Sunday, July 15, 2018

Kira's Birthday: Curse of the Phantom Mall

Monday started off with a bang as Kira awoke a whole year older. Well, technically she was just a day older, but it was a special day older. Kira started off the day sleeping in a bit, and then got taken to breakfast with a few of the ladies in her branch. That was a nice outing, and while she was gone, the boys and I made some treats at home, including the frosting for her cake. She baked a gluten-free version of her favorite childhood recipe, but it turned out like most gluten-free cakes: a little flavorless and loafy. 

For part of the celebration after presents and cake, we all went to look for a mall, mostly at Carver's request. He'd been whining to go to a mall, because in Illinois there was a mall with an indoor play area that he enjoyed, so he assumed that every mall on the planet would have a similar play area. 
Kira typed into her phone to find the closest mall to us, and it sent us on our way. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at a strip mall shopping center—not at all what we were hoping for. Disappointed, we both searched on our phones for something more like what we'd wanted, only to come up with nothing. We settled on checking out a pet store that was in the shopping center, which worked out okay.
On the way back, we thought we'd try renting a movie at Redbox, and the kids thought that the latest Hotel Transylvania was already out on DVD. We didn't find it at the nearest box, so tried the one closer to home, but it wasn't there either. I finally looked it up on my phone and figured out that it wasn't out at all—it was the video game available for rent. Again, disappointed, we got some fast food and headed home to watch a movie we'd gotten from the library.
Tuesday was better, as Kira and I went to the cheap night at the theater. We arranged for a babysitter, and had the two youngest boys in bed by the time we left, so that it would not be too traumatic for the poor girl. We saw Ant-Man and the Wasp, which was very funny and entertaining. We got home tired, but thankful to have had a break from the routine.
The rest of the week has been busy with outings and projects around the home. I had my last dental appointment in our old neighborhood, and I'm glad to be done with that saga. We have every room unpacked now, and can start messing around with things like decorating. I've even hung a few pictures, but there's plenty more to do in that arena.
We all took a family trip to Costco on Friday, which was a long and tiresome nightmare. The older kids needed new glasses, Merritt needed a nap, and we had a long list of things to buy in between diaper changes and trying to keep the little ones from getting run over (they refused to sit in the cart). What a mess!

I took on a bigger project in the attic yesterday and today when I made sure that the main bathroom is venting outside instead of to the attic. It turned out to be a much smaller project than I'd expected, so that was a big relief. My next big one is resurfacing the driveway, which was neglected for several years, so it's going to be a big one.

Kira was called to be the primary chorister and was sustained today. She didn't expect to start today, but the person who normally does it was called into work at the last minute, so Kira took over. She said that it went alright, but hopes to make the calling her own soon. Fortunately, the branch combines junior and senior primary so that she'll have to do it only one hour rather than two each week.

More projects around the house this week! We'll get this place ship-shape before too long!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

U.S.A. Day

This week was much more manageable than last, as we have gotten more moved in, I didn't have to go to the city, and we took time off to celebrate Independence Day.
Kira went back to our old place to meet with a client on Monday, a trip that she's hoping to do away with soon. The kids and I managed pretty well at home, but I've been struggling a bit with figuring out exactly where to focus my energy. I made several more small home repairs and did more unpacking, but we're entering a zone where nothing is that pressing any more, and the bigger projects I have in mind will cost money, which I'm trying to avoid spending.

We had a lot of fun on the 4th, starting the day out in a rush to get to a local fair in time for the turtle race. We made it in time, but it was so hot that we were ready to leave as soon as we'd gotten there. We took a look at the rides and were shocked to see that each ticket was $2, but just then a stranger approached me and handed me 3 tickets he said he couldn't use. That was so kind of him! Our older kids each picked a ride to try, and then we were all ready to get out of the heat and humidity.

In the evening, we went to a party at our sister-in-law's sister's house, about 3 minutes away. That was a lot of fun for some of us. Carver had a great time playing video games, Kira had a fun time chatting, Hakan and Merritt enjoyed the water balloons, and I enjoyed all of the food. Avey was a bit bored after Merritt spilled soda on her, and she wasn't too keen on the social scene.

We left at about dusk to set off our own fireworks at home, and it seemed that as soon as we got set up in the back yard, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, a storm raged in, blowing out our candles and knocking over our lawn furniture. Then came the pouring rain. It was a miserable end to the day, so we set off the fireworks the following afternoon. 
We got our first utility bill at our new address on Thursday, so on Friday we went to the library to get our cards. The kids were blown away that there was a suspended sand box there in the middle of the floor, and had a great time playing in it. I had to eventually tear Merritt away because he just couldn't manage to keep the sand in the tub. Avey was excited for the DVD selections, as we set up a TV and DVD player in her room this week. She's got a nice setup in there, and all it cost was $8 for the TV stand.

Saturday, after I mowed the grass and then finally trimmed all of our bushes, the kids and I went to check out the playgrounds at Carver's school and then Avey's school. With weather in the upper 70s, it was a great day.

Kira taught a lesson in Relief Society today, and is about to get a calling, though we don't yet know what. Her birthday is tomorrow, so we're all figuring out how best to celebrate in our new surroundings.

We'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Settling In

Yesterday marked the first full week that we have officially lived in our new home! The week was full of a lot of unpacking, home repairs, hunting for a mower, yard work, dental work, and a trip to the Windy City. 

Sunday through Tuesday is all a blur of slowly unpacking all of our garbage in between feeding children and breaking up fights. We focused on the kitchen so that meals would be easier, but we kept finding more boxes that go in there. It's nearly set up now, so that's a relief. 

Every room is partially done, so that our home is functional enough, but still chaotic enough that we're all a little disoriented still. Maybe after this week it will feel more normal. 

Wednesday, I had to attend a dissertation defense in Chicago. It was for one of my students, so I felt a little guilty that I had been so preoccupied with my move while she prepared for the big day, but she passed easily, with no glaring concerns or comments. I tried out my new train for the commute, and it seems like it will work out just fine. The bike route is along busier roads than I am used to, but it's about the same distance as in our previous home. 

Thursday, I was determined to purchase a mower. The grass in the back yard was getting scary long. One of our neighbors was kind enough to mow the front lawn for us while we get settled, so that bought us some time, at least. Given the size of our back yard, I could not see making a normal push mower work unless I wanted to spend several hours each week on it. So, I found a relatively affordable used riding mower for sale. I went to check it out, and when it was clear that it was too heavy to get into the van, I went to rent a truck. They did not rent any trailers, though, so I improvised and rented a couple of painter's walkways to use as ramps to get the thing in the truck. That worked out better than I expected. In any case, after some driving around, I got it to our home in one piece. 
The mower adventure took up most of Thursday, and then I had to leave in the afternoon to have my third root canal of the last year. I decided to have it done by my same doctor near our old house, so it was a bit of a drive. This one had not been causing me any pain since about April, but I figured I should get it done before there were any problems. It went about as well as a stupid root canal can go, and then I was back to do some more work at home. 
I have been working on several small home projects since we got here. The previous owners left several simple repairs undone, so I'm getting things up to my standards. I leveled the fridge, corrected the hot and cold water flow for our faucet, repaired a ceiling fan switch, corrected some electrical outlets that were wired incorrectly, replaced our doorbell button, replaced a shower diverter, and several other jobs like that. This morning, I planted some irises around the tree in our front yard (we got them for free from a neighbor). I keep thinking I should just focus on unpacking, but I suppose I enjoy the little repairs more, especially after spending the last month or so packing all of our crap. I can use the variety.

Kira goes to work tomorrow back in our old town. She'll slowly transition to shifting her business to Indiana.

The kids seem pretty thrilled with the new stomping grounds. Merritt surprised me with his transition to sharing a room with Carver. I thought he would be really nervous about being in a new house, but he seems to understand that this is our new home. He's been sleeping really well at night. He's also making a lot of good progress with vocabulary. He has even started to say Carver's name, which comes out as "Pah-ver."

We've met several of our neighbors, in part while we were visiting garage sales over the weekend. They have so far been lovely, and very welcoming. Everyone comments on the great schools in the area, and all generously offer help if we need anything.

At this point, we're excited for it to feel like home, but still sort of seems like we're staying with relatives while we live out of suitcases. I'm sure it will all get more familiar with time.

We're excited to have Independence Day coming up—especially in a state with more relaxed laws about fireworks! We bought some at a local store, and the kids are all looking forward to lighting things on fire this Wednesday!

The heat for the last two days has made for a miserable experience. We're all tired, grumpy, and the kids' appetites have been small, but today is at least less humid and the wind is bringing some relief.

I'd better get back to it. These boxes aren't going to unpack themselves...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Move

In what was probably the most stressful week of the year (to date), we purchased a house and moved in this week's episode of the Ricks Saga. 

The beginning of the week began with a crisis as I realized that I may have missed a deadline in securing the funds for our down payment on the home. With the closing date scheduled, carpet cleaning ready to go, the utilities set to switch over, and several volunteers already coordinated, we could not afford a delay. Kira and I both went to great efforts to get the necessary paperwork in, thinking we could still meet the deadline, but then kept running into snags (on the other end). I was losing sleep over the whole ordeal, but in the end the money was all there a day earlier than needed, so it was much ado about nothing.
My only sister flew in to help us manage the children in our time of need. The kids were so excited to have her there. Merritt really took a shine to her after some warming up. He kept calling her by our neighbor's name, Tina, because it sound just enough like "Hannah," but after several corrections he split the difference and called her "Heenah."

