Monday, November 30, 2020
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Last night my family got together for a game night the only way we could—virtually!
Patrick dialed in from Hawaii (4:00 his time).
David and Abra dialed in from British Columbia—Prince George and Langley, respectively (6:00 their time).
My parents, Josie, and Kelli dialed in from Provo and Layton, Utah (7:00 their time).
I, of course, joined in from Georgia (9:00 our time).
I believe this occasion marks the first time we have all managed to be on a call simultaneously. I also think it's the first time we have ever played a game together as one, complete family unit. There simply haven't been many instances when we've all lived—or have even been—under the same roof. I think the last time we were all together was either my Grandma and Grandpa Layton's 50th wedding anniversary (US, 2001) or my Grandma Conrad's funeral (Canada, 2003).
I know for sure that we were all together in 2001 (is that the last time Abra was able to make a trip down to the states?) but can't quite remember if Kelli went up to Canada for Grandma Conrad's funeral in 2003.
Okay, I looked it up the only way I could think of—by pulling out pictures of the event and, as it turns out, Kelli did manage to make the trip. So here we are in April of 2003:
Saturday, November 28, 2020
I don't think I ever really blogged about Canadian Thanksgiving, which was way back on October 12. Our Thankful tree was busy with birthday balloons for much of October. We did manage to get a few leaves up there but we weren't as diligent about it as we had been in past years. It's hard to keep up with everything when every day feels exactly like the one before it.
Andrew cooked a beautiful Canadian Thanksgiving meal for us, though we always take a few more "shortcuts" for Canadian Thanksgiving than we do with American Thanksgiving, such as the canned green beans. We just have more time to devote to things like cooking a big meal on American Thanksgiving than we do on Canadian Thanksgiving (though to be fair that is usually also a day off). So here's our Canadian meal:
Thursday, November 26, 2020
This evening Rachel, Miriam, Andrew and I played all four rounds of Hand and Foot in one sitting, something we've never managed before (with them...Andrew and I have played several complete games of Hand and Foot without them, usually with Reid and Karen). We ran a little past midnight and the girls were certainly getting a little loopy, but it was fun to get to spend time with them as big kids.
At one point Andrew stopped and cocked his head as if listening (because he was, indeed, listening).
"Ah, that's the wind," he said. "I thought it was raining."
"It is raining," we all told him.
"It's not," he said. "It was raining earlier today but it's just windy now."
"It's definitely raining," Rachel said. "Look at the deck. It's wet."
"Because it was raining all day. But it's not raining now."
"But it is raining now," I told him.
"It's just windy."
"I'll ask Alexa," Miriam offered. "Alexa—what's the weather?"
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Yesterday Andrew thought it was Saturday all day, which explains the particularly lengthy break he took to play Nintendo with the kids in the middle of the day. Not that I'm complaining because he's been working insane hours this entire pandemic and if he wants to sit down and play Nintendo for two hours just before lunchtime on a
Saturday Monday, who am I to intervene (especially when it's keeping all the kids entertained)?
He also suggested we do a movie night with a picnic dinner, which is typically a weekend thing.
But, I mean, we're taking this week off, anyway! It's a week-long weekend for us!
I suggested we could do a family night lesson and he was like, "We can do that on Monday," and I was like, "But..."
Newsies it is.
Monday, November 23, 2020
Today I'm thankful for language.
I'm thankful for the sweet baby language I've witnessed while my kids (and nieces and nephews and younger brother and sister) have grown. Language development is fascinating...and adorable. Case in point: The other day Alexander was wearing his cute penguin pyjamas which—ridiculously—have igloos on them as well. My kids have been learning a bit about the antarctic and there was a little confusion about where certain animals lived—polar bears and penguins and such; in short, they don't live together...and penguins don't belong with igloos.
These pyjamas have penguins and igloos on them in spite of that improbability, so Andrew pointed to an igloo and asked Alexander, "What's this?"
"A...doo-dit!" Alexander announced happily.
"A what?" Andrew asked.
"A doo-dit," Alexander repeated.
"What's a doo-dit?" Andrew asked.
"Lite, when you want to tick two paper togetter. You u'e a doo-dit!"
"A glue stick?!" I asked. "When you want to stick two papers together you use a glue stick?"
"Yeah!" Alexander exclaimed. "Lite, dat's one doo-dit, but pennins live in a doo-dit, too!"
"Close," I said. "Penguins live in igloos."
It's just so fun to watch children decode language, whether it's their first or second language.
Today I got to have a little video call with my mom and brother (and was so thankful we could use our common language to speak with each other). Alexander did a lot of the talking on this video call and my mom was impressed at how well David managed to decode Alexander's baby speech—in two different languages! When Alexander realized Aunt Ruth was speaking Spanish (to her family on a different video call in the background), he quickly announced that he could "tout in Bannih! Uno, doe, fway, twatwoh, finto, fay, fiete, nuebe, diay!"
