Saturday, September 14, 2019

Alexander tales

At 23 months, Alexander is quite the parrot. He will say anything anyone says...unless you specifically ask him to repeat something, in which case he absolutely will not. Often he will demand a turn saying a prayer or reading a verse of scripture, but it never goes over well.

"My turn! My turn! My turn!" he screeched during family scripture study this evening.

So naturally we relented and gave him a turn.

"Okay. Say: 'I came...'" I prompted.

Alexander pressed his lips tightly together and smiled silently at us all.

"...unto my own..."

Continued silence from Alexander.

"...and my own..."

Not a word.

"...received me not..."

Absolutely nothing.

It's hilarious because he looks so proud of himself for taking a turn but...he's not actually taking a turn. He does the exact same thing when he gets a turn saying the prayer—won't say a word. That doesn't stop him from butting in when it's not his turn, however. He does that plenty.

*****

Friday, September 13, 2019

And another thing!

"The CDC, SHAPE America, and other national organizations recommend giving elementary school students at least 20 minutes of recess daily," so our school gets to check this box. In fact, they exceed expectations by 10 minutes. And that's cool. I guess.

Rachel is currently in a PE class, so she gets physical activity every other day at school, but next semester she won't be in PE. And then she won't get any sort of break (and by and large high schools and middle schools are unaware that the CDC recommends recess—physical, often outdoors, active breaks from classes—in addition to PE classes for upper school students. So it's not surprising that there isn't a break built in.

However, this is about elementary school. The CDC offers some guidelines on how to offer recess, which includes:

  • Prohibiting the replacement of physical education with recess or using recess to meet time requirements for physical education policies.
  • Providing schools and students with adequate spaces, facilities, equipment, and supplies for recess.
  • Ensuring that spaces and facilities for recess meet or exceed recommended safety standards.
  • Prohibiting the exclusion of students from recess for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom.
  • Prohibiting the use of physical activity during recess as punishment.
  • Providing recess before lunch.
  • Providing staff members who lead or supervise recess with ongoing professional development.

(Source is here).

Craziness

We're still feeling incredibly dissatisfied with the children's elementary school and thus I have been looking extensively into homeschooling, which isn't something that I ever though I'd do, though I'm not sure why. I've entertained the idea several times over the past seven years (because I've always felt frustrated about the public school system) but have always come to the conclusion that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a homeschooling mom. 

But the past six weeks have shown me, perhaps, that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a public school mom, either!

I'm "pro" public schools. I love the idea of education being a right that all children have equal access to. But that, my friends, is a fantasy because while all children may have a right to education in this country, they in no way have equal access to education. 

Considering school performance (and environment) was a huge factor when we were looking for a house. The truth is that some schools are better than others (and even more truthful is that wealthier people have better access to better education). 

Our district is the largest district in Georgia (15th largest in the US) and it performs fairly well. Within the district, our school performs above average and is fairly highly rated. But I have huge problems with how it's run.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dinner tales

"Is this all that's for dinner?" Zoë asked, taking in the spread with disgust.

Homemade tomato (and carrot (but shhhh, don't tell)) soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Between school and soccer and organ and activity days and young women activities, Wednesday dinners are always a little rushed.

"What you see is what you get. Why? There's nothing here that you don't like..." I said.

"I was just hoping for a little more..." she said, still entirely unimpressed.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Like some vegetables!" she snipped. "Can we have, like, a cucumber or something?"

How can you argue with a request like that? (I mean, aside from her attitude...)

So I peeled and cut a cucumber to add to our dinner.

This morning (after a long, hard night, with many wake ups by Zoë and Alexander both), Zoë woke up complaining of a sore throat.

"I'm sick," she said, "So I need healthy breakfast, not ordinary breakfast, but something super healthy, okay?"

She settled on oatmeal (because that would soothe her throat).

If she's got the same thing that Alexander and I had, it won't be such a terrible cold—just a scratchy throat for a few days.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Notes

I'm reading Inspired by Rachel Held Evans (who tragically passed away earlier this year, leaving behind two young children) right now (among a few other things) and it almost has me wishing I was a person who could highlight passages in a book. But can't bring myself to do that (unless, oddly enough, it's the scriptures). It feels too much like desecration. I suppose that's what being raised in a houseful of librarians will do to you.

So instead of highlighting passages, I began sticking bookmarks (read: scraps of paper) in to mark passages, which was a great idea until the book was thick with extra paper (I'm only halfway through) and now I have to reread each page I've marked (and sometimes the next page) to find the passage I'd liked in the first place. But, it's a good book so it's not too much of a burden.

Some passages are about scripture, some are about the act of writing itself (which Rachel Held Evans believes, and which I believe, is a holy act).

p. 11 to 12: "....one of the most central themes of Scripture itself [is that] God stoops. From walking with Adam and Eve...to slipping into flesh and eating, laughing, suffering, healing, weeping, and dying among us as a part of humanity, the God of Scripture stoops and stoops and stoops and stoops. At the heart of the gospel message is the story of a God who stoops to the point of death on a cross.... It is no more beneath God to speak to us using poetry, proverb, letters, and legend than it is for a mother to read storybooks to her daughter at bedtime."

p. 48 to 49 : "Storytelling always has been, and always will be, one of humanity's greatest tools for survival." And, "...be warned. in Scripture, and in life, the road to deliverance nearly always takes a detour. ... Indeed, some of Scripture's most momentous events occur not at the start of a journey, nor at the destination, but in between, in the wilderness."

p. 70: "People take extraordinary risks to be part of a story that will outlive them."

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Don't be frrrrightened!

We're two full months into this homeownership business and still can't seem to stay away from the hardware store. Today we needed to find some brackets and a hose and some curtain rods (and a drill bit, and...).

Andrew was going to take the two little ones on his own, but then I decided to go along with them so we left the older kids at home with a list of things to accomplish (homework, practicing, chores) before they'd be free to play their morning away. It's so nice having a child old enough to babysit (just saying).

When we got to Lowe's we headed over to the garden section to find a hose, which ended up being quite the adventure. Lowe's has all their Halloween wares out on display: pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons, and life-sized replicas of witches and werewolves. We didn't know we'd be walking past such terrifying decorations on our way to get to the hose and honestly didn't even register them as frightening (since we'd walked past the Halloween decorations to get to the garden section we were already in a Halloween-y mood, I guess) until our children flipped out.

So we did what any parent would do in this situation and went by them again, this time with the camera rolling. The kids reacted just as much gusto as the first time.



Alexander must have felt like he was in one of those dreams where you have to run but can't move your legs, strapped into his seat, completely helpless. Zoë melted off the cart and leeched onto my leg. I had to drag her past the werewolf, around the corner to where the hoses were.

Poor, poor babies. But also...so, so funny.

I realize not everyone thinks this is funny (thanks for that, Twitter..."Your kids will grow up to hate you. Hope that was worth it" (jokes on you, bro, because they were going to grow up to hate us anyway)), but my entire family was laughing about it so at least I know where I get my humour. I have one particular aunt who loves Halloween and decorates her house rather epically every year and she was terribly amused by Alexander's reaction (and probably wants (or already has) that werewolf).

This is "that one aunt" of mine all dressed up for the Zombie Walk in San Diego (their whole family attends somewhat annually)

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Bug bite update

It seems like every time I blink a week has rushed past and I've hardly had a chance to write anything. We're not even doing anything other than getting nice and comfortable with the daily grind, which is, I suppose, still something.

On Monday we mostly worked hard to get more settled.

On Tuesday they went back to school. Even though we're in the middle of a September heat wave (no hurricane for us, not this time (plus we're four hours away from the coast so y'all can relax)), Benjamin went to school with long sleeves and long pants because—as threatened—we mummified his arms and legs.

