Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Making Christmas

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 30, 2020

Linocut FHE

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

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

"Is that claim scientific?" Benjamin asked.

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

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

"Yes. But also scientific."

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Gratitude post 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gratitude post 6

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

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



Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gratitude post 5

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

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

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

"It is raining," we all told him.

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

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

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

"But it is raining now," I told him.

"It's just windy."

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gratitude post 4

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

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

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

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

Newsies it is.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gratitude post 3

Today I'm thankful for language. 

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

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

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

"A what?" Andrew asked.

"A doo-dit," Alexander repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Gratitude post 2

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Gratitude post 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Winter poems

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

Zoë wrote a poem to the tune of Frere Jacques:

I Love Winter

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

We shrunky-dunk

I spent some time hunting around for a fun Christmas activity for the kids to do—something that everyone from the littlest to the biggest would enjoy, something that wasn't too messy, something that complicated enough that we wouldn't finish it in two seconds but not so complicated that it would drive us crazy. I was explaining my quest to Andrew and said that "I settled on this cute shrinky-dink tinsel tree."

"Are you even speaking English anymore?" Andrew asked.

So I had to explain the magic of shrinky dink to him. He didn't seem to think it was an actual thing so was just as invested in the process when we broke it out for FHE as the kids were. We divided up the pieces and coloured them. I didn't take pictures of that part, but here's Rachel and Miriam putting some of the finished ornaments on the tree:

Sick poetry

I don't have a copy of this book in hand yet, but following my uncle's advice I did look up Le Ton Beau de Marot and we read a few translations of the poem "A une Damoyselle Malade" and discussed the differences between the translations (ignoring the rhyme scheme for the the literal translation, and so forth) and then tackled writing a poem in the same form.

Zoë and Benjamin really struggled with the idea of a couplet expressing an idea (or, even harder in this case, an idea split between couplets) but they really nailed the rhyming thing. 

Zoë's poem was...rhyme-y...but didn't make much sense.

We have a cat
And things like that.
Like a spider
And cider
And cockroaches
And approaches
And webs
And ebbs.


Let me explain her thought process as far as I understand it. We have a cat (true) but we also have a jorō spider that we caught from off our front porch. Cider rhymes with spider. The cat caught a cockroach, played with it for a bit, and left it for dead (sometimes she eats them and sometimes she doesn't) so we fed the freshly-maimed cockroach to the spider, who was very grateful (I assume that because she's eating it, not because I know how a spider shows gratitude). Approaches rhymes with cockroaches! Spiders make webs! Ebbs rhymes with webs! POETRY!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Primary Program

The kids had their primary program this morning—on Zoom, of course (and thank goodness)! They were each assigned a topic and then got to write their own part. All the singing was done just in our own home while everyone was on mute (it would have been too chaotic to try to have everyone's video/sound synch), except for the last song, which Miriam's class pre-recorded. They just played that song at the end for everyone.

Here are the kids waiting for the program to begin:

Asleep, asleep...

Alexander had one of his "really weird nights" the other night. That's what he calls those nights when he just can't sleep no matter how hard he tries (or, from my perspective, doesn't try). It had been really just a rough week of sleep.

One night—two hours after bedtime—I finally told him, "Close. Your. Eyes."

And he did...and fell asleep within seconds. But that trick didn't work the following night and he stayed up and then kept just getting up and then somehow managed to wake up at his usual time in the morning and was just a little bit off the whole day. He managed to stay awake until we were just about done with our evening scripture study and then he just couldn't hold his head up anymore and fell asleep in my arms.

I think he slept all of that night. I can't remember.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Into the Woods

Surging cases of COVID notwithstanding, we went to check out a local open-space park (which is probably a pretty safe activity, honestly). I feel like we're behind in exploring our new home state, since we've been in "lockdown" mode for more than 50% of our time here. But we really were itching for an adventure and felt like urban hiking would be a rather safe way to do that. I guess urban hiking is technically not in the woods, but these are woods within our city. Like the Ramble in New York's Central Park, this park was donated to the city on the condition that it remain "forever wild," with minimal development (public washrooms, for example, were added).

The city has a dinosaur scavenger hunt going on; this is the first dinosaur we've found (we...haven't been exploring many new parks). The kids were quite excited to spot it!


Alexander was in the stroller and when we asked him if he wanted to hop out to visit the dinosaur he said, "No, thank you." Here's Benjamin bravely offering the dinosaur a handful of leaves while Zoë gives it some side-eye.


Friday, November 13, 2020

In poor taste

Nothing about this pandemic is really very funny. Our numbers are hopelessly out of control right now—162,226 cases confirmed yesterday in the United States—and while we are getting better at treating the disease and while there is hopeful news about vaccines...more cases will ultimately translate into more deaths. 

The annual estimate for flu deaths in the United States is between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths per year (out of 9 million to 45 million cases). As of this moment, our confirmed death count for coronavirus is 248,584 (out of 10,880,536 cases (granted these are the known cases so doesn't truly reflect the number of people who've had the disease, which is likely much higher than this and which should soften the death rate a little)). This is not the flu. I repeat: this is not the flu. 

Some people get lucky and have a mild case. My friend in Finland just got out of quarantine—their whole family had to quarantine because their daughter had a classmate test positive, so was sent home to quarantine and then she tested positive so the whole family had to quarantine (which was fine because the school decided to just require all the upper grades to quarantine for a few weeks by that point). Anyway, only the one daughter got sick and her symptoms were very mild. And I think that's great!

(And they're not COVID-deniers so this next part doesn't have anything to do with them, I just offer it in contrast)...

BUT I've had other friends who have had a really hard time recovering from this illness, friends who've lost loved ones because of this illness, friends who are now widows or parentless because of this illness. 

And that's not cool.

So I don't really find this pandemic funny. 

BUT...

Last night I was apparently really cold when I went to bed. The thing is, I didn't feel cold, at least not very. I just was cold. 

Usually I can tell that I'm cold. Like, when I climb in bed and stick my feet on Andrew, I know they're as cold as ice. But last night I was surprised when he jerked away and complained about my feet being cold because they weren't that cold. 

"You are so cold!" he said.

"I'm not," I said. "You're just warm. In fact, you're very warm. I can feel the heat radiating off of you."

"I'm not warm," he said. "I'm normal. You're cold."

"I don't feel cold," I insisted. "I'm normal. But you're too hot! Seriously—do you have a fever? It hurts to even touch you."

"Because you're cold."

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Another jarring jorō encounter

"There's a ginormous orb weaver on the front porch," Andrew said after he'd run outside in the rain to make sure all our weather-proofing measures were still solidly proofing against the weather. 

Naturally we all had to run out to see if it was a run-of-the-mill orb weaver or whether it was a jorō spider. It was a jorō spider, which I must say I was much happier to see in the woods than on my front porch! These spiders are so big!

I had Miriam hold up a ruler beside it so you could see just how big it is. She did her best to not hit the web with the ruler, but be close enough so the spider and ruler were on the same plane. I think the ruler is only upstaging the spider by a centimeter or so here (she did end up accidentally hitting the web with the ruler, which made it scurry away a bit, so she was really close):

Rondeaux pour vous

We've been studying France lately, but I'm recently at a loss of what else to read about France so our mornings have turned from Molière and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, which have been enjoyable...but a little surprising. Take Sleeping Beauty, for example, a tale we thought we knew quite well but which, under Perrault's hand, delivers quite the plot twist (spoiler alert: ogres are involved). Today we took a break from fairy tales, much to Zoë's disappointment (she really wants to read Beauty and the Beast next) to study some poetry. 

We read a few translations of famous French poems, which were lovely translations but didn't give us a good feel of the poetic form, which is understandable. Translating is hard. Translating poetry is harder. Still, we looked at the rhyme scheme and did our best to decipher the French (my French is très mauvais). And then, because it's Remembrance/Veteran's/Armistice Day, I told the kids we were going to study another poem today that was written in France by a Canadian in 1918. The immediately knew what poem I'm talking about and started quoting it, so we finished quoting it and then we talked about the history of today and how the holiday differs between countries even though it was founded at the same time and for the same reason. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mental math

Many years ago when my math-loving uncle was so kindly and patiently helping me through college algebra (and so many tears), he told me things like "math is fun" and "anyone can understand math" and many other phrases that I considered absolute hogwash. But I have to say, homeschooling my children is opening my eyes to this way of thinking. I'm fairly sure that people who claim to be "bad" at math often have simply not been taught the foundations of mathematics well enough. Going back to the basics has been eye-opening for me. 

Benjamin is so quick with mental math because he really understands how to manipulate numbers. It's quite amazing. And as I'm working through the curriculum with him, I'm finding that my mental math is getting better as well. My understanding of basic mathematical principles applies to higher math. Anyway, it's just been a great experience.

Today, for example, Benjamin had the following problem:

(187 + 188 + 189) ÷ 75

He solved it in just a few seconds, writing very little down. 

"39!" he declared. 

"You didn't show your work," I reminded him. 

"Don't need to," he said. "It's easy."

I often have him write down or explain what's going on in his brain (for my sake if not his), so this is how he explained his answer:

"Two groups of 75 is 150, so we see that 75 can easily fit into each of those numbers two times. That leaves us with a remainders of 37, 38, and 39, consecutively. You don't even have to think about it for the other two numbers, really. It's just an increase of 1 each time, so if you solve the first problem and get a remainder of 37, the next two remainders must be 38 and 39. Add the first two remainders together and you get 75. Cancel that out (because it's another group of 75) and you're left with 39. That's your answer. 7, remainder 39."

Two years later

We're two years on this side of things now. 

The good news is that grieving gets easier. We feel better today than we did last year, and last year we felt much better than we did two years ago. Though I imagine we will still have hard days—or at least hard moments—ahead, I hope this trend will continue.

The bad news is that I am not entirely sure grieving gets easier. I've said many goodbyes in my life. Saying goodbye to Karen was probably the hardest one...and I'm afraid I have other hard goodbyes down the road. I don't want them, but they're coming for me just the same. I wish experience could make that grief easier, but I don't think it will. 

Except that I'll know that it won't last forever—that feeling of being suspended in time while the world somehow carries on without you? It doesn't last forever. Maybe knowing that will make it easier. Knowing that losing someone is a shock to the system, but that—with enough time, with enough gentleness—it will get easier. It will become normal, live-with-able.

For this little one, Karen's death was an earth-rocking event:


Monday, November 09, 2020

In which I talk about politics (when I should probably stick to weather)

Saturday morning while Andrew was out grocery shopping, the election was called in favour of the Biden/Harris ticket. Rachel, who had been voluntarily cleaning the kitchen so she could bake another batch of cookies, came running upstairs to me with her phone. 

"Pennsylvania went to Biden!" she squealed.

"What?" I said. 

"He won! Biden won!"

"Biden won?!" Zoë and Benjamin called from the bathroom they were busy cleaning together. 

"Yes!" Rachel said. 

Zoë and Benjamin danced around screaming and yelling for a few minutes before I convinced them to finish cleaning the bathroom. Andrew arrived home soon after. He walked in the door, we looked at each other and sighed, one of those deep body-relaxing sighs, and we haven't really stopped sighing since. Every time we walk past each other we stop and sigh. Every time we make eye contact, we sigh. 

The kids are starting to wonder what's wrong with us. 

It's like we're young and in love again, only we're not (young, I mean (we're still in love)). We're just so very relieved. 

Friday, November 06, 2020

Virtual talk

Benjamin gave a talk "in" primary on Sunday. He was actually rather excited to write his talk. Since he chooses to listen to the scriptures (rather than music) while he falls asleep and has thus become quite the little scriptorian. He wrote a lovely draft earlier in the week and we cleaned it up together and then he practiced it a few times before Sunday. 

He read it very nicely, even though he was nervous and when he was finished he apologized for "faltering" in the middle of his talk. I guess he felt like he had stammered a little, but I didn't notice him make any mistakes at all.

Here's his talk:

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Are we eeyouman (or are we dancer)?

Alexander drew a group of humanoids the other day and beneath them all he made some markings:



"What does it say beneath your people?" I asked him.

"Those are the letters for the people," he told me. "Listen! E is for eeyouman! E! E! Eeyouman!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

More well-child checks

I took Miriam and Benjamin (or, as we like to pencil them into the calendar when they have activities together, BM) in for their well-child checks today. They are doing...well. 

Benjamin grew 2.5 inches since last year, and now is 4 feet 3.5 inches tall (50th percentile). His weight was a bit of a shock for the doctor because the nurse accidentally typed it into the system as 4.52 lbs. 

"This can't be right," the doctor said. "It says 4.52 lbs!"

"Well, that's about how much he weighed when he was born, but I'm sure he's put on a little weight since then!" I said. 

So the doctor pulled up the written record and it turns out he's actually 54.2 lbs (or 54 lbs. 3.2 oz), which is in the 30th percentile. Doing just fine. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

2020 Halloween Costumes

After putting on some finishing touches, the children donned their costumes this afternoon. The pictures didn't load in order, but that's alright. We'll look at the pictures in reverse order.

Here's is Miriam as Constanze Mozart, Mozart's wife:

We've got the power!

Sometimes when I read dystopian novels I think to myself there's no way society could descend into chaos that quickly. And then things like this happen and I think to myself society could definitely descend into chaos that quickly.

Our society depends on so many things to function smoothly—trust, electricity...and a few other things. 

Take those things away and life feels somewhat fractured.

Fortunately, as we've become increasingly reliant on technology in our lives, I can remember the good ol' days of my childhood when we were less reliant on technology. Take automatic garage doors, for example. It seems like everyone has one these days, though I'm not sure why...

I've been trying to remember when we first had an automatic garage door. I think we had one in the High River house, which felt so fancy because our house on Sutherland Street had a pull rope and had to be raised and lowered manually—a skill that comes in handy when the power goes out! You basically need two people to open the garage door when it's on an automatic track: one to pull the emergency release from the track and one to start lifting the garage. At least...that's how ours works. But then the nut holding the garage to the arm of the motor fell off and we were free to raise and lower the garage at will (we looked for the nut but couldn't find it so we'll have to get a new one). 

We realized this morning that our water heater is gas, not electric. Yesterday we were rationing hot water, thinking what we had in the tank was it (because our water heater at our house on Hummingbird Lane was electric and that's we experienced a few power outages there as well). Today I read a text from a friend in our ward who lives a block or so away and she mentioned her gas water heater and I was like, "Oh! We have a gas water heater, too!" So we were able to shower and wash dishes today, which was nice. 

I was washing the dishes—by hand (which really doesn't seem to take much longer than simply loading the dishwasher, to be honest, though I guess it's water usages that we're concerned about, not time, necessarily)—and was stacking them on the counter like I always did growing up (because my family did not get a dishwasher until the year 2000). Plates can be leaned against the wall to dry, cups can be engineered into tall pyramids. It's really quite fun. But there wasn't a great place to put the silverware. 

I wish we had one of those cool draining racks for silverware like we had growing up, I thought to myself.

And then I realized that I had one of those. In fact, I had an expensive, top-of-the-line draining rack right at my finger tips! So I opened the dishwasher and started loading the pre-washed dishes inside to dry. 

We were really figuring out this no-power gig. Life was no longer feeling desperate. 

We had things under control.

So we did our schoolwork again, though today we read our book (finished The Little Prince) tucked in bed rather than at the kitchen table because the chorus of all the generators running in the neighbourhood was driving me a little crazy, but the noise from our generator was worst of all (and the noise was the absolute worst in the dining room where we typically do a good chunk of our morning work). The kids didn't mind too much.

Friday, October 30, 2020

An Ironic Update!

The whoosh of the wind and the obnoxious pulsing of generators are swirling outside my window, but inside we are warm and—perhaps more importantly—dry! And (lucky people that we are!) one of the generators is ours! 

When we realized the power wasn't going to come back on any time soon, Andrew went on a quest for a generator and managed to pick up the very last one at ACE Hardware (Lowe's was out, Home Depot was out), so our situation is looking up! The contents of our fridge will survive and we've been enjoying not being completely dependent on flashlights and candles (and getting to use the internet and our computers a little bit (though I do think we should turn off the generator soon because that thing is so loud and I'm worried all the neighbours will hate us (and I'm a little sensitive to noise)).

Hurricane Zeta blew in with all her fury at around 4:00 in the morning. Andrew was still awake because he was doing a guest lecture at The University of Turku, in Finland. They've already ended daylight savings and we don't end our daylight savings until this weekend (right?), so there was a little mix-up about the time class actually began. The good news is that Andrew was definitely on time—in fact, he was an hour early! The bad new was that it meant he needed to stay up an hour later than he originally thought he would have to stay up. But it was fine.

He did his guest lecture and then inspected the house to make sure everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion. The trench we'd dug out along the side of the house seemed to be doing its job nicely, not that it mattered much because Zeta brought along more wind than rain (while Delta was wet, wet, wet). 

Here, again, is the chart of the rain we got with Hurricane Delta:


And here is the chart of the rain we got with Hurricane Zeta (only a tropical storm by the time it reached us, thank goodness):


As you can see, we didn't quite get even 1.5 inches of rain with this storm. That's nothing! Though I am glad we still prepared by digging the trench and cleaning out the rain gutters (even though the trench and rain gutters are both now completely filled with debris).

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hurricane Zeta

As unbelievable as it is, somehow...somehow...yet another hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and the tail end of Hurricane Zeta is due to hit us in the early hours of the morning. Hurricane Sally found a leak in our roof. Hurricane Delta was kind enough to point out a few weak spots in our hull foundation. 

We're really hoping Hurricane Zeta just ignores us, but we spent the afternoon getting things ready for her anyway. After all, we don't often get company these days. 

So...we cleared out the gutters, built up the ground around our foundation and dug a trench through the side yard. 

Normal stuff like that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Acorn Ink & Quill Pens

Oak trees in our area seem to be particularly ambitious and I have a few avid acorn collections living in my house so we always have plenty of acorns about. At first Benjamin wanted to collect 100 acorns for our 100th Day of School celebration (which I think we should hit around December 8), but when he collected well over 100 acorns on one little walk he decided that perhaps he should collect 100 x 100 acorns, or 10,000 acorns!

This last number proved to be a little too ambitious because that's a lot of acorns and a lot of counting. 

Still, we have a sizable bin of acorns sitting around our house, which we figured we'd just chuck outside for the squirrels every now and again over the winter. But the kids wanted to do something with them. 

At first they wanted to make acorn flour, which is possible. Acorns themselves are too high in tannins to be healthy for humans. They have to be soaked (sometimes more than once) to leech the tannins, and then they have to be baked, and then they have to be ground up. And that just sounded like a lot of work for something that I wasn't sure was going to be very tasty (otherwise I'm sure we would eat acorns regularly because they are plentiful). 

After a bit of searching around for ideas we settled on making acorn ink. 

It seemed easy enough. You just have to crush the acorns, which is easy enough if you have an eight-year-old around who enjoys crushing things (which I do). Then you soak the crushed acorns in water, boil them for a bit if you want, strain them, and add some "rust garden" vinegar (which we began a few weeks prior to preparing our acorns—for that you just put a rusty bit of metal in vinegar and let it go to town). All in all a very passive project. The hardest part was just waiting for things to be ready, waiting for things to rust, waiting while the acorns soaked.

We started our rust garden about three weeks ago and started soaking our acorns sometime around October 9. We just let them sit and sit and sit, partly because we forgot about them altogether when the basement flooded and partly because they just needed to sit for a while. I strained the ink once a few days ago, discarded the acorn chunks, and then boiled it down to make it thicker.

It was a rich brown and, I'll be honest, I was skeptical it would ever turn black. 

Today I strained our ink once more and then we added some of our "rust garden" vinegar to the ink and it magically turned a deep black! It was rather amazing!

Our next step was to make some quill pens (because if you're into a project this deep you may as well go all the way). We watched a few tutorials (like this one) before attempting things on our own. I was a little nervous to try it with a handful of kids, but they did great (ie. no one chopped off their finger or anything)!

First we used sandpaper to scrape the membrane from the feathers. I thought this would be easier (ie. safer) than handing everyone a knife. This way even the littlest among us could feel like they were contributing to the finished product even if Mommy ended up doing most of the cutting later on.

Phys Ed

We had a great first day back at (home)school! By the time I dragged myself out of bed in the morning the kids had all had breakfast and had cleaned up the table. Rachel and Miriam had mostly finished with their daily math section and Zoë was sitting at the table with her math workbook (Benjamin was playing Lego in the basement and Alexander, though he had had breakfast with the kids, was now with me). Further, Rachel had started a load of laundry, had put away the clean dishes and loaded all the dirty ones into the dishwasher. It was pretty remarkable!

We started reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which all of the children seem to being enjoying so far. They did their writing responses with little complaint and then we all finished up math (most especially Benjamin, who had to go from start to finish). Then we headed out for PE.

Rachel wanted to explore the new playground we found (since she was too cool to go out with us last week). It turns out that Monday in the early afternoon is a much less busy time for the park than Friday mid-afternoon. I even managed to park in the parking garage.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Miriam's 11!

When Andrew asked Miriam what her favourite part of being 10 was, she didn't say me (rude). She said everything was good about being 10, except for March. Considering yesterday, her birthday, was March 238th, that's a considerable amount of the year she took an exception to! We jokingly asked her how she enjoyed having her birthday in the spring, rather than in the fall, like it usually is, and she replied that it was wonderful because she usually has a more autumnal cake but this year she felt justified in picking a more spring/summer flavour. 

She went with what Rachel called a "basic" vanilla cake, with raspberry filling. And it honestly was the most delicious cake Rachel has made to date. Miriam also requested that the cake be decorated simply and elegantly. So here it is:

Birthday buddies

Miriam turned 11 today, which is breaking my heart a little bit. I have enjoyed being her primary activity leader so much and I'm going to miss her when she graduates into the Young Women's program in January (it still blows my mind that all the girls move up together because when I was that age you had to wait until you turned 12 to graduate from primary, a policy that came with its own set of challenges). But it's not like she'll be entirely gone from my life. 

I mean, we're homeschooling and are in the middle of a global pandemic so tend to just stay home a lot, so I'm going to see her frequently, and I'm sure she'll enjoy getting to spread her wings a little bit, assuming we ever get to a wing-spreading stage...which...I mean...I dunno.

This afternoon I did get an email notifying the young women and their parents that all in-person activities have been cancelled through November and will be replaced by virtual activities (three cheers for that because...hello), due, of course, to the pandemic and the rising numbers we're seeing now. While I'm happy about this change, I do find it confusing because our numbers are still lower than they were when they originally started pushing for (and holding) in-person activities while Rachel and I were raising a big fuss about...you know...the pandemic. And now that the numbers have been, from my perspective, holding steady, they are suddenly deciding to not have in-person activities. 

Nationally, our numbers don't look great so I imagine Georgia will spring up there soon. But I think this call has less to do with Georgia's numbers (or even our county numbers) and more to do with the fact that there are "a few" cases within the ward, though I don't know that we'll ever know who.

But none of that has much of anything to do with Miriam's birthday and more to do with just my overall feeling of being crushed alive. It's fine. I haven't been finding the time I'd like to write (here or elsewhere) and so I'm going to squish my "October Birthday Buddies" into one post, which really isn't fair because although they are born within the same month, their birthdays are farther apart (11 days) than Zoë and Benjamin's (10 days), though not by much. This is just one more way for them to learn that life isn't fair (and that it can't be fair)—sorry and you're welcome.

First we'll catalogue our birthday balloons. Here's Alexander with his birthday balloons this morning before we finally took them down. We meant to get around to making more for him but his birthday ended up being a little busier than we expected—with re-stretching our carpet and putting our basement back together.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Baby love

Alexander has always been very touched by music. Whenever music comes on—be it in a movie or video game or session of General Conference—Alexander will turn to his nearest sitting companion and whisper, "I like this music!" Sometimes he can't help but wiggle to the beat, or, if it's really getting to him, he'll hop up and dance. 

This afternoon he was listening to primary music on his "phone" and he came to me, rather weepy, and blubbered, "I found a new song for me and for you, Mommy. It's our song. It's about how you're my dearest, dearest mother, and I love you! And I do! And that's why it's our song. And it's so special to me and..."

He kept talking but was crying so hard I could hardly understand what he was saying. Tears were streaming down his sweet little face. 

I pulled him onto my lap and we sat there and listened to (and practiced singing) the song while he hit the "play again" button over and over again. He had me sing it for him at bedtime, while he stroked my face and hummed along. 

He's the sweetest, most tender little thing

The song is "Dearest Mother, I Love You," a song that I somehow escaped primary without learning (but a song I think Alexander will have learned before he gets to primary (in about two short months—how is that even possible?!)):

Gentle words I hear you say.
Your kind hands help me each day.
You’re my mother kind and true;
Dearest mother, I love you.

An outing

It's our last day of fall break. So for a special treat I decided to take the children to a new park. We have hardly gone anywhere the past seven months, so a new park would be a real treat! It's a park I've seen people posting pictures of but somehow we've never managed to find (in our defense it only opened last year, so I guess it's fairly new to . Finally I pulled it up on the map and figured things out. 

It's really the "city green," a little social area behind some shops. There were signs directing us to park in the "parking deck," but I just couldn't find a spot I thought I could pull into, but after a little bit of a panic attack I managed to find this spot that was close enough to being in the parking deck that I thought it counted as such:

Yes, I know there are several spots visible inside the parking deck but...I left them for someone who feels like they can park in a parking garage. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bye-bye bushes

Our neighbour was lucky enough to score a couple loads of fill dirt and when I went to ask her where she got it (because we desperately needs some fill dirt over here) she said someone was digging a pool and wanted to get rid of it so she told them to come dump it in her yard) since she has some low areas she wants to fill). She also said that she probably has more dirt than she could possibly use so we're welcome to some (since her husband is feeling keen to get their driveway back). 

So today we prepped our front yard for some DIY landscape work. The house had some scraggly bushes out front that we just didn't love. Plus we need to raise that entire area of the house so that it slopes away from the house rather than towards it, for basement flooding reasons. 

Here's a look at our house in July (after our new windows were installed):

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Pumpkin pop-in

We've gotten very used to having an empty calendar the past few months. The last time we had a primary "activity" (earlier this summer) I accidentally put it on the calendar for 10:00 PM instead of 10:00 AM so we ended up missing out on it. We had a "pumpkin pop-thru" this weekend and I made sure to put the correct time on the calendar so we would get all the correct reminders and we remembered to go!

Good thing, too, because I needed to distribute craft supplies to my primary girls for our next couple of activities. Here I am reppin' the Bulldogs (Andrew likes to laugh at me because I legitimately can never remember what school I go to (or its acronym)—not GSU, UNC, AUC, UVU, BYU...UGA! That's the one):

Friday, October 16, 2020

Well-child checks

I took three of the kids in for their doctor appointments today. Our doctor's office typically only allows two children at a time but I asked for an exception to the rule because—and my doctor agrees and was the first to suggest it—it makes no sense for me to come in three times for five kids when I could just come in twice. Right? Sure. 

Added to that policy (that I'm skirting around) are some new COVID rules, including the fact that only one caregiver is allowed to accompany children at their appointments. So I chose to take Rachel, Zoë, and Alexander, thinking that if either one of them got too scared and out of hand there would still be a grown-up type person to help with the not-so-scared one? 

It didn't work out that way because they wanted Rachel in her own private room and had me going back and forth between the rooms and it ended up being rather awkward. At one point I was with Rachel and the doctor said something like, "You'd better get back to your other two because our nurses have better things to do than babysit all day," and I was like, "Ummm...okay?" because the little plan of me ping-ponging between the rooms was her idea, not mine. And the nurse, who was doing vision and hearing screenings on the kids and wasn't even finished when I got back. So it was a little awkward, but I'm sure it was fine...

