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Friday, April 30, 2021

This week...

I registered for jury duty. I mentioned a bad mail day a while back and, well, finally dealt with some of that bad mail (because I had to...within ten days...or else). Filling out the form was rather comical for me; it felt like filling out my medical history. Like, when I first started filling out my medical history forms it was short and sweet—literally nothing to report. But nowadays I have a few more boxes to check. Very similarly, the first few times I was called for jury duty, the paperwork was very straightforward for me—literally nothing to report. Now, however, I'm like, "Pull up a chair. This could take a while..." Anyway, I could have gotten a deferral or something, on account of being a homeschooling mom, but unfortunately (or fortunately) we're hitting our 180 mandated days on May 5. We literally have three days left of school, so I have no valid excuse to bow out. Jury duty isn't ever something I've been eager to do.

*****

I administered standardized "end of year" tests for Benjamin and Miriam. Technically Benjamin still has two sections left to take. He's need the hands-on management of his time that he has required of me since we began homeschooling, so I've sat beside him and said things like, "Okay, now...next question." And, "Read the whole thing first." And, "Make sure you actually click in the circle." And, "I know you think you're finished but let's go back through to make sure you answered all the questions. Oh, look. You somehow missed one. Go ahead and answer it now." At times this was a painful process for me (like when I knew he was selecting the wrong answer), but he's done surprisingly well. Today he took one of his language tests and was repeating aloud spelling rules like, "Drop the E and add -ing! Duh! Obviously "makeing" is spelled wrong! It should be m-a-k-i-n-g!" And I would just sit there in shock because, friends, he does not think about spelling rules in real life. Like, at all. Ever. He just doesn't ever consider how words should be spelled. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Synth-y Black

We were running a bit behind on laundry this week—not even all laundry! Just some! Our main issue was that we made Benjamin deep clean his room and he had laundry piles secreted away everywhere. For example, I found a box on his shelf, nestled in among his books. What's inside? Dirty clothes. Why? Because packing them in a cardboard box and fitting that box on his book shelf was "easier" than simply tossing them in the laundry basket. For real.

(This is the same child who carved his name into the top of the mailbox (the new mailbox that he helped Andrew install a few months ago? Maybe a year ago because time has no meaning anymore) and can't remember doing it. He tried to blame it on either Zoë or Alexander, but neither one of them are tall enough to reach the top of the mailbox...)

Anyway, I spent the weekend washing an apparent backlog of kid clothes (I should check under Benjamin's bed more often, evidently) and thus our laundry was backed up a bit. So on Saturday when I really just wanted to wear a comfy pair of yoga pants...I...didn't have any clean ones. 

Not to worry, however. Andrew picked up a 2-pack of yoga pants for me when he went to Costco (like, a year ago) and they've just been sitting in my drawer, unopened for the past year or so (because I didn't really think I needed more yoga pants at the time...until suddenly I did). So I opened the package and put on a pair and was sad to find out that I probably should have washed them before wearing because they left black residue all over everything. Like, my fingertips were all black from pulling them on. It was kind of gross. Clearly these were the kind of pants that needed to be washed before wearing.

Andrew decided to throw in a load of darks this morning, but I reminded him of the cursed black yoga pants. 

"I feel nervous about washing them even with things that we consider darks. I'd rather if we just wash them with things that are simply black," I said. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Howler-lujah!

Josie will always be my miracle sister. I like to believe that I prayed her here (because I did). I'm not sure how much my mom appreciated this little miracle at the time (no offense, Josie) because, you see, my older sister was getting ready to be a teenage mother right about the same time (my sister had her baby, Amy, in November; Josie arrived in April). So maybe it was a bit of a stressful time, but it was also a beautiful time, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we're all glad she's taking this wild journey with us. 

She texted me a few days ago to let me know that she was sending me a package (or two). She's a very generous and thoughtful gift-giver (a skill I appreciate...and have thus far been unable to cultivate). 

Her packages arrived today and it made for a very wonderful mail day! 

One package was delivered to the front door, which Alexander happily retrieved. Andrew asked him to leave the package in his office (I think everyone was playing Minecraft at that exact moment (I'm so glad the semester is almost over because it means Andrew's able to take a little more downtime than he normally does)) but instead Alexander carried the box around and begged various people to read parts of the package to him (I was upstairs writing, but listening in on what was happening downstairs).

"What does this say?" he asked.

"It says Black Lantern."

"Oh! We got a black lantern!"

"No. It's not a black lantern. It just says Black Lantern."

"Oh. What does this say?"

"It says it's for mom."

"Oh! Mom got a black lantern!"

"No! She didn't! It just says Black Lantern! We don't know what it is!"

Friday, April 23, 2021

Like finding a ring in a cul-de-sac

We were playing out in the cul-de-sac the other day when Benjamin lost his new ring from the primary. I have to admit that I'm still a little partial to the old-school CTR rings they used to hand out (fashionably outdated, that's me) and am still getting used to the new "emblems of belonging," but Benjamin has been very excited about his ring and wears it everywhere he goes. 

He was tossing a homemade javelin into a big ol' bush (because for thousands of years sticks have made the best toys and I frankly don't know why we ever buy our children anything), which is one of his favourite games to play outside. None of the neighbours seem to mind (too much?) because the houses are so far removed from the street that he's in no danger of breaking a window or anything like that. He just stands in the middle of the cul-de-sac and hurls this stick at his bush nemesis over and over again. Sometimes the little neighbour girl comes out and joins him (from well over six feet away, of course). She's really into weaponry. 

Anyway, on this fateful day, Benjamin threw the stick like he had a million times before but as his hand was...rebounding...his ring flew off his finger. I heard it clink on the road but we did not see where it landed. And so we began to look. 

We all stood in a line and standing arm-in-arm we "dredged" the cul-de-sac, first walking north to south, then walking east to west, all the while looking for this tiny needle in a haystack (or ring in a cul-de-sac). Then we started in the center of the cul-de-sac and spiraled outwards from there. We could not find his ring.

The Canada Goose

Every spring and every fall
I’d hear geese call and call and call.

I’d watch them fly in v-formation
Seeking out some habitation— 

A pond, a lake, a riverbed,
A place to rest both wing and head.

All summer long, I’d dodge their droppings
And check in all their nests for goslings,

Careful not to make them angry
(My geese are known for being cranky).

They’d molt, and raise their brood, and then
I’d hear them call and call again

As they winged their way down south
To their mysterious winter house.

I always wondered where they hid
While my cold home was bleak, frigid.

And then I left the wild, free North
And travelled wide this splendid earth. 

While I was blessed and pleased to wander
I missed my friends, both goose and gander.

For years I did not hear their call
No hiss, no honk. No call at all.

And then I settled in a place
Oft left untouched by snow’s embrace,

A place with summers sweltering hot
A place with lots of people—lots!

A place that felt so big and foreign
I wasn’t sure I’d ever fit in.

But then the autumn sky brought geese
Who showed me they are just at ease

In cityscape as countryside,
Which comforts me, I must confide

Now every spring and every fall
I hear geese call and call and call.

It matters not how far they've flown—
They're home. I’m home. 

I’m home, 

I’m home.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A couple of messes

Last night while I was reading to the little kids at bedtime, Rachel came upstairs to get the vacuum. 

"What could you possibly need to vacuum at this hour?" I asked her (not unkindly).

"Oh, Miriam left our big set of gel pens out and the little kids knocked them over and one of them broke and got ink all over the carpet, so Miriam's scrubbing it with carpet cleaner right now and the instructions say to vacuum over it once it dries."

It's kind of amazing having responsible children. I mean, it would have been better if they hadn't gotten ink on the carpet in the first place, but they got right to work cleaning things up, which is great!

*****

We had crepes for dinner the other day. The rule is that everyone needs to have one "savoury" crepe, which Andrew makes to order (usually turkey and cheese or something similar), before they can dig into the berries and things. Benjamin wolfed down his savoury crepe and got to work on berries right away. 

At one point in the meal he started loading blueberries onto his fork tines and when his fork was full he decided to brandish the fork at Rachel (because annoying her is one of his favourite pastimes). He was intending to simply wave it in her face a little bit, but the blueberries weren't stuck as tightly to the fork as he imagined and he ended up catapulting them all over the dining room. They were pelting the walls and flying in every which way!

"What in the world?! Why?!" I exclaimed. 

"They weren't stuck on as tight as I thought," Benjamin said sheepishly.

He had a lot of "fun" finding and wiping up all that berry juice (it's possible we didn't even find it all).

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

No Pressure

My friend Stephanie passed away due to COVID this morning. Age 36. 

Leaving behind five young children, and a grieving husband. 

I'm so sad and angry that I hardly know what to say...except that this. is. not. over.

Why does everyone think this is over? Here's a series of questions (from various individuals at church) that I've had to answer this week:
  • I would like to know how do you feel about having Activity Day in person. How comfortable are you for meeting in person? If you are not comfortable right now, when do you think you will be ready to meet?  
  • Parents - Will your children be coming to Primary? There is no pressure to do so, we just need to know numbers. 
  • Teachers - Will you return to teach in person? There is no pressure to do so, we just need to make sure we have enough teachers if we have kids returning.
  • Please sign up for YW camp by May 2. Be sure to sign the medical waiver!
All the while it's "no pressure, no pressure, no pressure." 

No pressure, but you're really dragging us down. 

No pressure, but we'd really like to get back to normal.

No pressure, but we're all really getting tired of Zoom. 

And I just...don't get it. 

I'm so mad. 

And I'm so sad.

I'm turning 36 this year. 

I have five beautiful children. 

I don't know how I feel about attending in-person anything right now.

That's a lie: I feel like "no, thanks."

I feel like if I had to choose between attending a Relief Society Ice Cream Social or remaining on earth with my children...I would choose...hmmmm...let me think... 

Decisions, decisions.

(I totally understand that not everyone who gets this disease dies. But we also don't get to decide who lives and dies, do we? We don't get to say whether we get the mild version of the disease or whether we end up in the ICU with ARDS and then...slip away. So I think I will make the choice where I can make the choice, which is fairly early on in the timeline).

(I totally understand that people are tired of social restrictions and zoom meetings. That's something they like to bring up—that people are tired of zoom. But, like, I've been living this quarantine lifestyle, too, so...I get it. And yet, I still choose it over the alternative. So if you could mean "no pressure" when you say "no pressure," that would be cool).

Monday, April 19, 2021

Brothers Benjamin and Alexander

Last week for FHE, Miriam gave a PowerPoint presentation on one of our ancestors followed by a quiz on Kahoot. Everyone did very well until the very last question, which was:

"This lesson was..."

A. Amazing!
B. Meh.

Benjamin answered meh," which ended up kicking him "off the podium" for the awards ceremony and he was rather upset about it. He didn't think Miriam's lesson was terrible, but he also didn't think it was amazing. So obviously the answer had to be B!

I always wondered what type of person gets those freebie questions that teachers sneak into the test sometimes wrong. Turns out it's the Benjamin kind. He's too genuine to lie about something like this and innocently answered as honestly as he could. He couldn't understand how he got the answer wrong!

Today he and Zoë both wanted to play Prodigy for math time, which is fine because we have 10 days left of school (but who's counting?) and they are both finished with their curriculum for the year (plus, it's really not bad practice). 

"I call the laptop!" Zoë said.

This is a huge privilege because for whatever reason Prodigy is super glitchy on our iPads so whoever uses the iPad has to restart every few minutes, which is frustrating. She played the whole time I was in the shower and when I got out of the shower, Benjamin whined to me about what a frustrating time he'd had playing Prodigy on the iPad, so I announced a switch. Benjamin would get a turn on the laptop and Zoë would take a turn wrestling with the iPad. 

So Zoë just says, "Here you go, Ben!" and hands over the laptop—mid-battle!

"Zoë, what are you thinking?!" Benjamin asked. "Finish your battle first! I can wait!"

He handed the laptop back to her and waited for her to answer enough questions to vanquish whatever foe she was facing, which was a rather sweet move on his part. He can be a very considerate person. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Big kids vs. little kids

Often all five kids do things together like they're the best of friends. But sometimes...sometimes the older girls want to act like older girls. Which makes sense. Because they're...you know...getting older. 

So sometimes it's just the three younger kids together doing kid stuff while the teenager-y people are doing do their teenager-y stuff. For example, here are the three little ones riding their bikes around the pond (while Rachel and Miriam, who were actually there with us, walked with me (not that I was sad to have the company)):


Black-and-white TV...on the island of Alaska

We're on the final stretch. It's the end of the school year (we have 11 school days before we hit our 180 mandated days). It's been a good year, I think. Time will tell. Literally. 

I have to do some nationally-normed testing for Miriam and Benjamin this year, so we'll see how they do.

Anyway, we've read a lot of good books and have had a lot of good discussions together. Currently, we're reading The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. My cousin Shannon heartily recommended it. I thought it would be a nice, light read after we'd finished up our Shakespeare unit (which, I believe, ended on a tragedy...but now I can't remember). Anyway, as it turns out, the book is not all that light. It began with a poor little mouse being sentence to death by his own family and community. Miriam was like, "Ah, yes. A nice, light read. Good job, Mom."

So it hasn't always been light, but it is very good (as DiCamillo's books tend to be) and we've had some good discussions while reading it. 

One of the questions I asked the kids (on our first day of reading, I believe), was, "So, the mouse community didn't want Despereaux fraternizing with the humans and the king didn't want his daughter fraternizing with a mouse. Can anyone think of any examples from our own human realm where we forbid certain communities from associating with each other?"

Benjamin surprised me by speaking up first.

"Yes! I can!" he said. "Like, back in the 19-somethings they only had black-and-white TV."

"Black-and-white TV?" I wondered. 'How does..."

Friday, April 16, 2021

I can do...stuff.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I like to do things right and the idea of not doing something right stresses me out. This, oddly, doesn't necessarily apply to my housekeeping skills. It does however apply to academia. So grad school's been fun so far, obviously.

Along with perfectionism comes a healthy dose of imposter syndrome. 

Andrew is getting awfully good at routinely telling me that I can do "this thing," whatever "this thing" is at the time (a paper, a presentation, an entire degree) and know to talk me down when I talk about needing to figure out "my life" (like, the whole thing). 

A friend today posted a little meme on facebook that said something about not expecting yourself to perform at your best all the time because then it's no longer your best; it's your norm. So it's fine to sometimes not do your Very Best Work. 

I believe this could be a rather dangerous idea in the mind of someone who's already okay not doing their very best work, but I think it's excellent advice for a perfectionist and I've been trying to remind myself that this paper I'm working on, for example, doesn't have to be The Best Paper Ever Written. Like, it honestly just doesn't. And I know that. But if it isn't, then do I really deserve to be in school? (See, that's where the imposter syndrome kicks in).

So I'm going to vainly list a few kind things people have said or done for me this past semester that have helped me feel more real (ie. less of an imposter):

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

COVID-19 rant

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

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

2

Two deaths due to influenza. 

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

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

8989.

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

Rainy days

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

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

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alexander sleep-eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Easter Morning

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

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Easter Egg Smackdown 2021

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

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

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Transgression lipstick

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh...what?" I choked.

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

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

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