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Friday, June 21, 2024

June is busting out all over!

Rachel just got home from babysitting (at 10 til midnight—and a good thing, too, because in Georgia 15 and 17 year olds can't drive between midnight and 5 am), so I suppose it's a good time to disclose how much of a secretary I feel like lately!

My phone has been off the hook with requests for my kids to puppy-sit, plant-sit, and babysit. Not to mention tutoring. And Benjamin's trying to start up a garbage can washing hustle.

"Can Zoë come over tomorrow at 2 to tutor?"

"Can y'all do puppy duty Monday and Thursday this week?"

"Any chance one of your girls is around on Saturday afternoon and wants to babysit?"

It can be a little chaotic to coordinate everything. Throw in daily swim practices and weekly swim meets (we just got home from the swim meet at 10:45 this evening), girls' camp (which Rachel and Miriam just got back from), music lessons, and the fact that Andrew has an actual job and I have some writing projects to finish up before the school year starts and...it's a real circus over here!

I thought I would share a few pictures of the more ordinary parts of our lives. The pictures are in reverse order (newest to oldest) because that's how they showed up when I imported them and I...don't want to take the time to switch everything.

My corn is flowering!


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Miriam's Music

Miriam recorded some beautiful pieces on the organ today. She made a goal to record one piece per month and fell a little behind in March and April and May between breaking her arm and going to Austria and preparing for her piano auditions. She recorded three pieces from various angles and edited those views together. All in one day!

Here's "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing":


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Phoebe in the pool

Phoebe is fairly convinced that she can swim—and she's not entirely wrong. She's really doing fairly well. The one thing she can't quite do is...breathe...which I think is a fairly important part of swimming. 

I've been working on teaching her how to flip onto her back but she hates it. She tends to growl one of a number of predetermined responses:

a) NO! *incoherent grumblings*
b) UGH! MOM!
c) Me gonna drown! (or sometimes "I am gonna drown!" or just "I/me drowning")
d) Me already breeved! 

The solution to drowning is obviously to get off her back and plunge her face back into the water, right? Silly kid. I keep explaining that she needs to learn how to relax and feel comfortable on her back in order to be a competent swimmer. She does not believe me, but she's making progress.

She doesn't like to rest on her back, though, because I told her she needed to flip to her back to breathe...and if she takes one breath, then she's good to go again, right? And, like, that's true for competitive—or even simply fluent—swimming. But I'd really like her to be capable of flipping onto her back and relaxing and breathing before flipping onto her stomach to continue swimming (rather than depending on me to lift her face out of the water). 

We worked really hard today and got her to be somewhat...chill...on her back. Here she is singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for me (once she was done with the song she'd be allowed to flip back onto her tummy, see? so she was really rushing through it):


Generations and generations and generations and generations...

I redesigned our (extended) family newsletter this month. I figured that since I was changing the publication frequency from two times a year down to one time a year we could do with a good redesign as well (or at least a mediocre redesign). I decided I'd use this picture of my grandma's family standing in age order—from my great-grandfather and great-grandmother to their oldest son, Loren, on down through eleven (living*) children to their youngest, Ila June—in the header of the newsletter somehow. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Hermit crabs for FHE

Benjamin and I haven't gone running in quite a while. Swim team, as it seems, takes up a lot of time! We're planning on hopping into things again soon, but in the meantime, I thought it was probably about time we made good on that hermit crab that he technically earned...on March 20. We put off the purchase until the end of the semester and then after the beach trip and then...tonight we finally went and did it!

We took the kids to the pet store for family night and this turned out being a very exciting field trip. Several of the kids hadn't ever stepped foot in a pet store before (my bad). Phoebe was the most excited at all. She wanted to see everything.


Saturday, June 15, 2024

Swim Team Stuff

Swim team sure is keeping us busy! 

Alexander started in the "Future Barracudas" program the week we got back from the beach. He said he felt "the urge to excel" in swimming...and he did! He graduated from the "Future Barracudas" program by the end of the week and practiced with the competitive team this week. 

That means he missed the kids' first swim meet (on June 6), but he was an excellent spectator and learned how swim meets work.

Here's Zoë (dead center...and dead last) swimming last week:

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Three videos of Phoebe

Here is Phoebe singing "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep":


I love that she always says "have you any wolf" instead of "have you any wool" 100% of the time. I also like how she lost track of all the deliveries the second time she sang the song. "Yes, sir! Yes, sir! One bag full. One for my master and..." then she pauses to think about it and realizes there's supposed to be three bags, not one, which means her "name" must be the recipient of two bags, but then what of the little boy who lives down the...what's the word again? Lane.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Phinizy Swamp Nature Center

We gave the Phinizy Swamp Nature Center another try on our way home from the beach. This time it was open and it was well-worth our time, I think!

They have beautiful boardwalk trails over a swamp, surrounded by tall reeds and trees dripping with Spanish moss:

 

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Edisto Island, Day 7: In which my knee is loath to goodbye to the beach

How is it that a week seems like such a long time at the beginning of a week and like a mere blink at the end of the week? We were quite sad to wake up to our last day on the beach. Here's Phoebe enjoying some morning stories and snuggles with Daddy:

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Edisto Island, Day 6

 After getting back from Botany Bay, we headed right back out to sit on our "own" beach.

Don't ask me why Phoebe looks so grumpy in this picture because the truth of the matter is that she loved being buried.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Botany Bay

On Thursday morning we visited Botany Bay, a beautiful land preserve on Edisto Island. We weren't really sure what to expect—some websites said to strap on your hiking boots, some websites said to wear shoes that can get wet. We mostly opted for sandals and that was a good choice.