One day I'll figure out the right combination of children to take to the doctor. Today was not that day.

Another Little Chatt

The little kids wanted nothing more than to go back to the Chattahoochee today with their big sisters, who were free from things like birthday cake baking and basement restorations and were happy to take a break to go rambling in the woods, so things worked out well for everyone. They were all hoping to get to splash around in the water a bit but, like I mentioned, things were a little more floody than yesterday.




Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Little Chat

We're in the middle of our fall break right now. It was supposed to be a lovely, relaxing week. Instead it was...well...the week that it was...so we'll be taking next week off, too, to recover from this week. And that's one of the reasons I love homeschooling—we can just do that if we want to (and we do). 

Yesterday for his birthday, Alexander wanted to go to the Chattahoochee. I didn't pack extra clothes for kids because I knew the river would be too high to play in. I did not account for tributary streams in my plans so the kids ended up soaking wet, of course, because the tributary streams were at just the right level for splashing in. Today I took the kids to the river again and this time I packed extra clothes for Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander and although they 100% were planning on playing in the stream, even that was too high to play in today. The lovely bank we played on yesterday was absolutely flooded, river water was rushing from the river upstream and things were a little crazy. So the kids didn't get wet at all. 

I may have just discovered a way to keep my kids dry at the river—packing a change of clean clothes for them! It's Murphy's Law, right?

Anyway, here are the kids (yesterday) tossing some stones into the river from some stairs that were fairly well dry:



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Alexander is three!

Alexander has been planning and counting down to his birthday for a long time, and this morning he woke up to execute his plans. Here he is giving me his final two-year-old goodnight hug:


And here he is in the morning, with spiky hair (he loves spiky hair and keeps saying that when he grows up he wants to have spiky hair, so I pulled out some hair gel this morning and gave him some spikes):

Another smashing success

When I broke one of our glass measuring cups, I didn't break the huge 4-cup measuring cup (which we hardly ever use because rarely do we ever have to measure four cups of something), nor did I break the 1-cup measuring cup (which we use more often than the 4-cup measuring cup but still not that frequently because although we measure one cup of stuff frequently it also feels a teensy bit like maybe it will spill if you only use a 1-cup measuring cup). I broke the just right 2-cup measuring cup—the one we use the most often of all.

Thus the reason it was sitting out to dry on the edge of the counter (though in all honestly it should have been sitting out to dry more to the middle of the counter than the edge...I'm just saying).

Anyway, Andrew decided to order a new 2-cup measuring cup because we immediately began to feel like we were missing it. It arrived the other day, dropped off unceremoniously on our front porch...

...In a plastic-bag envelope. 

When I peeped out the window to see what package had arrived I whispered, "Oh, no," because I already knew what it was we were expecting that day. 

When I picked the package up and it...jingled...in my hands, I started cackling...because isn't that just the most 2020 way for a package to arrive? Shattered to bits?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tickled pink (or blue or brown)

Alexander loves to name his toys. His owls all have names—Bluey, Hedwig, Spot, Brownie, and...I can't think of the other one—his doll is named Tom. The other day he was having me draw pictures and he asked if I would draw a picture of his puppy, so I did. And then he asked if I would draw a dog house for his puppy to live in, so I did and decided to put a sign on the dog house, so I asked Alexander what his dog's name was. 

"His name is...he doesn't have a name yet!" Alexander panicked.

"Well, you'd better name him then!" I said. 

Alexander scanned the room, finally settling on some bottles of glue the kids had left on the counter. 

"Gluey!" he said. "My puppy's name is Gluey!"

I thought his naming process was so cute, so I was telling my family about it on a group video call. When I announced that his name was Gluey, Rachel snickered, "That would be a good name for a horse."

My family rather appreciated her dark humour. 

*******

Today Benjamin agreed to do a difficult job for me (squeezing between the wall of the downstairs bathroom and the foundation to get some trash left back there (by the previous owners)), which he was rather reluctant to do but which when it came right down to it he found he rather enjoyed it.

"You're a good man, Charlie Brown," I told him.

Alexander looked at him—Benjamin was wearing all blue today—and said, "He's not Charlie Brown! He's Benny Blue!"

*******

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner this evening, cooked up by Rachel and Andrew, and while we were talking, the topic of Alexander's birthday came up. Alexander is very excited about his birthday and has all sorts of plans for his special day. 

"That's right," Andrew teased for some reason (because...he's a tease), "You're going to be four!"

Monday, October 12, 2020

The aftermath

Last night, in a very short amount of time, the heavens unleashed over 5 inches of rain on us. In fact, between 10:30 PM and 10:45 PM—shortly after we noticed the house had begun to...uhhh..."wet" itself and while we were outside desperately trying to build up a berm and convince the water to take a path that didn't include my basement—we received 1.24 inches of water! By 11:00 we had accumulated 0.75 inches more for a grand total of 2 inches in a half hour! 

I've included the precipitation chart below, but you can see a table with more detail here, if you're interested:


It was an almost unfathomable amount of rain, so let's see if we can fathom it, shall we?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

It was a dark and stormy night...

...and I had only just tucked my little ones in for their tornado-warning tent-sleepover, turned out the light, and crept up the stairs (and wrote a quick blog post) when I got a text message from Rachel (at 10:18 PM).

"Heyyy," she wrote.

"'Sup?" I asked.

"There's a wet spot on the floor by the bathroom?" she frained.

This is not technically a valid scrabble word. Whereas refrain comes from the Latin re+frenum and means to bridle or restrain oneself (or from the Latin refringere, which means to break up, as with a refrain in a song), frain is a rather Scottish way to inquire about something. But Rachel was desperate, so we allowed it this afternoon. 

Anyway, she asked/told me that the floor was a bit wet.

"Oh?" I said.

"Can you come look at it?"

So I went back downstairs to look at it and...oh, no. 

Everything was not fine, as I so erroneously claimed in my last blog post, which I had finished (at 10:14 PM) mere minutes before Rachel made her discovery. The carpet was wet all along the outside wall as well as the wall between The Lego Room and the rest of the basement. The Lego Room was also wet. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Good night, Hurricane!

We still haven't fixed our roof from Hurricane Sally and now we're being bombarded by Hurricane Delta. It was quite a ride for me when Andrew first sent me a warning about the wicked weather "Delta" was bringing us. 

"Tornado watch...from Delta," he texted me. 

"Better than a warning," I said and then I wondered what he meant by "from Delta."

Delta Airlines? They bring tornadoes now? Delta, Utah? That's quite the distance for a tornado to travel. Oh, Hurricane Delta! I mean, clearly it was raining outside but I didn't know when it was due to hit us. Apparently it was today.

So it's been raining heavily all day with tornado warnings popping up all around us but never for us. We had scriptures and prayer and I was just ushering the children upstairs to their beds when...it was finally our turn for a tornado warning!

Friday, October 09, 2020

Simply smashing

For the first time since...March? Literally for the first time since March, I have an errand to run today. I need to go to the library—to drop off our books that are due, to pick out new books, and to drop off our ballots (seriously, VOTE, guys!)—and this time I checked and they're not closed to the public (unlike the last time I was going to run an errand but then didn't). So I put on a nice outfit today—jeans and a (new!) shirt that I go on clearance in the early spring when we were buying new flip flops from Old Navy for Rachel and wanted free shipping but didn't want to spend enough money on flip flops to qualify for free shipping (like, may as well buy a shirt, right?), but which was on clearance because it was from the winter collection (it has long sleeves) so I hadn't had an opportunity to wear it until now.

Part of me was like, "Why wear a nice shirt? It's just going to get dirty/stained/ruined!" because motherhood is a, uh, messy affair, okay? But then I was like, "It does me no good just sitting in the closet waiting to be worn and I'm going in public today." So wearing a nice shirt is completely justified. Right?

Guys, the shirt already has a snag in it and I don't know how. Ugh. 

This is why I can't have nice things.

Zoë, at your serviette

We've been doing far too much reading lately, which might not be a thing you'd think would be possible but in our case...it just might be. Because we're planning on taking our fall break next week, the older kids have been pushing to finish reading The Scarlet Pimpernel so that we can have a movie night. This has made for some long mornings of reading, which can be difficult for Zoë and Alexander, who aren't following the story quite as well as the big kids (though still Zoë is able to recall a surprising amount of information; even when I'm struggling to recall character names—the other French girl...whatever-her-name-is De Tournay—Zoë can come up with the names in a snap—it's Suzanne).

This has led to some perceived naughtiness on their part (perceived because they aren't trying to be naughty, necessarily, but are being so rowdy that they're driving everyone else bonkers). They won't leave to go play elsewhere, though, because they want to listen to the story, too. So it's been a little tense the past couple of days, just trying to balance everyone's needs and personalities. 

And we've just been juggling so long, you know. 

Thus the need for a break.

Anyway, we finished reading this morning and I gave the kids their writing prompt and set them loose and Zoë and Alexander went into the living room to...read some more!

Zoë is a very fluent reader and will read anything she can get her hands on. She's also a very expressive reader, an indefatigable reader. 

Tonight she tried to read the entire 48 verses of 3 Nephi 12...even though we told her that she wasn't allowed to read the whole chapter by herself because other people wanted turns. She aggressively read the first 12 verses (yes, aggressive reading is definitely a thing) and then aggressively followed along and anytime anyone paused to take a breath or swallow she would cut them off and aggressively begin plowing through more verses.

She's got fluency, expression, and endurance.

The only thing she can't quite manage is to read in her head. 

This works out well for us, though, because she can usually find a willing listener. 

Here she is reading to Alexander, who moments before was so exhausted from listening that he couldn't manage to sit still or keep quiet (in his defense, there were no pictures):

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Park time

We are gearing up for fall break over here, I think. I can just tell we're at a...breaking point...if you will...the point where we just feel like we're slogging through...the point where we haven't taken a day off since June, practically. That's the point we're at. I don't know what we'll end up doing—perhaps probably nothing—but whatever it is, it gives us something to look forward to for the next few days.

The promise of...sleeping in (we do that, anyway)...of not having to coach Benjamin through his math work (though yesterday when we wrote about heroes he said that I was a hero for helping him so perhaps it's not so bad after all)...of playing more games and watching more movies (we're hoping to finish The Scarlet Pimpernel before we break) and lazing about at the park (outside of "prime time" so we don't have to be around other people). 

And that's about it. 

We've considered driving somewhere and staying in a cabin, but haven't committed to that idea yet. It might be nice...but it might be nicer to do that not when we're in the middle of a pandemic, which (just as a reminder) we are

I did take the kids to the park today, specifically for science so we could look for examples of weathering happening in real life...but also so that they could just play for a while. We found plenty of weathering going on at the park (enough that most of the walking paths are closed for resurfacing right now since they've been weathered to bits (the kids are going to miss the "roller coaster" the tree roots have made in one section of the path; they loved hitting that with their scooters)).

Here are Zoë and Alexander by the sign warning about the trail being closed:

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Best meals, best blankets

Somehow it's October, apparently. 

It's been quite the week at our house with a few work deadlines for Andrew and my regular homework load along with compiling a (23-page) family newsletter. Dinners were scanty: nachos, pancakes, frozen pizza, that sort of thing—which is the very reason I've always said that both of us couldn't do grad school at the same time. Thank goodness neither one of us is actually in school full time or we'd never remember to feed the kids!

