Thursday, September 23, 2021

Insurance. Bah...humbug.

Okay, the more I have to deal with the mess of the medical system down here, the angrier I become. The claim from my nutrition course at the hospital (which, for the record, I did virtually with 6 other people)* just came through. In order to even sign up for the class I had to give the registration lady my credit card information over the phone. And even though I had verified that my insurance covered the class 100% this lady insisted that wasn't true.

It would be the case if I had already met my deductible (which by some miracle I haven't) and my out-of-pocket maximum (haven't hit that yet, either, though I trust by the end of the year we will). However, since I haven't met either of those two requirements I was responsible to cover the cost of the class. 


Which, fine. 

I mean, it wasn't great timing to have to pay that fee because tuition had been due right around the same time (technically, my tuition has been waived as part of my compensation for working, but I was still responsible for paying fees, which are $$$), but we're solvent enough right now that while swallowing $420 for a stupid nutrition class wasn't fun, it didn't break the bank, either. 

But, as it turns insurance paid for that class in full

So, as I mentioned, the hospital has put my $420 into their "credit" account for me, which is really fine because I know we'll end up paying them much more than that amount, anyway. According to my hospital's estimated price index, we could be facing bills like the following:





LABOR HOURS $739.00 to $3,945.00

Naturally, these are just estimates and don't include what we've already paid our doctor. That's fine. Insurance will kick in 100% after we, you know, put down a couple grand. It's fine. And we're lucky to have insurance. I get that. 

But, like, here's the thing...

Admiral Boom

 I feel like all I do is count things and record things lately. 

Pregnancy: 30 weeks along. 10 weeks left until my due date. 9 weeks until my induction date. Fingers crossed we don't even hit that date because I'd prefer not to be induced. But we also want to make it to at least make it until November 11 (37 weeks).

Blood sugars: Fasting number upon waking up. Two hours after breakfast. Two hours after lunch. Two hours after dinner. 

Food: Measuring carbs, measuring proteins, checking all nutrition labels.

Exercise: At least thirty minutes a day. If I can't squeeze in time on the bike or a short walk or some "Ring Fit" after eating, a few leg lifts, knee lifts, arm circles, cow pose, etc. goes a long way.

Homeschool: Which child is on what lesson in any given subject? Are we as far as we should be to rationalize taking time off when the baby gets here? I think so, given that Zoë has only a few pages left in her math curriculum...for the entire year. As she says, "I'm just rocketing through this!" I have a backup curriculum for her to do. But is everyone else keeping up? I have an excel spreadsheet and haven't been great at filling it in. Mostly I feel like, yes! Yes! We are all rocketing through our given curricula. There aren't a lot of notes to take...yet I feel obligated to fill out the spreadsheet (which no one besides myself will ever see). 

Bills: How close am I to meeting my deductible? Did I pay the laboratory fees here? Did I pay the doctor's office there? Why did the hospital charge me full price for that nutrition class (that I had to take) and then give me a credit of $400 because as it turns out my insurance really does cover the class? Why is a 3-hour class over $500 in the first place?! I suppose they can just sit on that money. We'll consider it a deposit for future events.

Classes: Project due on Monday. Quiz due the Tuesday. Lecture on Wednesday. Paper due Sunday. Responses to classmates due Tuesday. Presentation due Sunday. Wash, rinse, repeat (in various iterations since there are three separate syllabi I'm juggling) weekly.

School in general: Plan next semester's coursework. What classes will I take? Figure out my advisory committee. Turn in my program of study. Fill out this paper work and that paperwork.

Work: Meeting on Wednesdays. Update social media. Remind everyone of various dates. This is due October 31. That is due November 6. This is due November 22. That is due December 6. Somewhere in there my own baby is due and I'll have to keep reminding people—hundreds of people!—to stick to these deadlines. But no pressure. It'll be fine. 

We're coming up on the halfway point of the semester—suddenly, already—and so far I've felt like this is manageable, but for whatever reason this week is crushing me and I'm just so tired. 

And this doesn't count piano lessons or laundry or tidying up, or any number of things.

Counting library books, for instance. Our books are due tomorrow so I've got to get those sorted out.

Oh, 10:00! Time for my prescribed evening snack.

I'd love to stay and chat but I have to go measure out my popcorn and nuts. 

With how precisely I'm running my life by the clock, I feel like I'm living in Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane....I could use a Mary Poppins.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Are sleeping positions genetic?

After a lengthy labour (mentioned the other day), our newest little cousin has arrived on the scene (and she's so sweet)! David and Ruth were a little concerned about how she keeps twisting onto her side to sleep (you're supposed to put babies on their backs to sleep!) so I sent them a few pictures of our kids sleeping the very same way. 

Look at these cousins sleeping virtually identically 14 years apart! 

Babies're just going to sleep how they're comfortable, in the end.

Anyway, I'm so excited for David and Ruth to be parents. They're going to have so much fun! 

(I should also mention that these sweet little sleepers were also both 7 lbs. 7 ounces (and Rachel has been my only dark-haired baby) so they're alike in more than one way!)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Happy medium

After a couple of rough nights with Zoë and Alexander storming into our room every hour or so, I sat them down before putting them to bed last night and sternly told them that they had to stop doing that! 

It's normal to have periods of wakefulness during the night. And during those times you just say, "Self, it's still nighttime. Go back to sleep."

Do not fling Mom and Dad's bedroom door open and turn on all the lights. Just...don't

We also talked about how when they're put to bed they need to just be in bed until they fall asleep. 

If Zoë continues "needing" to go to the bathroom twenty times between 9:00 and 10:00, for example, I will be forced to make an appointment with the doctor to have her tested for Type 1 diabetes because having to pee that often is not normal

Remarkably, they stayed in their beds. 

"I don't know if they're just really tired from not sleeping themselves or if I scared them into submission," I remarked to Andrew as we were going to bed, "But I haven't seen a child all evening!"

And no one burst through our door all night, either. 

And no one came in to pounce on us in the morning. 

In fact, I was shocked when my alarm clock went off (time to check your blood sugar!) because I haven't been woken up by my alarm clock in...a long time (since I've been woken up before my alarm clock). 

I went to check on the kids and found Alexander wearing nothing but underwear and his pyjama top. 

"What happened to your pants?" I asked.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

This cake is not about you

One of the best things that I've learned about life, which I'm probably still learning, is that the world isn't about me. Life isn't about me. 

People who do things typically aren't doing them to me. 

Most people in the world haven't considered me at all. 

And...that's okay. 

Considering others and how your actions influence them is important. But at the same time...everyone is just out there living their life and no one is living their life "at" you. No one is living their life "at" me. 

I'm good at some things and those things that I'm good at? I don't do those things "at" anybody else. I typically do them because they bring me joy and fulfillment. I don't think I should have to not do those things—or talk about those things—because other people feel threatened by them. 

Right in the face

A few weeks ago, I kicked our poor cat right in the face!

Allow me to explain before you burn me at the stake. I had just been in the other room doing some preschool work with Alexander when I felt a little tickle on my foot. I looked down and there was a spider on my foot, so I shook it off and was still suffering from the heebie-jeebies a little bit when I went into the dining room to see how the older kids were getting along with their schoolwork. 

That's when I felt another little tickle on my foot.

Instinctively, I gave my foot a good shake and...nailed the cat right in the nose...for she had simply come to sniff my toes (as she's wont to do) and her whiskers were the tickle-y culprit, not a spider. 

She ran off to angrily cower somewhere and I pretty much just started crying on the spot because I had just kicked my cat (in the face, no less!), but hadn't meant to at all!

I texted Josie about it because she's a cat owner, too, (and a very sympathetic listener) and she assured me that these things happen (cats are always underfoot, it seems). She admitted that once she was trying to put something away in a cabinet but the door wouldn't close all the way, so she just kept repeatedly trying to close it. She rearranged the items she just put in the cabinet, and tried the door again. No luck. So she opened it again and made sure everything was tucked in nice and neatly and tried the door again. No luck.

And then she realized that her curious kitten had popped into the cabinet as well and had left some little body part dangling, which was propping the door...that my sister had been repeatedly trying to slam

But her kitten is fine. 

And our cat is fine.

She even seems to have forgiven me, though it did take her awhile to resume sniffing my toes.

Accidents happen.

Park Paradise

Drizzly weather meant that we had the park mostly to ourselves. We first went on a long walk through the woods and then stopped to play at various playgrounds on our way back to the car. While the kids played, I read articles and wrote (which honestly has been a dream of mine since starting grad school, though the dream involves a little more afternoon sunshine than afternoon showers, but I guess that doesn't matter because the dream is hardly ever realized, anyway). That's another perk to having pool season be over and playground season begin; there are more opportunities for "the dream."

Today I only had Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander, who insisted on dressing up as an owl even though it was nearly 80°F! He had on that darling (if I do say so, myself) crochet had and his hood the entire afternoon until he got so flushed that I forced him out of it.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Pool Season is Over

On Wednesday I washed all the pool towels and all the swimsuits and put them away. 

I'd washed them periodically throughout the summer, of course, but never all at once, and never with the intention of putting them away until "next year." 

So I guess fall is really upon us.

The pool doesn't technically close until Sunday, but knowing the weather forecast for the rest of this week ("cold" and rainy), we called Tuesday our last day of the pool season and convinced Daddy to take a couple hours off of work to come swimming with us (since he hadn't been to the pool with us since May).

Spooky Christmas Songs

Zoë and Benjamin have both finished their primer levels of piano and have moved on to level 1. We've also moved on to Christmas music (because things take time to learn and they always want to learn a lot of Christmas music). However, with Halloween coming up first, Zoë has taken to transposing her pieces into a minor it sounds spooooooky

How she's able to just sit down a little beyond me. Miriam was the same way at Zoë's age, always transposing pieces up and down the scale, so perhaps we've got another little musically-minded person on our hands.

No complaints from me about that!

Other than the fact that she'll likely surpass my skill level sooner rather than later, requiring us to hire yet another music teacher (and those...don't come cheap...but on the other hand, maybe we can just get Miriam to teach her).

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Last woman standing

As it should be because, well, my due date isn't for a couple of months...but this has been an exciting year for babies in our family! While I've had babies overlap with babies on Andrew's side of the family, meaning they have cousins their own ages (what a concept!), I haven't managed that sort of thing with my side of the family until this year (and it was completely by accident, too!).

I got a great-niece in May and a niece early this morning, so Phoebe will be well-endowed with cousins on my side of the family, which is kind of nice since my kids have always existed as...their own little pack...on that side of the family.

To be fair, my family is complicated (as is evidenced by the great-niece being the same age as my niece and daughter), so I do have some great-nephews around Alexander's age and a great-niece between Benjamin and Miriam. But that's still a tricky relationship for me to navigate (as their mom was raised in an adoptive family and only got back into contact with us in more recent history, so although we count her as family it's still feels a little more distant to me somehow (it probably would help if I'd seen Amy more than twice in my life)). And technically the twins exist; they're a year older than Rachel (but they live with their father, who doesn't allow them to have much contact with our family at all). So in essence, my children have been in what we call a "cousin hole." There just haven't been any cousins for them to associate with when my family gets together.

They can never remember if Rosie is their cousin or their aunt (they usually default to referring to her as aunt) because Rosie (my niece) is a few years younger than Josie (their aunt, who is nine years younger than me). My brother is two (and a half, as he loved to point out our entire childhood) years older than me. And their oldest babies and my youngest babies will all be the same age!

So that'll be fun!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

29 weeks-ish

I'm a little exhausted today. Part of me is trying to figure out why I can hardly keep my eyes open (and why I couldn't remember where I left my glasses after I took them off to do some hip-opening exercises...which will be explained later). The other part of me knows that (1) I've been fretting about my sweet sister-in-law all day today (and all day yesterday, honestly...which may also be explained later), and (2) we had an unusually busy day today. 

Unlike Sleeping Beauty, who falls asleep because she pricks her finger...I wake up in order to prick my finger at the same time...every day. So I got up at my very usual time and had my very usual breakfast and then started in on our very usual homeschool routine before leaving the kids with a list of things to accomplish while I went to my weekly zoom meeting for work (10 am). 

Then I bustled downstairs to knock out some math with the little ones, who still need a bit of direct instruction before getting started on that subject (the older girls seem to do fine on their own and I'm fine with them being fine because that's largely how I got through math—reading a textbook and working through problems until I understood it (only I didn't have Khan Academy or YouTube or a father who was a statistician to fall back on when I got stuck (though I did have a mathematician uncle (but only after we moved to Utah)))). 

Then I quickly made myself my usual lunch (never deviating from meals means no surprise blood sugar numbers, but also that I wish I could eat everything else under the sun, which is ironic because I know that after the baby's born, you know what I'll crave when I'm hungry? My "usual" meals, of course, no matter how sick of them I become before she gets here). Oh, I switch up vegetables and things...but the carbs and proteins remain the same. 

Anyway, scarfed that, asked the older girls to help the younger kids get their lunches ready and then zipped out the door to my doctor's appointment (12:30).

It was supposed to be on Thursday, with an ultrasound for a growth check (because gestational diabetes requires it) but the ultrasound technician was going to be out that day, so my appointment was moved to today at the last minute. 

Baby's doing great; they guess she's about 2 lbs. Everything's developing normally, I have a lovely amount of amniotic fluid. But...she's breech...silly kid. She had been vertex (head down) at my last scan, but she's adorably transverse, so I'm doing a number of exercises to encourage her to flip around again and drop into a more presentable position (thus the reason I took off my glasses this evening and did I put them?! (but don't worry; I found them)).

These exercises are in addition to my post-prandial thanks-for-eating-this-life-sustaining-energy-source-now-quick-burn-it-all-off-before-it-kills-you exercises.

Good thing there's a baby at the end of this. Look at her being all adorable:

Monday, September 13, 2021

Time Traveling Fathers and Banana Cobwebs

Andrew teaches in-person on Mondays, which means he *gulp* leaves the house. This has been somewhat of an adjustment for our household and poor Alexander still can't understand why Dad ever leaves to go anywhere because for most of his memory everyone has just always been home. There have only been three Mondays so far this semester so it's still a relatively new change. I'm sure we'll get used to it. 

This morning all the boys were awake when it was time for Andrew to leave for campus (the girls, as far as we know, were all still sleeping, though it's also possible they simply hadn't emerged from the basement yet (Zoë for sure was still asleep)), so Andrew gathered our small group together to have a partial-family prayer before he left for the day. He asked Benjamin to say it, so Benjamin did.

"...and please help dad have a good time traveling..." Benjamin said. 

"TIME TRAVELING!?!?!" Alexander exclaimed, his jaw just about dropping to the floor. 

" work," Benjamin finished, annoyed at the interruption. 

When Andrew left the house he said, "Goodbye! See you last week!" The boys thought that was funny. At least, Benjamin did. Alexander probably just played along (because there are a lot of things he doesn't get but pretends to). 

Still, having a time traveling father is pretty neat, I guess.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Zogre the Ogre vs. Constance Contraire

We recently finished watching Disney's The Benedict Society as a family. I read the book to the kids last November, so they were familiar with the story and were quite excited that it had been made into a television series. 

Our family is 85% certain that the character Zoë is most like is Constance Contraire. 

If you do the math, that's 6 out of 7 of us. 

Zoë is the remaining 15%.

She doesn't particularly like being compared to Constance, but the kids all want her to dress up as Constance Contraire for Halloween because "it would be perfect!" I don't know what she'll end up being for Halloween but I'm 99% positive it won't be Constance Contraire!

The thing is, though, that the character Zoë is most like is Constance Contraire.

Take this evening, for example.

Andrew asked if I would give him a haircut. I said I would, but you know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, right?

So I started with Alexander, moved on to Benjamin, hacked my way through Miriam's mane (she took off 12 inches and I thinned her remaining hair (so brave of me) so she feels much lighter), and then got around to cutting Andrew's hair. And all the while I was cutting hair, Zoë was "doing" the dishes (because it's her week for dishes). Mostly she was being distracted, but a little bit she was doing the dishes (that's usually how she does the dishes, which reminds me that I should pop down to the kitchen to finish up for her (but, on the other hand, if I wait long enough...maybe Andrew will do it)).

Friday, September 10, 2021

Mantis vs. Jorõ

I forced the kids outside to play last Saturday morning. 

Playing outside in the summer really is uncomfortable here. It's just so hot and humid. But the weather has turned to be quite decent and I wanted them outside. And, naturally, once they were outside we couldn't convince them to come back in again...

Benjamin found a praying mantis, which he wanted to keep and observe for a while:

Pool days

The weather is getting cooler, which means our pool days are rapidly coming to a close. Today I asked the kids if they wanted to go to the pool but it was only in the 70s so they opted not to. It's an understandable decision but it does make me long for just a few more summer days (which I think we'll get next week, if we're lucky). 

I was especially grateful for the pool yesterday when I was in such intense pain that I could hardly walk. My lower back and my hips and my pelvis were all so sore! Being in the pool took all the weight off my poor joints and I was able to walk around a bit. I was worried that this was just what the third trimester of a geriatric pregnancy was going to feel like, but I think what really happened was that I just overdid things on the exercise bike Wednesday evening. 

My one synchronous (but still online) class meets Wednesdays at 5:30, but I have to eat dinner by 5:00, but then I also have to exercise, so in an effort to cram in enough exercise I put the tension on the exercise bike a little higher than I usually do and...I think that was a bad idea.

I'm feeling much better today, with just the regular discomforts of pregnancy rather than hardly being able to move. I was wondering how I'd even survive the next couple of months without the pool, but as it turns out, I think I'll manage. Still, I'm a little sad to say goodbye to the pool.

Anyway, here are the kids resting on the side of the pool:

This is their "bat pose"; they will sink their torsos so their backs rest against the wall of the pool (and they're completely upside down). All except Alexander, who simply thinks he does this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Am I a potato chip?

I can't say nothing but I also can't say anything so I thought perhaps I might say something here. Today I got the following email from our Relief Society (not just me; everybody got it):
As a member of the ward activities committee responsible for ward dinners, I soon learned that after accepting an assignment some people would come through and others would not. If we were planning a dinner, it was important to know who to assign to make the main dish, who to ask to bring side dishes or desserts, and who had better be on the potato chip committee.

You see, as long as you have the main dish and the desserts, you can have a successful ward social. Potato chips on the other hand are nice to have, but if they do not show up the ward social is not a disaster.

When we profess to be on the Lord’s side, I suspect we need to ask ourselves “Am I on the main dish, side dish or potato chip committee?”
And I suppose I understand the sentiment, but it rubbed me entirely the wrong way, so to this little story, I'd like to say that people's bests look different at different times and in different situations. Andrew and I used to go to the temple every week (wow; so piety; much righteous). Now we have 5.5 kids and...guess what?! We don't go to the temple every week (shocker). But...we are doing the best that we can with the, uh, issue/s we have. Plus, righteousness is, like, well nigh impossible to measure (whether you're judging yourself or others) so good luck with that.

To borrow from D&C 84:109–110 (which in turn, of course, borrows from 1 Corinthians, but we're studying D&C this year so I'll go with that) I think a better perspective is to allow:
...every [dish to] stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the [casserole] say unto the [potato chips] it hath no need of the [potato chips]; for without the [potato chips] how shall the body be able to stand?

...the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.

Once upon a time (not too long ago), I signed up to take dinner to someone in the ward and, lo, the very day of my assignment (that, granted, I volunteered for), our breaker box essentially...died...and while we had an electrician make an emergency house call, restoring limited electricity to our house (before they came back to replace/update the breaker box the next day), we couldn't run any major appliances (so the oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc. were all out of commission). 

Using those appliances risked burning our entire house down (I slept well that night, let me tell you).

So we just ordered pizza and sent it to their house. 

Like a lousy bag of potato chips... 

Or was that a main dish effort? I honestly can't decide. Both? Neither?

I'm going to go with neither. 

I was simply a human doing her best under the circumstances (which doesn't look like my best under other circumstances; and which probably doesn't look like your best at all). Ordinarily we do the whole home-cooked meal, with freshly-baked cookies, personally delivered (with hats and a handmade card because we forgot how people socialize and are we over doing this?).

But this other time (years ago now), I was going through a hard time. Our van had just been totaled and my sweet visiting teacher called and said to not worry about a thing because she was going to bring dinner over. 

And she did! 

She showed up at my front door...with a store-bought, frozen lasagna. 

I thanked her for being so thoughtful, then closed the door and crumpled to the floor crying (with laughter and frustration) wasn't just that our van that had been totaled. Our oven also was broken (along with what felt like everything else in our house/life) and we really could have done with a hot'n'ready meal that particular evening. I stuffed the lasagna into our freezer and then I think we probably had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner (because we were poor, had no transportation, and no stove/oven).

So was she a main dish...or a potato chip? 

Again, I'm going to go with neither.

She was simply a human doing her best under the circumstances, which I know didn't look like her best under other circumstances. When this happened she had toddler twins and was in the middle of moving. So I think she did great and still appreciate her to this day (because she's amazing). We ate the lasagna later (after we got a new oven) and were thankful for it. 

But it doesn't change the fact that sometimes (always?) our best efforts fall short of what was required or expected...and, like, that's okay. In fact, I think that (our incessant failures) is what God expects from us. And I think there's a plan for that. I think God likes potato chips. He probably crunches them up and sprinkles them on top of his cheesy casserole and together they become *chef's kiss!*

So bring me your casseroles, your jello salads, your crinkly bags of potato chips yearning to be free! 

Come as you are, bring what you've got, and together...let's eat. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Ups and Downs

I got my first paycheck this past week, which was kind of a surreal feeling. Like, I knew I was working before, but it just felt like...something I was doing...not like I was actually working. Getting that paycheck really drove home the point that I have an actual job. 

Kinda wish I could set up direct deposit, but we'll work that out later.


For my job, I recently created a beautiful little "call for articles" advertisement, which I sent out on our listserv of a thousand or so people, which felt like kind of a big deal. Like, I've sent emails to a hundred people on the regular (I've managed our "family" listserv, so to speak, for the last decade) but never to nearly a thousand

It felt kind of like handling a large wad of cash for the first time. Only emails.

"Imagine if it had a typo!" Rachel mused at dinner when I was sharing this recent accomplishment.

"Oh, that's the best part!" I said, laughing. "It did!"

Like, we're the department of language and literacy and I wrote the email and proofed it and sent it to my supervisor to have them read and proof it and we both missed my mistake, which is...super cool. Luckily, I was able to fix the mistake before I sent it to the department secretary to have her blast it to her even bigger listserv. 


Friday, September 03, 2021

Don't call her Curly

Last night Zoë begged me to put curlers in her hair, so I did. It really wasn't half as bad as I thought it was going to be because I'm used to Miriam wanting curly hair and Miriam has a lot of hair—it's long and it's dense. Like, there's just a whole lot of it. Putting it up in curlers takes ages. But although Zoë's hair is long, she doesn't have a lot of it, so it only took a few curlers. 

After sleeping on those curlers all night, she was pleased as punch to have curly hair today...for the few hours she had curly hair. Curly hair during pool season isn't the best idea when your hair is hopelessly straight. So we took a few pictures before Zoë jumped in and ruined her curls:

Daring Divers

Last week Benjamin figured out how to dive from the diving board; this week Miriam and Zoë figured out how to dive from the diving board. So the kids thought it would be great to redo their sequential diving act. You know, now that they all know how to dive!

It didn't go off as they planned, however, because Benjamin developed a little case of the yips

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Before she was Notorious

After reading Lesa Cline-Ransome's Before She was Harriet, I assigned the kids to research a historical figure of their own and write a similar poem-story. They're all at various stages of completion, but Rachel finished hers today—she wrote it, edited it, made a linocut for it, and then did a little typesetting.

I think it looks great!

I fordidn't!

Wednesdays are kind of a busy day. With a work meeting in the morning and class in the early evening (that's two—count 'em—human interactions in one day; both on Zoom, but still...), things can feel a little chaotic for me. But only, I think, because our family unit isn't used to Mom having set meetings. 

Usually I just squeeze in the stuff I need to do when I can. 

Miriam also has organ lessons on Wednesday and on this particular Wednesday we'd also signed up to take a meal to a family in our ward (who just moved here in July—and just around the corner from us) who has twins in the NICU. They were born at 24 weeks about three weeks ago...right around the time I was 24 weeks along as well. That's so early; they're just tiny little things (but are doing well). 

When Benjamin heard about it he immediately wanted to make them a set of hats, I think in part because I recently had my knifty-knitter stuff out to make Phoebe's Christmas stocking. So I taught him how to use the knifty-knitter and he worked rather diligently to finish those two hats by yesterday so we could drop them off with dinner. He did a great job! 

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. 

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.