Tuesday, April 13, 2021

COVID-19 rant

It's been a long time since I've done a COVID-19 rant, but yesterday I got my first shot (Moderna) and today Andrew got his second shot (also Moderna), and I'm feeling a little like we could all use a good, solid reminder that: we're still (yes, still) in the middle of a global pandemic.

I looked up the flu statistics for this past flu season. Guess how many deaths there were in Georgia. Go on...

2

Two deaths due to influenza. 

Now guess how many COVID deaths there were—in Georgia—in the same time period (September 27 to April 10)...

Honestly, I don't even want to tally them up, but I will to prove a point (the point being that the coronavirus is a little different from influenza). Are you ready?

8989.

Eight-thousand eighty-nine deaths due to COVID-19.

Rainy days

I guess these pictures are all the way from March 31. That's how far behind I am with everything. Not that I'm really far behind; I've just been working rather intensely on some other projects. 

But, yes, it rained the last day in March and Alexander begged me to play outside with him. I relented because...sometimes I remember that I used to be much more fun as a mom than I am now...and Alexander still deserves to have a fun mom. So he and I played outside in the rain for a while, rescuing worms...

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alexander sleep-eating

We've been pretty swamped over here with deadlines and things. And by "we," I mean Andrew and I. The kids certainly aren't suffering with deadlines. They've all but finished our curriculum for the year (Benjamin finished his math workbooks this week and has been loving getting to spend unlimited time on Prodigy; on Tuesday he answered 166 questions on Prodigy). But, yes, Andrew and I have been pretty swamped with deadlines and things. 

Andrew had a conference this week and then had to turn in a paper for another conference (maybe?) this week, so he was always in meetings. And I have been hustling to first get the Hancock Hummer out and then finish my final projects. 

The kids haven't been neglected, per se, but things have been rather boring around here for them. I've taken them to the park a couple of times the last few weeks, but other than that...we've just been boring. 

Today was a pretty exciting day because it rained without thundering, which feels almost unusual around these parts (and reminds me that we had a rain walk last week that I didn't blog about either; see: very busy with big projects). Alexander succeeded in convincing Zoë and Benjamin to play outside in the rain with him (when I offered the ultimatum of either cleaning their rooms or going outside with Alexander) and the three of them had, if I can judge from the sounds of happiness I heard, gleeful time jumping on the trampoline in the pouring rain. 

They came inside all "soak and wet" as they're all prone to say (because I think Benjamin started it, and then Zoë picked it up, and now Alexander says it, too). They were also covered in mud and leaves and all sorts of wilderness, so I stuck them in the tub where they, once again, had a wonderful time splashing about. Alexander even managed to dump half a bottle of shampoo in the tub before I noticed so it turned into quite the bubble bath!

After baths the kids got into warm pyjamas and then while Benjamin and Zoë settled down for some reading time, Alexander began demanding snacks. It was already time to make dinner, so I didn't really want to get him a snack but he's been...rather emotional...lately. This is likely due to the fact that lately he (a) never wants to go to bed but (b) insists on waking up at the crack of dawn. Also, (c) he's three. 

Apparently asking him to wait for dinner was a huge offense, and he started melting down, so I told him that I would cut up an apple for him, which he agreed was a good compromise. And then he went and grabbed a granola bar from the cupboard because he doesn't understand what "compromise" is and figured that he just 100% got his own way plus Mommy was going to cut up an apple for him.

Whatever...as long as it kept him out from under my feet while making dinner. Rachel and Miriam pitched in to make a lovely meal. Miriam made quesadillas while I fixed some beans. Rachel made guacamole and together we prepped some other vegetables (like tomatoes and lettuce). So the three of us were quite involved in the kitchen, ignoring Alexander. Rachel walked out to the dining room to set something on the table and then tiptoed back into the kitchen giggling. 

"You have to come see Alexander," she whispered. "He's sleep-eating!"

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Easter Morning

I somehow forgot to include this picture of the kids after the Easter Egg Smackdown:

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Easter Egg Smackdown 2021

Fitting in all of our Easter traditions over a General Conference weekend felt a little crowded. I'm not even sure why because I don't feel like we have a ton of Easter traditions. We dyed our eggs on Saturday between sessions, which didn't take long at all (thanks to having so many little kids who blew through our egg supply so quickly—plop, plop, plop! and they were done!).

Here's Zoë with her egg that she ended up naming Bicker with Sticker:

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Transgression lipstick

A friend of mine dropped off some things off the other day that she thought the kids might be able to use: some swim suits her girls never got around to wearing (tags still on them and everything), a bunch of fancy hair things, a real (fake) tiara (which Zoë has been wearing pretty much nonstop), and a little container of iridescent purple lip gloss (which Zoë has been applying as often as possible).

Last night before she brushed her teeth she stood on the bathroom stool, admiring her lightly purpled lips in the mirror. 

"This isn't like chapstick, you know," she said. "It's like lipstick! See? My lips are kind of purplish."

Evidently she's only ever used clear lip treatments before, which is fine. Because she's five.

"But," she continued, with a saucy eyebrow waggle, "It's transgression lipstick!"

"Uh...what?" I choked.

"You can still see my real lips through it!" Zoë explained. "Transgression!"

"You mean translucent," Benjamin corrected her, with toothpaste foam flying out of his mouth and landing all over creation. "Or transparent."

This story's a keeper. I'll probably tell it at her wedding.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Playing around

We went to the park on Friday to enjoy some fresh air pollen. The kids had a good time running off steam, I think. It's always nice to get out after a big rain storm. We watched The Pirates of the Caribbean recently so Benjamin has a sword tucked into his jeans so he can play the bit of a swashbuckler.


An Easter egg hunt and Bridget's baptism

The primary hosted an Easter Egg hunt for the kids on Saturday. They had special areas cordoned off for each family group to do their hunting, so we were just all alone hunting for our eggs...but we got to look at some of our friends, so that was nice, I guess. 

Here's Zoë, wearing one of my childhood dresses:


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Singlepore

At dinner I announced that I had purchased everyone's math curriculum for next school year: Introduction to Geometry for Rachel, Introduction to Algebra for Miriam (used by Rachel this year, once Miriam is finished with Pre-Algebra, which she hopes to do over the summer), Beast Academy 4 for Benjamin, and Singapore 1 for Zoë. Except when I said "Singapore" I accidentally said "Singlepore."

"That's like when you get one of those itty-bitty milk cartons. Only one serving fits inside..." I said.

"Or it's like someone who isn't married and doesn't have any place to live," Rachel offered.

"Or it's like if you sweat a lot in one location because you only have one tiny opening," Miriam said.

And with that we had single pour, single poor, and single pore.

And we laughed so hard multiple people were crying into their dinners.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Rainy day

We had a rather large storm system come through yesterday, which meant that for the first time in a long time we spent most of our day inside (we've been spending a lot of time honing our bike skills recently). Here's Zoë reading to WaffELLES:

We may need her to stop reading to the cat quite so much because this cat is getting too smart for her own good. We've known she's been able to turn a light on for herself in the basement (it's a pull-string switch, which she manages to grab after climbing on top of a shelf) but most recently she's learned to open the door to her living quarters. We like to tuck her in for the night because she can be a bit of a mischief maker (see: turning on lights and opening doors) and it's not like her "quarters" are cruel—she gets half the basement, with plenty of things to climb and scratch at her leisure. But, it is void of people and she likes to be by people (not on people; just by them). 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Insults and memories

James P. Gee said, "For humans, memory and retrieval (recall) are closely connected. And retrieval—and the uses we make of what we retrieve—can and does change our memories. Even if a memory was accurate when we originally stored it in our heads, the material we store in our heads does not always stay accurate. In fact, it is often not all that accurate when we originally store it."

