Stella [rushing into the living room wearing her Batman mask and carrying her tote bag full of Dominoes, puzzles, and tea party dishes]:

“Hi, Mom! I’m going to visit Perseus, then King Minos of Crete, and then I’ll come home.”

Mom: “Ok, be back before dinnertime.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Stella sets up an elaborate tea party. Sophie comes stomping through the living room and tramples the tea party.

Stella: “Escort her off the premises, right now! She is NOT invited to the party!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Mom: “Stella, what sound does ‘D’ make?”

Stella: “D-, D-, Distraught!”

Shortly afterward…

Stella [sighing]: “I’m so distraught!”

Mom: “Why?”

Stella: “Because my friends won’t play with me.”

Mom: “Which friends do you mean?”

Stella: “Evan. Bella. Audra.”

Mom: “They live in Arizona, remember?”

Stella: “Oh, yeah!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

This week, Stella paid her “tithing” by stuffing a handful of plastic nickels and quarters into a tithing envelope. We pointed out the bishop’s name, Alpheus Wise, on the envelope.

Later, she pulled out GREEK MYTHS by Ann Turnbull and we read the story of Arethusa, a nymph who was chased by Alpheus, the river god, from her home in Arcadia to the island of Ortygia where she sprang forth as a fresh water fountain.

And then today, she sat at the table, talking to herself.

Stella: “Bishop Alpheus Wise…”

Mom: “And who is Bishop Alpheus Wise?”

Stella: “He’s a sea monster!”


Letter to Dylan

Didi announcement [2]Dear Dylan,

Here’s text message version of your birth story: born in the elevator! + joyful tears emoji

It’s sort of true. And easier than telling the whole story to people at church who pass in the hall and ask, “What happened?!” because whoever conducted Sacrament meeting on the Sunday after you were born announced your birth to the congregation using the words “elevator,” and “in a hurry,” and “wild story…”

I tried not to count down the days until your due date (February 26). This strategy worked with Stella. I was completely distracted and not expecting her to arrive at any moment in the weeks before she was born (eleven days early). I was not even a little distracted before Sophie was born (four days early) and spent way too much time waiting for the first sign of contractions and predicting when she would arrive. But having two other young children forces you to count down your due date so you can be prepared, just in case your water breaks at Safeway while you’re shopping for groceries, or while you’re giving the closing prayer in Relief Society, or while picking up Stella from preschool… I had long since reread Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for all the reminders that grunting and mooing and singing and horse lips can distract from labor pain. I wrote my birth plan. And our bags were packed at the beginning of February. Once bags are packed, how can you not count down?

Your sisters were early. You were going to be early too. Maybe you and cousin Hayden would share a birthday since you shared a due date. In anticipation of another early baby, we made sure to have a childcare plan. The Real Amy was always first in line—she lives down the street, and Stella and Sophie love her, and she and I had classes together at BYU, so naturally Amy would be the one. When Amy said she was going to UT on a last minute President’s Day trip, I wanted to scream, “NOOOOOOOO! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!!! HE’S GOING TO BE BORN ANY SECOND!” But instead I said, “GO! Don’t put your life on hold for us. Have the best trip ever!”

And then I had a small a panic attack.

But if Amy felt fine about going to UT I knew you wouldn’t be early. And I was a tiny bit disappointed. But you didn’t care.

You were five days late.

On February 23rd I was dilated 3 cm and you were in a nice, low position. Even before the 23rd, the barrage of text messages from friends and family bombarded my phone.

My response: “No baby yet, but I’m at 3 cm, so any day now!”

Every day when I woke up, Dad asked how I felt.

My response: “The same.” Or “Totally normal.” Or “Fine.” Or “I feel like I could run a few miles and not have a baby today.”

Dad: “No contractions? Nothing?”

Me: “Nothing.”

This went on for a week. Meanwhile, I tried all the natural induction tricks. Jogging/walking while pushing 100 pounds of stroller/3-yr-old/toddler up and down the hills of the 2.5 mile Reservoir loop, jogging/walking on the treadmill, squatting around the house, sprinkling red pepper flakes on everything I ate…On March 1st I unearthed the breast pump from a closet. I also considered eating massive amounts of pineapple, but after sitting down to eat the first one, Stella and Sophie swarmed the table and ate half of it anyway. Besides, I found I’d have to eat eight whole pineapples at a time to absorb enough bromelain, and that most of the bromelain is contained in the core. I didn’t feel like spending $50/day on precut pineapples, neither did I want to save a few of those $50 only to spend hours cutting pineapples myself.

In the evenings, I talked myself out of what was surely the best induction strategy possible: staying busy by starting a new illustration project (because it seems the second I make plans, they are inevitably thwarted).

Me: Come on, self, start a new drawing. You have so much work to do. Why not make progress on something?

Me: Ugh. Soooooo tired. Let’s just watch three hours of Psych again.

Me: Oh, fine. You win.

Sensing an imminent major paradigm shift, Stella and Sophie prepared for baby’s arrival by suddenly morphing into uber greedy/needy little fiends.

Stella adopted a penchant for hoarding her possessions (and everyone else’s) in various receptacles stashed around the house—perhaps a reaction to the anticipated presence of one more person touching, poking, and rearranging her things? Mostly she used plastic bags and empty cardboard boxes and filled them with laundry, Legos, water bottles, Trader Joe’s receipts, rocks from the park, paper plates, plastic spoons, blankies…the list could go on and on. But she didn’t just hide her junk piles in bags and boxes. She carried them around with her, refusing to go to the bathroom without dragging in a man-sized backpack full of dominoes and books and my good kitchen whisk. And she screamed every time anyone looked at her stuff.

At approximately the same time Stella started hoarding, Sophie decided she would never walk anywhere ever again. Her favorite mode of transportation: being carried. But only by the nearest pregnant woman, i.e., her mother. And also, she decided her favorite word is “NO” (it’s still her response to every question you ask her). And also, she resorted to getting attention in inconvenient ways. Such as wedging herself between my legs while I was cooking, and pulling out the entire drawstring of my sweatpants in one deft motion, then depositing it in the kitchen trashcan. Thanks Sophie.

Between Sophie mangling my pants, and having to carry Sophie everywhere, and Stella’s inability to walk five steps without hauling her bags of junk, I felt a little bit tired. Having a baby would be an escape—two whole days in the hospital without anybody crawling on me while I’m using the toilet or using my face for a chair while I’m trying to sleep? Yes please.

The last week of February and the first few days of March were rainy. On Friday, March 2, the potholes in our driveway were brimming with water deep enough to provide swimming pools for the neighborhood cats. It stopped raining for five minutes at the end of the day, when we were on our way to a friend’s house for dinner. We were late, as usual, so Dad made a quick getaway out of the apartment complex parking lot—mind you, we had just returned from the world’s fastest stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up a treat at the last minute to take to dinner. That is to say, Dad had successfully navigated his way around the cat swimming-pool-sized potholes only minutes earlier. BUT on our way to dinner, we heard the unmistakable pop of air escaping tire as we barreled over the pothole.

The second we pulled over, it started raining again. With a vengeance. Dad didn’t bring a sweater. We had no umbrellas. Youtube was teaching us how to change a tire—because, while Dad learned about tires in boy scouts, that was, like, 20 years ago—while I was on the phone with AAA trying to renew our membership so we could get same day service, just in case, and while Sophie and Stella were poking each other’s eyes out in the back seats.

Eventually, our friends rescued us, AAA was no help at all, and Stella and Sophie escaped with four eyes unscathed.

This digression about tires seems irrelevant. Except it isn’t. First thing on Saturday morning, Dad headed to Costco. Five hours and $700 later, we had four new tires. Now, I could go into labor.

I don’t remember what we did with the rest of Saturday. It was probably a long day that ended with power struggles at bedtime and Stella watching Mary Berry make opera cake.

And then, around 8 pm, a cramp. And another. And another. And another. By 8:30, it was clear you were on your way. I wanted to wait at least an hour to make sure contractions were close enough and consistent enough to call the hospital, because I was NOT going to have another 15 hour birth story in the hospital, darn it!

The next two hours went like this:

9:06: Amy and AJ, her husband, are alerted to be on standby. Dad washes dishes, clears the minefield of Legos your sisters left on the floor before bedtime, and finishes packing his hospital bag.

9:24: AJ picks up our car seats. Contractions escalate to one minute long, two minutes apart. The squeezing and stretching inside me is forceful enough to make me vomit. What am I thinking about while writhing on the floor in the throes of labor? Cleaning toilets. Chores got lost in the chaos of the day, and once again, I had postponed the house cleaning. But why clean the bathroom if I’m going to throw up all over it? Better wait until after vomiting

I never vomit. By the time Dad is back inside, I’m too stunned by the force of contractions to think about cleaning.

