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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brothers: September 2013

A vignette: 

Liam pushed Soren.  Soren, enraged, punched Liam, then ran to his room to cry.  I held Liam and tried to comfort him while he cried.  Soon Soren emerged from his room, sobbing.  "I'm so sorry!  I'm so so sorry!" 

"I sowwy, Sowen," reciprocated Liam.  Liam and I both reached our arms out to Soren.  Soren climbed onto my lap and the three of us hugged each other while Soren cried and apologized again and again.  "I'm so sorry!  I'm sooooo sorry!"  

"It's okay.  I okay, Sowen," said Liam, and kissed his brother on the head.  

Other brotherly things:  

 Just hanging out in their room one morning, chatting.  

Playing around in King's.   

Reading illustrated scripture stories together. 

The boys hunkering down for a long winters' hibernation.  (I wish!)  
I actually don't remember what they were doing here but, by golly, it's cute.  

Snuggling under the blanket for some morning cuddles.  

At snack time the kids can get creative.  

Liam says this is a windmill.  Clever, eh?

We got to babysit our friend Noelle for a few hours.  The boys were delighted.  Liam followed her around and tried to manage her every move, as is his custom with babies.  He also sat her down and read her a book, which was sheer adorableness.  

Soren also enjoyed having a girl in the house.  Here he's showing her the frog and toad puppets we borrowed from the library. 

I had a craft day with the boys while Daddy went canoeing with his best friend.  
  Liam used a ton of glue (Elmer's) to stick two sets of eyes on the back of a yogurt lid.  He said they were Soren and Liam.  (Soren added baking soda and vinegar to the lid before I could photograph it.)

We all made slime.

Soren created something with playdough and toothpicks.

  Liam glued corn on a lid. 

 Soren made a sculpture out of stuffing. 

 Liam strung tape around a chair, down the hall, and into the kitchen. 

Mommy made a caterpillar out of a paper towel roll.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Liam Update: September 2013

Sweet William James,

Earlier this summer I cleaned out area under our porch to make a play area for you boys.  You noticed there was a little square of cement on the ground and dragged a couple of lawn chairs in front of it.  You invited me to sit in one and then walked over to the cement stage and proceeded to put on a little performance of spontaneous song and dance. I clapped when you were finished; then you had me take a turn on the stage while you watched and then applauded.

You are such a sweet little brother.  One day Soren had thrown up and you felt bad for him so you filled him a glass of water and brought him a wad of toilet paper with which to wipe his mouth.  On another occasion, Soren had hurt you and I was in the middle of dragging him, screaming, to a time-out when you ran over and begged, "Pwease, Mommy.  Don't put Sowwen in room!"  

The most common phrase I hear from you these days is: "Mommy, you cute."  I'll say "Thank you, Liam.  You're cute too."  And you'll grin and say, "Mommy cute, Liam cute!"  Sometimes you'll throw in other people too: "Mommy cute, Daddy cute, Sowen cute, Liam cute, Briar cute!"

We went to a free craft day at Home Depot.  The final product was supposed to be a ring toss game, but you decided you wanted to make an airplane instead.  I was so proud of you for being creative and doing your own thing.

Another, more wearying thing, that you feel compelled to dwell on these days is the subject of poop and bottoms.  I'm assuming this is a combination of your having recently potty-trained and also being a four-year-old boy.  Like most boys, you find flatulence to be the height of humor. We went to see a hypnotist at the fair this year and there was a sequence in which he made many long, loud bathroom noises into the microphone.  You literally screamed with laughter each time, so much that the children sitting in front of us kept turning to look at you.

Along that vein, though, you were a sweet little potty trainer.  It took a couple of months for us to get the whole thing down, but we got there!  When you had accidents I would have you wash out your underwear in the toilet.  You did this blithely, rhythmically splashing the underwear in the water while cheerfully singing the little song I had made up to make the task a little less unpleasant:  "Ewww, ewww, icky poo.  Icky, sticky, yucky goo.  Ewww, ewwww, icky eww.  Wash out all that sticky poo!"  

One day Daddy was helping you wipe your bum after going potty.  He wasn't feeling particularly cheerful about the task, but then you turned to him and said, very sincerely, "Thank you, Daddy.  Thank you."  Melted Daddy's hearet. 

Speaking of the fair, your favorite thing this year were the horses.  You kept (literally) oohing and aahing at  the size and strength of the Clydesdales. 

