Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas to all! It's been a mixed bag for us. We started out our trip by experimenting with driving through the night. This is the tried and true method that Kira's brother uses - it offers the advantages of less traffic, and sleeping children, which also means fewer bathroom and food stops. What could go wrong?

We left at 8:00 p.m. and I drove until around 1:00 a.m. The first thing that did not go according to plan was that the children did not sleep right away all snuggled up in their blankets and jammies. Instead, they were wide awake with excitement until about midnight. That was a big problem because Kira needed to be sleeping so that she could take over the operation of keeping our several-hundred-pound vehicle on the road while traveling at 70 mph. Instead, she was busy handing out snacks; informing the children that no, we were not almost there; and all the other things it takes to occupy such young minds when they are forced to hold still for any amount of time.
Picture of Avey Next to Merritt. Virtually Indistinguishable
Kira did take over for a few hours, but I have never been very good at sleeping in moving vehicles. I suppose I can't quite relax. I dozed off for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, and then was up. I took over for Kira and we both went back and forth struggling to catch a few minutes of sleep while also tending to the children's every whim.
Carver, Who Refused a Nap Just 30 Minutes Before This Photo
Finally, while Kira was napping I simply couldn't handle it any more and had to pull over for a few winks while the children watched a movie. That was a smart move, as it probably is what made it possible to finish the trip. We arrived around 1:00 p.m., feeling relieved and defeated at the same time. We are still recovering from it, so we may need to make some major adjustments to this scheme if we are to try it again, beginning with much better naps for both of us before pulling out of the driveway.
Hakan as The Angel
Still, the trip has been entirely worth it. The kids have had a blast with each other and their cousins. Avey took a shining to origami, and spent almost all of Christmas Eve doing various projects with the ancient art of folding paper. She really seems to have a skill for it. Hakan has been particularly interested in my brother's dog who accompanied them. Merritt is just glad to have so many new fans, and a huge space to explore. Carver mostly just wants to play the retro video game consoles at my mother's house.
Christmas itself has been a bizarre day of ups and downs. It began with the boys waking me at 4:30 a.m. The way the sleeping arrangements have worked out, I struggled greatly to keep them from waking every other person in the house. I finally ended up showering them and then feeding them, but never did get back to bed myself. We were scheduled to get to my mother's (we are sleeping at Kira's parents' home) for present unwrapping at 7. It was an epic event of giving and receiving, and we all left most satisfied with both.

By the time it was over our boys were exhausted, Avey and Kira had not eaten a thing, and we had but 30 minutes to get ourselves dressed for a choir performance at church. Hakan was the most defiant I have ever seen, kicking and screaming so that he had to finally be forced into his clothes, after which he kicked off his shoes and socks so that we had to take him in the car barefooted. It came as little surprise when he fell asleep in his aunt's arms during the service. Carver, too, zonked out right there on the pew in the front row. Even little Merritt, after giving the ever-patient Avey a run for her money, passed out among the forte of the choir and organ.

It seems this year the gift we need more than anything is some uninterrupted sleep. Still, we would give up a few more hours if it meant that much more time among our beloved families. We are so lucky to come from such wonderful families, where we know that we are welcome and loved. As we charge into 2017 with full fury, we reflect on our fortunate circumstances and all of the joy that surrounds us, even when it is sometimes hard to see for all the poopy diapers and screaming. I, for one, would not trade it for the world.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Merritt Moves

The day has officially arrived: Merritt can crawl.

He seemed so close for so long that it should not seem this novel to us, but we feel wholly unprepared for this development. It is probably not so much that he can crawl, but the fact that now he is also trying to climb up things to which he can get.
Now, our filthy floor seems even filthier to us, and the hard edges on all of our surfaces seem jagged. He has not had any major tumbles yet, but as he branches out and dares to do more feats, we are sure to have some episodes. He has thus far pulled himself to a standing position at the couch, a toy castle we have, a child-sized red table, and our kitchen chairs. As we depart for Colorado next week and he has free reign over two other homes, he's certainly going to enjoy his newfound mobility.
The unfortunate part of the week is that Carver has really come down with something. His throat has hurt quite a bit for the last few days, but he came down with a fever last night. Yesterday seems to have been the worst of it, although who knows? The last time we thought he was just about on the mend, he came down with pneumonia. We are keeping a close eye on him, and hope to have him back to his old self soon. With the way these things go, the other five of us will come down with it a couple of hours into our road trip so that we can pass it on to the cousins...

I finished all of my grading for the semester, so that is a nice load off of my back. Still, next semester is beginning to look foreboding: I will be preparing a new course, teaching two of my normal courses, and have two independent study students (with a third trying to stir something up). I am going to try to enjoy a little time off, and especially avoid the commute.

Avey is looking forward to her winter break as well. She put on two shows at her school over the last several days; one was with orchestra, and the other was with her normal music class. We would have enjoyed them more, but we had to wrestle Hakan into holding still so he wouldn't steal the show.

Hakan is still working on his independence, but he does seem to have calmed a bit. Avey and he have become better (and loud) friends while Carver's been out of commission. Perhaps that will continue even after he gets better.

If you did not receive our family Christmas letter today in your email account, then I do not have your most current address. If you would like to rectify that, please contact me!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas Demon

This was my final week of classes, so I have been feeling pretty good with only some grading left to do. I took off part of Friday to finish up some Christmas shopping and to get the kids out of the house. My idea was to have the kids shop for each other in the Christmas spirit, but that quickly imploded at the sight of toys. 

Avey had already been thinking about what to get for her brothers, so she got her stuff done quickly. Hakan is a little too young to follow the logic behind it - buy a toy for someone else? - so I had high hopes for Carver. He, however, disappointed also, as he was far too tired to think about getting anything for anyone other than himself. 

Maybe in another year or two...
The other big news of the week is that Hakan is possessed by some demon. At least, that's our best explanation for what has been going on. He is more oppositional than any child who's been through this age. I don't mean just of our kids either, but of the entire human race. He purposefully resisted us for nap and bed time yesterday, screaming like a banshee so that the whole neighborhood could hear. He becomes furious if we make a single move that accomplishes anything he could do himself, and so we have to undo it and start all over again. This could be zipping up his coat, buckling his seat belt, opening the fridge, and a million other things. We are now constantly on edge for fear that we will set off his hair trigger. On top of it all, he has been wailing on Carver for no apparent reason. If he gets the idea, he will just chuck whatever he can find at Carver, even when Carver is minding his own business. He will run him down and then just start punching him sometimes too. Carver, thankfully, has been very patient and almost never reacts in kind, but his charity is wearing thin.

We keep thinking that Hakan has molars trying to surface, so that's the reason he's been acting so grumpy. But when he insists that his mouth does not hurt, I start to wonder what's gotten into him.

Luckily, he was more than willing to take his nap this morning, so maybe he's exorcising whatever is causing the problem, but I'm still on high alert after the horrors I've seen.

There was a lot of snow overnight, so the kids went out and got covered in it first thing this morning. We hope the roads are okay for our upcoming trip!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Of Ice and Phlegm

We were excited to be visited, albeit briefly, by Kira's brother and his family midweek. I met them in Chicago near my office for lunch, and then they headed to our house to spend some time with Kira. I had a meeting and then went home to chat with them too before they had to head back to Indiana where they were staying for the night. They and we have eight kids between us, so it was loud and fun to have all of the cousins play together. Perhaps someday we will be closer together and can manage more good times like that. 

We were also visited early in the week by the sickness fairy. Kira had a rough couple of days with sore throat, chills, aches, and severe headaches, but fortunately felt much better by the time I came down with it. Merritt seems to have had it in its mildest form, but somehow has still managed to get and stay awake at night, much to our dismay. Avey and Carver have remained thus far unscathed, but we shall see what the next few days have in store for them. 

Poor Hakan may have had two things at once. After Kira had a particularly rough night with Merritt, I got up with Hakan at 4:30 a.m. to find his pillow quite wet. I thought perhaps it was just spillage from his water bottle, so I let him get up so as to avoid his waking Carver. I got him set in front of a show with some graham crackers and tried to go back to sleep for a little while. I was disrupted yet again when Hakan's body rejected the graham crackers all over the couch (covered with a blanket for just such instances, thankfully). I got that cleaned up and then went back to sleep, thinking perhaps he had just coughed enough to have gagged it up. Hakan came in to wake me about 20 minutes later, losing his crackers all over the carpet this time. By then, it was clear that he had some real stomach issue going on. I gave up my hope for more sleep, bathed him, washed all of his sheets, scrubbed the carpet, and got myself ready to leave for work. Luckily, no one else has had stomach problems so far, and Hakan was able to keep food down by the end of the day.

On a happier note, we were also visited by winter today. It has been a bizarre season for Illinois as this is the first snow, and it's already December 4th. The kids are beside themselves with glee. Carver and Avey dashed out to explore this morning and had to be dragged back in to get dressed for church.
I am not looking forward to the bike ride to the train station tomorrow, but I am glad that the kids have something new to do. This is all starting to get us into a Christmas mood. We've got the house decked out, and most of my shopping is done. Now we play the waiting game. This will be my last week of classes, and then come finals. It will be nice to have a winter break to try to catch up on some things, and most especially to visit Colorado, if only briefly.