It's a half mile walk from the parking lot to the beach, and it's best to visit at low-tide. When we checked the schedule in the morning and saw we were just about at low-tide we started hollering Grandpa's catchphrase: "Ten minutes!" (meaning that we should all be getting ready to go in ten minutes). I'm not sure we managed to leave the house in ten minutes, but we did leave pretty quickly!

Here we are looking at all the oysters and crabs we can see thanks to the low tide:

This next picture is from our walk back to the parking lot and you can see the tide is certainly much higher than it was when we came:


Benjamin is 12!

Five years ago we moved to Georgia and then Rachel turned 12, and Miriam was still only 9, and Benjamin was barely 7, and Zoë was newly 4.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Edisto Island, Day 5: Doughnut Day and Beach Birthdays

While I was at the optometrist, Daddy took the kids to Wal-Mart and a couple boxes of doughnuts fell into the shopping cart, so we started Wednesday morning with a doughnut breakfast (before Daddy and Grandpa drove off to the mechanic) and then Darla pulled out some big doughnut floats that she likes to bring to the beach and declared that it was Doughnut Day.

Edisto Island, Day 4: The van needs a spa day, too...

Edisto Island, Day 3: So Long, Sunglasses!

Going to the beach with—essentially—six grown people (Grandpa, Darla, Andrew, Rachel, Miriam, and me), two medium people (Zoë and Ben), and two small people (Alexander and Phoebe) is considerably easier than going to the beach with three small people and two grown people. Or even three grown people, one medium person, and three-and-a-half small people

Most mornings it seemed like Darla was out the door with the early-bird children and in the water by the time the rest of us stumbled onto the beach. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Edisto Island, Day 2

After coming back from Charleston, we took the kids to the beach. Because we're here on this beautiful blue planet. And because Phoebe chanted "Me wanna go beach!" for half the ride home. 

It's one of those "keep the Sabbath Day holy" things that's kind of difficult to peg. In Andrew's family growing up, swimming on Sunday would definitely be a no-no. But in my family...it wasn't, as far as I can recall. 

Sometimes we had swim meets on Sundays...and sometimes we went to them. 

And I'm 100% certain that if we had a beach available to us on a Sunday my mom for sure would expect us to get "a little bit wet," which in our family means "all the way wet."

But part of that might be because we didn't always have a beach at our disposal. If we lived on the beach, it might be another story. But we've never lived on the beach, so you visit when you can. 

Because if anything can teach you about might and majesty and the unfathomable nature of God's creation, it's standing on the shore looking out to the point where the water and sky divide while waves come crashing and roaring at your feet.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A day in Charleston

We had initially talked about attending the local ward while we were on vacation, but the closest ward is over an hour away from where we were staying...so we opted to Zoom into our own ward instead. We spent Sunday morning reading, crocheting, resting (for those of us who were up all night with an upset toddler), and then holding primary and priesthood lessons. 

Here's Rachel working on a crochet project in the sun room:

 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Edisto Island, day 1

We left for the beach on Saturday morning without a hitch. 

We had planned for Grandpa and Darla to arrive around 9:30 in the morning, departing from our house at 10:00. I should have known things were too good to be true when Grandpa and Darla arrived earlier than expected and we pulled out of our driveway at 9:38 am. More than twenty minutes ahead of schedule? That never happens! 

Here's a little photograph of what Phoebe felt was important to pack in her suitcase:


She gathered up every bottle of sunscreen we had in the house, a handful of granola bars, and one pack of microwave popcorn, beneath which is a handful of clean laundry that she'd grabbed from the pile of clothes I was folding. 

I was grateful for her help but ultimately redid a little (all) of her packing.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Zoë is 9!! And our very first swim meet!

It's the beginning of birthday season at our house. In the next six months we will celebrate all eight of our birthdays, a statistical improbability

Zoë opened her presents right around noon—soon after the kids got home from their swim practice. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Future Artist?

This morning Phoebe was drawing in a little notepad our sweet neighbours brought by in some birthday party goody bags for the kids (we missed the party, unfortunately). She ended up with this:


When I asked her what she'd made, she told me it was a person. And, indeed, I can see a person in there! I just thought it was timely because although Phoebe hasn't seen the recently unveiled portrait of King Charles she was certainly channeling some Jonathan Yeo vibes:


Horseflies at the pool

This morning I finally finished reading the kids our last out-loud book for the school year (not that I will stop reading to them altogether; in fact I just read to them for a half hour before bed...but this is our last out-loud read-together school book for the school year). We read An Impossible Thing to Say by Arya Shahi, which I was initially drawn to because it's about Iranian diaspora. My brother Patrick is dating a girl from Iran and so I think it's good for us to be learning a bit about Iranian history and so forth (we recently read Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri out loud at bedtime and had Benjamin read Dairus the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram and I recommended The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi to Uncle Patrick as well while he was here...but I'm also kind of wondering where the female-centered stories are for contemporary CYAL so I'll have to do some research to see what I can find). 

Anyway, the book also got bonus points for being a novel in verse. Shahi is a rapper, himself, so poetry would be a natural avenue for a book, I suppose. And my kids really appreciated the rap verses he included—lots of fun rhythms and rhymes. 

And I loved how the end of the story didn't resolve everything. The grown ups were left to make their own messy choices while Omid learns to be comfortable with his emerging identity as a thespian and rapper and Farsi-speaker and so forth, understanding that life will just...continue being messy while also being okay. Mess is...normal. It was lovely. 

I didn't really know much about it before we started reading it. I just saw it pop up on some list somewhere and immediately put it on hold at the library and then forgot about it until it came in...and then selected it to read out loud to the kids because it was on my own personal list of books to read. 

It ended up fitting just perfectly into our year because we spent the year reading Shakespeare and the last play we read was A Midsummer Night's Dream. In An Impossible Thing to Say, Omid's school is putting on An Impossible Thing to Say and...so we got all the Shakespeare references in the story. 

It was great!

Anyway, Phoebe was a bit of a...handful...while we were reading this morning. And she remained that way throughout the day. She wasn't really ever naughty just...loud and full of energy and exhibiting fierce independence.

For example, here she is sitting on the stairs slathering herself in sunscreen:

Doot-doot-doot-doot-doo

I've been the primary chorister for about two months now and feel like I'm starting to settle in. At any rate, I know the kids a little better and they know me a little better and we're all willing to have a good time together. The first week I left feeling a little bit like they'd eaten me alive...but things are going better now. 

We've had some fun and successful lessons/activities. And we've had a few activities fall flat. 

That's the way things go, right?

I can tell when an activity goes over well because then Zoë or Alexander will offer to teach Family Home Evening...using my music lesson from the day before. I think that's totally okay, though, because mimicking a lesson is an excellent way to learn how to teach. 

That's how I initially trained as a swimming instructor. 

When I started teaching swimming lessons I was actually too young to have gone through the Red Cross Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certification course that our recreation center required to teach. But I had said in my lifeguarding interview that I was absolutely interested in teaching swimming lessons. For some reason they didn't realize how old I was, so they just banked on me teaching swimming lessons that summer. 

Because I wasn't technically certified, I couldn't sign any of my own report cards or anything. But they still had me teach as a...co-teacher. I would shadow a certified teacher for the first swimming session of the morning and then would simply...repeat that same lesson the rest of the day with my own classes...over and over again...until my shift was over. 

And then I'd get up and do it all again the next day. 

Honestly, I think I learned more that summer of shadowing my good friend Sam than I did when I finally went through the process to get my WSI certification. I'm really good at teaching "level three" swimming skills!

Spring Piano Recital

On Saturday between helping Grandpa move out of his place in the morning and into Darla's house in the afternoon, Zoë and Miriam had their end-of-year piano recital and awards ceremony. I should probably clarify that "year," in this case, refers to the school year (which our piano studio follows). My littler kids were confused about all the different meanings "a year" can hold—a fiscal year, a school year, a calendar year, a leap year...

Anyway, we had a crew helping at Grandpa's house in the morning, and then parted ways—Rachel and Benjamin went up to Darla and Grandpa's—and the rest of us went to the recital.

A couple of the moms were talking about Phoebe, asking me if she was the same little baby they'd seen at the recital last year...and she was the same baby—just a year older! 

Here she is in May 2023:


Thursday, May 16, 2024

What it's like having teenagers

Being a mother to young children is relentless. They need you very first thing in the morning, all throughout the day, and into the night as well. Phoebe recently developed a little "chirp," where she says, "Mom. Mom. Mom," at just the right pitch to make my skin crawl. It's incessant. All. Day. Every. Day. 

Teenagers aren't like that so much. 

I can go hours without seeing my older girls. They host their own parties. They skip out on things they never used to skip out on (like trips to the library and swimming pool).

They are so capable. They do laundry. They cook. They keep up with their school work. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Freudian slips: Dishwashing edition (and a cake story for dessert)

We were finishing up dinner this evening...relatively late...because we had things like swimming and music lessons...and we were reminding the kids about their "dinner jobs." One child is in charge of clearing the table, one child is in charge of doing the dishes, one child is in charge of tidying up the floors, and one child is in charge of taking care of the cat (and garbage, if needed). Alexander helps out here and there or helps keep Phoebe entertained and out of the way. 

It sounds like a well-oiled machine, doesn't it? 

After all, we're pretty experienced parents now. We have systems and things like that...

Alas, systems are always better in theory than they are in practice (at least from our experience), so it really works like a rusty, piece-of-junk machine. 

But it's working (I guess), so that's all that matters.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Mother's Day

This Mother's Day the kids let me stay in bed while they made me breakfast. Andrew was also staying in bed because he took the middle-of-the-night Phoebe shift and fell asleep in her bed. 

Zoë made the egg for me (though she thinks she may have cooked one side too long because she left it on the stove unattended while she worked on my picture and heard it "popping and whistling" in the pan, but it was delicious so I'm sure it was just fine). Alexander washed the tomatoes and filled my cup with water. Phoebe got the ice.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

East Palisades Trail

Feeling like we haven't gone on a family adventure in ages, we decided last night that we'd go for a hike today. Miriam suggested hiking to see the bamboo grove at East Palisades Trail, so that's what we did. 

Here's everyone at the trailhead:

 

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Swimming stories and Phoebe tales

This morning we went to the pool to do some practicing before swim tryouts. We'd gone to the pool on Monday afternoon for several hours, but it just so happened that a couple of our co-op families joined our pool so they showed up and then all my kids wanted to do was swim. Naturally, that is something that should happen at a pool (and I understand that) but I did want to make sure my kids would be able to pass the swim test to get on the swim team that I already paid for...you know? 

The test isn't hard—they just have to swim one length of the pool without stopping—but it's early in the swim season and my kids...haven't ever done competitive swimming...or formal swimming lessons...so I just wanted to give them a few more "mom" lessons so they could feel...readier. 

Yesterday we didn't make it to the pool because we had trouble getting anything done and so simply couldn't make it out the door. And by the time we were ready to make it out the door I was not in any shape to take them out. So I took a nap instead.

So this morning we went to the pool and we did quite a bit of playing, but we also worked on our strokes a little. Zoë needed to be reminded to keep her ears in line with her shoulders, and just doing that improved her stroke (and endurance) significantly. If she can just remember that one thing, she'll have no trouble making it across the pool. 

Phoebe loves going to the pool (so it was a little soul crushing to her when we didn't go to the pool yesterday) and very sweetly asks for me to teach her, too. "Mommy teach me swimming! Teach me again!"

We mostly just practice back floats and kicking and things. She also loves to jump into the water (kind of—she kind of squats and falls into my arms).

And after she jumps in the pool she comes back up out of the water and splutters, "Do it 'gain!"

*****

This afternoon the kids and I spent some time in the garden this afternoon while Daddy took Miriam and Zoë to their piano auditions (which they passed with flying colours). Benjamin and I were doing some actual work—weeding and tending and planting—Alexander and Phoebe were collecting worms and making habitats for them. Admittedly, keeping Phoebe occupied and out of trouble is actual work, so Alexander was working, too. And Phoebe was engaged in play, in the hard work of exploring her world.

And I was grateful those two were so passionately engaged in their labours while Benjamin and I were engaged in ours.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

More wedding pictures

Because I need to put these pictures somewhere other than my phone, here are a few pictures from Grandpa and Darla's wedding...

Here's a sweet shot of Zoë and Darla walking back inside the church together after family pictures:

Monday, May 06, 2024

Field Day and Swim Teams

On Thursday we met with our co-op for the last time to have a field day. It's been a few years since we've done a field day, and I was so happy the kids got to participate. I always loved field day when I was growing up—I loved getting the whole school out there, having older students and younger students working together. It was competitive, but more fun than truly competitive...I don't know. For someone who doesn't really enjoy "sports," per se, I have some awfully good memories of field day. 

When Rachel and Miriam were in school, they always had to move around field day stations with their class...which I found less fun...but still nice...I guess.

Anyway, at our co-op field day the kids were divided into red, blue, yellow, and green teams, and each team had a mix of little and big kids. The teams sure were competitive and winners were announced after each event, but honestly no one had any idea who won overall (because nobody was really keeping track) and everyone cheered loudly for the last competitors to finish (which, honestly, was usually the yellow team—the team I was helping coach). But we all just had a lot of fun. 

I didn't take a lot of pictures because things were busy (we had about 40 kids there, with 10 kids on each team). Here's Zoë (blue team) racing against Alexander (green team) in the sack race:

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Agog with frogs

For a brief moment I forgot that I had written anything in May and I was really excited because my first post of April was about Alexander finding a skink in his pants, but I already did a post in May, so this is my second post. Fortuitously, the skink-in-his-pants post was also my second post in April (apparently I don't remember anything anymore). 

I hate to see what June brings because...

I had only recently finished my run (and then had gotten distracted by a bunch of primary music stuff because Miriam finished making the medley I'd asked her to make and then I needed to finish up a slideshow for one of my songs...) and I was just about to shower when I got a text message from Andrew, telling me that a frog just fell on him.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

First Day of Pool Season

Last year the high on May 1 was 67°F (19°C) and we did a little polar plunge for FHE. 

Today the high was 84°F (29°C) and it was a Wednesday, so we squeezed a trip into the pool between doctor appointments and school work and puppy duty and music lessons and...stuff. So it ended up just being me and the youngest four (Andrew picked Zoë up from the pool to go to her music lessons), but the pool was much warmer than last year! We had a great time!

Here's our traditional First Day of Pool Season picture:


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

4/4 April haiku

I managed to write one haiku a day this month (even if I don't love them all) and I managed to write a 38 page paper for a journal...that was promptly desk-rejected because I didn't anonymize my cover letter (because they didn't say to anonymize it) and because I left my self-citations as "Author, 2023" rather than "Author, Year" (and that mistake is on me because I overlooked that small detail). But I just resubmitted it so I think it should be good. I hope it should be good...good enough to not get desk rejected again. The deadline is today, so...

I spent most of the day crossing things off of a long-neglected do-stuff-around-the-house list. 

I'd been looking for another toddler bicycle seat to try with our bikes because Benjamin would really like to go for more bike rides and the park isn't that far. I mean, it's too far to walk, in my opinion (at least regularly), but it's a perfect distance for biking. 

After submitting my paper I looked at seats on Amazon for a while, intending to measure certain parts of our bikes to see what seats might work with what frames. The last time we scored a bike seat on the Buy Nothing group it worked on none of our bikes. Literally none of them. And we have like 5 adult bikes in our garage to choose from. So that was a bit frustrating. 

We got rid of that one, though, and obtaining a new one has been on the back burner of my mind. 

So I spent some time looking on Amazon.

But then this morning, I opened Facebook and the very first post was someone on the Buy Nothing Group giving away a brand new "universal" toddler seat. What are the odds?! 

Probably higher than you might think.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Random stories

Last night Phoebe came upstairs at bedtime and heard crickets singing through the open window. She was so excited she started screaming and running around. It took me several minutes to catch her and calm her down enough to discover what it was she was carrying on about. 

She wanted to (1) climb up to the window so she could listen to and look for the crickets, (2) to open all the windows, and (3) to go for a walk to see what's special at night. 

That last one I partly credit Daniel Tiger for, though we typically do a lot of nighttime walks once the fireflies come out...as well as in the winter when it gets dark earlier.

*****

I feel like singing time is going so much better. I've really only done it a handful of times because I got called in March and did two weeks of singing time...and then we had Easter and General Conference and Ward Conference right in a row...and then I've done two more weeks. And...things are going better. 

I've been making Google Slides presentations rather than little posters to hold up. Checking the television out of the library every week is a little annoying but, honestly, I'm such a disorganized person that it's far better for me to just have all my Google Slides in one location than it would be for me to make a bunch of papers for me to keep track of. 

Of course, this means I have to remember my computer and various cords to connect everything...and so I have to keep track of all of those things. So I guess the idea of it being a convenience is a toss up. 

And then today I forgot The Church Bag, which was certainly not convenient. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Home again! Home again! Jiggity-jig!

Vienna. Salzburg. Freilassing. Znojmo. Bratislava. And finally home again!

Here are a few pictures of Rachel and Miriam in Znojmo, Czechia:

Friday, April 26, 2024

Signs of growing up

Alexander just came upstairs to tell me that in addition to the songs I assigned him for piano, he's also been working on the C major 5-finger scale with both hands

"You just play them at the same time and it sounds amazing. Like, I have both my thumbs on middle C, like this, and then I play with my second fingers—which would be D on the right hand and B on the left hand—and it just, like, together it sounds so beautiful!"

*****

Yesterday we had our last official day of co-op classes, though we still have a field day next week. Rachel wasn't here (obviously, since she was in Vienna visiting Uncle Patrick, though technically I think they were in Bratislava on Thursday) so I had to teach her preschool class for her, which went well. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

3/4 April haiku

I'm up against what feels like a pretty big deadline right now (I have a paper due on April 30, not for a class, but to submit to a journal) and it's kind of crushing me right now. But this evening I got to stay at home with the little kids while Andrew took the middle kids to the church for their activities because our big kids are in Europe (and because Benjamin remembered at the very last minute that it was career day and he was supposed to ask his dad to come talk to the kids about what it's like being a professor). 

So instead of writing, I went on a long, dawdling walk around the block this evening, braided a crown of clover flowers, and drew with sidewalk chalk. 

And I don't really regret it because it was time well spent. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rachel and Miriam take Vienna (and other places)

It's been weird and wonderful having Rachel and Miriam being off on their little adventure. People have asked me whether I worry about them and—honestly?—I don't think I really have been. They're good, capable teenagers, and they are accompanied by a number of good and capable adults—Auntie Josie, who is very well-travelled, Uncle Patrick, who lives in Austria, and Hadis, Uncle Patrick's girlfriend, who I hear has made some delicious food for everyone and who offered up her apartment building's practice room for Miriam's use. They've been well taken care of. 

I've been asked whether we're feeling the pinch of having our babysitters and extra driver snatched away and...I'll admit there have been times when it would have been useful to have a babysitter or extra driver around, but we've managed. 

Mostly I've been consoling myself with the fact that by the time these two are actually ready to leave the house, Phoebe will be just that much older (that is, less of a baby and more of a kid, and that should be helpful). 

Today Darla asked whether it was quiet without the girls and you might be surprised to hear that...yes...it is quieter without the girls around. They're not very noisy people, but the house is definitely quieter without them. The table feels emptier and no one has to sit next to anyone else in the van and so, yes, it's quieter. 

From the few text messages I've gotten from the girls (and Uncle Patrick and Aunt Josie), they seem to be having a wonderful time, but we'll sure be glad to have them back home!

Their Instagram accounts are filled with pictures of...places...but here are a few pictures Auntie Josie has sent me of them...

Here they are carrying baguettes home from the bakery on their way back to Uncle Patrick's apartment on their very first day in Europe:

Friday, April 19, 2024

Poison Ivy and Marbles

We keep a bar of special soap in our cabinet specifically for poison ivy emergencies. Sometimes it's Fels-Naptha. This time it was Marie Originals Poison Ivy/Oak Soap. 

Honestly, given how long we've lived in the south—where poison ivy seems to grow about as prolifically as dandelion weeds do on the Alberta prairies—we have a pretty good track record of not getting into poison ivy. It's true that I spend a considerable amount of time looking for poison ivy (and watching for snakes) and teaching my children to look for poison ivy (and watch for snakes). 

Growing up I didn't often worry about those things—snakes and poison ivy—because all the poisonous snakes came with alarm systems and running into poison ivy was a true rarity. It's possible that's why I'm so scared of them out here. Unfamiliar things are often a little scary. And we've been so vigilant...so have thus far avoided having any serious run-in with the vines. 

Zoë has had to take a few baths after some flirting with disaster too close to the side of the trail (or sidewalk—because poison ivy is all over the city as well as in the woods, which just blows my never-seen-poison-ivy-before-moving-out-here mind), but we haven't had, like, a serious run-in. 

And then today I noticed some poison ivy growing on our little hill. 

Cue Phoebe's high pitched voice: "On my little hill?!"

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Phoebe tales

This morning I took the kids on a walk to go find the aftermath of a fire that was in our neighbourhood. We didn't know what had happened. All we knew was that Andrew went out to run a quick errand last night while I was reading to the kids before bed...and he couldn't come home the same way he'd left because there was a fire engine blocking the road, actively spraying water at a flaming something.

We still don't know what happened, but we found the location of the fire. It wasn't a house or anything, just someone's side yard that had been thoroughly torched for some reason or other. 

*****

Phoebe walked the whole way and filled her stroller up with a pile of pinecones "to show Daddy."

*****

When we got home the kids ran in through the garage door and slammed it behind them, which is borderline responsible. I mean—they remembered to close the door! But Phoebe was right behind them and was a little upset about having the door slam in her face (but at least it was only that and not on her fingers, right?).

She can do a lot of things—more and more things every day! She can reach the lights at the top of the stairs to the basement and will stand there and flick them on and off and on and off. And she can reach the light switch by the couch. But she can't reach any other light switches in the house. 

She can open the garage door from inside the house, but she can't open it from outside of the house.

It's frustrating for her to sometimes be able to do things and not be able to do them at other times. So she was pretty frustrated by her inability to open the door. 

"Momma—open door for this little..." she pouted, and the paused.

"This little what?" I asked.

"For this little...bo-bot! Beep-boop-beep-boop-beep!"

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Auntie Josie's visit

Auntie Josie arrived on Friday night, just before midnight. We talked too late in the night and then slept in the next morning. I had originally wanted to go hiking or something, but the logistics proved too much for me to manage (which vehicles do we take, who drives, what do we do about Miriam's arm, etc). So instead we went grocery shopping, which is pretty lame, I guess.

But Josie is one of those people I just enjoy being around, so it was fun to get to walk around the store with her...even if shopping isn't the most thrilling activity.

Then Rachel left for the dance and we finally got around to passing out the presents Naanii had sent with Auntie Josie. Zoë and Benjamin got slap bracelets (and some colouring kits, that I told them was to share). Phoebe got  a stuffed pig in a BYU shirt, and Alexander got a stuffed bunny in a BYU shirt. Miriam and Rachel and I got a set of pens. And there was also a little game for the family. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

For meeeeee?

Phoebe has started to say a few cute things recently.

For one, she has started calling me "Mama" or "Momma" (I am never sure how to spell that) and it's adorable, but also off-putting because it's just...something I thought I'd heard the last of. I haven't been called "momma" in years

When Phoebe started talking she skipped right over that and went straight to "Mom."

She said it at the pediatrician's office once and the doctor was like, "Excuse me, did she just call you Mom?"

"Yeah," I said. 

"Tell me you have five older siblings without telling me you have five older siblings," the doctor (more or less) said. "Typically babies don't say mom right away. Mama is much more common."

It's true. That duplicated syllable ma (ma+ma = mama) is easier to accomplish than tacking a final -m sound onto mo- to make mo+m (mom). But, that's the way Phoebe did it...

Until recently when she's suddenly started calling me "Momma."

2/4 April haiku

My last post took us from April 1 to April 8, which is 8 days (in case anyone is counting). I already wrote a haiku today, so this post will take us from April 9 to April 16, which is also 8 days. I am well aware that a week is only 7 days long. However, April has 30 days...so I had to have a few collections with 8 days in them (or have four 7-day collections and one 2-day collection and that hardly makes any sense). 

April 9

a dreary morning
against all odds
she asks for milk

Bonus

soggy catkins
curling on the asphalt
a dead snake

Blue cast, Spring Formal, and many visitors

Could more things have happened over the weekend? Possibly. But it felt pretty packed as things were.

I woke up bright and early Friday morning and began calling pediatric orthopedic offices to see if anyone could squeeze Miriam in that same day. The first office I called (which was the one recommended to us by the urgent care facility) was super grumpy about how "entitled" I was to think my child could be treated within such a small window. You have to plan for these things, apparently.

The soonest possible appointment would be at least ten days out. She didn't care what we had coming up...

And I'm like, "Who plans to break their arm mere days before taking an international flight?!"

So clearly that wasn't the place for us, the weirdos. 

But I found a place that could see her that same day. Because her break was minor and her swelling wasn't too bad, they went ahead and put a cast on her to immobilize and protect her arm during her travels so that her minor injury didn't turn into a bigger problem by being jostled, etc. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Hosting

My sister Josie arrived this evening! 

I set up an air mattress for her in the basement. And also set up a couch cushion bed for her in case the whole air mattress thing didn't work out. And told her that a third option was a futon in the girls' room, which I didn't set up because Rachel had already gone to bed. 

Miriam was going to take the futon and let Josie have her bed, but then she broke her arm and didn't want to give up her comfy bed because sleeping has been hard enough as it is. 

But the futon is a third option. And if none of those options really sound good then we can kick Alexander out of his bed and steal his mattress to put on the floor downstairs.

So many comfy options!

"I'll be fine," she insisted. "My years in Young Ambassadors really taught me that I can sleep anywhere."

She loved her touring days, but they were grueling and the accommodations could sometimes be...less than accommodating. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Left arm...broken!

A few months ago I scored a push tricycle on the Buy Nothing Group. Phoebe had been putting up a fuss about riding in the stroller and I thought that perhaps a tricycle stroller would help make her fits less frequent. And I was correct! She is much happier about getting to bike around the block than she had been being pushed around the block. Eventually she'll walk around the block just fine—and she has walked around the block before—but sometimes we want to go faster than she travels on her two little legs.

So the push tricycle has been a fine solution.

I wouldn't say it's been a perfect solution, but it was free, right? And free is nice.


A few of this issues we've had with the push tricycle are:

Monday, April 08, 2024

1/4 April Haiku

It's National Poetry Month! 

I've trying to write a haiku for every day this month. 

Haiku has become such an interesting form to me (since reading Jane Hirshfield's Ten Windows, which contains such wonderful discussion on Basho). What children are taught in elementary schools about stringent syllabic patterns—and, perhaps, that the poem should have something to do with nature—is woefully inadequate, not to mention slightly misleading. While the three-line rule seems to be sticking rather firmly, the 5-7-5 rule is too...convoluted...to work well in English. Syllables don't matter as much as ideas because in Japanese the poems don't contain 17 syllables but seventeen on. A good haiku makes an observation about the world by means of a surprising juxtaposition...in very few syllables.

(Read more about haiku here, here, or here, or wherever).

So, no—my haiku don't always have 17 syllables. That said, they don't always contain a surprising twist either.

I didn't promise every day's haiku would be a good haiku, did I? 

My purpose, I suppose, is to tell little stories about each day, to remember the month by. So far it's been a gloriously good month for haiku—so much has been happening with nature!

April 1

earth warms—creatures wake,
slink and worm their way inside
the boy's pants—"A skink!"

Watching the April 8, 2024 Eclipse

We had a lovely time watching the eclipse this afternoon. While we weren't in the path of totality (we were about 85%), we did notice a significant gloaming effect (another vocabulary word from today) as well as an accompanied decrease in overall temperature. 

Painted Book of Mormon Activity

Today for FHE we talked about syzygial relationships...or how thinking celestially can help us align with God. Really I just thought it would be fun to talk about alignment today, after watching the eclipse. And I was in luck because this month's Liahona had a couple of articles about just that—aligning our hearts and wills with God. I gave the kids a head's up about today's topic at dinner and told them all to come prepared to share something and everyone (except Alexander and Phoebe) was ready to share. 

We talked about some of the General Conference talks we listened to this past weekend and shared thoughts we had about scriptures we'd been reading recently. So it worked out well!

