Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Sky is Falling

We had quite the roller coaster of a week. The weather turned pleasantly cooler, and with it the leaves have started to fall. The kids were very excited to rake up some big piles in which they could jump, so we made that our Family Night activity. 
Unfortunately, they could not relive the fun for very long, because the city came by with their big truck and sucked our leaf piles up (a service our taxes pay for). What the truck did not get, the wind took, because we have almost no leaves in the yard now.
I'm not sure the kids would want to go out into the yard now anyway, though, because it's absolutely soaked! Friday night came a thunderstorm the likes of which we've not seen. The rain was sporadic, but when it came down, it poured! It continued like that with little reprieve until early Sunday morning.
That made for a particularly dreary Saturday for at least two reasons. First, the kids were stuck indoors all day. We were able to get them out for a few errands when Kira made a rare doughnut run ("rare" referring to both the doughnuts and the run therefor), and then when I took them for groceries.
Second, we had some pretty messy flooding in the basement. Sometime Saturday morning, I went down with the kids to survey everything, and Carver was the one to discover a big pool of water on the floor. Our basement is mostly for storage, laundry, and playing, so there is no carpet and no bedrooms, thankfully. After a lot of cleanup, it was clear that the water was coming in from some leak in the basement wall. We were glad that it was not sewage backup, but with the irregularity and severity of the rain, it meant that I had to keep a close eye on the water in the basement, and I had to clean it up several times. Our landlady brought us a wet/dry vacuum, which was a big help in cleaning up the mess. Of course, the leak had to be in an area where I had to move the washer, dryer, and my desk that I keep down there. 
Our Flooded Backyard
We are glad to be all dry now, and very happy that the forecast shows several dry days. We expect to have the leaky basement sealed up this week. 
In more heartwarming news, Merritt is exploding with his language and social skills. For example, one day this week, I was getting ready to leave for work. I put on my backpack, a sure sign of departure, and Merritt, who had been watching, looked up at me, pulled out his pacifier, and puckered his lips for a goodbye kiss. It was absolutely adorable!

Avey has been trying to help keep Merritt occupied when he is getting into things he oughtn't, and so she often utilizes music to tame him. She found that he is especially fond of Queen's "We Will Rock You," because she played it for him and he started to sing along with his soprano, "WEEE woooah weee woooah..." on a descending scale.

After some quizzing during meals, I've gotten Merritt to also identify his nose, teeth, and hair. He's still working on his eye - whenever I ask him where his eye is, he slowly inserts his index finger into his right nostril. That's in the right direction, at least...

Hakan had a great conversation with Kira a few days ago. He seemed deep in thought, and then seemed to ask more than say to her, "Mom, you don't know everything." She admitted, "No, not everything." Then Hakan thought for a moment and replied, "But Dad does."

I pretend to, at least.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Grading and Wading

Check off another busy week for the Rickses. We had a few unusual events, including parent-teacher conferences for our oldest two children. This is, of course, the first time we've had two appointments, but they were scheduled consecutively, so it was not too bad. Our neighbor was kind enough to come be with the kids while we went to the school.
Before Carver went to bed that night, I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to ask or tell his teacher at the conference. He thought for a moment, and then said, "Tell her that I love her, and that she is the best teacher in the whole world!" I did pass on the message, and his teacher was thrilled to get the message.
Carver is doing very well in school. He gets along with all of the kids, and loves to participate in all of the classroom activities. He was a little hesitant to try new things in art, and seems to have felt that he was not very good at it. That caught us by surprise, because he has been coloring at least a few pages per day at home since school started. That did strike us as unusual, because he never did seem that interested in art before. Perhaps he is practicing to try and get better at it, so we've decided to encourage him more. He is above average in his other skill areas. He seems to be our most extroverted kid, so he is right at home surrounded by kids his age. He looks forward to school each day.
The meeting with Avey's teacher was next. She is, of course, testing off the charts with her reading and writing skills. Her teacher gave several examples of how deeply Avey analyzes their reading assignments, and we saw writing samples where she used better vocabulary than most of my students (college age). Her teacher also noted that Avey will go out of her way to be helpful to other students who are struggling. She seems to intuitively understand so much about academics, I suppose it is only natural that she turns to tutoring. We are so proud of our students!
Wednesday was an unusually busy day for me. I had to go to Chicago to be in meetings all day and, therefore, missing out on my normal productivity from our local library. Fortunately, the meetings with students were productive, and the faculty meeting was not entirely painful.
With the extra long weekend (Columbus Day on Monday), Kira had an itch to get out and do things like real people. Friday, we ate out at a restaurant, and rented the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. Avey's become a big fan of the series, and we all enjoyed this one very much. 
Saturday, we tried to scratch that itch a little more. Kira took the older three kids to our local fire department, where there was a big event about fire safety. The kids got to ride in a real fire truck, got tons of little toys and treats, and watched a house fire demonstration. We did the same event last year, but Kira was home with little baby. I stayed with him this time so that he could nap. 

In the afternoon, we ventured into Chicago. Some of the family wanted to see my new office, and maybe go see some other things. We went to my office first, and then saw one of my classrooms. They got playing around there so much, that our time in the city was gone by the time they were ready to leave. We were also sort of avoiding leaving the building again because it was pouring rain. Still, we felt like we needed to do something else to make our trip worth it, so we crossed the street for a Dairy Queen, getting drenched in the process. Of course, we found that it had been closed down, so then we came across a doughnut-and-ice-cream shop and took shelter there before getting washed into Lake Michigan. We had a nice treat and then drove home, seeing a gorgeous double rainbow on the way. 

We have the holiday tomorrow, so we'll see what other ill-advised stunts we can pull, and report on them next week.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Double Digits

Avey is now 10 years old. There, I said it. I can't possibly be in denial if I openly admit it, right? She's cast off her younger self: the one that we used to cuddle and snuggle; the one who would wake up and shout, "Daddy! It's time to wake up and plAAAaaay!"; the one who used to ask me to talk like The Muppets. Now she is embracing her older self who prefers to read by herself, watch superhero movies, play with people her own age, and practice the violin and flute. I suppose we can't have one without the other, but it sure would be nice to switch back and forth for just a few minutes, even if just for nostalgia. 
A Backyard Visitor
She made it a grand celebration this year. On the special day, she requested pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries, bacon on the side. She opened up a present from her auntie and uncle that we knew was a t-shirt, so that she could show it off at school. Kira and I then spent the day preparing gifts and gearing up for the afternoon celebration. 
I took the day off of work (I don't teach anyway) to work on a project gift for her. Several years ago, we inherited an old and thoroughly loved desk from my childhood home. We gave it to Avey when she got her own room, and due to its years of being abused, we thought perhaps we should renovate it a bit. Avey picked out colors over the summer, but never seemed to have the motivation to work on it much. It was a pretty big project, so I thought I would surprise her by having it finished when she got home from school on her birthday. 
She was very surprised, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had taken a photo before I painted it! I only hope that we can keep the drawers half organized.

That afternoon, we continued with her list of activities. She had requested cheeseburgers for dinner, so I cooked those up, and Kira put together a simple pinata upon which the kids could take out their rage. 
After dinner, cake, and the rest of the presents, we put the boys to bed. Avey, Kira, and I then sat down to watch the recent Wonder Woman film, enjoying it thoroughly, but getting to bed a little past our bedtime, as the boys have been getting up right at 5 each morning like clockwork. 
Saturday was the extended celebration, as Kira took Avey and Carver to see the new Ninjago movie. She enjoyed it, but was a little disappointed by how much they had changed from the series she and Carver have grown to love.

Per her request, we ate pizza for lunch, and then prepared for a "shaving cream war." The two younger boys were quickly overwhelmed by the chaos and stickiness, so came in with me to get cleaned off. Avey, Carver, and Kira got into the game (Avey even put on war paint and made a little holster for the can), and made a big foamy mess of the whole backyard.
She spent that night finishing another superhero movie, Man of Steel. It was an especially nice present for her that today she does not have to go to church, but gets to sit on the couch eating popcorn for the General Conference. 
The boys are all about the same. Merritt sprouted his eighth tooth on Thursday, but woke up at 4:30 this morning, apparently wanting me to have some time to make waffles and bacon. Carver loves Kindergarten, and Hakan misses having his buddy around all the time.

We are excited for October and all of the candy it brings!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Summer Shows Up

After the week that shall not be named, Kira and I were in need of a reprieve. However, parenting is not known for its breaks and down time. We are thankful that our cold symptoms never got too bad, and that Merritt has been sleeping much better as he's recovered. 
Feigning Ignorance About How He Got on the Table
The biggest challenge we've faced this week, in my humble opinion, is Merritt's appetite. He used to eagerly await his meals, excited to taste new things and smother peanut butter (his most favorite thing) on them. Since this most recent illness, he seems to care not at all about food. Even the old sure-fire meals lost their luster, and he declined them all. When he does eat, now we have to spoon feed him every bite like he's 6 months old. That's trying our patience quite a bit. 
On a lighter note (no pun intended), Avey got her flute this week! She's excited to begin to learn a few songs and get better at producing sound in the thing. She's already practicing with getting a tone so that she'll be ready to toot like nobody's business.
Merritt Shows the World His Tongue
We enjoyed a little party at the kids' school a few days ago. They had music, food, and pumpkin decorating. The older three each designed a pumpkin: Avey painted hers all black and made some cat ears out of a pipe cleaner. It looked great! Carver made a monster with 3 eyes, and Hakan came up with a pretty abstract design. He just painted his pumpkin his favorite color: orange. 

