Saturday, October 19, 2019

Gather for Goats

A few weeks ago, as part of our discussions on the UN's 17 goals of sustainability, we settled on doing a fundraiser for Gather for Goats to help do our part and finally—and suddenly—we managed to pull it together today.

We had originally planned on doing it Saturday morning but the forecast for Saturday morning was looking particularly dismal (cold and rainy) and we didn't think even the promise of hot chocolate would lure anyone our direction. So as I was hemming and hawing over whether we should postpone until next Saturday (which would be hard considering all the goodies we'd baked this week) it dawned on me that Friday afternoon/evenings are a thing. 

So, in a flurry of activity this afternoon we managed to (1) make and deliver flyers in our neighbourhood, (2) announce it on our ward FB page and on our neighbourhood website-app-thingy, (3) make rice krispie treats, (4) make a banner for our table, and (5) set everything up. 

The kids had high hopes of earning $300 (because then they'd get to name a goat! (which would be given to a family of Syrian refugees living in Jordan to provide milk)) but only managed to rake in $70 (which is a pretty good amount, I think, especially considering that donations are matched 1:1 through the month of October). 

Here they are with their cute little stand:

Zoë is pouting because she was told she would have to wait before she could have hot chocolate. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

So many things

A friend delivered a stillborn baby the other day—8 lbs. 6 oz, 22 inches long. She'd made it through ten long months of pregnancy. She was at the finish line. She had gone into labour naturally, her water broke, she called her midwife, the midwife came over to check for a heartbeat, and...there was none. After being rushed to the hospital, they found that her baby had suffered from a prolapsed cord—the umbilical cord dropped into the birth canal before the baby's head engaged and the pressure from the baby then engaging in the birth canal cut off the flow of blood between the baby and the placenta, essentially suffocating the baby (if I'm explaining things correctly).

And I just...

I'm so sad.

I mean, a lot of things make me sad. But I'm just so sad for them.

To be at that moment where you think, "This is it!" and then instead of "it" being wonderful, "it" is anguish. I just...

Thursday, October 17, 2019


We're a little behind on our thankful tree this year because instead of making one out of paper I decided to paint one on the wall, which feels like a rather bold move, but I think it will be the end...when I'm finally finished. 

Rachel pointed out that "it's a cool idea but might look kind of silly the rest of the year," so I explained that we had big plans for ever-evolving wall art. Not only is it a thankful tree—it can also be a poet-tree, a Christmas tree, a heart tree, a tree with blossoms, a family tree, a tree filled with butterflies. There's no end to how we could bedazzle a tree. So a tree is going on my wall.

It feels like a rather brave thing to do since (a) it's so permanent and (b) I'm not, per se, an artist. But we're going to roll with it and see how it goes. 

Instead of painting our thankful tree tonight, however, I'm working on another family book (free offer expires on Sunday) about our last couple of years in Spanish Fork. There's a lot of ground to cover there. And instead of doing that, I'm sitting here writing. 


After pulling off Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, I made soup on Tuesday. 

It's cold, guys. 

It's put-an-extra-blanket-on-the-bed cold. 

We dropped from the nineties down to the fifties in the past week and we're f-f-f-f-freezing! 

Obviously we're not literally freezing because we haven't even turned the heater on yet (our HVAC system is so old that we have to switch over manually from cooling to heating, like barbarians) but we've definitely broken out our sweaters and fuzzy socks so that we can stand being inside our house (it's 66 degrees currently). 

So I made soup—cabbage roll soup, to be precise (this recipe).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Well child checks, part 3

Phew! We did it! We made it to all our appointments! Though the doctor did mention that in spite of Alexander starting to walk again she'd still like us to take him in for an x-ray since he's still limping. I just...honestly...they're so expensive and I'm kind of flying solo this week and I don't know if I can wrestle him down onto the x-ray table again.

Alexander isn't a fan of the doctor.

Or the dentist.

Or the bug guy.

Or his nursery leaders.

Or anyone, really.

When the bug guy came to spray last week, Alexander clung to me the whole time, whispering, "Scare me. Scare me. Scare me."

Today when he found himself at the doctor's office—yet again—he immediately grew nervous. I reassured him several times that it wasn't his turn. We were here for Benjamin and Rachel. He'd paid his dues.

He sat on my lap feeling anxious.

