Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I took my kids to the pool yesterday

 I took my kids to the pool yesterday. 

They were all surprisingly cooperative as I ran stroke clinics and made them swim laps and tread water and things like that. We also worked on our stride entry, a method of entering the pool from the side while keeping your head above water so you can keep your eyes on the victim.

"Wait...there's a victim?!" Rachel gasped.

"Yeah, like....a drowning victim."

"Well, that really raises the stakes!"

I suppose it does. 

We practiced entering the water with a stride entry and a pool noodle (which isn't really a life-saving device, but we didn't want to get out the pool's rescue rings since they're only for true emergencies) to rescue each other while we took turns pretending to drown. We practiced our surface dives. 

We practiced a lot of things. And then Phoebe woke up from her poolside nap and began commanding my attention.

Happy 7th birthday to Zoë

 It's true! It's true! We have a seven-year-old on our hands and she's wonderful!

Here's Zoë standing in front of our new birthday tree(s):

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Zoë's non-party

"I found my invitation to Zoë's birthday party," our little neighbour told me when I stepped out on to the porch to look a worm Alexander had found. It had been uprooted and drawn to the surface by the drizzly—at times downright downpour-ish—weather.

It was a quizzical-looking thing, with a distinctive hammerhead. Knowing it's invasive, I went back inside to get some salt. While I was gone, Alexander and the neighbour chopped the worm in half, which is cool because they reproduce via asexual fragmentation so now we essentially had two hammerhead worms on our hands. No matter. I scooped it into a plastic baggie and added some salt. Poor dear(s). 

"I found my invitation to Zoë's birthday party," our little neighbour repeated, waving a rather soggy, rather empty piece of paper in my face. 

"You must be mistaken," I told her. "I haven't planned a party for Zoë this year."

We'd considered baking cupcakes and setting up a table in the cul-de-sac for neighbours to stop by and grab and somehow convince Zoë that that is a party. was we didn't. 

"Don't you love her?"

"Oh, I love her immensely. I just didn't plan a birthday party for her."

Our neighbour, an only child, considered the mathematics of this.

"But I have this invitation..." she insisted.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins (May 12)

This was an interesting, but very quick, stop that we probably won't be repeating. We found it touted as the "creepiest hike in your state," so naturally Rachel wanted to visit it. Supposedly the ruins are haunted by Baynard (who won the estate in a poker game), himself. But we didn't see any ghosts and the hike was more like a walk (and not even a long walk, at that). It was interesting to see the tabby block ruins and read about the history of the place, but we really only spent a few minutes there (which was especially disappointing because although the site itself is on the list of national historic sites, it's only accessible by a private road and there's a $9 toll per vehicle, which we did not know about beforehand—and it had to be paid in cash). 

So, anyway, it was neat...but not $18 (tolls for two cars) neat.

Here's everyone reading a plaque in front of the big house:

Sunset on the beach (May 11)

I literally don't understand the order these pictures uploaded in. They are all completely out of order. Suffice it to say, we headed down to the beach for a sunset stroll on May 11, knowing it would really be our last chance to do so (we had storms in the forecast for May 12, our last "play day").

I'm going to try to put things in order the best I can.

Here's Zoë and Andrew strolling down the boardwalk together:

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Beach Day 2 (May 11)

Our second sunny day at the beach was much the same as the first, except that we made better use of the shuttle and Andrew only had one meeting in the morning so he was able to join us a lot sooner.

This day really turned into our sand castle day. I think we were all still a little worn out (and sunburned) from playing so hard the day before, though we did eventually get in and do a lot of swimming and boogie boarding. Even Grandpa tried his hand at boogie boarding!

Here's Zoë dancing on the sand:


Saturday, May 21, 2022


Phoebe and Zoë are working on sharing a room. Sometimes it goes wonderfully and other times it can be a little rough. 

Yesterday was a little rough.

Phoebe woke up around 4:00 in the morning (by my guess) and because Zoë left her fairy lights on when she went to sleep, the room was fairly light. So instead of immediately calling out for me, Phoebe seems to have done a little bit of playing first. 

That's normal for babies to do in the middle of the night and really would be fine, except that by the time I heard Phoebe it was around 4:30 and she was wide awake. And Zoë's music was on—"Rewrite the Stars" on repeat forever. Her volume was rather low, though, and she appeared to be sound asleep. 

I crawled into Phoebe's bed to feed her (she's on the bottom bunk—which is just about floor-level—rather than a crib) and she just...was wide awake. I mean, she was happy to nurse, but she was obviously very ready to start the day.

I also kept hearing the distinct sound of pages turning. 

So I climbed out of Phoebe's bed to peek at Zoë, who appeared to be fast asleep again, but was now suspiciously holding a book.

I climbed back into bed with Phoebe to finish giving her what was apparently going to be her breakfast. And then we got up. 

I grabbed her, I grabbed my book, and we headed downstairs to hang out quietly while the rest of the house slept. She played. I read. And then...Zoë walked downstairs to join us. 

Zoë played with Phoebe and I read until around 6:30 when Phoebe began to act like she was ready to go back to bed or take a nap or whatever. I wasn't sure what to call it, but I was happy she wanted more sleep because I did as well. 

"It looks like Phoebe's ready to go back to bed," I said. "So I'm going to go lie down with her. What are you going to do?"

"Oh, I'll figure it out!" Zoë sang out. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Beach Day 1 (May 10)

We had some balmy weather on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 10 and 11), so we spent those two days at the beach. Unfortunately, those were also Andrew's busiest "work" days, so I was glad to have Grandpa around to help me get the kids down to the beach. One of Andrew's students needed to defend their dissertation one of the days (somewhat important, I suppose) and then he had a couple other meetings that he couldn't miss. Not much of a "vacation" for him, I suppose.

Grandpa, on the other hand, forgot his "electronics bag" at home, so his laptop was left sitting all alone in his living room the whole week...along with all of Grandpa's toiletries. 

Good thing they have stores in Hilton Head!

Anyway, on our way down to the beach we stumbled across an alligator sunning itself (as I mentioned in an earlier post). Here are a few more pictures of that little surprise:

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Savannah (May 9)

Our last stop of the day was a quick progressive dinner in downtown Savannah. Honestly, Savannah is one of those places you could wander around in all day and not get bored. The architecture is charming; it's dotted with public squares and there's the riverwalk and all sorts of interesting things to see. But, we charged through following Andrew. 

