Babies, bellies, silence

• I read a post about making New Years a time to reflect back on the surprises of the previous year: the things that happened without planning and effort and worry, but that just…came and blessed you. It seemed like such a nice idea, but as I tried to do it, I just couldn't think of that many examples in our year. There were certainly some, but most things seemed like, I don't know, basically a logical progression of what came before, I guess?

But I do think the way the kids grow and change is always such a surprise. THAT they grow and change, and even the general direction of their growth, isn't always a big surprise, but just the actual way it happens is so unexpected! This little Goldie, for example. We've had plenty of children dancing on top of tables and singing little strange songs while they do it. We've had other children that want to snuggle into your shoulder and wiggle off your lap at the same time (a perfect recipe for frustration, I might add). I don't know if we've ever had a child so determined to speak either in complex sentences or not at all, but it doesn't seem like an unheard of thing for a child to do. But somehow, Goldie just does it all in such a…Goldie-ish way. Unlike anyone else. Unlike you could predict. And yet utterly characteristic, once you look back on it. So yes, she keeps surprising me. As do all of the kids. I love it.
• Our bunny Nutmeg likes to sit on top of the baby (belly) while I pet him. What a useful platform! :) It's nice for both of us (all three of us?). Nutmeg also likes it when I sing to him. I know that seems strange, but it's true. I sing him all the bunny songs I know. There are a lot of them.
• I saw an ad for a store called "Buy Buy Baby" the other day and thought what a terrible name for a store that is. No one wants to plan to go a store and just "buy buy buy," do they? We like to think we're going to be prudent and deliberate and frugal. And if it's supposed to evoke "Bye-bye Baby"…well…I hardly need to say why that's a terrible concept to suggest to new parents, right?

• I stopped for yogurt at Red Mango the other day when I was out doing errands. (Incidentally, the three conversations I overheard while sitting there seemed so utterly right: they revolved, respectively, around Yoga, Trader Joe's, and GMO's. Ha!) I was remembering the first time I was in high school, driving myself in the car, my own money in my wallet, and had the sudden realization that I could do whatever I wanted. Like, I could stop and buy myself lunch. Without asking permission from anyone. It seemed so amazing. And, say what you will about the obligations of adulthood, it's still got that going for it. Sure, most of the time you are tied down to doing what you ought to be doing, or what someone else requires of you. But that ability to—even sometimes—choose to do what you want, when you want, well…it's not nothing.

• When I hear people talking about music they listen to (playlists! dance parties!), I'm always so impressed, and sort of envious, too. And surprised. How do you do it? I mean, I've never been someone that knows anything about current music trends, but I used to at least have my own music that I loved, and I loved surrounding myself with music. Several years ago when Sam and I went on a trip without the kids, and we were driving down the highway, windows down, listening to Ben Folds, I felt younger and cooler than I'd felt for years. (Although I knew, even Ben Folds was probably fairly far from "current" at the time! :)) We have music in the house for sure: piano practicing, the boys' choir songs, music we're studying for school. But at this time in life, with a few exceptions (Christmas music during December, for example; or at the computer when the kids are all in bed), I just don't listen to music for fun. I can't. I crave the silence too much. I feel like my mind is just like my counter right now, and if I get any chance at all, I want it empty. There are just so…many…people…talking! All the time! None of them, individually, are being unreasonably talkative, but there's always someone telling me something, and it adds up! Now don't get me wrong: I love it! I do. I love having lots of people around; I love hearing the funny and interesting things the kids say; I love the conversations and discussions and questions that come up because we are together so much. But sometimes it just feels like so much to hold in my head, and as much as I want to, I can't hold any more. I had a professor at BYU that said in his opinion, music should never be on "in the background." That it should be listened to, actively, or not at all. We all thought he was crazy, but I kind of understand now. When there's music on, it's not just like furniture or wallpaper or temperature in the room. It's another voice, asking for something and needing me to DO something. Asking me for notice, I guess. So instead of calming me it tends to make me feel more on edge. It seems a bit sad, but there it is.

• The thing that's so great about having some older kids now, though, is that I CAN get away and find silence sometimes. That same day I was out doing errands (alone—you can tell it made a big impression on me) I felt like I just wanted to sink back into the silence until it covered me up and I drained away and became totally white and clean and empty. I listened to the sound of the car wheels on the road. And my own breathing. And wind. I listened to other people talking to each other and enjoyed needing to say absolutely nothing in response. I said "Fine, thank you" and "You, too!" to the cashiers at the store and then went back outside and let the sun and the sky and the air fill up my lungs. I let my thoughts circle around if they wanted to and drift into nothing when they wanted to. I'm sure someday I will miss the chattering, and perhaps dislike the silence. But for now…it's heavenly. 

• My belly is at the point where it not only surprises other people, but it even surprises me. I'm always hitting it into doorways or dropping food on it or burning it on pans. Such an odd, clumsy appendage. It's ME, but not me. I'm so lucky to be able to mostly enjoy pregnancy, but at this point I do feel like a melon strolling on two tendrils much of the time!

The Kitchen Counter

This picture, obviously, was not posed in any way. In fact I'm not sure who took it, or why. But as I was going through the files to delete it, I realized it was really quite a treasure trove of information about our lives. So instead of deleting it, I am preserving it forever. With commentary. As follows:

1. Yellow mixer, next to the other yellow mixer, the yellow teakettle, and the yellow dutch oven. Why yes, yellow is my favorite color. The teakettle captures the ideal shade best (not that you can tell the difference in this light).

2. Sebby cake. Part of a larger pattern of Baked Goods, which figure prominently in our day-to-day lives. Yum. It's a bit early at this point, but I won't complain if this cake (or another cake like it, I mean) soon fulfills its highest, holiest purpose and jump-starts a baby.

2a. More baked goods. This is breakfast cake, sweetly made by Abe when I was lying in bed sick one morning—unfortunately, the only reason it's still around at dinnertime is that he accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder. (Haven't we all?) It tasted…odd. The surprising thing, to me, is that over half of it actually did get eaten. (The rest went into the garbage eventually. But not immediately; what do you think we are, inhumane barbarians?! Only after a Decent Interval of sitting on the stove getting in everyone's way and taking up space needed for more important things.)

3. Something from the DMV. Probably telling us to do our car registration. Here it will sit until something gets spilled on it, or I move it ostentatiously to the keyboard of Sam's laptop, whereupon he will move it to his briefcase and forget about it until (best-case scenario) Jan 30th.

4. Marigold's favorite toy, which stopped popping up because someone had stuck a chicken in it. (If you found that sentence unremarkable…well, you have children, probably.) Sebastian took it apart and got the chicken out. Then took the springs out to check them for springiness. Then someone lost one. Now what?? I can't even tell you how many toys this happens to. At least, in its current state, it's recognizable as something that was once a toy (cf. Item 7). (Also note correct usages of its and it's in that sentence.)

5. If my mom were to see this dish soap sitting on the counter, she would say these very words: "If you just put the soap away under the sink every time you finish with it, the counter will look so much nicer." Obviously she would not be correct in saying this considering the state of the rest of the counter… however, she is theoretically right. But then we'd have to, you know, get it out again. And put it away again. Three times a day. You know?

6. Tiny beads and someone's half-finished DNA necklace. We can't stop making them. It's addictive.

7. A broken part of a broken thing. I do not know what it is nor why it is broken nor why it is by the sink.

8. An empty tape roll. Why? Why?

8a. An empty ornament box. Why? Why?

9. A candle still out from our candlelight dinner on Christmas Eve. The other thirty candles got put away, but not this one, for mysterious reasons. Now it has morphed from Item Out of Place to Beloved, Traditional, and Immutable Counter Adornment, which will remain invisible to the all but the most discerning eye (and certainly invisible to the NON-discerning eye of anyone told to "clear off the extra stuff from the counter") until it finally meets its doom in the form of a cleaning frenzy prompted by (a.) impending childbirth, or (b.) guests coming over for dinner.

10. Incomplete box of chocolates one of Sam's students gave him. Good, but not good enough to compete with most Baked Goods hanging around (see item 2). Thus, there it sits (with the caramels eaten out of it) until one of the kids (a) notices it, (b) asks for some, and (c) I remember, before automatically saying "no," that we actually DO want to get rid of them.

11. Pressurized butane fuel for the torch burner Sam got me for Christmas. (You know, for flambé-ing things.) It's cool, but I'm terrified of it. We were trying to decide if we should unscrew the fuel tank every time we aren't using it. Sam said, "We'll lose a little fuel every time we do that." I said, "Yes, but we will also avoid losing a child." There was a thoughtful pause.

12. One of hundreds (thousands?) of Very Important Drawings; important enough to be argued over if criticized as inaccurate, passionately defended from even the slightest stray pencil mark caused by a brother or sister, and wept over with bitter, inconsolable tears when accidentally torn or stepped on—but which, a few hours later, mysteriously become unimportant to the point of no one remembering whose drawing it actually is or what it is supposed to depict.

13. Sam's cursed sinus-rinse packets. No matter how much one puts them away and throws out the little torn-off paper tops, they reappear and multiply and distribute themselves efficiently across every surface, like some sort of smug, horrifying fungus.

14. Blender. Nearly always sitting just-washed by the sink rather than on its base, as it is in constant use, mostly for hot chocolate at this time of year. Yum.

15. Rubbing alcohol. For extracting DNA from lentils, of course.


The other day I was wondering why I hardly have any pictures of snowy days, and then I realized that in order to take pictures of them, one has to actually, you know, go out in them. I'd much rather stay inside and do something I truly excel at: making hot chocolate. And warming people up, once they get home. I sometimes feel like my whole purpose in life is to Make People Warm. It's a high and noble purpose and I'm quite good at it, I must admit.

So most of my pictures of snow are taken from the back door or out of the window, like this one:
Daisy's brothers had all gone sledding while she was napping, and when she woke up she asked if she could go outside and play in the snow too. When I looked out the window, there she was, shoveling the entire driveway with her tiny shovel, like a poor little workhouse child.
Sam took pity on her and went to help.

The light outside was so beautiful that I was lured outdoors in spite of myself. There was just one colorful swirl of sky amid the darkening grey of the snow clouds. I love how the pale sunset colors came out so brightly against the whites and browns and blacks below.

From the kids, Christmas 2014

Abe made me this sweet little fwuffball bunny. If you flip it to one side you can also use it as a phone. :) Abe also created SUCH sweet little gifts for all his brothers and sisters. I don't know why I don't have pictures of all of them. He made the cutest memory game for Malachi, with all Ky's favorite things in it: bird pictures, space pictures, volcano pictures, etc. He laminated the cards and everything. So cute.
Seb made presents for everyone too. This book was what he made for me. He must have spent hours on this labor of love!
I can't adequately express how…well…informative this Informational Booklet is. (These are just some of the pages.) Even knowing our Seb, I was amazed. He said somewhat apologetically after he gave it to me, "I know it's more of something I'm interested in than something you are interested in …" but I assured him, it's better this way. Now I get to learn something new!
To Daisy from Seb. Penguin and iceberg playset. With a digital camera for good measure.
Seb's also been doing these drawings of each person's favorite animal. I love them so much. I especially love the poor little penguin huddling against the snow flurries. I can just feel his determination!
Sam got a ladder for Christmas, so naturally this huge box has gotten a lot of use. Seb made a plane out of it which the little kids have LOVED squeezing themselves into for rides. It takes both Abe and Seb to tilt it for takeoffs and landings!

Gift ideas, ages 18 months–12 years

I have become accustomed to posting about our kids' Christmas presents after Christmas. It may not be as helpful to anyone else (although, when you can save stuff to your Amazon wish lists anytime, why not?) but I like it. So, if your kids are anything like my own funny little goblins, here are some ideas for you.

For three-year-old Junie, we got this little orange chair (except it was half price at the time…not sure I would pay $50 for it). She likes orange and she always wants to sit by us while we're having school, but there's no more room on the couch, so I thought she'd like having her own little portable seat. And she does like it, but I think Marigold (18-months) likes it even more. Maybe Goldie finds it more of a novelty to have a chair her very own size? Anyway, I kind of wish I'd gotten one for her too. There is much scrambling and scrabbling for position between them when Junie goes to sit down. I suppose Goldie will get the chair in a year or so, when Junie grows out of it, anyway.

Junie loves pigs, so she also got this little Pocket Piggies book, which is adorable. The pigs are teeny-tiny!

Goldie is still The Baby Who Has Everything, so she didn't get much. But she did get this little blue elephant, which is so soft and cute. She likes it the same way she likes everything soft and huggable—I don't know that she's gotten specially attached to it yet, though. But we always love the Jellycat animals. This one is one of our favorite stuffed bunnies ever.