Finally they called us back and we went to the weighing/measurement station and everything was fine until the nurse explained to Benjamin that, "We're just going to do the very same things we did with baby brother..."

Alexander lost it.

"Noooo!" he screamed, wrapping his arms tightly around my neck. "Nooo! Not my turn! Not my turn! NOOOT! MYYYY! TUUUUURN!"

Monday, October 14, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving, part 1

Between orchestra, a quick stop at the playground, and general unruliness, we only got about half a day's schoolwork in (which is fine because I am considered the "superintendent, principal, teacher" of my school, according to Georgia law, and can declare that Saturday's field trip also counted as a half day of school (even though the trip was much longer than a full day of school...I'm not sure we were learning that whole time) so between Saturday and today we're right on track), not that we couldn't have just taken a break since technically it should have been our fall break. 

See? Fall.

Alexander is two!

I realized late on Saturday evening that Andrew wouldn't be home to celebrate Alexander's birthday on Monday (today) and then I further realized that he wouldn't really be home any evening this week (love that for us) so our options were to celebrate Alexander's birthday on Sunday this week or on Sunday next week. We decided to go with this week, so I quickly whipped up a cake so that we could celebrate Alexander's birthday on his birthay-eve (which is when I did the hard work of labouring with him, really, so it almost feels like his birthday since he squeaked into the world shortly after midnight).

The poor guy wasn't feeling well on Sunday and was running a low-grade fever all day. I'm not sure if it's from his flu shot or whether it's simply of an unexplained origin, but he was pretty miserable (he's all better today though). Here he is napping with Daddy after church while I finished decorating his cake:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tales from the carnivorous forest

Here is Miriam's story about her walk through a carnivorous forest:

"SNAP!" a mimbi had landed on a tree, and it had disappeared from sight. It was pretty cold outside. 

"B U R P!"

Out came the bones.

Suddenly, the human-eater was sucking me out of the mud. I grabbed my knife and cut the tongue off my arm. The poison dart rocks were hard to avoid. They were everywhere! I always got them confused with the non-poison dart rocks. Suddenly I sunk into a patch of hungry-earth and grabbed one of the sausage vines. I sung like Tarzan until it was safe. I sung down and landed on the dippopotumas's feathery back. 

"Go! Go! Go!" I cried.

Then the man-throw trees unfurled their roots and slithered towards me. I grabbed the sausage vine and a giant stick bug and jumped onto the tree. It started to swallow and "SNAP! SNAP! Buuuurrrrpp! Beeeelllccchh!"

Out came the bones.

Kennesaw Mountain (family adventure, part 2)

This second part of our little adventure—the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park—was the part we didn't research well. We simply didn't realize that the battlefield was the mountain (though they also have this lovely little field out front):

But Atlanta traffic is such that it's worth it to stop and hike up and down a mountain (even if you're a little underprepared for such an undertaking) rather than be stuck in traffic forever. So we hiked the mountain.

Etowah Indian Mounds (family adventure, part 1)

Andrew suggested we go on a family adventure this weekend. He originally suggested we attend a famous apple festival, but the more we looked into it the more we felt it would be very off brand for our family—milling about booths with hordes of people, looking at things we had no intention of actually buying, trying to keep track of our children, paying for overpriced rides...

It's true we need some apples, but a festival didn't seem like the place for us to get them. 

So with very minimal research (admittedly also a little off brand for us) we struck off on a different sort of adventure on Saturday morning—a "history time" adventure (which sounds much more like us). Benjamin was elated to hear our first stop was the Etowah Indian Mounds, which he'd heard about at school while studying the regions of Georgia. They're not too far from us—about an hour's drive—and it was well worth the visit.

We learned that the mounds were built by prehistoric tribes (that the Muscogee (Creek) would later descend from). The museum had a beautiful timeline featuring various pottery sherds showing the age of the pottery (and thus dating the occupation of Etowah). The oldest pottery is found around the mounds is from around 1000 AD (though older pottery (200 BC to 600 AD) has been found at the site, archeologists believe such pottery pre-dates the mounds themselves) and the newest from the 1500/1600s. A large ditch was built around the village and the earth removed during ditch construction was used to create the center mounds where important buildings would be placed (the chief's house, ceremonial buildings, a mortuary, and things like that). 

