Sunday, September 29, 2019

Bikes and basketball

I love shopping second hand, scouring ads for just what we are looking for at just the right price (which, in my case, is often FREE). Fifty dollars and half a day later, we have bikes for all of our children and a basketball stand!

They were thrilled to get to ride around together this afternoon, though we just stuck to our little cul-de-sac because Miriam's bike ($0) needs new brake pads and Benjamin, who took the entire summer off of riding a bike after having just learned, wasn't feeling very comfortable on his new ride. Zoë was also struggling with the transition from trike to bike (though her bike came with a doll seat, which she's thrilled about) and Alexander can't quite pedal the tricycle. But Rachel was really zooming around, pedaling up the hill and flying down toward our house.

As excited as they were about their bikes, they were even more excited about the basketball hoop. 

Even Alexander somehow knew what it was. 

"Ba-ket ball! Ba-ket ball!" he cheered.

Setting it up took a bit of finagling (and this just after taking it apart so we could move it to our house), but we finally got it all put together and solidly supported and the kids (mostly Benjamin and Rachel) played basketball for hours


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lake Lanier

Last night I got to get out by myself! I went (via carpool, of course) up to Lake Lanier for our RS campout dinner. I didn't spend the night because I'm really not sure Alexander and Andrew are ready for the emotional trauma that will entail, but I did skip bedtime.

It was a beautiful area and was such a lovely evening. I brought a sweater—because it's the end of September and I knew I'd be out late—but didn't even need to put it on! And to think it snowed in High River (and much of the surrounding area) today! Living in the south has its perks!


Friday, September 27, 2019

A snippet of our new daily grind

While the kids were busy with their math this morning (and I was sitting by Benjamin urging him on (my children have no concept of how to do exercises in a notebook because they've only ever done worksheets, really, but in the hopes of reusing these (expensive) textbooks with more than one child, I'm having my children do their work in a notebook and—oh, man!—they have no idea how title their page or number their problems or even write within the lines) I drafted up another fall poem.

The view from our kitchen window offers a lovely view of our tree-filled backyard and leaves are constantly falling from our trees. It's not even very much like fall here (yet—we still got into the 90s today) but the trees have had enough and are slowly dropping their leaves. We're constantly clearing our deck and walkways of leaves. I had to think of what things will look like when autumn is truly upon us.

Anyway, here goes...

As summertime draws to a close
The forest sheds its worn-out clothes.
It knows the year is growing old,
That winter brings death, dark and cold,
And so it offers us a pledge,
The final act of every hedge,
Of every bush or plant or tree
'Fore slipping into dormancy—
Pinecones, acorns, nuts, seeds, grain—
The promise things will grow again.
It tosses bright confetti leaves,
Bids us adieu and takes its leave.

It's almost time to start working on our annual Christmas poem so we'll consider all this poetry my warm-up.

We've been spending quite a lot of time with science this week. Our unit on recycling prompted us to listen to Greta Thunberg's speech together, which led us to research the Paris Agreement and a circular economy, which led us to a module introducing students to the idea of a circular economy, and everything just tied in so nicely. We're finished with our recycling chapter but still have more of the circular economy module to get through, so I think we'll do that before heading into the next chapter of our text book.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Alexander quotes

Tonight I drove Andrew's car to the church with the girls for their respective activities but when I returned home I was too afraid to attempt parking it in the garage because some incompetent soul parked the van way too far to the right, leaving far too squishy of a space for his vehicle to easily slide into.

The incompetent soul was me.

It's fine.

I just parked it in the driveway and began collecting scooters and helmets and chalk and other outside toys that hadn't been picked up while Rachel ran in to tell Andrew that he needed to come park his car. He came outside with a very sad Alexander who had not had a very happy time without Mommy.

Alexander happily came to me but became rather perplexed when Andrew hopped into the car.

"Daddy, no!" he cried. "How 'bout stay? How 'bout stay? How 'bout staaaaay?"

"He's just parking the car in the garage," I explained.

Sweet, silly baby. He really likes people to be home.

