Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Fungus experiments

We've been learning about fungus (among other things) in our classification unit in science and today's science experiment was that one where you use yeast to inflate a balloon. Only I didn't have a balloon because even though  the creator of our textbook so kindly compiled a list of supplies we'd need for each upcoming experiment, I don't often remember to look at that list and find myself scrambling at the last minute. So instead of having our yeast inflate a balloon, we just covered glass jars with saran wrap and got basically the same results.

The kids enjoyed watching the yeast activate (even without a dramatic balloon climax) and our saran wrap did inflate a bit (though it looks wonky in the picture from so many fingers poking it).

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

My silly guys

Not to make us seem totally accident-prone over here, but...

Alexander touched a hot pan this evening. I had just taken it out of the oven and put it in the center of the table (which Alexander cannot reach without climbing on top of the table itself), and cautioned Alexander not to touch it (which, again, would require him to climb on the table to do). Then I went about finishing up dinner and called everyone to the table and sat down.

"Hi, Mommy," Alexander, who was sitting serenely on his chair, said.

"Hi, buddy."

Then he stuck out his lip, held out his hand, and whispered, "I touched it."

The poor boy had a lovely little blister swelling up on his hand! But he hadn't yelled or cried or panicked at all. He just calmly informed me that he had burned his hand.

"Well, quick!" I said, pulling the pitcher of water over to him. "Put your hand on this. It's cold."

"Ooh!" he agreed. "That is cold!"



He and that pitcher became fast friends.



Christlike Service

Tonight for family night, Rachel suggested that she introduce the Light the World initiative to the family (over dinner because that's often how we've been doing family night this semester since Andrew's been teaching on Mondays (hey, everybody's sitting down)).

Today's challenge was to think of someone who is an example of Christlike service (and to then highlight that person on social media, which blogs are totally very much still in vogue (at least that's what I'm telling myself). The girls both though Sister Moody in our Spanish Fork ward was a good example of Christlike love because she's always looking for ways to serve others, and they're not wrong. Sister Moody is a wonderful person.

For me, though, the people who kept coming to mind (aside from perhaps the obvious answers within my family) were the Gillespie clan and my dear friend Crystal. When Karen passed away, all the Gillespies showed up for her funeral. They really walked us through that grieving process and let us cry and laugh and feel whatever we were feeling (and cried and laughed and felt things with us).

It made me feel terrible about not getting Andrew out to Utah for Dorothy's funeral (guys, we were so broke). The Gillespies came from Washington, Idaho, and Arizona (and Utah). The only one we were missing was Phillip (he was stuck in Wyoming (probably being so broke, guys). They gave us this beautiful little angel that has been sitting on our mantel since we moved in, and which I haven't sent a thank you card for because I'm still not a very reliable thank you card person...but every time I look at it I think about how that angel was meant to represent Karen but how it also represents those dear, dear friends.

And then Crystal!

She drove for six hours just to give me a hug after Karen died (and, I guess, to give my kids presents as well). And I was surprised, but I don't know why because she's always doing wonderful things like that (and not just for me; she does nice things for everybody). I'm so lucky her little family was brave enough to be flatmates with Andrew and me all those (13!) years ago. Somehow she never gets tired of my whining (and—totally not an example of Christlike love but just a strange thing that always makes my head spin—I had a baby about six months after she had a baby for her last four babies (Zoë was off-schedule, but that's alright), including (randomly) having a premature baby after she had a premature baby (I suppose this ends up being another example of Christlike love because she walked me through that whole NICU experience as well)).

Lastly, I have to call out my friend Susanne. She is so open-minded, so willing to listen, and so thoughtful. I wish we had been able to get together in person a few more time than we managed (but we're not so far; so perhaps one day we'll get to pay her a visit). I don't even remember how she found our blog, but she did (through Bridget somehow) and when she found out we'd be moving to North Carolina she swept in and took care of us, telling us fun places to visit, dropping off bags of hand-me-downs and fun things for the kids to do (beadwork and bubbles and so forth). Once she brought by a beautiful yellow chrysanthemum. And she came to support Rachel at her baptism.

I suppose when I think of Christlike service, then, I think of the times he mourned with those in mourning and how he's able to cater to us so individually. And I hope that I can learn to emulate that behaviour as well as my friends have!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Benjamin's talk

The primary here has been absurdly on top of sending reminders about the children's assignments in primary...until this weekend! Usually I get a text message earlier in the week as well as the day before, in addition to an email. I'm often also caught in the hallway by one of the presidency members and the kids have come home with little bracelets detailing their assignment.

Benjamin was supposed to give a talk in primary today and I got no reminders at all! Luckily I read the church bulletin that was emailed out last night because Benjamin's assignment was listed there.

We worked together this morning to come up with a talk.

You'll find the transcript below. He read the full text of Janice Kapp Perry's poem/song I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus. It fit well with his talk and she's been on my mind quite a bit lately (years and years ago I took a Spanish class with her (and my mom), which was fun, but she's more a friend of my mom's than of mine). She's a wonderful, talented woman and I wish her the best with whichever path she's to take (recovering from her illness or meeting up with her husband in heaven).


Be my mommy

Today I got to help serve a post-funeral luncheon. Benjamin's nursery leader's mom passed away. I suppose her mom should have been in our ward—or would have been in our ward as of this week—but she's been in a home due to her various illnesses (Alzheimer's, among other things). They knew she was doing poorly, so had made the decision to bring her home this week—on Thursday—so she could spend some time surrounded by family before passing away...but instead she passed away on Sunday last week.

Still, the family had all been planning to be here for Thursday, so this sweet sister in my ward cooked a ginormous Thanksgiving dinner—all on her own—and that's what we served to her family this afternoon.

She must be one of those people who can do things like plan and cook a huge meal while under huge amounts of stress (like planning a funeral and so forth). But also this was a thing they've known has been coming for several years now.

Anyway...

I had to go off and leave my children (with their hobbled father) while I went to help with the luncheon (their hobbled father having not been in the cards when I volunteered to help; and with it being Thanksgiving weekend, finding a replacement volunteer would've been difficult, so I decided to go anyway). Alexander, my sweet, clingy baby, didn't want me to go and would hardly leave my side—not when he noticed I was getting ready to leave the house.

"Pick me up!" he demanded.

"I can't hold you right now. I've got to get ready to go!" I told him.

"Don't go!" he begged. "Stay here! Be my mommy!"

And I just about melted into a puddle right then and there, but I persevered and went to the funeral luncheon, and we all (ie: Alexander) survived the ordeal.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Trees and knees (and things)

Yesterday Andrew lugged our tree upstairs and we set it up, which the kids were rather excited about. One of these years we'll unpack our beautiful blown-glass ornaments from Egypt, but this year was not the year (those poor things have been in storage forever). We got out our non-perishable ornaments and let the kids decorate the tree however they wanted. A few breakable ornaments were carefully tucked into the highest boughs, but other than that things are just helter-skelter everywhere. And I'm perfectly fine with that.

Here are Alexander and Zoë working on the bottom of the tree:


Friday, November 29, 2019

All he wants for Christmas...

Last night Benjamin proudly came to us holding a tooth in his hand, so he's now missing his two front teeth just in time for Christmas!


Somehow all my children so far have managed to have their two front teeth missing at the same time. Am I the only one in the world who didn't have that happen? I distinctly remember losing one front tooth, and having my new tooth well on its way in by the time the other one fell out. So I completely missed out on that super-gap.

Fa-la-la-la-la

I was about brought to tears by another children's book this evening. This time it was The Lighthouse Santa by Sara Hoagland Hunter and I started choking back tears while reading the author's note at the very beginning of the story (of all ridiculous places to start crying).

It's a true story based on an experience of a man—Edward Rowe Snow—who flew around delivering Christmas surprises to lighthouse keepers and their families (who lived very secluded lives) for forty years. And that's just so nice (cue tears).

The rest of the story was rather easy to read (and I didn't actually end up crying). Benjamin announced that it was a very "calming" story. And it truly was. Simply beautiful.

Zoë keeps asking whether Santa is real. I keep telling her that he's alive in our culture, an answer she finds rather unsatisfying, but which is also true.

When she saw an illustration of Edward Rowe Snow dressed up in a Santa suit she pointed and said, "There, see!? Santa is real." And I thought to myself, "She's not wrong."

In this story Mr. Snow was very much the embodiment of Santa.

Now that Thanksgiving is over with (we ended up going to a friend's house for dinner; they posted they were eating alone and we were eating alone and we just figured if we ate alone together we'd be that much less alone, so even though it was a last-minute coordination it ended up being a lot of fun) we're officially ready to get this Christmas holiday season underway.

I've been sneaking in Christmas stories for quite some time now (of course), but Andrew is still pretty strictly a no-Christmas-until-after-Thanksgiving kind of guy. He's softened up a little over the past decade (and a half?!) that we've been married. In fact we might now be to the point that he's stopped caring about it altogether but the rest of us have gotten so used to him not liking Christmas creep that he pretends to be annoyed just to validate our Christmas pining.

For example, he was out of town all week last week (so we were listening to Christmas music with reckless abandon over here) and on Saturday when we were out for a sunset stroll, the kids hatched a plan to put Christmas lights up on the house before he came home (that very evening). Since it was already getting dark, putting up all our Christmas lights was out of the question but we did wrap some around one of our trees in the front:


Thursday, November 28, 2019

With thanksgiving

Last night Andrew wanted to clean a cast iron pan but he couldn't find his chainmail scrubber (it's perfect for washing cast iron pans and, yes, it's made out of chainmail). He looked in all the drawers (because things never quite end up being put away where they should in our house) and didn't find it.

He didn't check inside the garbage disposal.

But he did wash the pan and then run the garbage disposal.

So now we know where the chainmail is, but it's thoroughly ensnared inside the garbage disposal, which is now leaking out the bottom, which we've learned is kind of the death knell for garburators (thanks to the marble of '14 and the seashell of '17).

Yes, this is the third garbage disposal we've mangled beyond repair.

Guess. What. We're. Getting. For. Christmas.

(Being a grown-up is so fun.)

I suppose with today being Thanksgiving we can be grateful that when the garburator started leaking icky dishwater there was a pack of opened sponges sitting directly below the leak, and with their collective absorption powers were able to soak up all the water the garburator threw drizzled at them. This was a much happier discovery than finding icky dishwater had run all over our cabinets, as we've had happen in the past.

Now there's a bowl sitting under the sink, which should hold us over until we can get this puppy fixed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Falling for fall

I never expected to love autumn as much as I've found myself loving it. 

Where I grew up, autumn was a mere blip of a transition between a lukewarm summer and a frigid winter. The trees seemed to be in a hurry to be ready for their long hibernation, as if they were gearing up for battle—no time to dilly-dally!

Here the trees treat autumn as if they're getting ready for a big first date with a mild-mannered, gentle winter. They spend weeks (and weeks) preening in front of the mirror, trying on this colour and that, and...


I'm not mad about it.

You're gorgeous, autumn!

Lost, lost, lost...

Alexander climbed into bed with us last night, as he does most every night. He's more or less trained now to just lie still and go back to sleep (without even asking for milk) so we're all getting a lot more sleep around here than we used to. Anyway, some time after he joined us in bed and we'd all fallen back asleep, I was woken up by Alexander stirring.

At least, I was pretty sure that's what it was. Sometimes I'm not quite aware what's going on when I first wake up.

I reached over to pat him and shush him, but he wasn't there. He was crawling around.

"Baby, where are you?" I whispered into the dark. I could still sense him crawling around. "You're going to crawl off the bed!" I warned.

I lunged toward the foot of the bed to grab him but still couldn't find him anywhere. I was just wildly feeling around in the dark. By this point he had begun to fuss. "Momma! Momma!" I kept feeling around for him. Then, finally, I grabbed him, way over on Andrew's side of the bed, about to fall off the foot of the bed, had it been possible to do so...but it wasn't because he was under the covers (and the sheets were tucked in tight).

He'd been crawling around deep inside our sheets for who knows how long!

So I ripped the blankets off Andrew (sorry, honey), grabbed Alexander, and settled him down in the middle of the bed (where he believes he belongs).

It doesn't sound all that crazy now that I'm typing it out, but it felt pretty wild for 3:00 in the morning!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Family photos sneak peek (2009 to 2019)

We did it: we managed to take family pictures this afternoon! It was quite the circus (as is to be expected) but we had a good time and out of the 500 or so pictures we took I think we managed to squeeze a few good ones in. I still have to go through them all and edit our selections, but here's a pretty good one of the kids:


They're pretty cute (and so grown up). For real, though. There's this decade photo challenge going around and people are posting pictures of themselves from 2009 and again from 2019 (which I suppose is something one could technically do any year, but it feels big to be moving into the twenties (can we say that—"the twenties"? I'm so old that I feel like the twenties are of course the nineteen-twenties, but here we are in the 2020s, so...)).

Monday, November 25, 2019

'Tis the Season

We had our first day of Thanksgiving break and it was (for me, at least) a rather relaxing day. Andrew went grocery shopping, Tom came around to re-grout our shower (because we are know-nothings), and I spent a large portion of the day arranging Christmas music for the ukulele (very simplistically).

I know a lot of Christmas music exists out there, but I'm picky. I want the lyrics, I want the chords (and diagrams), I want the tablature (because Rachel loves plucking), and I want the notes on the staff, and I want it all together on the same page! I haven't found many pieces arranged this way. Perhaps it's overkill, but when we're practicing the ukulele I want my kids to be learning about time signatures and measures, and learning to read music, and so forth so I feel like it's important to have it all there.

Maybe one day we'll understand the notes on the ukulele well enough to forego tablature and will simply be able to pluck out a tune while sight reading from regular music (but today is not that day, so I'm making it a little easier on us).

It's kind of fun to do and it's rather exciting when I figure out chords for a song or successfully transpose something into a different key (and I think a lot of this feeling stems from my lack of understanding of music theory, so whenever I pull something off it just feels magical instead of logical, but that's okay).

We're planning on hosting a Christmas ukulele night in December and I want everyone to have music that's easy to read, so hopefully I'll be able to pull something together that everyone will enjoy (even though I know you can only please some of the people some of the time).

But then I'm feeling like I have project overload because I also have to finish our Christmas newsletter (and *fingers crossed* take family pictures tomorrow), and there are still a handful of days left of NaBloPoMo, in addition to getting a manuscript ready to send off to the publisher (Andrew mailed it for me today; weird that they don't take electronic submissions but whatever). Oh, and keeping tabs on my freshly potty-trained toddler (who had zero real accidents today (though he did pee all over the floor when he tried to take himself potty and very nearly pooped in his underwear (but did not because I caught him and rushed him to the toilet)).