Here are the kids in front of a replica of a wattle and daub house:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fall "break," day 1

Rachel is out of school for fall break but Andrew doesn't have any sort of fall break so we decided to keep on homeschooling through fall break to save our vacation days for later. Besides, we enjoy learning because it's fun. What else would we do with our time off if not keep learning?

My friend Julia posted an article about a new monument of sorts going up at the aquarium in Salt Lake (because she can see it from her house and doesn't like it, which I can understand because it's kind of strange (though in the aquarium's defense, the view from the aquarium is much more aesthetically pleasing than the view from my friend's house)) that said their motivation for the monument was to help get people into a state of awe because, "studies show that when people are in a position of awe or wonder, they’re more open to learning."

The study itself says that "Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others."

People who often seem to experience awe also tend to have an "appreciation of beauty, gratitude, religiousness, creativity, and love of learning," though scientists don't quite understand the connection. Personally, I feel like awe is the appreciation of beauty, gratitude, religiousness, creativity, and learning. It's the rush you feel when you finally solve that tricky word problem in math (we worked through some doozies this morning, Miriam and I), it's being filled with wonder at the world around you, it's being dazzled by discovering something previously unknown, it's seeking enlightenment. All of that is awe (so that's the connection (there; I solved it)). 

Anyway, I'm not saying that all school teachers don't strive to create "awe" experiences in their classrooms. I'm just saying that the current focus on test scores doesn't lend itself well to creating "awe" experiences in the classroom. That's hard for teachers and students alike. 

At home I'm hoping we can collect more days full of "awe" to keep our creativity, love of learning, and generosity thriving. 

So, we started our day with a little game I quickly made up for the kids. I saw it somewhere online originally, (though now I'm not sure where) but the idea was for a spring activity, so the game board was a flower. I quickly made up these little ghost boards for the kids and we had fun practicing our addition facts together (Benjamin has been needing to practice these but he's not one for flashcards or rote memorization and needs to be tricked into practicing). 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

In other news...

Zoë can (more or less) pump on the swing! She's been working (somewhat) diligently on it all year long, it being a goal she set out to accomplish back in January. She's spent a lot of time practicing timing her pumps just right and today she finally nailed it (for a bit).

We're calling this a victory for today, though! She was doing it!

Well child checks, part 2

Even though our doctor's office has a two-child-per-visit policy, the doctor and I agreed that it's just plain silly to have my five children split between three appointments so in the future we can split the children into two groups (a group of 3 and a group of 2) for their well-child checks. Thank goodness! I am getting sick of going to the doctor already and we're not even finished yet!

Today Alexander had his check up.

He had to be weighed and measured like an infant because he couldn't stand on the scale. Poor dear.

He's growing just fine. He was 33.25 inches long and 24 lbs 11.6 ounces. He's all but grown out his laryngomalacia (we only ever hear it now when he's overexcited about things) and is perfectly healthy...except for that foot of his.

The doctor looked at it and since there was no obvious bruising or swelling and since Alexander didn't seem to react strongly when his leg was probed that it probably wasn't broken, but we have "orders" for an x-ray tomorrow should he still not be walking.

This non-break is starting to get really expensive...

After the doctor left, the nurse came back to check Alexander's hemoglobin levels and administer his flu shot. The kids were all worried that he was going to scream—because that would be a normal reaction—and covered their ears to shield their tender aural canals from his mighty and powerful lungs. Benjamin even stepped into the hallway.

But Alexander hardly even winced.

When the nurse pricked his toe (to collect a blood sample), he grimaced and buried his face into my arms. When the nurse jabbed him with the needle, he winced, but didn't scream or cry at all.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

An extra trip

Because we won't have enough of the doctor this week, with well-child visit sprinkled across three days and dentist and orthodontist appointments as well, we decided that we should squeeze in an extra trip to the urgent care clinic.

Grandma is laughing at us from heaven, I'm sure, because it all came down to our trampoline (an idea she vehemently opposed). I'm aware of the danger, but I also think a little danger in a child's life is good, so I'm not opposed to trampolines. We do, however, have rules and one of the rules is no wild bouncing when the baby is on the trampoline.

This afternoon he was on the trampoline with Zoë, Benjamin, and Miriam, but I'd asked them to not bounce and to just play with him on there because I was going to finally tackle the poison ivy in our yard. Things were going great until I was getting suited up and realized that I'd grabbed two left gloves and had to return to the garage to find a glove for my right hand.

So I left Miriam in charge for the two minutes it would take for me to grab a glove and when I returned Alexander was screaming a scream I've only heard him scream once before—we'll call it his "broken bone" scream—and my heart sunk. He was wild with pain, completely inconsolable.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Well child checks, part 1

Today I finally took two of our children in for a well-child check—you know just approximately three months after I made appointments for them because those were the only appointments available. I had a hard time finding a doctor that would take new patients at all (even insured ones) and the clinic that I did find has a two-kids-per-appointment rule so that means I will be going back to the doctor two more times with other sets of kids. Perhaps one day I'll convince them to bed the two-kid rule to allow me three in one appointment (because two appointments sounds better to me).

Anyway, it was supposed to be Rachel and Zoë today, but Rachel ended up having "interims" (short for interim examinations, or mid-terms, or whatever) this week and didn't want to miss school and have to make up her exams, so I shuffled kids around and took Miriam and Zoë in (with Alexander and Benjamin trailing along, naturally).

The doctor was concerned about Miriam's height and weight. She's small for her age, but just barely within the range of "healthy." All the doctor wanted to know—bless her— was if Miriam had always been small of stature and I said—mostly truthfully—that she had (we'll ignore her 3–9 month stage when she was a roly-poly thing). She checked out with flying colours on everything else.

Zoë was 41 inches (60th percentile) and 33.2 pounds (25th percentile), which is long and lean, but not as long and lean as Miriam, so well within a healthy range.

Zoë was hilarious. The doctor had more questions for her and Zoë was always ready with an answer.

"Can you spell your name?" the doctor asked.

"Yes," said Zoë confidently, fingerspelling in the air. "Z-O-E."

"Very good," the doctor said. "And can you write your name?"

Zoë stared at the doctor.

"Like, on paper with a pencil," I clarified.

Bedtime woes

I've given up trying to get Alexander to fall asleep in his own bed tonight, so now he's falling asleep in my bed and I'm sitting here typing (which is a much better arrangement than what we had going on). And perhaps sometime I'll move him to his own bed (and perhaps I won't). For some reason, though, he'll lie still in my bed (something he absolutely will not do in his own bed).

I remember falling asleep in my parents' bed when I was younger. My mom would turn on music for me and I'd lie in her bed until I fell asleep. I'm certain my parents moved me after I fell asleep and I can't remember why I had to fall asleep this way or how old I was (or how long it happened for). I know it was in the PoCo house.

Anyway, I guess if he'll fall asleep in my bed he can have it since it's 10:00 and he's been going strong all day long.

At our house "bedtime" lasts an average of two hours. And it's torture. 

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The other half of Inspired

Bear with me as I write down the quotes I enjoyed from the second half of Rachel Held Evan's book, Inspired, which brought me to tears. I think it was just knowing that she passed away and hearing her speak of her hopes for her children that did me in.

On page 149 she poses the question, "So what is this good news?" and then she goes on to say what it might possibly mean to the many people who came in contact with Jesus during his ministry (and beyond). On page 150 she says, "The good news is as epic as it gets...and yet the Bible tells it from the perspective of fishermen and farmers, pregnant ladies and squirmy kids. This story about the nature of God and God's relationship to humanity smells like mud and manger hay and tastes like salt and wine.... It is the biggest story and the smallest story all at once—the great quest for the One Ring and the quiet friendship of Frodo and Sam."

That last part is particularly relevant today since Elder Uchtdorf discussed The Lord of the Rings in his conference address.

Evans quotes Flannery O'Connor who said, "A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell as story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell them to read the story."


One of my very favourite sayings of Alexander's is "ubby-dubbo." He says this when he would like to trade out his colouring implement for a different one.

Ubby: Other (or another)

Dubbo: Colour


It makes no sense and yet we all understand him perfectly well. He really enjoys colouring these days and will spontaneously drop whatever he's doing and scramble to find drawing supplies, declaring, "Oh! Need dubbo! Need dubbo! Need dubbo!"

Sometimes I know what inspires him, for example, whenever I call Miriam and Benjamin to work on a lesson together. This is a time that Alexander invariably needs to colour.

But there are other times that are seemingly random.

I suppose that when inspiration strikes you just have to go for it!

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Bees make honey and butterflies make butter

In science today we dove back into life sciences since our circular economy unit has seemed to have swung from being hard science into soft science (environmental science is like that—at times it feels like a science class, sometimes it definitely feels like social studies). We're still working on it, I just am counting it as social studies for now.

