Sunday, May 31, 2020

Fairies and other conversations

Before, during, and after breakfast the littlest three were crafting up a fairy kingdom with materials they'd mined from the recycling bin. I read to them from The Ickabog while they worked (and/or ate (and which you should check out if you have elementary-aged kids; it's a project J.K. Rowling is hosting—she's releasing a couple of chapters every day and has an illustration contest for the children)).

Zoë, who was hard at work colouring in the fairy garden she'd made for the castle grounds, suddenly stopped colouring, looked up at Benjamin and said, "Benny, do you think fairies are real?"

"Oh, absolutely," he answered.

"Mom, do you think fairies are real?"

"Oh, I don't know..." I hedged.

Benjamin puffed out his chest and said authoritatively, "Don't ask her. Grown ups are really bad at knowing this sort of thing!"

And thus I was saved from having to either confirm or deny the existence of fairies. 

I found their little exchange rather poetic. I also found this tree poetic:

Fix-It Felix

Today was a busy day of house projects. I spent most of the day reglazing windows (now that we finally have a stretch of sunny weather again), Rachel and Miriam spent most of the day painting their cabinet doors in the garage (we started painting the built-ins in their bedroom just about as soon as we moved in and, yes, are just getting around to painting the cabinet doors now (I'm very excited to get them out of the garage)), and Andrew spent most of the day shopping.

With current social distancing measures—limiting the number of people in stores and so forth—shopping seems to take forever. Plus Andrew had to go to the hardware store because while the kids were playing Lego in the basement (I will get around to highlighting their Lego creations, Mom) they noticed a pinhole leak had sprung in one of our pipes. Luckily it was in an exposed area (which probably helped us discover and fix it a lot easier than it otherwise would have been).

Here are a few pictures of the children playing in the windows while I worked. Alexander is saying, "I can stick my hand right through the window!"

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sweetest boy

This morning Alexander came into my room at 7:00, which isn't terribly early (but which is early enough to qualify as early for me) and he climbed into bed, snuggled up to me, and explained, "It is morning time. I'm just here for snuggles, not for sleeping, so I still get a sticker!"

And it was the cutest thing he did the entire day up to that point (only to be eclipsed by another fifty things before breakfast because he's too darn cute).

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Ink, pink, a bottle of a ink, my baby's in the bathroom sink

Tonight while I was getting Alexander ready for bed I plopped him into the bathroom sink, which he thought was silly (it was silly). 

Mind over matter

I changed the furnace filter today, a long overdue item of business.

But, like, honestly, the furnace/AC is in the attic and the filter for the furnace/AC is at the back end of the unit, requiring a body to crawl through the attic on their hands and knees, over and under ducts and wires, along a narrow spider-frass-covered plank balanced across the crossbeams. Oh, and it's dark. And you will get spiderwebs in your hair. And probably bang your head once or twice.

It was...not pleasant.

Nobody wanted to do it. We actually bribed Miriam to go exploring up there ($6 was her price, for the record (we offered her $5, she countered with $20, Andrew offered her $6, she took it, and then spent it all at the Lego store)) but she wasn't able to find the furnace filter so I had to go up there anyway. No one gave me $6.

Turns out you have to remove the cover (which is screwed on) in order to access the filter, which I wasn't expecting at all because we've lived lots of places and haven't ever had to unscrew an access panel to find the filters. In our Durham house the filter was actually right in the living room wall, which was handy! Our current house actually has two units and the one in the basement has a super accessible filter—it's just right there when you look at the furnace, slips in and out, no screwdriver necessary.

It literally took us an hour to change the darn filter in the attic. But, next time it should take just a few minutes to get over the initial feeling of not wanting to do it.

"It's really not so bad once you're up here," I told Andrew, as I crawled through some spider webs.

And it wasn't. Like, once you actually start doing it it's just a thing that you're doing and not the horrible nightmare you imagined.

Goats and things

I taught Miriam how to play (a very basic version of) cat's cradle this evening. It took her a few minutes to get it down but she's practically an expert now and she loves it.

"This is a really fun game!" she said. "How did you learn it?"

"My friends and I played it when I was younger. I don't remember who taught me, exactly, but the game has been around for a long, long time so it could have been anyone."

"Oh. When was the game invented?"

"A long time ago," I told her. "The game is so old that no one really knows where it came from, though I think it may be from China. Speaking of which, there's also Chinese jump rope, which is like cat's cradle but, like, with your legs. I don't remember how to play but my sister had a Chinese jump rope when we were kids."

Wikipedia tells me that in Canada we call it "yoki" but, uh, my family didn't. We always called it Chinese jump rope. Perhaps I'll look into those as well. I just ordered another jump rope kit for the kids because Miriam found the remainder of our last set, which I guess we left in North Carolina when we moved, and strung a rope for herself today and was trying to learn how to jump (which was a very frustrating experience for her, though she did make a lot of progress).

It's time for us to get back into jumping rope again, I guess. I've been meaning to be better at offering my kids physical activity this next school year anyway (aside from let's go for a walk and play at the park) so this is something fairly rigorous but simple enough to just pull out and play with in the cul-de-sac. And goodness knows we need another outlet for our energy.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Some thoughts

Memorial Day is always such a weird holiday for me. I don't know how to celebrate it and it always sneaks up on me. I actually have to use a mnemonic device to even remember that it/when it exists. Memorial Day is in May, see? As opposed to Labour Day, which is in September for some reason, or Veteran's Day, which is is somehow different than Memorial Day and takes the place of Remembrance Day, which is a far superior holiday (in my opinion).

America hasn't been very good at teaching me what these holidays are about. I think in theory Memorial Day is to honour soldiers who have passed away. In practice it seems to be a great big summer kick off (as a Canadian, it always felt a little early to be kicking off summer in May considering we go to school through June). There are barbecues and pool parties but not a lot of actual remembering going on (from what I can tell), so it doesn't really feel like that's what Memorial Day is for (coming from an outsider).

But that's fine.

People celebrate and remember things in different ways.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Just duet

Benjamin has been reluctantly slogging through piano lessons this year. Playing the piano is a skill he wishes he had but it's not really something he wants to put a lot of effort into (in short: he's discovered one life's lovely paradoxes). Getting him to practice is a bit of a battle, getting him to focus is...also a bit of a battle, but—you know what?—we're making headway!

Here he is playing a duet of Ode to Joy with Miriam this morning:

Ignore his funky wrist flops. It's not great form but we are picking our battles over here. He mostly played the right notes and he's mostly on beat and he didn't walk away in the middle of a song to look at that thing he saw out of the corner of his eye so we're calling it a win!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Splash Pad

My sweet sister Kelli sent us a little splash pad to use over the course of the summer since we'll be avoiding such things this summer (very unfortunately). The kids all loved it. Kelli thought the three littlest ones would appreciate it, while the older two might think it was a little lame. But, when we were deciding our favourite parts of the day during dinner Rachel said that her favourite part of the day was playing on the splash pad!

Benjamin, unsurprisingly, was basically unstoppable. The cold water didn't bother him at all; he was the first one in and the last one out.

But all the other kids had fun with it, too.

Zoë's 5th birthday: the cake

For her cake this year Zoë wanted a strawberry cake with flowers, butterflies, sunshine, birds, and rainbows. Not that she's particular.

Rachel asked if she could try her hand at cake decorating, so I put most of my effort into making a strawberry cake from, as Benjamin likes to say, "scrap." He means, of course, "scratch." We've corrected him but he can't hear the difference and it's hilarious. Like, the other night Andrew was tempted to order take out (something we had rarely done in pre-pandemic times but which we seem to do about once a week now (to support the local economy, Andrew tells me)) and I said, "Oh, we can just make spaghetti or something simple."

Next thing I know, Andrew is making a lovely homemade tomato sauce and homemade spaghetti noodles. It was quite the undertaking and I was like, "I meant just open a box and boil the contents, not make a huge mess and spend hours in the kitchen!"

"It's okay," Benjamin said, "I love it when Dad makes food from scraps."

Like he's just throwing leftover this and that into a pot. Ha!

Anyway, I made a strawberry cake from scratch (including making a strawberry reduction from fresh strawberries to flavour the cake) and it turned out quite well. It had a nice tight crumb, which made icing it a lot easier than it is on super fluffy cakes from a boxed mix. Rachel did the crumb coat and stacked the layers and then did the overcoat (is that the term for it?) on Thursday and on Friday she made marshmallow fondant and started decorating.

She did the sunshine and the five all by herself, but asked for a little help with the flowers (we ended up using a heart cookie cutter and then cut the hearts in half). Here she is adding some buttercream grass around the base of the cake (I did the flower stems):

A new birthday tradition on Zoë's birthday

Zoë ushers in our "birthday season" since her birthday is the first birthday we celebrate in a calendar year. This has been a very difficult concept for her to wrap her head around. A lot of things are difficult concepts for her to wrap her head around, but that's alright because she's only five. For example ,she's happy to now be Daddy's age. He's 35, she's 5. Same age! And she's happy that soon Mommy will be joining her in being 5 (because I turn 35 next month).

Likewise, shouldn't she be the oldest because her birthday is first? So she was born first. And that's what makes people the oldest. It's just so weird that her birthday is first and yet she's stuck being the second to youngest. The world makes no sense. None at all.

At least she's figured out that much.

Anyway, today is Zoë's birthday and she's five now, which is an absurdly large number for her to be. We all can't get over how absolutely tiny she is, when we consider how grown up five felt when Rachel and Miriam were turning five. Now that they are great big girls, five doesn't feel so grown up. I'm happy to have her be small for a while longer.

This birthday is particularly interesting because it falls on a Saturday, the very same day that she was born five years ago. I mean, all birthday fall on the very same day one is born, naturally, but this birthday falls on the same day of the week that she was born and the weather is very similar to the day she was born and we're back in the south and it all just feels very full circle.

We opened her presents this morning (right around the time she was born) so that she could spend her birthday enjoying them. She has been so terribly excited for her birthday (and so very aware of the calendar, which is odd considering we're in the middle of this weird stay-at-home phase of the quarantine where time has absolutely no meaning anymore, except that Zoë has been keeping a very accurate countdown to her birthday) that we decided to not celebrate Benjamin and Zoë's birthday together. It still sounds like far too much cake for such a short period of time, but I guess that's alright (also Rachel has taken a sudden interest in cake decorating and begged to take the lead on Zoë's cake).

Anyway, before we opened presents I explained our new tradition, which will be to write reason we love our birthday person on paper balloons and stick them to our "birthday tree." So I cut out balloons and everyone took a few minutes to think about why they love Zoë and then we read them out loud and stuck them to the tree. And then we opened presents, which Zoë has be not-so-patiently waiting for all morning.

Here she is beside her pile of presents:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Brush your teeth

I couldn't leave you with that picture of sad Alexander at the top of the page, so here are a few happy pictures of him as well:


The other day Alexander knocked over a tower that Benjamin had built (and had been saving to show to Andrew). I had already looked at it (and it was a pretty neat tower), but Andrew hadn't gotten there yet. So Alexander had to sit on the steps while we chatted about why we don't knock over other people's towers (answer: because it makes them feel so sad).

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A house lizard

Benjamin walked into the kitchen the other day and let out a scream. There was a lizard sitting by the onions. We didn't get terribly close to it because we didn't want to startle it. Instead we got a bin and stealthily moved the onions, slammed down the bin to capture it, eased a piece of cardboard under the bin and transferred it outside.

These five

Here are our five kids, who are still mostly getting along, haunting the neighbourhood in their pandemic masks (Benjamin added a handful of cockatoo feathers to his):

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Harry Potter foods

The kids have been planning a Harry Potter marathon for weeks now, waiting for school to be over so they can claim a little more control over their schedule. Rachel took her final final this morning (it took her about ten minutes and she got 100%, which has been the story of her life lately...and which is neat...but also...she's excited to be homeschooled next year so she can be challenged a bit (I'm so glad I fought to get her placed in the gifted program here because I honestly don't know what she would have done with herself if she hadn't been placed; she's been rather bored all year)) and then started working on some sorting-hat cupcakes (or cauldron cakes). 

She mixed up a chocolate cake from scratch, filled them with four different colours of icing (red for Gryffindor, green for Slytherin, yellow for Hufflepuff, and blue for Ravenclaw), and then she made a chocolate cream cheese frosting for the top. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

In which Benjamin (re)learns how to ride a bike (and tries to self-administer a tracheotomy)

We've been working very hard at learning how to ride our bikes around here lately. Zoë's bike has training wheels—the first in the family to have them!—and she took off with gusto after very little instruction. She's so confident that she asked if she could take her training wheels off for her birthday. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


This evening before bed I read my children a little book I made called Roots and Branches. There aren't a lot of words in it but that's okay because I can tell the stories to them...for now (though I suppose I should make a book with more words in it eventually). Instead there are pictures of ancestors (along with brief statistics: birth, death, and marriage dates).

We were flipping through and looking at the pictures and I was telling stories while the kids asked questions and made comments. Benjamin felt the need to cast judgement on every single name in the book and when we got to my grandma he wrinkled up his nose.

"Pearl?" he said. "Don't like that."

"Why, thank you," I said.

"Why are you thanking me?" he asked. "It's an ugly name."

"It's my middle name," I informed him. "I am named after my grandma."

"Oh," he stammered. "Well, it's alright for a middle name, I guess. But to go by that name every day? Just...why?!"

"Technically Pearl was her middle name, too," I said.

"What?!" he asked.

"Yes, look," I said, pointing to the text box containing the barest bones of her life details. "Her name was Zetta."

"Zetta?!" he echoed, completely dumbfounded.

"Zetta Pearl," I affirmed. "But she went by Pearl."

"Yeah, good call," he said. "Pearl's way better than Zetta!"

Monday, May 11, 2020

A few things

First off, I'm so relieved to not be homeschooling today. We were ready for a break. The three littlest ones have been playing in together so nicely this morning and I've just been doing my own thing. Eventually I will have to hound Benjamin about finishing his author report (the very last thing he has left to do for this school year), but that can wait for now. Rachel eventually needs to get started on her final exams, but there's no rush for that either (update: she just came upstairs to tell me she completed both of the exams she had scheduled today and she got 100% on both of them (she started the exams at 10:00; it is 10:17 that's neat)).

Next, one of my cousins messaged me to say that after she saw my posters on Facebook she wanted to share some of the pain she's been enduring quietly, without her pack, so to speak. So she did. And I'm so glad she did because that is the exact thing I envisioned when the words "strong women tend to run in families" came to mind (where it reads almost like voiceover from a wildlife show, but perhaps that's just me). We don't have to mourn alone because we have a pack.

Finally—and the main reason for this post— thing I've been (somewhat morbidly) searching for on FamilySearch was any account of the Spanish Flu pandemic in our family tree but I was having trouble finding anything. Turns out I should have asked my mom because she knew right where to look.

Strong women

My mom (and, by extension, our entire family) was given a wonderful gift yesterday when she was notified that a distant cousin had uploaded a baby picture of my grandfather to FamilySearch. This cousin had been selected as the person to cart around all the family history and finally decided—because of this quarantine—to start scanning and uploading documents. Among these documents was a baby picture from 1915 (most likely taken by a doting still-unmarried auntie who was so sad to have her little baby nephew carted a thousand miles away, across the border, to grow up in the north (I can say this with confidence because the photograph was found in this particular aunt's collection)).

While I was clicking around on FamilySearch I started reading my great-grandma Ida's autobiography. She talked about the difficult time she had adjusting to life in Alberta (it is cold there, so cold, and the windy):
Oh, what I haven't gone through! It hasn't all been nice! I wasn't the only one—don't think it was just me that had it so hard. There was a lot of these old-timers, a lot that I could name now that's got nice homes, that had it tough. Once in a while, we'd get together, a bunch of us, and one or the other of us would start to say what we had to do and how hard we had it. And then, if I say anything the rest would say, "You didn't have it any harder than I did," and they'd go on. So we'd shut up! Because they didn't, any of them—well, there might have been some that I didn't know—have the conveniences and things that we have now. I know Emma Harris would say how hard she had it and what she had to do. I know I had to melt ice in the winter to do the washing. Oh, yes! You don't know the struggle we had! 

Sunday, May 10, 2020


Zoë's very-special, make-you-so-strong, peach-flavoured, super-yummy "vitamins" arrived the other day and, eager to try them out, Andrew gave her one just before family prayer. She loved everything about it—the flavour, that it was special for her, that it was making her feel "strong."

We carried on with our bedtime routine. She brushed my hair while I read Harry Potter to the kids (she loves to put a billion barrettes in my hair every evening) and then, once Alexander was asleep, she happily climbed into her own bed for personal reading time.

"I will tell you when it's time to turn off your reading lamp," I told her. "And then I will tuck you in and sing you a song."

So I left her reading and sat down to do some work on my computer (I've been learning Adobe Premiere Pro, splicing together clips of our primary children tossing balls to make it look like they're playing catch with each other). At 9:30 I went to tell her it was definitely time for bed, but I was surprised to find that she'd already turned off her reading light and was very nearly asleep, though she still wanted a lullaby.

"You turned off your light," I observed.

"I am just so sleepy," she sighed.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Quarantine music

The kids and I wrote a little song this afternoon (to be background music for a little video we're planning for one of our virtual primary activities). Here we are singing it for you with our very best singing/behaviour:

Bedtime woes (and some poetry)

It is 11:35 and all my children are asleep in their beds (technically Alexander is back asleep in my bed after his first nightly waking), which might not seem like an accomplishment but which really is an accomplishment. I'm not actually sure what time the children went to sleep. Alexander fell asleep while I was reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the kids. Zoë and Benjamin fell asleep sometime later. They've not been sleeping recently, which has been frustrating.

I remember my mom telling me about a set of cousins of hers that didn't have bedtimes. Like their parents would just let the kids go to bed whenever they wanted to, so sometimes they'd stay up super late (and be falling asleep in their dinner) and other times they'd go to bed a decent hour. But, like there was no real rule surrounding bedtime. And I kind of get that.

Like, what is the point of having and executing a bedtime routine when it doesn't lead to sleep because nothing leads to sleep because the children simply aren't going to sleep? I've often said, "you can lead a child to bed but you cannot make them sleep." It doesn't matter how many bedtime cues you give them certain children aren't going to sleep.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Panes and pains (and glaze)

I just finished glazing my first full 8/9 of 1/2 of one of our windows!

Yes, in the dark, alone, after the kids were in bed. I wasn't quite alone, of course. I had plenty of critters to keep me company: every beetle and moth for a square mile, for instance, came flocking to watch me work, along with about a metric tonne of mosquitoes. The frogs chatted to me ceaselessly and I heard a few animals scampering around in the trees behind me. Nothing really bothered me, per se, until I heard some scampering coming from directly beneath my feet. Something was ambling along under the porch. And it wasn't a small something, either.

I turned on the shop vac to see if I could frighten it into revealing its identity, but the creature just continued shuffling along, completely unfazed. As it approached the edge of the deck, I peeped over the railing to see what I might see—a raccoon, a bear, a deer, a coyote?!

It was a possum.

"Oh, hey, possum," I said.

It didn't even look at me. It just kept on walking.

But, I finished the window (well, 8/9 of 1/2 of the window) and it's a thing of (messy) beauty (we'll get those fingerprints taken care of eventually). This is the inside of the window so you can't see my beautiful glazing job but that's part of the beauty of the glazing job—that you can't see it from the inside! This picture is more is to show you our lovely cereal box panel.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Rabbets and ribbits

Part of what made me fall in love with this house was all the windows. The windows, however, were also what made me nervous about buying this house. We'd love to replace them all but when I say "all these windows" I mean something like forty windows. We basically live in a greenhouse! Though I have yet to acquire any houseplants, the humans inside are thriving...and our avocado finally put out a taproot so, I mean, that almost counts as a houseplant!

The windows are also original to the house, "construction-grade" windows. Single-paned. Painted shut. In need of repair. 

And we've managed to put it off for quite a while but we recently learned that the windows along the back deck aren't quite watertight these days, so something needed to be done. So I've been "recently learning" a lot of things, like what, exactly, window glazing is. And, it turns out, it's not what I thought it was (because I thought it was, like, coating the glass with something, but it's not—it's how the glass is fitted inside the frame). I've also learned about window rabbets and stools and sashes and mutins and so forth. Who knew the anatomy of a window is so complex?!

For now we've decided to simply reglaze the windows in most desperate need of repair. First we had to remove the old glazing compound around each piece of glass, which was rather easy considering how badly it's chipping away. We then learned that our glass had only been glued inside our windows (which explains why the panes rattle whenever the air comes on (not that it's been on for the past several weeks)—they're all loose because the glue is so old it's lost its stick-it-together-ness). So we put some glazing compound in the frame, pushed the glass back in, and fastened it into place with glazing points, which makes for a much snugger fit. Then we replaced the glazing and once that forms a "crust" we'll paint it (I suppose we primed the windows somewhere in there today as well).

It's quite the process. I managed to get three little panes done today (with minimal help from Andrew, who was working on other things (and running to the hardware store for me)). I have no pictures of the process, but here is the nearly-finished product:

I figure that if the whole grad school thing doesn't work out, I'll be a skilled window glazier by the time I get all our windows there's always that route.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Three day outfit

Tonight at dinner Andrew got up from the table to grab something from the kitchen. Zoë (who fell asleep before 9:00 tonight so that was lovely) watched him get up and walk across the room and then she said, with a judgmental air, "Dad, just how many days are you planning on wearing that outfit?"

Andrew looked down.

"She has a point," he sheepishly addressed the entire table. "This is day three."

To be fair, I think he changed his t-shirt, but he's been in the same pair of lounge pants and the same pullover sweater for pretty much the entire week.

Whatever. It's quarantine. Nothing matters anymore.