Sunday, May 16, 2021

A hike with Grandpa

Yesterday was Grandpa's last full day here, so we took him for a hike at Simpsonwood. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Vaccinations

We just signed up for Rachel to get her first COVID vaccine tomorrow, which is rather exciting news, and which reminds me of why and how I feel somewhat fuzzy on the details of earlier this week. I had my second COVID shot on Monday morning!

I really felt pretty okay all day long; my arm was just a little sore. But by Monday evening I had a raging headache and went to bed with a lovely fever/chills mix. I woke up fever-free but was so sore. It wasn't really a regular full-body ache like you might get with the flu (at least, it didn't feel that way to me). Like, it wasn't my muscles aching, but my joints. I felt so very aware of every vertebrae in my spine (and so forth) and moving hurt because my joints just felt so sore. Plus I had that blasted headache. And just a general feeling of malaise. 

By Wednesday I was feeling mostly okay (still slightly headachy) and I think by now I'm finally back to normal (though I am, perhaps, just a little bit more tired than usual, though that could also be because we've been staying up much later than we should playing "Hand and Foot" and talking).

I'm excited to have joined the ranks of the fully vaccinated (in a couple of weeks), but I'm more excited for Rachel to be vaccinated! This will mean she can, like, hang out with friends (or, you know, make friends...somehow...that's still a thing people do, right?). It's been a tough year (+), having (a) moved to Georgia, (b) our ward split and she was separated from the friends she had made, (c) then our stake split and we were further separated from people we had just been getting to know, and then (d) the very next week everything shut down for the pandemic.

So it's felt like we somehow moved three times (though we really only moved once) and then we immediately jumped into isolation mode. To top it all off, the little group of friends that Rachel had been rather united with, in spite of being peeled off into a separate ward, has largely dissolved. One girl moved to another city in Georgia, one girl moved to Utah, and one girl moved to Texas. So...I think it will be very nice for Rachel to dip her toes back into the world of socialization so she can make some friends here. 

The other kids aren't old enough to be vaccinated yet, but I'm hoping that will happen for them soon. 

In the meantime we'll largely be continuing to hunker down...

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Swimming with Grandpa (part 1)

I haven't been writing as often as I should (because we're busy trying to cram two years of togetherness into a single week and...that's exhausting) so already my timeline is blurry. I do know for certain that we haven't had a single day of truly warm-enough-for-the-pool weather (but that we've been going to the pool a lot, anyway). I think the first day we took Grandpa to the pool was on Monday and I believe that it was supposed to have stormed the whole day, but that it ended up clearing up a bit so we headed over to the pool in the afternoon to do some polar swims.

Here's everybody inching their way in:

Monday, May 10, 2021

It's always fun when Grandpa comes!

Grandpa promised the kids that once he was fully vaccinated he'd come out to visit them; they've been looking forward to "May" for weeks upon weeks for this very reason! Well, Grandpa's fully vaccinated now (as is Daddy, and I just had my second shot this morning so I'm two weeks away from being considered fully vaccinated myself) and his plane touched down on Saturday the 8th. 

Alexander and Zoë were so excited that they set out "Grandpa outfits" on their floor the night before so that they could be sure to look extra wonderful when Grandpa arrived. Then they—along with Benjamin—slept on their bedroom floor because they were too excited for beds.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Pool Season is OPEN

We hit the pool for the first time this season and it was...chilly (71°F/22°C). I honestly didn't think the kids would swim much at all but we ended up staying for over two hours. Here they are all decked out and ready to swim:

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Last day of school adventures

Even though we started our school year in July we didn't take our "back-to-school" pictures until August when everyone else started their school year. Today we took our "last day of school" pictures, though the public school kids won't do that for a few more weeks. 



We spent the afternoon enjoying having the park all to ourselves (which meant our masks could stay in my purse rather than on our faces).

We're basket weavers!

Rachel finished her basket last night so we finally took a picture of our little basket weavers with the baskets they wove:



We have a ton of cord left over so we'll probably be doing some more weaving at some later date, though for now I think all our basket-weaving desires have been fulfilled.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Books with Benjamin

I took Benjamin to the library today—his first time being in any public building (other than the dentist's and doctor's offices) since last March. And maybe I shouldn't have taken him, but it was a pretty low-contact trip. He needed to do some browsing so he could choose something to read because I just haven't been choosing books that suit his "vibe" lately. Plus, it's been raining non-stop for two days and (a) that child needed to get out of the house and (b) everyone else needed that child to get out of the house. So, to the library it was!

I warned him that we wouldn't be able to just waltz on in, that we'd have to stop for a temperature check first, but it seems like they abandoned that practice sometime between my last visit and this one. Here's Benjamin in the stacks looking for books that Alexander might like:



Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Baskets, Blades, Battle-to-the-death-ica

It's our last week of the school year! Initially I told the kids that we would just hang out at the pool all day (since we've completely run out of curriculum and the kids aren't ready to dive into next year quite yet), but we had a huge storm system move through today and it was...dark and stormy...all day. It was pouring rain for hours upon hours. Thunder, lightning, the whole nine yards. We couldn't even safely go outside to splash in the puddles.

