Saturday, February 27, 2021

Rinsing bread

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

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

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

"We do!" he said.

"I don't think so."

"Let's check!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone stopped and stared at me. 

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

Friday, February 26, 2021

Approaching cold weather myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't know where they get that from.

(Me; they get it from me). 

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


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

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

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

"Wait. What?!" I asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And. A. Mentor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

École en plein air


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

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

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

Literacy with the Littles

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

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

Monday, February 22, 2021

In the words of Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

Orange you glad...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I helped him into fresh underwear and some jammies.

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

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

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

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Where's my pants?!

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

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

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

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

He held a family meeting. 

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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Vegetable juice

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

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

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

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

"Go for it," we told him. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine Limericks II

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

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

Valentine's Day fun

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

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

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bee sting #2 for Benjamin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Park day

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

Here are the kids playing with bubbles:

Monday, February 08, 2021

Golden Shovel Poetry

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

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

Fry Bread and Hail Marys

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

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

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

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

"Fry bread is shape."

Deep breath. 

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

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


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

He started out signing everything in his binary code: 01101010

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

Just ALEX.

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

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

He loved that trick. 

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

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

Some creativity

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

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

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

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Boogey Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fossilized, really. 

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

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

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

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

Poor man.

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

New shower

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

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

Monday, February 01, 2021

Melancholy Minecraft

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

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

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

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

So I told her that her Utah friends are dumb. 

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

They don't.

At least, a lot of them don't.