Friday, July 31, 2020

It's the place where books are free

Our library closed in March, right at the beginning of the pandemic in this part of the world. It stayed tightly shut week after week while they developed a plan to allow patrons to use the library while limiting contact/risk. Finally they came up with a curb-side offering, which honestly didn't look that alluring to me. 

I'm a browser. 

Not, like, a web browser. 

A book browser.

I like to walk through the stacks, pick a book up, flip it open to see if it's a story I'll actually want to read to my kids (or if it's something my kids would want to read on their own). I like to set my children loose and have them pick books off the shelf, to allow them the thrill of finding that next great read. If I happen to be looking for a particular book, I like to also see what's beside it on the shelf. In short, libraries are a very physical thing for me. 

Doing a curbside pickup didn't seem very appealing to me.

I don't like paging through an online catalogue trying to decide what to check out. I don't like having to judge a book by its cover (and a short blurb). I don't like that I have to wait for all my holds to trickle in before I can pick them up (I mean, I guess that's on me; I could go pick each book up as they email me that it's ready but, uh, no thanks). 

So I ordered a bunch of books (anthologies, mostly) on Amazon/AbeBooks, which weirdly requires me to page through an online catalogue in order to decide what I want, and we've been working our way through what we've got. We have thousands of books in our house and Benjamin and Zoë are at such different reading levels that so many of our books are unexplored by them—Benjamin is getting into our older-reader chapter books and Zoë is happily and independently going through all our picture books and younger-reader chapter books. It's really been fine.

But now that we've been in school—for 24 days already!—we're starting to feel pinched by our lack of library access. When I'm tired of directing lessons I like to point to the library box and tell the children to go learn something on their own. I haven't been able to do that...as much. I mean, I did it for science today. I didn't feel like helping the kids work through our next couple of science experiments but we do happen to have a quite a large collection of books on space (rather on purpose, mind you) so I told them to just go read some stuff about space. Completely in line with our unit of study. 

New books are sometimes more fun to explore, however, and I could tell my children were getting hungrier and hungrier for some book learning.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Bedtime

I forgot to mention the last sweet thing Benjamin did yesterday. 

I, uh, fell asleep in the hallway while I was waiting for the kids to fall asleep. That's my spot. Alexander likes me to be there and he gets very out of sorts when I'm not where he expects me to be. He'll often scream in the middle of the night and when I go to him and ask him what's wrong he will tell me that I wasn't where I was "supposed" to be. 

The other day he was looking for me and Rachel, knowing that I was upstairs, told Alexander that she thought I was downstairs (to buy me some time). He went downstairs to look for me and when he realized I wasn't there he just threw himself on the ground, howling...because I wasn't where I was "supposed" to be. 

Anyway, he's much better at falling asleep these days but still likes me to wait in the hallway while he drifts off. After I tuck him into bed I will read a chapter from whatever our nighttime book is and then I'll send the older kids to bed and then I'll read in the hallway until I know he's fallen asleep.

Last night I fell asleep myself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Benjamin and the very good day

Today was a good day for Benjamin, which meant it was a good day for us all. He needed a good day, I needed him to have a good day, we all just needed him to have a good day. It was a very pleasant surprise after several days (weeks?) of difficult behaviour (we've been going through a bit of a rough patch). 

He wrote a wonderful essay and when he was finished—before his sisters, which never happens—he suggested that he go outside to clean the sticks and leaves off the back deck (something he remembered that I'd said I had wanted to have happen). Then when I mentioned that I needed to put some laundry in he ran upstairs and grabbed the kids' dark-bin and loaded it into the machine for me. 

I had mistakenly thought we'd finished his unit (aside from a game that I knew we needed to play together (and did play together)), so then he reminded me that he still had a few workbook pages to do before starting his next unit. So he got out his workbook and got down to work. I'd been worried about math because I've had to force him to do so much of his math, helping him through problems step by step. It was exhausting. But today he managed to do all his workbook exercises on his own (and only had to correct two of them)! I was blown away!

He played nicely with his siblings for hours outside (the real excitement being that we met our new next-door neighbours; they have a little girl Zoë's age) and when it was time to make dinner he insisted that he wanted to be the one to do it. We had chicken nuggets, mini oven-bake pizzas, and steamed vegetables, so it wasn't exactly gourmet, but he felt good about being trusted to work the oven (with a little help) and I appreciated his help in the kitchen. 

Fingers crossed we can have more days like this in the future!

Mush

We have been on a fairly strict lockdown at our house since March. Usually I think we're all doing alright. Sometimes I wonder if we're taking things too far. Often I feel like a crazy person—like I'm the only one doing this.

It's hard when YW activities are moving toward being in-person. They said every other week would be a zoom meeting, but we have a three week stretch coming up of in-person activities. And tell me, how do teenagers "social distance" at a pool party? Are you telling me they're all going to just swim six feet away from anyone else? I've seen the pool; it isn't that big. How are you going to keep them from high-fiving each other during a bike/scooter/skateboard obstacle course in the church parking lot? 

Masks are optional and not everyone attending these activities believes this virus is a thing. Inexplicably there is a large proportion of the population who believes that this virus is a hoax. And so how does one safely mingle with anyone now, let alone anyone who has not been taking precautions because they choose to believe otherwise. 

I am heartened by the email we received from our bishop this morning telling us that we won't be returning to church in August due to the astounding number of cases we've been seeing. But perhaps we'll try for September (like, not us, but whoever wants to). He left us with these parting remarks, "I will share with you that what I am seeing in the hospital setting is very concerning regarding those ill with Covid and the overwhelming pressure it is placing on our health care system. Please protect yourself and your families."

I still don't understand how our youth are allowed to meet together at this point (most hospitals already dangerously full; our county's hospitals are projected to be "overloaded" by August 14). 

And still people don't believe anything is happening. 

My mom's coworker died of COVID-19 a few days ago. Several other coworkers have tested positive. My mom had contact with some of those people (so far she has tested negative and mostly she works from within her own little office, thank goodness...but still worrisome). 

And still people refuse to take this seriously.

Spider surprise

This morning Alexander found a little heart-shaped box that some child or other received at a Valentine's Day party years ago and decided that he wanted to fill the box with spiders and give it to me, as a present. It was a charming gesture, to be sure, but why he felt anyone would appreciate being gifted a box of spiders is beyond me. 

But, collecting—or trying to collect—spiders kept him fairly occupied during our busy homeschool hours this morning, so I would have been crazy to stop him. He was very frustrated by his spiders, which simply wouldn't stay in the box. They kept running out and getting away! 

I should note that the spiders he's looking for are known as "daddy longlegs," at least down here. I have a hard time referring to them as that because even though they have admittedly long legs, they aren't what I would call "daddy longlegs." I'm used to calling harvestmen— Opiliones—"daddy longlegs." They aren't spiders at all; although they are arachnids, they have one fused body segment so they look like a little ball with legs (and they don't spin webs). 

These spiders at our house were certainly not "daddy longlegs" in my mind, but when I've called them "cellar spiders" to locals they have no idea what I'm talking about until, suddenly, they do and then they say, "Oh, daddy longlegs."

No. Not daddy longlegs. But, sure. Daddy longlegs.

But these daddy longlegs are true spiders, with two body segments and the ability to spin webs (so many webs, guys, and they're messy little houseguests because, while a lot of spiders consume their old spider silk, these spiders just leave them to collect dust and turn into cobwebs and they produce so much frass—a ridiculous amount of frass—I am forever vacuuming up spiders and spider webs and spider frass) and everything.

They're plentiful around this charming old house of ours and Alexander has decided that they are his friends. He will name them and pick them up and let them run along his arms until they drop to the floor and run away. They're splendid companions (slim pickings, what with quarantine). They just won't stay in his little box! So frustrating!

Eventually he decided that if he wanted to give me a spider he would have to make one himself, so he got a paper and some drawing utensils and made this:


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Meanest Mom

Zoë got a letter in the mail today, which she was rather excited about. She was even more excited about it when she opened the envelope and a sheet of stickers fell out, along with a form letter from her little friend, inviting her to be in a "sticker club." My heart sank. I just don't have sticker clubs in me. They never work out and I don't like the feelings of obligation that they cause others.

All you have to do is send stickers to the person in the #1 slot and then send a copy of this letter to six people and soon you'll get thirty-six letters (from complete strangers) with stickers for your child!

I told Zoë that I just don't have sticker clubs (or many other things resembling pyramid schemes) in me. We would have to write a letter of regret, so Zoë did. Then she brought it to me and read it to me and came this close to convincing me to stop being a party pooper and let her join the sticker club.
Dear K,
I am so sorry but I cannot be in the sticker club. I hope you are not sad because my mom said I can’t. I do want to be in the sticker club. I feel that you might feel sad for me. Thank you for the letter, but you are still my friend and that is good. I feel sad. I love you.
Hmmmm…love Zoë
And I will love you.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

We are a VR family!

