Tuesday, December 31, 2019

MLK sites

Yesterday I took the kids to the playground to have some run-around time and instead of running around they just picked on each other the entire time. We stayed for a little over an hour and there was literally never someone not crying. I was so frustrated that I actually stormed off to the van, hopped inside, and drove over to the next parking lot—just to shock them all into silence. It worked. 

They were all very sorrowful after that.

On the way home—when I had all the kids in the van with me—I told them, "Thanks for getting out of the house with me so that we could fight somewhere else. I was getting sick of fighting at home, so this was nice." Because sometimes I'm passive aggressive like that. 

And then I told Andrew that we needed to get out for a family adventure, so we decided to head downtown to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. sites. It would be a nearly-timely visit since MLK day is later this month but, I hoped, wouldn't be too crowded (yet), and it wasn't. I was worried that we wouldn't be able to find a parking spot in the lot, but we did (easily) and we enjoyed a little walking tour.

Our first stop was the visitor's center, which had some decent exhibits, I think, but I wasn't a fan of the layout at all. In the big room they had these weird circle-cubicles with pictures and information to read and a video to watch, so they were interesting, but it really killed the flow of the room. But, that's fine. Sometimes with little ones we have to move through museums like this quicker than we'd like, so we often find ourselves looking at things, taking notes of things to look up later, and then moving on before the kids get too antsy. 

Andrew's knee is doing much better these days. I don't know that I ever updated on this, but it turns out that he tore his MCL, not his ACL, and this was a very good thing. The doctor said he could expect 6–8 weeks of pain and to slowly wean himself off his brace, but that MCLs usually heal pretty well without surgery or physical therapy. Andrew's knee still hurts but it's starting to feel better and he's starting to be able to do more. Still, he used the stroller like a cane of sorts today (it was quite a bit of walking for him to have to do, but better than the zoo—ha! Our library has a partnership with the zoo where we can check out an informational video about the zoo and then return it to get four free tickets, so I suggested that we do that over Christmas break (because the zoo movie was available at our branch at that moment) and Andrew enthusiastically agreed and then I was like, "Oh, but your knee..." and he was like, "Oh, so much walking at the zoo." The zoo would have killed him, I'm sure, but a couple hours downtown was fine; we'll do the zoo later on).

Here are the kids at the reflecting pool by the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King:

Zoë's book

Zoë has been writing a book (she's always writing, that cute little thing). First she made the front cover:


Goals and things

I've been thinking about goals lately, given that the year is almost up. I met the last of my goals for this year today (just under the wire) so it's time to think of new ones for next year.

This year I:

  • Took the GRE
  • Read the New Testament
  • Read the Book of Mormon
  • Submitted two manuscripts for publication (and am 100% banking on them being rejected)
  • And maintained my daily streak on Duolingo for the entire year
I learned a neat trick about manuscript submissions though! So, pro tip: If you're doing an email submission and you want to be sure the publisher has read your email you can conveniently neglect to attach your proposal to the email. That way they'll email you back and say they'll be happy to review it (a good sign) but then ask if you forgot to attach it (a bad sign). 

That was an embarrassing email exchange (but I'm pretty sure it's something everyone has done). 

I haven't made my official goals yet, but I'm sure they'll include applying to grad school and making a few more manuscript submissions. Among other things.

I've been nervous about thinking about going back to school myself while trying to homeschool four children, but I think I'll automate things more next year. This year I've been coming up with curriculum myself, which is fun...but time consuming. Next year I'll be more structured and probably choose a curriculum that lists out each day's work for everyone. And it will be easier to do that starting out in the beginning of the year rather than in the middle of the year (at least, that's what I'm telling myself). So far the curriculums I've looked at are a lot less rigorous than I am; my children will probably appreciate that (and I'll probably challenge them a bit more). 

Beyond that I don't really know what goals to make (perhaps "find a way to coax my siblings into sharing their childhood memories with me," but that goal is really too dependent on other people to make a reality). We (Andrew and I) are feeling rather exhausted having just made it through 2018 and 2019 back to back (with the rest of the world, but—come on!—those years were particularly exhausting). Having been so intent on surviving I'm not sure what goals to make now that focus on thriving

But I/we will come up with some good things, I'm sure.




Monday, December 30, 2019

Just another manic Monday (oh, oops—I mean...Sunday)

Andrew played the organ again yesterday since our organist is still out of town. This was fine because Andrew enjoys playing the organ. It does mean that I have to sit with all the kids by myself, but this is getting to be less and less work as time drags on. They're pretty good at sitting still these days (at least most of them are, for the most part, good at sitting still). 

Rachel gave her first talk in sacrament meeting, which she wrote all on her own (though I did edit it a bit and coached her on some rewriting (mostly for clarity)). She was so nervous that her face turned pink, but she did a great job (and next time she'll do even better because she'll know there's not so much to be afraid of—with public speaking, I mean).

Here's her talk:
At the beginning of every year, my family chooses a number of scriptures to memorize over the course of the coming year. Usually we choose twelve so we can work on memorizing one per month. We work on them while we're in the car or when we need a shorter scripture study session. Some of them are easier to remember than others, but in the long run we've been able to memorize our entire list of scriptures each year. 
When I was seven or eight we were studying the New Testament and one of our memorized scriptures was James 1:5–6. It says, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." 
This scripture was easy for us to memorize because it was the scripture that inspired Joseph Smith to pray about questions he had, but also because my little brother would always end it by saying "into a volcano," so we all started ending that scripture the same way: "he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed...into a volcano."  
But that's beside the point. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Zoë tales

On Christmas Adam, Andrew decided to run to the movies to watch Frozen II with Zoë, since she hadn't been invited when he took the older three to the new Star Wars movie a few days before. 

I just stay home with the baby. 

It's fine. 

No, really, it is. Movie theaters are kind of fun, I guess, but they also really stress me out. I'm a little noise sensitive so I usually just sit there wishing they would turn it down. Anyway, Zoë had a blast going out with Daddy all by herself (and she loved the movie).

Here she is looking altogether too grown up:


Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas morning and Christmas presents

No one woke up very early on Christmas morning and we're not upset about this. All the kids were in the basement snoozing away. Alexander woke us up around 8:30 (and then he had to nurse, of course) and then we went downstairs to fetch the children. They quickly lined up in age order for the Christmas train, which Alexander so proudly led. He crawled up the stairs with the big kids tromping up behind him and then he just kept on crawling down the hallway and through the kitchen, pleased as punch to be the leader.


A Shadow Puppet Nativity

As part of a school assignment I was having the kids condense a story into a short puppet show. The story of choice was A Christmas Carol and it turns out that condensing this story into five minutes was a lot of work. There were a lot of characters and scene changes and it felt like too monumental of a task (though the kids did write out a beautiful storyboard summary of the story) so I told them they could do the story of the nativity instead. They know that story better and can be told with just a few characters, so the kids (somewhat reluctantly) have been working on that project over Christmas break (but I strictly told them that they had to bring the project from start to finish because we'd already done a lot of work for our puppet show (we made the shadow box theatre last week) and because it simply feels good to complete a project).

