Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Power outage

The power went out this morning and since we're on spring break and it was raining most of the day I was so busy trying to keep the kids busy that I forgot to look at COVID-19 statistics until the evening! They were not a pretty picture when I looked at them. I remember when we first reached 100,000 confirmed cases (Saturday, folks; it was Saturday) and it felt so surreal. We are well prepared to reach 200,000 cases tomorrow. We had 748 confirmed deaths today (tying with Spain and right on Italy's heels) (edited to add: when I checked the statistics in the morning, the day's confirmed deaths numbered 912, beating out both Spain and Italy). Just a week ago we were still dying by the 100s. Soon I fear we'll be dying by the thousands.

But we press on.

Usually in our pyjamas.

Rachel, who is most committed to the cause, calls it "the pyjama challenge." She admitted she's not even sure if that's a real thing (it probably is) but she's doing her best to remain in pyjamas at all times (though I am occasionally successful at coaxing her into actual clothes). She doesn't have many pairs of pyjamas, honestly, so this morning we decided we'd be brave and would make a pair of pyjama pants for her. After all, I've sewn napkins on the sewing machine—and just this week I hemmed a curtain that was too long—and Rachel made a skirt once. So, we're, like, totally qualified to sew a pair of pyjama bottoms, right?


One day more!

We participated in President Nelson's invitation to fast for relief for the physical, emotional, economic, spiritual, and other healing necessary during this pandemic this past Sunday. For our lesson time we watched a 2004 talk by Elder Hales called Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which the little kids didn't find quite as captivating as last week's lesson where we burned stuff.

We're a little behind in our scripture reading and just read the parable of the olive tree this past week (instead of last week) and Alexander was riveted the whole time. We managed to read the entire chapter all in one go (it is 77 verses!) with Alexander interjecting any time the words "bad fruit" or "burn" were uttered.


That's right, buddy. We did.

Our lesson wasn't nearly as entertaining this past Sunday but, that's alright. Sometimes we need to make an impression on the children and sometimes we need someone else to make an impression on us. I think the more mature members of our family appreciated Elder Hales' words. I was particularly struck when he said this:
Isn’t it interesting that the one who is suffering often gains faith through suffering and accepts the Lord’s will, “thy will be done,” while family members and caregivers may have a difficult time accepting the tragic outcome and being able to strengthen their faith from the experience. We cannot measure faith by “an extra day.”

Alexander the artist

We got the kids a huge box of sidewalk chalk for Christmas but all we have left is a box full of nubs. My children love drawing outside with sidewalk chalk and since we're a little homebound right now I thought I should probably replenish our stash of chalk. Unfortunately, going to the store for frivolous purchases isn't exactly wise these days and Amazon has limited their shipping to items deemed essential so it's hard to find decently priced chalk online either. We'll have to eventually add it onto a grocery store purchase when we brave the store again. 

In the meantime, our world has become a billowing cloud of pollen and everything is dusted with a layer of neon green-yellow powder (and making life miserable for those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies: Andrew). I joked that we could just collect all the pollen, mix it with some water, pour it into moulds and start turning out our own sidewalk chalk. Andrew shot down that idea because it would be lethal for him to draw with.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

COVID-19 thoughts

When things really started exploding in Italy (they passed 10,000 deaths yesterday), Rachel reminded us that we had been *this* close to accepting a position in Italy. As much as we would have loved to move to Italy the thought of doing it right then seemed like a hurdle we weren't quite ready for. In the end GSU called up Andrew and begged him not to get on the plane, so he declined the position and we moved to Georgia.

We're just starting our upswing here in the states, but we passed 100,000 cases (and 2000 deaths) the other day so things aren't looking terribly rosy. But we were glad to not be in northern Italy (as weird as it is to type that).


Music Videos for Mom

My mom asked if my kids would record some videos of them playing primary songs on the ukulele, so...we tried a few. A lot of the songs this year revolve around a sequence of chords that my kids aren't entirely comfortable with. For example, it's hard for them to fly into Em for 'Book of Mormon Stories,' so we played it a little slowly, but here it is anyway:

'Dare to Do Right' has become one of my default lullabies for the kids (it's a short song, what can I say?) but I learned that I've been singing it to them wrong! I've always sung "do it so bravely, so boldly, so well..." but the words are actually "do it so bravely, so kindly, so well..." You can probably hear my kids hesitate on that word. I'll have to make an extra effort to sing it correctly—because it is important to do things kindly!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mispronunciations (and misconceptions)

With 17,000+ new cases confirmed today, the United States has overtaken China and now leads the world with the total number of cases of COVID-19. I'm not sure that's a record we wanted to have, but there it is. So we're continuing to stay at home, with life looking normal (more or less) but feeling strange.

And so I bring you some of my favourite recent mispronunciations from my children:

Benjamin was talking about his Einsteins at dinner a few nights ago and it took us quite a long time to realize that he meant "intestine."

I suppose this only makes sense if you understand that, as a Canadian (4000+ COVID-19 cases there, for the record) I grew up pronouncing intestine as in-TEST-eyen (not in-TEH-stin, the standard American pronunciation (and the British one, too, apparently)). I actually still pronounce it this way and so my children also tend to pronounce it this way, which is how Benjamin came to confuse the word with Einstein's name. Had he been speaking a pure American dialect he never would have confused the two words.

Canadians love their vowels (and Americans love their schwas). What can I say?

