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):

Monday, February 22, 2021

In the words of Henry Wordsworth Longfellow


Orange you glad...

Alexander had a rough potty day on Sunday (that's your TMI warning).

When Sunday afternoon turned beautiful, I sent the kids outside to play. They requested a snack, so I made one up for them. I peel three oranges and put them on a plate with some cracker-y things and some nuts. A nice, balanced snack...or so I thought. 

I'm not sure whether Zoë and Benjamin made Alexander eat all the oranges or whether Alexander decided to eat them all on his own, but apparently that's what ended up happening. 

Alexander is already sensitive about pooping for whatever reason. He just doesn't like doing it, so we're always having conversations about how it's okay to go poop every day. Sometimes we can tell that he needs to go but is trying not to and we have to coax him to let it out. See—TMI.

He had a lovely potty time on Sunday afternoon, finally ridding his body of a nice, healthy poop. 

But then, while we were Skyping with Grandpa, Alexander started to make his "I need to poop but I'd really rather not" face. So I said, "Do you need to go potty?" And he said, "No..." So I said, "I think you do! Let's go try!"

We rushed off to the bathroom (with Alexander doing his "little too late" waddle) and found that we were...well...a little too late. Fortunately most of the mess ended up in the toilet. It was...a very orange-y poop (leading to my questioning the children about how their snack got divided up outside), but I figured that with that out of his system we were safe. 

So I helped him into fresh underwear and some jammies.

He ran around for a few minutes, we said goodbye to Grandpa, and then Alexander came to sit on my lap for scriptures and prayer. I was kneeling on the floor, so I guess squatting really...opened things up...for Alexander and, anyway, he ended up accidentally doing a bunch of diarrhea as he sat (squished) down on my lap. I slowly helped him back into a standing position and said, "Daddy, this one's for you..."

(After all, I'd just taken care of one diarrhea mess).

It was a little bit funny...but mostly just gross. We've been very careful about his fruit intake today. He has had zero oranges (but he has had a banana and a couple of slices of apple (and some yogurt to get some good bacteria into his gut, and plenty of cheese to...clog things up a bit)). 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Where's my pants?!

Andrew lost his blue pyjama bottoms a few weeks ago, which is a real tragedy as pyjama bottoms have become a staple for his work uniform. He was down to red ones and green ones and really wanted his blue ones back. Alas, they were no where to be found. 

He did all the laundry in the house to see if they would turn up. They didn't.

He went through everyone's drawers to see if they were put away in the wrong place. They weren't.

He rifled through the "tickle trunk" full of dress-up clothes and and the give-away box full of off-casts. No pyjama bottoms were to be found in either location.

He held a family meeting. 

"If anyone has information on my missing pyjama bottoms, you can come forward now. There is no punishment for information. If you are hiding them as a joke, just tell me. I'm desperate. I just want my pants back."

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Vegetable juice

We had leftovers for dinner last night, which is always a fun adventure. The children were claiming things left and right: "I get the last waffle!" "I want mashed potatoes!" "Dibs on the spaghetti!" And every time we emptied a container we boasted (if we happened to get the very last of something that everyone wanted) and cheered (because we emptied a container). 

Alexander was particularly vocal about snagging the last of the mixed vegetables. 

"I'm going to finish the mixed vegetables!" he called out, then he paused and waited for someone to object. Oddly, not one of his siblings objected.

"I am!" he insisted. "I am going to eat them right out of the container!"

"Go for it," we told him. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no.

While doing some research for one of my classes, I came across an enchanting interview with Robert Frost (which you can view here). I had my kids watch it today, listening for how Robert Frost defines poetry. We were very amused by the fact that Robert Frost (a) believed in using pens and eschewed the use of pencils and (b) did not believe one could write (or teach) poetry outside. In fact, when asked whether he did so, Robert Frost emphatically answered, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no...no." Then he said something about bugs getting on his paper. 

So we talked about Robert Frost's offered definition(s) of poetry, and then turned to Mary Oliver. 

Both poets write about nature extensively, but I don't think they'd agree on much else. For example, Mary Oliver would hide pencils in trees precisely so she could write when inspiration struck her out in nature. Mary Oliver's poems tend not to rhyme, while Robert Frost's tend to. Mary Oliver "calls free verse 'the music of conversation' and "time spent with a friend," while Robert Frost said free verse was like "playing tennis without a net." 

All in all, we found Robert Frost endearing...but a little erudite. 

But we learned that poetry isn't the same thing to everyone. Even two poets who are considered great can have vastly different ideas of what poetry is and how it should be written. 