Uncle David realized what he was doing right away—he was touting in Bannih (counting in Spanish)! He missed ocho, but that's alright. His counting is rubbish in English as well. But we are doing our best to figure out a few things in Spanish (and German and Russian and Arabic and...so forth). I'm grateful for the multitude of languages in the world and am grateful for the little bit I've been able to learn in the small number of languages I've attempted to learn. I'm thankful for people more fluent than me who translate things for others.
I'm thankful for written language, how sounds and ideas can be represented on the page (or the screen) and be distributed or kept private. I'm thankful for books and literature, for people who use language beautifully—poets and authors and screenwriters and playwrights.
I'm thankful for the change to study literature and language more (and am rather thankful to have just finished the first draft of my first final paper).
Sunday, November 22, 2020
When I was younger I couldn't ever understand why my mom didn't animals in the house. She was raised on a farm and while they occasionally had kittens (or calves) inside the house, the animals, for all intents and purposes, lived outside. Now that I'm older...I kind of get it. It would be nice to not have to worry about the way the cat kicks litter out of her litter box (though we're using pine pellets, which has been great so far (she still gets wood chips everywhere)), or the way she likes to sharpen her claws on my favourite couch (though I think I may have finally won that battle), or how loud she can be when she gets hyper and scampers around the house, or how obnoxious she is when she's in heat.
She's just ending her second heat cycle, which I'm grateful will be her last! As educational as having a...ahem...mature...cat...has been, I'm pleased to announce that she'll be off for a little operation in the morning.
We assembled some hygiene kits this afternoon and had a few washcloths leftover. Waffelles discovered this pile, snuggled right in and fell fast asleep (Benjamin tucked her in) while the rest of us worked on some new Shrinky-Dink projects (it's our newest obsession, apparently). We stuck one of the cloths into her cat carrier so that she can snuggle with it while she's riding in the car.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Yesterday we read some winter poems and then tried our hand at some poetry. It...did not go well. The children wrote poems, it's true, but they were...not great. So today we read more winter poetry and talked at length about the literary devices various poets employed to write a little magic into their poetry. We brainstormed symbols of winter and practiced describing things using all of our senses. And then the children wrote poems and things went a lot smoother!
Zoë wrote a poem to the tune of Frere Jacques:
I Love Winter
I love winter, I love winter!
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
I like building snowmen.
I like sledding down hills.
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
I love winter, I love winter!
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
I like reading inside
Huddled in my blanket.
Yes, I do! Yes, I do!
Monday, November 16, 2020
I spent some time hunting around for a fun Christmas activity for the kids to do—something that everyone from the littlest to the biggest would enjoy, something that wasn't too messy, something that complicated enough that we wouldn't finish it in two seconds but not so complicated that it would drive us crazy. I was explaining my quest to Andrew and said that "I settled on this cute shrinky-dink tinsel tree."
"Are you even speaking English anymore?" Andrew asked.
So I had to explain the magic of shrinky dink to him. He didn't seem to think it was an actual thing so was just as invested in the process when we broke it out for FHE as the kids were. We divided up the pieces and coloured them. I didn't take pictures of that part, but here's Rachel and Miriam putting some of the finished ornaments on the tree:
I don't have a copy of this book in hand yet, but following my uncle's advice I did look up Le Ton Beau de Marot and we read a few translations of the poem "A une Damoyselle Malade" and discussed the differences between the translations (ignoring the rhyme scheme for the the literal translation, and so forth) and then tackled writing a poem in the same form.
Zoë and Benjamin really struggled with the idea of a couplet expressing an idea (or, even harder in this case, an idea split between couplets) but they really nailed the rhyming thing.
Zoë's poem was...rhyme-y...but didn't make much sense.
We have a cat
And things like that.
Like a spider
Let me explain her thought process as far as I understand it. We have a cat (true) but we also have a jorō spider that we caught from off our front porch. Cider rhymes with spider. The cat caught a cockroach, played with it for a bit, and left it for dead (sometimes she eats them and sometimes she doesn't) so we fed the freshly-maimed cockroach to the spider, who was very grateful (I assume that because she's eating it, not because I know how a spider shows gratitude). Approaches rhymes with cockroaches! Spiders make webs! Ebbs rhymes with webs! POETRY!
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Alexander had one of his "really weird nights" the other night. That's what he calls those nights when he just can't sleep no matter how hard he tries (or, from my perspective, doesn't try). It had been really just a rough week of sleep.
One night—two hours after bedtime—I finally told him, "Close. Your. Eyes."
And he did...and fell asleep within seconds. But that trick didn't work the following night and he stayed up and then kept just getting up and then somehow managed to wake up at his usual time in the morning and was just a little bit off the whole day. He managed to stay awake until we were just about done with our evening scripture study and then he just couldn't hold his head up anymore and fell asleep in my arms.