9:42: I call the hospital.

9:44: I call Amy to tell her we’re leaving right now.

My brain is trying not to explode with each wave of pain, so I forget to say, “Drive faster, I’m trying NOT to push!”

10:02: Dad takes a picture of the parking spot in the garage. The closest parking spots to the exits re on the second floor, and we all know what taking the stairs does for your cervix…

A few minutes later: Dad grabs a wheelchair in the lobby, and just as he steers me into the elevator, I feel the stinging sensation they call the “ring of fire” (which I didn’t feel with Stella or Sophie) as your head is crowning. Thanks Gap maternity leggings, for keeping you nice and safe in my pants.

We run down the hall to the to the labor and delivery entrance. There’s a phone outside the labor and delivery doors. You have to pick up the receiver and tell the attendants your name before being admitted to triage. Dad picks up the phone to make the requisite phone call. There’s no dial tone. The security guard stationed next to the phone is a sedate, blonde haired, red lipsticked, blue eyeshadowed octogenarian just waking up from a nap who says rather unhelpfully, and more than a little too late, “You have to call and tell them you’re here…”

10:10: My water breaks all over the floor. Labor and delivery doors open and Dad dashes down the hall that leads to our triage room.

10:11: On the way to triage, I’m half standing in the chair because I don’t want to sit on you. I’m tugging at my pants, because the rest of you insists on sliding out right this second. And just as we roll into triage surrounded by a gaggle of nurses and midwives, there you are, 8lbs 3oz 21in, on the seat of the wheelchair at 10:11pm. Ta daaa!

Now, aren’t you glad we popped our tire on Friday instead of on the way to the hospital?



Didi announcement2018-03-15 Didi Sophie [1]Stella Didi [3]Stella Didi [4]2018-03-16 Didi Stella [2]


Dear Little Brother,

We’re still calling you Little Brother. We’ve mastered the art of giving a vague, noncommittal response every time someone asks if you have a name. That is, everyone except Stella has it down. She has decided that your name is “Pickle Pants.” Thank you Judy Schachner, for this gem of a euphemism that obviously refers to the protruding part of the male anatomy in the Skippyjon Jones books…

Aside from this unfortunate choice, Stella continues to be unhelpful, so we stopped asking her for suggestions. Her contributions to the name pool, to date are: Boo Boo, Captain Hook, Absalom, and Mike.

Stella has left us no choice but to ask Google.

Google was only slightly more helpful than Stella, and more useful in determining what NOT to name you. We considered way too many names of various origins: Welsh, Irish, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavian, Greek, French, German… We ruled out gender neutral names. And overly popular names. And names we love that our friends claimed years ago. We decided against alliterative “R” names, as well as names ending in “r.” We couldn’t think of any “S” names we liked. None of the “J” names seemed right. And the Biblical names seemed too common. Except Absalom, but he was a rapscallion anyway. Any time we heard a mom at the park call for her son, we’d make note of his name and cross it off our list if it was a name we had considered. Names of boy students who made it their life’s work to make my life difficult were OUT. And the problem with most guy names anyway is that they’re well suited to grown men but seem too “old” for babies and toddlers and preschoolers and boys age 5-18.

Herein lies our dilemma. If you were a girl, we would have known your name months ago.

Consulting lists of literary heroes didn’t even do it for us, because “good books” are filled with too many Sebastian Dangerfields:

Sebastian Dangerfield (The Ginger Man) Sebastian Dangerfield is a whirlwind of bohemian misadventure. An American of Irish descent studying in Dublin, he is a somewhat immoral beast – relentlessy cheating on his young wife who is trying to raise their infant daughter and forever drunk – but you can’t help rooting or him. 

The literary characters we do like have names that just are just a little too weird: Atticus Finch, Inigo Montoya, Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Edmond Dantes, Don Quixote, Snowball from Animal Farm, etc.

Monosyllabic names didn’t make the list, as per the counsel in Gail Hopson’s copy of What to Name the Baby by Evelyn Wells (© 1946): You can build a satisfactory sound pattern for your baby by constructing from the base that is your family name. The more arresting the family name, the simpler the first should be. The longer the baptismal name, the more important that the last be short. […] A one syllable surname calls for a polysyllabic forename, such as Victoria James or Addison Jones…

This means your name will not be Owen, Noah, Max, Micah, Jonah, James, Jeremy, Lincoln, Logan, Lucas, Kilian, Finn, Alden, Ari, Aidan, Adam, Caleb, Connor, Reuben, Yan, Rowan, Toby, Tristan, Tanner, or Wesley…

I even thought about Wells’ description of number power and numerology: while you may refuse to believe in numerology, or to think that the date of birth may carry its own numerological meanings and portents, you can accept that millions of other otherwise hard-headed citizens do believe these things, and have worked out the validity of their names or their babies’ names by a number formula that has stood, they tell us, the test of time…Select the right number for a name, we are told, and its bearer will stay in step with destiny.

I even read “Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?” from Freakonomics and Levitt and Fryer’s “The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names,” but stopped after page 8 (of 53) because there were too many charts and graphs and formulas for determining how “Black” or “White” your name is…

But I think we finally have something – a name that covers most of the bases.

It’s a distinctly BOY name (although parents somewhere have surely appropriated it a girl’s name and we can’t do anything about that). It derives from Welsh mythology and fits coincidentally with your astrological sign. And you’ll know your mom is an English major when you hear it (we also can’t help that the poet you share a name with was an inveterate drunk, but what poet isn’t). So what’s not to like?

If we stick to it, Little Brother, your number power is 8 (which means you’ll supposedly be realistic, practical, well-equipped in a managerial sense, with outstanding organizational and administrative capabilities, potential for achievement in business or powerful positions with financial and material rewards, and exercise sound judgment when it comes to money and commercial matters. But also possibly rigid, stubborn, materialistic, and overly ambitious).

Ugh. Thank goodness we’re not having twin boys.

Year of Dog [2] flattened
Happy Year of the Dog!

Thing 2

Before Sophie becomes the forgotten middle child, here’s a quick update.

2018-01-12 16.16.02

Sophie’s first trip to the dentist at 16 months was pointless. She refused to open her mouth to have all eleven of her teeth examined. She did, however, enjoy carrying around the stuffed animals and rearranging the furniture in the waiting room.

When she’s not avoiding the dentist, Sophie works out by carrying pineapples around the house, doing her part to tenderize them by gleefully dropping them on the floor.

Other things she likes to drop on the floor: food scraps. When she eats, she picks her food apart and eats tiny crumb size bites, one at a time. Or she shovels handfuls into her mouth until she gags. Often, she’ll play the game where she pretends to be hungry and asks for more. After you give her more and turn your attention to some other task that requires immediate attention, she swipes the food all over her highchair tray as fast as she can with both hands, hurling as many tidbits onto the floor as possible before you turn around to check on her. On another food related note: she has a minimalist approach to sign language and will only perform signs for “eat,” “please,” and “more,” which she seems to think are all the same sign. All three result in food materializing out of nowhere, so I understand the confusion.

I remember when Stella was Sophie’s age. I should rephrase. I remember nothing when Stella was Sophie’s age, except that Sacrament meetings were spent policing the aisles in pursuit of our child who was about to steal another kid’s toys and snacks. This is why we’re impressed with Sophie’s ability to sit still at church. I get a lot more out of Sacrament meeting now. I can even tell you what the speakers talked about last week. But the freedom to focus on anything other than what Sophie’s doing comes at a cost, of course. Sophie doesn’t sit still just because she can. I can imagine the voice in her head: “Oh, you thought I would sit still just because I can?! HA. I demand the enticements of tactile sensory objects!” She’ll sit still only if she can raid my Primary bag and litter the pew with flash cards, paperclips, magnets, Craisins, and three boxes of crayons until she’s found something in the bag that will occupy her attention, be it a piece of paper she can tear into confetti-sized shreds, or a glue stick that she can rub all over her face and hair.

Other fun facts:

Favorite body part: tie between head and bellybutton. If she’s in the mood, she’ll tell you where her hands and feet are, and if you ask her about her nose, she’ll look at you, grab your nose, and squeeze it as hard as she can.

Favorite animals: owls, dogs, cats. Stuffed animals are their own category. Her favorite is still a little purple owl, or whatever Stella is carrying around and refusing to share (lately, the large psychedelic-colored Alpaca rescued from Target two weeks after Valentine’s Day. It was only .99)

Favorite hobbies: bird and squirrel watching. She likes to point out any signs of avian or bushy-tailed arboreal wildlife she happens to spot while we’re out walking Stella to school. She also enjoys a good book. She carries books around the house and just when you think you can sit on the floor and enjoy a free moment to yourself, she ambushes you by backing into your lap and shoving a book in your hands, which is how she says,  “Read. Now.”

Habits: identifying food sources. If she’s trying to get your attention, she’ll pull on your clothes and push you in the direction she wants you to go. Usually, it’s the kitchen, to the bananas or oranges sitting on the countertops she can’t reach. Or the closet where we keep a Costco size bag of prunes; we put a child lock on said closet so she would stop stealing the prune bag.

Once, while we were at the park, I forgot about her and she imprinted on a nanny who found her so adorable she fed her all the snacks intended for the other children in her charge. One of her kids had a big bag of popcorn; Sophie had her eye on it for a while and as soon as the bag was abandoned in the sandbox, Sophie stealthily toddled over, snatched it, and helped herself. So I didn’t have to feed her lunch that day.

Besides eating, Sophie also loves to snuggle. It’s strange having a snuggly baby. Stella never snuggled, unless she was sick. When she wakes up in the morning or after a nap, Sophie loves to grab all the stuffed animals in her crib and her giant blanket, and lay her head on your shoulder while you hold her. And sometimes throughout the day, she’ll just hug you. It’s the best.

2018-02-19 Jesse and Sophie [1]




Today in Sunbeams, the lesson was titled “Jesus and Heavenly Father Love Me.” I was trying to reinforce the main idea by repeatedly asking, “Who loves us?” I think Stella got tired of me asking.

Mom: “Tell me again, who loves us? Heavenly Father and J, J, J…”

Stella: “Jafar!”

Mom: “NO. He didn’t love anybody!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dad and Stella went to Safeway and saw wood for sale piled high outside the store.

Stella: “Hey, look at all that wood, like what they used for Abinadi!” [As in, Abinadi, her favorite Book of Mormon prophet who was martyred and burned to death by the wicked King Noah…]

*Note: As a former reading teacher, Mom is supposed to be proud of these sorts of text to world connections, no matter how macabre they are… ____________________________________________________________________________________________

During dinner prep:

Mom: “Stella, may I put some peas in your bowl?”

Stella: “NO, you can’t. It’s IMPOSSIBLE!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

We were walking home from the store and approaching a group of high school boys bouncing basketballs on the sidewalk.

Stella [in a really loud voice, while pointing]: “Those boys have balls!”

Mom: “Shhh, yes they do.” [And then laughing]

Stella: “Mom, are you laughing at ME?” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Stella was playing Great British Baking Show and making “Genoise sponge” cake by tossing Legos and stuffed animals and giant plastic spiders into a bowl…Sophie came along and tried to help…

Stella: “No, Soph! Don’t touch my semolina and strong flour!!!!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dad came home from work and told us about a meeting with a coworker in which they discussed the possibility of us moving to Hawaii for a new position with Kaiser. Stella was eavesdropping at the table:

Stella: “We’re not moving to Hawaii. We’re going to stay in this disgusting house.”

She’s probably right.  ____________________________________________________________________________________________

I asked Stella what we should name baby brother.

Stella: “Captain Hook!”

Mom: “But he was a rapscallion. We can’t name brother after a bad guy.”

Stella: “Well, your baby is a rapscallion.”


While out driving, an orange Lamborghini pulled up just ahead of us in the adjacent lane:

Dad: “Hey, look at that orange Lamborghini! Isn’t it fancy?”

Stella: “Yeah. Our car’s not fancy. It’s black.”

Mom: “How can we make our car fancy?”

Stella: “By cleaning it.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Stella went to the dentist this week and on the way to the office we had this conversation:

Stella: “Are you going to the dentist too, Mom?”

Mom: “Yes, but not to your dentist. You get to go to a pediatric dentist, which is a dentist for kids. I have to go to a dentist who only sees adults.”

Stella: “Adults?”

Mom: “Adults are grown ups, like moms and dads. And when you grow up to be an adult, you can see an adult dentist too. Won’t it be nice to grow up and do adult things?”

Stella: “No. That’s the worst thing of all.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sophie was playing with her Sesame Street Bert doll…

Stella: “I want Bert!”

Mom: “Right now it’s Sophie’s turn. You can have a turn when she’s done,” [while restraining Stella and trying to keep her from grabbing the doll from Sophie]

Stella: “But I wanted to roast him in the oven!”