Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Samuel Stanley Berry

All systems go for launch:
Samuel, in an astronaut outfit chosen by his daddy, preparing to leave the hospital. March 30, 2010

Despite my fears of operatic melodrama, Samuel was an excellent labor companion. He was both courteous and efficient in his timing, cooperative in his delivery, and quietly charming thereafter. A right proper gentleman, he is, and we're all thrilled to have him join the family. I begin to entertain hopes that he will be like Jon: quiet and low-key, undemanding, respectful, and, of course, very smart.

Of course, I do catch the occasional furtive, sly look from Samuel. But fears about him appearing the perfect boy until the FBI shows up with a warrant for his arrest because he's been quietly hacking into their system can wait fifteen years.

Born ten days early, he was also under seven pounds. (Did I not mention his consideration? So thoughtful, like his excellent daddy.) Six pounds 14 ounces is a perfectly respectable size, but so much easier to manage than 8 1/2. He also chose Sunday morning (March 28) to begin labor, which gave me time to get the kids up, fed, dressed in church clothes, and to my neighbor's/visiting teacher's house before Jon whisked me off to the hospital.

Eric and Daniel attended church with the other family and spent the afternoon with them, but Jon arrived back in time to feed them a late dinner (considerately supplied by the aforesaid visiting teacher) and put them to bed.

Sammy also gave me time for an epidural, bless him. Start to finish, the whole ordeal took about five hours. I have an image of him moving with calm deliberation, consulting his project schedule at half-hour intervals.

The name debate was slightly more complicated. My low-key lobbying for Samuel paid off after he was born, but the middle name proved trickier. I proposed Isaac or Ishmael (S.I.B.), which Jon rejected. Hmph. I then suggested Ulysses (SUB), which Jon also nixed. I then sarcastically tried O'Flaherty but was again brutally shot down. Jon lobbied for another S-name, to make the acronym SSB, which stands for single side band in ham radio jargon. I suggested Stanley, Jon's own middle name, which was ultimately adopted. I decided to be magnanimous and let Jon choose. (Actually, when it came time to sign the birth certificate, I was absolutely incoherent and uncaring from lack of sleep.)

My recovery has been going marvelously well. With judicious allocations of motrin, I am functioning quite well, though still trying to take it easy.

We left the hospital Tuesday afternoon, picked up Eric and Daniel from school, showed Samuel off to the carpool ladies, and came home.

I will probably rant about silly hospital rules and interruptions later, but right now I'll just enjoy my baby and post the pictures you've been waiting patiently to see. :)

Samuel, enjoying a few moments of quiet zen meditation. Mama approves his low-key approach to life.

Three boys and a mongoose: Daniel and Eric celebrate meeting Samuel and introducing him to his first stuffed animal.

Settling in at home: A house with three boys is actually more peaceful than the hospital. Daniel is such a good big brother!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mommiest Moments: October, 2009

Eric's Baptism. October 9, 2009.
We were delighted so many family members could make it!

[Eric was playing black box with Grandpa Homer, who was in town for his baptism. After offering his “inputs,” he was graphing them (as his x-coordinates) with their corresponding “outputs” (y-coordinates) to form a shape on paper, which would in turn reveal the nature of the Secret Equation.]

Eric: [Staring at the pattern he's graphed] It looks like a parabola.

Grandpa Homer: That's right.

Eric: So it must be a quadratic equation.

Grandpa Homer: Uh, right!

Eric: So it must be in the form ax^2 + bx + c.

Grandpa Homer: [gaping slightly] That's right...

Eric: And c must be 1. But I don't know how to solve for a and b...

“All my other pregnancies have had such drama...I figure this one will end with a car accident, a high-speed ambulance ride, and an emergency C-section...”

--Gail, anticipating the worst.

“He said 'Just one? Can't I take my whole family?'”

