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Friday, September 23, 2022

The Heiss Fam

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

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

Blub. Blub. I dunno. Blub. Blub.

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 19, 2022

Little family reunion

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


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

Autocorrect got him good!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Getting there (Sept. 10)

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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2022

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

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

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

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


Friday, September 09, 2022

Birth certificates

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Traditional garb

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

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


A little shout out

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

What we're reading

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

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

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

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

Benja-math

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Baby's first haircut

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've had one of those. One of those. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Eerie itching

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

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

It was impossible...

We're on the second floor.

Perhaps some animal...

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

It was impossible...

And yet I heard what I heard. 

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

"What?" he mumbled. 

"Someone was knocking on the..."

Monday, August 29, 2022

Matchy-matchy

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

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

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

In the bathroom

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


Sunday, August 28, 2022

More psalms

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

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

Zoë wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Fall is in the air

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

In Alexander's words

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

He had written an entire page!

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

Thinking caps for psalmists

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Twofer one teefies

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


Monday, August 22, 2022

Night owl poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

My children are already passionately excited for Halloween. 

So we've started reading Frankenstein together.

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


Rachel's belated birthday balloons

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

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

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

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Pooping Contests and Grand Pianos

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


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

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

Well, yesterday we had this beast delivered:

Tranquil Trail

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

This is their story.

Zoë wishes it were her story. 

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

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

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

"98.7°F," I announced.

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

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

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

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

"I want to go!" she said.

"Want to go where?"

"Hiking! With everyone else!"

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

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

And then they left. 

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

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

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

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

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

It was exceedingly muggy outside. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Data visualization

Not to whine, but Zoë came down with a fever last night. And then I did, too. So we've both been miserable. That "streak" of having everyone be healthy sure didn't last long. I honestly don't know what's going on with us but...it's not super fun. 

Anyway, Rachel and Miriam finished their data visualization course and gave their final presentations today. They both did an excellent job (as did their friends whose presentations I watched). Most of our invited guests just stayed in their assigned Zoom room, but I hopped around a bit because I felt bad that our girls had so many guests in their rooms while others had...fewer. We're talking, like 11 to 3. Plus, it was fun to see what the other kids did!

And we were so grateful to have family show up for them! Grandpa and Naanii & Bumpa, as well as Uncle Patrick and Auntie Josie, plus Andrew and I were logged in on different devices. It was well-attended. And Uncle Patrick asked some fabulous questions (which the girls said they were very thankful for because other viewers weren't asking many questions at all). 

Naanii was happy that both girls chose topics that fell within her purview. 

Rachel analyzed ticket prices and attendance of major broadway shows across time, while Miriam compared the music of Taylor Swift (her favourite pop singer) to the music of Bach (her all-time favourite musician).

Not only did they learn a lot about data and coding and design and camaraderie, they also gained confidence in the trial-and-error method of learning. 

Miriam used to get so frustrated with math when she didn't get things right away, but today while she was doing math, she found a pattern her textbook hadn't pointed out to her and tested it on a number of problems to see if it consistently worked out. She wrote down pages and pages of math work, scribbled a bunch of stuff out, and kept on going. 

Without even crying!

She was treating her math the same way she's been treating her coding these past few weeks—as an experiment to do and re-do until she figures out how to make it do what she wants it to do. 

Not that this data visualization course didn't ever make her cry...because she definitely did some of that. 

But overall it was a good experience. Probably even a great experience! 

Andrew has all sorts of plans to have the girls keep their skills sharp, so I'm excited to see what they come up with!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A pool day!

Not to brag, but, for the first time in about eight weeks, everyone at our house is healthy! And the girls are at the tail end of their coding class and didn't have any tutorials due today, so they joined us at the pool as well. It was fun to have all the kids there together. 

The oldest four spent a lot of time playing in the diving tank. Zoë showed off her "unicorn dive," which from the deck looks like it's going to be a hot mess (especially since she biffed it while running on the driveway and scraped up her elbows and knees, so her hobbling on the deck was especially hobbly today), but which looks very graceful once she hits the water. 

So perhaps it's really a narwhal dive. I doubt narwhals are very graceful on land. 

(Note the hand being held up like a horn; that's integral to this dive's form).

Yummy yogurt

One of the hard truths about life is that before you can do something well, you first have to do it abysmally. Everything is learned slowly and with lots of practice and (seeming) failure. 