You have a real thing for babies.  Every time we encounter a baby you have to point her out and coo over the baby's cuteness.  If it's a toddling baby, all the better!  Then you can herd the child around and protect her from any potential dangers.  You shepherded a baby around at a park one day for probably a good forty-five minutes.   

One recent evening you insisted on sitting by me at dinner time.  You ate half a slice of bread with cream cheese, then put your head on my lap and fell asleep.  I carried you to a chair and rocked you, heart beating against heart.  I breathed in the smell of your hair and savored the warmth of your heavy limp body.

You also fell asleep playing in the back yard.  Briar reports you napped like this for about an hour. 

Sometimes in the morning I will wake up with you in bed with me.  You will stir, put your stubby little arms around my neck, and say, "I wuv you, Mommy."  Best way to wake up ever.

You went back to preschool after Labor Day this year.  Things seem to be going well so far.  I wish you could tell me more about what you do at school, but you always seem cheerful about it.  You told Grandma that your favorite thing about school is playing with a ball.  Sounds good to me.

These are some pictures of your first day:  

Waiting for the bus...
waiting some more....
....still waiting.... 
It finally came!
On board!
In your seat!
Showing Daddy the paper hand you made on your first day.  

In the kitchen you are my number one little helper.  Any time I cook something, you're there with your chair, wanting to put things in the microwave, add ingredients to the cookies, saute onions, and sprinkle cheese.  I love having you with me in the kitchen.  It is such a delight.  Sometimes you like to "help" me mow the lawn too by chasing along behind me with your plastic wagon.  It is the cutest thing.  

One of your favorite past times is reading stories while eating bananas.  You'll actually come up to me and ask, "Stories and bananas?"  Little monkey.

This is what  B (Daddy's mommy) wrote about you in a family email after her visit to our family:  

"At the end of each book Liam would say, "Amen". I told Abraham and Rachel that I wouldn't want to be Liam's older sibling because he's rather loveable, like an irresistible teddy bear. At first he wasn't especially friendly towards me and didn't want to get close, but he got over that in a couple days. He's a happy-go-lucky little person, and so different from his brother. (I say "little" but actually the boys weigh the same.) Liam enjoys life. He's like a little ambassador for happiness, reminding us that we should all be happier than we are."

I must note here, however, that you are not 100% sunshine, smiles, sweetness, and rainbows.  In the course of a single week, you threw all your underwear out the bedroom window, flushed a book and a roll of toilet paper down the toilet, and dumped all of the hand soap and all of my eye makeup remover down the sink.  You also have a tendency to run around in public settings, giggling wildly while I try to chase you down.  You are a miserably picky eater who cries when I put an offensive food on your plate.  And you can be stubborn and whiny if you decide to be.  Lately you've been trying to convince me to do everything for you with the argument, "But I'm widdle!"  

That said, Pumpkin Pie, you are such a light and a joy in our lives.  I feel so honored to be your mama and pray often that I can help you be all that you were meant to be, as I believe your were meant for great things.  I love you so much.  

Much Love,


P.S. Just a random funny:  I came home one day to find that Daddy had dressed you in these:

The tag is hard to read so I'll just tell you that the size is 0/3 months. 

Here you are, posing in them.  
("I don't like to brag, but I can still fit into the pants I wore when I was a newborn.")

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Soren Update: September 2013

Soren-o Forbes,

If I were a spider, I would weave a web in the corner of your bedroom doorway that read, "Some Kid."

It's been a very full several months.  First of all, you started the first grade! It seems to be going well so far.  At back-to-school night your teacher described you to me as being "very sweet," but recently you told me that sometimes Mrs. Bush has you stay inside during recess for a few minutes to take some time to remember not to chase people, so perhaps her tune has changed somewhat.  From the sounds of it, all of the friends you have made at school so far are girls.  I worry about you at school all day, with your wiggles and inability to focus on something not of your choosing, I worry that you lick your hands and arms (a weird thing you do at home sometimes) in front of the other kids--  but you generally seem happy when you come off the bus, so I try not to worry too much.  And!  You've been learning to read.  Quite expressively, I might add.

First day of school!

At the bus stop with Case and Abby and Logan and Kienzle and a kid I don't recognize. 

