A funny exchange

Mary and Lydia were playing with stuffed animals in the evening. Lydia and Mary first called their game “doctor,” but then they figured out between them that the stuffed animals merited a change of game. They played “vet” instead, and here was their conversation:

Mary (Kitty): Can you help me? I’m going blind.

Lydia (Vet): What happened? Did you stare into a flashlight?

Mary (Kitty): No, I stared into the sun for two whole days. I got eye surgery and glasses, and it didn’t help.

Abe and I were amused at Lydia’s question, and we also thought it was cute that Mary worked her eye surgery and glasses into the game.

low key day

Today was a low key day. The kids are all getting sick, so I let them sleep in and we were fifteen minutes late to Lydia’s school. Considering the girls slept until twenty minutes before we were supposed to leave and that Ammon woke up five minutes before we actually left, I was happy with this.

For dinner I made spiralized zucchini with sausage and peppers. I hate sausage and have no idea why I conceived this dinner idea. I basically gagged my way through eating dinner, but Abe and the girls seemed to like it.

I took pictures of the girls’ art and journals today.  Here’s Mary’s gratitude journal:

 

Here’s Lydia’s journal:

This one made me chuckle. Lydia gets scared when I drive too fast and when her little sister screams in public.

pictures

On Wednesday I cleaned a lot while the kids played near me. Ammon loved mopping the floor. After he had thoroughly mopped it, he and Mary made a nest. She gave him scratchies while he pretended to go to sleep. He picks his lip as he falls asleep, so he was really re-enacting the whole go-to-bed thing.\

And I took some cute pictures of Clarissa.

In the evening Ammon wanted to re-enact his going-to-bed routine on the floor again, and this time Lydia gave him scratchies.

I had fun dancing with Ammon on the floor after that. Normally I let Abe do the dance parties, but I was feeling happy and relaxed. It was a nice evening.

 

Lost tooth

On Monday Lydia lost another tooth. She now loves singing about how all she wants for Christmas is her two front teeth.

Mary being sassy.
Clarissa before her bath.

Traveling home

On Sunday we took it easy before our flight home. Swathi and I worked out in the morning and I had my first experience on one of those bikes that has a screen for a virtual work-out. I forget what it’s called. It was fun.

Ammon and Soren hug goodbye!

Our flight home was kind of awful, but we had incredible angels help us on the way. Ammon was a total disaster, but sweet strangers shepherded us through the worst parts. One of our angels was a Christian English teacher who had spent four years in North Korea teaching (she was Canadian). Another was a German nanny named Agnes who helped us carry our heavy bags. I also appreciated every single smile we got from strangers. When Ammon was screaming and crying, those sympathetic smiles meant a lot. I hope I remember this when I am in a different stage of life.

When we got to Salt Lake, I felt elated. The weather was great, and Abe and I felt so amazing for having survived this really difficult leg of the journey. We were so, so happy all the way to our home.

A massage

Swathi was so sweet and scheduled us massages on Saturday. Mine was at nine in the morning, and it was the first time after Friday that I felt slightly calmed down. I loved the voice of my masseuse. She sounded like a professional story teller! Her voice was perfectly cadenced and was husky and musical.

I also loved the receptionist. She was one of the kindest, happiest people I have ever met in my life. She was one of those people you have trouble believing are real, but she was. And the massage itself was amazing. I loved it.

After the massage I joined the rest of the family across the street at a restaurant for breakfast. It was delicious, although I envied Janine’s order of brussel sprouts, bacon and grits. It looked like a delicious dish.

I guess Abe probably had his hands full with the kids and forgot to tell people he was taking their picture!

After breakfast Abe and Clark took the kids to the park. Some of the pictures below are from an earlier outing to the park on a different day, but I don’t remember when that was so I am just throwing them in here.

Speaking of undated pictures, we have this beauty taken I-have-no-idea-which-day:

In the evening we walked around Clark and Swathi’s neighborhood and ended up at a renovated YMCA that has since been turned into a restaurant and basketball court.

And Soren and Ammon took a bath together at the end of the day. They were so cute. Soren was singing “swimming in the ocean breeze!” and Ammon would chime in with “beez!”

The Museum of Natural History

After the terrible morning of Ammon’s escape, we went to the Natural History Museum to decompress. Truth be told, I was still keyed up, but the kids all had a great time.

There were lots of amazing displays, my favorite being one which debuted in Paris in 1867. It featured an Arab traveling on camel getting attacked by lions. I had never conceived of such a scenario, but after seeing the display, I can’t conceive how I never thoroughly thought through the danger of camel travel before. Of course lions would be a threat. The Arab looked how I felt during my run-in with the police.

Bea. She was my friend and so interested in Clarissa!

Mary was on the brink of tantrum the whole outing. She wanted Lydia to play with her, but Lydia was busy with her cousins. Finally we directed Lydia to play with Mary, and here she complied.

After the museum, we went to Five Guys. We tried to go to a local Pittsburgh restaurant, but it was packed. Five Guys had space for our large crowd.

In the evening Clark and Swathi were brave and put down tarp for a play-doh party. The kids all had a blast.

Ammon tries to find a new foster family

On Friday morning the police banged on the door. When I opened it, the policeman flashed me a picture of Ammon and said, “Do you know this child?”

“That’s my son!” I exclaimed.

“Do you know he’s been missing for two hours? He’s down in the lobby.”

I had no idea. It turns out that during the five minute window when there happened to be no adults in the living room, Ammon had climbed out of the pack’n play and let himself out of the bedroom and into the apartment hall. This would have been at 5:30am Utah time, so I didn’t even think to check on him. At the time the policemen knocked, Mary was still sound asleep in the room where Ammon had been and the doors were closed.

The next twenty minutes were some of the worst in my life. The policeman yelled at me like I was a criminal for not checking on my son and kept interrupting me whenever I tried to explain. At home we have doorknobs, not pull-down handles, and Ammon never opens the doors. It never occurred to me that Ammon would wake up that early and let himself out, and since the door to his room was closed I had no reason to believe he wasn’t sleeping in his crib next to his (still) sleeping sister.

The policeman informed me that he was very close to writing me up and having child protective services investigate the situation, and that if more time had elapsed they would have taken Ammon into foster care and I would have had to go to court to get him back.

At that point I started crying. CPS is one of my absolute worst nightmares. Ever since I gave birth to Lydia, I have been terrified of this organization. I have heard so many horror stories about good parents who have had their kids taken away, and it seems that a lot of kids in terrible situations grow up in those without anyone ever intervening. I think the organization does a terrible job and hate that it exists.

And the thought that my worst nightmare almost happened practically gave me a heart attack. Also, the police officer was a total jerk. I am sorry to have to write that about anyone, and I know he is a child of God, but nevertheless, that’s what he was to me. If most policeman are like him, I can totally see why people fear and hate the police. I definitely don’t see them as friends after what happened on Friday. Stay away from me and my family, jerks.

On the other hand, I am infinitely grateful that there were people who found Ammon and cared about him enough to knock on doors and find his parents. These people also happened to be police officers, so I guess at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we have Ammon back and that he’s not going into foster care.

That night Clark set up his monitors and we barricaded the doors so that Ammon couldn’t leave. We watched him fall asleep on the big screen. I think it’s common for people to watch football this time of year, but we were busy watching Ammon try to climb out of his crib. Abe would go into the room every time we saw Ammon swing his foot over the side, and Ammon’s face would crumple and he would let out a disappointed wail every time he saw Abe.

Sorry, buddy, but we’re not sharing you with CPS anytime soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clark and Swathi hosted a big crowd for Thanksgiving. On Swathi’s side there was Balu and Sruthi, and on Clark’s side we had the cousins, Louie, Benjie, and their families. It was so fun to see everyone. Clark cooked the most amazing dinner, and we were in awe that both he and Swathi pulled off such a beautiful event–especially with Swathi in her third trimester!!

Soren, Swathi, Balu, Sruthi, and Ammon.

 

Soren!!
Abe built Clarissa a crib made of ottomans and chairs by the table.

Balu took some great pictures after dinner of different families.

Clark and gorgeous Swathi
Bea, Ginny, Louie and Clara

The kids had fun playing together with all of their cousins.

Bea (3), Lydia (6), Clara (5), Mary (5), Soren (2), Liem (7), and Ammon (2).

Flight to Pittsburgh

On Wednesday we left for Pittsburgh to reunite with family for Thanksgiving. Our flight was at 4pm, so I spent the morning getting ready. Lydia accompanied me to Target to find kid-sized headphones and new coloring things for the plane. I was terrified about flying with Ammon, so we stocked up on activities and snacks.

We got to the airport early in anticipation of Thanksgiving traffic. The radio reported that there were fifty-million people traveling. As we pulled into our parking spot at the airport, the car behind us started honking. It turned out to be Abe’s friend, Eric, from work. We were really grateful for the coincidence because he helped us with all of our luggage. I got our family of six down to two backpacks, a carry-on sized roller bag, a snack bag, a small duffel, and a laptop bag, but with the two strollers it was still a lot to manage.

We were shocked to discover that there was literally no line at security. As in: there was not a single person in front of us. We walked through. We had enough time to eat a leisurely, overpriced meal at the airport before boarding our flight to Chicago.

Our layover was pretty short, but we had no trouble catching our next flight to Pittsburgh. We landed around 11pm, and Clark came to pick us up. We squeezed most of us into his car and Abe and Lydia took an Uber over to Clark’s apartment.

How did the kids do on the flight? Clarissa was a peach. I swaddled her, attached her to myself, and she basically nursed and slept the whole way to Pittsburgh. Lydia and Mary were highly entertained by the plane activities we brought, and Ammon…let’s just say, Abe is an amazing parent. He patiently entertained Ammon the whole way to Pittsburgh. It took a lot of focus and infinite amounts of creativity to keep Ammon happy in his confined space. Thank goodness Abe is one of the most creative people on the planet. He kept Ammon very happy.

While we drove, Clark expounded on the amazingness of Pittsburgh. Here were his talking points:

1. Pittsburgh was the home of the Industrial Revolution’s tycoons, and so it is the only rust belt city to not go rusty.

2.There is a lot of money in Pittsburgh that keeps its economy robust, and there is a psychic connection between New York and Pittsburgh. (See number one.)

3. Pittsburgh is also home to two great universities, the University of Pittsburgh (Swathi’s alma mater!) and Carnegie Mellon. Clark said Carnegie Mellon grads always stand out among the people he hires.  He feels they get a superior education.

4. They have one of the best medical systems in the country. This is good for Swathi, who is a doctor.

5. Sports. He said there was so much to say about this topic that he couldn’t even begin to cover it. (Also, I wasn’t the right audience to appreciate the topic.)

6. People who live in Pittsburgh love Pittsburgh, so said Clark.

He is clearly doing as the Romans do.