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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Chickamauga

This little cutie was pretty willing to play with Josie when we went out to Utah but has been rather leery of her now that Auntie Josie is on her turf. I'm not quite sure why. Josie thinks it's because she doesn't have to go to her because there are so many options, whereas in Utah Josie was considered a safe alternative to Mom. 

It's okay though because our cat adores Josie, so she's getting lots of cuddle time in still. 

Joseph Standing Memorial and Lookout Mountain and my great-grandfather

On our way up to Chattanooga, we stopped by the Joseph Standing Memorial near Varnell, Georgia. Joseph Standing was serving as a missionary in the Southern States Mission and was ultimately killed—lynch-style—by a mob in 1879.

Andrew, Reid, and I each read Mary Ella Engel's Praying With One Eye Open this past year. The title comes from a line in a threat/letter given to the missionaries, that they should pray with one eye open. And evidently—and unfortunately—the threat was...rather sincere.

So it was interesting to go see the memorial and imagining what the area might have looked like some 140 years ago.

The kids mostly had fun jumping over this little stream:

Walnut Street Bridge

Somewhat on a whim we headed up to Tennessee today. 

We hadn't precisely planned on going to Tennessee this weekend. 

But also when we were moving to Georgia (in 2019), we drove through Chattanooga right at sunset and it was gorgeous. Everything—the sunset, the river, the mountains. 

It almost made me want to stop. 

We only had two hours left in our drive, though, (after having spent days in the car already) and we were all ready to just get to our new home. 

But—we promised ourselves—we'd definitely get up there to explore. It's so close! Only two hours away!

And so—three and a half years later—we finally made good on that promise!

Our first stop in Chattanooga itself was the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. This was Alexander's favourite part of our trip. He told us so when we were back home having pie when we asked him what his favourite part of our adventure was: "Tennessee. Big. Blue. Bridge," he managed to say around bites.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

In the leaves

This morning while Andrew was busy in the kitchen, I tackled the front yard. We try to follow the "leave the leaves" principle (see here, here, or here), but I also worry about snakes a little bit, which means that I have to worry about where rodents are going to nest a little bit, which means we do have to tidy up the yard a little bit. We get a lot of leaves. 

Admittedly, no one wanted to join me outside (even though it was gorgeous) until I had already done most of the work and created a ginormous pile for them to jump in (all the better for rodents to nest in and snakes to hide in, I know, but they don't nest or hide in freshly raked piles, so we were all good).

Zoë and Phoebe were the first to join me.

Auntie Josie is here!

My sister Josie arrived yesterday afternoon. 

I had a meeting at 1:00, so Andrew to Zoë to go pick her up from the metro station (we'll drive her to the airport when she leaves since she has to be there so early in the day), which I should probably get used to calling MARTA at some point since no one knows what I'm talking about when I say "metro" here. Or they do. They just always give me a "huh" face before correcting me with MARTA. 

Zoë was so excited to be selected as a companion for this trip that she got dressed and did her hair without any complaining at all. And then she proceeded to ask whether or not it was time to go every five minutes for the next four hours. We eventually set a timer on our Alexa device so that Zoë could ask her how long until it was time to leave to pick up Auntie Josie and that worked well. 

When the pulled back up at home, I had finished my meeting and was just putting Phoebe down for a nap, so the rest of us visited quietly with Josie while she slept. One of the first things she noticed, of course, was how much the children had grown. The children noticed, too! All of a sudden Auntie Josie is a lot smaller than she used to seem!

Rachel is the only one taller than her...so far. Josie is pretty used to being the shortest one in the family, though. She's been shorter than all of her siblings for her whole life and is shorter than many of her nieces and nephews already (to that point, so am I, even though I'm the second-tallest sister)!


Friday, November 18, 2022

I have friends, I definitely have friends!

Our teenagers are having their first movie night since, probably, the early days of 2020.

So it's only been about three years since they've had friends over to hang out. Three long years. 

I don't know what took us so long to figure something like this out (and I know we're "overreacting" and the pandemic is "over" and blah, blah, blah, but I also know that Omicron took us out in June and we've had a heckuva time keeping healthy since then (we've had about a million little "fevers of unknown origin" since having COVID and I'm fairly sure the explanation for them is COVID, but...whatever), and we'd kind of like to not get sick again because yikes), but/so we're outside partiers now. Whereas before we were...just...hermits. 

Three years is a long time to go without hanging out with friends, so we laid down moolah for a fire pit and a projector and screen, and we taught our kids night games, and then they were ready to invite some friends over for a chilly movie/games night. 

They made s'mores and drank hot chocolate and watched a movie and chatted and then apparently were going to play games (but I'm not actually sure what they're up to at the moment).

And we definitely should have done this ages ago. We're just a little bit...slow...sometimes.

World Prematurity Day!

I was looking for pictures of my dad last night (because he's the employee of the year at his hotel and needed a picture of himself for their awards ceremony) and I came across the sweetest picture of Benjamin at the butterfly house (at the Museum of Life and Science). I shared it with him because it's just such a sweet little smile (he was the cutest little guy) and then I realized that today was World Prematurity Day, so together we came up with this little image of him to share on Facebook:

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A bouncing baby girl

Phoebe's birthday was pretty low-key. Over the course of six kids, I've learned that babies just really don't care about birthday parties. Especially that first one. 

They're too little to know how to blow out candles or rip open presents. They won't remember any of it. 

So, I while we did do cake—And, oh, you should have seen Phoebe staring at us while we sang the Happy Birthday song to her (she was like, "You guys are so weird... Please stop looking at me...")!—and I did buy a few presents for Phoebe, we didn't have her blow out her candle and I didn't even bother wrapping her presents. 

