Sunday, May 28, 2017

Auntie Hannah

This week was full of fun and devoid of sleep. My sister visited for the celebration of Hakan's birthday, so we tried to maximize our time with her. We spent most of Monday acclimating to the change. The older three basically tackled her, with the two older boys fighting to monopolize her attention. She was patient and generous, even though she must have been exhausted from her early and long flight.
Watching the Outdoors
On Tuesday, she and Kira attended the LDS temple in the area. Traffic and travel kept them gone for several hours while I kept the kids from descending into complete anarchy, and then we enjoyed some of Chicago's finest stuffed pizza for our dinner.
Relaxing at the Conservatory
Wednesday became a bit of a down day while we adults tried to squeeze a movie in between the feeding flurries and hailstorms of poopy diapers. We watched Split, which left us all a little terrified and very much in awe of James McAvoy's skill as an actor.
Hannah and Hakan in the Rain
Thursday was where the real fun began, as we took Avey out of school a little early so that we could all check out the Garfield Park Conservatory. That was one of the biggest highlights of the week because, in addition to all of the nifty plants and the large pond the kids tested out, they had a dozen or so baby goats frolicking on the grounds. We spent a lot of our time there, feeding the adults (the young ones were a little too shy) leaves and grass through the fence. It was so much fun to watch them; Merritt seemed to think they were dogs, as he kept making his little barking noise while he tried to soak it all in.
He Did Not Want A Picture
Of course, Friday was Hakan's birthday! We got the boys all ready after Avey was gone for school, and headed off to the forest preserve we had most recently enjoyed. Hakan had been so heartbroken when we had to leave that time, and my sister wanted to check one out, so we thought it would be a great activity to go. Carver was very hesitant to go, and understandably after he cut his toe the last time. We made sure everybody had close-toed shoes this time, and everyone had a blast - we even saw a turtle out there in the wild!

After Hakan's nap and Avey's return from school, everyone but Kira and Merritt (napping) left for Hakan's favorite restaurant (McDonald's) for his birthday meal. We returned home to cake and gift opening. He loved everything.

Later in the evening there began a downpour of rain, so most of us went out to play in it. That was probably Hakan's favorite part of the day - splashing in big puddles, getting as wet as he wanted, all hand-in-hand with his Auntie.

Saturday we made a quick trip to the pet store. Avey really wanted to hold a snake, so we all took turns passing one around, and the worker told us all about what nice pets ball pythons are for kids (thanks a lot). Avey can't wait until Merritt is old enough that Kira will let her have a python, and she's excited to take care of a fish to prove that she is responsible enough. We'll open that chapter in another month or so.

My sister left that afternoon to everyone's dismay. We enjoyed having her around as a calming presence, an extra pair of hands, and as a fresh set of eyes for how cute our kids can be. Hakan no doubt misses the extra one-on-one time, but we're sure to see her again before too long.

This next week we're back to normal life, for better or worse.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

On Shoes and Shoos

We are all tentatively over our colds from weeks ago, though it seems that a few of us have some seasonal allergies that are keeping noses runny and such. Even though we can't complain, you can rest assured that most of us will. 

It felt like a trying week. We shuffled Tuesday around so that Kira and I could go to an appointment together, checking out a doctor nearby. It turned out to be a disappointment, but seemed to throw off the next couple of days too. Merritt has been getting up once each night in the middle of the night, so Kira and I are both even more tired than usual. I shouldn't complain, because I do not have the means to feed him at night (he still refuses a bottle), but I have some weird issue with getting back to sleep sometimes after interruption. We hope there are teeth or some other temporary thing to blame... 
I went into campus for probably the last time for the next few months. The psychology department is moving to another building, so I packed up my office before and after a meeting with a student. I'm a bit bummed because I had just moved offices a year ago, and very much liked this one. I don't know what I'll end up with in the new place, but I have a feeling it will be little more than a broom closet.
As if matching the mood in the home, the weather turned rainy and violently windy for a few days this week. That restricted the activity areas for the kids so that their most attractive game was often seeing who could drive Kira to madness more efficiently (it was a 3-way tie). I have been working from home in my basement "office" most days, so at least I'm nearby in case the screams get too out-of-hand.

I'm in a pretty good place before my online course starts in another week. I'm trying to take this whole next week off so that we can focus on enjoying my sister's company.

In preparation for her auntie's arrival, Avey cleaned her room. To our amazement and astonishment, she also cleared the fire hazard off of her desk; it's been buried under all manner of half-finished art projects, art supplies, knickknacks, and dead rodents (so I assume) for most of the time we've lived in this house. I suspect it has less to do with her appreciation of orderliness and more to do with now being able to use the desk as a home for her computer so that she can hole up in there and avoid her little brothers. Either way, we are just happy it's clean!
As children are wont to do, ours keep growing. It came to a head when we could not find any suitable summer footwear for Merritt, and Hakan's usual gear became uncomfortably tight. We were faced with the tough decision to either sand down their feet to a more workable size, or purchase shoes that would accommodate their growth. After some lengthy debate, I relented and we chose the latter option.

Avey also needed some shoes for various settings, so we took the whole family to the shoe store. One might think that we had learned what a bad idea that is by now, but one would be mistaken. We split up the fittings, but needed at least 4 other adults to keep occupied the kids not immediately trying on shoes. The boys were all tired, so naturally resorted to pushing each others' buttons just short of the point where felony charges could be filed. Suffice it to say that we eventually departed the store both with shoes and what little of our dignity remained.

My sister arrives tomorrow, so we are all scrambling around trying to make the house look like a place capable of sustaining human life. We're so excited to have her here!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


A very happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there! But really, it is a happier day for us children who are fortunate enough to have such wonderful people in our lives. 

We had a slightly less hectic week now that the semester is over. I was able to help get kids fed and clothed most days before heading to "work" in the basement. I am doing my first ever online course this summer, so I am working on recording narrated lectures and working out all of the tricks with the online settings so that by the first day of class it will just run on its own and I'll check in to do a little grading throughout the summer. 
We spent yesterday afternoon filling our flower pots with some lovely flowers. Each of us has our own pot to deck out (Merritt and I are sharing one), so we all went to the flower store and chose some that caught our fancy, then we tried very hard to keep Merritt from destroying our work as we planted them.
He got a few bites of the soil, but we kept him away from the flowers pretty well. Hopefully he will let them live for a little while.
Hakan had a few funny moments this week. At one meal, he was starting to explain something to me that he had seen in a movie or something - I never actually found out. As he was trying to explain it, he seemed to lose his train of thought, so he stopped and sighed, then asked me, "Dad, what am I talking about?"

Last night, the kids and I were sitting on the couch and got talking about graduate school for some reason. I mentioned that I had done 6 years of graduate school, and then the older two and I talked about what it was like. Hakan decided that he would pipe in, and offered, "I got a banana from the store!" Avey and I couldn't stop laughing for a while after that one.

Avey has decided that she will buy a large snake when she's 12 (we won't let her get one until Merritt is a little older). I bet that she'll be more interested in boys and friends by then, but keep your fingers crossed.

Merritt is a real chatterbox lately, often babbling as if he's actually saying something. He still spends most of his time trying to get into areas and things that are off limits, including the bathroom, this computer, and any electrical outlets in the house.

Hakan is working on being patient with his younger sibling. He has almost no tolerance for the little guy. Luckily, he's safe as long as he does not directly threaten any toy that Hakan is using, or violate his personal space.

Carver is getting used to his glasses quickly, and so are we. He and Avey are getting along better most days, sometimes excluding Hakan from their games (but he's been such a pill that it's kind of his fault). He's excited for when it's warm enough to splash around in the water outside.

Avey's counting down the days until she's out of school, and we are all counting down the days until my sister comes to visit. In the meantime, we are all enjoying our gorgeous weather!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Smoke and Lenses

Plenty is going on here at the Ricks household. I finished the semester, so now have to simply upload all of the grades and I can start worrying about other things. I attended commencement on Friday, which was rather strange. It was nice to see so many of my students walk across the stage, sad to lose so much of my morning for the ceremony, and strange to have so many people on the streets of Chicago congratulate me because I was in the robes. I wasn't sure what to say, as I was not graduating, so I just smiled and thanked them. I suppose I should be flattered that I can still pass as a graduate student. 

Both Avey and Carver got their glasses this week. Avey's are a slightly different shape from her old ones, with more purple. She got transition lenses, so is learning how to deal with the dark lenses for a few minutes after coming inside. 

Carver has been excited to show his glasses off. He looks about 5 years older now that he's got them.
We had a bit of a scare on Friday. I was working from the local library while Kira was home with the two youngest boys. She noticed a strange smell, like something was burning. She did not find any smoke, or any obvious source, but the smell was still there. She told the landlady and me about it, so we tried to figure out what to do, and the landlady just called the non-emergency number for the fire department. They brought out a truck and everything, arriving just before Kira got home from picking Carver up from preschool. They found no traces of natural gas or carbon monoxide, but we did some troubleshooting and could not get the furnace to turn on. We figured something had shorted out with the thermostat or the furnace. The HVAC guy came and, sure enough, something on the circuit board for the furnace had shorted and melted. He got it fixed that day, but the smell lingered for about another 24 hours. We're glad it didn't turn out to be something worse!
We enjoyed Avey's last concert of the school year this week. We took the whole family, which may have been a mistake because Carver started melting down as soon as we left for home. Avey did a great job, and because the concert was on May the Fourth, Star Wars Day, their first song was the "Imperial March" from the movies, and they had the lights low and red or blue glow sticks attached to their bows to imitate light sabers. The conductors used green and red light sabers as their batons, too.

I'd had a bee in my bonnet for some time now to convert the boys' beds into bunk beds. It would simultaneously free up space in their room to move some of the toys from our living area to their den, give them something novel to enjoy, and get them used to the sleeping arrangement in case Merritt is ready move into their room with them in the next several months. So, I made the transition yesterday. It's worked out well so far, but I'm a little nervous that they will try jumping from the top bunk soon.

Kira and I went on a rare date last night, thanks to a generous neighbor who volunteered her time to babysit. We chose to check out a shooting range nearby. It's an indoor range, which neither of us had ever tried, but we had a grand time.

Avey is counting down the days until she's out of school, and we are all counting down the days until my sister comes to visit!