Saturday, May 18, 2013

Some stuff

Today, I discovered a trail of small ants coming into my house from my back door, and I discovered that our air conditioner decided to stop working properly (and there is a puddle under the condenser unit outside...I think it's the condenser, and then the compressor is in the attic? I don't know), and I strained my hamstring.  So we are having Papa John's for dinner, and Mike is out getting a new filter for the a/c to see if that helps it at all, and he took the three awake children with him because he is amazing like that.  And we went to the farmer's market this morning, which was fairly fun.  The kids' favorite part of going to the farmers' market is when we stop by the big ball afterwards that spins on a bed of water when you push it.  Needless to say, the girls both got soaked, because, hey, what's more fun than getting really really wet and playing in a bunch of water when it's 90 outside and you've been stuck in a stroller for the previous hour?  Nothing, that's what.  Well, maybe some popsicles and some water to drink would have made that more fun, and some towels to dry off with a bit afterwards...

I have been doing a small bit of yard work lately.  I mowed the lawn, and discovered that most of our summer lawn is dead (which I kind of already pretty much knew).  I used my wonderful telescoping tree trimmer to cut a bunch of dead branches off our trees.  I did not immediately clean up the dead branches I cut down, so over the next several days, the boys had lots of fun whacking the branches against each other and breaking them into hundreds of tiny branch pieces which are much harder to clean up, but at least they've been having a lot of fun and have not whacked each other with the branches at all.

Last night, the boys got out of bed several times, and I sent them back to their room with not-so-dire warnings to please stay in their beds.  A little while later, I heard some yelling from their room, so I went in the hallway to listen and figure out what was going on.  I heard Aiden yelling, "In the galaxy! In the whole world! In all the planets! On the moon!"  I have no idea what he was pretending, but whatever it was, it was awesome.

Two nights ago, Mike had a "camping sleepover" with the boys in the family room.  They stayed up late, and woke up early, and generally had a fantastic time I think.  I got to have a nice relaxing evening in my room.

As lovely and funny as my children are, some times they are also cranky and demanding and sometimes I need something else to do other than mommying to keep myself from going completely crazy and just yelling at everybody all day.  So, I decided I should finally teach myself calculus, and sat down with my book I got awhile ago, and discovered a few pages in that I didn't remember what logs were.  At that point, I decided perhaps a general math-refresher-course would be a good idea, so I am going through all the math categories on Khan Academy and am learning lots of neat stuff, and re-learning a few things that I had completely forgotten, and remembering how to do other things that I only vaguely remembered.  I am almost through the Arithmetic and Pre-Algebra section.  The only thing I have not liked so much was the unit on rates with the quiz full of word-problems of the following variety:

Tommy travels an average speed of 20mph on the train, and then travels an average speed of 15mph on his bike, and he travels 50 miles total over 3 hours (I am making this up so the math probably doesn't work at all on this problem!), so how many minutes (or miles, or whatever) did he ride his bike for?

And the videos before that quiz don't really explain how to solve that problem, and the hints show the formula to use to solve it, but they don't explain how you get to that formula, or where all the units go, etc., and it's very frustrating.  Similarly there were problems like the following:

If it takes 9 people 5 hours to paint 11 walls, how long will it take 5 people to paint 27 walls?

And the hints again show the formula, but not how they got to that formula, which wasn't explained in the videos at all either, and was, again, frustrating.

But I've liked everything else.  We'll see how I feel after I get through the algebra section.

I've also been playing a lot of Draw Something on my phone over the past year or so.  It is a fun game. Here is a random picture I drew in it recently:


The End

P.S. Upcoming soon will be posts about Aiden's birthday, and my birthday/Mother's Day/anniversary, etc.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Catch-up

Playing a bit of catch-up on posting during nap time today.

Let's see, in no particular order:

Thanksgiving was nice, I made yummy pies and some weird stuffing. Christmas was wonderful.  My brother and sister and brother-in-law all came to visit us for several days, which we absolutely loved.  I made the kids lots of presents, some of which turned out really well (like the dress-up box), and some of which didn't turn out so well (hallway house held up by tension rods that haven't stood up to my kids just trying to go through the doorway).

Mike and I did absolutely nothing for New Year's.  3 King's Day was pretty uneventful as well.  Mike was sneaky and bought me roses for Valentine's Day.  We had a weekend getaway to Tucson this past weekend, and my in-laws watched the kids for us.  We ate some good food, had some good times and some bad times, and discovered astro-photography (especially moon photography) is really, really fun.  Also, I desperately want a telescope now.  Recommended things to do in Tucson: go to the Flandrau Science Center's free star watching nights with their 16" telescope (details can be found online), drive around Saguaro National Park, drive up towards Mt. Lemmon and admire some of the beautiful views, eat at Feast and get the Crispy Duck Salad, eat at Planet of the Crepes and get pretty much anything.  Take lots of scenic photos.

Gwen is finally walking around all the time now.  She goes slowly, and is still a little wobbly, but she's getting steadily better and seems to enjoy it.  Chloe has begun waddle-running, which is always funny. They are starting to try to say specific words sometimes, banana, thank you, bye-bye, hi, cracker, grandma (or grandpa), go, etc.  Their hair is slowly getting longer and lighter.  Caleb's hair is finally thick on most of his head, though he still has a high forehead.  Aiden likes his hair to be a little long and messy.

Aiden is all registered for kindergarten next year (I believe it's full-day).  He's been taking a little guitar class for little kids at the rec center, which I think he's starting to enjoy.  Caleb is looking forward to starting preschool this next year.  It will be interesting for me to be at home with just the girls a couple of times a week.

It's been an abnormally cold winter.  We got hail last week, and various places around the valley got snow.  There were a lot of car accidents, because nobody here knows how to drive in the snow.  I am hoping it will stay a little warmer for a while now (and hold off on getting really hot for a while too) so the kids can play outside lots, as it's their favorite thing to do, plus it wears them out! Bonus.

I am turning 30 this year.  If you have any fantastic ideas of what to do to celebrate, let me know.

And...time's up.  Gotta get the kids in the car and go get Aiden from preschool.  More another time, I suppose.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Caleb!

I'm only a month and a half late with this post...oh well.


Caleb, at age three, is becoming more independent all the time.  He likes trying to do things all by himself.  He is at that stage though where he still craves some amount of dependency and help.  It's a balancing act trying to figure it out sometimes, but it's getting easier.


He's slightly above average in size for his age, at 35.5 lbs and 38" tall.  He seems very large to me, perhaps because Aiden was so skinny at that age, and Caleb is a little sturdier.  He's leaned out a lot over the past year though, and no longer has the little round tummy he had when he was 2.  We are working, slowly, on potty training.  He is capable of using the potty, he just doesn't want to most of the time and would rather just wear his pull-ups.


Caleb is really excited at the prospect of attending preschool at the end of this summer.  He knows almost all of his letters (and is very good at recognizing them, and constantly surprises me by pointing out various letters out of the blue), and is learning how to count to ten fairly well, though he still can't count actual objects with any sort of accuracy (that, in my experience, takes a much longer time to learn than just reciting the numbers or recognizing them in print).  He's very good at his colors and shapes now.

He talks in complete sentences most of the time now, and makes up elaborate pretend play for his hands or for some of our action figures or cars.  He doesn't enunciate very well, so he's still rather hard to understand for most people (including me when he's upset, since he doesn't enunciate at all when he's frustrated over something).  He makes up funny little stories for his hands all the time that they act out, mostly involving dialogue between them as they climb up and fall off of things.  They are generally brothers, and one of them usually saves the other.  Caleb still adores Aiden, though he is starting to assert his independence from him a bit as well, and will refuse to participate when Aiden tries to force him to play one game when Caleb wants to play something else, or play by himself, instead.  They get along well most of the time though, and play together all day.  It will be a big change for both of them, I think, when Aiden starts full-day Kindergarten and Caleb starts preschool.



Caleb loves music, and frequently tries to sing along with the songs in the shows and movies we watch (and does quite a good job at it), and loves trying to play instruments and dancing (which still just involves running around in circles).  He still likes to have things 'just so' when he goes to bed, with his animals lined up just right, and his blanket not crumpled on top of him.  It's probably nice to have a bit of order after the chaos of most of our days.  He doesn't usually nap anymore, though he will fall asleep on the couch occasionally in the afternoons after we've played outside a lot in the mornings.  He adores nursery, and is having no problems whatsoever with Gwen and Chloe being in there with him now.

He is getting better at playing with them, now that they can both walk, which translates to he occasionally will share something with them, and sometimes likes to try to make them laugh by making funny noises, but he still doesn't like them to touch him generally, and refuses to show them how to play with different toys.  He likes saying, "I can't" if I ask him to do something he doesn't want to.  He loves pointing out, "It's morning, Mommy!" as soon as the sun starts coming up every day.  He likes trying to help me cook, and he and Aiden both like to help mop the floor with the kid-sized string mops they got for 3 Kings' Day this year.  His favorite drawing activity is tracing his hand on a piece of paper, which he can do by himself now.

Generally, he's happy and fun to be around (though if you ask him if he's happy, he'll usually reply by suddenly becoming downcast and declaring, "No, I'm sad.") His favorite color is the colors of whatever he is interacting with at that moment.  His favorite show is still Fresh Beat Band.  He really likes Cars, and Here Come the 123's, as far as movies go at the moment.  Sometimes he plays with our baby dolls and will make little beds for them and put them to sleep and carry them around or push them in the stroller if they are "awake". His favorite food is probably peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut into triangular quarters.  He eats a lot in the mornings and afternoons and then isn't much interested in dinner.


We tried going to the snow up in Flagstaff one day a couple of weeks ago.  He hated the cold and wanted to get back in the car after just a couple of minutes.  I think he felt personally affronted that anything could feel so cold.  It hailed last week, and he refused to go out and play in it, even bundled up in warm clothes.  It's somewhat entertaining.

It will be fun to see how he changes over the upcoming year.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Gwen and Chloe, 12 months!

Okay, so they're actually 13 months old now.  I'm a little late on this post.  Oh well.  For starters, here is an adorable picture of them on their birthday.


They are not identical.  I know it is hard to tell for some people who do not see them every single day, especially when they're dressed in identical outfits, but they really look quite different from each other.  Maybe it is easier to tell in this photo of them making silly faces:


Alrighty.  On to the finer details of their little one-year-old lives.  We'll start with Gwen, since she's a whole minute older.



Gwen is delightful.  She scoots on her belly in the fastest army crawl I've ever seen.  I think the tile floor helps a bit, but she slides across it crazy-fast.  She is currently working on teeth #5&6, both molars, so she's been a little cranky lately due to that.  She likes sitting, she likes pulling herself up to a stand holding on to furniture, she likes sitting on laps, and she shows little interest so far in walking (though she'll take a few steps holding onto furniture).  She is the one who cries when they wake up from their naps, and generally she doesn't seem to need as much sleep as Chloe.  She pays little to no attention to the stuffed animals in her crib, but likes playing with Chloe sometimes through the slats.



She's fairly calm most of the time.  She's a messy eater, and has, after some initial reluctance, come to absolutely love playing in the water, whether the bath or the pool or the sink.  She loves mimicking sounds, and can manage a whooshy throaty growly sound, raspberries, mama, baba, tongue clicking, and sticking her tongue out.  She likes throwing food on the floor, and eats a bit slowly.  Beans (like black beans and kidney beans) are not her favorite food, though she will still eat them.  She loves bananas, and likes PB&J sandwiches, and most everything I try to feed her.  She dug right in to her birthday cake, grabbing handfuls and stuffing it into her mouth.  She is a sweet, snuggly girl, except for when she bites you when she's teething (she'll go for shoulders, knees, arms, fingers, whatever happens to be next to her mouth when the urge strikes, though she really doesn't bite very often).  She's not very assertive when Chloe steals her toys and relies on crying loudly at me to get them back usually.  She's got beautiful blue eyes and an underbite that is adorable now, but will undoubtedly require orthodontics when she's older.  She likes to clap, and wave while saying bye-bye.  She likes making noise by drumming on things or hitting things together.  She babbles a lot throughout the day, and really likes tickles, kisses, and having her hair blown on.  She loves playing with hats, and playing peek-a-boo, and wearing sunglasses.

Now on to the youngest, Chloe.


Chloe seems to be trying to make up for being the youngest by being the earliest of my babies to do things.  She has eleven teeth already, crawls beautifully, and has just started walking in the past week.  She loves climbing up and onto things, and makes it onto the couch without a second thought, and climbed up onto the double stroller a couple days ago.  She is starting to learn how to get back down off of things, which is good for my sanity.  She seems to want to be on the go almost constantly, and consequently needs a bit more sleep than Gwen I think.  She also likes sitting on laps, and climbs up onto my lap out of nowhere regularly no matter what I'm trying to do.


She likes sucking on her rattle-cat-blanket-lovie in her crib, and self-soothes with that every time I put her in her bed.  She also likes playing with Gwen through the slats, and pulling up the roller blinds behind the cribs (I think they both do that though).  She rarely cries in her crib, but is prone to crying in her high chair when she runs out of food or wants to get down.  She eats fairly neatly and also very fast, which is always kind of surprising to me.  She doesn't like avocados at all and will spit them out if I try to feed them to her.  She eats most everything else though, and like all her siblings, loves bananas the most.  She ate her birthday cake very cautiously at first, scooping frosting off with a couple of fingers and tasting it for a long time before she made it to the cake part, which she dug into pretty well once she'd had a taste.  Despite generally being more adventurous than Gwen, I think she's a little more dubious of strangers.  She steals toys from Gwen all the time, and gets very mad if I take them back from her.  She seems to have ideas lately as to exactly how things should be, and gets upset if things don't match up to just how she wants them (though sometimes even she seems unsure of how things should be, and just ends up crying anyway no matter what I try).  She has beautiful blue eyes and an overbite.  She likes to clap, and loves Baby Signing Time, and tries to sign Baby whenever I turn it on or sing the song for her, and will keep it up for several minutes after the song is over.  She also signs more, all-done, eat, and a few other sporadic signs.  She is more vocal now than she used to be, and sometimes after watching Gwen do it for awhile, tries to join in with the sound mimicking.  She also really likes to wave, and clap, and can blow a note in the recorder, which she loves doing.  She likes taking hats and sunglasses on and off, and loves peek-a-boo.  She likes tickles and kisses and being lifted up high in the air.

Both girls are well-loved by their brothers, who like trying to make them laugh and are learning to share with them.  They follow the boys around the house, and want to play with whatever the boys are playing with.  They've learned how to put Mega Blocks together already, and how to drive toy cars around on the table back and forth.  At their one-year check-up, Gwen was 19lbs 15oz and 29.5" tall, and Chloe was 19lbs 6oz and 29" tall, both healthy and right on track.  They are adorable and I am delighted they are mine.  They are definitely worth the bed rest, daily medications, and the C-section.  They are exhausting and adorable, and have been really very good babies (it's more the four kids four-and-under that's exhausting, rather than the girls specifically).  They sleep all night and take two naps a day (three if they're really tired).  They don't use pacifiers and no longer use bottles and have mastered a variety of sippy cups, handles, no-handles, and straws.  Sometimes they like Mommy best, and sometimes they want nothing more than to have Daddy hold them and will chase Mike down the hallway crying until he picks them up for snuggles and playing.  They love their Grandma and Grandpa Van Dusen, although I think they like Grandma a little more.  They both dislike dirty diapers way more than their brothers ever did, and are more prone to diaper rashes.  I think one of my very favorite things in the whole entire world is when they wake up at the same time and play with each other through the crib slats in the dark of their room.  I have no idea what they do in there, but I hear them laughing at each other from across the house, delighted peals of laughter intermixed with giggles and squawks, and I love it so much.

Here's to another lovely year with two wonderful, beautiful, happy girls!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guatemala, for real this time (to be updated soon with pictures)

Hopefully soon I will intersperse some pictures into this post.  I'd add them now but I'm tired after waking up every two hours all night to go wake Chloe up to make sure she didn't get a concussion from climbing over the arm of the couch yesterday (she seems fine).

The flights to and from were fine.  We had a layover in Dallas each time, which is a fairly nice airport, though really big.  There were some areas to run around in that the kids liked.  We flew American Airlines, which was nice, much better than our previous flight experiences of various other airlines.  The Jacob's Ladders that I had made for the kids fell apart the first time they tried to play with them, possibly because Aiden insisted on me showing them to him before the glue was completely dry.  I'll have to glue them back together sometime.  The mini dinosaurs I brought were a big hit, as were the toy airplanes.  I think Aiden played with the iPad almost the entire time we were on the planes.  The boys didn't really touch the notebooks full of coloring and dry erase activities that I painstakingly put together for them.  Oh well, now we've got them for them to do at home sometime.  Nobody got sick on the plane, we didn't have any blowouts, and everybody liked eating the snacks I brought, particularly the applesauce pouches (Best. Airplane. Food. Ever.).

It was so nice to see my parents again.  It took the kids a little bit, but they got used to them pretty fast, and soon were playing with them quite happily.  The girls were a little clingy for me, but then again, they usually are right now, so that wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  The weather was amazing, nice and comfortable and cool compared to the Arizona heat.  It only rained hard on us once, which my parents said is fairly unusual.  We went out to eat several times, and had yummy steaks, Guatemalan black beans, fried plantains, Pollo Campero fried chicken, a typical Guatemalan breakfast (more black beans, more plantains, eggs), and of course, yummy food my mom made.  I thought the black beans were interesting, they're like refried beans in that they're mashed smooth, but they're also kind of...fluffy, for lack of a better term.  Everything was tasty.  I got to play Scrabble, which was delightful, even if my mother did trounce us, and we learned how to play Mexican Train dominoes and Chicken Feet dominoes, which were very fun.  The boys got to play with Legos and PlayDoh and all the toys my mom borrowed from her friend, so they had lots of fun whenever we were at the apartment, and the children got their first bath with all four of them in the same tub at once.

On Monday, we went to Kaminaljuyu, which is a big grassy area in the center of Guatemala City with some partially excavated ruins.  It was a good choice for our first day there, since the boys got to run around lots after having to sit almost the entire day before as we traveled.  That afternoon we went to Antigua, the old capital of the country, which had lots of beautiful colonial style buildings, a neat jade store/factory that we got to tour, and a restored cathedral that the boys particularly enjoyed seeing the large fountain in the middle and running around on the roof.

On Tuesday, we went to Lake Atitlan.  The road there was extremely windy and up-and-down in elevation as it went through the mountains, but the views were beautiful.  Mike and I went on an 8-leg zipline, which was awesome, while my parents took all four kids on a nature hike.  We saw a monkey swinging by its tail, and some other sort of animal that I really don't know what it was.  We could see the lake from many parts of the zipline, which was beautiful, although I was more focused on making sure I started braking with my hand in time to avoid crashing than I was on the scenery.  What can I say, the ziplines were really fast.  At the end of the zipline adventure, they had a little ropes course thing.  The first part was walking across a suspended board while holding on to some ropes above you (and being harnessed onto a center rope above for safety), and that wasn't too bad.  The second part was leaping from swinging suspended wood plank to wood plank, each far enough from each other that you had to take big steps, which of course sets you swinging.  It was extremely difficult, and I fell down twice (harnessed to the top, so I only fell to a sitting position even with the wood planks, but man is it hard to stand back up!), and got a pretty nice looking rope burn on my arm from a misjudgement as to the best way to grab the ropes for the next plank 2/3rds of the way through.  But, we both made it across without serious injury.  After that, my dad was very nice and drove around for quite awhile until we got to a point where we could walk Aiden and Caleb down to a little dock at the lake and they could see the water.  Three points of note about Lake Atitlan: 1, it is huge, 2, it is beautiful, surrounded by volcanoes covered in greenery, and 3, it is stinky.  I realize many lakes stink, especially when you factor in pollution, sewage runoff, and fishing, I just wasn't prepared for it, just as I wasn't prepared for how big it is (lakes in Arizona tend to be kind of small).  It was extremely beautiful though.

On Wednesday, my mom very kindly watched all the kids all by herself while my dad flew with us up to the Mayan ruins at Tikal.  They were really amazing.  Photos simply don't do them justice.  These pyramids and temples are huge.  Really, really, really huge.  And steep.  Very, very, very steep.  Our tour guide was great, he took us on a several-hour tour full of interesting facts about the ruins, Mayan civilazation, and once he noted we were interested, he pointed out interesting trees, animals, and bugs for us.  There were bright orange centipedes everywhere which were cool, a big black centipede or millipede or something that is the dangerous sort, a very beautiful big spider in a web stretched across a doorway, a giant tarantula that one of the Guatemalans had caught in a water bottle to show to tourists, some butterflies, a small gray mountain fox, monkeys, termites, ants, beetles, and loads of mosquitos.  If you ever go to Tikal, I recommend taking bug spray and sunscreen.  It was very hot, so when it started pouring rain in the afternoon, Mike and I both enjoyed getting totally soaked, while my dad and our guide waited under various overhangs for the rain to disperse. We got up at 4:30 to get there, and didn't get back until about 9:30, but the trip to Tikal was one of my favorite parts of the whole week, it was really amazing.

On Thursday, we went to the Relief Map, which was much larger than I was expecting.  It's a 3-D representation of all of Guatemala, with all of the cities having little flags with their names.  The vertical scale of the mountains is not the same as the scale of the horizontal area, so the mountains all look super-steep, but it's really amazing overall, especially when you consider it was made in 1905.  Then we went to the Central Market, which the kids didn't really enjoy, but I thought it was fun to browse around.  We bought a tiny toy marimba for the boys, and some brightly colored dresses for the girls.  On the way home, we stopped by a large playground near my parents' apartment, that had large cement slides, which the kids enjoyed.

On Friday morning, my mom watched the kids again while we went to a temple session.  It was my first time in one of the smaller temples, it was nice.  Friday afternoon I spent packing to come home while the kids played.  My mom quilted some beautiful quilts for the girls, and my parents both seemed to like the Scrabble blanket I made for them.  Aiden got car sick a couple of times during the trip, and the girls both got sick also on the way back from Lake Atitlan, and we had one potty accident, but overall, the kids all did great, and didn't come home with any illnesses or anything.

It was a fantastic trip, and I'm so happy we went.

Hopefully pictures will be coming soon, I have some editing to do and I have to acquire over half of them from Mike still, and check if my mom has some that we lost off our camera somehow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We went to Guatemala


And it was terrific.  But that's not the real subject of this post.  I will save all our trip stuff for another post.

Due to some recent thoughts about losing faith and science and things from various relatives and friends, I have been thinking a lot lately about my faith, and about science, and the interaction of the two in my life.  I like science and science-y things, I think there's a lot of interesting stuff to be learned from chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, geology, etc, etc, etc.  I also like my faith.  I think there's a lot of interesting stuff to be learned from my religion, from the scriptures, from prayer, from temple attendance, etc, etc, etc.
I was reading a blog post about scientific literacy, and ran across a couple of quotes from commenters that I liked and wanted to share.  First:

""Science teachers need to teach skepticism as being core to the scientific method".


Exactly. Core not just to the scientific method, but to life. The challenge is to try to maintain that sense of skepticism while at the same time teaching a scientific subject that teaches a large number of "you'll just have to take this on faith for now" facts. That's a tightrope walk."

Second:

"What we know is not the whole story. How we know it is equally important."

There are a great many things I run across in life that I am skeptical about.  Claims made in books, movies, advertisements, the internet, by people I know or have never met.  Issues of correlation vs. causation.  "This thing happened right after that thing, so this must have caused that" is generally an opinion that I consider ill-informed.  Frequently I run into statements that I can't make up my mind about due to a lack of sufficient information.  Sometimes I go look up information, hopefully from trustworthy sources without too much bias one way or another (though all sources, of course, contain some bias).  Then I think about what I've read, and come up with my own conclusion on the subject.  Other times, I really don't care enough about the subject to bother searching out sufficient information to come to a conclusion.  For instance, politics.  Don't talk to me about it, I really don't know enough about it to come to an informed decision and will therefore probably just be a very boring conversational partner.

Yet at the same time there are a great many things in life that I simply take on faith.  I don't understand how or why they work.  I may have researched them and not been able to find anything that helps me understand them better.  I may not have researched them at all, but have simply accepted that they are, they exist, and there is somebody somewhere who understands it much better than I that I will trust.  Sometimes that someone I am willing to trust is a friend, sometimes a relative, sometimes a researcher, sometimes God Himself, through His prophets or through the Holy Ghost.

There seem to be two very different ways of knowing things in my life, which I have been thinking about due to that second quote above.  What I know is important, how I know it perhaps is equally important.  There are the things I know because other people have done experiments and have come up with hard data and have interpreted that data and other people have taught me those interpretations.  Then there are the things I know because of what I might call soft data (there is probably a specific definition of soft data which may very well be different than how I am using the term here, please excuse me).  There are thoughts and feelings, and what other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would term as revelation and promptings.  Some of this soft data I have acquired myself, some of it other people that I trust have acquired, interpreted, and taught to me.

I am well aware that there are plenty of things which I know, through either method of knowing, which could be wrong.  There is information I have undoubtedly learned that has already been or someday will be proven false.  There are things which, with my limited understanding of the universe and the life present in it, I have undoubtedly misinterpreted.  I think one of my cousins said recently that you can know something 100% and yet still be completely wrong.  I don't think there are many things in my life that I would say I am 100% sure of, and those few things I would say that about, I don't think I am wrong about (obviously).

One theory as to how I reconcile my skepticism with my faith might be that my skepticism itself is based in faith.  I believe some of the sources I find, I have faith in their validity.  Other sources I throw out the window as being completely ridiculous.  The soft data, or my feelings as to what feels right and true and honest, probably overrules everything else when it comes to what I do believe, and what I don't.  I am not very good at logical arguments or apologetics or honestly (despite my English degree) at even writing essays that follow a progression to "prove" a point.  You've undoubtedly realized that by now.  I can't really explain to someone else why I am skeptical about the miracles of homeopathic healing, and yet I am not skeptical about the miracles of Priesthood healing; or why I am skeptical of almost all self-help books, yet I am not skeptical as to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

My favorite scripture lately, with all this thinking about faith I've been doing, is Hebrews 11:1:

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I have faith in God, that He is my Heavenly Father, that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of mankind, that I will have the opportunity to live with them again if I strive to live a worthy life.  I have faith in the gift of agency.  I have faith that the Book of Mormon is a book of scripture written by ancient prophets and translated by Joseph Smith through the power of God.  I have faith that the Holy Ghost will guide me in my life if I listen and seek after him.  I have faith that the prophets who lead the church today receive revelation from God, and are able to share His commandments with me.  I have faith in black holes, and dark matter.  I have faith that calculus, which I do not understand in the slightest, works and forms the backbone of most modern scientific endeavors.  I have faith that there are supernovas and magma chambers and all sorts of magnificent wonders throughout the universe, most of which I will never be able to see, and am unlikely to ever understand intimately (at least in this lifetime).  And I have faith that all the wonders of the universe were created through the power of God, which process I am also unlikely to ever understand intimately in this lifetime.  I have faith that after I have died, that my spirit will still exist, and will still be capable of learning and growing, and that I will someday be able to be resurrected, that my body and spirit will reunite and be perfected, and that just maybe, someday in the eternities, I will be able to understand all the things that I can't in this life.

Man is fallible.  The leaders, past and present, of the church I believe in are fallible just like anybody else.  They are not perfect, as I'm sure they'd be the first to tell you.  While I believe that they often speak for God, they also sometimes just give their own personal opinion on subjects about which they have not (yet (sometimes)) received revelation.  Man has his agency, and the only person who has ever even been able to be perfect is Christ.  People are, for the most part, good hearted.  These are all things I believe.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  I like that word, substance, and its derivatives, substantial and substantive, as applied to the concept of faith.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen.  I find that phrase interesting, that faith is the evidence.  There are innumerable things that I have not seen, and am not likely to ever see.  I can't measure them.  I can't perform experiments directly on them.  I can see how they affect the world around them, and in some cases, I can see how they affect my life itself.

There are many who would probably argue for the necessity of extensive scientific literacy among the general population.  There are people who similarly argue for spiritual literacy among the general population, whether they define that as being well-versed in your scriptures of choice, or knowledgeable about many different religions besides your own, or just in-tune with your spirit, or your inner being, or whatever it is that your belief system tells you makes up the essence of who you are.  My knowledge of probably the majority of scientific concepts is fairly shallow at best.  My knowledge of probably the majority of religious concepts is also probably fairly shallow.  I am not a great scholar of science or religion.  But I enjoy learning more about science, and I find joy in my religion and my faith.

I apologize if this post has been disjointed and rambly.  I am prone to rambling no matter what I do, and the disjointedness can be attributed to being interrupted many, many times to take care of the little ones whose needs are more pressing than my need to write down my thoughts on this subject.  Also, I don't proof-read and edit my posts, because I am a lazy writer.  I sincerely hope that somebody, somewhere might be able to make some sense of what I'm trying to say, as convoluted as it's been.  I also sincerely hope that I haven't managed to offend anyone.  This post is not directed at anybody, I'm not trying to convince anybody else of anything, I'm simply trying to write down and maybe make a bit of sense of my own thoughts after reading three separate blog posts in as many weeks from three different people, all of whom I like and admire for various reasons, regarding their personal loss of faith, and the loss of community that accompanies that.  Maybe someday when I'm getting more sleep and have longer chunks of uninterrupted time I will be able to make more sense of my thoughts and on the resolution between the apparent dichotomy between scientific skepticism and faith.  For now, hopefully this will appease that little niggling need in my brain to write things down.

In closing, I would just like to say, have peace.  And I would recommend avoiding trying to read chemists' blogs when your glasses, eyes, and brain are all fuzzy (I need new lenses).  And maybe avoid writing blog posts under similar conditions.  And get a good night's sleep.  And maybe eat some vegetables.  I will stop now, before I end up advising you to use the potty, pull up your pants, flush the toilet, wash your hands, and don't forget to brush your teeth. (You say something enough times, and it starts to just slip out into every conversation eventually, regardless of whom you're speaking with.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Huh

Somehow it has been almost nine months since I last posted.  What can I say, my kids wear me out and I rarely feel like writing anything in my few minutes of child-free time every day, I suppose.  I post a lot of little life snippets on FaceBook and a few on G+, so if you are actually interested in how things are going on a regular basis, I'd recommend reading over there rather than here.

Aiden finished his first year of preschool.  He knows his numbers quite well, and is learning his letters.  He is getting better at tracing.  He really doesn't like singing in front of people, he thinks it's scary, and so during all three of his preschool programs this year, he sat on his mat, refused to sing, and glared at everyone.  So, we're working on teaching him songs and helping him sing in front of other people this summer.  He's very imaginative, and has two imaginary friends, Roger and Dasher, that he plays with and talks about all the time.  He consistently will have two toys have conversations with each other.  Anything unpleasant is now apparently worth crying about, which is rather annoying, but at least he doesn't have full-blown tantrums very often.  He loves pepperoni pizza, olives, pickles, quesadillas with salsa, frozen burritos, and doesn't really like trying new foods most of the time.  His favorite color is blue, his favorite stuffed animals are his bear-kie, a lamb-y, and a moose.  He wakes up at 5:30 every morning, and doesn't like going to bed before 8pm, and doesn't take naps unless we go on a car ride in the mid-afternoon, which generally results in him falling asleep.  He's a wonderful big brother most of the time, and other than regular fights with Caleb over toys and the iPad, he's very nice to his siblings.  He plays with Caleb most of the day every day, and loves holding the babies on his lap for a minute or two, and making silly noises that make them laugh.  He loves to say silly things.  After a bout of him repeating "What the heck!" we decided we didn't want him to say that, so he replaces it now with other words, and goes around saying "What the goose" and "What the head" and other things like that, followed by giggles.  He very rarely has potty accidents any more.  He loves playing grown-up games on the iPad, like Gesundheit and Plants Vs. Zombies and Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope and Swordigo.  We just set up the Wii again for the first time in two years, and he's been enjoying trying to play Wii Sports and Wii Fit with me also.  He loves story-time every night, and will sit still for long picture books now.  He's starting to think up things by himself to say during his prayers every night, and seems to enjoy being in Sunbeams, though he refuses to sing during Primary also.  He adores going to his grandparents' house, and asks me every few days if he can have a sleep-over there.

Caleb is learning new words consistently, and I'm working with him on pronouncing things properly.  He leaves off the first consonant sound of most words.  He still babbles nonsense sometimes, but most of the time he uses real words and makes small sentences.  He is much more emotionally intense than I'm used to, and has large-scale meltdowns as well as fits of long, loud laughter when he finds something funny.  He has to have things lined up just-right on his bed each night before he can go to sleep, and gets upset if something is out of place.  He plays pretty well on his own now, but much prefers to play with Aiden (whom he calls A-A).  He loves going to nursery, even though it's right during his normal nap-time and he sometimes falls asleep by the end of nursery.  He mimics everything Aiden does, almost all day.  He tries to say the same words, and do all the same things, and follows his brother around endlessly.  His very favorite person, though, is his Grandpa.  His second-favorite person is me.  He loves the movie Wall-E and we watch it a lot.  He also likes Ponyo quite a bit, and Cars.  He likes The Fresh Beat Band and Blues Clues and want to watch things pretty much all day every day.  He loves playing with the iPad, his favorite game is probably our toddler puzzle game called Tozzle, wherein there is a train puzzle that he adores.  He really loves trains.  He plays pretend sometimes, especially with the Little People we have, whom he makes walk between the dump truck and the airplane, and bounces them on a pillow for a trampoline.  He loves baths and trying to drink his bath water.  He likes to eat Cheerios with sugar, corn dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, and a few other things, and is generally very resistant to trying new foods unless they're desserts or similarly sweet.  He's finally starting to come and tell me when he's got a poopy diaper, so I think we're getting close to him being ready to potty train.

Gwen only has two teeth still.  She's getting quite tall, and her face is filling out a bit, and her legs are quite chubby, which is cute.  She scoots around the floor, pulling herself forward with her arms.  She almost always wakes up before Chloe, and cries every time we put her in her bed to sleep.  She's getting pretty good at sitting, though she is still figuring out getting down from sitting to crawling.  She is fairly content most of the time wherever she is, and doesn't really go exploring that much.  She also loves snuggling and sitting on my lap and playing with me.  She likes talking, and will babble a lot when she's excited.  She is reserved about giving out smiles most of the time, but when she does, they're delightful.

Chloe has four teeth still, but I'm pretty sure she's working on another one right now.  She's much shorter than Gwen, and skinnier, though her cheeks still look pretty chubby.  She is very fast at army-crawling all over the place, and loves to explore until she realizes she's all alone and can't see anyone anymore.  She switches between sitting and crawling easily all on her own, and back to sitting again when she finds a toy to play with.  She pulls herself up to kneeling on the edge of the couch, and on our big Mega Blocks box, and other things like that.  I suspect she will be a climber.  She loves moving.  She is very impatient when it comes to eating and cries between most every bite of baby food because she doesn't want to wait the 30 seconds while I give Gwen a bite.  She cries louder than Gwen usually, and laughs more too.  She likes trying to bite my hand or arm and laughs when I wince and tell her no.

Both girls get jealous of each other whenever they see the other one on my lap or being held.  They also get jealous when they see Caleb sitting on my lap.  They like it when I'm sitting on the couch near them, and get upset when I go sit at the table to eat, or go do dishes, or make food for the boys, or whatever.  They are fascinated by Yo Gabba Gabba and Baby Signing Time.  They love listening to music, and always flip around from whatever they're playing with when there's a song in a TV show.  They think Aiden is pretty hilarious, and generally want to play with anything Caleb is playing with, which he doesn't like at all.  Chloe loves being in the water, she's a little fish.  She splashes and dunks her face in and gets all wet and doesn't cry at all.  Gwen is scared of the water and tenses up whenever she gets near the bath or the pool, and clings to me or to a toy for a long time before she relaxes at all.  She doesn't like being splashed.  They both eat any kind of baby food I give them, and are very interested in real food now, though they have not succeeded at eating Cheerios or Banana Puffs the couple of times I've given them some.  They like Mommy the best, and get excited every time I walk in the room after being away from them for a few minutes.

I've been doing alright.  I've started dieting (by just eating less food at every meal), and trying to get a bit of exercise in sometimes.  I've been doing small amounts of crafting, a lot of movie and TV watching, and a lot of reading with my Kindle I got for Christmas.  I got a BlendTec blender for my birthday/mother's day, which has been fantastic for making healthy smoothies to drink.  I feel tired almost all of the time, probably because of going to bed too late and Aiden waking me up at 5:30 every morning.  I've been thinking lately about a future career in librarianship possibly.  Who knows, I seem to change my mind every year or two about what I'd like to do for a job someday if I ever have to or want to go back to work.  My house is generally a giant mess and my yard is a wreck and my garden has been doing its own thing all year (I scattered all my leftover seeds in it willy-nilly at the beginning of spring, so I don't even know what's growing in it right now).  The birds like our yard a lot.  We replaced our drip system.  There's lots of things I would like to do, or that kind of really need doing, but by the point in the day that I have enough time to do most of them, I'm too tired to.  I should start going to bed earlier, I guess.

Mike is doing well.  He's getting back into photography after a long baby-hiatus.  He's still enjoying his full-time job as well.  He's really busy most of the time.  We regularly wish we had some sort of inheritance or something so he could stay home every day and just play, but obviously, that's terribly unrealistic. ;)  I'm glad he works hard to support us, and generally likes what he does during the day.

We're going on a family vacation in July to Guatemala to visit my parents.  I've got all our passports ready, and plane tickets purchased.  I'm really excited for my parents to see the girls for the first time.  I think it will be a lot of fun, even if the plane rides are going to be insane with all four kids and only two adults.

Who knows when I'll post again.  I should put up some more pictures some time, my kids are all really cute.  We'll see if I get around to it or not.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Valco Zee Two Baby Gizmo Giant Weekly Giveaway

With twin babies, a two year old, and a four year old, finding a stroller to use was not easy.  We picked the Valco Baby Tri-Mode Twin, with the hitchhiker board and the toddler joey seat, because it was pretty much the only option that would let me have all four kids on one stroller.  I have loved it, it is not difficult to fold, the individual canopies are lovely, the buckles are wonderfully kid-proof, and it is all-around a really nice stroller.  But I've had a couple of complaints with it.  It's very heavy, and it has air-filled tires.  I understand, it's an all-terrain stroller, and they generally have air-filled tires.  But I've already gotten a thorn in one tire, and had to get a new inner tube for it, and I'm not really using the stroller much in all-terrain sorts of situations.  It's pretty much sidewalks for us, and occasionally some grass when we cut across the park to get to the playground.  But, like I said, it was the only option that would work for us, and other than those two minor complaints, I've loved it.  And the thing that really convinced me to buy it was watching the video review from babygizmo.com (seriously, if you ever want a video review of a stroller you're considering, check and see if they have one there first! Best, most in-depth stroller video reviews I've seen.)

Now, lo and behold, Valco has made a new double stroller, the Zee Two.  It still has the wonderful canopies, it will eventually take a toddler seat and the hitchhiker board, but! It is lighter! It has foam tires that are unpoppable!  It is, in a nutshell, my dream stroller.  And! Baby Gizmo did a wonderful review of it, which made up my mind completely.  I want one.  And! Baby Gizmo does an amazing Giant Weekly Giveaway, where they give away all sorts of awesome things.  And (you see where this is leading now, don't you?), this week, they are giving away a Zee Two.  What's a mom of four kids four and under to do, but try every conceivable way to win?

So, there you have it.  The Valco Zee Two.  Baby Gizmo Giveaways.  And one blog post by none other than yours truly.

P.S. I will update about life and all that nonsense soon, I promise!