29 December 2017

Christmas 2017

I want to capture a few moments from Christmas this year that I want to always remember (and share with my family who lives far from me).

We had our fourth-annual shepherds' meal the Monday before Christmas. We usually try to do it earlier in the month, but I ordered usable oil lamps from Greece, and I waited until they arrived before we had our dinner. I looked at ordering some from Amazon, but none of the ones I found were actually usable; they were just meant for decoration. Anyway, I love my lamps. LOVE. And we didn't set the house on fire, so it was a win.

Last year I bought Trixie an adorable Christmas dress from somebody for about $10. It still fit this year. Then my brother brought me all of his little girl's old clothes, and suddenly we had two more in her size. I had Trixie in one of those dresses at every opportunity. Getting a decent picture of her in the dress proved to be the challenge.

After church one day in the dress from last year:

Ward party in the green dress:

 After church on Christmas Eve in the other red dress:

Isn't Felicia adorable too? She only had the one red dress, but she wore it well. (Trixie wore it two years ago.)

My father-in-law retired this month, and when we went to his retirement lecture we happened upon some event going on in the same building where Santa was, so both boys got to see him very briefly. Ike is wising up to the Santa business, and thanks to watching Home Alone for the first time, he told me that he didn't see Santa, but he did see one of his helpers.

I am the [totally inadequate and underqualified] choir director in my ward. This year we usually had practices at our house. We had amazing turnout this year as we prepped for our Christmas Eve program. The Priests' Quorum (young men aged 16-18) were being bribed to attend, which meant I had way more basses than ever and I ended up begging my ward for sopranos to balance them out.

Trixie enjoyed having people over. She loves attention, and she loves to lead music. One day she brought her giraffe costume (best $10 I ever spent) downstairs and had somebody put it on her. Then she pushed me off my stool (I need it when I conduct in the chapel, and I like to practice on it so I don't fall off) and led the music herself. And even though I look horrific, here's a funny photo:

On Christmas Eve we went to Grandma Great's house for dinner. Eric's mom bought these adorable little nativity costumes a few years ago, so the kids stood around while we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Trixie was an adorable angel.

Santa brought Nerf guns and bullets for the little boys. They were confiscated for misuse (shooting at each other resulting in a welt on one little boy's neck) within a couple of hours. We've already had to set pretty strict limitations on what can be shot at (targets that are not living things). (Who would have guessed that weapons would lead to these kinds of problems?????) (Answer: Eric knew. He told the boys that Santa doesn't deal in arms, but I told the boys Santa would deal in arms if mom and dad said it was okay, and mom and dad said it was okay. FOOLISH. Last year Santa brought them light sabers. We really need to be more restrictive on what toys that man brings to our home.)

We bought Elise this little puppy that she can pull along by his leash. She adores it.

This past summer a friend gave Eric this 1868 edition of Harper's Weekly. I had it framed for him for his Christmas gift.

But his real gift was all these little soldiers, which he claims are for the boys. These are the same soldiers that Eric and his brothers grew up playing with. They are 1/72 scale soldiers from the Napoleonic wars. Eric spent hours making these buildings out of blocks, rock walls out of tiny rocks from our back yard, and little fences too. He also adapted the model trees he bought to stabilize them.

For Christmas day I made chicken biryani (an Indian dish that is very Christmasy because it has cloves, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon), and we took it to Eric's parents' house. (This has been our tradition for a few years now, and I love it.)

We opened a few gifts at Eric's parents' house and played all day. Eric's mom instituted a new tradition that she grew up with. She has a cookie jar full of pennies, and each child gets one turn to reach his hand in and grab as many pennies as he can. Then he gets to keep them. It was a hit.

Eric's uncle Robert was also there for Christmas day. He and Trixie have a special bond, and he has been very generous to us. He came back the day after Christmas to give Trixie another Christmas present.

Also, the day after Christmas, when we got Trixie out of bed she ran downstairs to see if there were more presents to open. She isn't quite old enough to understand Santa this year, but she definitely understood the concept of presents, and it was fun to watch her.

The rest of Christmas break has been full of cousin time. We have loved being together with very few obligations.

11 December 2017

Ike is Seven

Somebody praised me this past weekend for keeping up with my blog, and I thought, "Uh, if writing birthday posts qualifies as keeping up, then thanks." With that said, last year it took me a few months to write Ike's birthday post, and this time it's only taken a few days!

For his actual birthday we went to Chick-Fil-A (because I had a gift card). Then we drove around to see Christmas lights, particularly a couple of local houses that have lights that sync to music. The day after his birthday was my father-in-law's retirement lecture at BYU, so we went to hear him speak. Afterwards we had a big lunch, and everyone sang to Ike for his birthday.

Ike's middle name is FUN. (It's not actually, but maybe it should be.) He loves to play, especially with friends. Playing is what motivates him to get his work done. At seven years old, Ike has a handful of responsibilities around the house. He makes sure his laundry is where it goes (whether that be the dirty clothes basket or, if clean, then put away in the closet and drawers). He helps with the small rubbish bins around the house. He puts away the dishes he can reach, wipes down the table, and sets the table for meals. He puts his own toys away and does a lot of general helping as needed. Yesterday that involved holding a very tired and crying baby while I cleaned up the house and prepped it for the ward choir to come practice. He also practices piano, sometimes happily, but sometimes not. It depends a lot on what he is learning. Here we are playing a little duet we've been working on. (P.S. I love PianoMarvel. I haven't talked to you about it, it's probably because we don't talk often enough. It is a great program.) (When I try to link to the website, it just won't work, so we'll do this the old fashioned way: https://www.pianomarvel.com/).

When Ike isn't playing with friends, he likes to play with his brother. They have been taught in the ways of their father and enjoy setting up detailed battles with army guys. I'm sure they play other things too, but they are usually in the basement, and I don't really know what goes on down there.

Ike is a great student. He reads well, and his teacher praises him as the Eagle Scout of her classroom. We had Ike work on writing all summer long, much to his dismay. (I really didn't want him to regress in reading and writing over the summer. Reading, I think, is easy to keep up with, but not so much with writing. I don't think there are many reasons for a kid to sit down and write unless that kid really enjoys it.) When he started the school year his teacher said he had the best handwriting in the class.

Other highlights from the last year:

  • He finally lost a tooth! (And then a few more after that.)
  • Ike learned to tie his shoes. We had tried to motivate him, but ultimately it was his first grade teacher who provided the adequate motivation to get him to learn. (I don't even know what the motivation was, but it worked. Once he was ready to learn, he learned in about 10 minutes.)
  • He learned to swim. He's not spectacular, but sometime in the summer's swimming lessons things started to "click" for him.
  • He's a great hiker.
  • He is such a huge helper with his little sisters. He really loves them.
  • He started reading with inflection, and he doesn't sound like a robot anymore. (Again, thanks to his first grade teacher!)
  • We finished his soccer season in the spring, and now we're just taking a break from all extracurricular things.
  • We discovered he has a pretty bad horse allergy. It's a bummer.
I love my little boy, and stereotypical as it is, I can't believe how big he is getting. He is so full of excitement for life. He has a lot of questions and likes to ask me lots of "what if" questions. He still holds my hand when we go places, but I'm usually the one to initiate it.

And here are some pictures:

Spring soccer with a very pregnant mom coach:

Holding his newborn sister:

For our family reunion my father-in-law had the grandchildren memorize sections of "The Living Christ" and recite it. Here is Ike helping his little brother with his lines. (We had practiced both parts so much that Ike and Felix knew each other's parts, but I think Felix froze up for a second.) (Mom still remembers their parts too.)

From a hike to Stewart Falls:

The day after his birthday in the Skyroom restaurant:

01 December 2017

Felicia: Five Months

Oh how I love this little girl. She is a pretty mellow baby, especially after she's eaten. Except, not RIGHT after she's eaten. Immediately after she's eaten she seems to always be really sad that it's over.

She loves to grab her feet and is getting better at using her hands. She loves to hold onto my clothes or hair when I'm holding her. She also frequently reminds me of Ike because she balls up her fists and holds her hands to her chest, like Ike used to do.

Felicia still loves snuggles. If she is not being snuggled and we plop her on the floor, she immediately rolls to her belly. She is content on her belly for a bit, but inevitably she gets frustrated after a few minutes and cannot seem to remember anymore how to get off her belly. She has also learned to rotate while on her belly. I think there is a slight chance she'll be crawling within a month.

I posted a picture of Felicia on Instagram, and my brother created this side-by-side of his daughter at about 17 months. People frequently ask me who she looks like since she doesn't look like the other kids. She looks like me and my side of the family, as you can see!

This month I sleep-trained Felicia. The sleeping arrangements we had going on in our family were just ludicrous, and it was time to get her to sleep for more than an hour at a time in her own bed. We are all sleeping better now. Except naps. Her naps are still terrible.

05 November 2017

Felicia: Four Months

Last month I was all, "Oh, she's getting better at sleeping," but folks, this baby is terrible at sleeping. It's a good thing she is so happy and cute and loves to see me.

We blessed Felicia this month. I worked really hard on her dress, and it turned out beautiful. I am happy she will have it to pass on to her own posterity.

This little girl is really so sweet and happy, even if she doesn't like to sleep. She is rather smiley and talkative, and she loves attention and being held. Her siblings still really like her.

We re-used the same costume that Trixie wore, and Felicia was an adorable little pumpkin for Halloween. On the night of Halloween I wore her in the Ergo as our family went tromping around the neighborhood. She did great despite the night being rather chilly.

Felicia learned to roll from her back to her belly this month, but it is not yet something that comes easily to her. She is getting really close at being able to purposefully grab things. I think that will come this month.

Hopefully, also this month this baby will resume sleeping in chunks of time greater than two hours.

12 October 2017

Felicia: Three Months

Felicia is three months, and she is incredibly interactive. She is very smiley and chatty.

Her siblings love her, especially Trixie, who asks to hold her at least once a day. You can see that Felicia tolerates these brief moments of sisterly affection.

Felix knows that Felicia looks more like him than her other siblings, and he loves to talk about that. Sometime in the last month he asked me to take a picture of them together, and even though I don't think this picture of Felicia is very much like any of Felix's baby pictures, I thought the two of them look a lot alike here. Felix likes to interact with Felicia and usually precedes her name with the adjective "silly," because he says she makes funny faces.

We went on a hike to Stewart Falls sometime in the last month. I carried Felicia in the Ergo. On the way to the falls I carried her on my chest, and she did great. I fed her at the top, and then I put her on my back for the journey down. She was cranky toward the end, and when I took her off my back to feed her I realized she was a little cold. Next time we'll put socks on her feet and make sure we don't forget the hat.

Felicia is on the verge of rolling over from her back and is very wiggly. I often plop her in this little non-working swing in the kitchen, and now I have to strap her in it because she squirms her way up and out of it if I don't.

The bald spot in the back has stretched around from ear to ear because she has gotten better at sleeping in the last month. (But I fear that will end once she's rolling off her back. I'm pretty sure we'll have to stop swaddling her in the next month. It's not going to be fun.) Her eyes are brown, and I don't think they will change much anymore. She has an adorable little chin, and my mom says she looks a lot like I did as a baby.

She has discovered her fists for sucking, and it is adorable to watch.

I need to take more pictures of her with the actual camera instead of my very sub-par phone.

10 October 2017

Felix is Five

When the Primary sang to Felix a couple of weeks ago, the leader who announced birthdays said, "And you may not believe it, but Felix is going to be five!" Felix very quickly added, "Yeah, you can't believe it because I look like a three-year-old!" Most of his clothes are size 3T, some are still 2T. He still rides in a car seat and isn't even tall enough for a booster. He's just a scrawny guy.

In the last year, Felix got tubes in his ears, 

became a big brother again, and

finished three-year-old preschool and started four-year-old preschool.

Felix loves to be outside, and usually enjoys going on walks in the gardens and going on hikes. This summer while Eric was out of town, Felix frequently took it upon himself to go cut flowers for me and put them in vases (something Eric usually does). He loves hugs and kisses and is a very affectionate child.

He has a great sense of humor and has a terrific belly laugh. He also has a terrific temper and is working on learning to handle his emotions.

 Felix favorites:

  • color: golden
  • movie: Planes: Fire and Rescue
  • food: probably pizza
  • places: the dinosaur museum, the Bean Museum
  • music: I Am the Tiger (Eye of the Tiger); Lord of the Rings soundtrack; 1812 Overture; Slave March; New World Symphony; Gethsemane

Felix has become quite the social butterfly and constantly wants to play with friends. Although there are many kids his age on our street, he usually asks me if he can play with their older siblings. We frequently have conversations like this:

Felix: Can I play with Justin? [Age 8.]
Me: Don't you want to play with Paul? [Justin's four-year-old brother]
Felix: No, I want to play with Justin.

We do this with other sibling combos including: Ricky (6)/Ella (5); McKenzie (8)/Archie (4); Presley (6)/Bridger (5). I am working on getting him to accept the fact that he is not as old as he'd like to be. But I also understand where he's coming from. I always thought my older brother's friends were just awesome.

Right now, Felix starts many conversations with, "You know what? Guess what." He leaves no room between the question and the statement.

Sometimes he can be really helpful. I usually will not let him go play with friends without first doing some chores, so he'll approach me with, "Mom, what's my job?" When I give him a job, half the time he's okay with it, and about half the time he balks that it's too hard or he can't do it by himself.

With Ike in school all day now (instead of just half days like last year), Felix and Trixie have become better buddies. She still is not very good at playing with other kids, but Felix is becoming more patient with her and learning better how he can play with her without her ruining his schemes.

For Felix's birthday we grabbed a pizza and headed for a picnic near the dinosaur museum. On the way, Eric asked Felix what music he'd like to listen to, and he declared without hesitation, "New World Symphony." His one gift request was for a fidget spinner, and we obliged. When we had our family party for him, he chose rice and lentils for our meal.

One of our family traditions is to go to Cold Stone the Monday after a birthday to get ice cream (using a buy-one-get-one coupon). The birthday person gets to choose one flavor and mix-in, and Eric and I get to choose the other. The kids always want cotton candy ice cream, much to mine and Eric's dismay. This time Eric told Felix that he should try the green cotton candy ice cream (actually pistachio), and Felix said he preferred it to the blue. Eric can outsmart a five-year-old! Now, if only we could teach him that gummy bears are a terrible mix-in for ice cream.

05 September 2017

Trixie is Two

Well, Trixie made it to the two-year mark with no open-heart surgery, and with none in sight. We are so thrilled with our little miracle girl.

We celebrated her birthday with donuts on the actual day and a little family party a few days later. In the L family we sing a birthday song from an old radio show called Big John and Sparkie. (You can listen to it here, but you have to listen to about 30 seconds of the guy introducing it to you.) The song starts with, "Today is a birthday, I wonder for whom. I know it's for somebody who's right in this room. So look all around you for somebody who is happy and smiling, my goodness it's you!" It is so fun to sing this and avoid looking at the birthday child (especially if the child is very young), and then for the whole group to look at the child and point when the lyrics say, "my goodness, it's you!". Trixie was just so thrilled with this, both when we did it as our little family and when we did it with the bigger family.

Trixie is such a sweet and cuddly girl. She loves her baby sister so much, and it just thrills me to no end. She is still absolutely obsessed with animals. When we visited my brother to watch the eclipse a few weeks ago, she just constantly followed his beagle around trying to pet her, and possibly ride her. It's a good thing LaFawnduh is so patient.