Distracting into cars

After listening to some more of Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse I asked the kids to write about what a "verse novel" is (because they didn't seem interested in doing any sort of character analysis today). Miriam wrote a lovely essay about verse novels spanning ancient to modern times—from the Iliad to Brown Girl Dreaming. Benjamin wrote the following:
A verse novel is a book written in poems like Out of the Dust and A Brown Girl Dreaming. If you want to read poems or if you like poems, visit your public library or go to (fake) for more info.
To say I was underwhelmed by his efforts would be...absolutely true. But bonus points for admitting in his paper that he cited a bogus website, I guess.

We also played a vocabulary game with words from the novel called I Have, Who Has? Even Zoë played. They seemed to like it so we'll have to try it again. This game forced Benjamin to utter the phrase, "I have distraction," which made us all giggle because...he often has distraction...or is distracted...or whatever. But it also made me think of Zoë.

Last night after dinner we went on a family walk—a popsicle walk, no less, so it was extra exciting—and Zoë was chatting while she walked. In truth we were all joking around quite a bit. And then I noticed that Zoë was going to walk directly into a parked car if she didn't start paying attention so I yelped, "Zoë!" and she put on her breaks a little bit but still ended up colliding with the car.

"Oh! I distracted right into that car!" she said, laughing about herself.

"You did 'distract' right into that car," I agreed with her, laughing.

I can't find the stories right now, but I know for a fact she is not my first child to walk into a car (here is a story about Benjamin walking into truck, but I know there are others out there (indeed: here's Rachel's tale and while we're on car/people collisions, here's a link to the time I slid under my friend Wendy's car and the time Zoë got hit by a car while riding her tricycle)). I still think there are other times my kids have walked into parked vehicles though...

In which Benjamin is curiously responsible

I know some people are creating strict schedules to maintain a sense of normalcy during this time of quarantine. We are...not those people. We've relaxed bedtimes and have allowed for some sleeping in. We get up when we get up and let the cards fall however they will. It's not like we have any reason to get our schoolwork done by any specific time in the day. We literally have no other obligations. No play dates. No trips to the library. No church activities. No classes to rush to.

To be fair, my children tend to wake up around the same time every morning, so our schedule hasn't gone too far off the rails. Instead of setting an alarm, I just wait for Alexander to start telling me it's time to get up, which he usually does right around 8:00 every morning (Rachel and Miriam are usually the first of the kids to get up, between 7:00 and 7:30).

For those of you saying to yourself, "You're so lucky! He sleeps in until 8:00!" please consider that he has slept through the night maybe 5 times in his entire life and also consider that even though we have our little ones in bed around 8:00 most nights they do not actually fall asleep until much, much later (usually 10:00 or so (and then Alexander's first wake up is usually around 11:00)). So, I mean, lucky...or not. Who can say?

Anyway, last night after getting Alexander back to bed in his own bed after his first nightly waking, and then letting him fall asleep in my bed after his second nightly waking, Andrew moved him back to his own bed just before we turned in for the night. Remarkably, he stayed there until the morning (which almost counts as sleeping in his own bed all night). When he climbed into bed with me this morning, the world was just hinting at daylight so Alexander began hinting about it being time to get up as well.

"Not yet," I told my sweet little alarm clock. "Let's sleep for a little while longer."

Surprisingly, he agreed to this and fell back asleep beside me. I fully expected him to wake me up again by 8:00 but he did not. By the time we stirred again it was 10:00!

Andrew was still asleep, Zoë was still asleep, Miriam was still asleep. Only Benjamin and Rachel were up. Rachel was tending to her "digital learning" assignments and Benjamin was getting his math work out!

"I already had breakfast and did science," he told me when I came down the stairs to help the littlest kids with breakfast. "I read a chapter out of the space book and then built a model rocket out of Lego. Now I'm doing my math work because I saved the review section with area as a treat, remember?"

I did remember, but was shocked that he would get it out without being asked. Nor had I intended to assign him the entire review for one day—it's the last assignment in his workbook and is eight pages long. But he did the whole thing (without me sitting beside him reminding him to do his work every three seconds) and he did it well! So colour me impressed.

We're a little behind on finishing up our schoolwork today, compared to where we'd be on an ordinary Thursday, but we'll still finish early this afternoon and still have plenty of "free time" and we got to sleep in this morning so no complaints from me today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Poop challenge

Have you seen that prank going around called the "poop challenge" where parents ask their child to bring them some toilet paper while they are sitting on the toilet and then they "accidentally" wipe a brown substance on their child to see how they react? 

Spoiler: they react by screaming, gagging, and sometimes even throwing up.

Are we really that surprised?

Anyway, Alexander pulled his own little poop challenge prank on us this afternoon!

Dandelion days

The kids had a blast at the park. They played a little "coronavirus tag," as you can see from the big fruit ball clinging to Miriam's shirt:

Closed for COVID-19

All of our parks are—rightly—closed due to pandemic precautions. The walking trails, however are—mercifully—still open (so long as we keep our distance from non-family groups, etc). 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Allegory of the Olive Tree

Our primary chorister has been sending out lesson ideas each week, which has made "home church" significantly easier. Her idea for today was to print out an olive tree, some good fruit, some bad fruit, and a fire. We'd begin the lesson by casting off the bad fruit and burning it in the fire. And then we would search around for the good fruit.

Instead, I wrote good and bad "fruits" on pieces of paper and hid them around the room and we found them and quickly sorted out what was good and what was bad. The good fruit we added to our tree, to remind us how we want to be:

The poor fruit, well...

"Can we actually burn it?" the kids asked.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

'Cuz she's a brick—ow—head!

This morning the younger children were playing in our yard together while everyone else was doing some sort of work around the house. The big girls were doing their "spring cleaning" in the basement, Andrew was working in the garage (but was going in and out of the house a lot (so he missed the moment)) and I was looking over the proofs of one of my mom's papers before it gets published. 

And then there was screaming. 

The kind of screaming that makes your skin crawl. 

The kind of screaming that tells you something bad has happened. Your baby isn't annoyed or hungry or uncomfortable; your baby is mortally wounded! Run, Mom, run!

I ran down the stairs and out the door and the second I got outside Benjamin pointed to Alexander and said, "He threw a brick and it just grazed Zoë's head. She's probably fine."

Zoë was standing between them, holding her head and crying. I pried her hands off her head to check out the "grazing," which turned out to be a bit of a goose egg, and then gently ushered her into the house (while dragging Alexander along behind us). I sat Alexander on the bottom stair and told him not to move a muscle and got some ice ready for Zoë's head. corona!

Yesterday we planted a (victory) garden. It's small, but it's there.

We thought our trowel was particularly on point for the occasion:

Spooky stories

When I sat down to order a few books for my children last week, I'll admit that I somewhat selfishly selected some classics from my own childhood. Stories that I knew would bring back feelings of comfort and familiarity to me (with the added bonus of being able to introduce my children to these stories). Plus, I mean, older books tend to be a bit easier on the wallet than newer books are (as long as they aren't too old because then they get pricey again).

One of the books that I got was a collection of Robert Munsch stories.

Zoë thinks that his name is just plain silly (because there is no need for the 's' in his name) but that his stories are even sillier. At least, that's what she thought yesterday when we read through three of his stories that were new to her (we had a few of his stories in our library already). Today, however, we got to the story A Promise is a Promise.

This story is...not funny.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Chalking up friendship (and bike riding)

Today we all got dressed. Into clothes.

I know. Weird, right?

We spent a good chunk of the afternoon outside with our bikes (and then later with sidewalk chalk). The kids kept complaining that it was so hot but it felt nice to me—even a little cool with the breeze—so I was shocked when I checked the temperature to find that we were approaching 80°F! We were even warmer than Hawaii today (at least where Uncle Patrick was) and were much warmer than Auntie Abra or Uncle David who live where spring is still a distant dream.

You know that saying "it's like riding a bike," and how it's supposed to mean that once you know how to do something you'll never forget how to do it? Well, I'm not sure I completely believe that saying because I had to re-teach Benjamin how to ride his bike. Teaching him to ride his bike was somewhat challenging for...both of us...and we were both so happy when he finally learned how. He rode around our Spanish Fork neighbourhood as much as he could but then we moved.

And we left his bike behind because it was a piece of junk.

And then we bought him a new piece-of-junk bike after we got here, but it was a bit bigger and it's a lot hillier around here than it was in Utah and he was so intimidated by it (and I was so frustrated with his reluctance to get on it) that I gave up trying to get him to ever ride it.

But today I stood my ground and made him relearn how to ride. It took a lot of patience and tenacity from both of us, but we finally got him back in the saddle and once he committed to actually trying it was...just like riding a bicycle!

Here he is exercising his newfound freedom:

Taking a breather

My sweet sister saw an ad for a game online when we were in the midst of some potty training regression (thanks to our friend Daniel Tiger) so she decided to buy it and send it to us. She meant for me to hang on to it until Easter but given the chaos we've all just been thrown into (updates: California—the entire state—is on shelter-in-place and Athens (not too far from us) is also sheltering in place while Atlanta (Foulton county) has ordered all restaurants and bars to cease face-to-face interaction (though they can do take-out orders still)) she suggested we just open it and play it right away. So we did and it was hilariously fun!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Alexander's dental appointment

Alexander and I bravely set out for his dentist appointment this afternoon. Leaving the house felt odd, and when we got to the dental office they were all in a tizzy because it was announced shortly before we left the house that all non-essential appointments (both medical and dental) were to be suspended.

"This is...essential...right?" I asked Andrew before we left the house.

Emergency appointments are essential. Sure. Yes?

We're all new to this weirdness (and may it never begin to feel normal, amen).

We got to the office and filled out a questionnaire about travel and symptoms and so forth and then we both had to have our temperature taken before they led us back. The receptionists were making phone call after phone call cancelling appointments (and pausing between calls to ooh and aah over Alexander and his poor wee face).

They took a quick (and probably unnecessary) x-ray and determined that his mouth should heal just fine. The gums will tighten around the teeth again and the bone will reattach and it will all be fine. Alexander will just need to be on a soft-food diet for the next couple of weeks.

The dentist said that even if his tooth had been knocked out (which it had not in this case; it's just a bit loose so this is mercifully information for the future) you can just rinse the tooth off in milk and then reinsert it in the hole and it will reattach in about 80% of cases. Which—you guys—just seems so crazy!

I actually seem to recall a PSA of sorts on the CBC (or NFB) about this very thing. For all those hockey-playing children, probably. It was a little cartoon with some animals—a beaver and moose, probably—playing hockey? And a tooth gets knocked out and they find milk and put it in and there's a song and...I can't seem to find it on YouTube.'s this gem:


I woke up to my alarm this morning (and a text from my dentist's office saying they didn't actually have an appointment until later this afternoon (so scheduling online works...not so well)) and then just stayed there reading the news. Every day is simultaneously gripping and monotonous.

We've had to add on to our family motto, which began with ROT: Respect, Obedience, Tolerance. We've since had to add an F: Flexibility (Rachel was having a fit because she was all set up to do her playing test but then Zoë and Alexander went downstairs to play blocks and wouldn't be quiet enough to suit her standards (even though her teacher had said she fully expected some background noise) and started screaming at them to leave and they started screaming right back so I asked her what would be easier for the household—to move the babies to a new place and get them involved in a new game or to have her move to a new place and get set up again (a thing I'd help her to accomplish); clearly the second option would be easier on everyone if she could suck it up and do it but she resolved to stick out her stinky attitude (though she did move upstairs)). And since we added an F I figured we might as well add an L: Love.

So now we're over here ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing (because we'll definitely need a sense of humour to get through this)) instead of just ROTing.

Respect, obedience, tolerance, flexibility, love (and laughter).


We've got this.

Unlucky Day

The children were a little unruly today, which...those days happen, right? 

I'm reading them The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in the mornings, a book Grandpa began alluding to a lot when we lived with him, but a story my kids were somewhat unfamiliar with. We came across an interesting quote, all the way in chapter two (which is where we are).

Tom Sawyer learns that "in order to make [someone] covet a thing it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."

We discussed that quote in light of Rachel foisting her jobs on her younger siblings (she is very good at this, which is why Grandpa started calling her Tom Sawyer in the first place), as well as how it's making people behave somewhat crazy during this pandemic, as well as how it made me need peanut butter when I lived abroad even though I can go months without touching it in the States, and how if I ask my children to play upstairs they will contrarily say, "OR downstairs!" but if I ask them to play downstairs they will, of course, say, "OR upstairs!" (And we also discussed Tom's little tricks to convince his little friends that doing his jobs was a privilege).

After this lengthy discussion, I told the kids to write a response. Benjamin was having a particularly unfocused day and this is what he wrote:

This does not really go into my life even though I am in a pandemic and toilet paper, hand sanitizer.

And that is...just it. That's what he wrote.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lucky Day

We made some origami shamrocks last night while talking about allegories, such as The Olive Tree and the way St. Patrick is believed to have used three-leafed shamrocks to teach people about the godhead. Each shamrock is really made out of four origami hearts, so we talked about how Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost work together to get God's work done (and work with other people as the fourth leaf—the prophet, us, etc—to further the work as well). We also talked about how we worked together as a family to put together each shamrock. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronovirus tag

The kids and I went for a walk this afternoon (it was a little chilly (for these parts) so no one else was really out) and the kids found a bunch of dropped fruit balls from a sweetgum tree so they started chucking them around. It's a game we've played for ages (we used to head outside during our North Carolina Christmases to have a fruit ball fights since we weren't ever able to have snowball fights) but today things took a new spin. 

"It's the coronovirus!" Benjamin yelled, hurling a fruit ball at one of his sisters. "I'm going to infect you!"

They started running around, chucking handfuls of fruit balls at each other while screaming made-up statistics about infection rates and so forth. At the end of their game they agreed that social distancing matters; after all, they could only launch those large-scale coronoviruses so far.

Perhaps Coronovirus Tag will be the next Ring Around the Rosy—slightly morbid, somewhat enjoyable (though the connection between that game and the Black Plague (which Benjamin believed was pronounced plag-you until just a few short days ago) is tenuous). 

Social distancing: home church (and stuff)

We did much better with social distancing today. It helped, I think, that it was raining and that it was Sunday. Our neighbourhood children know we go to church on Sundays and so they don't usually come to see if we can play in the mornings (sometimes they are waiting for us when we get home, actually), so our morning was pretty quiet.

Our homeschool church consisted of a lesson on why we are choosing social distance right now. Andrew showed the kids an interactive simulation and they seemed to understand that no socialization right now was much better for the community than other methods of reducing contagion. And then we talked about magnifying our callings (or roles) and then sang some hymns and primary songs. Andrew even let Zoë choose a Christmas song (she loves the song Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus) even though it's nowhere close to Christmas.

The girls made cookies, which turned out to be excellent when we started getting callers in the afternoon. "No we cannot play. We are practicing social distancing. Have a plate of cookies and remember us in two months?" I'm not sure giving out cookies counts as social distancing...

We're just doing our best.

Andrew made quiche for dinner to celebrate Pi Day (a day late). He also made cheery pie for dessert.

Miriam gave some cookies to the backdoor pool neighbours as well (no, we can't play...have some cookies?) and they passed over a package filled with treats from Japan and some Girl Scout Cookies. Again, poor social distancing. Again, we're trying.

This social distancing thing was easier when we were the only ones home during the day and had the run of the neighbourhood. I mean, we honestly hardly ever see the majority of our neighbours! And now suddenly we can't go play in the cul-de-sac without being bombarded by them...which means that they probably are naturally very friendly just altogether too busy.

Do you think this pandemic will teach us to slow down and be more neighbourly?

Oh, we also played Pandemic with the older girls (while the younger kids watched Daniel Tiger) and we won! So maybe that's a good omen...though the last time we played (on Friday night) we lost within four turns probably has no bearing on how this actual pandemic will play out.

Identifying with Contagion and Identifying Colours

Andrew and I watched Contagion tonight, which...I'm not sure I recommend. It was...a little intense. I know COVD-19 is a much less aggressive virus than the one in the movie. But still.

Things are getting wild out there: Alberta cancelled school. Period. Like, they don't even get out until the end of June and they just cancelled the rest of the school year. They are trying to put together some at-home curriculum, but they've cancelled Provincial Exams (for grades 3, 6, 9). Diploma examinations will still happen, but no classroom instruction beforehand, so...yikes. My friends up there are (rightly) freaking out a little. I mean, it's one thing to decide to homeschool; it's another thing to have it be thrust upon you.

The CDC today said that no "events" with more than 50 people should take place (for the next eight weeks), but they explicitly said that schools are not classified as an "event." So I guess that means school can go on for us? Rachel will be home all of this week ("digital learning days" for her) and they're going to reevaluate after that (I honestly think they will cancel next week as well, and then there's spring break). But I feel like if Canada (and other countries) are closing schools (and for longer) we really ought to be taking this somewhat seriously.

Norway has urged students living abroad in areas with "poorly developed health services...for example in the USA" to return home, which doesn't speak well of our medical system (but, I mean, we all know how I feel about the medical system down here (I understand Americans think it's pretty great but, like, I mean...I dunno)).

So in other news, I was reading the kids some books the other night and If You Give Your Mouse A Cookie was among the titles in the towering stack they brought to me. Sometimes when we're reading I will ask the kids questions either about what they think is going to happen or what they're seeing in the pictures. If I want a younger child to answer I have to prepare my older children like so, "Zoë, I'm going to ask Alexander a question now. It's a question that I know you know the answer to but I want to see if he knows the answer, so when I ask the question you can answer it in your mind but don't say the answer out loud, okay?" Otherwise they just blurt out the answer or point to the correct thing on the page and, really, can one gauge any sort of comprehension from a toddler who's being fed the answer? Not really.

We happened to be on the page where there's an illustration of Mouse just beginning to draw a portrait of his family. His paper is mostly empty but there are crayons strewn about him. He's holding one crayon, ready to draw.

I gave the previously mentioned speech to Zoë and then said, "Alexander, what colour is Mouse using?"

Alexander started scanning the page wildly, stammering, "Umm, ummm, ummmm, ummmm." Then he pointed triumphantly to Mouse holding the green crayon and said, "BIS ONE!"

Translation: "This one!"

Which, I mean...he's not wrong.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Long-distance Socializing

With everyone's schedule somewhat freed up my family was able to do a little long-distance socializing. Usually our schedules don't mesh very well—we cover time zones from EST (Eastern) to HST (Hawaiian) and pretty much everything in between (or, you know, just MST (mountain)...and PST (Pacific)). Add in work schedules and church commitments and so forth and it's very rare that we all have time to just sit around and chat with each other. 

But today we do!

So we started a group chat and that turned into a call with people coming and going. It was fun to see everyone and get caught up. 

Every time I tried to take a screen shot it just would boot me out of the video so clearly I'm doing something wrong

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Library closures

This morning after my mom told me that the Orem library had closed (my sister just got a full-time job there, which she has worked all of four days) I decided to not visit our library because we're trying to be good citizens, but I just heard that our library will also be closing after tomorrow.

And now I can't decide whether I should just sit at home or make a panicked visit to the library to check out materials. I'm honestly leaning toward just staying home. We have plenty of things for the older kids to read (and can check out eBooks) and we have a large collection of children's books (and with the anthologies I just ordered we will have 75 new stories to read, which is such a great number because it happens to be our checkout limit and is just such a lovely round number for all the random anthologies to add up to). So I think we're set.

We have plenty to read.

I just...having the library be unaccessible is making me feel nervous.

But, we're fine. We have plenty to read. This will be fine.

On the upside, this pandemic has been quite the boon for me as a newbie homeschooling mom. So many people are sharing so many amazing (and often free) resources! Things that I didn't even know existed! I'm excited to comb through the lists my friends have shared to find some interesting learning activities for the kids!


We didn't spend all day outside socializing (from a distance) with our neighbours. Just the afternoon.

We spent the morning hunkering down. 

Andrew broke out an retro (1970s) version of Risk and played that with the girls. 


Quarantining is more difficult than I thought it would be. We explained to the kids that we'd just be hunkering down for a while—no friends, no outings—in order to do our part to slow the spread of this virus figuring it wouldn't be too hard for us to do because we're not very social people. Unfortunately—or fortunately—it was a beautiful day today and we figured we should go outside to work in the yard.

As part of our pandemic panic-shopping, Andrew picked up a pruning saw which—go figure—makes pruning so much easier. We've been trying to tackle the ivy on our trees with a branch saw, which just hasn't been working very well. You wouldn't think it would make much of a difference (at least, that's what I thought) but it really does. We (and by "we" I mean "Andrew") were able to get the ivy off all our trees this afternoon (except one that is a mix of poison and regular ivy, which we're not quite sure what to do with so just didn't touch it). We also raked up our front garden area and cleaned up Benjamin's junk collection and so forth.

But while the girls and I were working in the front yard, a couple called us over to them. They just bought a house in our cul-de-sac and wanted to introduce themselves. They seem really nice and we're super excited for where they'll be moving in because they're moving into the house our our cul-de-sac nemesis (the one who yelled at us because our moving van was parked in the cul-de-sac, the ones who threatened to call the police because James parked his car in the cul-de-sac (note: it is not illegal to park on the street here), the ones who slammed the door in Miriam's face when she tried to deliver a loaf of freshly made sour dough bread, the ones...who we just can't seem to make friends with...). We're super excited for these new neighbours.

Zoë introduced herself to them like this, "My name is Zoë and I'm four years old and my grandma is dead."

She's really great at breaking the ice.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Book shortage

Some of our library books were due yesterday so I packed them up and then, because we had read all the other books we'd checked out multiple times, I packed up the rest to return as well. I wanted to get in one last trip to the library before things locked down, as things seemed to be trending that way.

Thursday was a particularly difficult day, however, schoolwork-wise (mostly Benjamin-wise; he just couldn't focus but I did finally get him to finish his report on Harriet Tubman so...yay) so by the time I packed the kids up to go to the library I was already feeling frustrated. And then the entire road surprised us by being blocked off, so I quickly turned into the parking lot of the church next door and pondered what to do.

We had to turn in our books because a few of the chapter books had been renewed the maximum number of times and we absolutely couldn't keep them longer, so I decided that we'd hike through the little wooded area between the library and the church. So, with four children and four library bags in tow, we shlepped off through the urban woods to the library, but when we got there we found that it was closed.

A hastily scrawled sign proclaimed, "CLOSED DUE TO POWER OUTAGE," so we left with our books because even though there's a book drop outside I didn't want my books to just sit there in the bin not being checked in all day long (and then all night long, making them overdue). In theory they'd just override that (considering they were in the book drop) but I wasn't sure that they'd actually count them as having been returned on time. Late fees are "only" 20¢ per item per day, but (1) that's kind of a hefty fee since (2) I had a lot of items checked out (and always do...except for today).

So we went home. There were a bunch of utility trucks around but we also noticed that there'd been an accident in the area as well, so I don't really know what happened. But we didn't return our books and we didn't get new books either.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Shrapnel in the bathroom

Only—what are we?—nearly three years after my little falling-off-a-stool-while-pregnant-and-catching-my-balance-so-I-didn't-land-flat-on-my-back-but-did-kick-a-hole-in-the-wall-breaking-my-toe-and-ripping-the-nail-nearly-clean-off incident and I finally got around to really trimming my new toenail. And that's not because I'm lazy. It's because it's taken it that long to really actually grow long enough to cut. And it's growing in way funky (it's all thick and weird and I really don't like it).

If only I knew a really good podiatrist...that I haven't accused of being an idiot while in the midst of offering me free medical advice. Meh. I'm sure I'll get around to asking a doctor about it sometime. It's really not too big of a concern except...that I was trimming my toenails the other day and decided that it was time to conquer this super gnarly nail. 

I positioned the clippers and pressed down on the levers and they exploded in my hands. Bits of nail clipper went everywhere (and it did no damage to my nail so...that's neat). It was very shocking. 

The lever had snapped in half, the pin went flying across the bathroom and landed on the shower rug. I still had the blades in my hand, as well as half the lever, but I couldn't find the rest of the lever anywhere (though I did eventually find half of the rest of the lever so the last bit of nail clipper shrapnel is still somewhere in our bathroom).

When I showed Andrew the shattered remains of our nail clippers he asked why I didn't just use the ginormous set of toenail clippers that we've owned for a billion years and have never used. I told him that, honestly, I didn't know where we'd put them since moving. 

He helped me find them (he likes to keep track of nail clippers) and I managed to clip my hideous toenail and that is your TMI story for the day. You're welcome.

In school and out of school

It's possible I've been pushing the kids a little hard this school year. It's possible Miriam has finished nearly 1.5 years of math and that Benjamin is a few short pages away from being finished with his curriculum as well. It's possible we finished our science textbook this week. It's possible to fit a lot of information (and work) into 4.5 hours every day and I've come to the conclusion that I've definitely pushed my children a little too hard. I just reviewed Georgia's AKS (Academic Knowledge and Skills—why, oh, why didn't they just call it Academic Skills and Knowledge?) booklets and although they seemed intimidating when we began this endeavor, I found myself nodding my head as I read through them. Yes, yes, yes. We've done that.

Admittedly there were a few things in the sciences that we didn't cover, but I think we went a lot farther in depth with life science this year and so didn't get to earth science at all. The kids have asked to do earth science next year, so we'll be hitting all of those milestones then. I'm not really worried about that part.

But I've learned that I can definitely chill a little bit as a homeschool administrator. I think next year will be easier for me to split my curriculum up so I can parcel it out throughout the year because I will be working with the full school year (rather than just...some of it). I'm considering doing a 4-day work week for the kids, and giving them Friday to just explore things on their own a little bit, which will mean extending hours a bit Monday through Thursday, but that shouldn't be too terrible (since I think we typically do more than the required 4.5 hours per day anyway, just because we get sucked into doing things like reading and identifying geodes and things like that). I'm also going to make more of a conscious effort to include physical education and music and art in our school days.

This school year I've been insisting that first we get our work done and then we can do whatever—play basketball or have a ukulele jam session or paint a picture. But really those things are part of a public school day, right? And an important part, too, I believe! I've just been so concerned with doing the academic portion "correctly" that I forgot about...pacing...and well-roundedness...a little bit.

To that end, we spent some time at the park this afternoon playing frisbee and painting and walking by the river...after we'd finished with our school work...because I'm a stickler.

Benjamin wanted to play frisbee when we got to the park. That the kids call Paradise Island even though it's not an island; they just like it because it's felt rather secluded when we've gone because no one else is ever there, though today we did have some curious walkers stop by to see what we were doing. The other kids all wanted to paint right away so I set them up with our paintings supplies before chucking the frisbee around with Benjamin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


I had the children write another response to one of the poems in Brown Girl Dreaming called 'the selfish giant' and where Jackie, the author, first discovers her talent for writing. Earlier in the book she uncovered her siblings' talents, so easy for her to see, and has been wondering if/when she'll discover her own talents. I think that's fairly normal (at least it is something that feels normal to me)—to see and acknowledge the talents of others while overlooking your own talents because they feel too natural, too ordinary (to you) to be commendable.

Jacqueline has a breakthrough with her storytelling and she says, "And I know now / words are my Tingalayo. Words are my brilliance" (p. 248).

So I asked the kids what their brilliance is—and what brilliance they see in each other.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Miriam got a geode exploration kit for Christmas and decided today was the day to—quite literally—break into it. She invited her siblings to join in (and even shared the geodes once they were broken open). Things were a little bit damp from it having rained all day, but we were glad for at least a little break in the weather ad all rushed outside to enjoy the fresh air.

The boringest

Just before FHE this evening we were talking about Andrew's upcoming conference in Hawaii, a trip we had decided would be a solo one for him even before COVID-19, and which we're not even sure that Andrew will be making (so I'm feeling pretty good about not going to Hawaii with him at this point). Anyway, he thought the conference was a week sooner than it actually is so was thrilled today to learn that he didn't have to submit his paper by this Thursday. He had until next Thursday.

"So that's a week of my life back!" Andrew said, relieved.

"Your job is pretty boring," Benjamin surmised. "I want a more adventurous job."

"What?!" I said, getting a little offended for Andrew who is living the dream. "Remember how excited you are about your next math unit?"

"Yeah," Benjamin shrugged. "Because it's graphs!"

"That's what I do!" Andrew said, excited to bond with his boy over x-axes. "I make graphs and then I write about them!"

"WOW!" Benjamin said with genuine awe. "That is boring!"

And I just...

Let's take a moment to remember 2014 when ickle-PhD-student Andrew was taking his comprehensive exams and his sweet daughters greeted him with cards saying:

"Congratulations Daddy. I'm glad you are out of work"


"I'm so glad you passed the test, Dad. You defintly will be a person who works for the government!"

It's perfectly normal for kids to not have any sort of concept of what their parents do for a living, right?

Walk-sicles and peppers

Yesterday was warmish and sunny-ish so the kids decided we should take a family walk after dinner—with popsicles! This is something they call a "walk-sicle" because they're nothing if not neologists (because why use an actual word when you can make up one word to do the job of many?). Unfortunately, Zoë wasn't a fan of dinner and refused to eat anything. 

Now, I know that the current advice is that you shouldn't force your child to eat because it'll cause obesity and so forth. But the thing is that if you're hungry enough for dessert you're hungry enough for dinner. And if you don't touch your dinner then there's no way you should get dessert, right?

So she agreed to eat her dinner and sat at the table crying to herself about her fate while her siblings did their after-dinner jobs and headed outside to wait for her. Eventually she grew tired of crying at the table but instead of taking just four bites of her dinner she tiptoed over to the garbage can and emptied her plate. 

News flash: Her parents were not born yesterday.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away

We stopped by the park on the way home from orchestra and we stayed for a long time because...

Honestly, I don't know when we'll ever see the sun again. But don't worry. Benjamin at least got his "maff wort" (as Alexander would say) finished while Miriam was rehearsing so the day wasn't a complete waste (and Miriam did her math work after we got home, and we did LA/SS before we left in the morning). 

Here's Alexander doing his "maff wort" (Benjamin's involved more (ie. actual) numbers and stuff)

Springtime music

I've recently spent some time looking at music to freshen up our ukulele binders, specifically focusing on springtime songs. I found a lovely version of Robin In the Rain by Raffi and Zoë and Alexander fell in love with it so we've been singing it a lot since...yesterday...when I found it.

This afternoon Zoë and I recorded it and I didn't even mess up until the very end when Benjamin started dancing around me with his notebook, silently pleading for me to drop everything and read what he'd written right then. You can see him briefly in the frame, but then his bouncing continued just behind the camera, so that was a fun distraction!

I've been meaning to start up a little ukulele/choir group the whole time we've lived here and looking for music always gets me feeling motivated to finally do it...but now's probably not the best time (given the global pandemic) to actually start something. Still, I think I'll try to do more singing with my own kids in my own house because music is so, so important.

So I will probably spend some more time looking for new music for us to learn. If you know of any lovely springtime songs, let me know!

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Fuzzy Memories

We've been reading Brown Girl Dreaming, which has led us to some very interesting conversations—about civil rights, naturally, but also about life in general. It's a book of poems that tell about her growing up years, a format which Woodson says felt very natural for her to do because "that’s how memory comes to me, in these small moments with all of this white space around it.” I love that explanation about memories and poetry being so connected. Of course there's room to fill in all the blank space, but a lot of that is conjecture, isn't it? It's what you are piecing together from what you remember because we simply can't remember everything—even the biggest most poignant moments in our lives end up a little fuzzy in our memories.

That said, Woodson seems to recall a lot about her childhood, perhaps because she's a natural storyteller. I, too, find myself constantly telling stories and as I've been reading more and more books about writing I find myself identifying more and more as a writer. It's easy to miss the very obvious things about you, I think. At least, it is for me.

Miriam and I were out walking a while ago and she said to me, "I think I want to devote my life to music. I just love music so much. I love listening, I love practicing, I love playing, I love writing music. It's just what I love. And I can study music at college and teach music lessons and perform and..."

And I don't think I had any such solid plan for myself when I was ten years old.

I don't know that I have such solid plans for myself now, going on 35.

Passive-aggressive prayers

Alexander has reached the stage where it's always his turn to say the prayer. Even if it's not his turn to say the prayer there's a good chance he'll be praying aloud along with whoever's turn it is to pray (which is good because it means we've moved past the stage where he'd beg for a turn to say the prayer and then would just sit there in absolute silence while we prayed for him).

Today he "stole" two prayers by diving in and praying when it wasn't his turn at all, but his sweet siblings are mostly good sports about his naughty prayer-stealing ways. Only Zoë really gets upset about it.

A few nights ago (it really could be about a week ago now because I think it was the first night my mom was here last week) Zoë was asked to say family prayer for the evening. Everyone was kneeling down reverently, except for Andrew (who hasn't quite gotten to a full kneeling position with his knee yet) and Alexander (who was, for unexplained reasons, lying on the floor with his nose mashed into the carpet), so Zoë began her prayer.

"Dear Heavenly Father," she said.

"De-enly-fa-ah," Alexander mumbled into the carpet.

A poem for the first sunny-all-day day in March

The sky is blue today
And the wind is blowing,
Shooing away the last
Grey days of winter.

The sky is blue today
And the wind is blowing,
Scattering leaves that have
Clung to trees since autumn.

The sky is blue today
And the wind is blowing,
Stroking each sleepy blossom,
Ushering in the newness of spring.

The sky is blue today
And the wind is blowing,
Staving off the blazing heat
Promised to us this summer.

Very Big Things

With a lot of encouragement and help from Andrew (thanks for the encouragement and for taking the little ones grocery shopping so I could have some alone time), I did two Very Big Things today. First, I finished and submitted my writing sample—the very last requirement for my grad school application (aside from soliciting letters of recommendation (technically they've all been solicited; they simply haven't all been fulfilled)). Second—and probably more emotionally monumental thing—I cut my baby's hair!

Andrew wanted me to buzz it all off but I simply could not, could not part with all his baby fluff, so I buzzed the back and sides and used scissors on the top. Here he is before:

Friday, March 06, 2020

Farewell to Naanii

The morning my mom left I finally broke out my actual camera to take a few pictures because although my cell phone camera takes fine pictures I'm never quite satisfied with the quality of them. Unfortunately, I didn't check my camera settings and it was set all wonky so the pictures ended up just as fuzzy as a phone picture, which I'm rather sad about. But here are the pictures we took on Thursday morning, anyway...

My mom got up early to say goodbye to Rachel before school (we let the little ones sleep in because they had gone to bed a little later than usual after all the excitement of having cousins over the night before) and we took a picture to compare their height because Rachel is getting close to being as tall as Naanii:

Borrowing babies

My (second-) cousin and her son (my children's third-cousin) came over to visit while my mom was here. We weren't sure we'd be able to see her because she recently revealed that she is, at long last, expecting again and has been so terribly ill. But she was having a good day so she came to hang out and we had a lovely visit (me, my mom, and I) while the kids ran wild around the house.

Late in the evening, while I was making some grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids (because we'd completely neglected dinner), Alexander was hanging around in the kitchen and my cousin's son was kind of shadowing him. I tried to make some small talk with him, asking him if he's excited to have a baby at his house (he is, by the way, completely thrilled about it). Then he approached Alexander and said, "Hi, baby. Can I try holding you?"

Alexander looked him up and down, giving his request careful consideration, and then lifted his arms up. So little G. picked Alexander up and carried him around the house for a few minutes and it was the most darling thing ever! Alexander doesn't look particularly pleased here but I know he enjoyed it because he went over to G. several more times and latched onto him (and when Alexander said his bedtime prayers he was thankful for so many things—Daniel Tiger, and Naanii, and G).

What sweet little cousins!

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

More outside time

Today's forecast (much like yesterday's and tomorrow's) was rain, rain, rain. But, mid-morning when the rain suddenly let up we decided we had better head outside for a quick walk around the block to cure us from our cabin fever. So we did.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Playing at the park with Naanii

After coming home for a quick lunch, we got ready to hit up some playgrounds with Naanii. Today will likely be the only sunshine-y day we have with her. Our forecast for the coming week is rain, rain, and more rain (what a surprise (we've gotten about 19 inches of rain so far this year already (making us, so far, much wetter than Seattle (honestly, with an average of about 50 inches of rain per year, we usually out-rain Seattle but they've also had a particularly wet start their their year))). Anyway, we knew we had to soak up this sunshine while we had the opportunity, so we spent the afternoon playing outside.

This is just a cute picture we took before leaving for church this morning. Zoë did her own hair and Alexander had to copy her. When she said, "Isn't my hair beautiful?" Alexander said, "Isn't my hair b...cute?" He doesn't like to copy anyone verbatim, though he does like to borrow sentence structures. He's a walking, talking thesaurus.

The spinning thing

We discovered this playground about a month ago and were immediately drawn to "the spinning thing," a thing we've seen at multiple playgrounds around the city, but a thing that hasn't worked anywhere but here. We weren't quite sure what to do with it at first but we were pretty sure it was not this...

That's Zoë using it completely wrong back on February 5. We're pretty much pros at it now. At least, Miriam is. Here she is spinning right on past her goal of 20 rotations (and then past 25 rotations because Andrew couldn't get it stopped in time so she ended up with 26 rotations (kind of a weird number)):

Stake Conference

Unlike how things went down at our multi-stake meeting this morning, I'll go ahead and spill the good news first thing: we're in a new stake but we get to stay in our meetinghouse (at least for now).

Our bishop cautioned us to leave early to get to the building because he assumed it would be super crowded, but as it turns out we were in an overflow building and the actual conference was held in a different meeting and broadcast to ours, so we would have been fine leaving the house at least twenty minutes later than we did. But, oh well. We were there in plenty of time to pick out seats and sit in them for a half hour before the meeting began.

When it finally started, the sound wasn't piped over the whole speaker system in the building and so we had to rely on the muffled broadcast sounds coming from who knows where (the computer?). At dinner I said something to the effect of, "I've discovered I have some sort of sensory processing issue and I cannot filter out extra noise very well. So between the poor sound quality and all the chaos of a congregation filled with children I have no idea what was going on..."

And (spoiler: my mom is here) my mom said, "What do you mean 'discovered?' I've known that for years!"

"You have?!" I asked.


Huh. Well, my mom may have known this about me, but it's something I'm just discovering for myself over the course of being a mom (and being married to Andrew). Too much extra noise and my brain just switches off trying to compute anything that's going on. So I can't really tell you much about what happened in stake conference. I did listen long enough to learn what stake we're in—and that we did switch stakes. Our ward borders five stakes so this whole thing really could have gone in any number (assuming n=5) of directions.