This is because our memories are limited and so we're not going to store everything, "only what was salient and relevant to us in the experience.... So, if you and I have had the same experience...we will have different recollections of the event" because "we will each store a highly edited version that includes some things and leaves out others..." (p. 22 of The Anti-education Era).

I think that information is fairly well known. At least, it's an idea I've heard before, but it's always nice to hear experts reiterate something. Today I got to see this play out before my eyes. 

But first a tangent!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

First Day of Spring

Today was the first day of spring. I had seen someone post on Facebook about these cardboard flower vases for children to collect wildflowers so decided to try them out today since my children are always collecting wildflowers. As suspected, they did enjoy it.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

In which Zoë learns to ride a bike (and Benjamin is simply awesome)

Was it really just Tuesday that Benjamin decided that he could, in fact, ride a bike? It feels like it's been a lifetime since then. He's spent hours and hours outside on his bike and it has been glorious. He's been around the block a few times (twice) so now he's basically a pro. He can stand up and ride, which he thinks is pretty exciting. And we took off his stunt pegs (he didn't like having them on but I only figured out how to remove them today) so now he loves his bike. Here he is, having a blast:


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

The little kids woke me up this morning asking for help finding green clothes. Evidently we need to plan things out better the night before. Luckily, they all had things in mind and more or less knew where to find their green clothes, so they mostly woke me up to tell me they were going to look for green clothes. Alexander couldn't find his green pants. I couldn't recall him having green pants. So he stormed off and found his green pants by himself (as he should have done in the first place). He needed a little help finding his leprechaun shirt. Zoë needed help buttoning and tying her lovely green velvet dress. She's taken to wearing fancy dresses every day of the week. I guess since we never go anywhere that requires dresses, she may as well get to wear them at home. The older three were completely self-sufficient.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

At last I see the light

A number of interesting things happened today. 

First of all, Benjamin woke up early this morning and immediately went outside to ride his bicycle around the cul-de-sac. He has finally, finally conquered the bike. We have been working on it for literal years. When we pulled the bikes out yesterday (for the first time in months) and Benjamin started fussing and whining and begging me to hold his seat and help me I nearly cried. 

The problem has been, it seems, that he couldn't focus long enough to complete the learning process. We have spent hours out there working on it, and he'll be seeming to do fine, but then he'll suddenly bail off his bike. He'll let go of the handlebars and just walk away from his bike...in the middle of riding it...so then he crashes (of course) and then doesn't want to try again because...he just crashed. I don't quite understand why he does it, but I have a strong suspicion it has to do with attention deficit. 

I've declared him a bike rider several times in his life. He learned how to ride a two-wheeler bike (after months of practice) in Spanish Fork. But then we moved out here, leaving all our bikes behind, and it took us awhile to get "new" bikes (like, new-to-us bikes), and by the time we did he seemed to need to learn all over again. We worked and worked at it and he was doing it...wobbling his way along the walking trails at the park. But then he stopped wanting to ride again and when I finally convinced him to pulled the bikes out...

"I can't teach you to ride your bike again," I whispered with a huge lump in my throat.

It's just so defeating. It's not supposed to be this difficult!! It should be like...like...riding a bike. He should just remember how!!

But if it's that defeating for me, surely it's even more defeating for him. So I agreed to help him get started. It only took a few minutes of instruction—"Remember, if you want your bike to turn, gently twist the handlebars. Do not lean to the side because you will tip your bike over. Remember who's in charge of the bike. That's right. You are. You take the bike where you want it to go, not the other way around. How do you brake? Where do you look when you're riding? What do you do if someone's in your way?"—and a couple of "lift-off" pushes...as well as some tough love ("No. I absolutely will not help you get started again. Walk your bike to the top of the hill and let gravity help you. Just balance, push off, and start pedaling. You can do this.") and he was off!

He even rode his bike around the block on our family walk last night, which he hasn't ever attempted to do (despite much encouragement). We're very proud of him, and just so, so happy that he's finally finding joy in it. 

One day, perhaps, we'll look into medicating him. He has loads of energy, but sports has been difficult for him because he can't focus long enough to figure out the sporting mindset (he loved soccer...but sometimes he caused some frustration from not being able to get his head out of the clouds; it's almost more true that he enjoyed, like, jumping in puddles on the soccer field while the rest of his team played soccer). Likewise, he hasn't been able to focus on so many things while biking (steering, pedaling, balancing, squirrel). I'm hoping that we can use biking to our advantage. I've seen several articles suggesting that exercise in general, and biking specifically, can help manage ADHD symptoms (results forthcoming, but an interesting theory nonetheless)...but have seen quizzically few about whether or not children with ADHD have more trouble learning skills that take coordination, such as bike riding. 

Maybe they don't. 

Maybe it's a comorbidity to ADHD, like dyspraxia. Which would be totally fine. 

We can work with that.

I know googling symptoms is "bad," but how do I know what issues to bring up with our pediatrician without wondering about and researching them first? So, on my list for our next appointment: questions about dyspraxia and dysgraphia (our doctor already knows about the ADHD thing, though she hasn't formally diagnosed Benjamin, and says she doesn't think we need to bother with that until we're ready to try medication, since he's not going to public school and doesn't need and IEP). But it helps me to look up these things anyway because reading about dysgraphia has given me ideas on how to help him feel successful as a writer, so even if it turns out he's simply a late bloomer...using the ideas I've learned about to help him isn't a bad thing at all. Same thing with dyspraxia...if I can use suggestions from occupational therapists on how to help children with dyspraxia to help Benjamin learn things (whether or not he has dyspraxia) then...great.

He just seems to have to work so much harder to learn things than other children do (which I think means he's a pretty cool kid, because it means he has a boatload of persistence).

Next up: we're going to officially learn how to tie shoelaces, another skill we've been working at for what feels like an eternity and another "clue" that he might have dyspraxia or dysgraphia (or both...or none); perhaps now that he's learned some needlepoint he'll be able to figure out his shoelaces!

A quick story about Alexander before I jump to our second interesting thing of the day... 

Last night when we were getting ready to leave on our family walk, Benjamin was on his bike and Zoë was on a scooter, so Alexander felt he needed to ride a scooter as well. But Andrew didn't know this, so he grabbed the stroller and said, "Come hop in the stroller, Alexander!"

Alexander's eyes welled with tears, but he put on a brave smile, and using his best negotiator's posture (waving his little index finger in the air) said with a quavering—but firm—voice, "You know, Dad, I wuh planning on widing my tooter today!"

So we let him ride his scooter.

As he was zooming along (going almost walking speed), he said proudly, "I feel better when I'm riding!"

******

Second of all, Andrew got his first dose of the COVID vaccine (the Moderna one)! He's feeling rather sore, but is otherwise fine. He'll get the second dose in a few weeks. It feels...hopeful. Like maybe we'll eventually get out of this.

******

Third of all, 365+ days after the world, for lack of a better term, turned upside down, our Relief Society has finally realized that maybe we should be having virtual activities. All year long (by the COVID calendar, that is March to March) they have been trying to gather in person. I felt like the activities were a little more frequent than what happened in reality, but here are the activities they have held in person:

June 25: gathering in park (no masks)
July 23: gathering in park (no masks)
August 27: gathering at the church
November 7: "Souper" Saturday craft and luncheon, inside the church
December 10: Christmas dinner at the church

They have hosted no virtual gatherings, which would be fine if they weren't making such an effort to host in-person gatherings. Especially when I remember how desperately I could have used some socialization when we first moved here...but after attending one meeting with our old ward, we didn't have another activity until Christmas 2019. And then we had an activity planned for February, which was postponed because of stake boundaries shifting. And then we couldn't have it in March, for obvious reasons. 

