After putting on some finishing touches, the children donned their costumes this afternoon. The pictures didn't load in order, but that's alright. We'll look at the pictures in reverse order.
Here's is Miriam as Constanze Mozart, Mozart's wife:
After putting on some finishing touches, the children donned their costumes this afternoon. The pictures didn't load in order, but that's alright. We'll look at the pictures in reverse order.
Here's is Miriam as Constanze Mozart, Mozart's wife:
The whoosh of the wind and the obnoxious pulsing of generators are swirling outside my window, but inside we are warm and—perhaps more importantly—dry! And (lucky people that we are!) one of the generators is ours!
When we realized the power wasn't going to come back on any time soon, Andrew went on a quest for a generator and managed to pick up the very last one at ACE Hardware (Lowe's was out, Home Depot was out), so our situation is looking up! The contents of our fridge will survive and we've been enjoying not being completely dependent on flashlights and candles (and getting to use the internet and our computers a little bit (though I do think we should turn off the generator soon because that thing is so loud and I'm worried all the neighbours will hate us (and I'm a little sensitive to noise)).
Hurricane Zeta blew in with all her fury at around 4:00 in the morning. Andrew was still awake because he was doing a guest lecture at The University of Turku, in Finland. They've already ended daylight savings and we don't end our daylight savings until this weekend (right?), so there was a little mix-up about the time class actually began. The good news is that Andrew was definitely on time—in fact, he was an hour early! The bad new was that it meant he needed to stay up an hour later than he originally thought he would have to stay up. But it was fine.
He did his guest lecture and then inspected the house to make sure everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion. The trench we'd dug out along the side of the house seemed to be doing its job nicely, not that it mattered much because Zeta brought along more wind than rain (while Delta was wet, wet, wet).
Here, again, is the chart of the rain we got with Hurricane Delta:
As unbelievable as it is, somehow...somehow...yet another hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and the tail end of Hurricane Zeta is due to hit us in the early hours of the morning. Hurricane Sally found a leak in our roof. Hurricane Delta was kind enough to point out a few weak spots in our
We're really hoping Hurricane Zeta just ignores us, but we spent the afternoon getting things ready for her anyway. After all, we don't often get company these days.
So...we cleared out the gutters, built up the ground around our foundation and dug a trench through the side yard.
Normal stuff like that.
Oak trees in our area seem to be particularly ambitious and I have a few avid acorn collections living in my house so we always have plenty of acorns about. At first Benjamin wanted to collect 100 acorns for our 100th Day of School celebration (which I think we should hit around December 8), but when he collected well over 100 acorns on one little walk he decided that perhaps he should collect 100 x 100 acorns, or 10,000 acorns!
This last number proved to be a little too ambitious because that's a lot of acorns and a lot of counting.
Still, we have a sizable bin of acorns sitting around our house, which we figured we'd just chuck outside for the squirrels every now and again over the winter. But the kids wanted to do something with them.
At first they wanted to make acorn flour, which is possible. Acorns themselves are too high in tannins to be healthy for humans. They have to be soaked (sometimes more than once) to leech the tannins, and then they have to be baked, and then they have to be ground up. And that just sounded like a lot of work for something that I wasn't sure was going to be very tasty (otherwise I'm sure we would eat acorns regularly because they are plentiful).
After a bit of searching around for ideas we settled on making acorn ink.
It seemed easy enough. You just have to crush the acorns, which is easy enough if you have an eight-year-old around who enjoys crushing things (which I do). Then you soak the crushed acorns in water, boil them for a bit if you want, strain them, and add some "rust garden" vinegar (which we began a few weeks prior to preparing our acorns—for that you just put a rusty bit of metal in vinegar and let it go to town). All in all a very passive project. The hardest part was just waiting for things to be ready, waiting for things to rust, waiting while the acorns soaked.
We started our rust garden about three weeks ago and started soaking our acorns sometime around October 9. We just let them sit and sit and sit, partly because we forgot about them altogether when the basement flooded and partly because they just needed to sit for a while. I strained the ink once a few days ago, discarded the acorn chunks, and then boiled it down to make it thicker.