It's a busy season for everyone, though, isn't it?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Youngest Choir Director Ever, Part II

Andrew flew in late last night, which was good because he was filling in for all the accompanists at church today. Seriously. He played the organ for sacrament meeting, he played the piano for primary, and then he had to cover for the choir pianist as well...which made things awkward because he's also the choir director. 

When Alexander saw that Daddy was sitting at the piano rather than by the director's stand, he saw his chance to make his big debut. He lugged over the little stool (kept on the stand to help our smallest ward members reach the pulpit in order to bear their testimony or deliver their lines for the primary program or whatever), climbed up and then happily announced, "I up here!"

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Leaves are falling all around

Today was a very wet day. It rained all night long and all through the morning and it was still raining this afternoon. The raindrops helped convince the trees in our yard that autumn is really upon us and so they got busy shedding their foliage all night long and all morning long. 

When we loaded up in the van to go to a friend's birthday party, the driveway was slick with leaves and rain water. It's been covered with leaves before, but...not quite like this. And we're quite diligent about clearing the driveway, anyway—I'd just cleared it (and the back deck) the other day. But here it was, covered with leaves again. 

"I'll have to blow the driveway off again when things dry out," I said, as I buckled Alexander.

Then I hopped in the driver's seat and confidently backed out of the garage and into our little turn around spot. I threw the van into drive and headed up the driveway. But then my tires started spinning and we began drifting backwards. I put on the brakes. 

"Okay..." I said. "It's a little slick. We'll try this again."

So I tried again, and again I couldn't get more than halfway up the driveway. 

I texted my friend to say that I wasn't sure we'd be able to get out of our driveway, at least not in time to make it to the party on time. She texted back, "Oh, please still come!" So we piled out of the van and started shoveling soggy leaves off our driveway in the now-drizzling rain. The kids were all using their hands, which was pretty slow-going, so I brought out the push broom and started clearing a trail for us so we could make it up the hill. 

For the record, our driveway is a beast


And to think I've been laughing to myself about how we'll never have to shovel snow! The joke's on me because while we may not ever be truly snowed in, we were leaf-ed in today! I didn't know that was a thing, but apparently...it is. So now we know!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Another one bites the dust

His tooth squeaked against the kleenex as I wiggled it in his mouth. 

*squeaky*squeaky*squeaky*

I did not want to take the next step but I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and yanked.

*POP*

His tooth detached, ripping the last little fibers from his gums, fall into my hand. 

Gross.

Pulling teeth is not my job. Usually Andrew does that, but he's busy enjoying the beach (and a conference...but also San Diego), so here we are. 

Benjamin's two front teeth have been wiggly for weeks now and today one of them was giving him so much grief that he could hardly eat a thing—it had to go! I'm sure the other one will be following suit shortly (but hopefully not until Andrew's here to help with its exit), and then at least Benjamin'll know what to put on his Christmas list (not that he has any trouble coming up with things to put on his wish list; he wants a lot of things).

If you look carefully you can see that his note says, "One $ please."


And here's a better shot of his gappy, snaggletooth grin:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

On the potty train

A good time to decide to actively potty train your toddler is the day your husband goes out of town for the week, right? Sure. We'll go with yes.

I was going to surprise Andrew with it when he came home but then I sent him a video of Alexander doing some wild climbing in the house and ever-observant Andrew noticed Alexander was wearing underwear and asked about it.

It's Spider-Man underwear, to be precise, and in two days we've only soiled one pair. Spider-Man gets sad when he's wet, see, and we don't want to make Spider-Man sad. We (ie. Alexander) love Spider-Man (though to be honest, I'm not sure why; I mean, he's seen Into the Spiderverse, but, like, that was months ago. Can babies even remember months ago? Anyway, that's all that he knows about Spider-Man, as far as I know, but somehow he can sing the theme song and absolutely adores Spider-Man). We just happened to have some 2T Spider-Man underwear tucked away from our adventures in potty training with Benjamin (which I don't care to talk about because it was a rather traumatic, never-ending train wreck and is still too fresh in my mind).

I decided to make the switch because I've been trying to slowly coax Alexander to use the potty but he has no sense of accountability in his diapers. In fact, when I've asked him to not "go" in his diaper he has told me—with a know-it-all mien—"Bam, oo tan doe in oor diaper!"

Translation: Yes, you can go in your diaper!

Once when I asked him if he'd gone in his pants again he said, "Nope. Nope. Not in mine pant. Don't worry, Mom—I dust doed in mine diaper!"

And I thought to myself, "Self, if your child can express himself that clearly—and understand the distinction between going in one's pants and going in one's diaper—then it is time."

So we're doing this (because I hate diapering).

Books and tears

It never goes away, does it—that hole in your heart, that longing, the sadness? Not completely.

We're fine, but I can tell I've changed because I cry so easily lately and, perhaps, I will forever.

I've been reading The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki out loud to the kids and while the entire book deals with difficult subjects, the last couple of chapters were especially difficult to read out loud. I was crying and blowing my nose and struggling to get through things. It was just so beautiful, so tragic, so wonderful.

I checked out Pippin the Christmas Pig (by Jean Little) and I've read it to the kids a few of times and I can't seem to get through the ending of that book without tearing up, either.

And that book isn't even about death! It's about finding the true meaning of Christmas!

Zoë can't understand why I'm always crying while I'm reading and I remember thinking the same thing about grown ups when I was little. What possible reason could they have to cry?! They never had any real problems, like being offered a broken cookie or not being allowed to stay up late! And here they are, breaking down over a pig saying, "All babies are special." I mean, come on!

Grown ups are cry babies.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I don't know what to write today

Due to a this afternoon's schedule, I ended up taking Miriam to her organ lesson. I never thought I'd end up being a taxi mom, but here we are. To be fair, Andrew has done more than his share of driving our little family around—but to be fair to me, he knew before we got married that I had/have no desire to drive. Ever. 

But, here we are.

"Doesn't it feel good?" he asked me the other day, after we'd been talking about some of the ridiculous drives I've been making lately. 

"Does what feel good?" I asked.

"That feeling of freedom!" he said. "You can go anywhere."

"Oh, is this what freedom feels like?" I asked. "Freedom is horrible."

Freedom, I guess, is a sweaty, shaky, feeling-like-I'm-going-to-vomit mess. So, to sum up, I still don't like driving. But I have to admit that I'm getting better at it, bit by bit. Even if I hate it. 

Anyway, I took Miriam to organ this afternoon and then the kids and I just hung out in the parking lot of the tennis court in her teacher's neighbourhood, zipping around on our scooters, throwing leaves, and enjoying the afternoon. 

It was fine. But I'm glad Andrew normally is the one to make the trip because I think that parking lot would soon lose its appeal as a waiting place. 

*****

Yesterday we were reviewing Rachel's vocabulary words at the dinner table. One of the words was omit, which got us on a bit of a "word family" kick. We were thinking of all sorts of -mit words (or -mittere, I suppose): commit, remit, submit, admit. 

"Vomit?" Benjamin asked hopefully.

