Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Playing around

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

An Easter egg hunt and Bridget's baptism

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

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

Saturday, March 27, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2021

Rainy day

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

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

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Insults and memories

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

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

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

But first a tangent!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

First Day of Spring

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

Saturday, March 20, 2021

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

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

At last I see the light

A number of interesting things happened today. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe they don't. 

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

We can work with that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we let him ride his scooter.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Haha. Oh, wait. 

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

Silly brain. 

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

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

I think the Christmas party scared them.

And it should have.

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Literally Literary

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How do you know that?!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes. And Matilda."

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

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

The Sand Park again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Family History Weekend

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Sand Park

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

"You promised," he reminded me.

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

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

 And it was fine...for a while. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day. 

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

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

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

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

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

I was also seething mad.

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

And curious.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The tickle bush that ate Zoë

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

Monday, March 08, 2021

Silent cat noises

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

"Let's hear it," I said. 

Alexander clenched his little fists and started shaking with effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 05, 2021

Keeping promises

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

"Yes," I sighed.

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

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

She likes to keep me on my toes. 

Sweetest boy

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

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

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

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

Goodbye trees

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

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