The heat was really something to be reckoned with, though. We had a generally mild summer, especially with a couple of weeks in the 70s, so we were not happy with this week's temperatures in the 80s and 90s. I've written a strongly worded letter to our local weatherman to get his act together.
Avey's birthday is coming up this week, so we are deep into preparations. She has big plans for the weekend, hoping to see a movie and eat pizza, along with her cake. Kira and I are still trying to talk her out of turning 10, at least for a few more years, but she's pretty insistent.
Three (Temporary) Amigos
Kira started with a new client this week, so that's exciting. She always leaves for work in a hurry, and then comes home energized and awake somehow. It's probably partly due to not having to put our little energy vampires to bed, and having some time for grown up conversation, dealing with problems that do not involve bowel movements and food messes.

When I got home from work one day this week, Hakan asked me in a how-was-your-day tone, "Dad, did you cry at work?" I laughed heartily at that one, but was very glad that I did not have to think back and assess my day before answering. It turns out that he picked up that question from Kira when she asks Carver about any "sad times" from his school day. I'm grateful that I enjoy my job.

I'll report on the fallout from Avey's turning 10 next time.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


This is a week we would much rather forget, but then I would have to just make up something, and I lack the energy for that. There were a few pleasant moments peppered throughout our crap salad, so I'll try to pay special attention to those...

Monday was strangely uneventful: an eerie calm before the storm. 

Tuesday was a tense day for us all as Kira's father underwent a complex surgery to remove cancer and then rearrange other parts. I had the distraction of a full day of teaching, but Kira tried to manage the kiddies with one eye on her phone for updates from her mother. We are glad to say that he is recovering well, but the entire process has been a stressful reminder of our mortality and deep love for family. Now we wait to hear news of whether the cancer will return, and if so, how quickly. 

That night, Hakan had a rough time sleeping. He caught some sort of cold after his strep was gone, so he dealt with those symptoms for a few days. Unfortunately, Merritt came down with the cold, too, which caused further chaos later in the week...
A Backyard Visitor
Wednesday was relatively uneventful, also, at least for me. Kira kindly let me stay late on campus where Bill Kristol was coming to speak. That was enjoyable for me, and it was nice to have a night off. 

Thursday was horrific for a few reasons. First, it was my especially long teaching day, so I was gone from 7 a.m. until a little after 5 p.m., leaving Kira all by herself. Naturally, that was also the day when some local criminals decided to go for a high speed chase and crash just a few blocks from our home (read about it here). There was an ensuing manhunt, so the police put Avey's school on a "soft" lockdown, meaning that they would not release students to go home on foot, but they could be picked up with a vehicle. Of course, Kira had opted to pick her up on foot before learning about the lockdown, so they were stuck there at the school for 45 minutes until a kind officer offered to escort them all home by driving alongside them. 

After all of that nonsense, and my long day of teaching 4 courses, Merritt decided that his cold symptoms were more important than his parents' sleep and sanity. The poor little guy just could not stay asleep with his stuffy nose, so we were up with him half of the night. We finally got him to settle for a stretch after some ibuprofen, and putting him in his car seat: it keeps him propped up just a bit, which helps with the mucus.  
Friday, rising before the sun with parenting hangovers, Kira and I dealt with kids and then I was off to a scheduled doctor's appointment. I was overdue for a standard physical, and I wanted to get checked for strep to see if I was the source of Hakan's repeated illness. Maybe I just wasn't showing symptoms. I was relieved to learn that I do not have strep, and surprised to find that I have lost a little weight, my blood pressure is fabulous, and I am otherwise in great health. I'll have some routine blood work done just to see how things look under the hood, but I'm encouraged.

After a fairly productive day of work at our local library, I returned home and we decided to take a family trip to Costco. That was sort of enjoyable, but mostly turned out to be too long. As a result, the tired boys got to bed later than we'd hoped.

If our week up to that point was a whirlwind, Friday night was a tornado of blood and tears. Merritt slept peacefully for a few hours in his bed, apparently having passed the worst of his stuffy nose. But when he awoke, he did so coughing. I approached to see if I could soothe him, when he threw up a little in his bed and on his pajamas. Kira cleaned up his bed while I tried to clean him and myself up. At first we thought it might simply have been that he gagged on some mucus, but after a little bit of water, he emptied his stomach all over himself, me, and some of the bathroom floor. The smell of bile and peanut butter was everywhere. He had a fever, and would not be left alone, so Kira took the first shift, and then I took the second, and then it was Saturday morning. Kira took everybody into the doctor while I napped, and there were no obvious problems, so we hope that it was just a brief bug passing.

