Monday, August 30, 2021
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Saturday, August 28, 2021
This morning at the breakfast table, Alexander was making faces and growling at Zoë.
Zoë said, "And this is exactly why eating breakfast with you is not always pleasant, Alexander."
Alexander pouted and said, "Zoë, that hurts my feelings!"
And I thought to myself: This. This is a perfect example of how difficult it is to be kind.
Who was in the right here and who was in the wrong?
Alexander wasn't targeting Zoë with the faces he was pulling and the growlings he was making. He was simply being...weird. But the sounds and faces were making Zoë feel uncomfortable (and in all honesty they were rather unpleasant), so she expressed her discomfort in what I thought was a rather eloquent, calm, and patient manner. Still, Alexander felt slighted.
So Zoë felt Alexander was being unkind by being an unpleasant breakfast companion (growling and making faces) while Alexander felt Zoë was being unkind by calling him out for being unpleasant (because his unpleasantness wasn't directed at her; it simply was).
Now, could she have simply tolerated his behaviour? Certainly.
Doesn't he deserve to exercise his face muscles, his vocal cords, his personhood?
Oh, but doesn't she also deserve to have a pleasant breakfast experience?
If this anecdote from my breakfast table—a quibble over such inconsequential, unimportant matters—is so complicated, imagine how complicated life is. In a word: very. Life is very complicated and it can be so hard to suss out who is in the right, who is in the wrong, who deserves our trust, who doesn't. It's hard to understand the motives behind everyone's actions, it's hard to know—and impossible to meet—everyone's expectations, especially when fairness and kindness come into play.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
I had a Zoom meeting today with a party who shall remain nameless, but with whom I am required to work professionally. It was a rather pointless meeting overall; I feel like I walked away with about the same amount of knowledge as I had going into the meeting. I'm sure we'll work together just fine, even though it felt like we both wanted to drop the Southern phrasal guillotine "Bless your heart!" on each other.
The meeting was short—about twenty minutes long—and about halfway through, the other party asked me, "Do you have access to the internet?"
I hesitated before answering her question because...we were currently using the internet to communicate.
"Yes..." I said.
"Have you read it?" she asked.
"Have I...read...the internet?" I asked to make sure I had heard her correctly.
We finally made it to the pool again today (after suffering through more rainy days than we would have liked) and got some good playing in, along with a decent amount of swimming practice.
Alexander has been a rather reluctant back floater. He's good at it; he just refuses to hold his float for any considerable length of time. He'd much rather be diving under the water (he spends as much time as possible with his face under the water). Today I suggested the kids have a back float contest and...I'm not saying that Alexander is competitive, or anything, but...those words were magic. He floated for forever, just humming happily to himself.
He ended up getting fourth place (beating Rachel), but in all honesty it was a rather pointless competition since these kids of mine can float for practically forever. Still, it was exciting to see Alexander hold a back float for so long!
Here's a picture of me trying to convince him to work on his back float while he kept stubbornly sinking under the water...
Monday, August 23, 2021
We were doing a video call with my mom when my dad entered the room.
"Oh, look! It's Grandpa!" my mom said.
Now, I can't remember when or why my kids started calling him Bumpa. One of them wasn't able to pronounce Grandpa, I think. And then they all just started calling him Bumpa. I think it stuck because my mom goes by Naanii, so Bumpa seemed like a logical companionship to that name, whereas Andrew's dad, who was also called Bumpa for a time, morphed back into Grandpa when the child who couldn't say Grandpa learned to say Grandpa (because we still called Karen Grandma, so it was always Grandma and Grandpa).
Long story short: My kids consider my dad to be Bumpa, not Grandpa.
The youngest children are particularly strict about this distinction, so Alexander said, "You know his name is not Grandpa! His name is Bumpa! But I have another grandpa that is on my dad's..."
At this point I melted, thinking that Alexander was going to say "side of the family," a rather complicated concept for such a little guy to make—knowing which relatives belong to which parent.
"...phone!" Alexander finished.
He has another grandpa on his dad's...phone.