Andrew just took her out of the room and I set down her gifts and then he brought her in. And she was super excited about discovering these new things! Here she is making her way toward her presents:

A couple of spook-related stories

Currently, we are reading Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston and in one of the chapters she mentioned throat singing in passing, so we looked up some videos about it (among other things, like facial tattoos). This one is pretty informative and has some good sound samples:


And then I had the kids write about what they'd learned. Alexander had quite a bit to say:

Monday, November 14, 2022

Phoebe's 1 year stats and birthday balloons

Phoebe had her one-year check-up this morning, where we learned that she hates:
  • having her head circumference measured
  • sitting on the scale
  • stretching to be measured
  • the stethoscope
  • the otoscope
  • having her finger lanced for a hemoglobin count
  • that flashy thing they use to test babies' vision
  • the crinkly paper on the exam table
  • having the doctor check her hips
  • vaccinations
The only thing that was relatively easy for the doctor to do was peer down Phoebe's wide-open throat. 

The only thing Phoebe enjoyed was shaking her head at the doctor and saying, "Uh-uh!" (unless she was too busy screaming to speak, which was often). 

So, basically, things went really well.

As I suspected, Phoebe is my biggest one year old (but I'm sure she'll stringbean-ify once I wean her, since that's what all my kids have seemed to do)! She is 21 lbs. 9 oz. and is 29.25 inches (2 feet 5.25 inches). Her head was 17.88 cm, which shocked the doctor because she jumped her curve quite a bit (not an alarming-alarming amount, but just enough to make the doctor re-measure her to make sure the nurse hadn't mis-measured...which Phoebe, of course, valiantly tried to refuse).

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Phoebe's cake

As I've mentioned before, Phoebe loves Grogu. She has a ritual of saying hello to the Grogu in Daddy's office. She climbs onto the top bunk in the boys' room to visit with Benjamin's stuffed Yoda. And Alexander generously offered her the stuffed Grogu he earned while finishing up his potty training (but which he lost interest in since...well, it's not an owl). She just adores Grogu.

Sew amazing!

Miriam was digging around in our stash of fabric, largely left over from Grandma's sewing projects, and she came across this adorable Christmas print and began dreaming up some Christmas outfits. As I advised Rachel when she decided she wanted to crochet herself a sweater, I suggested that Miriam start small and work her way up to larger projects, learning as she goes.

So yesterday she found a pattern, cut out little Phoebe-sized pieces, and stitched together this cute little pinafore jumper:

This time last year

At this time one year ago I hadn't even gone into labour yet. In fact, we didn't even go to bed until after 2:00 in the morning and I wasn't even in labour then. I had just promised Andrew that I wouldn't go into labour that weekend at all because he was just far too busy for anything like that and his dad wasn't here yet and...so naturally my water broke some time after 3:00. 

And then *poof* I had a baby in my arms before 7:00 in the morning!

And then *poof* it's been a year since that baby came into the world!

I gave that messy baby her last not-yet-one-year-old bath after dinner this evening, and did my best to drown my mom guilt in the process. You realize that I haven't even written 200 blog posts yet this year? Part of that is Phoebe's fault because she is a very hands-on baby who has never appreciated when I try to hold her and type. Part of that is my fault for filling so much of my time with other things (even though they are things that I feel are also necessary). 

My hope is that with so many witnesses to her life, Phoebe will have plenty of stories to be told about her and to her as she grows. And I'll get better about writing more here, I'm sure, when I get a moment to catch my breath.

This year has hardly allowed for that, and I think that's fine. When I think about how my Canadian counterparts get 12–18 months of parental leave (with 55% to 75% of their full pay) and then I think about how I went to school full-time, worked part-time, and homeschooled five other children this year, I think it's okay that this year was hard. 

But we did it! We made it through a full year with Phoebe!

Phoebe nursed for approximately 1800 hours this year. That's a lot of nursing!


Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Autumn Vibes and Physical Education

Autumn is in full swing, and I've gotta hand it to the south because it's really convinced me that autumn has merits. Growing up, I wasn't always so sure of this, in part because autumn was so short lived. For example, here is a picture I took of Alexander stopping to play in some leaves while he and I were on a walk together Sunday afternoon:

Notice the sunshine, the leaves both on and off the trees, his t-shirt.

Peekaboo! (And a cute sweater)

One of Phoebe's favourite games is peekaboo, but it's usually something we play when she's getting dressed or undressed and she can use her unworn clothes to cover her face. She thinks it's hilarious to hide that way. 

She doesn't have much practice hiding without a prop, evidently, because when I asked her "Where's Phoebe?" while we were playing at the park and she didn't have anything to cover her face, she wasn't quite sure what to do. But she thought quickly and remembered that she has hands! So she used those hands to cover her face:

Not the most effective tactic, honestly. Cute though!

Monday, November 07, 2022

Pasleep! The baby!

Over the past three weeks, Andrew has gone to two out-of-town conferences: one in Denver and one in Chicago. The week before he left for Chicago, he had his special little operation, so the house was already falling apart by the time he left (I really can only hold things together for so long without his help; we literally have our hands full of children...and then some). It was a long four days.

This week he left for Denver and before he even made it onto the plane, Phoebe had spiked a fever of 104°F. When Alexander fell off the bench while eating breakfast (or lunch?) and gave himself a ginormous goose egg, I knew we were in for a long couple of days. 

But somehow three days seemed so much more doable than four. I don't know why. 

Phoebe was sick and miserable and gave up sleeping entirely. On Thursday night she didn't really get settled until around 8:30 in the morning on Friday—after a long night with a lot of screaming, a lot of coughing, a lot of mucus, a lot of frustration, a lot of nursing, and a little bit of Tylenol—when she finally passed out in the middle of crawling across my bedroom floor. I quietly rejoiced and then went to ask the kids to just, like, very quietly play down in the basement or something because I needed to catch a few zzzz's. They agreed to play nicely and I finally crawled into bed around 8:45 in the morning. 

But somehow my instructions to play quietly in the basement got lost in translation and the kids ended up fighting at the bottom of the stairs (that lead right up to my bedroom door). So at 9:09 I texted Rachel to ask her to hush up the children and usher them into the basement. But then I remembered that I was forgetting something. What was it? What was it? What was it? Oh! 

Two of my children had well-child appointments at 9:30!!

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Phoebe's first steps!

Phoebe has begun to take a few teetery-tottery steps recently, which is good news. 

She's been rather reluctant about standing on her own and whenever we'd try to get her to walk holding our hands she'd just lift up her feet and swing from our fingers. She was not interested in walking one bit. 

This is rather how she was with food. When she was five months old we could hold a spoonful of food right up to her lips and she showed zero interest in it, could not understand why we kept putting that horrible stuff in her mouth. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Miriam is 13!

Miriam has been 13 for over a week now, but I finally managed to get everyone's birthday balloon contributions for her tonight, so I can finally tackle her birthday post today!

I'll also share that she had a piano adjudication this weekend and was so worried that she had messed up on one of her songs (which she had to play from memory), but today at her lesson her teacher gave her her scoring sheet and she was ranked...superior. So she did just fine (and more than fine—excellently)!

She played Prelude in C (J. Bach) and was told she gave a "good solid performance with great continuity and memory," along with many tips to improve her piece (like, "if you use 5-3 fingers at the end of the measure, you might be able to connect to the chord at the beginning of measure 4, which would really add a lot to the sound here").

She also played Solfeggietto (CPE Bach) and received similar instruction and appreciation for her hard work. 

It truly is a joy to listen to her play, to watch her enjoy something so much, and to have her share her love of music with others. Sometimes I think back to those early days in Durham when I was teaching her piano lessons and my mind is blown because she took the rudimentary knowledge I could give her and just...has run with it. She knows way more about music than I probably ever will and plays so beautifully! And she's so gracious about it, too!

The other day I was stumbling through a piece that she'd arranged and I mentioned something about how fluent she is with music. Like, she can see music and know just where to place her hands while I still have to pick my way through things. And she can hear how music might work together in her mind and is able to put it on the page...another thing that I really just struggle to do. 

And she just smiled and told me that I'm fluent in other things, that it takes all kinds of people to make the world run, and that you don't have to be fluent at something to enjoy it (that is, it didn't bother her that I was stuttering my way through her piece one bit).

So, you see, she's wise, too!

How dare you?!

This morning Phoebe woke up to nurse and then rolled over and patted Andrew's face until he woke up and rolled over to greet her. She did her best to back up a bit to make room for him, but although she withdrew her feet, her the little footies of her pyjamas got pinned underneath him. This was frustrating.

In order to free herself, she began kicking her little legs, which just happened to be right in Andrew's face, which meant, ultimately, that she was kicking him right in the face. 

"Hey! Hey! Phoebe!" Andrew said. "Ow! Stop kicking me, Phoebe!"

Phoebe ignored him and continued her efforts to free her clothes. After all, she wasn't kicking him. She was simply kicking...to free her jammies. She gave another good kick to try to pull them loose and really pegged him in the nose.

"Phoebe!" he said a little more sternly, "Don't be mean!"

At that cruel and unfounded accusation, Phoebe stopped kicking and stuck out her lower lip in the saddest little pout before she started howling about all the injustices in the world while I pieced things together.

"Oh, honey!" I said. "I think she's just frustrated. You're on the feet of her pyjamas."

"Oh, no!" he said, pulling her pyjamas free. "Were you stuck?"

He apologized and she gave him some I-forgive-you snuggles and they're back to being best buddies.

But it's good to know that Phoebe considers herself to be a generally "nice" person—apparently—because she did not appreciate insinuations otherwise!


Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween from these trick-or-treaters!

Halloween seemed to take forever to get here (because my kids started planning and counting down way early) but then once it was here it really seemed to pounce on us. Somehow I'm always scrambling on Halloween and it seems like Andrew frequently has had to work on Halloween (he had to work Halloween evening again this year), so I was grateful that Grandpa was able to come over for the most chaotic dinner of the year. 

I dunno. Something about dressing a half dozen children in finicky costumes while trying to temper their excitement enough to get some healthy food in their bodies before sending them out door to door collecting candy gets me feeling like Cinderella. 

"Cinderella! Fix my hair! Attach my breastplate! Put on my arm bands! Change my diaper!"

Friday, October 28, 2022

Benjamin FTW!

This morning Benjamin was sitting at his computer taking his math test on expressions and equations—and I mean really taking his math test. In past units he'd spend about 10 minutes on a 20 question test, fail, and then have to do it over again, but today he was really working. The test ended up taking him just over two hours to complete, but he did amazingly well on it (only had to take it once!) and, in his defense, there were a few distractions here and there.

For one thing, his little siblings couldn't seem to stay away! 

Phoebe would crawl up to his desk to see what he was doing, and then I'd cart her away, and the next thing I'd know Alexander would be there as him a question about Minecraft. While I was off finding a book for Alexander, Zoë decided she'd better get down her ukulele and sing and play at the top of her lungs...in the same room as Benjamin. So we had a little revolving-door circus going on.

For another thing...is something burning? It smells like something is burning...

Benjamin—thankfully—allowed himself to be distracted by the burning smell (I'm sure the smoke helped distract him, too) and located a charging cord that was feeling a little too hot, hot, hot!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Alexander's well-child check

Briefly—before I blog about Miriam's birthday—I have to write a little bit more about our wee birthday boy this month. 

I took him in for his well-child check and he's doing well. He's just tiny. 


Friday, October 21, 2022

Pick Me Up

Warning: This story is not a pick-me-up kind of tale. It's sad and scary. But the title works.

We're all familiar with The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a fable wherein a shepherd boy gets bored and decides to alert the village that a wolf is approaching the flock, so they all come running to help save him and he's like, "Just kidding! There's no wolf! I just wanted to see what you'd do!" And everyone gets kind of grumbly because that's not a very funny joke, but the next time he cries wolf they all come running back anyway because what if it's real this time?! And, of course, it isn't real. He's just pulling their leg once again.

This continues until the townspeople get sick of having the wool pulled over their eyes and decide they'll just ignore the silly shepherd, which does not bode well for the shepherd when he sees an actual wolf approaching the flock. Naturally he cries out for help and...nobody comes. 

As a fable, there are various morals offered, but it basically can be boiled down to this: liars don't get to choose when people believe them (and thus it's better to be known as being honest and truthful).

That story is important but peripheral background knowledge for the following story:

My family has a family group chat. 

This was a surprising but welcome little institution to spring up out of the loneliness of the pandemic. We'd never had a family group chat before! And we really do feel much more connected to each other (if I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of everyone). It's nice.

But my sister Kelli—I tell you!—she is the most notorious butt-dialer on the planet!

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The chipmunk mystery

Things that we know:

1) There was a mysterious smell in the TV room (entertainment room?), a musty, rotty, yucky smell that we couldn't quite identify. We could only smell it from one specific spot in the room but couldn't find anything musty/rotten/yucky nearby. And if we got too far away from this one specific spot, we'd lose the scent, so we knew the smelly thing had to be near that one spot. 

2) Phoebe loves to go outside and she loves putting everything in her mouth. When we go outside she mostly just wants to put things in her mouth. If there is a thing outside, she will try to put it in her mouth. Often she succeeds in putting things in her mouth. Rocks. Dirt. Leaves. Acorns. Bugs. Wood chips. She wants to taste it all. We went outside on Tuesday and she crawled around putting everything in her mouth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Alexander is 5!

Alexander has become quite adept at calendaring and numbers and things lately, so you'd better believe he'd been counting down to his birthday for weeks prior to the event. Now that it's happening, he's been counting "days since" he turned five.

Here's is morning message, alerting us that he'd finally done it and "today" (October 14th) he was five:

Here he is with his "5" crown on (Benjamin made it for him to wear, and, boy, did he wear it with pride):


Thursday, October 13, 2022

This week

We started this week with a quiet Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, made 100% by Rachel (except, I suppose, for the potatoes, which were left over from Sunday's dinner). We didn't get around to our traditional Thanksgiving FHE lesson because Miriam had a different lesson prepared already (since she taught YW/Sunday School on Sunday and in this house we recycle), but we did have an "underwear talk" focusing on giving thanks and we'll start our Thankful Tree soon...after Alexander's birthday.

Here's a picture of our Thanksgiving dinner:

Monday, October 10, 2022

Spiders and bones

Having only recently been home to a chipmunk, our ol' cookie container soon found itself habitat to a number of jorō spiders—eleven, to be precise. Benjamin went around snatching them out of their webs and filled this jar:

They're not very aggressive...toward humans...nor are they particularly venomous...for humans...but they were clearly uncomfortable being in such close quarters. It's not unusual to see multiple spiders in a tree, but each usually has its own web. We learned they're rather particular about that...

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Hanging out with the fam

By Friday (September 16, our last day in Utah), I could tell we had worn out our welcome and it was time to go home. Well, perhaps we hadn't quite worn out our welcome, but Phoebe was finally feeling comfortable enough that she started getting into mischief. 


A tour of HBLL

When I said Phoebe had never been to the library, what I meant was that she had never been inside our own little public library. I've always left her at home or, when she was really little, sitting in the car with Rachel while I ran in really quick. 

She has, however, been inside the library at UGA and at BYU. 

Naanii took us on a little tour of the Harold B. Lee Library (the HBLL), showing us all the things that have changed since I was last there—which was a lot! I hardly recognized the place!

Perhaps the most exciting thing right now is this exhibit that my mom put together (with some collaborators, of course) on Provo Pop Music Connections—from the Osmonds to the Killers and beyond. It's pretty cool!


I went to Utah and I saw...

In case you'd forgotten, Phoebe and I flew out to Utah about a month ago for an "epic" (according to Zoë) "Mom-and-Phoebe" trip (she was a little bit bitter she didn't get to come along and wrote Naanii a letter expressing her disappointment). 


She says "I wish I could go to Utah with Mom to visit you and Josie, but it's supposed to b a "mom and Phoebe" trip. I've missed you a ton, but I think we're not moving back to Utah. I wish we could, though. Mom has taken Phoebe everywhere! Either an epic travel, or a simple journey to the doctor's office or the library, PHoebe's always there!"

In Zoë's defense, Phoebe is rather attached to me at the present.

In Phoebe's defense, she's never entered the library. So there's that.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

38 is great!

Andrew's birthday was just a few days after I returned home from Utah (I still have plans to finish posting about that trip, but life is moving on at a ridiculous clip). Rachel, of course, made his cake. I didn't really do much of anything, other than make the children fill out some birthday balloons for him. 

Since Andrew always makes fun of everyone for always settling on acrostics, I challenged the kids to pick a different short-form poetry. My mom will appreciate our attempts since she also has been writings some short poems

Alexander wrote:

We liv in Gorgu. You are fothor. 
[We live in Georiga. You are father.]

RLiv togethor in Gorgu Bhord thrho 4 not mozior thtim.
[I'm going to be honest; beyond "we live together in Georgia" I'm not sure what he's getting at here.]

YYoui Aare Tthe BEE Best DDad
["You are the best dad," but I think he was going for an acrostic-vibe with the extra letters in there, though I don't think he understands that acrostic poems spell something because YATBD doesn't really mean anything.]

HPPY BORTHDAY DAD! I LOV YOU!
[This doesn't really need a translation.]

Chipmunk Trap

On September 7 (or so), the kids left this trap—an open animal cracker container (our summer bug-collecting jar), with a trail of acorns leading inside—hoping to catch some sort of critter. A squirrel would be ideal. The thought was that a squirrel would follow the trail of acorns into the container and then flick the lid with its tail on the way in and the lid would somehow magically spin right around the mouth of the container, thus locking the squirrel inside.

But it didn't have to be a squirrel! It could have been anything! They just wanted to catch something.


Friday, September 30, 2022

Caterpillar details

One of the very best things about Poison Control is that they always call you back to see how things are going. That second phone call has traditionally been much calmer from my end of things. 

Traditionally?

Apparently I have a tradition of calling Poison Control. 

But, like, despite my best efforts apparently my kids are going to do things like drink insect repellent (Zoë), eat random yard mushrooms (Alexander), or...you know...bite a venomous caterpillar (Phoebe). 

Before that I evidently was able to keep track of my kids well enough to keep them out of such mischief. 

Or I was just plain lucky. 

The first time I called Poison Control it felt like I was some kind of human failure because...I don't know why. I'd messed up my streak of not calling Poison Control? But I learned that they are the nicest people so now I call with only a little bit of sheepishness and say, "Hey, yeah, hi. Me again. So, my kid ate a weird bug. What do I do?"

And they are always very nice. And they always make a follow-up call. And if everything could run as smoothly as poison control I think the would be in very good shape.

But this isn't really a PSA for Poison Control, though, seriously, do not hesitate to call them if you think you or a loved one may have ingested...or touched...or inhaled...something poisonous because no matter how ridiculous your story is, they will take you seriously, help calm you down, and give you excellent advice (which I assume is sometimes, "Get thee to a hospital!"). 

And then they'll call you an hour later to make sure you're no longer hyperventilating and your toddler is still alive.

Probably better to never have to call Poison Control, really. But I'm just saying that if you find yourself wondering whether you should call Poison Control, better safe than sorry. 

So, anyway...Phoebe bit a caterpillar today.

I thought it was dead. 

Cat(erpillar)s and Dogs!

I spent all day on campus, along with Miriam, Phoebe, and Grandpa (who so kindly rearranged his schedule to shuttle me down there because we were supposed to be having windows be installed today, but the windows were all finished being installed yesterday, so I realized just now at this very moment (9:45 PM) that Andrew could have done the driving, but Andrew had meetings scheduled in the morning and we just didn't think of it until right this very minute). Anyway, I had to run a booth at the Banned Book Fair. 

Here's Phoebe hanging out by Gage the UGA Dawgs mascot: 


Phoebe helped me while Miriam and Grandpa hit up the art museum, and then they came and took Phoebe for a long, long walk outside while I finished up at the fair. 

Here's Phoebe chilling with her air purifier: 


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Spooky Vibes, or, While you weren't sleeping

It's just past 10:00 pm and at our house, well, various things are happening. I just got Phoebe settled. Miriam is getting caught up on some "hand" dishes (the ones that won't fit into the dishwasher at the end of the day). Rachel is...crocheting...I think. Benjamin is listening to War and Peace because he finds that having an audio book streaming through his mind helps his mind quit racing long enough to allow him to go to sleep. He's done all sorts of long books—the Bible (several times), The Lord of the Rings (all volumes, several times), you get the picture. Today he asked for War and Peace and, like, whatever. It's just background noise for him. Alexander is sleeping with an armful of owls dressed up like ghosts. He is usually the first person in the house asleep.

The other day he came to me after he'd been put to bed, while I was still nursing Phoebe, and sighed heavily. So I sighed back and then asked, "What is it, buddy?"

"I just wish I had a stuffed animal that had spookier vibes."

"Spookier vibes, eh?" I asked.

"Yeah, because you know Halloween is coming up?"

"Mmmmmhmmm..."

"And I'd just like spookier vibes in my bed."

"Uh-huh. I'll work on that. For sure, for sure. But, for now, why don't you hop back into bed?"

"I will," he said. "But it'd be a lot easier to fall asleep with spooky vibes."

"Mmmmhmmm...yup...I'll work on that."

"When?"

"Good night, little buddy."

"But when?"

At this point Zoë interjected in my behalf, telling him that I have a lot on my plate and that I'd get around to spooky vibin' up the stuffed animals when I could get there. I had to work! I had to sleep! What did he expect? These things take time!

So, with the promise that I'd "work" on it, he went to bed.

The next evening...he came to visit me again after he'd been put to bed.

"I'm just checking in," he started, "About those spooky vibes. You said you'd work on them, so...how's that going?"

Because apparently he's a tiny little project manager.

"Right," I said. "Still...thinking...about things."

And I was thinking about things. I got a lot of good ideas from more creative (or rested?) individuals on Facebook—how to turn a sock into a ghost or sew a simple bat from felt—but, like, let's be real here. Getting together costumes for my kids is enough of a challenge without factoring in costumes for their toys as well. 

Fortunately, I have some very special people in my life who appreciate the need for spooky vibes and they put together spooky vibe care packages for Alexander. Auntie Josie sent a little plush ghost (it's still in the mail) and Auntie K sent some little wind up Halloween monsters as well as a packet of plain white handkerchiefs...along with a note explaining that the handkerchiefs were meant to be used as ghost costumes for some favourite stuffed animals. 

What a brilliant idea!

And my poor sleep-deprived brain was glad she sent along suggestions because when I first opened the box I was like, "The toys I understand. But...the...hankies...?"

Ghosts. Got it.

So this evening we turned a few owls, a horse, a bear, and a doll into ghosts.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Heiss Fam

My mom and brother drove me up to Salt Lake to visit with our Heiss relatives on Tuesday (September 13), which leaves me wondering what we did on Monday. Probably just recovered from having visited so many people on Sunday, honestly. 

Andrew asked me what we did while we weren't doing our (honestly few) social things and it left me gasping like a goldfish. 

Blub. Blub. I dunno. Blub. Blub.

I mean, I did have a couple of meetings for school/work and tried to find time to do some of my readings. But...I...dunno...we just...hung out. Went for little walks to soak up that view of the mountains, a view which is familiar and intoxicating in a way that the trees and forests surrounding our home to the east is not (although I love all the trees, and I love Appalachia, so can hardly explain the allure of the Rockies, but it's there).

Doesn't matter. I'm sure Monday was wonderful and restful. I'll look at my pictures later to see what we did that day.

Tuesday we headed up to visit with the Heisses. Everyone was so excited to meet Phoebe, of course, who in turn couldn't understand why everyone was so excited to see her and wanted only to sit on my lap. But then Grandpa Frank brought out a great big teddy bear for her to play with and she timidly slid off my lap and then darted across the floor to tackle it. 

She loves stuffed animals almost as much as she likes live animals. 

Phoebe surprised me by willingly sitting on Grandpa Frank's lap for a picture. She didn't fuss or squirm, just sat and munched on her little toy banana. Very brave, if you ask me.


Monday, September 19, 2022

Little family reunion

If Saturday at my parents' house was relaxed, Sunday was busy, busy, busy! The morning was fairly slow: we slept, we ate, we attended sacrament meeting via zoom. I texted a lot with my kids who were texting me a lot. Here's a picture I sent to Benjamin of Phoebe and Millie:


Benjamin texted back, "Is that milky on the right? Milky. Milly. Millie."

Autocorrect got him good!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Getting there (Sept. 10)

I will slowly make my way through the week that I spent in Utah...beginning with our flight out, which was a lovely mid-afternoon flight. Grandpa drove us to the airport and dropped us off at curbside check-in, which meant I could check my luggage outside and walk through the airport with only my carry-on (plus a baby) in tow, which was nice. 

Phoebe and I made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare, even though I forgot to take my computer out of my backpack (so they had to scan my luggage twice). Phoebe loved looking out the big window at all the airport happenings (and you can see her little air filter by her feet; I was so nervous about flying it's not even funny).

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Saturday is a special day, it's the day that we arrived in Utah

One fun thing I did this trip is forget a card reader for the laptop, so I can't take any pictures off my camera. I do have several on my phone that I could use, but I've also had a very needy baby on my hands (and few reliable ways to distract her since she's a little bit...shy...around others). Still, it's been a wonderful—and rather relaxing—trip for me. Turns out that even when you have a high-maintenance baby along with you, that's still easier than managing multiple children. Go figure.

Ugh. I also just realized that Little Miss Let Me Play With Your Phone turned off the live picture capture...so now the picture that I took equals the picture that I get...and I'm a little sad about realizing that because...I'm wishing I could go in and choose the best shot. So hopefully someone out there took better pictures than I did on Saturday and Sunday (I'm looking at you, Patrick, Josie, and David, who all also had their phones "flashing," so to speak—send me all your pictures!).

Still, this picture of meeting Uncle David turned out well:


Friday, September 09, 2022

Birth certificates

I didn't think I could get more stressed out today, but then I did!

Because I'm all about stretching myself, pushing my limits. 

I'm trying to pack today while also finishing up a big chunk of my thesis proposal. And flying stresses me out anyway. And I need to, like, make sure everything is ready for the kids while I'm gone (it's not). And...just...I'm really good at stressing out about things...to the point of hardly being able to function...

And then I decided to pull out Phoebe's birth certificate. 

Because some airlines like to see proof of age for lap infants. And also because it's a good idea to have, like, identification while traveling. So I get out our Very Important Papers and start sifting through them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Traditional garb

A neighbour posted a number of costumes she was aiming to get rid of, among them some lederhosen and a dirndl dress—both brand new, size 4T and 6T!! No one else was asking for these (though there were many moms excited about the other costumes being offered—Princess Anna, Olaf, etc.) so I thought I'd grab these, even though I didn't think the kids would want to use them for Halloween. Zoë, I know, has her heart set on being She-Ra.

Anyway, we took a stroll around the block this morning to collect the costumes and were excited to find that they fit perfectly. Zoë and Alexander have been wearing them all day! And Alexander has announce that this is what he'd like to wear for Halloween now (which makes life easy for me). 


A little shout out

At long last, Miriam has finally finished writing up her essay about her trip to DC! You can read it over at her blog.

What we're reading

I had this thought that I should do posts about what we're currently reading...but I also know that I'm simply too scatterbrained to hunt down cover images and so forth (although that would probably make this post a lot more interesting) or to keep up with this in the long run (though perhaps one day when my thesis isn't looming over me). Anyway...

We are reading aloud Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley. By way of introduction we read She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton, which stayed very true to the information in the forward of Frankenstein. I also picked up a graphic novel of Frankenstein (edited by Jason Colby), which most of the kids have read, though I haven't read it yet, so they know what's going to happen while I...don't. They're being very good about spoilers.

What's extra fun (and unusual for us) is that Andrew listened to it during his commute the last little while, so he's able to hop in on discussions as well. It's not often we're all reading the same book at once (though now Andrew has finished and we have not)!

Zoë is (and soon Benjamin will be) also reading Wonder by J. R. Palacio, which is an interesting pairing with Frankenstein. They're reading this on their own, but Rachel, Miriam, and I have all read it so it's made for some good discussions. 

Benja-math

I've been reading a lot about how to manage ADHD because, well, we still haven't gotten Benjamin diagnosed but we're experimenting with methods on managing ADHD symptoms, anyway. Just like I've never been diagnosed as a migraine sufferer, but when I've gotten migraines I, uh, treat them like migraines, so I limit exposure to light, have some caffeine, et cetera, etc. etc. 

So, I was reading about video game therapy for ADHD. Studies (such as this one) seem positive yet...inconclusive. But, I did read some anecdotal reports from adults with ADHD, who treat themselves to a dopamine-generating activity prior to switching to a task that requires concentration. The dopamine rush they receive from, for example, playing video games transfers to the next task. 

That's a pretty harmless thing to try, so we figured we could try it. 

It helps that his math is a video game platform this year. We splurged for the online version of his math program, thinking it would save me from slogging through math with Benjamin quite as much. But it took him a month to get through the first unit. And at that rate...ugh. 

So, yesterday, we sat him down to play Minecraft first thing in the morning, which he, of course, thought was amazing. When his timer went off, he immediately switched out of Minecraft and onto Beast Academy. And then he spent two super-focused hours doing math. He finished about half a unit, earning very good marks. And I just was floored, honestly.

We did the same today and he once again did excellent work. I told him that we will keep "trying" this for as long as it's working. But the minute it stops working, we can try something else. 

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Baby's first haircut

Phoebe is a hair-puller, specifically of my hair. I mean, sure, she'll pull her sisters' hair on occasion, but she can't get enough of my hair. She loves to yank, yank, yank it, and no amount of "gentle" parenting has seemed to communicate to her that pulling my hair is a bad idea, so it's mostly been pulled into a bun for the past few months and...last night I had enough and asked Andrew to just chop it off. 

Side note: I'm not against gentle parenting. I just find it annoying when parents are like, "Through my consistent, gentle parenting, little Johnny has learned to respect my earrings. He knows he can gently explore them, but not tug them. Gentle parenting is so worth it!!" And I'm just like, "Neat. I've spent months trying to convince her that she can stroke Mommy's hair but not pull it, but she still yanks on it while deviously cackling."

Like, I'm sure gentle parenting works the same way I'm convinced sleep training works. 

A friend of mine (with one child) posted something recently about how people are always asking her how her baby sleeps so well and all she can say is "thank you, Baby Wise!" Or something.

And I'm over here going. Mmmmhmmmm...

Like, I love that you feel that worked for you. But I'm going to go with the sleep-expert lady whose video I recently watched, who said, "If you can successfully get your baby to sleep putting them down drowsy-but-awake...you might just have an easy-going baby!" 

I've had one of those. One of those. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Eerie itching

It was a dark and stormy night and, as is the case several times a night, I was coaxing (read: nursing) Phoebe back to sleep, drifting in and out of sleepy, myself, when I heard a distinct rap-rap-rapping that yanked me into a state of being very wide awake. 

It had sounded as if someone had been tapping the window right above my head.

It was impossible...

We're on the second floor.

Perhaps some animal...

But, no. It was a distinctly human pattern of knocking: rap, rap, rap.

It was impossible...

And yet I heard what I heard. 

I reached over, shook Andrew, and whispered, "Did you hear that?!"

"What?" he mumbled. 

"Someone was knocking on the..."

Monday, August 29, 2022

Matchy-matchy

When Grandpa moved to Georgia, he arrived wearing a red polo shirt, which Alexander was excited about because he has a red polo shirt! Ever since this realization, he's been wanting to coordinate a red shirt day with Grandpa, but somehow they have never managed it! 

The first time we tried, Grandpa didn't get the text, so Alexander dressed in his red shirt and Grandpa didn't. And then the next time Grandpa came over he wore his red shirt and Alexander didn't. And it's just been months of missed opportunities and dashed hopes. It's not like something like this is even that hard to coordinate...we just struggle sometimes. And that's okay.

Yesterday, however, Alexander put on his red polo shirt and was thrilled to pieces when Grandpa arrived for dinner wearing...his red polo shirt!

In the bathroom

Believe it or not, this is a first for me...


Sunday, August 28, 2022

More psalms

The younger kids and I wrote our own psalms today during primary. Benjamin had to write his fast because a friend came to the door to see if he could play outside (we were overtime already, so this was fine); I've never seen him write so efficiently.

Oh, Lord, your majesty is proclaimed in all things, from the trees to the bugs, every life cycle you engineered to go on forever. From mosquito larva to a fetus in a mother's belly your mark on the world is everywhere.

Zoë wrote:

Oh, Jesus, you died for us. In the tomb, you rose again. At the last supper you said, 'I will give this piece of bread to the person who betrayed me.' You are the Son of God.

Alexander chose to copy out the chapter heading of Judges 15 (weird flex, but okay):

Samson burns the grain of the Philistines—They burn his wife and father-in-law—Samson slays a thousand Philistines at Lehi with the jawbone of an ass.

I am not yet satisfied with my psalm, but I'll share an early draft of it, anyway:

The tree, when cut, reveals the fingerprint of God within its core, echoing rings that match my own. My image reflects his glory, my dominion mirrors his power to succor or destroy. 

As a tree sways in the storm, I will yield my will to His hand. I will wield my own hands gently, allowing his goodness, which flows within me, to trickle through me, drip by drip, and ripple outward into the world.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Fall is in the air

I took Miriam to mutual the other night, along with all the little kids because mutual took advantage of the great outdoors, so I figured that I would let my kids play while she hung out at mutual and then we'd all go home together. But my kids wanted to participate in the activity—which was plogging (picking up trash while walking/jogging)—so we ignored the playground and helped pick up trash along the river instead (though we did our best to steer clear of Miriam and let her be with her peers...except, perhaps, for Benjamin...who will be her peer at mutual soon enough, anyway). 

Mists were rising off the river and it was quite beautiful, inspiring, really. I'm surprised Zoë didn't make a note of it. She's hit a writing block and has been hankering for some good ol' fashioned inspiration to strike her. She even took her little notebook and pen on an outing with Grandpa earlier this week—where they got chased by ducks hoping for a nibble and impeded by great geese flapping their wings—but Grandpa had made her leave her notebook in the car so apparently she wasn't too inspired. She said she'll have to just copy down poems from Charlotte's Web and other places, since sometimes writing down poetry inspires her. She's pretty smart. But I'll have to remind her that she can write from the memory of a moment; she doesn't have to feel inspired in nature and sit down to write a poem just then.

(Update: She just now (at 11:53 pm) came to show me the poem and narrative she wrote about her outing with Grandpa so it looks like her writing block is over and I can cancel the lecture.)

Like these mists. I'll save them in my head for a poem another day:

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

In Alexander's words

This morning after I gave the older kids their writing assignment, Alexander asked what he could write about. So I told him that he could write about riding his new pedal bike. Then I went upstairs to put Phoebe down for a nap, but instead ended up reading a couple of books with her and then wandering back downstairs to check on something. On our way down the stairs, we ran into Alexander, who was rushing up the stairs to show me his work.

He had written an entire page!

I admit that I was initially skeptical of its quality given how little time he had spent writing (Phoebe and I read two books, but they were board books, so...like...we weren't upstairs that long), but Alexander had carefully written an entire story!

Thinking caps for psalmists

Rachel and Miriam have been having their youth Sunday School lessons at Grandpa's house. This past week we were studying psalms and Grandpa told the girls to "bring your thinking caps," so before they left the house they fashioned some tinfoil hats for themselves and showed up at Grandpa's front door wearing them. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Twofer one teefies

I was afraid it was going to storm yesterday so we went to the playground instead of the pool. And then—wouldn't you know it?!—it just took forever to storm! The clouds just grew bigger and bigger and bigger while we watched them. But it took a while for them to gather so we made the most of the clear day while we could.


Monday, August 22, 2022

Night owl poetry

A while ago Zoë revealed to me that when she feels poorly about herself she makes a list of reasons why she's an absolute failure in her "hate journal." In it she had quite an extensive list of reasons why she deserved to feel poorly. She's a maniac. She's a jerk. She's selfish. She can't do anything right...

And...it was so sad. Absolutely broke my heart. And made me feel so anxious I felt nauseated.

We talked about how it might be better to write more positive things about herself because—and not to make her feel poorly for being wrong but...she was 100% wrong about herself—she's really quite wonderful and so, so lovable. Always lovable. 

I love her so much and I just...wanted her to love her, too.

We've since had several lessons on how to write through our emotions (how to capture and release our sadness and anger and grief...and joy and love and happiness). We've also read through Shannon Hale's Real Friends series and talked about it a lot. And have been working through Anxiety Relief for Teens with Miriam...but with everyone else, too (Zoë included). 

Anyway, the other night I checked on Zoë before going to bed and found her sleeping parallel to her pillow (horizontally across the bed), with a notebook and pen resting on her pillow. She'd stayed up past "lights out" to write a poem about Halloween. 

My children are already passionately excited for Halloween. 

So we've started reading Frankenstein together.

Because how else do you respond to that level of excitement about Halloween in August? Like, we're not decorating yet! I'm not a big decorator, anyway, but...we are not decorating for Halloween yet! But, fine, I'll read a spooky story with you.


Rachel's belated birthday balloons

Rachel's birthday was over a month ago, but her birthday balloons have been sitting stalely on the birthday trees waiting for Andrew to buckle down and write out a birthday message for Rachel.

The summer wasn't ideal, truly. We spent a lot of time being sick, a lot of time navigating disasters in the house (like, for example, our oven has been out of commission for about as long as Rachel has been 15), a lot of time...I don't even know what. All small stuff, really, but exhausting stuff nonetheless. And somehow Andrew didn't sit down to write a birthday balloon when everyone else did. So we waited and waited and waited. 

And tomorrow his semester starts (mine started last week) so he's been puttering around the house with first day jitters, tidying things up, and he wanted those balloons down. But first we made him fill out a balloon and Rachel posed with it to show how appreciative she is:

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Pooping Contests and Grand Pianos

Did I ever  write about the time Alexander noticed the symbol denoting the number of players for a game, in this instance "2–5 players," and interpreted it to mean "pooping contest?"


It took us quite a while to figure out what he meant, while he very frustratedly insisted that we understand what he meant when he asked if we could play the "pooping contest game," in this instance Carcassone, but I'm sure there are other examples. 

This was just last year, so he was 3 or so. 

Well, yesterday we had this beast delivered:

Tranquil Trail

Today's story is not my story because I stayed at home, somewhat sick, with Zoë, who had been up all night with a raging fever and round after round of vomit, and Phoebe, who likes to hang around me for some reason. Andrew had his faculty retreat today (they retreated...to the conference room for eight solid hours). Grandpa took the rest of the kids hiking at High State Park. 

This is their story.

Zoë wishes it were her story. 

When I first took her temperature in the morning (after, you know, she finally went to bed at 5:30 after throwing up while refilling her water bottle at the fridge...and getting vomit all over the fridge and the floor...which Andrew cleaned up because I was in bed with my own fever), it was hovering around 104°F. So I gave her some ibuprofen (which is the only medicine she can take without gagging; literally I'll be like, "Time for your medicine," and she'll say, "Cherry or berry?" If the answer is "berry" (ibuprofen) she'll slurp it right up, but if the answer is "cherry" (Tylenol) then she reluctantly gags it down).

Fortunately, it was berry's turn and she happily gulped it down and then over the course of the next hour or so her fever receded. 

She asked me, just as the kids were leaving, to take her temperature again. So, thinking nothing of it, I did.

"98.7°F," I announced.

"So...no fever?" she asked.

"No fever," I said. "But..."

She jumped up off the couch (where she was sleeping because getting out of the top bunk every time she wanted to vomit was...difficult) and started stripping off her pyjamas.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I said. "What are you doing?"

"I want to go!" she said.

"Want to go where?"

"Hiking! With everyone else!"

"Oh, you are not well enough to go hiking!" I said. 

She collapsed on the couch sobbing and Rachel, who was just leaving, asked Grandpa to come back inside to say goodbye to Zoë, who he had missed seeing when he was in the house. He told her they'd hike to the falls another time when she wasn't sick and was able to come with everyone. 

And then they left. 

And Phoebe waved "bye bye," which I didn't know she knew how to do. 

And Zoë stewed on the couch until she recognized that she didn't actually feel better, and then she settled in for a full day of watching Bluey and Minnie Mouse...Bow Toons? Or something?

And I had a couple of meetings and our new oven got delivered and Andrew ran over something on the highway coming home and got a flat tire...again. This is his third one in three years. Ugh.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about. 

This post is about the kids and their adventure at High State Park, an adventure I was not party to and thus can't tell you very much about, except to tell you...

It was exceedingly muggy outside.