I said something about how "my dogs are woofing" because we ended up walking about 10 miles on that Monday and I carried Phoebe for most of it, either in the sling or the backpack, as shown here, with my hair pulled up under Andrew's baseball hat to keep Phoebe from yanking on it (she would not ride in the backpack while he was wearing it, but was happy to do so while I was wearing it).

Andrew and Rachel both looked at me like I was crazy. We don't have any dogs. And there was no woofing.

"This is an idiom," I said.

They'd never heard of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Oatland Island

Our next stop was Oatland Island Wildlife Center, which is run by the Savannah-Chattham county school district (something I thought was pretty cool). We had wanted to go last year because our neighbours highly recommended it, but I think it was closed due to COVID. 

Here's our group standing in front of the visitor's center, which was once the retirement home (?) for the Order of Railway Conductors. There wasn't much for us to do in the visitor's center, but I imagine there are classrooms and things for school groups to use. There were certainly other areas of the center that appeared to be geared toward school groups (such as the sugar cane processing area).

Fort Pulaski (May 9)

Last Monday was supposed to be quite chilly and overcast, so we decided to spend the day doing dry-land activities around Savannah. Our first stop was Fort Pulaski, named to honour Casimir Pulaski (a Polish military commander known as the "father of American calvary," who died in the Revolutionary War). Pulaski died in 1779, fort construction was ordered after the war of 1812, construction began in 1829 and was completed in 1847. Confederate troops claimed the fort in early 1861, and in April 1862 Union forces based at Tybee Island conquered the fort using a new "rifle cannon." 

At the time, most known cannons only had a range of a half mile. Tybee Island is about a mile away from Cockspur Island (where Fort Pulaski stands), so the fort wasn't really expecting to be attacked. But...they were. Many shots hit the outer wall and a few landed near the powder magazine on the far end of the fort, spurring on a surrender (for fear the whole fort would blow). 

This fort is known as the fort that rendered brick fortifications obsolete since it was no match for the rifle cannon.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me remember what we learned at the fort).

This is another National Monument that offers a Junior Ranger badge. The kids were quite excited to get to work on their booklets.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Critters and swimming

The other day the kids wanted to make a habitat for a moth that they'd found. I figured they'd found a little lawn moth or something, so told them to go ahead and choose an "throw-away" container or something to use. They found a cottage cheese container in the Tupperware bin and filled it with mud, since that's what they'd done for the billion snails they'd found after a storm not too long ago.

I wasn't too concerned about them drowning a lawn moth in their muddy habitat, but changed my mind once they dragged me outside to see this moth specimen with my own eyes. This was no mere lawn moth. This was a majestic creature, too regal to drown in a muck-filled cottage cheese container:

Lunar eclipse at home and star-gazing on the beach

I know I just said that I was ultimately happy leaving the beach when we did because that gave us the weekend to recover, but last night when we were observing the lunar eclipse Andrew mentioned how amazing it would have been to watch the eclipse on the beach and suddenly I found myself wishing we'd consulted an astronomer before we booked our trip.

Oh, well. Watching it from our cul-de-sac was fine.

The girls watched "A Quiet Place 2" at Grandpa's house last night and came home late and rather jittery (it's a suspense movie), so we let them stay up late to watch the eclipse with us. We put the younger four to bed, but woke Benjamin up shortly before midnight so he could take a look at the moon as well. He was pretty out of it for a while

The moon is behind you, dude...

Andrew shared some beautiful poetic words by author Manu Saadia:

An eclipse is when you experience the movement of the spheres, orbital mechanics, gravity and all—the truth that we do live in space.


These pictures are still from Mother's Day, a week ago now...before we were all sore and sunburned and worn out. By now we're all feeling greatly recovered from our vacation. Part of me was a little sad that I hadn't planned to stay through the weekend, but you know how trips like these go—you really need a vacation from your vacation by the time you're done. 

Yesterday I shared our more action-filled parts of the day: wading in the water and playing volleyball and things. Today I mostly have Phoebe pictures. She's a pretty chill little thing.

Here she is chomping on her thumb and trying to squirm around so she's not facing the wind:

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Mother's Day (May 8)

When we planned this beach trip we had no idea it was Mother's Day weekend. It was simply a week that worked for us—we looked at schedules for finals and last teaching days and so forth and didn't really consult a traditional calendar at all. So it was a nice surprise to wind up at the beach on Mother's Day. 

We woke up and attended our sacrament meeting via Zoom before heading down to the beach for some wholesome recreational activity.

We've been playing a lot of badminton lately. Several years ago we got the cheapest set we could find at Wal-Mart. The net is still going strong, but the rackets all broke. Restringing a racquet probably isn't too difficult, but we just ordered replacement rackets instead (since some racquets were a little bent, etc., etc., etc.) and turned the old racquets into butterfly nets for the kids...which they then brought on the beach trip.

The first frolic at Singleton Beach (May 7)

When we got to the condo, I watched the very littlest people...

Friday, May 13, 2022

Wildly unsafe

Getting to the beach was so easy; Phoebe had not yet discovered her passionate dislike for traveling in her car seat. Our stopping and going was perfectly timed with her desired napping schedule, so she slept in the car, woke up for Ocmulgee,  slept in the car, and then screamed for the last half hour before we made it to the condo. That, I suppose, is when she realized how terrible traveling can be because she screamed every other time we put her in the car after that!

We arrived at the condo, took the elevator up to the fourth floor, found our door, and explored the inside. Zoë, Alexander, and Benjamin claimed an obvious children's room with a single and full bed. Andrew and I took the main bedroom with a full bed and adjoining bathroom (but then it ended up that it was easier for Andrew to sleep in a full bed with Zoë and Alexander than to sleep in a full bed with me and Phoebe, so Andrew slept in the kids' room and Phoebe and I took the whole bedroom/bathroom combo for ourselves, which I felt a teensy bit guilty about all week). Grandpa took the other bedroom with a full bed. Rachel and Miriam were on the hide-a-bed in the living room. It worked out well.

There wasn't a lot of usable closet space, unfortunately, so all of our stuff was just kind of "out" all week. The kitchen cupboards were all full of our food was just...out on the counter. The hallway closet contained the HVAC system. My bedroom closet contained the water heater.

"A water heater??" Alexander said when we opened the door. "In the closet?! That is wildly unsafe! They should have put this thing in the basement!"

Our water heater the basement. 

I pointed out that the condo doesn't technically have a basement. Beneath us is another apartment. Beneath that is another one. And under that one is yet another one. Below that is the parking garage. 

The water heater had to go somewhere and this closet seemed like as good a spot as any. 

Then I reassured him that it was perfectly safe.

We had bigger fish to fry when it came to safety—keeping our eyes peeled for alligators. Here's Zoë by a sign in front of our condo, warning us that alligators are common in these areas.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Always fun for everyone

This last semester was rough for Andrew. My semester was fine; busy, but fine. Andrew's semester was just rough. His students were burned out and he was burned out and...I don't think he's ever been so happy to submit final grades before. 

He gets Maymester off before he's back to teaching again. 

But when I say he gets Maymester off, I mean that lightly. His vacation time has been interrupted for various meetings (dissertation defense meetings, among other things), so the past couple of days Grandpa and I have taken the kids to the beach and Andrew has met up with us later. And the funny thing is that it's way more fun for everyone when Daddy comes!

They have a lot of fun with Grandpa, too, I think. He spent a lot of time out jumping in the waves with the kids. 

It's even possible they had fun with me, though I'm more anxious about everything (sharks, guys...and alligators...and snakes...and ticks...and sunburns...and meteors crashing into the planet) so I spend more time doing things like slathering children with sunscreen than playing (they burned anyway, but think about how much worse it would have been without my efforts). I tend to have an extra hard time loosening up and playing when I have a nursing baby because what if she needs me and I'm cold and wet and covered in sand (or worse, eaten by a shark)? That would be horrible (or at least uncomfortable). 

Anyway, Daddy was fun for boogie-boarding, danger-sandcastles (the ones built down by the surf), and all sorts of adventures. Grandpa was good for wave jumping and Phoebe naps. I was good for shell hunting and safe-sandcastles and sunscreen reapplication and Phoebe cares. Divide and conquer. 

But this is a post mostly about how great Andrew is to us. 

I am typing this up while wearing his sweater (because the thermostat at the condo is set to freezing and my sweater is...somewhere in the room with a sleeping Phoebe...and I'm freezing...he is, too, but he's letting me have a turn).

He's done a great job juggling work and play on this trip.

Here are a few pictures of him playing this afternoon—watching the waves with Phoebe:

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Phoebe vs. the other kids

Taking this week to relax and be a family has caused us (or at least me) to reflect on all our sweet babies, who have been alike in some ways and different in others. They've also been a lot of hard work! I was realizing, as Grandpa was pacing the beach with Phoebe, how easy a trip like this would have been with children ages 5 to 15 (really only 4.5 to nearly 15). 

All of the kids can feed themselves, dress themselves, sit up by themselves. Most of them can swim proficiently. All of them can help shlep stuff to and from the beach. Easy.

Or at least easier.

Phoebe is wonderful but—man!—babies are a lot of work!

Anyway, when we pulled up to our condo at Hilton Head after a long stretch of driving, I hopped right out to unbuckle Phoebe, who was screaming inconsolably in her car seat. I fully expected every toy I'd handed her to cascade onto the ground the minute the door opened, but they didn't. She was hoarding all the toys in her lap. 

It was Alexander who would toss toys overboard (to the door-side of his car seat so that no one could grab them for him). 

So in that way, Phoebe and Alexander are different.

Tonight at dinner, as I was feeding Phoebe guacamole and refried beans (and Zoë was turning up her nose at the same because she hates beans (though she likes guacamole)), I remarked how amazing it was that Phoebe has enjoyed everything she's tasted so far because Zoë didn't like her first taste of anything

Phoebe has had avocado and beans, obviously. She's also had strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, watermelon, apples, bananas, celery, green beans, carrots, peas, corn, red peppers...little tastes of sandwich bread, peanut butter, Ritz crackers, cheese puffs, daal, Cheerios, scrambled eggs, hardboiled eggs (just the yoke)... 

She really doesn't like to be left out of eating so she's pretty much had a taste of anything anyone has been eating. 

Here she is eating some pistachio ice cream from Leopold's (which his apparently the best ice cream in Savannah):

Monday, May 09, 2022

Ocmulgee Mounds

Many of the pictures that we have from the past couple of days were actually taken by either Rachel or Miriam, so it'll be like a surprise for me as I go through them. I spent a lot of time holding a fussy baby, so it just made sense to pass off the camera. 

We were actually pretty lucky on the way down here, Phoebe-wise. She fell asleep for her morning nap just as we were leaving, woke up when we arrived at Ocmulgee Mounds, happily toured around, and then when we got back in the car she was ready for her afternoon nap. She slept until we were about a half hour away from our destination and then screamed nonstop until we arrived. What a good little traveller, we thought. But we've not been so lucky in the car since then, so it's probably a good thing we called off that Utah trip (since Phoebe has decided the car seat is her personal little torture chamber).

Anyway, here she is taking a quick turn around the museum at Ocmulgee with Grandpa:

Friday, May 06, 2022

Phoebe vs. Blueberries

We had the world's most delicious blueberries with dinner this evening. Dinner was leftovers: tomato soup, tacos, pancakes, and dal. The blueberries were not leftover, but they were heavenly. Even the big ones, which I usually avoid because they are sometimes sweet and mushy, were tart and juicy (just the way I like them). 

Phoebe enjoyed playing with some leftover green beans, but she got really excited about those blueberries.

She looks like a normal, sweet & innocent little baby, right?

Thursday, May 05, 2022

New Podcast Episode

The kids have been working on another episode for their podcast. This time they discussed some Civil Rights Heroes—Rosa Parks, Myrlie Evers-Williams, James Holmes, and Evelyn Simpson Curenton. 

You can listen to it on

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

A couple of achievements

Miriam had her National Piano Playing Audition today. She played two pieces, which she's spent the past couple of months memorizing. She was rather worried about performing them today, but ended up getting straight C's, which is a good thing—C is for "commendable" or something. A's are for things that "require attention" and hurt your score. But she passed with flying colours, as we knew she would. 

Here are a few videos of her warming up on a grand piano that costs just about as much as our house. She made a few mistakes, but that's bound to happen when you're learning on an electric keyboard older than yourself. Something tells me our keyboards somehow don't compare to this elegant 9 ft. grand piano (that, again, is worth as much as our house). She reported that she played better during her audition (only she and the judge were allowed in the room while she was officially playing, but since her audition was right around lunchtime, she was able to sneak into the studio to warm up early and Andrew went in with her then).

Here's 'Gymnopédie No.1' by Erik Satie:

Who would have thought?

Let's all take a minute to relish the fact that rain has been in the forecast—or even written into the clouds—for several days and yet when it comes time to actually hasn't. We've been bone dry over here!

So naturally, I decide to water the lawn yesterday (double-purposed as a water day for the kids) and in the middle of the night the sky unleashes a huge storm. Just so much rain! 

And thunder. And lightning. 

It was noisy enough to send Alexander running into our bedroom. I pulled him into bed beside me. He was upset that he hadn't even been able to prepare by building a thunder fort. We talked about what causes lightning and what causes thunder. He was a little perplexed that thunder often will strike trees because "wood isn't even a good conductor," so it's nice to know that he's paying attention during our science lessons because, indeed, wood is not a good conductor. We tested out a chopstick with our Makey Makey keyboard yesterday and it would not conduct for us. 

I told him that it might be because electrons can move easier through solids than through gases, so even though a tree makes a better insulator than a conductor it's something solid for those electrons to move through. Plus, trees sap is maybe more conductive than regular ol' wood? I don't know, but I basically created this Reddit thread on the fly at 4 AM, so we'll say it was an okay answer.

I have plenty of memories of lying beside my mom in bed, petrified of storms, and asking similar questions. Once she told me about lightning rods and I imagined that we had an invisible one running right through our house (which at the time was a townhome) like a fire pole, because I couldn't quite understand the concept. Maybe our house had a lightning rod. Maybe it didn't. But it was a lovely thing to imagine because it made me feel safe. 

(My aunt's farm house definitely has a lightning rod, at least...that's what my cousins told me it was. At any rate they have a big, tall pole just beside their house. To no surprise to my mother, I'm sure, I'll admit that I used to climb up it.)

Alexander created his own way to feel safe last night. 

"That was a big thunder!" he pointed out. "It shook the furniture."

"It was very big," I agreed. "I felt it shake the house as well."

"I'll just pretend there's a man standing in the bathroom helping hold things together," he said.

Thanks for imagining that. The one thing I would prefer not to imagine. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

School days, sprinklers, and...some poop stories

Yesterday was a rough homeschooling day. To be fair, we'd just come off a week-long break (for finals week—mine, not the children's) so naturally it takes a while to kick back into gear. It seems almost silly that we took a break given how few days we have left until we hit our 180 day mark. 

To that end, Andrew suggested to the children during FHE last night that they only had eight days left of school, "unless mom decides to fudge the numbers."

Rachel and Miriam's hands flew up to cover their gaping mouths. 

We explained that fudging the numbers wasn't as bad as it sounds. After this week we'll have four days left of school, but I haven't counted any "catch up Friday" days this school year (there have been many more than four) so odds are we've technically accomplished more than our 180 days. Plus we have a few family (field) trips planned out that will be somewhat educational. Considering how few outings we went on this past year (thanks, Phoebe, for complicating things), I don't feel like counting these outings as school days is dishonest. 

We'll be completing some Junior Park Ranger books, for example. See? Educational. 

"So, wait...what does fudging mean?" the girls asked. 

We told them more or less the same thing the dictionary will tell you: that it means to falsify or devise as a substitute; to cheat or to exceed the bounds or limits of something; to fail to perform as expected.

"Oh, that's an actual word?!"

They thought Andrew was using it as a direct substitution word, similar to how The Good Place uses...fork, bench, and shirt. But, no. Andrew was not fudging his language in using the word fudge.


And we are on a countdown to the end of the year. Like I said, yesterday was pretty awful, but today was much better.

Some weekend things

Phoebe woke up grumpy on Sunday morning and fussed and screamed through sacrament meeting as well as through primary. She took a three-hour nap after church and woke up a happy baby, thank goodness.


The bishop approached Andrew to tell him that there would still be a Zoom link for sacrament meeting; it's just going to be a secret Zoom link because some people find it hurtful that others would attend meetings via Zoom rather than in-person. Weird flex, but okay. At least we get to continue our own little status quo while we wait for childhood vaccines (and then also for Phoebe to be old enough to wear a mask??). 


On Saturday morning Grandpa took Rachel, Miriam, and Benjamin on a little bike ride to the park. I packed up Zoë and Alexander with their bikes to meet everyone else at the park (so they could ride around the pond with Grandpa and feel a part of things). 

Here's Alexander pushing Phoebe in the swing (she thought bumping into him was hilarious):

Saturday, April 30, 2022

End of the semester

I submitted my last term papers yesterday and today. 


I was giving Phoebe her last nursing session before bed when Andrew came to see if she was ready for her bedtime walkabout with Daddy (because that's a thing for her). 

"I have nothing to do," I remarked.

Not that I was complaining. I was more...relishing the moment. 

"You can work on your thesis proposal," he suggested. "Or blog."

I have a meeting with my advisor about my thesis on Monday. And another meeting with a potential committee member on Thursday. 

And I also emailed some co-authors from a group project last year that we were planning on getting ready for publication and simply haven't yet, to see if they would still like to revise that. Because I'm, apparently, a glutton for punishment. 

The "revise and resubmit" that I did this semester was not fun. But part of that was just that two of my co-authors decided they didn't want to work on the paper anymore (which...fine) and I had a strange dynamic with the third co-author, who was the principal investigator. She at once wanted me to do too much (in my opinion, which I think is why the other authors had bow out) but also wouldn't let me do enough. It was weird. And stressful. 

One quick example (poor Andrew listened to hours of me agonizing over this process) is that once the PI added a quote to the paper that included the line "when we fail to rest the limits of our knowing." The quote goes on to talk about "a willingness to declare publicly that we might not, or cannot, know anything with certainty" (that's from page 31 of Thinking with theory in qualitative research: Viewing data across multiple perspectives by Jackson & Mazzei, 2012).

Failing to "rest" the limits of our knowledge didn't quite make sense to me, but I didn't have access to this book. My PI, however, did. 

So I suggested that perhaps it was really supposed to read "test."

She responded, "Nancy, this is a direct quote."

Friday, April 29, 2022

An afternoon on the Chattahoochee

It's not that I haven't taken the kids out since Phoebe's been born, because I have. We've just...always gone the very same place, just a two minute drive from our house, with paved trails the stroller can handle, and plenty of playground areas to choose from should we stumble upon a crowded one, and...basically what I'm saying is that I've simply been repeatedly choosing the absolutely easiest outing possible for the last, oh, six months or so. 

If not longer.

The past year has been a full year. I wouldn't say that it's been bad, but it has been full. Sometimes with heavy stuff, sometimes with lovely stuff. Sometimes with lovely stuff that is heavy, sometimes with heavy stuff that is lovely, sometimes with unlovely heavy stuff. That's how years seem to pass.

But today I was feeling pretty adventurous (I've more-or-less finished my final projects so have some room to breathe) so I let the kids talk me into visiting Jones Bridge Park, where I knew we'd mostly just get wet (which is okay).

When we piled out of the van and were walking through the parking lot, Benjamin said, "I can't hear the river yet, which means it can't be too full, which means it should be fine to get in!"

I told him to just cool his jets and to not run ahead and we'd decide about the river when we could see it. 

As it turns out, he was right! The river was perfect for wading in!

...if you like 50°F water. 

Trout and these little crawdads seem to like the water that chilly:

Monday, April 25, 2022

Phoebe at 5 months

Phoebe's been five months old for nearly two weeks now, so I guess she's more like five and a half months old (which is blowing my mind), so here's a little bit about her before she's six months old.

We'll start with her toes, which she found the other day. She thinks they're a whole lot of fun to grab, which works great when she's flat on her back and less well when she's sitting up (because then she ends up folding right in half). Here are a million pictures of her grabbing her feet:

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Easter morn

I suppose this was technically the day before Easter morn, since we had the kids do their baskets and egg hunt on Saturday (the 16th). 

Here they are by their haul:

The little kids all got a new swimming suit and or sun/rash guard since pool season is just around the corner. We also got some sand toys and boogie boards for the beach. And some candy. Lots of candy, actually. When Andrew is in charge of candy we end up with a lot of candy. 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

I'm only one traveller

I've had Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' running through my mind today as I've had to make a series of complicated decisions the past couple of days and have been congratulated—more than once by more than one person—for having made a decision at all.

"Good for you for making a decision!" my mom told me when I told her definitively that we won't be making a trip out to Utah this summer. And then I told my siblings that we wouldn't be coming out. And then I threw myself a little pity party—with tears and everything!—and then brushed myself off and went about my day. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

No dice

Grandpa came over for Easter dinner on Sunday and after we finished eating we decided we'd play around of Zilch, a game of chance that requires six dice.

Not a problem; we have plenty of dice.

Andrew uses Zilch to teach his students about probability and risk-taking and things like that, so a few years ago he bought a big ol' bag of dice. We're talking a hundred pieces—ten sets of dice in ten different colours. It's a lot of dice! 

We went to retrieve it from the game shelf, dice. It simply wasn't where it should be, so we launched a full-house search.

We checked the downstairs game shelf (because, yes, we have one upstairs and one downstairs), we rifled through things on the credenza (that isn't supposed to have anything on it, but which tends to be a catch-all spot), we searched the music room, we looked around Andrew's office.

We retraced our steps.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Egg Smackdown 2022

We didn't get around to dying eggs until bedtime last night. And that's just the regular ol' drop-them-in-a-pot-of-dye method. We're still working on our pysanky.

We weren't busy with anything in particular. The day was filled with Easter baskets and chores in the morning, and napping and playing and building a shelf for Zoë's bed in the afternoon. I'm really not sure how the day got away from us, but it did. And we didn't start dying eggs until around 8:00!

It was kind of a magical year for dying eggs. All the kids old enough to participate are responsible enough that I wasn't stressed out over the entire process for the first time in years. No eggs were dropped. No dye was spilled. No tears were shed. 

I'd feel relieved but...I know that I have another little chaos agent in the making (it's Phoebe; she was simply too little this year to participate). I was quite surprised with how delicately Alexander handled his eggs.

Spare change

 I have so much that I'm behind in writing about, but also so much to do that I'm finding it difficult to find the time I would like to write here. Other muses are calling, but I don't want this one to lose its importance.

For now I'll share a brief story that I wrote up for the Hancock Hummer (the family newsletter that I do, and which has for years and years been published the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October, but which I have put aside until now, and everyone has been so wonderfully patient; it's like the family elders all took an oath not to harass me about it (in the past I've gotten emails the first Sunday of the month if I hadn't sent it out the Saturday)). Perhaps they did. One of my mom's cousins has been organizing monthly cousin meetings via Zoom. 

Anyway...this is what I wrote in about Andrew:

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Elephant eggs

A rather boring package arrived today. 

The delivery person drove their truck down our driveway (brave soul), dropped a box off on our front step, and then backed the truck out of our driveway (as I said, brave soul). Benjamin quickly went to bring it in. 

"It's heavy," he announced, before passing it to Andrew.

"It's for Mom," Andrew said. 

"What is it?" I asked. "Oh, it's from Amazon. That's for Rachel."

"For me?!" Rachel said, shocked. She went to take the package from Andrew. "What is it? Oh, wow! What is even in here?! It's so heavy!"

"Maybe it's an elephant," Benjamin suggested. 

Rachel narrowed her eyes.

"You think an elephant could fit in here?" she asked. She rolled her eyes, muttered, "Please."

"Maybe it's elephant eggs."

Why would your next guess be elephant eggs?! That's so stupid!"

My mind immediately went to Horton Hatches the Egg (by Dr. Seuss, of course), but Andrew's mind went in a completely different direction.

"There is such thing as elephant eggs," he said. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Kennesaw Mountain with Grandpa

Grandpa picked up the five big kids on Friday morning and took them on a field trip to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. It was their second time going (we took the kids in October of 2019...without Alexander's stroller), so they knew a bit of what to expect, but it was fun for them to go with Grandpa, who is a bit of a history buff. 

He came armed with little worksheets about the Civil War that he'd typed up and printed out. He challenged the kids to fill in answers they knew on the way there and my kids, being the smart alecks that they are got a little creative with their answers. For example:

Question: What was the first battle of the Civil War?

Answer: Not Gettysburg. 

Technically true, but evading the question. Silly kids. 

Grandpa walked them through the museum and helped them find all the answers to the questions. And now even Zoë can tell you that the Civil War started in 1861. I was glad to have Grandpa take on this subject because there is so much about US history that I...don't know...or teach my kids, so I feel like I'm often learning right along with them. For example, when they got home Grandpa quizzed the kids by saying, "Who was the president of the Confederate States?"

"Davis?" I ventured with a whisper.

"JEFFERSON DAVIS!" all the kids yelled. 

And, like, I knew that...or thought I knew that...or had come across that information a time or two...but it's not really something I know know because I simply never internalized American history the way I imagine a born-and-bred American has.

Not that there's anything wrong with exploring history together with my kids (we do that all the time), but it was also kind of nice to let someone else share what they (confidently) know about history. 

Rachel took pictures of their trip, which she shared with me. Here's the crew before heading up the mountain:

Sunday, April 10, 2022


Over the past couple of days, I have written 11,635 words for school assignments. 

Phoebe has been having rough nights, so I often end up staying up most of the night with her. 

Like tonight, friends, when she's just now deciding it would be a good time to go to sleep. Here she is, perched on my lap, where I've been up typing for the last little while, having given up any thought of sleep since going to bed at 2:00, getting up every hour to feed Phoebe and convince her it's really sleeping time, and then just getting up at 5:00. 

So glad she decided to call it an evening a mere hour or so before I have to be up for the day. 

Phoebe's first foods

It all started with a piece of celery. Phoebe was fussing and fussing at the dinner table, so we handed her a nice cool piece of celery and she chomped that thing to death, thinking celery juice was the best thing ever (Andrew has a picture of that). It was about then that we realized that Phoebe wasn't going to give us all the typical "cues" a baby might offer to let parents know they're ready for food. I mean, sure, Phoebe has excellent head control these days, but as far as anything else goes (reaching for food at the table, showing interest in food, watching excitedly as others eat, opening wide to mimic your bites as you eat, showing a reduction in tongue thrusting, etc.), Phoebe wasn't going to do any of that stuff. 

She was just going to scream about feeling left out.

I'm not sure why. We've been testing her food readiness since birth, just kind of as a joke—teasing her with a bite of whatever we happen to be eating. As late as last week we could hold food directly to her mouth and she would simply look at us like we were crazy. She'd make no move to bite it or grab it.

And then this week happened. 

Suddenly she's grabbing things—fistfuls of hair, a container of leftovers from the fridge, spoons full of food—and she is literally singing for her supper. 

No longer content to suck on raw vegetables (which she can't bite, chew, or swallow) and desperate to get her to stop screaming, we put her in her high chair the other night, and offered her some Cheerios.

That was the first time solid food hit her belly, and she was in baby heaven.

"We need to get some rice cereal," I mentioned, which is a far better first food. Not that I'm opposed to giving my child food straight from the table. I'm not. But...our dinner on Wednesday (the 6th) wasn't very baby friendly. Miriam had made bowtie pasta with tomatoes, and mozzarella all tossed in pesto, which seemed far too flabourful and acidic of an inauguration meal for a baby. So, Cheerios it was, followed up with a request for rice cereal, so we can do things a little more slowly and blandly.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Foot poems

As I've mentioned, we're reading multiple translations of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin right now. We just finished chapter three, I believe. Of course, it's taking us twice as long to read it as it would otherwise since we're reading two translations at once (and sometimes listening to the original Russian, just for kicks). 

In chapter one, Pushkin spends approximately five sonnets extolling ladies' feet. The kids were rolling with laughter. Here are a few excerpts from the Poetry in Translation version:

I love their little feet, confess
That, search all Russia though,
You’ll not find three lovely pair.
Ah, they made me long despair
Two slender feet…Now sad and cold
I still remember, and it seems
They yet can thrill me in my dreams.

Monday, April 04, 2022

All-day Outfit and silly scriptures

Phoebe survived the entire day in a single outfit, which has to be a new record for her (so I was glad I picked a cute one)! We did our morning work fairly quickly today and then headed to the park for a picnic and PE (after we finished lunch I made the kids run 1.5 miles before letting them play, or, in the case of Rachel and Miriam, do more schoolwork). 

Here's Benjamin helping Phoebe go down some teeny slides at the park:

I know the stats about children and broken legs on slides, specifically when going down slides on laps. I know that...and yet I still let my kids go down the slide on laps. I just make sure to remind the holder about keeping the rider's legs inside their lap (not to either side) and on top of their legs (not in between). And then I take a deep breath and tell my anxiety to take a chill pill. 

Because—here's the thing—I'm actively anxious about...most taking a few calculated risks is like...exposure therapy...right? Sure.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Conference Weekend

This year's general conference opened with these words a prayer offered by Elder Jose L. Alonso of the Seventy, and it was this thoughtful prayer that really stuck with me through all the sessions of conference that I watched (which...was two, but 2/3 ain't bad; Phoebe and I went upstairs to have a nap during the second session, at the behest of Andrew and all the kids at home (some kids were over watching at Grandpa's place so didn't weigh in on the decision) and we slept for nearly three hours and, honestly, I have no regrets). 

Anyway, Elder Alonso's prayer:
We are so grateful for having living prophets, seers, and revelators. We love them and we pray for them and we support them. We are so eager to learn from thee by the spirit and through the voices of those who will address us today. We pray for them to receive inspiration and great joy. We want follow thy will and we need thy help to remember those words that we will receive today, but mainly the impressions that we would receive by the Holy Ghost...
The emphasis is mine. I was reminded of a lesson I had years ago where the instructor mentioned having such a powerful experience in general conference, feeling like every talk was fine-tuned to be precisely what she needed to hear, feeling like her prayers were answered very actionably, feeling like she finally knew what she needed to do to handle whatever it was she felt she hadn't previously been able to handle. 

When she revisited that session a few years later, however, she couldn't see how she had gotten those impressions since the talks, which she so distinctly remembered being specific to her problems, weren't at all related to what she remembered. Her point was that the inspirations and impressions she got during conference were more important than what words were said. 

I believe this is also the case while reading the scriptures. Naturally, the words are good. But the impressions are often more important than the seemingly obvious meaning of the passage.

So, I liked that opening message. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lovely things

Phoebe is four months old, an age infamously known for a good ol' fashioned sleep regression. This coupled with taking Phoebe to a conference and upending her entire world and schedule, coupled with getting vaccinations on Monday and subsequently running a fever for a few days has led to a pretty miserable time in the Heiss household. 

Two nights this week that baby has stayed awake until—cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye if I lie—6:30 in the morning. I mean, technically, she went to bed, but then she got up around midnight or so and then she was up. It's been brutal. 

This morning, around 5:00, I left a message on the board for my children in bold, capital letters, hoping they'd read it and do as it said. Hoping, against hope, that they'd get some work accomplished before I got up for the day because I could tell—at 5:00 in the morning, with a wide-awake baby on my hip—that I would not be waking up when my kids got up. I would be sleeping in as long as possible.

Phoebe and I finally crawled into bed at 6:38 AM. 

We got up at 10:00 and I went to find my kids, who were all...playing.

"Did you practice the piano?" I asked them, hopefully.

No, they had not. 

"Did you see my note?"

"The one that said, 'PRACTICE THE PIANO! OR ELSE!!!!'? Yeah. We saw it."

"And you decided to just...not practice this piano?"

"Well," Zoë explained, "You did say 'or else,' so we're doing something else."

Silly things

Today I feel in way over my head with all sorts of things. Mostly I think it's because I'm back to working on this particular back-burner project that I wish had not stopped bubbling over. I worked on it all summer (the project that gave me a lovely eye-twitch, which stopped almost the minute I turned the darn thing in) but now it's back in my hands and I just wish it would go away. It's a long story, but it's mostly been making me feel very incapable of accomplishing anything and is absolutely not something I wanted to be working on four months postpartum. 

There are other things that have been weighing on me and I know that most of my concerns are just silly anxieties concocted by lack of sleep and whatnot. But, I've just been feeling sad. 

So I this evening I interrupted my assigned readings to play badminton with Benjamin, who enjoys declaring, "Badminton is my middle name!" Mostly because Benjamin Badminton Heiss is fun to say. And because he's enjoying the discovery of "underrated sports" (his words, not mine), such as badminton. 

Also, I wrote this silly poem (because our whole world is turning a ghastly green right now):

An Ode to High Pollen Count

I need—Achoo!—a tissue;
I’ve a tickle in my nose.
Achoo! I can’t stop sneezing.
I’m allergic, I suppose,
to—Achoo!—all this pollen,
Which seems t-achoo! accrue
Upon every—Achoo!—surface
So—Achoo!—I wish that you
Would pass the—Achoo!—tissue box
And let me pull one out!
My—Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!—nose
Is running like a spout.
I know that only weeks ago—
Achoo!—I wished for spring.
Unfortunately, I forgot
We’d be coated—Achoo!—green!

And, honestly, I feel a bit better.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Phoebe's 4 month check up

As is fairly common with my babies, Phoebe has put on a delicious—seemingly unprecedented—amount of weight in a few short weeks. 

She is now fifteen pounds. Fifteen!

Well, 6798.21 grams, so not quite fifteen pounds. But almost!

I feel shocked, perhaps because Alexander remained tiny so long, probably on account of his severe-severe, throat-damaging reflux. Phoebe, like all my children, also has reflux but not so badly that it's keeping her from putting on weight. Clearly.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Home-church talks

We're still home-churching our younger crew, which is getting a little tiresome after two years. But the pandemic is *checks notes* still a thing, and our metric for "returning" remains having our entire family vaccinated. A high bar to set, I realize, since there isn't even a vaccine for five and under. And yet, it's the bar. Although I know many people think I'm overreacting, I think that statistic shows that I'm...kind of not.

Without much fanfare, we've reached one million (1,000,000) deaths in the USA. 

And I know that kids "don't" get seriously ill from COVID and's in the top 15 causes of death for children 0–4, 5–9, and 10–14 (as per the CDC), so *shrugs* we're still at home. 

This week there was no zoom sacrament meeting (which we've been fortunate to have still) because the person in charge of setting up the Zoom meeting was out of town this week and one weird, unintended consequence of this pandemic has been that absolutely no one knows how to use Zoom. 

Just kidding. Everybody knows how to use Zoom now, I think. I mean, I felt a little top-of-the-line using Zoom for the little writing class I took a few years ago, before COVID, before moving to Georgia, right after Karen passed away. Now I feel run-of-the-mill using Zoom. 

But, we didn't have a Zoom sacrament meeting today so I was all on my own for both sacrament meeting and primary. Which is fine. Staying home is my choice. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Blowing out eggs

Easter is late this year so I figured we'd have time to experiment with pysanky eggs before then. Josie sent us a kit—golly!—last April (?!) and it's been sitting on my bookshelf, taunting me, ever since. I honestly didn't think it had been a year since she sent it but the date on the package is 4/19/2021. 

But I had only just found out I was expecting Phoebe around that time last year, so the idea of engaging the children in such an involved project simply...wasn't going to happen then. This year I have no such excuse. Besides, you know, the living, breathing Phoebe that we have. 

Rachel rocked her to sleep while Miriam and I experimented how, precisely, to empty eggs, which is the first step (or last step) of pysanky (depending on how you want to make them). 

Cow shoes, jumping ants, and empty nests

The other day at lunch Rachel mentioned wanting to make baklava, so our lunchtime conversations centered around baklava, balaclavas, and various nuts. Walnuts are a popular nut in baklava, but I prefer pistachio. Rachel's a little bit allergic to walnuts (nothing too bad; they make her mouth tingle), so she was okay not doing walnuts. She suggested that almonds might be a good alternative as well. Someone mentioned cashew. But I'm a little bit allergic to cashews (nothing too bad; they just create havoc in my digestive track).

Miriam mentioned how odd it is that pistachios are so clean, given that they grow in the dirt. 

This clued me into the fact that my children don't actually know where nuts come from. So we discussed peanuts (which do grow in the ground and are called groundnuts in other places in the world) versus tree nuts (which are...most other nuts).

We went for a walk later in the afternoon. Zoë and Phoebe wore matching outfits, coordinated by Zoë, of course:

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Duels over Duolingo

Today Zoë had me look at her "phone" so I could help her fix something in her settings. While I was in there I happened upon a texting thread she had going on with Benjamin, wherein he has sent her several automated messages from Duolingo, telling her about his streaks and inviting her to "join" him (so that he can earn more "gems" in the platform).

She more or less blows off his first message...

Benjamin: I'm on a 7 day streak learning Greek on Duolingo! Join me?

Zoë: Maybe

And that's it between the two of them for a full week. No further exchanges. But then she really blows off his second message, which he sent on March 17, and which she didn't respond to until today

Benjamin: I'm on a 14 day streak learning greek on Duolingo! Join me?

Zoë: Cool? Like, I have a 53 [day] learning [streak]. But, if you want me to, sure. What is your invite link?

The first day of spring

As part of my post-conference wind-down, we went to the park for several hours this afternoon. I'm not sure how long we were there, but it was definitely long enough to get a little sunkissed.

I made the kids run 1.5 miles today. They did well with that, for the most part. And then I unleashed them on the playground while Phoebe napped in her stroller and I did some readings for my classes. 

Rachel also did some reading: 

St. Patrick's Day

This first picture is not from St. Patrick's Day. It's just Phoebe taking a little rest during a surprisingly happy tummy time. She flips onto her stomach all the time now, and while she can flip onto her back from there, she often gets so frustrated with life on her tummy that instead of flipping over she just screams into the carpet. Because that makes sense. 

But here you can see she's just being pleasant.


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Conferencing it up

We did it! We made it through the conference!

I don't know how I would have been able to do it without Andrew, who was my cheerleader over the past year and helped me through more than one emotional breakdown. It's not every day you commit to working a new job and taking more than a full load of graduate-level courses in addition to homeschooling your already-handful of kids and then find out you're pregnant. But it was one day. 

At least, it was for me. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of that day. 

That day wasn't pretty. Not exactly. 

But we made it through it! 

And now, here's Phoebe being a beautiful (tired) baby at a beautifully coordinated conference:

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Matching jammies

Andrew's cousin Ashley—whose boys are Rachel and Miriam's ages—had a baby girl two months ago. I think it's kind of funny that our kids line up so well (aside from, you know, Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander)!

Ashley posted two-month pictures of Scarlett the other day, along with her one-month pictures for comparison—because babies do a lot of growing those first few weeks. I saw this post while I was lying in bed, nursing Phoebe, just as the sun was beginning to rise, and I noticed that Phoebe was in the same pyjamas Scarlett was wearing in her one-month pictures!

Here's Scarlett at one month (we're not jealous about her hair at all (just kidding; we totally are)):

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Moving in

Grandpa's moving truck arrived on Friday afternoon, so we headed over to help unload. Unfortunately, we'd waited so long that Andrew had eventually decided to go grocery shopping (since grocery shopping on Friday takes much less time than on a Saturday), so he wasn't home when we got word the truck had arrived, which meant that I headed over by myself with the kids. 

I'm not sure how helpful a mom and six kids are when it comes to unloading a moving truck, but we seemed to make pretty good headway before Andrew arrived to do the heavy lifting. 

Phoebe did us the favour of falling asleep and taking a good long nap on Grandpa's floor, so I got to do some decent helping before Andrew got there. And Rachel and Miriam were excellent helpers as well.

Here's Phoebe not napping on Grandpa's floor:

Phoebe at 4 months

Phoebe is four months old today! I don't know how big she is because her well-child check isn't for a couple more weeks and, well, I haven't bothered to measure her myself. Suffice it to say, she's a growing concern.

She recently learned how to laugh—like full on belly laugh—and it's highly amusing for everyone. Here's a video from a couple days ago when Miriam came into my room around bedtime and engaged Phoebe with peek-a-boo for the first time (it's not the first time we've tried peek-a-boo with her; it's simply the first time she "got" the game).

Warning...there's some baby spit-up (or, as we like to call it, Phoebe Cheese) involved...

I don't think anyone has ever had more fun playing peek-a-boo! 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Park day

We made it to the park today (for the first time in a long time) and spent our mid-morning and early afternoon there. I made the kids run a mile and the only one who cried was Alexander (who wore flip-flops despite my explicit instructions to put on socks and shoes, and who subsequently tripped and fell and scraped up his toes), so perhaps this means our endurance is improving.

Here's Alexander being happy about the goose in the background (there was a pair of geese wandering around the whole time we were running):


Wednesday was just about the hardest day we've had in a long time. The kids simply didn't want to do anything they were asked to they just didn't. I was absolutely swamped with work and drowning in baby spit up and the kids simply walked all over me. 

I say "kids," but really Miriam and Rachel were helpful and on task most of the day. But those younger three. Oh, boy. I was about ready to sell them to the circus.

Andrew is usually around on Wednesdays, but he had meetings on campus all day. And it was just...a hard day. 

Thursdays are traditionally my hardest day of the week because that's when Andrew is usually gone all day so I'm on my own from sun-up to sun-down (and then some), but today Grandpa came over to have dinner with the kids while I holed up in my bedroom with Phoebe and did schoolwork. It worked out really well.

Phoebe was exhausted from playing at the park all afternoon, so she took a good, long nap (and I took a little one, too, since she was up until 3:00 last night). I wrote an entire paper and sent some important emails. Rachel fixed dinner, and then the kids ate dinner, watched a movie, and played a round of UNO with Grandpa. He even stayed to pace the floor with Phoebe while I read bedtime stories (while Rachel was at seminary (on zoom) and Miriam was practicing the organ). It was the most relaxing Thursday we've had in ages!

Despite the kids being...the way they were...yesterday, here's some cute pictures from recent history...

Phoebe grinning up at us from her stroller: