Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Skousen Youth Hostel

For two nights during Christmas break, we had six adults and two children crammed into our little house. I know the family resemblance is hard to see, but these people are Abe's siblings. (They are all Abe's siblings, but they are not all of Abe's siblings: he has six more.) They are, from bottom right, moving clockwise: Abe (31), Quentin (26), Hillary (24), Briar (19), and Merritt (22). Hillary and Briar currently live with us, Soren and Liam's maiden "Hanties" who help with childcare, cooking, and cleaning. Quentin comes home, with a bundle of dirty laundry, for holidays and long weekends. And Merritt was just stopping by on her way to BYU-I when this picture was taken, but I imagine she'll be making holiday/weekend appearances as well.

We are a bit of a Skousen Depot, the halfway stop on the way to and from other places, the home central where the unmarried siblings crash for days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

People often ask me, with a horrified expression, "How can you stand to have so many in-laws around all the time?" And I wonder if there's something wrong with me, because the truth is, I generally don't mind it at all. In fact, I (usually) like it. I like having a home where people feel welcome. I like having the extra help around the house and with the kids. I like the added opportunities for human interaction. I like the flavor that extra people add to our household. And though they baffle me to the point of madness sometimes, I just plain love the members of that crazy other-family of mine.

How Soren and I pass the time.

Soren's favorite Mommy/Soren activities are as follows: baking, watching songs about cars on You Tube, applying make-up, looking at pictures of himself, listening to made-up stories about himself, listening to made-up songs about himself, and sitting on my lap at the computer, dictating Paint masterpieces. He tells me what to draw, and I draw it. Here are some of my favorites from the past couple of months:

I wanted to name this guy Gilbert, but Soren wanted the "G" to be an "O," so Oilbert it was.

Drawing cars in Paint is more challenging than one might think.

I entitled this one "Santa Claus Hitchhiker."

Soren wanted me to draw all of his cousins on the Hanson side of the family. And they all had to have train engines on their shirts. From L-R: Calysta, Arielle, Marty, Tessa, Soren, Liam, and Charlotte.

Another family picture. Soren specifically requested the tools. From L-R: Soren, Mommy, Daddy, Quentin, Liam, Hillary, Briar.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guest Poster: Abraham

I haven't asked permission to do this, but I just read the following e-mail (one that Abe wrote to his family this week) and found it so delightful, I decided it would do as a family update until I can find the time to do my own posting. I edited out the anatomy word in Abe's paragraph about Soren, not because I find it offensive (though, not going to lie, it does make me a little uncomfortable) but rather because I didn't want its use to cause creepy internet people to visit our blog.

Thomas Sowell occasionally does an essay where he lists some of the thoughts he's been having in no particular order. That format sounds good to me.

I had to replace our water heater this week. About the middle of December, our water heater suddenly stopped providing enough hot water. It would heat up water fairly fast, but there wasn't much of it. Since this is indicative of the bottom heating element going out, I decided to change out the elements. What with the holidays (and the unexpected benefit of siblings cutting their shower time from 1.5 hours to 10 minutes), I did not attempt to change the elements until the first week of January. Rachel's father came over to help me out, since he was off work at the time. It was a terrible job, since there was literally about 10 gallons of rock-hard water deposits in the bottom of the tank. It took about nine or ten hours to clean out all the stuff and replace the two elements. This was expected, since it followed the Law of Project Simplicity- for every time a project is referenced to in DIY literature as simple and easy to do, multiply the expected difficulty and time factor by three. Anyway, we were glad to get it done. However, a little more than a week later, as Hillary was putting her laundry into the washer, she said, "Aaaabe. The water tank is leaking." I clawed out my eyes and went to look for myself. Sure enough, the bottom of the tank had sprung a leak. The leak may have been caused somewhere between the hammering or the 5-foot pry bar exercise (we had to get quite medieval with it). Age also probably contributed, since the tank was twenty years old. Anyway, after a day of fruitless and confusing internet research on water heaters, Rachel's dad took me to Lowes in the evening, and I picked out a water heater. By the time all the parts were purchased as well, it came to about $450. The reason I bought extras was because I decided that replacing the water heater was also a good time to replace leaky valves whatnot. We took the water heater home and put it in the garage. The next day I installed the new water heater and improved the valves/piping while I was at it. It took about seven hours, even though replacing the water heater was supposed to be about 50 times more difficult than replacing the elements. I'm glad to have it done and out of the way.

Liam is laying on the couch behind me trying to feed himself with his bottle. He likes to drop his bottle and yell for me to retrieve it. He is fat and immobile still. Rachel and I console ourselves that he's five months overdue on crawling because he's busy developing his intellectual talents rather than his physical abilities. But then we realize that he looks like a beached baby whale, and he can't crawl because he's too massive for his stubby arms and legs to have any hope of moving him. He and Soren are basically the same size, except Soren is a little taller with a bigger head, and Liam has fatter legs, waist, and belly than Soren does. It's funny to watch one kid lay on the floor like a slug, and the other run around all top heavy, constantly tripping and banging his head on things.

Soren comes up with some funny things. Since we are good, modern, and foolish parents, we taught Soren the proper names for his anatomy. Well, this backfired one day in church. Rachel had gone out to feed Liam, so I was sitting next to Briar, and Soren was on her lap. I noticed that Soren and Briar were in the midst of a struggle, so I watched as Soren tried to pull down his pants and diaper, while Briar tried to restrain him. Soren eventually got frustrated with Briar foiling his efforts, and yelled at Briar, "I'M TRYING TO LOOK AT MY P****! I'M TRYING TO LOOK AT MY P****!" All the families around us stiffened and tried not to look as I hauled him out of the chapel, with him continuing to explain to Briar, very loudly, "I JUST WANT TO LOOK AT MY P****!" Ah, the memories we have made.

Soren is a terrible sleeper. He refuses to sleep on his bed, preferring to sleep on the floor by the crack under the door. He cries immensely upon learning that he has to go to bed, and he does everything in his power to stall us. After many exciting rounds of fighting, trying to get him to get in his pajamas, brush his teeth, etc., he will demand at least three stories before he will get in bed. These have to be made-up stories, not stories read to him. After the stories he will lay in his bed, but as soon as we leave the room, he will get out of bed and lie by the crack under the door, shouting things at us to get us to come back in, or let him out. He will say things like, "I need some milk!" "I need food!" "I hungry!" "I geered (scared)!" "I cold!" "I need (insert random stuffed animal or blanket)!" Each of these things he will repeat hundreds of times before moving on to something else. If we give in to anything he says once, it will be added to his list and he will remember it forever. He has an amusing and growing list of things he is scared of. One of his most scared-of things is the "tiny cow." He will be sitting in your lap, and he will point to nothing, and say, "See the tiny cow? I geered!" Or he will point at the wall and say, "See the man? He's angry." Rachel has watched Children of the Corn too many times, and this freaks her out.

Speaking of movies, I did go and watch Avatar in 3D. Technologically, this was interesting because I haven't seen any attempts at 3D in several years, and I'd have to say that the technology has improved dramatically. I was surprised to read in Mom's letter that someone (I forget who) said there was too much skin. This never occurred to me. They look like aliens to me, and I don't care about seeing naked bears, cats, chickens, or aliens. They were also made to act and look like primitive natives, so I guess I assumed they would be wearing loin cloths and trinkets and whatnot. The moral of the movie, the usual Hollywood drivel about White Man is Evil, Especially Conservative or Republican White Males Who Don't Think Guns Are Evil or Who Use Earth's Resources or Who Don't Think Trees and Toads Should Be Worshiped, was repeated ad nauseam for three hours. The special effects, and world creation, were top notch, though. I enjoyed the movie, since I have a pretty good ability to block out annoyingly preachy messages. Since watching the movie, I have reflected on it periodically, not as a movie, but as the entertainment milepost it represents. Avatar is the first widely successful 3D movie. In fact, it made over one billion dollars in seventeen days, surpassing any other movie in history, and it is still going strong. Let me practice philosophizing as a futurist for a minute. It appears, based on the fact that the story in Avatar is in no way groundbreaking, people are going for some other reason. I propose that people are going because Avatar is so engrossing, purely by virtue of the technology through which the movie is presented. Thinking about the implications of this does not inspire one with confidence in the future. Many people, as you know, do not have good lives. Many people would prefer to entertain themselves rather than face reality or their problems. After working with the kids at Harbor House, I can attest to this. With the increasing ability of technology to involve us and immerse us in our entertainment, what is the motivation for people with difficult lives to spend any time outside of the worlds of entertainment? Some motivations, like the necessity for food, or going to the bathroom, will be difficult to deny. However, other motivations to engage in the real world will become less and less persuasive to some people. Social scorn, or the economic necessities of life (read: work), will only create more incentive for people to completely immerse themselves in their own worlds of entertainment, where they control what happens. Of course, some people will argue that living in your entertainment is fine and dandy until you don't pay your power bill, at which point you get shut off. However, I'm betting that this tendency to eschew life in favor of entertainment will be officially recognized as a "disease" or an addiction, and I'd be willing to bet that there will be government funding for people who have this "disease." Part of what I'm saying here has already come true, as some people are reporting depression, sadness, and even suicidal thoughts because they are forced to cope with the real world when they are not watching Avatar. I'm not making this up, you can type "Avatar blues" into the Google search engine, and you will find dozens of news stories about this very phenomenon. Some have even already labeled it "Avatar Depression Syndrome." If I am correct, this is not a one-time deal. It will get worse as movie and gaming technology improves.

Heh. This is the kind of garbage I'd spew about if I had a blog. Anyway, I've wind-bagged enough. Bye!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

(again, this was from FHE)

"Don't want Jesus! Don't like Jesus!" - Soren

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Okay, Soren. Tonight for Family Home Evening we're going to have a lesson on tithing-- because not only people love money-- God does too." - Abe

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Soren's First Snowman

We finally got snow sticky enough to make a proper snowman, so on Saturday Soren and I bundled up, braved the cold, and made a little snowman.

I've been priming Soren for this for months by telling him a bedtime story about how Mommy and Soren make a snowman. In the story, after each step, Mommy says, "Now the snowman is done!" And Soren says, "No, Mommy! It's not done! It still needs______(a nose, a hat, buttons, eyes, arms, etc.) And Mommy says, "Oh! A _________!" And they give the snowman whatever it is that it needs.

Much to my delight, Soren incorporated the story into our actual snowman-building experience. We would put in the snowman's eyes and he would ask, "Now what does the snowman need?" And I would reply, "I don't know. What does it need?" And he would say, "It needs a hat!" And we would get a hat.

At the end of the bedtime story, Mommy is pretty certain that the snowman is done, but Soren says that it isn't. "Soren," says Mommy. "Our snowman has a hat. He has a nose. He has eyes. He has a mouth. He has two arms. He has buttons. What else could he possibly need?"

And Soren says, "He needs a hug!" So he gives the snowman a hug.

And then the snowman is complete.

Soren's Third Birthday

On New Year's Day, Soren turned three. His big day contained all of the things that he believes are essential for birthday celebration:

Balloons. Family.

Birthday hats.

Cool presents.

Cake. Ice cream. Singing.

(He helped me make the cake; those are gummy worms on top.)

Christmas 2009

We had a very merry Christmas.

We were able to take some pictures after Santa came late Christmas Eve. All the presents under the tree made us feel fancy; all the stockings too. The stockings, from left to right, were for the following individuals: Rachel, Abe, Liam, Soren, Briar, Quentin, Hillary. It was nice to have a crowd for the holiday. I hope our home is forever a depot for straggling Skousens.

Soren received two sets of Duplos (one from Santa, one from his "Hanties" Briar and Hillary) for Christmas, but was more enthralled by the Sponge Bob Square Pants wristbands that Abe and I acquired as a White Elephant gift at my work Christmas Party this year.

This was given to us in a gift-basket. Each of the boys got one. Liam and Soren were both entranced by this Santa, whose airplane's propeller spins when you push a button. Again, the free toy was favored over the ones we spent money on.

Soren was also fascinated more by Liam's toys than by his own.

After his initial fascination with the wrisbands and flying Santas wore off, Soren has come to love this gigantic foam alphabet "puzzle." He loves to put the pieces together and discuss the sounds all the letters make. Also, Auntie Hillary makes boy-sized boxes out of the pieces for him, which he likes to crawl inside and burst out of, like the Hulk.

The boys playing with their loot. They're also wearing their new Christmas Jammies from Grandma Hanson.* These are magic jammies because they can be folded to be feetie jammies or cuffed up to be not feetie jammies. They're also ridiculously soft, which makes the boys feel like stuffed animals and forces me to cuddle and hold and snuggle and squeeze them more than usual. I would keep Liam in these jammies 24/7 if he wasn't always barfing and pooping on them, thereby forcing me to change him into regular clothes.

The adults present in our household drew names for gift-giving this year; Quentin drew Abe. He wrapped the gift himself.

(This reminds me of a largely-unrelated thing about Soren these days that's cute: he thinks that everything in the world can be fixed with batteries and/or duct tape. The internet's not working? It needs batteries. The propellor on his toy helicopter fell off? It can be taped back on.)

Anyway, after presents, we spent the day with my family, lazing about, gorging ourselves on fatty foods, and playing games. It was pleasant.

*Editor's note: In a previous incarnation of this post, I accidentally credited Grandma Skousen with the giving of these jammies. Grandma Skousen actually sent a Christmas box full of delightful things which included a stuffed "Spot," a "Spot" book, and an alligator shirt (all for Soren); plus a bunch of delicious foods, several weeks worth of comic strips, and some old Reader's Digests for us old folks. Also, cash money, which I spent a long time smelling and rubbing all over my clothing.


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