It was a rich brown and, I'll be honest, I was skeptical it would ever turn black.
Today I strained our ink once more and then we added some of our "rust garden" vinegar to the ink and it magically turned a deep black! It was rather amazing!
Our next step was to make some quill pens (because if you're into a project this deep you may as well go all the way). We watched a few tutorials (like this one) before attempting things on our own. I was a little nervous to try it with a handful of kids, but they did great (ie. no one chopped off their finger or anything)!
First we used sandpaper to scrape the membrane from the feathers. I thought this would be easier (ie. safer) than handing everyone a knife. This way even the littlest among us could feel like they were contributing to the finished product even if Mommy ended up doing most of the cutting later on.
We had a great first day back at (home)school! By the time I dragged myself out of bed in the morning the kids had all had breakfast and had cleaned up the table. Rachel and Miriam had mostly finished with their daily math section and Zoë was sitting at the table with her math workbook (Benjamin was playing Lego in the basement and Alexander, though he had had breakfast with the kids, was now with me). Further, Rachel had started a load of laundry, had put away the clean dishes and loaded all the dirty ones into the dishwasher. It was pretty remarkable!
We started reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which all of the children seem to being enjoying so far. They did their writing responses with little complaint and then we all finished up math (most especially Benjamin, who had to go from start to finish). Then we headed out for PE.
Rachel wanted to explore the new playground we found (since she was too cool to go out with us last week). It turns out that Monday in the early afternoon is a much less busy time for the park than Friday mid-afternoon. I even managed to park in the parking garage.
Alexander has always been very touched by music. Whenever music comes on—be it in a movie or video game or session of General Conference—Alexander will turn to his nearest sitting companion and whisper, "I like this music!" Sometimes he can't help but wiggle to the beat, or, if it's really getting to him, he'll hop up and dance.
This afternoon he was listening to primary music on his "phone" and he came to me, rather weepy, and blubbered, "I found a new song for me and for you, Mommy. It's our song. It's about how you're my dearest, dearest mother, and I love you! And I do! And that's why it's our song. And it's so special to me and..."
He kept talking but was crying so hard I could hardly understand what he was saying. Tears were streaming down his sweet little face.
I pulled him onto my lap and we sat there and listened to (and practiced singing) the song while he hit the "play again" button over and over again. He had me sing it for him at bedtime, while he stroked my face and hummed along.
He's the sweetest, most tender little thing
The song is "Dearest Mother, I Love You," a song that I somehow escaped primary without learning (but a song I think Alexander will have learned before he gets to primary (in about two short months—how is that even possible?!)):
Gentle words I hear you say.
Your kind hands help me each day.
You’re my mother kind and true;
Dearest mother, I love you.
It's our last day of fall break. So for a special treat I decided to take the children to a new park. We have hardly gone anywhere the past seven months, so a new park would be a real treat! It's a park I've seen people posting pictures of but somehow we've never managed to find (in our defense it only opened last year, so I guess it's fairly new to . Finally I pulled it up on the map and figured things out.
It's really the "city green," a little social area behind some shops. There were signs directing us to park in the "parking deck," but I just couldn't find a spot I thought I could pull into, but after a little bit of a panic attack I managed to find this spot that was close enough to being in the parking deck that I thought it counted as such:
Yes, I know there are several spots visible inside the parking deck but...I left them for someone who feels like they can park in a parking garage.
Our neighbour was lucky enough to score a couple loads of fill dirt and when I went to ask her where she got it (because we desperately needs some fill dirt over here) she said someone was digging a pool and wanted to get rid of it so she told them to come dump it in her yard) since she has some low areas she wants to fill). She also said that she probably has more dirt than she could possibly use so we're welcome to some (since her husband is feeling keen to get their driveway back).
So today we prepped our front yard for some DIY landscape work. The house had some scraggly bushes out front that we just didn't love. Plus we need to raise that entire area of the house so that it slopes away from the house rather than towards it, for basement flooding reasons.
