Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Sick Hits the Fan

I know. Surprise, surprise - the Rickses are sick again. How on earth could six people sharing the same space get sick? Two of us regularly leave the house to get exposed to illnesses from other people, and then the youngest 3 do not practice very good hygiene when it comes to germs, and the oldest two of us have compromised immunity what with our lack of regular sleep and all. 

Kira was the first to catch this illness earlier in the week. She's had clogged sinuses, which has led to headaches and ear aches. She's arguably had it the worst of all of us. Hakan and Merritt both came down with the stuffy nose as well, but do not seem to have it quite as bad as Kira. Avey, Carver, and I have sore throats, but nothing too debilitating. Merritt made sure to let us know how bad he felt on Thursday night, waking up about every 20 to 90 minutes, crying like he'd just learned that [spoiler alert] Dumbledore dies. He's been making up for it in naps since then, at least. 
One thing that hasn't helped reduce the headaches in the house is that Merritt is into a screaming game recently. Carver or Avey will play hide-and-seek with him in our kitchen, where one can run around in a circle around one wall. They surprise him at one of the doorways, and he will scream at the top of his lungs in delight, surprised every time. It's adorable, but so loud. 
Thankfully, the weather remains mild, so that the kids can enjoy the outdoors together rather than murder each other...at least for a while. They've been playing games together outside, usually where Avey comes up with a scenario, deciding who is which character, and then basically walking the boys through their roles. Carver is usually perfectly compliant, and Hakan will at least stick around to enjoy all of the fun. Merritt just seems to like the new place to explore, complete with leaves and dirt to taste-test.
I've been in a pretty good place for the last week. This is the last full week of classes, and I am nearly all caught up. I have a doctoral student who is about to propose her dissertation, and so that will take off a little pressure to have done. I submitted a manuscript for review after working on it for the whole semester, and I'm getting set up for my summer courses. I'm also very much looking forward to the summer - my sister is coming to visit in about 4 weeks, and now that we won't have a brand new baby, maybe we will get the chance to enjoy the outdoors a little more than last year!
We commemorated my younger brother's passing yesterday. It was harder on me than most years, and I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the few minutes I had to dedicate to thinking about Jesse; they were when my kids were outside playing blissfully. I couldn't stop thinking how my two youngest were born after Jesse left us, and how he would have loved to get to know them. The older two have come such a long way since his passing, that I'm sure they would be great friends, too.

Kira and I will celebrate our twelfth anniversary this week, although the plans are still a bit up-in-the-air. It's simultaneously hard to believe it's been so long, and hard to believe it's been so short with all that we've experienced! We have a lot to reflect upon, and a lot to which we can look forward.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Basket Cases

Gorgeous spring weather arrived just in time for Easter (or vice versa). Avey was home from school on Friday for a scheduled day off, and so Kira reserved the afternoon to dye eggs for Easter. Naturally, the kids could not stand to wait to go and hunt for them, so we had an impromptu hunt in our backyard for a few minutes, followed by a sugar rush. 

We were also invited to an Easter get-together on Saturday at a nearby forest preserve. It was a lot of fun, aside from the wind that kept blowing food and plates away, the lost bouncy ball, the thorny plants that got Merritt and me, and the cut toe that was gushing blood... 
Hakan and Carver fell in love with a little puddle where they could throw in sticks and rocks. It was just a gathering of rain water, so there were no fish to scare or anything. As they were playing and pretending to fish, Carver thought he'd step around to get a better reach, and stepped on an old glass bottle left by one of the local drunk litterers (dime-a-dozen around here). He had, of course, ignored my advice on wearing close-toed shoes for the mud, so as the glass cracked under his weight, there was nothing to protect his bare toes in his sandals. 

The wound was small, but bled quite a bit. Carver reacted like he had but moments to live. I carried him back to the picnic tables, cleaned the wound and had him hold a paper towel against it while I retrieved our first-aid kit in the car. By the time I got back, the bleeding had stopped, and Carver seemed to have made peace with his maker, for he was much calmer. I got him fixed up with a bandage, and then he limped around like he'd been mauled by a bear. He forgot his wound after a few minutes, though: we could tell because he ran around like nothing had happened. 
We had a scare Friday night after I had tried to update the software on Kira's phone. It has been glitching lately, so I thought perhaps an update would help. Instead, Apple erased the existing operating system and then said it was unable to update her phone. We were left with a very expensive paperweight. I tried just about everything else I could think of to no avail, so we called it a night. The next morning, I tried the same things and voila: it worked. Although we are relieved to have it working again, the process does not appear to have solved the functional problems, so we are gearing up for its slow and agonizing demise. 
The summer is nearing, but still feels so far away that we are all feeling some anxiety, it seems. I am in between feeling panicked about being ready for the summer courses and excited about finishing up this semester. I prepared a new course this past semester and thought I'd try having the students do a group project. That has turned into more drama than I get paid for, so I may need to seriously rethink it in the future. It's mostly just two groups who are having interpersonal issues, but what a pointless mess!
Kira had no clients show up this week, which was sort of nice to not have to get all ready, and nice for me to have a little more time to work on my stuff, but it was a little disappointing for her to not get out and talk to someone about something other than diapers, naps, and sharing toys. Tomorrow is on track to be better, at least.

This week looks to be a fairly typical one. Saturday marks the 4th anniversary of my little brother's passing, so we may do something special in his memory. He'd be proud to learn that Avey and Carver have both become interested in the Super Nintendo, so maybe we'll play that a little in his honor.

Before we know it, Merritt will have a birthday, but that's not something I'm willing to process right now, so have a great week!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Master Merritt

Merritt dominates the news this week. Since he started officially walking last week, he's been waddling around the hallways with a big grin on his face like he's hot stuff. He's keeping us busy with his newfound maturity, because it seems that he's also reaching higher and getting more daring. For example, he's always had a love for our remote controls, but he has gotten especially possessive of them lately. Maybe it's just that his grip is tighter than ever, but he holds onto them like a wolverine would hold onto a cheeseburger (so I imagine). With his increasing reach, we've had to find new places to hide them, and then struggle to keep track. 
He's also become more dangerous to have loose near the bathroom. He loves splashing water, so the toilet is especially intriguing to him. In the past, we've been able to deter him simply by keeping the lid down, but as his strength and curiosity wax, he's been working on lifting the lid. He can't quite get it open, but then he often squishes his little hands in his attempts, so we have to keep the bathroom door shut all the time for his own safety, and our peace of mind. 

Avey had a rough first day back at school, but has been doing very well since then. She has set a goal to purchase a little vehicle that moves by shifting a wheel back and forth, and so she's been motivated to do chores around the house. That's been very helpful, especially because one of the regular chores she can do is unloading the dishwasher - a task that normally falls to me. 
Otherwise, we've all just been trying to keep up. We had some glorious weather yesterday, which has continued into today, so we're all trying to maximize our time outside with visits to parks, picnics in the backyard, and lots of running around. It will sure be nice to have the winter done and gone, even though this one was so mild. It seems like half of last summer was lost because we were so busy with newborn Merritt, so we're sure to make up lost time with plenty of adventures this time.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Walking Small

Merritt has taken more than 20 consecutive steps without falling, so I think it's safe to say that he has it pretty much down. He can go very well when he takes a little bit of time to think through his movements, but often he seems to be trying to run more than walk, so he'll stumble. He is quite proud of himself, and so are we! He is now 11 months old, and as adorable as ever. 
If we could just get his sleep consistent, things would be just about perfect, but he still struggles to sleep in his bed. He clearly wants to lay on his tummy for sleep, but anytime we lay him in his bed rather than his car seat, he sits right up and tries to climb out. The car seat at least forces him to lay still until he passes out. We've been trying him in his bed at night at least, because by then he is tired enough to fall asleep in our arms and let us lay him down. Perhaps that will improve by his birthday. 
Hakan is still somewhat of a pill. Every few nights, several minutes after putting him to bed, we will check the monitor and find that he has disappeared. After some investigation, we find that he has gone into the closet in his room to quietly play with toys while Carver sleeps. He is also more defiant at nap time. Thankfully, he remains our best eater, though we've had some strange stomach bug making its way through the household recently. There's been no vomiting, but there has been a loss of appetite. Surely it can't last much longer.
Avey's spring break has come to a close, but she made the most of it by earning money, reading, and watching lots of television. Her love of the Han Solo character has expanded her film interests to the Indiana Jones series, so she and I watched the first installment this week (averting her eyes at the scary parts). She stayed in her pajamas most of the week: always a sign of vacation.

Our April Fool's Day was relatively uneventful. Kira and the kids let me sleep in, but when I awoke I found a breakfast fit for a king awaiting me. All was not as it seemed, however, as I discovered onion powder in my eggs (total nightmare), and hot sauce in my drink. At least the waffles were unaltered...

I tried to convince my siblings that I had been offered a job in the United Arab Emirates, and was probably going to accept, but they caught on pretty quickly.

Otherwise, life charges on its usual course, while we try to keep our arms wrapped around it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Middle Child Strikes Back

Avey is officially on spring break, and not a moment too soon. She's seemed to have an especially rough time lately, which seems to be a combination of school, lack of sleep, and dealing with 3 younger brothers. Her homework is usually the last thing she wants to do after a day at school, so she just needs some time to unwind by watching a favorite show or reading a book. Naturally, this house is not exactly the place to be for some R&R, so Avey often secludes herself in her room. Interestingly enough, Avey spent a lot of Saturday on her homework, apparently enjoying the ability to do it on her own terms. When I asked her her plans for the break, she said, "Read a lot and avoid my brothers." Too true, although I'm sure she will pitch in to help out when Kira needs.
Hakan has been our biggest pill to swallow lately. He's been in a mood, and taking it out on both of his brothers. Perhaps we've been letting him get away with too much for too long, because he pushes buttons like nothing we've seen. He occasionally starts wailing on Carver for virtually no reason, and his tolerance for Merritt is near zero. If Merritt shows interest in something Hakan is doing or with which he is playing, Hakan shoves the poor guy out of the way. Luckily [?], Merritt does not seem to have associated Hakan with displeasure yet, because he still persists in trying to share toys. We'll see if that lasts much longer. 

Merritt is as curious and active as ever. He continues to take 2-to-3 steps at a time, but lacks confidence to keep working at it. He can stand unsupported indefinitely until he grows bored or sees something to which he's attracted. His two little teeth are a fun sight, and he has gotten proficient at falling asleep with just his pacifier rather than 5 to 20 minutes of rocking. To my delight, he has gotten very good at saying, "Dah dah dah."

Carver seems more mature with his 5 years under his belt. He is a great mentor to Hakan when they are not fighting. He was a little sick with a cold earlier in the week, missing his first day of preschool. We feared that he had caught Hakan's strep, but the test came back negative, and he cleared up pretty quickly, so we sent him into preschool on Thursday. He had a blast, so we think he's finally reaching a point of boredom at home that will pay off once school starts for him in the fall.

Kira got another client scheduled in, so we hope to have all of them keep their appointments and schedule regularly. She's had trouble with some lately deciding not to show up for their times, meaning that I wasted my time coming home early and she wasted her time getting all dressed and ready, and we wasted money reserving the office. It's frustrating, but we have learned over the years that it seems to come with the territory in her line of work.

I am busy as ever at work, but feeling pretty good with the weather warming and the semester drawing to a close. I think one enormous improvement to my outlook on life is that I finally broke down a purchased a bicycle that is built for a grown man. For that last 18 months or so, I've been using Kira's very old bicycle to get to and from the train station. It is a functioning machine, but it is built for someone with Kira's (much shorter) frame. Plus, it's a mountain bike with wide tires and deep tread, adding to the friction. It also happens to be quite heavy. These features all combine for a perfectly miserable ride for me. My new bike was inexpensive, and is much more in line with what I need. It's built for my frame, it's about half as heavy as Kira's bike, and the narrow tires seem to glide almost effortlessly on the roads. Now I wake up without dreading the commute as much, so that's something.

We had a glorious day in the 70s a few days ago, and it's been rainy since. We are very excited for the warmer weather and all the adventures that come with it.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seattle 2017

I spent the weekend in Seattle at the annual conference for the American Psychology-Law Society. I had a presentation to give on Thursday afternoon, and my flight left Thursday morning. I was nervous about making it in time, especially with the weather in Chicago lately. I decided that it would be best to travel in my suit in case I did not have time to change once I got into the city.
When I was dressing again after security, I knocked my watch out of the bin and when I picked it up, I found that it was not ticking and one of the hands had come off. That was disappointing, but at least I had an empty seat next to me on the plane.

I spent the plane ride practicing my talk with my laptop in front of me, and mumbling to myself under the roar of the engines.

I made it to the hotel with plenty of time, and even got to spend a few minutes in my room after registering. The talk went very well, particularly as I was the fourth talk after 3 dull ones.
It was a surprisingly interesting conference, with a special appearance by Amanda Knox, the young woman who was wrongfully convicted of murdering her roommate while in Italy. She apparently lives in Seattle, and was invited to come and be part of the proceedings, sharing her story. I even got to shake her hand and talk with her briefly Saturday night. 

Today, we had another special presentation from some of the experts and attorneys who have been working on Brendan Dassey's wrongful conviction case. That was very engaging, and a nice demonstration of the importance of our research.

Tonight is a poster session where my graduate student will be doing his research debut with a project we've been doing.

As usual, I miss the kids terribly by now, and Kira could sure use another pair of hands, so it's a good thing I'm heading back tomorrow. Hakan had a fever the day I left, so Kira took him right in, citing our past problems with child illnesses as soon as I leave for any trip. It's a good thing she did, because he tested positive for strep. She got him on medicine as soon as possible, so he's been doing very well.

Merritt surprised us all a few days ago when he accepted a pacifier at nap time, and then fell asleep while sucking on it without rocking. He's done it several more times since then, too. He's also sprouted his second tooth! Recently, one of his favorite things is doing the actions along with some songs, like 5 Little Ducks and such.

Avey is one week away from spring break now, so she's looking forward to relaxing and avoiding her brothers. She turned in her project on George Lucas this week, which turned out great. She spent most of Sunday night decorating a box to look like a space battle scene from Star Wars.

Carver is turning out to be more of a homebody than we thought. He spends most of his days in his pajamas that he received at Christmas. He's already worn holes through the feet of both pairs. Most of the time that one of us offers to get him out of the house for a little outing, he will turn us down. We're hoping that Kindergarten will get him more interested in new experiences rather than just running around the house.

We've got a relatively normal week ahead of us, for better or for worse...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Work

My spring break is quickly fizzling out. I worked through most of it, getting caught up with things, and trying to get a little ahead because this coming week I head out to a conference for a few days to give a talk and try to get used to a new bed. I sort of took Monday off because the oldest boys had dental appointments, and I stayed home with Merritt. 
Kira got a new client scheduled for tomorrow, and has been focusing a lot of her energy on getting Merritt's sleep under control. He's been sleeping in his car seat for naps and nearly all of the night, because for a time we found that car rides were the only way to get him to sleep. Then we tried manually rocking him in the car seat. That works pretty well, but it's getting very old very fast, as he and the car seat together make a very heavy object. 

We thought we'd try transitioning him to his bed for night sleep at least, and figured this week would probably be a good one for that. He's been doing quite well, so we hope that this continues to improve. He seems to be teething, as indicated by his chewing on everything he can fit in his mouth, but there are still no detectable chompers yet. 

He's officially taken steps on his own. He's taken one at a time here and there, but a few days ago he took three full steps...toward the television. I suppose the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He stood up for about a full minute yesterday as he was keeping his eye on a babysitter (while Kira and I went out for a brief date). He walks along walls and furniture like a pro, so he'll be strutting around like a peacock in the next couple of weeks, it seems.
Avey has been in a creative mood lately. She got a bee in her bonnet about making some homemade silly putty, so she made a batch that worked, and then followed up with several batches of different colors, all named after Star Wars elements. For example, there's Tatooine Sunset Orange, Sith Lord Red, Tatooine Sand Yellow, Degobah Green, Jedi Blue, and Deep Space Purple. 
Hakan is Batman at the Store
Carver has been relishing in his 5-year-oldness. He is a little bit braver, and a little more confident, attributing all of his skills to "being five." He still has not grown any more open to trying fruit, but maybe he'll grow into that when he's six.
First Total Haircut
The boys all had haircuts this week, and this was the first major makeover for Merritt. I think he looks sharp, but it still catches us by surprise each time we look at him.

There's supposed to be a snow storm moving into our area tonight, which is strange because we went so much of this winter without snow. We've loved the sunshine, though, and can't wait for spring!