Wednesday, July 31, 2019

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 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.


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?"

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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!

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.


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).

Sunday, July 28, 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 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.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

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).

Friday, July 26, 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.

Toy food

Today I reassembled the play kitchen and Alexander has been in little boy heaven. He insisted on bringing a toy pot—with a lid—to the table for lunch and communicated—loud and clear—that his lunch was to go inside. He took the lid off for every bite he took and replaced it while he chewed and was obviously very proud of his lunchtime routine.

He was less happy when I told him we needed to put his pot into the dishwasher (since it was covered in cucumber slime, peanut butter, and strawberry jam).

"No, Momma!" he protested, clutching the pot to his chest. "Toy! TOY!"

In the end I convinced him to allow me to pry it from his fingers and I lugged him upstairs for nap time.

"No, Momma! Play! Toy! Food! Play! Toy! Food!" he cried.

In the end I managed to get him down for a nap.

He beat me upstairs when we came home from back-to-school shopping (after two years of not having to buy any supplies for our children, we suffered a bit of some sticker shock buying supplies for three children, but it was a decent trade-off for the emotional high of buying new school supplies (is there any better feeling?)) so by the time I made it up there he was already involved in cooking up some delicious pretend thing in his room.

One of his favourite things is putting these plastic ice cream cones on the stove burners because the stove burners light up when you turn them on, which illuminates the ice cream cones, and he seems to think that's pretty neat. He also made himself a little sandwich—with a hamburger bun, a hamburger, a plate, a slice of cheese, and a chip (in that order)—which he pretended to eat with much gusto.

Anyway, you can imagine how he responded when I told him it was time to get ready for bed, but after a whole lot of screaming about needing to play with his toy food, I managed to calm him down and get him into bed.

Hopefully tomorrow he'll want to play with his toy kitchen again! It's been rather nice to have him play on his own a little bit!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Laundry Room

Our washing machine weighs 200 (and one!) pounds and this evening Andrew, Rachel, and I managed to lift it up and set it on its pedestal. This was no easy feat, but now our washer and dryer finally match, and our appliance saga should be over (because in addition to delivering our appliances and not installing them, and then having to hire a plumber to get our kitchen up to code so a new dishwasher could be installed, one of our pedestals arrived with a cracked clamp so we had to mail it back and instead of sending us a replacement they issued a refund and we had to reorder's been an ordeal).

Hopefully with the washing machine up a little higher I'll be able to see whether or not there's already a load inside!

I'm not sure I wrote about this on the blog (though I know I wrote about it on Facebook).

Keeping up with the laundry (and regular life, in general) has been difficult on top of trying to unpack and organize our home and set up our life here. One day I carefully sorted out a load of whites and threw it into the washing machine, which I assumed was vacant. When our washing machine sang its cheery tune ("Die Forelle" by Schubert) I opened the door, reached in and grabbed a handful of soggy...darks?!

Had I washed a load of darks instead of the whites I so distinctly remembered doing? Had someone else switched the whites to the dryer and started another load? Had I put the whites in the dryer?

I opened the dryer and found it was empty so I flung my handful of clothes inside and reached in for another handful. More darks? I squatted down and started pulling more and more darks out: a pair of jeans, some red pyjama bottoms, a multitude of socks. Basically things that I would never dream of throwing in with a load of whites, which I was sure is what I had prepared to wash!

And then I spotted it—a flash of white!

I pulled out Andrew's Sunday shirt (and more and more whites).

Sure enough, this poor washing machine was very full because I had not noticed that it was already occupied when I went to start my load. Andrew had started a load of darks the previous day and had forgotten to finish it, so I washed a load of whites with the load of darks that he'd started.

You know what they say: too many launderers spoils the laundry!

Fortunately, nothing terrible seems to have happened to those intermingling clothes, so perhaps my non-sorting friends have a point: sorting laundry is simply a time-wasting ploy.

But I'm probably going to keep doing it...

Monday, July 22, 2019

Our house has been christened

Andrew left me home alone with the kids for one day and everything fell apart. We moved here for his work, so naturally I knew he would have to start heading into, you know, work sometime. But I also expected to hold things together a little better at home.

After all, I'm the stay-at-home parent. Holding down the fort is is what I do.

But, on his very first day heading into campus I started sending him text messages detailing the ever-increasing chaos in our home and begging him for details on when, exactly, he was planning on coming home because...hello.

Benjamin was off the walls this morning. He wanted to ride his scooter, he found his little gemstone smash kit and wanted to excavate those on the front walkway, he wanted more breakfast, he got dressed and cleaned his room with a tornado of energy, he thundered around the house—stomping his feet and fighting with his siblings and demanding attention and things. He asked me when I was going to buy him a motorcycle (answer: never (buy your own motorcycle)). He had to be reminded to not jump on the couch.

Every time I got after him about anything he'd suddenly collapse on the floor and say, "But my tummy hurts!"

And I'd say, "Whatever, dude. You were just jumping on the couch. Knock it off."

"But really my tummy hurts!" he'd insist.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nightmare nights

I've decided that one thing that is slowing me down on this whole unpacking and getting settled business is...Alexander. When he's awake he's getting into things or demanding to nurse. When he's asleep he's only ever asleep for maybe two hours at the most.

Yesterday he woke up at 7:30 in the morning (and I made Andrew get up with him because it had been a long night (if only I knew how long the night might have been)). He took a two-minute car nap on the way home from grocery shopping and then maybe a fifteen minute nap in the afternoon. And then he did not fall asleep in the evening until 11:20! 

Phew! I thought. At least he's down for a while.

Oh, no. He was up again at midnight. 

And then he was knocking on my bedroom door around 1:00 in the morning. 

And he did not fall back asleep until after 5:00 in the morning (after I let him scream in his room all alone for several minutes and then opened his door and told him that he was welcome to sleep in my bed if he was quiet and still—otherwise he was going to be stuck in his own bed by himself because Momma was tired (he had been in our bed jumping around and smacking us for the past few hours and I was so done with that)). 

We had to get up for church at 7:30 this morning. I had roughly declared (at 5:30 in the morning when we were finally settling down for the night) that Alexander and I would not be making it to church, so Andrew rolled out of bed at 7:30 to wake the other kids. Alexander woke up at 8:00, anyway, so we rushed to get ready for church—because if he was going to be awake we may as well be at church, right?

He made it through sacrament meeting until Zoë needed to run to the potty, and when I took her out he completely lost his head. He was screaming and crying and Andrew quickly rushed him into the hallway where they spent the remainder of the meeting. And then Andrew drove Alexander and me home so we could take a nap. 

Alexander quickly settled down for a nap of his usual length: 1 hour. 

I had been hoping for more, but that's all we got. So it's a good thing we went home to nap!

Quite frankly, I don't know Alexander is functioning because I am hardly able to function myself. Andrew, of course, is also tired, but he's also not nursing the baby all night so...he's perhaps a little less tired. If Alexander doesn't watch it he's going to find himself weaned soon (which, let's be honest, he probably will find himself weaned soon anyway). 

But, yes, I think that's contributing to how long it's taking us to get things organized...

Rachel is 12!

Five foot two, eyes of blue! But what those five feet can do! Has anybody seen my girl?

I have to sing that to Rachel while I still can because I'm afraid she's not going to be 5'2" much longer, not at the rate she's growing.

The poor thing had a rather boring birthday. We puttered around the house—still trying to get unpacked and organized—and made cupcakes together. She and Miriam made the cupcakes, to be precise. I made little waffles to go on top, along with maple frosting.

Rachel's been enjoying Stranger Things, a show that I think is just so scary that I didn't want to let her watch it. But her friend Elle (yes, Elle) was watching it and Andrew convinced me she could handle it and, you know, she hasn't even really gotten scared. Like, there are nights I lie in bed awake after watching that show with Andrew (feeling really bitter that he's able to sleep and I'm not). But Rachel's not like that. She actually enjoys scary shows.

Anyway, in the show, El's favourite food is waffles (specifically Eggos). I found a cute little cupcake idea that used mini Eggo waffles as a decoration on top but we couldn't find mini Eggos so Andrew thought we could just cut the big Eggos into quarters and use those pieces, but I wasn't sure it would work so well. So instead I broke out Karen's old waffle cone maker and made itty-bitty waffles to put on top of the cupcakes and that worked just fine.

We wanted to keep things simple because our house is still not set up and therefore I'm not equipped (with time or supplies) to pull off an elaborate cake. Andrew, however, managed to find all the supplies he needed to make an elaborate dinner. He made Rachel spicy cashew chicken, his own little copycat recipe from our favourite Thai restaurant in Cairo. The kids have grown up thinking this meal is a special treat because for years he would make it for me on my birthday and for our anniversary. So now they request it for their special meals, too. Which, I mean, isn't exactly a bad deal for me because it was my favourite first.

Here's Rachel waiting for dinner:

Friday, July 19, 2019

Conrad Reunion (June 27)

My cousin Heather emailed me sometime in April to say she'd be coming to town (with her new husband and children) the last week of June, wondering if I'd be around.

"Just barely..." I responded.

Somehow she missed the news that we were getting ready to move to Georgia, but all the stars aligned and we were able to get together the day before we moved. My mom rented a pavilion at a park and we had a lovely family pot luck dinner. It ended up being a spur-of-the-moment reunion, which was so fun!

All of my mom's siblings were there—her sisters came in from California and Alberta, and her brother is local, so he was there, too! It's been a few years since they've all gotten together (I think the last time was when we were visiting the summer after Zoë was born). 

It was so great to see everyone...and also a little sad because it was the day before we were due to take off and I was realizing how much I would be missing out on. Or, at least, potentially missing out on.

We all took turns lamenting that we "never get together enough!" 

And, frankly, that's true! We never do! It seems to always take a special event to pull everyone together: a wedding, a funeral, or a far-away cousin coming into town for a visit. So isn't it nice for certain cousins to spread their wings and fly far enough away that when they return for a visit everyone gets excited and gathers together?

We're taking one for the team in that department, I guess. The next time we come into town we'll probably see more of everybody than everybody usually sees of each other.

Anyway, I didn't take many pictures of the event (I was too busy trying to talk to everyone), but I did eventually give the camera to Andrew and he took a few.

Here's Josie with Alexander. She was excited that he walked up to her and asked to be picked up (and then trailed her for the entire evening, begging her to play), but a little sad, too, because he would pick the day before we moved to be the day that he decided he liked Auntie Josie!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

All set

Andrew and the big kids left the house at 7:30, arriving at the county health office at 7:45. There were already a good 30 families in line before them and the office wasn't due to open until 8:00.

It's noon and they just got home. But they survived and $135 later, we are now able to register our children for school.

When I look at form 3300, it looks like a fine idea to me. I think it's wonderful that they (the government of Georgia) want each child to meet a baseline of health (and to be referred to specialists if they don't). I thought that having the form filled out would be easy, until I realized that it had to be done by a Georgia-licensed professional. And therein lies the rub.

Such a mandate—along with the 30-day time limit—puts an undue burden on families (considering the mandate only affects families moving from out of state, who already have a plethora of other things to worry about, not the least of which is that insurance often takes awhile to kick in) and on healthcare professionals within the state (considering I was unable to book an appointment at a pediatrician's office within the 30-day limit and the multiple times the county health clinic told me they were, to put it lightly, swamped).

I don't propose eliminating the form (because, as I mentioned, I think it's a good idea to have a standard of health for children attending public schools (and for children, in general), though I feel that access such a thing (good health in the best of circumstances, and access to health care in the worst of circumstances) should be a right, not a privilege).

I do, however, think that they need to begin accepting out-of-state documentation (which really isn't that complicated to read, trust me (I'm no medical professional and yet I seem to be able to read medical files from multiple states (yea, verily, multiple countries) without too much difficulty (except for when they're in Arabic and then I admittedly struggle a little bit, but even when I presented Egyptian documents to Utah officials they were able to figure stuff out and North Carolina officials also seemed to think that was interesting and figured stuff out...just saying))).

Had I been able to have my previous pediatrician give my children a mark of good health on the paper, it would have eliminated a whole lot of struggle for our family and would have freed up time at the county health clinic for people who actually needed to be there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sassafras assassin frass

There's a cabinet above our sink that I'm really not sure has been used for anything. It's...high. Like, really high. Unreachably high. But I figured it would be great for storing something seasonal like mugs or cake pans shaped like Christmas trees.

I climbed up on a stool so I could take a look inside. Some of our cupboards have been pretty clean inside while others have been downright nasty and I wanted to make sure this one was on the clean side before I started shoving stuff up there.

It didn't have the well-used look other cupboards had—with scratches from pots being dragged in and out, rounded-out edges from years of hands flicking the cabinet door open, crumb trails—in fact it looked fairly pristine...aside from a generous smattering of tiny poop pellets.

They didn't look like mouse droppings; they were far too small. I'm pretty good at identifying mouse droppings. Not, like, great, but, like, pretty good.

Mouse droppings are quite easy to recognize (especially after Trina told me that story about her sister thinking the mouse droppings in the Grape-Nuts were chocolate Grape-Nuts and that she was winning life because her bowl was sprinkled with chocolate Grape-Nuts). Mouse droppings look like chocolate Grape-Nuts.

These droppings were much smaller than Grape-Nuts.

So I stood there, on a stool in my kitchen, thinking about what kind of creature would leave behind stools such as these. Something small. Tiny, even.

And then it dawned on me that I had seen such remains before, in the upstairs bathroom (underneath a cellar spider's web), so I shined my flashlight up in the corner of the cabinet and found...a great, big cellar spider!

Even a great, big cellar spider is still a teeny, tiny creature—one that would leave behind teeny, tiny globs of frass, if, in fact, spiders even pooped. That was my next question: do spiders even poop?

They do!

I simply had never realized (or thought about) it, but I guess that makes sense because...Everyone Poops.

So I was explaining this over dinner the other night and Andrew exclaimed, "Is that what that is?! Because I've been finding similar droppings inside the electrical boxes as I've been changing out our sockets and was imagining...very small mice!"

Nope! Not very small mice (thank goodness), just great big spiders, leaving their frass wherever they please. Our discussion about arachnid frass led to some interesting dinner time conversation, culminating in Rachel telling this joke: What is a murderer with two butts called? An assassin.

And we just about died.

And Rachel started tooting while she was laughing (because she is a loosey-goosey when it comes to flatulence), so Miriam called her "sassafras."

And then we just kept going with sassy-frassy words until we could hardly breathe.

Sassafras, arachnid frass, assassin gas, fashion class! 

I'm annoyed: the story of Form 3300 and 3231

There is a medical form that I have to fill out within the next 21 days or my children will not be permitted to attend school. Unfortunately, our insurance doesn't kick in until August. So going to the doctor would be hundreds of dollars. We can't even just have our Utah clinic fill it out because it has to be filled out by a Georgia-licensed professional.

We had our records faxed to a new pediatrician's office here, but they don't have any openings for well-child visits until the end of September. They could squeeze me in on July 29th, but again...our insurance doesn't kick in until the beginning of August so that would cost us hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

I found another pediatrician who had openings on August 5 (which is the first day of school), but their receptionist called back to refer me to another pediatrician who sees children "as young" as mine. The odd thing is, I hadn't even told her about Alexander or Zoë. She was talking about Benjamin. And I'm not sure that their office should then advertise themselves as offering pediatric care because...hello.

Anyway, they don't want to see us. And Rachel wasn't too keen about missing the first day of school, anyway.

So I thought to myself, fine. Whatever. I can just have my dentist/school nurse/pediatrician fill this form out piecemeal. Fax it to the dentist...oh, wait. It has to be completed by a Georgia-licensed professional, so that won't work.

We can do it at the county health office, but they charge for every little thing they do. For example, it's $10 to transfer our immunization records from Utah letterhead to Georgia letterhead (per child). So that's $30 right there. Then it's $15 for a vision screening (per child), $15 for a dental screening (per child), but they said they will accept the letter I asked our dentist to write explaining that my children's teeth are healthy (because they would not accept evidence of routine check-ups as sufficient evidence of healthy teeth) so that means we don't have to do the dental exam. Oh, but it will cost $4 (per child) to have the nurse check a box on a form so all the work I did to get the dentist to fax the correct information to the correct fax number saved me a grand total of $6 per child.

They don't even say how much it will cost to do the general health and nutrition screening, but I'm assuming—probably incorrectly—that it will cost nothing because I had our pediatrician fax over our well-child checks.

And I'm just so annoyed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ants! Ants! Ants! Ants! Marching up and down again!

Ants are still invading our kitchen. They seem to really enjoy empty yogurt containers, the dregs of orange juice, and pancake batter and I have to wonder...did the previous owners never eat yogurt or drink orange juice or spill pancake batter and miss wiping up one little droplet? Or did they, too, have ants filing in and out of the windowsill at all hours of the day, hoping to find delectable droppings?

I honestly don't remember seeing any ants when we walked through the house. Nary a one.

And this family had dog and cat food just sitting out on their kitchen floor for the taking!

Surely ants like pet food!

Or perhaps they don't. Ants can be surprising sometimes.

This evening I was putting some green beans in the microwave and when I grabbed the lid for the dish I saw a few stray ants endlessly perambulating the circumference. I blew a couple off, flicked off another one, then shrugged and put the last few in the microwave along with the lid. Because surely they'd just be nuked in a flash, right?


I took the green beans out of the microwave and set them on the table and the ants, who'd seemed to have hunkered down for their merry-go-round ride in the microwave, got back up and started marching around the lid again.

We were all shocked. Apparently ants aren't microwavable.

We're planning on caulking around the window ledges (this helped in our Hummingbird Lane house) but I'm afraid we can only do that when we get a lull in traffic from that spot. It's ridiculously busy, but I suppose since Atlanta is infamous for its terrible traffic we shouldn't be too surprised by this. 

Two shiny toilets

The toilet in the hall was leaking when we first toured the house, but "that's an easy fix" our realtor assured us. Besides, the inspector would probably add that to his list of problems (which he didn't), but the previous owners mentioned something about planning on fixing it (just as they had a shower knob that broke between our visits to the house) so we didn't think much of it until it still wasn't fixed when we did our final walk-through.

A leaky toilet isn't really a good reason to not buy a house, however, so we went ahead with the purchase. Plus they left the kit to fix the toilet innards in the bathroom cabinet for us, so clearly they had intended to fix the toilet but had simply run out of time.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

I spy with my little eye...

We lost our painter's tape the other day and after searching high and low for it we finally gave up and added it to our ever-growing list of things to pick up at the home improvement store. I finally found it when Andrew was already on his way home with another roll. It was sitting on our blue bean bag chair, perfectly camouflaged.

Alexander at...(checks calendar)...21 months

Amidst all the months-long chaos of moving somewhere new, Alexander has continued to grow up. Today I took him to nursery (and stayed with him the entire time, which was his first time staying for the duration of the hour) and another mother brought her little girl over and said, "Here. This little boy looks like he's about your age. Why don't you play with him?"

"How old is she?" I asked.

"Uhhhh...let's see...ummmm..."

"Same," I said. "He was born in October."

"Okay. She was born in November. So they're close."

It's getting tricky remembering how old he is in months, which is a sure sign it's time to start measuring his age in years, which means he's getting altogether too old.

He did okay at nursery today, even playing on his own a little bit, if only he could reach over and pat my foot and say, "Mommy!" whenever he needed to. Eventually I was able to move a few feet away ("Mommy—'tay!" he commanded me to stay) and finally made it all the way across the room where I sat in a chair and reassured him every time he looked up in a panic and squeaked, "Mommy?" that I was still there.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Gone paintin'

It was my idea—painting the basement.

I spent most of my childhood years in basement bedrooms, as far as I recall (though there were a few golden years on upper floors), and I couldn't stomach the thought of putting my sweet girls down in the dark and dingy basement. At least not as it stood.

As it stood, it was covered in garish purple and pink polka-dotted carpet, walls smeared with turquoise and grey paint (which under other circumstances might have produced a whimsical cloud effect, but which under our particular circumstances looked like a Pinterest Fail), dark brown trim, and various ceiling tiles dripping with spiders.

Oh, the spiders.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Bug filters, hot bubbles, and so forth

We went on a family walk this evening, trying to find a new "loop" (but the "loop" we found was a full mile (and then some), which was a little long for some of our smaller walkers, whereas our old loop was only a half-mile and just about the right distance for a quick post-dinner, pre-bedtime stroll, so we'll have to try something different). We've gone on a number of family walks since moving in and every time we do we can't help but imagine how moving into any given house would be.

"Oh! That driveway is even worse than ours! So steep! So long! I would hate to move in there!"

"That house looks doable."

"Oh, but look how many stairs are leading to the front door!"

"You're right! Never mind. That looks dreadful!"

We're definitely not even shopping for houses anymore, but we can't help doing a little window shopping as we peruse our neighbourhood.

"Why does that balcony have a railing on it?" Rachel asked about one house. "There isn't even a door leading out to it. I guess they could climb out the window, as long as the window doesn't have one of those things. What is it? Do they even have them in the south? I haven't seen any. That's weird because there are so many bugs here. What are they called? ... A bug filter!"

Grandpa's gone

We left the house at 8:38 to head to church this morning (we were aiming for 8:30, so we weren't terribly off schedule). The church building itself is about a ten-minute drive from our house and it looks quite a bit like our old Berini building in Durham, though it's not quite the same.

Walking from our parking stall to the church building, Grandpa joked, was like walking from our house to the church building in Utah. We will miss being so close to the church building but so far we are really enjoying our ward and are happy to be, as they say, "in the mission field" once again.

Zoë's favourite part of church was that they sang all the same songs she already knows (standardized curriculum will do that for you). Benjamin seemed to enjoy goofing off with the boys he was sitting with on the back row of the primary room (though I'm fairly certain they have put him with the wrong class) but he was annoyed that this primary was only now learning the song Gethsemane since our ward went ahead and learned it in January.

We told him that he's now ahead of the curve and can help his friends learn it.

Miriam happily proclaimed after church that she "made no friends."

"Surely you made at least one friend," I said.

"Nope. I met everyone in my class at the party on Thursday so I didn't make any new friends today!"

But she developed a deeper relationship with the friends she made on Thursday, I guess, and that's important as well.

Rachel would have preferred our first Sunday to be a Young Women's week, I think, but she bravely attended her Sunday School class.

In fact, I didn't even have to help her find her class because a woman in the row in front of us offered to escort her to the youth Sunday School (and Miriam, likewise, was carted off by a member of the primary presidency). It was easy to find where Benjamin and Zoë were supposed to be because the junior primary classes typically meet in the primary room before going to classes (while the senior primary attends their classes first and then meet in the primary room).

Alexander joyfully toddled into the nursery room to play with toys but then promptly had a little baby anxiety attack and started screaming his little lungs out. Andrew tried to wait it out but Alexander was unconsolable—shaking and crying and begging for Momma (and then, when that was getting him nowhere, for Grandpa)—so he went in to rescue the poor boy. Alexander wasn't particularly pleased that Daddy had been the one to come to his rescue, but he clung to Andrew's neck, anyway, and sniffled and whimpered and shook until he was sure he had come off as entirely too pathetic to send back to the nursery.

I'm not sure we'll ever get him to stay in nursery.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Camping in our first house

On our way home from dinner this evening (Waffle House—we're definitely back in the south) we saw a deer as we were driving through our neighbourhood, and in a perfect Bambi-and-Thumper moment, we saw that there was a little bunny hopping along beside the deer. So far we've also seen squirrels and chipmunks and have heard rumblings of bear sightings as well.

It's hard to believe we're tucked snuggly in the middle of ninth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, not camping.

Especially because we're basically camping in our house right now.

The Relief Society president, who we met last night at Berkeley Lake for an evening of pizza, visiting, and playing in the sand (because the lake itself was closed due to unsafe bacteria levels in the water, which they've since cleared up), came by the house to drop off some air mattresses and pillows and things. So we're primitive, but comfortable.

The children could hardly fall asleep tonight, they were so bothered by the sounds of insects singing to the moon (a sound that with time will become comforting enough to lull them off to sleep, I'm sure). Cicadas and crickets and who knows what else, trilling and chirping and making a racket. There are frogs, too, I'm sure.

It sounds familiar to the older members of our family, but foreign to our little ones.

Our trailer arrived this afternoon and we've got appliances coming out our ears. They were delivered while we were signing the closing documents for our house and though we begged them to wait—just ten minutes—for us to get back to the house with the key, they ditched our appliances on our driveway and took off.

I wasn't very pleased about this, but with some (great) effort, we managed to get the fridge into the house and connected it to the water line and so forth. The dryer is all set to go as well. The washer is just about hooked up (though the pedestal for the washing machine arrived damaged and we'll have to send it off and wait for a new one (that doesn't really affect how well the washing machine works, however)) and the company should be sending someone out to hook up our dishwasher (because I called to complain because we had someone there to accept the delivery—Grandpa—he just didn't have a key to the house, but we were only ten minutes outside of their "wait window" and they could have started unpackaging things in preparation to move things into the house (the fridge, for example, had to be unboxed and the doors had to be removed completely before it would fit inside the house) but they wouldn't even start doing that; as it turns out they should have called headquarters before leaving anyway, even though the policy is to leave after their "wait window" expires, in which case headquarters might have told them to stick it out for ten minutes). Getting that all sorted out was a bit of a mess, but it's almost through.

So even though things are exhausting and frustrating, they're a normal level of exhausting and frustrating and not "all-your-kids-have-the-stomach-flu-and-your-moving-van-is-lost-somewhere-in-the-continental-united-states" level of frustrating (which was the level we were at when we moved to Spanish Fork (though it was also less stressful because we were moving to a place where we were surrounded by friends and family and now we're here feeling rather alone)).

I'm sure in the coming weeks we'll feel better and better as we get things settled!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Travel notes: Day 3

Well, we did it! I didn't think it could be done, but we did it! We pulled into Atlanta around 11:00 last night after a very long day of driving.

I tried so hard to include interesting stops on this trip, to break of the drive and make some memories, but unfortunately things didn't work out as planned and the trip ended up being rather boring despite my best efforts. We missed the Oz museum on Saturday and then as we were going through St. Louis we got a notification that the roads leading to the arch were closed due to the river flooding (floods have been rather terrible and widespread in that part of the country this year), so we missed that as well. And then because we decided to just power on through the rest of the way to Georgia we drove through Chattanooga (where we were going to stop to see some Civil War things) just as the sun was setting (and the parks were closed). So we really struck out.

But now we know that Chattanooga looks like a very pretty area and that it's less than two hours from our house so we can plan a day trip there sometime, to enjoy the fall colours of the Appalachians, perhaps.

Here are a few stories from our day yesterday:

In the morning before leaving the hotel in Concordia, Rachel was following me around whining while I was trying to get ready to go. She had a bit of a short fuse and after she snipped at Miriam (again), I asked her to cool her jets.

"It's just that she cries about everything!" Rachel...cried.

"Which is exactly what you're doing now!" I pointed out.

"I'm not crying! I'm just whining!" Rachel argued.

"Which is the same thing as crying...only drier!" I said.

Rachel collapsed onto the bed and moaned, "MOOOOOOM!"

Because there's nothing like a good mom joke when you're in the middle of an adolescent rage.

Travel notes: Day 2

I was initially a little worried about staying in Limon because it looked rather rundown, but then I looked up the crime rate for the area and felt much better about, for instance, leaving our luggage tied to the top of the van (it's just sleeping bags and Rachel's dirty laundry from camp, but still).

"Guess how many crimes were reported in the area last year," I said to Andrew, but he didn't have a guess, so I told him. "Seven!"

", right here around the hotel?"

"No. In all of Limon," I said.

"Oh, we're going to be fine then," he said.

And we were. But it really was a little rundown kind of joint. Still, the kids enjoyed playing on the little rundown playground in the morning.

We struck out for Goodland, Kansas to see the world's largest easel...and also a replica of Van Gogh's Three Sunflowers in a Vase painted by the Canadian artist Cameron Cross (he has done two other gigantic sunflower paintings on easels just as large as the one in Goodland, so I'm not sure how it can claim to be the world's largest...but it does). We had to take a picture to send to Uncle Rod, who also made a version of this painting (which will hang in our home, which I'm excited about because of Uncle Rod's paintings it is one of my favourites).

Eventually I will put some pictures up. This blog feels so empty without them. But anyway...

Saturday ended up being another long day of driving. After stopping in Goodland, we stopped in Oakley for lunch at iHop and then tried to decide if we would make it to Wamego (where the Oz museum is) in time to visit it. We decided we would not be able to make it in time (much to our daughters' disappointment) and instead went to a Buffalo Bill museum. It was to mark the birthplace of the idea of Buffalo Bill. I guess there were two Buffalo Bills who held a contest over the use of the name and Buffalo Bill Cody won by killing more buffalo, right there on the plains of Oakley, than the other Buffalo Bill.

After that we drove for hours upon hours upon hours. Alexander and I fell asleep. Zoë busily coloured and chattered away to herself while listening to her shows with her headphones. Benjamin was so plugged in that we hardly heard a peep from him. Andrew just drove.

We finally stopped for the night in Concordia—yes, Missouri—where we were surprised by the humidity. Kansas was nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a parching wind. When we stepped out of the car in Missouri it felt as if we had stepped into a sauna. It felt delightful (perhaps because we were so cold from being in the car with the AC blasting (cold air helps car sickness at bay in addition to keeping the driver away) but also because we're not sick of the humidity yet). The children were also pleased to see a few fireflies out and about while they were romping around in the lawn in front of the Pizza Hut we stopped at.


Here are few funny things that happened while we were driving, as recorded on Facebook (which is where I happened to take my notes that day (I guess my phone service was better out on the open prairie than it was while driving through the mountains)):

Andrew: I think we’ll stop for a potty break in Salina.
Me: How far is Salina?
Andrew: I think...67 miles?
Me (looking it up): 70. That was good! You were so close.
Andrew: That’s because I’ve been mentally calculating it in my head...because...that’s where one typically engages mentally...anyway...moving on.

Zoë has been obsessing over the difference between a hotel and a motel and we haven't been able to satisfy her quest for knowledge. As we were driving (shortly after lunch), she asked if we were going to a hotel. So I told her we were.

"Excuse me," she chided. "I'm talking to Daddy, so..."

"Oh, my bad," I said, even though she'd given no indication to which parental unit she'd intended to address.

"Are we going to a hotel?" Zoë repeated.

"Yes," Andrew said.

"Don't you mean motel?" Zoë asked.

"Sure," Andrew shrugged.

Then Zoë, returning to her colouring, muttered to herself, "Probably not. He doesn't even know!" and resumed happily humming.

Later Andrew tried explaining that hotels have hallways on the inside and motels open up to the outdoors, which left Zoë incredibly complexed when we showed up to whatever place we stayed at last night and found that the first floor opened up to the outside while the second floor opened up to the inside of the building. Talk about confusing!


We didn't really hear many are-we-there-yet's due in large part, I'm sure, to the fact that Benjamin was in screen-time heaven. Zoë asked variations of this question several times, but not so many that it got to be annoying. And she doesn't understand time at all so her line of questioning was always very interesting.

Zoë: But when will we get to the hotel?
Andrew: In about two hours.
Zoë: Is that in whole time or half time?
Andrew: Ummm...half time?
Zoë: Yippee!!

Later Andrew answered this same series of questions and told her that it was in "whole time," whatever that is, and she was equally excited. We're not really clear what "whole time" and "half time" mean in her mind.