On Friday we got to Skype with some of our little far away cousins (but, let's be honest, that's the only kind of cousin we have (technically, we have Griffin, a second-cousin, but that's all (well, him and his forthcoming baby sister)). Emily had taken her kids down to visit Grandpa, so Jacob and Shayla stopped by with their kids. I...don't know how I feel about all of them getting together like that...and I don't know what I would have done if we lived close enough to be able to do that...but I do know that I would have had reservations about it...and do have reservations about it. But, anyway, the kids had fun seeing their cousins and uncle and aunts:



Block printing

Andrew bought a block printing set a while back—it came with some lino blocks, some wood blocks, and some rubber, as well as a set of cutting tools, some ink and a roller—and it's just been sitting around waiting for his schedule to lighten up enough to learn how to do it. 

Last night he decided it was time and he got the children all involved in designing patterns for their wood blocks. And by "the children," I mean the older children. I was busy keeping the younger children entertained (and away from all the sharp implements) so that Andrew could, like, you know, give his full attention to the older children after handing them aforementioned sharp implements.

So naturally he found me sitting in the reading chair with the little kids snuggled up on my lap for some stories. 

"We could, uh, use your help," he said, clearly panicked. 

"What's wrong?"

"Miriam cut her finger," he gagged. "You need to look at it."

Friday, July 24, 2020

Quarantine hurdles

Keeping the children occupied during this pandemic is easier than I thought it would be, really. They play nicely together and are pretty good at entertaining themselves. But they also are prone to fighting and...shenanigans. So some days are better than other, but over all we're doing well. It helps, I think, to have "so many" children. But I also have to be sure to keep a few supplies for activities on hand—paper, crayons, yarn, chalk...

Our sidewalk chalk supply was running low so I ordered a box—a large box—thinking that it would last for a while. Shortly after I ordered it my sister asked if she could send us chalk and a book, but I didn't tell her that I'd just ordered chalk because we started talking about the book and then she said "sent!" before I could tell her not to send the chalk. 

This turned out to be auspicious, however, because we opened this giant box of chalk a couple of days ago so the kids could have some nice "outside time." But then Benjamin started "powdering" the chalk, absolutely pulverizing it. He had so much fun that he didn't stop until he had ground up the nearly the entire box of chalk—almost an entire 136-piece box! 


We didn't realize this until we went out for our family walk and found the box of chalk still outside, but instead of bursting with chalk it had only a few stray pieces of chalk swimming in a layer of mysterious grey dust. It didn't take us long to figure out what Benjamin had done, the stinker!

Faux cuss and leftover vegetables

For the past little while Alexander has been using the word "vegetable" in a quizzical way. It certainly sounds like he's saying vegetable, a rather complicated word to pronounce, but when he says it he doesn't mean vegetable, and we couldn't figure out what he meant by it (a frustrating thing for everyone involved).

Sometimes at the dinner table he would suddenly turn to me and announce, "I want to be a vegetable."

At first the kids thought he wanted to play a silly game where he lifts his shirt up over his head and says, "Rawr! I'm broccoli!" because sometimes he does that, but he honestly doesn't understand the classification of vegetable yet and doesn't understand that broccoli is a vegetable. He loves broccoli and calls it broccoli. He loves cauliflower and calls it cauliflower. He loves carrots and calls them carrots. Mostly he loves California mix vegetables; can't get enough of that stuff. But he enjoys other vegetables, too—cucumbers and tomatoes and peas and things. He doesn't know about vegetables but he knows about broccoli and celery and tomatoes. And that wasn't what he meant either.

He didn't mean a silly game and he didn't mean that he wanted more vegetables. We simply didn't understand him.

Sometimes he would bring me a snack he was working on—an apple or granola bar or bowl of yogurt—and would say, "I want to be a vegetable."

"You...want to be a vegetable?" I would ask him.

"No. I want this to be a vegetable!"

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

Last month we got a package from Hawaii and my kids took it and sniffed it and said they smelled sand and sun and seaweed. All I could smell was...cardboard...but I suppose I'm lacking imagination in my old age. We do all wish we could go to the beach, but we're simply not sure how to make that happen right now when the beaches are so crowded and sharing spaces (even campground bathrooms) seems particularly scary. And so we're staying put.

But my brother Patrick sent us some lovely tropical goodies from Hawaii. To celebrate Benjamin's baptism, Patrick sent a box of special chocolates. Benjamin opened them and ate one and then hid his box. Then he found his box, ate one, and hid his box in a new place. Then he found the box again, ate one, and hid the box again in a different place. He repeated this throughout the day until he'd consumed his box of chocolates (and had hidden it in 8 or 10 or 12 different places (I never got a good look at the box so I'm not sure how many pieces were in it)).

Patrick also slipped in a package of "Coconut Macaroon Macadamias," which I just polished off the other day. They were my birthday present so I didn't share them with anybody, but that was alright because there was also a package of chocolate-covered macadamias, which everyone else got to enjoy (I believe there are still some in the pantry, as a matter of fact).

Then Josie texted me the other day to ask for our address and after I told her she sent a message that said, "Be on the look out for a non-threatening box of chalk and a book."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Rain, rain, go away

With Rachel being so involved with YW camp this week, we were on the fence about whether to have the rest of the kids do a week of school without her (having all the children be on the same schedule is a big perk to homeschooling, right?) but also part of the reason I'm trying to front load the school year is because I'm nervous about having to juggle their education with my education. Rachel is much better at managing her studies on her own than, say, for example, Benjamin or Zoë, so in theory she could still complete her studies in the future if I'm having a particularly busy week, while Benjamin and Zoë definitely could not.

So we took Monday (Rachel's birthday) off and went ahead and schooled (mostly) without her today (though she was present for our morning reading and I might count her drawing classes this week as school time since the kids did some drawing lessons this afternoon as well, which we counted toward school time).

We did not get any playtime outside today because it was raining all day. And not just raining—we had a torrential downpour, with thunder and lightning and dropping tree branches. The whole nine yards. It was a terrific storm; it was dark and cloudy all day.

This was unfortunate for two reasons. First of all, as Benjamin explained to me around 10:30 this evening, it's easier for him to fall asleep if he's had a productive day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Rachel is thirteen!?!!

It is very hard to believe that Rachel is thirteen years old now because I really do remember—like it was yesterday—bringing Rachel home from the hospital, feeling so terrified and awed, just staring at her, wriggling and grunting in her bassinet, and thinking, "What do we do now?!"

She was so itty-bitty! 

We were so clueless!

We've all done a lot of growing up over the past thirteen years so now we get to stare at this human-sized person (with a little more awe than terror now), lounging on the sofa reading or standing in her bedroom practicing her viola, and think, "What do we do now?!"

She's almost grown!

We are still so clueless!

But we've made it this far, so I suppose we just keep on going.

So, let's see. We bedazzled the birthday tree for her yesterday. Here she is standing in front of it with her cake:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Hyphen-ate

Zoë's been reading her way through The Magic Treehouse series. In the very last chapter of Dinosaurs Before Dark, the first book in the series, Jack and Annie hear their mother calling them and because she's yelling, she's stretching out their names to make them carry a long distance.

"Ja-ack!" was the way it was spelled out in the book. "An-nie!"

Zoë got to that part and faltered. "Ja-ack?" she read. "Ja-ack? Why Ja-ack?"

So I explained to her that words are often hyphenated like that when the author wants us to imagine them being drawn out, like we're yelling the name from far away. The vowel is repeated with the hyphen in between so we know to switch tones with our voice. 

"Like this," I told her, and then I sang out, "Jaaaaaa-aaaack!"

"Oh!" she said, very impressed with this new-fangled orthography. "Jaaaaa-aaack! An-nie!"

"Perfect," I told her. "Just like that. That way it sounds like their mother is calling them, right? Pretty neat."

She kept reading. The children climbed out of the treehouse so they could run home before dark. Annie turned to say goodbye to the treehouse (which is a magic treehouse, by the way (that might be a spoiler but, like, honestly...the series is called The Magic Treehouse so...chill)) and for whatever reason they chose to use the hyphenated spelling of good-bye (which...who even does that still?). 

So when she went to read Annie's farewell to the treehouse she used the little lesson on inflection that I'd just taught her. 

"Gooo-oood-byyy-yyye!" she sang out.

I just about died of cuteness overload, but I managed to stifle my laughter. 

"So," I informed her. "Some words are spelled with a hyphen normally, like, in this instance of 'good-bye.' Annie isn't hollering at the tree. She's simply saying, 'Good-bye.' And good-bye can sometimes—but isn't always—be spelled with a hyphen...and we just say it without doing anything special to our voices."

"Oh," said Zoë. "Good-bye."

"Exactly."

"So sometimes the hyphen means we get to dooo-ooo thiiii-iiis with our voices and sometimes...it doesn't?"

"Exactly. Sometimes it even means 'don't stop sounding out the word here because it's continued on the next line or page,' remember?"

"Oh, yeah. The hyphen can do three things?! That's confusing."

"That's the story of life. Let's keep reading, shall we?"

"Okay."

Life is terribly confusing, isn't it?

Buddy

Zoë came slumping down the stairs, rather suspiciously trying to hide some things from my view. So naturally I followed her.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "What do you have there?"

"Just my crown...and some scissors," she blubbered, letting the pink crochet crown and a pair of similarly pink scissors fall from her hands. I'd crocheted the crown for a little girl from long-ago, back when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa in Orem. Pink yarn for a pink-loving girl (was it for Rachel or Miriam?), buttons pulled from Grandma's button collection (my collection was in storage elsewhere).

"What...happened...?" I asked. "Did you cut it?"

"I didn't want to, but I had to, but I couldn't, so Benny did."

"I'm afraid I don't follow..."

"Benny made me!" she wailed.

"Ben-ja-miiiiin!" I hollered.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Even more thoughts on COVID

It's about time for another COVID rant, right? I feel like it's about time for another COVID rant.

Today we broke another world record with 71,670 new cases (997 new deaths). A few weeks ago Dr. Fauci suggested that the United States could see 100,000 cases per day, which seemed like an astronomical overestimation, an impossibility. Suddenly, however, hitting 100,000 cases per day seems like a very real possibility.

Georgia didn't break any personal bests today, but with 3,871 new cases and 37 new deaths, we're not exactly in great shape. Hospitals are rapidly filling up. Both hospitals in Athens are full and have begun diverting patients. Other hospitals in the state (and particularly in our area) are dangerously close to reaching their maximum care capacity.

Our Young Women group had an in-person activity yesterday, anyway—"appropriately" socially-distanced, outside, with masks optional. Rachel did not attend.

We also have a plan for returning to church: our ward will get one Sunday per month to meet and we will split into two groups (one group for those 50+ and one group for those 49 and younger). We're slated to meet for the first time next month—August 16th. It is optional; those who want to stay home (like, for example, us) still can. Also, "we will need our cleaning supplies, that we still do not have, and the weekly average of Covid infections needs to decrease for 2 weeks in a row," which seems like a rather difficult statistic to achieve.

Weekends always seem to have a lag in case reporting, so it's not like we have a smooth curve to work with; case numbers always dip on the weekends and rise during the weekdays. Our charts look like the spikes of a stegosaurus. But already they were counting cases as having "gone down" for two days. The email was sent out on July 12 and we just hit our state record for the highest number of cases recorded on July 10, with 4484 cases, and then we "went down" from there, only to quickly jump back up again after the weekend.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Solar Oven

We purchased windows for our upper floor at the beginning of May and today they finally came to install them. We are very happy about this because, if you remember, our air conditioner broke in May as well (after we'd decided to spend our money on windows) and our windows were (a) not energy efficient at all and (b) were often painted shut or screw shut and (c) if they weren't sealed shut they wouldn't stay up without being propped open and didn't have screens (which makes having windows open about impossible in the south). I don't think this upper floor had been properly aired out in decades. So now we have beautiful, functional windows (that don't at all match the outside of our house...but we have plans for that...one day...in the future).

I was also a little not happy about the timing because of how rampant the coronavirus is in our community right now and the workers showed up without masks.

But, largely, we didn't have to interact with them (and considering they were here to remove our windows entirely there was quite a lot of natural ventilation). I moved our homeschool to the basement for the day (we also replaced a few windows in our front room, which we hope will help keep it cooler as well since it doesn't have any sort of air circulation system (the other rooms that get a lot of sun at least have ceiling fans)).

For science we are studying "Earth science," which means we're also studying the solar system. Yesterday we started studying the sun and the moon and today we were supposed to do a few experiments with the sun/moon today, but I didn't gather my supplies beforehand and didn't want to go hunting through our things upstairs while the workers were here, so I decided that we'd make a solar oven instead. So that's what we did.

Here are Miriam and Benjamin working on their solar oven:



Monday, July 13, 2020

Another firefly walk

Zoë was writing stories this afternoon and although she knows how to spell a surprising number of words, there were a few she couldn't quite sound out. So she'd ask me how to spell something and then would run off and write for a while before coming to ask me how to spell something else.

Alexander, who enjoys copying the behaviour of his older siblings (which is good when it's good and bad when it's bad), started asking me how to spell words as well. He doesn't know how to spell any words, though, so he asked me how to spell every word he wanted to spell. 

"Mom, how do you spell I?" he asked. 

"I," I told him.

He ran off and scribbled on his paper for a minute and then ran back to me.

"How do you spell want?"

"W-A-N-T," I said. 

"Oh. W-A-N-T," he repeated faithfully before running off to scribble on his paper again. He was back a few seconds later with "How do you spell to?"

"T-O."

Saturday, July 11, 2020

One book, two books, red book, blue book*

I started reading Where the Red Fern Grows to the children over breakfast this week (which reminds me, I need to fill out our homeschool record for the past couple of days) and they've been loving it so far, always begging for another chapter (and now, in Benjamin's case, hounding me for a pair of hounds). It's a beautiful window into a different time period, I think. It was published in 1961, which makes it 59 years old this year. However, the narrator, Billy Colman, is remembering his boyhood, fifty years previous so the kids and I calculated that it probably took place about 100 years ago (I don't recall a year being specifically mentioned in the first few chapters; we're not very deep into it yet and I haven't read it since I was in middle school (when it was one of the books for my homeschool (online) English class; I've really come full circle here)).

Anyway, Rawls describes life in the Ozarks so beautifully and he is, in my opinion, an expert on life in the Ozarks. That's where his family farm was. Like Billy (which, by the way, my kids were amazed when the kids at the schoolyard started taunting Billy by calling him "hillbilly"; they were like, "How do they know his name?!"), Rawls grew up in the Ozarks in the early 1900s. He experienced them firsthand. Like Billy, Rawls' mother was part-Cherokee and thus was given land by the US government as retribution for having, you know, stolen the land in the first place. Actually, there are a lot of similarities between Billy and Rawls. This story isn't classified as autobiographical, but Rawls drew liberally from his childhood experiences.

So, my point is, that this is probably a pretty good book to read if you want to get a feel for how a poor family in the Ozarks may have lived in the 1920s (or so). In fifty years if you want to get a feel for how a poor family in the Ozarks may have lived this would still be an authoritative (heavy on the author, perhaps, light on the authority part) take on it. Rawls experienced the Ozarks in the 1920s firsthand.

Was Rawls a perfect person? No. He was not.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Morgenmuffeln and a wild family devotional

Zoë was on a bit of a fairytale kick today (which morphed into a Disney kick). She got up and read Rapunzel to herself and for one of her many writing assignments (most of which she assigned to herself) she wrote a poem about Rapunzel from the point of view of the witch and drew a lovely picture to go along with it. We let her watch Rapunzel later in the day and then she found all of her Disney princess toys and carted them around the rest of the day, calling them her children. 

When Andrew called everyone for scriptures and prayer, Zoë lugged all her many children down the stairs and set them up on the couch with their own set of scriptures.


Andrew told her it wasn't fair for her to take up so much sitting real estate in the living room, but in the end she won the argument because she was only taking up a little bit of the couch. It's not her fault she has so many children who wanted to sit with her! 

Her argument wasn't really all that strong, but Andrew decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting. Everyone else had found alternative places to sit and Zoë was happy and ready to participate. Sometimes it's best to let a happy Zoë be. 

My mom sent me (well, me and my siblings on our family chat) a message this morning that said, "I just learned that there is a word, in German, for a person who is grumpy in the morning and doesn't like to wake up early: Morgenmuffel."*

It made everyone immediately think of Zoë. She can be a Morgenmuffel. But perhaps also a Mittagmuffel. And sometimes even a Nachtmuffel. Every day she's muff-muffelin.' We sure love our little equal-opportunity-muffel. 

Homeschool Olympics

We've been holding our own little Summer Olympics this week, having spotlighted a few countries last week. We've read What Are the Summer Olympics?, have been researching Olympic heroes, and every day we've been competing in different Olympic events (in proxy for various countries).

Benjamin did so well on his Mozambique presentation that whenever the children pick countries to compete for, Alexander passionately begs for Mozambique. "Mo-am-beet! Mo-am-beet! I want to be Mo-am-beet!" So Mozambique shows up on our roster quite a lot. But we have a pretty good global representation, I think. This Olympics was very well attended.

On Monday we had a "Balance Board Yoga" competition, where we executed a series of yoga moves with increasing difficulty and rated each other's performance. If the pose was steady, full points were awarded. If it was wobbly, a half-point might be deducted from your score. If the board touched the floor, a full-point would be deducted. If a person lost their balance and fell on the ground they'd be lucky to score any points at all. Some judges were harsher than others. A few scores were contested.

We did mountain pose (1 point), tree pose (2 points), chair pose (3 points), dancer pose (4 points), airplane pose (5 points), and elephant breath (a "moving" pose for 6 points). Poses had to be held (or, in the case of elephant breath, maintained) for ten seconds.

I won, for Belgium, with a score of 19.5.** I also came in second for Mexico, with a score of 19. Miriam's two countries came in at a tie for third with 17 points (Denmark and Egypt).

Thursday, July 09, 2020

In which I, once again, pretend I am a statistician...

I'm not a statistician but I'm, you know, average at math. One thing I'm pretty good at is that whole alligator chomp thing, where you make the alligator eat the bigger number.

Like 5 > 3 or 8 < 11.

Nom, nom, nom.

So here's an exercise for you!

"Nearly 5,700 people are killed and more than 544,700 people are injured in crashes on wet pavement annually. Every year, over 3,400 people are killed and over 357,300 people are injured in crashes during rainfall," according to the US Department of Transportation. I believe the number of crashes on wet pavements includes those that occur during rainfall (ie. the 3,400 people killed during rainfall are also marked as deaths due to wet pavement), so we'll be going with 5,700 people annually, but honestly we could also go with 9,100 and my little exercise would still work.

Since March 135,822 people have died due to COVID (and, yes, I'll take "COVID-related causes" as well because, honestly, my mother-in-law died of sepsis; she had co-morbidities that made her more at risk for developing sepsis but—let's be clear—it was sepsis what did her in (her death certificate actually lists a long string of events that caused her death (I think, ultimately, it says "asphyxiation" which is also true, but only because sepsis killed her liver and kidneys and brain and heart and... It was sepsis even though she was also diabetic and she stopped breathing)).

Now, help me out. Which number would our friend Mr. Alligator chomp?

5,700 or 135,822?

Monday, July 06, 2020

Let there be light

One of the ballasts in our kitchen lights died recently and the other one was on its way out and refused to turn the lights on about 50% of the time. We decided we'd replace the ballasts, a task we've done before, but when Andrew went to do that he found that these original-to-the-house ballasts had been screwed into the light casing from the wrong side. The only way to get the ballasts out was to remove the entire light fixture so we could unscrew the ballasts from the outside of the light; it should be possible to replace the ballast without taking the light completely out but whoever assembled our house thought they built it so well that nothing would ever need replacing.

Like the blower system in our attic. Guys, I don't know that there's any way to get that old system out of there. And if we can't get it out of there how do we get a new system in there? I mean, I suppose we've survived this long without air conditioning so chances are we could keep on surviving forever. 

But...it might be nice...it might be niiiice...to be able to cool things down every once in a while.

The A/C guy came today with a part our home warranty company had ordered to try to fix the unit but...it was a literal non-starter. So we're back to the old drawing board (our home warranty company, I imagine would really prefer not to replace our system, which I get, but also I would like a system that...works). Our A/C guy can't stop talking about how sorry he feels for the bloke who has to replace that unit because how will they ever get it down from there? I don't know.

Anyway, here's Andrew working on the lights with Zoë as his helper:

Sunday, July 05, 2020

You can write rhymes but you can't write mine

Alexander is our little poet; he has a surprising grasp on language for a child his age and enjoys making up songs about his life. The other day we were getting out of the shower, he and I (because we're "shower buddies"), and he said, "We are aww wet!" The he paused, dropped his jaw with shock, and said, "Mom, wisten! I wrote a poem! What duh het?! We are aww wet! What duh het?! We are aww wet! What duh het?! We are aww wet!"

The translation of that would be, "What the heck?! We are all wet!"

Which, I mean, doesn't exactly rhyme but it does exactly rhyme when he says it. I thought it was pretty clever (even if I don't love that my two-year-old throws around the phrase, "What the heck?!" (but when you have a teenager and a toddler I guess you lose a little control over the language your sweet baby is exposed to (or at least I do))).

Then today while we were talking to my mom, I prompted Alexander to tell her about watching the fireworks and he kept telling her that it was so scary and that he had to cover his ears. Then he paused briefly and said, "I am writing a song!" and came up with this:



I'm in-de-pen-dent!

For the first week of school the children researched countries whose independence/national holidays were celebrated this week. That's why Rachel has been going deep into Rwanda (we watched Hotel Rwanda with the girls, a movie we haven't watched since the summer of 2008 (with James and Uncle Jacob (and whoever else was watching) in San Diego)) and she has been reading and writing nonstop all week. Miriam, on the other hand, dove deep into Canadian history. She gave a lovely presentation about how Canada was granted independence (though I challenged her on a few points (as I am apparently wont to do), such as when she said, "Canadians were generally okay with being colonized," I said, "Which Canadians? Like, the colonists were okay with being colonists and being under the rule of the crown, perhaps. But what about the aboriginal people. What do you think happened to them? How do you think they felt about colonization?" So we'll be continuing with that bit of her education next week; but anyway...). It was a lovely report and she's in the middle of making a "fact book" about Canada, which is turning out beautifully. 

We had poutine for dinner. Without cheese curds because for some reason those are ridiculously difficult to find in the south, which is honestly rather puzzling. You'd think that would be a food the south would embrace. I mean, if they do pork rinds surely they can do cheese curds. But alas. We used some fresh mozzarella instead and it was fine.

America's Independence Day was today. We spent the first part of the day completing projects around the house (putting new lights in the kitchen, for one thing; honestly...this house...I will blog about it in a little while but, long story short, the ballasts in the kitchen lights went bad). Then Andrew grilled some burgers and hot dogs for dinner. We had watermelon and peach crisp (because I like crisps better than cobblers). And it all felt very American. 

I asked the kids to tell me their favourite part of America at the dinner table (because sometimes I need reminders about why this place is okay). Benjamin very quickly answered, "Minnesota."

"Minnesota?" we all repeated, somewhat shocked.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

366 days in Georiga!

We've officially lived in our house for a year now—366 days (as our friend James pointed out when Andrew erroneously claimed 365 days (that would have been yesterday)) because it was a leap year!

Of those 366 days, we have spent 112 of those days being very much at home due to the coronavirus. That's about 30% of our time in Georgia, spent right here...at home. So that's fun. 

We moved here and attended our ward for a couple of weeks before it split off into a brand new ward and we enjoyed that ward for a several months until we were peeled off and tacked onto another stake. We met as our new ward in our new state for one week before church was cancelled (well, not cancelled so much as moved to our home). It's been weird. 

But Rachel got to "attend" the virtual camp "with" her friends from our old stake last month and this month she gets to "attend" our new stake's virtual camp "with" a bunch of girls she has never seen in her life. That will probably be really weird.

Anyway, in honour of being in our home for a full year I hung Happy and Top over the kitchen sink where they can keep our dish-doers company (yes, we're still deciding where things go). My mom texted me to say that she thought Alexander would probably enjoy looking at those birdies and he was quite happy about their addition to the kitchen.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Toilet Paper Forever

This morning I took the kids to the park so that Andrew could record some more lectures (and while there we gleefully discovered that they have re-opened the parks (I'm all for social distancing; but absolutely no one was at the park besides us so the kids had a blast playing (we haven't used a playground in literal months))). While we were on our way home a friend of mine texted to see if we wanted some toilet paper. 

A company her husband did some (computer) work for offered them a free sample of their toilet paper so she said, "Sure. Why not?" and the next thing she knows a truck is delivering a pallet of toilet paper in her driveway. They tried it out but they don't love it so she tried to give it away to various charities but no one seemed very excited about it. But, like, I'm not very picky about toilet paper. And it's septic safe. So...I said, "Sure. Why not?"

And I just can't get over how much toilet paper we have stacked in our living room right now, given how The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 is just barely in the rearview mirror. Like, I just laugh every time I walk past it. We are set.


Don't Leave Me!

I discovered the "Don't Leave Me" challenge the other day and—naturally—found it hilarious. Basically, it's a pun challenge and I'm here for that kind of thing, so today I had the kids help me write and film a few skits. It was a lot of fun to do and we got to have a good discussion on compound words (we watched some videos (here, here, here, everywhere) and identified which skits were based on compound words and which skits were just silly) so it even counted as school time!



We're so funny!

Bob Hope (and things)

I sat a little shell-shocked at my computer after I got the news that Greg Hope had died. It was rather late at night and Andrew was working. For levity's sake, here's a picture I snapped of Andrew this evening before he began filming his lecture:


Business on the top, casual on the bottom. I haven't seen him wear pants in weeks (it would be months but Benjamin's baptism last month kind of broke his streak).

Bird man

"Hoo-hoo, Mom," Alexander said, stumbling into my bedroom at 1:00 in the morning (I know it's up late; Andrew is still recording his lecture and I'm in the very bad (?) habit of staying up until he's ready to go to bed). He often stumbles into my room and says weird things. Sometimes it's just, "Hey." Sometimes it's, "Will you take me potty and then tuck me back in my own bed? Because I do want to sleep in your bed but my bed has all my toys." Sometimes, apparently, it's "Hoo-hoo."

I caught him mid-yawn, but you can see he brought one of his stuffed owls with him.


This boy and his birds!

She loves me (she loves me not)

We are reading The Ickabog right now. In fact, we're all caught up as it's being published chapter by chapter. The kids were so frightened by the end of last week's installment that when I realized new chapters apparently aren't posted on the weekend and so began reading The Trumpet of the Swan to the children they begged me not to return to the The Ickabog. It was just too scary. 

But we've gotten a few good drawings out of it. Zoë has been drawing monsters and nightmares for everyone in the family. Here are a couple she drew from me and Alexander. Alexander's picture is clearly a terrifying beast. My picture looks like a bucolic home scene...until you notice the venomous snake slithering in the grass.