--The school psychologist, reporting on her interview with Eric, in which she asked him, “If you were stranded on a desert island with just one person...” She said this demonstrated that he had strong, loving family ties. :)

--I understand how Eric feels. I wouldn't want to pick just one, either. I still remember a trip to the ER when I was Daniel's age. I had fallen from a kitchen counter and gotten a nasty concussion. Both Mom and Dad drove me to the hospital, but there a nurse informed me that I had to select only one parent to accompany me for all the testing, relegating the other parent to sit in the waiting room. I finally picked Dad, on the assumption that he would browbeat any nurses who tried to do something stupid, but it was a traumatic experience.

---It's also like asking a parent “Who do you want to raise your kids if you die?” My answer is usually, “Well...either set of grandparents would do a good job, or either of my sisters, but...but...really, I want to raise 'em myself!”

Eric's birthday cake: A wizard hat.

“You want to give your own talk about baptism? Well, that's unusual, but...I don't see why not...child after my own heart...exactly the sort of thing I would have done had it occurred to me...”

--The more I thought about it, the more I liked Eric's idea. And, after all, it was his baptism and I tried to accommodate all his reasonable requests, lest I make a mockery of the principle of agency.

---Eric did a great job, too!

“If you scrawl so illegibly that no one can read it, it doesn't count. On school assignments, you need to write slowly enough that your teacher can give you credit for your answers. Private writing is different; my own journal is illegible to anyone except me. Like having a secret code...”

--An illegible scrawl I wrote on a sheet of paper to demonstrate a point to Eric. He had written what looked like “4 + 6 = 16.” I believed that he intended to write “10,” but I counted his answer wrong anyway to teach him a lesson. He was furious. Naturally, after my demonstration, I had to go hunting through old journals to find an entry which was both sufficiently illegible that he almost certainly couldn't read it, and sufficiently unembarrassing just in case he could...

*****“Anyway, the only information I got out of Eric, after thirty minutes of trying, was: 1) The bishop said an opening and closing prayer; 2) Eric mentioned that his grandparents were all coming, and it's approximately a 16-18 hour drive for both of them; 3) They discussed what happened when Heavenly Father and Jesus created the earth; and 4) He passed.

*****“He finally said 'I don't want to tell you,' which I respected, but then he said I could keep asking him questions. I asked if there was any information he was willing to volunteer, and got a very ΓΌber-Aspie blank stare, after which I gave up.”

--He just turned eight. I thought the super-secretive adolescent silence wasn't supposed to start for another five years or so.

--I'm not the kind of helicopter parent who demands to read her kid's patriarchal blessing. I was asking reasonable questions like “Did the Bishop ask if you understood why baptism is important?” I was growing baffled, because if they didn't discuss the baptismal covenant, famous baptism from the scriptures, obedience, commandments, logistics, or even how Eric was doing in school, what did they find to talk about for fifteen minutes?”

Witch of Doom: Do any minions want to help make the pie?

[Eric and Daniel rush to volunteer.]

Witch of Doom: [Sings softly] One little, two little, three little minions...three little minion boys...

--She was counting Q as a mini minion, I expect.

The Witch of Doom's Award-Winning Homemade Cockroach Pie.
She served it with Mud Juice and it was a big hit among the minions.

*****I had this idea for a Halloween theme: Dorothy (me), Cowardly Lion (Danny), Scarecrow (Eric), and Tinman (Jon). Plus Danny wanted Bear to be Toto. Eric, however, wasn't interested, and I was annoyed.

*****All Eric could suggest was that he wanted to be someone who tried (but failed) to be scary, preferably incorporating the color red.

*****I kept thinking “Why did I ever decide to let kids choose their own costumes after they turned three?” (I had a silly, misguided notion about letting the kid “own” the process, exercise his own imagination, and feel involved.)

*****I pushed as hard as I could reconcile with my conscience, to no avail. But then Danny—wonderful boy, I had been out of charity with him all day but he is now amply forgiven—Danny said, "Eric! You could be the scarecrow and keep trying to scare crows but you never succeed!"And Eric said, "Oh. Okay."

--This is why God created siblings, I'm convinced. I recall frequently convincing Ronald or Carolyn to do something they wouldn't have done for Mom.

"Get this crow off my head! Aaaaaaagh!”

--Eric, dressed as a silly scarecrow for Halloween, hamming up his role. He kept pretending to swat at the "crow" (I confess, I grew desperate, bought a baby bath rubber ducky and painted it black) only to smack himself instead. He was cute and comical and had a blast. Bless Danny the Diplomat for his suggestion. :)

Pay no attention to the pregnant Dorothy in the picture...
I particularly liked Bear's costume and impersonation of Toto.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mommiest Moments: September, 2009

--My apologies for the very long delay between updates. I am trying now to get caught up before the baby arrives in two or so weeks. I can't promise complete repentance, since its possible the baby will derail blog updates for several more months. Nonetheless, I hope people will forgive me and post comments, even if the current crop of quotes doesn't seem quite as high-calibre as normal.--

Drat. Now I'm throwing up and sick.

--Pregnancy gives me this paradigm shift about the definition of “sick,” y'see.

“So why did my children understand 'I'm sick. My throat is sore and it hurts to talk so I'm only using sign language,' and 'Daddy is asleep. Be quiet and quit screaming,' but not 'are you hungry?' Talk about my languages only working half the time...”

--Gail, suffering linguistic frustration.

“I wish Q would make up quits mind. I mean, bad week, throwing up three times a day. Then good week, going three and then four days in a row without vomiting. I was lured into a false sense of security: the worst was over! And then bad week again, throwing up twice a day...this is one argument in favor of quits being a girl. Or bipolar. Or maybe twins with two different placentas. Or possibly Hamlet...”

--Mommy. I settled on 'Bipolar Baby.' It seemed apt.

Mommy: [Turns pale, races for the bathroom, and makes retching noises] Oh, curses!
Daniel: What's wrong?
Daddy: What do you think?
Daniel: She missed?

"Houston, we have a heartbeat!"
--Gail, after a doctor's appointment.

My very first castle made from my birthday legos!

The boys especially liked the gruesome decapitated heads on pikes.

[Conversation among some plush giant microbes, voiced by Daniel]

Flu: Hi! What's your name?

Dust Mite: My name is Dust Mite!

Flu: I'm the Flu!

Dust Mite: Achoo!

Flu: [giggles] No, silly. Germs can't get sick!

Bubonic Plague: I'm the Black Death! Let's go infect people!

Flu: Okay! We'll go kill bad guys!

Halitosis: I'm Bad Breath. Can I come?

Others: Sure!

Mommy: [Mutters to herself] Oh, joy. Biological warfare. [Conversationally] You know...bad breath doesn't kill people. But I suppose it could render them sterile...

“Okay, but I will just leave you to wonder how I got there.”

--Eric, after I found him sitting on the top shelf of his closet and forbade him to climb up again. I'm still not certain how he managed.

Eric, having mysteriously ascended his closet.

He has denied all my guesses about ladders, stools, and gymnastics tricks.

“I think that when Superman moves faster than people can see, he is moving faster than the speed of light!”

--Daniel. He reasoned that out for himself. I was so proud.

Gail: You realize that if we had a teen-age girl, and she chose to play the evil, Machiavellian, two-faced, cat-fighting, boyfriend-stealing, sweetly poisonous social domination games of an alpha-girl cheerleader drama queen, she would be--

Jon: A pro.

Gail: --A master. And we would have to watch the carnage. You still want a girl?

Jon: [Cheerfully] Yep!

Gail: Well, we'll hope a hypothetical girl turns out like me. I imagine I could have been brilliant at it, had I lacked moral scruples and cared to exert myself. Fortunately I was more mature, and had many better things to do with my life.

--This conversation should not be taken as an indication of gender preference in Q. It merely reflects the speculation parents engage in during the pregnancy waiting period.