So instead we tried our hands at basket weaving.

We ordered this kit a while ago (around Easter) but it's just been sitting around waiting for Mommy to feel patient enough to get into it. I turned in my final paper last night and woke up this morning feeling quite a bit more patient than I have in several weeks (correlation or causation?) and since we needed to eat up our day with something I thought it would be a good day for basket weaving.

I should mention that I ordered a kit that came with four bases, which is clearly one too few bases for the number of children in our family. I can't remember how I rationalized this at the time of purchase. Did I think to myself obviously not all the children are capable of weaving a basket so they'll be happy to share with each other! That sounds a little naive... Or did I think that the kit came with five bases? Or did I figure we'd be industrious enough to make another base by ourselves? I don't know what I was thinking, but when the kids pointed out there were only four bases...but five children...I said, "Well, that's because basket weaving is only part of today's educational journey. The first part is a battle to the death. Survivors get to make a basket. Losers..."

Alexander disappeared upstairs and returned a few minutes later with a (fake, plastic, annoying, got-it-in-a-box-of-hand-me-downs-and-now-he-sleeps-with-it) knife.

"I've got my fighting weapon," he announced, waving his knife around. "Where's your fighting weapon, Mom? Where's your fighting weapon, Rachel? How come no one has a fighting weapon?"

So we had to explain that we weren't actually going to have a battle to the death over basket weaving supplies. We were going to share with and help each other. Because evidently that needed to be explained (because the three-year-old weirdly doesn't pick up on sarcasm yet).

One day...when that knife is not so closely guarded...it will disappear. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to

Yesterday when dinner was busy cooking away in our InstantPot(s) and everyone was busy setting the table for dinner, Alexander kept mysteriously appearing with his mouth full of food.

"What are you eating?" I asked him.

"Potatoes," he said with bulging cheeks.

"Potatoes?" I wondered.

We were indeed having potatoes for dinner, but they were cooking in the aforementioned InstantPot and were not ready for consumption. 

"How could he be eating potatoes?" I asked Andrew. "He's not...getting into the garbage...do you think?"

Andrew had put potato peelings in the garbage...

We were still wondering about what Alexander could be eating when he showed up with another mouthful of food. 

"What are you eating?" Andrew asked.

"Muh-hrm-murh-hmm," Alexander mumbled.

"What's in your mouth?" Andrew asked. "Open up."

Alexander quickly chewed, swallowed, and then opened up his mouth to reveal...an empty mouth.

"What was in there?" Andrew asked.

"Potatoes!" Alexander said. 

"What potatoes?!" Andrew asked.

"The potatoes," Alexander said. 

"Can you show us where you are finding these potatoes?"

Alexander led us to the kitchen, straight to a container of...cherry tomatoes.

"Someone left it open," he shrugged.

So, he'd been eating (unwashed) cherry tomatoes, not potato peelings from the garbage, which I honestly think is probably better for him (not that potato peelings are necessarily bad either, but they are when they've been in the garbage with everything else (for example, the packaging from raw hamburger (because the other InstantPot had meatloaf in it))).

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Harry Potter Marathon

The kids have been having a Harry Potter marathon of sorts, with four of them reading the series at once. They started on April 20 and there were tears when Benjamin walked in on all three of his sisters with the first book open in their laps. I had been going to ask him to practice the piano just then, but he ran past me (sobbing), burst into his room, and slammed the door. 

I followed him upstairs and knocked quietly on his door, entering only when I heard his muffled, "Come in."

He was furiously reading a copy of Harry Potter in his bed. 

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY DIDN'T TELL ME WE WERE STARTING!!" he cried. "I have to catch up! I have to win! They're all a bunch of cheaters!"

I let him have some calming-down reading time and then his sisters clarified that this marathon was more of a journey than a race. Rachel and Miriam had decided they wanted to read it along with Zoë, who is reading it through for the first time by herself, and Benjamin decided he wanted to tag along on this journey as well (mistaking it for a competition). He's definitely winning because Zoë is reading at her own pace and Rachel and Miriam are managing quite a few other side projects, while Benjamin is plowing through at break neck speed. 

He wants to beat his last record for reading through the series (which is something like eight months, he told me) and considering he's already on book five or six, I think he'll definitely achieve a new personal record in this department.

Here are Benjamin, Rachel, and Zoë reading in the music room (without being mad at each other):

Friday, April 30, 2021

This week...

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

*****

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Synth-y Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Howler-lujah!

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

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

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

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

"What does this say?" he asked.

"It says Black Lantern."

"Oh! We got a black lantern!"

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

"Oh. What does this say?"

"It says it's for mom."

"Oh! Mom got a black lantern!"

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

Friday, April 23, 2021

Like finding a ring in a cul-de-sac

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

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

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

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

The Canada Goose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m home, 

I’m home.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A couple of messes

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

No Pressure

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

Leaving behind five young children, and a grieving husband. 

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

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

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

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

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

And I just...don't get it. 

I'm so mad. 

And I'm so sad.

I'm turning 36 this year. 

I have five beautiful children. 

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

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

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

Decisions, decisions.

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

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

Brothers Benjamin and Alexander

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

"This lesson was..."

A. Amazing!
B. Meh.

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

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

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

"I call the laptop!" Zoë said.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Big kids vs. little kids

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin surprised me by speaking up first.

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

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

Friday, April 16, 2021

I can do...stuff.

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

Along with perfectionism comes a healthy dose of imposter syndrome. 

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

COVID-19 rant

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

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

2

Two deaths due to influenza. 

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

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

8989.

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

Rainy days

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

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

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alexander sleep-eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Easter Morning

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

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Easter Egg Smackdown 2021

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

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

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Transgression lipstick

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh...what?" I choked.

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Playing around

We went to the park on Friday to enjoy some fresh air pollen. The kids had a good time running off steam, I think. It's always nice to get out after a big rain storm. We watched The Pirates of the Caribbean recently so Benjamin has a sword tucked into his jeans so he can play the bit of a swashbuckler.


An Easter egg hunt and Bridget's baptism

The primary hosted an Easter Egg hunt for the kids on Saturday. They had special areas cordoned off for each family group to do their hunting, so we were just all alone hunting for our eggs...but we got to look at some of our friends, so that was nice, I guess. 

Here's Zoë, wearing one of my childhood dresses:


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Singlepore

At dinner I announced that I had purchased everyone's math curriculum for next school year: Introduction to Geometry for Rachel, Introduction to Algebra for Miriam (used by Rachel this year, once Miriam is finished with Pre-Algebra, which she hopes to do over the summer), Beast Academy 4 for Benjamin, and Singapore 1 for Zoë. Except when I said "Singapore" I accidentally said "Singlepore."

"That's like when you get one of those itty-bitty milk cartons. Only one serving fits inside..." I said.

"Or it's like someone who isn't married and doesn't have any place to live," Rachel offered.

"Or it's like if you sweat a lot in one location because you only have one tiny opening," Miriam said.

And with that we had single pour, single poor, and single pore.

And we laughed so hard multiple people were crying into their dinners.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Rainy day

We had a rather large storm system come through yesterday, which meant that for the first time in a long time we spent most of our day inside (we've been spending a lot of time honing our bike skills recently). Here's Zoë reading to WaffELLES:

We may need her to stop reading to the cat quite so much because this cat is getting too smart for her own good. We've known she's been able to turn a light on for herself in the basement (it's a pull-string switch, which she manages to grab after climbing on top of a shelf) but most recently she's learned to open the door to her living quarters. We like to tuck her in for the night because she can be a bit of a mischief maker (see: turning on lights and opening doors) and it's not like her "quarters" are cruel—she gets half the basement, with plenty of things to climb and scratch at her leisure. But, it is void of people and she likes to be by people (not on people; just by them). 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Insults and memories

James P. Gee said, "For humans, memory and retrieval (recall) are closely connected. And retrieval—and the uses we make of what we retrieve—can and does change our memories. Even if a memory was accurate when we originally stored it in our heads, the material we store in our heads does not always stay accurate. In fact, it is often not all that accurate when we originally store it."

This is because our memories are limited and so we're not going to store everything, "only what was salient and relevant to us in the experience.... So, if you and I have had the same experience...we will have different recollections of the event" because "we will each store a highly edited version that includes some things and leaves out others..." (p. 22 of The Anti-education Era).

I think that information is fairly well known. At least, it's an idea I've heard before, but it's always nice to hear experts reiterate something. Today I got to see this play out before my eyes. 

But first a tangent!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

First Day of Spring

Today was the first day of spring. I had seen someone post on Facebook about these cardboard flower vases for children to collect wildflowers so decided to try them out today since my children are always collecting wildflowers. As suspected, they did enjoy it.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

In which Zoë learns to ride a bike (and Benjamin is simply awesome)

Was it really just Tuesday that Benjamin decided that he could, in fact, ride a bike? It feels like it's been a lifetime since then. He's spent hours and hours outside on his bike and it has been glorious. He's been around the block a few times (twice) so now he's basically a pro. He can stand up and ride, which he thinks is pretty exciting. And we took off his stunt pegs (he didn't like having them on but I only figured out how to remove them today) so now he loves his bike. Here he is, having a blast:


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

The little kids woke me up this morning asking for help finding green clothes. Evidently we need to plan things out better the night before. Luckily, they all had things in mind and more or less knew where to find their green clothes, so they mostly woke me up to tell me they were going to look for green clothes. Alexander couldn't find his green pants. I couldn't recall him having green pants. So he stormed off and found his green pants by himself (as he should have done in the first place). He needed a little help finding his leprechaun shirt. Zoë needed help buttoning and tying her lovely green velvet dress. She's taken to wearing fancy dresses every day of the week. I guess since we never go anywhere that requires dresses, she may as well get to wear them at home. The older three were completely self-sufficient.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

At last I see the light

A number of interesting things happened today. 

First of all, Benjamin woke up early this morning and immediately went outside to ride his bicycle around the cul-de-sac. He has finally, finally conquered the bike. We have been working on it for literal years. When we pulled the bikes out yesterday (for the first time in months) and Benjamin started fussing and whining and begging me to hold his seat and help me I nearly cried. 

The problem has been, it seems, that he couldn't focus long enough to complete the learning process. We have spent hours out there working on it, and he'll be seeming to do fine, but then he'll suddenly bail off his bike. He'll let go of the handlebars and just walk away from his bike...in the middle of riding it...so then he crashes (of course) and then doesn't want to try again because...he just crashed. I don't quite understand why he does it, but I have a strong suspicion it has to do with attention deficit. 

I've declared him a bike rider several times in his life. He learned how to ride a two-wheeler bike (after months of practice) in Spanish Fork. But then we moved out here, leaving all our bikes behind, and it took us awhile to get "new" bikes (like, new-to-us bikes), and by the time we did he seemed to need to learn all over again. We worked and worked at it and he was doing it...wobbling his way along the walking trails at the park. But then he stopped wanting to ride again and when I finally convinced him to pulled the bikes out...

"I can't teach you to ride your bike again," I whispered with a huge lump in my throat.

It's just so defeating. It's not supposed to be this difficult!! It should be like...like...riding a bike. He should just remember how!!

But if it's that defeating for me, surely it's even more defeating for him. So I agreed to help him get started. It only took a few minutes of instruction—"Remember, if you want your bike to turn, gently twist the handlebars. Do not lean to the side because you will tip your bike over. Remember who's in charge of the bike. That's right. You are. You take the bike where you want it to go, not the other way around. How do you brake? Where do you look when you're riding? What do you do if someone's in your way?"—and a couple of "lift-off" pushes...as well as some tough love ("No. I absolutely will not help you get started again. Walk your bike to the top of the hill and let gravity help you. Just balance, push off, and start pedaling. You can do this.") and he was off!

He even rode his bike around the block on our family walk last night, which he hasn't ever attempted to do (despite much encouragement). We're very proud of him, and just so, so happy that he's finally finding joy in it. 

One day, perhaps, we'll look into medicating him. He has loads of energy, but sports has been difficult for him because he can't focus long enough to figure out the sporting mindset (he loved soccer...but sometimes he caused some frustration from not being able to get his head out of the clouds; it's almost more true that he enjoyed, like, jumping in puddles on the soccer field while the rest of his team played soccer). Likewise, he hasn't been able to focus on so many things while biking (steering, pedaling, balancing, squirrel). I'm hoping that we can use biking to our advantage. I've seen several articles suggesting that exercise in general, and biking specifically, can help manage ADHD symptoms (results forthcoming, but an interesting theory nonetheless)...but have seen quizzically few about whether or not children with ADHD have more trouble learning skills that take coordination, such as bike riding. 

Maybe they don't. 

Maybe it's a comorbidity to ADHD, like dyspraxia. Which would be totally fine. 

We can work with that.

I know googling symptoms is "bad," but how do I know what issues to bring up with our pediatrician without wondering about and researching them first? So, on my list for our next appointment: questions about dyspraxia and dysgraphia (our doctor already knows about the ADHD thing, though she hasn't formally diagnosed Benjamin, and says she doesn't think we need to bother with that until we're ready to try medication, since he's not going to public school and doesn't need and IEP). But it helps me to look up these things anyway because reading about dysgraphia has given me ideas on how to help him feel successful as a writer, so even if it turns out he's simply a late bloomer...using the ideas I've learned about to help him isn't a bad thing at all. Same thing with dyspraxia...if I can use suggestions from occupational therapists on how to help children with dyspraxia to help Benjamin learn things (whether or not he has dyspraxia) then...great.

He just seems to have to work so much harder to learn things than other children do (which I think means he's a pretty cool kid, because it means he has a boatload of persistence).

Next up: we're going to officially learn how to tie shoelaces, another skill we've been working at for what feels like an eternity and another "clue" that he might have dyspraxia or dysgraphia (or both...or none); perhaps now that he's learned some needlepoint he'll be able to figure out his shoelaces!

A quick story about Alexander before I jump to our second interesting thing of the day... 

Last night when we were getting ready to leave on our family walk, Benjamin was on his bike and Zoë was on a scooter, so Alexander felt he needed to ride a scooter as well. But Andrew didn't know this, so he grabbed the stroller and said, "Come hop in the stroller, Alexander!"

Alexander's eyes welled with tears, but he put on a brave smile, and using his best negotiator's posture (waving his little index finger in the air) said with a quavering—but firm—voice, "You know, Dad, I wuh planning on widing my tooter today!"

So we let him ride his scooter.

As he was zooming along (going almost walking speed), he said proudly, "I feel better when I'm riding!"

******

Second of all, Andrew got his first dose of the COVID vaccine (the Moderna one)! He's feeling rather sore, but is otherwise fine. He'll get the second dose in a few weeks. It feels...hopeful. Like maybe we'll eventually get out of this.

******

Third of all, 365+ days after the world, for lack of a better term, turned upside down, our Relief Society has finally realized that maybe we should be having virtual activities. All year long (by the COVID calendar, that is March to March) they have been trying to gather in person. I felt like the activities were a little more frequent than what happened in reality, but here are the activities they have held in person:

June 25: gathering in park (no masks)
July 23: gathering in park (no masks)
August 27: gathering at the church
November 7: "Souper" Saturday craft and luncheon, inside the church
December 10: Christmas dinner at the church

They have hosted no virtual gatherings, which would be fine if they weren't making such an effort to host in-person gatherings. Especially when I remember how desperately I could have used some socialization when we first moved here...but after attending one meeting with our old ward, we didn't have another activity until Christmas 2019. And then we had an activity planned for February, which was postponed because of stake boundaries shifting. And then we couldn't have it in March, for obvious reasons. 

I am not sure why they've felt so strongly about meeting in person. It seems (from pictures and sign ups) that only a handful to a dozen people attended each activity. Everyone else, it seems, prefers to stay home. Because we're in the middle of a pandemic. 

But I've felt a little neglected, I'm not going to lie, that they have made such an effort to meet when they previously made little effort to meet. And I don't understand how it took them this long to think about doing a virtual activity...so we can see each other and meet the new people who've moved in. I mean, I guess we could be planning things on our own...but...like...since they're making the effort to meet in person you'd think they could also make an effort to meet virtually. 

So today they ask for input on what kinds of virtual activities people might want since "many of us are still not vaccinated or not yet feeling comfortable with certain types of activities, but still want to socialize in the safest way possible." Like...I...just...can't believe it took them this long to recognize this as a viable option. 

Haha. Oh, wait. 

I completely misunderstood the email (I do that sometimes when I'm excited and I was excited because this was the very first time my feelings the virus had been validated not been downplayed). They don't want ideas for virtual activities. They want input on future activities that will allow us to be "as safe as possible" and my brain interpreted that to mean NOT BREATHING THE SAME AIR as everyone else.

Silly brain. 

So it's possible they were not expecting the suggestions they just got, which were lovely, kind suggestions (a "Sit and Stitch" hour over Zoom where we just bring a project and chat while working on our projects; an "Indexing Party" where we work on transcribing family history records either on FamilySearch or BillionGraves while chatting about things on Zoom; any number of Zoomable games...here are some links for y'all). Haha. Oops.

But at least I took enough time after reading that email to vent my rage about "how are they now realizing that people just want to be safe?! It's been a year!!!!" so that my email was sweet and calm. 

I think the Christmas party scared them.

And it should have.

They met for dinner. And just a couple days later the bishop announced he'd been diagnosed with COVID. The bishop's wife had been at the dinner. Some elderly sisters had been at the dinner. The bishop got really, really sick. He didn't come to church for, like, a month. So I think that scared them some, as it should have, and we haven't had a meeting yet this year. But maybe...maybe...they'll consider doing a virtual activity now that I've mentioned it's possible?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Literally Literary

I was reading Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions to the kids the other day and the "H for Hausa" page informed us that they "are called to prayer five times each day. A strong voice rings out like a song, changing, 'Allah is great...'" and I supplemented the text with my own rendition of the call to prayer: "Allahu akbar!"

"Oh, I know that from Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns!" Zoë said. 

She is very good at making literary connections. Her world has simply exploded with happiness since she learned how to read. 

Yesterday Rachel and Miriam were teasing Zoë and she was getting so upset that eventually I told her that I thought her sisters were pulling her leg. This was rewarded with a blank stare. 

"Oh. Do you know what that means?" I asked.

"I do, actually," she said. "It means that they’re joking about something."

"How do you know that?!"

"Well," she began, "In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Grandpa Joe tells Charlie about Mr. Willy Wonka and the Indian prince who had a palace entirely made of chocolate and Mr. Willy Wonka said that he had to eat it up right after it was built but the prince said, 'I am not going to eat my palace! I’m going to live in it!' But Mr. Willy Wonka was right because there came a very hot day and the palace started to melt. The prince was sleeping—was dozing—in the living room and then he woke up and found himself swimming in a pool of melted chocolate. And, Charlie said, 'Are you pulling my leg?' And Grandpa Joe said no. He was telling the truth. And that’s how I know the truth is the opposite of pulling someone’s leg."

We were all rather taken aback by her elaborate answer and spent the rest of dinner listening to her tell us all about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She's also read Matilda.

"You should read James and the Giant Peach next," Andrew told her.

"Well, I kind of like these funny, silly stories that I've been reading," Zoë said. 

"James and the Giant Peach is silly. Roald Dahl wrote it, too," Andrew told her.

"Too?" she asked, perking up. "Do you mean he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well?"

"Yes. And Matilda."

"Oh! I really like this author then!" she said.

Which I think is great! He was one of my favourite authors when I was a kid, too. I did a book report on him in grade five and got an A++++++ (or something like that). I printed it out on pink paper because my mom had inherited several reams of pink paper from...somewhere...and that was all we had for a long time. I think I still have it in a box somewhere.

The Sand Park again

At Alexander's insistence we went back to "The Sand Park" for a picnic on Friday. It looked a little crowded when we got there so, as is our current habit, we hunted around for a less crowded playground. We settled on "The Spider Park," which was empty except for a couple having lunch (the couple turned out to be from church, so we went over and said hello from a distance). 

For the most part the kids enjoyed their lunch and spent some time playing on the playground equipment. Alexander, however, was unable to enjoy himself because this wasn't "The Sand Park."

So we made a deal that we would walk down to the sand park to see how crowded it was and if there was enough distance between groups of people we would stay...for a while. 

"We tan jut wear our may-ut!" Alexander said, pointing out that we could just wear the masks that we'd brought.

Even so, I wanted us to be able to keep our distance. We are approaching a finish line of sorts—I don't quite know what crossing the finish line looks like—but the race isn't over yet! We still need to wear our masks and/or keep our distance, wash our hands, exercise due caution. My friend Erin's father passed away from COVID yesterday and my friend Annik's father spent two weeks in the ICU (and her brother was also hospitalized). So this is still very real and scary, though on the whole I'm happy to see our numbers going down and vaccinations going up! Andrew just qualified and has been working on getting an appointment. My dad and mom have been vaccinated, as well as Josie and Patrick. Andrew's dad recently qualified for his shot, and already took Grandpa Frank for his. I think I saw that Aunt Nicki got hers (early because of her work). And there may be others. It's all very relieving. But...it's still not over.

Anyway, we didn't wear our masks...? But we were able to stay far enough away from people that I wasn't really worried about transmission. Although the playground itself was crawling with children, the sandbox only had a couple of other groups of kids (most of whom were on the other side of the volleyball net).

Alexander dashed to the sandbox and quickly assembled this sand castle:

Playtime

I'm feeling a little bit like Zoë, like perhaps the world is bullying me, because I was just helping the kids engineer a marble run out of these Lego-compatible marble run pieces (I don't know what they're called) and as I was putting two pieces together I slipped right through a sliced my finger open with the little connector bits. My finger is not happy, but now I have a bandaid to match Zoë's. 

Family History Weekend

Rachel and Miriam had a family history fireside this evening, after spending the last little while preparing for it. I think, in non-COVID times, that this activity would have played out a little differently than it did and would have ended up being more like a family history conference for the kids. But these are (still) COVID times so it was a virtual activity. 

The girls were assigned to be prepared ready to discuss one of their ancestors in a small group meeting, so we spent some time helping them decide who to speak about. Rachel ended up choosing Louisa Walker, who my mom mentioned was an interesting ancestor last week when we were talking to her (or the week before that?). I highlighted her in an FHE lesson on Monday because her life kind of went along with the lesson in the Come Follow Me manual (she was part of the original Relief Society, joining when it was about three months old). 

Miriam chose to talk about Minnie Berschonsky, Grandma Pat's grandmother. When we were naming Miriam, Andrew didn't realize that his great-grandmother's name was Miriam because he'd always just known her as Minnie. So that was kind of funny to find out! Grandma Pat emailed me a little story about Minnie Berschonsky a few years ago, so I dug that email out for Miriam to read. 

The girls were also asked to find a cemetery and take photos for the Billion Graves website, so we went on a little family outing this morning to do so. It was actually quite a lovely way to pass the morning so I think we might try it again sometime!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Sand Park

Alexander has been sleeping with his little blue shovel lately, and ceaselessly pleading to go to "the sand park." This morning when he woke up he brought me his shovel and again asked if we could go to "the sand park."

"You promised," he reminded me.

Why am I always promising my children things? I actually do my best to not promise things, so I think they interpret "maybe sometime" as a promise, which almost sounds like a them problem...but I digress.

My biggest worry about going to "the sand park" today was Zoë because I didn't think she could keep her injured finger sand-free and I really didn't want to be picking sand out of the depths of her finger. She assured me she would stay out of the sand pit. "I can just play at the playground," she told me. "It will be fine.

 And it was fine...for a while. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day. 

I'm not sure when we got excited about celebrating this day. I think we—as a collective culture—are simply, suddenly more excited about celebrating things, about recognizing things. Or perhaps I'm simply more cognizant of it. I don't know. 

I first encountered International Women's Day in Russia on March 8, 2004. We had a big party at the church where the men presented the women with a rather terrible piece of artwork—a plaster hanging of the number 8. There was a talent show, which was wonderful to experience, lots of refreshments. And my little "host" brother, Alyosha recited a poem for me that he had learned at school: "My dearest, darling mother / I love you very much / I want you to be happy / on the 8th of March."

Wikipedia tells me that International Women's Day became a "mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977," but this does use of global doesn't actually include North America because it was largely not a thing here. I had never even heard of it until living in Russia. 

But it certainly is gaining traction here. I'm surprised at how many friends are joining in the celebration of women given the holiday's...uhhh...leftist...origins.

Yesterday was also my friend Holly's first day back at work after starting her (paid!) maternity leave eighteen months ago. When I saw her post a little collage of her sweet little baby—who she got to watch learn how to roll over and crawl and walk and talk, who she got to be with through multiple surgeries (clef lip), who she got to bond with and just be a mom with—I was so happy for her. I was nervous for her, too, because she's scared to go back to work, to leave him behind with a sitter, to be away. 

I was also seething mad.

Why don't we have anything like that in place here?

And curious.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The tickle bush that ate Zoë

Zoë seems to be a little accident-prone lately so today I will share another one of her little adventures (there will be gruesome pictures after the jump). We were taking a little afternoon stroll when Zoë, who had been walking along the curb, encountered a "tickle bush." Now, tickle bushes (which are really just decorative grasses) are so named because we have a longstanding tradition of wheeling the stroller next to them in the summer when they're lush and billowy. In the fall and winter and early spring they're a little less lush and billowy and more dry and poky, so we tend to avoid them.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Silent cat noises

We sat down for dinner this evening, which was very exciting (because it was fast Sunday and eating is simply more exciting when you're hungry) and also rather busy (because the girls had a fireside to be "at" at 6:00 and I had class at 7:00 (I usually don't have class on Sundays but today we did) and we were sitting down at 5:38). Alexander proudly announced, "I can make a cat noise!"

"Let's hear it," I said. 

Alexander clenched his little fists and started shaking with effort.

"Well...?" I prompted him. "Are you going to do it or what?"

He responded by clenching his fists and shaking his little body again.

"Did you hear that?" he asked, relaxing. 

"Hear what?" I asked. "You didn't make any noise."

"Listen!" he demanded...and then he just clenched his fists and shook his body some more. 

We all stared at him in confusion until I realized what was going on.

"Oh!" I gasped. "He's hearing a noise—a purring noise—inside his head! You're making a purring noise like the cat makes when she's happy?"

"Yeah!" Alexander said, clenching his fists and shaking some more. "Like this. Listen!"

He had us all clenching our fists as tightly as possible until we experienced what I think might be described as an isometric tremor, a tremor which "occurs during a voluntary muscle contraction that is not accompanied by any movement..." I'm not sure quite what's making the noise...something vibrating in our ears...or something. Anyway, only the person forcing the tremor can hear the, uh, purring noise.

He didn't really want to repeat his performance for the camera (isn't that always the way), so here's a little half-hearted attempt at it:


(Auntie Josie used to do this at the dinner table all the time when she was very little. We called it her "Hulk impression." She's outgrown it, I think (that seemed like an important thing to note)).

Friday, March 05, 2021

Keeping promises

"Do you remember a while ago when you said, when you promised we could do an art project with pastels?" Zoë asked me the other day. 

"Yes," I sighed.

Pastels can be so messy. Sometimes I'm good at being a mess-tolerating, mess-encouraging, mess-loving mom. And sometimes...I'm just not. And pastels can be so messy. And they're oil-based, not water-based, which just complicates the clean up and...

"Have you thought about how you're going to keep that promise?" she asked me.

She likes to keep me on my toes. 

Sweetest boy

Along with our three large trees, our tree removal guys took out the two smaller trees in that area. We were planning on eventually taking them out ourselves because they aren't so big that we couldn't have managed it. But the company said they would do it for free since they needed the room to work and believed the smaller trees would inevitably end up smashed anyway (unless they tried really hard not to smash anything...but they're working in a relatively small space and the trees are ginormous and...).

So Andrew gave them permission to take out the smaller trees.

Alexander was horrified when he saw them cut into my magnolia tree. This wasn't part of the plan!

I was sitting in my chair, looking out the window at the men at work (and talking to Bridget and Crystal) and, honestly, feeling a little sad about my magnolia tree (because—you guys!—it hadn't even blossomed yet! It was far too young to die!) when Alexander burst into my bedroom, crying, "They cut down your favourite tree!"

Goodbye trees

We said goodbye to our trees today. Secretly I hope this day would never come because I love trees...but they were creating problems in our yard. We really need to put some terraces (and some drainage) in the hill in front of our house but we can't really do that with the trees there. And the trees hadn't been tended to well and were sickly (sicklier than we thought). So we said goodbye. 

Here are some farewell pictures we took yesterday afternoon by the big maple tree:

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Rinsing bread

Alexander wanted to have a sandwich for lunch. The only problem is...we were more or less out of bread. I told Alexander as much, but he wouldn't believe me. 

"Let's go check the outside fridge!" he said. 

"I don't think we have any bread out there, either," I said.

"We do!" he said.

"I don't think so."

"Let's check!"

So we went to check and came back into the house wailing (let me clarify that it was Alexander doing the wailing; not me). 

"Sorry, buddy," I said. "We just don't have any bread. We can come up with another idea for lunch, though. We have leftover pizza or..."

"I want a sandwich!" he cried, big alligator tears escaping down his cheeks.

"How about we make a peanut butter and jam sandwich on a tortilla?! That could be fun!"

"No, it couldn't! I just want bread!"

He was having quite the emotional breakdown over this, so I grabbed the remaining loaf of homemade bread from the counter—stale as could be—walked over to the tap, and started rinsing it under the water.

Everyone stopped and stared at me. 

"What are you...what...what are you doing?"

Friday, February 26, 2021

Approaching cold weather myths

I'll admit that I've become unaccustomed to extremely cold weather. It was over 20°C/70°F yesterday and I had all the windows in my house open that could be, and I don't feel badly about it at all even though my friends and family in Canada are still experiencing sub-zero/freezing temperatures (except for Abra, I guess, now that she's living on the coast). Anyway, I thought I would approach two cold weather myths today. I'm doing so here rather than on Facebook because people tend to get very attached to their mythology and no amount of evidence can convince them that their myth is what it is...a myth. 

Having experienced many different cultures, I've found that it's relatively easy to identify myths (or superstitions?) in other cultures, while identifying them within your own culture can be a little trickier. 

For example, when I moved to Russia I quickly learned not to sit down in the cold (on a bench or a cement wall, or even a seat in the car) without adequate insulation beneath me. Because people would be legitimately concerned that my ovaries would freeze before I'd have the opportunity to be a mother. 

This was rather obviously untrue to me. I spent my formative years living in a very cold place where people didn't worry about this and yet, somehow, our population continued to grow.

But I also grew up believing that if my siblings and I played too wildly while a cake was in the oven...that the cake would "fall" and when I told Andrew this he laughed at me so hard. Because it turns out this was just a myth passed down in my family that everyone believed and passed on to their own children. Where did it start? Was there any truth to it? The first question is impossible to answer. But the second question is easy: No. While opening the oven to take a peek at the cake can make it fall, it's highly unlikely that playing hand hockey in the living room will. The two simply aren't related. 

It's hard to analyze your own culture for these fallacies until you're able, somewhat, to gain an outsider perspective. And so I offer you this myth:

If you go outside with wet hair, your hair will freeze and potentially snap off. 

In which I didn't call the fire department...

We were at the playground (again) the other day and the kids were playing a modified game of "grounders" (my kids don't close their eyes when they are "it" and the "it" player can't touch the platform with their feet). Zoë was jumping her way across a bridge—one of those "perfectly safe" bridges designed to keep children perfectly safe. There was no way she was going to slip between the railing and break her arm (like my friend's son did at the playground a few years ago) or anything like that. So she was jumping with quite a lot of confidence.

Then she landed a little too close to the ledge and her leg slipped in between the railing and the bridge and...that was it. She was stuck tight. Completely wedged in. And she was not happy. 

She tried pulling her leg out but could not free herself. 

I tried to help her force her leg out. Nothing.

We rotated her leg, trying to find the smallest possible radius...because here's the thing:

My kids (by and large) have spindly legs, knobby knees, and tiny feet.

I don't know where they get that from.

(Me; they get it from me). 

It's likely the playground engineers thought their design was infallible. They probably considered every possible scenario on that bridge and in precisely 0% of those scenarios did they see a child getting hurt. But they probably also didn't consider a child with the dexterity of a daring five-year-old wearing shoes the size a two-year-old might wear. But that's where their models went wrong...

And now my five-year-old was being squished to death by this bridge (if her screams were any indication of her mortal peril; in truth she was fine because her thighs are twiggy as well (but she was stuck...on account of her knobby little knees)). 

For reference, this is the bridge (though this picture is from last year, almost to the day, when my mom came out for a visit (you know, back when we used to do that kind of thing); I don't have a picture of Zoë stuck in the bridge because, well, I was actually concerned for her safety (she was screaming a lot) and I didn't think to stop and take a picture):



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Dementor

For family night last night we focused on D&C 18:10—"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." To help remind us of our worth (and to practice seeing each other as children of God), I had each of us write our names on a paper and then we passed those papers around in a circle, taking a minute or two to write something nice about each member of our family. Then the kids wanted to read their comments out loud, probably because we had to read Alexander's comments out loud for him to understand what they said. 

When we got to Rachel and she began reading the comment I wrote for her I had to interrupt. 

"...you're a peacekeeper and a mentor..." she read.

"Wait. What?!" I asked. 

There were strict instructions to only write kind things. And that didn't sound very kind.

"Mom, you wrote this one!" Rachel said. 

"I know but...what does it say?"

"It says: '...you're a peacekeeper and a mentor...'" she said, put a little break between each word for me. 

"Oh!" I said, sighing in relief. "I thought you said, 'peacekeeper and dementor!'"

"Again..." Rachel said. "You wrote it."

"I know! But I wrote a lot of things!"

Anyway, we're very fortunate to have Rachel around as a peacekeeper.

And. A. Mentor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

École en plein air

 

We did most of our schoolwork at the park today, packing along our lunch and all of our books and half the house. Today was our first lovely day of spring; I hope we have many more before the weather turns hot and humid. We try to enjoy perfect weather when we can. 

This particular park is one that many people have told me is "sketchy," and I can't figure out why they think so because Jones Bridge Park is kind of the "popular" park to go to and I think that park is sketchy. I mean, I actually think both parks are fine, but this particular park's bathrooms never (or, at least, rarely) ever smell like...teenagers have been using them as a hideout to smoke illicit drugs...while Jones Bridge Park's bathrooms routinely do. I'm just saying...

Besides, Jones Bridge Park is so popular that it can be hard to find space to be alone. This other park is a lot less popular, so while we did have several people walking the trails beside our picnic table, we didn't have to compete to find a picnic table (and when we went to play at the playground we had it all to ourselves, which is important when you're social-distancing).

Literacy with the Littles

As promised, here are some samples of Alexander's amazing A's...

This is an earlier paper I found. You can tell because of how big the "pilot dot" is at the top of the A (and also because of how he's writing his name backwards and didn't get the X in there):