Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A handful

My friend's childcare fell through for this week. She works from home, so it's not a huge deal...except for the fact that she has one-year-old twins to keep track of. I have many hands at my house, so we've been helping her out a bit.

Rachel rode her bike over there yesterday morning and played with the twins. She arrived home in good spirits. The twins were quiet and pleasant. She had a great time!

Meanwhile, Miriam was left to tend Phoebe alone while I had my morning meeting (since Rachel was with the twins and Andrew has to go to campus every day this week). When I reemerged—after fifty minutes—I found both girls in tears. Phoebe—with snot running right down her face—had spent the entire time screaming at Miriam, who was about at her wit's ends. Phoebe simply would not be distracted. And then Miriam made the fatal mistake of looking at the clock and saying, "You can see Mom soon!" 

How dare she utter the sacred word "Mom"?! 

Phoebe went ballistic on her. 

So I thought to myself how interesting that was: that one girl could spend 2.5 hours with two babies and come home happy, while the other spent barely 50 minutes with one baby and was in hysterics. 

Today Miriam had organ lessons in the afternoon and Rachel wanted to get caught up on some school work (see: she spent 2.5 hours in the middle of the day babysitting the day before), so while the girls walked to the twins' house to pick them up and then played with them for a few minutes, I was largely left on my own with three little babies for a couple of hours this afternoon. 

The boys are Phoebe's age gestationally, but by the calendar they are several months older. They arrived in August instead—teeny, tiny preemies. They spent months and months in the NICU. One of them was barely home by the time Phoebe was born and the other came home just in time for Christmas. I gave them milk and milk and milk for a few months.

Anyway, it was fun to see all three of them just climbing all over everything. In that regard they were very similar—very curious, very squirmy, very go-go-go babies.

You should have seen how clever Twin A was on top of this jungle gym; he'd get his legs over the bar and then stand on the green platform (inside the cube) before dropping himself to the ground while holding onto that top bar. Did it over and over again! I was quite impressed!

Saturday, November 26, 2022


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 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 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 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!