When you're raising children this learning process, unfortunately, leads to a lot of messes as well.

And so it was that I handed Phoebe a little bowl of yummy homemade yogurt at dinner this evening. The homemade part is important because Andrew's been making it super thick lately, so that when we mix in the fruit compotes (which Andrew also makes from scratch) it can get a little runnier without getting too runny. Anyway, the thicker yogurt is a little less scary to hand over to a baby than runny yogurt. 

Phoebe had plain yogurt with freshly sliced mangoes for dinner, which she fed to herself.

It went...well.


Her theory seemed to be that if she simply smeared yogurt on every surface, then any surface she licked would taste like yogurt. It was a flawless plan and she was happy the entire meal!

Literal bike shorts

"Help! Help! Alexander's shorts are caught on his bike!" Zoë came yelping down the driveway. 

I was just buckling Phoebe into her stroller so we could go for a walk. Zoë and Alexander were riding their bikes around while they were waiting for everyone else to get ready to leave.

Knowing that Alexander was on his balance bike (he's working on figuring out his pedal bike but is still much faster on his balance bike, so he takes that when we go for walks), I wasn't sure how his shorts could get stuck anywhere. Yesterday Zoë had tried to ride her bike with too long of a skirt and that was perilously close to getting caught in her chain. But pedal bikes don't have a chain or gears or anything. So how could Alexander's shorts get caught on his bike?!?

Friends...

A few beautiful things

We see these acorn plum galls quite often and only recently did we ever take one home to cut it open. Inside it does look rather plum-like—fleshy white fruit that bleeds red when its cut. This isn't a plum at all, however, but a tumor caused by an itty baby cynipid wasp that was laid on an acorn cap. I've seen other galls before, mostly on leaves, but these acorn plums were surprising to me when Benjamin filled the cupholders of the stroller with acorns (from the same oak he found this acorn plum) and I noticed that the gall really did have the same pattern as the acorn cap. So I guess I could see how it could grow alongside an acorn.

The kids have been very interested in collecting bugs lately. The weather is starting to turn fall-ish so we're starting to find dead cicadas all over the place. Interestingly enough, we're also seeing a lot of cicada molts as well. And I can't figure out why because I feel like we usually start finding those old molts earlier in the summer and expired cicadas later. But maybe they've always been contemporaneous and I just...am remembering wrong. 

Me? Wrong?

It could happen.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Talks

Andrew and I spoke in church on Sunday. I've only been stressing out about it since March or so. Whenever we were asked (which was March or so). Grandpa came to hang out with the kids during sacrament meeting (they zoomed in), not because Rachel and Miriam aren't capable of handling the little kids on their own (they are), but just because it's nice to not always have to be responsible for the little ones. And because Phoebe can be a handful. 

My topic was "God's Perspective is Greater Than My Own," which felt a little huge. Even with so much notice, I don't feel like the talk ended up where I wanted it to be, but...it is what it is. 

Andrew's topic was something easy like: "Isn't the World Pretty?" but he worked the complication of stewardship into it. You can read his talk here. Mine is below:

Blah

Phoebe slept for a four-hour stretch tonight before I couldn't hack it anymore and woke her up. 

And I wonder why my children struggle to sleep.

In my defense, she's been sleeping terribly since having COVID and my milk supply is not used to such a long stretch of sleep. And also she fell down the stairs earlier today so I was stressed out about her long stretch of sleep for that reason, as well.

Before anyone gets too worried, she didn't fall down the whole flight of stairs. Only, like, three. 

And it was all Alexander's fault, which he readily admitted before she even hit the ground.

Granted, she shouldn't have been climbing the stairs in the first place.

But a whole lot of thing happened all at once...

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Phoebe is 9 months old

And she's certainly a clever, curious baby! 

Last night I was doing the dishes and Phoebe was continuously trying to climb into the dishwasher, of course. In my current phase of life the children are often on dish duty and I am merely a helper. Often my job is simply keeping Phoebe occupied while the dish-doers do the dishes (because my children are getting more and more capable as time wears on). However, I was reminded of when I was the main dishwasher of the house because my children were largely too little to be helpful so I would always wash the dishes. And I would do it after I had all the kids down for the night because there was simply too much chaos to ever do it before.