But while vomit does fit the pattern, it actually hails from its own root and is unrelated to other -mit words (so very disappointing we were hoping vo- was some crazy root which when combined with -mit would mean "forcefully expelling," but no). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

These kids

I know we said we were moving on from WWII and we're trying. We have books about WWI in our house and we've discussed some and watched some PBS films and so forth...but we're also still reading The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki.

Today we read about how Sadako learned about her fate (because she had not known what disease she was battling, only that she was sick). She was curious, however, so when she came across her file and read her test results it confirmed her fears—that she had leukemia. She spent a minute feeling sorry for herself but then her thoughts turned to others. "How can I help my family? What can I do to make the world a better place while I am still alive?"

So that was our writing prompt for the day (it still counts as a gratitude prompt).

Wherein Alexander "beaks"

Yesterday during the face-to-face broadcast with Elder Gong, someone said the phrase "sing a song" and Alexander, who had completely checked out (because who was expecting that broadcast to be nearly two hours?! Not us) snapped to attention and said, "Oooh! Bing bong!"

He loves music and sings a lot.

He likes to sing the kids lullabies while I do. I likes to stand in front of our music stands and wave his arms while crooning out his own little tune. And this evening during Miriam's concert I had to keep reminding him that he can't sing along to the music and instead had to sit quietly and listen.

For some reason we'd never heard him say "sing a song," however, and it was delightfully hilarious (because, you know, he can't (or won't) say /s/).

So the kids have been singing, "Bing bong! Bing bong!" all day (which reminded them of the movie Inside Out, of course).

Another thing Alexander says a lot lately is "Banny tall Naanii!" which means "I wanna call Naanii!"

Whenever he sees my phone he starts repeating, "Banny tall Naanii! Banny tall Naanii!"

Monday, November 18, 2019

Miriam's orchestra concert

We are—very oddly—in our last week of school before Thanksgiving break and we're feeling woefully underprepared for the holiday season. Somehow our internal clocks reacclimatized to northern seasons and so the calendar keeps baffling us. How could we possibly be halfway through November?! The trees have just begun to turn colours and there's no snow in sight!

Anyway, we hit the ground running today and finished most of our schoolwork before heading to the library for the "hands-on homeschool day," where we learned about some indigenous cultures in Georgia. The librarian told us a number of legends and had a couple of crafts for the kids to do. They got to make "turtle-shell shakers" to scare the great spirit dog away from our cornmeal (he left a trail of cornmeal as he fled back to the sky, which became the milky way). They also got to make a strawberry craft to remind them to love their family and forgive quickly (I really enjoyed this story).

Even though the class is supposedly geared toward kids 6+, Miriam was already feeling like it was a little too juvenile for her, but she helped Alexander make the crafts, which he was rather happy about (especially that shaker).

After we got home we did a little writing assignment (I'm having my kids keep a gratitude journal this week based on my mom's post from a couple of days ago) and then started getting ready for our evening.

Ordinarily we can't make it to the homeschool days at the library because it interferes with orchestra rehearsals, but we didn't have a rehearsal earlier in the day because tonight was their first concert so we had a dress rehearsal prior to the performance instead. In order to get there on time we had to pick Rachel up from school, so when we got home from the library I made us a lovely picnic dinner (PB&J sandwiches, strawberries, cheese sticks—super gourmet) and then we headed off to the middle school.

It was about an hour's worth of driving (after taking a round-about way to get there so I could stay on roads I was familiar with, hitting some lovely traffic, and then being diverted around an accident) and I'm not sure I've ever been happier to have gotten anywhere. Rachel made fun of me for "stress-singing," a term she totally made up; she could not stop laughing at me!

Stress singing goes a little something like this:

"I will be so glad when we get there so I can park this car. I hate parking but at least it means I don't have to drive anymore!"

The tune isn't important, really. Just sing it ugly enough to embarrass your preteen, even though the other cars can't hear you.

Anyway, we got there, Miriam had her dress rehearsal, we had our picnic dinner, and then we had the concert, and then a reception after, and then we came home and all in all we were out and about for nearly seven hours for this concert (we didn't walk in the door until after 10:00). So I'm kind of glad the evening is over!



The concert went well. Here's Miriam's ensemble doing their songs:



The scratching noise you hear is Alexander colouring on his magnet-colouring board thing (which he calls an iPad). He is also the reason the camera is a little wibbly-wobbly at times.

Andrew had to teach tonight so I had to juggle all the kids by myself, which was fine. I did that one trick where you choose the family with the most kids and sit behind them. That way no one knows whose kids are acting up at any given time!

The family in front of us had six kids, all about the same age as our kids (plus one older one). The more I looked at them the more I wondered about them. They were putting off a very familiar vibe...

So during the reception I approached them and broke the ice with a homeschooling question, throwing in "we just moved here."

"Oh, where did you move from?" the mom asked.

"Utah," I said.

"Okay. I thought so. We're Mormons, too! And I saw you with your five kids—and you had a quiet bag with you and I just thought they have to be Mormon!"

"We are," I said.

Not that everyone from Utah is, just that if you have a whole handful of kids and are from Utah there's a very high chance you are also Mormon. This family is actually not from Utah (though they did attend BYU); the parents are both from here (and have the accents to prove it). But it was fun to connect with them! And they told us about another homeschooling family from our church in the orchestra.

Not that we only need friends who are also members of our church, but it is nice to have that connection as well. This orchestra is filled with wonderful families!

Here are some pictures Rachel took in the few minutes before the concert that we spent waiting in our seats (we did most of our waiting not in our seats):







Andrew had to teach tonight so he missed the first half of the concert, but the church we meet in is very close to the metro so instead of going home he joined us for the last half of the concert (and the reception) and it was so nice to have a second pair of hands!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Some funny stories from the first half of an exhausting Sabbath

Some days I know have been filled with terribly funny things—I know because I write them down throughout the day (on Facebook for the most part)—but by the end of the day I don't have enough of a sense of humour left to do them justice.

Right now, for example, it's 10:30 PM.

I got the last of my children to bed at 9:20, which, all things considered, is really pretty good. But, Alexander just wandered in (which means he was asleep for all of 1 hour and 10 minutes) and is now trying to go back to sleep in my bed and Zoë just wandered in as well (she hasn't fallen asleep yet).

So I'm just...tired. Like, reliving even the funny moments sounds too exhausting because the kids are...still...requiring...my...attention. But I suppose I can try anyway.

This morning we asked Rachel to help the kids get into the van so we could go to church. As she was heaving Alexander into his seat she accidentally bonked his head on the roof.

"Oh, oops!" she said. "Are you okay?"

Alexander grabbed a fistful of her hair, yanked on it, and said, "Oh, oops! Are you okay?"

I mean, I didn't know a toddler could channel vindictive sarcasm but apparently they can.

On the way to church, Rachel was asking about Superman and his powers and wondering how his people could live on Krypton when kryptonite has such an adverse effect on them. So we discussed Superman mythology the whole way to church (very reverent of us) as well as different versions of shows and their merits.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Gender roles

While Andrew was out doing the grocery shopping with Zoë, I pried Rachel away from the game the kids were playing ("We're making our own economy!" Okay, kids) so that she could hold the ladder for me while I climbed up to clean out our gutters (which are full of acorns).

"We are good at gender roles," Andrew joked when he got home.

"Well, which job would you rather do?" I asked him.

"Mmmmm..." he hedged.

"Same!" I said.

So we both got the job we prefer: him—walking down aisles, and me—climbing up ladders.

It works out.

*****

Friday, November 15, 2019

Bananagrams

We played Bananagrams this afternoon, which is a game I haven't played in ages. The kids were able to come up with some pretty good words (sometimes by cheating—Miriam spent one round "fishing" in the draw pile and because every time you return one letter you have to take three she ended the game will a billion tiles still to play so that was kind of a lame round, but she learned her lesson (and she spelled doctorate, which is one of those pretty good words I was talking about, but still)).

One round Miriam spelled the word repetition. At the end of the round when we were proudly reading our words out loud (guys, I managed to spell penitentiary in one round (I should note: there is no benefit to creating the longest word, aside from bragging rights)) and Miriam said, "Okay! I got repetition, surf, boas, moat..." she continued through her list of words and then said, "And repetition! Did I say that word already?"

"Uhhh..." I said, waiting for her to figure out her unintended pun.

"Oh!" she said, and we both started laughing because that's funny.

Though Alexander isn't in the picture, you can see what he was doing in the background (ie. playing with everything)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Red pens

Today I don't really know what to write, which I suppose is alright because sometimes days are just drizzly and dull. It was actually a pretty good homeschooling day, with Benjamin finally buckling down to do his research project. Getting him to write a rough draft of anything has been difficult (to be fair this is only our second report); he seems to think it's a waste of time and wants to dive directly into the good copy.

I can't say I blame him because drafting isn't very appealing—getting dirty and making mistakes? Carefully choosing your words only to later abandon them, striking them out with a red pen? Yuck.

It's really not a thrilling activity.

The good copy is where he—surprisingly—shines. He loves writing out his words on the lined paper I designed especially for him (because somehow he ended up with a college-ruled notebook, which hasn't been ideal for guiding his developing penmanship, so for his good copy I print out paper with dotted lines to help him make uniform letters). Somehow he's able to write neat and tidy letters when he does his good copy, which he's unable to do during any other writing activity (which is why it's surprising to me that he can).

Yesterday I printed out a manuscript of my own to edit while the kids worked on their projects. I read it to them first and they gasped in all the right places (which, really, is just one because it's a very short story). They loved it.

And then I brought out my red pen and marked it up—noted a few inconsistencies, some missing words, thought of some better words to replace mediocre words, fixed some punctuation.

"What are you doing?" the kids asked.

"I'm editing my story," I said.

"You wrote that?!" Miriam said with a note of surprise in her voice.

"Yes, I wrote it," I said.

"But it was good," Benjamin said. "Why are you changing it?"

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Censorship

There is a particular homeschool curriculum that has been suggested to me several times, but which I simply can't...stomach. I'm sure it's fine; it just feels a little rote, a little simplistic, and a little too...censored...for my tastes. I've been looking at the book lists the curriculum offers and, I mean, they're fine, but the list of books explicitly not recommended is making me gasp like a fish out of water.

I mean, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency? I'm pretty sure my mom left that book (or one the series, anyway; maybe even a couple) at my house in Egypt when she visited us years ago. Wonder. Farewell to Manzanar. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Just...so many books. For so many reasons. Angelina Ballerina, guys, which makes it "seem normal to complain about family members being annoying." Also, Angelina Ballerina is self-centered and impatient.

Like...you know...most four-year-old mice I know.

The thing I love about Angelina Ballerina, though, is that she always seems to come around to things in the end. She is a mouse who learns lessons. So my hat is always off to Katharine Holabird for pulling off such delightful tales of an endearing, though dare I say...annoying...little mouse.

The Magic Treehouse Series is also not recommended because the "family is not supported." For example, on one of the few pages the reviewer deigned to look at, Jack laments having to play with his sister, saying, "Oh, brother. This is what [I get] for spending time with [my] seven-year-old sister."

Like, can you even imagine a family member thinking another family member was being annoying? Because that never happens fifty times at my dinner table every evening! We are loving towards each other unrelentingly, 100% of the time. How dare authors include characters who at times exhibit such abominable traits such as feeling short-tempered every once in a while, or being annoyed at a sibling!? That's not the way families should be.

But, unfortunately, that's the way families are.

At least...that's the way my family is.

We fight, guys.

Just the other day, Benjamin stabbed Alexander with a pencil—left a long gash in his leg.

What's your name, man?

Alexander can say a lot of complicated things:

  • Happy birthday
  • Screwdriver
  • Spiderman
  • Where are you?
He actually can say pretty much anything and says things with surprising grammatical acuity. His pronunciation, however, is hilariously lacking, and his voice is so tiny-sounding that it makes everything sound cute, even if it's not cute when it's written down because, well, it sounds like perfectly normal English. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Dentist tales

I had to go to the dentist today, which was unfortunate because (a) I don't like going to the dentist, but even more so because (b) I had just been to the dentist to get a couple of fillings (because my teeth are terrible and I always have cavities no matter how well I brush/floss/gargle—I mean, seriously: my dentist/hygienist is always like, "Wow! Your teeth are so clean! There's hardly any plaque build up at all. This is remarkable! Do you have an electric toothbrush?" Why, yes, I do. Thank you. I am religious about my dental hygiene. "You do a great job. Also: three cavities." And I'm always like how?! Why?! Ugh.).

Anyway...

I had just gone in to get three (3) cavities filled on October 28th. All on my bottom teeth, but on both sides of my mouth and we went ahead and filled them all at the same time and it took forever and my mouth was so numb. When they finished (around noon) they were like, "You should be numb for another hour or so..."

And I was like, "Okay, great. So I should be regaining feeling by...5:00 or so?"

I didn't say that out loud, of course, because my mouth was embarrassingly numb and I couldn't form a single word properly. It was all I could do to keep from drooling. But I know how my body reacts to pain medication (that is: very well).

My mouth was even still a little numb when we sat down for dinner.

But, I'm fine now.

Except that I noticed a hole in my tooth. It was a beautiful, perfect hole, so I figured that it was from part of a filling falling out. I called the dentist and made another appointment—for Friday last week—but then woke up so very sick on Friday morning.

Thankful tree 2019

So, I did it! I painted a tree on my wall and it went just fine. It's not quite symmetrical, which is fine because I meant for it to be asymmetrical but I'm afraid it's not quite asymmetrical enough, but that's okay. Sometimes when I make an attempt at representing something found in nature—be it a flower, a cloud, a sunset, or whatever—I always think that I didn't do a very good job, that it doesn't actually look like that. But on the other hand, sometimes I look at nature and think to myself, "See? Clouds can look like that! And would you look at this really weird twig!" and I know that pretty much anything I could draw or imagine probably already exists in nature (because nature's just that crazy). There's a high probability that a tree that's ever-so-slightly asymmetrical as this one exists somewhere in the world today (and that's good enough for me):


We've been slow about putting leaves on this year. It's been an exhausting semester. But we're slowly filling it up with things we're thankful for. and it's fun to have it be so big and bold on our wall!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Remembrance Day

Orchestra days are always a little chaotic, simply because it eats up such a large chunk of time from the middle of our day. We try to use that time effectively (read in the car! do math while we wait!) but it always ends up feeling like we don't quite get everything done. Today especially I felt pressed for time because in addition to orchestra I decided we should finally get around to doing a poppy craft.

We've more or less moved on from WWII (more because we have moved on to WWI (because why not do history backwards) and less because we just finished reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and it turns out that the author took quite a few artistic liberties with this story that has forever been touted as historical, so we ordered a book authored by Sadako's brother to round out the matter in our minds (spoiler: Sadako totally managed to make 1000 cranes before she died)), so I decided that since Remembrance Day was coming up we should study WWI for a while.

The kids have been working on memorizing In Flanders Fields (which Benjamin wishes could be just a little bit happier in tone, but I was like, "No, dude. War is definitely this gloomy, so...sorry") and today we made some plastic canvas/needlepoint poppies to wear. It was certainly an exercise in patience for the kids (and for me as well, if we're being honest, since I was trying to guide the two older ones through their projects while allowing Zoë to pull the needle through the one I was working on, and kept having to stop to help everyone fix their mistakes), but be we made it through it!

First I had them enlarge the pattern—which, incidentally was an 11x11 square—on graph paper, so that totally counts as math (though we still did our regularly scheduled Singapore math as well). We talked about lines of symmetry and so forth. And then I let them loose with yarn and needles. They needed a ton of help when we first started out but by the time we were finishing up they were rethreading their needles like champions.

We ended up with five poppies: one made by Benjamin, one made by Miriam, and three made by me (with Zoë and Alexander taking turns pulling the needle through whenever they they could convince me they should have a turn).

Here they are wearing them just before I called them to attention for our moment of silence:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Primary program 2019

Today was the children's primary sacrament meeting presentation, so our pew was abnormally quiet since only Rachel and Alexander were sitting with us. The other three were up on the stand ready to sing and say their lines.

We have such terrible memories these days that we couldn't quite remember who had participated in last year's primary program. We know that we went—it was the Sunday after Karen had died, so we were all pretty much a mess, which is probably why we couldn't remember much about it.

Rachel was sure that she had been sitting with us. I was almost positive that we only had Alexander with us. It took quite a bit of whispering for us to get it all figured out.

Last year Rachel, Miriam, and Benjamin participated in the primary program (leaving Zoë and Alexander to sit in the audience). Then in January, Rachel graduated from primary to the young women's program, so this is her first year not participating in the program. Also, Zoë graduated from nursery into Sunbeams so this was her first year participating in the program. I think Rachel cut some sort of wild deal with the primary last year and if she participated in a small singing group she wouldn't have to say a line (and it surprised me that she would pick singing over speaking, but there you have it).

So, that was last year.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Good grief

Well, we made it through an entire year.

I don't really know what to say about it except that we're on the other side of it. It was hard at times and beautiful at others, and...we did it! And because we did it—because we survived (as people are wont to do in universal (but, oh, so difficult) situations like this)—today felt a bit like a sigh. Like an exhale. As if we'd been holding our breath for a year just to see if we could do it—and we could! And we did! And now we know we can keep going.

I was thinking about Karen a lot at Halloween, and maybe I sat on my steps and had a brief cry (while I ate some candy) while no trick-or-treaters were coming, thinking about how this was the very last first holiday to get through without her—the very first time she wouldn't ask to see pictures of the kids in their costumes.

But somehow we got through that last first and entered the first week of remembering Karen's last.

That was hard, too, but not in the way I expected.

Even now as I type, I'm feeling teary. But I don't feel broken. I'm sad because I miss her and I feel, in a sense, that we're missing out on her, but also I know that she's not missing out on us. I tried earlier to put this feeling into words and I'm not sure I quite nailed it (but that's alright because Grandpa tried to put it into words as well and it took him 32 pages or something like that).

Andrew stopped for doughnuts when he was out grocery shopping today and when he brought them in the kids were excited but confused—except for Rachel who knew what today was.

"Ooh! Doughnuts!" Miriam squealed. "Why'd you get doughnuts?"

"Because a year ago today Grandpa took us out for doughnuts," Rachel recalled correctly.

"Oh, that's right! We went to Cowboy Donuts and got doughnuts because..." said Miriam, and then she fell somber. "Oh."

But, really, everyone was happy to have an excuse for a doughnut (thanks, Grandma) and we realized that we honestly don't feel that sad anymore. We feel...changed...but not really sad (though moments of grief are still unavoidable—the "Ball in the Box" analogy explains why this is so quite well and we've been coming back to it time and again over the past year).

Here we are with this year's doughnuts, feeling much more genuinely normal than last year (when we were feeling somewhat devastated):


But the humidity...

My mom just texted me to let me know that right now Patrick, in Missouri, is the coldest at 32°F. We're next here in Georgia at 40°F (though we are under a freeze warning so it might dip a little bit more). David in BC is at 41°F. Abra in Alberta is at 42°F. And those Utah people are at toasty 43°F.

But, you're likely saying to yourself, the humidity!

I hear this a lot and it drives me somewhat crazy. "It's a wet cold; it cuts right through your jacket!" or "It's a dry heat so it's not so bad."

Does humidity affect how we feel temperatures? Absolutely, but that isn't to say that any cold, humid temperature feels colder than any cold, dry temperature. As an example, a certain southerner I was talking with mentioned going outside—in the mountains, in Alberta, in December, wearing swim trunks, dripping wet—but that they "didn't feel the cold" because they're from Georgia and they're so used to a "humid cold" that the "dry cold" didn't bother them in the slightest.

Hogwash.

Here's why: scientists already calculate the "feels like" temperature for us, factoring in things like wind chill or and the heat index (which, like the humidex in Canada, considers humidity).

Friday, November 08, 2019

Sick day

I finally gave in and got the cold everyone else has been passing around and...it's rather miserable. So today was a homeschool lite day. We finished listening to Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, which I could only access as a book on CD. I probably would have stretched it into next week if I'd been feeling up to doing more but the kids wanted to keep listening, so I was like...sweet.

I had already planned for them to do some review on Khan Academy and play some online math games for practice, but they really wanted to work on their coursework (Miriam asked if she could spend her bedtime reading time finishing up her first textbook last night instead of reading, so she was excited to start in her fresh textbook this morning and Benjamin is coming close to finishing his first textbook as well so he wanted to go further). So I let them do that. And we played some math games.

Then Benjamin wanted to watch a Bill Nye movie he'd chosen from the library (on architecture), so we did that and then the kids all went down to the basement and got out the trains and blocks and lego and built an metropolis spanning the entire basement while I took a nap. Science rules.

When I woke up we had (a rather late) lunch and then the kids disappeared into the basement again and I had to coax them out to do their real science work. We're on lifecycles right now and we've covered reptiles, amphibians, and fish, so Benjamin is doing a report on salamanders (which I've only ever known as relatively small creatures—the mudpuppies at Sunshine Lake were the biggest kind of salamander I've ever come across—but he learned there are giant (monstrous, really) salamanders in Asia (like as big as people, which is crazy). Miriam chose angler fish, which have some crazy mating habits (the males of most species of angler fish are unable to survive on their own so they simply bite into a female and release a hormone that dissolves the flesh of their mouth as well as where they bit the female and then they fuse together at the circulatory system and all his organs eventually dissolve, save his testes, and he just...lives on the female for the rest of his life, taking nourishment from her bloodstream and constantly inseminating her and...nature is terrifying).

Aside from some recreational reading (which, of course, involved history books for Benjamin), that was pretty much our day. Here's hoping I kick this sickness to the curb sooner rather than later!


Thursday, November 07, 2019

Olly Olly Oxen Free!

While Alexander still wakes up to find me in the middle of the night I finally have him more or less convinced that he's not getting any milk, so he'll just climb into bed with us and settle back to sleep (which has been a glorious transition). In the morning, however, he's all, "MY NEED MILK! MY NEED MILK! MY NEED MILK!" so we're not quite weaned yet.

And thus this morning, like every other morning, found me, nursing Alexander in bed. Zoë came in and flipped on the light and used the master bathroom before going back to bed. Rachel was up making her lunch for school. Andrew was in the shower. Miriam was getting breakfast.

Only Benjamin was still asleep.

We gathered for prayer on the stairs so that those still in bed (Zoë, who was awake, and Benjamin, who was asleep) could be present and determined that at some point in the course of the morning Alexander had pooped in his diaper. So after we'd said the prayer I noisily changed Alexander's diaper outside of Benjamin and Zoë's room. I chatted to Alexander, gabbing loudly about how it was time to rouse the children and get our day started.

Zoë stumbled out of the bedroom, but Benjamin did not.

"Let's go in and wake Benjamin up," I said.

"I'll do it!" his eager sisters replied in chorus.

They stormed his room, flipping on the light, and attacking his bed with the force of thirty to fifty feral hogs. Like, for real though—no one could have slept through the ruckus they were making! They even—seriously—broke a slat on the bed.

But still no Benjamin emerged from the bedroom. In fact...

A day in the park

We had to take Alexander to the doctor this morning so he could get his second flu shot. He wasn't very happy about it but he also didn't cry (again—how brave is he?!) and we found the day so beautiful that we rushed home to do our math (we'd already done our social studies) so that we could pack a picnic and head to the park.

Here's our little picnic:



Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Halloween Costumes

I already more or less wrote about our Halloween night, but let me sum up: Andrew worked late so I sent the kids out to trick-or-treat for themselves for a while before joining them because we weren't getting any trick-or-treaters out anyway. It was such a cold night (for us southerners) that the youngest few wanted nothing other than to go home (they reasoned we didn't have to go door-to-door collecting candy since we had a big ol' bucket waiting for us at home and kept saying things like, "It's almost my bedtime!" (but then, of course, they didn't want to go to bed once we got home)). The houses in our neighbourhood tend to have rather large yards so it took a lot of walking to get not much candy, not that it was a terribly difficult or unfamiliar walk (we walk around our neighborhood all the time), but I imagine it would have been nicer if we had been warmer. 

The one picture I took of the kids on Halloween

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Sew...

I'm not very good at sewing and, in fact, until this year had never used a sewing machine (at least not really; I'd tried to use my great-grandma's sewing machine but it never would work quite correctly (it probably needs more than a little tune up given that it is a relic)) but somehow or other I decided to do some sewing with my little Activity Day girls.

After learning that it would take them a full hour to sew one straight seam (by hand, but still), I decided that if we were to ever finish this project I'd better help them along a little bit.

We're making scrunchies—with a bow!—because apparently scrunchies are back in style. Most of the girls got the scrunchie part finished but not a soul had started on their bow. 

I asked my co-leader if she'd sew them up for the girls and she said she would but then some family stuff came up and she ended up being a little unaccessible the last few weeks so today I decided to sit down and do it myself.

I've been practicing my sewing skills by making cloth napkins out of old towel-things Karen had (because that was an environmental change the kids decided we could make—no more paper napkins—but, honestly, we go through a lot of napkins at the dinner table (we are messy, messy people (may we please grow out of that)) so I keep having to make more to keep our inventory ahead of our demand (and we still run out).

I'm 16 napkins in (I believe) and so by this point in time I can sew a mean straight(ish) seam. I've never turned corners or attempted a curved stitch—until today when I stitched together eight little bows for my activity day girls!

Miriam went ahead and turned hers right-side out and it doesn't look too shabby so hopefully all the others will turn out just as well. I figure that as poorly and lopsidedly sewn as they are, I probably did no worse than the girls would have done (and I did it in a fraction of the time).

So I'm basically a seamstress now, right?

DNA extraction

We've moved on from human genetics (a bit) to discuss the life cycles of plants (since that's where our textbook went next). I decided that instead of planting seeds in different environments, we'd do some DNA extraction for one of our experiments (since we have acorns sprouting (or not sprouting) all over our yard currently and since my kids know the parable of the sower, this didn't seem like a very riveting experiment to do (What?! You mean the seed left on the empty lid didn't sprout even when left in the sunny window while the see that we put into the soil, which we made sure got plenty of sun and water did sprout?! Who would have thought?!); we do, however, have an oak tree growing in our kitchen window sill (and several sprouting all over the lawn, but none sprouting on our driveway; go figure))).

Like I said, this textbook sometimes feels a little juvenile for Miriam (and sometimes even for Benjamin). 

The DNA extraction, though, was right up our alley. I'd seen this idea pop up a few times over the years and decided to pull it out now since we were studying both DNA and plants and happened to have a few pumpkins on hand. 

Weirdly, while I could find several videos (like this one) telling how to extract the DNA, none of the videos discussed why anyone would ever need to extract DNA from something. Fortunately, a quick internet search gave me plenty of reasons why (genetic modification, crime scene samplings, cloning, and so forth) so we had plenty to discuss.

After pulverizing a bit of our pumpkin in the blender (with some water to make it nice and juicy), I scooped some into baggies for each of the kids to squish and added some dish soap and salt (our washing solution). Once their pumpkin puree was thoroughly mixed with the soap and salt, we ran it through a strainer and (since I couldn't find any cheese cloth) some paper towels. 

Here we are squishing our mixture into our strainer:

Monday, November 04, 2019

DST has us all like...

Why do we do this to ourselves? We've been willingly walking into jetlag for decades...and to what end? I suppose one nice thing about it is that my children can play outside until it gets dark but we still get to eat dinner at a decent time once they're driven indoors...

Alexander was rather thrown off by things. He woke up at his usual time on Sunday morning, which meant he woke up early for the new time, and then he fell asleep halfway through sacrament meeting and didn't wake up until halfway through Sunday school. Once he was well-cuddled, we went to nursery where I sat him in a chair and walked out of the room. And—miraculously—he didn't start crying immediately. Rather he participated (silently) before getting weepy (but not unconsolably so).

He was only in there for about twenty minutes and his leaders did end up bringing him to me just a few minutes before church let out, but all in all he did a fabulous job. And he was so excited for his little handouts. His teacher makes great handouts that he plays with all week long.

Last week they got a little paper suitcase with a picture of someone praying, a picture of someone reading scriptures, and a picture of someone being baptized. This week they got a little bag with different books of scripture to put inside as well as a little sunshine on a stick.

His leader sure loves her Cricut (and he sure loves that she loves it)!

We talked a lot about how we found each other, just like Llama Llama and his mama (because mamas come back for their babies). Hopefully next week will run a little smoother than this week did and Alexander will be a little bit braver because, as I mentioned, he was a little thrown off by this new schedule that's been dictated to us.

He was so out of sorts at bedtime—so beyond ready for bed—that he bit me!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Some fun stories about my cool kids

I don't know many Halloween songs, but when I was in nursery with Alexander last Sunday (because he still won't stay in there by himself; I actually tried leaving him but his leaders soon called me back in because they couldn't handle his...passionate...expression of separation anxiety) his music leader sang a Halloween song with the kids, so I recorded her singing it with them so that I could learn it.

It's just a short little song, but both Zoë and Alexander love it.

Here they are singing it before bed tonight (the tune is a little more...melodic...in real life, but I think Zoë did a pretty good job carrying it on her own):



Zoë sang it for Andrew the other night and when she did her big "BOO!" at the end he pretended like she'd really scared him and she started cackling. "Hahaha!" she squealed. "I scared you...with fear!"

Alexander simply sings, "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah TREE! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah ME! *silence, silence, silence* Ooo-oo! Ooo-oo! Ooo-oo! BOO!" because he's really big on syllables but not so big on enunciating sometimes, even though he can say "skeleton" and "pumpkin" and "werewolf" and all sorts of Halloween words.

Anyway, I love that we have this little song to sing with each other in October now so I'm glad Alexander's teacher was able to pass it on to us. I'm hoping he'll go into nursery easier eventually (we've only been trying for six months now). I pulled out Llama Llama Misses Mama and we've been reading it daily this week and talking a lot about how sometimes babies go to their own classes and mommas go to their own classes but that mommas always, always, always come back to pick up their babies.

We'll see how tomorrow goes.

*****

Triumph

So, once a quarter (or so), Rachel's school gives the children a recess. They don't typically have recess (or any sort of real break), even though the CDC recommends that all students K–12 be given 20 minutes of recess daily (a lot of upper-grades schools seem to be unaware of this), so these recesses are a real treat.

The recesses are "sponsored" by PBIS, which stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and which seeks to help schools establish, well, positive behaviour through incentives rather than punishments. Not that they are against punishment when it's necessary, just that people are often more motivated with positivity than with negativity. So, they're trying to get schools to use positive reinforcement methods as well as fostering connection with students.

Because that's what we're learning as a society: that connection is important.

Dependency on drugs and alcohol (for one example), and bullying behaviour (for another), can often be traced to the inability of someone to connect with anyone else. They feel alone. So if we can teach kids to have real, meaningful relationships (and if we treat them with respect rather than always throwing the book at them) a lot of future problems in their lives can be avoided.

Obviously I believe this program should be welcomed into Rachel's school with arms wide open (because it seems to me that they really struggle with this (the entire district, really)).

But that's just my opinion.

Anyway, they just had their first PBIS-sponsored "walk and talk," where they skipped out on their "connections" classes (which is just their elective course, not a core subject) and were given a snack (a bag of chips and a water bottle) and then had to walk a lap around the field before being allowed to—for once—freely associate with one another.

Rachel is pretty good at surrounding herself with good people. She walked around with some friends (acquaintances, really, since they don't get much time to foster relationships at school) and at the end of their time they decided to pick up some litter around the field (arguably a very good thing to do).

Unfortunately—and unbeknownst the vast majority of the students—a couple of students did not choose such a wholesome activity, had a little disagreement, and ended said disagreement with a physical fight.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Rules

School here continues to be...interesting. We are actually enjoying homeschool at lot more than I thought we would and Rachel is still enjoying middle school...but it's just not the experience I would have wished for her...so we're looking into alternatives for high school right now. The problem with that is that sometimes colleges don't look too kindly on homeschool transcripts, so I'm looking into ways to ensure that my kids can still get into the colleges they want (AP exams will help and we're looking into dual enrollment as well, then there's online high school, and, of course, they can get the HOPE scholarship if they score above the 75th percentile on the ACT or SAT) but we're still at the exploratory stages of everything so...who knows).

The high school handbook is online and reading it gives me the chills. Here are some excerpts:

"Students are expected to conduct themselves as mature young adults while on...camps."

Fine. Cool. Neat. Normal.

But then the normalcy devolves into this:

Tragedy

An email was sent out from Rachel's school yesterday morning informing parents that a student at her school "was killed last night" and that they had extra support staff on hand. But that was all the information they sent out, which wasn't really enough information to calm my nerves. In fact, it was just the right amount of information (ie. not enough) to pique my nerves!

There was nothing about it in the news that I (or Andrew) could find.

So we went along our days, wondering what happened, wondering how this would effect Rachel. I texted her in the morning just before school would have been in session, but she didn't answer. She did, however, text me shortly after school let out. When I heard my phone buzz I immediately ran to it to see who it was and was glad it was her.

"Our bus driver got everybody cookies!" she informed me.

"So fun!" I said. "You'll definitely have to make them a thank you card!"

And that was it until she got home.

"How was school?" I asked her at the doorway.

"Fiiiiine," she answered, suspicious of my peppy-mom routine (I might be a mother but I am not typically ver peppy; I'm more of an "Oh, you're home! What time is it even?" mom than a waiting-for-you-at-the-door-with-a-smile mom).

"Anything...weird...happen today?"

"No."

"Nothing at all. Like, you didn't hear anything about anything or..."

Friday, November 01, 2019

NaBloPoMo

Years ago I thought NaBloPoMo was a joke. Like it was hard to write a blog post every day for a month? Please. That's child's play...

So I tried my hand at NanoWrimo and discovered that I'm really not a novel-of-that-length kind of a story-weaver (and that's okay because there are books of all lengths in the world). I never did finish a NanoWrimo novel. But I got my blog posts in, by golly.

And then I had more and more and more children and I'm finding that, actually, it is difficult to write a blog post every day, so perhaps NaBloPoMo would be a good thing for me to attempt once again.

I told myself this earlier in the day.

And then Alexander took until right now (it's 11:20 PM, for the record) to fall asleep , which means I was held hostage in his doorway for hours this evening (and my phone won't log on to blogger so I can't write form my phone).

So I suppose this is my first lame post for November.

Here's to more loquacious future!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Family history festivals

We finished reading Sylvia & Aki together the other day, which has been providing us with plenty to discuss during our social studies time (it's about two girls whose lives intersect in WWII: Aki is sent to a Japanese internment camp and Sylvia's family rents Aki's home and farm while they are away (and fights against segregation in California schools—the Mendez vs. Westminster case); there's seriously so much to digest in this book).

Unfortunately we don't have our new read-aloud book in our hands yet, so today we learned about Día de Muertos and Obon, as well as the history of our own Halloween holiday. I got a little teary as we watched little videos on YouTube, wishing we had a similar thing in our culture. I think, perhaps, the very root of Halloween is that sort of thing—the sort of thing where you acknowledge loss and remember about those you're missing and wish them well—but it's been buried by candy and spooks and general forgetfulness. It simply isn't a meaningful holiday anymore.

But I wish that it was.

I wish that we could build a boat in tribute to our lost loved one(s) to parade down the street. I wish we could bang on drums and gongs and set off firecrackers and yell their name out to sea. I wish we could say, "Hey, everyone! Here is who we've loved and lost! It's been really hard!" And I wish that our community would bang drums and set off firecrackers and say, "We know it's hard. We've lost someone, too. We're here for each other!"

I just think it's a beautiful thing that's missing from our society. Of course we mourn together at funerals and things, but we don't have a holiday with time set aside to acknowledge each other's pain, to remember our family (both here and beyond), and to celebrate life and, ultimately, death.