Thursday, April 30, 2020

The ants ate my internet

Rachel was in the middle of a zoom class session (and Andrew was in the middle of working but wasn't in a live meeting) when the internet cut out. It was on one minute and out the next. After checking all our equipment Andrew gave the internet company a call and they gave us an appointment for tomorrow—at 7 PM! That would mean we'd have to make it through an entire day without the internet, which under any other circumstances might have been inconvenient, but which under this specific set of circumstances sounded rather horrible.

We're doing everything remotely these days so the internet has become more of a necessity than a luxury. Not that it was necessarily a luxury before; we depend on the internet for a lot of things. It's just more necessary these days and living without it for a day and a half seemed pretty close to a crisis.

Andrew had to run out to pick up some things from the hardware store this afternoon. Turns out we're going to learn how to reglaze our windows (oh, boy)! When he went to leave the house he noticed that there was an internet repair vehicle on our street so he wandered over there to see what was going on.

Lucky us! They were already fixing our internet (and not because we called them so I'm not quite sure how they knew to be working there). Apparently a colony of ants decided the neighbourhood junction box would be a good place for a home and they chewed through all the cables, cutting out internet to our street. It took several hours to fix but clearly we're back online!

And I would write more but...I have to go put Alexander to bed again.

In all honesty, I've been enjoying this quieter time at home with our kids without any pulls from schools or music lessons or other activities. But right now I'm a little finished with these kids. Zoë didn't fall asleep until after 11:30 today (she has not been going to sleep well lately (she has not really been sleeping in either (she is super grumpy))) so when Alexander got up the first time (around 11:00) she asked what he was doing out of bed (and had clearly not yet been asleep, herself). I got them both back in bed and asleep and now Alexander is here again.

I'll probably put him back to bed three or four more times tonight and eventually we'll end up in an exhausted heap together only to peel ourselves out of bed at an hour that feels far too early (but is probably quite late).

So, like, I love having my kids home. I love homeschooling. I even love quarantine (never leaving the house is the dream, right?). But I would like to just spend, like, half an hour not being touched.

Just...that would be neat to maybe see what that's like.







Tuesday, April 28, 2020

More Homemade Face Masks

When we realized what day we'd hit 180 days of schooling—Tuesday, May 12—the kids quickly suggested we work extra hard the next couple of weeks and finish up on the 8th instead. Honestly, what are we even finishing? We finished our math and science curriculums weeks ago and I've just been cobbling together our language arts and social studies units so they're pretty flexible. We're still plugging along, though, reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, writing essays and working on vocabulary, doing daily math problems, and learning about pandemics (which is an easy way to work in both social studies and science). Anyway, since we decided to finish two days early we've been putting in extra long days—we were working on school work from 9–5 yesterday and about as long today—in order to cut those last two days out.

Pandia Press put out a pandemic study unit recently so we've been working our way through that. Today we read about The Black Plague and made some plague doctor masks, which the kids really enjoyed. I have no pictures from the actual construction since I was simultaneously using a hot glue gun and was acting as the bumper for Alexander's little roller coaster thing. It was...a lovely combination of activities. But after the kids traced and cut out pieces for their masks (except the littlest two, who needed more than a little help with the cutting) I helped get them assembled and then sent them outside to paint.

Here they are hard at work:

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID Cockatoo

For science and physical education today we took a very long walk and made some more observations in our field guides. Beyond "The Loop," our walking options jump from manageable to very, very long, so that was the length of today's walk. But we needed something new and seeing anything beyond our little block was so exciting for the kids that they hardly complained about their legs getting tired.

Home haircuts

Evidently this isolation thing was getting to Rachel and she started begging me to let her cut her own hair. She said it was the perfect time to do it because if she royally messed up it wasn't as if she'd be seeing any of her friends any time soon.

The school year is online for the duration of the year. Young Women Camp was cancelled. We have literally nothing on our calendar for the foreseeable future (though Miriam might be visiting the orthodontist eventually).

It's her hair, so I let her.



Sunshiney souls and shivery snakes

I knew we'd have to sing In Remembrance Of Thy Sufferings for the sacrament hymn today because it popped into my head while I was preparing our little primary lesson and I'd been humming it all morning. And the best way to get a song out of your head is to just sing it through all the way, right?

But Miriam chose the opening hymn—There is Sunshine in My Soul Today—which she hadn't practiced beforehand so we took it a little...slower...than it's meant to be sung. Alexander didn't mind, though. He was pretty sure he knew all the words and sang along with us (except he was singing You Are My Sunshine):



And, no, he doesn't have any clothes on (except for his unders).

Sneaky Little Hobbitses

We went for what shall here on after be known as a "Hobbit Walk" this evening.

It was a little chilly and windy and no one felt like doing "The Loop" so instead we went to the stop sign (or "there") and "back again"—thus, the name "Hobbit Walk" (for "there and back again")—which is only half as far as "The Loop."

Alexander wanted to walk on the way home; he often wants to walk these days. He wants to pick flowers, and chase butterflies, and hide in the bushes to pop out and scare mom and dad, and stare at the anthills, and so forth. He doesn't want to be strapped into his stroller (though we've been mighty particular about making sure he is strapped in this past month (and his teeth are once again quite tightly fastened in his gums, for the record)). He also loves to make people swing him.

"One, two, three...swing!" he'll command.

He especially loves when he can convinced Daddy to swing him because Daddy goes a bit wild and takes him all the way around.



Anyway, because Alexander was walking home we got a bit far behind the rest of the kids and because Alexander wanted to swing we charged the kids with taking the stroller home.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Quarantine camping

I bought a small pop-up tent during spring break (when I realized we would not be able to go anywhere for the foreseeable future) and it finally came, so this weekend I asked if the kids wanted to sleep in a tent (our official camping tent, you see, is ginormous and requires stakes to put it up and I didn't want to deal with that sort of hassle to have the kids camp out on the back deck). The bigger girls didn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea so I pulled out the play tents and popped them open in Alexander and Zoë's room so the little kids could camp out in there (these tents are fun but provide no protection against mosquitos so we don't sleep in them outside).

After I did this the bigger girls decided that sleeping outside actually did sound like fun, so we got the tent all set up and the girls finished their evening activities while I went out in the tent with the little kids to have story time. Alexander was the first to fall asleep and was the only one asleep when Rachel and Miriam came out around 10:00. Shortly before 11:00 I got this series of texts:

Friday, April 24, 2020

Drumroll

I received an email in the midst of our quilt-tying on Monday, which congratulated me for my recent acceptance into the MA in Education (Literacies and Children’s Literature emphasis) at UGA. I had been impatiently checking the mail for a letter every day, thinking that's how I would be informed, but an email was fine as well. In a bit of a shock, I went to show Andrew the email and then I went outside to help finish the quilt while I thought about everything I suddenly needed to do.

At dinner we began asking our traditional question: What was your favourite part of the day?

"I liked quilting outside with my kids," I said.

"I liked quilting outside with you, Mom," Alexander quickly parroted (I'm always his favourite part of everything).

"Quilting was your favourite part of the day..." Andrew asked. "Not...getting accepted to grad school?"

"Oh, yeah, that!" I said. "That was good, too!"

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Grandma Quilts

A few months before she passed away Grandma took Miriam and Rachel to the fabric store to pick out some fabric for some baby quilts. She had more or less kept up with delivering a lovely baby quilt to each of her grandbabies over the years. Sometimes she had the quilts ready before the baby was born. Sometimes she didn't have the quilts ready until the babies had been around for a little while (I believe Miriam and Benjamin received their baby quilts at the very same time), but always there was a quilt from Grandma. My kids call their quilts their "Grandma Quilts."

Poor Grandma had amassed quite a backlog for herself the way her children had been reproducing like rabbits. She needed a quilt for Carter, Arwyn, and Alexander, so the girls helped her pick out fabric for all those babies and then Grandma let them choose some fabric for themselves so she could help them make pillowcases. Rachel chose some Doctor Who fabric (or perhaps it was Harry Potter (I don't know; it's in her room somewhere) and Miriam chose a lovely yellow floral print (her favourite colour).

But then life got busy. School started and we had those crazy wildfires and Grandma got sick and then she died and the quilts never got made.

I asked Aunt Dorothy if she would finish the quilts for us since none of us knew how to quilt and she said she would be honoured. But then I never got the fabric to her and it was time for us to move, so I bravely decided to take Alexander's fabric with us. I prepared the fabric and the batting for the three quilts, folded up Alexander's and put it in a box, and folded up the other two and put them in a pile for Grandpa to get to Aunt Dorothy (or, probably more accurately, to get to Aunt Linda to get to Aunt Dorothy).

He told me on the phone the other day that he had gotten the quilts back from Aunt Dorothy and that got me thinking that perhaps it was time for us to pull out Alexander's Grandma Quilt, so we did. And, boy, was it an adventure!

I sewed a very simple quilt that required no edging (though I'm sure Dorothy's quilts have a beautiful edge to them not all of Grandma's quilts did—Rachel's was edged and Zoë's was edged but Miriam's and Benjamin's were not) and then the kids and I tied it with yarn to finish it.

Here are Rachel and Miriam just starting out with the yarn tying (on Grandma's quilting frame):

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Bubbles with the littles

We had a fairly busy day at home with schoolwork and other projects, which I will write more about tomorrow. Right now I'm tired (just waiting for Andrew to be ready for bed; he's working on a chapter for a textbook and I just finished editing the first half of said manuscript) so I'll write about a light, fluffy part of our day: bubbles!

The kids all got bubbles in their Easter baskets. 

Actually, that's not quite true. We did not include bubbles in Rachel's basket because I'd gotten a pack of eight bubbles containers but then we did a birthday parade for Zoë's little friend Kate's birthday so I broke into my Easter stash and gave (ie. dangled a gift bag out of our car window for) Kate some of our sidewalk chalk and four containers of bubbles (one for Kate and each of her siblings), which left me with only four containers of bubbles left. I figured Rachel wouldn't be too downtrodden if she didn't get bubbles in her basket since she's reached the age where she gets more enjoyment over blowing bubbles for other (littler) people than she does blowing bubbles for herself.

And also Alexander can't blow bubbles very well and is more than happy to share that job with the bigger kids so he can pop them. So there were still plenty of bubbles to go around!

Here's Alexander trying to chasing (and admiring) some bubbles:

A few more numbers, as a treat

Georgia's governor announced plans to begin reopening our state's economy today—relaxing stay-at-home orders and such—and I'm just not sure I'm on board. It's pointedly important to concentrate our relief efforts to areas of the country currently experiencing an outbreak (like, for example, we should have been rushing supplies to New York instead of suggesting they should have prepared better) and I know staying home is difficult for some people (I'm honestly enjoying it, so...) and that a lot of people have lost their jobs over the course of the last month (like an unprecedented number) and everyone would like life to get back to normal. I get all of that. 

I just worry that we're taking things a little fast and that we're not taking things seriously enough.

The population of Georgia is 10,620,000 and so far we've seen 19,399 cases and 775 deaths (1242 cases and 94 deaths today) and we're talking about loosening things up a bit. Neato. 

Canada has seen several more cases and deaths, but that's to be expected since their collective population is quite a bit higher than the state of Georgia's. However, today they saw approximately the same number of cases and deaths (1773 cases and 103 deaths). Their population, for the record is 37,590,000 and they've seen a total of 36,829 cases and 1690 deaths. That's 45 deaths per million.

And they are freaking out. 

Georgia is experiencing 73 deaths per million. And they're just, like, that's cool.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The perfect answer

"I can't wait to do Beast Academy!" Benjamin told me over the weekend. "I'm just so excited about it!"

We're switching math curriculums for him because he didn't seem to enjoy Singapore Math very much (though Miriam is really thriving on it). He got a little flustered by the "entrance exam" but passed it just fine so he should be ready for the curriculum I had my eye on. 

"Well, you'll have to wait for a while," I said. "I haven't ordered it yet."

"Oh, no problem," he told me. "I'm not planning on doing any math for the rest of the school year. I finished my curriculum and that's good enough for me. And then I can have the whole summer off and then I'll be excited to start Beast Academy."

"So you can wait, then?" I said.

"I guess so, yeah," he said. 

Unfortunately for him, not doing any more math isn't really an option for him. Even though he's finished with his curriculum we're trying to keep his brain nimble with daily practice on either Prodigy (a website) or on leftover sheets from Miriam's grade 3 math curriculum. She did almost everything in that book, to be honest, but there's a smattering of pages in there that are blank. I've been tearing those out and letting Benjamin have at them (he's technically in grade 2 this year). 

Today he did a worksheet on area (one of his favourite units from Singapore Math, and, as it so happens, the last unit we did) and I almost died of cuteness overload when I came across this answer:


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Guessing game

After church today (or part of church today? (Where does church even end, officially?)) we played Speak It Not, which is kind of like Taboo but with LDS-themed words. We had a good time.

Poor Miriam had a hard time understanding the rules and on her first turn she selected a word from the list of taboo words, described it, and had us guess that word instead of the actual word on her card. Oops.

Her next turn went so quickly—because she described her word so well—that we all shouted out the word right away.

"Darn it!" she said. "You got it!"

Glow Stick Dance

My sister Kelli sent us a huge box of glow sticks and challenged us to put on a stickman dance show for her. How can you say no to that?!

Yesterday was our big day. We started putting together our costumes while Andrew was out on his biweekly shopping trip (and I mean the "every two weeks" sense of the word, not "twice a week" (that would be insane)). I thought it would take only a few minutes since I'd seen tutorials online claiming it to be a 15 or 20 minute project. They weren't wrong, I suppose, until you multiply that by six. It took us nearly two hours to make our costumes and we made the very unfortunate decision to put Alexander in his costume first so he had to sit in his costume for nearly two hours while we got everyone else ready.

He was a pretty good sport about it, but having glow sticks attached to your body isn't exactly as comfortable as it sounds (does it sound comfortable?) and they do impede your movement quite a bit.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Saboteur

I was fifteen the first time I loaded a dishwasher. Prior to that we were strictly a hand-wash family.

My grandma had a dishwasher, but I don't think she ever let me load it because things had to be rinsed and placed precisely so, which I kind of understand.

Yesterday morning I had finished loading the dishwasher after breakfast so that we could run it. Ordinarily we only run it once a day, but with Andrew and Rachel home full-time now, too, there are just enough extra dishes that we end up running it something like 1.3 times a day. So we hadn't run the dishwasher the night before because it wasn't full enough (we're on such a weird dish schedule).

Anyway, Miriam had done the previous night's dinner dishes and I had loaded the breakfast dishes except for Andrew's. He was a little slow getting his breakfast so he said, "Don't run it yet. I'll turn it on after I add my bowl."

He'd made himself cream of wheat (another staple from his childhood that I just...ew) and put it in a big bowl and then, as promised, he'd turned on the dishwasher.

When we opened it up we found that in squeezing his bowl into the dishwasher he'd collapsed a line of plates so they were leaning against each other instead of standing up right. Nothing got clean!

Miriam and I accused Andrew of sabotaging our dish-washing efforts, which he laughed about. But then directly after I went to prepare some lunch for the kids and found the beautiful loaf of honey whole wheat bread Miriam and I had made the day before completely desecrated. We had literally ground the grain to make that bread! It was a thing of beauty.

But then, instead of slicing a piece off, someone had unceremoniously torn it apart! It was now no good for sandwiches and I'd have to come up with something completely different for lunch.

Random memories

I remember the first time I ever saw a Peep.

I was volunteering in the library at Ècole Joe Clark School so I must have been in grade seven or eight, which would have made me twelve or thirteen. It was around Easter time and so classrooms were hosting little parties and one of the mothers brought in some sort of dessert topped with Peeps—cute little marshmallow chicks, coated in yellow sugar, with teeny, little eyes. I was so impressed by that dessert and I remember expressing my awe, like, "Wow! These chicks are so amazing! Did you make them?!"

And the mom was like, "Uhhh..."

Because what else could she say. I mean, very clearly, they were Peeps. Been around since 1953...

I went home and explained this confectionary marvel to my mom who didn't seem half as excited about them as I had been (probably because she knew what Peeps were) and it wasn't until years later when—when? After we'd moved to the States—that I realized they were a commercially produced candy and that is all that had been adorning those school treats.

I, uh, didn't get out much (our town had about 7,000 people in 1997 and grocery stores when we moved there were an absolute joke (though we did later get a couple of actual grocery stores)) and obviously we never got Peeps in our Easter baskets growing up.

By 2016, the last year of the census up there, the population had nearly doubled—it's 13,500! As of today they had 164 confirmed cases of COVD-19. That's 12,148 cases per million (which is wild to think about)!

Anyway...

Oh, dear: blasts from the past

"I decided to read the blog from the very beginning," Rachel informed me this evening.

Huh. I wonder what drove her to deciding that. It's not like we've been stuck at home for a month with absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do...oh, wait.

"And how's that been for you so far?" I asked her, giggling nervously.

Even I haven't delved back into the archives for a thorough re-read.

"Wellllllll," she said, trying to think of how to put things gently. "Let's just say your writing has really improved. Like, a lot."

I guess I'll take that as a compliment but I'm not sure I'll be reading the blog from cover to cover any time soon. Do blogs even have covers?

Speaking of going back to the beginning, however, here's Zoë wearing an outfit eerily similar to the outfit Rachel wore on her first day of grade one...

Zoë today, a month shy of turning five:



Rachel in 2013, a few days shy of turning six:



I'm sure I have those shorts Rachel has on somewhere. I'm equally sure that I have a picture of Rachel wearing this bright green shirt with that sky-blue tennis skirt somewhere. Also somewhere: a picture of Miriam in this same outfit (unfortunately, I don't think she ever wore it on a landmark day (such as the first day of a school year) so it's not sticking out in my mind).

Anyway, it was fun to see Zoë wearing this well-loved outfit today. And using such a well-loved water bottle!


This water bottle is Miriam's old one from our Durham days. Grandma gave her an official CamelBak water bottle when we moved to Utah so she abandoned this one (and we got some different ones that aren't so prone to spilling for the younger kids to keep by their beds).


These water bottles are nice, however, because they're easier to share from without sharing as many germs (we are really working at not sharing germs at our house (it is really not going well because my children are such generous sharers (and takers))).

"I taught Alexander how to waterfall," Miriam told me.

"You what now?" I asked.

"How to waterfall," she repeated slowly (so that my old mind could comprehend). "Like, he can drink from a water bottle without putting his lips on it now!"

Here he is going in for a drink:

(Miriam is using Rachel's old Durham-style water bottle, for the record)
And here he is actively waterfalling (because that's definitely a verb at our house now):


It's so nice to have all these kids to keep me on my toes (and happy to be living in the present).

Attack Alex

This evening at dinner the children started discussing the start of our family's birthday season. It begins with Zoë in May, followed quickly by Benjamin, and then me. And I'm going to be old this year, the kids said, laying into me with some gentle teasing. 

Alexander was floored by their behaviour. He turned to stare at me completely dumbstruck, not unlike when he thought I cut up his pants (except this time instead of berating me he chastised his siblings). Here he is looking at me like, "Are you really going to sit there and take this?!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Alexander's Well-Child Check (and even more COVID-19 thoughts)

I had to take Alexander to the doctor for his well-child check this morning. The office postponed all well-child checks for children over the age of five but felt it was important for the little ones to keep their appointments, just to make sure they stay on track for growth and their vaccine schedule and so forth.

I'll admit I was a little nervous to leave the house. Aside from family walks around the block (and two walks at a nearby park), I haven't left our property for a month. There was absolutely no traffic, so that was nice (just how I like it; I saw like ten other cars). Alexander and I both had face masks to wear and I also brought along some (washable) napkins, some Clorox wipes, and a zip lock bag. Also, I packed books that the children wouldn't be sad to put aside for a few days while they go through their detox period (in other words: we did not bring the Daniel Tiger book).

I used the napkin to open doors and push the elevator button and then I put it in the zip lock bag.

We signed in at the front desk (I used my own pen) and then we sat (alone) in the waiting room. I felt a little silly in a face mask since the receptionists were not wearing face masks, but the nurse was wearing gloves and a face mask so that made me feel better.

I did take off my mask (and Alexander's) while we were waiting in the actual room for his appointment. We were the only ones in there and, honestly, I made these masks with too thick of fabric so they'll be excellent winter masks but...they're a little stuffy. Maybe we just need to get used to them. But we were alone in there so I figured we'd be safe. We put our masks into the zip lock bag with the napkin I'd used earlier.

When the doctor came in she was wearing one of the fancy N95 masks. I'm assuming she just doesn't take it off all day, poor woman. She was just as friendly as ever and Alexander's appointment went smoothly (just like in the Daniel Tiger story we'd read last night), except that Alexander refused to show off his speaking skills. The doctor asked him several questions and Alexander just stared her down. I didn't expect him to speak; but I also know that he can.

He's on the small side—by his own admission: "I'm a tiny boy!"—at 25.8 lbs (10th percentile) and 35 inches (2 ft. 11 inches) (30th percentile), but he's on the chart and the doctor recalled that all my children are on the slender side of things, so she's not worried.

To be fair, I gave him breakfast before we left for the doctor's office (when everyone else in our house was still asleep (but by the time traffic would already be rip-roarin')) and when we got home he wanted a snack and then he wanted breakfast with his siblings again. So he had a bowl of cereal with milk, a bowl of goldfish and craisins, and three pancakes all before 10:00 in the morning. That's quite a lot of food for a child his size!

Anyway, he's doing fine. And our doctor said they haven't seen any suspicious cases come through their clinic, so that's reassuring.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Chalk Obstacle Course

On Saturday I showed the kids some videos of chalk obstacle courses and then told them they should go outside to make their own, so they scrambled to get dressed (because of course they were all still lounging around in their pyjamas) and headed outside. They left Alexander behind, for some reason. He came to find me, carrying his pants, and crying because he couldn't figure out how to get them on right. I was in the middle of something (just remembered: I was furiously trying to finish all the sewing I meant to finish by Easter) so I asked Andrew to help him finish getting dressed and instructed him to then send Alexander out with the kids. 

So Andrew helped Alexander get dressed...but then couldn't find the kids. 

They weren't on the driveway. They weren't in the cul-de-sac. They weren't anywhere as far as the eye could see.

"We might have a slight problem," Andrew told me. "I...don't know where the kids are. They're just gone. Alexander and I walked all the way up to [street name redacted] but they aren't there."

"The probability of them all having been abducted is extremely low, right?" I asked (because my brain enjoys going to the worst-case scenario first). 

"The probability of one of them being abducted is remote," Andrew said.

"Yeah, totally," I agreed.

We decided they'd probably gone out to the main road because (even though it's a quarter-mile away from our house) it has a sidewalk. Andrew hopped in the car and did a little drive-by, locating them a good half-mile from our home, happily drawing on the sidewalk. Silly kids. 

They have walked that far before but they've never just disappeared like that; we've always known they were going to go. It was pretty funny. And also very quiet. 

Later we took a family walk to check out their obstacle course.

Here they are at the beginning:

Monday, April 13, 2020

I don't hate sugar cookies

I mixed up some cookie dough on Friday so we could let it sit in the fridge overnight so we could roll  and cut out cookies on Saturday (Andrew took over that part) and decorate them on Sunday. A three day project and—if we stretch things just a little bit—allegorical of this special weekend. 

Things got really beaten up on Friday, sat in the dark Friday night through Sunday morning, and we ended up with beautiful cookies. It's an Easter miracle!

We decorated them after lunch. Alexander ate all of his cookies as he went so I don't ever really have a "final product" to show for him. At one point, after spreading his icing onto his cookie and then licking his cookie and then patting some sprinkles into the icing and then licking his cookie again, Alexander held his cookie out and said, "It's for you, Mom!"


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Egg Smackdown 2020

After home-church, which was really quite lovely, we held our annual Easter Egg Smackdown. Alexander has no memory of this tradition and when I asked him what it was he said, "I smack down my eggs and then I eat them!" Which, I mean, he's not wrong, I guess.

He wanted to smack down some eggs right away. Mmmmmmm...eggs...


Dying Easter Eggs

We dyed Easter eggs yesterday afternoon. It was a pretty uneventful egg-dying session so I don't know that I have very much to say about it, except that my kids are cute...


They all just kind of...were cooperative and stuck with the task at hand and nothing too chaotic happened. Which, is really nice. Reid once told me that as a parent that's what you want in life: mundane, uneventful, boring. He's...not wrong.


But zero mishaps and zero issues with behaviour makes for poor writing fodder, so here we are.


Easter Baskets: Oldest child syndrome

The Easter Bunny set up the children's baskets last night and Andrew went in to peek on them before going upstairs to bed. He found their arrangement baffling.


"So, like, how will the kids know whose basket is whose?" he wanted to know. "Are they in any sort of...order...? Or are they just...randomly there...or...?"

"Sure," I said. "They're in age order. But, I mean, the contents is pretty telling for each child."

"Yeah, but..." he said.

"But what?" I asked.

"Come and look," he said, so I followed him back downstairs. 

He pointed to the baskets.

"These...are in age order?" he asked, still as confused as could be.

"Yes," I said. 

"Then..." he paused a long pregnant pause. "The Daniel Tiger book is for Rachel...?"

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Pandemic Pâques/Pasqua/Пасха/Πάσχα


The matching pyjamas coordinated with matching face masks will be a fond pandemic memory for years to come, I'm sure...if, in fact, pandemic memories can ever actually be pleasant...which I'm not sure they technically can. I mean, we're fine...but we're reeling from how insane this *gestures broadly* all is.


And do to that incessant spinning, it's still Easter tomorrow. I was planning on leaving most of that Easter sort of thing until tomorrow since today was rather full (with sewing and baking and candlestick making (just kidding about the candlesticks though)) but then a local friend of Facebook posted pictures of her kids doing an Easter egg hunt in their yard, saying, "Because it's supposed to thunderstorm all day tomorrow..." and I thought, "Oh, no! I didn't even check the weather before I decided we'd do our Easter egg hunt outside tomorrow!"

The forecast was...not encouraging, so I told the kids to get on their matching jammies (it was about time to get ready for bed anyway) and to run down to the basement to play together. Then I told Andrew that I had filled 120 (+2) eggs with candy but that we'd just leave those other two eggs out, leaving us with a nice, even 120 eggs (which, I mean, 122 is also even—I get that—but it's not nice and even because it isn't divisible by five, while 120 is (there I go using math again (and not even on a school day))). We ran outside to hide the eggs and then called the children up and told them that we were going to go on another family walk because the first one wasn't good enough. 

They reluctantly came upstairs, put on their shoes, and shuffled outside (one family walk is exciting, I guess, but two. I mean...come on!).

When they saw the Easter baskets they realized what was going on and went a little crazy. We calmed them down and instructed them (1) to find only 24 eggs each and (2) that if an egg seemed to easy for them to find it probably was and should be left for a smaller child and (3) if they happened upon a sparkly pink egg or Spiderman egg they should probably also leave that for the child who would most appreciate stumbling upon an egg of such amazing description. And then we set them loose. 

And it was pandemonium. 

A brief sewing update

Yesterday I helped Miriam and Benjamin make pyjama bottoms and was getting ready to make a pair for Alexander when Andrew called everyone for dinner (he made homemade spaghetti noodles with the kids). While we were eating, I offered this update on the pyjama bottom situation: "I just need to put elastic in Benjamin's waist and hem the bottoms of his pants and then his pair will be finished. And I've cut out Alexander's pants; I just need to sew them but that should work up quickly because he's so small..."

I trailed off when I noticed that Alexander had turned to stare with me, his eyes popping out of his head, his mouth wide open. He stared at me for a long time, too shocked for words. It was getting comical how long he was staring at me. Finally he broke his trance and punctuating his words with angry fork jabs, he yelled, "MOM! DON'T! CUT! MY! PANTS!"

It was hilarious.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Hammer hand and Driveway Derby (videos)

As promised, here's the sad video of Alexander sneaking his little hand under the hammer (poor baby):


Urban Nature Walks (and spooky children)

A while ago we began seeing this pretty purple flower popping up in various lawns, so it very obviously is considered a weed...but it's pretty...so the kids wanted to know what it is and whether or not it was edible because they're weird like that.

Andrew says their foraging habits are my fault because it all started when I planted nasturtium in the vegetable garden and told the kids they could eat it. 

"Ummm...I'm sorry?" I asked, taking mock-offense. "The children are foragers because I let them eat produce we grew in our garden?"

"Nasturtium isn't produce. It's a flower. Eating flowers is weird."

So I had some spiderwort with my salad at lunch just to "spider face."

COVID-19 thoughts

By the middle of March Georgia had seen had 2445 hospitalizations for the flu and had 83 total deaths (since the beginning of flu season at the end of September). That's over the course of five months. 

Georgia currently has nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and has already had 362 deaths (over the course of—what?—five weeks).

I know I'm going out on a limb here but I kind of want to say this is somewhat more serious than the flu. And probably (hopefully) you're on the same page. But there's a decent chance you're not.

I've seen (multiple) people trying to brush this off as a "New York problem." Like, it's super sad that it's happening there but it shouldn't really affect my day-to-day life, right? And I'm trying to wrap my mind around that kind of thinking.

There were 2996 deaths on 9/11 (and probably more deaths could be attributed to 9/11 if we calculated all the increased cancer rates and so forth). It was an even that sent the world reeling. People were scared. They were scared to get on planes. They were scared of Muslims. They were worried about "sleeper cells" and where they would strike next. They were just...scared. It has had a lasting impact on our society, reflected both in our collective psyche and in our laws.

3000 people in New York.

Nothing even came close to touching us in Utah (where I was when the towers fell), but we were still scared and somewhat devastated. And we all had to start doing things like taking off shoes at the airport and packing tiny amounts of liquids in a plastic bag and so forth. For 3000 people. In New York.

I'm not trying to make light of 9/11. That day was a terrible, terrible day.

But here we are facing this virus, which literally has sleeper cells in every single state, waiting to pounce. There have been over 6,000 deaths in New York (over 14,000 in in the country). And I'm seeing people brush it off as "it shouldn't really affect me." A friend told me that she doesn't like to see statistics that bundle all the states together because the New York statistics skew everything up, making the situation look a lot more dire than it is. Like, that's not really going to happen here. It's totally a there problem.

Can I eat this?


We planted a good number of Virginia spiderwort last night, but a lot of the stems had had their roots chopped clean off. Miriam still wanted to save the blossoms so she made a couple of flower arrangements for the kitchen table.

Gonna (maybe) make my garden grow

Our neighbour up the street has an amazing garden. He's always out there tending it. I asked him once how he keeps the deer away (there are so many deer around here) and he says he goes out every evening and sprays deer deterrent. I don't have that kind of commitment to the cause so I've mostly been researching deer-resistant plants.

Anyway, I was out walking with the kids sometime in the past three weeks (definitely within the quarantine period) and our neighbour called out to me to ask if I would like some daffodil bulbs. He was getting ready to separate/thin his and would love to share.

"Oh, sure," I said with a bit of a question-mark in my inflection. "That would be awesome."

"Was it you who wanted daffodil bulbs?" he asked, having caught my hesitation. "I thought I'd talked to you about this. Or was it my wife? Maybe I had spoken to Michele about it. Yes. I think that's what it was. She saw on Facebook or something that you were wishing for some daffodils."

I am not Facebook friends with his wife so that means she was totally stalking my profile, which I think he realized while he was talking. But, that's fine with me. I think it's more funny than anything; it's just part of the world we live in. Besides, they're wonderful neighbours and I have daffodil bulbs now!

When we were on our way home from our walk this evening (poopy flip-flops in hand), our neighbour (who was out tending his garden) called us over waving a big clump of Virginia spiderwort.

"Do you want any of this?" he asked. "I already sent some daffodils home with the rest of your crew. These will send up little purple flowers."

So the kids and I spent about an hour planting bulbs when we got home from our walk and I'm so excited to see if next spring will bring me beautiful blossoms (or if I will somehow manage to kill everything in my garden). Only time will tell...

In the meantime, we've begun constructing cages for our vegetables. We have to keep squirrels away so they don't steal the seeds we've planted, and we have to keep deer away so they don't eat the plants, and then we also have to keep squirrels away so they won't steal our vegetables (seriously—in Durham they would get into my cherry tomatoes and just chuck them all over the place and it made me so angry; like eat them or leave them, please). I suppose we'll have to worry about pollinators getting through the netting. I figure smaller bees can get through, but butterflies and larger bees certainly will struggle, so we may end up taking them off during peak bug-pollinating hours and putting them back on during peak deer-scavenging hours.

Anyway, all the kids (except) Rachel helped me put together some frames this afternoon. It was...an exercise in patience.

Here's sweet Alexander with the hammer:



Ten things I do not like

There's a little survey-thing going around in Facebook land asking people to list ten things they don't like that they think most people probably do. So I thought I'd do that here since I always feel like I need to explain myself and because today I'm upset with the dog population. So they get to go first.

1) Dogs.

Today we were walking down the street (because there aren't sidewalks in our neighbourhood) and there was a lot of old foliage in the gutter (pine needles and things like that, just slowly decomposing) that I was walking on because the other option was to walk basically in the middle of the street.

Andrew and I were talking and walking and the kids were up ahead goofing off together when *squish* I stepped in something gooey. And of course I'm wearing flip-flops because I do like those, except that they really don't protect your toes from goo so this goo squelched right onto my flip-flop and started oozing in between my toes and...instead of looking down I looked up.

I couldn't look down. I just couldn't.

Maybe it's just mud, I told myself, willing myself to just. look. down.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Easter Croquet

For family night I printed out a little booklet of the Easter story, cut it apart, taped them to our croquet hoops, and then as we played through we read the story together. It was a bit of a wild evening, but perhaps a memorable one. Mostly the older kids ended up getting schooled at croquet by Andrew, who breezed through the course, while the younger two galloped around using their mallets like hobby horses.

Here we are before starting the game:

COVID-19 thoughts

Watching the numbers creep upwards doesn't feel quite so alarming as it once did—of course they're going up. Where else would they go? The United States broke 300,000 cases yesterday and we're tends of thousands above that number today. We've had 9,618 deaths so far. Tomorrow we will break 10,000 deaths for sure, which is mind-boggling considering on March 5 (one month ago (or 17 years ago, depending on how you're calculating your time)) we had only 12 (twelve) confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

Let me take a minute to say that I had friends—at the beginning of March—comparing this pandemic to the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Now, to be fair, I missed experiencing how the US dealt with that pandemic because we were in Egypt. Schools were cancelled (including classes at AUC, though his semester was technically only "postponed," not cancelled) and they rounded up all the pigs, slaughtered them, and then burned them (because why not?). But I hear that things happened in the United States. In fact, after watching the movie Contagion where they joked about doing too much for the swine flu pandemic, I looked it up and that was the general consensus—that the government did too much, that they caused too much panic for something that ended up being not a big deal.

But fast forward a decade and I have friends talking about the botched handling of the swine flu epidemic and saying—again at the beginning of March—that the coronavirus had only killed a few people (48, to be exact, on March 13, the day we started social distancing) but 12,000 people died of the swine flu (though there were "only" 3,433 confirmed deaths). And how horribly the government handled that pandemic and what a great job they're doing with this pandemic. And I just...guys...we're going to get to 12,000 confirmed deaths (to say nothing of the unconfirmed deaths) in about one month (not a full year) so I think we can agree now that this virus is a little more aggressive than the swine flu? Please? Like...come on.

A friend of mine had their baby today, at 33 weeks (as early as Benjamin). His mom tested positive for COVID-19 and is so terribly ill that they took the baby via c-section because they were worried they would have to intubate her (or, alternatively, let her die). Her body simply couldn't fight the virus and harbour a baby any longer. So they delivered the baby and rushed it off to the NICU so that the mother's body could concentrate on getting better. But she can't go to the NICU because she has the virus, so she's in isolation, away from her baby (which I imagine is the worst). My friend (her husband) also tested positive for COVID-19 so he also cannot go see the baby. So now their brand new baby will just be raised by NICU nurses until the parents get two negative tests in a row. Thank goodness for wonderful NICU nurses...but what an awful situation!

They have other children, too. And I'm just exhausted thinking about it.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Applesauce math

Between sessions of conference Rachel and Miriam helped me make some applesauce to fill our little reusable pouches. It's super easy! Sure, step one is "have a baby 10+ years ago so they can do all the work and you don't have to," and the next step is "spend a literal lifetime turning that child into a useful human being," but once you complete those two steps, making applesauce is a breeze!

The girls washed and cut all the apples and boiled them down. I vrrrrr'd them up (this is the technical term) with our vrrrrrrr-er (also a technical term (the non-technical term, I believe, is immersion blender)). Then we filled our pouches with piping hot applesauce, let them cool, and then popped them in the freezer for later consumption.

An afternoon sprinkle

On Friday while Andrew was out shopping I took the kids for a walk around the block and then (because we'd seen the neighbours splashing in their kiddie pool) I let them talk me into pulling the sprinkler out. It's still a little chilly for the sprinkler, in my opinion, but I don't have to get in it so I figured if the children wanted to play in freezing cold water they were more than welcome to. 

I was reminded of little Auntie Josie, who wanted to play in the sprinkler one day when it was probably too chilly to actually play in the sprinkler but Auntie Abra set it up for her anyway. She ran into the water then just stood there crying, "It's cold! It's cold! It's cold!" (just as you'll hear Alexander squeal in the video below). "Then step out!" Abra said. 

"Oh," Josie sniffed, taking a step away from the sprinkler. 

She had been a little too close to the project to see the solution, I guess. 

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the kids enjoying the spray:


Sew what

Rachel completed her new pyjama bottoms with minimal help from me (not that I have a clue what I'm doing). She, at least, took a sewing class from a talented young woman in our last ward so she had a little bit of an idea of what she was up to, but not much. I guess that makes us pretty good pretenders!

Asleep (not asleep), Asleep (not asleep)

This little guy still routinely comes to climb into our bed. Some nights he prefers to fall asleep there to his own bed. Last night bedtime was especially tricky because the evening session of general conference overlaps with bedtime on this side of the world. I tried to watch it with Andrew and the girls, but Alexander did not want to stay upstairs without me even though Zoë and Benjamin were obediently having quiet reading time in their beds so he had plenty of company.

"I berry miss you!" he told me, so I let him watch the rest of the first half of that conference session with us and then put him in his bed and sat in the hallway listening to the second half of the session while he fell asleep (he kept a close eye on me to make sure I didn't move from the hallway).

He got up again while I was finishing up a family newsletter with the same little plea, "Can I sleep in your bed? I berry miss you!"

So I let him climb into my bed to fall asleep to the sounds of my fingers pounding on the keyboard. Here he is passed out on my pillow:


I put him back in his own bed before Andrew and I went to bed, but where do you think he woke up this morning? In bed with us again, of course...

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Bedtime FTW

I finally finished Alexander's baby blanket—the one that he asked me to make for him when he realized I'd made one for all his other siblings, the one that I told myself that I wouldn't start until I had finished my paper for my graduate school application (which was due today) but which I started immediately when I got the yarn because apparently I needed some constructive procrastination in my life.


The pattern for the blanket itself (here) is worked in the round, which always feels fantastic when you first start out—"I've done ten rows and I've only been working on this thing for fifteen minutes! I'm going to finish in no time!"—but which feels much less fantastic when you're on the outer rim—"I've been working on this single row for the past two weeks and I'm never going to finish this thing!"