Because babies would be climbing onto the dishwasher and things...

But, the big kids were all at Grandpa's house last night, so I did the dishes after dinner and Phoebe was absolutely determined to get into the dishwasher. I plopped her into her walker to keep her at bay, which usually works. However, she's gotten pretty good at navigating that thing and, as it turns out, the walker is designed in such a way that it slides right under/over the dishwasher door. Phoebe just lined herself up and pulled in like it was her designated parking spot.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Alexander adventures

Alexander has been experiencing a recurrent fever the past little while. He's usually fine during the day, but by the time we put him to bed he'll be running a temperature. Not always. Just often. 

We put him to bed with a fever last night. He woke up still feeling feverish this morning. Evidently he knew that something was amiss because he texted me to ask me to bring him some breakfast upstairs. Now food is usually verboten upstairs...unless you happen to be quarantining in your room. There has been a lot of eating in unusual places over the course of the summer as various people have been isolating for various reasons. 

Anyway, I didn't respond to his text messages right away because I was still in bed with Phoebe, but when I did grab my phone to look at it the first few messages were from Benjamin's phone and I immediately became concerned.

I took a screen shot and sent it to Andrew (who was long-since up and working downstairs; he's got that 7 am thing going on) and asked him to verify whether Benjamin was, like, even in the house?! He has been known to sleep walk and I was just a little concerned at the nonsensical nature of this text. Why was he talking about lunch? Back out to his house? What is he even talking about?

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Garage doors, libraries, and high fives

Andrew had to be on campus super early this morning, which was weird for several reasons. First of all, the semester hasn't even started, but Andrew is participating in a data science education workshop, so away he goes. Second, Andrew is not a morning person, but he's teaching a data science seminar-thing at 7:00 am for the next several weeks. It's online, but because he had to be on campus at 8:00 am for the workshop, he had to be on campus by 7:00 am to teach his seminar class beforehand (because he couldn't very well teach while he was commuting). Traffic in Atlanta can be gnarly, so Andrew calculated that to be safe he should leave the house by 5:15 am. 

So he did. 

And at 5:23 am I was (re-)awakened by a frenzied flurry of knockings on my bedroom door. 

I peeled myself away from Phoebe and tip-toe ran across the room to open it, where the ever-polite Alexander stood waiting to be rescued.

"What's wrong?" I asked. 

"I'm so, so scared!" he blubbered.

"How come?"

"I thought I heard...I thought I heard..." he hiccuped. "I thought I heard the garage going up and down! But it can't be!!!"

"Oh, you heard correctly, little buddy. The garage door was going up and down. Daddy has to go into campus today, remember? So..."

"IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT?!?!"

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Someday and New Faces

After hearing about Alexander's desire to walk across the bridge on Sunday/someday, Andrew decided that we should take a little family adventure this Sunday (or, as Benjamin Freudianly portmanteaued, "An exploriance!" (exploration + experience)).

Alexander was super excited about it (much more excited than he was about posing for this picture):


Saturday, August 06, 2022

UGA and Fort Yargo

Grandpa suggested that he take the kids to UGA for a little tour to supplement their Georgia studies. UGA boasts being the first chartered public university in the United States (1785), a fact that confused me at first because UNC also claims to be the first public university in the United States (having held its first class in 1795). But UGA didn't hold classes until 1801, while UNC wasn't chartered until 1789. So obviously the idea of a public university was simply in the air.

UNC beat out UGA by ten solid years when it came to desegregating campus, however (1951 vs. 1961). There's a lovely display in the UGA library about a few Black pioneers like Charlene Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes (the first Black students to register) and Mary Frances Early (who was the first African American graduate from UGA, and is the namesake for the College of Education). We eventually made our way to the library, but it was a long hot (and bit of a meandering) walk for us. 

Phoebe can't wear a mask yet, so I brought along a little air purifier for her to use, which she loved. She insisted on holding the purifier right by her little face so she could drink up all the clean air coming out. She was rather enthusiastic about it. 

Here she is in the library:


Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Vaccines and other stories

On Tuesday the big girls made it to the pool with us. They don't have their class on Tuesday evenings, so even though they were working away most of the day, they didn't feel like they had a hard and fast deadline so they could take some time out to play a little. Which is probably good.