Oh, twelve-year-olds! They are so awesome. And yet not easy to shop for. Luckily Abe likes puzzles of all kinds, and that's pretty much what he got from everybody this year. We signed him up for a four-session skiing thing with some of his friends in January, so that was his main present. But he also got this strange curvy puzzle cube to add to his collection. Of course he spent all day watching tutorials on how to solve it, although I said, "Wouldn't you like to NOT know how to solve it for awhile?" Nope. :) I also have it on Abe's authority that this cube is a good one to get for someone who has mastered the basic Rubik's Cubes and wants something more challenging.

Abe also got a book on HTML, which he is having fun working through and making a website. I suppose he is doing that with online software somehow? but I know nothing about the details. It didn't seem hard for Sam and him to set it up, though.

Malachi is amassing quite a collection of these Audubon birds from his Grandma (he got a couple more this year) and he loves them. They are really soft and they give authentic bird calls. I wanted to get a little nest for them like this one I saw a couple years ago, but it's apparently discontinued or something; I couldn't find one anywhere. So I used some faux fur to make one. I didn't know what I was doing. It's basically a circle of fur and a circle of felt sewed together with a circle of cardboard between them for stability. Then a little ridge of fur sewed around the edge. Anyway, the birds look cute in it.
Like every kid, Ky loves Legos, but what he really loves are the little Lego guys. He'll usually build a set of Legos and then just want to walk the little men around and have them do things. And there are never enough little men! (Minifigures. I think that's what they really call them.) So I knew he would love this set of ALL Lego people. They are SO cute! With all their little tiny accessories! Malachi loves them SO much.

In searching for another book, I found this one about the elements, which I got for Sam, but we ALL love it. It is fascinating! It has pictures and information about each element on the periodic table, and it's just amazing to read about what kinds of things we can use each element for. Especially the lesser-known ones! And it's written in a very readable, approachable style. Now that we've read it we want to buy this book on molecules also.

If you have a boy like my Seb, he will probably love this book called Cool Stuff and How it Works. Because it's from 2005 (10 years ago? What?!) and it's about technology, I was afraid it might be out of date, but it isn't. It shows stuff Seb loves, like cameras and jet engines, but also stuff that he said "I hadn't even wondered about yet!", like electronic tennis rackets and bionic limbs and voice recognition systems. 
A while ago Seb saved up and bought a used digital camera, which he loved SO much, but it was really old and stopped working about a month and a half later. He even tried buying a new battery for it, but we couldn't get it working again. He was a little bit sad, but then he decided it would be more fun to take it apart anyway, and thus had been well worth his $20. :) Since then, he's been saving up for a new one, but since a new one will cost a lot more than $20, he had resigned himself to waiting for a long time. We were quite impressed with his persistence (and with how carefully he had treated his other camera)! So, when we saw this one in his favorite color for $60 on Amazon (!) we decided just to get it for him. It is TINY! Smaller than his hand. And he loves it. I haven't looked at the picture quality that much, but since for him it's way more about fiddling with the settings, making videos, and figuring out how every part works, it doesn't really matter. 

Daisy loves her tiny Book of Mormon so much that as soon as I saw they had made all the standard works available in Pocket-Size versions, I knew we had to get them for her. They are tiny and adorable. Also, unlike her previous one, they have all the pictures in them! Hooray!

Daisy also got this penguin game, which is fun, and (the biggest selling point): she and Junie or she and Malachi can play it all by themselves! I love that. It's sort of like memory game? You peek under the penguins to find the different colored eggs. Really simple and cute.

One more thing the kids got that has been surprisingly well-received is these little babies. I love these little soft pocket-size dolls and I'd been thinking of ordering a few of them. The artist gave me a great deal for getting a bunch at once, so I asked her to send one in everyone's favorite color. I thought they were too babyish for the older kids but I just gave them anyway, and everyone seems to like how they all go together, or something. It has been pretty cute to watch Abe and Seb and Ky playing Babies with the little girls. They'll have the babies all lined up and make dinner for them, or they'll pretend they're Magic Babies and fly them around like airplanes, or they'll swaddle them up individually in tiny blankets and carry them around in their pockets. So sweet!
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