Trixie has some speech delays, presumably because of the chronic ear infections she had from about September through February last year. (Yes, she still had chronic infections even after getting her tubes in December.) However, she is really making progress in the last few weeks, and I feel like we are on the verge of a breakthrough with her language development. I know that eventually she will be caught up with peers, and I'm not terribly worried about her in that regard. I'm just looking forward to being better able to figure out what the heck she wants.

Trixie continues to be my best eater. She loves most things and will try pretty much anything. She frequently eats as much food as her older brothers. She's not crazy about meat, but I think that's mostly a chewing issue.

If Trixie could spend her entire days outside wandering around, she absolutely would. Either that, or going to the nursery at church. She loves both of those things.

Trixie is an incredibly friendly and fearless child. She frequently goes up to perfect strangers at singing time at the library and sits in their laps, uninvited. She also likes to visit different families during church and cuddle with anyone who will hold her. It's like she's a neglected middle child or something.

A few other things Trixie loves:
  • Dancing to music
  • Listening to music
  • a few books including a book about dogs and a book about dinosaurs. She's not so keen on other books.
  • washing her hands
  • brushing her teeth
  • taking baths
  • putting lotion on
  • getting dressed
  • helping
Eric's parents gave her this little pony that sings and walks. As annoying as it is, it is so fun to watch how much Trixie enjoys it. She can't get enough of it.

We love her curly blonde hair and her light blue eyes. We love watching her close her eyes while we sing to her at bedtime. We love her little lamb-like run when she is excited or in a good mood. We love her chubby cheeks and willing smile. We love this little girl.

01 September 2017

Felicia: Two Months

The big news for Felicia this month: BABY SMILES. I love them. She isn't yet a super smiley baby, but she smiles here and there, and I can't get enough.

What color are here eyes? Nobody knows. Grayish, blueish, brownish. We'll just have to see.  You would think one of our kids would have brown eyes since Eric and I both have brown eyes, but none do so far.

I had a company party at the zoo. Eric was away at summer camp, so I took all four of my kids by myself because, FREE ADMISSION TO THE ZOO! Felicia didn't seem to notice we were anywhere special.

I'm crocheting a blessing dress for her. I don't know whose crazy idea this was (actually, yes, I do. It was mine). (Forgive my angry face. I just really stink at selfies. I'm always so focused on not wiggling the phone too much that I forget to look happy.)

Rise and shout, the Cougars are out! Felicia watched (read: slept through) her first BYU football game last weekend. She's not a serious fan yet, but I'm sure she will be. Trixie slept like this through her first BYU football game too. (Sorry for the blurriness. I just don't have a steady hand.)

And this was just yesterday while we hung out on the front porch as our big kids played outside. Felicia was looking so alert and curious.

Other things I want to remember about this past month:
  • I took all four kids to Jackson Hole to watch the eclipse. I had Ike sit next to Felicia, and he was great at sticking the pacifier in her mouth as needed. We only stopped once each way, and Felicia showed she can handle some road tripping.
  • Trixie is still absolutely in love with her baby sister. Right now Felicia has a hard time with it, but one day they'll be best friends, just like Ike and Felix are now. I really look forward to it.
  • Felicia has gotten much better at sleeping. We still have rough nights here and there, but she usually only wakes up once per night. Her morning nap is generally really good too.
  • I love wearing her. She sleeps so well when she's cuddled against me. I got an Ergo in the spring, and it is so much better than the other baby carriers I've had since it allows me to hold the baby's weight on my hips instead of just on my shoulders. I did love the K'Tan for Felicia's first few weeks, though. I wore Felicia to a Real Salt Lake game last Saturday, and she just slept the whole time.
  • Felicia has really long fingers and toes. I'm wondering if they will get more proportional to her body at some point, or if she's just going to keep them. At her doctor's appointment we learned she is in about the 70th percentile for height and about the 40th percentile for weight. Those proportions, along with her facial expressions, make me wonder if she'll be more like my side of the family than any of the others.
  • She still loves to be held, swaddled, and kept in motion. (Not necessarily all three at the same time.)
  • She already has a bald spot on the back of her head, and a headband rubbed some of her hair out recently too. So, this dark hair is not going to last much longer.