Thursday, December 31, 2020

Christmas cabin

As I mentioned, Rachel and Miriam made a beautiful cabin/homestead play set for their younger siblings for Christmas morning. They worked on the project nearly daily for about a year—in secret—and had to basically learn how to do needlepoint before they could begin. It was a real learning process for them, but now they are practically experts. They know so many more stitches and find patterns a lot less intimidating. They're already talking about what they'll make next.

Here's a sneak peek at their cabin:

Gingerbread houses

The little kids have already destroyed and consumed their gingerbread graham cracker houses, but the real gingerbread houses that Rachel and Miriam made were still standing and we hadn't taken pictures of them or anything, so tonight we that we can destroy them tomorrow. 

Here's the smaller of the two houses, decorated by Rachel (when there was very little candy left to choose from):

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Christmas park

Alexander found a blue shovel in the toy box a while ago and suddenly his greatest dream was to visit the sandbox. He carried that shovel around with him for days and I kept promising to take him...eventually...but we live in a city where even finding appropriately socially distanced outside time can be difficult. But the weather was rather nice in the few days before Christmas (before we were plunged into below-freezing weather) so I decided to take Zoë and Alexander to the park while the bigger kids did one of the segments of their Lord of the Rings marathon.

The kids were fine without jackets, but I felt a little chilly. I guess I should have run around more!

We weren't wearing masks when we first got to the park because we were the only ones there, but then another family arrived so we put our masks on while they were getting out of the car. Here are the kids swinging:

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Una palabra

We finished reading The Book of Mormon on the last day of November and then worked our way through a book of Christmas devotionals (finishing that on Christmas Eve), so for the past couple of days we've been working on memorizing The Articles of Faith together. Rachel and Miriam pretty much have them memorized, I think, but the younger kids still have quite a bit of work to do before they can "pass" them off.

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes have us play a game to help us memorize things, where we'd sit or stand in a circle and each person would take a turn saying one word of each article of faith. I thought my kids would enjoy that, too, so I explained the rules to them, throwing in a bit of Spanish, as one does.

"We're going to go around in a circle," I said. "And when I point to you, you'll say una palabra and then I'll point to the next person and they'll say una palabra until we're finished. Get it?"

Everyone nodded. 

Now, I knew that not everyone got it. I do, after all, have a three-year-old in the house. But I figured most people got it, so I began by pointing to myself, figuring everyone else would catch on. "We..."

I pointed to Miriam: "Believe."

I pointed to Benjamin.

 "Una parabola?" he said. 

Not quite, buddy. 

Rachel's last math unit before we started our Christmas break was on parabolas, so his confusion is understandable. And now I can't even remember if I managed to say palabra, or if I was doing some combination of palabra (Spanish) and parola (Italian). I certainly didn't confuse it with the French word mot, though I could have confused it with French for "to speak," which is parle (parla in Italian and hablar in Spanish), or the word parable in English. 

They all come from the same Greek roots para- meaning "alongside" and bole meaning "a throw," or a comparison, a juxtaposition, a metaphor, and...somehow or other...a word.

The kids all understand the game now so I can explain it in whatever mishmash of languages I want!

Games night

While Andrew, Miriam, Rachel, and I sat down to play Rummikub together, Benjamin chose to read (he's been cruising through his Christmas books) and Zoë and Alexander chose to draw. I won all three rounds (just saying) and Alexander kept calling for another round so that he could keep drawing. 

At one point Andrew reminded one of the girls that "if you draw you don't get another turn."

"What?" Alexander squeaked, tears already forming in his eyes. "That's not nice! You can draw! And you can have turns!"

"You can draw," Andrew said.

"And have a turn?"

"And have a turn."

"Okay. Play another round! I want another turn of drawing!"