I am not sure why they've felt so strongly about meeting in person. It seems (from pictures and sign ups) that only a handful to a dozen people attended each activity. Everyone else, it seems, prefers to stay home. Because we're in the middle of a pandemic. 

But I've felt a little neglected, I'm not going to lie, that they have made such an effort to meet when they previously made little effort to meet. And I don't understand how it took them this long to think about doing a virtual activity...so we can see each other and meet the new people who've moved in. I mean, I guess we could be planning things on our own...but...like...since they're making the effort to meet in person you'd think they could also make an effort to meet virtually. 

So today they ask for input on what kinds of virtual activities people might want since "many of us are still not vaccinated or not yet feeling comfortable with certain types of activities, but still want to socialize in the safest way possible." Like...I...just...can't believe it took them this long to recognize this as a viable option. 

Haha. Oh, wait. 

I completely misunderstood the email (I do that sometimes when I'm excited and I was excited because this was the very first time my feelings the virus had been validated not been downplayed). They don't want ideas for virtual activities. They want input on future activities that will allow us to be "as safe as possible" and my brain interpreted that to mean NOT BREATHING THE SAME AIR as everyone else.

Silly brain. 

So it's possible they were not expecting the suggestions they just got, which were lovely, kind suggestions (a "Sit and Stitch" hour over Zoom where we just bring a project and chat while working on our projects; an "Indexing Party" where we work on transcribing family history records either on FamilySearch or BillionGraves while chatting about things on Zoom; any number of Zoomable games...here are some links for y'all). Haha. Oops.

But at least I took enough time after reading that email to vent my rage about "how are they now realizing that people just want to be safe?! It's been a year!!!!" so that my email was sweet and calm. 

I think the Christmas party scared them.

And it should have.

They met for dinner. And just a couple days later the bishop announced he'd been diagnosed with COVID. The bishop's wife had been at the dinner. Some elderly sisters had been at the dinner. The bishop got really, really sick. He didn't come to church for, like, a month. So I think that scared them some, as it should have, and we haven't had a meeting yet this year. But maybe...maybe...they'll consider doing a virtual activity now that I've mentioned it's possible?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Literally Literary

I was reading Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions to the kids the other day and the "H for Hausa" page informed us that they "are called to prayer five times each day. A strong voice rings out like a song, changing, 'Allah is great...'" and I supplemented the text with my own rendition of the call to prayer: "Allahu akbar!"

"Oh, I know that from Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns!" Zoë said. 

She is very good at making literary connections. Her world has simply exploded with happiness since she learned how to read. 

Yesterday Rachel and Miriam were teasing Zoë and she was getting so upset that eventually I told her that I thought her sisters were pulling her leg. This was rewarded with a blank stare. 

"Oh. Do you know what that means?" I asked.

"I do, actually," she said. "It means that they’re joking about something."

"How do you know that?!"

"Well," she began, "In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Grandpa Joe tells Charlie about Mr. Willy Wonka and the Indian prince who had a palace entirely made of chocolate and Mr. Willy Wonka said that he had to eat it up right after it was built but the prince said, 'I am not going to eat my palace! I’m going to live in it!' But Mr. Willy Wonka was right because there came a very hot day and the palace started to melt. The prince was sleeping—was dozing—in the living room and then he woke up and found himself swimming in a pool of melted chocolate. And, Charlie said, 'Are you pulling my leg?' And Grandpa Joe said no. He was telling the truth. And that’s how I know the truth is the opposite of pulling someone’s leg."

We were all rather taken aback by her elaborate answer and spent the rest of dinner listening to her tell us all about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She's also read Matilda.

"You should read James and the Giant Peach next," Andrew told her.

"Well, I kind of like these funny, silly stories that I've been reading," Zoë said. 

"James and the Giant Peach is silly. Roald Dahl wrote it, too," Andrew told her.

"Too?" she asked, perking up. "Do you mean he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well?"

"Yes. And Matilda."

"Oh! I really like this author then!" she said.

Which I think is great! He was one of my favourite authors when I was a kid, too. I did a book report on him in grade five and got an A++++++ (or something like that). I printed it out on pink paper because my mom had inherited several reams of pink paper from...somewhere...and that was all we had for a long time. I think I still have it in a box somewhere.

The Sand Park again

At Alexander's insistence we went back to "The Sand Park" for a picnic on Friday. It looked a little crowded when we got there so, as is our current habit, we hunted around for a less crowded playground. We settled on "The Spider Park," which was empty except for a couple having lunch (the couple turned out to be from church, so we went over and said hello from a distance). 

For the most part the kids enjoyed their lunch and spent some time playing on the playground equipment. Alexander, however, was unable to enjoy himself because this wasn't "The Sand Park."

So we made a deal that we would walk down to the sand park to see how crowded it was and if there was enough distance between groups of people we would stay...for a while. 

"We tan jut wear our may-ut!" Alexander said, pointing out that we could just wear the masks that we'd brought.

Even so, I wanted us to be able to keep our distance. We are approaching a finish line of sorts—I don't quite know what crossing the finish line looks like—but the race isn't over yet! We still need to wear our masks and/or keep our distance, wash our hands, exercise due caution. My friend Erin's father passed away from COVID yesterday and my friend Annik's father spent two weeks in the ICU (and her brother was also hospitalized). So this is still very real and scary, though on the whole I'm happy to see our numbers going down and vaccinations going up! Andrew just qualified and has been working on getting an appointment. My dad and mom have been vaccinated, as well as Josie and Patrick. Andrew's dad recently qualified for his shot, and already took Grandpa Frank for his. I think I saw that Aunt Nicki got hers (early because of her work). And there may be others. It's all very relieving. But...it's still not over.

Anyway, we didn't wear our masks...? But we were able to stay far enough away from people that I wasn't really worried about transmission. Although the playground itself was crawling with children, the sandbox only had a couple of other groups of kids (most of whom were on the other side of the volleyball net).

Alexander dashed to the sandbox and quickly assembled this sand castle:

Playtime

I'm feeling a little bit like Zoë, like perhaps the world is bullying me, because I was just helping the kids engineer a marble run out of these Lego-compatible marble run pieces (I don't know what they're called) and as I was putting two pieces together I slipped right through a sliced my finger open with the little connector bits. My finger is not happy, but now I have a bandaid to match Zoë's. 

Family History Weekend

Rachel and Miriam had a family history fireside this evening, after spending the last little while preparing for it. I think, in non-COVID times, that this activity would have played out a little differently than it did and would have ended up being more like a family history conference for the kids. But these are (still) COVID times so it was a virtual activity. 

The girls were assigned to be prepared ready to discuss one of their ancestors in a small group meeting, so we spent some time helping them decide who to speak about. Rachel ended up choosing Louisa Walker, who my mom mentioned was an interesting ancestor last week when we were talking to her (or the week before that?). I highlighted her in an FHE lesson on Monday because her life kind of went along with the lesson in the Come Follow Me manual (she was part of the original Relief Society, joining when it was about three months old). 

Miriam chose to talk about Minnie Berschonsky, Grandma Pat's grandmother. When we were naming Miriam, Andrew didn't realize that his great-grandmother's name was Miriam because he'd always just known her as Minnie. So that was kind of funny to find out! Grandma Pat emailed me a little story about Minnie Berschonsky a few years ago, so I dug that email out for Miriam to read. 

The girls were also asked to find a cemetery and take photos for the Billion Graves website, so we went on a little family outing this morning to do so. It was actually quite a lovely way to pass the morning so I think we might try it again sometime!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Sand Park

Alexander has been sleeping with his little blue shovel lately, and ceaselessly pleading to go to "the sand park." This morning when he woke up he brought me his shovel and again asked if we could go to "the sand park."

"You promised," he reminded me.

Why am I always promising my children things? I actually do my best to not promise things, so I think they interpret "maybe sometime" as a promise, which almost sounds like a them problem...but I digress.

My biggest worry about going to "the sand park" today was Zoë because I didn't think she could keep her injured finger sand-free and I really didn't want to be picking sand out of the depths of her finger. She assured me she would stay out of the sand pit. "I can just play at the playground," she told me. "It will be fine.

 And it was fine...for a while. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day. 

I'm not sure when we got excited about celebrating this day. I think we—as a collective culture—are simply, suddenly more excited about celebrating things, about recognizing things. Or perhaps I'm simply more cognizant of it. I don't know. 

I first encountered International Women's Day in Russia on March 8, 2004. We had a big party at the church where the men presented the women with a rather terrible piece of artwork—a plaster hanging of the number 8. There was a talent show, which was wonderful to experience, lots of refreshments. And my little "host" brother, Alyosha recited a poem for me that he had learned at school: "My dearest, darling mother / I love you very much / I want you to be happy / on the 8th of March."

Wikipedia tells me that International Women's Day became a "mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977," but this does use of global doesn't actually include North America because it was largely not a thing here. I had never even heard of it until living in Russia. 

But it certainly is gaining traction here. I'm surprised at how many friends are joining in the celebration of women given the holiday's...uhhh...leftist...origins.

Yesterday was also my friend Holly's first day back at work after starting her (paid!) maternity leave eighteen months ago. When I saw her post a little collage of her sweet little baby—who she got to watch learn how to roll over and crawl and walk and talk, who she got to be with through multiple surgeries (clef lip), who she got to bond with and just be a mom with—I was so happy for her. I was nervous for her, too, because she's scared to go back to work, to leave him behind with a sitter, to be away. 

I was also seething mad.

Why don't we have anything like that in place here?

And curious.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The tickle bush that ate Zoë

Zoë seems to be a little accident-prone lately so today I will share another one of her little adventures (there will be gruesome pictures after the jump). We were taking a little afternoon stroll when Zoë, who had been walking along the curb, encountered a "tickle bush." Now, tickle bushes (which are really just decorative grasses) are so named because we have a longstanding tradition of wheeling the stroller next to them in the summer when they're lush and billowy. In the fall and winter and early spring they're a little less lush and billowy and more dry and poky, so we tend to avoid them.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Silent cat noises

We sat down for dinner this evening, which was very exciting (because it was fast Sunday and eating is simply more exciting when you're hungry) and also rather busy (because the girls had a fireside to be "at" at 6:00 and I had class at 7:00 (I usually don't have class on Sundays but today we did) and we were sitting down at 5:38). Alexander proudly announced, "I can make a cat noise!"

"Let's hear it," I said. 

Alexander clenched his little fists and started shaking with effort.

"Well...?" I prompted him. "Are you going to do it or what?"

He responded by clenching his fists and shaking his little body again.

"Did you hear that?" he asked, relaxing. 

"Hear what?" I asked. "You didn't make any noise."

"Listen!" he demanded...and then he just clenched his fists and shook his body some more. 

We all stared at him in confusion until I realized what was going on.

"Oh!" I gasped. "He's hearing a noise—a purring noise—inside his head! You're making a purring noise like the cat makes when she's happy?"

"Yeah!" Alexander said, clenching his fists and shaking some more. "Like this. Listen!"

He had us all clenching our fists as tightly as possible until we experienced what I think might be described as an isometric tremor, a tremor which "occurs during a voluntary muscle contraction that is not accompanied by any movement..." I'm not sure quite what's making the noise...something vibrating in our ears...or something. Anyway, only the person forcing the tremor can hear the, uh, purring noise.

He didn't really want to repeat his performance for the camera (isn't that always the way), so here's a little half-hearted attempt at it:


(Auntie Josie used to do this at the dinner table all the time when she was very little. We called it her "Hulk impression." She's outgrown it, I think (that seemed like an important thing to note)).

Friday, March 05, 2021

Keeping promises

"Do you remember a while ago when you said, when you promised we could do an art project with pastels?" Zoë asked me the other day. 

"Yes," I sighed.

Pastels can be so messy. Sometimes I'm good at being a mess-tolerating, mess-encouraging, mess-loving mom. And sometimes...I'm just not. And pastels can be so messy. And they're oil-based, not water-based, which just complicates the clean up and...

"Have you thought about how you're going to keep that promise?" she asked me.

She likes to keep me on my toes. 

Sweetest boy

Along with our three large trees, our tree removal guys took out the two smaller trees in that area. We were planning on eventually taking them out ourselves because they aren't so big that we couldn't have managed it. But the company said they would do it for free since they needed the room to work and believed the smaller trees would inevitably end up smashed anyway (unless they tried really hard not to smash anything...but they're working in a relatively small space and the trees are ginormous and...).

So Andrew gave them permission to take out the smaller trees.

Alexander was horrified when he saw them cut into my magnolia tree. This wasn't part of the plan!

I was sitting in my chair, looking out the window at the men at work (and talking to Bridget and Crystal) and, honestly, feeling a little sad about my magnolia tree (because—you guys!—it hadn't even blossomed yet! It was far too young to die!) when Alexander burst into my bedroom, crying, "They cut down your favourite tree!"

Goodbye trees

We said goodbye to our trees today. Secretly I hope this day would never come because I love trees...but they were creating problems in our yard. We really need to put some terraces (and some drainage) in the hill in front of our house but we can't really do that with the trees there. And the trees hadn't been tended to well and were sickly (sicklier than we thought). So we said goodbye. 

Here are some farewell pictures we took yesterday afternoon by the big maple tree:

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Rinsing bread

Alexander wanted to have a sandwich for lunch. The only problem is...we were more or less out of bread. I told Alexander as much, but he wouldn't believe me. 

"Let's go check the outside fridge!" he said. 

"I don't think we have any bread out there, either," I said.

"We do!" he said.

"I don't think so."

"Let's check!"

So we went to check and came back into the house wailing (let me clarify that it was Alexander doing the wailing; not me). 

"Sorry, buddy," I said. "We just don't have any bread. We can come up with another idea for lunch, though. We have leftover pizza or..."

"I want a sandwich!" he cried, big alligator tears escaping down his cheeks.

"How about we make a peanut butter and jam sandwich on a tortilla?! That could be fun!"

"No, it couldn't! I just want bread!"

He was having quite the emotional breakdown over this, so I grabbed the remaining loaf of homemade bread from the counter—stale as could be—walked over to the tap, and started rinsing it under the water.

Everyone stopped and stared at me. 

"What are you...what...what are you doing?"

Friday, February 26, 2021

Approaching cold weather myths

I'll admit that I've become unaccustomed to extremely cold weather. It was over 20°C/70°F yesterday and I had all the windows in my house open that could be, and I don't feel badly about it at all even though my friends and family in Canada are still experiencing sub-zero/freezing temperatures (except for Abra, I guess, now that she's living on the coast). Anyway, I thought I would approach two cold weather myths today. I'm doing so here rather than on Facebook because people tend to get very attached to their mythology and no amount of evidence can convince them that their myth is what it is...a myth. 

Having experienced many different cultures, I've found that it's relatively easy to identify myths (or superstitions?) in other cultures, while identifying them within your own culture can be a little trickier. 

For example, when I moved to Russia I quickly learned not to sit down in the cold (on a bench or a cement wall, or even a seat in the car) without adequate insulation beneath me. Because people would be legitimately concerned that my ovaries would freeze before I'd have the opportunity to be a mother. 

This was rather obviously untrue to me. I spent my formative years living in a very cold place where people didn't worry about this and yet, somehow, our population continued to grow.

But I also grew up believing that if my siblings and I played too wildly while a cake was in the oven...that the cake would "fall" and when I told Andrew this he laughed at me so hard. Because it turns out this was just a myth passed down in my family that everyone believed and passed on to their own children. Where did it start? Was there any truth to it? The first question is impossible to answer. But the second question is easy: No. While opening the oven to take a peek at the cake can make it fall, it's highly unlikely that playing hand hockey in the living room will. The two simply aren't related. 

It's hard to analyze your own culture for these fallacies until you're able, somewhat, to gain an outsider perspective. And so I offer you this myth:

If you go outside with wet hair, your hair will freeze and potentially snap off. 

In which I didn't call the fire department...

We were at the playground (again) the other day and the kids were playing a modified game of "grounders" (my kids don't close their eyes when they are "it" and the "it" player can't touch the platform with their feet). Zoë was jumping her way across a bridge—one of those "perfectly safe" bridges designed to keep children perfectly safe. There was no way she was going to slip between the railing and break her arm (like my friend's son did at the playground a few years ago) or anything like that. So she was jumping with quite a lot of confidence.

Then she landed a little too close to the ledge and her leg slipped in between the railing and the bridge and...that was it. She was stuck tight. Completely wedged in. And she was not happy. 

She tried pulling her leg out but could not free herself. 

I tried to help her force her leg out. Nothing.

We rotated her leg, trying to find the smallest possible radius...because here's the thing:

My kids (by and large) have spindly legs, knobby knees, and tiny feet.

I don't know where they get that from.

(Me; they get it from me). 

It's likely the playground engineers thought their design was infallible. They probably considered every possible scenario on that bridge and in precisely 0% of those scenarios did they see a child getting hurt. But they probably also didn't consider a child with the dexterity of a daring five-year-old wearing shoes the size a two-year-old might wear. But that's where their models went wrong...

And now my five-year-old was being squished to death by this bridge (if her screams were any indication of her mortal peril; in truth she was fine because her thighs are twiggy as well (but she was stuck...on account of her knobby little knees)). 

For reference, this is the bridge (though this picture is from last year, almost to the day, when my mom came out for a visit (you know, back when we used to do that kind of thing); I don't have a picture of Zoë stuck in the bridge because, well, I was actually concerned for her safety (she was screaming a lot) and I didn't think to stop and take a picture):



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Dementor

For family night last night we focused on D&C 18:10—"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." To help remind us of our worth (and to practice seeing each other as children of God), I had each of us write our names on a paper and then we passed those papers around in a circle, taking a minute or two to write something nice about each member of our family. Then the kids wanted to read their comments out loud, probably because we had to read Alexander's comments out loud for him to understand what they said. 

When we got to Rachel and she began reading the comment I wrote for her I had to interrupt. 

"...you're a peacekeeper and a mentor..." she read.

"Wait. What?!" I asked. 

There were strict instructions to only write kind things. And that didn't sound very kind.

"Mom, you wrote this one!" Rachel said. 

"I know but...what does it say?"

"It says: '...you're a peacekeeper and a mentor...'" she said, put a little break between each word for me. 

"Oh!" I said, sighing in relief. "I thought you said, 'peacekeeper and dementor!'"

"Again..." Rachel said. "You wrote it."

"I know! But I wrote a lot of things!"

Anyway, we're very fortunate to have Rachel around as a peacekeeper.

And. A. Mentor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

École en plein air

 

We did most of our schoolwork at the park today, packing along our lunch and all of our books and half the house. Today was our first lovely day of spring; I hope we have many more before the weather turns hot and humid. We try to enjoy perfect weather when we can. 

This particular park is one that many people have told me is "sketchy," and I can't figure out why they think so because Jones Bridge Park is kind of the "popular" park to go to and I think that park is sketchy. I mean, I actually think both parks are fine, but this particular park's bathrooms never (or, at least, rarely) ever smell like...teenagers have been using them as a hideout to smoke illicit drugs...while Jones Bridge Park's bathrooms routinely do. I'm just saying...

Besides, Jones Bridge Park is so popular that it can be hard to find space to be alone. This other park is a lot less popular, so while we did have several people walking the trails beside our picnic table, we didn't have to compete to find a picnic table (and when we went to play at the playground we had it all to ourselves, which is important when you're social-distancing).

Literacy with the Littles

As promised, here are some samples of Alexander's amazing A's...

This is an earlier paper I found. You can tell because of how big the "pilot dot" is at the top of the A (and also because of how he's writing his name backwards and didn't get the X in there):

Monday, February 22, 2021

In the words of Henry Wordsworth Longfellow


Orange you glad...

Alexander had a rough potty day on Sunday (that's your TMI warning).

When Sunday afternoon turned beautiful, I sent the kids outside to play. They requested a snack, so I made one up for them. I peel three oranges and put them on a plate with some cracker-y things and some nuts. A nice, balanced snack...or so I thought. 

I'm not sure whether Zoë and Benjamin made Alexander eat all the oranges or whether Alexander decided to eat them all on his own, but apparently that's what ended up happening. 

Alexander is already sensitive about pooping for whatever reason. He just doesn't like doing it, so we're always having conversations about how it's okay to go poop every day. Sometimes we can tell that he needs to go but is trying not to and we have to coax him to let it out. See—TMI.

He had a lovely potty time on Sunday afternoon, finally ridding his body of a nice, healthy poop. 

But then, while we were Skyping with Grandpa, Alexander started to make his "I need to poop but I'd really rather not" face. So I said, "Do you need to go potty?" And he said, "No..." So I said, "I think you do! Let's go try!"

We rushed off to the bathroom (with Alexander doing his "little too late" waddle) and found that we were...well...a little too late. Fortunately most of the mess ended up in the toilet. It was...a very orange-y poop (leading to my questioning the children about how their snack got divided up outside), but I figured that with that out of his system we were safe. 

So I helped him into fresh underwear and some jammies.

He ran around for a few minutes, we said goodbye to Grandpa, and then Alexander came to sit on my lap for scriptures and prayer. I was kneeling on the floor, so I guess squatting really...opened things up...for Alexander and, anyway, he ended up accidentally doing a bunch of diarrhea as he sat (squished) down on my lap. I slowly helped him back into a standing position and said, "Daddy, this one's for you..."

(After all, I'd just taken care of one diarrhea mess).

It was a little bit funny...but mostly just gross. We've been very careful about his fruit intake today. He has had zero oranges (but he has had a banana and a couple of slices of apple (and some yogurt to get some good bacteria into his gut, and plenty of cheese to...clog things up a bit)). 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Where's my pants?!

Andrew lost his blue pyjama bottoms a few weeks ago, which is a real tragedy as pyjama bottoms have become a staple for his work uniform. He was down to red ones and green ones and really wanted his blue ones back. Alas, they were no where to be found. 

He did all the laundry in the house to see if they would turn up. They didn't.

He went through everyone's drawers to see if they were put away in the wrong place. They weren't.

He rifled through the "tickle trunk" full of dress-up clothes and and the give-away box full of off-casts. No pyjama bottoms were to be found in either location.

He held a family meeting. 

"If anyone has information on my missing pyjama bottoms, you can come forward now. There is no punishment for information. If you are hiding them as a joke, just tell me. I'm desperate. I just want my pants back."

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Vegetable juice

We had leftovers for dinner last night, which is always a fun adventure. The children were claiming things left and right: "I get the last waffle!" "I want mashed potatoes!" "Dibs on the spaghetti!" And every time we emptied a container we boasted (if we happened to get the very last of something that everyone wanted) and cheered (because we emptied a container). 

Alexander was particularly vocal about snagging the last of the mixed vegetables. 

"I'm going to finish the mixed vegetables!" he called out, then he paused and waited for someone to object. Oddly, not one of his siblings objected.

"I am!" he insisted. "I am going to eat them right out of the container!"

"Go for it," we told him. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no.