We read several poems about nature and then the kids attempted their own poem about nature, which perhaps I will share later. Benjamin's poem was...interesting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Family Day/President's Day/Regular Day/Snow Day

We're (fortunately) not seeing much from the polar vortex slamming the south right now (poor Texas), but we're getting quite a lot of rain (and some wicked thunder and lightning!) that is potentially freezing overnight, so universities (at least UGA and GSU) are cancelling their morning classes (I imagine that grade schools will be starting late as well (actually, I just checked and they will be having a "digital learning day," so classes won't be held at all, which...we're in the middle of a pandemic...still...so I'm not mad about that)). As homeschoolers, we'll be continuing with our daily grind.

In fact, we worked right through today without even realizing it was a holiday. 

Do people have...traditions...for President's Day?

Like, why would I remember to even take the day off? 

Through much of Canada today was "Family Day," which is usually rather fun. Businesses offer deals for families (like, cheaper admission to recreation centers and deals on milkshakes, that sort of thing) and it's just a fun, extra day when families are encouraged to spend time together. 

That I might have remembered to take time off for. But...President's Day? Not so much (apparently).

My kids didn't mind working through it. It's not like we had anything else to do. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine Limericks II

Five years ago, I wrote some Valentine limericks and decided last night that I'd write another set. It's almost like a tradition...that occurs every five years...

They're not great but they're what I came up with while I was in the hall waiting for Zoë to fall asleep (until, like, midnight) last night.

Valentine's Day fun

We had quite an exciting week-long Valentine celebration. My sister Kelli sent a box full of crafts and treats and Grandpa sent some fun craft supplies for us as well. We've been dipping into those packages during this mostly-drizzly week; it's kept us from getting cabin fever. 

Here are the kids with some little fuzz-ball critters from a craft kit Auntie K sent:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bee sting #2 for Benjamin

In my defense, Benjamin had been complaining about a stiff neck for several days in a row already, so when he began to complain at the park that his neck hurt really bad and he just wanted to go home, we all kind of ignored him. Because there was no moment of him shrieking in pain. He'd just occasionally stop playing to complain about his stiff neck (by hid own admission, he "must have slept wrong") but then something exciting would call to him—jumping off that ledge, climbing up that tree—and he would run off like nothing was the matter.

His neck was still plaguing him at bedtime, but he so often gets out of bed to complain that he can't sleep because _______ just doesn't feel right. 

  • His left nostril is stuffy.
  • He has a hangnail.
  • He stubbed his toe earlier in the day.
  • He has a headache.
  • His neck hurts.
  • He ate too much for dinner.
  • His ear keeps folding funny.  
  • His tooth is too loose.
  • His eyes are sore.
  • His left butt cheek hurts (that was what he came in to tell me just right now).
So I said what any caring mother would say:
  • The best thing for it is sleep.
  • Why don't you put it to bed?
  • Try to get comfortable.
  • I love you. Goodnight.
This morning when I met him at the breakfast table I just about panicked, however. Benjamin's neck was visibly swollen.

"What's wrong with your neck?!" I asked.

"I dunno," he said. "Hurts a bit. I think I slept wrong again."

"No! I think you got stung by a bee!"


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Park day

On Saturday we had snow. Today we had a high of 21°C (69°F), so we had to spend a few hours at the park this afternoon. We took along a picnic lunch and some bubbles and had a great time. 

Here are the kids playing with bubbles:

Monday, February 08, 2021

Golden Shovel Poetry

For Black History Month, we're focusing on poetry. This morning we listened to Amanda Gorman's TedTalk as well as her poem 'The Hill We Climb,' then we did some reading in some books I'd gotten from the library—anthologies of Black poets, as well as stand alone collections by Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Nikki Grimes, and others. We each shared a poem we'd read that we liked. And then, because I like to do my lesson planning somewhat spontaneously, I based our writing exercise on Nikki Grimes' book One Last Word, since that's the one that ended up in my hands.

Each poem of hers is a Golden Shovel poem, which she explains means that you take a "striking line" from a poem (or a poem in its entirety) and write the words down on the right side of your page, and then write a line that ends with each word to form an entirely new poem, like an acrostic...but different. 

Fry Bread and Hail Marys

Alexander woke up at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday and refused to go back to sleep even for a little while, so I got up with him. Benjamin and Zoë joined us shortly before 8:00. 

We had a full morning of stories and fun. Zoë particularly enjoyed the book Fry Bread by Kevin Maillard. She loved the poetry of the story and returned to it several times over the course of the morning. She was a little emotional and kept having outbursts while we were playing (with the magnet tiles) and would escape to the music room to center herself by reading this book. 

"Fry bread is food," she'd read and then take a deep cleansing breath before reading the rest of the words on the page. 

Then she'd take another deep breath, centering herself with her eyes closed. 

"Fry bread is shape."

Deep breath. 

This girl is very good at melodrama. The only thing wrong was that she believe the magnet tile "base plates" had been unfairly distributed. But this story...was calming...so I'll take it.

At the end there's a recipe and Zoë immediately wanted to know if we could have fry bread for dinner. I'm...not the chef in this house...so I said we'd have to talk to dad about his dinner plans. 


A-L-E-X...

I usually have a million samples around of Alexander's artwork, but for some reason I can't find much of anything at the moment (it's recycling day tomorrow...), which means I don't have his signature on hand, which is too bad because the way he's learned to spell his name has been absolutely wonderful. 

He started out signing everything in his binary code: 01101010

I figured that he could at least learn how to write his name, since all my other kids learned how to write their names by the time they entered Sunbeams. Just because he's the last doesn't mean we have to baby him (maybe). So we started working on his name.

Just ALEX.

Only he could not figure out that A. He consistently wrote H instead.

So I told him that we'd make a little anchor point for the top of his A. We'd just put a little dot on the paper and then we'd draw two lines coming down from that dot. Then we'd draw our line across and—tada!—we had the letter A. 

He loved that trick. 

He loved that trick so much that the anchor point became the focal point of his A. He would draw a big, swooping, swirly circle...then drop two lines down and cross them. It was cute and hilarious but eventually (just the other day when we were signing Valentines) that...well...it was an unnecessary part of the letter A and the real goal was to have no circle on the top at all, but just two lines connected like a little triangle. 

So he's been doing better at making his anchor dot smaller (he just can't quite give it up).

Some creativity

There's been quite a bit of creativity happening at our house lately. I don't have pictures of everything, so I'll just share the few pictures that I do have. 

First up is Benjamin's original composition for the piano. The assignment I gave him came from Faber's primer level piano book and it was to play the "musical question" and then "make up a parallel answer of your own by changing measures 7–8" of the song (and then, further, to "make up a contrasting answer" to the same piece). Somehow he interpreted this to mean that I wanted him to create his own piece of music using the ideas of parallel and contrasting melodies, which...I mean...I'm not complaining:

It took him forever to work out the musical notation and I'm super impressed he stuck with it. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Boogey Man

When I was in grade four we moved from Vancouver (a moderate oceanic climate) to Calgary (a continental subarctic climate).* It was certainly different from what I had grown to think of as "normal." So cold. So snowy. I wasn't sure winter was ever going to end.

This was my first time really being The New Girl, though it certainly wouldn't be the last. We'd moved before, but that had been before I started school. I went from kindergarten through half of grade four in the same school (it was a wonderful school). Our neighbourhood school in Calgary was "too full" to take us (that's what I remember, anyway). Patrick got to finish up his kindergarten year there (at Deer Run Elementary), but David and I had to be bussed out to Alice M. Curtis. We weren't the only children in the neighbourhood who bussed out. My best friend Nadia, who was only my best friend outside of school because we weren't in the same class and...that mattered for some reason...bussed out as well. 

For some reason I sat by a girl named Krista on the bus. She was is my class (was probably my best friend in school), was very nice, and taught me a lot about winter. One thing she taught me how to do was to make pictures in the frost on the school bus windows. (It is not unusual to see busses driving around with the word HELP written on the frost on the windows, but don't worry; the children are usually fine). We would scrape little drawings and things into the frost with our fingernails (rather than melting the frost with our fingerprints to spell a big, bold HELP signal like the older kids). This was all fine until one day I scraped a little too hard a little too fast and somehow worked a frosty little icicle sliver up under my nail bed. It was shockingly painful, but as quickly as the alarm bells went off in my brain, the frost melted (essentially pulling the sliver out). I applied direct pressure the rest of the way to school and then asked for a bandaid. It was surprisingly painful for quite a long time, which you'd know if you've ever gotten a sliver under your fingernail before. 

All this is to say that I sympathize with Andrew—really, I do—despite all my teasing. 

The other day he got his own unconventional sliver under his fingernail (which hurt like the dickens) when he noticed that someone (which is to say no one because no one knows who could have done it) had wiped a big ol' booger on the wall. 

I will take a quick minute to note here that I grew up calling such "nose stuff" boogers (BOO-gurs) (but also "nose stuff") while Andrew calls them buggers (BUG-gurs),** something my Canadian grandma would be horrified to hear (but which, alas, is a very common thing to say in the United States). I've worked on him, but it's such an ingrained pronunciation that he still uses it. I did, however, win the...uh...fart...battle. I grew up not saying that word and whether Andrew did or whether he didn't, we ameliorate it at our house, usually with "toot" or "gas." Alexander prefers the word "air," though he's the only one who uses that particular word for that particular bodily function.

I will also note that by the time Andrew found the booger on the wall, it was rather...crisp. 

Fossilized, really. 

So it's possible that none of our children were guilty of wiping it on the wall above the couch, directly beside the light switch (even though there's a tissue box on the end table). It's possible it's been there since prehistoric times (so you're all off the hook, children). 