It was so nice to have Rachel watch Phoebe in the pool while I worked with Alexander on his swimming skills. I was hoping to have him out of his Puddle Jumper this summer...but then we ended up being home sick all summer instead of spending every day by the pool...so...that didn't really happen. But he was doing really well yesterday. He swam two lengths of the pool "chasing" me (so I was walking backwards in front of him and he was swimming towards me). He does really well swimming in the shallow end and can remember all the working parts that come together to mean "swimming." His flutter kick is fantastic, his arms make big, wide arcs in the sky, he will lift up his head to breathe and then just keep swimming...

But when we're in what he feels is "deep" water, all he can think about is how deep the water is. So he stops kicking his legs, starts doggy paddling with his arms, and essentially starts drowning. 

Once he gains a little confidence I think he'll be good to go, but he's kind of an anxious kid. Always has been! He was never one to wander away from Mommy and get into mischief. He always had to know right where I was. At all times. Even now he likes his lists, and makes up checklists for thunderstorms and zombie apocalypses and so forth. He's got to know what to do!! And he likes things to be just so!!

The other kids also had fun at the pool (they usually do). Here's a few pictures of Miriam and Phoebe making eyes at each other while I was getting Phoebe changed to go home (I remembered diapers this time):

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel

A couple of weeks before Phoebe was born, my friend Rachel finally gave birth to her baby boy—well past her due date! She had been nervous about his size because at an earlier ultrasound the doctor warned her the baby was measuring large, about eight pounds...and there was still time to grow. Friends tried to assuage her anxiety by telling her that estimates from these scans can sometimes be off—even by a pound or two! 

And so it was...but in the wrong direction!

The baby was delivered weighing 10.935 pounds and measuring 21.64 inches. 

That's a whole lot of baby!

*****

Another friend of mine, also named Rachel, was surprised to go into labour a couple of days ago—five weeks early. This is her sixth baby and she had never gone into labour naturally, has always been induced, so it was quite a surprise for her to find herself in labour, five weeks early. 

The baby was delivered weighing 10.9 pounds and measuring 22.25 in long.

Five weeks early! 

I'm sure he is simply incredible to behold in the NICU. I joked to my friend Rachel (who is a nurse, and who knows about my preemie, so she "gets" it and wasn't offended) that he's a macro preemie! What a whopper!

*****

I told my kids about this sweet, gargantuan preemie on the way to the pool today, referring to my friend as Sister So-And-So, since we used to be in the same ward years and years ago. Not that the children remember her. But just in case.

So after I told this story, my Rachel asked, "How big was your friend Rachel's baby?"

I glanced at her and said, "I just told you...oh. Okay, so it just so happens that this friend is also named Rachel. But, yes, my other friend Rachel had a big baby right before Phoebe was born. I think he was about this size, but he wasn't premature. So having a premature baby weigh nearly 11 lbs. is truly impressive."

"They were both named Rachel?" Rachel gasped. "Are Rachels just doomed to have ginormous babies?! I hope not!"

"I also hope not," I told her. "For you, I wish all 7 lbs. babies. Nice and average."

It's okay to make mistakes

I took the four youngest kids to the pool this afternoon while Rachel and Miriam were stuck at home working on the tutorials for their data science course. The description says it should be about 10 hours of work per week, but I'm sure the girls put in at least 40 hours last week. They are working on that class all day, everyday, it seems. But they're learning a ton! Andrew's been quite impressed with how much they're covering (since he teaches the same sort of stuff in his data visualization course) and how well the girls are doing. Anyway, we left them home to finish their assignments and headed to the pool which was, predictably, empty. 

Public schools are back in session this week and we couldn't be happier to have public spaces to ourselves again!

We had the pool to ourselves and had a...decent...time. I gotta tell you, though. Going to the pool with the four youngest kids is a lot of work! Going to the pool with all six is, honestly, quite a lot easier...because Rachel and Miriam are such good helpers and can hold the baby without me worrying for her safety. Benjamin and Zoë try to be good helpers, but...you know...they're just littler. 

So it was kind of an exhausting trip to the pool for me. Benjamin and Zoë insisted on pushing each other's buttons and were constantly bickering (which was rather irksome to me) and Phoebe and Alexander just...take a lot of supervision. (And it had already been a bit of an exhausting day already).

But they sure are cute little pool buddies!

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 it...so 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 and...here 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 was...at 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

Rachel

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.