On the day of the closing and the following move day, everything had to run like clockwork. We had a strict schedule that would allow us to maximize on our time available. We would go to the last day of swimming lessons, then change the kids in the car and leave for the truck rental place, check out the truck (but leave it there), then go to a final walkthrough at the house, then to closing, then pick up the truck and meet the carpet cleaning guy, send Kira and my sister home with the kids, and I would stay and do some small repairs while the carpet guy finished up, then I would drive the moving truck to our Illinois home. Everything went exactly according to plan, except for a minor delay in the closing...

The closing was relatively uneventful, except that I had a terrible feeling that something would show up in my credit history that I didn't know about and would dash all of our hard work and dreams. Naturally, just as we were in the final approval there was some bizarre flag that said I already am an owner of my mother's home! It was the strangest thing, because there is no way. The real estate agent said she'd never seen anything like that in her 17 years of experience. Anyway, after a brief delay while it got investigated, we were all set and took our keys!
Move day went very well, also. We had so many excellent volunteers, that I didn't have to throw my back out (another very real fear I had). After the truck was loaded, I drove it to meet the unloaders at our new place, while Kira stayed to coordinate the final cleaning and inspection of the old home. After more work than we'd care to remember, we were finally all done getting moved late yesterday! I put together the beds and we tried to feed the kids from what food we had kept out.

Today, we have the kitchen almost all put together, and the kids' rooms are basically set, minus some minor details. There is still a lot to unpack, so this will be our project for the next several days. Luckily, I have a dissertation defense to attend in Chicago on Wednesday, so I will get to escape a little! I also scheduled a root canal for Thursday, just so I can avoid more unpacking. That should be the last one for a long time, I hope.

We are very excited about the house, and the kids are thrilled with the space in the back yard and in their rooms. We are very happy to have more toilets to share, and are excited to decorate and personalize the place. I have a lot of little and not-so-little home improvements to keep me busy, so this will be a big investment in time as well as money. The neighbors are all very kind and welcoming, and everyone has said excellent things about the town and schools. We'll keep settling in, and keep you updated on it all.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father’s Day Tribute 2018 by Kira

What can I say different from past years' tributes? I am not sure. Eli continues to be nearly a picture perfect father! While his patience gets tested and his energy drained much more regularly than when we just had little Avey, he still rises to the occasion. When the house gets full of tension and arguing, he suggests “question games” and other games at the dinner table to lighten the mood and give the kids the attention they want and need. As we prepare to move, he has packed 95% of the entire house by himself!
I see him renew his efforts and make a conscious, consistent effort to be a good dad. To play with them, to give them attention, to let them talk and be listened to. And so, I think Eli has won the "dad of the year" award again!

As tribute to my own father, it’s hard for me to put words to my feelings. As his cancer has spread and become terminal, I have regrets of not being able to spend more time with him. Thankfully, I was able to go see him and my mom, all by myself, last weekend. It was precious time for me to spend alone with just them. While with him, I shared some of these thoughts with my dad. This is just a quick, incomplete list, not in chronological order:

I love you, you’re a good dad, you’re a good man.

I’m happy for/proud of you...
For improving your spirituality
For your improved tenderness toward others
For becoming a better listener 

What you taught me...
How to work—HARD
How to dig in and get it done 
How to clean a toilet 
How to mow a lawn
How to water ski
How to do a “cold call”/sales call
How to do filing and computer/secretary work
How to be brave
How to be friendly 
How to serve others 
How to be kind evyen when others are not
How to ride a bike 
How to drive 

Water skiing 
Lake Powell
Yard work 
Monster when you hid on the top bunk bed 
Jump up hugs
You sleeping really anywhere in any noise, but also taking naps on the living room floor at lunch 
You singing 
Singing with the quartet 
Impromptu songs at home
Singing as a family 
When you were ward choir director 
Sleeping pills-aka Whoppers 
How you liked chocolate turtle treats
Your refusal to get up on Cmas morning 
How you get up early on Saturdays
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like, but I’m going to bed”

I’m thankful for...
Your kindness to me when I made driving mistakes 
Your support at school performances
Your support at the critical/important times
Being there, being an active part of my life 
Open communication 

Any regrets...
Not calling more often or regularly
Not living closer
Not seeing you more often 
Not having more time with you 

I love you dad, and always will~Kira

Merry Daddy's Day

Another anarchy-filled week has ended, but by this time next week we should be all moved in to our new home!

We've been packing like crazy as much as possible with all else that we have going on. Swimming lessons started up on Monday, and the three oldest kids are enrolled. Hakan was very excited to join, and started off really well. He moved up a station, but was in a foul mood the next day (one of his stubborn streaks), and so he opted to stay with the first station, learning to kick in the water and get familiar with blowing bubbles, and so on. Carver and Avey are progressing nicely, and we've got one week left of that. 
My troubled tooth seems all the way healed now, so I feel a little silly having delayed getting it filled at that first appointment, but I suppose it's good to be cautious, too. I am not scheduled to get the crown filled back up permanently for another couple of weeks, so I am stuck chewing with only the left side of my mouth for that long. It's already been 4 weeks or so chewing with only my left, so I feel like I'll have to relearn how to eat when the time comes.
Friday was a whirlwind day. After swim lessons in the morning, we quickly fed the kids and then got 3 of them to a babysitter's house so that we could take Carver with us to a meeting with a dietitian in Chicago. We were glad to get many of our questions answered, but bothered by how much of the time the dietitian spent going over things we already knew or were already doing. We made it back to pick up our kids quite a bit later than we'd hoped.
Merritt has made enormous progress in his speech this last week. He's nailed down the "k" sound much better, thanks primarily to saying the title of the movie, Coco, which is now on Netflix. He still won't try saying "Carver" or "Hakan," but he's getting much better at other words and phrases.

Hakan has been pretty funny lately, too. He will often use a word or phrase and then immediately ask what that word or phrase means. For example, he might say, "Dad, I'm very frustrated. Dad, what does frustrated mean?" He almost always uses them correctly, so I figure he's just trying to clarify or confirm that he knows his stuff.

As a Father's Day present for me, Avey and I went to see the latest Star Wars story, Solo. That was a lot of fun to break up the normal chaos of the day. It was also a big relief to get out of the hot and humid house. We hit 90 degrees outside yesterday, and all of the stress on the AC finally put it to the test. We realized that it wasn't working very well, so had a guy come and check the refrigerant level. Now it's much more tolerable, but the theater was downright cool.

This week is exciting as we finish our packing, my sister joins us on Thursday, we close on the house on Friday, and then we move in on Saturday! It's felt like a long time waiting for the day to come, but now I feel like I need another week!

All our love to our dads and grandfathers!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Just the Five of Us

As our packing and moving preparations proceed, we're keeping the chaos levels at maximum over here. We are now just awaiting the final approval from the underwriter, and then we're all set unless the seller flips out for some reason. In the meantime we are packing as much as we can, cleaning what we can, and arranging for moving help, carpet cleaners, a moving truck, utilities, and all the rest. We are also excited to have my sister come out to help manage kids during all of the pandemonium. She just started a full-time job, so we're lucky that she can, and is willing, to work it out. We're additionally thankful for my mom's support in getting my sister out here, too!
During our packing/preparation frenzy, Kira saw opportunity to go home to Colorado for the weekend to visit her parents. Her dad has had some health troubles, and so she wanted to be sure to get home to help out and be supportive before we move and the schedule gets more complicated. We still plan to try to get all of us out there this summer, but goodness knows Kira could use a few days away from her adorable shrieking banshees.
As a temporarily single dad, there have been some fun challenges for the last couple of days. The first was after we dropped Kira off at the airport. I decided that we could have a pleasant outing at the library. Merritt had a short nap in the car, and the other boys were anxious to get out and trash someone else's property for a change. We had a nice time, until I noticed that Merritt had soiled himself. Naturally, I had left the diaper bag in the car, tempting fate. So we all had to go out to the lot to get it, and then go back in to change him. Merritt then started playing on the computer, mostly randomly clicking buttons. After several minutes of this, I noticed other children seemed to be waiting their turn at the machine, so I gently encouraged Merritt to try some other fun activities at the library, and he soon erupted into a full-blown screaming-and-kicking fit. I had to finally carry him, flailing his arms and screaming, into the front entrance where at least one door would block his wails, and tried to think of how we could still check out a movie that Hakan wanted. After about 6 minutes of that misery, he just calmed right down and we took care of our business.

Last night was a bit rough, too. We had a heavy thunderstorm, and a loud thunder crash woke up half of the household around 4 this morning. They got back to sleep, but then I was a little on edge, expecting more cries of terror and wondering if Hakan would be up for the day already. It's very wet outside, so now tensions are high as the boys fight for territory.

Kira gets home tomorrow, right after the older 3 kids' swimming lessons. Then the packing resumes!