Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Making Christmas

In a fit of something that feels close to insanity, we put up the Christmas tree and let the kitty out of her convalescence isolation chamber. She got "fixed" on Monday, as you may recall, and we were told to keep her in one room, preferably a quiet room, away from other pets or particularly obnoxious (read: small) humans. We tried keeping her in the laundry room, but she was going crazy being holed up in there so we set her up in the basement, wedging one of the girls' mattresses in their doorless doorway so that she wouldn't go climb on their bunkbed or anything crazy like that. 

But then we caught her sitting on the top of the mattress (in the little space between the mattress and the doorframe) and decided that it's not really possible to keep a cat from climbing. Especially our cat, who will climb the window mutins. It's equally impossible to keep a cone on a cat (I think Waffelles wore her cone for approximately 20 seconds before ripping it off). 

Mostly we just left her in the basement to rest, hoping she wouldn't climb too many things, and she seems to be healing just fine. She spent a couple of days being tender with herself downstairs and spent most of her time sleeping, but after that she spent most of her time meowing because she was lonely. She was fine whenever anyone was down there hanging out with her but if we ever dared close her down there alone she'd be all howls and yowls. 

She likes to be in the room where it's happen[ing], so yesterday when we dragged out all of our Christmas stuff, we gave up trying to keep Waffelles in the basement anymore. She's been enjoying having full run of the house again (and her surgery site is looking pretty great, I think). As worried as we were about the combination of kitty + tree, she's really been quite good about it. Hopefully that sticks.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Linocut FHE

Today was quite the momentous day for our family. We finished reading the Book of Mormon—our first time ever reading it (as a family) within a single calendar year (it has forever previously always taken us two years to get through it). We'll be focusing on having a Christmas devotional every evening now, which will be nice. 

It stormed the evening of Thanksgiving, a wild thunder-and-lightning storm and I asked Andrew if he thought the southern superstition that a winter thunderstorm brings snow would hold true. He scoffed at the idea—after all, we live in Georgia now, which is farther south than North Carolina. So while that idea may have been accurate in North Carolina it was unlikely to remain true here.

"Is that claim scientific?" Benjamin asked.

"More anecdotal," I told him. "But cold fronts do frequently follow a thunder storm, which is why the anecdotal evidence exists at all, so it's also kind of scientific."

"But mostly an old wives' tale," Andrew interjected.

"Yes. But also scientific."

Now, we didn't notice the snow flurries because we were far too busy trying to make sure no one wound up with stitches to pay much attention to the weather (even though our house is abounding in windows), but I have seen several reports of snow flurries on Facebook. So it did, indeed, snow within ten days of a winter thunderstorm. 

For family night we worked on some linocuts. Miriam and Rachel finished the ones they began months ago (but left neglected once Miriam sliced her finger open). It was good for them to shake off that fear and get back up on the horse. Benjamin was ecstatic to be allowed to use the knives (he's been begging me for a pocket knife for years now). He was carving away, very proud of himself for never nicking his fingers (or the table...unlike some people I know (me; it was me)) and announced with satisfaction, "I finally feel successful at something!"

This poor child has been trying to find a real talent for years now but nothing he's tried has felt like something he could excel at—sports, music, drawing...everything is difficult for him and/or doesn't seem to turn out the way he'd like. He's been determined, though, to find a talent. And tonight he feels like he's pretty talented at making linocuts, so I'd consider tonight a success in our books.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Gratitude post 7

Last night my family got together for a game night the only way we could—virtually!

Patrick dialed in from Hawaii (4:00 his time). 

David and Abra dialed in from British Columbia—Prince George and Langley, respectively (6:00 their time).

My parents, Josie, and Kelli dialed in from Provo and Layton, Utah (7:00 their time). 

I, of course, joined in from Georgia (9:00 our time). 

I believe this occasion marks the first time we have all managed to be on a call simultaneously. I also think it's the first time we have ever played a game together as one, complete family unit. There simply haven't been many instances when we've all lived—or have even been—under the same roof. I think the last time we were all together was either my Grandma and Grandpa Layton's 50th wedding anniversary (US, 2001) or my Grandma Conrad's funeral (Canada, 2003). 

I know for sure that we were all together in 2001 (is that the last time Abra was able to make a trip down to the states?) but can't quite remember if Kelli went up to Canada for Grandma Conrad's funeral in 2003.

Okay, I looked it up the only way I could think of—by pulling out pictures of the event and, as it turns out, Kelli did manage to make the trip. So here we are in April of 2003:

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gratitude post 6

I don't think I ever really blogged about Canadian Thanksgiving, which was way back on October 12. Our Thankful tree was busy with birthday balloons for much of October. We did manage to get a few leaves up there but we weren't as diligent about it as we had been in past years. It's hard to keep up with everything when every day feels exactly like the one before it.

Andrew cooked a beautiful Canadian Thanksgiving meal for us, though we always take a few more "shortcuts" for Canadian Thanksgiving than we do with American Thanksgiving, such as the canned green beans. We just have more time to devote to things like cooking a big meal on American Thanksgiving than we do on Canadian Thanksgiving (though to be fair that is usually also a day off). So here's our Canadian meal:

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gratitude post 5

This evening Rachel, Miriam, Andrew and I played all four rounds of Hand and Foot in one sitting, something we've never managed before (with them...Andrew and I have played several complete games of Hand and Foot without them, usually with Reid and Karen). We ran a little past midnight and the girls were certainly getting a little loopy, but it was fun to get to spend time with them as big kids. 

At one point Andrew stopped and cocked his head as if listening (because he was, indeed, listening). 

"Ah, that's the wind," he said. "I thought it was raining."

"It is raining," we all told him.

"It's not," he said. "It was raining earlier today but it's just windy now."

"It's definitely raining," Rachel said. "Look at the deck. It's wet."

"Because it was raining all day. But it's not raining now."

"But it is raining now," I told him.

"It's just windy."

"I'll ask Alexa," Miriam offered. "Alexa—what's the weather?"

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gratitude post 4

Yesterday Andrew thought it was Saturday all day, which explains the particularly lengthy break he took to play Nintendo with the kids in the middle of the day. Not that I'm complaining because he's been working insane hours this entire pandemic and if he wants to sit down and play Nintendo for two hours just before lunchtime on a Saturday Monday, who am I to intervene (especially when it's keeping all the kids entertained)? 

He also suggested we do a movie night with a picnic dinner, which is typically a weekend thing.

But, I mean, we're taking this week off, anyway! It's a week-long weekend for us! 

I suggested we could do a family night lesson and he was like, "We can do that on Monday," and I was like, "But..."

Newsies it is.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gratitude post 3

Today I'm thankful for language. 

I'm thankful for the sweet baby language I've witnessed while my kids (and nieces and nephews and younger brother and sister) have grown. Language development is fascinating...and adorable. Case in point: The other day Alexander was wearing his cute penguin pyjamas which—ridiculously—have igloos on them as well. My kids have been learning a bit about the antarctic and there was a little confusion about where certain animals lived—polar bears and penguins and such; in short, they don't live together...and penguins don't belong with igloos.

These pyjamas have penguins and igloos on them in spite of that improbability, so Andrew pointed to an igloo and asked Alexander, "What's this?"

"A...doo-dit!" Alexander announced happily. 

"A what?" Andrew asked.

"A doo-dit," Alexander repeated.

"What's a doo-dit?" Andrew asked.

"Lite, when you want to tick two paper togetter. You u'e a doo-dit!"

"A glue stick?!" I asked. "When you want to stick two papers together you use a glue stick?"

"Yeah!" Alexander exclaimed. "Lite, dat's one doo-dit, but pennins live in a doo-dit, too!"

"Close," I said. "Penguins live in igloos."

It's just so fun to watch children decode language, whether it's their first or second language. 

Today I got to have a little video call with my mom and brother (and was so thankful we could use our common language to speak with each other). Alexander did a lot of the talking on this video call and my mom was impressed at how well David managed to decode Alexander's baby speech—in two different languages! When Alexander realized Aunt Ruth was speaking Spanish (to her family on a different video call in the background), he quickly announced that he could "tout in Bannih! Uno, doe, fway, twatwoh, finto, fay, fiete, nuebe, diay!" 

Uncle David realized what he was doing right away—he was touting in Bannih (counting in Spanish)! He missed ocho, but that's alright. His counting is rubbish in English as well. But we are doing our best to figure out a few things in Spanish (and German and Russian and Arabic and...so forth). I'm grateful for the multitude of languages in the world and am grateful for the little bit I've been able to learn in the small number of languages I've attempted to learn. I'm thankful for people more fluent than me who translate things for others. 

I'm thankful for written language, how sounds and ideas can be represented on the page (or the screen) and be distributed or kept private. I'm thankful for books and literature, for people who use language beautifully—poets and authors and screenwriters and playwrights.

I'm thankful for the change to study literature and language more (and am rather thankful to have just finished the first draft of my first final paper).

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Gratitude post 2

When I was younger I couldn't ever understand why my mom didn't animals in the house. She was raised on a farm and while they occasionally had kittens (or calves) inside the house, the animals, for all intents and purposes, lived outside. Now that I'm older...I kind of get it. It would be nice to not have to worry about the way the cat kicks litter out of her litter box (though we're using pine pellets, which has been great so far (she still gets wood chips everywhere)), or the way she likes to sharpen her claws on my favourite couch (though I think I may have finally won that battle), or how loud she can be when she gets hyper and scampers around the house, or how obnoxious she is when she's in heat.

She's just ending her second heat cycle, which I'm grateful will be her last! As educational as having a...ahem...mature...cat...has been, I'm pleased to announce that she'll be off for a little operation in the morning. 

We assembled some hygiene kits this afternoon and had a few washcloths leftover. Waffelles discovered this pile, snuggled right in and fell fast asleep (Benjamin tucked her in) while the rest of us worked on some new Shrinky-Dink projects (it's our newest obsession, apparently). We stuck one of the cloths into her cat carrier so that she can snuggle with it while she's riding in the car.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Gratitude post 1

Today I am grateful for challenges that have helped me mourn with those that mourn, and for the life experience of others that have helped them to mourn with me when I needed it. 

A dear friend of mine is in the hospital right now, doing all she can to stay pregnant for as long as she can. I'm so worried for her, but am so glad that she's at a good hospital (where she'll stay until the baby is born). I was grateful for the opportunity to reflect on all the help we got when Benjamin was born, most especially from the women who'd walked that difficult path before me (so don't be surprised, Crystal, if your blog stats show an increase in traffic from Kansas because I sent this sweet friend your posts about Cheetah). It's going to be a long, hard road for her sweet family, but they're amazing and will get through it just fine. 

A cousin of mine has been dealing with an aggressive form of breast cancer and a few days ago her teenage daughter took over posting on her support group. Her mom had begun saying and doing strange things, so she'd taken her to the ER, where they had to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait...because there were no beds available...because all the beds were taken with COVID patients. But finally they made room at the inn, told this sweet child that her mom was suffering from "delirium," and sent her home to rest while keeping her mother for "observation." 

I had a feeling I knew the reason for her delirium—irreversible organ failure. 

Today this young girl offered this pithy update: "My mom might not make it. That's all. Thank you."

Then a few hours later: "My mom has passed away. Thank you once again."

And I was taken back to Andrew's equally concise—yet emotionally saturated—post from two years ago: "She's gone." And I thought of all the wonderful people who sat with us, cried with us, remembered with us, and welcomed us into the messy world of grieving. There's not much I can do for this sweet, now-motherless girl. She lives so far away and I don't even really know her that well, but I wrote some words of condolence to her and hope they do something for her heart. 

I often wonder if anything I do has any sort of impact on anything (or anyone) for the better. So much of...everything...seems rather inconsequential. 

This past week I lead another (zoom) activity for my primary girls. We did a gratitude scavenger hunt where the girls went around their houses looking for things they were thankful for in each colour of the rainbow. Then we told each other what we'd found to be thankful for. One girl surprised me by producing a yellow paper heart—a note that I'd written to her this summer. I was so touched that it had actually meant something to her, even though at the time it had felt like a rather trivial thing to do. Then again, it probably felt inconsequential to her to say that she appreciated the note. 

So I guess what I'm grateful for are the moments that make us reach out to others—the moments that force us to admit that we need help, the moments that allow us to open up and share our lived experiences, the moments that allow us to reflect on the earthly angels that have influenced our lives. 

But I'm also feeling that life is so hard for so many, and I really wish it didn't have to be this hard.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Winter poems

Yesterday we read some winter poems and then tried our hand at some poetry. It...did not go well. The children wrote poems, it's true, but they were...not great. So today we read more winter poetry and talked at length about the literary devices various poets employed to write a little magic into their poetry. We brainstormed symbols of winter and practiced describing things using all of our senses. And then the children wrote poems and things went a lot smoother!

Zoë wrote a poem to the tune of Frere Jacques:

I Love Winter

I love winter, I love winter!
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
I like building snowmen.
I like sledding down hills.
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!

I love winter, I love winter!
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
I like reading inside
Huddled in my blanket.
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!