Last week we finally got around to painting the covers of our copies of The Book of Mormon. We'd seen many people do this and decided we wanted to do it as a family and told the kids they could choose whatever language they'd like for their copy of The Book of Mormon. Rachel is just finishing up her second semester of Spanish, so she chose Spanish. Miriam has been studying German for quite some time, so she chose German, as did Alexander (who studies languages by whim...the other day he told me about the "galactic" lesson he'd recently completed...but he mean Gaelic). Zoë has been learning French at co-op, so she chose French. Benjamin simply wanted English. That's what we did for Phoebe as well. I chose Russian. Andrew chose Italian. 

So we ordered all these books months ago and some of them came in right away, but the Spanish and French books were on backorder for some reason. But eventually—at long last—we received another package...with only a Spanish book in it. And then waited and waited and waited some more and finally— finally!—Zoë's French book arrived. 

We painted our books last Monday. It was pure chaos, but everyone had a good time.

We covered a portion of our table in paper to keep the little ones from accidentally (or purposefully) scribbling on the table with the paint markers.


Pre-eclipse

For school today we went through the Jr. Ranger eclipse booklet, which led to some exploration of other moons in our solar system and the potential for other planets to experience eclipses. 

Then Benjamin asked for a haircut and I jumped at the opportunity before he could change his mind because...uh...he needed a haircut.

Then Benjamin and I went on a quick run, leaving Zoë to do some work on her country report. She printed out some pictures for Alexander and Phoebe to colour while she worked, which kept them very busy. Technically Rachel and Miriam were in charge, but they were diligently working on their own school work since this is Rachel's week of finals at BYU-I...and because we told Miriam that she had to finish at least one of her ASU classes before leaving for Europe. So they were home, but not interested in entertaining babies. Zoë had things covered, though!

Thursday, April 04, 2024

All things bright and beautiful

I took the kids to the park the other day, on the first day of the year that was due to be rather warm (around 80°F/26°C). I don't know if I should be slathering my kids with sunscreen before spending hours outside in January (especially considering the fact that we rarely get snow here), but I do know that I should be slathering my kids with sunscreen when the warmth of the sun feels like a punishment rather than a caress. 

Especially because my children all inherited a ridiculously fair complexion and tend to burn. I'm always forgetting that about them because, well, I simply don't burn as easily as any of them. But on this particular day, I remembered (gold star in mothering for me!) and broke out the sunscreen. 

As I was rubbing this "lotion" on Phoebe she started sniffing excitedly. 

"Mmmm...mmmmm...mmmm!" she moaned with Pavlovian desire. "This lotion! Mmmmmm! This lotion mates me wanna doe pool! Tan we doe pool today?"

It's jarring to think that in spite of not being able to really speak last summer, Phoebe has lasting memories of going to the pool (triggered by a strong olfactory association with sunscreen, apparently).

This post is actually about poetry—Happy Poetry Month!

I am notoriously bad at managing my notifications. It drives Andrew a little bit crazy. 

Right now, according to my computer, I have a manageable 31 unread text messages...but on my phone that number is 187. My phone tells me I have 18,801 unread emails on my personal account...but my computer tells me it's only 7388. I'm not sure what is up with those discrepancies, so who even knows how many unread messages I truly have?

My school email address has 2529 unread messages.

Somehow Andrew's usually able to keep on top of his notifications, but for whatever reason...I just can't. 

We had dentist appointments this week and—I kid you not—we escaped without a single cavity between all six kids and me (Andrew will be going next week). But I did not escape without racking up 43 text messages and 38 email messages all from the dentist's office

"Just a reminder..."

"To confirm your appointment..."

"Your appointment has been confirmed..."

"Click to fill out the required paperwork prior to your appointment..."

"Your paperwork is complete..."

"Your appointment is coming up today at..."

"Thank you for scheduling your next appointment with..."

"Did you enjoy your visit? Take some time to leave feedback at..."

Times. Seven. People.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Easter Egg Smackdown 2024

 Like many families in the world this week, we dyed Easter eggs. Below you'll see (from left to right, in columns) Phoebe's, Miriam's, Zoë's, Alexander's, and Benjamin's eggs, respectively:

Monday, April 01, 2024

Just to be clear

Yesterday when we were getting ready for church, the following exchange occurred (with me yelling up the stairs and the kids yelling down the stairs):

Me: Phoebe, come here! I want to do your hair!
Phoebe: Not yet!
Me: But we’re trying to get ready to go!
Phoebe: Not yet!
Me: What are you doing?
Alexander: She’s building a house!
Phoebe: Just out of LEGO! Not a real one!

It's a good thing she clarified because otherwise I would have thought she was building a real house!

*****

Spring is here, as I've noted. We've got violets and steaming compost heaps and—apparently—lizards in the basement. The sun is flouting its bedtime and so too are the children. Thus, it was relatively late when they came inside from playing outside with the neighbours (and boy did they smell like outside kid).

We had scriptures and prayer before sending them off to shower and the following exchange occurred:

Me: Oh, you've got a ring on!
Zoë: Yeah. Alexander married Evelyn.
Alexander: But not for real. Just for pretend.
Zoë: But they really have crushes on each other.
Alexander: That's true.
Zoë: So we had a ceremony!
Alexander: A pretend ceremony.
Zoë: And they got married!
Alexander: For pretend.
Zoë: And Evelyn really gave him that ring.
Alexander: That's true.

It's a good thing he clarified that for me because otherwise I would have thought I'd have to worry about in-laws next door! 

Sneaky Skink

As promised, we are taking some time off from schoolwork this week. Well, the little kids are, at least. The bigger girls are bound by their semester schedules (and will get a lovely vacation in a couple of weeks) and I am hoping to use this time to get some good writing done (though...I'm excellent at postponing things). 