Whatever the case, Andrew decided, the other day, to scrape that disgusting ol' booger off the wall with his fingernail. That booger was so firmly affixed to the wall that Andrew found he needed to use quite a bit of force to remove it. That booger was so well-dried it could have been used as battle armour. And when Andrew finally dislodged it from the wall it lodged itself right up under his fingernail, which is possibly the worst, most embarrassing way to get a fingernail sliver that I've ever heard of! 

Andrew was in excruciating pain. He complained about his finger for days

And we lovingly checked in on him, as families do, but also mercilessly teased him about it...as families do. We're still teasing him. Every time he goes to scratch or blow his nose at least one person warns him to be careful up there...might be dangerous...

Poor man.

* As defined by the Köppen climate classification system.
** Andrew would like to clarify that he pronounces it like book. Buuh-ger. "As one does the buuh-gie, a little dance." To which I said, "Yeah, I say BOOgie. BOOgie WOOgie." So we disagree. And I still think it sounds more like buh-ger than he thinks. And, honestly, 

New shower

It's been a battle to keep this house dry from the very beginning. Within a month or two of moving in we realized that three of our four bathrooms were leaking. We've been using stop-gap measures to keep things from completely falling apart but we finally decided to pull the trigger on our master bathroom when I sneaked into the office closet to eat a snack and saw that our ceiling was *this close* to falling apart. Our stop-gap measures were no longer...stopping things. 

So we had a contractor come in to fix things up for us. He sealed off our room, making us feel a bit like we were living in ET's plastic tunnel. But it kept things nice and tidy.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Melancholy Minecraft

I reached some sort of breaking point in this pandemic (and surrounding political climate) where all I want to do is cry. I'm not sure if my immigrant children's literature class is adding to that, but reading books like Other Words for Home and Everything Sad is Untrue just have me in tears. But other things do as well.

We were trying to play a game the other night, but the problem was that I didn't really want to play because I had a billion other things to do and Andrew wasn't really paying attention because he had a billion things to do as well, but we were both trying to be good sports and play anyway. But then I got frustrated and expressed my frustration and some teenagey members of our household got annoyed that I got frustrated and refused to talk or look at me and Andrew wasn't helping diffuse the situation because he was busy thinking about data and so I put down my cards and announced I wasn't playing anymore...because why should I stick around to play a game where no one is talking to me? I have other things to do, thanks. And then the teenagery people stormed off to the basement, slamming as many doors as possible and Andrew was left sitting at the table like, "What?"

So I had to collect myself and go talk to the teenagery people. 

One revealed that, like everything, it was more than the game. It was that she was so lonely. She didn't make friends at school last year. We got split off the ward where she had quickly made friends. And then got split off from the stake they were in. So now they feel like they are on another planet. And her one friend in our ward just told her that her parents are divorcing and she's moving to Utah with her mom. And we haven't gone anywhere or seen anyone in a year. And none of her friends understand this and they're all really bad at writing back to her. And she doesn't even have any cousins because she was born in what we call "the cousin hole." And...she just didn't want to have any tension in our house but then there was because I got frustrated (which, like, testimony to me that I don't get frustrated very often, I guess). And...

So I told her that her Utah friends are dumb. 

I mean, they're amazing kids. Rachel has always picked the most amazing people to befriend. She's good at picking people. But they're just so naive. "They have no idea what it feels like to miss everything," I told her. "They only know what it's like to miss you. But they still have everything, so while they do remember to think about you sometimes...it's not everything for them. You miss everything. And that's harder. And they don't get it."

They don't.

At least, a lot of them don't.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

In my stomping boots...

We went to the river a few days ago, which made me realize that we live in a terribly muddy place—it rains...a lot—and we could probably use some boots. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that if we had boots, then maybe we'd go outside more often. And if we had boots, then we wouldn't ruin our shoes with mud so very often (shoes are never quite the same after a romp through a mud puddle, are they?). So the more I thought about it, the more the cost seemed worth it in my mind. 

Zoë already had boots. My sister had sent her some pink light-up boots with unicorns on them and, honestly, everyone's been mooning over them since May. I should have thought of rain boots for Christmas. But I didn't. So I told the kids this was their Valentine's Day present and they each got a pair of new rain boots. 

They also need church shoes but I don't think we'll be going to church (physically) for a few more months so we'll wait on those. But we do need to go outside.

Yesterday boots arrived for Alexander, Benjamin, and Rachel...and me (I got boots for myself because I'm usually the one who takes the kids romping). Benjamin was thrilled with his blue camouflage boots and immediately started preparing for an adventure in the back-backyard. He wore his boots the whole morning while he was doing his school work.

Alexander put on his boots—green dinosaur boots—and started jumping up and down with glee. "Oh, mank you, Mommy! Mank you!" he said. And he happily clomped around the kitchen putting away the clean dishes. 

