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 just...how 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:


Breathing

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

Paper

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 two...so...)). 

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. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Fabulous!

This morning Alexander hoisted himself onto the bathroom sink, pushing with his toes on the moulding of the cabinet door so he could rest his belly on the counter, and looked into the mirror. 

"Wow!" he exclaimed, "I am foh fabulah!"

He still can't say /s/ (though he does know that a 'nate 'says "sssssss" so he can physically make the sound) and it's still my favourite thing.

After he hopped down from the counter he wanted to help me "loot fabulah," as well. So he brushed my hair and put some "chop'tick" on my lips. Because we're so fancy over here.

"Wow, Mommy! Now you loot fabulah, too!" he told me. "Fabulah!"

I'm not sure why he chose today to use the word "fabulous" over and over and over again, but I'm not complaining about it, either. 

When we were talking to Andrew's dad on the phone (video call, of course, otherwise my kids are confused about where the voice is coming from) I recounted Alexander's "fabulah" story and then we started asking who was fabulous. He insisted that only he and Mommy were "fabulah." He on the basis of he's just plain fabulah and me on the basis of he brushed my hair and applied chapstick, thus fabulizing me. Everyone else? Completely un-fabulah.

"Well, I think," Grandpa said. "If no one else is fabulous then they have to marvelous. How about that? Can Rachel and Meme and everyone else be marvelous?"

"Yeah. They can be mar-bew-lah," Alexander conceded in a bored tone. 

I took a little video of Alexander shortly after he—spontaneously—complimented himself in the mirror, but second takes aren't ever as good as the first one, you know? His first compliment was so genuine; when I filmed him he knew he was performing so it's...different...but I still got him to say "fabulah" so we'll take it as a win (also note that at 10 seconds in you can hear his wonky little larynx make his goose call, which is mostly always under control these days but sometimes...still not).




Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pool games

It probably comes as no surprise that we went to the pool today. And yesterday. And the day before. It's kind of what we do now, I guess. Even when it's pouring rain the kids beg to go to the pool (and it wasn't thundering and so we went). Here's Benjamin, first one in the pool as always:

Friday, August 28, 2020

Pun intended

My friend Crystal sent me the game "Pun Intended" for my birthday and while we were waiting for Zoë to finish her stew so we could go for a walk I pulled it out and we sat around reading the cards and laughing (I had an inkling Zoë would take a long time to finish her dinner, a very astute premonition (astewt!)). 

A lot of the puns were funny and by the time Andrew's fifth turn rolled around we were all rather giddy. Andrew couldn't even read one of his lines. He kept laughing too hard, which made everyone else laugh too hard, which made Rachel throw up (she hasn't done that (thrown up while laughing) for several months, not since before corona, so you know she was having a good time), which made everyone laugh more. 

Anyway, the pun Andrew couldn't get out was "I couldn't control myself. When I spanked the naked statue on the butt, I realized I had hit rock..."

The letter we had to work with was B, so clearly the answer was "bottom," which was funny.

But the joke that really got us laughing (I mean, perhaps not enough to make Rachel throw up, but still) was a little further down his card (still working with the letter B): "You can tell the gender of an ant by putting it in water. If it sinks—girl ant. If it floats—..."

Buoyant!

We laughed until we cried.

Just so you know how we're filling our evenings over here.

Alexander chatterings

 We've reached that stage where I officially want to record everything Alexander says because everything is just so funny. Not necessarily because what he says is funny in nature, but simply because his way of speaking is so funny.

He's been pretty good at completing his chores lately so that we can go to the pool every day. His main chore is emptying the dishwasher of all the plastics. Usually I empty the glass and the sharps and tell him to do the rest. But this morning Andrew told him to just put away everything that wasn't glass and that he (Andrew) would do the rest.

After I finished reading to the kids and assigning their writing response I walked into the kitchen to find some breakfast and noticed that Alexander had done his part of the dishes and had left all the glass things in the dishwasher, so I started putting them away. He caught me reaching into the cupboard with a stack of plates.

"Mommy, what are you doing?!" he shrieked.

"I'm putting the dishes away," I said.

"But you are not 'uppod to do dat! Daddy is 'uppod to do dat betuh Daddy i' duh one who tol' me to put away the dih'es in the fir' play!"

