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Saturday, December 31, 2022

It's fun! It's Incredible! It's glorious!

Last night the older three kids were finishing their Lord of the Rings marathon with Grandpa, so instead of "just" going to bed, I suggested we take the little ones out for an evening adventure. Plus, I had an inkling of hope that if we gave Phoebe enough stimulation before bedtime it might tucker her out. We'd had an awful night the night before and...the sad part about awful nights is that then it makes you reluctant to do anything during the day (because you're just so tired). But, honestly, that little evening romp seemed to have done the trick for her last night because we didn't have a terrible night with her after we got home.

Anyway, Andrew and I took the younger three kids out to see some lights at the town green. Here is a lovely shot I got of Andrew with the kids and the lights:


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Montgomery, AL (day 1)

We haven't been very good about planning adventures lately. We used to be quite good at it, making sure to fit in x-number of family adventures per year, but the pandemic put a stop to that habit. We're still inching our way back into society. Anyway, the point of that preamble is that we went on another somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Alabama after Christmas. We'd been talking about maybe doing it for some time and had a few things on our mental bucket list, but really Andrew just looked up hotels on Boxing Day (Monday, the day after Christmas) and then we left on Tuesday morning and drove straight to the Rosa Parks Museum.

Andrew went ahead and paid for the whole experience—both wings of the museum! Probably just the main part of the museum would have been fine for us. That involved a little video/reenactment experience of Rosa Parks getting arrested, and then a walk through the exhibits. Things were a little glitchy (doors that should have been closed were open, and then when those doors should have been closed they slammed open and shut for quite some time) and we were often rather confused about where we were supposed to be, when we were formally "excused" from a certain portion of the exhibit. Lights would just turn off and we'd all be left in the dark...and then would...make our way to the next section. It was weird. But it was good; we learned a lot!

No photos are permitted within the exhibit itself, but here's Phoebe on a bench with Rosa Parks in the lobby:

Monday, December 26, 2022

Christmas Eve 2022

We set up our tree in early December, but left it undecorated until Christmas Eve in order to (1) get Phoebe acclimated to the idea of having a tree in the middle of the living room, and (2) to prevent her from mucking with a decorated tree. It worked pretty well! The kids got to enjoy having the tree—and lights—up all month and I did't spend the whole month stressing out about the tree.

 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Sleep panic

Phoebe hated bedtime! The whole bedtime procedure!
Now, please don't ask why. We don't quite know why either!
It could be the light was a little too bright.
It could be, perhaps, it was too cold last night.
But most likely the reason she'd not be consoled
May have been that her toes were pinched by a hole
In the feet of her footie pyjamies. 
Settle in close and I'll tell you the story...

She's never been a great sleeper. Well, I take that back. There was a time in her life when I wondered whether she would ever perk up and take a look around at the world. But it's hard to remember those days at all given how much she hates sleep in recent history.

Yesterday I was nursing her before bed and my sister called, so I asked if I could have a minute to put Phoebe down before calling her back, and she said yes...because...I wasn't really asking for permission. So, I hung up, nursed Phoebe for a minute or so longer, and tried to put Phoebe into bed, but she woke up again, completely alert, wanting nothing to do with bed.

So, we returned to the nursing chair, where she nursed and nursed and goofed around and refused to close her eyes. 

So I texted Andrew:

"Do you want to try sitting with Phoebe for a minute? She is...no where near asleep, but K is trying to call me. I tried putting her down a bit ago but she woke up immensely"

Drat! A typo! Thanks a lot, predictive text. Better fix that:

"Immediately."

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

I have done zero holiday baking, but that's been okay because Rachel baked gingerbread and spritz cookies and Andrew made sugar cookies. I didn't have to lift a finger (until it came time for decorating)!

But to start off this post, here's a picture of Phoebe and Alexander helping me make dinner on Sunday. We made a French toast casserole and they were such proud helpers!


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Cold days

It is cold in a lot of places right now. We're due for our own little cold snap over the next several days, but we're only supposed to drop down to about -14°C (6°F). That's record-breaking cold around these parts—it hasn't been that cold since 2014!

I'll probably go outside just to feel how cold it feels to be that cold, make the kids go experience it because...we just don't often get that cold here. 

More nighttime poetry

Not that we're a family of night owls...but...

After we put the little kids to bed, Rachel and Miriam begged to play Pandemic because we'd played it last night—and almost won!—and they wanted to see if we could do better tonight. 

Reader, we did not do better tonight. And we play on the easiest setting.

We're rather pathetic at that game, to be truthful. 

But we had fun!

When we finished, we scattered to do various activities. I went upstairs to work and noticed that Benjamin was still up reading, so reminded him to go to bed. Andrew retreated to his office to...work (or do BCC stuff). Rachel returned to the hot chocolate bombs she was making. And Miriam returned to her sewing (she's making a doll dress currently). 

I thought the younger three kids were all—miraculously—asleep. 

But when I turned on my computer I had a text message pop up from Zoë (sent at 10:13 PM):

The pencil poem
  he pencil poe
    e pencil po
       pencil p
         encil
           nci
               i
             __

I...am always just floored with what she manages to come up with sometimes. The only thing I would change is that I think the "c" is technically the middle letter, not the i. 

So "after" bedtime, we played a game, sewed a dress, wrote a poem, made hot chocolate bombs, snuck in some reading time, and accomplished several hours' worth of work!

UPDATE: She admitted this was a poem she was recalling from a book called My Dog Ate My Homework?? Or something...?


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Commissions and commissioning (are everything in life...at least this weekend)

This weekend was rather industrious for Rachel and Benjamin, who were each working to fulfill their first commissions. Benjamin made a set of winter hats as a gift for the set of twins around the corner from us. When we babysat them at our house, their mom mentioned to Benjamin that they needed new hats this year and that she'd gladly pay him to make a bigger set for them. Benjamin's eyes lit up with dollar signs and he worked rather diligently on these hats for several days.


Family Pictures: The Groupies

This was, I believe, one of the first pictures we took and...almost unbelievably...it worked out! It's not centered, but it worked out!



We're here to burgle your turts

When Josie was out here, Rachel, Miriam, and I watched Over the Garden Wall with her. It's a quirky little cartoon, but it has many layers to analyze...like an onion...or Dante's Inferno (which it is often compared to). It follows the whimsical journey of a pair of brothers—ages 5 and 15 (or so)—as they try to find their way home. The music is quizzically delightful. And it's just something that you watch and think, "Huh..." because it seems so simple and yet leaves you thinking long after the episode is over. 

So after Auntie Josie left, the girls convinced Andrew that he needed to watch it as well. They weren't sure he would like it because...it's a little weird...but he loved it. We now own the soundtrack (so we can listen to "Miss Langtree's Lament" as many times as we want to without Alexa yelling at us about needing to buy it) and Miriam has been leaning to play "Potatoes and Molasses" on the piano.

One of our favourite lines from the show is "We're here to burgle your turts!" which I won't explain. Because you should just watch the show to find out what it means. 

Just know that that line is what came to mind when we found this little turt(le) crawling by the pond. 

I think these pictures of Zoë and Benjamin with their little turtle friend are darling. I'm so glad we captured this moment of the sun sinking low, casting a golden light on these sweet children bonding with this pond creature (who I'm sure was more than happy to be released again when they were through).

Sleep training-ish

I had planned on writing a section of my thesis this evening, but instead I decided enough was enough and I was going to be really hard-nosed about Phoebe's bedtime. She has been, to put it lightly, an absolute nincompoop when it comes to bedtime. Waking up every ten minutes to yell about...whatever. 

And I'm so over it!

We were successful (in early September) at training her to not require hours of pacing to fall asleep every night. Before then Andrew used to set the (automatic) vacuum on rove and would follow that little machine all around the house with a fussing Phoebe.

But then I was like, "Enough is enough! She can learn this."

It took some doing, but we did get her trained to her mattress. She would lie in her own bed to sleep. For a bit. If she had a grown up nearby to comfort her while she begrudgingly went about falling asleep. And that was a heckuva lot better than pacing the floors with her for hours on end so we called it a win. 

I thought we'd slowly move away from her, Call the Nanny style. One night in her bed, the next night on her floor, then ever closer to the door...

But instead we digressed into spending hours lying next to her, patting her back, and shushing her, and singing her songs while she kicked and cuddled and head-butted and hugged us. It was getting downright obnoxious but we just lived with it because we were in survival mode for the duration of the semester. Sleep training is hard work and we didn't have the time to commit to being...consistent...about it. So we've been hanging onto sanity by a thread these past few months and tonight I decided, "Enough is enough! She can learn this!"

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2022

So many working parts go into this newsletter, but we've fortunately reached the stage in life where we have many helping hands: 

Rachel and Miriam helped me coordinate outfits for family pictures; Andrew was the cameraman and photo editor. Miriam generated marbled background papers using a program in R, and Rachel gathered all the links for the poem to make it easier for me to insert them into the final layout. All I had to do was write a poem, beg people to smile, and lay things out (you know—easy stuff).

We waited so long to take pictures—and it had been so rainy—that instead of going to a fabulous predetermined (pre-dreamed-of?) location we just...went to a random walking path a little ways from our house. I figured the paved path would prevent my kids from getting too muddy (the other location was a little more adventurous...and you remember what happened that time we decided to take family pictures at the salt flats, right? Yes, at least two of the kids ended up covered in mud from head to toe), but I was wrong. Even with a paved path for us to take advantage of more than one child became acquainted with the mud anyway. 

Apparently that's just what my kids do.

But that's okay! We had good time and got some good shots!

As always, you can download our newsletter here, or read it below the jump! 

17 years to us!

Somehow or other today is our 17th wedding anniversary. I'm not sure how it happened precisely, but it checks out both mathematically and calendrically. As is our modus operandi, we planned absolutely nothing in advance. 

People warned us about that, you know—getting married in a hurry during finals week. 

"Every anniversary will fall during finals week," they told us. "You'll never catch a break."

I don't remember who those prescient people were, precisely, but I do remember that Andrew and I laughed off such remarks. He'd graduate in a few years and then we'd never have to worry about finals week ever again! Semesters wouldn't always rule our lives! Silly people!

Silly us. 

How did they know we'd be sprinting to the finish line each and every fall semester before looking at the calendar and going, "Oh, yeah! Our anniversary!" every year for the next...foreseeable future?!

Did they peg him as a professor so young? Before he even realized a PhD might be a thing he'd do?

Whatever the case, they were smart and we were dumb and in love, and so we got married in December in the middle of finals week. And now here we are, just as dumb and in love as ever (and just having finished finals week for the 17th time as a married couple)!

Anyway, I was thinking last night that we should do something, so I started looking up hikes and things while I was nursing Phoebe before bed. And then I was so unbelievably tired that—in a most romantic and magnanimous gesture—Andrew insisted I go to bed, too. At 9:30!!

For the record, the other night it started raining, but I wasn't sure whether it had started raining or whether the heater had kicked on, so I asked, "Did it just start raining really difficult?"

I meant "hard."

My children will probably never let me live that down because while those words are synonymous, they also aren't synonymous (at least, not in this sense of the word). But it's a wonderful illustration of how absolutely fried my brain is. 

And then not only did he put me to bed, but he helped Phoebe back to sleep every time she got up (which was several times because she's a stinker lately) between 9:43 pm (when she got up the first time) and 6:00 am (when I finally heard her and relieved Andrew so he could get some rest). 

I...honestly don't know what we're going to do with her. But...she's learning more and more every day so I have hope that she'll eventually learn to sleep through the night as well. 

Anyway, somehow or other we settled on hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park before I went to bed last night because I knew I had to get up to get everything packed up to go after Andrew's morning meetings. So while he was in his meeting I rushed the kids through their morning routine and then made 8 peanut butter and jam/honey sandwiches and we were out the door by 11:15 (11:00 had been our goal).

Grandpa came with us and his carload beat us to the parking lot at the—award winning!—visitor's center (one of the most environmentally responsible buildings in the country (the children weren't terribly impressed by the pit toilets, but, having visited some rather rank pit toilets, myself, I was—they didn't smell at all!)). The kids thought the animals were cute in their little Santa hats. Phoebe was especially excited to see all the animals, which was an exciting change to see in her (the last time I took her to a museum with such animals (in September when I visited Utah) she was completely underwhelmed).

Here are some pictures of Phoebe getting all excited about the animals:

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

All she wants for Christmas

Zoë has been working and working at her wiggly tooth lately. Her hands were constantly in her mouth, which was really skeeving everybody out, and she would come up to me about a million times a day to ask me to "check" to see if it was loose enough for Daddy to pull.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Phoebe standing solo

Phoebe has been taking a handful of steps here and there for weeks now, but she hasn't been very committed to the idea of walking. I'm not too concerned about that yet because she did the same thing with crawling—she scooted on her belly far longer than she needed to, simply because crawling on her hands and knees felt pointless when scooting was so fast. But then she figured out hands and knees (and learned that that method actually was more efficient than she thought) and gave up scooting. I have a feeling the same thing will happen with walking any day now. 

Another thing holding her back has been her inability to get into a standing position unaided.

She could walk if we set her on her feet and coaxed her. And she could walk if she pulled up against something (the couch, the wall, whatever). But she couldn't simply...stand up...in the middle of the floor...

Until this evening!

She decided in the middle of our evening Christmas devotional that she could stand up, after all. 


The reading loft (and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff)

Somehow I think the only record I have of Andrew building our reading loft is in a poem in Paradoxical Glory. In the poem I referred to it as a tree house, I believe, but really he built a reading loft in our basement. And somehow I missed ever writing about it. 

If I recall, I think I was "saving" it to write about for when it was "finished." 

I say that Andrew made it because that's largely true, but I will probably default to "we" because I helped...a bit. I'm mostly afraid of power tools, so I didn't help too much, but I did help with what I could. Andrew was oddly fixated on power tools when we first moved out here, which I attributed to his grieving process. I mean, he'd used power tools here and there throughout our marriage before 2019, but right around the year mark of Karen's death, Andrew had this sudden desire to really build something. 

His mom was the power tool user at his house growing up. She built a bunch of things—a little garden bridge, a picnic table set, cute little American girl doll beds. 

He just wanted to build something. And that's not an unhealthy outlet for grief. So we built a loft for the kids in the basement the week after Christmas in 2019 (a little over a year after Karen's death). 

Here is pictorial evidence of our nearly finished product (look how little all the kids were):

Saturday, December 10, 2022

More lights!

We've been having a very wet, very warm week! Yesterday it was about 75°F outside in the afternoon, with about 90% humidity, so although it wasn't actively raining, we were so close to the dew point that we were getting wet just being outside. But! it wasn't actively raining, so we figured it was a good time to try to get the Christmas lights up.

Every year—around October—our Christmas-loving neighbour Jan warns us about needing to get Christmas lights up before it gets too cold and wintery to do so. And every year I giggle about this because...we live in Georgia, not Alberta. That is sound advice in Alberta. Like, literally, if you do not want to get frost bite it's a good idea to get your decorations up before winter sets in. 

(My friend's husband ran outside—barefoot, in Alberta, in winter—the other day to break up a dog fight (between their own farm dogs; long story) and ended up with frostbite on both his feet (since he neglected to put on shoes before running out). That's simply not a story I'd expect to hear in Georgia).

But we're in Georgia and it was 75°F yesterday. Here are Miriam and Phoebe feeling very not cold in their t-shirts, even as the sun is setting:

Friday, December 09, 2022

The Loveliest of All was the Unicorn

I recently checked out a book called The Very Short, Entirely True Book About Unicorns from the library (I also checked out The Very Short, Entirely True Book About Mermaids, but that's besides the point). Zoë, of course, devoured it. Read them over and over again like it was the bible or something.

And perhaps she wasn't too far off base...

On one page, you see, Laskow explained the unicorn was once considered a symbol of Christ

Ever since, Zoë has been referring to all the unicorns in her room as...Jesus...which...I mean...we've explained why, perhaps, she shouldn't...but at the same time, kids are going to be kids...and Zoë really likes the fact that her room is full of...unicorns. 

I mean, it can't be any more sacrilegious than the time Miriam planned "Pin the Jesus on the Cross" for family night

This evening after she was sent to bed she texted Andrew the following:


Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Matchy, matchy (and some music)

I picked up some Christmas pyjamas from my "buy nothing group"; someone wanted to give away a pair of elf pyjamas—size 8 and size 3. That was just about perfect for our house. The pyjamas are a little small for Alexander, but they worked perfectly well for him and he was ecstatic to be matching with Zoë (especially because we'd recently babysat my friend's twins).

Here are the cute little elf twins:

Monday, December 05, 2022

Alexander's Christmas Story

This is a little story that Alexander assigned himself to write. I don't usually give him assignments to do because (a) he's not technically in kindergarten yet, (b) I have my hands full with the kids who are technically in school, and (c) he has been doing a fine job learning on his own. He's very on board with unschooling (which means self-directed (rather than teacher-directed) learning) and is picking things up left and right. He can read, he can write, he can add and subtract, he does typing and coding lessons on the computer, and the other day we had a rather in-depth conversation about the phonetics of Arabic. At least...as in depth as one can get with a five year old...who was having trouble grasping how to say the sound "وو" (he's been learning the Arabic alphabet on Duolingo because...he wants to).

"That's right! Wāw says /w/ and wāw says /oo/ so if you wanted to write the sound woo it would be wāw, wāw."

(و the letter is pronounced "wow" or wāw).

Anyway, after doing ten minutes of "Minecraft Focus Time" (which is a thing in our house for several children now), he settled down to write this Christmas season (which is saved as Chris Miss Ligo on the computer).



Thanksgiving day

Thanksgiving! We had it! Don't worry! We had it!

I'm just slow about writing about it because...thesis. But that's okay! 

We'd planned to have dinner around 3:00 in the afternoon. Josie, Rachel, and Miriam played games at Grandpa's house all morning and cooked the turkey breasts (which no one ate very much of, though the kids seemed to love after I turned it into turkey à la king last week for one of our leftover nights). The little kids and I spent the morning raking leaves. Andrew spent the morning bustling about the kitchen.

Here's how our spread ended up:

Friday, December 02, 2022

Run off voting

Living in Georgia has helped us to really put Reid's "vote early, vote often" maxim to use. Thanks to all the run-off elections we've found ourselves voting multiple times in any given election recently. Today was the last day for early voting so I packed all the kids up and we headed to the park so we could do our traditional "vote and play." 

Here we are stopping by the "raptor" that Grandpa saw in the park the other day:

It's been here for years now and is in sad shape, but it's still fun to stumble upon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A handful

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

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

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

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

Phoebe went ballistic on her. 

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Chickamauga

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

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

Joseph Standing Memorial and Lookout Mountain and my great-grandfather

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

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

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

The kids mostly had fun jumping over this little stream:

Walnut Street Bridge

Somewhat on a whim we headed up to Tennessee today. 

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

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

It almost made me want to stop. 

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2022

In the leaves

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

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

Zoë and Phoebe were the first to join me.

Auntie Josie is here!

My sister Josie arrived yesterday afternoon. 

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 18, 2022

I have friends, I definitely have friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Prematurity Day!

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

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A bouncing baby girl

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

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

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

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

A couple of spook-related stories

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


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

Monday, November 14, 2022

Phoebe's 1 year stats and birthday balloons

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

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

So, basically, things went really well.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Phoebe's cake

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

Sew amazing!

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

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

This time last year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Autumn Vibes and Physical Education

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

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

Peekaboo! (And a cute sweater)

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

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

Not the most effective tactic, honestly. Cute though!

Monday, November 07, 2022

Pasleep! The baby!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Phoebe's first steps!

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Miriam is 13!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How dare you?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween from these trick-or-treaters!

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2022

Benjamin FTW!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Alexander's well-child check

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

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


Friday, October 21, 2022

Pick Me Up

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

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

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

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

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

My family has a family group chat. 

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The chipmunk mystery

Things that we know:

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Alexander is 5!

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

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

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


Thursday, October 13, 2022

This week

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

Here's a picture of our Thanksgiving dinner:

Monday, October 10, 2022

Spiders and bones

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

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Hanging out with the fam

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


A tour of HBLL

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

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

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

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


I went to Utah and I saw...

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


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

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

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