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:

Alexander as Reviewer 2

I'm taking two classes this semester, which doesn't feel like a lot but at the same time is...seeming to be quite a lot of reading and writing. And that's fine. But it does seem to be cutting into my blogging time a bit, which is unfortunate because the kids are still saying and doing hilarious things. 

Just last night we called everyone for scriptures and prayer and when everyone was settling in, Alexander burst out with, "That boo-it ih 'TUPID!"

He ran over to Andrew, who had just sat down and was holding a book in his hands that he'd picked up so that he could sit down, and hit the book. 

"We don't talk like that," Andrew said. 

Honestly, I think this is the first time I've ever heard Alexander say the word 'stupid,' and his said it with so much passion!

"Well, it true!" Alexander said. 

"What don't you like about the book?" Andrew asked. 

"Well, thi' per'on doe' 'tuff that ih mean to thi' per'on and thi' per'on won't leave thi' per'on alone! And that ih ju't DUMB and MEAN and DUMB!"

"A scathing review," Andrew noted. "But do they at least learn to get along in the end?"

"No! They don't! And that why it DUMB! Betuh we 'ould be ni'e to each-uh-er!"

He's not wrong. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bright Magazine, issue 1

Late last year I got a message from my friend Tamsin, asking if I'd like to participate in the creation of a "neighbourhood newspaper," of sorts—the kind you might put together in your youth with your neighbourhood friends, only a step up from that because your neighbourhood friends have all grown up and now lives miles and miles apart. I thought it was a beautiful idea...but we were also a little swamped in schoolwork over here, so we just submitted some poems and artwork we made during our school time. 

The magazine finally arrived—on Sunday evening—and it was a very exciting thing!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Going to the library (x2)

I've spent the week trying to wrap my head around everything I have to do this semester—putting all my due dates on the calendar and making sure I have all the books I need and so forth. Today that meant I had to head to the library to pick up my holds. I'm taking a class on immigrant children's literature, which I think will be great. 

I went through all the articles I need to read for this class and found corresponding picture books at our local library and put them on hold. I've been patiently waiting for them to trickle in but there were three that were just...very slow to transfer...and I had library books due today so I finally decided to just go to the library. I'd go back for my other holds later. 

When I left all the kids were playing in the basement, so I just sneaked out the door and drove away. Alexander came up some time later and was upset that I had gone, so Andrew gave him the iPad and let him play some games but he was still very happy when I got home. I was just pulling the out when my phone alerted me that...my other three holds had come in. 

By this time Alexander had gone back downstairs to see what Benjamin and Zoë were doing. 

"Should I go get those books now?" I asked. 

It's a long weekend so the library will be closed on Monday and...then things might get busy and...

"You still have your coat on," Andrew pointed out.

So I left to go back to the library, again sneaking out without saying goodbye to the kids (because honestly they make everything take about 5x as long as it would take otherwise). Alexander apparently came up soon after I left and wanted to know where I was.

"Mom's at the library," Miriam told him.

"No, she's not!" Alexander said. "She came home."

"She literally just left for the library," Miriam said.

"No," Alexander said, sticking out his little pouty lip. "She's not at the library! She came home!"

"She did come home, but then she went to the library again," Miriam said. 

"No! Mom came home! Mom came home! Mom came home!" Alexander wailed. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

She's got a ticket to ride

While we played Ticket to Ride, Zoë and Alexander drew pictures. They are always so excited to draw while we play games. I'm not sure why. I mean, they always like to draw, but when we play games they really like to draw. 

Here's Zoë starting a wonderful story:

 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Book stories

We played Hand and Foot with Rachel and Miriam tonight. They deserved some fun grown-up time with Mom and Dad after a day of hard work. Miriam helped me reorganize our storage room when Andrew came home from picking up groceries and Rachel cleaned the kitchen really well (among other smaller chores). 

So, briefly, a few funny stories from that...

Andrew went out so quickly the first round that no one had any books but him, which meant he got a lot of points and the rest of us got very few. Then Miriam went out very quickly on the second round, which meant she got a lot of points and the rest of us got very few points. And that's about where my attitude started to fail me. Like, I'm an excellent second- or third-placer. I don't really love winning because winning makes me feel bad. But I also don'e losing because...human nature. I don't mind it so much if I feel like I still have skin in the game, but when I'm losing so badly and am not really making any sort of progress at all, I start to feel frustrated and bored. 

Rachel is incredibly gifted at keeping her cool during games (which she pointed out this evening is interesting because she doesn't always have the best control of her temper in day-to-day situations), so she was probably doing better than I was, attitude-wise (even though she was in last-last place). 

The game turned for me in round three (though, to be fair everyone got books that round). 

Anyway, at one point Andrew leaned his head on my shoulder so of course I immediately accused him of cheating.

"Are you...snuggle-sneaking?!" I asked. 

Saturday, January 09, 2021

First free Friday

We're trying a a Monday through Thursday school week this semester and today was our first Friday off (since this was our first week back at lessons). I have to admit, it was kind of nice to have an extra day to relax. The weekend doesn't ever feel long enough.

Besides, as seems to be a perennial problem in my homeschool planning, I was pushing way too hard at the beginning of the year. I always try portioning out the curriculum to last the whole school year but then end up blowing through everything. Like, we have three units left in our science curriculum...which I will be lucky to stretch out until the end of the school year. And I sat down with Rachel to finish pacing her math textbook and she'll probably finish by April, which surprised me (though considering we started the school year in July that probably worked out about right).

Anyway, aside from working on the odd "late" assignment and music practicing and mandated reading time and "working on goals" time, the kids are pretty free to do what they want. All of a sudden their free day is sounding rather micromanaged (so it might still find its way into our school records, depending on how much learning vs. free time I feel the kids are getting out of this experiment). Rachel and Miriam worked on cross-stitch and planned some sewing projects. Benjamin played a ton of LEGO and we built the tin can robot my sister Kelli sent him for Christmas. Zoë and Alexander played so many games. It was a good day.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Funny stories (finally)

After Andrew brought home the books on Monday the children were, understandably, very excited. Alexander was particularly excited and kept bringing things to Andrew's office, the closest room to the music room (where we were sorting the books). Alexander was sure to knock politely on Andrew's door each time he brought something new to show him. 

"I have a new announ'ment!" he'd say as he'd crack the door open. Then he'd show whatever he'd found (a magnifying glass, a toy walrus, a story about penguins). It was very cute.

*******

Alexander is a Sunbeam this year, which was a very easy transition for him. It was so easy he didn't even realize that he was officially in primary (he's been sitting in on primary since we started up with Zoom church this fall). When the primary sent a getting-to-know-you questionnaire out for each of the primary kids to fill out, Alexander was surprised and elated when I included him.

"I'm not in primary," he said. 

 "You are!" I said. "You're in Sunbeams now! You're a primary boy!"

His eyes grew large. "I'm a primary boy?"

He started running around the house telling everybody that he was a primary boy. 

"I'm a primary boy!" he told each of his siblings and his daddy. He told Naanii that he was a primary boy when we video chatted with her (on Sunday and today). 

You could say he felt it was a rather exciting announcement.

*******

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Current events

Today started off well enough. The kids got up and started working on their math right away. The Georgia run-off election was called in favour of Reverend Warnock, which is really cool because he will not only be the first "African-American United States senator from Georgia," but from the entire Southern United States. High time! There's some good information on African American senators here.

Jefferson Franklin Long was the first black congressman from Georgia. He served from 1871 to 1901, but he was the only black congressman until Andrew Young was elected in 1973 (the same Andrew Young that the Andrew Young School of Public Policy is named after (which is where Andrew works)). There have been several black members of congress since then. John Lewis, for example, was first elected in 1987 and served until his death last year (thanks, 2020). 

Reverend Warnock was John Lewis's pastor (at the Ebenezer Baptist Church), so that's pretty cool. 

And Jon Ossof, the other senator elected today, interned under John Lewis for a while.

By noon I had convinced the kids to give me some time to write and I somehow managed to hammer out an introduction. I say somehow because while I was still working on it, Congress was trying to certify the election results and things got a little crazy. Naturally, there were protesters in DC, continuing to assert that the election results are fraudulent. I suppose they have the right to protest anything they want, though protesting against fairy tales (like tilting at windmills) seems like a waste of time to me. To be fair, most of the protesters remained outside the capitol building (asserting their freedoms of petition, speech, assembly, as is their right like normal, fairly decent people), but hundreds of right-wing extremists stormed the capitol building, interrupted the vote certification, and ransacked the place (I don't know how fully they ransacked it, but people were sitting in desks with their heels up, ripping signs off walls and doors, stealing letters and—quizzically—podiums?). There were a few bombs that were found (but they were disarmed before they exploded, thankfully).

It was all rather wild to watch go down. A certain someone...thanked the crazies and allowed them to go home "with love"...which was wild to witness given the treatment of BLM protesters this summer. But...whatever...

Oh, also, today was our deadliest COVID day, with 4100 deaths today (according to World-o-Meter).

So. it. was. a. day.


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Right here, right now

I really need to write the introduction for my poetry book—Paradoxical Glory—which is coming out, like, this month. But I have so many funny anecdotes to tell. But also I should be writing, so I'm just going to share this very, very brief story.

The other night, Andrew climbed into bed, put his head on his pillow, snuggled under the covers.

"I'm so tired," he said. "I could fall asleep right here."

I was still brushing my teeth, so I popped my head around the bathroom door, saw him in bed, and started laughing. 

"What?" he asked.

"That is literally the intended purpose for that particular piece of furniture, so..."

I mean, if you're going to fall asleep somewhere, that's a pretty good place to do it.

Book Surprise

A friend of mine posted that her friend's mother had retired from years and years of teaching and they were looking to pass along her classroom library, so I said that I would love to take a look at things. This woman asked if it would be alright if I could just...take the whole library...and then pass along what I don't want. So I said yes even though I didn't know how large the collection was.

Andrew went to pick up the books while I did morning lessons with the kids. We told them that Dad was going to get a big surprise. Here's Zoë reading a library book to Alexander while they waited for the surprise to materialize:

 

Monday, January 04, 2021

String art

We traditionally use the first Monday of each year to set goals for the new year. Many of last year's goals had to be abandoned (for example: going anywhere...ever) but we still managed to learn and grow a lot and we still completed many of our goals (for example: going on 100 family walks). We're looking forward to setting some new goals tomorrow. I had been planning on having the kids try out a string art project (that I'll be doing with my primary activity girls later this week) but instead we ended up putting the whole project together yesterday. 

The kids each wrote their name on their piece of wood and then we used a wood burner pen to put trace over their script (I did Alex's and Zoë's for them (as well as Miriam's since she was tied up with dinner making activities); Benjamin and Rachel did their own names). We also put the reference for this year's youth theme on the bottom, which is D&C 64:33–34, "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days." 

Then we pounded some nails into our wood, which the kids through was pretty fun:

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Happy New Year!

We rang in 2021 pretty much like we've rung in every other year—somewhat quietly at home, with games, and treats, and midnight Martinelli's. Our game of choice for the first half of the evening was Mexican Train, which is a game I thought Zoë might want to play but she chose to draw pictures with Alexander. Those two love drawing so much that they were always eager for us to play another round so they could draw more pictures.