Alexander drew some pretty amazing pictures of Baby Yoda and our family and many other things, but my very most favourite picture of all is this one of the two of us dancing together:

He and I were really cutting a rug! 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2020

This year was, honestly, a little boring—no trips, no adventures, just lots of...staying home—but somehow I managed to cobble enough content together from our mundane life to write a poem. I finished it—and began distributing it—before Christmas but put off the task of uploading it onto the blog. I don't know why such an ordinary task seems so huge but...there you have it. The task simply felt big—making JPEGs and making sure all the links transferred over (they didn't transfer over nicely, so I had to input them manually)—and I had other things going on (like our Christmas concert and getting ready for Christmas). 

So, here it is on Boxing Day, instead. You can read it below or click here to download it.

What is there to say about this present time?

It feels like this year lacked both reason and rhyme.

(The latter, you’ll find, I have made up for plenty

With this poetic rendering of twenty-twenty.)

Hindsight, they say, is the name of this year,

And so I’ll recount our days both droll and drear:

Christmas morning

I took 555 pictures this morning (not even joking) but I am only sharing approximately 1/5 of those with you (which is still too many pictures, I freely admit). Alexander was the first one up this morning so he and I hung out for a while before going downstairs to see if the older kids were awake (at 7:30). They were! And they rather immediately fell in line for the Christmas train (it's like our traditions are running themselves this year).

Friday, December 25, 2020

A White Christmas in Georgia

Last night everyone's wishes for a white Christmas came true! Our "wintry mix," which had been nothing but very cold rain all day, turned into actual snow very late in the evening and left us with a dusting of cold white stuff. The children were all very happy to see it this morning. They couldn't believe their luck! 

Alexander was determined that we should build a snowman, so he dragged all his siblings (and me) outside in the 27°F (-3°C) weather to do so.

Blankets and Miracles

Back before this year turned into the crazy year it was, I embarked on a project to collect memories from my siblings and Andrew's siblings to turn into a book of reflections about growing up in our respective households. What memories did we share? How were things different when different "groups" of siblings were growing up (my family has very distinct clusters of children)? What things did we remember wildly differently?

I thought it would be fun.

It was fun. It was also a lot of work and I didn't get the deluge of memories I was hoping for so I'm going to keep hounding people for memories. (I've also been going through some of Karen's papers to transcribe her view of things as found in letters home to her parents as well as in her journals). 

I had hoped to have books ready to distribute to all the siblings by this I said...I don't have the memories I was looking for. Some siblings only answered a few questions. Some siblings didn't answer any. So making a book of memories right now seems impossible. Still, I have compiled the answers that I have, so that's a start. And I'm not afraid to keep asking...and asking...and asking...and asking...

One surprising thing that happened was a rekindling of a relationship with Sarah.

Christmas Eve Devotional

Today was a pretty quiet day at home. We cleaned up the basement so the kids would be ready for their Christmas Eve sleepover. We played games—Miriam cried and cried about Phase 10 but ended up getting second place (I lost). Zoë and Alexander were so patient while the rest of us were playing; they made all sorts of beautiful Christmas pictures (most of which ended up under the tree, I believe), so when we were finished playing Phase 10, I played "The Santa Claus Game" with them (which takes a lot of patience for me to play). 

All the while I was texting a neighbour who contacted me on Nextdoor to say that she had some books she'd like to get rid of and would we like them. I told her that we definitely would! I did not tell her that I had no idea who she was! 

Here's the thing: a few months ago I put out a plea on Nextdoor to see if anyone had access to a lot of scrap paper (because my kids—they draw all the time, see? But I'm an environmentalist and can't give them fresh, good paper to draw on because they draw all the time). We got our paper. And some other random lady sent me a message saying that sometimes she goes through her things to pare down her belongings and would I be interested in any things she comes across? So I said, sure—keep us in mind.

So I thought, maybe it was this mystery lady messaging me now.

But she was being very vague. She was like, "Okay! I'll just clean them up a bit and leave them in the garage. You can swing by and grab them if you want. The door is always open."

So I was like, "Sure thing. What's your address?"

And she was like, "This is Michele. Two doors down. Two trucks in the driveway..."

And I about died! 

