Saturday, August 08, 2020

Dressed up in our Sunday best

A couple of Sundays ago we gathered the kids for church and they immediately began to squabble over seats and hymn books and were altogether so unpleasant that in the middle of the sacrament hymn I declared that church was being postponed for a half hour and that when we reconvened the children would all be dressed in their Sunday best and with their best Sunday attitudes in place. 

So they all stormed away and I sat and fumed and when we regathered, the children were dressed up so nicely and had changed their attitudes so wonderfully that I couldn't stay mad, myself. 

Years ago a friend of mine said that she might not always be able to control her children's behaviour but that she could always control their dress and if her kids looked cute she found she was a little more tolerant with them. There is wisdom in this but it's also something I've never quite managed. I haven't felt like I've ever had control of my children's outfits. I had dreams of a perfectly dressed baby, of course, but between reflux and explosive poops my babies never seemed to stay dressed in whatever they chose. So I kind of stopped choosing. 

I'm not sure this particular friend's babies ever dared spit up on their clothes. 

Some babies are like that. 

I literally have friends who didn't know what burp cloths were for. My friend Tiani, for example, was absolutely baffled when I offered her a burp cloth in the mother's lounge one day when she lifted her baby up to burp her. "What for?" she asked (it was her first Sunday at church after the birth of her first baby; I was on baby #3 (with a couple of colossal refluxers in the mix)). 

"For the, uh, spit up..." I said. 

"Spit up?" she asked. 

"Sure," I said. "Like, just the milk that comes back up after they eat."

"Oh, my baby doesn't do that," she said. 

And her baby didn't, which I found shocking. And then my baby did, which she found shocking. 

Her baby also pooped once a week, which was (is) unfathomable to me. 

Anyway, I imagine my other friend (my advice-giving friend) had babies like this—babies that didn't make them lug around a bagful of burp cloths to clean up all their messes. Both types of babies are fine; but I think they make different kinds of mothers. One type makes mothers who expect they'll be able to dress their children well. The other type make mothers that have to stifle laughter at the very idea.

I haven't seen this friend or her children for years, but I can't imagine that she's ever had a child wallow in a mud puddle fully clothed *cough* Benjamin *cough* and I imagine that her children definitely get dressed every day while I struggle to get mine out of their pyjamas. But that's alright. There is still wisdom in her words and I found it on Sunday when I had the kids go get changed.

Don't they clean up well?

Thursday, August 06, 2020


On our walk yesterday Zoë and Miriam were running ahead and poor Zoë tripped or slipped and ended up skittering across the road on her tummy. She was wearing footie-jammies (with running shoes) Atlanta...because that makes sense...and as she fell the road grabbed her zipper and unzipped her jammies, exposing her poor tummy to the asphalt. She also ripped holes in the knees and elbows of her outfit, poor thing. So she is covered in road rash (and is rather upset about her bloodied, blackened, once-perfectly-pink pyjamas that are probably ready to be tossed). 

We peeled her pyjamas off of her at home and bandaged up all of her wounds and then sat down to listen to a talk by a Hiroshima bombing survivor (more on that later, perhaps).

Since the talk was delivered from Hawaii, it ran a little late into the evening for us, so I got the kids put to bed a little late. Miriam texted me from her bedroom shortly after 10:00 pm saying, "I have a weird, itchy rash all over my body, excluding my legs. It feels really hot while the rest of my skin isn't. Can you check it out tomorrow, please?"

So I texted back saying, "...OR...tonight...!"

I'm not sure why she thought we should leave a thing like that until the morning. Her entire trunk and neck were bright red. If she were an elephant that sentence would have an entirely different meaning, but since she's a person it means that her back and stomach and neck and armpits and shoulders were all covered in a red rash. 