*****

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Some poetry

The kids and I tried our hand at some poetry the other day. I wanted to do something a little more fun and seasonal with them, trying to remember that while I might be super interested (and thus entertained) by all the book learning we're doing, and recognizing that I am never really the life of the party, my children probably need to some more traditional fun in thrown in the mix.

And one of the characteristics of poetry is that it's "fun" to read.

Benjamin told me this (and it checks out because when I was doing some background research for our lesson this characteristic kept popping up as well, though I don't know that all poetry is fun to read). He wanted to write a haiku first:

Orange, red, yellow
Leaves of maples fall off trees
Brown sap dripping off trees

Then he drew a tree and in the treetops he wrote:

I really
love to
rake in the fall
and jump
in the huge piles

And lastly he wrote this (which I think may have been inspired by Percy Jackson, but I'm not really sure because I haven't read the series):

Zeus is a happy guy and
He powers our e-cars.

We've been talking a lot about the environment this week (having finished discussing life cycles we've moved onto other cycles...like reducing, reusing, recycling) and I think that's where the e-cars came in...maybe...though Zeus? I mean...I dunno. Thunderbolts = Electricity. Who knows what he was thinking when he wrote this?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Lepidopterophobia

Last night (after already being up with the baby, mind you), I was yanked from my sleep by a piercing, panicked shriek. I popped right out of bed and dashed out of my room.

A child had obviously been to visit the bathroom (the light was on) so I poked my head around the door frame. Zoë saw me, jumped and screamed again, and then fell on the floor sobbing.

"What is it?" I asked, pulling her back up.

"THERE!"she wailed, shakily pointing toward the stairs. "There was a... There was a..."

At this point my heart was racing and I was feeling rather jittery myself. Spit it out, child! WHAT WAS IT?!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Saturday and Sunday with Naanii

On Saturday the rest of us spent a rather quiet morning at home while Andrew ran Miriam to a stake-level Activity Days event. The church is unveiling a new youth program this coming Sunday and I'm crossing my fingers that they've come up with a better name than "Activity Days" because I always end up saying silly things like, "There will be an Activity Days...activity...this Wednesday."

Anyway, in the afternoon we met my second-cousin at Webb Bridge Park. Dylan has lived in Atlanta for several years now (sixteen, she thinks) and I haven't seen her in many years, so I was a little bit nervous about becoming reacquainted (because I'm always nervous about that sort of thing) and was glad to have my mom as an excuse to break the ice. But I honestly had nothing to worry about! Dylan is just as nice as her mother was and is just as excited as I am to have some family in the area (and Canadian family to boot)!

She was running a little late, so here are a few pictures of us exploring the playground (which is a pretty neat playground):

Zoë's Talk

Zoë was asked to give a talk this past Sunday, which she was rather excited about. We sat down to write it together after she had gained some experience on the subject matter (a rough Monday followed by a better Tuesday). She wanted desperately to work in Galatians 5:22–23 since that's her favourite scripture to repeat from memory these days, and it fit in with her topic fairly well.

Here's her talk:

2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loveth a cheerful giver.”

That means that when we be nice and share things, Heavenly Father is happy and we are happy. Sometimes it is hard to be nice and share things so we make bad choices and be mean to each other. But that’s not good. That’s like breaking the rules. 

Rules help us to make good choices so we can be happy. Sometimes rules tell us what not to do, like, to not break the law, to not hit your brother, and to not lie. Those are all bad things to do.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23) because there’s no rules against doing good things!

Like being a cheerful giver—there’s no rule against that!

On Monday my brother and I were sitting on a box together and I didn’t want to share so I pushed him off the box. He hit his head and cried a lot. I got in trouble. And everyone was sad. 

On Tuesday my mom gave us some crayons and my brother and I got to colour on the box together. When my baby brother coloured on my side of the box I decided not to get mad and to just let him colour with me. And everyone was happy.

That’s how I know that being a cheerful giver is good.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

This (being a cheerful giver) is also what she learned about in her primary class. They were challenged to do two nice things this week and when we got home from church Zoë was on it!

I asked Alexander to take off his shoes so he could go down for a nap.

"I will! I will!" he said, as he crouched down to reach his shoes.

"No, I will!" Zoë said.

She pushed him over and wrestled him to the ground.

"Stop it, Alex! Lie still! I'm! Helping! You! Take! Off! Your! Shoes!" she grunted as she fought him over the right to take off his shoes. Then she forced him out of his cute little suit coat.

All the while he's screaming, "No! My shoes! My do it!" and she's yelling at him, "I'm serving you!"

So obviously that lesson went over really well.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Thursday and Friday with Naanii (plus a happy birthday for Andrew)

My mom is headed to Poznan, Poland, for the International Viola Congress next week and on the way she decided to stop and spend a few days with us. Stopping by Atlanta on your way to anywhere is relatively easy since Atlanta is quite a popular place for layovers. In fact, it's the busiest airport in the world (and has been for the last two decades), so we're well-positioned for hosting people on their way to somewhere else (should they choose to have an extended layover here)!

Naanii arrived too late for the kids to see her on Wednesday night (she may have gotten in early enough to see them but her plane was delayed on the runway and then their baggage took a long time to come and by that time the metro (which I simply can't get used to calling MARTA, but people look at me really weird when I talk about the metro) was running on its evening schedule (ie. arriving and departing stations less frequently) so she was delayed at the station as well) but they were certainly excited to see her on Thursday morning.

Alexander knew she was coming and rushed to find her as soon as he woke up and then he just snuggled and snuggled and snuggled, which was weird for me because usually that's the treatment I get in the morning (it was also rather nice of my mom because he'd uncharacteristically soaked right through his diaper (usually he's dry or dryish in the morning) and was getting her damp, too). It was surprising behaviour for him, but I'm glad he's finally decided to like my mom (even if he only decided it right before we moved so far away).



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

How homeschool is going...

On the first day, we got through all our subjects (except for science, but including music (at least for Miriam)). I drove her to our new homeschool orchestra all by myself (after practicing the route with Andrew on Sunday afternoon). It's a 25 minutes drive, so this was no small thing for me.

Miriam enjoyed orchestra.

We hunkered down in a small classroom off the main room where Benjamin and I worked on social studies together (Benjamin picked out a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition to read together, which we'll be focusing on for a while). Zoë and Alexander played and ran around a little too much.

I know it was a little too much because Alexander tripped and fell, cracking his head on the table in the room.

I'm sure the orchestra enjoyed his lusty screams.

That is not a shadow on his forehead, sadly

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Pulling the trigger

Well, we're homeschoolers now, I guess.

I submitted our "declaration of intent" form to the state and instead of walking into the school to turn in my form—Human interaction? No, thanks!—I just emailed them to the secretary and she'll get to discover them tomorrow. We'll still have to go back to get the kids' things (and return Benjamin's library book (he keeps checking out books from The Little House series, which is fine...except we have those, so why...?)).

Speaking of The Little House, I was reading to the kids from Little Town on the Prairie (look at us, logging those homeschooling hours already!) and Pa summarized my feelings quite nicely in chapter 18.

Ironically, this chapter is called "Literaries," but it was in all caps and the kerning was off so I couldn't figure out what the title was. LITE RARIES.

What's a lite rary?

Let's read to find out!

Oh. Literaries.

Neat that I struggled with that word (but in my defense the kerning was off).

Alexander tales

At 23 months, Alexander is quite the parrot. He will say anything anyone says...unless you specifically ask him to repeat something, in which case he absolutely will not. Often he will demand a turn saying a prayer or reading a verse of scripture, but it never goes over well.

"My turn! My turn! My turn!" he screeched during family scripture study this evening.

So naturally we relented and gave him a turn.

"Okay. Say: 'I came...'" I prompted.

Alexander pressed his lips tightly together and smiled silently at us all.

"...unto my own..."

Continued silence from Alexander.

"...and my own..."

Not a word.

"...received me not..."

Absolutely nothing.

It's hilarious because he looks so proud of himself for taking a turn but...he's not actually taking a turn. He does the exact same thing when he gets a turn saying the prayer—won't say a word. That doesn't stop him from butting in when it's not his turn, however. He does that plenty.

*****

Friday, September 13, 2019

And another thing!

