Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Sky is Falling

We had quite the roller coaster of a week. The weather turned pleasantly cooler, and with it the leaves have started to fall. The kids were very excited to rake up some big piles in which they could jump, so we made that our Family Night activity. 
Unfortunately, they could not relive the fun for very long, because the city came by with their big truck and sucked our leaf piles up (a service our taxes pay for). What the truck did not get, the wind took, because we have almost no leaves in the yard now.
I'm not sure the kids would want to go out into the yard now anyway, though, because it's absolutely soaked! Friday night came a thunderstorm the likes of which we've not seen. The rain was sporadic, but when it came down, it poured! It continued like that with little reprieve until early Sunday morning.
That made for a particularly dreary Saturday for at least two reasons. First, the kids were stuck indoors all day. We were able to get them out for a few errands when Kira made a rare doughnut run ("rare" referring to both the doughnuts and the run therefor), and then when I took them for groceries.
Second, we had some pretty messy flooding in the basement. Sometime Saturday morning, I went down with the kids to survey everything, and Carver was the one to discover a big pool of water on the floor. Our basement is mostly for storage, laundry, and playing, so there is no carpet and no bedrooms, thankfully. After a lot of cleanup, it was clear that the water was coming in from some leak in the basement wall. We were glad that it was not sewage backup, but with the irregularity and severity of the rain, it meant that I had to keep a close eye on the water in the basement, and I had to clean it up several times. Our landlady brought us a wet/dry vacuum, which was a big help in cleaning up the mess. Of course, the leak had to be in an area where I had to move the washer, dryer, and my desk that I keep down there. 
Our Flooded Backyard
We are glad to be all dry now, and very happy that the forecast shows several dry days. We expect to have the leaky basement sealed up this week. 
In more heartwarming news, Merritt is exploding with his language and social skills. For example, one day this week, I was getting ready to leave for work. I put on my backpack, a sure sign of departure, and Merritt, who had been watching, looked up at me, pulled out his pacifier, and puckered his lips for a goodbye kiss. It was absolutely adorable!

Avey has been trying to help keep Merritt occupied when he is getting into things he oughtn't, and so she often utilizes music to tame him. She found that he is especially fond of Queen's "We Will Rock You," because she played it for him and he started to sing along with his soprano, "WEEE woooah weee woooah..." on a descending scale.

After some quizzing during meals, I've gotten Merritt to also identify his nose, teeth, and hair. He's still working on his eye - whenever I ask him where his eye is, he slowly inserts his index finger into his right nostril. That's in the right direction, at least...

Hakan had a great conversation with Kira a few days ago. He seemed deep in thought, and then seemed to ask more than say to her, "Mom, you don't know everything." She admitted, "No, not everything." Then Hakan thought for a moment and replied, "But Dad does."

I pretend to, at least.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Grading and Wading

Check off another busy week for the Rickses. We had a few unusual events, including parent-teacher conferences for our oldest two children. This is, of course, the first time we've had two appointments, but they were scheduled consecutively, so it was not too bad. Our neighbor was kind enough to come be with the kids while we went to the school.
Before Carver went to bed that night, I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to ask or tell his teacher at the conference. He thought for a moment, and then said, "Tell her that I love her, and that she is the best teacher in the whole world!" I did pass on the message, and his teacher was thrilled to get the message.
Carver is doing very well in school. He gets along with all of the kids, and loves to participate in all of the classroom activities. He was a little hesitant to try new things in art, and seems to have felt that he was not very good at it. That caught us by surprise, because he has been coloring at least a few pages per day at home since school started. That did strike us as unusual, because he never did seem that interested in art before. Perhaps he is practicing to try and get better at it, so we've decided to encourage him more. He is above average in his other skill areas. He seems to be our most extroverted kid, so he is right at home surrounded by kids his age. He looks forward to school each day.
The meeting with Avey's teacher was next. She is, of course, testing off the charts with her reading and writing skills. Her teacher gave several examples of how deeply Avey analyzes their reading assignments, and we saw writing samples where she used better vocabulary than most of my students (college age). Her teacher also noted that Avey will go out of her way to be helpful to other students who are struggling. She seems to intuitively understand so much about academics, I suppose it is only natural that she turns to tutoring. We are so proud of our students!
Wednesday was an unusually busy day for me. I had to go to Chicago to be in meetings all day and, therefore, missing out on my normal productivity from our local library. Fortunately, the meetings with students were productive, and the faculty meeting was not entirely painful.
With the extra long weekend (Columbus Day on Monday), Kira had an itch to get out and do things like real people. Friday, we ate out at a restaurant, and rented the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. Avey's become a big fan of the series, and we all enjoyed this one very much. 
Saturday, we tried to scratch that itch a little more. Kira took the older three kids to our local fire department, where there was a big event about fire safety. The kids got to ride in a real fire truck, got tons of little toys and treats, and watched a house fire demonstration. We did the same event last year, but Kira was home with little baby. I stayed with him this time so that he could nap. 