Here's a look at our house in July (after our new windows were installed):
We've gotten very used to having an empty calendar the past few months. The last time we had a primary "activity" (earlier this summer) I accidentally put it on the calendar for 10:00 PM instead of 10:00 AM so we ended up missing out on it. We had a "pumpkin pop-thru" this weekend and I made sure to put the correct time on the calendar so we would get all the correct reminders and we remembered to go!
Good thing, too, because I needed to distribute craft supplies to my primary girls for our next couple of activities. Here I am reppin' the Bulldogs (Andrew likes to laugh at me because I legitimately can never remember what school I go to (or its acronym)—not GSU, UNC, AUC, UVU, BYU...UGA! That's the one):
I took three of the kids in for their doctor appointments today. Our doctor's office typically only allows two children at a time but I asked for an exception to the rule because—and my doctor agrees and was the first to suggest it—it makes no sense for me to come in three times for five kids when I could just come in twice. Right? Sure.
Added to that policy (that I'm skirting around) are some new COVID rules, including the fact that only one caregiver is allowed to accompany children at their appointments. So I chose to take Rachel, Zoë, and Alexander, thinking that if either one of them got too scared and out of hand there would still be a grown-up type person to help with the not-so-scared one?
It didn't work out that way because they wanted Rachel in her own private room and had me going back and forth between the rooms and it ended up being rather awkward. At one point I was with Rachel and the doctor said something like, "You'd better get back to your other two because our nurses have better things to do than babysit all day," and I was like, "Ummm...okay?" because the little plan of me ping-ponging between the rooms was her idea, not mine. And the nurse, who was doing vision and hearing screenings on the kids and wasn't even finished when I got back. So it was a little awkward, but I'm sure it was fine...
One day I'll figure out the right combination of children to take to the doctor. Today was not that day.
The little kids wanted nothing more than to go back to the Chattahoochee today with their big sisters, who were free from things like birthday cake baking and basement restorations and were happy to take a break to go rambling in the woods, so things worked out well for everyone. They were all hoping to get to splash around in the water a bit but, like I mentioned, things were a little more floody than yesterday.
We're in the middle of our fall break right now. It was supposed to be a lovely, relaxing week. Instead it was...well...the week that it was...so we'll be taking next week off, too, to recover from this week. And that's one of the reasons I love homeschooling—we can just do that if we want to (and we do).
Yesterday for his birthday, Alexander wanted to go to the Chattahoochee. I didn't pack extra clothes for kids because I knew the river would be too high to play in. I did not account for tributary streams in my plans so the kids ended up soaking wet, of course, because the tributary streams were at just the right level for splashing in. Today I took the kids to the river again and this time I packed extra clothes for Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander and although they 100% were planning on playing in the stream, even that was too high to play in today. The lovely bank we played on yesterday was absolutely flooded, river water was rushing from the river upstream and things were a little crazy. So the kids didn't get wet at all.
I may have just discovered a way to keep my kids dry at the river—packing a change of clean clothes for them! It's Murphy's Law, right?
Anyway, here are the kids (yesterday) tossing some stones into the river from some stairs that were fairly well dry:
Alexander has been planning and counting down to his birthday for a long time, and this morning he woke up to execute his plans. Here he is giving me his final two-year-old goodnight hug:
When I broke one of our glass measuring cups, I didn't break the huge 4-cup measuring cup (which we hardly ever use because rarely do we ever have to measure four cups of something), nor did I break the 1-cup measuring cup (which we use more often than the 4-cup measuring cup but still not that frequently because although we measure one cup of stuff frequently it also feels a teensy bit like maybe it will spill if you only use a 1-cup measuring cup). I broke the just right 2-cup measuring cup—the one we use the most often of all.
Thus the reason it was sitting out to dry on the edge of the counter (though in all honestly it should have been sitting out to dry more to the middle of the counter than the edge...I'm just saying).
Anyway, Andrew decided to order a new 2-cup measuring cup because we immediately began to feel like we were missing it. It arrived the other day, dropped off unceremoniously on our front porch...
...In a plastic-bag envelope.
When I peeped out the window to see what package had arrived I whispered, "Oh, no," because I already knew what it was we were expecting that day.
