Friday, September 18, 2020

Snippets from this week

Where to even begin?

Hurricane Sally blew past us this week, dropping our temperatures into what really felt like fall (though I do believe it will warm up again for a while before fall is truly here). At least her trajectory kept the smoke from the west coast fires at bay (we had friends in Maryland and Ontario showing pictures of the haze; we had lovely air quality, however, due to the hurricane). The rain was different from a regular southern downpour; the wind was really lashing rather than simply falling. 

A few big branches dropped here and there. And Sally discovered—and took advantage—of a weak join in our roof, so now we get to discover the ins and outs of getting one's roof (and drywall) repaired (which we're just thrilled about). 


Rachel made a birthday cake for Andrew's birthday, with some help from Alexander. He loves helping Rachel bake. 

When the cake came out of the oven he asked if he could try some and Rachel told him that he would have to "wait until Daddy's birthday," a phrase he really internalized. 

"I can't wait 'til Daddy's birthday," he came to tell me. 

How sweet, I thought, then said, "Well, you're just going to have to. It's only two days away."

"Two days is a long time," he gulped.

"Daddy's birthday will be here soon enough," I assured him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Sweet boy

Shortly before 5:00 this morning I awoke to hearing someone screaming, "Mommy!" so I stumbled out of bed to investigate and found Zoë sitting up in bed, screaming her head off. Alexander had also gotten up and was making his way up Zoë's (bunkbed) stairs to comfort her. He reached over her bedrail and patted her on her head. 

"I can't sleep because Zoë is crying," Alexander explained. 

"I can hear that," I agreed. "Let's see if we can't make her feel better."

She calmed down enough to stop screaming long enough to tell me that she'd had a terrible nightmare (and did not want to talk about it), but then she started into wailing again.

"Let's go to the bathroom," I suggested. "Everybody can go potty. We can get a little drink, snuggle back into our beds, turn on some lullabies..."

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Jumping into the pool

We have gone swimming 17 times (I think) in the past 4 weeks, which translates to roughly 40 hours in the pool, and Alexander finally today decided he could jump in. Last summer he was all about jumping in the pool but he started out this year's pool season feeling so timid. Now that he can confidently go under water (today he kept telling me, "I am a fish! I am!") Zoë convinced him that jumping into the pool would be a lot of fun and they spent a long time doing just that this afternoon.

Here they are first jumping from the stairs (because jumping from the ledge was too scary):

But eventually jumping from the ledge didn't seem very scary either:

Maybe we'll convince him to jump off the diving board in the next couple of weeks before the pool season is over.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Good clean (sterilized) humour

Andrew believing Zoë needed to "stabilize" her feather is...not something we've let go of very easily in our house. It was the topic of dinner conversation last night when Rachel came up with a joke. She said something like, "There's a man named Bill and he's got lazy eyes with a propensity toward wandering. What do you say to get Bill's eyes to focus?"

Answer: "Stay, Bill eyes!"

Andrew then challenged her little joke by calling it nothing but "horse gossip."

"Horse gossip?" she wondered.

"Yeah," he said. "Stable lies."

It was a rather entertaining dinner. 

Happy things

Now that I've got all that negative stuff off my chest, you should know that I don't really consider myself a negative person. Sure, I'm really good at coming up with worst-case scenarios but I also am really good at finding the positive in even the most pathetic of situations (at least, I think so). So here are a few cute things my little ones have said recently (really just a few though because I need to get to bed).

I took the kids for a walk the other night (Wednesday—when the emergency electricians were over making it so our house didn't spontaneously combust) and we found so many hints of fall. We're still enjoying our daily swim, of course, but the leaves are starting to turn and Zoë found an acorn and an owl feather. 

She's very much into a new series we found (at the friendly neighbourhood "little free library" near the pool) called Owl Diaries (and, of course, Alexander loves owls as well, so he's been enjoying listening to Zoë read about this little owl world) so was very excited to have found an owl feather.

Negative Nelly

COVID rates have been dropping in Georgia in recent weeks, which makes me feel a bit better about life. But still this pandemic is not over, which means that things will probably get worse again. And I don't know how to come to terms with that fact and the fact that this pandemic something that our country seems to want to sweep under the rug. We can't just sweep it away. It's here and I...

I have a friend who is a COVID widow.

While she has been stuck in bed, too sick to do much of anything, and while her husband was in a hospital, his life draining out of him, we were pushing for in-person activities—a pool party for the young women!—and it breaks my heart. I could we be asking for in-person activities when this family—here—had been suffering so much at the hand of this disease?

It doesn't make sense to me.

This friend worked with me, with the children, doing whatever it is we're doing now. It used to be "activity days" but now I think it's "primary activities." What I wouldn't give for a good verb. Anyway, because she's been so sick and another leader has been sick with non-COVID things, we're down to two leaders instead of four. So I'm in charge of the girls and another friend is in charge of the boys. But she called to ask me the other day how I "felt" about in-person activities. 

"How I feel about in-person activities?" I repeated, in shock.

Like, she knows why we're so "understaffed," doesn't she?

"Yeah. I'm just trying to gather people's feelings about in-person activities."

"I feel...we...would not participate," I said. 

I just can't. Not yet. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Alexander swimming underwater

We, of course, went back to the pool today. It was a little bit cloudy and chilly, but not too bad once we were in the water. And because it was a little bit cloudy and chilly we had the pool all to ourselves (though the tennis courts were busy). Here's Alexander doing a little bit of (heart-stopping) swimming practice:


I broke out the pulse oximeter last night before bed. Andrew ordered one months ago (a pandemic panic purchase) but we haven't really had cause to use it. But last night I measured Alexander's oxygen levels before putting him to bed, for my own peace of mind. He was fine; I'm just a worrier. 

Yesterday I took the three little ones to the pool by myself. Rachel and Miriam stayed home for various reasons (Rachel because she was feeling a little behind in math and thought a quiet sibling-free house might help her accomplish quite a bit more and Miriam because she didn't want to have to rush home to shower and finish her work before her organ lesson) and while it was fine for me to take the little ones to the pool by myself, I did miss my big helpers. 

Zoë has completely abandoned her floatie. She hasn't put it on in quite some time now. This is great...but it also means I have to watch her a little more closely. The other day we were all at the pool and Zoë and Alexander wanted a snack so I took them out of the pool to have a granola bar and then took out my phone (a distraction!) to Marco Polo with some friends (in Finland and Idaho—hi Bridget and Crystal!) since the other three kids were together playing in the 4-foot area where they all can touch the bottom (and Rachel's technically old enough to supervise at the pool, anyway, according to the rules). Anyway, one minute Zoë was beside me, just opening her granola bar, and the next thing I know she was hurling herself into the pool from a diving block. 

"How'd she get over there so fast?" I wondered. "And how did she finish her granola bar that fast?"

Kids are just fast, I guess.

Her little head popped up out of the water but she seemed to be having trouble getting a breath.

"Turn onto your back!" I urged, then commanded Rachel to grab her sister (she was only a couple arm's lengths away). 

Rachel scooped her up and Zoë immediately stopped flailing about. It was then that we noticed the cause of her breathing issues—her cheeks were stuffed full of granola bar! She looked like a little chipmunk and couldn't open her mouth to take a breath to (literally) save her life. Silly thing! 

She's always trying to flaunt the "no food in the pool" rule.

Anyway, yesterday I had the littlest three at the pool and Alexander was in a rather brave mood. He didn't want his floatie on and instead wanted to practice swimming on his own. Usually this involves me helping him do back floats (I hold his head and he puts out his arms and legs) or him hopping from the stairs to me and back again. So far he hasn't wanted to put his face in the water at all, but yesterday he did

He put his face in and was so proud of himself that he wanted to keep doing it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Buttercup, the Gulf Fritillary

I pulled up a link on the Gulf Fritillary and Alexander exclaimed, "Mom! You did it! You 'dentifieded Buttercup!" 

'Dentifying things is a very important pastime in our house and it's true—today we 'dentified the Gulf Fritillary. We were at the pool today, chilling without a care in the world because we took a (much-needed) break from our studies, and the little ones had decided they were about ready to go home so I'd wrapped them all up in towels and sat them in the sun to warm up, but the bigger ones weren't quite ready to leave so I gave them fifteen minutes. Rachel and Miriam were playing a game with a ball and the ball went onto the deck so Miriam hopped out to grab it and when she did...a Gulf Fritillary lit on her dripping wet shorts and refused to get off.

