Monday, August 30, 2021

Books and Babies

Early this afternoon we stopped by Barnes and Noble so that Zoë, Benjamin, and Miriam could get their summer reading books on our way to the pool. This was the first time the kids have been to any sort of store in ages, but we missed out on the summer reading program last year and I figured we'd be pretty safe running into a nearly empty bookstore in the middle of the day.

Here are my double-masked children with their spoils:

Sunday, August 29, 2021

An unfortunate incident

We had just settled down for a game of Carcassonne this evening when Alexander came slumping down the stairs. 

"My thing is ruined," he sighed.

Everyone around the table offered words of concern and pumped Alexander to share more details...

"Oh, no! That's too bad!"

"What thing?"

"What happened?"

...everyone except Benjamin, who muttered, "It's not like it's a big deal."

"Whoa...what?" Andrew asked. "What happened? What did you do?"

Benjamin played stupid. He put on a quizzical face, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I dunno! He hasn't even told us what happened!"

"And yet you seem to know that it's not a big deal. Why?" 

"I don't know. I's probably not a big deal."

"Someone smashed my fairyland!" Alexander sobbed, revealing his ruined creation. 

He'd worked hard all afternoon turning an egg carton into a magical fairyland—with volcanoes and hillsides and lakes and mountains. And now all the little egg divots were smashed and each had a little hole poked into it. 

" to explain?"

"I may have accidentally stepped on it."

"You accidentally stepped on—and put a hole in—each segment?"


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Saturday chores

Today the kids helped me go through all their dressers; we swapped out things that are too small (passing things down, saving things for later, and generating a big bag of cast-offs). Our drawers are a lot happier now and everyone's sizing makes a lot more sense. It's been so long since we've gone through their drawers that Benjamin still had cut-off shorts that are size 4 and a bunch of t-shirts from kindergarten hanging out in his drawers.

Clearly these things are much better suited for Alexander by now since he's almost four. But Benjamin was only in grade two when we moved here so  it still made sense for him to cling to a few of his favourite kindergarten shirts. Now that he's in grade four it make much less sense for him to be squeezing into things from kindergarten. 

All this was so that we could clear out a little set of drawers in Zoë and Alexander's room so that Phoebe can have a place for her things.

We also got out the baby clothes to see what we still had left. I remembered being pretty brutal in my last thinning of our stored baby clothes, but somehow had convinced myself I had two bins of baby girl clothes.

I do not. 

A short musing on life

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

99 days

It's strange for me to see all my friends posting back to school pictures when today was our 51st day of school. 

It's even stranger for me to see all my friends posting about being "empty nesters" during the school day, having sent their entire brood off to school. This is not only because we're rather entrenched homeschoolers now, and it's not only because I can't personally imagine sending my kids off to school in the middle of a pandemic, but because we're suddenly "starting over."

Alexander would be eligible for preschool this year (if preschool were a thing I was enthusiastic about (I wasn't ever entirely enthusiastic about it even when we weren't homeschooling)), so my house could have also been empty. Instead it's full of children all day, every day...

...and I'm busy counting down the days until we completely rewind the clock of independence. 

I don't mind having the kids around—I like 'em—but I have to admit it would be nice to have a break from the chaos every once in a while.

Yesterday I took them off to the pool again—which isn't a break from the cyclone of chaos that they are, mind you; it's simply moving the cyclone of chaos to another location—and when we came home they were still, you know, being their wonderful chaotic spite of having spent enough time in the water and sun to have worn anybody out. 

(As Grandpa keeps reminding me, I should lower my expectations; there's really no magical exchange that takes place at the park or the pool. The kids run around acting wild and then they just...stay that way. There's no such thing as wearing kids out. Not really.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The internet

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 internet?" I asked to make sure I had heard her correctly.

Back floats and diving

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

Digital grandparents

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. 

But, no.

"!" Alexander finished. 

He has another grandpa on his dad' 

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

Blood Sugar

It's interesting to me when people mention they have no memories of being very small because I...have so many. My memory really begins in earnest around age three (though I do have a few earlier hazy memories). One of three-year-old memories is my mom testing her blood sugar levels. Oddly enough, I don't remember her being pregnant, per se (I don't think three-year-olds care about their mothers' girths enough to notice things like that), but I do remember her having to monitor her blood sugar levels. They didn't have handheld glucometers back then, so it was a big boxy thing that sat on the table. 

The poking part, however, is pretty much the same.

And I'm so pleased (haha...) to be giving my children the same early childhood memories. 

Alexander was already fascinated by blood. He talks about blood all the time, about how it runs through his veins, about his white blood cells and red blood cells, and what all the different parts of blood do. 

We were watching an episode of The Mysterious Benedict Society a couple of evenings ago and Mr. Benedict (who was out hiking) made a passing remark about needing to stay hydrated. Alexander started rambling about hydration.

"Why is it important to stay hydrated? Can you only stay hydrated with water? You need to stay hydrated when you exercise. But you don't always have to stay hydrated with water. Vampires stay hydrated with bllllloooood!"

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The timekeeper

Remember back when Rachel gave Benjamin her old watch? Well, this is a story that happened not too long after that exchange occurred, when the watch was new and exciting (it's still new and exciting for Benjamin, though he has stopped telling everyone the time every few of minutes).

Somehow the watch switched to 24-hour time, which Benjamin found incredibly frustrating (although it's Andrew's preferred format). He asked for help switching it back to 12-hour time, but Andrew didn't know how to do that off the top of his head and we no longer have the user's manual for this particular watch, so Andrew advised Benjamin to experiment—push all the buttons, see what they do—until Andrew could take some focused time to help him figure it out.

Off Benjamin went to push all the buttons, something that should have been thrilling, right?! Pushing all the buttons! No consequences?!

Well, he was a rather solemn child when he returned to Andrew seeking more assistance. All his button pushing had been for naught.

"I'll look up the manual," Andrew told him and soon they had all the information they needed. "It says to toggle between 12-hour and 24-hour time you simply press the start/stop button. Didn't you try that one?"

"No way!" Benjamin said. 

"Well, here. Let's just..." Andrew reached for Benjamin's wrist.

"NO!" Benjamin yelled, pulling his arm away and shielding the watch from Andrew.

"Wha..." Andrew began.

"I don't want to press that button!" Benjamin said, panicked. "We don't know what it will do to everyone!"

"It will...switch your watch from 24-hour time to 12-hour time."

"]That's all?!" Benjamin gasped. "I thought it would...stop time!"

I have to admit: I'm rather impressed by the restraint Benjamin showed those first few days he was a new watch owner and thought we had literally given him the power to stop and start time at will. I can't imagine what he was thinking—all these people walking around with ultimate power and yet...simply carrying on with the status quo. That button must surely be only for Very Important emergency scenarios. 

The watch has lost some of its magic in Benajmin's eyes. He no longer believes he has power over time. He no longer tells us the time every few minutes. But he still wears his watch every day and checks the time frequently. It's still a good's just not as powerful as he initially thought it was.

Friday, August 20, 2021

A few scattered thoughts

Somehow both a lot and not a lot have been going on at the same time this week. We had a tropical storm come through, which caused a lot of rainy days for us. Fortunately, nothing that caused too much damage (at least at our house). Alexander was bothered by this storm—named Fred—because it would mean three days of no sunshine, which would mean three days of not going to the pool.

In fact, I don't think we made it to the pool at all this week!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Hot stuff!

Last night Rachel made pancakes for dinner and since I can't exactly eat pancakes right now, she was a sweetheart and mixed up some special pancakes for me using almond flour and monk fruit sweetener. Andrew did his best to make a simple syrup from the monk fruit sweetener. 

But here's the thing: 

Erythritol-based crystallized monk fruit sweeteners don't dissolve like regular sugar. So while he made a syrup of sorts, it wasn't quite like actual syrup. It began recrystallizing the minute it stopped boiling, but I decided to try it on my pancakes anyway. 

Here's another thing about monk fruit sweetener:

Evidently, although they don't dissolve well, they do hold heat well. A little too well. 

I figured that the syrup had been sitting out long enough (long enough to recrystallize!) and thought that after I had drizzle/clumped it onto my pancakes that it would be safe enough to consume. Like regular syrup, right?

Hot sugar holds heat. I know this. Syrup gets hot. Hotter than boiling water can. 

But it also cools off

Evidently not so with monk fruit sweetener. 

I took a bite of pancake, with my monk fruit sweetener glob on top, stuck it in my mouth and...immediately regretted it.

That stuff was molten lava! 

The roof of my mouth is miserable. 

I have blisters all from the heat (they've been peeling all day; it's absolutely disgusting). 

I left the syrup alone after that. And when it was time to clean up from dinner, the bowl it was in was too hot to handle without a hot-pad! Still!

So be warned! If you're going to make your own monk fruit syrup, use liquid sweetener, not crystal sweetener. Or just busy some at the store pre-made (I think that's our next move).

Monday, August 16, 2021

Rachel's birthday balloons

Rachel has been fourteen for nearly a month now, so I figured I should take down her birthday balloons and record them (finally). 

Alexander drew her a lovely picture of cupcakes on a roof. Then he asked everybody, "But why? Why are the cupcakes on the roof?!" No one knows.

Asynchronous Junior Piano Recital

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

Diabetes and dependability

I attended my gestational diabetes education seminar, a three-hour long class rehashing information I've received numerous times before. It's not that the information isn't useful or anything, because it is! It's just that I wish there was an option for been-there-done-that mothers. A refresher course of sorts. 

At least this is a pandemic so it was a virtual lecture rather than an in-person class. 

But still...three hours. 

Three hours of talking about how dangerous this can be for baby and mom, three hours of talking about diet and exercise, three hours of talking about the best method for lancing yourself four times a day. I wasn't particularly grumpy about this diagnosis until this class because I'd been doing everything already (aside from carefully measuring and recording both my glucose levels and everything I put into my mouth). I've been carefully balancing my meals and making sure I exercise every day for months now. 

I just don't like...feeling pressured about it, I guess. 

Anyway, yesterday morning I went downstairs to look at our yarn collection so I could decide on a baby blanket to make in the few spare minutes I'll be able to grab here and there throughout the next semester.

The cat's litter box is down there and when I saw it...I got mad. It was in a disgusting state.

"Benjamin!" I hollered.

It's his week for the litter box. 

He thundered down the stairs to join me in the basement.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"Have you even been cleaning out the cat's litter box?"

"A little bit," he said.

Our first podcasts

During Spring Semester I took a course called "New Literacies," which focused on building a digital identity and integrating technology in the classroom. For our final project, we had to produce a podcast that discussed (1) an archival document from the special collections library, (2) an aspect of our personal or professional life, (3) a song, movie, or book from popular culture. I think those were the three main points we had to discuss (in addition to our digital identity and teaching, in general). 

It was quite a challenge, honestly. This is what I came up with:


Because I spent so much time recording (and re-recording (and re-re-recording)) my script and figuring out how to piece it all together, the kids got quite interested in learning how to produce a podcast as well. So when my sister suggested that they research real-life dragons and write essays to convince her which one is the best...they decided to take on her challenge in podcast form.

It was quite a challenge, honestly. They had to research their chosen creature, write an essay about it, record their essays, add background music and other little sound effects, and stitch everything together....

It took them a lot longer than I think they thought it would take initially, but I think they gained some good skills (to put to use for the next episode they're planning), as well as a greater appreciation for all the effort involved in producing a podcast in the first place. 

Don't mind the little quirks—like variation in volume (be ready to adjust the volume!)—but do have a listen! They worked hard and did a great job!

After you listen, be sure to vote in their poll. I was planning on embedding it here, but Rachel created it and I have to snag that code from her, so for now just click on THIS LINK to access the poll!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Pool friends

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

Journaling is to gold as photographs are to plums

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 ?) 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

These kids!

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!"

"Okay, but..."

"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

Another stocking and another photo album

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

Pit stop!

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"

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.

All about Alexander

Alexander has been pining after my attention the past little while. It's true that I've been a little busier than usual, especially this past week, but it's not like I never do anything with him! I've often found that if I take a break from what I'm doing and spend a little time playing with him, that he'll be satisfied and leave me alone for a little while (which makes for a much better chunk of working time than if he's sitting beside me whining the whole time I'm trying to work). This past week he's been insatiable though!

Yesterday before dinner he was hounding me about playing with him and I kept telling him that I was almost finished with the section I was working on and that he had to be patient...and then Andrew announced it was time for dinner. 

So we were going around the table asking everyone what their favourite part of the day was and Alexander said, "Almost getting to play with Mommy."

It about broke my heart.

Tonight at dinner when I said that my favourite part of the day was, first of all, that when I asked Alexander to do his job, he rushed to the dishwasher and said, "I'll get all the plates first!" and quickly gathered them up, put them away, and ran back to do more! He's been such a sulky, fussy boy this week that I think he's cried about putting dishes away every other day, so it was nice to have him do his job nicely. 

Side story: the other day Rachel casually reminded him that dishes were his job and he, feeling lonely and neglected (while in a house, constantly surrounded by siblings) picked up an old phone and recorded his feelings about his life. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

✓ Finish Summer Semester

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.