She had no other symptoms (no fever or any sort of malady), so judging from pictures on the internet and her health history (ie. we knew she hadn't been romping around in poison it didn't look like a poison ivy rash...and we hadn't switched laundry detergents or body soaps recently so I didn't think it could be from soaps) we decided she was just covered from head to toe (excluding her legs) in heat rash. I slathered her with calamine lotion and as the breeze from the fan blew across her skin she relaxed a bit and announced that she felt comfortable enough to go to bed. 

That running she did with Zoë must have brought on the heat rash (though I'm not sure why since this is the first time it's happened to her and it wasn't that hot today and the kids run around the block practically every day). She's feeling much better this morning, though, and her rash is mostly gone. 

Zoë is feeling much better, too. A little bruised and still covered with bandaids, but no longer limping.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Library update

I'm still waiting for my last few holds to come in. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up books this afternoon or tomorrow. Friday at the latest, I'm sure. 

Books can be marked as "in," "out," "held," "in transit," "lost," "missing," or "temporary quarantine." 

I put 25 available (marked as "in") books on hold. 15 of them were books from our "home" library branch (because I thought those titles could be pulled easily and thus become available quickly since there would be no transfer involved). Other books I knew would need to be transferred but I put them on hold because they are relevant to topics of study at our house.

Of the 10 books outside of our "home" library branch, all of the titles are ready for pick up. 

Of the 15 books within our "home" library branch, six titles have been made ready for me to pick up. Eight titles that were (and are still) available within our "home" library branch were transferred to our branch from another branch, which is hard for me to wrap my head around since no transfer was necessary. So I have 14/15 books from my "home" library branch ready to pick up, but only 6 of those titles are actually from our "home" library branch.

One book (that is available at our "home" library as well as several other branches) has yet to be pulled from the shelf for me. So we're just waiting on that one book (as well as two books, which are still in-transit, and which are also currently sitting on the shelf at our "home" library). 

I suppose I had to figure out the curb-side library service at some point—now that experts are saying we could be living like this for the next 2–3 years—so now is as good a time as any. I think I will have to start using a week-long baseline for title availability (assuming I only ever check out books that are "in" when I put a hold on them). 

We've decided that as an experiment we'll change our "home" library to a different branch, just to see if they pull more titles from their own shelves or if this is standard procedure throughout the library system (if it is standard procedure, I'd like to know whose system this is because surely it would be more efficient to have the library where the book is set to check out from be the library to pull it from their shelves...but maybe that's just me). 

So eventually we'll get some new books; until then we're sitting tight and enjoying the reading materials we have at home. 

Update on the update (9:45 PM): The last book, which I can only assume is on the shelf at our "home" library (due to its "in" status), is being transferred from another branch to our "home" library. So although 60% of the titles I put on hold were available at my location, only 24% of the books I will pick up will actually be from the shelves of my home library. This leads me to wonder if they place more of an emphasis on getting books ready to transfer (again, this seems a rather inefficient way to do things (they should be able to sort incoming holds as "on hold from this location to this location," vs. "items needed to be transferred" because it would save them a whole lot of transporting), but what do I know?) instead of finding books within their own collection that could leave with patrons (if that makes any sense). 

Whatever the case, I think I should be able to pick up our books tomorrow. And now we know we'll need a good week-long lead time before we can expect to pick up books from the library.

Sunday, August 02, 2020


Tonight Alexander cried before bed because I told him that we couldn't go out for a firefly sunset. To his credit the sunset was fairly beautiful, so I relented and we went outside to watch the sunset and the last few fireflies. We did not see many fireflies, however, because firefly season is winding down (they aren't active for very long), so he ended up crying again. Poor thing. 

Zoë wrote out the numbers 1 to 100 for me. Half of the numbers are backwards, but that's okay. She also got a parcel in the mail, which Daddy opened before he realized it had her name on it. Inside was a sticker activity book from Grandpa. He told her that he and she could be in their own sticker club together. When I was tucking her in tonight she giggled and said, "I can't believe Grandpa is being nice to me! Usually he just tickles me, so this is a nice change!" 

At dinner a few evenings ago we were discussing the movie Lagaan, and Zoë said that even though those soldier-men in India weren't being nice to the people, Queen Victoria was surely being nice to the people and didn't want to tax them unfairly. And I said something about, how Queen Victoria was well aware of the "plunder and catastrophe" the British were conducting in India and knew it was helping make Great Britain rather wealthy so she was pretty much on board with colonization...

"What?!" Zoë said, in shock, dropping her chin to her chest.

Her face landed right in her plate and she popped back up from her plate with koshary plastered all over her face. She was quite surprised but was able to laugh about it along with the rest of us.

Benjamin had a pretty great week overall. He's been trying to do his math work as independently as possible and has been trying to make good choices in general. He doesn't always succeed (he dug a hole in the front yard this afternoon—in the middle of the lawn, for example, when the rule is that he is only allowed to dig holes in the backyard—where we have no lawn. But it has been fairly obvious that he's been trying to be good. 

Here he is playing from Hayden's Symphony No. 94 (watch to the end for his face):

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Saturday, August 01, 2020

Up his nose and around the corner

Yesterday afternoon the children and I were watching Swades together (a Bollywood movie about an expat (NRI) returning to India and falling in love (with his country and with a girl), based on a true story). Alexander was lying on the floor digging for treasure in his nose when he very responsibly hopped up and ran to find a tissue. Reminding my children to grab a tissue before they ultimately need one has been an ongoing battle in my life for the past thirteen years. 

I will take this time to out my childhood-self as a chronic booger-eater. My children mercifully have not developed such habits. Instead they just come to me with big ol' boogers on their fingers, saying, "Here, Mom! I got this out!" and I'm like, "I don't want that. Put it in a Kleenex!"

So I was pleased that instead of running to me with a big ol' booger on his finger, Alexander ran off to the tissue box and wiped his finger in the tissue. Then he started playing with the tissue a bit. He ripped off a small piece and said, "Look at this, Mom! I ripped off a small piece!"

And I said, "No! Don't rip that Kleenex up!"

He looked at me like I'd crushed his spirits a little (after all, look what he had done—pretty neat, right?) so I said, "Sorry, buddy, but I don't want little bits of tissue floating all over my house."

He was rolling his little bit of Kleenex between his fingers, making a nice little ball.

"Run and throw that in the garbage, please," I urged him.

"Oooooor..." he suggested, "I could...STICK IT UP MY NOSE!"

And before I could even react he had taken that little ball of Kleenex on the tip of his finger and rammed it as far up his nose as he possibly could.

"ALEX!" I yelled. 

Now, I'm sure having a bit of Kleenex up one's nose is not a medical emergency. Still, I wasn't sure that a tightly squeezed ball of tissue would easily work its way back out of his nose. If he had been older we could have prompted him to blow his nose, but he's two and he doesn't know how to blow his nose. So I told Andrew that he could fish it out. We managed to get it out with a Q-tip...and later when we looked up other methods of removing things from children's noses we learned that medical experts tend to say not to stick anything like a Q-tip up your child's nose, but we did...and I think everything turned out just fine...even though I missed the last few—and arguably some of the most poignant—minutes of Swades. 

We figured we ought to have that knowledge fresh on our mind with this child, our first to break a bone or think to himself "maybe I should stick this...UP MY NOSE!" 

This seems to be a fairly popular method for removing an object from a child's nose (in case you were wondering).

I told Andrew that he would have to tell Alexander not to stick Kleenex (or anything) up his nose and all the children laughed. Andrew couldn't figure out why everyone would laugh at that. It's because he sticks Kleenex up his nostrils when he has a runny nose (like this). Andrew didn't think that had any influence on Alexander's split-second decision to ram a ball of tissue up his nose, but I'm not so sure...

Friday, July 31, 2020

It's the place where books are free

Our library closed in March, right at the beginning of the pandemic in this part of the world. It stayed tightly shut week after week while they developed a plan to allow patrons to use the library while limiting contact/risk. Finally they came up with a curb-side offering, which honestly didn't look that alluring to me. 

I'm a browser. 

Not, like, a web browser. 

A book browser.

I like to walk through the stacks, pick a book up, flip it open to see if it's a story I'll actually want to read to my kids (or if it's something my kids would want to read on their own). I like to set my children loose and have them pick books off the shelf, to allow them the thrill of finding that next great read. If I happen to be looking for a particular book, I like to also see what's beside it on the shelf. In short, libraries are a very physical thing for me. 

Doing a curbside pickup didn't seem very appealing to me.

I don't like paging through an online catalogue trying to decide what to check out. I don't like having to judge a book by its cover (and a short blurb). I don't like that I have to wait for all my holds to trickle in before I can pick them up (I mean, I guess that's on me; I could go pick each book up as they email me that it's ready but, uh, no thanks). 

So I ordered a bunch of books (anthologies, mostly) on Amazon/AbeBooks, which weirdly requires me to page through an online catalogue in order to decide what I want, and we've been working our way through what we've got. We have thousands of books in our house and Benjamin and Zoë are at such different reading levels that so many of our books are unexplored by them—Benjamin is getting into our older-reader chapter books and Zoë is happily and independently going through all our picture books and younger-reader chapter books. It's really been fine.

But now that we've been in school—for 24 days already!—we're starting to feel pinched by our lack of library access. When I'm tired of directing lessons I like to point to the library box and tell the children to go learn something on their own. I haven't been able to do much. I mean, I did it for science today. I didn't feel like helping the kids work through our next couple of science experiments but we do happen to have a quite a large collection of books on space (rather on purpose, mind you) so I told them to just go read some stuff about space. Completely in line with our unit of study. 

New books are sometimes more fun to explore, however, and I could tell my children were getting hungrier and hungrier for some book learning.

Thursday, July 30, 2020


I forgot to mention the last sweet thing Benjamin did yesterday. 

I, uh, fell asleep in the hallway while I was waiting for the kids to fall asleep. That's my spot. Alexander likes me to be there and he gets very out of sorts when I'm not where he expects me to be. He'll often scream in the middle of the night and when I go to him and ask him what's wrong he will tell me that I wasn't where I was "supposed" to be. 

The other day he was looking for me and Rachel, knowing that I was upstairs, told Alexander that she thought I was downstairs (to buy me some time). He went downstairs to look for me and when he realized I wasn't there he just threw himself on the ground, howling...because I wasn't where I was "supposed" to be. 

Anyway, he's much better at falling asleep these days but still likes me to wait in the hallway while he drifts off. After I tuck him into bed I will read a chapter from whatever our nighttime book is and then I'll send the older kids to bed and then I'll read in the hallway until I know he's fallen asleep.

Last night I fell asleep myself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Benjamin and the very good day

Today was a good day for Benjamin, which meant it was a good day for us all. He needed a good day, I needed him to have a good day, we all just needed him to have a good day. It was a very pleasant surprise after several days (weeks?) of difficult behaviour (we've been going through a bit of a rough patch). 

He wrote a wonderful essay and when he was finished—before his sisters, which never happens—he suggested that he go outside to clean the sticks and leaves off the back deck (something he remembered that I'd said I had wanted to have happen). Then when I mentioned that I needed to put some laundry in he ran upstairs and grabbed the kids' dark-bin and loaded it into the machine for me. 

I had mistakenly thought we'd finished his unit (aside from a game that I knew we needed to play together (and did play together)), so then he reminded me that he still had a few workbook pages to do before starting his next unit. So he got out his workbook and got down to work. I'd been worried about math because I've had to force him to do so much of his math, helping him through problems step by step. It was exhausting. But today he managed to do all his workbook exercises on his own (and only had to correct two of them)! I was blown away!

He played nicely with his siblings for hours outside (the real excitement being that we met our new next-door neighbours; they have a little girl Zoë's age) and when it was time to make dinner he insisted that he wanted to be the one to do it. We had chicken nuggets, mini oven-bake pizzas, and steamed vegetables, so it wasn't exactly gourmet, but he felt good about being trusted to work the oven (with a little help) and I appreciated his help in the kitchen. 

Fingers crossed we can have more days like this in the future!


We have been on a fairly strict lockdown at our house since March. Usually I think we're all doing alright. Sometimes I wonder if we're taking things too far. Often I feel like a crazy person—like I'm the only one doing this.

It's hard when YW activities are moving toward being in-person. They said every other week would be a zoom meeting, but we have a three week stretch coming up of in-person activities. And tell me, how do teenagers "social distance" at a pool party? Are you telling me they're all going to just swim six feet away from anyone else? I've seen the pool; it isn't that big. How are you going to keep them from high-fiving each other during a bike/scooter/skateboard obstacle course in the church parking lot? 

Masks are optional and not everyone attending these activities believes this virus is a thing. Inexplicably there is a large proportion of the population who believes that this virus is a hoax. And so how does one safely mingle with anyone now, let alone anyone who has not been taking precautions because they choose to believe otherwise. 

I am heartened by the email we received from our bishop this morning telling us that we won't be returning to church in August due to the astounding number of cases we've been seeing. But perhaps we'll try for September (like, not us, but whoever wants to). He left us with these parting remarks, "I will share with you that what I am seeing in the hospital setting is very concerning regarding those ill with Covid and the overwhelming pressure it is placing on our health care system. Please protect yourself and your families."

I still don't understand how our youth are allowed to meet together at this point (most hospitals already dangerously full; our county's hospitals are projected to be "overloaded" by August 14). 

And still people don't believe anything is happening. 

My mom's coworker died of COVID-19 a few days ago. Several other coworkers have tested positive. My mom had contact with some of those people (so far she has tested negative and mostly she works from within her own little office, thank goodness...but still worrisome). 

And still people refuse to take this seriously.

Spider surprise

This morning Alexander found a little heart-shaped box that some child or other received at a Valentine's Day party years ago and decided that he wanted to fill the box with spiders and give it to me, as a present. It was a charming gesture, to be sure, but why he felt anyone would appreciate being gifted a box of spiders is beyond me. 

But, collecting—or trying to collect—spiders kept him fairly occupied during our busy homeschool hours this morning, so I would have been crazy to stop him. He was very frustrated by his spiders, which simply wouldn't stay in the box. They kept running out and getting away! 

I should note that the spiders he's looking for are known as "daddy longlegs," at least down here. I have a hard time referring to them as that because even though they have admittedly long legs, they aren't what I would call "daddy longlegs." I'm used to calling harvestmen— Opiliones—"daddy longlegs." They aren't spiders at all; although they are arachnids, they have one fused body segment so they look like a little ball with legs (and they don't spin webs). 

These spiders at our house were certainly not "daddy longlegs" in my mind, but when I've called them "cellar spiders" to locals they have no idea what I'm talking about until, suddenly, they do and then they say, "Oh, daddy longlegs."

No. Not daddy longlegs. But, sure. Daddy longlegs.

But these daddy longlegs are true spiders, with two body segments and the ability to spin webs (so many webs, guys, and they're messy little houseguests because, while a lot of spiders consume their old spider silk, these spiders just leave them to collect dust and turn into cobwebs and they produce so much frass—a ridiculous amount of frass—I am forever vacuuming up spiders and spider webs and spider frass) and everything.

They're plentiful around this charming old house of ours and Alexander has decided that they are his friends. He will name them and pick them up and let them run along his arms until they drop to the floor and run away. They're splendid companions (slim pickings, what with quarantine). They just won't stay in his little box! So frustrating!

Eventually he decided that if he wanted to give me a spider he would have to make one himself, so he got a paper and some drawing utensils and made this: