Thursday, July 18, 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!


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?

Wrong!

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. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

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.

Or...

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.



Thursday, July 11, 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.

Sunday, July 07, 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!"

"Seven...like, 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.