So, this morning the kids—still all in their pyjamas—were downstairs playing in the basement, when suddenly Alexander let out a blood-curdling scream.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"What's going on?" I called down the stairs. 

Alexander ran up the stairs and, melodramatically gasping for breath, explained, "There...was....a...lizard....in....my...pants! 

"There was a...lizard...in your..." I began repeating, but Alexander cut me off, still panting.

"Pants! Yes! I felt something cold and wet on my legs and thought maybe I was peeing my pants or something…and then a lizard plopped out!"

"...of your pants?"

"Yes! Come and see!" he said, and then ran to the Tupperware drawer. "I need to find a container!"

"This isn't some sort of prank, is it?" I asked.

It is, after all, April Fool's Day.

"No!" he insisted. "A lizard was really in my pants. It's just a skink, we think. Why can't I find a lunch meat container? I can only find good Tupperware! Oh! Here's one!"

Easter Sunday

Miriam and Rachel stayed for all three sacrament meetings at our building today. First they attended the Spanish ward, where Miriam is the organist. Then they stayed for the next ward because their friends from seminary were singing. And then they attended our meetings where...

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Easter Saturday

Knowing that Sundays have been anything but restful recently, we decided to go ahead and do Easter baskets on Saturday this year. The Easter Bunny hid eggs all over the main floor and the basement, so we'll probably be hunting Easter eggs for a good year or more. Phoebe has been finding eggs all day!

 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Grandpa & Darla's Wedding (March 29)

Big day over here today—Alexander lost his second tooth!

Just kidding!

I mean, he did lose a second tooth this afternoon, but our Big Day News is that today was Grandpa and Darla's long-awaited (and also not-so-long-awaited) wedding day. They were only engaged for a couple of months, but I had a few little flower girls at my house who have been so excited for this wedding that even that felt like a long amount of time. 

I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this wedding.

First of all, I'd like to apologize to my parents and to Andrew's parents for our own whirlwind engagement. Andrew got home from his mission on October 12 (2005). We got engaged on October 26 (also 2005) and were married on December 16 (also 2005). Somehow I thought that was plenty of time to put a wedding together. 

Turns out even the simplest of wedding plans still require...quite a lot of coordination and behind-the-scenes work. I'm sure our parents were losing their minds trying to pull everything together, while we blithely waltzed through the entire affair. That said, it's not like they were entirely surprised by our quick decision to get married and, in fact, were perhaps even less surprised than we were. 

To be fair, we had known each other—as friends—for several years. Continuing that friendship just made sense, even if our formal courtship was brief (and it was brief). 

There is something to be said about getting to know someone before you marry them, but I wonder truly how much time anyone needs to spend to get to know anyone else because...people are surprising. 

I mean, you can spend 18 years of your life thinking your spouse won't eat tomatoes and then one day they go to Montreal without you, are served a sandwich with tomatoes, throw caution to the wind, eat those tomatoes and find that tomatoes actually lend the sandwich a certain—as the French say—je ne sais quoi. And then next time you have sandwiches as a family you run out of tomatoes because that certain someone has taken the last slice that you had been assuming would be yours... 

See? Mind blowing stuff happens all the time!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Walk Through Jerusalem

Our stake put on a "Walk through Jerusalem" on Saturday. They set up a village in the gym, elaborately partitioned off with sheets and cardboard to create a number of private spaces where the children could travel through in small groups to learn about the Saviour's life. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

FHE

Today for FHE we did our first quarter check-in on our goals for the year and discussed our recent "plateau" in homeschooling (where the kids do their darndest to not accomplish any actual work the entire day until I, exhausted, give in and tell them to go outside and play). 

On the one hand, we had a good discussion about procrastination (stemming from Alma 34:33):
I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Though Rachel accidentally read verse 35 instead, which was really a little harsh for our purposes:
For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
So we also talked about how grace—and the atonement—can really cover a lot of stuff, so I'm not saying the children are headed to "heck" in a hand basket simply because they procrastinate from time to time (though procrastinating repentance while banking on being saved is...a whole nother ball of wax). 

Anyway, we talked about other scripture stories this made us thinking of and the kids came up with:
  • The parable of the ten virgins (five of whom were unprepared)
  • The prodigal son (who wanted to play without responsibility)
  • The parable of the talents (and the servant who buried it in the dirt, thinking that would be enough)
  • Noah (and all the people who wouldn't listen to him)
All excellent stories to bring home the point Andrew and I were trying to make about buckling down to do your work before goofing off. Because it just makes everyone happier. For one thing, in theory the kids would get to play sooner if they simply...did their work...right? For another thing, Mom would be much happier, which would make everyone happier, right?

We talked about how doing things—using our bodies, using our minds, creating things (art! stories! gardens! needlework! clean spaces!)—helps us feel happy. Avoiding doing things (like, for example, how I'm avoiding working on the paper I should be working on right now) can make us feel happy for a time, I guess, but at the end of the day...when we think about what we've accomplished...it's...a bit depressing.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Baklava and the Case of the Missing Socks

Yesterday evening we went outside to play after dinner. Phoebe wanted to play with the big kids in the cul-de-sac, but I told her she needed to stay in the yard with me because she's still little.

"I think I'm a big kid now!" she insisted.

And I did eventually relent and let her go play with the kids (I had a meeting to go to), but not before we played a few games together to let the big kids play without having to worry about her. 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Disturbing the peas (and other tales)

I'm working on putting a little fence around our garden, with the goal of keeping various critters out of it—deer mostly...perhaps the occasional rabbit...oh, and Phoebe!

Here's Phoebe disturbing the peas:

Once freshly planted in straight, tidy rows, our peas are now destined to be a "chaos crop," and will truly have follow the adage of blooming where they were planted (wherever that may have ended up being).