"The CDC, SHAPE America, and other national organizations recommend giving elementary school students at least 20 minutes of recess daily," so our school gets to check this box. In fact, they exceed expectations by 10 minutes. And that's cool. I guess.

Rachel is currently in a PE class, so she gets physical activity every other day at school, but next semester she won't be in PE. And then she won't get any sort of break (and by and large high schools and middle schools are unaware that the CDC recommends recess—physical, often outdoors, active breaks from classes—in addition to PE classes for upper school students. So it's not surprising that there isn't a break built in.

However, this is about elementary school. The CDC offers some guidelines on how to offer recess, which includes:

  • Prohibiting the replacement of physical education with recess or using recess to meet time requirements for physical education policies.
  • Providing schools and students with adequate spaces, facilities, equipment, and supplies for recess.
  • Ensuring that spaces and facilities for recess meet or exceed recommended safety standards.
  • Prohibiting the exclusion of students from recess for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom.
  • Prohibiting the use of physical activity during recess as punishment.
  • Providing recess before lunch.
  • Providing staff members who lead or supervise recess with ongoing professional development.

(Source is here).

Craziness

We're still feeling incredibly dissatisfied with the children's elementary school and thus I have been looking extensively into homeschooling, which isn't something that I ever though I'd do, though I'm not sure why. I've entertained the idea several times over the past seven years (because I've always felt frustrated about the public school system) but have always come to the conclusion that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a homeschooling mom. 

But the past six weeks have shown me, perhaps, that I'm not patient enough or organized enough or skilled enough to be a public school mom, either!

I'm "pro" public schools. I love the idea of education being a right that all children have equal access to. But that, my friends, is a fantasy because while all children may have a right to education in this country, they in no way have equal access to education. 

Considering school performance (and environment) was a huge factor when we were looking for a house. The truth is that some schools are better than others (and even more truthful is that wealthier people have better access to better education). 

Our district is the largest district in Georgia (15th largest in the US) and it performs fairly well. Within the district, our school performs above average and is fairly highly rated. But I have huge problems with how it's run.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dinner tales

"Is this all that's for dinner?" Zoë asked, taking in the spread with disgust.

Homemade tomato (and carrot (but shhhh, don't tell)) soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Between school and soccer and organ and activity days and young women activities, Wednesday dinners are always a little rushed.

"What you see is what you get. Why? There's nothing here that you don't like..." I said.

"I was just hoping for a little more..." she said, still entirely unimpressed.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Like some vegetables!" she snipped. "Can we have, like, a cucumber or something?"

How can you argue with a request like that? (I mean, aside from her attitude...)

So I peeled and cut a cucumber to add to our dinner.

This morning (after a long, hard night, with many wake ups by Zoë and Alexander both), Zoë woke up complaining of a sore throat.

"I'm sick," she said, "So I need healthy breakfast, not ordinary breakfast, but something super healthy, okay?"

She settled on oatmeal (because that would soothe her throat).

If she's got the same thing that Alexander and I had, it won't be such a terrible cold—just a scratchy throat for a few days.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Notes

I'm reading Inspired by Rachel Held Evans (who tragically passed away earlier this year, leaving behind two young children) right now (among a few other things) and it almost has me wishing I was a person who could highlight passages in a book. But can't bring myself to do that (unless, oddly enough, it's the scriptures). It feels too much like desecration. I suppose that's what being raised in a houseful of librarians will do to you.

So instead of highlighting passages, I began sticking bookmarks (read: scraps of paper) in to mark passages, which was a great idea until the book was thick with extra paper (I'm only halfway through) and now I have to reread each page I've marked (and sometimes the next page) to find the passage I'd liked in the first place. But, it's a good book so it's not too much of a burden.