It was a hilarious way for him to distinguish where he "keeps" his grandparents. Like, Mom has the "Naanii & Bumpa App" on her phone and Dad has the "Grandpa App" on his phone and we can just ring them up whenever we want to, immediately providing an indulging, admiring audience for whom he can perform his every whim.
Even though I'm sure relatives sometimes feel more theoretical than actual to Alexander's young mind, I'm grateful for the technology that allows us to so easily speak with and see each other. I'm sure he has a much better conception of who his grandparents are than I had at that age (because what I had was a disembodied voice on a telephone line; but only ever for a brief hello because long distance charges).
We're really lucky.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Friday, August 20, 2021
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Monday, August 16, 2021
The kids enjoyed their Christmas recital so much that they immediately made plans to hold a spring recital. And then spring came and went but we didn't get around to holding a recital. And then we thought, perhaps, a mid-summer recital...but, here we are with fall rapidly approaching and obviously we still haven't done anything.
It was high time to retire some of these pieces but I simply don't have the wherewithal to put together a synchronous virtual recital right now, so we settled on an asynchronous virtual recital. Further, Rachel and Miriam weren't feeling quite ready for this (I think they had been ready earlier in the year, but then they moved on from those pieces and want to finish learning their current pieces) so they'll have a senior piano recital a little later.
We'll also be posting an encore junior recital in the near future because we learned that if the computer goes to sleep while we're recording the microphone (which is plugged into the computer) also goes to sleep, so we missed recording a duet by Benjamin and me, another of Benjamin's song, and Alexander pretending that he's also a part of things.
Without further ado, here are three of Benjamin's songs...
Bells of Great Britain:
Saturday, August 14, 2021
Friday, August 13, 2021
With public schools being back in session, our community pool has cleared right out. Now when we go we usually have it all to ourselves (sometimes there's another person or two using it). Today was mostly an all-to-ourselves day!
Now, ordinarily, having lots of friends to play with at the pool might be fun, but these aren't ordinary times, so we're glad for the space to splash and play at our leisure without worrying about social distancing. We did, however, find one friend at the pool today who we're fairly sure was safe. I mean, its skin may release toxic skin secretions, but that's mostly only a problem if you don't wash your hands before you pick your nose...and we were at the pool where there was plenty of water.
Yes, Benjamin found a Cope's grey treefrog clinging to the side of the pool.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Whenever I finish a photo book I tend to feel a little nostalgic for a while; it's both beautiful and heartrending for me to scroll through all...hundred thousand (or more ?)...pictures that we've taken over the years. Inside those many, many bits and bytes are memories of my big kids as babies (and they were all such sweet babies), of the adventures we've taken, the places we've lived, people we've loved...and people we've lost. Our successes and failures are recorded in those pictures.
One picture that I came across yesterday while I was hunting for orange pictures was a picture of little Rachel, who had scribbled all over herself with orange felt pen (marker). It was washable. It wasn't a big deal. But in this picture she is crying. And I know it's because I chided her too harshly.
I mean, I'm kind of a big "we colour on paper" kind of mom. But still...she was just a baby.
I wasn't a perfect mom (I'm still not).
So plenty of my failures are recorded in those pictures as well.
But I'm so grateful for all those many, many pictures we have. Name a single generation that has that sort of gift—to look back visually on practically every day of their life. At times, for some, it might be considered a curse, I'll grant you that. But mostly I think it's beautiful.
So it was serendipitous that our lesson for church on Sunday was on journaling (something you may have guessed I'm also fond of). We're currently covertly video-calling into our ward (with permission), since Zoom access has been disbanded, since the pandemic is "over" (but only over-not-over as we're learning; we had a lovely couple of weeks this summer with numbers in the hundreds, though we're now back up in the thousands, on par with the "first wave" and quickly gaining on the second), so I'm the Primary/Young Women/Sunday School/Relief Society teacher for our little class. (Andrew is the organist, so he's going in person; Rachel is vaccinated and the YW class president, so she's been going as well; I'm vaccinated but (a) I have four unvaccinated children, two of whom fall into the "pre-existing condition" classification we so easily write off in our society, and (b) I'm pregnant and thus more high risk). Anyway...
I got to sit and teach my kids about the importance of record-keeping for an hour. And it was great! At least...I thought so.
Monday, August 09, 2021
Yesterday while I was taking a nap Andrew watched The Prince of Egypt with the kids.
Alexander was shook.
That part at the beginning when all the babies are being rounded up and...disposed of? Horrifying.
"Why are they doing this?" he demanded to know.
"Because a prophesy said that one of the babies would free the slaves," Andrew began to explain.
"What?" Alexander asked. "Why? I don't understand. Why would Prophesy say that sort of thing? Why would Prophesy choose a baby? I mean, a baby can't even hold sharp scissors!"
"Sharp scissors?" Andrew wondered.
"To free the slaves!" Alexander said. "You're gonna need sharp scissors for that!"
"A baby can't even hold sharp scissors! It's not allowed! Prophesy doesn't know very much about babies!"
He continued to mutter random things about Prophesy (who he seems to believe is a person) and sharp scissors under his breath for the rest of the day.
And forget the part where they load Moses into a basket to float him down the Nile.
"This seems like a very bad idea..." according to Alexander.
Saturday, August 07, 2021
I started a stocking for Baby #6 (aka Phoebe) on the drive out to see my sister on Thursday morning. I finished it (more or less) this evening, which has to be some kind of stocking-knitting record! I still need to put her name on it (but, to be fair, I still have to put Alexander's name on his stocking and he's almost four). I just thought that with the baby coming so soon before Christmas and with all the other busyness we have going on in our lives (between school and work and other kids and things) that if I was going to have a matching stocking for this baby that now was the time to do it. So I did it!
Then this morning I got a Shutterfly code for a free book and knew I had to throw one of those together, too! The problem was that I wasn't sure what theme to do for it. All the kids have their 1-year baby book now, I've done Christmas and Halloween and family photos and haven't really amassed enough pictures to do another book like that...
Thursday, August 05, 2021
My sister let me know a couple of days ago that she'd be making a quick pit stop not too far from us. Her schedule was at the whim of her unloading/loading appointments, but we managed to squeeze in a little visit!
She phoned last night while we were in the middle of story time and she was on her way making her way through Illinois so we could firm up some details. While I talked with her, the boys messed around, and Zoë sat serenely beside me. Little did I know she was serenely eavesdropping!
She heard a few things like "meeting up" and "Illinois" and "a dress" and "for Zoë."
She didn't say much to me about that phone call, but, boy, was she spreading rumours this morning! She told her siblings that we were going to Illinois to meet up with Auntie K, who had a dress for her!
I had to explain that we were going to a truck stop half an hour away from our house to meet up with Auntie K, who was driving from Illinois to Georgia, and who had something small enough to fit into an envelope, and which she had already addressed to Zoë but hadn't put a stamp on yet, which she would give to Zoë.
So it was a little less of a grand adventure than Zoë imagined it was going to be, but it was certainly grand to get to see my sister! My sweet, flexible, accommodating sister!
She and Allen first suggested meeting at Cracker Barrel for lunch, but I was like, "Yeah, about that...we haven't done any inside dining the entire pandemic and...four of my kids aren't vaccinated...so..."
Instead we met in a grassy area outside of a Wendy's for an ice cream picnic, which was just as lovely, I think. Restaurants are hard for me, anyway, but in a pandemic?! Sounds like a nightmare.
As promised, Kelli had an envelope addressed to Zoë. Inside was a bedazzled unicorn wallhanging, which Zoë loves, of course.
Wednesday, August 04, 2021
I just turned in my final project for my first (and potentially ever) "summer short session," which is essentially a full semester condensed into 19 days (25 days, including weekends). I've been a little stressed out about the next couple of semesters, what with taking a full load of classes and doing an assistantship and homeschooling all the kids and having a new baby.
But completing this class—in the midst of everything else that has happened over the past three weeks*—has given me confidence that I can complete three classes spread over 111 days (including weekends), no problem. Technically I have to take four classes, but the fourth is more of a "filler" class, which I had thought meant it was an independent study class, but my advisor explained it's more of an "use these hours if your assistantship ends up taking more time than you're being paid for" class. So that's kind of a huge relief.