Meant to do that sooner...

We had calzones for dinner last night.

My friend Crystal mentioned once about her daughter, Benjamin's age, making mini pizza pockets by filling refrigerated dough with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Benjamin is always wanting to make dinner so I thought I'd let him try it. We hardly ever use store-bought dough these days but I knew we had a couple tubes in our fridge waiting to be used so I dug them out and...decided we needed a backup dinner plan! One tube of dough expired in August 2019 and the other expired in January 2020. Evidently those tubes of dough had been waiting for us to use them for a lot longer than we thought. 

Instead we whipped up some quick pizza dough and then somehow Andrew took over helping Benjamin fill them and do an egg wash. Everything turned out beautifully and Benjamin was very proud to have made dinner. 

We played Quidditch for family night last night.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Sleeping and shrugging

Waffelles, the cat (not the food! as Zoë explained to me when she said she had waffles for lunch (except, of course, she said, "The food! Not the cat!")) likes to find the most uncomfortable spots to sleep, which, uh, totally explains how she came to be found in a car engine. We have a bag of sweet potatoes in our house right now and she loves to curl up on those cold, hard masses. I found her in the middle of the craft table downstairs, resting on a roll of tape, a bunch of stray crayons, and a pair of scissors. And here she is snuggling with the pool toys:

She has a cat bed and has been using it more and more, to be honest, but I've never found her sleeping on, say, a comfy couch or pile of blankets or in someone's bed. She's always like, "Ahhh! This lumpy bin of shoes is the place for me!" 

Whatever, cat.

Thursday, September 03, 2020


We go through a lot of paper at my house, which hasn't ever been a problem because we've always seemed to have a never-ending supply of scratch paper for the children to draw on and make snowflakes out of and turn into telescopes and do whatever else it is they do with the paper. We've had Harman invoices from Grandma's years of scanning and converting paper invoices to PDFs. We've had print outs of book manuscripts and articles to review. We've had reams of dot matrix paper, rendered useless with the advent of the laser jet. At one point my Uncle Bruce even drove a box of scratch paper from my mom in Utah to Washington DC when he went to visit my cousin Elizabeth at the birth of her baby, and then I drove up to Washington DC from North Carolina (well, I mean, Andrew did the driving, obviously, but I was in the car) to pick it up! 

We moved to Georgia without much in the way of scratch paper (although we did pack a big drawerful from Grandma's office closet) so recently I found myself hunting around for a new source of scratch paper. One woman in our ward gave me some dot matrix paper that had been taking up space in her supply closet at work. Another woman gave me about a ream of paper from her office that, having been printed on one side, was destined for the recycling bin—this was in March right at the beginning of all this pandemic panic when I was trying to get my immunization records (or something?) notarized so I could finish applying for grad school. 

Anyway, we're about at the end of that batch of scratch paper so I decided to send out another message asking for scratch paper, but this time I asked on our neighbourhood forum instead of our ward forum and it was such a good thing I did! I only got one response, from a man a few streets over, who I've never met. 

He said he could hook us up with as much paper as we could possibly ever want. He owns his own print shop and is drowning in paper that nobody wants!

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Braiding and fibbing

After getting home from the pool I threw my hair into a bun and ignored it while we finished up our schoolwork, so it was still wet when I was putting the kids to bed this evening. While I was reading to Zoë and Benjamin (who sit in the hall with me to listen, while poor Alexander has to be confined to his bed, unless there's a thunderstorm and then he gets to snuggle with Mommy a little longer (we read picture books before this, so it's not like he's going without snuggle/story time; he just wishes he could have more and I just wish he would fall asleep already so we reach a nightly impasse)).

Here's Alexander snuggling to sleep on a stormy night not too long ago (I think this was Sunday):

The big kids (who in this case are Zoë and Benjamin) used to listen to me read aloud from their beds as well. But then summer hit and our air conditioner broke and we broke out all the fans and it was much too noisy for them to hear me from their beds, so they gravitated into the hallway with me. And Zoë started drawing while she listened, and Benjamin began trying his hand as a hairdresser, while Alexander fell asleep to the sound of my voice. He probably only heard a very Charlie Brown version of the story—"Waa waa waa wa wa wa waa!"—but it was comforting enough for him to agree to stay in his bed...unless there's thunder.

Zoë swimming

We've gone to the pool every day since August 20 (aside from weekends), so that's nine days (and approximately 20 hours of swimming, which means we've spent $25 per hour for this source of entertainment/enjoyment/education this summer so far (I'm hoping that rate will go down considerably before pool season is over))). In that time, Zoë has gone from needing her floaty to shunning her floaty and her swimming skills have progressed a lot!

She's always been somewhat fearless at the pool, probably because she spent every day of the summer for the first few years of her life at the pool. Our Spanish Fork years were a bit of a dry spell for swimming (though we did hit the rec center a lot) and then this summer was an absolute drought. In the morning she gets out of her pyjamas and straight into her swimsuit, that's how excited she is to go to the pool every day. Here she is diving into the pool, flipping onto her back, and then swimming the length of the pool (well, just the diving tank) using the elementary backstroke I taught to her yesterday. 

Her stroke's not perfect yet but I'm impressed with how well she's doing!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

13th anniversary

I have a confession to make: I can never remember when Labour Day is. 

I'm in several homeschool groups on Facebook and someone recently asked if everyone had started school and their family had been the only ones to wait until after Labour Day and I thought to myself, "Oh, yeah! Labour Day! When is that, even?"

Because I just don't know.

It's the first Monday in September. Is that right?

My sister reminded me that 13 years ago, my dad had emergency surgery on Labour Day weekend. Andrew and I went on a picnic up the canyon on Thursday, August 30, 2007. On Friday, August 31, we had Josie over for some tutoring. And then my dad had come to pick her up looking like maybe he was having a heart attack (or, you know, an aortic aneurysm) and ended up having an emergency triple bypass. So we saw him early in the morning of September 1 looking very fragile. 

The nurses suggested that we put some things up around his room for him to look at while he recovered, so we put Rachel into a t-shirt my dad had picked up for her in Nevada (why had he been in Nevada?) even though it was far too large. He liked it because it said, "I can't talk yet but, I have an attitude," because babies are sassy long before they can talk.

Here is Rachel (six weeks old), drowning in the t-shirt:

Muddy salad

We went to the pool again today, which probably comes as no surprise, and afterword we stopped by the playground for a while because Alexander "actually wore shoes today" (which was a really good point to make because he so often runs out to the car with the kids and they help him get all strapped in without checking his feet and then because he's all buckled up I forget to check his feet, too (I've told him that he's in charge of making sure he has shoes...but also he's 

It was a big day for Zoë. She finally figured out how to pump on the swing!

We've been working on it for literally years but, uh, that's okay! She finally got it today. Really got it. 

Like, she's managed to do it a little in the past, but today it clicked and she is a confident swinger. 

Alexander is a confident swinger as well. He's 100% convinced that Zoë taught him how to pump his legs today and was singing, "In and out! In and out!" as he pumped his legs willy-nilly. He'll probably get it in the next couple of years. Today we're just happy that Zoë's got it figured out!

Sometimes my kids seem to be slow in the coordination department, but they're my children so...uh...this checks out. Sorry kids! Stick to individual sports—like running, swimming, and dancing—and no one will know that you can't hit a ball with a stick or put a ball in a basket to save your life (just a little tip from an uncoordinated pro).

Benjamin mainly concerned himself with foraging for wood sorrel. He wants nothing more than to harvest a big bowl of wood sorrel to make a salad to go with dinner. It would be his supreme contribution to the family, make him a real man, something of that sort. He's been entirely fixated on it for months and I've been holding him off, explaining that we can't just forage in our neighbour's yards like that! I know it's a weed and I said you could pick weeds from people's yards but I meant that you could pick, like, a dandelion puff, not take a salad bowl down to their house and just fill it up with whatever!

Sometimes I wonder what the neighbours think about us, but we're fairly used to being "the family with all the kids" by this point. Known for taking walks around the block wearing plague masks or with a child or two covered from head to toe in mud. It's good to be famous. 

Anyway, there was a lot of wood sorrel growing in the mulch of the playground and this was a community playground, not someone's yard! It was fair game! He could harvest as much as he wanted. 

He began running around and uprooting whole handfuls of wood sorrel.