When I picked the package up and it...jingled...in my hands, I started cackling...because isn't that just the most 2020 way for a package to arrive? Shattered to bits?
Alexander loves to name his toys. His owls all have names—Bluey, Hedwig, Spot, Brownie, and...I can't think of the other one—his doll is named Tom. The other day he was having me draw pictures and he asked if I would draw a picture of his puppy, so I did. And then he asked if I would draw a dog house for his puppy to live in, so I did and decided to put a sign on the dog house, so I asked Alexander what his dog's name was.
"His name is...he doesn't have a name yet!" Alexander panicked.
"Well, you'd better name him then!" I said.
Alexander scanned the room, finally settling on some bottles of glue the kids had left on the counter.
"Gluey!" he said. "My puppy's name is Gluey!"
I thought his naming process was so cute, so I was telling my family about it on a group video call. When I announced that his name was Gluey, Rachel snickered, "That would be a good name for a horse."
My family rather appreciated her dark humour.
Today Benjamin agreed to do a difficult job for me (squeezing between the wall of the downstairs bathroom and the foundation to get some trash left back there (by the previous owners)), which he was rather reluctant to do but which when it came right down to it he found he rather enjoyed it.
"You're a good man, Charlie Brown," I told him.
Alexander looked at him—Benjamin was wearing all blue today—and said, "He's not Charlie Brown! He's Benny Blue!"
We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner this evening, cooked up by Rachel and Andrew, and while we were talking, the topic of Alexander's birthday came up. Alexander is very excited about his birthday and has all sorts of plans for his special day.
"That's right," Andrew teased for some reason (because...he's a tease), "You're going to be four!"
It was an almost unfathomable amount of rain, so let's see if we can fathom it, shall we?
...and I had only just tucked my little ones in for their tornado-warning tent-sleepover, turned out the light, and crept up the stairs (and wrote a quick blog post) when I got a text message from Rachel (at 10:18 PM).
"Heyyy," she wrote.
"'Sup?" I asked.
"There's a wet spot on the floor by the bathroom?" she frained.
This is not technically a valid scrabble word. Whereas refrain comes from the Latin re+frenum and means to bridle or restrain oneself (or from the Latin refringere, which means to break up, as with a refrain in a song), frain is a rather Scottish way to inquire about something. But Rachel was desperate, so we allowed it this afternoon.
Anyway, she asked/told me that the floor was a bit wet.
"Oh?" I said.
"Can you come look at it?"
So I went back downstairs to look at it and...oh, no.
Everything was not fine, as I so erroneously claimed in my last blog post, which I had finished (at 10:14 PM) mere minutes before Rachel made her discovery. The carpet was wet all along the outside wall as well as the wall between The Lego Room and the rest of the basement. The Lego Room was also wet.
We still haven't fixed our roof from Hurricane Sally and now we're being bombarded by Hurricane Delta. It was quite a ride for me when Andrew first sent me a warning about the wicked weather "Delta" was bringing us.
"Tornado watch...from Delta," he texted me.
"Better than a warning," I said and then I wondered what he meant by "from Delta."
Delta Airlines? They bring tornadoes now? Delta, Utah? That's quite the distance for a tornado to travel. Oh, Hurricane Delta! I mean, clearly it was raining outside but I didn't know when it was due to hit us. Apparently it was today.
So it's been raining heavily all day with tornado warnings popping up all around us but never for us. We had scriptures and prayer and I was just ushering the children upstairs to their beds when...it was finally our turn for a tornado warning!
For the first time since...March? Literally for the first time since March, I have an errand to run today. I need to go to the library—to drop off our books that are due, to pick out new books, and to drop off our ballots (seriously, VOTE, guys!)—and this time I checked and they're not closed to the public (unlike the last time I was going to run an errand but then didn't). So I put on a nice outfit today—jeans and a (new!) shirt that I go on clearance in the early spring when we were buying new flip flops from Old Navy for Rachel and wanted free shipping but didn't want to spend enough money on flip flops to qualify for free shipping (like, may as well buy a shirt, right?), but which was on clearance because it was from the winter collection (it has long sleeves) so I hadn't had an opportunity to wear it until now.
Part of me was like, "Why wear a nice shirt? It's just going to get dirty/stained/ruined!" because motherhood is a, uh, messy affair, okay? But then I was like, "It does me no good just sitting in the closet waiting to be worn and I'm going in public today." So wearing a nice shirt is completely justified. Right?
Guys, the shirt already has a snag in it and I don't know how. Ugh.
This is why I can't have nice things.
We've been doing far too much reading lately, which might not be a thing you'd think would be possible but in our case...it just might be. Because we're planning on taking our fall break next week, the older kids have been pushing to finish reading The Scarlet Pimpernel so that we can have a movie night. This has made for some long mornings of reading, which can be difficult for Zoë and Alexander, who aren't following the story quite as well as the big kids (though still Zoë is able to recall a surprising amount of information; even when I'm struggling to recall character names—the other French girl...whatever-her-name-is De Tournay—Zoë can come up with the names in a snap—it's Suzanne).
This has led to some perceived naughtiness on their part (perceived because they aren't trying to be naughty, necessarily, but are being so rowdy that they're driving everyone else bonkers). They won't leave to go play elsewhere, though, because they want to listen to the story, too. So it's been a little tense the past couple of days, just trying to balance everyone's needs and personalities.
And we've just been juggling so long, you know.
Thus the need for a break.
Anyway, we finished reading this morning and I gave the kids their writing prompt and set them loose and Zoë and Alexander went into the living room to...read some more!
Zoë is a very fluent reader and will read anything she can get her hands on. She's also a very expressive reader, an indefatigable reader.
Tonight she tried to read the entire 48 verses of 3 Nephi 12...even though we told her that she wasn't allowed to read the whole chapter by herself because other people wanted turns. She aggressively read the first 12 verses (yes, aggressive reading is definitely a thing) and then aggressively followed along and anytime anyone paused to take a breath or swallow she would cut them off and aggressively begin plowing through more verses.
She's got fluency, expression, and endurance.
The only thing she can't quite manage is to read in her head.
This works out well for us, though, because she can usually find a willing listener.
Here she is reading to Alexander, who moments before was so exhausted from listening that he couldn't manage to sit still or keep quiet (in his defense, there were no pictures):
We are gearing up for fall break over here, I think. I can just tell we're at a...breaking point...if you will...the point where we just feel like we're slogging through...the point where we haven't taken a day off since June, practically. That's the point we're at. I don't know what we'll end up doing—
perhaps probably nothing—but whatever it is, it gives us something to look forward to for the next few days.
The promise of...sleeping in (we do that, anyway)...of not having to coach Benjamin through his math work (though yesterday when we wrote about heroes he said that I was a hero for helping him so perhaps it's not so bad after all)...of playing more games and watching more movies (we're hoping to finish The Scarlet Pimpernel before we break) and lazing about at the park (outside of "prime time" so we don't have to be around other people).
And that's about it.
We've considered driving somewhere and staying in a cabin, but haven't committed to that idea yet. It might be nice...but it might be nicer to do that not when we're in the middle of a pandemic, which (just as a reminder) we are.
I did take the kids to the park today, specifically for science so we could look for examples of weathering happening in real life...but also so that they could just play for a while. We found plenty of weathering going on at the park (enough that most of the walking paths are closed for resurfacing right now since they've been weathered to bits (the kids are going to miss the "roller coaster" the tree roots have made in one section of the path; they loved hitting that with their scooters)).
Here are Zoë and Alexander by the sign warning about the trail being closed:
Somehow it's October, apparently.
It's been quite the week at our house with a few work deadlines for Andrew and my regular homework load along with compiling a (23-page) family newsletter. Dinners were scanty: nachos, pancakes, frozen pizza, that sort of thing—which is the very reason I've always said that both of us couldn't do grad school at the same time. Thank goodness neither one of us is actually in school full time or we'd never remember to feed the kids!
We ordered pizza on Friday night and when the delivery guy dropped them off he asked if we were having a party. "No," Andrew told him. "We just have a lot of kids."
The guy looked a little shocked but, like, it's the truth.