I've tried just putting bandaids over his weeks-old mosquito bites, but he just peels those off and picks them. Sometimes he peels them off, picks them, and then sticks them back on. And then he wants to know how I know (it's because he always peels off the same side of the bandaid, so only one side of the bandaid loses its stick (and then there's, you know, the fresh blood and so forth)).

On Wednesday he once again managed to find long sleeves and long pants.

This morning, however, he did not and he went to school in a t-shirt. His teacher had a little panic attack and took him to the school nurse (doctor?) who then called us to clarify what the bandages were for. Mrs. P. had been worried that he'd been badly burned and wondered if he should be venturing outside for recess. Andrew, who'd been the one to field the call (because I never manage to answer my cell phone), assured them that it was simply to keep him from picking himself.

The nurse (doctor? (I'm very unclear on their status)) laughed about this, said it was a good idea, and cleared Benjamin for recess.

His bites are really looking pretty good, so hopefully we'll have cured him of this bad habit and we can send him out into the world bandage-free.

I asked Benjamin why he didn't just tell his teacher that the bandages were covering up bug bites (that he'd picked until they festered and which he will not leave alone). He said he did but she didn't believe him because they looked "rather official."

I think I'm probably more embarrassed about his bandages than he is; when I initially put them on he started flexing and said, "Alright! Now I look like a strong man!"

So...

Monday, September 02, 2019

A very Benjamin FHE

On Sunday Benjamin came home from church with a little stop sign and a bunch of magnets and a burning desire to teach a family night lesson on temptation. So we let him.

He used magnets to stick all sorts of things to the white board: a paper with $3000 written on it, some cardboard shoe shapers,* some pirate action figures, a magnifying glass, some hair elastics, a headband with a brochure... It was all seemingly very random.

This is Alexander (not Benjamin) in front of the board, obviously
"So, temptation..." Benjamin began his lesson. "Which thing would you be most tempted to do?" he asked, and then started pointing out things on the board. "Steal $3000 from a bank? Take these shoes—these reinforcers represent actual shoes—from the store without paying for them? Or...join a pirate crew?"

Speechless—from shock, confusion, and amusement—we all stared back at him.

"Dad—what's your biggest temptation?"

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Work hard to play hard

We've been working hard to transform the basement from a dank, scary cave into a place worthy of play. We weren't looking for anything fancy. Just somewhere our children could play without inhaling mold spores or getting caught in Aragog's web or getting lost in some deep, dark corner somewhere.

So we had the basement walls sealed so that rainwater wouldn't pour through them anymore. We ripped the carpet off the ceiling and walls and floor. We had someone come in to frame the basement and install electricity for lights—and even put them add switches instead of a pull-cords (fancy). Then we decided to sand the carpet glue off the floor since our contractor told us it would make it easier to keep the floor clean.

In the long run, he meant to add (I'm sure), because—boy, howdy!—did we ever make a mess!!

At first we tried scraping it off with a little scraper tool. I spent about an hour scraping and covered about one entire square foot. It was ridiculous. Andrew tried scraping, too, quite sure he would be better at it than I had been—and he was. But it was still slow going. So he decided to rent a floor maintainer, a hulking behemoth of a machine. 

It was much more efficient...once we figured out how to work it.

Andrew turned it on and it yanked him across the room, leaving a wild swirl of uneven scrapes across the floor. He tried a second time and again it went screaming around the room. Finally (after watching a few YouTube videos), Andrew learned that you have to really lean into it and use your hips and entire upper body to kind of guide it where you want it to go. 

Once he knew what he was doing, we zoomed through it. 

And by "zoomed" I mean it took us like five hours. 

Amicalola Falls

At (seemingly) long last we have a long weekend to enjoy. Our docket was already filled with plenty of projects but I was also determined to have a little fun and as I was reviewing Benjamin's study guide with him (because my little bitty "grade two-er" brings home study guides so that he can study over the long weekend for a test he'll have to take when he returns (which is just how intense this school is, which is why this long weekend felt so necessary to us in the first place)), I knew just the place: Amicalola Falls.

"What can you tell me about Amicalola Falls?" I asked Benjamin.

"It's the tallest waterfall in Georgia!" he told me. "And it's so beautiful!"

"What region is it in?" I asked

"Valley and Ridge," he said, but, of course, I've never taken Georgia geography so I had to look up where it was, anyway, and it turns out that it's not too far from us (only about an hour away). 

So I convinced Andrew that we should take a day trip this weekend. It would be fun and educational.

We'd spent the evening sanding the basement floor and woke up tired and sore (Andrew being much more tired and sore than I was because he'd been the one to tame the unwieldily beast of the "floor maintainer" since it weighs 102 lbs and there was no way I could control that machine (I've got about five pounds on it so I was on sweeping and vacuuming duty)). That's how I wound up carrying Alexander up the mountainside (poor Andrew has some epic bruising on his hips from working the machine). Still, we decided to give it a go on Saturday morning.

Zoë started crying in the backseat right away so we started a lightning round of The Alphabet Game—it goes by so quickly when you live in a city! Zaxby's is the greatest restaurant to come across when you're right at the end of the game. Anyway, we went through the alphabet three times before we were out of the bustle of the city, and then we were immediately thrown into the foothills. 

We hadn't realized Atlanta was so...foothilly...but it is, smack-dab in the middle of the piedmont region (which explains all the hills, really). 

Benjamin, noticing the hills growing bigger and more mountainous, called from the backseat, "Are we in the footh-ills now?"

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Little boys

Besides the chaos of life, in general, I think one of the reasons I've been struggling to write very much during the day/week lately can be summed up by this picture (which Rachel snapped while I was helping her figure out some homework):


Alexander loves to climb all over my office chair.

Bring a treat

I was called as an "Activity Days" leader in our ward and we met for the first time yesterday, which Miriam was rather excited about because Rachel spent the last couple of months going to church activities while Miriam's just been staying home wishing she could go to an activity.

Being somewhat of a stickler (I do try my best to follow rules (even if I think those rules are silly)), I chose some goals from the Faith in God booklet to work on, found a good talk and some good scriptures for the girls to study, and also planned some fun games to play. I also asked the previous leader for a list of past activities and then promptly wished I hadn't because she hadn't been using the Faith in God book at all and instead focused more on just having fun and making memories together. So they'd done things like archery and swimming and building robots and video game nights and...

Those are all fun things.

But I'm not a very fun person.

Or, I am a fun person. I just...enjoy things that other people might not find fun. Like, reading a good article? Oh, boy! Oh, boy! But playing soccer...meh.

So I fretted about this a bit—because I fret about everything*—and Benjamin said, "Just bring food."

"What?" I asked.

"If you're worried they won't think your activity is fun, just bring a treat! They will love it!"

"I don't really have time to make a treat," I pointed out, since I was in the middle of making dinner (and we had to leave for church right after dinner).

"Who said you have to make a treat. I said to bring a treat. Grab some chips. Grab some salsa. Boom. Everybody will love you."

What he said is probably true, but I didn't bring snacks. I think the girls ended up having fun—we said some tongue twisters and played "In the Manner of the Adverb" in addition to our lesson—but they did ask for treats at the end. Fortunately for them the YM/YW had had pizza and ice cream sandwiches as part of their activity and they were able to bum a few extras off the older kids.

*****

* We checked out Mo Willem's I Will Surprise My Friend from the library and couldn't help but see the parallels in our own life. When Gerald and Piggie can't find each other (because they're hiding from each other in order to scare each other), Gerald immediately begins to imagine the worst case scenario. Perhaps Piggie has fallen off a cliff or had been kidnapped by a ravenous monster or...!

Piggie, on the other hand, says, "Maybe Gerald is getting lunch. I want lunch. I'm going to get lunch."

Andrew and I were laughing so hard over this story because I am very much a Gerald and he is very much a Piggie.

*****

Perhaps next time I will bring a treat.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Holy, Holy, HOLY!!!

If you recall, Andrew and Miriam played a duet in church this last April. They've recently been dusting it off to play in church this week and, to her credit, Miriam practiced it to death. She practiced it until she had every last kink worked out and could play it while humming Andrew's part. She practiced it until she wasn't remotely nervous about playing it because she knew the music forwards and backwards.

Things should have gone off without a hitch but organs are tricky instruments and when Miriam got up there she fumbled around a bit. First she tried moving the hymn book and it fell out of the binding and all on top of her, which was embarrassing, and then she couldn't figure out how to turn the organ on so one of the ward organists jogged up there to turn it on for her.

"Every organ is a little bit different," the mother in front of us explained to her daughter who'd been asking what was taking so long, "So it can take a while to get used to a new one. She hasn't played on this organ before."

But finally Miriam was all set and, as previously arranged with Andrew, who sat poised and ready at the piano, she began playing (she can't see over the organ to nod at him or anything and he has a good six measures before he comes in, so she was free to just start). And what a beginning it was!

In her defense, the piece starts out forte (and setting the volume on the organ was...different...than the organs she'd played previously). Miriam started out fortissimo, if not fortississimo!

When Andrew heard how loud the organ was he made a "yikes" face at me and then started pounding on the piano in order to be heard.

And the piece just kept growing in intensity. It was so loud the room was vibrating.

I was sitting in the pews heaving with laughter. I couldn't even help it (trust me, I was trying).

I mean, it was certainly beautiful. Miriam, who had herself been startled by her power, played flawlessly. But it was so terribly funny.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Things from this week

I took a page out of my friend Crystal's book and said no to something.

Last week I was invited to participate in a little preschool co-op with some moms at church and I was on the fence about it the entire weekend. I was excited because here was an opportunity to make new friends and be social but I was not excited because socializing exhausts me and I don't really like teaching preschool. But I went to the planning meeting anyway. 

When they asked why I was on the fence I said that I don't really like formal preschool. I don't like being boxed in to a set theme or "letter of the week" when those are things children these ages are naturally learning. They all know the colour red and the letter A and spending an entire day teaching about that is boring and counterproductive. 

They said that I'd have freedom to do more exploratory lessons, but in the end I said I was just too tired for preschool this year.

The past couple of years have been amazing (just kidding: they've been rough) and all, but I kind of just want to relax, settle in, and enjoy my little ones while they're still little.

Plus, this preschool meets for four hours. I don't want to have to entertain a handful of preschoolers for four hours at a time (even if it means I get a "break" from my own four year old on my off weeks). I am literally just too tired to deal with that. I mean, I tried teaching kindergarten once and it was, like, fine, I guess. But I didn't become a kindergarten teacher, now, did I?

Also, my house isn't set up to accommodate a preschool group yet, anyway.

(When will the unpacking be done?!)

So I said no and I felt better (because I have intensely disliked every preschool (co-op or otherwise) that we've participated in) but I've also been sitting at home worrying if I offended everybody.

My kids were so clingy the entire time we were at this house for the preschool meeting—even though there were toys and kids everywhere—but then I took them to the library and they ran off to play together and wanted nothing to do with me. Silly kids.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Syllabus, Silly Bus, and Red Leather, Yellow Leather

I can't remember how it came up but last night at dinner we spent a considerable amount of time trying to say "red leather, yellow leather." As far as tongue twisters go, this is an incredibly difficult one, at least for our tongues. I think the most times anyone ever managed to say it without messing up was 2.5 times.

Poor Miriam couldn't even get it to come out right once.  She kept saying, "Red yellow leather leather."

This morning at breakfast, Miriam asked James (who—surprise!—stopped by on his way to Florida (I mean, it wasn't a surprise to us, but it might be a surprise for you; he drove the car out (April and the baby flew))) if he could say—and she paused to enunciate very slowly and carefully—"Red leather, yellow leather."

He looked at her funny and said, "Yes..."

"Then say it!" she demanded.

"Red lah-lur-lah-lur-lah-luh. WHAT?!" James said.

And we all nearly died of laughter at the table.

It's amazing how it just seems to turn your tongue numb!

Monday, August 19, 2019

First day of school (August 5)

I suppose with two weeks and two awards under our belts, it's time I officially announce that we've gone back to school.

Miriam and Benjamin leave bright and early in the morning. When they take the bus we get to watch the sun rise. Sometimes they catch a ride with Daddy on his way out the door and then they don't have get up quite so early. I wish that it was socially acceptable for them to ride their bikes to school because (although hilly) it's really not that far. But it's simply not, though at their elementary school I could probably fight for the right.

At a neighbouring elementary school, this is the policy in their student handbook regarding biking (and, actually, also walking (just replace "bike" with "walk")):
Riding a bike to and from school is a privilege reserved for fourth and fifth grade students only. (Exception – younger students who are accompanied to and from school by a parent or guardian may ride a bike; parent should meet child at the bike racks in the afternoon.)  
We do not encourage bike riding to and from school due to the high volume of car and bus traffic in and around our school campus.
Thank goodness our elementary school isn't so strictly against pedestrian traffic (though, I mean, you saw what we went through to get permission to allow our children to walk). Dare I explain to them that much of the vehicular traffic around the school could be eliminated if they encouraged students (and parents) to walk or ride their bikes instead of being chauffeured?

Anyway, here are Benjamin and Miriam waiting for the bus on the first day of school:



Sunday, August 18, 2019

Not NOT tossing things

We had a rushed dinner of breakfast burritos and fruit smoothies for dinner on Friday.

Rachel's school day doesn't finish until ridiculously late (5:00, folks) so getting dinner in her before she has to head off to any evening activity can be tricky. This Friday she had a sleepover at a friend's house (who was moved into the other ward, unfortunately, but I'm sure they'll manage to stay friends) so we had to get moving quickly.

"Put these back in the freezer outside, please," Andrew said, zipping up the bag of frozen mixed berries.

So Rachel grabbed the berries and headed to the garage when suddenly there arose such a clatter we ran to the living room to see what was the matter.

Frozen berries were everywhere—rolling all over the floor leaving trails of bright red berry juice, oozing down the walls, melting into little puddles of stickiness.

"What...happened?!" I gasped.

"I don't know!" Rachel said. "It just...broke open!"

"Were you tossing it?" I asked.

On the potty train

Because I can't get enough chaos in my life, I've kind of started potty training Alexander with gusto. I had him fairly comfortable with using the potty a few months before we moved but then I gave up because I knew moving would cause a huge regression (and I didn't have enough brain cells to be constantly wondering when the last time he used the potty was).

My girls have all been fairly easy to potty train (and trained rather young).

Benjamin was an absolute (potty) train wreck.

I'd like to not repeat that with Alexander.

So we're working on it, slowly but surely. We just came across his little potty this week and he was rather excited to find it. He hasn't actually used it all that much, but he's at least excited about it. And he's consistently telling me after he's already gone potty that he needs to go potty. So that's, like, close...right?

Today after church I noticed he was still dry, which meant he'd been dry since we'd left for church, so I told him it was time to sit on the potty. He gladly ran to the bathroom so he could sit on the potty and then he sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and did nothing.

He was starting to get antsy so I told him to just stay put and I would get a couple of books to read.

So I ran to his room and was just picking a couple of books off the floor when he ran in after me.

"Did it—potty! Did it—potty! Did it!" he squealed happily.

"Did you go potty on the potty?" I asked.

"Did it—potty!" he proudly affirmed.

"Let's go see!" I said, and we ran back to the bathroom together.

"What a big boy!" I said, because he had indeed gone potty on his potty.

"I think he needs a treat!" Zoë said. "Can he have unicorn fruit snacks? And can I have my own pack of unicorn fruit snacks? Because he should get a treat for going on the potty. Want a treat, Alex?"

So we went and split a pack of fruit snacks.

I always swore I wouldn't bribe my kids (with food) to potty train them. But here we are.

I think I'll see if stickers will motivate him. I've used sticker charts before (which are a form of bribery, I suppose).

Youngest choir director ever

We only had one hour of church (again) today, so I don't know how we'll even handle two hours next week (and to think we used to be able to sit through three hours). Alexander, who had woken up a smidge too early, was ready for a nap by the time we got to church. He insisted on nursing through the opening exercises (which were long because all we did was sustain people; our ward just got reorganized so it was a lot of people) and was completely zonked by the time we were even halfway through all the sustainings. 

And so he missed when his name was called. 


"If we could have Alexander Heiss stand," the bishop said. 

I looked down at my baby, who'd just settled down for a long (and kind of strange because he hasn't napped at church in ages) sacrament-meeting nap.

Andrew, who knew the bishop was actually talking about him, gave me a this-is-awkward glance, and then stood up. 

"Alexander has been called to be the ward choir director," the bishop continued. "All in favour manifest it."

And the entire ward raised their hands in support of our sweet, sleepy baby becoming the next ward choir director. It made Andrew and I both feel a little giggly. We got it sorted out "in post" when Andrew went to be set apart. But it's still funny.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I have been wrongly accused of only sharing embarrassing stories of other people on this blog while keeping my own embarrassing stories secret. Now, it may be true that I share more embarrassing stories about other people than I do about myself, but all I can say to that is: it's not my fault that I don't do many embarrassing things!

Just kidding. There are so many embarrassing stories about me on this blog it isn't even funny. In fact, this whole blog could be considered one big embarrassing story. I mean, sometimes I go back to read a post I wrote years ago and find my self shaking my head and muttering, "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy..." Like, what was I thinking?! I always find my current self more wise, mature, and enlightened than my past self. That said, my current self still has a long way to go.

So, without further ado, here is another embarrassing story to add to my collection:

I took a shower with Alexander the other day. It's easier to have him in the shower with me than wandering around the house doing who knows what. Actually, he's usually fine on his own while I shower and Zoë's usually fine on her own while I shower, but the combination of the two is...a complicated dynamic. So, Zoë was sent to her room for some quiet time while Alexander and I hopped into the shower.

Usually he's pretty happy in there. He likes splashing in the water and looking down the drain and playing with the shampoo bottle and my toes. He loves showering so much sometimes he has two or three a day. He'll get in with Dad, then he'll get in with Mom, he'll hop in with any sibling.

This particular day, however, Alexander kept trying to escape the shower. He'd push the door open and run away, dripping wet, and, likewise dripping wet, I'd hop out and grab him and bring him back in. I was trying to shower as fast as I could but it was difficult to do very much of anything with him running away every thirty seconds. Finally, I finished rinsing off, grabbed a towel, and wrangled Alexander until he was dry and diapered and then set him free.

Then I got dressed and went about my day.

I did some laundry, unpacked a couple of boxes (because we're still doing that, yes), made lunch, had lunch, cleaned up from lunch...and my hair was still wet.

But we live in a humid place now, so maybe that's why it seemed to be taking forever to dry.

Alexander and I had a nap, we woke up, read stories, did more laundry and...my hair was still not dry. But it didn't quite feel wet either. It was just...wettish and weird.

And then I realized that in all of that shower chaos I had neglected to rinse my hair! So it wasn't wet, really. It was just...lathered in soap...which made it look (and feel) wet. So really quick before I left to meet the kids at the park I had to rinse my hair.

I've been laughing about it ever since—I went the entire day with shampoo in my hair!



Not easier, just different

Making Alexander's baby book has been a fair bit of emotional labour for me. Between feeling a little bit of the sting of death (Grandma and Alexander loved each other so much, guys), I'm also a little bit in mourning for my child-bearing years.

New borns are the best.

They're exhausting, sure, but they're also the absolute sweetest. And I make 'em so cute.

But also I know that, like puppies, babies grow up into toddlers (and toddlers are a hot mess (still cute, but absolutely a hot mess)). And then preschoolers—boy, howdy. Then grade school. Then teenagers, which is a yet-unknown ball of wax.

We had a contractor over this morning to look at our basement (we want to put switches in for our lights because we're getting tired of having to turn on the lights for the kids any time they want to go down there (they're pull-string lights right now)) and he was laughing because Zoë and Alexander were fighting and I was trying to get them to not to.

"Let me tell you," he said. "You think two is hard. Wait until you have three."

"We have five," I said.

"I'll shut up now," he said. "But seriously. It doesn't get easier. It just gets different."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Why'd you have to go and make things so complexiated?

Today I got an offer for a free Shutterfly book and since Alexander is coming on two years old and since I haven't yet gotten around to putting a baby book together for him (a little bit of procrastination + a little bit of denial that he's as old as he is) I decided that now is probably as good a time as any.

But it's also a strange time to be reflecting both on my sweet baby boy and on the last two years in general.

Some little person switched my phone data off sometime this morning, so I spent the whole day blissfully unaware that anyone had been attempting to contact me all day. No notifications on my phone: zero. We played outside with sidewalk chalk, we read stories, we had nap time, we had a tea party, we did some chores, we went to the park to meet Benjamin and Miriam after school.

I tried to post a picture of Alexander being silly.

"Connect to cellular data plan or wifi" my phone alerted me.

So I turned on my cellular and my phone blew up. Metaphorically, of course.

Text messages came flying at me, fast.

1, 2, 3. Ping, ping, ping.

4, 5, 6. Ping, ping, ping.

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What happened, baby?

While I was putting a load of laundry in, Zoë locked Alexander in my bedroom.

Not that we can prove that. When I asked her who locked the door she said, "Me. But the lock is on Alexander's side so it could have been him, too. Like, it didn't have to be me."

So I think that means she did it but like the good little lawyer she is, she's building a case for reasonable doubt. Like, sure, it was her...but was it though?

Anyway, I started looking around the house to find something long and thin to pick the lock with. I found a long nail but it was too fat. I found a mini screwdriver but it was too short. Finally I found our set of long, thin screwdrivers and selected one that fit through the hole in the knob and connected with the lock mechanism. And then I set to work picking that lock.

I poked, I prodded, I jiggled, I jaggled.

No luck.

Meanwhile, Alexander is crying and pounding on the door and Zoë's starting to feel awfully bad about the distress she's caused.

"It's okay, baby boy!" she sang while she stroked the door. "We're going to get you out of there. Can you just turn the lock? Just turn the lock, okay, baby?"

"Doo-ooo-ooo-ooor!" Alexander wailed.

Zoë ran off to her room and came back with her (old, retired) iPhone blasting primary songs and stuffed it under the door to Alexander.

"To help him feel better," she sniffed.

I tried picking the lock some more but to no avail.

Monday, August 12, 2019

A day in Durham

Last weekend we drove up to Durham for our friend Brooke's wedding, which was lovely. The kids behaved remarkably well on the drive up there and were so excited to stay in a hotel. 

Here they are on the luggage cart (not smiling for some reason (I'm not sure why because they were so excited about hopping on)):

A little more hair pulling

When we started going through the process of getting the necessary forms for our children to attend public schools in order and it ended up being far more complicated than necessary, I said something to Andrew about how fixing the system was "a hill I would be willing to die on."

So this morning I met with our state representative, Beth Moore, and she was super nice and understanding—and curious—about it. I came prepared for the meeting, armed with health form requirements in other states, evidence of discrepancies on how Georgia law is enforced in relation to these forms, and so forth. She promised she'd look into it more and see how we could simplify it for future families (either removing the Georgia-physician clause or extending the time frame or...something) the next time they're in session (which won't be until January).

I felt pretty good with how things went and really hope we can make some headway because it's been such a ridiculous mess for us (and everyone else who moves to the state).

Now I have to decide how many other hills I'm willing to die on or whether I should just let things go.

Transportation to and from school is still stressing me out. I thought today was the first day of orchestra, so we sent Miriam to school with her cello and sent a transportation form in with Benjamin. Since Miriam wouldn't be walking with him on orchestra days, I'd like for him to ride the bus. All was well and fine with the world until I got an email from the orchestra club in the afternoon informing me that orchestra begins next week.

I couldn't have Miriam walking by herself and her cello while Benjamin was escorted onto a bus.

Unfortunately, you're not allowed to call the school or email the school to request a change in transportation. Ideally you send in the transportation form in the morning with your student and they hand it to the teacher and then whatever needs to happen happens. But in emergencies you can fax a change in. So I decided I'd fax a change in—as archaic as that sounds.

It says right on the change form that you can fax it into the school before 2:30 (but not to email or call about transportation changes).

But also faxing is archaic, so I called to make sure they'd received my fax I was told, "Ma'am, you're supposed to send these forms in with your child in the morning."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday

This morning I took Miriam, Benjamin, and Zoë to the baptism of one of their new little friends (while Alexander, Rachel, and Andrew ran to IKEA). Miriam has made such fast friends with the big sister of this little friend and it's such a beautiful thing for me to watch because she had a difficult time finding friends in Spanish Fork. 

Benjamin sat perfectly well-behaved the entire time. It was amazing! I mean, maybe not perfectly well-behaved but well-behaved enough. I didn't really have to get after him about anything. 

Zoë was eager to hit the treats afterward. She ran and got in line and got some grapes and a doughnut and a cookie, then she sat down at a table and...waited. She sat primly in her chair, staring longingly at her food. I stood by her, talking to some grown ups, and when I noticed that she wasn't eating I encouraged her to do so.

"You can go ahead and eat," I said.

"I'm waiting," she said.

"I'll grab something in a minute. You go ahead and eat."

"I can't," she said. 

"Why not?" I asked.

"Ummm...you're supposed to pray before you eat, remember?" she grumbled.

"Oh, we blessed the food with the closing prayer, didn't you hear?" Brother Rowberry said. "You can eat it. It's holy."

"That means your doughnut is extra holy," I said, and then Sister Rowberry said, "I was just going to say that!"

I do love when someone appreciates a good pun (Ma in The Little House series does not appreciate puns and I'd like to know why not?!). Anyway, Zoë did eventually eat, and so did I, and then all the children ended up doing laps in the hallway again (which all the grown ups were perfectly fine with). When I decided it was time to go, I went into the hallway to collect my children.

Being so preoccupied with chasing down Benjamin and Zoë, I was rather surprised when I ran into Miriam.

"Oh, you!" I said. "It's a good thing I ran into you or I would have left you here. I totally forgot I brought you."

"That would have been alright," the bishop winked. "We'd have just taken her home with us and brought her to church tomorrow."

Miriam and her little friend (the bishop's granddaughter (until tomorrow when we'll get a new bishop (and then she'll still be his granddaughter, I suppose; he just won't be bishop))) started jumping up and down and squealing, "Oh, please! Oh, please! Oh, please!"

But, alas, they had some family things planned for the afternoon and we had a busy day ahead of us as well, so we pulled those two little girls apart and went our separate directions. 

*****

Andrew, Alexander, and Rachel had gone to IKEA to pick out a new—lower-to-the-ground—bunkbed for the girls' room. 

With freshly painted walls and newly installed carpet, their room is finally ready to furnish. We pulled their bed frames out and started putting them together and found out very quickly that Rachel's loft bed was not going to work in her new room. 

Our basement has drop ceilings (unfortunately), so she had barely enough room to slither into bed between the top of her bed frame and her ceiling. It's doable, but she'd have been sleeping with her nose up against the ceiling tiles. So we searched around for a shorter solution and decided on a set of bunkbeds, which seems to be working out nicely. 

We also put together a wardrobe for them since their bedroom doesn't have a closet. Because our floors in the basement aren't precisely...level...we were sure to mount it to the wall. We marked the studs and used the drill to make some pilot holes, then screwed the brackets into place before we assembled the doors. Andrew left the drill on the floor when he'd finished with the brackets and then I tripped over it while putting the hinges for the doors on. It hurt, but it looked fine, so I shrugged it off and kept working on the hinges. I was surprised when I looked down at my foot again, to find it looking a little less fine. I had blood dripping all over the place!

Fortunately, Rachel is a super-duper prepare-o-matic and had a first aid kit handy.

Their room is mostly put together now (they just have to finish unpacking their boxes and putting things away (and we still have to finish painting their shelves)), which is rather exciting!

Friday, August 09, 2019

Word (ward) party

The average American will move 11 times throughout their life (Canadians are not far behind). I hit that number before I even got married, so I'm well above average now. That number was actually surprisingly...high...I thought. I would have expected it to be lower.

When we lived in Spanish Fork I would giggle to myself when people described their difficult moves. This one time a girl got up to bear her testimony about how years ago (like a decade or more) when they'd moved into the ward/neighbourhood, her family had been distraught to be leaving their family and everything they knew to go so far away. She went on and on about how difficult it was to be so far away from her grandparents and her cousins and how isolated they had felt, but went on to reveal that her family had moved from...Provo.

PROVO?! I screamed at her in my head. PROVO!!!? Moving from Provo was difficult for you?!

Provo and Spanish Fork are about 10 miles apart. No joke. Like, seriously, if you miss your family... go visit them (they are right there).

I'm sure it was a difficult transition all the same, but it makes me question the whole "average of 11 moves" thing. I don't know many people who have moved 11 times.

I also would have expected this move to be easier for me. But it hasn't been. It's been difficult.

Every day I'm slip-slip-slippin'

Last night we read Heleman 13 together as a family. Some of us sat and followed along while others of us ran around like hooligans. Alexander was part of the latter. He had on footie jammies, which is a dangerous thing to wear when you live in a house with wood floors. Technically footie jammies have "grippies" at the bottom of the "feeties" but these grips are really never very functional (and, frankly, babies would probably be safer without them (but I just thought: maybe they're not for traction at all...maybe they're for durability)).

So, I'm reading verse 31...

"And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery..."

And, as if on cue, Alexander slipped and crashed. He was fine. We giggled a bit and then dove back in.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Heretofore unheard of bipedal creatures spotted ambling along treacherous urban jungle trail!

"I am sorry for the confusion yesterday but I assure you it was out of an abundance of caution that my staff questioned what is a new practice for us."

*****

I wrote a lengthy email to the assistant vice principals of our school (one for the lower grades, one for the upper grades) yesterday, venting my frustration at my children being prevented from walking home from school two days in a row. They forwarded it along to the principal, so...cool.

I'm now "that" parent. Oh, well.

On the first day of school, they were told they were not old enough to walk home but were eventually allowed to leave campus after Miriam convinced them that she was in grade five (she's just short). So I was worried sick when they failed to show up where they should have when they should have (but it was all an effort to keep them safe, I guess, so that's nice, but also...*deep breaths*).

Yesterday the crossing guard gave them a hard time—and then drove down to find them as they were walking to our prearranged meeting place—and told Andrew (who was meeting them that day) that it was too far of a walk and that she couldn't allow it, especially because it involved crossing a busy street (where he was currently standing, meeting the kids as they crossed).

So I was upset, having gone through what I assumed to be the appropriate channels to get my children the coveted "walker" tag on their bags. I mean, there was paperwork, I stood in line, I talked with their teachers. I thought we were covered.

But apparently the school has never—not once in anyone's institutional memory—ever had a child walk away from campus unattended.

The idea that I would allow my children to walk down the street unsupervised seems to be a completely foreign (and somewhat appalling) idea to them—"a new practice."

It's a practice that will, perhaps (I hope), gain some traction.

I just am floored by the idea that no one walks, that no one has ever walked.

It's completely walkable. And should be walked.

In fact, I sent them links to about five articles on the benefits of walking to school (it's safer, it's good for your physical and mental health, and it's better for the environment) and suggested that they participate in Walk to School Day (because records show that in the past they have not). I also mentioned that having ten minute of unsupervised independence a day is probably good for kids.

Walking to school should not be weird, especially if you live in a place with sidewalks (which we have here, unlike in Durham where we did not walk to school because...there were no sidewalks).

But hopefully (?) we've got that all sorted out now.

*****

All I have to finish sorting out is this blasted Form 3300.

Because our school isn't going to accept our dental records. Which technically means that they can disallow our children from attending class starting, well, tomorrow, but they've decided to graciously offer me an extension since I made a good faith effort to fill out the stinking form.

I was shaking with rage as the principal explained that part to me—the part where even though the county health office gave the form their okay, the forms were not acceptable for the school. Because each school has their own standards, their own requirements (the county health office explained to me when I asked why it was acceptable for them but not for the school), so even though it's a state-wide requirement, each school gets to enforce it however strictly they'd like (and each county health office, likewise, can accept or deny whatever documentation they'd like, willy-nilly, just like that).

And...guys...I'm meeting with my state representative about this on Monday.

Because...I just...like...cannot even with the red tape anymore.

*****

I will make dental appointments for...sometime in the near future.

The post I took down and which I'm now putting back up

Because seriously no one knows who my visiting teaching companion three years ago was so the veil of anonymity is thick. Plus I've moved twice since then and really no one is tracking who my visiting teaching companions were (so I swear your identity is obscured to everyone except, perhaps, to the person who originally tipped you off that I wrote "about" you in the first place).

But I saved the post because I felt like my thoughts were being censored—since these are mostly my thoughts, I think...because I thought them (in April of 2016...so I've been harbouring these thoughts for a while; I think they are popping up with such vibrancy right now because I feel like I'm drifting through a sea of depression, myself. So while I'm physically here, I feel emotionally distant from (and/or crushed by) everything, but we're working through it).

Without further ado:

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The place begins to look like a farm

I know, I know. The Little House books are problematic...but I'm still reading them with my children (and hopefully talking through the problematic parts well enough to do them justice), and I still find myself gleaning good things from them.

I was reading them to Rachel and Miriam when we moved from Utah to North Carolina years ago and I found Laura's descriptions of moving and settling in to be comforting as we were moving and settling in. But I also remember being shocked at Laura's treatment of Native Americans, a fact that I once brought up at book club when we were discussing children's literature.

The Little House on the Prairie was such a big part of my childhood that I don't think I'll ever be able to not love it, but I do reserve the right to be disappointed in parts of it. Anyway, all that is to say that one of the ladies at book club gave a passionate (as in she was nearly crying) rebuttal about how Wilder's work was historic and that's just how things were at the time and she completely missed my point altogether (because I completely agree with her that it's a historical work).

And—frankly—I'm a little nervous to even write anything about that Durham book club because this one time I wrote what I felt was a perfectly innocent commentary on book club, revolving (I felt) around the theme of the book, and I mentioned something about how one of my visiting teaching companions had assumed that a recent widow in our ward had been divorced when really her husband had been in a care facility the entire time. And how that was similar to what the book described—that we can love someone and not be able to care for them (and how that doesn't diminish the love we have for them). It was seriously, like, a thirty second snippet of a much longer conversation (and the last comfortable conversation I would ever have with this person).

Sunday, August 04, 2019

New ward boundaries

The same weekend we left Spanish Fork (June 30), our bishopric was released and a new bishopric was put in—which is really quite an upheaval for a ward. The bishop is "the presiding high priest for a ward, or congregation. He has overall responsibility for ministering the temporal and spiritual affairs of the congregation," and he really kind of sets the tone of the ward. Like, a new bishopric can really change the dynamic of a ward—most often in a good shake-things-up kind of a way, from my experience.

We were a little sad to miss the shake up, especially when we found out who had been called as bishop (we think he'll serve wonderfully).

Anyway, we thought it was funny that we were in our ward here for such a short time before hearing rumblings of a big shake-up coming down the pike, especially since the change ended up being announced today (and we missed it because we were visiting our old ward in Durham).

I know Susanne had asked this awhile ago and I don't know if I ever really answered, but, yes—wards are assigned geographically, so we don't really get a choice on which congregation we'll attend. We just move somewhere and find out what ward our house is in and that's that.

We were in the John's Creek ward, but it was getting far too big (the "ideal" population cap for a ward is around 400 people), which was getting unsustainable. Further, a new building was being completed just north of our ward boundaries (so it was much closer to the people at the north end of our boundaries, some of whom had to drive a considerable distance to get to our building).

Anyway, they announced the changes today and our ward has been dissolved and split (along we a few other wards) and we're now a different ward entirely, which we might have been more emotional about if we'd really known anyone at all...but we don't really know anyone so I think we'll be just fine getting to know the people assigned to be in our new ward with us without really knowing how things would have been otherwise.

Just funny that we managed to miss both big announcements!

Brooke's wedding

When I got Brooke's wedding invitation in the mail, I knew we had to go. Brooke spoke at Rachel's baptism when she was in young women's and then came to Miriam's baptism (and Alexander's baby blessing) when she was out at BYU. She's such a sweet girl and we just love her (and her family) so much (her mom taught primary to Rachel (as well as to Miriam, I believe)) and was so fabulous!

It felt like an indulgence, but I think it was an indulgence that we really needed.

We needed to leave our house in shambles, to get away from the chaos of unpacking and settling in, and going somewhere that felt like...home. We needed to be reminded that it's possible to put down new roots after being uprooted, and that those roots can run strong and sweet and constant. 

Driving into Durham and turning off the GPS felt like a breath of fresh air. 

We knew where we were. We knew where we were going. 

Walking into our old church building was already a comfortable feeling, but seeing so many loved friends was the very best of all. No one asked us for our names or life story. They already knew us and were simply thrilled to see us. We did a lot of catching up—and enjoyed some hearty NC barbecue at the reception after the ceremony—and it was simply wonderful. 

I think we needed to feel that family feeling again to really have hope that we'll find it here.

Here has been wonderful and welcoming...but we're introverts so it always takes us time to really get settled and get to know people...so it's not home yet. 

We spent Saturday meeting up with friends and family and went to church today, which was so, so great. Mary Moore, one of Grandma's dear friends from her Durham days way back in Andrew's babyhood, rushed up to us and grabbed us both in the biggest, longest, rib-crushing-est hug. 

"I'm so sorry about your momma!" she said, a huge smile on her face—but with tears behind her eyes. She peppered us with questions, like, "How y'all been? How's your dad?"

Later she sang her way to the pulpit to bear her testimony, just as she has for years and years.

Yes, a visit to Durham was just what we needed, so thanks, Brooke, for getting married!

I'm going to get some pictures off my phone now (I will eventually find the charger for my camera and use that, too...I hope) but I might not get around to posting them until tomorrow because school is starting and we have to get up early for elementary!

Friday, August 02, 2019

Meet your teacher day

Technically, I drove to the school for meet-your-teacher day. But the parking lot was so incredibly crowded that I could hardly navigate the place just to get back out (because there were zero parking spaces available). So I drove home and then Andrew dropped us back off at the school. It was insanity.

Benjamin was...buzzing...the whole time. Just off the walls. He was driving me a little crazy, but we'll talk more about that in a minute. We met his teacher and she seemed nice but I'm not entirely sure she's a good fit for him, which makes me so sad because he's had two very nice teachers in a row who have not been a good fit for him. I'm hoping that I'm wrong about her. He is very excited that he has a class pet (which is a reptile or amphibian of sorts; he's not sure which—either a snake or a gecko (I'm not sure how those two can be mixed up)).

Miriam's teacher seems wonderful, though getting to her classroom is like walking through a labyrinth! She met the sweetest little classmate while we were in there doing paperwork. We were talking to the teacher, telling her about ourselves and when we were finished this little girl's family kind of pounced on us, like, "We were listening in to every word! This is So-and-so. You just moved here! That's great! We live just down the road..."

And I think we're best friends now?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rushing, rising riv'lets

Living on a hill presents some challenges aside from backing out of our driveway.

"She's still complaining about backing out of her driveway?" you're asking yourself. "Cry me a river!"

No. Problem.

Here's a view of our front waterfall driveway in a rainstorm last night:


Our home inspector suggested that we go out in a heavy storm to see just where water is pooling in our yard so that we can divert it away from the house when we need to. The answer, we found out, is that it pools both no where and everywhere. It pools in the front...


Pine Straw

We did a very southern thing today and mulched our front yard with pine straw.

I remember the first time I saw a garden mulched with pine straw (likely back in 2012 when we moved to North Carolina) and my thought was, "Wow. They really need to get rid of all those pine needles!" But then I saw it more and more—even in yards without pine trees—and realized that people were spreading pine needles in their gardens on purpose!

It's not really something I recall seeing anywhere else (besides naturally dropped pine needles, which can be plentiful in coniferous forests), but it's a very popular thing in this part of the world.

Anyway, some young men came to our door today with a trailer full of pine straw bales and offered to spread them around our yard (for a fee, of course). Andrew, who'd been the one to open the door, came to confer with me and my immediate response was no because it stresses me out* when people approach me with an offer and expect me to make up my mind right away.

But Andrew did some quick calculations and decided that since we needed to spruce up our front yard anyway (pun definitely intended, but really pine straw is of a long-leaf variety), picking up some pine straw had been on our unbelievably long list of things to do. The price these young men were asking us to pay was about equivalent to what we'd have to pay at the hardware store, but these young men were offering to weed our front area and spread the mulch for us as well. Clearly this was a bargain. So he went ahead and paid them and they sprang to work weeding and mulching and...it was kind of nice to not have to do that.

Benjamin, of course, was out there helping haul pine straw and chatting the workers' ears off. But the other kids just played in the driveway. Andrew hung a whiteboard (watching out the window all the while) and I finished the dishes and did some laundry.

And now our front yard looks all spiffy and southern with its new pine straw mulch.

* "Quick! Name five things that don't stress me out!" I challenged Andrew when we were out for a family walk and I caught myself telling him yet another thing I was spending too much time worrying about. He rightly joked that it would be impossible to list five things that don't stress me out. I need to take a mega chill pill right now (well, probably always, but definitely right now).

An outing

Well, we did it. 

I had a little panic attack on the driveway (seriously, I came *this close* to throwing up) when I could not figure out how to reverse into our little turn-around area. I think I just need to park on the other side of the garage. Andrew thought it would be easier for me to back out from the far side of the garage, but I think it will actually be easier from the close side. But maybe not. 

Our driveway is so steep I felt like we were going to tip over, but naturally we didn't.

People have been driving up and down this horrendous driveway for decades and no one has tipped over yet. So I'm sure I won't be the first to do so. Hopefully.

All my little passengers cheered when we made it to the top. 

I'm so glad that I can show them that it's possible to do hard things that scare you almost to death. 

Next step was driving to the library. It's really a pretty straight shoot from our house. Rachel would like to try biking it one day (we'll see about that). 

The kids were excited to get to feed our books to Hiccups the Hippo.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Knorfing

Somehow at dinner today, Andrew ended up coining the word "knorfing."

We were having pizza and sweet Alexander was very insistent on having a spoon, a fork, and a knife to eat with (even though we'd already cut his pizza up for him). Spoo, for, nai, is what he calls those.

He was holding his fork and knife very maturely, doing his best to cut his pizza into small bites (but failing, of course, because he was using plastic children's cutlery from IKEA and those knives simply don't cut well, by design). Fork in his left hand, knife in his right.

I was cutting my pizza with the side of my fork (because my jaw is so misaligned that I can't physically bite anything unless I cut it into bite-sized pieces) and this bothered Alexander.

"Momma! Nai!" he said, offering me his knife. "Nai!"

"No, thanks," I said. "I'm good with just my fork. See how I can cut my pizza with my fork? That's talent, huh?"

"Yes. Mommy is knorfing her food with her..." Andrew started and then we all burst out laughing.*

"I'm knorfing my food?" I giggled. "What is that? Like I'm knifing it with a fork?"

That is exactly what he was meaning to say (except that he really meant to say "cutting," not knifing, because we typically cut food, not knife it).

So we had a very giggly suppertime, with liberal use of the word knorf.

And then I read this evening, in Gretchen McCulloch's book Because Internet, about "familects" (dialectal variants original to a family unit) and I started laughing again because...knorfing.

*This isn't quite how it came out, but I honestly can't remember quite when Andrew said it or how. Just that we all found his coinage hilarious.

The more you know...

I found a picture while we were packing of a rather triumphant freshman Andrew, standing on top of Y mountain, thigh-deep in snow and severely underdressed for the occasion. I'm sure if I had kept digging I would have found a picture of Beryl, who I believe undertook this ill-advised adventure with Andrew, but I didn't.

In part because I was busy, in part because I didn't want to spend the emotional energy looking for a picture of Beryl (though a picture of Beryl would complement this post quite nicely).

Beryl passed away in April after falling from Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, which was just so sad for us. But definitely more sad for Andrew, since, I mean, they were roommates. I was just the roommate's annoying girlfriend. But still, I was so sad because Beryl was so nice, so smart, and still so young with so much potential ahead of him.

When Andrew got home from his mission we went on a date and then he told me he was going to "date around" a bit, to test the water, see what was out there. And, like, fine. So, he went on a date with me and then he went on a date with Stormie (his other roommate's sister). This other roommate was so hoping that Andrew and his sister would click that he went ahead and set up another date for the two of them—a double date with him and his girlfriend! But after going out with Stormie once, Andrew had gone out with me again and said something to the effect of, "I'm finished dating around and just want to date you for a while."

And then his roommate dropped this bomb in his lap.

So Beryl—who was so painfully shy—was a good sport and stepped in at the last minute to be Stormie's date for the now-triple date. But then I think he ended up bowing out early and poor Stormie ended up being the fifth wheel on a very awkward double-and-a-half-date.

Anyway, we loved Beryl and his death kind of shook us up a bit. But, Andrew went to the funeral and made his peace with neglecting to get together with Beryl the past two years we were in Utah and...yeah. It is what it is.

Today my phone woke me up, buzzing on my nightstand. I was supposed to be enjoying a luxurious sleep-in after having somewhat of a nervous breakdown last night, and then being up with the baby a few times in the night. But it was 9:30 and "do not disturb" had turned off so my phone was buzzing like crazy on my night stand. I picked it up to see who was calling but no one was. It was just a series of rapid-fire texts.

The last one was from Josie: "Maybe it's cause I just woke up but I am already tearing up???"

I had no idea what she was talking about, so I wrote back: "Sorry?"

Feel the fear

Part of me thinks it would be silly to list out 100 things I'm afraid of (or that I worry about). But I read this article recently (or, you know, the abstract of it) that said that 91.4% of worries (for those suffering from General Anxiety Disorder) tend to not come true, the inverse of which means that 8.6% of worries do come true. So I quickly jotted down a list of fifty things (happily surprised that thinking of 100 things that were bothering me would be more time consuming than I had supposed) and upon reviewing the list I found that it's true that a lot more things on the list were hypothetical than were reality.

That said, at least 8.6% were present concerns. I guess the moral of the story is that we shouldn't invent things to be worried about. But isn't inventing things to worry about the entire premise of General Anxiety Disorder?

Not that I have GAD. I'm just saying—one wouldn't have GAD without having an imagination that churns out terrible ideas.

So, driving is one of my fears. I didn't get my license (officially) until I had three kids, so I was...however old I was...27? I was 27. And, um, I have yet to ever drive over 50 MPH, have never driven on the freeway, et cetera, and so forth. But baby steps, right? I'll just pick a place and drive there and that will be one place I can drive (which is better than no places). It might bring me a sense of accomplishment, but I don't think it will bring me happiness. I have no desire to be wielding 2 tonnes of machinery and would much prefer other modes of transportation (but I'm also afraid to ride a bike in the road, so...).

But, I...will do it. Because I know that exposure really is the best way to temper a phobia (thanks, Crystal, for encouraging me in that).

Like my Grandma was so fond of repeating: Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Culture shock

Today I feel transplanted. Like I'm hiding out—or trapped—in my own house. Like the city is a desert sprawling around me. Like there is no where for me to go if I were to venture out of the house. Or that if there were somewhere for me to go that I wouldn't be able to get there anyway.

Everything seems to be fifteen minutes away. The thought of driving that far makes my hands clammy, makes my stomach churn, makes my throat seize up and my mouth to salivate as if my body can't decide whether I'm going to cry or throw up. And, allow me to point out, it's midnight.

I'm not about to go anywhere.

I'm just thinking about maybe sometime driving somewhere—anywhere—at some future time.

The doctor. The orthodontist. The library. The church. The school. The park.

Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

It doesn't matter where. It doesn't matter when. It doesn't even matter that it's entirely hypothetical.

Barf.

Probably I'm making things worse by not driving anywhere (I have driven once so far) but, you guys, the traffic here is terrifying. It never runs out.

The traffic doesn't run out and the city doesn't run out. Cars are constantly zipping along, confidently changing lanes, or merging into a never-ending stream of other cars, and I don't have that sort of bravery. And the city just keeps going. Sometimes I think for sure we've hit the outskirts of town. But I'm not sure there even are outskirts anymore. There's nothing but endless city.

Of course I know that's not true, but it currently feels rather stifling. Even though we had to interrupt our family night so we could run to the window to stare at the baby fawn who stumbled onto our driveway (it was so cute) which means we're clearly not stuck in some urban hellscape—we live in a beautiful place—it's stifling.

It's just culture shock (and it will get better, I'm sure).

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Today's notes

We are not unpacking in one fell swoop, but we're ever so slowly settling in.

Today we tamed the yard a bit. And by we I mean Andrew.

He trimmed some overgrown hedges, mowed and edged the lawn, and who knows what else. We found that we actually have a decent-sized lawn in the front that's probably big enough to set up the badminton net (Rachel is dying to find out).

We also managed to clear out half of our garage, so now the van is parked inside! Not everything we brought into the house got put away, but it's in the house and we're finding places for things.

*****

Closets are weirding me out. I have a few hallway closets and I absolutely don't know what to do with them because I've never really had closets before. We had one in our first apartment, none in Egypt or Jordan, none when we lived with Andrew's parents in Orem, one in our Hummingbird Lane house (but the closet also housed the washer and dryer so it wasn't as if it was a very big closet), and one when we lived with Andrew's parents in Spanish Fork.

So I kind of keep forgetting that we can put things into closets. I keep thinking we need to assemble a shelf to put things on. We have two hallway closets upstairs and two hallway closets downstairs, which I'm sure I'll get used to (and which I'm sure will be filled up in no time).


*****

We are entering our last week of summer break, which I'm both looking forward to and not.

I don't feel like we really got to do anything...fun...this summer, which is disappointing. But we did move across the country, so that's got to count for something. We'll have to plan a beach trip sometime soon. 

I think it will be nice for the kids to start up at their new schools and meet some kids in the area. They're ready for some playmates who aren't each other for a change. 

Rachel and Miriam were invited to spend the afternoon with some girls in our ward and they had a ton of fun painting and going to a cool park and even to a British candy shop. 

We've all been at each other's throats so it was nice for them to get some fresh air and fresh company.


Swell Foop

I went to a Relief Society dessert night a couple of weeks ago—and it was great because the unintended theme (it was potluck, and, boy, did we get lucky?!) of the desserts was lemon and blueberry and it was divine. There was a sister there, who was telling about her baptism sixty years ago. Her family lived out in the country and didn't make it to the church building very often, so her mother had her wait until her little brother turned eight (and she, herself, was twelve) and had them baptized together in "one swell swoop!"

She said "swell swoop" a couple more times that evening and every time I did a mental jaw drop.

Swell swoop!

Why hadn't I ever thought of saying that? Do you say that?

A quick Google search reveals that it's...not really a thing. But how incredible that she says that.

The saying, of course, is "fell swoop," first appearing in MacBeth, where fell means fierce, sinister or deadly and swoop means "a single concentrated and quickly effective effort." But, honestly, people rarely use that aspect of fell these days. In fact, a friend of mine repeatedly used the adjective "fell" in a book he's getting published and his editor repeatedly removed it because "fell creature" is...a little...archaic. This friend put it back in, though, because he was going for an archaic feel.

Fell comes from the Latin root fello, meaning "villain," which is related to the word "felon" in English (from fel (or "poison" or "bitter" or, aptly, "one full of bitterness") in Latin).

It's understandable that this woman, who grew up in rural Georgia some 60 years ago, might have figured the saying was "swell swoop" since fell...fell...out of use quite some time ago (as in, like, Shakespeare may have used it knowing what it meant back in the 16th/17th century, but the average English speaker today, in the 21st century, probably wouldn't pick up on that meaning).

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Real food

"What's your favourite tool from this box?" Benjamin said, plunking a play-dough food set in front of me.

"You know, buddy, I'm trying to eat my lunch right now. Everybody's trying to eat their lunch. And I don't really know. I'm not good with favourites..."

"You know what I hate about that picture?" Rachel asked. "The pretzel sandwich. I mean, I just don't think a pretzel could support everything they put inside. Maybe if they made a thinner sandwich or..."

"Pretzels are delicious!" I said. "That sandwich looks great...for a sandwich made of play-dough."

"Can we play with play-dough after lunch?" Miriam asked.

They ended up playing with Barbies instead. But for dinner I whipped up a batch of pretzel dough and we spent some time playing with real dough (instead of play-dough). We managed to shape some fairly decent-looking pretzels, except for those of us who found the dough a little too sticky to work with. Those people (Zoë) made pretzel bites.