The kids are actually rather excited about it because we discussed the 17 UN Goals for Sustainable Development and then we picked one to work on together (since we're all responsible for making things happen). They decided they wanted to work on the first couple: that there shall be no hunger and that there shall be no poverty.

Secretly I was hoping they'd pick one of those goals because my friend Hayley's nonprofit, Lifting Hands International, is doing a push right now called "Gather for Goats" where you basically throw a party and ask guests to donate money toward buying a goat for Syrian refugees living in Jordan. So we're planning a little hefla for our neighbourhood in a couple of weeks.

The kids have made big plans for a cookie/lemonade stand (we considered hot chocolate but it's 90s still so I'm not sure anyone will feel like hot chocolate even though the calendar says it should be on the menu).

Anyway, in science we were talking about niches (the role an organism plays within its environment). I was trying to help the kids understand (at least as well as I understand things) and brought up bees for an example.

"What is a bee's niche? What role to bees play in our environment?"

"Bees make honey!" Zoë offered.

She's not really part of our "class" but she's there soaking things up every day.

"They do!" I said. "That's true. What else do they do for us? It's a very important job..."

"They're pollinators," either Benjamin or Miriam said.

"That's right! Now, do any other organisms in our environment make honey?"

"No!" Zoë said, then she lifted her index finger in the air and seriously informed us, "But butterflies make butter!"

Zombie Forms

I thought that when we'd turned in forms 3300 and 3231 that we'd have successfully registered the kids for school. But then I had a phone call from the kids' elementary schools saying that their dental form wasn't acceptable and they graciously offered us an extension to get that filled out, which we did at the very end of August. So then I thought that for real we'd finally completed the registration process. It may have taken us two months to do but at least we'd done it!

But, no.

To quote myself in a rather saucy email I sent to the principal this evening:
I will probably have nightmares about these forms for the rest of my life. They're like zombie forms that keep reappearing to eat my brainz every time I think I've put them to rest.  
How can I make them go away?!?!
You see, this afternoon Rachel brought home a letter for me. A letter that says Rachel's file was audited and the auditor found "no certificate or documentation" of immunization. A letter that says my child may be "excluded from school...if this information is not received." A letter that says that "any parent or guardian who intentionally does not comply with the Code section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.00 or by imprisonment for not more than 12 months."

And—you guys—flames on the side of my face!

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

More Alexander Tales

I should be working on the Hancock Hummer (and in fact, have been working on it), but there's nothing like procrastinating another activity to get you to do other things that you should be doing.

...stuff like this (blogging is important, okay?).

I remembered the third Alexander story I meant to tell the other day. He has been working on opening doors and although he's not very good at it yet he can occasionally get them to pop open. It helps that all our doors are original-to-the-house, solid-core doors (ie: incredibly warped; none of them close very well at all). Anyway, on this particular morning the outside temperature was fairly cool so I had left the front door open (with the screen door closed) while I ran some trash out to the can.

Alexander was upset that he'd been left inside.

"Mommy—stay! Mommy—stay!" he cried.

"I'll be right back," I assured him.

He kept pleading with me to stay and was reaching up for the handle so he could open the door and follow me and, much to his surprise, he did it! He was so proud of (and surprised by) himself that he didn't even follow me outside. Instead he stood there dancing and squealing, "I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it!"

Rachel's Fall Concert

This evening we attended Rachel's fall concert, which was mind-blowingly impressive. The progress she's made from last year to this is astounding (though I guess I never blogged about her "monster concert" at the end of last year (it's not a monster-themed concert; rather it's a combined concert with every elementary school orchestra in the district, so it's monsterously huge...or so they thought) but that doesn't mean I don't love you, Rachel, it only means that life was insane (we were moving, remember?) and I didn't get around to it but I'm sure I have a video from it somewhere)) and the program is challenging and serious, but also enjoyable.

Here's a clip of the 7th grade orchestra playing British Grenadiers, which was my favourite piece of theirs. Don't mind the shaky filming job—I was holding Alexander on my lap and helping him sketch on the magnetic sketch board while also filming so it is what it is:

I couldn't pick her out of the sea of middle schoolers; there are over 100 kids in her orchestra (and that was just her grade). I'll assume you won't be able to pick her out, either, so here's a video she made for her playing test a couple of weeks ago: