an outing with me (and Aunt Linda and Aunt Dorothy and cousin Michelle and Aunt Dorothy's college roommate). We had such a fun evening together, though it was also tinged with sadness knowing the intended recipient of my ticket. It felt odd to be driving home in the middle of the night, feeling exhilarated by the wonderful performance when I thought about how incapacitated with shock we'd felt driving around in the middle of the night (to and from the hospital) three months previous.

It was an amazing grand finale of Christmas presents from Grandma, though! We had such an amazing time!

Linda drove us all into the city (us being me, Rachel, Miriam, and Dorothy; in our van). We parked at City Creek (in section D1) and then walked down to Mollie & Ollie where we met Michelle and Dorothy's roommate, a recently retired music educator (who plays the viola).

"We chose a very healthy restaurant," Linda told me. "Because you're with us. Dorothy's a little upset that we can't go to Cheesecake Factory but I wanted to make sure there was something on the menu that you could eat."

I told her that Cheesecake Factory would have been fine (though I don't know if I've ever been there, either (there are a lot of places I haven't eaten at (our motto is: eating at home saves money (and we've been pinching pennies since forever, sooo...))).

I have this weird reputation as the family hippy because I do things like eat vegetables. But I like desserts as well. And burgers. And stuff.

Anyway, since everyone else was already waiting for us at Mollie & Ollie's, that's where we went and my girls and I thoroughly enjoyed it (though I'm not sure anyone else did). Miriam and I both got the teriyaki chicken bowls and Rachel got a ginormous pulled pork wrap (which she ate up lickety-split, and then ate about half of Miriam's teriyaki bowl). It was just a quick walk from the restaurant to Eccles Theater.

Rachel's Science Fair

For the science fair this year, Rachel did a study on the fourth-grade classes at her school to test whether or not reading a story and doing practice math problems (from a book called Bedtime Math) would reduce math anxiety in the classroom. 

I'll admit it was one of my contributions during our "what in the world should Rachel do for the Science Fair sessions," inspired by some background research I've been doing for a story idea I had, which in turn was inspired by a late-night nursing session following a late-night math review session.

I've had math on the brain lately and my story idea is, I think, hilarious. I told it to the older girls early in January and they spent the entire morning watching the kids so that I could finish writing it down. They want to see it as a book right away, but it still needs some work. And I need to figure out how to pitch it. But this is all besides the point.

Rachel had the four grade four classrooms fill out a survey about their feelings toward math, and then had the classrooms read either a story from Bedtime Math (the test group) or a fairy tale (the control group), told them they were going to have a pop quiz, and then administered the same survey about math anxiety (and then gave them a pop quiz). 

She found that the classes that had read the math story experienced an 8.4% decrease in math anxiety, even right before a pop quiz! The class that read the fairy tale saw a slight increase in math anxiety. There was not a statistically significant difference in scoring, but with a long-er term study it's possible a change in scores could be tracked. Her study gave similar results to some more long-term studies done by actual scientists (which she talked about in her paper). She suggests that teachers get in the habit of doing math warm-ups in a risk-free environment, prior to a math lesson or examination, in order to allow math-anxious children to do their best work.

Thursday, February 07, 2019


Last night Andrew and I watched an episode of Madam Secretary together because he didn't have to teach last night. Classes at the Salt Lake center were cancelled due to the snow—the first snow day in Salt Lake in twenty years!

I've heard rumblings and rumours about teachers being more excited for snow days than the students, but I'm not sure this is true. While it was, admittedly, nice to have Andrew home on a Wednesday evening (we relaxed! we watched a show! we actually had the kids in bed on time which I just can't seem to manage on my own!), neither one of us could really enjoy the unscheduled down time because we were both dreading the make-up time.

Next week I will now have two evenings when Andrew isn't home at all to help with the kids and two evenings when he will waltz in just in time to scarf down some dinner before helping put them to bed. So instead of our usual T-W-Th marathon, it will be a M-T-W-Th marathon, and I will say to him on Sunday evening, "Nice knowing you. See you for dinner on Friday."

That sort of thing really puts a damper on any excitement snow days might elicit.

The time off is nice, I suppose. But making up the time? No, thank you. I'd much rather accomplish my tasks when they're scheduled to be completed.

But I guess safety and so forth are important as well.

Anyway, last night we were watching an episode of Madam Secretary together and a commercial for a new Star Trek show came on. There was a little trailer before the title of the show flashed on the screen—Star Trek: DISCOVERY.

My poor brain had trouble parsing the all-caps font.

"Star Trek...Disco...?" I wondered.

And then I burst out laughing and could not stop. I finally managed to tell Andrew about the difficulty I'd had in reading the word disco-very and he, too, began laughing.

This morning when I sent my boys out the door (Andrew took Benjamin to school on his way to work this morning because the girls had left for choir earlier and Benjamin is a little too young to walk to school on his own) I bid them farewell with a, "Looks like a great day for disco, very."

Adventure is out there

Winter has me feeling so bored that I haven't felt like I've had very much to write about (it's also been an insanely busy week; I've spent hours editing papers or helping with science fair projects that I guess I could have been writing), but then I saw these pictures on my computer and remembered that we actually left the house to do some adventuring this past week!

It got so warm, actually, that we even went on our first family walk of the year this week. We haven't managed to go on many (uhhh...any) because our schedule is kind of wonky this semester, with T/W/Th being a marathon of craziness. By the time Andrew gets home it's either hours past the kids' bedtime or late enough in the evening that it's too chilly to enjoy a walk outside (that isn't to say that we aren't ever walking, just that we haven't all been out walking together, which is the definition of a family walk). But we did manage a walk this week and, I suppose, we could count our Saturday outing as a walk as well.

We decided to hit up Patrick Dougherty's exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art. Dougherty is an artist from North Carolina whose work my little North Carolinian children know and love. In fact, they are huge fans of his! He is the man behind the twisted twiggy pathway in the Hideaway Woods at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham where my bigger kids spent many happy childhood hours. 

It was fun to get to watch this exhibit take shape last semester (as we'd walk through the MOA on our way to organ lessons) and we figured it was high time we take the kids to visit it just for the sake of visiting. It was like a little taste of North Carolina, right here at BYU! The kids had so much fun playing a little hide-and-seek in the structures (and it was nice to have such a child-friendly exhibit at the museum).

Here are far too many pictures:

Alex and Daddy

Light at the end of a sleepless tunnel

Alexander slept from 8:30 until midnight. I put him back in his bed around 12:30 and he didn't wake up until after 7:30 this morning! 

It was amazing, and certainly something I think we should make a habit. 

I had Alexander give me a fist bump over it this morning, so it's basically an unbreakable pact now. 

Sleep has been such a forgotten figure in my life for so long that becoming reunited with it sounds lovely, almost magical. Imagine, instead of snatching 40 minutes here and an hour or so there that it is possible to sleep for consecutive hours. Like, one right after the other! 

A person could get used to such luxury, but I'm not going to hold my breath over it quite yet, otherwise I'll be disappointed when Alexander wakes up fifty times tonight.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Zoë zoologist

This morning I took Alexander and Zoë to story time at the library. They were very happy to get to go because Alexander likes to go anywhere and Zoë was starved for story time (we've missed the last few weeks because of sickness). I feel like I've been so busy lately that I haven't really had time to listen to my kids and the funny things they say, so I was grateful a few quiet moments with the kids this morning.

When the librarian asked the kids what they knew about penguins, Zoë confidently raised her hand and when she was called on she said, "They wobble and they swim, but they don't fly."

She 100% cannot hear the difference between waddle and wobble, so she was wobbling around like a penguin all day. In her defense, the words also have rather similar meanings.

This reminds me of when we were sitting around waiting for Alexander to get his cast last week. I'd brought an alphabet book with us and Zoë insisted on reading it herself. She "reads" a lot of books by herself fairly well. I'm amazed by how many books/stories she has memorized, which she will read to herself as she turns the pages. She'll even pull out books we haven't read in months and "read" them, though usually with a few more errors than the book(s)-de-jour that she has me read to her over and over again.

Anyway, the R page of this alphabet book features a rabbit, but when she got to that page she said, "R is for bunny. Buh, buh, bunny."

So I corrected her and said, "You're right. Bunny begins with a buh-sound, but this letter is R and R makes a rrrrrrr sound, so on this page they want us to say, ' R is for rabbit. Rrrrr, rrrr, rabbit."

"Mom," she told me with the full force of her toddler-PhD voice, "Bunnies are rabbits, so this is a bunny!"

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Last Sunday

I mentioned previously that between the change in our church meeting schedule, sick kids, and substituting, I have yet to make it to Sunday School this year. Well, Andrew has yet to make it to a priesthood meeting. He wandered the halls with a fussy Alexander when I taught Relief Society three weeks ago and last week he came home with Alexander (because it was his turn to be croupy and I had taken Zoë home from church early the week before since she was too sick to attend her class).

We still dressed up Alexander in his Sunday best and took him to sacrament meeting, though. We decided to try on Daddy's old suit (Aunt Susan made it). It was still a little big for him, but he looked super cute (if not a little sick/stunned)!

Outside time

Winter is giving us a bit of a reprieve right now, which is rather kind of it.

I don't hate winter as much as I used to, it's still not my favourite season, but I don't loathe it like I used to. Part of me wonders if this change has more to do with my latitude or with my age or with global warming in general, but the grip of winter simply doesn't seem as strong as it once was. It used to seem to drag on forever, but now it's clipping along at the regular rate of (as my Uncle Bruce might say) one second per second.

Still, it's nice to get outside without a million layers on and without slipping on ice so we've been making the most of it while we can because we know there'll be a few more storms before spring (at least, one can hope).

We've been doing a lot of scooter-walks after school when the weather is warmest. I was so excited to get the kids scooters for Easter last year and they were, too...until they tried them out. Then they had nothing but complaints—their legs were tired, it was hard to balance, they can't steer—and we ended up with a few pretty good wipe outs. Rachel and Miriam got decent on them, but still didn't ride them very often. Benjamin was so bad it wasn't even funny.

"Just gliiiiiiide!" I'd urge him while practicing (and practicing and practicing) in the church parking lot. He wouldn't glide. He wouldn't balance. He'd just do this weird waddle-scoot thing that I totally agreed looked like a lot of unnecessary work. No wonder riding scooters wasn't very fun.

But somehow he figured it out—I don't know when, I don't know how—and this boy is a scootering machine now! He always wants to go out on his scooter. He zooms around, uphill and down, he rides far, far ahead of me and then circles back. It's been an amazing transformation.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Not throwing away his shot

Today I want, more than anything, to be as resilient as Alexander.

Yesterday he broke his arm. Today he is conquering the world (with his wee, bitty cast).

It took him a few tries to figure out how to climb his slide with his cast on, but he did it! He's been so cute to watch as he figures out how to do all the things he'd thought he'd had figured out before.

This morning he grabbed a block with his good hand and used it as a crutch—it made his good arm as long as his casted arm (since he's using the knuckles of that hand instead of his palm)—to hobble-crawl across the room.

He's been experimenting with walking on his knees and has even gotten up to walk (some very short distances) of his own volition!

Climbing isn't quite as easy as it once was because he can only grip things (ladders, benches, etc) with one hand, but that doesn't stop him from trying.

He's just as happy to colour a picture with his left hand as he is his right. He's also completely unperplexed by feeding himself with his left hand (though he did bite his fingers a couple of times already).

I've been fairly certain that his right hand is his dominant hand (because that's the hand he's always used to colour with or to hold his fork and so forth) but I'm wondering if this experience will cause his brain to rewire him into a genuine south paw. There's evidence that spending just two weeks with your dominant hand out of commission will lead to significant increases in non-dominant hand agility—but that's only for adults where a two week period represents only 1/468* of their life (for an 18-year-old!

Alexander is looking at having this cast on for a month. That'll be 1/16* of his life by the time it comes off (whereas it would only be approximately 1/429* of my life)! Having this cast is no small thing for him!

But he's taking it like a champ!

*Assuming I did my math right, and based on each year having exactly 52 weeks.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Right arm...broken!

For the past 11 years, 6 months, and 10 days of parenthood, Andrew and I have held an ongoing (joking) wager about which child will be the first one to break an arm/leg. When Rachel (who happens to be 11 years, 6 months, and 10 days old today) was a toddler and was climbing all over the place as if she wasn't afraid of gravity one little bit, we were certain she was going to break a limb.

She didn't.

When Miriam was learning to ride her bike and seemed to be magnetically drawn to any and every potential obstacle (and crashed around twelve thousand times), we thought for sure she'd be the first one to break a bone.


Benjamin still has very high odds of breaking an arm, in my opinion. But whenever he, you know, "be's Benjamin," as Zoë would say, he has always emerged from whatever Benjamin-ism unscathed. We're constantly checking him for broken bones.

So far none.

When Zoë, who was barely walking, fell in love with jumping off the couch we thought for sure she was going to be the one. Just the other day we were heading down to the basement and Andrew offered to carry Zoë the rest of the way down the stairs. Instead of saying, "Why, yes, father. Thank you for offering," she literally just flung her tiny body down the staircase in his general direction, a crazy trust exercise of sorts. 

How has she not broken a bone?!

And then our little climber! Alexander can't walk (well) but he climbs, you know, anything and everything. The other day I learned that he can climb onto Zoë's high chair and from there he can get onto the kitchen counter. He has fallen off the table upstairs, multiple times (most recently giving himself a black eye). He seems to have a goal to climb over the back of the couch (which is an awful goal—Grandpa once caught him just n the nick of time, and Alexander twirled about, suspended in the air by his ankle, his head inches from the tile floor, wondering why Grandpa stopped him). I am constantly running to get him down from places and/or scooping him up off the floor as he howls, "OW! OW! OW!"

But he's only been alive for fifteen months. Sure, he's a bit of a daredevil, I thought, but surely he's as invincible as the other children!

Apparently not. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

FHE on the Plan of Salvation

We discussed the plan of salvation for FHE tonight. I set up a scavenger hunt around the house, which led us through all the levels of our house finding different parts of the plan of salvation, using the diagram from the March 1994 Friend Magazine.

We read Job 38:4, 7 and talked about the premortal existence and how we were spirits before we came to earth. I adapted a puppet pattern (from the gospel library) so that Benjamin could have a boy spirit and Zoë could have a girl spirit to carry around with them (and idea I had while reading this lesson plan).

C≠B, where C is the closet and B is the bathroom

Doing all this math elicits quite the dichotomy of feelings within me. I did so well on the "solving linear equations" section that I took a picture of my notebook to send to Andrew:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Black-eyed baby

I haven't gone to Sunday School this year, a feat made easier by the fact that we only have Sunday School twice a month now. I missed the first week of Sunday School because instead I taught (and, uh, maybe lost) Sunbeams. I missed last week because Zoë was too sick to go to her class so I took her home instead (and then I also packed for my weekend trip to Idaho because I'd forgotten to do that the night before). 

She's now getting over her croupy cough and hasn't had a fever since early this week (though she also missed preschool on Wednesday, which was bitterly disappointing (though was made sweeter when her friend Hannah dropped by some cupcakes to help her feel better)). 

Naturally Alexander is croupy now, running a fever and barking that iconic seal-like cough. He's so sick and miserable that everything he does is 100% pathetic and sympathy-inducing. 

"Momma!" he'll moan, and he gets Momma.

He moaned a new word this afternoon, "Banana!" and he got a banana. 

Basically whatever he wants he gets because everyone feels so sorry for him. Our pity is heightened, I think, because on top of being cute and small and sick, the poor boy has a black eye! 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Building, writing, creating

This evening I had my second session of my writing class, which has so far been surprisingly empowering. My sister sent me an article about parenting through grief several weeks ago when we were, you know, in the trenches of parenting through grief (not that the battle is over, but I don't feel like we're quite in the trenches like we were) and it said something about allowing yourself to neglect the kids and house a bit. When you hear that judgmental voice in your head saying, "Too much television is going to rot that child's brain," or "That laundry should have been folded days ago," to just thank that voice for its concern and send it on its way.

That was so helpful for me to read at the time.

Eating pizza for dinner (again) wasn't going to ruin my children's childhood. Playing the Wii all weekend long wasn't going to ruin my children's childhood. Picking clean clothes out of a laundry basket instead of their drawers wasn't going to ruin my children's childhood. And eventually we'd find our new normal and life would continue with vegetables and human interaction and chore charts.

No need to castigate myself for not having it all together because people don't have everything together in the best of times, so why should I have everything together in what could be categorized as one of the worst of times? (For the record, we're out of the trenches and my house still isn't tidy, but it wasn't before, and I don't think my children are really worse off for it).

I heard a similar thing tonight in my class. We made lists of our fears and our distractions and the judgmental voices inside our heads and then one of the teachers said to thank those fears, distractions, and voices for trying to protect us but we were going to forge ahead anyway.

And that was apparently so helpful and empowering for me to read that it spurred me into having a difficult but necessary conversation today.

But enough vagueness. I only meant to say that we did a writing exercise during class, which is one I feel rather familiar with because it's kind of the topic of this blog, but it went in a surprising direction, so I will share it here. The prompt was, "In this very moment..."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

My math zipper is misaligned

So, I'm studying for the GRE, which is all kinds of fun and is bringing back lots of, you know, fun memories. And by fun I mean traumatic.

I suffer from a bit of math anxiety, which I've been reading quite a bit about lately. This fear of math can be passed on from parent to child when the parent expresses thoughts such as, "Math is dumb, anyway," or "It's alright if you're not good at math because I'm not good at it either," and things like that. It can also stem from teachers expressing math anxiety in front of their class or, I imagine, from shaming students who are struggling to grasp a particular concept.

Two instances of math shaming stand up readily in my mind. The first is in grade three. We had to do timed multiplication tests weekly in Mrs. Robinson's class and while I did enjoy my time in Mrs. Robinson's class, I did not enjoy those timed multiplication tests. I only ever managed to get through the whole test once at the very end of the school year.

"You must not be as mathematically minded as your brother," I remember her remarking. "He was so quick!"

He had been in her class a couple of years before me and he, of course, finished his timed tests every week. I know this because if you got 100% on the test (which would naturally involve finishing it) then you got to pick a prize. He got a prize every week.

I never got prizes. Until the end of the year. And by that point I don't think I cared any more.

(Except that I am bringing this up again so perhaps I cared a little bit more than I thought).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Up to Idaho and down again

I ran up to Idaho with my mom this weekend to attend Burt's funeral. We drove up with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Wally and Alexander (the only child I took with me) was a fabulous little traveller.

It was wonderful to get reacquainted with some of my more distant relatives and to have the opportunity to see some close family members again (my Auntie Colleen and Uncle LeRon drove down from Alberta and Elizabeth was there...because she lives there).

Alexander had a marvelous time crawling around (and rolling around) the floor. He seemed to enjoy the soft carpet quite a lot. He also did a lot of toddling! He was taking quite a lot of steps as he made his way around the room. Without anyone there to yank him around and knock him over (I'm looking at you, Zoë) I think he felt confident enough to give this whole two-feet thing a try.

After the viewing we met at the Airbnb my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sara had rented—a cute single-wide trailer home—for a dinner that Sara prepared for us. It was fun to get to visit as our own little family unit for a while (Uncle Bruce, Aunt Sara, Elizabeth, Bridget, Aunt Judy, Uncle Wally, Auntie Colleen, Uncle LeRon, my mom, Alexander, and I). And then, since we hadn't yet found a place to stay, my mom, Alexander, and I ended up spending the night there as well (Colleen and LeRon had already found a hotel and Aunt Judy and Uncle Wally stayed at Elizabeth's). It was so nice of Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sara to share their space!

The funeral was quite wonderful. Burt was, by worldly standards, a rather unsuccessful man; he had terrible luck progressing through any given career track, but he kept on trying new things so that he could help support his family. Still, his lack of success plagued him throughout his life and he just never felt successful. But he was successful in all the ways that truly matter. He was so kind and honest and generous. Everyone loved and respected him. He was, as was repeated so many times today, a gentle soul—just so good.

He'll be missed by many.

After the funeral program we all piled into our cars to make the half-mile journey to the cemetery. It was cold and windy and the dedication of the grave was mercifully short. Then we all piled back into our cars to head back to the church.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Old friends

I got together with some old friends tonight and it was so great to get to see them! We go back a long time. Let's see...

Courtney and I have been in three different wards together. She was in our Parkland ward when our family moved to Calgary (the end of 1994). My family moved to High River before the start of the next school year and Courtney's family moved very soon after we did, so naturally we were in the same ward again because there was only one ward in High River (and it encompassed several nearby towns as well: Nanton and Cayley and so forth (now there is a ward and a branch in High River)).

Amy's family moved to High River from Oregon that same year, but in the middle of the school year, I believe.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Extra Eyebrows

Today Zoë had an open peanut butter and honey sandwich, which means she gets half a slice of bread with honey and half a slice of bread with peanut butter. She likes it open so she can have the full experience of honey-on-bread and peanut-butter-on-bread one at a time, rather than the traditional melding of flavours that is the abomination known as a sandwich.

She ended up giving herself a little peanut butter mustache while she was eating and when she showed it to me she said proudly, "Look, Mom! I have an extra eyebrow on my face, just like men do!"

And now I can't stop imagining going up to some random men and complimenting them on their "extra eyebrow" (or, perhaps "lip eyebrow"), just to see how they respond.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Karen's Cookie Kegger (November 17)

I've put off going through the pictures from Karen's funeral for two solid months now. There's no reason for it, in particular, other than that life keeps marching on. I didn't do it right away and so it go swept under the rug (along with the billion other things I haven't documented in my life). It's not particularly painful to go back and look at the pictures because although it was a hard day it was a good day. I just haven't looked through them until now.

But I had to pull them up yesterday so that I could find this picture of my mom (and me (and Alexander and Kathi and Sister Starr)) with my mom's cousin Burt:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A visit to the fire station

Our neighbourhood preschool took a trip to the fire station this morning. The first truck we got to visit was a 1937 American LaFrance Fire Truck, the second engine Spanish Fork acquired (it's engine #2). The kids weren't allowed to climb on it, but they were allowed to walk around it. It still comes out to participate in parades sometimes (though it looks like it might need some work before hitting the streets again—something was leaking all over the floor).

Monday, January 14, 2019

Alexander at 15 months

This sweet little baby of mine continues to insist upon getting older, so I guess he's fifteen months old now. He's still at the age where he's changing a lot from month to month, so I will do another update on him.

At fifteen months, Alexander...
  • is finally experimenting with walking, though he still doesn't love it and will refuse to take any steps if he's not in the right mood. He is definitely, and by far, my latest and most reluctant walker. 
  • still loves to climb. He likes to hang out on top of his little slide'n'climb structure, which has been a sanity-saver this winter. He can also climb onto the benches for our table, which means that he can also climb onto the table whenever he wants. 
Here he is doing a bit of climbing:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ben the Builder

Benjamin has been very interested in constructing things lately. He loves going over to Aunt Linda and Uncle Trevor's house to play in their garage with tools. They had him working on some project or another recently (it's a secret, however, so I don't know what it is). Linda suggested that we take him to one of the building days at Home Depot, but they're all the way in Provo at 9:00 in the morning on Saturdays and, well, we're too tired for something like that. Instead Andrew took Benjamin to Lowe's and let him choose a little kit to build.

Then that kit sat and sat and sat and sat and sat. Past Thanksgiving, past Christmas, into the New Year.

I finally helped Benjamin put it together on Friday (the kids didn't have school). He enjoyed figuring out the instructions and hammering all the nails into place. 

This little light of mine...

Today was Rachel's first official day in the Young Women program (since last week we only had Sunday School). She had asked for a new dress for Christmas and had even looked at a few online, which she showed me to give me an idea of what she was looking for, so I ordered one and when it finally came in (this week, so we totally missed Christmas) Rachel loved it immediately. And then she held it up to herself and revealed that it was not going to be a dress for her. It was going to be a dress for me.

It was way too big for her!

So we went online together and picked out another dress, which came in a much more timely manner (Friday). This time it fit her perfectly. 

So that is what she wore to church today and she looked beautiful (even if her toes were being pinched by her shoes because I can't keep up with how fast her feet are growing (those shoes were purchased in August and are already too small)):