Rachel was happy about her boots (plain grey), which also fit like a glove. 

My boots were too big. Somehow I ordered the correct size for all of my children, but not for myself. So I'll have to return those. 

Miriam moped a bit about not having boots yet, though I can't control when the packages arrive!

She was a little mopey today after lunch when I suggested we head to the river again to try out our new boots. I was very sorry hers hadn't arrived, but if we didn't go to the park on a Friday while everyone was in school then we wouldn't be able to hit the park until next week (because we avoid parks on weekends these days). Fortunately, just as she was putting on her ratty, old sneakers...a package was dropped on the doorstep. 

Her boots—black and white plaid! And the perfect fit!

Am I good, or am I good?

I mean, I evidently can't buy shoes for myself, but I got shoes for all the kids, so we're going to call this one a win! The kids had a great time splashing in the creek and mud while I watched from the bank in my plain, ordinary, not waterproof shoes.

Friday, January 29, 2021

MAX!

We went for a walk yesterday and when we were at the bottom of the very last hill we had to climb, we spotted a little white dog frisking around at the top of the hill. We weren't particularly afraid of this dog because while I've heard that little yappy dogs are more prone to biting, I'm rather less protective of my ankles than I am of, say, my jugular, so I still find little dogs less intimidating that big dogs. 

So we kept on walking up the hill.

For the record, there is another dog in our neighbourhood who we will turn around for. Like, if we see that ginormous thing is loose, we'll just turn around and walk the long way home, adding almost a mile to our trip but, like, whatever. It's fine. This one time we were out on a family walk and the four kids ahead of us turned the corner of our little loop—the final stretch toward home—and then about thirty seconds later they all rounded the corner, heading back towards Andrew, Alexander, and I (we're slow because Alexander is slow) as fast as they could. 

"That dog must be out," I said to Andrew.

"Dog's out!" the kids panted as they shot past us, heading for home the long way around.

That dog is a nightmare.

But, this little white dog was not a nightmare, so we kept walking.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cupcakes and Vials

Rachel, our baker extraordinaire, made cupcakes to celebrate the inauguration last week—funfetti, from scratch. She even ground her own sugar to make powdered sugar because we'd run out (but don't run to the grocery store for little things these days). They were beautiful, but I soon noticed that one cupcake was a little less beautiful than the others...because someone had been nibbling on it. 

I asked who had been nibbling on it but, of course, no one fessed up to the crime. 

"There is absolutely no punishment for nibbling on a cupcake," I told the kids. "Other than having to eat the cupcake you've been nibbling on when we all sit down together to eat cupcakes. There's no timeout involved, no corner to stick your nose in, no privilege to be revoked. In all honesty, I don't care about the cupcake. At this point, the cupcake is irrelevant. The issue at hand is that someone in this house is lying to me in. And that doesn't feel good. And this is, possibly, the silliest, most pointless thing to lie about. So why lie about it? You don't stand to gain anything from it..."

We went through the list of suspects. 

Daddy? He wouldn't nibble on a cupcake. He'd just eat a cupcake. No shame at all.

Rachel? Big same. Plus she baked them and already treated herself to one. Why would she pick at another one?

Miriam? She asks before she does anything. Like, at the dinner table, she will ask if she can eat the food on her plate. Yes, child. Yes. You can eat the food that I just gave you. Not a very likely cupcake thief. 

Benjamin? Constantly getting into mischief. Enjoys sneaking around even though he's not very sneaky. Definitely our top suspect.

Zoë? Cannot reach the shelf of the fridge where the cupcakes were sitting and would have to drag a stool over and make a big production out of everything...all to sneak a little nibble undetected? Possible, but improbable. My kids aren't very good at sneaking (they are loud and obvious). 

Alexander? Definitely cannot reach the cupcakes. Is even louder and more obvious about sneaking than either Zoë or Benjamin. Would 100% simply lick the icing off instead of taking little pinches of cake. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Good kids, good times

I'm feeling pretty good because I just turned in a paper I have been stressing out over for days now (to the point of being unable to sleep and having crummy-tummy). But, not every assignment has been like that. I just am taking this one class that I feel out of my depth for. It's called New Literacies for a reason, I guess. There's a lot of...newness...involved. Some rather intense theoretical stuff. But I'll get through it.

Andrew reminded me this evening that I should probably blog for a bit, not by way of nagging, but by way of reminding me to write for pleasure as well as productivity. He's been great at thinking of ways to take care of me. A few days ago he had the brilliant idea to warm up our little "corn bag" and put it at the foot of the bed on my side. It was blissful. I don't know why we didn't do it before. He's happy. My icy-cold toes are happy. It was pure brilliance.

The girls were a little jealous when I told them about my new foot warmer, so I told them they can make some corn bags as well. We haven't done that yet, but perhaps we'll get around to it this week. (I love the preamble to this "instructables"—"Now, you might say, 'why don't I just use an electric heating pad?'" and to you I say, 'why don't you preemptively burn your house down while you are at it' j/k, it could work but cords and all that are annoying and these are super portable, turn off all by themselves, and definitely won't burn your house down. That is 100% the way my brain works, too. We have a mattress pad, but also I have some pretty special anxiety stuff going on right now and can't sleep while the mattress pad is on (and/or plugged in)). 

Anyway, here's a little of what we've been up to this week...

Zoë and Alexander have been reading a lot and have been read to a lot. Here they are enjoying some morning reading time with the library books in the music room. We try to make sure that books in the music room stay in the music room since that's where I keep the bin of library books:


Friday, January 22, 2021

Collages

We watched the inauguration as a family, which I think is the first time I've ever done that (so I guess we're starting the kids young). It felt important, somehow, to watch it...after all these months (or years, depending on how you look at it) of...assault on reality. Like, if we watched it then it had to be real. 

The Biden/Harris ticket wasn't my top choice. In fact, I was surprised when the ticket was floated and even more surprised when it won the official nomination. But I think it's going to be okay. In his address, President Biden stated, "My whole soul is in this!" And I truly believe that. I probably won't agree with every decision he makes, but I will at least be able to believe he'll be making decisions with the country in mind. 

I loved what Fauci said about working under a new administration during his first press briefing (because we have those now!!) and how "liberating" it is for him: "The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is—let the science speak." Our nation's top office has been holding science hostage and...now science is finally free to do what it's supposed to do—to explore, to push boundaries, to tease out information (that, sure, is often refuted as we explore and learn more...but that's just the way science works). 

Anyway, Fauci didn't speak at the inauguration so I'm getting a little off-topic. I'm just glad that man is finally free to do his job. And I was so glad the inauguration was kept "intimate" (though there were times when I was screaming internally at people to fix their masks and to keep their distance). Having a large crowd would have been ridiculous. 

It was rather amazing to see a woman sworn in as vice president. I wish it could have happened years earlier. I wish we could have a female president. Women are great at running things. It's about time. 

Maybe I'll write more about the inauguration some day. Maybe I won't. 

Maybe I'll tell you how I started crying when Jennifer Lopez yelled, "Una nación bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos!" Maybe I'll tell you how beautiful Amanda Gorman's poem was. Maybe I'll tell you about my thoughts on "a nation that isn't broken / but simply unfinished."

But maybe later.

For now I'll talk about making collages with the kids. Andrew tweeted on Thursday morning that he was giving up on reading his huge stack of magazines in his office so was going to recycle them. So I went into his office to un-recycle them because one does not simply recycle magazines! One makes collages with them first.

We finished reading Julie of the Wolves yesterday as well, so I gave them the option of making a collage about the book or about the inauguration (or something else for those of us who needed a different topic to focus on (Zoë's topic was stuff-I-think-is-pretty-and-or-interesting)). 

Here is Alexander's collage:

Alexander as Reviewer 2

I'm taking two classes this semester, which doesn't feel like a lot but at the same time is...seeming to be quite a lot of reading and writing. And that's fine. But it does seem to be cutting into my blogging time a bit, which is unfortunate because the kids are still saying and doing hilarious things. 

Just last night we called everyone for scriptures and prayer and when everyone was settling in, Alexander burst out with, "That boo-it ih 'TUPID!"

He ran over to Andrew, who had just sat down and was holding a book in his hands that he'd picked up so that he could sit down, and hit the book. 

"We don't talk like that," Andrew said. 

Honestly, I think this is the first time I've ever heard Alexander say the word 'stupid,' and his said it with so much passion!

"Well, it true!" Alexander said. 

"What don't you like about the book?" Andrew asked. 

"Well, thi' per'on doe' 'tuff that ih mean to thi' per'on and thi' per'on won't leave thi' per'on alone! And that ih ju't DUMB and MEAN and DUMB!"

"A scathing review," Andrew noted. "But do they at least learn to get along in the end?"

"No! They don't! And that why it DUMB! Betuh we 'ould be ni'e to each-uh-er!"

He's not wrong. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bright Magazine, issue 1

Late last year I got a message from my friend Tamsin, asking if I'd like to participate in the creation of a "neighbourhood newspaper," of sorts—the kind you might put together in your youth with your neighbourhood friends, only a step up from that because your neighbourhood friends have all grown up and now lives miles and miles apart. I thought it was a beautiful idea...but we were also a little swamped in schoolwork over here, so we just submitted some poems and artwork we made during our school time. 

The magazine finally arrived—on Sunday evening—and it was a very exciting thing!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Going to the library (x2)

I've spent the week trying to wrap my head around everything I have to do this semester—putting all my due dates on the calendar and making sure I have all the books I need and so forth. Today that meant I had to head to the library to pick up my holds. I'm taking a class on immigrant children's literature, which I think will be great. 

I went through all the articles I need to read for this class and found corresponding picture books at our local library and put them on hold. I've been patiently waiting for them to trickle in but there were three that were just...very slow to transfer...and I had library books due today so I finally decided to just go to the library. I'd go back for my other holds later. 

When I left all the kids were playing in the basement, so I just sneaked out the door and drove away. Alexander came up some time later and was upset that I had gone, so Andrew gave him the iPad and let him play some games but he was still very happy when I got home. I was just pulling the out when my phone alerted me that...my other three holds had come in. 

By this time Alexander had gone back downstairs to see what Benjamin and Zoë were doing. 

"Should I go get those books now?" I asked. 

It's a long weekend so the library will be closed on Monday and...then things might get busy and...

"You still have your coat on," Andrew pointed out.

So I left to go back to the library, again sneaking out without saying goodbye to the kids (because honestly they make everything take about 5x as long as it would take otherwise). Alexander apparently came up soon after I left and wanted to know where I was.

"Mom's at the library," Miriam told him.

"No, she's not!" Alexander said. "She came home."

"She literally just left for the library," Miriam said.

"No," Alexander said, sticking out his little pouty lip. "She's not at the library! She came home!"

"She did come home, but then she went to the library again," Miriam said. 

"No! Mom came home! Mom came home! Mom came home!" Alexander wailed. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

She's got a ticket to ride

While we played Ticket to Ride, Zoë and Alexander drew pictures. They are always so excited to draw while we play games. I'm not sure why. I mean, they always like to draw, but when we play games they really like to draw. 

Here's Zoë starting a wonderful story:

 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Book stories

We played Hand and Foot with Rachel and Miriam tonight. They deserved some fun grown-up time with Mom and Dad after a day of hard work. Miriam helped me reorganize our storage room when Andrew came home from picking up groceries and Rachel cleaned the kitchen really well (among other smaller chores). 

So, briefly, a few funny stories from that...

Andrew went out so quickly the first round that no one had any books but him, which meant he got a lot of points and the rest of us got very few. Then Miriam went out very quickly on the second round, which meant she got a lot of points and the rest of us got very few points. And that's about where my attitude started to fail me. Like, I'm an excellent second- or third-placer. I don't really love winning because winning makes me feel bad. But I also don'e losing because...human nature. I don't mind it so much if I feel like I still have skin in the game, but when I'm losing so badly and am not really making any sort of progress at all, I start to feel frustrated and bored. 

Rachel is incredibly gifted at keeping her cool during games (which she pointed out this evening is interesting because she doesn't always have the best control of her temper in day-to-day situations), so she was probably doing better than I was, attitude-wise (even though she was in last-last place). 

The game turned for me in round three (though, to be fair everyone got books that round). 

Anyway, at one point Andrew leaned his head on my shoulder so of course I immediately accused him of cheating.

"Are you...snuggle-sneaking?!" I asked. 

Saturday, January 09, 2021

First free Friday

We're trying a a Monday through Thursday school week this semester and today was our first Friday off (since this was our first week back at lessons). I have to admit, it was kind of nice to have an extra day to relax. The weekend doesn't ever feel long enough.

Besides, as seems to be a perennial problem in my homeschool planning, I was pushing way too hard at the beginning of the year. I always try portioning out the curriculum to last the whole school year but then end up blowing through everything. Like, we have three units left in our science curriculum...which I will be lucky to stretch out until the end of the school year. And I sat down with Rachel to finish pacing her math textbook and she'll probably finish by April, which surprised me (though considering we started the school year in July that probably worked out about right).

Anyway, aside from working on the odd "late" assignment and music practicing and mandated reading time and "working on goals" time, the kids are pretty free to do what they want. All of a sudden their free day is sounding rather micromanaged (so it might still find its way into our school records, depending on how much learning vs. free time I feel the kids are getting out of this experiment). Rachel and Miriam worked on cross-stitch and planned some sewing projects. Benjamin played a ton of LEGO and we built the tin can robot my sister Kelli sent him for Christmas. Zoë and Alexander played so many games. It was a good day.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Funny stories (finally)

After Andrew brought home the books on Monday the children were, understandably, very excited. Alexander was particularly excited and kept bringing things to Andrew's office, the closest room to the music room (where we were sorting the books). Alexander was sure to knock politely on Andrew's door each time he brought something new to show him. 

"I have a new announ'ment!" he'd say as he'd crack the door open. Then he'd show whatever he'd found (a magnifying glass, a toy walrus, a story about penguins). It was very cute.

*******

Alexander is a Sunbeam this year, which was a very easy transition for him. It was so easy he didn't even realize that he was officially in primary (he's been sitting in on primary since we started up with Zoom church this fall). When the primary sent a getting-to-know-you questionnaire out for each of the primary kids to fill out, Alexander was surprised and elated when I included him.

"I'm not in primary," he said. 

 "You are!" I said. "You're in Sunbeams now! You're a primary boy!"

His eyes grew large. "I'm a primary boy?"

He started running around the house telling everybody that he was a primary boy. 

"I'm a primary boy!" he told each of his siblings and his daddy. He told Naanii that he was a primary boy when we video chatted with her (on Sunday and today). 

You could say he felt it was a rather exciting announcement.

*******

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Current events

Today started off well enough. The kids got up and started working on their math right away. The Georgia run-off election was called in favour of Reverend Warnock, which is really cool because he will not only be the first "African-American United States senator from Georgia," but from the entire Southern United States. High time! There's some good information on African American senators here.

Jefferson Franklin Long was the first black congressman from Georgia. He served from 1871 to 1901, but he was the only black congressman until Andrew Young was elected in 1973 (the same Andrew Young that the Andrew Young School of Public Policy is named after (which is where Andrew works)). There have been several black members of congress since then. John Lewis, for example, was first elected in 1987 and served until his death last year (thanks, 2020). 

Reverend Warnock was John Lewis's pastor (at the Ebenezer Baptist Church), so that's pretty cool. 

And Jon Ossof, the other senator elected today, interned under John Lewis for a while.

By noon I had convinced the kids to give me some time to write and I somehow managed to hammer out an introduction. I say somehow because while I was still working on it, Congress was trying to certify the election results and things got a little crazy. Naturally, there were protesters in DC, continuing to assert that the election results are fraudulent. I suppose they have the right to protest anything they want, though protesting against fairy tales (like tilting at windmills) seems like a waste of time to me. To be fair, most of the protesters remained outside the capitol building (asserting their freedoms of petition, speech, assembly, as is their right like normal, fairly decent people), but hundreds of right-wing extremists stormed the capitol building, interrupted the vote certification, and ransacked the place (I don't know how fully they ransacked it, but people were sitting in desks with their heels up, ripping signs off walls and doors, stealing letters and—quizzically—podiums?). There were a few bombs that were found (but they were disarmed before they exploded, thankfully).

It was all rather wild to watch go down. A certain someone...thanked the crazies and allowed them to go home "with love"...which was wild to witness given the treatment of BLM protesters this summer. But...whatever...

Oh, also, today was our deadliest COVID day, with 4100 deaths today (according to World-o-Meter).

So. it. was. a. day.


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Right here, right now

I really need to write the introduction for my poetry book—Paradoxical Glory—which is coming out, like, this month. But I have so many funny anecdotes to tell. But also I should be writing, so I'm just going to share this very, very brief story.

The other night, Andrew climbed into bed, put his head on his pillow, snuggled under the covers.

"I'm so tired," he said. "I could fall asleep right here."

I was still brushing my teeth, so I popped my head around the bathroom door, saw him in bed, and started laughing. 

"What?" he asked.

"That is literally the intended purpose for that particular piece of furniture, so..."

I mean, if you're going to fall asleep somewhere, that's a pretty good place to do it.

Book Surprise

A friend of mine posted that her friend's mother had retired from years and years of teaching and they were looking to pass along her classroom library, so I said that I would love to take a look at things. This woman asked if it would be alright if I could just...take the whole library...and then pass along what I don't want. So I said yes even though I didn't know how large the collection was.

Andrew went to pick up the books while I did morning lessons with the kids. We told them that Dad was going to get a big surprise. Here's Zoë reading a library book to Alexander while they waited for the surprise to materialize:

 

Monday, January 04, 2021

String art

We traditionally use the first Monday of each year to set goals for the new year. Many of last year's goals had to be abandoned (for example: going anywhere...ever) but we still managed to learn and grow a lot and we still completed many of our goals (for example: going on 100 family walks). We're looking forward to setting some new goals tomorrow. I had been planning on having the kids try out a string art project (that I'll be doing with my primary activity girls later this week) but instead we ended up putting the whole project together yesterday. 

The kids each wrote their name on their piece of wood and then we used a wood burner pen to put trace over their script (I did Alex's and Zoë's for them (as well as Miriam's since she was tied up with dinner making activities); Benjamin and Rachel did their own names). We also put the reference for this year's youth theme on the bottom, which is D&C 64:33–34, "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days." 

Then we pounded some nails into our wood, which the kids through was pretty fun:

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Happy New Year!

We rang in 2021 pretty much like we've rung in every other year—somewhat quietly at home, with games, and treats, and midnight Martinelli's. Our game of choice for the first half of the evening was Mexican Train, which is a game I thought Zoë might want to play but she chose to draw pictures with Alexander. Those two love drawing so much that they were always eager for us to play another round so they could draw more pictures.