On the way to the doctor, she dropped Avey off at a ward activity with a rope course, which Avey thoroughly enjoyed.

After a few more errands, and finally getting the kids to bed, we could put the last nail in this week's coffin.

Thankfully, Merritt's fever is gone now, and he slept very well last night. We may yet survive this. Now let us never speak of this week again.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Secret Grave

There have been lots of goings on around our place, as is usual. The highlight from today was that it was the primary program in Kira's ward, and Carver and Avey were heavily involved. Avey not only served as one of the narrators, but also had a singing solo that she kept secret from us so that we would be blown away when we heard it...and blown away we were!
Carver stole the show (for us, anyway) with his singing. He was one of the more animated children, joining along with the gestures that the conductor used, and dancing a little in his spot. When it was time for his speaking part, Kira and I looked at each other nervously. He'd been practicing all week, having some trouble with a few of the words with which he is unfamiliar. Specifically, during one of the practices he had misspoken the words "Sacred Grove," saying instead, "Secret Grave." Luckily for all of us, he nailed it at show time. 
Hakan is recovering from his strep throat with ease, treating his medicine as a treat. Unfortunately, Merritt came down with it. We figured something must be going on with him because he woke up screaming inconsolably one night. I'm not sure I could exaggerate just how perturbed he was. It was as if he wanted desperately to sleep, but some unseen force was tormenting his soul with the fury of a thousand hells. After some ibuprofen, the demons were slowly exorcised and he slept fitfully until morning. Strangely, he was in a peachy mood the whole morning, grinning and playing like a week-old puppy. Still, knowing Hakan's diagnosis, Kira thought to nip this thing in the bud, and took him in for a strep test. He's now on the antibiotics, too, and sleeping much better.
Hakan, aside from his strep, has been a challenge in his mood for some time. As he slowly transitions away from his nap, he is a sort of Mr. Hyde beginning around midday. He either compensates for his low energy with manic running and talking, or he lies around like a beached whale, gnashing his teeth at anyone who dares comes near him. We continue to point out at key moments how his mood seems to be related to his sleeping, and he sometimes seems like he gets it. We are starting to give up and just accept that this is our life now.
Avey has decided to go all out with extracurricular activities this year. She's decided that she not only wants to keep learning the violin, but she also signed up to start the flute, and is joining her school newspaper. Hopefully this momentum will last.

Both kids seem to be enjoying school well enough, although both would prefer to sit in front of the television all day. I, for one, feel the same way.

Have a nice week!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

[Back] to School

This week made the first week of school for Carver, and Avey's first full week. Avey seems to be getting into the swing of things pretty well, and likes her teacher thus far. She has a pretty good social life there, so typically shuts herself in her room when she gets home, apparently having had her fill of human interaction. 
Carver had a good first day. He was nervous and excited for it, as is typical. Gathering around the classroom door with all of the other kids and parents, we saw a few tears shed by some of the other kids, so we were glad to see that Carver seemed stoic. He came home with a good report of the day, so things were off to a good start. 
He did have a rough time later in the week when his teacher said she could ask only three students their ideas about something and Carver did not get picked. He has a passion for fairness (at least for himself), so being passed over like that moved him to tears. Kira and I processed it with him, and he seems to have learned a little how life is a brief, merciless tragedy, but at least there's a cookie here and there.
Hakan came down with strep throat again. He had a bit of a fever on Friday, so Kira, suspecting the worst, took him in. We had just gotten over it, it seems, so we are now wondering if there is something more sinister going on, given how much he gets that (voodoo?). He had a rough night Friday, but had no fever at all today. After a regimen of antibiotics and staying home from church today, he is doing much better.
Merritt has seemed very grown up lately, with his words and new skills. He feeds himself (messily) with a spoon and fork, he climbs stairs like nobody's business, he loves to tumble on the couch with his brothers (nearly giving Kira a heart attack each time), and he loves to dance and spin around when there's music. Recently he started imitating the sounds for a drum beat with his mouth when he wants to listen to music. It's absolutely adorable to hear his little "phoo chee!" mimicry of a simple beat. I will try to catch it on video in the near future. 
Kira has gotten some new clients recently, so she's been busier with work on top of all that the children and her church calling demand.

I had a good first week back also. It's going to be a busy, productive semester.

We'll see if we can take a 10 minute break from our labors tomorrow, in celebration of Labor Day. We hope yours is amazing!