I mean, I knew it was Michele, but the thing is, I didn't know this particular neighbours' last name and, well, there are a lot of Michel[l]es in the world! So it just didn't click that it was that Michele. And for the record, my directly next-door neighbour's name is also Michelle. So there's that. I mean, this Michele could have been anybody! But she had

That was a fun message to type.

"Oh, that Michele! Yup. Totally know who you are!" is what I did not type, but I assure you my message was just as bumbling and awkward.

The little kids (Benjamin inclusive) and I walked up—in the cold, sleety weather we had today—to get them books but the garage door was closed. We rang the doorbell but no one came so we headed home. Halfway there Benjamin noticed Michele waving out the window to us. Evidently her husband had close the garage door (because it was sleeting, probably) and she hadn't realized. But we got the books and took them home and the kids immediately tore into them (she had a copy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! in there and whether or not you believe it that is right up Benjamin's alley).

Andrew and Rachel made beef stew and latkes for dinner, which were divine. We're all very excited for leftovers tomorrow (when Andrew will also make tamales; traditionally his family has fried burritos but...I don't really like fried burritos, so I'm happy Andrew has figured out the whole tamale thing).

After dinner we settled in for a reading (and acting out) of the Christmas story. The kids anticipated this and assigned all the roles and came for scripture study in full costume. Here's Alexander patiently waiting for the nativity to start:

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Two Christmas Stories

Soon after I pulled out our collection of Christmas stories, Zoë and Alexander sat down together to write stories of their own. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Family pictures

We finally got around to taking family pictures this weekend, deciding that the best place for them this year would be our own home. Andrew set up a photo studio in the basement, which worked really well for the little kids...but was a little difficult for the taller members of our family (so we ended up heading outside to take pictures as a group).

Here's Alexander, the sweetest-faced three-year-old you've ever seen i your life:

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Jammies

The children have been wanting new pyjamas for a while. True—we made pyjama bottoms around Easter, but that was months ago and the children have been wearing nothing but pyjamas since then. We also realized that, in the past, Grandma has been the one who consistently sent us pyjamas for the kids. Not that she did it every year, but frequently enough that the older children all know what pyjamas they've gotten from Grandma (the Star Wars jammies, the Fruit Poop jammies, these jammies, etc (even after she died she kept supplying the kids with pyjamas because Rachel and Miriam have been sleeping in Grandma's t-shirts since she passed away). Other than new Grandma jammies every now and again, the kids have largely subsisted on hand-me-down pyjamas, which I think is totally fine. But also they've been wearing pyjamas so often that all their pyjamas are falling apart—Rachel put a big hole in her red flannel pyjama bottoms (a hand-me-down from Auntie Josie) and Benjamin put a big hole in the knees of the pyjama bottoms we made for Easter. Anyway, my point is that some of our children were quite desperate for new pyjamas and we finally realized that new pyjamas were no longer going to materialize out of thin air. (Another layer of growing up, I guess).

So we got the kids pyjamas for Christmas.

It started with me, technically. Andrew was at Costco (like back in September or October; he doesn't go to Costco these days because (a) Christmas rush and (b) COVID is so absolutely, ridiculously widespread right now) and he picked up a set of the fuzziest pyjamas for me (in some sort of lame attempt to keep me warm so I don't freeze him to death with my feet when I climb into bed, probably).

But, "I can't have these!" I said. 

"Why not?"

"Because Rachel has been begging me for new pyjamas for weeks now!"

Saturday, December 19, 2020

2020 Christmas Recital

I'm trying really hard to not be sad that we filmed our entire recital on "grid" instead of a beautiful full-picture view of our recital we captured everything. It's fun, I suppose, that we'll get to watch our audience's reaction (since we couldn't see them from where we were performing)'s simply not the finished product I'd hoped for.

Luckily we filmed our "dress rehearsal" this afternoon, so we have that. 

I'm still not pleased that I'm still half in pyjamas (dress rehearsal, Nancy, come on!) and there were a few other mishaps that we ironed out before the recital (as well as a few that we did not manage to iron out (and even then we managed to add some new mishaps to the recital because we are nothing if ingenious)),'s better than the video we got from the recital so I'm glad we have it.

If we try this again in the future (and we probably will—even after the pandemic is over (it's going to be over at some point, right?!)—because we live far away from our loved ones and they tend to miss out on this sort of thing) we'll do a lot of things differently. Like, for example, we realized that we probably should have simply streamed our concert on YouTube and then met up with people in a Zoom call after...or something. But, live and learn, right?

We had a sizable crowd show up, with friends and family tuning in from Idaho, Hawaii, Ontario, British Columbia, Utah, Illinois, Alberta, Georgia, California. Even our next-door neighbours "came"!

Without further ado, here's our 2020 Christmas Recital...

Thursday, December 17, 2020

15th anniversary

Yesterday was our 15th anniversary, a number that somehow seems big and small at the same time. We didn't really do much to celebrate, but fortunately we're both the kind of people who are okay with that so neither one of us felt neglected by our lack of fanfare. Andrew worked. The kids and I had a normal school day. Andrew took Miriam to her organ lesson. Rachel made pancakes for dinner. After we put the kids to bed we watched the first couple episodes of the new season of Doctor Who (we haven't sat down together to watch a show (besides Christmas shows with the whole family) for quite some time; and then we had to do two episodes because cliffhangers)). 

It was a lovely quiet evening and just a generally happy day. Life is often generally happy and lovely and quiet around here (well, maybe not always quiet), but it is generally lovely and happy. I think we're very lucky to have that kind of satisfaction.

Andrew did an anniversary post on Twitter, so I decided to do one on Facebook, too. Publicly celebrating each other is a good thing to do sometimes, maybe? I don't know. Anyway, he caught me checking on his Twitter post and lightheartedly accused me of comparing our posts, which perhaps I was doing...a little. Not in an "I'm so sad that your post has so many more likes than mine" way, but more of a "Oh, look! Ade commented here so I'll like her comment" way. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Spoiled-est cat

Is anyone starting to get nervous about my Christmas poem? Just me. Okay, good. 

I mean, I've been working on it. It's just not finished yet. I should probably do that sometime. Yet, here I sit...not doing it. 

Instead I'm going to tell you about our cat. Because clearly that is a higher priority.

Waffelles is, generally speaking, a very gentle kitty. She very rarely scratches or bites and when she does it's usually obvious that either she (a) was trying to play and got a little too rough or (b) the kids were annoying the snot out of her and would not follow her less-violent cues. But, really she's very patient and gentle. 

Case in point, here are a few pictures of Alexander hand-feeding her this morning:

Dreidel FHE

For family night we talked about Hanukkah and played dreidel. We started "lighting" our menorah a few days ago and the kids asked what Hanukkah was all about and we...couldn't quite tell them. Something about Assyrians and the temple and oil...but...the story was too hazy to recount. So I told the kids that they should do some research and that I would do some research and then we'd talk about it later. 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Miriam and Rachel had done their research! So when I tried to tell the story this evening they jumped in and fairly accurately narrated the story of the Maccabees. In the end, when they won the war and were able to reenter their temple, they found that it had been desecrated (and dedicated to Zeus), so they wanted to rededicate the temple but only had oil for the menorah for a single night. They decided to use it anyway and it kept burning for a miraculous eight days (or perhaps they simply had an eight-day celebration). 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Christmas activities

Yesterday Rachel made some lovely gingerbread cookies and after church today she whipped up some colour flow icing while Andrew helped the other kids with some graham cracker houses.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Prescriptivism vs. creativity, or Joseph vs. the sheep

I spent several hours this week preparing little craft kits for my primary activity girls. We have one more activity this year and then all of our 11-year-olds will be heading into the Young Women program, so I had Andrew deliver the kits to my girls with a little print that I made (of a wood block carving that Rachel did of the nativity) with a note for each of them. I did not include instructions for the craft, but I did email the parents that we'd be meeting together next week to put the craft kits together...

One of my girls got rather excited about things and put the craft together on her own and I was blown away with how she pieced it together. The craft kit was, I thought, rather puzzling, so I didn't expect the kids to try putting them together on their own (my own kids thought the figures of Mary and Joseph were keyholes), but this little girl found a way to use every piece and I'm just so impressed with her creativity!

Here's how my model project turned out (which itself deviates from the original idea):

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Un-Brace Yourself

The other day Alexander looked at Miriam and said, "Tan I touch your bray-uh?"

"Can braces?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said. 

But then he kind of chickened out. Still, it was such a funny request that we made the kids pose for a picture before bed last night—everyone with their finger reaching out to touch Miriam's braces—on her last night with braces. 

Monday, December 07, 2020

Christmas Light Looking

We did a couple of big things today—we plucked all the leaves from our Thankful Tree so that we could make room for the incoming Christmas cards and we turned Alexander's car seat around. It was time. He's three years old (and then some). Besides, for Family Night Andrew suggested that we go out Christmas Light Looking, which everyone agreed Alexander would enjoy much more facing the right way 'round. 

The hospital had a lovely light display that you can drive through, but they're really not as interesting from the back. So we turned Alexander around and he was fascinated. The drive alone was enough for him—he kept saying, "Wow! Wow! WOW!" but when we got to the lights he was over the moon, so I suppose switching his carseat around was worth it...even if it's further evidence that he's growing up. 

Everyone enjoyed the lights, though they were all rather confused when we announced we were leaving the house. Alexander was the most confused/excited child of all. He barged into the bathroom to ask me if I was going on the family trip, too. 

"I am."

"Good!" he said, running over to give my legs a hug. "Because I want you to be in our family and go on our family trip! We have never ever gone on a family trip before! So I will make a map!"

I hope this family "trip" was exciting enough that he'll want to go on an actual trip sometime. 

Last week's laughs

It's been a rather wild week over here, but I'm happy to announce that I have officially finished with my first semester of graduate school (my group turned in our final project today). I've also been busy working on our annual Christmas poem as well as finalizing my book manuscript. And homeschooling the kids. 

I can hardly even think of what we did this week—though I do know that we read a lot, talked a lot, laughed a lot—so I won't try to make up for it entirely, but I will leave you with this story...

Andrew was telling me about this theory he saw on Twitter that text messages between partners had become increasingly random over the course of the pandemic. Being in such close and constant proximity, there has been no need for conversation to happen over text message, so instead there are only random snippets—messages like "Oh, I saw a huge mangy fox yesterday," followed by a picture of a Turkey-shaped challah, followed by an amended word count, followed by "Text your dad!"

We decided, reviewing our text messages, that this theory was probably correct.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Making Christmas

In a fit of something that feels close to insanity, we put up the Christmas tree and let the kitty out of her convalescence isolation chamber. She got "fixed" on Monday, as you may recall, and we were told to keep her in one room, preferably a quiet room, away from other pets or particularly obnoxious (read: small) humans. We tried keeping her in the laundry room, but she was going crazy being holed up in there so we set her up in the basement, wedging one of the girls' mattresses in their doorless doorway so that she wouldn't go climb on their bunkbed or anything crazy like that. 

But then we caught her sitting on the top of the mattress (in the little space between the mattress and the doorframe) and decided that it's not really possible to keep a cat from climbing. Especially our cat, who will climb the window mutins. It's equally impossible to keep a cone on a cat (I think Waffelles wore her cone for approximately 20 seconds before ripping it off). 

Mostly we just left her in the basement to rest, hoping she wouldn't climb too many things, and she seems to be healing just fine. She spent a couple of days being tender with herself downstairs and spent most of her time sleeping, but after that she spent most of her time meowing because she was lonely. She was fine whenever anyone was down there hanging out with her but if we ever dared close her down there alone she'd be all howls and yowls. 

She likes to be in the room where it's happen[ing], so yesterday when we dragged out all of our Christmas stuff, we gave up trying to keep Waffelles in the basement anymore. She's been enjoying having full run of the house again (and her surgery site is looking pretty great, I think). As worried as we were about the combination of kitty + tree, she's really been quite good about it. Hopefully that sticks.