---It wasn't until much later I found the correct word for myself. I'm a “gamma girl,” meaning I'm an autonomous high-achiever. I neither played the political machination games of the alpha girls, nor was I a submissive beta follower (*snort*). Rather I ignored 'em all and worried about getting a good scholarship for college.

Given a unilateral choice between “A” and “B,” I'd write an eight-page essay explaining the historical origins of A and B, the potential consequences of both choices, a weighted evaluation of why “A” is 30% more preferable than B, but, really, that's ignoring the broader issue, because we ought to be re-examining the question from a different perspective; how “C” is a growing minority option, but ultimately, in another twenty years, I think sane people will recognize that “G” is the best of all possible approaches; my predictions, not only of how the debate will play out, but how it ought to play out (though it won't); and...

"The kids were surprised to hear about the whiny side of prophets. Enoch: 'Everybody hates me! And I'm still a kid!' (He was in his seventies.) Moses: 'I'm slow of speech! They'll all make fun of me!' Moroni: 'I'm a general, not a writer! The gentiles won't take this book seriously.' Except for Saint Paul, who 'gloried in tribulation.' But he was nuts."

--Gail, after substituting for a thirteen- and fourteen-year-old Sunday School class.

"Eric, you're to be more careful in this game not to hurt a person's hand!"

--Danny. This is a vast improvement over twenty minutes spent, offended, in the fetal position, whimpering due to a slight injury...

[Reading The Emperor's New Clothes]

“But, Mommy, even if the cloth was real, the emperor still wouldn't be able to see it because he only worried about pretty clothes and he doesn't do a good job being emperor.”

--Danny. What excellent political science skills! I think his Aunt Cheryl would also agree with his analysis that the emperor was not an effective ruler.

---This reminds me of when Cheryl was planning her hypothetical wedding on a hypothetical date with detailed hypothetical bridesmaids, colors, centerpieces, and guests, and I quipped how she would walk down the aisle only to hear a small child exclaim "But the bride is only wearing a hypothetical gown!"

The Cub Scout's New Clothes: Fortunately Eric seems very well suited to his new station, and his outfit was visible to everyone.

Mommy: Danny, you need to scrub your hands because you petted the dog. He was a nice, friendly dog, but you should still wash your hands.

Danny: Yes, and when we stopped to rest, I was sitting on the grass and my hands touched the dirt and that might have germs I couldn't see because they are microscopic.

“Can I have the eyeball?”

“Can I have the eyeball?”

“I want a fang!”

--Children in Eric's class, divvying up the pull-apart alligator cupcakes I brought in for his birthday.

Eric's birthday treat at school. The office ladies were impressed. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mommiest Moments: August, 2009

“Oh! So in my fan, the electricity runs the motor which creates wind, and in a windmill, it's backward. The wind pushes the motor which creates electricity...”

--Daniel. We were doing a homeschool unit about nuclear and wind power.

“Oh, that is an alpha particle. I remember it is a helium nucleus without any electrons.”

--Eric. So, okay, yes, I had taught him that the day before. But still, scary.

“No, I want a homeschool lesson about What to Do If You Encounter a Troll.”

--Eric. I turned it into a lesson on how to design a flowchart.

“Are you an authorized government troll?”

--Eric, playing “toll troll” with me later that day, referring to his flowchart to decide his course of action. Yet another way to help an Aspie learn pretend play...

Gail: Slap my wrist.

Jon: [Does so quizzically]

Gail: Heavenly Father was a Drama Major.

"Bear in a Box" -- Bear practices his miming and performance art skills.

“Oh, I am so excited!”

“I hope it's not too bossy.”

“Even though I'm only allowed three cups of milk a day, when the baby comes, I will only drink two cups of milk and give it one so it can have milk.”

Daddy, if the baby wakes up in the night and you and Mommy do not hear it I will come Report it. Or I will go Troubleshoot the baby myself!

--Danny, reacting to the news of an impeding sibling.

Sister L.: He is so adorable! I could just eat him up!

--After Danny made a very serious comment in Primary.

[Registering Danny for school]

Mommy: Danny, how high can you count?

[Danny starts and keeps counting while I fill in other blanks.]

Danny: 98, 99, 100. 200, 300, 400...

Eric: No!!! You're doing it wrong!!!

Danny: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106...

Mommy: Ok, good, you have the pattern. Now if you were to go back and count by hundreds, instead, what would come next?

Danny: [stubbornly insisting on doing it the 'right' way] 109, 110, 111...

Mommy: [tries a few more times and gives up] I'll just put down 100+

--The secretary also seemed impressed when Danny started reading the forms. “Why does that say, 'your child must...'” :)

--Oh, and once again, they had a survey about “How often do you read to your child” and “Does your child know 1) none of his alphabet 2) some of his alphabet or 3) all of his alphabet?”

I LOVE having smart kids.

"We are pretending we're baby electrons and so we don't know any better so we are not repelling each other, instead we are attracting each other."

--Danny, playing a version of “chicken” with Eric, which involved them crashing into each other.

“Aha! I was too nimble for you, Luthien!”

--Danny. The obvious question is, why was the unicorn trying to gore him with her horn?

“It's disturbing to think what a little boy could do to make a unicorn that cranky. I think you need to have a father-son talk with them...”

--Gail, to Jon

“I didn't know it was possible for a unicorn to have a bad hair day.”


“Come upstairs and play sabotage with me!”

--Eric. For some reason, this fills Mommy with fear and trembling.

“Mommy, will you sing me a song?”

--Awww. Even if the songs are all “I stuck my head in a little skunk's hole” and “Twas a dark and gloomy day in spring/when the farmer's house burned down.../His wife and kids were caught inside/and all the crops turned brown...” Occasionally I get to mix it up with some Mikado. (“As the saber drew/cut cleanly through/his cervical vertebrae...his vertabrae...”)

Left: An outbreak of Poetry Pox on the dryer. Right: Eric's first attempt at magnetic poetry.

“So, Eric passed off one part of the 'Skip to My Lou' duet with me playing the other part. And then he taught himself the secundo part. And then he started transposing them...”

“I shouldn't have snorted derisively. Slap my wrist. [Jon does so] I need to keep telling myself “I'm breaking in a new school mother used to do this every few years.. It's a pride issue, I know....I really shouldn't have snorted derisively. [sigh]

--After talking to the QUEST teacher, who explained very kindly that mere academic acceleration might not be enough to get Eric into their version of a gifted program.

“Danny wanted to build a house out of legos, which was fine. We played together and I helped him. But the next day, naturally, we had to take the entire thing apart because he had forgotten to run the infrastructure lines through the walls. We added blue water pipes, red hot water pipes, brown sewer pipes, yellow electricity wires, and an air-handling system...”

--He really reminds me of his grandpas. He was so meticulous in his design and installation.

Eric, we need to be in our room for the rest of the day. Good thing we already have a playroom tent and a puppet show in there...”

--Danny, cheerfully. Eric was less sanguine.

The next time Michael [the babysitter] comes over I will let him do seven puppet shows even though the limit is six because he needs the practice.”


Danny: “...and the story is about... [Danny describes the story]...and that is the sequel and tomorrow I will tell the other part!”

Mommy: You mean, tomorrow's story will be the sequel?

Danny: No, tomorrow will be what happened before today so today is the sequel.

--He was right, naturally. I taught him the word “prequel” which satisfied everyone. :)

I understand now. It's not the 'sandinista stomach' or the 'terrorist tummy.' The baby has kidnapped my stomach and is holding it hostage...I'd happily embrace a policy of appeasement, but Q is refusing to make any coherent demands!”

--Gail, bemoaning her pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Nurse: ...and we'll do a urine test to make sure you are pregnant.

Gail: Let us devoutly hope I am pregnant. Otherwise you'll have to find an alternate explanation for the fatigue, queasiness, nausea, vomiting, hormones, weepiness, mood swings...”

--The test, by the way, returned a most definite positive.

--I've been telling people “I'm pregnant! And sick! And vomiting!” I enjoy watching them say, “Um...congratulations?”

"Q, quit, quits! Question, query, cue, cute...quit it, Q, I'm already too queasy! Plus, really immature non-corporeal being with godlike powers who throws temper tantrums...I like it!"

--Gail, responding to Jon's suggestion that this baby be “Q” until quits gender is determined.

--Jon and I maintain that all babies have gender, we just don't start off knowing which. We dislike calling an early pregnancy “it,” so we invent our own pronouns. :)

---Eric, before he was named, was B for baby. This inspired puns about “be” “bit” “bits” “bytes” and so forth.

----Danny was C for child. This inspired puns about see, sea, sit, sits, and so on.

-----Marian was I for infant. This inspired puns about “me, myself, and I,” “eye,” “aye,” and “no -Ites among us” etc.

"I finally realized I needed to count, not the number of calories I'd ingested, but the number I'd successfully digested. Taking my net, not gross, consumption, I decided I really was hungry..."


We were playing Capture the Habitat.”


...but, after I woke up, I realized that joining the music team of a freaky cult really would be a great cover identity. Especially if the cult leader changed his sermons around erratically...I would have the perfect excuse to be in headquarters all the time, practicing my entire repertoire...”

--Gail, after a fascinating dream about infiltrating a weird cult for the government.

Pirate Bear. Danny made the eye patch all by himself. (Bear's eye had fallen out and he was awaiting surgery.)

[At our nightly family scripture study]
Jon: Danny, what's your favorite scripture story?
Danny: The one about the pirate!
Jon: That doesn't sound like a scripture story.
Danny: It is a parable!
Jon: Oh, uhmm...okay...
Danny: [Puts Bear inside a ring of duct tape, and puts the duct tape on a brown paper lunch sack. That's Bear's pirate ship. Danny also scatters the labels he's been making lately all over the living room floor. They are 8 1/2 x 11" pieces of printer paper with words like "entertainment center" and "piano bench" written on them. Danny has been labeling the world lately.] Once upon a time, there was a pirate. And he wanted to steal everything. He sailed around in his ship. He went to one land, where he stealed a piano. Then he went to another land [Bear's 'ship' sails across the blue living room carpet to the next label] and he stole a rocking chair. Then he [pause] stealed a piano bench.
Jon: [interrupting] He already stole one of those.
Danny: No, first he [brief hesitation] stole a piano, then he stole a piano bench.
Jon: [subdued] Oh.
Danny: [continuing, irrepressibly] Then he went to another land and he stole a entertainment center. Then a missionary got on his ship, and the pirate didn't hurt the missionary at all. And the missionary said, "You need to give back all the things you stole or else your ship will sink. And then the pirate putted all the stuff back--
Jon: Did he put it back in the correct places?
Danny: --on the land it came from. The End! [pause] Daddy, do you know what was the point of the story?
Jon: Repentance? Don't steal?
Danny: No...
Mommy: Always give the stuff back after you steal it?
Danny: Yes!
Mommy: I must say, the pirate looked very naughty at first, but now he looks very penitent.
Eric: What does 'penitent' mean?
Mommy: It means sorry for doing something bad. It's related to the word "repentance" and also shares a root word with "penal" and "penance" which mean "punishment"...Aha! We should call it 'The Parable of the Penitent Pirate!'
Danny: Yes! The Parable of the Penitent Pirate is my favorite scripture story.
--The child has a natural narrative flair. He sequenced nicely, I note, and didn't include lots of unnecessary detail.
---I recall being shocked in a college folklore class when I learned that most people retell a story exactly as they heard it. I am constitutionally incapable of not trying to fill in a plot hole or make sardonic commentary when it seems appropriate. I think Daniel will be another such.