Monday, December 29, 2014

Grateful for Our Holiday! RU?

We had an (overall great) end to our 2014. The biggest news is that while we were packing to head back to Colorado, I received a phone call with a job offer! Kira and I thought about it and talked it over as we were continuing to pack and travel, and then we decided to accept. Starting Fall 2015, I will be a member of the psychology faculty at Roosevelt University (hence the "RU" in the title) in Chicago!

Roosevelt is a private university, with a very popular psychology program. I was hired to head up the forensic psychology courses that they offer. As I understand it, the courses have been well-attended in the past, so they were looking for someone with my experience in forensic settings, research in corrections, and who loves to teach about it. We are slowly putting all of the pieces together of how we'll make the move, but we are mostly thrilled to have a tenure-track job lined up before my final semester has even started!
We had a grand Christmas in Colorado, but unfortunately were plagued with poor health; Kira came down with a nasty cough and stuffy nose, which made things less pleasant. We did not get to see all the people we'd hoped, but still had a great time. The kids found it especially tragic to say goodbye to all the fun, but I don't think they will miss the cold.

Welcome 2015, and another great year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recovery?

I forgot to document this funny story last week, so will do so now. The second day I was in the hospital with Carver, I dashed into the bathroom to have a quick shower. Carver was settled in with a nice movie, and I told him to shout out for me if he needed anything. 

I was in the middle of my shower routine when I thought I could hear Carver urgently calling for me. Knowing the fragile state he was in, I worried he was in some distress. I quickly ran and cracked open the door to see what was the matter.
Sopping wet and quickly getting cold, I asked Carver what he needed. "Dad," he said weakly, "I needed you to dance."

There was a big musical number at that point in the show, and apparently because he couldn't dance, he demanded to see someone synchronized with the beat. I wobbled my head a little from the doorway and then got back to my shower.
Carver's energy is back to what it was before the illness, but his mood has been pretty grumpy lately. He normally is willing and even excited to run to bed for a mid-day nap, but the last few days he has adamantly refused. As he gets progressively grumpier throughout the day, Kira and I get progressively more frustrated with him. Today, after much discussion, bribery, and even arguing, it seemed that nothing would sway him. I finally offered him a chocolate chip if he got in his bed, and his attitude instantly became compliant. Even now he is slumbering peacefully. The chocolate chip was particularly surprising to me, because I had even offered to bake brownies while he napped that he could have after! I suppose an immediate reward has more meaning for him at this stage in life.
Avey as Cleopatra for Egypt Day at School
We are gearing up for another awesome holiday break. We are packing up, hoping to drive out tomorrow. Kira is suffering a little posttraumatic stress from their Houston trip, but I am excited to get back to Colorado for a few days. Best wishes and happy holidays to you all!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pneumonia

Turns out that our poor Carver had pneumonia. And to make matters worse, Kira figured it out when I was in the middle of a job interview on the other side of the country, so she was on her own for the first two days. Carver was doing well, but needed to be monitored in the hospital for at least a night or two to make sure that he didn't come down with complications. Thank goodness that I have wonderful family in town - my aunt came and took care of Avey and Hakan so that Kira could stay with Carver in the hospital. 
A Little Outing at the Hospital
I flew home late Tuesday night and drove straight to the hospital to take over for Kira. Things had been especially complicated because she is still nursing and yet the hospital would not allow Hakan to be on the floor with the sick children, so Kira had to save milk while my dear aunt used up the supply we had saved since the boy's birth. It was good to be back to help out.

Carver had been miserable for so long that we were glad to figure out what the problem was. He is one tough cookie, though. He was in pretty good spirits for his hospital stay, watching movies and napping most of the day. His favorite great uncle visited him twice, and brought him a little stuffed stegosaurus that provided much comfort. Carver still snuggles with it as he sleeps. 

We had hoped to be home by Wednesday but, alas, it was not to be. Carver was responding well to the antibiotics, but the doctors wanted him to go at least 24 hours without a fever, and Carver kept getting little fevers about once a day. He finally came home Friday morning, and was so excited to find our Christmas tree set up and half-decorated. Yesterday, he finally seemed himself as he ran down the hall over and over, begging me to chase him. 
We are so glad to have him well and home again, and grateful to have good friends and family in town who were willing to help!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Illness

Both Carver and Hakan are still suffering through their illness. Hakan is doing much better, but still has a cough and runny nose. He is sleeping about as well as usual, and his appetite has not changed much. He is trying to make the best of it, and doesn't seem to realize that he is sick. 

Carver, on the other hand, is literally suffering through. The poor guy had some stomach problem from Thanksgiving through about the following Monday, and then we hit the eye of the storm. Here is a brief glimpse of what he was like in between the rough patches - just happy to feel a little better:
He was quizzing each of us over and over about what we would do if we encountered various beasts in a forest, and then he'd tell us, "Good choice!"

Unfortunately, this Carver has been all but lost. Soon after this footage he came down with a fever, and his cough has gotten only worse. He's been in his bed for about 40 of the last 48 hours. His appetite has waned considerably too. We've got him going to the doctor tomorrow to figure out what we're dealing with, but I have a suspicion that the poor guy is battling pertussis. It breaks our hearts to see him so miserable for so long.

To make matters worse, I am heading out of town in just a few hours for two days. It's not really something I can get out of, so poor Kira will need to deal with all the invalids. On the positive side, Carver's desire to stay in bed and loss of appetite mean that there's less to do for him during the day, but nighttime is when it all hits the fan. He needs something every couple of hours in addition to Hakan wanting food. Keep Kira and the kids in your thoughts/prayers.

In other news, I want to document the white elephant gift I made for our lab holiday party on Friday. I made an Eli Action Figure!
Notice My Lab Mates!
 It was a big hit, and now Avey wants to make one of herself! Fun times!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Home Alone

As a graduate student in the final year of my program, days off of school do not mean very much. Adding to the problem is the fact that The University of Texas at El Paso held classes through Wednesday this last week. Avey, on the other hand, had the entire week off. Because Kira was going to be home with three children for half of the week while I was on campus, and because she has wanted to visit her brother for a while now, and because our neighbor has family on the way and was willing to go with, Kira decided to take the kids on a road trip for the week out to Houston, while I stayed to get some work done.

I did manage to get a good amount done, even working half of Thursday before coming home to make my little meal. From her reports, it sounds like Kira worked much harder than I this week. Carver became ill Thursday, and the kids had some trouble sleeping in the unfamiliar setting. They are returning this afternoon, hopefully with good memories. 

I am certainly excited to have them back. The week was fairly routine in many ways in that I got myself to campus by 8 each morning and stayed until 5, but when I was home it was with mixed feelings; I enjoyed the quiet, and the uninterrupted sleep, but along with those came the void of bachelorhood. I can't wait to get them back and have people shout "Daddy!" when I come home.

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday weekend!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hygiene

Carver has had an increasingly difficult time over the last few weeks when mealtime comes. He will be so busy entertaining himself with one thing or another that when we encourage him to sit up and have some food he gives every excuse he can find. He'll claim that he's not hungry, he'll claim that he already ate, and sometimes he'll just say straight out that he just wants to play.
Earlier in the week, I was working on him hard to convince him to eat. I thought rather than trying to go directly to the food part, I would start out with the easier step of getting him to wash his hands. Still, he parried every way he could. "But I can't wash my hands!" he insisted. I was optimistic and told him that if we tried, I'm sure we could wash his hands. He responded with, "Because [sic] I don't want to wash my hands!"
I reasoned with him that it is still important to wash our hands because they get dirty. Carver, now getting desperate to avoid the horrors of soap and warm water on his bare hands, made his final plea. "But Dad, I washed my hands yesterday!"

Eventually he did climb up on his stool and wash his hands. In his mind, he must be covered for another week now.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Males

You may recall that I celebrated a birthday about a week ago. One of the gifts I received was a pair of much-overdue windshield wipers. Upon seeing them, Carver immediately requested to play with them. I foresaw no harm in it, so I handed one over. He held it for a while, inspecting it in its packaging. When it came time for him to retire, he dutifully brushed his teeth and got into his pajamas. He lay down and wrapped up in his blanket, and then whispered to me, "Dad. Can I hold your present?" Knowing that he was referring to my windshield wipers, I internally rolled my eyes before chuckling, and then retrieved the wiper blade for him. As I handed it over, he clutched it in his little paws, and said, "Thanks, Dad." before rolling over to go to sleep. 

What is it that draws males instinctively to automotive parts? The world may never know.

In other news, I was out of town for just over two days this week for a job interview. I will wait to report on everything until it's all over and decided, but I had a very pleasant (albeit cold) trip. Kira held down the fort again, and found a little sleep when she could.

Avey got to go to the circus last night with a schoolmate, and was happy to have me home just a few minutes before she got back. Carver was sorely in need of someone big enough (and willing) to wrestle with him and chase him around the apartment. Hakan did not seem to realize that I had even left, but made sure to make up for lost time today by spitting up as much as he could when I held him.

I now feel like I've got a month's worth of catching up to do at school before Thanksgiving, but I suppose the feeling is nothing new. Maybe I'll feel all caught up when I retire.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Freaky Friday

Carver has had a favorite game recently. He will say while pointing, "Dad, you be Carver and I'll be Daddy!" 
Lady and the Gentleman
That scenario has the potential for all sorts of fun, but usually I'll start out with a common phrase we hear from Carver while in his highchair. Using his intonation, I'll query, "Dad, can I have a treat?"

Carver, fighting back a smile so that he can stay in character, says in a fatherly tone, "After you eat some good food, then you can have a treat, Carver."

Most of the time, I'll model a good reply by stating, "Oh, okay Daddy. Thanks."
Catching up on the News
I got another year older this week, what with the passing of my birthday and all. It was very low key, partially due to all of the stuff I need to catch up on on campus, partially because we are trying to keep our spending to a minimum, and partially because getting older stinks.

The day was very normal with my dropping Avey off at school in the morning and then heading to campus. I did leave a little bit early to pick Avey up from a friend's house, and then we went out to dinner at a new fancy burger joint in town. Then it was home to squeeze in a movie before we passed out. Saturday, Kira treated me to sleeping in and doughnuts for breakfast! I was glad to get a lot of mail and calls from loved ones to help break up the monotony of the day also.
Cuddling in the Sunlight
I've been particularly busy this last week in preparation for some upcoming job interviews. I've decided not to post much about them here just yet, just in case other potential employers check up on things here. Suffice it to say that I will be traveling around a bit over the next few weeks, and hope to come up with a job offer soon. In the meantime, I am feeling the pressure to complete some papers for classes, and work more on the dissertation. I surpassed the halfway point on data collection this week, so that's very good news - now to just keep up the momentum!
Can't wait until Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sweet November

We've had another busy week full of Halloween, job interviews, and life in general. The kids had a great time at this year's Trunk-or-Treat. Carver went as a lion, Hakan was a skeleton, and Avey was a "damaged person." She had been planning her character for some time, and we're really still not exactly sure what it was. She wanted a black eye, messy hair, a dirty shirt, and jeans with holes in them.
Carver played his part with the occasional tiny roar.  
Hakan was just happy to be anywhere. 
I, for one, am glad to have November here. Partially, that's because I love the cooler weather, and partially it's because I am excited for this semester to end. I'm taking the last course I need toward my degree, and next semester I'll dedicate nearly all of my time toward writing up my dissertation. I'm nearing the half-way mark with my data, so perhaps soon I can begin analysis! 

With so much to do, I've been working hard to catch up after my trip, but can't seem to find enough time. Part of the reason is that I've had several job interviews that need preparation time. It's a good thing, and I'm glad to be receiving invitations, but it takes a toll on my schedule.

To leave this week on a high note, here's a video of Carver playing with a toy lion he got from his Nana. It helped him get through his meal yesterday. He would give the lion a bit of his food, but he realized that the lion did not have a bib, so I fashioned one out of a napkin. He proceeded to place the bib on the lion, give it a bite of food, and then remove the bib, and repeat.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

What I Learned in D.C.

I had the chance to go to Washington, D.C. this week, and took it. Overall it was a good trip - it was nice to see how our research contributed to the body of knowledge in the field of interrogations, and it was great to network with some of the big names in the field. 
I got to do a little bit of sight-seeing, but did not venture out very far. This was my third time in the District of Columbia, and so I'd seen most of the monuments and memorials before. It was still fun to enjoy the history and significance of the area, though. The second day of the conference was held at the National Academy of Sciences, so that was pretty neat to see the building.
I have two regrets about the trip: (a) I tasted the tap water, and (b) I got in way too late my first night there, so I had zero energy my first full day there. 

The tap water in D.C. tastes like dirt - and not that high end sort of dirt that you might buy for a garden or potted plant, but that cheap dirt you'd find on the bottom of your hiking boots. I think I came home severely dehydrated because the taste of the water was so traumatic I couldn't bring myself to drink it except in cases of extreme need. Awful. 

I also needed to fly in Monday night, but I teach my course Monday afternoons and didn't want to cancel two classes. I ended up getting to my hotel at about 1:30 a.m. the day the conference started. That was a huge mistake because I spent the first day of the conference struggling to keep my eyes open, gleaning very little from the presentations. 

In any case, it's good to be home! I missed the children horribly, and Kira did a wonderful job managing things. Carver even learned a new song about a witch:
It's hard to understand, but there's something about hearing a witch tapping on his window, but when he looks, he can't find her because she's flying on her broomstick. Adorable in any case.

We've another busy week ahead! Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Perspective

Things have been very busy for all of us, leaving poor Carver to make do at home rather than go out on adventures. To try and make up for it a little bit, I took him out on a little walk earlier this week. We headed to a little grassy area with a picnic table and sat down to enjoy a little snack. Carver was looking around and commenting on everything (as is his habit now), when he interrupted himself mid-sentence and announced that there was a plane flying overhead. I looked, and, sure enough, there was the smoke trail of a jet high above us in the sky. I exclaimed to Carver that it was really high, to which he replied, "Yep. I probably need my stool!" 

He was referring to his little 8" step stool that he uses to sometimes reach things on the counter or table. Apparently, he figures that anything he cannot reach by standing on his tippy toes is still accessible with that tiny boost - even a jet.
I will be heading out to D.C. this week for the third time, attending a conference on interrogations. The research I spent last Spring and Summer working on will be presented. It ought to be a nice trip, but the closer I get to it the more I think I could better use the time here. I still have plenty of work to do before this semester is out, and leaving Kira with the kiddos borders on cruel and unusual.

Avey finished reading her latest series of books, Horrible Harry, and will soon begin a new one. We'll need to be sure to move near a library when the time comes. She has been getting excited for Halloween this year. She has decided to be a "damaged person," which apparently means she is going to act like one of those cartoon characters right after having some mishap. She plans to walk around with some trouble and talk nonsense, or something like that.

Hakan figured out how to scoot a little bit on his back. Kira placed him on the floor to play and, rather than rolling over, he started arching his back and slowly scooting in the direction of his head until he was off the blanket. He was awfully proud of himself.

More news next week...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Precious Moments

I love my kids always, and I'm proud of them most of the time. Yesterday was a particularly rewarding day for me as a father, for two small but meaningful reasons I want to document.
Avey's Clay Creation
After a long week, it was clear that the kids needed to get out of the house and Kira could use some much-deserved quiet time. The problem was that I had several errands to run that included a lot of driving and very little fun. I enticed the kids to come along with promises of cheeseburgers and the possibility of a park visit. They cheerfully came along and waited out the 30-minute drive to the first stop.
Hakan Happy to be Anywhere
When it came time for cheeseburgers, there was a tiny dilemma for me. Neither child usually has the stomach to finish a whole burger alone, so sometimes we buy one meal and split the burger. But another problem is that the meal comes with only one chocolate milk. I sometimes buy a second so that each may have one, but because we had to eat while in the car I couldn't see how Carver could drink without getting it all over himself. I thought I could sneak the chocolate milk past him to Avey, but as soon as the drive-through worker handed me the beverage, Carver asked if he could have one too. I hesitantly explained how I bought just one this time. Carver had not even voiced a complaint yet when Avey spoke up from the back seat and said sincerely, "It's okay, Dad. He can have it. I get them all the time."

I was surprised by the gesture as that is usually around the time when the gloves come off. Carver thanked his sister, and then I carefully explained to him how to avoid spilling. He came away with a happy tummy and not a drop on him.
Carver Deep in His Show
Not to be outdone in impressing his old man, Carver stepped up to the plate a little later. We finally arrived at a small park after another stop, and got out to explore and play for about half an hour. Carver ran, swung, and slid like nobody's business, and then it was time to leave. Without complaint, Carver followed behind as we headed back to the van. I looked back to keep an eye on him and saw him walk past some litter in the grass. He paused to inspect the juice pack for a moment, then picked it up and tossed it in the nearby garbage before running to catch up with Avey and me.

It's the little moments like these that make this whole parenting thing worth it. They help me to realize that, even though there are tough times, my kids are going to be just fine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Rollin'

Hakan is one rollin' boy. Each time we lay him down on his play mat, he will entertain himself with whatever toys we hang over him until he gets bored, and then he rolls right over onto his tummy and tries to crawl. He doesn't get anywhere, but that doesn't stop him from trying. He's even started to roll once he's on his changing table. Luckily, he rolls toward the wall instead of the straight drop to the floor!
One of Avey's favorite games for the last several months is Go Fish. Carver has watched with wonder how the players ask for a card and then either share with one another or tell each other to "go fish." This morning he decided to play with Hakan. He gave Hakan a card, and while Hakan tried to swallow the card whole, Carver asked, "Hey Hakan, do you got a swordfish?" I spoke for Hakan and said "yes." Carver, disappointed, said angrily, "No, Dad. Say 'go fish!'"
Avey's Cake
Avey is digging being 7 years old. She had a great day at school, throwing an impromptu party when Kira invited her classmates to the nearby doughnut shop. She received dozens of books as gifts, which is exactly what she wanted. She's been burning through them quickly - finishing four this last Friday alone. I'm lucky to read 4 pages for pleasure in a day.
I completed collecting the pilot data for my dissertation this week - now on to the analyses and then I get to start the real project. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Avey's Seventh

Avey will be 7 years old this week. We knew this day would come eventually, but that doesn't make it any easier. She is growing and learning, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. I remain defiantly in denial about this whole mess. I'll bake her cake and all, but that's because I love her, not because I in any way support or acknowledge the passage of time.
She wanted to celebrate by having a huge, legendary Kung Fu battle with a worthy foe, but settled on going to White Sands National Monument. She invited a couple of school friends whose parents are also our good friends. The kids had about as much fun as anyone could squeeze into a Saturday. We parents had fun for a few minutes, and then got tired, hot, and cranky.
Avey's "Feet Statue"
They had a great time getting buried in the sand, making sculptures, and they even found a small, white lizard that we captured for a few minutes:
Hakan has had a big week also. He showed us how to roll over from his back to his front earlier in the week, and repeats it each day. He's been playing with toys more and more - mostly shaking them around and then trying to swallow them in vain.

Carver is in a new phase of avoiding bedtime at all costs. Normally, he seems to understand when we tell him it's time to sleep, and he goes for it. Lately, he puts up a big fight - refusing to lie down for anything. We can see how spoiled we've been since he was born. He likes to go out on the patio in the evenings and climb onto his little tricycle and then dismount, and repeat the process over and over. I think that new fun activity is most of the reason he does not want to get to bed.

I'd gladly switch places with him for a night or two.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Identity

We stopped at a restaurant yesterday so that the kids could have a little meal before coming with us to a party. The young woman who brought us their food remarked on how adorable Carver is, and asked me what his name is. Thinking she would be even more impressed that he can carry on an entire conversation, I thought I would redirect the question to him. He put down his beverage, gazed up at her and said, "I am two years old!" She was very impressed and asked him what is name is, to which he replied, using his fingers this time, "I'm two years old!" Avey jumped in at this point and said, "Carver, that's how old you are. What's your name?" Carver looked at her and enunciated a little more this time, "I am two years old!" The worker was getting a kick out of this show, but I thought I'd try one last time to communicate the question to him and said, "Yes, and who are you?" He looked up at me this time, with a slightly confused expression, and said, "I'm not six years old, I'm just two years old!"

Eventually I explained to the kind worker that his name is "Carver." I felt tempted to throw in something about how he knows far more than the average two-year-old, but she needed to get back to work.

It's been funny to watch as he works to understand the concept of age. We explained a few weeks ago that Hakan would eventually grow to be as big as Carver, and that Carver would grow to be as big as Avey. He was quite interested in this idea, and repeated it many times to be sure he got it. A little later, he wanted to know what I would grow into. I explained that I will grow into a grandpa in a long time. He seems to have gotten them a bit confused though, because sometimes he will say, "Daddy, Hakan will grow big like me, and I will grow big like you, and you will grow big like Hakan!" Well, two out of three is pretty good.

It's been a good week otherwise. Kira and Carver have recovered from their colds, Avey never got it, and I started to have a slightly sore throat a couple of days ago, but it never really got any worse than that, and I can't feel hardly anything now.

I've had a lot of technology trouble lately. My phone finally bit the dust a couple of weeks ago, so I ordered a new one. That turned out to be a nightmare of its own trying to get it here in any reasonable amount of time, but it came and all was well - or so I thought. To summarize, I had to arrange an exchange, and now am using a very basic loaner phone. So basic, in fact, that I charged it only once about 4 days ago, and it's still got more than half the battery life. In a strange coincidence, my laptop batter also needed replacing about the same time, and my office computer on campus is having some serious issues logging me on.

Luckily, what has made up for all of the technology woes is that I officially launched my dissertation survey for the pilot data this week. It is finally beginning to feel real, and with any luck I'll have all the data collected before the semester's out.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Virtual Reality

Kira and Carver spent half of the week battling a cold. Fortunately, the rest of us have been spared so far, apart from being awoken several times during the night. They are both on the mend, and hopefully we can avoid any further sleep disturbance.

A couple of weeks ago, when my sister was here with us, Carver was going through his usual ritual of questioning everyone who would listen. That particular morning, he was most interested in ages. He knows that he is two years old, and that Avey is six and a half. He does not quite understand the concept of age, though. He asks, "What's your name?" which sometimes means he wants to know our ages. He went around the table and asked everyone their name [age]. When my sister answered him about her age, he smiled widely and said, "Good choice!"
Enjoying a Doughnut
I was driving Avey to school on Monday, as I always do, and I was attempting to have a chat with her. I asked about how she slept, how school is going, and so on. After a few attempts to strike up conversation, it became clear to me that Avey was not really listening. I glanced over at her in the passenger seat, and saw that she had the look of worry on her face. I gently probed into what was her concern. She let out a sigh, apparently deciding to disclose the source of her troubles. I expected to hear about some trouble at school, or some incident during the morning that was bothering her. She told me, with all sincerity, that "Well, the [furious] five [from Kung Fu Panda] and I are just a little worried. There's an elephant who's coming to train with us, and we're not sure he's very good at Kung Fu."

Refraining myself from chuckling at her fictional predicament, I offered as much support as I could muster, suggesting that maybe the elephant will turn out to be better at Kung Fu than she expects, or that she, being one of the best at her martial art, may turn out to be a big help to this mysterious elephant.

She talked herself through it calmly too, and seemed to cheer up by the time we got to school. It was a strange situation. She seemed aware that she was fantasizing, but usually she keeps them to herself. When we were all home later that night, I told Kira about it and we all, including Avey, had a good chuckle about it.
Hakan During a Nap
It's probably been long enough that I should follow up with how the elephant's training went.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Insult to Injury

Carver enjoys praying, probably mostly because it means he gets to have everyone's attention for a few minutes. As such, he has adopted some funny habits. For one, his prayers have gotten longer - he used to say two-sentence prayers, and now he will ramble on and on, cycling through what he has already said. Another recent development is that he will hop around, sort of to accent certain words in his sentence. The third is his subject matter; he certainly picked up from us being thankful when Carver has good naps. Carver started to toss this phrase into his prayers too - going down the list of family members, being thankful that they had good naps. Naturally, the cruel joke that he does not understand is that far too often, Kira and I do not get naps at all. He is kind to constantly remind us: "Thankful [sic] Daddy had a good nap!" as I struggle to keep from slumping over on the floor.

It was a good week, though. The biggest news is that I received word that I was awarded a grant to fund my dissertation! That will be very helpful to recruit participants, and I now have 5 places from which I can sample. Hopefully I'll have all of my data by Christmas!
Avey had some testing this week at school. We're sure she passed with flying colors, but still, we would like to see the results. She has still been blowing through her books like nobody's business. She will often shout out as she's reading, warning the characters about something, or simply laughing at one of the jokes. Then she wants to get Kira or me into the story, so she'll begin reading out loud. She told Kira the other day that because she can read chapter books now, she probably reads faster than Kira. I suppose it's hard to be humble when you're so close to perfection.

She had a good moment of honesty a few days ago. A friend of hers since kindergarten was having trouble understanding how to complete a counting assignment, and asked Avey to fill in the numbers for her. Avey, suspecting how that might seem dishonest, politely refused, and later told the teacher that her friend was having some trouble with the assignment. They are still friends, and the teacher handled the situation very well by not embarrassing Avey's friend, and we were very impressed that Avey did not give in to peer pressure, even at this young age. I can't [won't] believe she'll be seven in a few weeks!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reunifying

This 3-day-weekend is the setting of a family reunion on my mother's side. My grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary, and we made it a big party. The festivities have been full and engaging, and we are so thrilled to have family here, including several I've never even met. It's also meant that our children are running on fumes - Carver had two days of 45-minute naps (atrocious compared to his usually 90-120 minutes).
Hakan and Nana, Finally Acquainted
The children were so thrilled to be at [my] Grandma's house with the huge yard, that they spend most of their time outside. The unfortunate thing is that the very same yard is full of sunshine and mosquitoes. There is not enough bug spray or sun block in the world to keep them safe from both all the time. With all of our chasing them around, I was nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes. I will spend the next few days fighting the urge to scratch and recovering from the blood loss.
Naturally, family gatherings also means food, and our kids dislike foods that are out of their normal routine. That means that they turned their noses up at nearly everything that was offered. We did our best to just stuff them with calories of some sort for the sake of our collective sanity.
My Sis' and I
Hakan's cheeks must be sore right now on account of all his smiling. I have many teenage cousins who love adorable babies, and Hakan easily fits into their target group. We could have avoided him altogether if it weren't for the feedings he needs. The little guy practically turned the whole event into a flirting marathon - giving the biggest grins and cutest coos he could muster. If this weekend was any indication, we will have to lock him in his room when he's a teenager.
Avey vacillated between bored and having the time of her life. She lifted her head up from her books just long enough to make instant friends with one of her second cousins. They were inseparable. Fortunately we have mail service here, and perhaps some day there will be a way to instantly send messages to another person, perhaps via computer or a similar device. 

We are all aching to recover, but thrilled to have my mother and brother in town almost all to ourselves for one more day. We hope to see the rest of you all at the next reunion!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Highchair Discourses with Carver

Our children so far are verbal by nature. Both Avey and Carver were talking long before they walked. As Avey has extended her dominion over the household while she is home, Carver often is left trying to gain some attention from his parents whenever he can get a word in. One of those times happens to be when he is in his highchair. The situation is ideal - he has little else to do but talk, and because we know he will go hungry if we are not close by to ensure that he eats, he uses that time to collect and share with us his most intimate thoughts. 

What usually happens is Carver will free associate elements from shows he's seen with situations he encounters in his daily shenanigans, and deep thoughts he's had. For example, he might tell me all about a scene that had a bear in it, then explain that bad guys aren't nice, and then go on to describe how his water bottle works. He often repeats himself, and the expression on his face and in his voice makes clear that he is very passionate about whatever happens to be coming from his lips. 
He's also developed a very polite habit recently. He enjoys complimenting people on anything he happens to notice about them. He might say, with a very sincere voice, "Sis', I like your hair!" or "Dad, I like your glasses!" His favorite is to compliment someone's shirt. One morning during breakfast, I decided to return the compliment, and say, "Carver, I like your haircut!" Carver kindly corrected my faux pas by explaining, "No Dad, you like everybody's shirt. Is that clear?"
Hakan has been talking more and more lately too. All we need is to make eye contact with him and coo at him, and he will unleash. I will try to catch that on video soon. We gave him his first haircut yesterday, buzzing it all down to a manageable crew cut. He looks a little strange, but I'm sure it will be worth it to have it all grow in evenly now.
Avey and I begin school tomorrow. I am a little excited, but would be much more so if I had some solid data sources for my dissertation. It's like pulling teeth trying to get governmental agencies to let me survey their staff. I got one agency agreement this week, so let's hope that's primed the well.

Avey met her teacher yesterday, and is thrilled to get back into her element of performance-based evaluation. She thrives at school, and will probably tell everybody she meets that she can read a whole chapter book in one day. That's often her favorite thing to tell grocery store clerks, people in line, patrons who happen to sit near us at restaurants, and so on.

We are excited to have a family reunion in town next week, and hope to have some great stories to tell!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Just the Three of Us

Kira flew to Colorado this week to support her friend whose grandmother had passed on. Hakan went along with her, for obvious reasons. It is fortunate that school has not yet started, and that Hakan is old enough to be a good traveler. She returns today, and it sounds like it was a good trip. 

In the cat's absence, the mice will often venture out. These little ones sure did. We patronized a nearby thrift store:
 We sampled West Texas' finest consumable goods:
 We indulged in imaginative play:
 And for much of the time we just hung around:
Overall, the kids were well-behaved. Arguments sprouted here and there, but generally the kiddos play well together.

Avey kept herself busy with her most recent love - reading chapter books. For a long time, she was hesitant with her reading abilities, insisting that we had to read certain stories to her. We were finally introduced to Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series. Avey had me read her the first one, and then became excited to try reading on her own. Now she blows through one in about an hour. Her sweet grandmother has been sending her two books at a time every few days, but Avey is thus far insatiable.

I've been trying to distract her by getting her interested in learning to type, because she also has a new email account and enjoys sending a few emails each night. A few nights ago, after I suggested how learning to type would make it easier to write the emails, she told me, "But I already know where most of the keys are that I use." I didn't learn how to type until high school, so maybe I am too ambitious - she is only six!

Carver has been especially funny lately. The other day he was giving the prayer and said, "Thank you we watch a show all day..." I promise that was before Kira left, and they don't just watch television all day, so hopefully it's just his two-year-old perspective showing.

He's been prone to spoonerisms for some weeks now. For a long time, Carver has called chips "pitch," and to this day, still calls the kitchen "the chicken." He'll say, "Dad, go in the chicken, and I throw you a ball." or something similar.

We've missed Kira dearly in her absence. Avey has been preparing to reveal all of our "surprises" to her, which means she has collected little items from everything we've done, no matter how routine. One real surprise we have is that we got Avey a haircut a few days ago. Her hair is now shoulder length, and she looks frighteningly grown up.

It's getting time to head to the airport, so I must bid you all farewell. More adventures are certain to follow.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Mind of a Child

Our kids had some pretty funny moments this week. Here are just a few.

Kira's best friend since childhood has been going through some difficult times lately, and Kira has been helping out by keeping in touch with her. One of the problems was when a German Shepherd attacked her dog, seriously injuring it. Kira explained the whole story of the attack to me, with Avey listening close by. After the story was over, Avey thought about the incident, and wondered aloud, "Why would a shepherd do that?" 
Avey Lectures in My Classroom
We took a moment to explain that a German Shepherd is a breed of dog, not a person in a robe with a big curvy stick. Although there's certainly nothing funny about the hurt dog, I can't help but chuckle at the scene she must have seen in her mind of a man in a robe jumping out of a car through the window to repeatedly bite a dog he didn't know. Luckily, the poor dog will recover, but not before a few more visits to the vet.
Hakan Admires the Camera
Carver, like most boys, loves toy cars. He has a set he received last Christmas with which he's played lately, and the set includes an ambulance. He left his ambulance out on the carpet during one of his many playing binges, and Avey happened upon it. She took the liberty of testing out its features for a moment, when Carver came storming in, furious that she would dare touch his sacred property. As Avey tried to defend her actions, Carver shot back, "No! This is not a toy!"
Let's Drink Our Fruit!
That boy can sure be moody. In another example, Kira was attempting to feed Carver the other day, as she often does. Carver was putting up a fight, refusing to open his mouth and deflecting all attempts to entice him. Because he was fighting off hot dog, and he sometimes likes it with ketchup, I broke in with, "Carver, would you like some ketchup with your hot dog?" Carver's demeanor changed instantly - he looked at me directly and, calm and polite as a gentleman, replied, "No, I'm just being mean to Mom."

At least he calls it what it is.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Highs and Lows

This week was a collection of highs and lows. One wonderful highlight was the lower temperature throughout the week. Rather than suffering through the low 100s, we had a lot of rain which brought us down into the 80s for a few days. It was glorious.
A fantastic high of the week was just last night. The little smile machine drifted peacefully off to sleep around 10:45 p.m. and did not wake up until around 7:00 a.m. He might have gone even longer, but Kira was in need of some relief so got him nursing. We are now officially going to keep him in the family.
The low of my week was easily Friday. My employer has transitioned to new Human Resources software, and apparently that means a whole lot of problems for me. The first month they forgot to pay me, and then it took them 3 days to get me my money. One would think that the first time would be enough motivation to solve the problem, but then it happened again for this month. I was told that I could pick up a check  at 3:30 on Friday. Mind you, by that time Kira has been home with 3 loud and needy children for several hours so that I can try to get my dissertation off the ground. I show up right at the designated time, and the office person tells me that it won't actually be there until 4:00. I sit, wait, and grumble. I can't get any work done because I'm in a waiting area without a computer, and my children are probably eating each other alive at home. But all I can do is wait.

Finally, at around 4:10, the checks arrive, and I patiently wait for my name to be called. The woman tells me that someone is coming to speak with me. That strikes me as odd, but I wait for her to come and bring me to her office. She explains that they "forgot" to print my check and so it's going to be another 20 minutes...
If that wasn't enough, when I finally got my check, I needed to stop by the store for diapers for Smiley McGee over here, because he blows through them like nobody's business. Of course, it's rush hour by then, and it has been raining all day. El Pasoans get very weird about driving through rain. In sum, it took me about 30 minutes to make the normally 12 minute trip.

Finally home and defeated, Carver unleashed on me with his foam sword, and I bore it all with resignation.

Maybe Hakan sensed the trouble, and decided to fix his sleeping schedule to keep me from tipping over the edge. In any case, he sure is a charmer, and seems much cuter after some good, solid sleep.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bargaining

Yesterday, Carver got to his nap a bit later than usual, and when he awoke he was in a bit of a mood. Although he had not eaten in several hours, he refused to sit and eat, instead insisting on playing. The real problem was that Avey was waiting on Carver to finish a meal so that we could go swimming. We had abstained from swimming for the previous two Saturdays because of a schedule conflict and then due to my hurt toes. Avey was anxious to swim again, but of course, we couldn't go with a hungry boy on our hands.

I tried everything shy of physical force to get that boy into his chair. I told him how we could go swim right after he finished. I offered him a chocolate chip as a reward to sit down. I described all of the yummy food he could have for his meal. Avey and I pretended that we were leaving without him. I explained that his body needed to have food in it or he would feel bad. Each time, he firmly turned me down, but still insisted that he wanted to go swim. 
Finally, Carver seemed to arrive at a solution of his own. "I got a [sic] idea!" he stated confidently, with a big smile. I listened attentively, glad to have him meet me half way. He offered, "How about I not eat my food, and go swimming!"

As adorable as his idea was, I declined it. He eventually did climb into his chair and have a small meal before we went to the pool. The bargaining was worth it - we had a delightful afternoon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Battle Scars

Friday morning I was pleasantly dozing in my comfortable bed. Far from my mind were any thoughts of work, school, family, and financial obligations. I was probably dreaming of taking a nice leisurely stroll through a snow-draped meadow, or something equally opposite from this horrid heat. My dream was short-lived, unfortunately, as I was ripped out of it by the screams of my eldest son, Carver. 
His was not a whimper of hunger, or a forlorn sigh of boredom. These were full out screams of pain. I, the protector of the household, was instinctively drawn out of my slumber, and instantly fully alert. Without a second thought, I burst from the comfort of my covers, leapt over the bed, landed with a crack, and charged to find my wounded offspring, limping like a clumsy oaf.
It turned out that Carver had fallen off the couch while watching his morning show. His pride was hurt the most, and his side was a little red from the impact. I, on the other hand, must have landed with all of my weight on my second and third toes of my left foot. I will not lie - the pain was significant. I thought I had probably broken at least one of the toes. By the evening, after limping around campus and our home, I took off my shoe to assess the damage. Both toes were a deep purple, somewhat swollen, and still hurt about as much as in the morning. 
Fortunately, after a bit of icing and elevating, and a good night's rest, the little piggies who stayed home and had roast beef (respectively) are feeling much better, and looking much less purple. I think I must have simply jammed them badly, but I do not think they are broken. I can walk with only a slight limp, and they don't hurt unless I try to bend them. I expect to make a full recovery this coming week.

Oh, and Carver's mishap with the couch didn't even leave a mark.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Frienemies

Carver picked up a new game this week. We play it nearly every time he is eating a meal, and it goes something like this:

Carver will tell me he's going to punch me in the face, and hold out his fist until I lean forward. He gently touches his fist to my cheek, and I act like I was knocked about a foot back. Carver chuckles and innocently queries, "What happened, Dad?" Sadly, I tell him of how "Somebody punched me in the face!" Carver, through a wide grin, says, "Oh, poor Daddy. I will get you a ambaid [BandAid] from the bathroom." He then pauses a moment and hums while he pretends to walk into the bathroom from his chair. He then mimics putting the bandage on my cheek and says, "There, Daddy. Now you all better," to which I display my relief. After all of this, Carver says, "Okay Daddy, now you punch me in the face." We do this back and forth until I can manage to change his focus. 
We've had a decent week as far as sleep goes. Hakan has been going around 6 hours between feedings at night, and his tummy is apparently much happier because his fussiness has waned considerably. He's also smiling like a champ. When we can make eye contact, and he's in a good mood, there's a high chance that he'll light up like the Pillsbury Doughboy. That's helped him to make better friends with Carver, who is beginning to show more interest in his newest sibling. They are sure to become partners in crime in no time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Declaration of Dependents

We hope that everyone had a Happy Fourth. We certainly did. As Kira's birthday approaches later this week, we ventured out to our favorite indoor swimming hole, but found it to be uncomfortably cold, even with our sweltering heat outdoors. It was still enjoyable, made so with the extra hands of my two cousins with whom we share El Paso. 
Hakan had a few good firsts recently. I wondered if his long hair around his ears was bothering him (mine does when it gets like that), so I gave him his very first hair trim. It was just around the ears, so he does not look terribly different - I'm still trying to talk Kira into letting me give him a Mohawk, though, so stay tuned. 

I finally caught his smile on camera! He's been working hard on getting that down in the last couple of days. He usually gives me blank stares, but Kira's gotten a lot of smiles recently. Here is what I captured:

Hakan has also been working hard on holding his head up. He can hold it pretty steady for a few seconds before it starts wobbling a little, then he over-corrects in the other direction and loses his balance. Still, we've got to give credit where it's due.
Avey's latest obsession is a little film called The Nightmare Before Christmas. You may recall that she has had a little fascination with the main character for some time, but we did not think she was ready to see the entire film as it is rather creepy. Well, two Halloweens have passed since she first wanted to see it, so she finally convinced us that she was ready to subject herself to its horrors. We let her watch it while Carver was napping, and during the day (to allow some time to recover before bedtime). We were pleased and relieved to find that she loved it, and we've not had any reports of nightmares! She's watched it nearly every day this week, partly because she enjoys it, and partly because doing so makes her feel grown up.

Carver has been hilarious as usual. He's also been a little possessive of me. More than ever, this last week he has refused to allow Kira to assist him with the smallest things, and demanded my attention at nearly every moment. One day, I was feeding Carver his late lunch after getting home from school, and simultaneously talking to Kira about something that had happened during the day. Carver would have none of it, and shouted at me, "No! Don't talk to Mom - talk to me!" I promise I do my best to spread my attention equally, but it's getting spread thinner and thinner these days.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Spaz

Avey's had a funny game for the last few months now. She calls it, "Turning into a Spaz," and goes something like this: She starts giggling and laughing hysterically at everything she does, which usually includes making tooting noises and pretending to have conversations about many bodily functions. For example, as I've been working to get them out of the house (and, incidentally, their mother's hair) for an hour or so each day, we often escape to the mall, as it is one of the few places that are free, air conditioned, and fun. Avey's favorite thing to do is to find one of the photo booths and "turn into a spaz" inside it, pretending that she is taking a shower in it, but keeps getting walked in on. Carver doesn't really seem to follow the game, but thinks all of the giggling and running about is hilarious. As long as they are not at each others' throats, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky. 
Carver's had a few funny games I want to document. I recently noted that he plays a game where he shoots a family member with his finger, "Pkew!" Along with that game, and sometimes when he whacks us with his foam sword, he expects a good reaction. After we feign agony at his merciless wave of destruction, he smiles and says, "It's okay Dad. You'll be fine." and immediately continues to raze the remainder of the home (at least in his mind). On the one hand, I am a little concerned about the violent streak, but on the other hand, it seems pretty clear that he does not want his aggression to cause any lasting damage. 
For at least 6 months or so, Carver has had a bit of a compulsive need when he lays down to sleep at night. He says, "Dad, I want to hold something." Then begins a hunt for something that he can hold - the more random, the better. He's held Kira's leather case for her old bottle of pepper spray. He's held a little plastic cup that goes with cough medicine. He's held a little rolling pin from Avey's toy kitchen. What's funny to me is that he doesn't even really play with whatever he holds - he just holds it. He grips the little item, lays his head down on his pillow, and slowly drifts off to sleep. Granted, for a while he was cuddling up with a very small stuffed teddy bear key chain, so that's almost normal. The last few weeks have him spooning with Avey's kitchen toys, though, so we are slightly alarmed.

Hakan had another couple of great nights this week, and a few horrible days of fussing. We are pleased to say that, overall, the little guy is getting better. We're sure excited to see what funny things he comes up with over the next several years.