Andrew walked into the kitchen by this point and I told Alexander to take it up with Daddy, so he did.

"Daddy," Alexander began explaining, "Mommy i' putting away the gla'' dih'eh but Mommy i' not 'uppod to put away the gla'' dih'eh betuh you are the one who 'tarted me putting away the dih'eh what are not gla''! You waid dat you would put away the gla'' dih'eh if I put away the dih'eh dat are not the gla'' dih'eh and I did put away the dih'eh that are not gla'' dih'eh but you are not putting away the gla'' dih'eh! Mommy is putting away the gla dih'eh and if Mommy is putting away the gla'' dih'eh then that i' not fair betuh you are the one who 'tarted me on putting away the dih'eh that are not gla'' dih'eh!"

I wasn't sure his explanation would ever end. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Update on the library update

Either the entire Gwinnett county public library system has streamlined their system of pulling items placed on hold or the Duluth branch is more efficient than our regular branch. Our library books are due in a few days so yesterday I put a bunch of new items on hold, but this time I put them on hold at the Duluth branch (which I've never been to, but that's irrelevant), hoping that it would give me enough time to allow my new items to come in before my other items were due. 

Before the pandemic we would visit the library once a week and I had a whole system for renewing books we wanted to keep longer (reference-y books) and turning books in early that were more of a one-and-done (mostly picture books). But with the hassle of getting my 25 books in at the library—it took 8 days, if you recall, and although I selected the majority of the books from our regular branch they only pulled 6 books from the shelf for me (the last of which was pulled on the 8th day); I should also note that when I went to pick up my 25 books the librarian said she would check them out in the back because there were so many and then she only checked out 24 to me (haha!)—and, you know, with the pandemic in full swing here in Georgia, I figured that once every three weeks was good enough for now. 

So, I put my items on hold yesterday hoping that by August 29 I would have something to pick up. And guess what? I currently have 27 of 29 books waiting to be picked up at the Duluth branch. The very next day. 

BOOM. Just like that.

Monday, August 24, 2020

More pool

It was a little cooler on Friday, so we ended up spending only 1.5 hours at the pool instead of the two the children feel I promised when I joked that if we spent two hours at the pool a day from now until it closes at the end of September we very well may get our money's worth out of the pool pass we bought (and, as an added bonus, enter fall feeling like we had some adventures this summer). 

Here are my freezing babies:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Siri-ously funny

Alexander enjoys telling Siri about his family. This is really the only thing I've ever caught him talking to Siri about—his family. He likes to list his family member's names and tell Siri everything he knows about everyone. I'm not sure why because there are a million things he could try talking to her about but for whatever reason—perhaps because Siri just doesn't get it—he talks about his family.

Here he is talking to Siri about me. "My mom is my mom and my mom's name is Nancy," he's telling her.



I'm trying blogger's video uploader; we'll see if it works. I'm a little hesitant to start using it because I used it back in the day (2006...when blogging was still a little bit cool) and then I think I lost all those videos. I mean, I have them all (or most of them) on my computer, but the links are dead since Blogger has changed hands a few times and...anyway...we'll see how this works...and for how long.

Actually, it's being very, very slow so I also put it up on YouTube. We'll see if Blogger ever manages to get that video up there.


Virtual Bar Mitzvah

Rachel was just telling me how it was strange for her to think of her friends in Durham as being her same age—as kids old enough to be in middle school, doing thirteen-year-old things—because she thinks of them as being somewhat frozen in time. They will forever be ten-year-olds, stuck in Mrs. Garrett's fifth-grade classroom, doing things that ten-year-olds do. 

And then I got a message from her friend Elijah's mom, announcing his Bar Mitzvah, which under ordinary times might have been a huge blow out, but which under present circumstances was slated to be a virtual celebration. We would have been happy to attend either way (although attending in person would have required a lot more effort on our part...and probably their part as well, to be honest) but were more than happy to tune in and watch. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Swimming!

The plan for the summer was: we'd buy a pass for a local pool and we would basically live at that pool all summer long and maybe even join swim club and we'd be wet and happy and expert swimmers by the end of the summer.

What actually happened was: we bought a pass for a local pool when they were on sale (around Christmastime) and then COVID happened and then we got our key to the pool and then we never went to the pool because every time we drove past it it was hopelessly occupied and the pool board kept sending emails out all summer reminding members to social distance (which means they weren't) and to not yell at the lifeguards for trying to encourage social distancing (which means they were...yelling at them, I mean) and...we just never went to the pool...and forgot how to swim...and what is a pool even?

But now that summer is basically over and public school kids are back in school, the pool is ours. It's still plenty hot out so we've got weeks of swimming left and we were alone at the pool most of the morning (there are no lifeguards after school goes back in session; and one other family joined us for the last half hour we were there and we both carefully stayed on opposite ends of the pool from each other). 

I suppose the best part about waiting so long to visit the pool is that getting to go feels just that much sweeter. Here are the kids, excited to finally be doing something fun this summer:

Is that a cute picture? I don't know. I can't look. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Organs and merging and anxieties and stuff

When I wake up tomorrow I will officially be a graduate student. I've had quite a bit of anxiety leading up to this moment but I just now solidified my schedule and paid tuition so it looks like I'm really doing this. 

And I'm sure it will be fine. 

I mean, why not start something huge in the middle of a global pandemic? It will be fine.

Rachel forced me to create a Google Classroom for our homeschool today. She actually logged on to my profile on the laptop (she knows my password for that) and helped herself to my google account (since I was already logged on). After she made a "classroom" for me, she showed me what was up and how useful it can be. She's already submitted an essay for me to grade so it does look like a wonderful way to keep track of grades for her (honestly, I'm not too concerned with that for this year but next year I'm going to have to start keeping rather formal records for her high school transcripts, which is somewhat daunting). I have a feeling she'll keep us on our toes this year. 

Yesterday was an adventurous day for her and Andrew...and Miriam, in a way (though she mostly stayed home and daydreamed about her future life). 

We've been looking for a new organ for several months now—one with a full set of pedals—since Miriam is really wanting to progress but can't practice on only half a set. I found a few in the Atlanta area but they were all well over $1000 (or were cheap but the seller admitted it didn't actually work or, in one particular case, had been thrown away before we could claim it), but as I was scrolling through Facebook Marketplace I spotted a beautiful, recently restored organ for only $600! With pedals! 

The only problem was it was in Tryon, North Carolina. 

Still, we needed a new organ. Miriam's teacher had said she'd just reached that point—she either needed an organ with full pedals in our house or she needed to find an organ to practice on. We potentially have access to the church organ, but constantly borrowing keys sounded like a hassle we didn't want to toy with on a daily basis. So an organ it was. 

Actually, that was pretty funny. Andrew even put a note out on Twitter saying that he was "searching for a used organ for his 10-year-old" and people were responding with, "Ummm...is everything okay?" thinking we were looking for, like, a transplant donor rather than, like, a musical instrument.

Anyway, Andrew said he'd be happy to drive up and get it and Rachel begged him until he said she could go with him. I think they were both excited to sit in a quiet car and listen to audiobooks and/or read and/or stare out the window without a bunch of little people wildly jumping all over them. From all accounts they had a wonderful—if quiet—trip up to North Carolina and back again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Not the flu...still

Even though "new numbers show that Gwinnett County has reported close to 4,200 cases of coronavirus in the last two weeks," and the school district (wisely, in my opinion) opted to begin the school year online, children are supposed to begin returning to school on August 26th, which many teachers aren't happy about (especially considering all the failed experiments we've already seen both inside Georgia itself and also in the nation at large—schools shutting down after being open for mere days or weeks (UNC, Notre Dame, as well as many public K–12 schools)).

Because I'm not brave enough to really try disagreeing with anyone on Facebook, I will do my disagreeing here. A friend here said that she thinks high-risk teachers should simply get a note from their doctor verifying that they are high-risk and then they can teach at home, but all other teachers should be required to get back to work at school so children can be where they need to be (never mind people who might be worried not for their own health but for the health of someone else in their household). She ended saying, "out economy, our families, and the well-being of our children cannot thrive when they are kept at home on a computer all day. We didn't shut down during H1N1. Let's keep the perspective real people."

First of all, people can thrive when they are kept at home on a computer all day. Well, like, maybe they require a few other things: food, sunlight, water... And, frankly, I don't think they should be kept in front of the computer all day. But that's why we are homeschooling...because having my children be required to be in front of their computer from 8:00 to 3 or 4:00 every day did, indeed, sound ridiculous. Not that my children don't do computer work. They do. I just don't require them to be at the computer for so many hours a day.

I was enrolled in "virtual school" through middle school and I loved it. 

I'm sitting in front of my computer right now and I'm totally fine. 

Andrew has been teaching online since March and while he's put in a ridiculous number of hours to make his courses work well online, it's totally been worth it. Our motto is that—right now—if something can be done online it should be done online. 

Not everyone agrees with that but it's honestly the safest way to interact right now.

That said, not everything can be done online. We had to ask a neighbour to help us move an organ today. He was more than happy to; we all wore masks and mostly stayed an organ-length away from one another. You can't help someone move an organ virtually.

But a lot of other things can be done virtually and, right now, should be done virtually. 

Of course, for schools to function well, we need to make sure children have access to technology in their homes. When I was doing my virtual schooling my school actually provided the computer for me. They shipped a computer to our house when I enrolled, along with all the textbooks I'd need, and then when I finished up my time at the school I simply had to return the computer. 

We, as a society, have the means to do this if we choose to. 

Second of all, perspective? Perspective?! 

Monday, August 17, 2020

No cavity club!

The children had dentist appointments this morning. I didn't really want to take them but the office is (perhaps understandably) being a little aggressive about getting patients in. They let us change our appointment to a Monday so we could be the first in the office at the start of the workweek. They assured me that all staff wear double masks and a face shield. So we (bravely) kept our dentist appointments.

We took two cars, me with the little ones and Andrew with the bigger ones. Since there is nothing to do in the waiting room anymore we thought it would be best if the little ones weren't forced to wait around for a long time. So I went in with them first and helped them rinse out their mouths and wash their hands before heading back with them. 

Zoë went first and was rather brave. She said that usually when they ask her if she wants to watch anything on the television she just shakes her head no but today she was going to be brave and tell them what she wants to watch. "I can pick anything on Netflix!" she said. She ended up picking Llama Llama, which is funny because when Miriam got in there after her she was too shy to ask them to put something different on, so Llama Llama was playing the whole time she was sitting in the chair (she had been embarrassed to answer Rachel (who picked Stranger Things)  immediately on the ride home and didn't confess it until we were around the dinner table). Anyway...Zoë got to watch Llama Llama while she had her teeth cleaned.

Here she is waiting:

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Interesting

 It's me again, back for another coronavirus rant because conversations on Facebook are impossible. 

A relative of mine who lives in Alberta posted a chart that had compiled information from an Alberta government website on COVID-19 statistics. The statistics are accurate as of August 11.

The relative posted this picture alone with the caption, "Interesting."

Saturday, August 15, 2020

That Darn Cat

Even though our sweet WaffELLEs can be a bit naughty sometimes (she likes to scratch my favourite couch but doesn't like her scratching post (we've started spraying her with water when she hops onto the kitchen table and the first time Rachel did it she squirted her gently on the back and I was like, "No, no, no! A good, swift mist in the face!" and Rachel said, "Oh, but I don't want to scare her!" and I was like, "That is 100% the point of spraying her!")) she's really mostly sweet. 

Tonight during dinner she was so absolutely hyper and was cracking everyone up. I don't know if it was really that funny or if we're just that hard up for entertainment over here, but we all found her antics hilarious. She was determined to balance on the back of a chair and, once she got up there, started batting at her tail. Enjoy (our laughter, if nothing else):

Friday, August 14, 2020

Walking by the wibber

 We went out today. We haven't been out since...the last time...which was six weeks ago. July 2. I just checked my phone for pictures (that obviously never made it onto the blog) and I remember that was the day we discovered that the playgrounds were open again but then Georgia descended into absolute chaos, as far as coronavirus is concerned, so we just haven't gone out again and although Georgia is doing nothing to stem the flow, aside from just hoping that our numbers go down, we went out into public because staying at home is hard, especially when you're watching everyone else carry on as normal, and it's so maddening to know that if everyone would have just stayed home between July 2 and now (that's six weeks of staying home) we wouldn't have had such a spike in cases and also would have had things under such good control that we could have opened our school doors with much less worry and I'm just so made at our entire society that we can't manage to suck it up and make any sort of sacrifice—whether staying home or agreeing to wear masks or whatever (we can't agree on anything to do and so we continue to do nothing and—guys!—I am just. so. mad. about it).

So we wore masks to the park because we knew it would be populated because, well, it's a popular park. We didn't stop to play at the playground, nor did we stop to play by the river because we got there just at lunchtime and there were a lot of people picnicking and playing in the river. Instead we wandered into the woods towards the children's "Paradise." 

Once we were deep enough into the woods we decided we could safely take off our masks, though here are a few pictures of the children with their masks on:

Back-to-school pictures

Today is technically our 34th day of school, but it is only the 3rd day of school for our district so it seemed like a perfect time to celebrate going back to school with back-to-school pictures. Here we are, grades 8, 6, 3, K, and preschool:

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Good things and bad things

 The good news of the day:

  • We have air conditioning! Our home warranty company sham decided that since they (a) couldn't get the part we needed to fix our HVAC system and (b) couldn't find a company willing to do the work to replace our HVAC system, they would simply "buy us out." This meant they gave us $1000. Which is...neat...because guess how much it costs to replace an HVAC system? Let me give you a hint: more than $1000! 

Fledglings

The kids went outside to run off some energy after our ELA/SS time this morning and when I called them in they left the garage door open, which ordinarily wouldn't have been a huge deal, but today it was! When we started heading outside again later in the day I heard a rather intense amount of chirping coming from behind the door. I figured it was some overactive chipmunks "chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chipping" to each other and that they'd scatter when I opened the door. 

I was right about one thing. 

There was certainly some scattering when I opened the door, but it wasn't those pesky chipmunks chipping. It was an entire flock of fledglings chirping wildly! There must have been half a dozen of them, if not more! All of them just flapping about and chirp, chirp, chirping!

They didn't seem to know what to do. They seemed to want out of the garage (we're not sure how they got in except that the garage door was wide open (because there isn't a nest in our garage that we could find)) but were so confused about how to leave. They kept going to the window trying to get through (which was funny considering the garage door was, again for the record, wide open); their mother was on the other side of the glass calling to them.

Knight in cardboard/crochet armour

Benjamin has been wanting to dress up as a knight the last few weeks. He's be hoarding cardboard and making armour with it and has decided he wants to be knight for Halloween (whatever Halloween might entail this year). Someone posted this crocheted knight hat as a joke on Facebook, saying that it would make a good COVID mask and I thought to myself, "Benjamin would love that!" So I made him one. 


Monday, August 10, 2020

Cat-tales

Last night my sister Abra called me to congratulate us on our new kitty. She mentioned being sure to get the cat "fixed" and Benjamin's face fell. "What happened to her?" he asked. "Is she broken?"

I told him that getting a cat "fixed" meant making it so they can't have babies. There's nothing wrong with her. We just don't want her having babies.

Miriam asked if cats can have babies without mating. I told her they couldn't, but we still didn't want her going into heat.

Zoë admitted it would be bad if she crawled into the heater.

We are learning so much about biology!

********

This morning Miriam came upstairs to tell me how our silly kitty was dipping her feet into her water dish and licking it off (which is the only way we've seen her drink). "So she dipped her little paw in and started pruning herself," Miriam said, mimicking her movements.

"I think you mean preening," I said.

"Miriam says I'm not careful enough with the cat," Benjamin said in a snooty voice. "She says she's the only one who can pet her while she's pruning herself."

"Again, it's preening," I said. 

********

Alexander came up to me this afternoon and out of the blue asked me for pancakes.

"I don't have any pancakes," I said. 

"Will you help me find pancakes?" he asked.

"I'm really not sure we have any pancakes to find," I said.

He slapped his forehead and said, "I meaned Waffelles!"

Waffelles, the quarantine kitty

The children have been begging for a pet for quite some time but it's never really been an option before since we've never quite been in a place of our own. Ever since the pandemic began we started looking into pets a little more seriously. The only problem is Andrew and I haven't ever gotten a pet before. We both grew up with cats, but we've been pet-free ever since we got married/left home. Getting a pet seemed like an awfully big thing to do. 

I mean, we have five kids. Taking care of yet another living, breathing creature seemed like a lot. 

So in the end I convinced the kids we should get some Madagascar hissing cockroaches (which, incidentally, I still think would make an interesting pet) but we'd have to wait until the fall to order them because it's too hot to mail them right now. 

But then a friend of mine posted about a kitten in need of a home. My friend's manager had hopped in her car to go somewhere and she started hearing a whining noise in the engine so she pulled into a gas station, popped her hood, and found a kitten! She knew she wouldn't be able to keep her so my friend (who just loves animals, but has too many cats herself at the moment) started asking around to find a home for her. She even said she'd have her rescue group spade and vaccinate her in the next few weeks!

I asked Andrew about it and he was immediately on board (like even more excited about it than I was (because I think I've been more nervous about it than excited)) so we claimed the kitten and the next thing we knew it was Sunday morning and the kids were colouring at the table together after "home church" when the doorbell rang. 

Zoë was very excited to see who it was because this friend was her Sunbeams teacher last year (and so Zoë still thinks she's her teacher this year since no one really remembers who their teachers are this year, do they?). We opened the door and our friend put down the carrier and said that she had a little friend who needed a loving home and was hoping that the kids might be willing to take her in.

They were.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Dressed up in our Sunday best

A couple of Sundays ago we gathered the kids for church and they immediately began to squabble over seats and hymn books and were altogether so unpleasant that in the middle of the sacrament hymn I declared that church was being postponed for a half hour and that when we reconvened the children would all be dressed in their Sunday best and with their best Sunday attitudes in place. 

So they all stormed away and I sat and fumed and when we regathered, the children were dressed up so nicely and had changed their attitudes so wonderfully that I couldn't stay mad, myself. 

Years ago a friend of mine said that she might not always be able to control her children's behaviour but that she could always control their dress and if her kids looked cute she found she was a little more tolerant with them. There is wisdom in this but it's also something I've never quite managed. I haven't felt like I've ever had control of my children's outfits. I had dreams of a perfectly dressed baby, of course, but between reflux and explosive poops my babies never seemed to stay dressed in whatever they chose. So I kind of stopped choosing. 

I'm not sure this particular friend's babies ever dared spit up on their clothes. 

Some babies are like that. 

I literally have friends who didn't know what burp cloths were for. My friend Tiani, for example, was absolutely baffled when I offered her a burp cloth in the mother's lounge one day when she lifted her baby up to burp her. "What for?" she asked (it was her first Sunday at church after the birth of her first baby; I was on baby #3 (with a couple of colossal refluxers in the mix)). 

"For the, uh, spit up..." I said. 

"Spit up?" she asked. 

"Sure," I said. "Like, just the milk that comes back up after they eat."

"Oh, my baby doesn't do that," she said. 

And her baby didn't, which I found shocking. And then my baby did, which she found shocking. 

Her baby also pooped once a week, which was (is) unfathomable to me. 

Anyway, I imagine my other friend (my advice-giving friend) had babies like this—babies that didn't make them lug around a bagful of burp cloths to clean up all their messes. Both types of babies are fine; but I think they make different kinds of mothers. One type makes mothers who expect they'll be able to dress their children well. The other type make mothers that have to stifle laughter at the very idea.

I haven't seen this friend or her children for years, but I can't imagine that she's ever had a child wallow in a mud puddle fully clothed *cough* Benjamin *cough* and I imagine that her children definitely get dressed every day while I struggle to get mine out of their pyjamas. But that's alright. There is still wisdom in her words and I found it on Sunday when I had the kids go get changed.

Don't they clean up well?

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Rashes

On our walk yesterday Zoë and Miriam were running ahead and poor Zoë tripped or slipped and ended up skittering across the road on her tummy. She was wearing footie-jammies (with running shoes)...in August...in Atlanta...because that makes sense...and as she fell the road grabbed her zipper and unzipped her jammies, exposing her poor tummy to the asphalt. She also ripped holes in the knees and elbows of her outfit, poor thing. So she is covered in road rash (and is rather upset about her bloodied, blackened, once-perfectly-pink pyjamas that are probably ready to be tossed). 

We peeled her pyjamas off of her at home and bandaged up all of her wounds and then sat down to listen to a talk by a Hiroshima bombing survivor (more on that later, perhaps).

Since the talk was delivered from Hawaii, it ran a little late into the evening for us, so I got the kids put to bed a little late. Miriam texted me from her bedroom shortly after 10:00 pm saying, "I have a weird, itchy rash all over my body, excluding my legs. It feels really hot while the rest of my skin isn't. Can you check it out tomorrow, please?"

So I texted back saying, "...OR...tonight...!"

I'm not sure why she thought we should leave a thing like that until the morning. Her entire trunk and neck were bright red. If she were an elephant that sentence would have an entirely different meaning, but since she's a person it means that her back and stomach and neck and armpits and shoulders were all covered in a red rash. 

She had no other symptoms (no fever or any sort of malady), so judging from pictures on the internet and her health history (ie. we knew she hadn't been romping around in poison ivy...plus it didn't look like a poison ivy rash...and we hadn't switched laundry detergents or body soaps recently so I didn't think it could be from soaps) we decided she was just covered from head to toe (excluding her legs) in heat rash. I slathered her with calamine lotion and as the breeze from the fan blew across her skin she relaxed a bit and announced that she felt comfortable enough to go to bed. 

That running she did with Zoë must have brought on the heat rash (though I'm not sure why since this is the first time it's happened to her and it wasn't that hot today and the kids run around the block practically every day). She's feeling much better this morning, though, and her rash is mostly gone. 

Zoë is feeling much better, too. A little bruised and still covered with bandaids, but no longer limping.


Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Library update

I'm still waiting for my last few holds to come in. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up books this afternoon or tomorrow. Friday at the latest, I'm sure. 

Books can be marked as "in," "out," "held," "in transit," "lost," "missing," or "temporary quarantine." 

I put 25 available (marked as "in") books on hold. 15 of them were books from our "home" library branch (because I thought those titles could be pulled easily and thus become available quickly since there would be no transfer involved). Other books I knew would need to be transferred but I put them on hold because they are relevant to topics of study at our house.

Of the 10 books outside of our "home" library branch, all of the titles are ready for pick up. 

Of the 15 books within our "home" library branch, six titles have been made ready for me to pick up. Eight titles that were (and are still) available within our "home" library branch were transferred to our branch from another branch, which is hard for me to wrap my head around since no transfer was necessary. So I have 14/15 books from my "home" library branch ready to pick up, but only 6 of those titles are actually from our "home" library branch.

One book (that is available at our "home" library as well as several other branches) has yet to be pulled from the shelf for me. So we're just waiting on that one book (as well as two books, which are still in-transit, and which are also currently sitting on the shelf at our "home" library). 

I suppose I had to figure out the curb-side library service at some point—now that experts are saying we could be living like this for the next 2–3 years—so now is as good a time as any. I think I will have to start using a week-long baseline for title availability (assuming I only ever check out books that are "in" when I put a hold on them). 

We've decided that as an experiment we'll change our "home" library to a different branch, just to see if they pull more titles from their own shelves or if this is standard procedure throughout the library system (if it is standard procedure, I'd like to know whose system this is because surely it would be more efficient to have the library where the book is set to check out from be the library to pull it from their shelves...but maybe that's just me). 

So eventually we'll get some new books; until then we're sitting tight and enjoying the reading materials we have at home. 

Update on the update (9:45 PM): The last book, which I can only assume is on the shelf at our "home" library (due to its "in" status), is being transferred from another branch to our "home" library. So although 60% of the titles I put on hold were available at my location, only 24% of the books I will pick up will actually be from the shelves of my home library. This leads me to wonder if they place more of an emphasis on getting books ready to transfer (again, this seems a rather inefficient way to do things (they should be able to sort incoming holds as "on hold from this location to this location," vs. "items needed to be transferred" because it would save them a whole lot of transporting), but what do I know?) instead of finding books within their own collection that could leave with patrons (if that makes any sense). 

Whatever the case, I think I should be able to pick up our books tomorrow. And now we know we'll need a good week-long lead time before we can expect to pick up books from the library.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Today

Tonight Alexander cried before bed because I told him that we couldn't go out for a firefly sunset. To his credit the sunset was fairly beautiful, so I relented and we went outside to watch the sunset and the last few fireflies. We did not see many fireflies, however, because firefly season is winding down (they aren't active for very long), so he ended up crying again. Poor thing. 

Zoë wrote out the numbers 1 to 100 for me. Half of the numbers are backwards, but that's okay. She also got a parcel in the mail, which Daddy opened before he realized it had her name on it. Inside was a sticker activity book from Grandpa. He told her that he and she could be in their own sticker club together. When I was tucking her in tonight she giggled and said, "I can't believe Grandpa is being nice to me! Usually he just tickles me, so this is a nice change!" 


At dinner a few evenings ago we were discussing the movie Lagaan, and Zoë said that even though those soldier-men in India weren't being nice to the people, Queen Victoria was surely being nice to the people and didn't want to tax them unfairly. And I said something about, how Queen Victoria was well aware of the "plunder and catastrophe" the British were conducting in India and knew it was helping make Great Britain rather wealthy so she was pretty much on board with colonization...

"What?!" Zoë said, in shock, dropping her chin to her chest.

Her face landed right in her plate and she popped back up from her plate with koshary plastered all over her face. She was quite surprised but was able to laugh about it along with the rest of us.

Benjamin had a pretty great week overall. He's been trying to do his math work as independently as possible and has been trying to make good choices in general. He doesn't always succeed (he dug a hole in the front yard this afternoon—in the middle of the lawn, for example, when the rule is that he is only allowed to dig holes in the backyard—where we have no lawn. But it has been fairly obvious that he's been trying to be good. 

Here he is playing from Hayden's Symphony No. 94 (watch to the end for his face):

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Saturday, August 01, 2020

Up his nose and around the corner

Yesterday afternoon the children and I were watching Swades together (a Bollywood movie about an expat (NRI) returning to India and falling in love (with his country and with a girl), based on a true story). Alexander was lying on the floor digging for treasure in his nose when he very responsibly hopped up and ran to find a tissue. Reminding my children to grab a tissue before they ultimately need one has been an ongoing battle in my life for the past thirteen years. 

I will take this time to out my childhood-self as a chronic booger-eater. My children mercifully have not developed such habits. Instead they just come to me with big ol' boogers on their fingers, saying, "Here, Mom! I got this out!" and I'm like, "I don't want that. Put it in a Kleenex!"

So I was pleased that instead of running to me with a big ol' booger on his finger, Alexander ran off to the tissue box and wiped his finger in the tissue. Then he started playing with the tissue a bit. He ripped off a small piece and said, "Look at this, Mom! I ripped off a small piece!"

And I said, "No! Don't rip that Kleenex up!"

He looked at me like I'd crushed his spirits a little (after all, look what he had done—pretty neat, right?) so I said, "Sorry, buddy, but I don't want little bits of tissue floating all over my house."

He was rolling his little bit of Kleenex between his fingers, making a nice little ball.

"Run and throw that in the garbage, please," I urged him.

"Oooooor..." he suggested, "I could...STICK IT UP MY NOSE!"

And before I could even react he had taken that little ball of Kleenex on the tip of his finger and rammed it as far up his nose as he possibly could.

"ALEX!" I yelled. 

Now, I'm sure having a bit of Kleenex up one's nose is not a medical emergency. Still, I wasn't sure that a tightly squeezed ball of tissue would easily work its way back out of his nose. If he had been older we could have prompted him to blow his nose, but he's two and he doesn't know how to blow his nose. So I told Andrew that he could fish it out. We managed to get it out with a Q-tip...and later when we looked up other methods of removing things from children's noses we learned that medical experts tend to say not to stick anything like a Q-tip up your child's nose, but we did...and I think everything turned out just fine...even though I missed the last few—and arguably some of the most poignant—minutes of Swades. 

We figured we ought to have that knowledge fresh on our mind with this child, our first to break a bone or think to himself "maybe I should stick this...UP MY NOSE!" 

This seems to be a fairly popular method for removing an object from a child's nose (in case you were wondering).

I told Andrew that he would have to tell Alexander not to stick Kleenex (or anything) up his nose and all the children laughed. Andrew couldn't figure out why everyone would laugh at that. It's because he sticks Kleenex up his nostrils when he has a runny nose (like this). Andrew didn't think that had any influence on Alexander's split-second decision to ram a ball of tissue up his nose, but I'm not so sure...

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!