You've been spending quite a bit of creative time in the kitchen lately.  Grandma sent us home with a large bowlful of tart pie cherries and you made several interesting concoctions using them.  There was a cherry cake that was actually quite good.  A couple of nights ago you decided you wanted to invent your own kind of cookies.  They ended up being like flat little biscuit things that you topped with syrup, honey, and assorted leftover candies, including mini peanut butter cups, M&Ms, and suckers.  Last week you threw together a smoothie....it contained six strawberries, a pear, a peach, a handful of grapes, half a bottle of lime juice, and two crushed-up heart-shaped suckers.  I added a little sugar and it was rather delicious, in its own unique way.  One evening I was whipping up some waffle batter and then you insisted on taking over the waffle making.  It was so nice to kick back and read while someone else cooked dinner!  And the waffles were delicious.  (Though they were probably not, as you kept asking hopefully, the best waffles that have ever been made ever.)

Along that vein, I'm considering buying stock in baking soda and vinegar, as you have been expending prodigious amounts on creating exciting chemical reactions in the kitchen.

Supervising your cousin Luke at the playground.

Recently you've become interested in money.  Briar has a cache of candy in her bedroom that she'll sell to you when you've found or earned some money.  Occasionally you'll tell me that you sure wish you had an "allowment"  but, alas, your parents are cruel and force you to work for your money. Inspired by Briar's candy setup and perhaps desiring to earn a quicker buck, you recently created a store in your bedroom.  I think you imagined that everyone we knew would immediately come to our house and purchase things from your store.  When your only customer during your first day was me (I bought a jar lid to which you had glued googly eyes of various sizes), your interest sadly waned.   But this weekend you did ten chores in a single day, a feat that required much hard work and dedication and earned you an entire dollar to call your own.

On Mondays you ride the bus to Auntie Collette's house, where Liam gets to spend the whole day. I come to pick you up shortly after you've arrived, but you've made it a tradition that we not leave the property until the three of us have spent some quality time jumping on the trampoline.  For you, it's a magical combination: Mommy's attention, the sunshine, the smell of the fresh green grass, the exercise-induced endorphin rush, the laughter.  You are always euphoric while we jump, and almost inevitably end up declaring, "Mommy, I love you!  We have so much fun!"

Here you are, proudly showing off what might possibly be the world's longest Duplos train.

You maintain a fierce distrust for dogs alongside an equally fierce sense that cats are the source of all animal goodness.  Whenever there is a dog around, you try to climb me like a tree, sure that even the sweet cowering dog has savage intent and will surely devour your flesh if given the chance.  But moments later, watching Grandma and Grandpa's cat calmly lick his paws, you'll ask, "Mommy?  Why are cats so good?" or "Mommy?  Why do cats like everyone?"  We can't have a cat of our own, due to Daddy's allergies, but you love to play with the neighbor's kittens, who sometimes come to visit.  Liam, who doesn't quite understand the importance of being gentle with animals, almost perished at your hand one day when you caught him treating a kitty roughly.

You have been very excited about Halloween coming up.  For a while you entertained a grandiose notion about setting up buttons on the front step that, if stepped on, would trigger a baking soda/vinegar reaction inside nearby jack-o-lanterns, providing a very spooky welcome to all the people who will surely attend our thrilling and heavily decorated Halloween party.

One night after Liam was in bed, you and I sat in a chair and talked.  You told me that the way Daddy smells varies with his emotions, and asked many questions about many things, including tornadoes, space travel, asteroids, and aurora borealis.  You are so curious about the world and have so many good questions.  I wish I could answer more of them more completely, but I try as often as I can to follow up on your interests with books from the library.

Speaking of books from the library!  You've gotten old enough for chapter books!  So far we have read The Mouse and the Motorcycle and its sequel, Runaway Ralph, The Story of Dr. Doolittle, The Magic Finger, George's Marvelous Medicine, and the first Spiderwick Chronicles book.  So fun!  I love me some good chapter books!  And you seem to, too.

Here you are drafting plans for a building so large it can house five countries.  It will have its own army and police force.  The world's current tallest building is just a dot next to this monstrosity.  

Last Saturday you and I rode our bikes to the city park.  It's about a mile from our house but you stuck it out like a trooper.  I was impressed at your endurance.  Now if I can just persuade you that you can ride without training wheels....

On Friday you and Grandma were discussing your mutual love for purple.  I didn't hear the exact conversation, but I imagine that at some point Grandma said something like, "You know, Tessa loves purple too!"  And then, as a whimsical add-on, "Maybe sometime the three of us should have a Purple Party!"  But what you heard was, "The three of us are going to have a Purple Party-- tomorrow-- for sure!"  And you readily agreed.

So on Saturday you woke up early and informed me that you had a very busy day ahead.  First of all, you had to make a rubber band gun.  Secondly, you had a Purple Party to attend.  Thirdly, Grandpa might want to have a party about his favorite color too, so you would probably be engaged in color-themed parties for the remainder of the day.  You were not pleased when I informed you that you had to attend your Primary Program practice before any of that could occur.  After whining about it for a while, to no avail, you grabbed your camera and made an audio recording of your part.  "Here, Mommy," you said, handing me the camera.  "Liam can take this and just put it by the microphone when it's my turn."

Well, the day turned out to be a bit disappointing for you.  I made you go to the practice anyway.  You were mad that I wouldn't hold your hand and stare at you while you made your rubber band gun, so you abandoned the project.  Grandma, not realizing that she had made a concrete date with you, had other plans.  No one would drive you to King's to spend your money on candy.  Woe, woe, woe.

But.  The dreadful day came to an end.  And on Monday Grandma picked up both you and Tessa and took you to her house for a Purple Party.  Together you made and drank purple smoothies in purple cups.   You read Harold and the Purple Crayon and the purple page in Hailstones and Halibut Bones.  Grandma gave you each a purple gift (a Nerf toy for you, fingernail polish for Tessa).  You each made a purple poster (see below).  You, inspired by Harold, drew a purple river on a long roll of paper and Tessa made purple play dough.  For dinner Grandma fed you purple potatoes and purple cabbage and purple grapes on purple plates (there was chicken, too, but I don't think it was purple.)  You came home positively aglow and informed me that you wished the purple party could have lasted forever.

Your poster says that purple is:
The best best best
Lava coming out of a Volcano
Goes everywhere and everwhere
(Grandma wrote the words for you, but you told her what to write.)

A few weeks ago, Grandma and Grandpa invited us to come visit them at their weekend camping place at Stoddard Creek.  So you, Liam, and I drove there in the morning and spent the day playing.  We had a picnic in the woods and Grandpa took the three of us on a hike (and attempted fishing trip, but there were no fish!) along a stream and along the way we built a shelter out of sticks and branches.  You hoped that if anyone got lost in the woods they could stay in our shelter and suggested we leave some of our granola bars to that end.  You were very mature and hiked without too much begging to be carried.  Grandpa was also impressed at how easily and independently you forded the stream when we had to cross it.

I tell you this often, but I'll tell you again: you are so fortunate to have so many people nearby who love you and care about you.

You thought that posing with your arm around this bag of Marshmallow Mateys was pretty hilarious.  I would like to point out that you are fully clothed in 4 out of 5 pictures in this post.  For us, that's pretty good.  

You listen and pay attention when your dad and I try to teach you about making good choices.  You confessed to me one day that you had lied about making a mess to avoid picking it up and told me that you were sorry and would try not to lie again.  While discussing a current event in which someone had tried to kill a group of people for disagreeing with them, you very sincerely explained that they should have just talked about it and allowed each other to think differently.  One afternoon I found you in the bathroom cleaning the food processor bowl with toilet paper and hand soap.  You explained to me that you were "repenting" for making a big mess when you tried to make chocolate milk in it.

After her visit, B (Daddy's mommy) described you a little in one of her weekly emails to the family.  Here are some of the things she said about you:

"I've heard about children who ask questions almost non-stop, but I'd never met one till I'd met Soren."  [editor's note: this from a woman who raised 11 children!]

"I read quite a few books to the boys (they love books!) and one day, as I was reading with one boy on either side of me,  Soren looked up and said, 'Did I ever tell you that I really like Grandmas?' and my heart melted."   

"Another day we went to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Rachel, Soren, Liam, Ivy, and I, all in the same car. I can't remember who was in back with the boys - Rachel or Ivy - but at one point the air was split by an unearthly shrieking. I mean, I'd never heard anything remotely like this.  I was driving and it scared the daylights out of me, and it went on and on. Come to find out, Soren had a bloody nose, but based on just the noise, well, you couldn't imagine any torture that would cause that kind of scream. At least, I can't. It was phenomenal, and when it was all over Rachel casually told me that compared to previous bloody noses, he handled that one quite well!!!! I hope and pray that that little boy never suffers a serious injury; his reaction would be traumatic for those around him."   

Well, anyway, Soren.  This is Mommy speaking again.  I sure love you.  Every day you amuse and horrify, delight and chagrin.   There are so many interesting things that you do and say and think.  I wish I could record every moment.  I am pleased that you are my son and pleased at the ways you continue to grow and develop.  I think you're just great.  

Much Love,


Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Aborted Family Reunion

My Aunt Colleen and Uncle John spent a lot of time planning a fun-filled reunion near Anacortes, Washington this year.  It looked like it was going to be lovely, with cabins to stay in, a lake to canoe in, an archery range to arch in, and lots of fabulous food. I really wanted to go to visit with my extended family-- and Abe and I decided that this year our children were ready for a trip all the way to the coast.  We could all handle it.  They are, after all, 4 and 6 now.  We were doing this thing.

Our plan was this: since we were going to drive all the way there, we wanted to make the trip worth our while.  My sweet bestie Nicholas lives in Portland, so we decided that we would spend a few days with him in the City of Roses.  Then we would meet up with my sister and her family and spend some time playing together on the beach as we made our way up the coast to Anacortes.  Besides our few nights in Nick's apartment, we would "tent it" in the lovely state campgrounds of Oregon.

I spent a lot of time planning ways to keep the children (and their parents!) sane during the long drive, which we planned to break into two 6-hour chunks.  I bought them each a plastic container and filled the containers with fun things-- construction paper, safety scissors, glue sticks, notebooks, colored pencils, beads, a weaving kit.  I planned snacks.  I planned meals.  Abe packed earplugs.  We squeezed the children in between stacks of compacted camping supplies and, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, left for the coast.

We couldn't resist this photo op at a gas station.  
Sadly, Liam didn't really get what we were going for and Soren felt silly -- so the posing isn't the best. 
Within two hours of our leaving, all the beads had been thrown on the floor of the car.  All the weaving materials had been thrown on the floor of the car.  Much of the construction paper had been crumpled and thrown on the floor of the car.  The children had covered themselves in a thick paste of glue stick and fruit snack  The only toy they actually played with along the way was an Etch-a-Sketch my mom had loaned us as an afterthought.

After the exertion of throwing everything on the floor, the boys needed a little rest.  

Soren, blessedly, only had one break with reality, and that wasn't until about hour four.  We successfully used our earplugs to get through the worst of the unearthly screaming, and a few hours later we found ourselves in an Eastern Oregon campground.

We settled in, set up our tent, ate dinner, and got the kids ready for bed.  I was exhausted, but Liam was running around the tent like a tiny madman and Soren-- well, um, let's just say something happened with Soren that significantly lowered my morale.  But we got that issue resolved and eventually Liam came down from his manic high and we all settled into our sleeping bags.

And then the sun went down and the wind picked up.

And it turns out our tent doesn't have windows that can be zipped closed.

So the wind gusted freely through our tent, shaking its walls and rattling the zippers like an angry ghost.  Soren was terrified.  For what seemed like hours he begged and pleaded to be allowed to sleep with us while Abe insisted that he was not going to sleep with us because he was too big and I tried to keep them both happy. When Soren was finally comforted to sleep by a prayer, and Abe finally fell asleep because he's a Skousen and that's what they do, I found myself lying awake in the windy tent for quite a while, angry and tired and anxious.  Finally, I, too, slept, only to be awakened an hour or so later (5:00 AM) by Liam, who was enthusiastically telling everyone it was morning time.

After breakfast, Abe told me he thought we should just turn around and go back home.  "Oh no we're not going back home!" I said.  "We've come this far, by gum, and we're going to go the rest of the way!"  And then I stomped off to take a shower-- what turned out to be a cold shower--in the campground's grimy bathroom.

And as the the morning wore slowly on, I realized that, while we could push through and do this thing, nine more nights of camping with the children loomed very large and very exhausting and I didn't want to do it.  But I didn't want to go home yet, either.

So this is what we did instead:

We turned around and went back to Boise and checked into a hotel.

We went to the Discovery Center of Idaho.

We visited the Boise Zoo.

We got Happy Meals (in boxes!) at McDonald's.

We ate pizza in a park.

We visited Twin Falls.

We swam in Dierkes lake.

We visited Shoshone Falls.

We stayed in hotels and swam in the swimming pools and ate delicious free breakfasts.

We endured a couple of potty accidents.

And then we went home.

It was not a family reunion.  And it wasn't a visit with our dear friend.  And it wasn't the ocean.  But it was a good family vacation, and I'm happy we did it the way we did.


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