While doing some research for one of my classes, I came across an enchanting interview with Robert Frost (which you can view here). I had my kids watch it today, listening for how Robert Frost defines poetry. We were very amused by the fact that Robert Frost (a) believed in using pens and eschewed the use of pencils and (b) did not believe one could write (or teach) poetry outside. In fact, when asked whether he did so, Robert Frost emphatically answered, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no...no." Then he said something about bugs getting on his paper. 

So we talked about Robert Frost's offered definition(s) of poetry, and then turned to Mary Oliver. 

Both poets write about nature extensively, but I don't think they'd agree on much else. For example, Mary Oliver would hide pencils in trees precisely so she could write when inspiration struck her out in nature. Mary Oliver's poems tend not to rhyme, while Robert Frost's tend to. Mary Oliver "calls free verse 'the music of conversation' and "time spent with a friend," while Robert Frost said free verse was like "playing tennis without a net." 

All in all, we found Robert Frost endearing...but a little erudite. 

But we learned that poetry isn't the same thing to everyone. Even two poets who are considered great can have vastly different ideas of what poetry is and how it should be written. 

We read several poems about nature and then the kids attempted their own poem about nature, which perhaps I will share later. Benjamin's poem was...interesting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Family Day/President's Day/Regular Day/Snow Day

We're (fortunately) not seeing much from the polar vortex slamming the south right now (poor Texas), but we're getting quite a lot of rain (and some wicked thunder and lightning!) that is potentially freezing overnight, so universities (at least UGA and GSU) are cancelling their morning classes (I imagine that grade schools will be starting late as well (actually, I just checked and they will be having a "digital learning day," so classes won't be held at all, which...we're in the middle of a pandemic...still...so I'm not mad about that)). As homeschoolers, we'll be continuing with our daily grind.

In fact, we worked right through today without even realizing it was a holiday. 

Do people have...traditions...for President's Day?

Like, why would I remember to even take the day off? 

Through much of Canada today was "Family Day," which is usually rather fun. Businesses offer deals for families (like, cheaper admission to recreation centers and deals on milkshakes, that sort of thing) and it's just a fun, extra day when families are encouraged to spend time together. 

That I might have remembered to take time off for. But...President's Day? Not so much (apparently).

My kids didn't mind working through it. It's not like we had anything else to do. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine Limericks II

Five years ago, I wrote some Valentine limericks and decided last night that I'd write another set. It's almost like a tradition...that occurs every five years...

They're not great but they're what I came up with while I was in the hall waiting for Zoë to fall asleep (until, like, midnight) last night.

Valentine's Day fun

We had quite an exciting week-long Valentine celebration. My sister Kelli sent a box full of crafts and treats and Grandpa sent some fun craft supplies for us as well. We've been dipping into those packages during this mostly-drizzly week; it's kept us from getting cabin fever. 

Here are the kids with some little fuzz-ball critters from a craft kit Auntie K sent:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bee sting #2 for Benjamin

In my defense, Benjamin had been complaining about a stiff neck for several days in a row already, so when he began to complain at the park that his neck hurt really bad and he just wanted to go home, we all kind of ignored him. Because there was no moment of him shrieking in pain. He'd just occasionally stop playing to complain about his stiff neck (by hid own admission, he "must have slept wrong") but then something exciting would call to him—jumping off that ledge, climbing up that tree—and he would run off like nothing was the matter.

His neck was still plaguing him at bedtime, but he so often gets out of bed to complain that he can't sleep because _______ just doesn't feel right. 

  • His left nostril is stuffy.
  • He has a hangnail.
  • He stubbed his toe earlier in the day.
  • He has a headache.
  • His neck hurts.
  • He ate too much for dinner.
  • His ear keeps folding funny.  
  • His tooth is too loose.
  • His eyes are sore.
  • His left butt cheek hurts (that was what he came in to tell me just right now).
So I said what any caring mother would say:
  • The best thing for it is sleep.
  • Why don't you put it to bed?
  • Try to get comfortable.
  • I love you. Goodnight.
This morning when I met him at the breakfast table I just about panicked, however. Benjamin's neck was visibly swollen.

"What's wrong with your neck?!" I asked.

"I dunno," he said. "Hurts a bit. I think I slept wrong again."

"No! I think you got stung by a bee!"


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Park day

On Saturday we had snow. Today we had a high of 21°C (69°F), so we had to spend a few hours at the park this afternoon. We took along a picnic lunch and some bubbles and had a great time. 

Here are the kids playing with bubbles:

Monday, February 08, 2021

Golden Shovel Poetry

For Black History Month, we're focusing on poetry. This morning we listened to Amanda Gorman's TedTalk as well as her poem 'The Hill We Climb,' then we did some reading in some books I'd gotten from the library—anthologies of Black poets, as well as stand alone collections by Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Nikki Grimes, and others. We each shared a poem we'd read that we liked. And then, because I like to do my lesson planning somewhat spontaneously, I based our writing exercise on Nikki Grimes' book One Last Word, since that's the one that ended up in my hands.

Each poem of hers is a Golden Shovel poem, which she explains means that you take a "striking line" from a poem (or a poem in its entirety) and write the words down on the right side of your page, and then write a line that ends with each word to form an entirely new poem, like an acrostic...but different. 

Fry Bread and Hail Marys

Alexander woke up at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday and refused to go back to sleep even for a little while, so I got up with him. Benjamin and Zoë joined us shortly before 8:00. 

We had a full morning of stories and fun. Zoë particularly enjoyed the book Fry Bread by Kevin Maillard. She loved the poetry of the story and returned to it several times over the course of the morning. She was a little emotional and kept having outbursts while we were playing (with the magnet tiles) and would escape to the music room to center herself by reading this book. 

"Fry bread is food," she'd read and then take a deep cleansing breath before reading the rest of the words on the page. 

Then she'd take another deep breath, centering herself with her eyes closed. 

"Fry bread is shape."

Deep breath. 

This girl is very good at melodrama. The only thing wrong was that she believe the magnet tile "base plates" had been unfairly distributed. But this story...was calming...so I'll take it.

At the end there's a recipe and Zoë immediately wanted to know if we could have fry bread for dinner. I'm...not the chef in this house...so I said we'd have to talk to dad about his dinner plans. 


A-L-E-X...

I usually have a million samples around of Alexander's artwork, but for some reason I can't find much of anything at the moment (it's recycling day tomorrow...), which means I don't have his signature on hand, which is too bad because the way he's learned to spell his name has been absolutely wonderful. 

He started out signing everything in his binary code: 01101010

I figured that he could at least learn how to write his name, since all my other kids learned how to write their names by the time they entered Sunbeams. Just because he's the last doesn't mean we have to baby him (maybe). So we started working on his name.

Just ALEX.

Only he could not figure out that A. He consistently wrote H instead.

So I told him that we'd make a little anchor point for the top of his A. We'd just put a little dot on the paper and then we'd draw two lines coming down from that dot. Then we'd draw our line across and—tada!—we had the letter A. 

He loved that trick. 

He loved that trick so much that the anchor point became the focal point of his A. He would draw a big, swooping, swirly circle...then drop two lines down and cross them. It was cute and hilarious but eventually (just the other day when we were signing Valentines) that...well...it was an unnecessary part of the letter A and the real goal was to have no circle on the top at all, but just two lines connected like a little triangle. 

So he's been doing better at making his anchor dot smaller (he just can't quite give it up).

Some creativity

There's been quite a bit of creativity happening at our house lately. I don't have pictures of everything, so I'll just share the few pictures that I do have. 

First up is Benjamin's original composition for the piano. The assignment I gave him came from Faber's primer level piano book and it was to play the "musical question" and then "make up a parallel answer of your own by changing measures 7–8" of the song (and then, further, to "make up a contrasting answer" to the same piece). Somehow he interpreted this to mean that I wanted him to create his own piece of music using the ideas of parallel and contrasting melodies, which...I mean...I'm not complaining:

It took him forever to work out the musical notation and I'm super impressed he stuck with it. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Boogey Man

When I was in grade four we moved from Vancouver (a moderate oceanic climate) to Calgary (a continental subarctic climate).* It was certainly different from what I had grown to think of as "normal." So cold. So snowy. I wasn't sure winter was ever going to end.

This was my first time really being The New Girl, though it certainly wouldn't be the last. We'd moved before, but that had been before I started school. I went from kindergarten through half of grade four in the same school (it was a wonderful school). Our neighbourhood school in Calgary was "too full" to take us (that's what I remember, anyway). Patrick got to finish up his kindergarten year there (at Deer Run Elementary), but David and I had to be bussed out to Alice M. Curtis. We weren't the only children in the neighbourhood who bussed out. My best friend Nadia, who was only my best friend outside of school because we weren't in the same class and...that mattered for some reason...bussed out as well. 

For some reason I sat by a girl named Krista on the bus. She was is my class (was probably my best friend in school), was very nice, and taught me a lot about winter. One thing she taught me how to do was to make pictures in the frost on the school bus windows. (It is not unusual to see busses driving around with the word HELP written on the frost on the windows, but don't worry; the children are usually fine). We would scrape little drawings and things into the frost with our fingernails (rather than melting the frost with our fingerprints to spell a big, bold HELP signal like the older kids). This was all fine until one day I scraped a little too hard a little too fast and somehow worked a frosty little icicle sliver up under my nail bed. It was shockingly painful, but as quickly as the alarm bells went off in my brain, the frost melted (essentially pulling the sliver out). I applied direct pressure the rest of the way to school and then asked for a bandaid. It was surprisingly painful for quite a long time, which you'd know if you've ever gotten a sliver under your fingernail before. 

All this is to say that I sympathize with Andrew—really, I do—despite all my teasing. 

The other day he got his own unconventional sliver under his fingernail (which hurt like the dickens) when he noticed that someone (which is to say no one because no one knows who could have done it) had wiped a big ol' booger on the wall. 

I will take a quick minute to note here that I grew up calling such "nose stuff" boogers (BOO-gurs) (but also "nose stuff") while Andrew calls them buggers (BUG-gurs),** something my Canadian grandma would be horrified to hear (but which, alas, is a very common thing to say in the United States). I've worked on him, but it's such an ingrained pronunciation that he still uses it. I did, however, win the...uh...fart...battle. I grew up not saying that word and whether Andrew did or whether he didn't, we ameliorate it at our house, usually with "toot" or "gas." Alexander prefers the word "air," though he's the only one who uses that particular word for that particular bodily function.

I will also note that by the time Andrew found the booger on the wall, it was rather...crisp. 

Fossilized, really. 

So it's possible that none of our children were guilty of wiping it on the wall above the couch, directly beside the light switch (even though there's a tissue box on the end table). It's possible it's been there since prehistoric times (so you're all off the hook, children). 

Whatever the case, Andrew decided, the other day, to scrape that disgusting ol' booger off the wall with his fingernail. That booger was so firmly affixed to the wall that Andrew found he needed to use quite a bit of force to remove it. That booger was so well-dried it could have been used as battle armour. And when Andrew finally dislodged it from the wall it lodged itself right up under his fingernail, which is possibly the worst, most embarrassing way to get a fingernail sliver that I've ever heard of! 

Andrew was in excruciating pain. He complained about his finger for days

And we lovingly checked in on him, as families do, but also mercilessly teased him about it...as families do. We're still teasing him. Every time he goes to scratch or blow his nose at least one person warns him to be careful up there...might be dangerous...

Poor man.

* As defined by the Köppen climate classification system.
** Andrew would like to clarify that he pronounces it like book. Buuh-ger. "As one does the buuh-gie, a little dance." To which I said, "Yeah, I say BOOgie. BOOgie WOOgie." So we disagree. And I still think it sounds more like buh-ger than he thinks. And, honestly, 

New shower

It's been a battle to keep this house dry from the very beginning. Within a month or two of moving in we realized that three of our four bathrooms were leaking. We've been using stop-gap measures to keep things from completely falling apart but we finally decided to pull the trigger on our master bathroom when I sneaked into the office closet to eat a snack and saw that our ceiling was *this close* to falling apart. Our stop-gap measures were no longer...stopping things. 

So we had a contractor come in to fix things up for us. He sealed off our room, making us feel a bit like we were living in ET's plastic tunnel. But it kept things nice and tidy.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Melancholy Minecraft

I reached some sort of breaking point in this pandemic (and surrounding political climate) where all I want to do is cry. I'm not sure if my immigrant children's literature class is adding to that, but reading books like Other Words for Home and Everything Sad is Untrue just have me in tears. But other things do as well.

We were trying to play a game the other night, but the problem was that I didn't really want to play because I had a billion other things to do and Andrew wasn't really paying attention because he had a billion things to do as well, but we were both trying to be good sports and play anyway. But then I got frustrated and expressed my frustration and some teenagey members of our household got annoyed that I got frustrated and refused to talk or look at me and Andrew wasn't helping diffuse the situation because he was busy thinking about data and so I put down my cards and announced I wasn't playing anymore...because why should I stick around to play a game where no one is talking to me? I have other things to do, thanks. And then the teenagery people stormed off to the basement, slamming as many doors as possible and Andrew was left sitting at the table like, "What?"

So I had to collect myself and go talk to the teenagery people. 

One revealed that, like everything, it was more than the game. It was that she was so lonely. She didn't make friends at school last year. We got split off the ward where she had quickly made friends. And then got split off from the stake they were in. So now they feel like they are on another planet. And her one friend in our ward just told her that her parents are divorcing and she's moving to Utah with her mom. And we haven't gone anywhere or seen anyone in a year. And none of her friends understand this and they're all really bad at writing back to her. And she doesn't even have any cousins because she was born in what we call "the cousin hole." And...she just didn't want to have any tension in our house but then there was because I got frustrated (which, like, testimony to me that I don't get frustrated very often, I guess). And...

So I told her that her Utah friends are dumb. 

I mean, they're amazing kids. Rachel has always picked the most amazing people to befriend. She's good at picking people. But they're just so naive. "They have no idea what it feels like to miss everything," I told her. "They only know what it's like to miss you. But they still have everything, so while they do remember to think about you sometimes...it's not everything for them. You miss everything. And that's harder. And they don't get it."

They don't.

At least, a lot of them don't.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

In my stomping boots...

We went to the river a few days ago, which made me realize that we live in a terribly muddy place—it rains...a lot—and we could probably use some boots. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that if we had boots, then maybe we'd go outside more often. And if we had boots, then we wouldn't ruin our shoes with mud so very often (shoes are never quite the same after a romp through a mud puddle, are they?). So the more I thought about it, the more the cost seemed worth it in my mind. 

Zoë already had boots. My sister had sent her some pink light-up boots with unicorns on them and, honestly, everyone's been mooning over them since May. I should have thought of rain boots for Christmas. But I didn't. So I told the kids this was their Valentine's Day present and they each got a pair of new rain boots. 

They also need church shoes but I don't think we'll be going to church (physically) for a few more months so we'll wait on those. But we do need to go outside.

Yesterday boots arrived for Alexander, Benjamin, and Rachel...and me (I got boots for myself because I'm usually the one who takes the kids romping). Benjamin was thrilled with his blue camouflage boots and immediately started preparing for an adventure in the back-backyard. He wore his boots the whole morning while he was doing his school work.

Alexander put on his boots—green dinosaur boots—and started jumping up and down with glee. "Oh, mank you, Mommy! Mank you!" he said. And he happily clomped around the kitchen putting away the clean dishes. 

Rachel was happy about her boots (plain grey), which also fit like a glove. 

My boots were too big. Somehow I ordered the correct size for all of my children, but not for myself. So I'll have to return those. 

Miriam moped a bit about not having boots yet, though I can't control when the packages arrive!

She was a little mopey today after lunch when I suggested we head to the river again to try out our new boots. I was very sorry hers hadn't arrived, but if we didn't go to the park on a Friday while everyone was in school then we wouldn't be able to hit the park until next week (because we avoid parks on weekends these days). Fortunately, just as she was putting on her ratty, old sneakers...a package was dropped on the doorstep. 

Her boots—black and white plaid! And the perfect fit!

Am I good, or am I good?

I mean, I evidently can't buy shoes for myself, but I got shoes for all the kids, so we're going to call this one a win! The kids had a great time splashing in the creek and mud while I watched from the bank in my plain, ordinary, not waterproof shoes.

Friday, January 29, 2021

MAX!

We went for a walk yesterday and when we were at the bottom of the very last hill we had to climb, we spotted a little white dog frisking around at the top of the hill. We weren't particularly afraid of this dog because while I've heard that little yappy dogs are more prone to biting, I'm rather less protective of my ankles than I am of, say, my jugular, so I still find little dogs less intimidating that big dogs. 

So we kept on walking up the hill.

For the record, there is another dog in our neighbourhood who we will turn around for. Like, if we see that ginormous thing is loose, we'll just turn around and walk the long way home, adding almost a mile to our trip but, like, whatever. It's fine. This one time we were out on a family walk and the four kids ahead of us turned the corner of our little loop—the final stretch toward home—and then about thirty seconds later they all rounded the corner, heading back towards Andrew, Alexander, and I (we're slow because Alexander is slow) as fast as they could. 

"That dog must be out," I said to Andrew.

"Dog's out!" the kids panted as they shot past us, heading for home the long way around.

That dog is a nightmare.

But, this little white dog was not a nightmare, so we kept walking.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cupcakes and Vials

Rachel, our baker extraordinaire, made cupcakes to celebrate the inauguration last week—funfetti, from scratch. She even ground her own sugar to make powdered sugar because we'd run out (but don't run to the grocery store for little things these days). They were beautiful, but I soon noticed that one cupcake was a little less beautiful than the others...because someone had been nibbling on it. 

I asked who had been nibbling on it but, of course, no one fessed up to the crime. 

"There is absolutely no punishment for nibbling on a cupcake," I told the kids. "Other than having to eat the cupcake you've been nibbling on when we all sit down together to eat cupcakes. There's no timeout involved, no corner to stick your nose in, no privilege to be revoked. In all honesty, I don't care about the cupcake. At this point, the cupcake is irrelevant. The issue at hand is that someone in this house is lying to me in. And that doesn't feel good. And this is, possibly, the silliest, most pointless thing to lie about. So why lie about it? You don't stand to gain anything from it..."

We went through the list of suspects. 

Daddy? He wouldn't nibble on a cupcake. He'd just eat a cupcake. No shame at all.

Rachel? Big same. Plus she baked them and already treated herself to one. Why would she pick at another one?

Miriam? She asks before she does anything. Like, at the dinner table, she will ask if she can eat the food on her plate. Yes, child. Yes. You can eat the food that I just gave you. Not a very likely cupcake thief. 

Benjamin? Constantly getting into mischief. Enjoys sneaking around even though he's not very sneaky. Definitely our top suspect.

Zoë? Cannot reach the shelf of the fridge where the cupcakes were sitting and would have to drag a stool over and make a big production out of everything...all to sneak a little nibble undetected? Possible, but improbable. My kids aren't very good at sneaking (they are loud and obvious). 

Alexander? Definitely cannot reach the cupcakes. Is even louder and more obvious about sneaking than either Zoë or Benjamin. Would 100% simply lick the icing off instead of taking little pinches of cake. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Good kids, good times

I'm feeling pretty good because I just turned in a paper I have been stressing out over for days now (to the point of being unable to sleep and having crummy-tummy). But, not every assignment has been like that. I just am taking this one class that I feel out of my depth for. It's called New Literacies for a reason, I guess. There's a lot of...newness...involved. Some rather intense theoretical stuff. But I'll get through it.

Andrew reminded me this evening that I should probably blog for a bit, not by way of nagging, but by way of reminding me to write for pleasure as well as productivity. He's been great at thinking of ways to take care of me. A few days ago he had the brilliant idea to warm up our little "corn bag" and put it at the foot of the bed on my side. It was blissful. I don't know why we didn't do it before. He's happy. My icy-cold toes are happy. It was pure brilliance.

The girls were a little jealous when I told them about my new foot warmer, so I told them they can make some corn bags as well. We haven't done that yet, but perhaps we'll get around to it this week. (I love the preamble to this "instructables"—"Now, you might say, 'why don't I just use an electric heating pad?'" and to you I say, 'why don't you preemptively burn your house down while you are at it' j/k, it could work but cords and all that are annoying and these are super portable, turn off all by themselves, and definitely won't burn your house down. That is 100% the way my brain works, too. We have a mattress pad, but also I have some pretty special anxiety stuff going on right now and can't sleep while the mattress pad is on (and/or plugged in)). 

Anyway, here's a little of what we've been up to this week...

Zoë and Alexander have been reading a lot and have been read to a lot. Here they are enjoying some morning reading time with the library books in the music room. We try to make sure that books in the music room stay in the music room since that's where I keep the bin of library books:


Friday, January 22, 2021

Collages

We watched the inauguration as a family, which I think is the first time I've ever done that (so I guess we're starting the kids young). It felt important, somehow, to watch it...after all these months (or years, depending on how you look at it) of...assault on reality. Like, if we watched it then it had to be real. 

The Biden/Harris ticket wasn't my top choice. In fact, I was surprised when the ticket was floated and even more surprised when it won the official nomination. But I think it's going to be okay. In his address, President Biden stated, "My whole soul is in this!" And I truly believe that. I probably won't agree with every decision he makes, but I will at least be able to believe he'll be making decisions with the country in mind. 

I loved what Fauci said about working under a new administration during his first press briefing (because we have those now!!) and how "liberating" it is for him: "The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is—let the science speak." Our nation's top office has been holding science hostage and...now science is finally free to do what it's supposed to do—to explore, to push boundaries, to tease out information (that, sure, is often refuted as we explore and learn more...but that's just the way science works). 

Anyway, Fauci didn't speak at the inauguration so I'm getting a little off-topic. I'm just glad that man is finally free to do his job. And I was so glad the inauguration was kept "intimate" (though there were times when I was screaming internally at people to fix their masks and to keep their distance). Having a large crowd would have been ridiculous. 

It was rather amazing to see a woman sworn in as vice president. I wish it could have happened years earlier. I wish we could have a female president. Women are great at running things. It's about time. 

Maybe I'll write more about the inauguration some day. Maybe I won't. 

Maybe I'll tell you how I started crying when Jennifer Lopez yelled, "Una nación bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos!" Maybe I'll tell you how beautiful Amanda Gorman's poem was. Maybe I'll tell you about my thoughts on "a nation that isn't broken / but simply unfinished."

But maybe later.

For now I'll talk about making collages with the kids. Andrew tweeted on Thursday morning that he was giving up on reading his huge stack of magazines in his office so was going to recycle them. So I went into his office to un-recycle them because one does not simply recycle magazines! One makes collages with them first.

We finished reading Julie of the Wolves yesterday as well, so I gave them the option of making a collage about the book or about the inauguration (or something else for those of us who needed a different topic to focus on (Zoë's topic was stuff-I-think-is-pretty-and-or-interesting)). 

Here is Alexander's collage: