Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Madness

We very much enjoyed our stay in Colorado, despite the streak of viruses that tried in vain to lower our spirits. Merritt, Hakan, Carver, and Kira seem to have had the flu, as they each had a fever and aches at some point. Hakan's symptoms disappeared after one round of ibuprofen, although his nose was stuffy ever since. Merritt, patient zero, seems to have had it the worst, with his nose running constantly, and disturbing his sleep. Avey never showed symptoms, and I, the only one who had a flu shot, came down with a mild cold, but nothing more. 
Merritt had a surprisingly difficult trip. As I noted last week, he would not leave me alone unless I plugged him in to watch videos of himself or music videos that we've approved (mostly from OK Go). He screamed and clawed at me incessantly at all other times. Nearing the end of our stay at my mother's, he did have a few fleeting moments of joy. One time he played catch with me in the living room and smiled, and another time he went down a slide several times at a park nearby, but in both instances the fun lasted only 15 minutes or so before he started back up with his screaming. 

Nighttime was even worse. He would go to sleep pretty normally, but then for 3 nights in a row, he woke up between 12 and 2 a.m. in an absolute hysteria of screaming and tears. He was literally inconsolable. He would arch his back to get out of our arms if we tried to hold him, and then when we set him down so that we wouldn't drop him, he'd scream like we'd abandoned him. Before this trip, he had done that maybe four times at our home, but we never had seen him do it on consecutive nights. What was worst of all is that he woke up everybody upstairs, and when he finally calmed down after a solid 20 minutes of wailing like a banshee, Kira and I had to get Hakan and ourselves chilled out. Even then, Merritt didn't fall asleep right away, but needed to be cuddled. We figure that it was probably some combination of teething, being in a new place, frustration from a stuffy nose, and intentional messing with his parents. For some reason, he had a grand ol' time on the drive home. 
We all loved various things from our trip. We saw the new Star Wars movie, and enjoyed catching up with my family. Kira was glad to spend a few hours with her parents, too, although it's never quite enough. Avey really enjoyed getting to know one of her cousins better, and the boys liked spending time with their aunt and uncles. We watched movies, played games, made jokes, played with our toys, and had a marshmallow fight with blow guns my older brother had made for us all. It's so hard to leave, but we had high hopes that Merritt would finally improve once we made it home (luckily, we were right). 
Carver and Avey have the week off, and I have two weeks before I need to be back on campus. We are excited to take advantage of the break, although I have quite a bit of preparation before I'll be ready for the semester. Carver did a full week of all-day kindergarten before we left on our trip, and he loved it. He was a bit of a celebrity among his classmates when he showed up at lunch. He probably would prefer to start school up tomorrow, but Avey is happy to have some time to relax.
Avey is nearing the six-month mark, where she's been responsible with her fish all that time. In two weeks, she'll be eligible to try taking care of a small mammal, again working her way toward a larger or more difficult pet. She's doing some reading now on the pros and cons of gerbils, mice, hamsters, and the like. We'll certainly have photos when the new family member(s) arrive(s).

We are planning on letting 2017 bleed out late tonight, and hope for a wonderful and joyous 2018. We wish the same for all of you!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merritt Matters

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. We are in Colorado for the festivities, although it has felt festive only at times. We had planned this trip for some time, and we spent Thursday and Friday packing. However, the packing was an extra nightmare because Merritt had been ill since Wednesday. He had a bit of a rough night, and then we discovered he was feverish around 5 that morning. With our trip in mind, we took him to the doctor that day, but she did not think much of his symptoms and felt that it was probably too early to tell. We brought him home, and kept an eye on him while he stayed ill and lost his appetite. After another difficult night, we found that Hakan was feverish in the night, so we took them both in to the doctor on Friday. The doctor ran a test on him and found the flu, so started him on some medicine that supposedly shortens the duration and severity. We put Hakan on it, too, figuring that he was just a day behind Merritt.

Then, we were simultaneously dealing with several issues. We were concerned about traveling with the sick kids, but we had already done most of the packing, paid for a hotel, and gotten our hopes up nice and high that we would be leaving Friday. On top of that, we had many family members with some stake in our presence given our various viral ailments. Some of said family members have compromised immune systems, and so were hesitant to share close personal space with us. We were stuck deciding between bagging the whole trip and trying to adjust arrangements enough to make it work. We finally got it settled and got in the car as scheduled.

We made it to our hotel later than expected because of some issues related to the illnesses, but Hakan was doing much better than earlier, seeming almost himself. The night was alright, but we simply did not get enough sleep.

We tried breakfast in the morning, but Merritt's and Hakan's appetites have been meager at best since their sicknesses. The meal was a struggle, so we got back on the road tired and behind schedule.

We made good time, but Kira had awakened with more severe symptoms of the flu. She was smart to get right on medicine the night before, when she first felt them, but the stress of traveling and sleep trouble took a toll. I was tired, but had my flu shot, which may have spared me the symptoms.

To make a long story shorter, we finally made it, and are so glad we did. The older kids are having a lot of fun with their aunt and uncles for an audience, and the new stomping grounds are fun to explore.

The enormous exception to our joy is the little gentleman we call "Merritt." Perhaps it is a combination of the illness and a separation anxiety that accompanies his age, but he will not leave me alone. He refuses to be held by anyone else, and screams and cries if I set him down for even a second. I wonder if he worries that we are going to leave him in Colorado. It may have been endearing for a few minutes, but after 2 days, it has been just nightmarish. He won't let me eat, change clothes, etc., unless he's in my arms. The one way around it that I've figured out is that he can be distracted with videos of himself or music videos he has come to enjoy. At least his appetite is improving, otherwise I would consider just taking off for home by myself.

We are excited for Christmas morning tomorrow, and looking forward to a fun day for the kids (with a chance of naps for the adults). Wish us luck with the drive home.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Obsessive Compulsion

We've had a string of incidents this week that demonstrates how we are in for some trouble. Specifically, our two youngest boys are giving us a run for our money. 

Merritt is adorable, and usually very pleasant. However, he has developed a need to have music playing at nearly all times. Strangely, this tends to happen only when I am around, as he almost never makes the demand of Kira. As soon as I get home from work or wherever, he will come running to me, then demand to be held. That is all well and good for a few minutes, and I sincerely appreciate that he misses me. The problem is that he does not seem satisfied with just a few minutes of attention. He demands that I hold him for 5, 10, 20 minutes at a time. If I need two hands to unload the dishwasher or blow my nose, he screams and cries like I just took away everything that is precious to him. 

Then, to make matters worse, he is not fine that I just hold him. After about 30 seconds of being held, he starts pointing at the computer, making a little beat, and singing "We Will Rock You" by Queen. That means that he wants to listen to music. That's fine, because I generally relax with music on, but he never seems satisfied with whatever song is playing. He has maybe three songs that he really likes, and we can never tell which one he wants, or whether he'll let us stray from his favorites. What ends up happening is that I hold him, scrolling through every track I own, while he screams at the computer. I'm trying to be flattered that we share the same taste in music, but wishing that he would up his game in the vocabulary area. This whole scenario has been especially trying this week, because Thursday morning I woke up with some back pain, and it hasn't been going away very well. I have some stretches that ease it pretty well, but holding a screaming and kicking toddler is not helping. 

Still, our worst offender is easily Hakan. He has got to be the most stubborn entity that has ever existed in reality or imagination. His potty training went very well, for a while. In the last couple of weeks, he has almost given up on it entirely. We call them "accidents," but I ask you, is it an accident to willfully ignore bodily cues until it's too late, and then to hide while allowing the body to do what it needs? After several encouraging talks, incentives, reasoning, pleading, and begging, we are out of ideas. We almost forced him into a diaper yesterday, which he vehemently opposed. He wants all of the status, pride, and comfort of underwear, without having earned the right to wear it. We are not sure what else to do except put the rest of the planet on hold and get just as stubborn as he. 
Hakan did the same thing this morning when I was trying to get him dressed for church. He decided that he wanted his pajamas on. I offered him incentives to get dressed, tried making it a game, left him alone with the warning that we would need to get him dressed in a few minutes, and everything else I could think of. When the deadline came, he fought me as if his life depended on keeping those clothes off. 

If we could just find a way to harness that willpower - to steer it toward something productive and helpful - perhaps we will keep him out of prison for a few years.
On the bright side, Hakan and Merritt can be a lot of fun. Hakan had a great time at a birthday party and the park yesterday. Merritt has been really cute lately when he plays a school game. He will put on Hakan's backpack (with Kira's help), and then wave goodbye to us as he pretends to go to school through the garage. He even took out his pacifier once and handed it to Kira before "leaving," because we all know you can't bring your binky to school.

Carver is looking forward to Christmas, but he may be even more excited for this week when he starts going to full-day kindergarten. As I've mentioned before, he loves school, so the chance to be there even longer really gets his tail wagging. We started him off with half day, because he would get wiped out in the afternoons, but he seems like he's ready to take the plunge. We'll see if it's all he hopes for.

Avey is counting the days until we leave for Colorado. She seems excited to do something out of the ordinary routine of going to school and then hiding in her room while the boys tear the house apart. We don't know that it will be that different in Colorado, where she'll be around several cousins, but at least she'll have more places to hide, and more projects with which she can occupy herself. Probably more than anything, though, she is looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars movie, as we've arranged to see it over the break.

I am done with the semester now, but still have several projects to do before we leave. Kira and I will be busy getting ready for the trip while simultaneously managing the kids, who never cease to surprise us.

Safe travels to all of you (if you're traveling), and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 10, 2017


This week felt busier than usual for many reasons. It was my last week of teaching (this coming week is finals), and that always means that I have several students who suddenly become concerned about their grades. I had one just today email me asking about when the final project was due. I told him it was due three days ago, just like it says in the syllabus, and he asked if he could still turn it in for partial credit. I said that was fine, but to please turn it in as soon as possible. He emailed back, and it became apparent that he had not even started the project. To what is the world coming?

Another part of the craziness was that Avey had two concerts this week. On Tuesday, she played the flute in her band concert, and then on Thursday, she played the violin with the orchestra in their concert. Naturally, those two days are already our busiest as I am in the city until the late afternoon. Still, it was fun to get the boys out of the house, and it was great to see and hear what Avey has been learning. 
Thankfully, the craziness has also been accompanied by a few improvements in Merritt's behavior. I mentioned recently that his appetite has been minuscule. Well, for some reason it was much better this week. He is especially interested in hot dogs, but he's also eating eggs again, so he may just make it to adolescence. We wonder if the lapse was because of some molars making their way to the surface, because his sleeping has also improved quite a bit. One night this week, I for sure completed a full sleep cycle uninterrupted. I could tell, because when I woke up from it of my own accord, I felt a little less like I had been drugged and dumped on the side of the road after a boxing match I had lost, which is how I normally feel.
I also finally got my root canal procedure totally finalized with the permanent crown. It's been nice to once again feel like I have my tooth back. Since the pain began so long ago, I have been avoiding chewing on that side of my mouth. Now that I can start using it again, it's like learning to chew all over again. Thank goodness for modern dentistry!

We had our first real snow yesterday, so the boys went out to toss it around for a while before coming in from the frigid cold. It's not supposed to get much warmer from here on out, yet the snow is still basically all gone, so this winter has been lame. Last year was just like this, too. Maybe Colorado will be a winter wonderland for us!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Toddler Daredevil

Things are busy as ever here, but we've managed to squeeze in some fun where we could. We live just a block south of a township called La Grange, and they held their annual Christmas event downtown. It's meant to be a boon to the local businesses, so they draw out crowds all over with trolley rides, a little train for the kids, pony rides, and even a little petting zoo.

The weather was unseasonably warm (we still have had no snow worth mentioning), so it made for a pleasant evening. We skipped Santa's appearance, which turned out to be the right choice, because we got to do all of the best stuff with shorter lines. 
It was especially nice to get away from the normal nonsense around the house. A toxic combination of head colds and Merritt's curiosity have made for a trying time lately. Nearly all of us have gone through the cold symptoms, which have been bearable, but frustrating. Merritt may have had it the worst, after a few rough nights. It may also be something about his molars working their way through. In either case, this has to stop. One night early this week, he awoke around 2 a.m., and never settled back down. I gave up and just got up with him at 3, thinking maybe he was hungry. He ate a little, but mostly just wanted to play. Kira traded me around 7:30, when I went back to bed and she got the kids off to school. Still, I feel like I haven't really recovered. Maybe he hasn't either, because this morning he oddly slept in more than an hour.

He has been into everything this week. His new favorite thing is to climb onto our kitchen table, and then to explore things up there before throwing them off. Last night, he found a fun way to dismount, as you can see in the video:

He also thoroughly enjoys his ability to open the refrigerator: he will get it open and then play with everything he can reach in there, sometimes emptying it a few bottles at a time. To top it all off, he demands music almost all day. He seems to want specific songs to play, but lacks the language skills, so he just screams at us until we find what he wants to hear. 
At least he is learning a few things while he's making more work for us. Our oven is built in such a way that the broiler door is easily reachable for him. He usually leaves it alone, but when we turn on the oven, he can hear the gas burning inside, so he likes to open it to watch the pretty orange flame. He seems to understand the danger, because he has touched it only once (which was mostly an accident) with just a little pain. He still likes to open it, though. This week, he may have finally learned how to deal with the heat, though; he got into a kitchen drawer where I keep the oven mitt. He pulled it out, put it on, and then opened the oven door to watch the flame. 

The kids are all excited for Christmas, and I've got almost all of my shopping done. Now, we just need some snow!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Give Me a [Thanksgiving] Break

We are sad that our Thanksgiving break ends with today. We had a wonderful time avoiding our normal duties and obligations. Although Carver sort of missed school, he and Avey had a blast playing video games and watching movies, I was glad to avoid the normal work routine, Kira was glad to have another set of hands around and to avoid the back-and-forth of dropping off and picking up to and from school. 
It's Exactly What it Looks Like
I started Monday off on a bit of a rough note with my root canal. The endodontist told me it was my rearmost molar, but I had been feeling the pain right above the tooth in front of it, so I spent a few minutes asking him to convince me. He was very polite about it, and did eventually talk me into it. I'm glad he did, because, after the procedure, the pain is totally gone. He told me that I have a very long molar, and the roots were apparently oddly shaped, making it a difficult job, but he got it done. He warned me that I would probably feel very uncomfortable for a day or so, but I never did feel any discomfort once the feeling came back. I went home in a strangely good mood. 
I spent Tuesday grading papers and tests, sorely disappointed in the students' performance, and their complete disregard for the many practice options and tutorials I made available.

Wednesday, I was back to the dentist for a temporary crown, and then home for some last-minute grocery shopping for our meal the following day. We opted to stay home and do our own meal, which I much preferred.

We figured the kids would be more likely to eat ham than turkey, so we had a big glazed ham along with our rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, and pie. I made a chocolate pie because it's chocolate pie. I also tried out a fresh strawberry pie at Avey's request. I'd never made one before, but it turned out very well, so that may need to be a new tradition for us. The meal was delicious, and the day was generally low key. 
The weather has been sunny, but cold, so the kids mostly spent our vacation indoors. Still, Avey made it a point to be pleasant with her brothers, so everything worked out alright. Carver even seemed to pass on the patience. For example, one of Hakan's favorite things is to fill the bathroom sink with water and then play with some toys in there. He especially likes to use a Lego minifigure in there, but it's Carver's. He asked Carver very nicely if he could borrow the figure, but Carver at first declined to share the toy. I was listening, and suggested that Hakan offer Carver a trade. Carver, overhearing my input, had an idea, and said, "Hakan, how about this? You can play with the Lego, and then when you're done, you play with my new toy car."

Hakan agreed to this scenario, and I left it more confused than when I entered. That would be like me going into a restaurant and saying, "May I please have a free sandwich?" to which they reply, "Only if you promise to eat a free sundae afterwards."

On Friday, the kids were anxious to bust out the Christmas decorations. Kira prevented it from turning into a free-for-all, opening only one tote at a time, and keeping them focused on one decoration area at a time. We started with the tree, and had a great time explaining the kids' ornaments' origin stories. I got the outside of the house lighted up reasonably well, and we are trying out colored bulbs in our porch lights (red and green). Those are lots of fun.

I got in a home improvement mood (probably to avoid doing my normal work), and got fixing things here and there around the house. I was quite excited to switch out a power outlet in the kitchen where our highest charging traffic is. I put in a new one that has two USB charging ports in addition to normal outlets. Now we can charge our devices while also using the toaster oven!
Kira spent most of Saturday gone at visiting teaching, which she would probably do twice a week if she could, just to get away from the normal monotony of changing diapers and feeding kids who don't want food.

Merritt is one of the worst with his eating, lately. For several weeks now, he just refuses to eat most of what we offer. It seems that the other kids went through phases like this, too, but Merritt is especially challenging. He turns his nose up at even his most favorite foods, when he clearly should be hungry. But then, some meals he will mow down almost whatever we put in front of him, keeping us constantly guessing. He keeps growing, so he must be okay, but it's enough to drive us nuts.

We are really looking forward to our Christmas break. I have just 2 more weeks left of classes, while the kids have 4 left. We hope to see some snow this year, too: Tomorrow's forecast is 60!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pain in the Canal

This was a somewhat exciting week for me as I have no classes scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving, so I've got a little bit of flexibility in my schedule. Still, I somehow ended up with a lot of grading to do, so I'm not off the hook entirely. 

Any relaxing I might have done this week was overshadowed by fairly intense dental pain. After my procedure a few weeks ago, I had high hopes that we had solved the problem. I was mostly okay, experiencing just some discomfort every now and then, but it wasn't when I chewed, so I thought it might be okay and getting better. For a few days, it felt like all was well, and then I tried flossing early in the week. That was a clear mistake, as it seems to have set something off. I was in a lot of pain that night, but ibuprofen made it tolerable, and then the next day it was manageable until I tried to sleep. It's finally back to being bearable without medication, but I've given up and decided it's time to get it fixed. I have an appointment with the endodontist tomorrow. That should be a blast.
My pain aside, we had an enjoyable week. Friday night was the variety show for Avey's and Carver's school. Avey opted not to enter, but Carver was part of a short skit with the other Kindergartners, all saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It was nice to get out for a little bit and see the kids' acts. 

Even though Kira had made sure they had short naps, Hakan exploded as I was taking them home (Avey and Kira stayed). It had been raining most of the afternoon, and it was very cold. Hakan wanted to jump in a big puddle as we were on our way home, but we were all cold, and I was in no mood to deal with cold and wet feet on top of getting the boys to bed. He had a complete meltdown in the car, but I was certainly not going to get Merritt back out of his car seat and haul us all back to where the puddle was. When we made it home, Hakan refused to come inside, instead crying in the car in the garage. I got Merritt to bed, checking on Hakan every few minutes and inviting him inside where it was warm. After 5 minutes or so, he came inside in a very pleasant mood. It was almost eerie. 
We had a nice Saturday. It was my brother's birthday, who would have been 34. He died in a car accident four years ago. In his honor, we made a birthday cake, ate frozen pizza, and macaroni and cheese for lunch, and then we went bowling. 

The bowling alley was a little scary, smelling of smoke, and some of the equipment was as old as I. Still, we had a good time. Merritt kept us busy with his desire to run all over the place as hard and heavy objects were swung around. Hakan got bored after 6 frames or so, but enjoyed exploring. Carver kept smashing his fingers when the bowling balls would come out of the machine, but he seemed to like tossing the balls. Avey was a little disappointed that real bowling was quite different from bowling on the Wii, but we blamed the balls for being so heavy. 
At least we have Thanksgiving coming up. We've opted to decline an invitation and do our own thing at home. We figure the kids might actually eat ham rather than turkey, and we have some pies planned out. I just hope that my stupid tooth is up for some heavy duty come Thursday.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Three Dozen

This week marked the 36th anniversary of my birth. I am now closer to 40 than to 30, and there is no turning back. 

The family was kind to me, probably because at this point it is risky to startle or upset me in my fragile condition. Even the slightest rise in blood pressure might cause me to crumble to dust. In any case, we polished off my birthday cake from the weekend, and opened a few cards that came on my actual special day. 
On the actual day, I had a normal long day of work, so aside from a nice note from a coworker, there was not really anything too special. However, I did treat myself to a meal at a fancy German restaurant for lunch. I walked past it every time I was in the city, and always wanted to try it. The meal was good, and it was a good way to break up the monotony of the workday.
Aside from my getting another year closer to my demise, Merritt thought it would be a good idea to wake Kira and me up at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Hakan was up with some small issue just before then, but Merritt started stirring just a bit then, too. He stirred every few minutes, so I got up to see if I could adjust him. I picked him up to see if he would settle back down in our bed, but that set him off. He screamed. He screamed and kicked and simply would not be consoled for a full 15 minutes. We tried everything we could think of just shy of injecting him with a tranquilizer. It was like he was sleepwalking, but left out the "walking" part and replaced it with screaming. He finally passed back out, but it made it very hard for Kira or I to get back asleep with that live grenade in our room. 
Naturally, that morning was my scheduled peer evaluation, where one of my colleagues was supposed to attend my class and offer feedback on everything. I was tired, but felt well enough during the 8 a.m. course. It went well, and then she asked the students to stick around so she could ask a few more pointed questions about me and the course without me there. She came by my office later to tell me that they had very kind things to say, with one student even commenting that each semester he checks to see what I'm teaching and then schedules his semester around that. That was a nice salve on a day that otherwise was destined to be an open wound.
Friday was something new. Carver had a fun sock hop scheduled at school, so Avey and Kira got his outfit and hair all planned out. He went dressed like a greaser, with slick hair and everything. Kira was one of the parents who were invited to help out with the preparations, so I "worked at home" while Merritt napped and Hakan vegged out on the couch so she could go. She had a good time, and so did Carver.
Friday was also the first snow of the season for us. It was a pathetic first snow, with hardly anything sticking to the grass, but there was just enough on the street for some car accidents, so I suppose that makes it official(?).

Merritt has really shown some character lately. He is very much into music. One of Carver's favorite things these days is to watch and rock out to music videos that we've approved, so Merritt has become accustomed to having a steady stream of beats pumping out of my computer. When he's got the bug, he comes over to the computer, rambles some nonsense words while pointing at the screen, and then dances while imitating a drum beat. Although it's adorable, it's also a real challenge, because he seems to want a specific song, but he lacks the language to tell us which one. I make my best guess, and then he screams at me for getting it wrong. He can sometimes point to it if he sees it, but otherwise, we are left with a very angry child.

Hakan's potty training is pretty much complete. He sometimes refuses to use the potty, but that's usually right before bed, when everything feels difficult. Those times, he just wears a diaper to bed, but still wakes up dry almost every time. It's been strange and wonderful to have only one kiddo in diapers, and we can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Carver has been working on mastering drawing since starting Kindergarten, but that seems to mean to him that he draws the exact same thing every time. He presents us almost each day with a new drawing or painting of the whole family, with each member portrayed in his or her favorite color, then with Carver's name above us. Avey and I discussed this and decided we should perhaps try to coax Carver into expanding his repertoire. Avey then showed him how to draw a simple dog. Carver tried it and had a hard time, but he seems open to practicing some more. If he puts half of the effort into art that he puts into perfecting his tumbling-on-the-couch moves, he'll be in good shape.

Avey has been in a helpful mood lately, offering even to bathe Merritt with our supervision. She's been very kind to keep him entertained at times when Kira or I are unable to tend to him (usually because the other boys are having some crisis). We hope that this helpful streak continues. On a related note, while Kira was helping at the school for Carver's event, Avey's third-grade teacher pulled her aside to tell her that when Avey was her student, she'd done a little performance where she talked and acted like an elderly woman. The class had thought it was so funny, that this teacher pulled Avey out of her normal class to come and perform in her elderly woman character for her current students. She was, of course, a big hit.

We are so surprised with how quickly the year is coming to a close. We'll try to wrap it up strong!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Enter November

Halloween came and went quickly this year. The kids all went right after Avey was out of school and I was still in the city. They got a good haul, and then it was home for a light dinner and bed. We had just a few trick-or-treaters come by our place, leaving us with a nice stash of candy. 

Things are getting cold and wet around here again, so that we are getting stuck inside more often. Still no sign of snow, which is pretty rare for Illinois. It's driving us a little nuts, actually. There's been enough rain, and it's still not frozen yet, so I have had to mow the grass twice in the last few weeks. I wish the darn weather would just make up its mind instead of keeping us in limbo. 
First Day at Nursery
Merritt keeps us on our toes. He seems reluctant to learn words, even when we coach him. He doesn't seem to mind using the hand signs for things he wants, but outside of "Dah dah," "Ma ma," and "No!" he doesn't seem too interested in talking. He knows animal sounds and clearly understands what we're saying most of the time. He'll mimic our actions, too. It just seems that learning verbal words is not something that strikes him as interesting for now. Surely he'll come along soon. 

Since Hakan began potty training, Merritt has made a meticulous study of the process. Last night, he sat himself down on the practice potty (fully clothed), sat for a minute, and then came over to me. I smelled that he had filled his diaper, so changed him, and then when we flushed the potty, he looked at me and rubbed his hands together to indicate that it was time to wash his hands. He knows all of the steps, but we're not sure we're ready to tackle that untamed beast.
Hakan's potty training is great! He was accident free for the whole week, and even wore underwear to bed a couple of nights. He must have really decided to commit to it; He's a really determined guy. When he decided he was going to get good at doing his own buttons, he would not even let us touch them. When he decided that he was going to buckle himself in his car seat, we were forced to watch him struggle at a distance or catch his wrath. Now that he's acquired this new skill, we are thinking about preschool. He's been painfully bored while Carver is away at school, so it might do him some good to find new partners-in-crime.
The rest of us are managing. The boys are all mostly over our colds, and the girls never really got them. Carver had an awesome Saturday at a birthday party for a classmate. Avey keeps busy with her schoolwork, reading, and movies. Kira and I changed the clocks last night, dreading the fallout of boys waking at what would become the 4:00 hour. We hope to have them adjusted to the new time soon. 

My birthday is coming up this week, so we'll do some of the celebration today, and we did our cake yesterday. Getting old gets real old, real fast. Still, I appreciate all of the warm thoughts and kind gifts I've received! 

We'll have more to report next week!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Haunted Hallways

As usual, we spent a lot of our week busy with normal life. We had a string of colds running through the boys, somehow sparing the girls again. That led to disturbed sleep for everyone, but the symptoms are slowly easing. 
Hakan Commissioned a "Sad Face" for His Pumpkin
We held on for Saturday when we could finally enjoy some play time, preparing for Halloween. Kira planned to attend a baptism in the morning, probably looking forward to a little quiet time away, but when Carver caught wind of it, he wanted to go along. Never one to be left behind, Hakan suddenly grew interest as well, so it became a scramble to get everyone in their Sunday best and out the door in time. I stayed home and did projects and cleaning while Merritt took a much needed nap.
Avey's Design: A Lunging Snake
We got three pumpkins so that the older three could design something, and Merritt just tried to get in on the mess as we cleaned them out. He's in a new phase of mobility, where he can climb onto our kitchen chairs and then, in turn, onto the kitchen table. He doesn't do it all the time, but just when it is most aggravating to us parents.
Carver's Design
Anyway, after the pumpkins were carved to everyone's liking, we took them into the basement and turned off all of the lights to make sure they passed the spooky test. Then came the moment to get into costumes, as there was a Trunk-or-Treat at Kira's ward. It was quite the chaotic scene as nearly everybody changed their costume idea at least once, and then we all made several last-minute changes. 
Probably the Last Time We'll Use the Lederhosen
Everyone was pretty satisfied with their costumes by the time we got out the door. Merritt didn't like the feel of the leather shorts at first, but eventually got used to it, or at least distracted by all of the costumes at the party. 
Hakan at first wanted to go as his favorite superhero, Batman. He changed his mind for a little while when he found out that our bumblebee costume fit him well, but reverted back to Batman as the moment of truth drew near.
Avey had plenty of ideas, but settled onto a ninja, even fashioning a ninja star. Here she is pictured with escrima sticks, ready to take on any foe.
Carver strayed from his Optimus Prime (transformer) costume only for a little while when he tried on a vampire costume we have. He tried on a Power Ranger mask that seemed to go with it, too. 
The party was fun, but lacked the games that the years past had included for kids. They tried some of the bread and noodles from the chili cook-off, but then mostly just wandered around waiting for the candy. Once that started, the night was suddenly enjoyable for them again. They're looking forward to the real deal on Tuesday, too. 
In other news, Hakan's potty training has been going swimmingly, especially in the last few days. Most mornings he'll awake with a dry diaper, and he's had almost no accidents during the daytime. Two mornings ago, when the boys both got up before Kira or I, Carver took it upon himself to let us sleep a little longer and helped Hakan get out of his dry night diaper and use his little potty, then get into underwear. Kira and I were very impressed with his initiative and thoughtfulness. Perhaps this is a new trend that will spread through all of our children...

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Brains, Bladders, and Teeth, Oh My!

I forgot to mention last week just how brilliant our children are. Not that it was ever in question, but I have some objective evidence thereof. Avey took some assessment tests last year, the results of which we received this year. In her English literacy assessment, she scored 823/850, placing her in the "exceeded expectations" category of her school. She did the same in math, with a 793/850. To put that in perspective, only 3% of her school was in that category for literacy, and only 8% for math. We love her no matter how she performs at her tests, but it certainly is nice to know and not just believe that she is brilliant.
Hakan has reached an important milestone this week, as he has started potty training! This is an exciting and stressful time for us all as he learns to listen to his bodily cues. Because it's the middle of the semester, Kira is doing most of the supervising, so I can't take any credit for his success. He's been doing very well. He has had a few accidents, but as long as his head and heart are in it, he can fill the potty on command. He's even been dry a couple of mornings after waking! The trouble is keeping him motivated to do it. We used little treats as incentives, and Kira reads him books while he's sitting. He was excited to wear his new superhero underwear, and his favorite color underwear (orange), but now his accidents just mean that he gets to change to a new pair. That is, rather than being saddened by the accident, he may be choosing to see only the silver lining, as it were.

Kira even tried a sticker chart this morning, but Hakan did not seem to understand it, instead wishing only to stick a few stickers on the paper and then never see it again. We've made the subtle threat of having him revert to diapers, but he just acquiesces before we swallow our words. He's definitely proud of when he has success, so maybe the best move for us is to just focus on the positive reinforcement. 
On the more mundane side of things, I have been experiencing some slight dental pain for several weeks now. Most of the time I didn't even notice it, and it was never predictable when it would appear: sweets didn't trigger it, nor did hot or cold, and sucking air through my teeth didn't set it off. So, I ignored it mostly. Just in the last week or so it's gotten noticeably worse, even throbbing a bit at night while I'm trying desperately to catch a few winks prior to the children's disturbances. I finally decided to make an appointment, thankfully getting in that same morning. The diagnosis was not good. It looks like a very old filling on a very patched up tooth was to blame, and the one right next to it looked like it needed the same work. I had them both redone for a pretty penny, and then we were to wait to see if the pain went away to determine whether I needed just crowns or a root canal. 

Thankfully, I am pain free now, so it's looking like the crowns should suffice, but still, I half wonder if I should have just pulled them both out to save the cash. It's probably time to get on the dental plan with work, huh?

We've got another thrilling week of school and work and potty training. You can expect all of the gory details next week.

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


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!