Some passages are about scripture, some are about the act of writing itself (which Rachel Held Evans believes, and which I believe, is a holy act).

p. 11 to 12: "....one of the most central themes of Scripture itself [is that] God stoops. From walking with Adam and Eve...to slipping into flesh and eating, laughing, suffering, healing, weeping, and dying among us as a part of humanity, the God of Scripture stoops and stoops and stoops and stoops. At the heart of the gospel message is the story of a God who stoops to the point of death on a cross.... It is no more beneath God to speak to us using poetry, proverb, letters, and legend than it is for a mother to read storybooks to her daughter at bedtime."

p. 48 to 49 : "Storytelling always has been, and always will be, one of humanity's greatest tools for survival." And, "...be warned. in Scripture, and in life, the road to deliverance nearly always takes a detour. ... Indeed, some of Scripture's most momentous events occur not at the start of a journey, nor at the destination, but in between, in the wilderness."

p. 70: "People take extraordinary risks to be part of a story that will outlive them."

Don't be frrrrightened!

We're two full months into this homeownership business and still can't seem to stay away from the hardware store. Today we needed to find some brackets and a hose and some curtain rods (and a drill bit, and...).

Andrew was going to take the two little ones on his own, but then I decided to go along with them so we left the older kids at home with a list of things to accomplish (homework, practicing, chores) before they'd be free to play their morning away. It's so nice having a child old enough to babysit (just saying).

When we got to Lowe's we headed over to the garden section to find a hose, which ended up being quite the adventure. Lowe's has all their Halloween wares out on display: pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons, and life-sized replicas of witches and werewolves. We didn't know we'd be walking past such terrifying decorations on our way to get to the hose and honestly didn't even register them as frightening (since we'd walked past the Halloween decorations to get to the garden section we were already in a Halloween-y mood, I guess) until our children flipped out.

So we did what any parent would do in this situation and went by them again, this time with the camera rolling. The kids reacted just as much gusto as the first time.



Alexander must have felt like he was in one of those dreams where you have to run but can't move your legs, strapped into his seat, completely helpless. Zoë melted off the cart and leeched onto my leg. I had to drag her past the werewolf, around the corner to where the hoses were.

Poor, poor babies. But also...so, so funny.

I realize not everyone thinks this is funny (thanks for that, Twitter..."Your kids will grow up to hate you. Hope that was worth it" (jokes on you, bro, because they were going to grow up to hate us anyway)), but my entire family was laughing about it so at least I know where I get my humour. I have one particular aunt who loves Halloween and decorates her house rather epically every year and she was terribly amused by Alexander's reaction (and probably wants (or already has) that werewolf).

This is "that one aunt" of mine all dressed up for the Zombie Walk in San Diego (their whole family attends somewhat annually)

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Bug bite update

It seems like every time I blink a week has rushed past and I've hardly had a chance to write anything. We're not even doing anything other than getting nice and comfortable with the daily grind, which is, I suppose, still something.

On Monday we mostly worked hard to get more settled.

On Tuesday they went back to school. Even though we're in the middle of a September heat wave (no hurricane for us, not this time (plus we're four hours away from the coast so y'all can relax)), Benjamin went to school with long sleeves and long pants because—as threatened—we mummified his arms and legs.

I've tried just putting bandaids over his weeks-old mosquito bites, but he just peels those off and picks them. Sometimes he peels them off, picks them, and then sticks them back on. And then he wants to know how I know (it's because he always peels off the same side of the bandaid, so only one side of the bandaid loses its stick (and then there's, you know, the fresh blood and so forth)).

On Wednesday he once again managed to find long sleeves and long pants.

This morning, however, he did not and he went to school in a t-shirt. His teacher had a little panic attack and took him to the school nurse (doctor?) who then called us to clarify what the bandages were for. Mrs. P. had been worried that he'd been badly burned and wondered if he should be venturing outside for recess. Andrew, who'd been the one to field the call (because I never manage to answer my cell phone), assured them that it was simply to keep him from picking himself.

The nurse (doctor? (I'm very unclear on their status)) laughed about this, said it was a good idea, and cleared Benjamin for recess.

His bites are really looking pretty good, so hopefully we'll have cured him of this bad habit and we can send him out into the world bandage-free.

I asked Benjamin why he didn't just tell his teacher that the bandages were covering up bug bites (that he'd picked until they festered and which he will not leave alone). He said he did but she didn't believe him because they looked "rather official."

I think I'm probably more embarrassed about his bandages than he is; when I initially put them on he started flexing and said, "Alright! Now I look like a strong man!"

So...

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

A very Benjamin FHE

On Sunday Benjamin came home from church with a little stop sign and a bunch of magnets and a burning desire to teach a family night lesson on temptation. So we let him.

He used magnets to stick all sorts of things to the white board: a paper with $3000 written on it, some cardboard shoe shapers,* some pirate action figures, a magnifying glass, some hair elastics, a headband with a brochure... It was all seemingly very random.

This is Alexander (not Benjamin) in front of the board, obviously
"So, temptation..." Benjamin began his lesson. "Which thing would you be most tempted to do?" he asked, and then started pointing out things on the board. "Steal $3000 from a bank? Take these shoes—these reinforcers represent actual shoes—from the store without paying for them? Or...join a pirate crew?"

Speechless—from shock, confusion, and amusement—we all stared back at him.

"Dad—what's your biggest temptation?"

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Work hard to play hard

We've been working hard to transform the basement from a dank, scary cave into a place worthy of play. We weren't looking for anything fancy. Just somewhere our children could play without inhaling mold spores or getting caught in Aragog's web or getting lost in some deep, dark corner somewhere.

So we had the basement walls sealed so that rainwater wouldn't pour through them anymore. We ripped the carpet off the ceiling and walls and floor. We had someone come in to frame the basement and install electricity for lights—and even put them add switches instead of a pull-cords (fancy). Then we decided to sand the carpet glue off the floor since our contractor told us it would make it easier to keep the floor clean.

In the long run, he meant to add (I'm sure), because—boy, howdy!—did we ever make a mess!!

At first we tried scraping it off with a little scraper tool. I spent about an hour scraping and covered about one entire square foot. It was ridiculous. Andrew tried scraping, too, quite sure he would be better at it than I had been—and he was. But it was still slow going. So he decided to rent a floor maintainer, a hulking behemoth of a machine. 

It was much more efficient...once we figured out how to work it.

Andrew turned it on and it yanked him across the room, leaving a wild swirl of uneven scrapes across the floor. He tried a second time and again it went screaming around the room. Finally (after watching a few YouTube videos), Andrew learned that you have to really lean into it and use your hips and entire upper body to kind of guide it where you want it to go. 

Once he knew what he was doing, we zoomed through it. 

And by "zoomed" I mean it took us like five hours. 

Amicalola Falls

At (seemingly) long last we have a long weekend to enjoy. Our docket was already filled with plenty of projects but I was also determined to have a little fun and as I was reviewing Benjamin's study guide with him (because my little bitty "grade two-er" brings home study guides so that he can study over the long weekend for a test he'll have to take when he returns (which is just how intense this school is, which is why this long weekend felt so necessary to us in the first place)), I knew just the place: Amicalola Falls.

"What can you tell me about Amicalola Falls?" I asked Benjamin.

"It's the tallest waterfall in Georgia!" he told me. "And it's so beautiful!"

"What region is it in?" I asked

"Valley and Ridge," he said, but, of course, I've never taken Georgia geography so I had to look up where it was, anyway, and it turns out that it's not too far from us (only about an hour away). 

So I convinced Andrew that we should take a day trip this weekend. It would be fun and educational.

We'd spent the evening sanding the basement floor and woke up tired and sore (Andrew being much more tired and sore than I was because he'd been the one to tame the unwieldily beast of the "floor maintainer" since it weighs 102 lbs and there was no way I could control that machine (I've got about five pounds on it so I was on sweeping and vacuuming duty)). That's how I wound up carrying Alexander up the mountainside (poor Andrew has some epic bruising on his hips from working the machine). Still, we decided to give it a go on Saturday morning.

Zoë started crying in the backseat right away so we started a lightning round of The Alphabet Game—it goes by so quickly when you live in a city! Zaxby's is the greatest restaurant to come across when you're right at the end of the game. Anyway, we went through the alphabet three times before we were out of the bustle of the city, and then we were immediately thrown into the foothills. 

We hadn't realized Atlanta was so...foothilly...but it is, smack-dab in the middle of the piedmont region (which explains all the hills, really). 

Benjamin, noticing the hills growing bigger and more mountainous, called from the backseat, "Are we in the footh-ills now?"