In the afternoon, we ventured into Chicago. Some of the family wanted to see my new office, and maybe go see some other things. We went to my office first, and then saw one of my classrooms. They got playing around there so much, that our time in the city was gone by the time they were ready to leave. We were also sort of avoiding leaving the building again because it was pouring rain. Still, we felt like we needed to do something else to make our trip worth it, so we crossed the street for a Dairy Queen, getting drenched in the process. Of course, we found that it had been closed down, so then we came across a doughnut-and-ice-cream shop and took shelter there before getting washed into Lake Michigan. We had a nice treat and then drove home, seeing a gorgeous double rainbow on the way. 

We have the holiday tomorrow, so we'll see what other ill-advised stunts we can pull, and report on them next week.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Double Digits

Avey is now 10 years old. There, I said it. I can't possibly be in denial if I openly admit it, right? She's cast off her younger self: the one that we used to cuddle and snuggle; the one who would wake up and shout, "Daddy! It's time to wake up and plAAAaaay!"; the one who used to ask me to talk like The Muppets. Now she is embracing her older self who prefers to read by herself, watch superhero movies, play with people her own age, and practice the violin and flute. I suppose we can't have one without the other, but it sure would be nice to switch back and forth for just a few minutes, even if just for nostalgia. 
A Backyard Visitor
She made it a grand celebration this year. On the special day, she requested pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries, bacon on the side. She opened up a present from her auntie and uncle that we knew was a t-shirt, so that she could show it off at school. Kira and I then spent the day preparing gifts and gearing up for the afternoon celebration. 
I took the day off of work (I don't teach anyway) to work on a project gift for her. Several years ago, we inherited an old and thoroughly loved desk from my childhood home. We gave it to Avey when she got her own room, and due to its years of being abused, we thought perhaps we should renovate it a bit. Avey picked out colors over the summer, but never seemed to have the motivation to work on it much. It was a pretty big project, so I thought I would surprise her by having it finished when she got home from school on her birthday. 
She was very surprised, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had taken a photo before I painted it! I only hope that we can keep the drawers half organized.

That afternoon, we continued with her list of activities. She had requested cheeseburgers for dinner, so I cooked those up, and Kira put together a simple pinata upon which the kids could take out their rage. 
After dinner, cake, and the rest of the presents, we put the boys to bed. Avey, Kira, and I then sat down to watch the recent Wonder Woman film, enjoying it thoroughly, but getting to bed a little past our bedtime, as the boys have been getting up right at 5 each morning like clockwork. 
Saturday was the extended celebration, as Kira took Avey and Carver to see the new Ninjago movie. She enjoyed it, but was a little disappointed by how much they had changed from the series she and Carver have grown to love.

Per her request, we ate pizza for lunch, and then prepared for a "shaving cream war." The two younger boys were quickly overwhelmed by the chaos and stickiness, so came in with me to get cleaned off. Avey, Carver, and Kira got into the game (Avey even put on war paint and made a little holster for the can), and made a big foamy mess of the whole backyard.
She spent that night finishing another superhero movie, Man of Steel. It was an especially nice present for her that today she does not have to go to church, but gets to sit on the couch eating popcorn for the General Conference. 
The boys are all about the same. Merritt sprouted his eighth tooth on Thursday, but woke up at 4:30 this morning, apparently wanting me to have some time to make waffles and bacon. Carver loves Kindergarten, and Hakan misses having his buddy around all the time.

We are excited for October and all of the candy it brings!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Summer Shows Up

After the week that shall not be named, Kira and I were in need of a reprieve. However, parenting is not known for its breaks and down time. We are thankful that our cold symptoms never got too bad, and that Merritt has been sleeping much better as he's recovered. 
Feigning Ignorance About How He Got on the Table
The biggest challenge we've faced this week, in my humble opinion, is Merritt's appetite. He used to eagerly await his meals, excited to taste new things and smother peanut butter (his most favorite thing) on them. Since this most recent illness, he seems to care not at all about food. Even the old sure-fire meals lost their luster, and he declined them all. When he does eat, now we have to spoon feed him every bite like he's 6 months old. That's trying our patience quite a bit. 
On a lighter note (no pun intended), Avey got her flute this week! She's excited to begin to learn a few songs and get better at producing sound in the thing. She's already practicing with getting a tone so that she'll be ready to toot like nobody's business.
Merritt Shows the World His Tongue
We enjoyed a little party at the kids' school a few days ago. They had music, food, and pumpkin decorating. The older three each designed a pumpkin: Avey painted hers all black and made some cat ears out of a pipe cleaner. It looked great! Carver made a monster with 3 eyes, and Hakan came up with a pretty abstract design. He just painted his pumpkin his favorite color: orange. 

The heat was really something to be reckoned with, though. We had a generally mild summer, especially with a couple of weeks in the 70s, so we were not happy with this week's temperatures in the 80s and 90s. I've written a strongly worded letter to our local weatherman to get his act together.
Avey's birthday is coming up this week, so we are deep into preparations. She has big plans for the weekend, hoping to see a movie and eat pizza, along with her cake. Kira and I are still trying to talk her out of turning 10, at least for a few more years, but she's pretty insistent.
Three (Temporary) Amigos
Kira started with a new client this week, so that's exciting. She always leaves for work in a hurry, and then comes home energized and awake somehow. It's probably partly due to not having to put our little energy vampires to bed, and having some time for grown up conversation, dealing with problems that do not involve bowel movements and food messes.

When I got home from work one day this week, Hakan asked me in a how-was-your-day tone, "Dad, did you cry at work?" I laughed heartily at that one, but was very glad that I did not have to think back and assess my day before answering. It turns out that he picked up that question from Kira when she asks Carver about any "sad times" from his school day. I'm grateful that I enjoy my job.

I'll report on the fallout from Avey's turning 10 next time.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Repression

This is a week we would much rather forget, but then I would have to just make up something, and I lack the energy for that. There were a few pleasant moments peppered throughout our crap salad, so I'll try to pay special attention to those...

Monday was strangely uneventful: an eerie calm before the storm. 

Tuesday was a tense day for us all as Kira's father underwent a complex surgery to remove cancer and then rearrange other parts. I had the distraction of a full day of teaching, but Kira tried to manage the kiddies with one eye on her phone for updates from her mother. We are glad to say that he is recovering well, but the entire process has been a stressful reminder of our mortality and deep love for family. Now we wait to hear news of whether the cancer will return, and if so, how quickly. 

That night, Hakan had a rough time sleeping. He caught some sort of cold after his strep was gone, so he dealt with those symptoms for a few days. Unfortunately, Merritt came down with the cold, too, which caused further chaos later in the week...
A Backyard Visitor
Wednesday was relatively uneventful, also, at least for me. Kira kindly let me stay late on campus where Bill Kristol was coming to speak. That was enjoyable for me, and it was nice to have a night off. 

Thursday was horrific for a few reasons. First, it was my especially long teaching day, so I was gone from 7 a.m. until a little after 5 p.m., leaving Kira all by herself. Naturally, that was also the day when some local criminals decided to go for a high speed chase and crash just a few blocks from our home (read about it here). There was an ensuing manhunt, so the police put Avey's school on a "soft" lockdown, meaning that they would not release students to go home on foot, but they could be picked up with a vehicle. Of course, Kira had opted to pick her up on foot before learning about the lockdown, so they were stuck there at the school for 45 minutes until a kind officer offered to escort them all home by driving alongside them. 

After all of that nonsense, and my long day of teaching 4 courses, Merritt decided that his cold symptoms were more important than his parents' sleep and sanity. The poor little guy just could not stay asleep with his stuffy nose, so we were up with him half of the night. We finally got him to settle for a stretch after some ibuprofen, and putting him in his car seat: it keeps him propped up just a bit, which helps with the mucus.  
Friday, rising before the sun with parenting hangovers, Kira and I dealt with kids and then I was off to a scheduled doctor's appointment. I was overdue for a standard physical, and I wanted to get checked for strep to see if I was the source of Hakan's repeated illness. Maybe I just wasn't showing symptoms. I was relieved to learn that I do not have strep, and surprised to find that I have lost a little weight, my blood pressure is fabulous, and I am otherwise in great health. I'll have some routine blood work done just to see how things look under the hood, but I'm encouraged.

After a fairly productive day of work at our local library, I returned home and we decided to take a family trip to Costco. That was sort of enjoyable, but mostly turned out to be too long. As a result, the tired boys got to bed later than we'd hoped.

If our week up to that point was a whirlwind, Friday night was a tornado of blood and tears. Merritt slept peacefully for a few hours in his bed, apparently having passed the worst of his stuffy nose. But when he awoke, he did so coughing. I approached to see if I could soothe him, when he threw up a little in his bed and on his pajamas. Kira cleaned up his bed while I tried to clean him and myself up. At first we thought it might simply have been that he gagged on some mucus, but after a little bit of water, he emptied his stomach all over himself, me, and some of the bathroom floor. The smell of bile and peanut butter was everywhere. He had a fever, and would not be left alone, so Kira took the first shift, and then I took the second, and then it was Saturday morning. Kira took everybody into the doctor while I napped, and there were no obvious problems, so we hope that it was just a brief bug passing.

On the way to the doctor, she dropped Avey off at a ward activity with a rope course, which Avey thoroughly enjoyed.

After a few more errands, and finally getting the kids to bed, we could put the last nail in this week's coffin.

Thankfully, Merritt's fever is gone now, and he slept very well last night. We may yet survive this. Now let us never speak of this week again.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Secret Grave

There have been lots of goings on around our place, as is usual. The highlight from today was that it was the primary program in Kira's ward, and Carver and Avey were heavily involved. Avey not only served as one of the narrators, but also had a singing solo that she kept secret from us so that we would be blown away when we heard it...and blown away we were!
Carver stole the show (for us, anyway) with his singing. He was one of the more animated children, joining along with the gestures that the conductor used, and dancing a little in his spot. When it was time for his speaking part, Kira and I looked at each other nervously. He'd been practicing all week, having some trouble with a few of the words with which he is unfamiliar. Specifically, during one of the practices he had misspoken the words "Sacred Grove," saying instead, "Secret Grave." Luckily for all of us, he nailed it at show time. 
Hakan is recovering from his strep throat with ease, treating his medicine as a treat. Unfortunately, Merritt came down with it. We figured something must be going on with him because he woke up screaming inconsolably one night. I'm not sure I could exaggerate just how perturbed he was. It was as if he wanted desperately to sleep, but some unseen force was tormenting his soul with the fury of a thousand hells. After some ibuprofen, the demons were slowly exorcised and he slept fitfully until morning. Strangely, he was in a peachy mood the whole morning, grinning and playing like a week-old puppy. Still, knowing Hakan's diagnosis, Kira thought to nip this thing in the bud, and took him in for a strep test. He's now on the antibiotics, too, and sleeping much better.
Hakan, aside from his strep, has been a challenge in his mood for some time. As he slowly transitions away from his nap, he is a sort of Mr. Hyde beginning around midday. He either compensates for his low energy with manic running and talking, or he lies around like a beached whale, gnashing his teeth at anyone who dares comes near him. We continue to point out at key moments how his mood seems to be related to his sleeping, and he sometimes seems like he gets it. We are starting to give up and just accept that this is our life now.
Avey has decided to go all out with extracurricular activities this year. She's decided that she not only wants to keep learning the violin, but she also signed up to start the flute, and is joining her school newspaper. Hopefully this momentum will last.

Both kids seem to be enjoying school well enough, although both would prefer to sit in front of the television all day. I, for one, feel the same way.

Have a nice week!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

[Back] to School

This week made the first week of school for Carver, and Avey's first full week. Avey seems to be getting into the swing of things pretty well, and likes her teacher thus far. She has a pretty good social life there, so typically shuts herself in her room when she gets home, apparently having had her fill of human interaction. 
Carver had a good first day. He was nervous and excited for it, as is typical. Gathering around the classroom door with all of the other kids and parents, we saw a few tears shed by some of the other kids, so we were glad to see that Carver seemed stoic. He came home with a good report of the day, so things were off to a good start. 
He did have a rough time later in the week when his teacher said she could ask only three students their ideas about something and Carver did not get picked. He has a passion for fairness (at least for himself), so being passed over like that moved him to tears. Kira and I processed it with him, and he seems to have learned a little how life is a brief, merciless tragedy, but at least there's a cookie here and there.
Hakan came down with strep throat again. He had a bit of a fever on Friday, so Kira, suspecting the worst, took him in. We had just gotten over it, it seems, so we are now wondering if there is something more sinister going on, given how much he gets that (voodoo?). He had a rough night Friday, but had no fever at all today. After a regimen of antibiotics and staying home from church today, he is doing much better.
Merritt has seemed very grown up lately, with his words and new skills. He feeds himself (messily) with a spoon and fork, he climbs stairs like nobody's business, he loves to tumble on the couch with his brothers (nearly giving Kira a heart attack each time), and he loves to dance and spin around when there's music. Recently he started imitating the sounds for a drum beat with his mouth when he wants to listen to music. It's absolutely adorable to hear his little "phoo chee!" mimicry of a simple beat. I will try to catch it on video in the near future. 
Kira has gotten some new clients recently, so she's been busier with work on top of all that the children and her church calling demand.

I had a good first week back also. It's going to be a busy, productive semester.

We'll see if we can take a 10 minute break from our labors tomorrow, in celebration of Labor Day. We hope yours is amazing!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Covering Up

We started off the week with the solar eclipse! We were quite worried about it when we awoke to total cloud cover. We watched the skies throughout the morning, barely able to tell where the sun was behind the nebulous vaporized water. As the critical moment neared, we had all but given up hope of seeing anything interesting, cursing ourselves for having spent time to make shadow boxes. We quickly changed our tunes, however, when the clouds proved quite useful to view the eclipse - blocking enough of the celestial body's beautiful but dangerous rays, while also allowing enough for us to actually see the moon's shape. We could almost go without protective glasses, it was so cloudy, but we caught very nice glimpses of it as the clouds thinned out from time to time. Here is one of the pictures we got, using just a normal camera with no filter:
When it was all over, we blinked a few times and headed back inside, having enjoyed it much more than we expected. It's always fun to be reminded of how small and insignificant one is compared to the unimaginable vastness of the universe. Thanks a lot, Hubble Telescope. 
An Extremely Rare Sighting: All Smiling and Near Each Other!
The other once-in-a-lifetime event of the week was Avey's first day in the Fourth Grade! She was resigned, but excited, and came home with good reports. It seems like she will ease back into the routine pretty well, and should be impressing her teachers and putting her classmates to shame as she always does. 
Carver went in with Kira to meet his teacher this week also, but does not officially go to class until tomorrow. He's pretty excited about it, so I'll be sure to have a report for next week.

I start teaching again on Tuesday, so I'm sure my students are terrified (as they should be). I'll try to ease them in with a few stories about serial killers and such (I teach forensic psychology).
The other bit of covering up (besides the eclipse) I want to mention this week is Hakan's lack thereof. He's been doing this for a very long time now - he'll finish bathing and then get out, briefly dry off, and say, "I wanna be a superhero." Naturally, that means that he wants to don a diaper and his hippopotamus bath towel, and run around the house pretending to chase or be chased by imaginary bad guys. This ought to make good embarrassing material when he's older. He was quite insistent that he wear his "superhero" garb outside yesterday, so I made sure to document it before the neighbors called in to have us cited.

Merritt has exploded with his verbalization. He clearly says, "Uh oh," and "No." We can also hear the undertones of phrases like, "I did it!" and "There he is!" (from playing hide-and-seek). He blabs constantly, so we expect that he'll be saying more words soon.

Stay tuned for all of that excitement.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Return of the Mommy: Merritt's Revenge

We left our hero last week in the clutches of four greasy-fingered, nap-denying, defiant couch tater tots, facing certain doom without their usual custodian. Thankfully, Kira came home to save us all from self-destruction, just in the nick of time. 

...But not before we had tons of fun. I filled up our days with outings and treats, figuring that they couldn't eat each other alive if they were distracted by a shiny object or two. It worked pretty well, although I would not want to be a full-time single parent of my little cage-fighters. 
Merritt has been teething nonstop for several days. He took forever to sprout that upper incisor, but now seems to have gotten the hang of the process; he's decided to add a second tooth on the top, and a third bottom tooth, with signs of another on the way. Naturally, he's had disturbed sleep during the process, so I had disturbed sleep in Kira's absence. Now that she's home, we get to share the sleep disturbance. 
Kira made it home Wednesday evening, and was a little underwhelmed with her welcome committee of two sleeping boys and Merritt's nonstop screaming (never figured why, but probably because he was tired and in his car seat for the long trip to and from the airport). It was a bit of a transition for her back into the routine of diapers, resisting meals, fighting naps, and little arguments over nothing...and on top of that, she had to deal with the kids (har har!).
This coming week marks the last few days before school starts. Carver begins Kindergarten, and Avey charges into 4th Grade. They are both tentatively excited, although we were all saddened to learn that Avey's best friend will not be in Avey's same classroom this year. They will still see each other at recess, but it will still be sad to not share the same experiences.
I also have to start back at work next week, but I still have a faculty meeting in the city this week. I have 8 a.m. classes this semester two days a week, so with my hour commute, it is going to be awfully early for me. Luckily, those are also the only days I teach, so I may not have to head into the city the rest of the time.

That's about all that's noteworthy for us!

We are excited for the solar eclipse tomorrow!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Single Dadding

Kira left for her personal vacation yesterday, much to everyone's dismay (except hers). Hakan seems to keep forgetting that she's gone; he keeps saying things like, "When Mommy wakes up..." I have to remind him that she is in another state for just a few days, but that she'll be back. 
As the old saying goes, when the cat's away, the mice will try to fill the sorrowful void with various activities that are new and fun. Well, I'm paraphrasing. In any case, we went out to a petting zoo!
After a bit of a drive, we made it to a little farm, which is mostly a horse ranch. We got to feed and pet the goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, llamas, ducks, and ponies, and we admired from a little distance the enormous pigs, who are not nearly as charming as Charlotte's Web would have us believe. 
Poor Merritt probably enjoyed it the least. I had hoped he would take a small nap on the way there, but he fought it so that when we arrived he was pretty on edge. He sat in the stroller, and when we went up to the ponies, one stuck its head close to Merritt, terrifying him beyond anything I've ever seen. I quickly picked him up out of the stroller to comfort him and show him that the horses (probably) wouldn't eat him, as his older brothers have much more meat on them. He spent the rest of the trip in my arms, smiling and chuckling occasionally, but a bit overwhelmed by it all. I suppose we need to work our way up from waving at Avey's betta fish to feeding llamas with our hands. He fell asleep on the ride home and then slumbered more when we got home.
Avey seemed particularly taken with the llamas, even naming them all. There's a small chance that she'll now want a llama instead of or in addition to the python she covets. She didn't waste a moment once we got in the car, immediately asking if people keep llamas as pets. I couldn't help but think of the scene in Napoleon Dynamite.
It was a nice outing, so hopefully I can keep up with their expectations for the rest of the time Kira's gone. Wish me luck! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feels Like Summer

[Yes, that is also the title of a Weezer song]

We have slowly recovered from our wave of illness, and so we were feeling up to a beach excursion. As I mentioned last week, Kira has been hoping to go to the sand dunes in Indiana for some time. The dunes are right alongside the shore of Lake Michigan in Indiana, so we went prepared to get wet.
The spot we ended up at was not exactly what we pictured for the sand dunes, but the beach was better than we imagined. You may recall from our trip 2 years ago that the water was far too cold for comfort, and the shore was much too rocky. Ergo, we were expecting to spend most of our time in the sand. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, although there were much larger waves than our last experience, the water was perfectly pleasant, and the shore was sandy and smooth the whole way in.
Merritt was shy about the water, so spent most of his time tasting and tossing the sand. He was caked in it for most of the trip, but he had a smile on his face most of the time, too.

Avey practically lived in the water, having a grand time braving the large waves as they crashed into her. She took out a kick board and tried letting the waves push her back into the shore, which was a lot of fun also.

Carver had tons of fun in the water, too, though the waves were a little too big for him to brave alone. Avey and he held hands for some of the time, and he otherwise held steady on Kira or me. He also made good friends with a little boy, maybe 2 years old, who cracked up at all of Carver's slapstick moves.
Kira and I mostly just tried to keep an eye on the kids at all times, but we had a great time also. It's nice to finally do something that feels like a summer activity. 

Kira leaves for her sister's in Utah this weekend, so I'll be a single daddy for a few days. I don't know who's more terrified - the kids or I. Hakan has been painfully transitioning out of a nap for a couple of weeks now, making the whole house miserable from about 3 p.m. to bedtime. Thankfully, Merritt has been mostly back on track with his night sleep. All I hope for Kira's trip is that she has an awesome time, and that my nights aren't complete nightmares. We'll see if I can post on time next week...
Merritt is clearly understanding new words and phrases. When I say, "outside," he knows to get his shoes. When he's eating and I say, "get down," he reaches for the latch on his high chair tray. He can say a few words hit-and-miss. He'll nail down "no" sometimes, usually when he's mad, and he gets pretty close to "fishy" ["wishy"] when he sees Avey's betta. He ought to be telling all sorts of interesting stories very soon.

In the meantime, wish me luck...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sick and Tired

Our home was struck with the plague this week, or so it felt. After Hakan's fever returned Sunday night, we took him in for a strep diagnosis. We should have known that the worst was yet to come. As an ominous omen of our impending illnesses, Avey's betta fish was found lifeless in his tank on Monday morning. He had seemed less active for a couple of days before, but there was no clear sign that he was ill otherwise. We were all saddened at the loss of our newest family member, and had some important conversations about the great responsibilities that come with pet ownership, as their lives are at stake. We made a game plan for what to adjust with the next one, trying keeping the tank a little warmer, and feeding less often. 
Gill's death set the tone for the rest of the week, as one by one the rest of the family came down with symptoms similar to Hakan's, just as he was getting better. Carver never did get a fever, but had a cough that would make a cigar smoker blush. I had a day or two with some mild aches and a little cough, but nothing unbearable. Avey was about the same as Carver, but with some of my aches also. Merritt even came down with a fever, and his nose has been running like Usain Bolt. Kira, who had been on an antibiotic for something unrelated anyway, took the longest to develop symptoms, but is now dealing with a sore throat, too. 

The worst of it all for Kira and me was that we were up every hour or so for one of the nights (between Hakan and Merritt, mostly), and the nights have only slowly become less eventful. Hakan is now done with his antibiotic regimen, but the rest of the kiddies are still catching up. Merritt awoke around 4 this morning and was in a strange state, wanting to sleep, but screaming like a banshee. Naturally, today is the day that Kira gave a talk in church, and also sang a descant in a special choir piece. Thankfully, she is the type to rise to the occasion when it's required, so she nailed them both (so we hear: everyone else stayed home). 
Trying on Carver's Shorts
We did have some fun moments amid all of the weeping and wailing. Avey got a new fish, Scales, on Thursday, and he is doing very well so far. Kira took the two older boys to see a fireworks display put on by our township, keeping them up way past their bedtime, but they enjoyed it despite coming home worn out. Carver passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow, and Hakan buzzed around for a while. It seems to be the way he manages his exhaustion.

Avey also attended a birthday party for her best friend on Monday, which included a pool. She would never have left if she could have chosen. She also got an early birthday present in the mail. We let her decide whether to open it or wait, and she took the path of no return. Her Nana sent a slightly used tablet that she never uses, because Avey's stopped working several months ago. She was thrilled to get this one, and even set up an account on it for Carver to use when she is not using it. I don't know how we're going to top that in September...
Playing in the Puddle
Avey also got invited by her best friend to see a movie when a schedule conflict left them with an extra ticket. We're not jealous, though.

Everyone's symptoms are getting under control now, so maybe things will calm down, or maybe they will explode as the kids make up for lost time...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Disappointment, Thy Name is Night Sleep

We were thrilled in vain this week when Merritt's first upper incisor broke through the gums. Kira and I collectively breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that perhaps teething pain was to blame for Merritt's fitful nighttime slumber. 

Alas, 'twas not so. In fact, he squirmed and screamed in bursts about every hour, forcing us to get up with him in shifts. Even sleeping between us in our bed, which usually tranquilizes him, was ineffective. 
I have wondered for some time whether he is just uncomfortable in his bed (a travel crib, for the sake of size), which seems very stiff to me. Our bed is much softer, which may be why he prefers it. In a completely unexperimental approach, I put together his crib and rearranged some furniture to make it fit. The mattress to his crib is much softer, so I thought perhaps lying thereupon would squelch some of his night discomfort. Last night was the first trial, and he did very well...until about 3 a.m., at which point he joined us.
Snakes on the Brain and Face
Kira has had high hopes of making a sip or two of lemonade out of our lemony summer, so she arranged for us to head to some sand dunes in Indiana yesterday. The Fates determined that such was not our destiny, for Hakan came down with a fever and sore throat the night before our excursion. As it was the same night that Merritt kept us up for most of the time, we resigned to staying home with some relief. Still, Kira took the older two kids to see the movie adaptation of one of Avey's favorite book series, Captain Underpants. They enjoyed it thoroughly, so the day was not a total loss. We plan to try the dunes next weekend, but don't tell any bacteria our plan.
Hakan is feeling much better today, although he still sounds like a chain-smoker. He should be back to his usual self in another day or so.
While I'm complaining, I should point out that the battery to my laptop died abruptly this week, making working at the library more challenging. I have to find a good spot and stick to it, because I can't move again without shutting off my computer. The new one is in the mail.

Today, while I was managing the two younger boys at home, prepping Merritt for a nap, I went to find his pacifier. Usually, when it is not in an obvious place, it can be found on the floor near his favorite playing spots. After about 30 minutes of searching and re-searching, its location still eluded me. I was on the verge of panic, as he is not likely to sleep without it, but he did eventually accept an older model we had stored away. We still do not know where his original is, so this is the mystery of the decade. Perhaps it has gone where all of the sock mates go.

Carver has an odd new habit lately. Kira or I will ask him a simple "yes or no" question, and rather than simply answering with a single word, like parsimony would suggest, he comes up with a set of signals with which to broadcast his decision. For example, yesterday I asked Carver whether I could interest him in some food. He looked at me for a moment, and then instructed me, "If the answer is yes, then I will make this signal [sweeping his arm up and to his left]. If the answer is no, then I will make this signal [sweeping his arm horizontally]." He then made the corresponding gesture, and I had to not only try to remember how it was interpreted, but also what my question was in the first place.

Needless to say, after a week such as this one, Kira is looking forward to her solo trip to Utah.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Betta Watch Out!

Ever since she could talk, Avey has been asking for a pet. Because Kira and I are not really the type to keep pets, we told Avey that she would have to prove that she is responsible enough to take care of it. We set up the deal that if she could keep a plant alive for 6 months, then she could try a fish, then a small mammal, and so on, working her way up to whatever.

She finally passed the first round this week, so she is now taking care of a betta fish, whom she named "Gill."
She's been doing very well so far, keeping up a regular feeding schedule, and learning how to change the water. She's also taught him a trick; she puts a little drop of water about half an inch above the water line, and then Gill watches it and jumps up to touch it, making the drop fall into the tank. She's also had a great time decorating Gill's little home. She may need to consider charging her brothers money to come view the fish - Merritt especially loves to see it, making the "fish" sign each time. 
A more depressing turn of events is Hakan's napping, or lack thereof. He seems to want to transition out of a midday nap, but his body is just not ready. As far as his body is concerned, it wants to wake up around 6 a.m., nap around 1 p.m. for 90 minutes or so, and then go to bed at 8:30 or 9 p.m. We just can't stand the thought of having him up that late, so we try to push his nap earlier, make it shorter, or sometimes he just wants to skip it altogether. So far, the result is that he has a hair trigger in the afternoons, and then bedtime looks like the high-security wing of a mental asylum. We're sure that the whole situation is exacerbated by our weening him from the pacifier, but we dare not revert to that vice. 

Yesterday, Kira thought she would try taking Hakan for a drive to see if he would fall asleep in the car seat. Carver wanted to go along, too. Of course, what happened was that Hakan stayed awake the whole time, and Carver fell asleep for a few minutes. When Hakan went to sleep first that night, and Carver got a few minutes to himself before his normal bed time, he thought it was a really special treat. He went to bed at 7 like always, but said, "Wow, I got to stay up really late because of my nap!" I declined to comment.
Merritt is as adorable as ever. He has taken to shouting with glee, "DAAADAAA!" whenever I come home from my spurts of work at the library. He continues to mimic sounds, and shows clearer understanding of language with each day. Last week, he brought me one of his shoes, and I told him to bring me his other shoe so I could put it on him. He looked around to find it, and sure enough, brought it right over. Before we know it, he'll be ignoring us entirely, just like his older siblings.

Kira had a call from another potential client this week, so we're hoping to have that work out. I am doing my best to get out far ahead of the work for the coming semester, and my summer course is almost running itself. Otherwise, we enjoy the weather when we can.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mommy!

Today is the anniversary of Kira's birth! We spent yesterday doing our version of celebrating, which has toned down quite a bit since we were childless. Kira started by taking a trip to the Chicago Temple: one of the few places where she can get a few minutes of peace and quiet. When she got back in the afternoon, we all gathered around the television to watch Beauty and the Beast, which we all enjoyed. We had to pause it in the middle to make sure the kids all ate their dinner and got cake before bed, and then we finished it once they were all asleep. Today has been pretty typical, but she's attempting a very long nap, so that ought to be special. Maybe when the kids are a little older and we have a little more cash lying around, we can send her to a spa. Hopefully, she'll enjoy her upcoming break in August when she heads to Utah.
We also enjoyed celebrating our nation's independence this week! We were invited to a large gathering at some friends' house, so spent the day getting our food contribution ready, and wrestling with naps and meals like any other day. By the time it came, I opted to stay home and try to get Merritt for a nap, as I was pretty wiped out and am not much one for chit-chat. Merritt ended up declining a nap, but we had a good time in the back yard. 
Carver and Hakan have decided to be friends most days, which makes for a much more pleasant home. They still have their bouts of carnage, but mostly, they've made real efforts to be chums. 
Carver and Avey finished their swimming lessons on Friday, much to their relief and delight. They both made a lot of progress, impressing us both and hopefully themselves. I am especially glad that Carver made it all the way through. Avey seems to understand the point of hard work - it eventually pays off, and at least it feels nice to accomplish something you weren't sure you could do - but Carver's nature is not so adventurous. He crumbles pretty easily at some new experiences, like food, and when the going gets tough, he likes to lie down on the floor until it passes by. Something may have shifted in him with swimming, because after his meltdown last week, he worked at it a couple of days and then advanced to the next skill station. By the end of the lesson on Friday, he was probably ready to move on to another station yet. We sure hope that he felt the rewards of hard work, so that it will keep paying off.
That's about all of the news from our week. See you next time!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Biting Through Barriers (to Maturity)

Our lives trek on through the chaos. Perhaps the biggest news of the week was that Hakan finally [hesitantly] gave up his pacifier. It had been his loyal companion for naps, nights, and many a minor injury since exiting the womb. It will be fondly remembered. 

He had already chewed through one several months ago, and made his way to the backup. After a lot of hard work, he had gotten it down to a thin strand of silicone, which finally broke earlier in the week. 
When he first showed me, he seemed almost proud that he had finally chewed through it, but shortly after that, reality set in. We told it "goodbye," and he made it through the night very well. Each nap or nighttime since then, however, he brings it up. We explain that it's gone, and that it was a very good friend for while he was getting bigger, but that now he is becoming more like Carver and Avey, who don't use binkies, and less like Merritt, who does use a binky. He complains very little, so we think this will turn out okay. 
The transition may have even spurred some other maturity - when getting dressed for church today, he buttoned his shirt all by himself! We keep hoping that he'll be ready to use the potty soon.
A few of the days this week, the kids miraculously decided to get along. We had a family discussion about how home is supposed to be a place where peace and love are abundant, and that we did not want people to feel like they were going to be picked on while in our home. We don't know if that made a difference or not, but at least they seemed to stop actively trying to traumatize one another for a few of the days this week. Carver and Hakan started some new favorite game where they play "family," and Carver is a grandpa.

Merritt's next tooth is still sitting right below the surface, not yet actually through. Fortunately, it does not seem like he's affected too much by it at present. He had been joining Kira and me in our bed early in the mornings most nights (falling back asleep, thankfully), but has not needed to do so in the last few days.

Avey and Carver have been doing swimming lessons each morning this week, and will continue into this coming week. Avey's been progressing nicely through the stages, but Carver has been quite comfortable in the same place. He decided on Thursday that the water would be too cold, so he refused to go. Kira and I debated our next move, and decided to offer him a reward (doughnut) if he went, and I had a crucial conversation with him about the importance of doing hard things. He eventually went (probably more for the doughnut than my pep talk), and came home quite proud that he put his head under the water three times (supervised, of course).

We're looking forward to the celebration of Independence Day and Kira's birthday this week. Maybe we'll take a break from all the feedings and diaper changes to get a breath of fresh air. Happy Fourth to all!