Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eye, Caramba!

It was the week after spring break for me, and also after the demonic time change. To make matters worse, I had to go to campus every day this week for various meetings. I know I shouldn't complain, because some people go 8 to 5 every business day all the time, but that's why I got into cozy academia. In any case, every day this week felt like a Monday. I almost prefer BYU's approach to not have a spring break and just get out of the semester a week early. 
Monday was an odd day in that Merritt seemed in unbearable pain after waking up after a 20-minute nap. Kira said that he screamed and would not leave her alone until she finally gave him ibuprofen. We wondered if it might be an ear infection, so Kira got him the next earliest appointment possible: Tuesday morning. He needed medicine again to make it through the night, but then awoke seeming fine. 

Tuesday was bizarre also. Kira took Merritt to the doctor that morning to look into his deal, then in the afternoon, she took Carver to a follow-up appointment with the endocrinologist. He had been low in iron some time ago, so we were checking to see how his levels are doing. When I got home from work, Carver was having a hard time staying focused on his meal, so I sat down and tried to encourage him to eat. I teased him with a game where I would kiss his cheeks until he took a bite. I sat him on my lap, and as he squirmed to get away, he slipped off of my lap and landed face first on the table as he fell. He was wearing his glasses, and over his right eye they cut into him just above and through his eyebrow. It bled, but not for long. After a quick assessment, it seemed best to take him in for some extra measures to keep the wound closed. I found an urgent care clinic not too far, and we headed out. There was no wait, fortunately, and we got taken care of quickly. He was not in much pain, but they glued the wound shut and sent us on our way. At least he had a conversation piece for school the rest of the week. 
Thursday, Kira's college friend, Caroline, stayed the night with us. She drove up from her home so that she could fly to the United Kingdom from O'Hare, and we were happy to have her. The kids were especially happy to have her, as they are always looking for an audience, and she is very attentive to their showing off.

Saturday was finally a break from the chaos. Kira had a long meeting at the church for most of the day, so I wrangled the children. We went to the library for an outing, picked up the new movie, Coco, grabbed some drive-through, and the kids watched while they ate lunch and I did Saturday chores. Kira then joined us for some shopping trips and then went to a baby shower for the rest of the night. 

The kids have one more week of school, and then spring break, so they are excited. I am just counting down the days until summer...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Indiana, Memphis, and Home Again

This was my spring break, but rather than relax and enjoy it, I decided to work, chase kids around, and travel. I made Monday a typical day of work, catching up on grading and such. We then had a normal Monday night with Kira at work while I fed kids and got them to bed. Avey and I then sat down for a movie. 
Tuesday, I had planned to take over the house so Kira could have some time off. That almost got canceled after Merritt had a bizarre early morning. He fussed and then joined us in bed, but then kept crying out every 20 minutes, and then around 4 a.m., he started dry heaving that often. I finally got up with him a little after 5, and he had some water and then threw it up about 10 minutes later. Kira got a little more sleep, and then we decided that she should go ahead and take her day off, because it was still the best day for it. I got the kids to school and kept a close eye on Merritt. He suddenly gained back his appetite around 10, and then ate a large breakfast. He was fine the rest of the week, so we are puzzled by all that needless loss of sleep.
Tuesday night was Avey's first violin recital of the year. She played a song by herself, accompanied only by the piano. She did very well, and is motivated to practice more often.
We were quite impressed with how well-behaved the boys were, too. Merritt was especially entertained during the recital:
Wednesday was back to a normal day. I spent some time on work things at the library, trying to clean up some of my notes for my courses.

Thursday, Kira and I decided that we would spend the day checking out some potential places to move in Indiana. It's not official, but we've been toying with the idea of living in Indiana while still working in Illinois. I have been growing increasingly wary of the financial outlook of Illinois, with the second-highest property taxes in the nation, an enormous deficit, and no real plan to improve things. We scouted out several areas, with some promising results. It was a long and dull trip, but we are fortunate to have children who are excellent travelers. Hakan napped while we drove home, and Merritt just watched outside the window, happy as a clam. We'll let you know if and when we decide to move.

On Friday, I flew to Memphis, Tennessee for the annual conference I attend. It was a great trip, mostly because I got to catch up with old friends from graduate school. It was also a cool trip because I brought along two of my students, one of whom presented her dissertation. I feel like a real mentor!

This year, the conference was at The Peabody Hotel, where they have a tradition of marching ducks through the lobby each day. Too bad the kids couldn't be here!
I made the conference trip shorter this year, and I'm glad I did. I was not built for hotels night after night, even if I get interrupted sleep in my own bed. I am at the airport now, about to fly home. There's really nothing like the reception I get from the kids - even after a day at work, Merritt squeals like I'm Santa Claus at Christmas as soon as I walk in the door. 

We have a pretty standard week ahead, but the kids' spring break is on its way.  

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Carver x 6

Today, Carver is six years old! He's been looking forward to the celebration for several weeks now, checking the calendar daily. He requested cupcakes, which we enjoyed this morning. 
He chose to go to an indoor play area full of inflatable bounce houses and slides, and such. He had gone for a party some time ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so the whole family went. Avey enjoyed it, but got a little bored after a while. Hakan was in his element.
Merritt started out very hesitant, and scared of the fans, not to mention the unsure footing. He seemed bothered by the other bouncers, but as soon as he saw Hakan pouncing around like a kangaroo, something clicked. He let loose and had the time of his life.
Carver had a grand time, but was saddened to find that his favorite play area was the only one not inflated that day. We figured it must be down for repairs. He chose cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets for his special dinner, so we ate out at a fast food restaurant with those things and more. Then we came home for bed.

We worried that Carver's birthday celebration might need to be postponed earlier in the week when he complained of a sore throat. He had a bit of a fever Thursday night, and was diagnosed with strep throat on Friday morning. Luckily, he was not contagious, feeling back to himself for the fun.

Otherwise, it was a busy week of normal life, with two of our evenings filled up with music concerts at the school. Carver's was Tuesday night and Avey's was Wednesday. Both programs were fast and enjoyable, but took a toll on our energy.

Merritt has made noticeable progress in his verbal skills. He has clearly said "Need help!" more than once this week, and "I don't want it." or, alternatively, "I want it." It's been so good to see him finally working on words, and still frustrating that he won't even try some. He won't dare try to say Carver's or Hakan's name, but loves to say everyone else's. He won't say his own name, either. They will be sure to follow, though.

Carver has really impressed us recently with his reading skills. He seems to have reached a milestone in confidence now, because he's really trying, and seems to believe that he can do it. He read a whole book to Hakan just a few days ago, and hardly needed any help!

I'm in spring break this week, which is fortunate because it's also the week I go to my yearly conference for my specialization, so it won't affect my course schedule. It's sad, however, because my break is two weeks earlier than the kids' break. I'm going to spend my time getting some work done, and I'll give Kira a day off to do whatever she'd like, and then we are going to drive to Indiana to do some looking at places to move this summer. We are toying with the idea of moving there while I keep my same job, just for the cost of living difference.

That's about it from our end! We'll have more to report next week!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Afternoon at the Museum

We've survived yet another week. We're getting pretty good at this. 

There is not much to tell that is out of the routine. We had several rainy days, and cooler weather overall. All evidence of Snowmageddon is now deep underground or has flowed away. 

We had a special treat on Wednesday when Kira's only brother came to visit. He was in Chicago for a business training (he's an engineer). He was not sure if he'd get to break away or if he was expected to stick around with all of the others (office politics). So we were glad that he was able to come and see us for a few hours. He even treated us to our favorite pizza place (take-out) for dinner. 

The boys have been either the best of friends, or at each others' throats. For example, just this morning, I found all three boys under the covers of Kira's and my bed, playing "family." They would lay there until Carver started crying like a baby, then Hakan would jump up and run to the crib to soothe the doll they had put in there, while one of them ran to get a pretend bottle of milk. It was endearing.

Not an hour later, they were all downstairs, playing with their toy tools. We have three toy saws and three toy hammers, but naturally, Hakan and Merritt both decided that they wanted the same one, and neither one would budge an inch on it, so World War III ensued for 15 minutes of screaming and crying. Eventually, we got Merritt to give up the hammer to Hakan, who then put it away and didn't play with it at all. 

The highlight of the week was our outing yesterday. We took advantage of the free admission to Illinois residents at the Field Museum. We checked out the fossils, the Egypt exhibit, and the Mammals of Asia. Hakan was very interested in a small lava display we passed by, so we went back to see it. He was disappointed to find that the lava was just lights under plaster, and immediately said he wanted to go home. We managed to hold his attention a little bit longer, and then called it a day after we were all tired of walking. 
In other news, Kira had a parent-teacher conference early Friday morning while I got the kiddos to school. No surprises there: Avey is advanced beyond her years in both reading and writing, excels at math, is a delight to her classmates and teacher, and so on. On Presidents Day, when the kids were off of school, Kira found Avey working diligently at the computer on what appeared to be homework. As it turns out, it was just a personal creative writing project she had taken on. She's known to do those things. Aristotle likely would have used Avey's connection to writing as an example of telos. It is her purpose.

We are looking forward to bidding farewell to February's weather, and celebrating Carver's sixth birthday at the beginning of March. We can hardly believe that he will no longer be five!

Sunday, February 18, 2018


This week marks eleven years since the first post on this blog. It's been a wild ride of births, deaths, sicknesses, celebrations, moves, and a little bit of sleep. When I started writing my first post all those years ago, we had recently learned that we were expecting our first child, and I wanted to be sure to document as much as I could. I'm sad to think how many precious moments I've forgotten to post, or the details of which I did not quite get right. Still, I'm glad to have some memorial of all of this chaos if just to be able to look back and realize how rough things can be, and remember how it was all worth it [maybe that's a big assumption at this point].

There's still some stuffy noses making their way around the house, with Carver probably having it the worst. It's nothing we can complain too much about, given the relatively minor inconvenience it is compared to the other nonsense we've had this season. Other notable injuries of the week include Hakan's back and Kira's toe. Hakan scored a nice scratch across his back after attempting some stunt on his bed and instead falling clumsily. You might think that he'd learned his lesson, but then you must not know Hakan. Kira had a bizarre accident involving a bed sheet and her pinky toe. She somehow bent it the wrong way, and it's been turning rich colors ever since. It does seem to be on the mend now, but it was no picnic.
Wednesday was Valentine's Day, and was perhaps the least exciting one we've had in all of our years. I had a normal day of work and then came home to help get kids in bed. The school decided that Valentine's would be the perfect day for parent-teacher conferences, so that was our plan for the evening until our babysitter had to cancel. Kira went on her own while I stayed home with the helpless kiddies. She arrived to find no sign of Avey's teacher, apparently having fallen prey to some miscommunication. She had a lovely meeting with Carver's teacher, and then came home to get to sleep. We did make up for it on Saturday after our dear neighbor offered to be with the kids. We got them to bed a tad early and went to see Black Panther, the latest Marvel superhero movie. It was a good movie, but did not quite live up to the hype.
Merritt has been making progress on his vocabulary lately, despite his efforts. He has taken to calling Avey "Shishee," which seems to be some combination of "sis'" and "Avey." He went around the table a dozen times the other day, saying "Shishee," then "Daddeee" and "Mommaa." He has yet to even attempt Carver's or Hakan's names. He definitely knows them, because we quiz him sometimes. "Where's Carver?" we'll ask. He points to him immediately and consistently.

Our massive snow piles are now nearly gone, thanks to a couple of days that made it to 40 degrees, and a little bit of rain. It snowed heavily again yesterday for a while to make up for the melting, but today's temperature is expected to be in the 40s again, so at least it was fun while it lasted.

That's about all that's been going on over here. At least, that's all we care to remember. See you next week!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Snowmageddon 2018

I shall begin this post in the usual manner; by reviewing the illness that's been circulating the family. After Merritt was found "barely positive" for strep, Hakan came down with some symptoms. Mostly, it was snot and trouble sleeping, but a trip to the doctor found him negative in both strep test and attitude. A cold made its way through the rest of us, but the symptoms have been mild relative to the other ailments we've dealt with already this season. For example, Carver caught it and was up for a few minutes during the night, so we figured we should keep him home from school. Soon after he woke, however, it was clear that he was his normal self with only a slight sniffle. He loves school, so Kira took him around 10.
The other event that took over the week was our huge snow storm. The forecast predicted snow beginning Thursday night, and dropping between 8 and 12 inches or so by Friday afternoon. I taught my late course Thursday night, and although the snow had just started, the students were pretty anxious about it, so we ended a little early to beat the storm on our commutes home.

Just before Avey's bedtime that night, we got word that school was canceled for the next day, a Friday. She was thrilled to stay up a little longer. When Carver awoke, he was pretty heartbroken, as the school had scheduled the 100th Day of School celebration for that day, and he had been looking forward to it for a couple of weeks. We assured him that they would likely reschedule, but it did not change the fact that he would have to take the snow day. He loves school so.
Friday, I wrestled with the need to do work things and wanting to join in the fun. After clearing the driveway of snow, I found that all of the local libraries (where I normally work away from campus) were closed due to the storm. I have revisions on an accepted paper due in the next week or so, but it's especially difficult to do writing at home, given the noise and interruptions. I eventually decided to get all of my grading done so that I could have my Monday free for writing (we'll see how that goes). Avey invited her best friend over for the day, and then they went to the friend's house for most of the afternoon.
Kira was thrilled to learn that the meetings were cancelled for Stake Conference, freeing up her evening and Sunday. We enjoyed watching some events from the Olympics, and had a nice night knowing that we had an extra long weekend.

Saturday was lots of fun as the snow had accumulated even more. Kira had been hoping for a chance to take us all sledding, and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We had learned from some family friends of a park that actually has a hill worth something (seems the rest of the area enjoys the monotony of relatively level surfaces). We borrowed some sleds (the whole area is sold out completely), and then took to the hill. It was rather crowded, which made for a few more collisions than we would have preferred, but we all had a blast. "All" meaning of course everyone but Merritt. He had just woken from a nap and had a small lunch (his appetite is still not what it used to be). There was a bit of wind, and so he seemed to think the whole sledding thing was lame. I rode with him for a couple of trips down the hill, but he didn't seem all that impressed. Hakan wanted to go with him, so I made the mistake of letting them go, and of course they hit a bump and Merritt popped right out of the sled. That tore it. He was done with sledding for the rest of the trip, but at least watched with indifference while the rest of us had fun. 
Carver was quite impressive. He is the only one of our children with any prior experience sledding, and it showed. He took straight to the steepest hill where the older kids had made little jumps and bumps, and rode them like he was training for the Olympics. He's normally our child who's most averse to sudden motion (e.g., he does not care for swings much), so I was very surprised to see him tackle those hills like they were nothing. 
After a while, we called it a day and ran an errand before we came home to dinner and more Olympics. 
It snowed even more last night, so the kids are just about to head out to the back yard and make a snow fort! With any luck, they'll cancel school again tomorrow!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Night Terror

Surprise! It was another week of exhaustion at the Ricks residence. The culprit was again Merritt. Inexplicably, for three nights, Merritt woke after about two hours of sleep. Although he was clearly tired, he simply would not stop squirming and rolling around, so Kira and I were up about half of the night with him. He had no fever, and did not seem in pain, but we tried ibuprofen finally and eventually he slept a couple more hours. This pattern persisted each night. Twice, he even woke up just enough to scream in 20-minute spells. He was inconsolable. Finally on Wednesday, Kira saw that he seemed to have a bit of a rash all over. It didn't seem painful, but it was at least some evidence that there was more going on. 

We got him into the doctor, who said that it may be an aftermath of the stomach thing we dealt with last week. He also tested "barely positive" for strep throat, so we got him on antibiotics. That seems to have done it, because that same night he slept better than he has in a long time, and he's been in much better spirits since. 
In a few other minor developments, we made some changes to our cell phone plan, and I ended up with a new phone (my old one was about 4 years old). Avey jumped on the opportunity to inherit my old one, although she uses it without cell service, so that it works only when connected to the internet. Still, she's enjoyed using a special app that lets her text her best friend. It's fun to sometimes get a check-in text from her while I'm at work. She's starting to put some music on it, too.
I had a great Wednesday. It wasn't really any different from my usual routine, but right before I headed into my classroom for class, I got an email from a journal to which I had submitted a manuscript. They accepted it for publication in their Spring issue, much to my relief and delight. This is a particularly big achievement for me, as it's my first primary-author publication without my doctoral advisor as a coauthor. It's also huge because it's the first publication I've had with my own student as a coauthor. 

We made Saturday a busy day. Kira left for the morning to attend a class on parenting, mostly so that she could use it for continuing education credits for her Colorado license, but also so that she could get a break. Once she got home, Avey, Hakan, and I took off for some errands, and then we all worked on projects at home. Carver's class is making shirts with 100 items on them to celebrate their 100th day of school, so he and Kira designed and made a black shirt with 100 dots on it, spelling out "100." Avey has been dying to customize a marshmallow gun her uncle made her for Christmas, so we painted it black and teal (her favorite colors). I have also had a bee in my bonnet to get Gregor the Hamster some more things to do in his cage, so Avey and I cut up some PVC pipe and got some connectors and elbows to make a tube maze in which he could fit. We weren't sure how he would respond, but he moved right in. He explored it for a while and then started moving in some bedding and food, apparently preparing for the zombie hamster apocalypse. He seems to really like the tunnels, and so we're thinking we'll change up the layout every week or so when we clean his cage to keep it interesting.

As long as the other kids don't get whatever Merritt is dealing with, we expect this coming week to be a little less exhausting. We seem to set ourselves up for disappointment, though, don't we?