So, this afternoon we finally got around to filming their shadow puppet production of the nativity:



You can probably expect to see more shadow puppet productions from this crew (because we went through all the work to make the shadow puppet theatre and because knowing how to retell a story is an important thing—knowing what details are pertinent, which details are extraneous, putting a story into your own words, and so forth (plus, perhaps if I force them to work together on projects often enough they'll eventually learn to get along (a girl can dream (and if you're watching this video, please ignore my children pestering each other and giving each other killer looks during the scene changes))).

Christmas Eve (without Brigham Young or Ann)

We were supposed to have a friend come over to spend Christmas Eve with us (a widow in our ward) but when I called her to confirm she answered the phone in a raspy voice and sounded so sick and, frankly, senile, that I was rather worried about her.

Instead of picking up the phone with any regular sort of salutation, Sister Ann croaked out, "Brigham Young is dead!"

"Mmmmmhmmmm..." I agreed. "That's true. *ahem* Hello, Ann. This is Nancy..."

"Well, why didn't it say so?"

"Pardon me?"

"That caller ID thing! It told me you were Brigham Young! But you can't be Brigham Young. He's dead!"

"Ah, yes. I can explain that," I said, feeling very relieved she still had her wits about her. "Our phone contract is still through Brigham Young University. I didn't realize it would come through on your caller ID like that, but rest assured it's just me, not Brigham Young. I'm just calling to ask about dinner tomorrow..."

The rest of our conversation went on to talk about Christmas Eve plans and then to break those plans because she was too sick to be around anybody. So instead we brought some dinner to her—bean and bacon soup (at her request). We'd never made that kind of soup before, but between Andrew and I we managed to make such a tasty soup that we finished the entire pot—not a drop left over! Andrew and Rachel also made biscuits (or was it Andrew and Miriam?). Of course, we didn't get to eat with Ann, but at least she got a warm homemade meal. I need to check on her again and make sure she's feeling better. Anyway...

We spent Christmas Eve alone. Together, but alone. We did all sorts of Christmas Eve things: we went to the park and played (without sweaters; it was so warm), Alexander and I took a little nap while the kids played, we played some games, we acted out the nativity...


Thursday, December 26, 2019

A DST Christmas

I'm sure gift-giving, like any talent, is something you can hone. Certainly there are people who come by it more naturally than others, after all, "to some it is given," but surely it's a skill anyone can learn if they put in enough effort. I don't come by gift-giving naturally and I really admire people who are good at this skill.

My sweet sister Kelli, for example, has become a pretty good gift giver after years of practicing. My Auntie Arlene has always been a phenomenal gift giver (at least in my memory). My friend Crystal comes to mind as well.

Now that we have a little bit more (*cough* or, you know, any *cough*) disposable income, I suppose I should loosen up the pursestrings a bit and practice spending a few dollars here and there to see if I can't bring a little joy into someone's life. And perhaps I should teach my children to do the same thing. I didn't do a great job at letting my children flex their gift-giving muscles this Christmas (possibly on account of: we didn't really enter any stores this holiday season, oops (I mean, Andrew did the grocery shopping and picked a few things up at Costco, but, like, there was no rush to Target or Wal-Mart—we just...didn't go)).

Anyway, Miriam, who seems to be my natural gift-giver, made sure to come up with presents for each of her siblings. She made little notebooks for Rachel and Zoë, wrapped up some old pyjamas (the gift that keeps on giving; they were from Grandma to Rachel on a Christmas years ago, then got passed down to Miriam, and now they're...) for Benjamin, and had something for Alexander to unwrap as well (I can't remember what it was).

She and Rachel also hung little stockings up on their bunkbed and vowed to make each other little gifts through the month of December (and lest you think this means they were kind and sweet to each other the entire month and never fought, well, guess again). Here's what Rachel's haul from Miriam was:


A lovely pile of Christmas cheer.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Sunday

Miriam asked me to put her hair in rags last night so she could have curly hair for church today. It was late when she asked, but I went ahead and did it because Christmas only comes once a year. Here she is with her beautiful curls:


Ward Christmas Program

Andrew was in charge of the church Christmas program this year, so he is rather happy today is over! He conducted the ward choir, played the organ for congregational singing, organized a men's choir and played the piano for them, organized a women's choir, and arranged to have the primary children sing. He also wrote out a script of sorts for the program explaining the four weeks of advent; the songs we sang today fell into one of four categories (1) hope and prophecy, (2) love and Bethlehem, (3) joy and shepherds, and (4) peace and angels.

Our little family were up and down like yo-yos the whole time, but that's alright because a lot of families were. That was the point: we wanted everyone who wanted to participate to be able to participate and not just from from their seats in the congregation. There's one thing about singing your testimony and worship from the pews, but getting up in the stand in front of everyone to sing your testimony is an entirely different feeling.

So, first the primary children went up and sang "Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus," a song about a Lamanite prophet (from the Book of Mormon) telling people in the Americas the signs of the Savior's birth. Zoë loves this song, so perhaps I can convince her to sing it on a recording.

Next the Relief Society and Young Women combined to sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Then Rachel, Miriam, and I sang "Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head" which you can hear below (though when we sang it we had an extra ukulele and a few extra voices; it wasn't just us). Originally the Young Women were asked to sing this but they begged to simply be combined with the Relief Society instead:



Then Andrew and Miriam played an organ/piano duet of "O Holy Night," which you can watch here:



Next, the Elder's Quorum and the Young Men sang "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains" and then there was a piano duet by the Wolfert brothers, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

The choir then sang "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," with some lovely sisters playing the viola and violin with us (they were home visiting from BYU and their mom volunteered them for the task, so they played on borrowed instruments (my viola, for one; I'm not sure where the violin came from) and they great). And then we sang a medley of "Silent Night" and "Jesus Once of Humble Birth."

There were two congregational hymns as well, and I think it turned out very well.

Andrew is rather glad today is over! As enjoyable as a Christmas program is, there are a lot of working parts to bring together to pull it all off! I always enjoy singing Christmas music and am a little sad the season for it is almost over, but I'm happy for the music we got to sing to help us remember Christ's birth (and am super happy about the music my children learned and that my daughters got to sing with me). We'll keep on singing Christmas music until it starts making Andrew grumpy...

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A while ago we were Skyping with Grandpa and he said, "Alexander doesn't really look like Benjamin, does he?" We agreed that he certainly looks different than Benjamin did at this age. 

"Who does he look like, then?" Grandpa wondered. 

I wasn't quite sure. He looked like...Alexander. 

But then I was taking a picture of him the other day and I asked him to smile and in that moment it hit me—that was a Gavin smile! So I pulled up a picture of Gavin and sure enough:

Gavin on the left, Alexander on the right

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Christmas Tree Lady

In October we met our sweet 91-year-old neighbour Jan while we were out walking and she told us to be sure to visit her house around Christmastime to see all her trees. She sets up trees in every room of her house and thought the children would like to see them all (since when she was younger she would always see people's trees lit up in their windows and wonder how they decorated their trees). 

I wasn't sure if she was serious about her offer (though she reemphasized her offer when we stopped by her house on Halloween) but decided that we'd just head over there this afternoon to drop off a Christmas gift and leave things up to her. So I whipped up a little crochet washcloth last night and Miriam made a Christmas card and we walked up the hill to her house. 

We rang the doorbell and waited for her to come. When she opened the door we sang her a little carol and presented our gifts and then she invited us inside and began her tour. "I've been hoping you would come!" she said. 

Her door was flanked by two little trees covered in homemade ornaments. She used to be part of a sewing group and every year they would do an ornament exchange and those trees showed off the ornaments from that group of friends, which, she noted, have all since passed away, leaving her the sole member of their sewing circle. But she still puts up their ornaments every year and thinks about them. 

In her calling room she had a tree decked out in Christmas picture books. She let the kids pull whatever they wanted off the tree to read and helped Alexander with some pop-up books and then we hung the books back up and continued the tour.


He sees you when you're sleeping...


My sweet sister Kelli phoned yesterday afternoon to let me know there was another package on the way to our front door (she already sent everyone Christmas presents!) but that this was one to open before Christmas. It was a game that she saw and thought Zoë would like it, since Zoë is so very excited for Santa to come. It's kind of a Candyland game, but with Santa Claus delivering presents.

I've never played Candyland and, frankly, haven't heard good reviews of it, but this game seemed sweet and fun and tolerable to play with toddlers. Alexander picked up the rules pretty quick and could hardly wait for his turn to say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!' or sing a Christmas song or twirl like a snowflake or leave a gift under the Christmas tree.

Anyway, she sent it with a note from Santa that read, "Dear Heiss Children, I know when you are sleeping and can see when you're awake. Remember: I'm always watching you. Love, Santa."

When Allen saw that note come through (they share an Amazon account) he said, "You've got to call your sister and let her know that package is from you. That note's a little...stalker-y."

So she phoned to tell me that a package was coming with a slightly troublesome note (had I not know the origin of the note). It's a little jab at Zoë for getting so mixed up about Santa Claus is Coming to Town

And it's a good thing she let me know about it, too, because remember that one time my other sister (well, one of my other sisters) Josie anonymously sent me a book called I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You? That was an intense afternoon.

Anyway, Kelli was right—the kids loved the game and were excited to get to open a present early! She's always thinking of us and sending us little reminders that she loves us (for example, she sent Zoë a bell for her bike after she got hit by a car this summer (and sent bells for each of the children for good measure)). She's a wonderful person to know and love. I'm so glad she's my sister!

Miriam's organ recital

Miriam had her organ recital the other night, which was a good practice for tomorrow when she and Andrew will play O Holy Night for our church Christmas program. It was a little difficult for them to pull this off since Miriam couldn't hear a note Andrew was playing (the organ is in her teacher's bedroom and the piano is down the hall in the living room), so hopefully they'll be able to coordinate better tomorrow when they're in the same room. (Also, I think the piano could use some tuning).

Given the circumstances they did great!

Here's the view from the audience:



Four days prior to Christmas, Mommy fell down the stairs...

It's been a good 25 years since I last did this, so it's not like my track record is entirely tarnished, but I just fell down the stairs carrying a baby. Last time it was my little sister Josie. This time it was Alexander. Both times the baby was just fine at the end of it all.

Last time I remember that I got hurt quite a bit, but mostly I remember being scared and then relieved that Josie (who was really still quite tiny) was alright.

This time I have rug burn covering an embarrassing percentage of my body and my bottom feels (and looks) like it's been paddled by a particularly stern (and rather old-fashioned—because this sort of beating would clearly be banned in this day and age) school teacher.

Before we'd even finished falling my sweet baby boy was asking, "Are oo otay, Mommy?"

And then while I was crying and trying to clean up both my elbows (or elbow-to-wrist as the case is on my left arm) he was patting me and giving me all sorts of advice: "Maybe you need another band-aid, Mommy. Do you feel better now? It's okay. Are you okay? It's okay. Do you need more and more bandaids?"

He's a sweet boy.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Rachel's winter orchestra concert

Rachel had her winter orchestra concert...last week! In all the chaos of the weeks before Christmas I somehow neglected to write about it, but it was a very enjoyable concert and we were happy to be able to support her there.

The video is a little shaky because I had Alexander on my lap (but I'm happy to report that he's not the shrieking baby you hear (at least not in this particular video)):



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Wrong way up

I am unsurprised this happened. I am surprised it took her this long to decide to try it (or at least to get caught doing it).

Zoë climbing the outside of the stairs

Christmas Goodies, the Strum-and-Sing Along, and Entryways

Sunday and Monday afternoons were spent baking up a storm. 

Andrew and the older girls assembled some graham cracker houses for everyone and we had plenty of fun (and made a huge mess) decorating them. We only had one bag of icing to pass around and I was worried the children wouldn't share it well and we'd be diffusing tempers and assuaging hurt feelings all evening, but they passed the bag around sweetly and generously shared everything. The only sounds were joyful squeals. 

Miriam helps Alexander (cheeks stuffed with candy) put some icing exactly where he wants it to go 


Heiss Holiday Humbug 2019

It's here! The moment you've all been waiting for: our 2019 Christmas newsletter/poem! 

Today is our 14th anniversary (weird), so I figured it was as good a day as any to publish this installment of our epic poem. I completely neglected to make a 20/20 joke in this poem...so y'all be on the lookout for that next year. 

The artwork (which are geese, not rockets) were drawn by Zoë (for Alexander, our resident ornithopihle; the background is from Vecteezy).

You can download a full-sized PDF version here or read the text below the jump:


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Santa Claus came to town

This morning we had our ward Christmas party—a breakfast—which was obnoxiously early. The other family at our table lamented with us that we'll be switching to the 9:00 schedule for church next year because it simply takes more effort (more planning/coordination/organization/forethought) to get a handful of kids preened for church and out the door at that time of day. But, I suppose we'll get used to it. 

We've spent a lot of time at church this week already, I'm realizing. We had our Relief Society Christmas social on Thursday night, last night was game night, and today we had breakfast. Tomorrow we'll be back, but that's alright.

This afternoon Miriam went to her friend's house and Rachel and I took little kids to see Santa. Benjamin stayed home to keep Andrew (who is furiously grading exams) company (not that Andrew is furious about grading; he's simply working at a furious pace). I honestly don't know why everyone was moaning about going to visit Santa this year. We went both years we lived in Utah—and it was actually, legitimately freezing cold. It's absolutely not freezing cold here, yet no one wanted to go stand in the cold with me. 

Not that I wanted to either, but these little ones deserve childhood memories, too (sometimes it feels like it was easier and/or that I was more motivated to take the older kids out to do things (such as visit with Santa)). It's not that I don't love my little ones as much; it's just that I'm a little more tired than I used to be (though, honestly, if y'all would let me sleep through the night that might change...).

When I asked who wanted to see Santa I was met with a chorus of moans from the older kids, but Zoë called out, "I want to see Santa!" And Alexander cried, "I want to see it...mailman!"

He loves the mailman.


The line was long, but the weather was so nice that Rachel and I discussed removing our sweaters. People in the line were dressed in all sorts of things, from shorts and tank tops to winter coats and big fluffy boots. And all around us different languages were being spoken: Korean, Russian, Hindi, and a few I didn't recognize. It's wonderful to live in a place with so many cultures around. 

After waiting in line for about an hour (broken up with the excitement of a mail truck driving up—because that's what Alexander had wanted to see, anyway), we'd made it this far (and still had quite a wait to go):

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

You'd better watch out...

I'm not sure if Zoë how been less able to keep her hands off Alexander lately or if he's simply gotten pickier about when she gets to touch him, but these two have been squabbling constantly lately and usually it has something to do with Zoë carrying Alexander around or Zoë stuffing her hand down Alexander's shirt to feel his soft baby skin or Zoë sitting on Alexander so he can't get into her toys or...Zoë touching Alexander in some way or another.

I don't blame him for not liking all this attention (that he's been battling since his birth). She just loves him so much that she can't help touch him. That or she's aggressively attacking him.

There is no middle ground.

A new phrase he's picked up on, and which he shouts regularly, is, "I'M IN CHARGE OF MY BODY, BO-BO!"

Because that's what I say when she's invading his personal space: "I know his skin is soft, but Alexander doesn't want you to touch him right now. Do you hear how he's squawking at you? That means he doesn't want you to do that. Alexander is in charge of his body and you need to listen to him."

She doesn't often listen to him, unfortunately, and yesterday when I found her sitting on him (after following the sounds of his muffled cries) I began chastising her once again.

"Zoë!" I said. "Get off of your brother!"

"But I don't want him in my room!" she said.

"Well, he can't get out of your room when you're sitting on him," I pointed out. "You need to use your words to communicate with him, not your body."

"Fine," she said, rolling off of him. "Alexander, get out!" she then said, giving him a little push to emphasize "out."

Does she really think I don't see these things? I am right here.

"Zoë, you've got to start being nicer to your brother. Santa's not going to be very happy when he sees how unkindly you've been beha..."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Zoë interrupted. "You mean he can see us when we're awake, too!?"

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Scary ghost stories and tales of the glory...

Perhaps it's ambitious of us, but for our read-aloud book the next couple of weeks, I've selected A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It's a little advanced for the children. Though they are familiar with the storyline from watching various movie versions of the story in Christmases past, Dickensian English still seems like a foreign language at times and I have to stop and explain things to them regularly.

Today as we read we were looking for similes and other metaphors, which Dickens sprinkles through his manuscript as if his readers are sitting in a restaurant booth while he, a liberal-handed waiter, grates parmesan cheese onto their pasta—more, more, and still more! Sometimes it feels like he leaves us with the entire block of cheese to gnaw on! Needless to say, we found a long list of examples.

Then, just at the peak of Marley's haunting, as he's floating out the window and Scrooge notices the world is filled with tortured souls doomed to wander on this eternal treadmill, watching mortals suffer, the electricity snapped off and we were plunged into an eerie, grey silence. It scared, you could say, the Dickens out of us.

Daylight filtered through our sheer curtains and when we opened them to let more light in, we found the world outside equally grey, shrouded in a similar translucent film. Whether clouds and mists or spectres and spirits, it is hard to say...

Monday, December 09, 2019

Our Thankful Tree 2019

While I was busy taking care of leaves all over the outside of our house, I decided I may as well de-leaf our Thankful Tree as well. Besides, we just got our first batch of Christmas cards and I needed somewhere to display all the wonderful people we know, so now our Thankful Tree is a Christmas Card Tree. It's beautiful!

We weren't very dedicated about writing on leaves this year, but we managed to get a good number on the tree. We'll do better next year, surely, when things aren't feeling so new and frenetic. Is cross-country culture shock a thing? If it's not, I suppose uprooting is stressful anyway—getting to know a new place and new people is difficult even without having to learn a new language or convert currency in your mind all the time.

Here's our tree in full foliage:



My little entomologist

Early this afternoon while the kids were doing some research on their chosen countries (Miriam is researching Thailand and Benjamin is researching Scotland) I went upstairs to clean off the roof over our back deck.

Here I thought we were all smart to move to the south—no shoveling snow, you see. But instead I find myself dealing with leaves. We ordered one of those telescoping roof rakes (for snow removal) so that we can use it...on the leaves! It's ridiculous, but the deciduous trees surrounding our house have almost finished dropping their leaves for this year so we should get a little reprieve soon.

Leaning out the bedroom window, I first used the leaf blower, but I could only reach so far with that so then I stretched out the rake and started pushing leaves over the edge of the roof. While I was awkwardly wielding this 20 foot pole, I noticed a horrifyingly huge bug calmly walking up the roof toward me. It was a suspicious-looking bug—some sort of assassin beetle, I thought—so I tried taking a picture of it so that I could identify it but I couldn't quite get the camera to focus on it (it camouflaged so well with the shingles). So I called for a jar.

Miriam came running up the stairs with one and I trapped it easily. This bug is rather ginormous and...oh...so...slow. I couldn't miss!


Geese and things

I've been hard at work on our annual Christmas poem (I'm nearly finished now) and as I was thinking about design, I kept coming back to the rocket-birds Zoë drew (to entertain Alexander, our resident bird-lover) and how much she loves the song Christmas is Coming.



Whenever she sings it she ends it with a little sneeze because, you know, the last line is "God bless you."

Anyway, as I was thinking about her drawing goose-like creatures and about her singing this song (all the time, guys, all the time), I thought her little Christmas goose-obsession needed to be immortalized in the Christmas newsletter, so I sprinkled her little geese throughout along with some lines from goose songs and poems.

I don't know if it's because I'm Canadian or what, but I'm aware of several. I chose three to highlight in this year's newsletter: Christmas is Coming (of course), Something Told the Wild Geese (by Rachel Field), and Wild Goose (by Wade Hemsworth).

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Fungus experiments

We've been learning about fungus (among other things) in our classification unit in science and today's science experiment was that one where you use yeast to inflate a balloon. Only I didn't have a balloon because even though  the creator of our textbook so kindly compiled a list of supplies we'd need for each upcoming experiment, I don't often remember to look at that list and find myself scrambling at the last minute. So instead of having our yeast inflate a balloon, we just covered glass jars with saran wrap and got basically the same results.

The kids enjoyed watching the yeast activate (even without a dramatic balloon climax) and our saran wrap did inflate a bit (though it looks wonky in the picture from so many fingers poking it).

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

My silly guys

Not to make us seem totally accident-prone over here, but...

Alexander touched a hot pan this evening. I had just taken it out of the oven and put it in the center of the table (which Alexander cannot reach without climbing on top of the table itself), and cautioned Alexander not to touch it (which, again, would require him to climb on the table to do). Then I went about finishing up dinner and called everyone to the table and sat down.

"Hi, Mommy," Alexander, who was sitting serenely on his chair, said.

"Hi, buddy."

Then he stuck out his lip, held out his hand, and whispered, "I touched it."

The poor boy had a lovely little blister swelling up on his hand! But he hadn't yelled or cried or panicked at all. He just calmly informed me that he had burned his hand.

"Well, quick!" I said, pulling the pitcher of water over to him. "Put your hand on this. It's cold."

"Ooh!" he agreed. "That is cold!"



He and that pitcher became fast friends.



Christlike Service

Tonight for family night, Rachel suggested that she introduce the Light the World initiative to the family (over dinner because that's often how we've been doing family night this semester since Andrew's been teaching on Mondays (hey, everybody's sitting down)).

Today's challenge was to think of someone who is an example of Christlike service (and to then highlight that person on social media, which blogs are totally very much still in vogue (at least that's what I'm telling myself). The girls both though Sister Moody in our Spanish Fork ward was a good example of Christlike love because she's always looking for ways to serve others, and they're not wrong. Sister Moody is a wonderful person.

For me, though, the people who kept coming to mind (aside from perhaps the obvious answers within my family) were the Gillespie clan and my dear friend Crystal. When Karen passed away, all the Gillespies showed up for her funeral. They really walked us through that grieving process and let us cry and laugh and feel whatever we were feeling (and cried and laughed and felt things with us).

It made me feel terrible about not getting Andrew out to Utah for Dorothy's funeral (guys, we were so broke). The Gillespies came from Washington, Idaho, and Arizona (and Utah). The only one we were missing was Phillip (he was stuck in Wyoming (probably being so broke, guys). They gave us this beautiful little angel that has been sitting on our mantel since we moved in, and which I haven't sent a thank you card for because I'm still not a very reliable thank you card person...but every time I look at it I think about how that angel was meant to represent Karen but how it also represents those dear, dear friends.

And then Crystal!

She drove for six hours just to give me a hug after Karen died (and, I guess, to give my kids presents as well). And I was surprised, but I don't know why because she's always doing wonderful things like that (and not just for me; she does nice things for everybody). I'm so lucky her little family was brave enough to be flatmates with Andrew and me all those (13!) years ago. Somehow she never gets tired of my whining (and—totally not an example of Christlike love but just a strange thing that always makes my head spin—I had a baby about six months after she had a baby for her last four babies (Zoë was off-schedule, but that's alright), including (randomly) having a premature baby after she had a premature baby (I suppose this ends up being another example of Christlike love because she walked me through that whole NICU experience as well)).

Lastly, I have to call out my friend Susanne. She is so open-minded, so willing to listen, and so thoughtful. I wish we had been able to get together in person a few more time than we managed (but we're not so far; so perhaps one day we'll get to pay her a visit). I don't even remember how she found our blog, but she did (through Bridget somehow) and when she found out we'd be moving to North Carolina she swept in and took care of us, telling us fun places to visit, dropping off bags of hand-me-downs and fun things for the kids to do (beadwork and bubbles and so forth). Once she brought by a beautiful yellow chrysanthemum. And she came to support Rachel at her baptism.

I suppose when I think of Christlike service, then, I think of the times he mourned with those in mourning and how he's able to cater to us so individually. And I hope that I can learn to emulate that behaviour as well as my friends have!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Benjamin's talk

The primary here has been absurdly on top of sending reminders about the children's assignments in primary...until this weekend! Usually I get a text message earlier in the week as well as the day before, in addition to an email. I'm often also caught in the hallway by one of the presidency members and the kids have come home with little bracelets detailing their assignment.

Benjamin was supposed to give a talk in primary today and I got no reminders at all! Luckily I read the church bulletin that was emailed out last night because Benjamin's assignment was listed there.

We worked together this morning to come up with a talk.

You'll find the transcript below. He read the full text of Janice Kapp Perry's poem/song I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus. It fit well with his talk and she's been on my mind quite a bit lately (years and years ago I took a Spanish class with her (and my mom), which was fun, but she's more a friend of my mom's than of mine). She's a wonderful, talented woman and I wish her the best with whichever path she's to take (recovering from her illness or meeting up with her husband in heaven).


Be my mommy

Today I got to help serve a post-funeral luncheon. Benjamin's nursery leader's mom passed away. I suppose her mom should have been in our ward—or would have been in our ward as of this week—but she's been in a home due to her various illnesses (Alzheimer's, among other things). They knew she was doing poorly, so had made the decision to bring her home this week—on Thursday—so she could spend some time surrounded by family before passing away...but instead she passed away on Sunday last week.

Still, the family had all been planning to be here for Thursday, so this sweet sister in my ward cooked a ginormous Thanksgiving dinner—all on her own—and that's what we served to her family this afternoon.

She must be one of those people who can do things like plan and cook a huge meal while under huge amounts of stress (like planning a funeral and so forth). But also this was a thing they've known has been coming for several years now.

Anyway...

I had to go off and leave my children (with their hobbled father) while I went to help with the luncheon (their hobbled father having not been in the cards when I volunteered to help; and with it being Thanksgiving weekend, finding a replacement volunteer would've been difficult, so I decided to go anyway). Alexander, my sweet, clingy baby, didn't want me to go and would hardly leave my side—not when he noticed I was getting ready to leave the house.

"Pick me up!" he demanded.

"I can't hold you right now. I've got to get ready to go!" I told him.

"Don't go!" he begged. "Stay here! Be my mommy!"

And I just about melted into a puddle right then and there, but I persevered and went to the funeral luncheon, and we all (ie: Alexander) survived the ordeal.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Trees and knees (and things)

Yesterday Andrew lugged our tree upstairs and we set it up, which the kids were rather excited about. One of these years we'll unpack our beautiful blown-glass ornaments from Egypt, but this year was not the year (those poor things have been in storage forever). We got out our non-perishable ornaments and let the kids decorate the tree however they wanted. A few breakable ornaments were carefully tucked into the highest boughs, but other than that things are just helter-skelter everywhere. And I'm perfectly fine with that.

Here are Alexander and Zoë working on the bottom of the tree:


Friday, November 29, 2019

All he wants for Christmas...

Last night Benjamin proudly came to us holding a tooth in his hand, so he's now missing his two front teeth just in time for Christmas!


Somehow all my children so far have managed to have their two front teeth missing at the same time. Am I the only one in the world who didn't have that happen? I distinctly remember losing one front tooth, and having my new tooth well on its way in by the time the other one fell out. So I completely missed out on that super-gap.

Fa-la-la-la-la

I was about brought to tears by another children's book this evening. This time it was The Lighthouse Santa by Sara Hoagland Hunter and I started choking back tears while reading the author's note at the very beginning of the story (of all ridiculous places to start crying).

It's a true story based on an experience of a man—Edward Rowe Snow—who flew around delivering Christmas surprises to lighthouse keepers and their families (who lived very secluded lives) for forty years. And that's just so nice (cue tears).

The rest of the story was rather easy to read (and I didn't actually end up crying). Benjamin announced that it was a very "calming" story. And it truly was. Simply beautiful.

Zoë keeps asking whether Santa is real. I keep telling her that he's alive in our culture, an answer she finds rather unsatisfying, but which is also true.

When she saw an illustration of Edward Rowe Snow dressed up in a Santa suit she pointed and said, "There, see!? Santa is real." And I thought to myself, "She's not wrong."

In this story Mr. Snow was very much the embodiment of Santa.

Now that Thanksgiving is over with (we ended up going to a friend's house for dinner; they posted they were eating alone and we were eating alone and we just figured if we ate alone together we'd be that much less alone, so even though it was a last-minute coordination it ended up being a lot of fun) we're officially ready to get this Christmas holiday season underway.

I've been sneaking in Christmas stories for quite some time now (of course), but Andrew is still pretty strictly a no-Christmas-until-after-Thanksgiving kind of guy. He's softened up a little over the past decade (and a half?!) that we've been married. In fact we might now be to the point that he's stopped caring about it altogether but the rest of us have gotten so used to him not liking Christmas creep that he pretends to be annoyed just to validate our Christmas pining.

For example, he was out of town all week last week (so we were listening to Christmas music with reckless abandon over here) and on Saturday when we were out for a sunset stroll, the kids hatched a plan to put Christmas lights up on the house before he came home (that very evening). Since it was already getting dark, putting up all our Christmas lights was out of the question but we did wrap some around one of our trees in the front:


Thursday, November 28, 2019

With thanksgiving

Last night Andrew wanted to clean a cast iron pan but he couldn't find his chainmail scrubber (it's perfect for washing cast iron pans and, yes, it's made out of chainmail). He looked in all the drawers (because things never quite end up being put away where they should in our house) and didn't find it.

He didn't check inside the garbage disposal.

But he did wash the pan and then run the garbage disposal.

So now we know where the chainmail is, but it's thoroughly ensnared inside the garbage disposal, which is now leaking out the bottom, which we've learned is kind of the death knell for garburators (thanks to the marble of '14 and the seashell of '17).

Yes, this is the third garbage disposal we've mangled beyond repair.

Guess. What. We're. Getting. For. Christmas.

(Being a grown-up is so fun.)

I suppose with today being Thanksgiving we can be grateful that when the garburator started leaking icky dishwater there was a pack of opened sponges sitting directly below the leak, and with their collective absorption powers were able to soak up all the water the garburator threw drizzled at them. This was a much happier discovery than finding icky dishwater had run all over our cabinets, as we've had happen in the past.

Now there's a bowl sitting under the sink, which should hold us over until we can get this puppy fixed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Falling for fall

I never expected to love autumn as much as I've found myself loving it. 

Where I grew up, autumn was a mere blip of a transition between a lukewarm summer and a frigid winter. The trees seemed to be in a hurry to be ready for their long hibernation, as if they were gearing up for battle—no time to dilly-dally!

Here the trees treat autumn as if they're getting ready for a big first date with a mild-mannered, gentle winter. They spend weeks (and weeks) preening in front of the mirror, trying on this colour and that, and...


I'm not mad about it.

You're gorgeous, autumn!

Lost, lost, lost...

Alexander climbed into bed with us last night, as he does most every night. He's more or less trained now to just lie still and go back to sleep (without even asking for milk) so we're all getting a lot more sleep around here than we used to. Anyway, some time after he joined us in bed and we'd all fallen back asleep, I was woken up by Alexander stirring.

At least, I was pretty sure that's what it was. Sometimes I'm not quite aware what's going on when I first wake up.

I reached over to pat him and shush him, but he wasn't there. He was crawling around.

"Baby, where are you?" I whispered into the dark. I could still sense him crawling around. "You're going to crawl off the bed!" I warned.

I lunged toward the foot of the bed to grab him but still couldn't find him anywhere. I was just wildly feeling around in the dark. By this point he had begun to fuss. "Momma! Momma!" I kept feeling around for him. Then, finally, I grabbed him, way over on Andrew's side of the bed, about to fall off the foot of the bed, had it been possible to do so...but it wasn't because he was under the covers (and the sheets were tucked in tight).

He'd been crawling around deep inside our sheets for who knows how long!

So I ripped the blankets off Andrew (sorry, honey), grabbed Alexander, and settled him down in the middle of the bed (where he believes he belongs).

It doesn't sound all that crazy now that I'm typing it out, but it felt pretty wild for 3:00 in the morning!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Family photos sneak peek (2009 to 2019)

We did it: we managed to take family pictures this afternoon! It was quite the circus (as is to be expected) but we had a good time and out of the 500 or so pictures we took I think we managed to squeeze a few good ones in. I still have to go through them all and edit our selections, but here's a pretty good one of the kids:


They're pretty cute (and so grown up). For real, though. There's this decade photo challenge going around and people are posting pictures of themselves from 2009 and again from 2019 (which I suppose is something one could technically do any year, but it feels big to be moving into the twenties (can we say that—"the twenties"? I'm so old that I feel like the twenties are of course the nineteen-twenties, but here we are in the 2020s, so...)).

Monday, November 25, 2019

'Tis the Season

We had our first day of Thanksgiving break and it was (for me, at least) a rather relaxing day. Andrew went grocery shopping, Tom came around to re-grout our shower (because we are know-nothings), and I spent a large portion of the day arranging Christmas music for the ukulele (very simplistically).

I know a lot of Christmas music exists out there, but I'm picky. I want the lyrics, I want the chords (and diagrams), I want the tablature (because Rachel loves plucking), and I want the notes on the staff, and I want it all together on the same page! I haven't found many pieces arranged this way. Perhaps it's overkill, but when we're practicing the ukulele I want my kids to be learning about time signatures and measures, and learning to read music, and so forth so I feel like it's important to have it all there.

Maybe one day we'll understand the notes on the ukulele well enough to forego tablature and will simply be able to pluck out a tune while sight reading from regular music (but today is not that day, so I'm making it a little easier on us).

It's kind of fun to do and it's rather exciting when I figure out chords for a song or successfully transpose something into a different key (and I think a lot of this feeling stems from my lack of understanding of music theory, so whenever I pull something off it just feels magical instead of logical, but that's okay).

We're planning on hosting a Christmas ukulele night in December and I want everyone to have music that's easy to read, so hopefully I'll be able to pull something together that everyone will enjoy (even though I know you can only please some of the people some of the time).

But then I'm feeling like I have project overload because I also have to finish our Christmas newsletter (and *fingers crossed* take family pictures tomorrow), and there are still a handful of days left of NaBloPoMo, in addition to getting a manuscript ready to send off to the publisher (Andrew mailed it for me today; weird that they don't take electronic submissions but whatever). Oh, and keeping tabs on my freshly potty-trained toddler (who had zero real accidents today (though he did pee all over the floor when he tried to take himself potty and very nearly pooped in his underwear (but did not because I caught him and rushed him to the toilet)).

It's a busy season for everyone, though, isn't it?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Youngest Choir Director Ever, Part II

Andrew flew in late last night, which was good because he was filling in for all the accompanists at church today. Seriously. He played the organ for sacrament meeting, he played the piano for primary, and then he had to cover for the choir pianist as well...which made things awkward because he's also the choir director. 

When Alexander saw that Daddy was sitting at the piano rather than by the director's stand, he saw his chance to make his big debut. He lugged over the little stool (kept on the stand to help our smallest ward members reach the pulpit in order to bear their testimony or deliver their lines for the primary program or whatever), climbed up and then happily announced, "I up here!"

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Leaves are falling all around

Today was a very wet day. It rained all night long and all through the morning and it was still raining this afternoon. The raindrops helped convince the trees in our yard that autumn is really upon us and so they got busy shedding their foliage all night long and all morning long. 

When we loaded up in the van to go to a friend's birthday party, the driveway was slick with leaves and rain water. It's been covered with leaves before, but...not quite like this. And we're quite diligent about clearing the driveway, anyway—I'd just cleared it (and the back deck) the other day. But here it was, covered with leaves again. 

"I'll have to blow the driveway off again when things dry out," I said, as I buckled Alexander.

Then I hopped in the driver's seat and confidently backed out of the garage and into our little turn around spot. I threw the van into drive and headed up the driveway. But then my tires started spinning and we began drifting backwards. I put on the brakes. 

"Okay..." I said. "It's a little slick. We'll try this again."

So I tried again, and again I couldn't get more than halfway up the driveway. 

I texted my friend to say that I wasn't sure we'd be able to get out of our driveway, at least not in time to make it to the party on time. She texted back, "Oh, please still come!" So we piled out of the van and started shoveling soggy leaves off our driveway in the now-drizzling rain. The kids were all using their hands, which was pretty slow-going, so I brought out the push broom and started clearing a trail for us so we could make it up the hill. 

For the record, our driveway is a beast


And to think I've been laughing to myself about how we'll never have to shovel snow! The joke's on me because while we may not ever be truly snowed in, we were leaf-ed in today! I didn't know that was a thing, but apparently...it is. So now we know!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Another one bites the dust

His tooth squeaked against the kleenex as I wiggled it in his mouth. 

*squeaky*squeaky*squeaky*

I did not want to take the next step but I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and yanked.

*POP*

His tooth detached, ripping the last little fibers from his gums, fall into my hand. 

Gross.

Pulling teeth is not my job. Usually Andrew does that, but he's busy enjoying the beach (and a conference...but also San Diego), so here we are. 

Benjamin's two front teeth have been wiggly for weeks now and today one of them was giving him so much grief that he could hardly eat a thing—it had to go! I'm sure the other one will be following suit shortly (but hopefully not until Andrew's here to help with its exit), and then at least Benjamin'll know what to put on his Christmas list (not that he has any trouble coming up with things to put on his wish list; he wants a lot of things).

If you look carefully you can see that his note says, "One $ please."


And here's a better shot of his gappy, snaggletooth grin:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

On the potty train

A good time to decide to actively potty train your toddler is the day your husband goes out of town for the week, right? Sure. We'll go with yes.

I was going to surprise Andrew with it when he came home but then I sent him a video of Alexander doing some wild climbing in the house and ever-observant Andrew noticed Alexander was wearing underwear and asked about it.

It's Spider-Man underwear, to be precise, and in two days we've only soiled one pair. Spider-Man gets sad when he's wet, see, and we don't want to make Spider-Man sad. We (ie. Alexander) love Spider-Man (though to be honest, I'm not sure why; I mean, he's seen Into the Spiderverse, but, like, that was months ago. Can babies even remember months ago? Anyway, that's all that he knows about Spider-Man, as far as I know, but somehow he can sing the theme song and absolutely adores Spider-Man). We just happened to have some 2T Spider-Man underwear tucked away from our adventures in potty training with Benjamin (which I don't care to talk about because it was a rather traumatic, never-ending train wreck and is still too fresh in my mind).

I decided to make the switch because I've been trying to slowly coax Alexander to use the potty but he has no sense of accountability in his diapers. In fact, when I've asked him to not "go" in his diaper he has told me—with a know-it-all mien—"Bam, oo tan doe in oor diaper!"

Translation: Yes, you can go in your diaper!

Once when I asked him if he'd gone in his pants again he said, "Nope. Nope. Not in mine pant. Don't worry, Mom—I dust doed in mine diaper!"

And I thought to myself, "Self, if your child can express himself that clearly—and understand the distinction between going in one's pants and going in one's diaper—then it is time."

So we're doing this (because I hate diapering).

Books and tears

It never goes away, does it—that hole in your heart, that longing, the sadness? Not completely.

We're fine, but I can tell I've changed because I cry so easily lately and, perhaps, I will forever.

I've been reading The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki out loud to the kids and while the entire book deals with difficult subjects, the last couple of chapters were especially difficult to read out loud. I was crying and blowing my nose and struggling to get through things. It was just so beautiful, so tragic, so wonderful.

I checked out Pippin the Christmas Pig (by Jean Little) and I've read it to the kids a few of times and I can't seem to get through the ending of that book without tearing up, either.

And that book isn't even about death! It's about finding the true meaning of Christmas!

Zoë can't understand why I'm always crying while I'm reading and I remember thinking the same thing about grown ups when I was little. What possible reason could they have to cry?! They never had any real problems, like being offered a broken cookie or not being allowed to stay up late! And here they are, breaking down over a pig saying, "All babies are special." I mean, come on!

Grown ups are cry babies.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I don't know what to write today

Due to a this afternoon's schedule, I ended up taking Miriam to her organ lesson. I never thought I'd end up being a taxi mom, but here we are. To be fair, Andrew has done more than his share of driving our little family around—but to be fair to me, he knew before we got married that I had/have no desire to drive. Ever. 

But, here we are.

"Doesn't it feel good?" he asked me the other day, after we'd been talking about some of the ridiculous drives I've been making lately. 

"Does what feel good?" I asked.

"That feeling of freedom!" he said. "You can go anywhere."

"Oh, is this what freedom feels like?" I asked. "Freedom is horrible."

Freedom, I guess, is a sweaty, shaky, feeling-like-I'm-going-to-vomit mess. So, to sum up, I still don't like driving. But I have to admit that I'm getting better at it, bit by bit. Even if I hate it. 

Anyway, I took Miriam to organ this afternoon and then the kids and I just hung out in the parking lot of the tennis court in her teacher's neighbourhood, zipping around on our scooters, throwing leaves, and enjoying the afternoon. 

It was fine. But I'm glad Andrew normally is the one to make the trip because I think that parking lot would soon lose its appeal as a waiting place. 

*****

Yesterday we were reviewing Rachel's vocabulary words at the dinner table. One of the words was omit, which got us on a bit of a "word family" kick. We were thinking of all sorts of -mit words (or -mittere, I suppose): commit, remit, submit, admit. 

"Vomit?" Benjamin asked hopefully.

But while vomit does fit the pattern, it actually hails from its own root and is unrelated to other -mit words (so very disappointing we were hoping vo- was some crazy root which when combined with -mit would mean "forcefully expelling," but no). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

These kids

I know we said we were moving on from WWII and we're trying. We have books about WWI in our house and we've discussed some and watched some PBS films and so forth...but we're also still reading The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki.

Today we read about how Sadako learned about her fate (because she had not known what disease she was battling, only that she was sick). She was curious, however, so when she came across her file and read her test results it confirmed her fears—that she had leukemia. She spent a minute feeling sorry for herself but then her thoughts turned to others. "How can I help my family? What can I do to make the world a better place while I am still alive?"

So that was our writing prompt for the day (it still counts as a gratitude prompt).

Wherein Alexander "beaks"

Yesterday during the face-to-face broadcast with Elder Gong, someone said the phrase "sing a song" and Alexander, who had completely checked out (because who was expecting that broadcast to be nearly two hours?! Not us) snapped to attention and said, "Oooh! Bing bong!"

He loves music and sings a lot.

He likes to sing the kids lullabies while I do. I likes to stand in front of our music stands and wave his arms while crooning out his own little tune. And this evening during Miriam's concert I had to keep reminding him that he can't sing along to the music and instead had to sit quietly and listen.

For some reason we'd never heard him say "sing a song," however, and it was delightfully hilarious (because, you know, he can't (or won't) say /s/).

So the kids have been singing, "Bing bong! Bing bong!" all day (which reminded them of the movie Inside Out, of course).

Another thing Alexander says a lot lately is "Banny tall Naanii!" which means "I wanna call Naanii!"

Whenever he sees my phone he starts repeating, "Banny tall Naanii! Banny tall Naanii!"

Monday, November 18, 2019

Miriam's orchestra concert

We are—very oddly—in our last week of school before Thanksgiving break and we're feeling woefully underprepared for the holiday season. Somehow our internal clocks reacclimatized to northern seasons and so the calendar keeps baffling us. How could we possibly be halfway through November?! The trees have just begun to turn colours and there's no snow in sight!

Anyway, we hit the ground running today and finished most of our schoolwork before heading to the library for the "hands-on homeschool day," where we learned about some indigenous cultures in Georgia. The librarian told us a number of legends and had a couple of crafts for the kids to do. They got to make "turtle-shell shakers" to scare the great spirit dog away from our cornmeal (he left a trail of cornmeal as he fled back to the sky, which became the milky way). They also got to make a strawberry craft to remind them to love their family and forgive quickly (I really enjoyed this story).

Even though the class is supposedly geared toward kids 6+, Miriam was already feeling like it was a little too juvenile for her, but she helped Alexander make the crafts, which he was rather happy about (especially that shaker).

After we got home we did a little writing assignment (I'm having my kids keep a gratitude journal this week based on my mom's post from a couple of days ago) and then started getting ready for our evening.

Ordinarily we can't make it to the homeschool days at the library because it interferes with orchestra rehearsals, but we didn't have a rehearsal earlier in the day because tonight was their first concert so we had a dress rehearsal prior to the performance instead. In order to get there on time we had to pick Rachel up from school, so when we got home from the library I made us a lovely picnic dinner (PB&J sandwiches, strawberries, cheese sticks—super gourmet) and then we headed off to the middle school.

It was about an hour's worth of driving (after taking a round-about way to get there so I could stay on roads I was familiar with, hitting some lovely traffic, and then being diverted around an accident) and I'm not sure I've ever been happier to have gotten anywhere. Rachel made fun of me for "stress-singing," a term she totally made up; she could not stop laughing at me!

Stress singing goes a little something like this:

"I will be so glad when we get there so I can park this car. I hate parking but at least it means I don't have to drive anymore!"

The tune isn't important, really. Just sing it ugly enough to embarrass your preteen, even though the other cars can't hear you.

Anyway, we got there, Miriam had her dress rehearsal, we had our picnic dinner, and then we had the concert, and then a reception after, and then we came home and all in all we were out and about for nearly seven hours for this concert (we didn't walk in the door until after 10:00). So I'm kind of glad the evening is over!



The concert went well. Here's Miriam's ensemble doing their songs:



The scratching noise you hear is Alexander colouring on his magnet-colouring board thing (which he calls an iPad). He is also the reason the camera is a little wibbly-wobbly at times.

Andrew had to teach tonight so I had to juggle all the kids by myself, which was fine. I did that one trick where you choose the family with the most kids and sit behind them. That way no one knows whose kids are acting up at any given time!

The family in front of us had six kids, all about the same age as our kids (plus one older one). The more I looked at them the more I wondered about them. They were putting off a very familiar vibe...

So during the reception I approached them and broke the ice with a homeschooling question, throwing in "we just moved here."

"Oh, where did you move from?" the mom asked.

"Utah," I said.

"Okay. I thought so. We're Mormons, too! And I saw you with your five kids—and you had a quiet bag with you and I just thought they have to be Mormon!"

"We are," I said.

Not that everyone from Utah is, just that if you have a whole handful of kids and are from Utah there's a very high chance you are also Mormon. This family is actually not from Utah (though they did attend BYU); the parents are both from here (and have the accents to prove it). But it was fun to connect with them! And they told us about another homeschooling family from our church in the orchestra.

Not that we only need friends who are also members of our church, but it is nice to have that connection as well. This orchestra is filled with wonderful families!

Here are some pictures Rachel took in the few minutes before the concert that we spent waiting in our seats (we did most of our waiting not in our seats):







Andrew had to teach tonight so he missed the first half of the concert, but the church we meet in is very close to the metro so instead of going home he joined us for the last half of the concert (and the reception) and it was so nice to have a second pair of hands!