Friday, July 30, 2021

No debate

I'm just popping by real quick (because...did I mention I'm taking a summer course that smashes an entire semester into a mere 19 days of work? All I have left to do now is my final project's going to be an intense couple of days getting that done) to say that today we finished up eight weeks of our school year. 

Of course, we don't always do schoolwork on Fridays, so I've only counted 35 instructional days, but still. We're pretty happy to be this far "ahead" before the public schools have even started (they go back next week). 

One of my primary concerns about homeschooling is that I'm not doing enough (but that also might simply be a personality flaw of mine ('s fine)) but today Zoë finished with the first half of her math curriculum for this year, so I think we're probably doing enough in that department. She's done really well, too, except today she announced that she doesn't really need to learn any more math because she's going to be a ballet teacher when she grows up and the only math you need to learn to do that job is just keep time with the music...and she already knows all about that so she's all set!

Everyone in the family quickly intervened, telling her that she'd need to learn more math to know how much tuition to charge, how much to pay her co-teachers, how to pay her studio rental and utility fees, how to design a safe stage set, how to...etc.

So she's convinced she can start on the second half of her curriculum (though I might let her spend more time playing Prodigy) and I'm convinced that we probably are moving through our curriculum at a decent (if not accelerated) clip.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Happy Pioneer Day!

Our ward is back to meeting 100% in person, with masks optional, and no real option for zooming into meetings. Fortunately, I've been so firm about refusing to attend in-person activities with my little people (who are not vaccinated because...they can't be yet!) that the bishop gave us special permission to surreptitiously stream sacrament meeting for the time being. Honestly, I'm a little annoyed that the reason given for this change (at the stake level) is that "everyone who wants to be vaccinated should have had time to be vaccinated by now" because that simply isn't true in the case of children. But I'm not sure everyone is aware of this. 

As a nation, we really have been neglecting children in this whole equation.

For example, my "ministering sister" stopped Andrew in the hallway to ask about my whereabouts. He said that I'm staying home with the kids.

"Are they sick?" she asked. 

"No," he said. "They're not vaccinated."

"Oh!" she said with shock (because we're the well-known liberals in the ward). "I didn't think your family would be against vaccinations!"

"We're not..." he said. "But there is no vaccination for children under age 12."

"Really?" she gasped. "I had no idea! I thought everybody could be vaccinated!"

Her kids are all young adults. The youngest just graduated from high school. The oldest just graduated from college. None of them are married (there are no grandbabies) and all of them are vaccinated. She had no reason to be fully aware of the vaccination details for younger kids.

So, here we are...still at home (and simply dreading orchestra (even though, again, the little kids and I will be outside the whole time...just waiting for big sisters to be done)) having church all on our own.

Andrew (and sometimes Rachel) have been baking bread for sacrament every week, which has been lovely. Andrew now does a small sacrament service just for us before he and Rachel leave for church. And then later Rachel does a video call with us so we can listen to the speakers (and hear Andrew play the organ). Then we're on our own for classes since those aren't being streamed anymore.

This week was particularly fun because it was Pioneer Day on July 24! 

Here's Benjamin with his pretend beard:

Orchestra audition

Even as the Delta variant is taking over the southern United States and as we're stubbornly refusing to socialize in groups (especially indoors), we're preparing to send the girls to orchestra next month. I'm really hoping that things will clear up by then...

But we already took a year off of orchestra and I just am not musically talented enough to give the girls the instruction that they need. Rachel is fully vaccinated and Miriam will soon be able to be vaccinated as well. The rest of us have to stay outside, anyway, and the orchestra meets in small groups, so hopefully it will be alright.

Anyway, the girls had to send in an audition video (not to get in to the orchestra, but so that their teacher/conductor can put them into an appropriate level) and we finally got around to making those videos yesterday. 

Rachel recorded hers by herself while I helped Miriam put together a few songs. We've been working on a duet that she really wanted to record (though I daresay it's not her very best playing, but she recently sized up her cello and got glasses so she was working with a lot of things she wasn't quite used to), so we did that one and then Miriam recorded a couple of songs from her methods book.

Here we are playing Vivaldi's Spring:

While I was helping Miriam with her videos, Rachel sent me a couple of videos and said that she'd redo them if she had to (for example, she knew she messed up the second video) but that she didn't really want to (and was willing to just live with the mistakes). I suggested that she simply re-record the second video to see if she does any better but she just about died at that suggestion, so I let it go. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Lifeguards, frogs, finding goodness, diabetes, and garbage humans

I took the kids to the pool for nearly four hours today! We went "early" and had a picnic lunch because Alexander doesn't like it when the lifeguard is at the pool because the lifeguard calls for "adult swim" the last fifteen minutes of every hour and he doesn't like to be forced out of the pool. But really the lifeguards are all really nice. We especially like Teaghan, who just happened to be working today.

It was hot out and instead of just chilling on her break like she usually does, Teaghan decided to delight the children (my four (Rachel didn't come) and three from another family (the only other family) there) by lining them up on the side of the pool and doing spectacularly splashy cannonballs and can-openers off the diving board, soaking all the kids over and over again. They thought it was the best thing ever!

I hope if they remember anything from this summer years from now, it's Teaghan the Lifeguard splashing them all during adult swim. (It would be cool if they remember other things, too, but I think this is a memory that needs to be locked away in their brains). 

And then when adult swim was over and Teaghan was climbing back onto her lifeguard chair, a bunch of little kids climbed up on the diving blocks, ready for her to whistle and call for "kid swim," so she teased them by raising the whistle to her lips and lowering it several times. Benjamin had a little "false start" and fell into the pool before she blew her whistle (and climbed back out as quickly as he could, because he's no rule-breaker!). When she finally blew her whistle the kids all screamed for joy and leaped into the pool together and it was utterly adorable.

So, again, I really hope they've all committed Teaghan the Lifeguard to memory. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Baby #6 is a...

I had my 20 week (and 6 day) appointment today, which included an ultrasound and a glucose test. I managed to keep the glucola drink down, so that was a bonus, but my blood draw went a little horribly. There's this one nurse that I'm never sure about...and I got her today. And when she looked at my veins and said, "This will be a tough one," I thought to myself, "Maybe we should wait for someone else..." because I've often been told my veins are like plump little juice boxes. 

Let's just say she did not do a great job and forty minutes later I was still bleeding. She ended up slicing my vein a little bit? It's fine now; it just hurts and is bruising. 

The ultrasound took quite a long time because baby was in a tricky position. The ultrasound technician found everything she needed measurements for except for the head. Baby is already solidly "presenting vertex" and no amount of prodding was going to make it budge (although it was certainly flip-flopping all over the place). I had to get up to empty my bladder in the middle of the ultrasound so we could keep trying to measure baby's brain (because that darn bladder was in the way). 

But we finally got a clear shot. Everything's looking great.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rachel is 14!!

Today was mostly a regular school day for us, which is really fine because Rachel's pretty used to having school on her birthday (from her year-round years at Easley), but we had some fun today as well. We've been watching a lot of interviews with authors lately. Today we watched a talk Minh Lê gave at BYU's Book for Young Reader's Conference and we also got to tune in to a Zoom lecture he gave with Dan Santat (who has illustrated a few of his books) at some public library in Milwaukee. 

I...just have to write a paper about one of Minh Lê's books this week...

But, I mean, the kids learned plenty from these book talks as well, so we're totally counting it as their ELA time for today. And when we do this sort of thing it makes for a good break from our ordinary routine. 

Our bathroom downstairs has a plain drywall ceiling up now, which is rather exciting. It still needs to be taped and painted, but we're just happy for the drywall! The upstairs bathroom is coming along nicely as well. The new door has been framed (we're putting in a pocket door since the door is in a bad location (right at the top of the stairs) and made the doorway itself a bit bigger because the old doorway was too narrow to be considered "to code") and the subfloor and shower pan are in and the walls are coming along. We might just survive this process!

Friday, July 16, 2021

My birthday balloons (and a pretty lousy week)

With Rachel's birthday right around the corner, I thought it was probably time to take my birthday balloons down so we can get ready to put hers up. Miriam was the one who spear-headed the birthday balloon tradition for me (which I appreciate because soliciting kind remarks for someone else makes me a whole lot more comfortable than soliciting kind remarks for myself). She sat Zoë and Alexander down one afternoon when the kids were all finished with their homework and helped them cut out and write on some balloons. 

Alexander's balloons, of course are all full of scribbles, but one of his scribbles turned into a beautiful butterfly, so that was nice. Miriam also took some dictation from him: "I am so happy you play with me. I love you, Mommy!"

Zoë's balloons say, "Happy birthday! I love Mom because she is having a baby. And she's nice!"

She also wrote me an acrostic:

Natuory [nature-y]
Ya, she's the best!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

20 weeks

We've officially reached the half-way point—I'm twenty weeks today! Our anatomy scan is scheduled for next week and everyone's very anxious to learn the gender of this next baby. 

Benjamin is firmly on team boy because he would like our family to be equal

Zoë is firmly on team girl because she feels sandwiched between boys and because she's so much younger than her older sisters they never spend a lot of time playing with her, which leaves her with only boys to play with, which is sometimes unfair because the boys don't always want to play the games she wants to play or tell her that she can't play with them.

"Oh, if this baby is a boy, I will play with him all the time," Benjamin said to her. 

"THAT'S MY POINT!" Zoë wailed.

I didn't point out to Zoë that there will be a bigger age gap between this baby and herself than there is between Miriam and herself. I think she'll have fun playing "little mommy" no matter the outcome, but she very much wants a girl. And Benjamin very much wants a boy. 

And there's really only one way to solve this argument and get everyone excited and on the same page by the time the baby we'll be revealing the gender next week (assuming baby cooperates).

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

In which the bathroom strongly disagrees with my opinion on adventure...

We are redoing the hallway bathroom upstairs, a rather urgent project considering the subfloor was rotten and we were at risk of falling through it at any moment. Why was the subfloor rotting? Well, because the previous owners redid the bathroom (likely a DIY(ikes) project) and when they built the shower they installed the shower pan incorrectly. Even though the shower curb is rather shallow (another error on their part), they didn't put the shower pan over the curb. They put it under the curb. So the shower had been just...leaking under the shower curb for years (at least two because that's how long we've lived here, but probably longer because they redid the bathroom before we bought the house, obviously).

I get it now...

Years ago—and I can't remember quite when or in what context (though I must have answered a simple question like, "What's new?" with "Nothing much. Things are pretty boring around here,")—Reid told me that boring is good

Excitement is bad. 

Boring is what you want. 

I'm not sure I immediately understood because sometimes when you're in your twenties you crave adventure (which, I mean, I think when he said this to me I was living in Egypt, which was like an everyday adventure as I tried to navigate the culture and the language), but today I'm feeling it. 

Adventure is fine. A bit of excitement every now and again can be thrilling. 

But sometimes it's a flash flood entering your basement. 

Or a child breaking their arm. 

Or any number of draining (emotionally, monetarily, or otherwise) things.

And those things aren't fun. 

A lot of excitement isn't fun.

Today I'm grateful for boredom. I'm grateful my life isn't an action/adventure film or a soap opera. I'm happy to just sit at home and read books and play games with my family and just be boring together.

Boring is good. 

I like boring.

It's calming and stable and fine. 

Adventure is out there—I love a good adventure!—but I can also make my peace with boredom.

Here's wishing you all a good dose of humdrum, everyday life.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The snake shed

Zoë and Benjamin were both mighty confused to wake up in their beds this morning. Apparently they had no recollection of Andrew rousing them to make them march inside the house carrying their pillows. When the kids were confusedly and excitedly telling me about how they "woke up in [their] beds!" Alexander excitedly proclaimed, "SO DID I!" (which honestly shouldn't have been very surprising for him considering that's where he went to sleep initially).

I went out and collected the snake shed this morning (after cleaning out the gutter because we had a huge rainstorm yesterday afternoon and the gutter got a bit clogged with debris). It was definitely still very fresh, so I don't know when that snake managed to wriggle free from its (old) epidermis without anyone noticing. Andrew's been out working on the back deck the past couple of days.

Side story: We only bought a few boards because lumber is super expensive right now (and we have a few other home improvement projects going on besides the deck). But also I was adamant that we couldn't really put off replacing the worst of our boards. Andrew thought I was being overly anxious about the deck...until he went around testing boards to see which lucky few get to be replaced and...plunged through the deck up to his knee! (Looks like he found a board that desperately needed replacing!) He's a little scratched up but otherwise fine. 

Anyway, I carefully peeled the shed away from the drain pipe and brick wall of our house and then the kids and I examined it. Well, the little kids and I examined it (the older girls were off weeding, playing volleyball, and eating pizza and ice cream).

The snake shed (43 inches) is a little taller than Alexander (~38 inches (he wouldn't stand still so I measured him as he was playing)). By nature the snake shed is also a little taller than the snake that shed it (since the skin stretches as the snake wriggles free and because the shed includes skin from both sides of each scale). According to a few sources I've read, a snake shed is usually 20 to 30% larger than the actual snake, so 33–36 inches is its approximate total length (assuming I did my math correctly, which assumption). That's still about as tall as Alexander! 

Castles and Knights (and snakes)

Andrew remembers first playing Carcassonne at my cousin Heather's house in Alberta (I think technically we had gone to visit Daelene's house). I vaguely remember this (I remember more heading out to visit the lake they had in their subdivision). 

I remember first playing Settlers of Catan at the Masons' apartment in Cairo. Being the helpful person that I am, I shuffled the deck (word of advice: don't do that). We both learned to really enjoy Settlers (something Andrew may have already known about himself). 

We have had Settlers for quite some time now and while I still enjoy playing it, I've found that my tolerance for "long games" has been steadily decreasing with each child I have. game...but literally you want me to sit here for 1 to 2 hours, thinking about this game while simultaneously keeping the small ones happy? No, thanks. 

My patience for such games runs especially thin at the end of the game when it's already clear who the winner is and everyone is just trying to keep them from sealing the deal (thereby prolonging the game (just let it end, people (especially if I've assured the little kids that "we're almost finished" a dozen times already))).

So Andrew got Carcassonne, as a treat. 

It's like Settlers, but much less complicated, and it only takes half an hour or so to play out. We've been having a lot of fun with it!

Zoë and Alexander happily draw together while the rest of us play a quick game and everyone stays happy the whole time (until someone loses and then sometimes there are tears). Tonight Zoë and Alexander drew castles because Carcassonne is, to quote Zoë, "definitely based on Medieval times." 

Here's the castle she painstakingly drew (Miriam taught her a new way to draw flowers, which was thrilling):

Friday, July 09, 2021

Ups and Downs from Today

This morning I watched a cool video about how turmeric can be used as a pH indicator. I've considered trying to use red cabbage to do pH testing, but it seems like a more involved project than I'm ever quite ready to do (at least lately). You have to boil the cabbage and strain the cabbage and have the cabbage (we don't usually have cabbage). But we do have turmeric! And this looked fairly easy!

So we got our supplies and went to work. We mixed up some turmeric, which I just learned today has two r's in it! I have always said it TOO-mer-ic (or even TYU-mer-ic) and had just...never paid much attention to the label, I guess. 

Swimming in the rain

The kids and I went swimming this afternoon, while Andrew stayed home and repaired a section of the back deck that was stressing me out; lucky for us, he doesn't particularly love going to the pool and, quoting a few productivity gurus, gushed about enjoying working with his hands since he spends so much time working with his mind, so that made me feel less like he was getting the short end of the stick. 

Swimming was interesting because it was pouring rain and it's always nice to switch things up a bit, I guess. I wanted to take a nice picture of the kids enjoying themselves but...they wouldn't stop enjoying themselves long enough for me to get a decent picture. So we'll have to do that later.

Alexander has made great progress with his swimming. He can do a lovely glide and he tries to do his "big arms" for the front crawl. He loves diving down to touch the bottom of the pool. And this all works really well for him when he's in the shallow area because he can just stand up and breathe when he needs to. 

When we head out into deeper waters, however, it becomes a real problem. He can swim on his front, he can float on his front, but he just can't...breathe (which is...kind of important). He can flip from his front onto his back but has trouble getting his face above water, so we're working on that. He can hold a back float once I help him get into position. He just can't quite get into position by himself. But I have a feeling that by the end of the summer he'll be able to!

We enjoyed the pool in the rain for about an hour before it started thundering, and then we called it quits and went home, which was fine because we still had some schoolwork to finish up.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Tile shopping adventures

We didn't take any time off school for the 4th of July since we're banking our days for other things, so we got up this morning like usual and I started the school day with the kids, reading them a section from our read-aloud book and getting them started on some grammar exercises before heading to the kitchen to do the dishes. While I was doing the dishes, Andrew got a call from our contractor.

We're redoing our bathroom—out of necessity more than desire. The, uh, floor is caving's...fine...I'm sure...except that it's 100% not we have to redo the subfloor, which means redoing the shower, which means that we may as well do the whole bathroom because that bathroom has the weirdest floor plan in the world, so we're going to move the toilet over here and put the sink over there and take down that wall and change the door...and....

That all sounded fine until our contractor started talking about picking out cabinets (the current cabinet is super tall so none of the kids can reach it without a stool and it's falling apart and I hate it) and tile and paint and faucets and...

I am not a decisive person.

Anyway, we've been putting off making many of these decisions (because our contractor has been communicating through Andrew's email, and although Andrew teases me mercilessly for how many unread messages I have in my inbox, this is an email I would have been stressing about because I don't "shelve" my problems well (Andrew sometimes shelves problems a little too well)).

Because I was up to my elbows in homeschooling, Andrew said that he'd just run down to the flooring place by himself and that he'd text me about options and I could have my say that way. But I was planning on taking the kids to the pool because hurricane Elsa is on her way and is going to take away a few potential swimming days this week. If I was at the pool, I wouldn't necessarily be the best at texting Andrew back. 

"Why don't I just come with you really quick?" I suggested. "I can set the kids up with some assignments and we'll just run in and out and be done with it. With the promise of the pool hanging over their heads, I think they'll buckle down and do what they need to do."

So that's what we did.

Independence Day and our 2-year Georgia-versary

Well, we've done it! We've lived in Georgia for two full years, a time period which feels at once longer and shorter than it sounds. We still feel very new here—because we haven't done much exploring and hardly know our ward at all (thanks to splitting wards, and then switching stakes, and then suspending church services for COVID)—but we also feel like we've been stuck in this house for a long time. 

We moved in on July 3—two years ago now—so it's been nice to mark the day on July 4 the past couple of years. We didn't do very much to mark the day (everything feels a little unexciting lately), but at church the kids had a patriotic primary lesson and Zoë came over to me (because we're still Zooming in over here, much to everyone else's very obvious annoyance (I think we'll be cut off in the next couple of weeks and then...I don't know...we'll go to sacrament meeting and then go home? Like, am I that crazy to want my kids to be vaccinated before we jump into things with both feet again? Evidently...yes)...anyway, when the music leader asked what sorts of fun things the kids were doing for the holiday, Zoë came over to me and said, "Mom, today's a holiday?"

"Yes," I said. 

"What are we doing?" she asked.

"Not much," I said. 

It's only fair. We didn't do much for Canada Day, either.

"We can put up some decorations!" she suggested.

"Oh, yeah...I don't decorate for this holiday," I said.

I don't decorate for many holidays.

I wonder why holidays so often feel unexciting over here... 

Couldn't be me.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Eye appointments

Again, I should be doing other writing, but I just wanted to talk about the trip Miriam and I took to the optometrist this morning. Technically Andrew chauffeured us (it was raining/outside of my "bubble") because he's nice like that, but because of COVID protocols still in place (thank goodness), he just sat in the car while Miriam and I had our eyes checked.

I'm still pretty blind, which isn't really a surprise. But my prescription hasn't changed, which is good. I think it's been the same my entire adult life so far. Still, I needed new frames because Rachel broke my "favourite" glasses back in February 2020 so I've been skating through life in my back-up pair (which is fine, but it's always good to have a back-up pair for your back-up pair (or maybe a new "favourite" pair since I don't love my back-up pair)). 

My left eye—or “oculus sinister”—has been twitching for weeks now, if not months. It's been driving me crazy (and has certainly felt a little sinister), so I brought that up with the optometrist and he said that my eyes look perfect (or at least as imperfectly perfect as they can, given the fact that I can only read the top letter of those vision charts (Hello, E)). He asked me about tea, coffee, and other sources of caffeine, but I could very honestly tell him that I don't have any caffeine in my diet at all. 

"Stress?" he asked.

"Oh, some," I laughed. 

"I see in your medical notes that you're pregnant. First off, congratulations! What number is this for you? Second? Third?"

He knew it wasn't my first because, well, I had Miriam with me, but I think I kind of blew his mind when I told him, "Sixth."

"Okay," he said, giving a little whistle. "Listen, if I were expecting my sixth kid I think both my eyes would be twitching nonstop! It's annoying but it should go away."

Canada Day and Benjamin Day

We're reading Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth together right now, so we've been talking about residential schools and related traumas since the beginning of June in conjunction with Gansworth's book. It's been so interesting for me to be watching this horror be uncovered from the States, which is currently up in arms against teaching critical race theory, because my Canadian friends—both conservatives and liberals—mostly seem to be (1) aghast that this atrocity was covered up for so long and that they (we) were never taught about it in schools and (2) eager to make change happen.