Saturday, June 30, 2007

One Month Birthday!

I don't really know how to calculate Darcey's birthday since she was born on the 31st but there's only 30 days in the month... so I think today is close enough. To celebrate, I took her to Kiddie Kandids and had some professional pictures taken. And boy is she cute!! Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Car Repair Non-Saga, Part Two

The score is Dad, 1 - Brent Brown Toyota, 0.

When we last left the poor, limping minivan, the driver side sliding door was not closing all the way and the dealership told me it was going to require replacing the entire door. The screws that hold the latch assembly to the door had broken through the metal and apparently it was un-fixable. The dealership told me to go to its affiliated auto body shop.

I consulted with my dad, who was convinced, even though the broken piece in question was many thousands of miles away, that the problem was the screws and that it would not be such a big deal after all. At the risk of boosting my dad's ego to the point where he is now sure that he can fix anything that ever breaks, he was right.

I took my dad's advice and went to a different auto body shop, ostensibly to get an estimate, and then I was going to go to the dealer recommended place. Zack, Darcey, and I piled in the car and unloaded at the auto body shop. I explained to the receptionist what was wrong and she sent someone out to look at the van. About 4 minutes later, the repairman came back and said that he knew what the problem was and that he would be done with it in a minute.

I accompanied him out to look at the van and he said, "Your problem is, you're missing a screw." (If he had said, You've got a screw loose, I wouldn't have disagreed.) I have the screw, I told him, because I was there when it fell out and hit the garage floor. He pops that screw in, and then points to the other two screws. He tells me that they have broken through the metal, and that he was going to get a washer larger than the new hole and that should solve the whole thing. I was still a little skeptical, but smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

A minute later, he screws the last screw back in, and slams the door shut. Shut. As in all the way closed. I could barely believe it! It was fixed! I gushed my thanks to this man, and said, "The dealership told me that I would need a whole new door!" He said that eventually I will, as the metal around the washer was weaker and would eventually give way, but in the meantime I had saved over a thousand dollars.

So the "saga" is over, I have a fixed car door and a new auto body shop if I ever need one. And it was all so much less painful than I expected it to be. But lest you fear, I did have some painful moments:

1. Darcey cried the whole way home.
2. The waiting room at the shop didn't have air conditioning.
3. Zack didn't want to sit in his car seat and needed some strong-arming.
And worst of all:
4. My tape adapter for listening to the ipod in the car broke, and I had to listen to the RADIO like some MERE MORTAL! A mere mortal who doesn't particularly care to hear old Tears for Fears songs! And who had to listen, instead, to Zack asking to hear the song "Bad Day" which of course we couldn't because the thing is broken, but he doesn't get that and instead says, over and over, "Please!" "Please!" "Please!" And if that's not a saga, I don't know what is.

Oh, and for the record, I did learn some things from the whole experience:

1. My dad is, in fact, the right person to ask about fixing things. Now if only he would move to the same continent so that he could actually fix the things he diagnoses.
2. Don't necessarily trust the dealership to look out for your best interests financially. (I probably knew that one already.)
3. Keep a back-up tape adapter for my ipod in the glove compartment. Because there's nothing worse than being without an ipod. It's almost worse than being without a closing car door. No, it is actually worse, because I'll go out today and buy a new adapter, but I let the door problem fester for two weeks.
4. If I blow some minor problem out of proportion, I can get not one, but TWO whole blog entries about it!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Well, That Explains It

I happened across what is probably my new favorite news article on the internet the other day, and since the rest of my family apparently is too embarrassed to mention it, I figured it is my duty to bring it up. The title of the article is "Firstborns found to have higher intelligence." As if that wasn't completely obvious! You can read the whole article here:,0,4178426.story?coll=la-home-center

But if you of lower IQ don't want to read such a lengthy article, let me sum it up for you. I'll use small words so you won't get lost.

Apparently, firstborns have a higher IQ than the 2nd born by like 2 points, and 3 points more than the third. If you think 2 or 3 points isn't that many, well, I would compare those points to, say, the Richter scale, where the difference between a 5.0 earthquake and a 6.0 earthquake is exponential. (Sorry, is that word too much for you? Let's just say it's really really a lot smarter.)

The article says that firstborns tend to get more Nobel prizes, get more National Merit Scholarships, have higher SAT scores, and their parents love them more. Well, that last part was just implied - it really says that the smarter first child is a result of more parental attention, more responsibility given to that child, and higher expectations. You see, my parents just pushed me to excel while you boys, sadly, were left to sit in your playpens for hours at a time, watching tv and drooling, and while I worked on my preschool SAT prep class. (You know I did take the SAT in 8th grade, right?)

It all makes me wonder if my 2nd brother joined Mensa just to prove something, kind of a compensatory thing? Although, looking at it in this new light of my superior brains, it must mean that if he can get into Mensa, I'm probably destined for some kind of Uber-Mensa, just for firstborns, where we can sit and chat about our poor, sad, younger siblings, and how we're going to have to support them at some point when society gives up on them. I'm going to have to look that group up.

Speaking of Brothers

My youngest brother, Tim, has arrived this week and has taken up residence in the room formerly known as my craft room. My kids have instantly taken to him, seeming to prefer him over their actual parents, which I don't blame them for, because Tim never yells at them and only rarely has to tell them to stop doing something (and it's usually, stop jumping on me, or something like that). They love him, and he seems to enjoy them too, maybe it's the unfettered adoration or maybe he does really like Legos and lightsabers.

Whatever it is, I'm totally impressed with the kid, because he seems to have endless patience for my kids and they are basking in his attention. So I've determined that the Burnout Clock is beginning it's countdown. I give him about 2 more weeks before the kids are just getting on his nerves, when he starts locking his door and pretending not to hear them ask where Tim is. When he starts hanging out at the mall or the grocery store or anywhere, just to get some peace and quiet and get the heck out of this madhouse. I won't blame him when it happens, though - there are many days that door locking or mall escaping sound really good to me too.

Tim made a funny comment yesterday, which should serve as a good reflection on what life is really like here by an impartial third party. We eat off of plastic plates and with plastic cups because, well, we're not stupid (see previous section - Ryan's a firstborn too). Saturday is our whole house clean up day, where everyone pitches in and we clean the bathrooms and the floors and end up with a clean house. It never lasts the whole day, and by the evening the kitchen was pretty trashed, with stuff on the counters and a sink full of dishes. Tim, in his eternal optimism, comments that the sink sure is colorful! You know, with the orange, blue, and red plastic plates and cups, and the gold and white of the cereal and milk fermenting in bowls, it makes for a rainbow of color. I'm glad that he can look at it that way. As a reward for having such a good attitude, I made him do the dishes. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mud Slinging

I made a simple, naive mistake today: assuming that buying a baby product online would be a quick and painless operation. Instead, with a click of the mouse a giant crevasse opened in front of me and I fell into a whole new world. The world of Baby-Wearing.

While planning our upcoming trip to Malaysia (in about 5 weeks), I decided that I wanted the convenience of some kind of baby carrier, like a backpack or frontpack type. As a preppy person, my first thought is Baby Bjorn, the upscale baby carrier that is theoretically quite comfortable and because of the European name, ridiculously expensive, which is why it is both preppy and desirable. What can I say, I like Europe! I couldn't justify buying one with my earlier kids, so with Brad I bought a cheap knock-off that I never really liked, convinced that a Baby Bjorn would have solved all of my complaints.

Well, a Baby Bjorn is a possibility now, but they are bulky and look really hot, and since we are going to a place that experiences daily temperatures that are similar to that found on Mercury, plus the humidity of, say, Maryland, I wanted something slightly cooler. When Darcey was about a week old I took a trip to Costco (where they graciously did NOT mark her hand with a Sharpie) and saw this man wearing a piece of fabric criss-crossed over his chest. Weird. Until I looked closer and saw a tiny little baby head peeking out of the top of the fabric. It was a baby carrier! And the coolest one I ever did see!

I couldn't get up the guts to go over to the stranger and ask him where he had gotten the carrier. To be honest, if it had been a woman, I don't think I would have hesitated for more than a minute. But he was wearing it, and his wife was there with him, and I couldn't decide if I would ask the current user of the item or the obvious purchaser of the item. So I let the opportunity pass by, but now that I'm ready to buy, I wish I had.

Which leads me to my internet search today. I thought the most appropriate term for what that guy was wearing would be "Giant Piece of Fabric With a Baby Inside" but I figured that, while perfectly descriptive, it probably wasn't a very catchy name for a retail product. So I searched for "fabric sling" and got replacement seats for lawn chairs. Nope, but "fabric sling baby" got me what I was looking for. More than what I was looking for, as a matter of fact.

I didn't realize that how a person carried their infant was such a big deal, but big deal it is. It is a Movement, actually, called Baby Wearing. As if your baby is an accessory, available in a variety of styles, one for any occasion. No, no, that's not what they mean by it. It is a theory that instead of carting your baby around in, say, an impersonal stroller or whatnot, the baby should be carried, and to make it easier, don't you know, there's plenty of products you can buy to aid you in your baby-carrying quest. And that's when my head exploded.

There are, and I am not exaggerating here, over 800 different products made by a host of manufacturers, all designed to hold babies. They boil down to 14 different categories of carrier, depending on whether you want a padded or unpadded ring sling, a short, stretchy, or woven wrap (the wrap was what the Costco dad was wearing), a pouch (adjustable or otherwise) or maybe you'd go with an Asian-inspired carrier, like the Mei Tai (isn't that a drink?) or a Hmong (I'm pretty sure that's an indigenous people somewhere). The ones that throw me are the Onbuhimos or the Podaegis, which I can't even pronounce. And as a bonus, there are patterns, so us homemakers can make our own Hmongs if we want.

Where was I, all of these years, that I didn't know that this kind of baby-carrying micro-management existed? How could an entire movement go unnoticed, especially in child happy Utah, where giving birth is considered a hobby for some? I must have been living under a non-baby-carrying rock.

I'm tempted by the Mei Tai, especially the one made out of a special fabric that has UVA/UVB protection, which is basically a big square pocket that you drop your baby into, with straps to wear on your shoulder. But then again, the wrap looks so versatile, with options to wear your baby facing forward or backward, on your back or your front or your hip. They make them out of gauze and other lightweight fabrics which shouldn't be too hot in Malaysia. I go to a website that is highly recommended for wraps, and start browsing fabrics. Some of them are beautiful.

Wait a second, though, what's that price tag say? $75??? For a Giant Piece of Fabric With a Baby Inside? That I can't even guarantee that I'll be able to tie without my baby falling out? I think I might go buy a Giant Piece of Fabric and see if I can figure something out before I drop $75 on this. Otherwise, maybe that Baby Bjorn isn't looking so bad after all.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Car Repair Saga, Part One

The Gods of Irony are chuckling right now. Maybe a little more than a chuckle, as a matter of fact, it could be more in the range of chortles, cackles, or even guffaws.

This is our only car. We are about $600 away from paying it off. The warranty expired in March. And now we've got a van with a sliding door that won't shut. It reminds me of the movie Hot Shots (or was it Hot Shots Part Deux?) where Cary Elwes's character is about to fly on some dangerous mission and he breaks a mirror, walks under a ladder, has a black cat cross his path, and tells his wife that he'll sign the life insurance papers after he gets back - you know what's bound to happen to that guy. It's the same with our van - we were just asking for trouble.

I walked into the garage on Saturday evening, intending to go grocery shopping, but when I close the sliding door, it won't catch all the way. It almost bounces back open, but not quite - it's like it is half shut, not all the way shut but not going to open either. Huh, that's strange, I think, as I open the door and slam it shut again. Nope, no dice, so I do it again, this time with one hand on the handle and the other hand on the back end of the door that doesn't seem to be catching. As I slam the door, I give it an extra push from the back. No again. I repeat this with varied intensity, stopping every so often to examine the track, the closing mechanism, etc, trying to see if the problem is obvious (a binkie stuck in the track or something). I don't see the problem so I slam the door again. And then that heart-wrenching sound -


Yes, that is the sound of metal hitting the concrete garage floor. And, incidentally, the sound of the last two pennies in the empty vault after we pay for whatever I just broke.

I found a screw on the floor near the back end of the van door, you know, that place I've been pushing with all my might as I've slammed the door. Now that my Sherlock Holmesian detective skills have uncovered the offending part, I decide to investigate further. Ah, yes, now I can see the empty hole where a screw used to be, right there where the latch on the door is. Oh and what have we here, the other two screws that are still intact are, in fact, so jammed into the metal of the door that the metal around the screws has broken away! And behold! The delightful reverse-dent on the front of the door, a pimple if you will, where the entire assembly is starting to push through the door and break free into the world!

Put all of the clues together and what have we got? Elementary, my dear Watson! We have a perfectly good door with a broken latch that has been pulverized into near oblivion by two licensed drivers with no idea of their brute strength!

So I took the car to the Toyota dealership with the vain hope that the effortless repairs and rental car service that they touted when the van was sold to us would still hold true now that the car was out of warranty. After an hour wait and not a little bit of mocking by the repairman who I explained my problem to (ah, to live in his world, where car doors always close) it was explained to me that this is not a problem that they are able to fix and that I would need to take the car to an auto body shop. The dealership just happens to have an auto body shop in Orem, and would I like the information for that location? No, says I, we've been there before. You know, for that time we took a hammer to the windshield just for fun. (Honestly, if your door ever doesn't close all the way, Mr. Smug Repairman, you'll give it a little extra nudge too.)

By this time it was 10 a.m., and I had left Ryan at home with Brad and Zack, so I headed home to relieve him and send him off to work. The trip to the auto body shop will have to wait until Wednesday. That's how long it's going to take for me to stop feeling sick about the fact that, most likely, the entire door is going to need to be replaced. I guess that $600 payoff for the van can wait a little bit longer.

If you can handle the pain of car repairs, stay tuned for the Car Repair Saga, Part Two. I don't know if I'll be able to handle it myself...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

An Apple A Day

If you ever are faced with a choice between laying down in the street and letting your husband drive over you with a minivan or taking 4 children to a doctor's appointment, go for the van. It can't possibly be as painful as our trip to the doctor was today.

I don't know which is the cause and which is the effect: Did my day go so badly because I started with a nightmarish trip to the doctor, or did the nightmarish trip cause me to be in a foul mood the whole rest of the day? I'm not sure which came first, but this is the worst day I've had since Darcey was born.

I'm pooped. Darcey's a good sleeper, but I'm still not getting quite enough. And even with the generous sleeping-in that Ryan is allowing me, I'm just beat. You can tell my good days from my bad ones by my expiration time. On a bad day, a switch flips in my brain at about 4:30 p.m. and I start yelling about anything that people could possibly do to offend me. On a good day, I hold it off until 5:30.

Today I could barely force myself out of bed by 9:15 to feed Darcey and dress myself before leaving for her 10 a.m. appointment. Ryan corralled the other kids into clothes and shoes and dealt with the inevitable whining and complaining from Noah in particular about having to go. Brad would have joined him, but Ryan offered to tape the tv show he was going to miss during the appointment, and he had no more complaints. ("Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman" is the tv show of such great importance. Which was repeated today at 4:30.)

The office is all of 5 minutes from our house, if that long, so naturally we were late. Being rushed always makes kids do things slower, kind of like when you're leaving a parking spot at the mall a week before Christmas and the vulture is there waiting for your spot, holding up an entire lane of traffic behind him - always makes me take just a tiny bit longer to make sure my packages are stowed just so and darn if doesn't take an extra few seconds to get my stroller folded down. So if I've earned bad karma from making the parking lot vultures wait, it's coming back to get me via my children who take extra time gathering all of their special toys and buckling their seat belts when I'm in a rush.

As far as waiting rooms go, this one is pretty roomy, with seats for about 40 people and lots of open space. Off to one side is a short kids table and chairs. In this massive room there are 4 other patients waiting to be seen. I go to the reception desk and start to fill out new patient paperwork for Darcey while the other kids go to the kids table. They are quiet, and it takes me a minute to look over and realize that Noah and Zack are running around the table instead of sitting at it. But they aren't near a single other person, and they are virtually silent, so I'm grateful. Until a lady behind the desk says, "Boys, you need to sit down now and I'll turn on the tv for you."

The hackles raise, venom fills my mouth as I try to hold back a snarl. If anyone has the right to reprimand my kids for something inconsequential, it's me. I've earned that right. You, lady, will have them out of your hair in about 2 minutes, I have to take them home with me! I busy myself with signing the "I promise not to sue you if you damage my child" waiver I've been handed and try not to glare at my new foe.

We don't wait long until we are called into the exam room, which I can see is going to be a problem the second we walk in. Four of us, two chairs. Plus the doctor's special spinning chair with wheels. This is when it hits me that I really, really should have thought ahead and arranged for someone to watch at least half of my children. I knew this was going to be bad.

And it was. I let Zack and Noah sit on the chairs while Brad and I stood. The nurse checked Darcey's head circumference (35 cm - 25th percentile), length (21 inches - 73rd percentile) and we left the room to have her weighed (8 lbs 4 oz - 50th percentile and a whole pound heavier). When I got back into the room, Noah and Zack were fighting over the spinning chair and Brad was sitting in a regular chair. Their yelling got kind of loud as I told them both that neither of them could have the chair, and the nurse came back to close the door. I wanted to crawl under the chair from embarrassment, but unfortunately the under-the-chair space was now occupied with Noah and Zack, where the bickering hasn't stopped. Now they are fighting over a double-decker bus toy that Brad brought. When I stop that, the whining for fruit snacks starts. No, no fruit snacks. I realize I've got my ipod and I ask who wants to watch Night at the Museum. All three do, but Brad bows out when he realizes he's going to have to share with both of the others. So he gets kicked out of the chair, Noah and Zack sit and I hand them the ipod and earbuds (one ear per kid) as the doctor walks in.

As if it wasn't crowded before, I climb off the table where I had been sitting and move over against the wall. We chat for a few minutes while the kids behave with some decorum. Temporarily, of course. The doctor had to ask Zack to get off of his chair so that he could sit at the computer. (What the heck, am I just shirking my parental responsibility today? No, I think of it as choosing my battles.) Within a few minutes, the doctor was done and the nurse was on her way back in to take some blood. As soon as the doctor left the room, the whining started again. Now I'm holding a crying baby while the nurse squeezes about a pint of blood from Darcey's heel and trying to get Zack to put the gel-filled wrist rest back on the keyboard tray and telling Noah that yes, we'll leave in a few minutes, and no, I don't know how long a few is, just whenever we're done.

Even leaving is fraught with complications as Zack takes off and I'm yelling at him not to go into the parking lot and Brad is chasing after him. He catches Zack, and we switch so that Brad carries Darcey's car seat to the van while I drag Zack over and buckle him in while he cries about the binky and blankie that I forgot to bring.

All of this takes but 45 minutes. It felt like eternity. Or at least I thought so at the time. Now that I'm looking at it from the vantage point of the end of the day, those first 45 minutes of whining, complaining, arguing, teasing, yelling, and crying were but a prelude to the rest of the day. It seems as though all of the kids' friends knew the kind of mood the boys were in and decided to stay away, which meant that I had an entire day of mopey kids that had, and I quote, "nothing to doooo" (you have to read that with a whine in your voice, you know, kind of going up and down). At one point I made them turn off the television for a whole, entire hour, which is tantamount to asking them to not breathe for an hour (although that's quieter...) and they actually ended up playing Legos together.

Whenever I tell Ryan that I don't know what to write about, he always says, "Write about what a great husband I am!" (To which I reply, "But it needs to be longer than three sentences!") Anyhow, Ryan came home and saved the day. After a dinner of frozen pizza (which Brad balked at because he doesn't care for that brand of pizza) Ryan took all three boys to see the movie "Surf's Up" and left me home with just the baby and a quiet house. I did some dishes, watched some tv, swept the Maryland category on Jeopardy and kicked all the 5th-graders butts to prove that I am smarter than them, and all around mellowed out. By the time they got home, happy and talking about the movie, I was able to actually be glad to see them again! And Brad's sulking over having to miss his PBS show tonight in order to take a bath was almost ignorable.

So now it's 9 p.m. and Ryan is holding Darcey, the other three boys went to bed without a fuss, and the house is calm and quiet. It was rough while I was dealing with it, but somehow at the end of the day, when it's all over, it doesn't seem as bad as all that. I guess I'd forgo the minivan treatment after all. (But I'm still not taking 4 kids to the doctor's office ever, ever again.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Good News and Bad News

I just finished rereading (or re-listening) to the vampire novels I mentioned a month or two ago - Twilight and New Moon. It is a rare audiobook that I can actually listen to more than once, mainly because I'm a pretty fast reader, and audiobooks are such a time commitment in comparison that I'm usually bored within an hour. The exceptions so far have been the Harry Potter series and the Wheel of Time novels, both of which deserve a reread/listen when a new book comes out.

So the fact that I'm rereading these vampire novels, and only two months after I first read them, is a sign of just how enjoyable they are. The plots are decent, but the real draw is the characters - just like in Harry Potter, you feel like you know them personally. I polished off the second book - New Moon - on Saturday, and afterwards didn't want to jump right into another book, I just wanted to savor the one I had just finished. Does that sound weird? I wished that there was more to read, more adventures and awkward situations to see these characters in. And I didn't want to leave them behind while I started a new book. So I listened to music on my ipod, a rare occurrence, and spent the weekend enjoying Edward and Bella and reminiscing about their books.

I was in Wal-Mart on Saturday thinking about this topic, when I realized just how cool it is that someone could create something that sticks with you so long after you've finished it. I love my reality shows, certainly, but I couldn't tell you the names of the people who won the Amazing Race last year, or any of the Apprentices after the first one. They are entertaining, surely, and fun while it lasts, but tv shows rarely have the staying power that good books have.

And the emotion that a book can dredge up, it's amazing! I don't tend to watch many scary movies, because they tend to be more gory than truly suspenseful, but I could list a pile of books that kept me awake at night. Just last night I was reminded of the book "The Prestige" which was many, many hours of mediocrity followed up by 5 minutes of PURE TERROR!! Just remembering the scary part of this book that I haven't read in months scared me enough last night to have to listen to something calming to distract myself!

So there I was, in the baby section at Wal-Mart, when I had an epiphany. I want to be able to write something like that! I want to be able to write something meaningful, that stays with people, that strangers would read and find some enjoyment, or meaning, or emotion. Something that moves people. I've learned, over the last few months, that I really like writing this blog. Ryan is going to chime in here with a big, fat, I-told-you-so, because he had been encouraging me to try writing for years. Yes, yes, you are a prescient genius, remind me to call your 1-900-PSY-CHIC line the next time I'm buying lottery tickets.

I don't know if it is purely the ego boost that I get when someone tells me that I said something funny in my blog that makes this so much fun, or the emotional release to be able to whine about life to someone other than my husband. Maybe it's giving proof to how challenging life can be as a mother that makes me feel better about those challenges. Whatever the reason, I get a huge kick out of writing this blog, and I realized this weekend that I'd love to learn about how to be a good writer.

College so far has been no help in this matter. If I was writing a research paper, then yes, they've taught me well. I can write the heck out of a research paper. I totally kick research papers' butts! I'd post them for you, except that I doubt even the professors that assigned me all of those papers were really all that interested in what I had to say about gasoline taxes, euthanasia, or the problem of evil, just some of the topics I've had to write about recently.

Community development classes are of little use either. They do offer a creative writing class, but it is taught by Anita Stansfield, a local celebrity and best-selling author of LDS romance novels. I mentioned her books in an earlier post, she's the author who had a bale of hay fall on a main character, paralyzing him from the waist down. The cheese factor there was so high that it was the last time I read any of her books, which even before the hay bale incident were only good enough for time killing anyhow. It was that book that made Ryan first tell me that if she could write that drivel and get published, surely I could do better. So while I might owe her something, I don't think she's necessarily the person I want to learn the art of novel writing from.

Back to college, then, to see if they can teach me something other than the difference between footnotes vs. endnotes, or MLA vs. APA citations. And bingo! The perfect class - Creative and Imaginative Writing! I have long said that I have very little imagination or creativity, so here's the class that promises to bring all of that latent imagination right out! And here's the good news - the class actually meets a humanities requirement that I need for my ever-elusive Associates degree. I'm 10 classes away from my A.S. degree, and that's after going to school for the past 3 years. I'm looking at 6 years total to get my 2-year degree, so I don't have a lot of time to be fooling around with classes that don't count. (Although I suppose you could say that if it's already going to take forever, what's an extra year or two?)

But here's the bad news - the class is only offered during the day, Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 1-1:50. Goodness gracious, could they make a class any more inconvenient for a non-traditional student? Maybe we could meet every day for 15 minutes at a time? I recognize that I'm not necessarily their target student, but give a girl a hand here, please. I have the same problem trying to take required science classes - the only evening classes are meteorology or astronomy, two of the least interesting topics imaginable. (Oh, and Oceanography is available online.)

So now I'm trying to decide if this is something I could learn on my own from a book or if I should try to figure out a baby-sitting situation for Zack and Darcey for 6 hours a week. Unless I can somehow convince Ryan to start taking 2 hour lunch breaks every other day, my guess is that I'm going to have to go another route to learn this subject. Learning from a book isn't all that hard - it is basically what taking an online class is, except there's a teacher to give you feedback. And since books got me into this mess in the first place, a good writing book might be just the right answer.

All right, here's your reward for making it through another post. Yesterday was Darcey's church debut, and man, was she something! Our ward has not had a baby born in almost 2 years, so I had people practically yanking her out of my hands! She got passed around the pews, and when she sneezed during the Sacrament, when it was all nice and quiet in the room, I think 4 rows of people turned to look.

When Zack saw her in her dress and headband, his first reaction was to gasp and say, "A princess!!" I think the headband equalled a crown in his mind. He repeated the comment later that night when I was taking her picture. Out of the mouth of babes ... I kind of think she looks like a princess, too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Pile of Blessings

So, as you might recall, every so often I might say something slightly negative about my kids. And by "every so often" I mean at least twice in each post, and by "slightly negative" I mean really, really negative. Just so we're clear on the history of our family.

Ryan and I were apprehensive about adding another kid to our family. Most of the time I feel like I'm hanging on to sanity by my fingernails, which, granted, are pretty strong as my brothers could attest, but still, a tenuous hold on life and order. The last couple of months things seem like they are shifting, though, as the boys get older and we can do things like go out to eat without me having to stand outside with one or more crying children. Noah has been a little more mellow, or maybe he's crazy a little less often. We've kind of gotten the eating-timing thing under control, for the most part. Brad and Zack are both aiming for more independence than they can really handle at this point, but we're working on a compromise there too. So things have been looking up.

Enter Child #4. What was that going to do to the delicate balance of the Simmons family ecosystem? Was she going to enter our lives like Hurricane Darcey and destroy our below-sea-level city? Were we going to behave like ineffective government officials, trying to corral our children into the Superdome of Poor Parenting? Was this going to be the straw that broke the levee's back?

Turns out, no. This new child has been like a soothing tropical breeze, which does little more than stir the umbrella stuck in your exotic coconut-cup drink. She has been a very easy baby so far. She cries only when there's a problem. She sleeps for 3 hours at a time sometimes, occasionally even more. (Not at night, though, which is unsurprising.) I could spend hours just looking at her, which I've done quite a bit of over the last few days. When she wakes up, she cries, but sometimes when I pick her up, being held is enough to put her back to sleep, so I can hold her and cuddle her and smell her Johnson's Baby Wash skin.

And the boys, they love her too. All three of them ask to hold her, and at Day 6, the fact that they still are interested is a feat. Last night we gave Darcey her first bath (mostly to refresh the Johnson's smell) and she cried when I got her out of the tub. Zacky was standing there with an absolutely horrified look on his face, and he said, "Mommy! Darcey's crying! Can I hold her?" There was such genuine concern in his voice, and his eyes were wide open, as if to say, There's a real problem here! I need to fix this!

The best part, though, is that so far the impact on the ecosystem of our family has been minimal. If anything, it's been improved. The boys have been playing with each other as if they actually like each other. Like they are friends or something. Today it rained all day, so they all stayed inside most of the time, and far from killing each other, they made up games and horsed around and had a good time for hours on end.

Is life perfect now? Of course not. It was incredibly loud, there was still occasional whining, an argument over watching Caillou, and Zack's pants are currently in the freezer in hopes that Noah's gum can come out of them. (It came out of the carpet, fortunately.) I'm really, really tired, which I recognize is nothing new, but still pretty painful, and I'm glad that I am down to about zero responsibilities, because I don't feel capable of handling much. And I'm intimidated by the idea of taking 4 kids anywhere - we've been outnumbered since Zack was born, but this is the first time I felt like the Rebel Alliance could overthrow the Empire. Seriously, if they decided to work together to gang up on us, we're in trouble! (Ryan says that it's not until they are adults and we are senior citizens that we need to worry - until then, we outweigh them and can out-think them.)

Also, my brain isn't fully functional yet. I'd give you proof of that, but the two incidents I had today that made me say "Boy, my brain is still a wreck!" have already been forgotten. I handle life pretty well during the day, but by around 4 p.m. the tiredness hits and I go downhill fast, so that by the time Ryan gets home I'm ready to either cry or bite his head off. I think getting out of the house a little would help - last night I drove Brad to a friend's house for a late night and afterwards stopped at a kid's clothing consignment store, where I, for the first time ever, bought clothes for my baby girl. Oh my gosh, it was so much fun and there was so much to choose from that I had to stop myself at just 4 or 5 outfits. Which I only bought because she's so (comparatively) tiny that none of the clothes I've been given fit her, and even the 0-3 month sizes I bought yesterday are way too big.

But all in all, I feel like we've been blessed with a (so far) easy child, and that our other kids are being abnormally easy right now too. I think the Lord probably knew I couldn't handle a real challenge at this point - not that it won't come, or that she (and they) will stay easy, but I know enough to count my blessings, and right now I could name you four.

A Bonus! As a reward for reading through this whole entry, you get to see some new pictures of Darcey!

These are two I took during naps, where she was striking particularly cute poses.

And here was her first bath, yesterday. I am not putting the picture where there is actual proof that she is a girl and not a boy, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

More Photos

Here are some cute pictures of the kids I took today, thought I'd pass them along.

This one is classic - I'm sitting on the floor with my camera trying to get the kids to all look at me at the same time, so Ryan says to look up at him. The result is this picture, and all I can say is, like father, like son.

The Birds and The Cows

It was inevitable, really, that the question would come up. Brad takes all of the childbirth-related topics in stride, because one time he was watching a PBS show about birth and, naively, I assumed that surely they wouldn't show too much of the actual birth. So Brad got an eyeful, a better view than I've ever had, and really doesn't have to ask the question "Where do babies come from?"

But Noah is a different story. He was too young when Zack was born to question much, so he's fairly inquisitive now. Today after Ryan's family left, Noah asked to hold Darcey. I said he could, after I fed her. He went into the dining room to wait, and a few minutes later asked when I was going to feed her. I already was, sitting on the couch, and he came over to investigate.

He asked what I was doing, and I said I was feeding her. "What are you feeding her with?" he asked. "Well," I said, "Human moms and other animal moms make milk to feed their babies." The light dawned - "Oh, yeah!" he said, excited, and pulled up his shirt. Pointing to his nipple, he said, "The milk comes out of this, right?" "Right, exactly!" I answered. Then he pointed to the other one. "And the food comes out of this one!"

An interesting concept, but no. And that is why I keep this blog. Because I never would be able to remember this and use it to taunt him when he has kids of his own!


Okay, you asked for them, here they are ... Photos of Darcey!! I plugged in my camera to download the new pictures onto my computer - there were 112 new photos, of which 18 were of me and/or the baby, 7 were of Zack covered in dirt, and the other 87 were of Brad's new toy car he was given from his grandparents last week. You can see where our priorities are!

Anyhow, here are some shots of out new daughter!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Darcey's First Days

As of one hour ago, Darcey is exactly two days old, and she is turning out to be a wonderful baby. Of course, as I am wont to forget, babies generally go through a stage in these first couple of days where they just sleep a lot, much to the consternation of maternity ward nurses, who seem to take surreal pleasure in making you wake your baby up to nurse on the as-yet-non-existent-breastmilk.

My point, though, is that after those first 45 minutes, she has barely cried at all. She's had her moments, as do we all, but for the most part, her first two earthly days have been full of sleeping, eating, and occasionally pooping. I've been doing more eating than her, less sleeping, and won't be discussing anything else we might do in common.

I feel, generally, fantastic. I didn't have an episiotomy with this birth, which I didn't realize until after she was born and the doctor was basically just hanging out, instead of stitching me up. So I am almost completely pain-free, which is an amazing feeling. Especially since I was in so much pain just from being pregnant, this is a huge change from the way I felt three days ago.

There's not much to tell about our hospital stay. It was long and boring, most of the time. I learned that the Discovery Channel is really, really cool, especially the show Cash Cab, which is where people get in a cab in New York and find out that they are on a quiz show. If they answer questions correctly, they win money, but if they answer 3 wrong they get kicked out of the cab. It's great, the contestants only have until their stop to accumulate money, so there's no getting to know the contestant, no dithering over the answer, no tangential explanations of how they know a certain piece of useless trivia, no making sure that that was their final answer, just Q & A, pure and simple.

I also learned this weekend that Bedouins have cell phones, that the tallest building in the world (which will be in Dubai) had a heck of a time finding a window supplier, that a ringing cell phone at a gas station won't cause your car to explode, and that there is nothing on except the Discovery Channel and CNN on a Saturday afternoon. All of which is a tangential explanation of how I know these new useless pieces of trivia. It's a good thing we don't have cable or all we'd watch is the Discovery Channel.

Saturday morning dawned early for Ryan and the kids, who had to drive to BYU to pick up Ryan's brother Jeff from EFY. Ryan and Noah waled in to get him, and Ryan said to Noah, "Tell Jeff what happened this week!" Noah thought for a minute, then said, "Oh yeah! I beat Anakin!" In reference to his Star Wars game, naturally - defeating Anakin is a bigger milestone in his personal life than the birth of his sibling, but I expect nothing less.

By Saturday afternoon, I was ready to come home, so when Ryan's family got here from St. George, he left the kids with them and came to get me. First we had to pack up all my swag, bags and bags of stuff that manufacturers of formula and other baby products give to the hospitals for the new moms. It's almost like going to some kind of New Mothers Convention, minus the free t-shirts and the Booth Babes, but with a $5,000 cost of admission. Similac seems to be the winner for me this year - their diaper bag is more compact and came with a gift certificate for a free spa treatment at participating spas. Don't know if there is a participating spa in my area, but that's a cool piece of swag if you ask me.

The kids like their new sister much more than I expected. Brad asks to hold her constantly, and is fairly trustworthy - i.e., I can leave him to hold her on his own, as long as he is sitting down. Zack wants to do whatever Brad wants, so he asked to hold the baby, which means that I hold the baby kind of in the neighborhood of Zack's arms and he more or less pretends to hold her. Good enough for both of us, I think. Noah has asked a few times to hold her, but is just as interested in looking at her as the other boys are.

Later in the day, Noah came upstairs where I was attempting to sleep (I already miss the hospital!) and we played a few rounds of Uno, because I could tell he was getting a little neglected. He told me that he likes Darcey, is happy to have her here. I told him that he's going to be a great big brother to her, that he had to help take care of her, and that it was going to be his job to help with Darcey the way that Brad has always helped with Zack. Kind of like they are partners. Noah seemed to think that was a fine idea, I think it makes him feel special. All three boys are so much more interested in the baby than I had anticipated, and I'm thrilled. At one point, Brad was holding her and Noah and Zack each had one of their fingers shoved into one of Darcey's hands. I wish I had had my camera for that. I'm glad I didn't have my camera for the accidental eye-poking that Zack gave her not 5 minutes later, but she was fine.

In May I went to Noah's school for his kindergarten Mother's Day party, where the kids recited poems and sang songs for their mothers, which I truly regret not videotaping because it makes me feel like a bad mom to have forgotten to do. Anyhow, the kids served refreshments afterwards, cookies and fruit salad that the kids had made themselves, actually using real life knives to slice the fruit into fractions, which I had to consciously not think about the amount of germs they would have transferred to the fruit, otherwise I would have had to spray my salad with Lysol which pretty much would have ruined the flavor. The kids and their moms sat on the floor to eat, and Noah wanted to do what everyone else was doing, but I had to sit in a chair because, as I explained to him, if I got down on the floor I wouldn't be able to get back up. He seemed to accept this, but as we were walking down the hallway afterwards, he said that he can't wait for me to be done being pregnant so I can sit on the floor with him again.

After I came home today, Brad was sitting in my lazyboy chair holding the baby and I wanted to check my email, so instead of kicking him out of the chair, I looked at Noah and said, "Hey, watch this!" and plopped down on the floor, cross-legged. "Isn't that great?" I said. "I can sit on the floor again!" I don't know how impressive this was to Noah, but it sure made my day!

Nursing has been a pain, not just figuratively but literally, too. If it doesn't start hurting less soon, I'm either going to see a lactation consultant or quit altogether, something I never considered with the other babies, so again, guilt trip potential here.

Otherwise, Darcey has been a delightful addition to our family. She makes Zack look like a giant, though, and changing his diapers while holding up his giant legs compared to Darcey's scrawny chicken legs is a major change. He grew up overnight, or more accurately, over the last two nights I spent at the hospital.