Sunday, July 21, 2019

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:

Just prior to dinner we realized that although I think we packed some birthday candles (risking having them melt together into one giant clump of wax), we had yet to come across them. We also had neglected to pick any up at the store. So we sent the kids up the street to the neighbour to borrow some birthday candles.

We have the greatest neighbours up the street.

I mean, we're still getting to know them—and borrowing helps with that because it increases interaction and thus decreases community isolation—but they seem pretty great. They have a cat (a nameless cat, guys—they just call it...Cat) that they asked our kids to be a pet-sitter for. They always wave when we go out for family walks (and in fact this evening they saw us leaving for a walk and came out to chat, but more on that later). They've just been great so far.

So the kids went to borrow candles from them and didn't end up coming home for about a half hour because they were just chatting with the kids about life. They ended up coming home with a handful of candles, including numerals (a 1 and a 2)!

During dinner a big storm blew in and knocked the power out. The lights flickered and went out, then came back on. Then they flickered off again and came back on. Again they turned off and came back on. And again they turned off.

We all sat in absolute silence at the dinner table, almost holding our breath while we waited to see if the electricity would come back on. It didn't.

So we finished eating in the "dark," as the children complained, but honestly we have so many windows that it wasn't really very dark (though the clouds were thick and dark so it wasn't as bright as it would have been if it had been sunny).

"It's so weird that the power is out," Rachel said. "Because I don't see any lightning!"

"Lightning...doesn't make the power go out..." I said.

"Wait...what?"!" she gasped.

"Lightning doesn't necessarily make the power go out," I repeated. "Often there is lightning when there's a power outage, but lightning isn't necessarily the cause of the power outage. For example, a tree could fall on a power line during a storm, and that would cause an outage unrelated to the lightning you see."

Rachel's mind (and Miriam's mind) was completely blown. Apparently she's spent the past twelve years thinking that lightning was directly causing power outages (which, I mean, sometimes it can be the cause, I suppose, but often it's corollary).

Despite our lengthy conversation about storms and the cause of power outages, Zoë came into the kitchen, terrified, while I was tidying up after dinner. She flicked the light switch and said with a quavering voice, "Mom...I think there's a ghost in our house!"

"There's no ghost," I assured her.

"I can't get any of the lights to work," she sniffed. "So there must be..."

"A power outage," I told her. "The power is out because of the storm. It's not a ghost. It's the storm."

"Oh," she said, letting her whole little body relax.

Once the table was more or less cleared off, we ventured to the garage fridge to quickly take out the cupcakes. I didn't know how long the power was going to be out so I didn't want the fridge open for long. We took some pictures of Rachel and her cupcakes outside (where the lighting was a little better than inside our electricity-free house).

Here's a close up of her cupcakes:

Her signs say, "One year older and stranger too," which is a joke about Stranger Things (that's the font the show title uses) and the primary birthday song, You've Had a Birthday; and "She's 11 12!" because we all think it's a real shame she didn't get into this show as she was turning 11 (since that's the name of a character on the show); and then, simply, "Happy birthday, Rachel!"

Oh, we also drizzled those mini waffles with some maple glaze and they were delicious. Anyway...

I tried to get a picture of the five kids together, but Alexander wouldn't stop running around in circles.

So here are the older four (Zoë and Benjamin are doing some super awesome poses):

And here's one I snapped when Alexander ran up right between his sisters after Benjamin and Zoë had scattered:

Here's her cupcakes in the dark:

Alexander learned how to say "Happy Birthday!" today and was so pleased with this new phrase that he was walking around the house chanting and singing it all day long. However, whenever I pulled out a device to film him saying it, he'd clamp right up. So a lot of my little clips from today include snippets of me coaxing Alexander to say "Happy Birthday!" You can ignore those parts.

Here we are singing to Rachel, who forgot that it was her job to blow out the candles:

Okay, you can stop ignoring those parts now because I'm going to tell you exactly where Alexander says, "Happy Birthday" in this next clip: the 30-second mark.

But watch the whole thing to listen to Benjamin complain that we told him we wouldn't be having ice cream (in the waffle cones that I made today) because the power was out and we didn't want to open the freezer because we didn't know how long the power was going to be out and we needed the freezer to stay cold. Also, to hear Rachel ask Andrew, "Dad, why are you eating it in that fashion?" after he shoves an entire cupcake in his mouth. And then you can probably stop watching because it's just kids whining about who got more cupcake than whom.

After we finished our cupcakes we put a little plate of cupcakes together to walk up to the neighbours (along with their candles), and that's when they met us outside.

"Got tired of sitting in your dark house?" asked Mr. P.

And we just shot the breeze for a bit. They told us about the new town green, said we could keep the candles because they just pulled them out of a giant ziplock bag full of half-used candles and had no need for them, and told us they went out driving after the power went out and they found a tree was down on some lines not to far away, and so forth.

The storm started kicking up again while we were talking, so we bid them a good evening and went back to our house to hunker down. Rachel wanted to open presents, so we gathered in the living room for that. Honestly, there weren't many presents (it's almost as if we were distracted by moving or something), but Rachel was a good sport.

The kids had spent the day drawing pictures and making presents for Rachel. Miriam made her a darling set of Stranger Things clothespins:

Miriam hasn't ever seen Stranger Things because she's a little bit jumpy (like her mother and Naanii), and would surely suffer with nightmares for weeks (or the rest of her life) if we let her watch it, so it's something she'll have to wait to see until she's older. But she googled all of the characters and made a sweet little cartoon version of them on these mini clothespins from the craft kit she got for Christmas.

My sister Kelli sent her the Anne of Green Gables TV series, she had a card (with cash) from my mom, and Grandpa sent some money as well. We didn't really get her anything (oops) but we told her that we're taking her up to Durham to see her friends in a couple of weeks, so that can count as her present (teenagers are terrible to shop for, guys, and I'm already abominable at gift giving so the teenage years are going to be rough). Besides, we just painted her bedroom and let her (and Miriam) pick the colours and we're going to take her back-to-school shopping this week. So, I mean...

Here she is, opening her presents by the light of the silvery cellphone flashlight beam:

We then had scriptures and prayer and because it was really too dark to read comfortably (and because I'd finished reading The Long Winter to the children last night and we hadn't found the next book in The Little House series yet) I suggested we play I'm Thinking of an Animal. 

Miriam suggested we play charades instead but Andrew pointed out that it was...dark. So I'm Thinking of an Animal it was. 

"I'll go first," I said. "I'm thinking of an animal..."

"What is it?" Benjamin pressed.

"Okay, so that's the point of the game," I reminded him. "You have to guess."

"Honey badger!"

"No. Not a honey badger."




"No. Benjamin. Stop. You need to ask questions to try to figure it out."


Apparently I chose a really difficult animal because I had them asking questions for a really long time. They knew it was a large mammal with four legs, hair (not fur), and that it was not a predator. But they simply couldn't narrow it down. 

"Walrus!" Rachel said. 

"It's not a marine mammal, remember?"

"Hippo then!"


"Is it larger than an elephant?" Andrew asked.

"No," I squeaked out before starting laughing. "Never."

"You're only laughing because you know what it is!!" he said, offended.

"I'm not!" I said, crossing my heart.

"It's an elephant!" Rachel shouted, triumphant.


Finally! It seriously took them a good ten minutes to get there!

We were letting the kids stay up a little while because the Rogersons were driving out from North Carolina for a baby blessing and had planned on dropping by our place for a visit. It was rather a shame that the power was off for their visit, but also not too much of a shame because our house is still in shambles (and with the power out they didn't know it was in shambles).

Miriam remembered a little life hack she'd read about and put a water bottle over her cellphone flashlight to make a little lamp. It really worked pretty well.

By the time the Rogersons arrived we had put plastic cups over all our cellphones and had a nice faux "campfire" going on—stink free and heat free.

It was so nice to visit with the Rogersons, even if it was a little dark (and hot and humid). The lights stayed off for their entire visit but turned back on just as we were showing them out the door.

So altogether we were without power for 2.5 hours, which isn't really terrible, but which was long enough to start to thaw out our freezer. Andrew and I decided to sample the waffle cones I'd made after we put the kids to bed (which, like, didn't really happen until 11:00 for some of the kids (I'm looking at you, Alexander, Mr. Up-At-Seven-Took-No-Nap-And-Refused-To-Fall-Asleep-At-Bedtime)) and the ice cream was ridiculously easy to scoop. 

But the cones worked! 

Happy birthday to Rachel—I'm sure it will be a memorable one!


  1. And you all were sitting on an actual sofa/ couch! So that is nice!

  2. Hoaw crazy the power went off for the stranger things birthday party! I remember your mom saying she was horrible at gift giving as well. My mom is horrible at gifts too but so is my mother in law so they are even there. I on the other hand am amazing 😂 Ok, not really, but I do a decent job of listening and remembering so I guess compared to them I seem amazing. For Es birthday all he wanted was a little cash and to play video games all day. It made his 15th birthday so easy 😂😂 Happy Birthday Rachel. Hope it was a memorable one. Your cupcakes were adorable!

  3. What a fun birthday! I'm glad you've found good neighbors!