We ordered pizza on Friday night and when the delivery guy dropped them off he asked if we were having a party. "No," Andrew told him. "We just have a lot of kids."

The guy looked a little shocked but, like, it's the truth. 

*****

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Revolving door

In stark contrast to my memories of babysitting children who just miraculously went to bed and stayed there, last night was...something else.

I've been struggling how to most accurately describe it. There's the idea of a revolving door, because that's basically how my door was functioning last night. But then there's the idea of a jack-in-the-box with that door flying open every few minutes, startling me out of whatever drowsy torpor I'd managed to relax into (not sleeping...quite...but almost). It was bad.

First it was Zoë, I think. She'd had a nightmare. 

(No, first it was Alexander, just screaming in his bed; I went in to comfort him and retuck him in and so forth and then left and then Zoë came into our room).

I told her she could sleep in the cozy chair in the corner. 

Next thing I know she's speaking right into my face: "I can't sleep in the chair."

"You can sleep on the floor, then. There's an extra pillow in the corner."

A few minutes later she's speaking right into my face again: "I can't sleep on the floor either."

Then back to bed she goes. 

A few minutes later, she runs into our room again: "Still can't sleep. It's too scary."

Nope. Gotta get back to bed. 

Cats and ceilings and things

Our cat, Andrew was surprised to learn, can exit what we refer to as "The Lego Room" without using the door. 

Benjamin is typically in charge of putting kitty to bed each night and he's gotten in trouble a time or two for not securing her properly. He will swear up and down that he put her in The Lego Room and closed the door and doesn't know how she keeps getting out! But, of course, by the time any parent has gotten down there to investigate, the door is wide open (so there's no evidence that it was ever closed).

For the record, I have—time and again—taken Benjamin's side of this issue. 

My theory has long been that the cat climbs into the ceiling somehow. We have a drop ceiling in half our basement and it opens up into The Lego Room. From the very first day we got her and she simply disappeared—we couldn't find her anywhere—I started to suspect that she'd been finding her way into the ceiling. And for a very good reason!

I've blogged about this before, but I'm going to write about it really quickly (even though I should probably be finishing my reading for my class; but I'm all jittery-mad from the presidential debate so I'm going to write it off) because, well, I think it's interesting how a story can be told in different ways at different times. As it's remembered differently different details come to light. And maybe some details are changed while others stay the same. That's how memories are. Having someone give more than one version of a single event doesn't particularly ruffle my feathers.

Anyway...

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Various hilarious household disasters

Yesterday Andrew announced (on Twitter, because apparently he wasn't excited enough about it in order to tell me personally) that he had a publication accepted, which is a Big Deal in this publish-or-perish profession and Andrew's been in a bit of a(n inexplicable because his stuff is really quite good) publication drought. It's "only" a book chapter, though, so it doesn't really "count" toward tenure requirements although it is something (which is better than nothing). Further, it had already been through numerous submissions and ended up being accepted at a lower ranking press than the editor of the book had hoped but, again, it's something. 

So I when I saw this announcement on Twitter I went to congratulate Andrew on purpose and while I was standing there congratulating him on having his book chapter accepted Andrew got another notification that one of his papers had been accepted—this time at the top journal for non-profit research! This one he was rather ecstatic about because...it's kind of a big deal! So we high-fived and squealed and whatever and then both admitted that we had no idea what to make for dinner because...making dinner is kind of a drag. But has to be done every day. And everything is just so monotonous but also terribly anxiety inducing and the world doesn't even make sense anymore so who cares about dinner, anyway?

I said we could do something with rice.

Andrew said, "Rice and pot stickers."

"You hate pot stickers," I said.

"We have to get rid of them," he pointed out.

This is true. We have been avoiding pot stickers because usually Andrew teaches a couple of evenings a week and isn't home for dinner. And that's when the kids and I go hog wild on all the kinds of things Andrew doesn't like to eat—like pot stickers and stir fry vegetables. But he's been home for the past seven months, which I'm not really going to complain about...except that it means we haven't had as many American-Chinese cuisine nights at our house.

So I made rice and pot stickers and stir fry vegetables for dinner last night (which meant that to celebrate Andrew's achievement of landing two publications in a single day he got to eat rice with soy sauce for dinner). I use the word "made" lightly. 

Doggerel: Nailed It!

We're reading The Scarlet Pimpernel together, which the children are finding rather amusing (at least those over the age of two). In recent chapters we've come across the word doggerel more than once (chapter XII and XIV, to be precise) as Sir Percy Blakeney (that inane man) enjoys spouting off-the-cuff, bad poetry, like this verse he recites about the Scarlet Pimpernel:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel

Unsure of the exact meaning of doggerel, we looked it up (it's just bad poetry, my friends (your dog speaks more eloquently), often seeming to poke fun at something somewhat serious) and then read some famous doggerel-style poems (by McGonnagall and Ogden Nash, who had us in stitches). We also discussed nursery rhymes, as well as Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, both of whom the children considered to be expert doggerel-ists. 

And then, because writing poetry is entertaining, we tried our hand at some doggerel, ourselves (which, I mean, honestly, bad poetry is kind of my jam, so it was quite a lot of fun). I don't even know whose poetry to begin with—they're all so bad-good—so I'll just go in age order beginning with Zoë (Alexander didn't really participate on account of...he's two...though he does like thinking up rhymes and making up songs he was more interested in racing the cat around the house).

Zoë's poems:

Oh, COVID 19, I hope you're gone soon.
I wish you would go up to the moon.
I hope you would rot up in a pot!
You're something I hope I never got!

(We assured her it was alright to use "got" here, even though it doesn't really make sense, grammatically. This is doggerel, after all!)