Thursday, March 28, 2019

More biking adventures

I didn't see it happen, but I suppose I heard it.

Each time her tricycle wheels thunked across the joints of the sidewalk, the bell on her handlebars gave a forced chime, a rhythmic *clink-clink* keeping time with the steady squeak of her pedals.

Squeaky-squeaky, THUNK *clink* THUNK *clink*

Squeaky-squeaky, THUNK *clink* THUNK *clink*

She made her way down the sidewalk, pedaling furiously and singing a gleeful, made-up song, "When you fall down, you pick yourself back up and flyyyyyyyy away!"

Squeaky-squeaky, THUNK *clink* THUNK *clink*

I turned my attention to her brother. Today we were working on being a self-starter.

"No one gets to start riding this way," I said again as I held his bicycle seat and he, with great effort, put both feet on his pedals (the little cheater). "You have to start with one foot on the ground. Good. I'm letting go of your seat now. Push down with your top foot and bring your other foot off the ground and onto the pedal. Look up! Look up! Look the direction you're going! Don't forget to steer!"

It's a tricky business, this bicycle riding thing.

"I tried and I can't do it!" he pouted.

"Yes, you did try, but you're supposed to try and then you're supposed to try again. That's the way the saying goes, so let's try again, shall we?"

And that's about when I heard her scream.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Biking holidays

Andrew took the older girls to BYU this afternoon (Miriam had organ and Rachel had to set up for the science fair) so I took the younger three to the park. More to the point, I made them ride their bikes to the park. Zoë was immediately on board. Benjamin resisted emphatically, but I told him it would be good practice.

At first he was rather melodramatic about the whole thing, wobbling for a few measly pedal strokes and then launching himself into the grass beside the sidewalk. It was ridiculous and rather frustrating because I was pulling Alexander in the wagon and coaxing Zoë along but then we'd all have to stop so I could help Benjamin get going again (he hasn't quite figured out how to start riding his bike yet, though he can keep riding).

Nothing I said could convince him to actually try until he saw his friend Holly riding her bike down the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

"She's not wobbling at all!" he remarked.

"She's probably practiced more than you," I said.

"She doesn't even have a helmet on!" he observed.

"Well, that part...I dunno about...but clearly she's had more practice than you have which is why I'm dragging you out here—to practice!"

He hopped back on his bike and went a considerable distance before stopping to watch another kid go by on their bike.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Yesterday I took Alexander to Relief Society with me. I haven't taken him to class by myself for several weeks now and it made me feel very glad that he will soon be in nursery because he was quite the handful.

Are you ready for me to blow your mind? Because I just checked the calendar to see how many weeks of church we have to endure with him and the answer is one.

He has one week before he goes into nursery (the last Sunday in March). The week after that is General Conference weekend and then, magically, it's April 14 and he'll be 18 months old (which is old enough for nursery, though imagining that he'll just waltz in there is laughable (he's not going to like it, not one little bit))! That baby is such a momma's boy!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Domino Effect

Today we celebrated Riley's birthday, though he won't actually turn four for a few more days. We don't go to his house often (in fact, I think the last time we went to his house was for his third birthday party) but the kids always have fun when we do because there are so many little people to pal around with.

I was pregnant with Benjamin at the same time that Cory's sister was expecting twins (if my memory is serving correctly) so when we all get together we have 5 rather rambunctious children—the 3 six-year-olds, Riley, and Zoë (plus Alexander and a motely collection of older cousins). It's pretty fun—so fun that Zoë even faced her fear of dogs so that she could play in the backyard with all the kids.

When we arrived Riley was already out in the backyard with the twins and his dog. Benjamin made a beeline for the backyard and Zoë trailed along behind him like she always does, but when she saw the dog she immediately backtracked and quickly closed the door behind her. There was no way she was going out there!

She sat forlornly for a few minutes, watching the children outside playing their little hearts out. Then she turned to me and said, "Mom, I think I'll go outside 'cuz you know what? Puppies don't bite people. They just run around and scare people!"

And with that she ran outside to join the passel of children in the backyard.

Abby (the dog) was having a blast playing fetch with some of the older cousins and wasn't paying the little kids any attention at all, so Zoë was pretty safe (Abby didn't even come up to sniff her).

We went through the typical birthday activities: pizza, presents, and cake.

Here's Riley opening a few gifts:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Labial Frenectomy III

Poor Alexander seems doomed to have no very good stories to tell...ever.

On Tuesday when my mom stopped by to pick Miriam up for organ (which we're so grateful for because I don't know how we would have been able to have Miriam take this organ class without my mom's help), Alexander tripped while walking and landed flat on his face, partially tearing his little labial frenulum.

"My! He's a fragile little guy!" my mom remarked.

I mean, first he breaks his arm while crawling and then he trips, face plants, tears his frenulum and bloodies his lip. Sheesh. It really doesn't take much for this kid!

Today he finished the job—giving himself a full frenectomy—and still without a very cool story to tell.

He hadn't attempted to climb onto the roof of a couch cushion fort, causing it to collapse and propelling him into the organ bench, thus severing his frenulum (like Rachel). Nor did he tumble down the stairs of the deck to do so (as Benjamin did).

No, nothing quite exciting or adventurous as that.

Friday, March 22, 2019

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

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

Even if sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning to swing was a marvelous thing for him.

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

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

An artsy-fartsy weekend

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Alexander at 17 months

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Rachel's Cinderella

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

Not Rachel

Saturday, March 16, 2019

An Eggs-tra Special Pi Day

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

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

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


Friday, March 15, 2019

Thankful Tree 2018

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Today's schedule

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

Mid-mom crisis

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

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

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hobble Creek Canyon

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

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

But, like, what if all the snow melted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 08, 2019

Snacks and things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's up, Alex?" I asked. 

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

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

He nodded.

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

He nodded but continued chewing.

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

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

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

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

"I know," I agreed. 

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

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Alexander's first hair cut

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

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

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

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

Here's what he looks like now:

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

But also his hair was getting rather ridiculous. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

March tales

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

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

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

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

This does not include mommy-led story time.

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

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Alexander's cast removal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin's book report

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

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

Anyway, here's his report:

Student-led conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking in church

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

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

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

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

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