I think he slept all of that night. I can't remember.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
"There's a ginormous orb weaver on the front porch," Andrew said after he'd run outside in the rain to make sure all our weather-proofing measures were still solidly proofing against the weather.
Naturally we all had to run out to see if it was a run-of-the-mill orb weaver or whether it was a jorō spider. It was a jorō spider, which I must say I was much happier to see in the woods than on my front porch! These spiders are so big!
I had Miriam hold up a ruler beside it so you could see just how big it is. She did her best to not hit the web with the ruler, but be close enough so the spider and ruler were on the same plane. I think the ruler is only upstaging the spider by a centimeter or so here (she did end up accidentally hitting the web with the ruler, which made it scurry away a bit, so she was really close):
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Many years ago when my math-loving uncle was so kindly and patiently helping me through college algebra (and so many tears), he told me things like "math is fun" and "anyone can understand math" and many other phrases that I considered absolute hogwash. But I have to say, homeschooling my children is opening my eyes to this way of thinking. I'm fairly sure that people who claim to be "bad" at math often have simply not been taught the foundations of mathematics well enough. Going back to the basics has been eye-opening for me.
Benjamin is so quick with mental math because he really understands how to manipulate numbers. It's quite amazing. And as I'm working through the curriculum with him, I'm finding that my mental math is getting better as well. My understanding of basic mathematical principles applies to higher math. Anyway, it's just been a great experience.
Today, for example, Benjamin had the following problem:
(187 + 188 + 189) ÷ 75
He solved it in just a few seconds, writing very little down.
"39!" he declared.
"You didn't show your work," I reminded him.
"Don't need to," he said. "It's easy."
I often have him write down or explain what's going on in his brain (for my sake if not his), so this is how he explained his answer:
"Two groups of 75 is 150, so we see that 75 can easily fit into each of those numbers two times. That leaves us with a remainders of 37, 38, and 39, consecutively. You don't even have to think about it for the other two numbers, really. It's just an increase of 1 each time, so if you solve the first problem and get a remainder of 37, the next two remainders must be 38 and 39. Add the first two remainders together and you get 75. Cancel that out (because it's another group of 75) and you're left with 39. That's your answer. 7, remainder 39."
We're two years on this side of things now.
The good news is that grieving gets easier. We feel better today than we did last year, and last year we felt much better than we did two years ago. Though I imagine we will still have hard days—or at least hard moments—ahead, I hope this trend will continue.
The bad news is that I am not entirely sure grieving gets easier. I've said many goodbyes in my life. Saying goodbye to Karen was probably the hardest one...and I'm afraid I have other hard goodbyes down the road. I don't want them, but they're coming for me just the same. I wish experience could make that grief easier, but I don't think it will.
Except that I'll know that it won't last forever—that feeling of being suspended in time while the world somehow carries on without you? It doesn't last forever. Maybe knowing that will make it easier. Knowing that losing someone is a shock to the system, but that—with enough time, with enough gentleness—it will get easier. It will become normal, live-with-able.
For this little one, Karen's death was an earth-rocking event:
Monday, November 09, 2020
Saturday morning while Andrew was out grocery shopping, the election was called in favour of the Biden/Harris ticket. Rachel, who had been voluntarily cleaning the kitchen so she could bake another batch of cookies, came running upstairs to me with her phone.
"Pennsylvania went to Biden!" she squealed.
"What?" I said.
"He won! Biden won!"
"Biden won?!" Zoë and Benjamin called from the bathroom they were busy cleaning together.
"Yes!" Rachel said.
Zoë and Benjamin danced around screaming and yelling for a few minutes before I convinced them to finish cleaning the bathroom. Andrew arrived home soon after. He walked in the door, we looked at each other and sighed, one of those deep body-relaxing sighs, and we haven't really stopped sighing since. Every time we walk past each other we stop and sigh. Every time we make eye contact, we sigh.
The kids are starting to wonder what's wrong with us.
It's like we're young and in love again, only we're not (young, I mean (we're still in love)). We're just so very relieved.
Friday, November 06, 2020
Benjamin gave a talk "in" primary on Sunday. He was actually rather excited to write his talk. Since he chooses to listen to the scriptures (rather than music) while he falls asleep and has thus become quite the little scriptorian. He wrote a lovely draft earlier in the week and we cleaned it up together and then he practiced it a few times before Sunday.
He read it very nicely, even though he was nervous and when he was finished he apologized for "faltering" in the middle of his talk. I guess he felt like he had stammered a little, but I didn't notice him make any mistakes at all.
Here's his talk:
Wednesday, November 04, 2020
Alexander drew a group of humanoids the other day and beneath them all he made some markings: