Friday, May 24, 2019

Zoë is four!

Zoë must not be a morning person because she woke up this morning and everything was going her way (from what I could tell) and she was grumpy as all get out!

The birthday banner was up, she had special blueberry birthday cereal, and we had big plans for finishing her cake up together later in the morning, and still she sat fuming at the table because I was unable to tell her what the fourth letter of her name was.

"Z-O-Ë that's three," she said. "So what's the next letter of my name?"

"There isn't one," I told her. "Just Z-O-Ë. That's it."

"But what about the fourth letter?" she asked.

"Fourth letter?" I asked. "Your name only has three letters in it."

She must have thought I was playing stupid because she turned to me exasperatedly and said, "Mom. Stop. I'm four years old now. Just tell me what the fourth letter is."

"Right, so...you are four years old now..." I agreed. "But the length of your name doesn't always correlate with your age. Like...my name only has five letters and I'm thirty-three...so..."


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Mixed bag

If you ever want to eat cereal at our house, I hope you like it mixed because this afternoon Alexander premixed all our cereal.

Petsitting for Auntie Josie has helped Alexander develop a bit of autonomy, which I've been enjoying because instead of following me around all day long he follows the cat around all day long. This means that I can do so many things without tripping over him (laundry! clean the kids' room! pack boxes! disassemble a shelf! do the dishes! twice!), but it also means that he's been getting into mischief that he otherwise might not.

I can't really say what I prefer: that he never give me a moment's peace ever or that he make a little mischief.

Honestly—probably—I prefer the mischief.

As I told Andrew tonight, it's not that I don't want to spend time with my kids (because I do). It's that I think I would want to spend time with them more if they would ever leave me alone ever (to be fair, at the time I was lamenting Alexander waking up to cry for me for the second time this evening (which isn't so terrible (last night was a complete joke of a night))).

It's cute that he can't stand to be apart from me. But it's also tiring.

Like, he could probably play with blocks while I do laundry or go to the bathroom or whatever, but no. He has to follow me around, begging me to pick him up and hold him. With how neglected he acts, you'd think I never picked that child up, but I actually hold him all the time.

And so I feel a little bit proud of him for exerting enough independence to raid the pantry and mix the cereal.


Monday, May 20, 2019

I survived the GRE

After months of preparation, I finally took the plunge and sat for the GRE today. The results were unsurprising: I performed excellently (95th percentile) on the verbal reasoning portion and only mediocrely (50th percentile) on the quantitative section. This was a little disappointing given how long and hard I studied, however, I'm confident my studying paid off and that I wouldn't have known a gosh darn thing if I had attempted the test without studying. Plus, I wasn't planning on entering a math-heavy program anyway so that score isn't quite as important.

While I only have my preliminary scores, I'm sure my official scores will be high enough to get into the graduate program of my choice...whenever I officially make that choice (that particular matter is still up in the air).

I was surprised that the writing section came first because in my prep book (I used Kaplan for both verbal and quantitative and, I suppose, for writing (but that was in the verbal book)) the information came last. Or maybe I just looked at it last? Either way, I expected it to come last.

I didn't prepare for that part very much other than reading through the prompts and thinking, "I have literally nothing to say on this subject." And reading through the sample essays and thinking, "Yes, I can see how that would get the score it got."

Luckily I felt like I had some good things to say for the two prompts I was given, so hopefully I will score proficiently there (though I won't get those scores for a couple of weeks yet since they are graded by humans).

The quantitative reasoning sections had me sweating and shaking. I ran out of time on both sections and quickly went through to guess on any unanswered questions before the timer ran out. Some of them I know that I knew how to answer but that I didn't have time to come up with the answer. I much prefer a more relaxed mathematical environment (studying for the test was actually kind of fun (in a way); I enjoyed tackling new-to-me concepts (hello, quadratics) and the feeling of (eventually, kind of) understanding things). But the actual GRE quantitative reasoning test? That was no fun.

The verbal reasoning sections were marvelous. I didn't take the ten-minute break in the middle of the examination because the vocabulary sections were like a break for me. I finished each section in fifteen minutes, then had about that long to go over my answers and stretch and take a few deep breaths before skipping on to the next section at my leisure.

After completing the essays, two quantitative sections, and two vocabulary sections there's a "bonus" sixth section, which I was literally praying would be a verbal reasoning test and not a quantitative test...and it was. I was so happy.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Benjamin's reader's theatre

Thursday was quite a busy day on the end-of-school home front: Zoë had her preschool graduation, Benjamin had his reader's theatre performance, Rachel had a 10-mile hike and both Rachel and Miriam had an after school pizza party for the CLIMBers club (the gifted program). It was exhausting but we made it through!

Benjamin's reader's theatre was surprisingly well done. There are four first grade classrooms and they all did the same few stories, so the teachers worked together to collect some spectacular props and costumes (we didn't even recognize Benjamin when he walked in with his class). All of the children had their lines memorized—which was particularly shocking for me because Benjamin's line was lengthy and complicated and he delivered it spectacularly. 

He was even called on to fill in for "the king" in another class's performance when their king came down with a serious case of stage fright and was unable to perform. The teacher came jogging down to Benjamin's classroom to ask if they had a king they could borrow and his teacher said, "I have a wonderful king!"

So Benjamin got to do his king part twice!

Here's a video of Slurping Beauty (his big line starts at 1:07 and that evil fairy wouldn't stop waving her wand in front of his face (not that the little girl is evil...she just literally plays the role of the evil fairy and won't put her stinking wand down)):


Here are a few pictures that I nabbed as well:


Feline feces and word aversion

We're babysitting Auntie Josie's cat, Cleo.

Technically, Rachel is, so that she can earn money for girl's camp and so that she can prove to me that she can take care of an animal so that I might possibly consider ever allowing the children to have a pet.

Alexander is obsessed with the cat. He wants to play with cat all the time.

The first thing he said this morning was, "More!" while he signed milk, but after a few minutes of nursing he popped off and squealed, "KITTY!"

And then we had to go see the kitty.

He bangs on Rachel's door, wiggles the doorknobs, and gets right down on his belly to reach under the threshold, all the while yelling, "KITTY! KITTY! KITTY!"

When he starts to speak lazily it comes out more like, "KEE! KEE! KEE!"

He loves that cat so much he can hardly stand it.

Rachel's been doing a decent job taking care of the cat. She feeds her, gives her fresh water, plays with her, and has twice cleaned out the litter box (a decent track record considering she's been in our house for three nights).

Last night her friend Ava was helping her take care of the cat. They emerged from the bedroom with a bag full of cat feces.

"I scooped it out with my bare hands!" Rachel announced.

"Wait...what?" Andrew and I asked.

On not knowing everything

Zoë talked the entire drive home from Layton on Tuesday evening. I think that mostly she was trying to keep herself awake because she was determined to have her own personal "late night," which we assured her she very much was since it was already hours past her bedtime.

"No!" she insisted. "This isn't just any late night! I'm going to stay up all night long!"

"Oh, then that's called an all-nighter," Uncle Bruce said, "Which is considerably more difficult to pull off than a late night."

"I know!" Zoë said. "That's why I'm going to do it!"

And so she talked the whole drive home. I'm not even sure she had time to breathe she was talking so much. When she ran out of things to say, she started asking me where things came from.

"Where do fences come from?" she asked.

"People build them," I said.

"Where do trucks come from?" she asked.

"People build them, too," I said.

"But then where do they come from? Like how do you get a truck?"

"From the truck store," I said.

This answer satisfied her so I started using "from the __________ store" to answer anything that I didn't feel like thinking up a genuine answer to.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Life, Death, and Pets

One of these days I will upload pictures from my phone. But I've just been too tired to go through such a hassle by the time I have time to sit down and write.

My mom's cousin Margaret passed away last week (May 8). Her viewing was yesterday (and her funeral today) so before the kids even got home from school Alexander, Zoë, and I headed up to Salt Lake with my mom, my sister Josie, and my Uncle Bruce, so we could swing by the airport to pick up my Auntie Arlene, so we could all head up to Layton for the viewing.

I wasn't sure how Zoë would handle a viewing—we didn't have one for Karen when she died and my kids tend to be very open about death. Shockingly open at times. Like, they say things about death that make people squirm. It's all part of processing the death of a close loved one, I'm sure.

My kids are perfectly normal. It's fine.

Anyway...

I decided that I should prepare Zoë a little bit so that I could perhaps temper whatever outrageous comment she was going to make. So I explained that Naanii's cousin had passed away and that we were going to a viewing, which meant that her body would be displayed in a casket so that family members and friends could say goodbye, and that there would be a lot of sad people there who loved Margaret very much and who would miss her a lot.

"So, she's going to be there," Zoë clarified. "But she's already dead?"

"Yes."

"And people will just say goodbye to her?"

"Yes."

"Okay, that's interesting," Zoë said. "Because we did the same thing for Grandma but she was still alive."

"That's true. Grandma was still alive when we said goodbye to her."

"So, how do you say goodbye when she's already dead?"

"Well, her body is there and you can just look at it and see that it's different from when she was alive, that her spirit has moved on. But you can talk to her still if you want to. There aren't really any rules to this; it's just something we do."

She seemed to be okay with this. Death bothers her immensely at times, but other times not at all.

We got to the funeral home and walked in and Zoë was immediately impressed.

"Nice!" she said. "Maybe we should move here. It's very clean."

Stress

Yesterday I was talking about how the process of buying a house was just a teensy bit stressful for me and my Uncle Bruce said, "It doesn't have to be."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"It doesn't have to be stressful," he repeated. "Just decide that it's not."

I laughed about this because it couldn't possibly be that simple.

If there's one thing I'm good at it is stressing out about things. Like—for real, though—if you want to consider the worst case scenario on any given situation, just run it by me and I will think up some terrible things for you. I don't consider myself a pessimist—because I don't believe these worst-case things scenarios will (necessarily) happen—but I'm certainly no optimist.

I'm more of a realist.

I hope.

Monday, May 13, 2019

TMI

Last night at the dinner table, Benjamin wanted to announce that he'd like to be excused to go to the restroom.

"I need to, let's see..." he said. "I don't want to use any swear words, but I just might have to. Nope. I can do it without swearing. I need to go make some violent waters with my penis!"

I almost spat out my dinner.

"Violent waters?" I sputtered, suppressing as much giggling as possible.

"Yeah, I didn't want to say..." he lowered his voice to a whisper, "Pee."

Obviously we need to have a discussion about what words constitute swear words and which words are simply rude. It's a complicated subject because it's more of a spectrum than a black-and-white principle. He's always saying things like, "That person ran a red light so they are definitely driving like the s-word." But when he says that, see, he means *whispers* stupid, which isn't a swear word. It's just a rude word that we don't use at our house.

"So, pee isn't a swear word," I told Benjamin. "But it is a potty word, which isn't exactly polite at the dinner table, but you know what? It's probably more polite to say pee at the dinner table than it is to say the word penis because talking about private parts at the dinner table is also kind of rude."

"Urine is what you would say if you wanted to avoid using the word pee," Andrew said. "Not...violent waters."

This was, naturally, followed by Zoë clarifying the anatomy of boys versus girls and then morphed into what the polite word for 'poop' was, followed by many jokes about 'stools.'

And then we told the children that they could simply ask to be excused to use the bathroom without giving a lengthy explanation of what they planned to accomplish in the bathroom and that would be perfectly acceptable.

Oddly enough, earlier in the day Rachel was asking me about when it was acceptable to excuse herself. She knew to excuse herself for toots. But what about burps? What about sneezes? Coughs? Hiccups? Tummy grumbles? Involuntary screaming?

I told her that it is always acceptable to excuse ones self for involuntary body noises.

So it was a wonderful Mother's Day.

(How do my children not know these things yet?)

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Thursday

I'm sure I'll do a post with some pictures later, but for now they're all stuck on my phone.

This morning we went to the temple and walked around a bit. Temple grounds are always so nicely manicured that I didn't have to worry about Alexander tripping on uneven pavement or brushing up against poison ivy so we could just let him bumble about. The Atlanta Temple grounds are no different. They are beautiful, but...and I don't know why, but...they included mustard in the flowerbeds.

Mustard!

After spending a summer yanking out wild mustard from canola crops (on my uncle's farm; he was raising seed canola and so we couldn't have any mustard in the crops because the bees would cross-pollinate the canola with the mustard, which would essentially genetically modify the seeds and they would thus not be "pure" anymore...or something), I can't see mustard as anything but weed-like.

To be honest, it probably was only a couple of weeks on the farm at best (and it was probably twenty years ago), but it was still long enough to develop an aversion to mustard plants. I see one and I just want to give it a good solid yank!

So the flower beds made me shudder a little bit because, to me, they seemed to have unsightly weeds taking over. But I honestly think they were planned and planted because our hotel has mustard growing in pots outside the lobby. For aesthetic reasons, I guess. I don't get it, but...I guess.

Maybe it just grows well here?

Watch me plant some one day, just so that I'll have to eat my words.

Wednesday

With little left to do but wait for things to fall into place, we decided to head downtown yesterday morning so that we could check out campus. Feeling somewhat tired of the congested highways, we decided to take the metro in and I'm so glad we did. It reinforced what a good decision it was to live as near as possible to the metro line as possible. Andrew will still have a commute to the metro station, but then he can hop onto the metro and bypass all the downtown craziness, which will at least make me feel better about the (what I would consider white-knuckle) commute.

At Five Point Station the doors to the train car whooshed open and we were slammed with the pungent aroma of downtown Atlanta—an unpleasant concoction of French fries, urine, tobacco and exhaust. The short walk to Andrew's building had me feeling a little bit nervous, but the building itself seems to have good security.

We had to sign in at the front desk and have the department chair vouch for us. It was nice to get to meet some of his future coworkers and see potential office space. I think it's going to be a really great, supportive environment.

We didn't stay downtown long and instead headed back to the metro—where Alexander had a blast chasing pigeons on the plaza—and then back to the hotel where we all took a long nap.

Apparently this week has been exhausting.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Jones Brig Partch

After waking up at 3:00 in the morning to catch our flight out here, I was pretty exhausted by the time we went to bed at 11:00 last night (which, granted, is only 9:00 MST). We had a pretty good night's rest but I was still awfully tired when we headed out in the morning. We wanted to check out some of the schools we were interested in before meeting up with our real estate agent to look at more houses.

As we were leaving one elementary school we made a wrong turn or something (we have made an astounding number of wrong turns the past couple of days) and headed into a lovely wooded park area: Jones Bridge Park. 

"Oooh, there's a park nearby. That's nice to know," I said, then read the sign: "Jones Brig Partch."

I hoped Andrew wouldn't notice my pronunciation, but he did and immediately started teasing me.

"Jones Brig Partch?! How did you even come up with that?" he chuckled.

"Easy!" I retorted. "I kept the voicing but switched the phonemes. It's a perfectly logical spoonerism, okay?!"

Instead of the consonant cluster /dʒ/ in bridge, I used the simple /k/ from park, but with the original voicing that /k/ turned to a /g/. Then instead of the simple /k/ in park, I took the /dʒ/ from bridge but devoiced it so it ended up as /tʃ/.

Cross multiply and divide, carry the one and...

/'brɪdʒ/ to /'brɪg/

/'pɑrk/ to /'pɑrtʃ/

Perfectly logical, see?

We spent the rest of the day purposely swapping syllables when reading any sign with the word "bridge" on it (there are a lot of bridge names around here (and we did a lot of driving)). 

House hunting

House-hunting. Boy, I dunno.

We arrived in Atlanta around noon on Monday and (after a long wait) picked up our rental car and headed straight to our real estate agent's office to formulate a game plan. Or, I suppose (since our agent had already made up a list of houses to visit based on our email discussions), be let in on the game plan. Only one of the houses on our list was occupied so we headed over to look at it right away (since we had to wait so long to get our rental car we almost used up our visiting window for that home).

That house was really rather...blah.

The next house on our list was one that we weren't sure we wanted to see, but our agent convinced us to swing by. It was a little on the small side and a little more expensive than we were hoping, but it was recently redone and looked beautiful, had a big yard (that would certainly require a ride-on lawn mower), a neighbourhood pool, and so forth. But it was a nice home with good schools, so we tucked it away in our minds as an option and went to see a few more houses.

They. Were. Awful.

Nightmarish.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Present!

For the past twenty months we've been going to church in phases. I suppose, if we count the time in Durham that Andrew spent as the executive secretary and had to be to church earlier than the children and I had to be there that we've been going to church in phases for longer than that, but since moving here—a stone's throw away from the chapel—our phases have become a lot more flexible.

Grandpa is always in Phase One and any number of children will go with him when he leaves. Alexander is also often anxious to go with Grandpa, though he often ends up going in Phase Two with Mom and Dad. Depending on Zoë's mood (ie. who she's the least angry with any given Sabbath morning) she can also wind up in either Phase One or Phase Two. Andrew plays the organ every other week and has to go even earlier than usual. Rachel and Miriam will walk over to the church whenever they feel like it—in Phase One, Phase One-Point-Five, Phase Two. Benjamin is often raring to go in the mornings and will head to church with Phase One, but other mornings he'd rather spend those few extra minutes playing.

Barring sickness, we've all made it to church somehow or other (and usually on time, too).

Miriam has been experimenting with leaving some hair out of her up-dos in order to frame her face and this morning she asked me to curl the bits of hair she left out (which is a whole lot easier than curling all of her hair because this child's hair is thick). After I curled her hair Zoë wanted me to curl her hair as well, so she wasn't ready to go when Phase One left the building (and nor, for that matter, was I because I'd been curling hair all morning).

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Quotes

I can tell that slowly, slowly things are getting better inside my brain. Alexander is a year and a half and my mind is clearing up (even though he's still not sleeping through the night). I can tell because we're reading By the Shores of Silver Lake right now and I don't have a bookmark in place, but I can tell you that we're on chapter 9, "Horse Thieves," and also I remembered the page numbers for a couple of passages that I wanted to make note of from days ago (the first from chapter five and the second from chapter seven and we're only reading a chapter per day, so that means I've remembered random page numbers for days in a row).

The first quote is this:
"One little jolt is nothing at all. They had hardly noticed two miles and a half of little jolts when they rode to town from Plum Creek. But all the little jolts from sunrise to noon, and then all the little jolts from noon to sunset, are tiring" (p. 39).
This quote is very much my mood lately. I feel like I've been putting up with a lot of jolts lately and while I largely try to be a brush-it-off person, I feel somewhat tired from all the brushing and jolting. Life has thrown a lot at us the past couple of years and...I'm exhausted.

But, like, obviously it's getting better because I can remember page numbers again (certainly a litmus test for sanity).

The second passage is a short exchange between Mary and Laura. Laura is breathlessly describing the seemingly infinite nature of the prairie and how the road just ends beyond the hill and there's nothing more to see; Mary counters that the road can't possibly end since it leads all the way to their destination, which Laura admits she agrees with. Then Mary chastises her:
"Well, then I don't think you ought to say things like that," Mary told her gently. "We should always be careful to say exactly what we mean." 
"I was saying what I meant," Laura protested. But she could not explain. There were so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them (p. 58).
In the light of the writing class I recently finished, I loved that line about there being so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them. Very often when people complain about my writing, that's the issue they bring up: "that's not the way it happened!" or "I don't remember it that way!"

And that's the beauty of life, the beauty of being an individual. We all see things differently, we all recall different details, we all interpret situations through the scope of our own experience. And that's why there will always be an infinite number of stories to tell in an infinite number of ways.

And that's a beautiful thing.

Not to brag, but...

I did it again.

This time I discovered that Alexander can—very quickly—pull himself into a standing position in the baby swings at the park. Naturally, he fell out of the swing the moment he managed to stand up because he was swinging full tilt. But I swooped in and snatched him right out of the air.

And I really don't know how many chances this baby has left before gravity gets him a good one!