Sunday, July 31, 2022

Parallel play

Phoebe (and—let's face it—many of her siblings) were playing with the Jenga blocks during sacrament meeting. It's not terrible that they were all building block towers instead of while listening because Phoebe's favourite part about playing with blocks is knocking towers over (sucking on the blocks is probably a close second, but she only does that when there are no towers to knock over). 

So I posted a few pictures of Phoebe enjoying Jenga...

Accomplishments and anxieties

Today I feel like it might just be possible to re-enter the typical school-year world.

I lugged our little jungle gym upstairs (it used to be in the LEGO room, which is obviously full of choking hazards and not a good place for a baby) and set it in the middle of my bedroom so that Phoebe can pull herself up and learn how to be a little monkey beside me while I work. 

She's still a little small for it but has been enjoying pulling up to stand beside it while watching Alexander and Zoë climb all over (bringing it upstairs, of course, elicited a renewed love for this play thing). It worked out well. It was noisy, but it worked out well. I edited a paper for my mom, wrote a cover letter for a submission of my own, and whittled another paper down from 9706 words to 7993!

I also repaired the handlebar brakes on Miriam's old bike, which I was going to post to my buy-nothing group to get rid of now that Miriam is riding Rachel's old bike...but then I realized Zoë might fit instead of giving it away I finally fixed the brakes! 

I'd tried half-heartedly to fix them before but was too afraid to actually try, you know, so I didn't try very hard. Besides, they also had back-pedal brakes and those worked just fine so it wasn't as if the bike was unsafe. But Grandpa lives here now and he knows about 5000 times more about bikes than I do, so I figured that if I screwed something up doing a very basic fix like this that he could at least help me fix my fixing. But, I successfully fixed the brakes (the tutorial called it an "adjustment," as if they weren't really even "broken," but I'll keep saying "fixed" because it makes me feel like I did something slightly more important than a simple "adjustment"). 

Now Zoë's zooming around on the bigger bike and we have no need of her smaller bike, because I picked up an even smaller bike for Alexander on the same buy-nothing group. And I don't even mind giving up her bike because I have seen so many bikes change hands since joining the buy-nothing group that I'm confident that when we need a bike that size we'll be able to find one.

Even if we can't, we don't have unlimited space in our garage to store bikes, so...something's gotta go.

Here she is getting all panicky because what you can't see in this picture is that a car is coming down the hill towards her and she just knows it's headed straight for our driveway—because it's Daddy's car—and she needs to get to safety before the car hits her!

Saturday, July 30, 2022

First Tooth Stats

I didn't always make a grand pronouncement when my babies cut their first teeth, so finding the exact date of "the first tooth" for each of my babies was tricky. Of course, some babies are more vocal about these things than others. They cry, they fuss, they drool, they bite. Others just had their teeth pop right through. So I suppose making a big announcement (or not) depended a bit on that. Or perhaps it had more to do with nothing at all.

I feel like my kids have been "early" teethers, though now that I've looked up the dates of their first tooth cutting, I don't necessarily think that's the case. 

I think the reason I feel like that is because when Zoë was a baby and had two little baby cousins her very same age, she got teeth at five months, while her cousins were showing no sign of teething (and I thought it was a teensy bit unfair because I was breastfeeding while her cousins were bottle-fed (and nothing is wrong with that, except that it seemed cruel to me that their little mouths were soft and gummy for their bottle nipples, while Zoë's little mouth seemed to be full of razor wire)). 

But, on the whole, I don't think my kids were particularly early teethers.

Here's the breakdown:

Rachel: January 2008, ~6 months
Miriam: May 2010, ~7 months
Benjamin: January 2013, ~8 months
Zoë: October 2015, ~5 months
Alexander: May 2018, ~6.5 months
Phoebe: August 2022, ~9 months and 10 days

So Phoebe is definitely my latest teether because her mouth is still gummy, gummy, gummy and she's 8.5 months old. I'll have to come back here to update her information when she does get her teeth. Not that I'm in a hurry for that (but I have been wondering when my other kids got their teeth).

It's funny to me that Phoebe—who is most enthusiastic about the idea of eating—is a relatively late teether, while Zoë—who hated all foods—got her teeth so stinking early! 

(I, for the record, cut my first tooth on my mom's birthday—December 12, 1985—when I was just 5.5 months old. You're welcome, Mom!)

Friday, July 29, 2022

Thursday thoughts

July was a difficult month for reasons that I can't seem to put my finger on. 

We inched our way out of quarantine, but have spent two more weeks being sick with other things. The girls went to DC and I taught Benjamin and Zoë cursive. Alexander got a pedal bike. Phoebe only slept for half an hour at a time for several weeks (but is doing hour+ long chunks these days). I managed to read one book from cover to cover and can't fathom how I ever managed to be a mom and work and go to school.

I have about two more weeks to pull myself together before I dive back in again.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Elephant ears

This mammoth elephant ear surprised me by becoming my favourite plant in my garden this year. I honestly didn't expect this because when I was planning our garden I was thinking all about splashes of colour. Flowers. I was thinking about flowers. I was thinking native plants. I was thinking, but...

Andrew does most of the shopping around here. One day he came home with some lilac bushes (potentially colourful but non-native), which I was excited about because I love lilacs and you don't see them around here. Evidently that is because the deer keep them trimmed to approximately six inches tall...

Let's just say the lilacs are not doing well. 

He also brought home a bunch of elephant ear rhizomes, which I was entirely unexcited about (greenery and non-native), but which I helped to plant, anyway. They took forever to come up. I was half afraid they'd all just rotted away before having a chance to sprout, but they eventually started to claw their way through the soil. And I mean that quite literally. Their little shoots looked like thick fingers reaching for the sunlight. 

And now they're my very favourite thing. I could just stare at them all day. 

Boring stuff

We currently don't have COVID, as far as we know, but we've been quarantining and isolating like it's nobody's business. 

The girls dutifully fulfilled their post-trip isolation period with grace. Zoë, however, got sick with something that wasn't COVID but which had her laid up in bed for several days. We thought that with how well (but gently) we isolated her that the rest of us would be spared. Unfortunately, Benjamin got sick on Monday and has been in gentle isolation since Monday. 

Phoebe slept in our bed until Zoë was better (she usually joins us in bed, but it's nice to have her start out the night in her own bed so I can get some work accomplished). Now Alexander is sleeping on the floor in the girls' room so Benjamin can have his room to himself all night. 

We went a little crazy with air purifiers, but they seem to work. Andrew's been monitoring the AQI in his office and without the air purifier on, the AQI was above 150, but with the air purifier on it's been lingering around 50. So clearly it helps. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Saltines, Butter, and Plum Jam


I'm not really sure why the kids got all dolled up for church this morning. I suppose it's because Alexander helped clean his room on Saturday morning and found his suspenders and bowtie from Auntie K, which he just knew he had to wear today, so he got ready for church, and then Zoë and Benjamin got ready for church and then I figured that I may as well put Phoebe into a dress since I never get her dressed up we are.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Winky wonky

First and foremost, let it be known throughout the land that I find Phoebe phenomenally cute. It's not even just my opinion, though. It's a solid fact. 

Look at her sitting in the stuffed animal bin:

Zoë stuck her in there one morning while they were playing together. Adorable, right? 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Rachel is 15

This afternoon around 2:00, I looked at the time and then looked at Rachel, patted her on the cheek, and said, "Oh, wow! At this exact time fifteen years ago I work."

"Really?!" she gasped. "What did you do with me?!"

"Uhhh..." I said, miming a large pregnant belly. "I just took you with me."

"Oh," she said. "Right. That makes sense."

Technically 2:00 was around the time I left work. It was my very last day, because I'd so brazenly decided to simply work right up until my due date because what could possibly happen otherwise? Babies always cooperate with our best laid plans. 

In this case, Rachel really did cooperate quite well. She only made me miss the last 1.5 hours or so of my work week. Silly girl. 

I had her in my arms shortly after 5:00. 

And now she's 15. And that's wild to think about. This evening I told her, "You know, I was fifteen when I met your father..." and she about panicked, though it's the absolute truth. 

And it's hard to believe that she's fifteen now. 

Somehow Andrew and I managed to raise an entire person for fifteen solid years. She went from a helpless mewling infant to a babbling toddler to a lisping child to this person-sized teenager who begs for me to sign her up for college courses. And I'd like to know how that happened, exactly, because I was watching the whole time and I never really caught her in the act of growing up. 

Somehow growth is both imperceptibly slow and happens way too fast.

But today isn't really about my parental existential crisis, is it? It's about Rachel's birthday, which was really quite boring. We did schoolwork all day. That's the scoop.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

15 years!

I suppose I should have saved that picture of Rachel for this moment—the moment where I'm thinking about having been her mom for fifteen years (which feels unreal, if we're being honest).

When I think about Rachel, I think about grace. Offering her grace, sure, but also offering myself grace. 

My mom told me something that my friend's mom used to say (which I never heard her say, but I suppose she had no reason to tell it to me)—when she and/or her daughter found themselves or their relationship in a "tricky situation" that they had to sort out (and I'm sure my children are hearing me say, "Tricky situation!" in the goofy way I do when I talk about Phoebe's insatiable efforts to crawl and climb over everything), she would say, "We need to be patient with one another because we've never done this before. You have never been my daughter before [in this situation] and I have never been your mother [in this situation]."

Something like that. Honestly, I was probably about 15 years old when my mom told it to me and oddly enough, that wasn't yesterday (though it almost feels like yesterday), but it's stuck with me. 

I think it's applicable to all people, every day. Or at least almost every day. We are all learning, all the time. 

Or, at least, that's my hope. 

Rachel arrived with a fiery personality. She was quick-witted and passionate. Her favourite phrase when she was a toddler—which is perhaps her favourite phrase even now—was, "What else about _________?"

These were the magic words that could unlock stories and knowledge (and prolong bedtime). 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Visitors II

One reason I was nervous about sending the girls to DC was because, well, we're in the middle of a big wave (of COVID, in case we ever get so removed from this situation that this will need to be clarified for future readers; one can hope). We still haven't done much or gone many places and DC is a bustling city teeming with human vectors. But I also felt like I can't take everything away from my kids. And they felt like the risks were worth it to meet up with Michael. And I did annoying things like ask that the plane riders in our group wear masks on the plane...and forbid that my children should dine indoors (good thing food trucks are plentiful in DC)...and insist that my children wear masks indoors...and send a HEPA filter with my girls...and...and...and...

We did what we could to make it as less risky as possible. But naturally there were still risks.

So when Grandpa told us that he was up coughing all night on Sunday, we began to feel a little worried. 

Already we'd mostly confined Rachel and Miriam to the basement. But when we got word of Grandpa's cough we got a little stricter about their period of confinement. They've been wearing masks whenever they come upstairs and have been taking their meals downstairs and so forth, we've got air purifiers set up around the house. 

Grandpa tested negative on Sunday. He tested negative on Monday. 

Zoë woke up with a fever around 2 AM last night. And then she just...stayed up...the rest of the night. And I mostly did, too, between running to check on her and getting up with Phoebe and just having my mind spiral with stories of doom and despair. It was a busy night! And then there was a big storm around 6:00 this morning, which Zoë was remarkably calm about. 

I'll have to share some of our text messages back and forth. She's a hilarious texter.

Anyway, eventually I fell asleep until around 8:30 AM, when Phoebe and Alexander woke up. We were making our way downstairs together to get some breakfast (and to fetch some breakfast for Zoë, who has been taking her meals in her room today) when I looked out the front door window and noticed a little brown orb scooching around the front porch.

It was a little box turtle!

Visitors I

Rachel and Miriam are working on narratives about their DC trip, so I'll hold off on posting any more pictures of them for the moment. They have some super fun pictures from their day at the spy museum, for example. (I was about to say that they had some darling pictures from the spy museum but because they (Rachel, Michael and Miriam) are a trio of teenagers, I figured "fun" would be a much more "hip" thing to say than "darling," but the pictures are absolutely darling).

Anyway, on Saturday evening Diana texted me to say that the flight she and Michael had been supposed to take had been cancelled, so they were stuck in DC for an extra day and were now routed to fly through Atlanta rather than having a non-stop flight to Salt Lake (where Richard and Diana's other kids were during this trip; Richard, on the other hand, flew straight home to Washington (state)). 

They would have a five-hour layover at ATL, so...

They showed up at our house around 10:00 on Sunday morning. We'd just finished watching sacrament meeting and I hadn't told Rachel or Miriam that they were coming, so the girls were pretty surprised (I had to tell the younger kids because they demanded to know why they had to get changed out of their pyjamas; the girls were watching sacrament meeting downstairs on their own because they're having a little quarantine period, just in case). 

Here's a picture of everyone together (sans moi):

Monday, July 18, 2022

Thursday, July 14, 2022


This is just to say that I took this picture of Rachel when we went to the pool for the first time in about a month (July 8) and I think she looks so beautiful:

Phoebe had fallen asleep in the van on the way to the pool (yes, we put her in her carseat in nothing but her diaper—all the easier to get her ready for swimming) and Rachel got her out of her carseat and snuggled with her while I finished getting sunscreen and stuff on Zoë and Alexander.

Beautiful and helpful. 

What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

DC days 1 and 2

All of that and I didn't even post a picture of Diana!

Here she is chilling with Miriam (and likely everyone else) in the AirBnB:

I haven't heard a lot from my girls (which I can only assume means they're having a wonderful time and are saving all their stories for their "homework"), but I do know about how things went after they rendezvoused with Richard, Diana, and Michael. Grandpa took them all on a little monument tour and they got caught in the pouring rain, got to see a some phenomenal lightning by the Washington Monument, and spent the rest of the day looking rather bedraggled.

DC with Diana!

Diana is anxiously waiting to make her appearance on the blog—a high honour! She's the brains behind this trip to Washington, D.C. 

As far as I understand things, Michael had been planning on going to DC on a school trip but it was cancelled due to the pandemic and so Richard and Diana decided they'd just take Michael themselves. She wrote to us back in February to get the idea in our heads. 
Hey y’all. Richard, Michael and I are flying to WA DC July 12-16.
We were having a discussion like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Reid came and was our history buff during the trip?” Which then led to, “and maybe he’d come and bring Rachel, which would be cool for Michael to get to know her better, too.” 

Reid was immediately on board. He likes history and it had been a few years since he'd been to DC. 

I think it was me who suggested that Reid take Miriam as well as Rachel, because those three (second) cousins are all pretty close in age. 

Here's Rachel, 7 months old, meeting Michael for the first time in February 2008:

Clever girl

Hearth seems like such an antiquated term, and yet our home has two hearths without me fully realizing it. I always call our hearths "the fireplace ledges," as in, "Oh, no! The baby is climbing on the fireplace ledge!" because that's what Phoebe did today. 

July 4 found her fussing at the base of the stairs because she couldn't follow Zoë and Alexander up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Miriam v. Phoebe

 Here's a picture of Miriam wearing this sweet outfit from Egypt (at nearly six months old, while at a playdate at a friend's house):

An evening out

Since we're not off adventuring, I decided we could at least spend a little time at the park together this evening. I joined a "buy nothing" group on Facebook, mostly to get rid of our bassinet and bouncy chair and other things Phoebe has finished with but we don't want to store, but you know me and a good deal ( the only "good" deal)...

Last week I made Andrew go pick up a pair of rollerblades. 

Today it was a collection of books. 

And the park was so close to where the books were that we decided to all go. It's been ages since we've all been to the park together. And by "all" I guess I mean "with Daddy."

They talk about how grad school is hard. And we lived it. And it was hard. 

But we hadn't heard how hard starting out on the tenure track was. For the record, that's hard, too! There is always, always, always more work to be done. Papers to write, papers to grade, courses to revise, etc. etc. etc. It's not a job you can really clock out of. So learning how to achieve balance—especially in a pandemic (when he had to redesign his classes at the drop of a hat and so forth)—has been an uphill battle. 

Phoebe and sleep quality

For the past several days, perhaps even since she had COVID, Phoebe has slept for an average of 40 minutes at a time. It's been brutal and the only way we've been surviving is by alternating shifts of being on Phoebe duty and sneaking in a nap or sleep-in. Andrew took Phoebe duty last night while I slept (11 PM to 3 AM) and helped her back to sleep eighteen times. 

It's like the part in her brain that tells her to sleep just...broke...all of a sudden.

But tonight she's been...pretty good. 

She went down for the night while her siblings were enjoying a cool-ish (mid-80°s) summer evening outside and has only woken up far. Let's all hope this holds because clearly I've been doing other things when I should have been taking advantage of this moment for sleeping purposes. 

It seems what she needed to do in order to sleep again was finally sample the cat food, something she's been trying to do for weeks and finally succeeded at doing today. She was pretty proud of herself. 

That's what's most perplexing about her/our lack of sleep—Phoebe can wake up every half hour or so all night long and still wake up in the morning ready to take on the day. She pokes her little tongue out of her mouth and makes all sorts of curious grunts as she squirms her way around the house getting into mischief. Andrew and I, on the other hand, are barely able to roll out of bed and are manually holding our eyelids open. 

It's bad. 

So bad that I have to admit that I just typed "it's bed" on the previous line, rather than "it's bad."

It's bad.

But, perhaps we've turned a corner and can get back to the regular pains of parenthood rather than the this-is-literal-torture pains of parenthood. One can hope.

So while Andrew and I have been drowning in sleep deficit, here are a few things Phoebe has been up to...

On Sunday evening we broke out this little-kid roller coaster thing. We used to have it up in the LEGO room but disassembled it a while back just kept getting covered in LEGO. 

Friday, July 08, 2022

Celebrating stuff

On July 3rd, Phoebe "went to bed" early (this would end up being only a little evening nap, but that's okay). Rachel and Miriam were having a Stranger Things watching party at Grandpa's house, so we left Phoebe under the vigilant supervision of Daddy while the rest of us went on a "short" firefly walk (it would end up being quite a long walk, but that's okay).

Here is the condition we left Daddy in (reading his book by osmosis while he took a little evening nap himself):

We caught a few fireflies here and there as we made our way to the corner, where we found about a billion cars parked. Some teenagers were setting off little firecrackers, so we lingered at the corner while we watched them set them off. And then I told my crew it was about time to turn around and head to bed. That's when a neighbour that we sort of know/sort of don't know jogged up to us and told us that we should find a place along the curb and get cozy because another neighbour had purchased about $800 of fireworks and was getting ready to put on a big show, just as soon as it got dark enough.

So I thought to myself, "Self, you can drag your kids—who are now jumping up and down with excitement—home and put them to bed where they absolutely won't do any sleeping due to the noise that's about to go down in this can find a cozy spot on the curb to park yourself while you enjoy the show."

Obviously we chose the latter. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Birthday balloons for me

On Sunday we had Grandpa over for dinner to celebrate (1) everyone finally testing negative, (2) my birthday, and (3) Grandpa's birthday. Rachel made a spice cake with browned-butter frosting, topped with homemade salted caramel for me and a peach crisp for Grandpa. We didn't use any candles because the idea of blowing on food that other people are about to consume feels anathema right now. 

The kids (and Andrew) made up some birthday balloons for me, which I'll record below...

From Alexander:

Muvr I LV U

This is an acrostic for "MOM," which reads

Mother I love you

Why is there an A instead of a final M? Well, because all the best names have A in them and Alexander couldn't understand why we would have A (the best letter) in DAD but not in MOM. That doesn't even make sense. So MOA it is. Like the Museum of Art. Or Mom. Obviously.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Poopy tales

Grandpa came to pick up Rachel and Miriam for a Stranger Things party last night and Phoebe was crawling around on the floor. He thought about picking her up, since she hasn't really seen him in quite some time, but he remembered that she can be particular about her ups and downs these days (when she wants up, she wants up, when she wants down, she wants down). Since she was happy down, he left her down and just chatted to her while he waited for her sisters to be ready to go.

Just before they left, she started fussing with some "I'm ready to be picked up now" noises, so I scooped her up from the floor and plopped her on my hip.

Now, in these pictures, she's all fancy, wearing clothes and everything...