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Monday, October 25, 2021

Halloween Recital

Zoë and Benjamin both recently finished their primer level piano books and moved onto their level 1 books and it just so happened that they both had Halloween-themed songs near the beginning of their books. We figured this would be a good month to learn them (so I skipped several songs for both of them and assigned the Halloween songs, but we'll go back to what we missed; it'll all work out in the end). They haven't been practicing very long, but we decided to record them anyway...before it was time for Christmas music, ya know?

Rachel joined in with Funeral March (Chopin), which she'd learned a while ago but freshened up for the recital, and Miriam bravely decided to attempt Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach), even though she hasn't quite finished learning the last four page-turns or so. 

Alexander decided he would sing his favourite Halloween song. We all ended up being back-up singers for him because he kept singing too quietly on his own. But he did great.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Miriam's birthday cake

Miriam wanted a s'more cake for her birthday, so Rachel did some research and planned out a phenomenal cake that sounded mouthwatering to everyone in the family...except me. I mean, besides the fact that I'm completely off sugar right now...marshmallows + chocolate = a big "no thanks" from me. When Andrew lamented that he wouldn't be around for cake (since Miriam's birthday is on Monday and he's otherwise occupied Monday(s)), Alexander smacked his lips and said, "Goody! More cake for us!"

And so, in an effort to spite Alexander and include their father (because in this house, we're both vindictive and virtuous), the girls made the executive decision to celebrate Miriam's birthday with cake today rather than on Monday. 

Rachel spent practically all day Friday and Saturday in the kitchen. She made a (homemade) chocolate cake with (homemade) marshmallow fluff filling, covered in (homemade) buttercream frosting, topped everything with (homemade) ganache, and bedazzled it with mini s'mores that she made by roasting mini marshmallows over a candle flame.

We teased her for not making her own graham crackers and marshmallows, which she kind of took as a challenge so don't be surprised if you see her whipping up those from scratch in the near future just to prove that she can (as I said earlier: vindictive and virtuous).

Just...no one say anything about making chocolate to her, okay?

(Although, I have a friend who took a chocolate-making class when she was living down in Mexico. We're talking, like, "Step one: Open cocoa pod. Step two: Roast the beans. Step three: Mash the beans." Except that I have no idea what the actual procedure is, so don't follow those steps I just told you. Let's just say, the class took her through the whole process and what she shared looked very interesting...if you're into that sort of thing (and even if you're not, because I'm not particularly interested in making chocolate from scratch and yet it looked interesting)).

Here's the finished product, fresh from the fridge so it could get warm on the counter while we went on our family walk:



Saturday, October 23, 2021

OOB and fee

We spent some time doing some Halloween crafts this afternoon—namely: getting Miriam's birthday "balloons" ready (she decided to stick with the Halloween tree theme, much to Alexander's delight) and getting some Halloween cards ready to send out.

Now that Alexander can actually pronounce things, he's becoming very interested in reading and writing. For example, went the whole way around the block today running ahead to each mailbox, sitting down primly on the curb to wait for Andrew and me to catch up,* and then proudly "reading" the numbers on the mailbox for us. He still gets 6 and 9 confused, but he does fairly well otherwise. He's also doing reading lessons and has begun sounding out words all on his own as he goes about his day (there's this one superhero book that has been particularly motivating for Alexander; he wants to know every word in that book).

* I've been insisting the past several weeks that I'm walking at the very same speed I always have, but it turns out that my waddle is getting real. Andrew checked his Fitbit to show me just how much I've slowed down as my belly has grown. I've about doubled the time it takes for us to walk around the block! And, really, we have been lagging behind the children more and more recently. But, boy, do I ever feel like I'm moving as fast as I ever have. Getting up our hill takes so much work!

Anyway, Alexander wanted to write his own messages, but he wanted the messages to be meaningful rather than nonsense, so he worked really hard on them!

Organ embroidery

Last week Miriam's organ teacher texted us out of the blue one evening to say that she was moving to Korea to take care of her mother (recently diagnosed with a terminal illness), so this would be her last week of lessons. We're sad to lose such a wonderful teacher, of course, but I'm so happy that her teacher has the flexibility to go! Living far away from family can be difficult. 

She gave us a few leads for replacement teachers, so we're working on filling that gap, but in the meantime, Miriam had her lesson coming up (on Wednesday) and she wanted to get a goodbye gift for her teacher. But what?

If my last post didn't make this clear...I'm not a good shopper. Knowing what to buy other people is...not in my skillset. Luckily, gifts don't always have to be purchased and sometimes something homemade offers that special touch of je ne sais quoi. So Miriam decided she'd "whip up" some embroidery—a set of organ pipes—for her teacher. 

It took most of her spare time between that sad text message and her lesson, but she finished it just in the nick of time. Andrew snapped a picture of her (and it) before taking her to her final lesson.

Matchy-matchy

Way back when I first found out I was pregnant and was experiencing All The Emotions, I decided that if I really was doing this again (which evidently we were), then I at least could be cute and comfortable: I was going to buy maternity clothes.

This was a great plan for me...except that I'm frugal to a fault...and spending money is really hard for me. So I was lucky that my neighbour gifted me a bag of maternity clothes because I still couldn't quite bring myself to buy very much, especially because we're really at our caboose now. For real. 

Still, I convinced myself to buy a couple pairs of maternity leggings, which was important for me even early on because I think I was the absolute sickest with this pregnancy that I've ever been—throwing up and fainting (which I haven't really ever done during pregnancy before)—and feeling elastic around my waist was just unbearable. So I wouldn't have made it through the first several months of this pregnancy in my regular leggings, even though that's mostly what I wore when I was expecting Alexander and Zoë. But maternity leggings really are more comfortable than non-maternity leggings; that's just a fact (that I know now).

Anyway, I also got a couple of tunics to go with the leggings. They aren't technically maternity shirts, but I have this thing against buying clothes I'm only going to wear for a few months (which is why I haven't ever bought a lot of maternity clothes). Tunics are something I can wear after Baby is here as well. When I was looking at tunics, a lovely fall-striped one caught my eye but I was going to be pregnant mostly through the summer, so getting a long-sleeved tunic sounded like a bad idea. I chose a short-sleeved one instead and I think I've worn it once a week since it arrived. It's very comfortable.

Things have been cooling off recently, however, and I've found myself still thinking about that fall-striped tunic. So I went ahead and ordered it. Because if you've wanted something from April to October, maybe you should just go ahead and get it.

It arrived today and I tried it on and when Alexander saw me his mouth fell open.

"We match!" he managed to squeak out in spite of his excitement, and he ran to give me the biggest hug.

I hadn't planned on wearing the shirt the whole evening, but...I couldn't take it off now!

Alexander rifled through his toy box until he found his sunglasses (so he could match me even further because I have glasses) and insisted that we both wear flip-flops on our walk (because then our shoes would match). He held my hand the whole way (he's only recently given up the stroller—completely cold-turkey, as is his way (one day he was too little to walk the full mile, but the next day he was plenty big, thank you very much)) and whenever a car drove by he would squish up against me and robotically announce, "CONNECT! Nobody can see me. We are camouflaged. CONNECT!"

He's a goofball.

Here he is saying hello to Phoebe, who has made it past the 34-week mark (by one day). Every day we count our lucky stars that she's still baking away. Even though I'm so over being pregnant, I know that she's better off on the inside.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

A boy called Harbinger

We are reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow together, which has a fairly advanced lexile score, but the kids wanted to do some spooky stories for October so it fits their interest level, if not their reading level. While we read the kids make note of words they don't know (there are a lot) and when we're finished reading they choose some words to explore. 

Zoë, I can see, needs more instruction on how to read definitions of words because she gets very creative with her exercises. She likes to put her vocabulary words into a story, which is fine, but her interpretations of their definitions are comical. 

Here's today's story:

Once there was a spooky anecdote (tale). The boy that was reading it was called Harbinger (Herald). He loved varleting (acting) at the scary parts. When itinerants (travelers) walked and wandered outside searching for shelter he sang and wrote and read: "She had barely practiced (repeated) credulity (willingly). It behooved me at first!"

I was dead after reading the first two sentences. A boy called Harbinger (Herald)?! I had to excuse myself to go laugh (because Zoë does not like to make mistakes and if she knew she had made such an error would have erased the whole page, lickety-split). 

Anyway, we'll be discussing what a herald is (as opposed to a Harold). That word will be coming up again at Christmastime, anyway, I'm sure (Hark! Those herald angels!). 

Google tells us that varlet /ˈvärlət/ is "a man or boy acting as an attendant or servant."

Acting!? Perfect! thought Zoë. I can use that in my story for sure!

She neglected to digest the entire definition, however. It's a person filling the role of an attendant or servant, or, simply, a person who is an attendant or servant (no doubt related to valet). It can also mean rapscallion. 

I think she about grasped the meaning of itinerants. But I don't think practiced was even one of the words we pulled from the text...so I'm not sure why she picked that word.

Merriam-Webster informs us that credulity /krəˈd(y)o͞olədē/ is "readiness or willingness to believe especially on slight or uncertain evidence." Again she stopped reading after "willingness" and ran with that idea, and while I suppose one can practice credulity...this does not show she understands the meaning of the word.

Which, again, is fine because she's six. 

And here's her description Ichabod Crane:

Ichabod Crane was tall and helpful. He was envied by the women because he taught their children and rocked their babies and fed their cattle and wattered [sic] their horses. He looked like a scare-crow and he was a teacher. He is not annoying (Ben said that he was). 

I think she's enjoying the story, even if she doesn't quite understand every little detail. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Zoë's well-child check

Zoë's been nervous about her well-child check ever since Alexander and Rachel came home moaning and groaning about their vaccinations. This morning, however, Alexander tried to convince her that going to the doctor wasn't all bad!

"You don't have to worry about going to the doctor," he told her over breakfast, "Because guess what! If you are brave and get your shots, Mom will take you to the park after even if you haven't done any of your work for the day. Like, yesterday I didn't do any of my work and Mom still took me to the park. So...that might happen for you today, too!"

That did not happen for Zoë. 

Her appointment wasn't until this afternoon so she had plenty of time to get her morning work done before we left. But we did swing by the park on the way home, just me and her. Which was like actual one-on-one time. And she loved it. 

Anyway, her appointment went well. It was with a different doctor than the one we saw yesterday, which is fine. Technically we can see anyone at the practice. The doctor was a little concerned about Zoë's size because she's tall (3 ft. 9 inches) and lean (40.5 lbs), putting her between the 1st and 2nd percentile for her BMI. So we talked a lot about nutrition.

The funny thing is that I warned Zoë that she should eat her vegetables because the doctor would ask her about it. And what am I supposed to tell the doctor when the doctor asks about it if she never eats her vegetables?! Well, I told the doctor that she is offered vegetables multiple times a day, but whether or not she eats them is a different story. 

Unlike Alexander, Zoë's favourite food is not mixed vegetables.

"Do you eat any vegetables?" the doctor asked.

"I eat uncooked carrots," Zoë said. "And cucumbers and..."

"So some vegetables at least, that's good," the doctor said. 

When the doctor stepped out of the room, Zoë said to me, "I did not know they were really going to check on how much vegetables I eat!"

You'd better believe she ate her vegetables (cucumber slices) this evening. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Well child visits for Rachel and Alexander

I took Rachel and Alexander to the doctor this morning; they're both healthy, happy kids, though Rachel's blood pressure was a little high. I pulled out her records from last time and her blood pressure was a little high then, as well. But that's just her anxiety kicking in. She hates needles and knew she had shots coming up. 

At 4 years old, Alexander is 39 inches tall (3 feet, 3 inches) and is 31 lbs. 

Long and lean, a little on the small side but following the pattern of his growth curve (which is all that we ask for). He was so brave for his shots (he got three today: chicken pox, MMR, and influenza). When the first shot went in his eyes got really wide, when the second shot went in tears sprang to his eyes and he started his nervous giggling, when the third shot went in he continued his nervous giggles and added a little, "OKAY!" 

He was so done with that!

The nurse could hardly get his last bandaid on; he was scrambling away from her trying to get into my arms.

"All done!" I said. "You were so brave! And—just think!—you won't have to get another shot until next..."

I was all geared up to say "year" but then I realized that...I sincerely hope...he'll be getting another shot within the year so I finished up with "time" instead. 

That sounded far less comforting than I intended it to, but he has no concept of time, anyway.

Rachel actually got her shot first and she did so well. Last night (when she was already nervous about today), she said, "Last time wasn't so bad. And I do so much better than I used to. I haven't bitten a nurse in a long time!"

And it's true. She didn't abuse her nurse one single bit. She just sat on the table and took a deep breath and then it was all over. 

I won't reveal her statistics, since I suppose she's entering that age where she gets to choose what information to reveal. Let's just say that when we were discussing her growth curve the doctor said, "As you can see she grew a lot last year and then this past year she grew even more!

Like Alexander, she's also long and lean. Just about as long and lean as I am! But not quite. 

I have a few inches on her yet!

Like...two.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Should have done this 15 years ago...

I survived midterms and now we're flying toward the end of the semester. Only one of my classes has been transparent about assignments—with readings and projects listed out for the entire semester (though there are weekly quizzes)—and I really appreciate it because my other classes release each module week by week. All I want to do is get ahead of the game a little bit so I can be prepared for whenever this baby shows up, but noooooo!

Anyway, yesterday I was talking to my mom and she mentioned that she wished I had done my master's in library science way back in the day. When I was working at BYU they would have paid for it and then it would be over with. But the thing is that I was working and pregnant and the prospect of going to graduate school felt like too much. And it would have been a lot, it's true. 

But also, it would have been much easier than it is to be in graduate school now (while pregnant and working and homeschooling five children)!

That's the beauty of hindsight, though, isn't it? And I suppose my mom could have pushed me more toward that, but in the end kids (even adult kids...especially adult kids) are just going to make the decision they're going to make. And my mom did sympathize with me that it would have been a lot. Being pregnant is hard work and it feels extra hard the first time. Though I also might argue that it feels extra hard the last time, too! Haha! It's not like it's really something you ever get used to. It's kind of just always not quite easy, always a little complicated and fraught and exhausting and...everything.

My mom cheered me on, though, saying that she knows I can do it. Because she also did it—graduate school, with six kids in tow, working, living life in all its...complexity. It wasn't easy, but she did it.

And I was just thinking today about a concert I accompanied my mom to (she had to attend various performances for various classes) and she was dutifully taking notes in her notebook when she fell asleep, mid-stroke, her pen rushing across the page with a whoosh. She jerked awake and we had a quiet little giggle about it (concert etiquette!), but the memory made me feel so sad for my tired mommy, who I'm sure I didn't help as much as I could have, and so grateful for her dedication to her education, and proud of her for working so hard.

Maybe it's the fact that Hamilton is playing in one of the kids' bedrooms, but I kind of just want to sing, "Look at where you are! Look at where you started!"

I'll always be thankful for her example.

Welcome Fall!

We held our autumnal "opening ceremonies" last Monday—on Canadian Thanksgiving—as we usually do. Sometimes we do a fuller Thanksgiving, but other times life seems too hectic for that (like when Daddy has to work and Mommy's diet is so limited) so we did a simple fall meal instead. We had pumpkin soup with some Thanksgiving sides. Now that I think about it, we have instant stuffing in the basement that we probably should have used. Oh, well.

I was in charge of the soup and put Miriam in charge of the cranberry sauce. She decided the recipe on the bag was ridiculous because our family really enjoys cranberry sauce. Surely the yield wasn't enough for our appetites! I did manage to convince her to follow the recipe in the end, which was probably a good thing because the recipe yielded plenty

"I think you'll be surprised by how much three cups of berries really is," I warned her. "How many berries are in a package?"

"I don't know..." she said. 

"Ummm...it says 25!" Alexander informed us.


And, indeed, the bag did say 25, though there were a lot more berries in there than 25! 

Verbal nesting

Andrew has pointed out that whenever I open my mouth lately, 99% of the time it's to announce something that I need to do. Or that we need to do. Both of which roughly translate into things I often wish he would do (but I say "we" or "I" out of politeness).

I need to organize these baby clothes.

We need to get the front yard landscaped.

We need to plan Christmas presents.

I need to return books to the library.

I need to go through those boxes.

We need to finish painting the back deck.

We need to trim the ivy off the trees.

I need to... We need to... I need to... We need to...

This list of mine is especially active in the evenings when I'm too tired to actually do anything.

"Calm down," he tells me. "You need to calm down. None of that stuff needs to happen immediately."

"I can't help it!" I told him. "I'm verbally nesting! I don't have the time or the energy to actually nest so I'm just expressing my desire to nest in words."

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Alexander's Cake

Alexander's one birthday wish was mixed vegetables. He wanted mixed vegetables for dinner and mixed vegetables for cake. And, you know, that is totally in my power to deliver. 

I love this age! 

It reminds me of the time Rachel brought home a Christmas wish list from school (in kindergarten) and it said "a candy cane." That's it. That's all she wanted. 

I can do that! 

Somewhere along the line, however, kids seem develop this thing called "expectations" and then they start experiencing a thing called "disappointment" because if there's one thing I'm consistent at it's not meeting expectations. But before they have expectations—when they think that an excellent birthday wish is "mixed vegetables" and all they want for Christmas is a "candy cane?" Well, I'm pretty good at making childhood seem magical then.

I say "I," but the magic is really a team effort. Especially right now when I'm so busy being a pregnant grad student person. So Andrew made Alexander's birthday dinner—mixed vegetables, Molly's meatballs (from the Harry Potter cookbook), and mashed potatoes (with leftover cranberry sauce from our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner)—and Alexander was thrilled. He ate mostly mixed vegetables and ignored everything else on his plate, which is par for the course with him.

Andrew wonders where he came from because (a) whose favourite food is mixed vegetables? And (b) who actually wishes for mixed vegetables on their birthday? He had a hard time wrapping his head around such a request, but he's a good dad and came through.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Alexander is four!

Somehow or another, Alexander turned four yesterday! I had a doctor appointment in the afternoon so we opened his presents in the morning (which he declared his favourite part of the day) so that he could have the full day to enjoy them.

Here is is—looking mighty dapper—ready to open his haul:

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Outside time

When our schoolwork for the day had been completed—and really both Zoë and Benjamin did great work today (Zoë has started her curriculum for grade two, because why not, and Benjamin actually did his work independently)—I sent the kids outside to play. 

The day was somewhat overcast, so they whined about having to go outside. 

"What if it rains?" they whined. 

"Then we'll see. But it isn't raining. It's only cloudy and you're going outside."

As if they don't enjoy playing in the rain. 

Sometimes they'll go outside and play for hours all on their own choosing. Sometimes I have to force them to go outside and later force them back inside. Sometimes I send them outside and they sneak back inside and down into the basement to play quietly hoping I won't notice. Sometimes—like today—I have to force them outside and they just hate it and it almost makes me wish I hadn't forced them outside.

But also they can't stay inside all day, so...out they went.

They fought and screamed for quite some time and then came inside to very grumpily get some water.

"I'm hot!"

"I have a headache!"

"My throat hurts!"

I gave them a timeout on the carpet while I thought about what to say to them, which was basically that I could hear them fighting and screaming and treating each other horribly from inside the house, which meant that (a) they weren't treating each other very well, which makes me feel sad because they should cherish each other, and (b) all the neighbours could hear their carrying ons as well and that was downright embarrassing! They were behaving abominably! 

And all their hotheadedness was probably what was causing their physical ailments in the first place.

"So you're going to go back outside and try again," I said. "Come up with a way to play together nicely this time."

They hung their heads and slunk out the back door, single file, and I settled down to finish the article I was reading ('cuz momma's got work to do, children). They played quietly for several minutes before coming back inside to ask if I would take a picture of their autumn wreath:


They'd gone around collecting leaves and acorns and twigs and even a snail shell or two and arranged them in a wreath shape because apparently that's a thing that we do somewhat regularly:

And they got along the whole time, so we'll call it a win!

Friday, October 08, 2021

First time on campus

It seems like having Mom be gone all day is a lot less traumatic in the morning after a good night's rest than it is at nighttime when you're sleepy and it's dark outside and you're only imagining the horror. 

Alexander woke up just before we left this morning (Andrew as my trusty (long-suffering) chauffeur) and he...was just fine being left in Rachel's care. And he did fine all day. He completely drained two iPad batteries playing Teach Monster (Read for Fun, or whatever their new program is called), but he did fine all day.

Today was also the day he decided that he could, in fact, simply take himself potty when he needs to go, so I'm hoping we've turned a corner there because he's been terribly dependent on having other people take him potty (the idea of taking himself was somehow repulsive). 

Andrew had a long day in the car (he drove me to campus and then drove home to be with the kids and then drove back to campus to pick me up), but he did get to catch up on a bunch of podcasts. He also went grocery shopping and folded the laundry! And now he's outside weed-eating. I'm sure he'll be working long hours this evening and tomorrow to make up for lost time.

I went inside Aderhold Hall for the first time (that's where the College of Education is) so that I could pick up some flyers. And then I spent the day on Tate Plaza.

This is a picture of me trying to find Tate Plaza:

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

I have to go to campus tomorrow for the very first time, and I have to admit I'm a little nervous. I realized today that not only is my "professional" wardrobe pretty slim pickings, I'm also 32 weeks pregnant. That makes the pickings even slimmer...because I am much less slim than usual. So I'm doing some laundry so that I can cobble together something presentable.

Andrew offered to let me borrow a not-a-diaper-bag, graduate-student-looking bag so that I can carry my necessities for the day (which will be pre-portioned meals, my glucometer, some homework supplies, and maybe some crochet because I do still need to finish Halloween costumes). Mostly I assume I'll be busy (because what I'll be doing is running a booth at a Banned Books Fair), but I'm also hoping I won't be too busy because I haven't gone anywhere public in ages and I'm a little afraid I'll be afraid of people. 

But that's fine because as nervous as I feel, I'm not as nervous as some.

This evening we were playing a game as a family while Alexander drew pictures. He made a lovely little solar system and even fashioned a little cat mask for himself (he loves dressing up and wearing masks). His cat mask doesn't look like it will be very functional, so Miriam suggested that tomorrow they can print out a template and he can colour it and they can make one together and somehow it came out that Miriam would be helping him with this because Mom would be gone all day (alllllll day).

(Note: Miriam will not be "in charge" at any point during the day, but she does have some fun activities planned to do with Alexander, anyway.)

The poor boy about started hyperventilating. Tears welled up in his eyes. His lower lip started to quiver.

"Mom will be...gone?" he whimpered before dissolving into a little puddle of his former self. 

He had so many worries. How would we print a template without Mom here? Mom is in charge of printing things! When we said "all day" did we mean "all day"? And who would be in charge? And how would he get lunch? And who would do reading lessons with him? And...

He had a good long sob into the front of my shirt, drenching us both with tears and snot. 

I'm sure tomorrow will go well for both of us, despite our misgivings.

Shout Hooray! (it was Andrew's birthday...)

I've not been great with documenting birthdays here, but that doesn't mean we haven't been celebrating! Andrew's birthday was only, like, 2.5 weeks ago, so it's not like I'm that far behind. But we need to reclaim our Birthday Tree so we can turn it into our Thankful Tree starting on Monday.

Of course, our tree has a rather busy autumn. It will be a Thankful Tree from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving, but the kids also want to add a few Halloween decorations to it, and it will have to be a Birthday Tree for Alexander, Miriam, and Phoebe! 

So it's high time we gave its branches a break from Andrew's birthday balloons! 

Our family tends to show affection with a little bit...acerbically...at times. Love with a dose of laughter. Compliments with a hint of cruelty. Sincerity mixed with sarcasm. 

We'll call them inside jokes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

What once was lost now is found

At the beginning of August I bought a set of English-Spanish early readers because we're interested in learning Spanish over here and I figured reading together would help us get more comfortable speaking it together. Zoë was particularly excited about these readers, and on the day they arrived we nestled together in my big comfy chair (with Alexander and, I suppose, Phoebe) and read a handful together. 

Then somehow, despite my best efforts, the books—a boxed set of 25 readers!—ended up in Zoë's room. She swore up and down she would take excellent care of them because she's rather passionate about learning Spanish (despite how poor a Spanish teacher I make), and she did take good care of them...for about a day and a half...and then they disappeared.

Here's a fun fact about me: I don't like when things go missing. 

Missing puzzle pieces make me want to scream. I hate having to search for library books. I wish my kids would just keep their sets of toys together like normal children (or was that just me?). I do my best to simply not think about the ever-growing collection of matchless socks in our laundry room. Once I lost my notes from a lecture I attended online and was frantic for days (Andrew found them just before my paper was due and I was overjoyed).

You'd think that my desire to always know where things are would lead to me being a clean freak, but that's unfortunately not been the case for me. I mean, sure, that might make keeping track of things a lot easier but...keeping things put away with this many people pulling them out all the time is exhausting. So my house is a little disorderly, but usually I know where things are.

We have rules, people!

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Þe Olde Poetry Club

Last year a friend of mine was displaced from her home due to the pandemic. She had been living in China, where both she and her husband were teaching English, but they had gone on vacation over the Chinese New Year (I believe they were enjoying Portugal) when China shut down. At first they hung out, having an "extended vacation" of sorts, but soon it became clear that this was not something that they'd be able to "wait out" on vacation. Since China was closed to them, they decided to fly to the States while they could. 

So on a whim, with nothing but the belongings they'd packed for a week-long vacation, they (and their two children) moved in with her parents in Florida. And then they just...stuck around...not knowing what they were going to do or supposed to do or what.

She felt hopeless and lonely and a little bit shattered. 

So she hopped online and asked if any of her friends wanted to be in a poetry club. Specifically she just wanted to share Mary Oliver poems, bask in their beauty, and discuss. 

I had never heard of Mary Oliver (oops?) but I like my friend and was feeling like I could use a community as well, so I said that I was in...depending on the schedule because...life was feeling topsy-turvy for us, too! We were still settling in here in Georgia, figuring out homeschooling, and...I was starting a master's degree.

My friend assured me that it would be 100% asynchronous. We'd just post things on a forum and respond to each other and get to know each other and enjoy some beautiful words. Her friends were just as scattered around the world as mine were, anyway, so planning any sort of virtual meet-up would likely be impossible. 

Sounded good to me.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Uh...it's the weekend...

And...really quickly before I have to go do everything else that I have to do...

Part of my job is monitoring the email account and responding to inquiries and so forth. Which...is fine. Like, I'm decent at email. Never mind that my personal email has 9,493 unread emails. It's fine. I'm good at reading and responding to the important emails. 

This weekend I watched ten hours of general conference, read a book for one of my classes (263 pages), finished a big project for another one of my classes, read a couple of articles for yet another class, started teaching Rachel and Andrew how to crochet, crocheted a hat for Zoë's Halloween costume, and put together a 27-page family newsletter (which involved dozens of emails from relatives spread across the globe—from Sweden to Louisiana to North Dakota, Alberta, and Utah...). In addition to other weekend stuff.

I did not, however, check my work email. 

Because it was the weekend.

And I'm not obligated to respond to work emails over the weekend, right?

So I missed an inquiry that came in on Saturday afternoon. 

But I checked my work email at noon today and—look!—I had a question to answer. So I hit "reply" and was in the middle of answering their question when my computer dinged. I had another email!

I looked to see what it was about and, lo, it was a follow-up from the same person who sent me an email on Saturday afternoon. They were like, "Ummmm...so are you ever going to answer my question?!"

And I was like, "Ummmm...it's noon on Monday. Your question has literally been burning for a grand total of three business hours, friend."

But, of course, I didn't say that in my answer. Those were inside words.

I understand the desire for an instant answer, I do! But I thought this was funny because I'd seen memes about this but had never experienced it in real life until today!

No leftovers!?!

Guys, Facebook is down. 

Regrettably (or not?), Facebook has become where I keep all my brief notes of funny things my kids say because sometimes composing an entire blog post is...daunting...with the few minutes I manage to nab here and there. It's simply a medium that, for me, seems to call for longer-format writing.

All this is to say that it's lunchtime at our house and my children cannot decide what to eat.

"There's no leftovers," they complained. 

And so they didn't know what to have for lunch. 

Don't worry; they've managed. Alexander is having a muffin (leftovers from our conference weekend treats) with vegetables (also leftover from conference) and fruit (conference). Benjamin has made himself a fruit salad (with yogurt and leftover fruit). Zoë had cheese and crackers (again, conference leftovers!). Rachel had a croissant sandwich (did you guess conference leftovers?).

"I just don't know what to eat!" Miriam said, staring into the relatively empty fridge.

In her defense, the fridge is relatively empty. The other kids had eaten most of the leftovers and we have literally no leftover meals in there otherwise (which is unusual for us, but we didn't cook at all on Saturday or Sunday). 

She settled on making herself some scrambled eggs to have with a leftover muffin and strawberries.

But the funny thing is that when our fridge is bursting with leftovers...I have to beg the kids to eat them. When the fridge is full of leftovers my kids say things like, "I'm going to make Ramen!" or "I'll have a sandwich!" or "Oooh! Boxed macaroni and cheese!"

They never willingly dig into leftovers unless I announce that everyone will be having leftovers for lunch.

But today we don't have any leftovers and they were all at a loss...as if we don't have Ramen or sandwich goods or boxed macaroni and cheese today (we do). 

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Garbage Caramel and Family History

It's General Conference weekend and the kids are all very excited (in large part, I think, because it means they get special snacks). Rachel stayed up late last night to make caramel sauce to dip apple slices in, but she bragged about how great she was at making caramel sauce first. 

Miriam tried making it a while back (last conference? the conference before?) but it ended up just a syrup. It was light brown, wouldn't thicken at all, and was a disappointing failure, which we told her was no big deal because caramel—while it sounds simple—is very easy to mess up. But then Rachel was like, "I'll do it!" and she did it.

So last night she was teasing Miriam about this, saying that Miriam shouldn't be the one to make the caramel because she'd just mess it up. Rachel would do it. Rachel is good at making caramel. Rachel doesn't understand how people have a hard time making caramel....

Rachel showed up in my bedroom at 10:00 last night, while I was working on the Hancock Hummer, bawling about caramel.

Side note: I have a theory that, if nothing else, grad school makes you more efficient? Because...I feel like I've put this newsletter together relatively quickly...anyway...

Rachel came into my room sobbing. Her face was red and blotching and she had tears streaming down her face. And she'd followed the directions—twice—but both times her sugar seized, recrystallized and the entire pot turned into one solid lump of sugar and she can't figure out why and now the whole kitchen is a mess and she has two pots soaking and no caramel! And she'll never understand how to make caramel or why she was successful in the past and wasn't successful in that moment and...

Fortunately family history was a welcome distraction for her. She wondered about past Hancock Hummers, like what did we say when she was born? And what did my parents say when I was born? 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Wake me up when September ends

It seems like I'm doing well if I can manage to post twice during the week! 

Today I had another prenatal appointment. The nurse that I like was working and asked if I wanted my Tdap booster today or at my next visit (in two weeks...because we're into the single digits now...of weeks left) and since the nurse that I don't like is usually the one working when I come in I said, "Today, please!" to getting the shot because the other nurse had to draw my blood once and she, like, exploded my vein or something (it bled for almost an hour and took forever to heal, with plenty of bruising, pain, and a friendly scar that has yet to leave). 

The shot was fine, but my arm is a little sore. 

Not very sore. Just sore enough that when I move it I think to myself, "Huh...I wonder why my arm is...oh, yeah."

I'm trying not to be forgetful these days but there's just so much to remember.

I've been putting together The Hancock Hummer this evening and Andrew, knowing I was in project mode, came upstairs at 10:00 and sweetly reminded me that it was time for my evening snack. 

I've gotten so used to ignoring my hunger cues and cravings—eating strictly by the clock and calorie/carb count—that if I'm not keeping track of the time then I just forget to eat at all. It's fine (in case you haven't gathered: I kind of dislike gestational diabetes). So technically Andrew came up at 10:10 to remind me that it was time for my snack when he hadn't heard me come downstairs on my own. 

It's a team effort. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Things come in threes

When church was initially—and quickly—transitioned to being home-based rather than congregation-based due to the pandemic that...is ongoing...Andrew began making a loaf of homemade bread for the sacrament. He's still doing that since some of us (in high risk and/or unvaccinated categories) have yet to return to in-person meetings. And it's been wonderful.

Sometimes it's been sourdough. Sometimes it's been a sandwich loaf. Sometimes it's been a whole-wheat, hearty-grain kind of thing. 

Sometimes he bakes it in the oven.

Other times...he uses our trusty bread machine so he can just throw ingredients in before going to bed, set the timer, and then wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. 

Well, a few weeks ago, he went to set up the bread machine to make a loaf of fresh bread while we slept but...he couldn't find the paddle for the bread machine. He and I tore the kitchen apart looking for it and it wasn't anywhere

So I hypothesized that we had washed it and set it to dry on the counter, but it had gotten knocked into the recycling bin (which we keep by the kitchen counter), and then had been indiscriminately carted to the outside recycling bin with all the other recycling, which in turn was collected by the big recycling truck and...in a word, that paddle was gone.

With no other sort of bread in the house, we decided that we could have sacrament with...the pumpkin bread Rachel had baked earlier in the day. Not the maple-glazed loaf she'd made for the rest of the family, with real sugar and flour, but the keto-style pumpkin bread she'd made for me, with almond flour and substitute sweetener. 

The kids were all very surprised when we took the sacrament that week!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Insurance. Bah...humbug.

Okay, the more I have to deal with the mess of the medical system down here, the angrier I become. The claim from my nutrition course at the hospital (which, for the record, I did virtually with 6 other people)* just came through. In order to even sign up for the class I had to give the registration lady my credit card information over the phone. And even though I had verified that my insurance covered the class 100% this lady insisted that wasn't true.

It would be the case if I had already met my deductible (which by some miracle I haven't) and my out-of-pocket maximum (haven't hit that yet, either, though I trust by the end of the year we will). However, since I haven't met either of those two requirements I was responsible to cover the cost of the class. 

$420. 

Which, fine. 

I mean, it wasn't great timing to have to pay that fee because tuition had been due right around the same time (technically, my tuition has been waived as part of my compensation for working, but I was still responsible for paying fees, which are $$$), but we're solvent enough right now that while swallowing $420 for a stupid nutrition class wasn't fun, it didn't break the bank, either. 

But, as it turns out...my insurance paid for that class in full

So, as I mentioned, the hospital has put my $420 into their "credit" account for me, which is really fine because I know we'll end up paying them much more than that amount, anyway. According to my hospital's estimated price index, we could be facing bills like the following:

FETAL MONITORING DURING LABOR BY CONSULTING PHYSICIAN $609.00

TURNING OF FETUS FROM BREECH TO PRESENTING POSITION $1,902.00

FETAL NON-STRESS TEST $752.00

VAGINAL DELIVERY $4,048.00

LABOR HOURS $739.00 to $3,945.00

Naturally, these are just estimates and don't include what we've already paid our doctor. That's fine. Insurance will kick in 100% after we, you know, put down a couple grand. It's fine. And we're lucky to have insurance. I get that. 

But, like, here's the thing...

Admiral Boom

 I feel like all I do is count things and record things lately. 

Pregnancy: 30 weeks along. 10 weeks left until my due date. 9 weeks until my induction date. Fingers crossed we don't even hit that date because I'd prefer not to be induced. But we also want to make it to at least make it until November 11 (37 weeks).

Blood sugars: Fasting number upon waking up. Two hours after breakfast. Two hours after lunch. Two hours after dinner. 

Food: Measuring carbs, measuring proteins, checking all nutrition labels.

Exercise: At least thirty minutes a day. If I can't squeeze in time on the bike or a short walk or some "Ring Fit" after eating, a few leg lifts, knee lifts, arm circles, cow pose, etc. goes a long way.

Homeschool: Which child is on what lesson in any given subject? Are we as far as we should be to rationalize taking time off when the baby gets here? I think so, given that Zoë has only a few pages left in her math curriculum...for the entire year. As she says, "I'm just rocketing through this!" I have a backup curriculum for her to do. But is everyone else keeping up? I have an excel spreadsheet and haven't been great at filling it in. Mostly I feel like, yes! Yes! We are all rocketing through our given curricula. There aren't a lot of notes to take...yet I feel obligated to fill out the spreadsheet (which no one besides myself will ever see). 

Bills: How close am I to meeting my deductible? Did I pay the laboratory fees here? Did I pay the doctor's office there? Why did the hospital charge me full price for that nutrition class (that I had to take) and then give me a credit of $400 because as it turns out my insurance really does cover the class? Why is a 3-hour class over $500 in the first place?! I suppose they can just sit on that money. We'll consider it a deposit for future events.

Classes: Project due on Monday. Quiz due the Tuesday. Lecture on Wednesday. Paper due Sunday. Responses to classmates due Tuesday. Presentation due Sunday. Wash, rinse, repeat (in various iterations since there are three separate syllabi I'm juggling) weekly.

School in general: Plan next semester's coursework. What classes will I take? Figure out my advisory committee. Turn in my program of study. Fill out this paper work and that paperwork.

Work: Meeting on Wednesdays. Update social media. Remind everyone of various dates. This is due October 31. That is due November 6. This is due November 22. That is due December 6. Somewhere in there my own baby is due and I'll have to keep reminding people—hundreds of people!—to stick to these deadlines. But no pressure. It'll be fine. 

We're coming up on the halfway point of the semester—suddenly, already—and so far I've felt like this is manageable, but for whatever reason this week is crushing me and I'm just so tired. 

And this doesn't count piano lessons or laundry or tidying up, or any number of things.

Counting library books, for instance. Our books are due tomorrow so I've got to get those sorted out.

Oh, 10:00! Time for my prescribed evening snack.

I'd love to stay and chat but I have to go measure out my popcorn and nuts. 

With how precisely I'm running my life by the clock, I feel like I'm living in Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane....I could use a Mary Poppins.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Are sleeping positions genetic?

After a lengthy labour (mentioned the other day), our newest little cousin has arrived on the scene (and she's so sweet)! David and Ruth were a little concerned about how she keeps twisting onto her side to sleep (you're supposed to put babies on their backs to sleep!) so I sent them a few pictures of our kids sleeping the very same way. 

Look at these cousins sleeping virtually identically 14 years apart! 


Babies're just going to sleep how they're comfortable, in the end.

Anyway, I'm so excited for David and Ruth to be parents. They're going to have so much fun! 

(I should also mention that these sweet little sleepers were also both 7 lbs. 7 ounces (and Rachel has been my only dark-haired baby) so they're alike in more than one way!)


Monday, September 20, 2021

Happy medium

After a couple of rough nights with Zoë and Alexander storming into our room every hour or so, I sat them down before putting them to bed last night and sternly told them that they had to stop doing that! 

It's normal to have periods of wakefulness during the night. And during those times you just say, "Self, it's still nighttime. Go back to sleep."

Do not fling Mom and Dad's bedroom door open and turn on all the lights. Just...don't

We also talked about how when they're put to bed they need to just be in bed until they fall asleep. 

If Zoë continues "needing" to go to the bathroom twenty times between 9:00 and 10:00, for example, I will be forced to make an appointment with the doctor to have her tested for Type 1 diabetes because having to pee that often is not normal

Remarkably, they stayed in their beds. 

"I don't know if they're just really tired from not sleeping themselves or if I scared them into submission," I remarked to Andrew as we were going to bed, "But I haven't seen a child all evening!"

And no one burst through our door all night, either. 

And no one came in to pounce on us in the morning. 

In fact, I was shocked when my alarm clock went off (time to check your blood sugar!) because I haven't been woken up by my alarm clock in...a long time (since I've been woken up before my alarm clock). 

I went to check on the kids and found Alexander wearing nothing but underwear and his pyjama top. 

"What happened to your pants?" I asked.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

This cake is not about you

One of the best things that I've learned about life, which I'm probably still learning, is that the world isn't about me. Life isn't about me. 

People who do things typically aren't doing them to me. 

Most people in the world haven't considered me at all. 

And...that's okay. 

Considering others and how your actions influence them is important. But at the same time...everyone is just out there living their life and no one is living their life "at" you. No one is living their life "at" me. 

I'm good at some things and those things that I'm good at? I don't do those things "at" anybody else. I typically do them because they bring me joy and fulfillment. I don't think I should have to not do those things—or talk about those things—because other people feel threatened by them. 

Right in the face

A few weeks ago, I kicked our poor cat right in the face!

Allow me to explain before you burn me at the stake. I had just been in the other room doing some preschool work with Alexander when I felt a little tickle on my foot. I looked down and there was a spider on my foot, so I shook it off and was still suffering from the heebie-jeebies a little bit when I went into the dining room to see how the older kids were getting along with their schoolwork. 

That's when I felt another little tickle on my foot.

Instinctively, I gave my foot a good shake and...nailed the cat right in the nose...for she had simply come to sniff my toes (as she's wont to do) and her whiskers were the tickle-y culprit, not a spider. 

She ran off to angrily cower somewhere and I pretty much just started crying on the spot because I had just kicked my cat (in the face, no less!), but hadn't meant to at all!

I texted Josie about it because she's a cat owner, too, (and a very sympathetic listener) and she assured me that these things happen (cats are always underfoot, it seems). She admitted that once she was trying to put something away in a cabinet but the door wouldn't close all the way, so she just kept repeatedly trying to close it. She rearranged the items she just put in the cabinet, and tried the door again. No luck. So she opened it again and made sure everything was tucked in nice and neatly and tried the door again. No luck.

And then she realized that her curious kitten had popped into the cabinet as well and had left some little body part dangling, which was propping the door...that my sister had been repeatedly trying to slam shut...open.

But her kitten is fine. 

And our cat is fine.

She even seems to have forgiven me, though it did take her awhile to resume sniffing my toes.

Accidents happen.

Park Paradise

Drizzly weather meant that we had the park mostly to ourselves. We first went on a long walk through the woods and then stopped to play at various playgrounds on our way back to the car. While the kids played, I read articles and wrote (which honestly has been a dream of mine since starting grad school, though the dream involves a little more afternoon sunshine than afternoon showers, but I guess that doesn't matter because the dream is hardly ever realized, anyway). That's another perk to having pool season be over and playground season begin; there are more opportunities for "the dream."

Today I only had Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander, who insisted on dressing up as an owl even though it was nearly 80°F! He had on that darling (if I do say so, myself) crochet had and his hood the entire afternoon until he got so flushed that I forced him out of it.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Pool Season is Over

On Wednesday I washed all the pool towels and all the swimsuits and put them away. 

I'd washed them periodically throughout the summer, of course, but never all at once, and never with the intention of putting them away until "next year." 

So I guess fall is really upon us.

The pool doesn't technically close until Sunday, but knowing the weather forecast for the rest of this week ("cold" and rainy), we called Tuesday our last day of the pool season and convinced Daddy to take a couple hours off of work to come swimming with us (since he hadn't been to the pool with us since May).

Spooky Christmas Songs

Zoë and Benjamin have both finished their primer levels of piano and have moved on to level 1. We've also moved on to Christmas music (because things take time to learn and they always want to learn a lot of Christmas music). However, with Halloween coming up first, Zoë has taken to transposing her pieces into a minor key...so it sounds spooooooky


How she's able to just sit down and...do this...is a little beyond me. Miriam was the same way at Zoë's age, always transposing pieces up and down the scale, so perhaps we've got another little musically-minded person on our hands.

No complaints from me about that!

Other than the fact that she'll likely surpass my skill level sooner rather than later, requiring us to hire yet another music teacher (and those...don't come cheap...but on the other hand, maybe we can just get Miriam to teach her).

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Last woman standing

As it should be because, well, my due date isn't for a couple of months...but this has been an exciting year for babies in our family! While I've had babies overlap with babies on Andrew's side of the family, meaning they have cousins their own ages (what a concept!), I haven't managed that sort of thing with my side of the family until this year (and it was completely by accident, too!).

I got a great-niece in May and a niece early this morning, so Phoebe will be well-endowed with cousins on my side of the family, which is kind of nice since my kids have always existed as...their own little pack...on that side of the family.

To be fair, my family is complicated (as is evidenced by the great-niece being the same age as my niece and daughter), so I do have some great-nephews around Alexander's age and a great-niece between Benjamin and Miriam. But that's still a tricky relationship for me to navigate (as their mom was raised in an adoptive family and only got back into contact with us in more recent history, so although we count her as family it's still feels a little more distant to me somehow (it probably would help if I'd seen Amy more than twice in my life)). And technically the twins exist; they're a year older than Rachel (but they live with their father, who doesn't allow them to have much contact with our family at all). So in essence, my children have been in what we call a "cousin hole." There just haven't been any cousins for them to associate with when my family gets together.

They can never remember if Rosie is their cousin or their aunt (they usually default to referring to her as aunt) because Rosie (my niece) is a few years younger than Josie (their aunt, who is nine years younger than me). My brother is two (and a half, as he loved to point out our entire childhood) years older than me. And their oldest babies and my youngest babies will all be the same age!

So that'll be fun!


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

29 weeks-ish

I'm a little exhausted today. Part of me is trying to figure out why I can hardly keep my eyes open (and why I couldn't remember where I left my glasses after I took them off to do some hip-opening exercises...which will be explained later). The other part of me knows that (1) I've been fretting about my sweet sister-in-law all day today (and all day yesterday, honestly...which may also be explained later), and (2) we had an unusually busy day today. 

Unlike Sleeping Beauty, who falls asleep because she pricks her finger...I wake up in order to prick my finger at the same time...every day. So I got up at my very usual time and had my very usual breakfast and then started in on our very usual homeschool routine before leaving the kids with a list of things to accomplish while I went to my weekly zoom meeting for work (10 am). 

Then I bustled downstairs to knock out some math with the little ones, who still need a bit of direct instruction before getting started on that subject (the older girls seem to do fine on their own and I'm fine with them being fine because that's largely how I got through math—reading a textbook and working through problems until I understood it (only I didn't have Khan Academy or YouTube or a father who was a statistician to fall back on when I got stuck (though I did have a mathematician uncle (but only after we moved to Utah)))). 

Then I quickly made myself my usual lunch (never deviating from meals means no surprise blood sugar numbers, but also that I wish I could eat everything else under the sun, which is ironic because I know that after the baby's born, you know what I'll crave when I'm hungry? My "usual" meals, of course, no matter how sick of them I become before she gets here). Oh, I switch up vegetables and things...but the carbs and proteins remain the same. 

Anyway, scarfed that, asked the older girls to help the younger kids get their lunches ready and then zipped out the door to my doctor's appointment (12:30).

It was supposed to be on Thursday, with an ultrasound for a growth check (because gestational diabetes requires it) but the ultrasound technician was going to be out that day, so my appointment was moved to today at the last minute. 

Baby's doing great; they guess she's about 2 lbs. Everything's developing normally, I have a lovely amount of amniotic fluid. But...she's breech...silly kid. She had been vertex (head down) at my last scan, but she's adorably transverse, so I'm doing a number of exercises to encourage her to flip around again and drop into a more presentable position (thus the reason I took off my glasses this evening and then...like...where did I put them?! (but don't worry; I found them)).

These exercises are in addition to my post-prandial thanks-for-eating-this-life-sustaining-energy-source-now-quick-burn-it-all-off-before-it-kills-you exercises.

Good thing there's a baby at the end of this. Look at her being all adorable:


Monday, September 13, 2021

Time Traveling Fathers and Banana Cobwebs

Andrew teaches in-person on Mondays, which means he *gulp* leaves the house. This has been somewhat of an adjustment for our household and poor Alexander still can't understand why Dad ever leaves to go anywhere because for most of his memory everyone has just always been home. There have only been three Mondays so far this semester so it's still a relatively new change. I'm sure we'll get used to it. 

This morning all the boys were awake when it was time for Andrew to leave for campus (the girls, as far as we know, were all still sleeping, though it's also possible they simply hadn't emerged from the basement yet (Zoë for sure was still asleep)), so Andrew gathered our small group together to have a partial-family prayer before he left for the day. He asked Benjamin to say it, so Benjamin did.

"...and please help dad have a good time traveling..." Benjamin said. 

"TIME TRAVELING!?!?!" Alexander exclaimed, his jaw just about dropping to the floor. 

"...to work," Benjamin finished, annoyed at the interruption. 

When Andrew left the house he said, "Goodbye! See you last week!" The boys thought that was funny. At least, Benjamin did. Alexander probably just played along (because there are a lot of things he doesn't get but pretends to). 

Still, having a time traveling father is pretty neat, I guess.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Zogre the Ogre vs. Constance Contraire

We recently finished watching Disney's The Benedict Society as a family. I read the book to the kids last November, so they were familiar with the story and were quite excited that it had been made into a television series. 

Our family is 85% certain that the character Zoë is most like is Constance Contraire. 

If you do the math, that's 6 out of 7 of us. 

Zoë is the remaining 15%.

She doesn't particularly like being compared to Constance, but the kids all want her to dress up as Constance Contraire for Halloween because "it would be perfect!" I don't know what she'll end up being for Halloween but I'm 99% positive it won't be Constance Contraire!

The thing is, though, that the character Zoë is most like is Constance Contraire.

Take this evening, for example.

Andrew asked if I would give him a haircut. I said I would, but you know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, right?

So I started with Alexander, moved on to Benjamin, hacked my way through Miriam's mane (she took off 12 inches and I thinned her remaining hair (so brave of me) so she feels much lighter), and then got around to cutting Andrew's hair. And all the while I was cutting hair, Zoë was "doing" the dishes (because it's her week for dishes). Mostly she was being distracted, but a little bit she was doing the dishes (that's usually how she does the dishes, which reminds me that I should pop down to the kitchen to finish up for her (but, on the other hand, if I wait long enough...maybe Andrew will do it)).

Friday, September 10, 2021

Mantis vs. Jorõ

I forced the kids outside to play last Saturday morning. 

Playing outside in the summer really is uncomfortable here. It's just so hot and humid. But the weather has turned to be quite decent and I wanted them outside. And, naturally, once they were outside we couldn't convince them to come back in again...

Benjamin found a praying mantis, which he wanted to keep and observe for a while:


Pool days

The weather is getting cooler, which means our pool days are rapidly coming to a close. Today I asked the kids if they wanted to go to the pool but it was only in the 70s so they opted not to. It's an understandable decision but it does make me long for just a few more summer days (which I think we'll get next week, if we're lucky). 

I was especially grateful for the pool yesterday when I was in such intense pain that I could hardly walk. My lower back and my hips and my pelvis were all so sore! Being in the pool took all the weight off my poor joints and I was able to walk around a bit. I was worried that this was just what the third trimester of a geriatric pregnancy was going to feel like, but I think what really happened was that I just overdid things on the exercise bike Wednesday evening. 

My one synchronous (but still online) class meets Wednesdays at 5:30, but I have to eat dinner by 5:00, but then I also have to exercise, so in an effort to cram in enough exercise I put the tension on the exercise bike a little higher than I usually do and...I think that was a bad idea.

I'm feeling much better today, with just the regular discomforts of pregnancy rather than hardly being able to move. I was wondering how I'd even survive the next couple of months without the pool, but as it turns out, I think I'll manage. Still, I'm a little sad to say goodbye to the pool.

Anyway, here are the kids resting on the side of the pool:


This is their "bat pose"; they will sink their torsos so their backs rest against the wall of the pool (and they're completely upside down). All except Alexander, who simply thinks he does this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Am I a potato chip?

I can't say nothing but I also can't say anything so I thought perhaps I might say something here. Today I got the following email from our Relief Society (not just me; everybody got it):
As a member of the ward activities committee responsible for ward dinners, I soon learned that after accepting an assignment some people would come through and others would not. If we were planning a dinner, it was important to know who to assign to make the main dish, who to ask to bring side dishes or desserts, and who had better be on the potato chip committee.

You see, as long as you have the main dish and the desserts, you can have a successful ward social. Potato chips on the other hand are nice to have, but if they do not show up the ward social is not a disaster.

When we profess to be on the Lord’s side, I suspect we need to ask ourselves “Am I on the main dish, side dish or potato chip committee?”
And I suppose I understand the sentiment, but it rubbed me entirely the wrong way, so to this little story, I'd like to say that people's bests look different at different times and in different situations. Andrew and I used to go to the temple every week (wow; so piety; much righteous). Now we have 5.5 kids and...guess what?! We don't go to the temple every week (shocker). But...we are doing the best that we can with the, uh, issue/s we have. Plus, righteousness is, like, well nigh impossible to measure (whether you're judging yourself or others) so good luck with that.

To borrow from D&C 84:109–110 (which in turn, of course, borrows from 1 Corinthians, but we're studying D&C this year so I'll go with that) I think a better perspective is to allow:
...every [dish to] stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the [casserole] say unto the [potato chips] it hath no need of the [potato chips]; for without the [potato chips] how shall the body be able to stand?

...the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.

Once upon a time (not too long ago), I signed up to take dinner to someone in the ward and, lo, the very day of my assignment (that, granted, I volunteered for), our breaker box essentially...died...and while we had an electrician make an emergency house call, restoring limited electricity to our house (before they came back to replace/update the breaker box the next day), we couldn't run any major appliances (so the oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc. were all out of commission). 

Using those appliances risked burning our entire house down (I slept well that night, let me tell you).

So we just ordered pizza and sent it to their house. 

Like a lousy bag of potato chips... 

Or was that a main dish effort? I honestly can't decide. Both? Neither?

I'm going to go with neither. 

I was simply a human doing her best under the circumstances (which doesn't look like my best under other circumstances; and which probably doesn't look like your best at all). Ordinarily we do the whole home-cooked meal, with freshly-baked cookies, personally delivered (with hats and a handmade card because we forgot how people socialize and are we over doing this?).

But this other time (years ago now), I was going through a hard time. Our van had just been totaled and my sweet visiting teacher called and said to not worry about a thing because she was going to bring dinner over. 

And she did! 

She showed up at my front door...with a store-bought, frozen lasagna. 

I thanked her for being so thoughtful, then closed the door and crumpled to the floor crying (with laughter and frustration) because...it wasn't just that our van that had been totaled. Our oven also was broken (along with what felt like everything else in our house/life) and we really could have done with a hot'n'ready meal that particular evening. I stuffed the lasagna into our freezer and then I think we probably had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner (because we were poor, had no transportation, and no stove/oven).

So was she a main dish...or a potato chip? 

Again, I'm going to go with neither.

She was simply a human doing her best under the circumstances, which I know didn't look like her best under other circumstances. When this happened she had toddler twins and was in the middle of moving. So I think she did great and still appreciate her to this day (because she's amazing). We ate the lasagna later (after we got a new oven) and were thankful for it. 

But it doesn't change the fact that sometimes (always?) our best efforts fall short of what was required or expected...and, like, that's okay. In fact, I think that (our incessant failures) is what God expects from us. And I think there's a plan for that. I think God likes potato chips. He probably crunches them up and sprinkles them on top of his cheesy casserole and together they become *chef's kiss!*

So bring me your casseroles, your jello salads, your crinkly bags of potato chips yearning to be free! 

Come as you are, bring what you've got, and together...let's eat. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Ups and Downs

I got my first paycheck this past week, which was kind of a surreal feeling. Like, I knew I was working before, but it just felt like...something I was doing...not like I was actually working. Getting that paycheck really drove home the point that I have an actual job. 

Kinda wish I could set up direct deposit, but we'll work that out later.

*****

For my job, I recently created a beautiful little "call for articles" advertisement, which I sent out on our listserv of a thousand or so people, which felt like kind of a big deal. Like, I've sent emails to a hundred people on the regular (I've managed our "family" listserv, so to speak, for the last decade) but never to nearly a thousand

It felt kind of like handling a large wad of cash for the first time. Only emails.

"Imagine if it had a typo!" Rachel mused at dinner when I was sharing this recent accomplishment.

"Oh, that's the best part!" I said, laughing. "It did!"

Like, we're the department of language and literacy and I wrote the email and proofed it and sent it to my supervisor to have them read and proof it and we both missed my mistake, which is...super cool. Luckily, I was able to fix the mistake before I sent it to the department secretary to have her blast it to her even bigger listserv. 

*****

Friday, September 03, 2021

Don't call her Curly

Last night Zoë begged me to put curlers in her hair, so I did. It really wasn't half as bad as I thought it was going to be because I'm used to Miriam wanting curly hair and Miriam has a lot of hair—it's long and it's dense. Like, there's just a whole lot of it. Putting it up in curlers takes ages. But although Zoë's hair is long, she doesn't have a lot of it, so it only took a few curlers. 

After sleeping on those curlers all night, she was pleased as punch to have curly hair today...for the few hours she had curly hair. Curly hair during pool season isn't the best idea when your hair is hopelessly straight. So we took a few pictures before Zoë jumped in and ruined her curls:


Daring Divers

Last week Benjamin figured out how to dive from the diving board; this week Miriam and Zoë figured out how to dive from the diving board. So the kids thought it would be great to redo their sequential diving act. You know, now that they all know how to dive!

It didn't go off as they planned, however, because Benjamin developed a little case of the yips

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Before she was Notorious

After reading Lesa Cline-Ransome's Before She was Harriet, I assigned the kids to research a historical figure of their own and write a similar poem-story. They're all at various stages of completion, but Rachel finished hers today—she wrote it, edited it, made a linocut for it, and then did a little typesetting.

I think it looks great!

I fordidn't!

Wednesdays are kind of a busy day. With a work meeting in the morning and class in the early evening (that's two—count 'em—human interactions in one day; both on Zoom, but still...), things can feel a little chaotic for me. But only, I think, because our family unit isn't used to Mom having set meetings. 

Usually I just squeeze in the stuff I need to do when I can. 

Miriam also has organ lessons on Wednesday and on this particular Wednesday we'd also signed up to take a meal to a family in our ward (who just moved here in July—and just around the corner from us) who has twins in the NICU. They were born at 24 weeks about three weeks ago...right around the time I was 24 weeks along as well. That's so early; they're just tiny little things (but are doing well). 

When Benjamin heard about it he immediately wanted to make them a set of hats, I think in part because I recently had my knifty-knitter stuff out to make Phoebe's Christmas stocking. So I taught him how to use the knifty-knitter and he worked rather diligently to finish those two hats by yesterday so we could drop them off with dinner. He did a great job!