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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I took my kids to the pool yesterday

 I took my kids to the pool yesterday. 

They were all surprisingly cooperative as I ran stroke clinics and made them swim laps and tread water and things like that. We also worked on our stride entry, a method of entering the pool from the side while keeping your head above water so you can keep your eyes on the victim.

"Wait...there's a victim?!" Rachel gasped.

"Yeah, like....a drowning victim."

"Well, that really raises the stakes!"

I suppose it does. 

We practiced entering the water with a stride entry and a pool noodle (which isn't really a life-saving device, but we didn't want to get out the pool's rescue rings since they're only for true emergencies) to rescue each other while we took turns pretending to drown. We practiced our surface dives. 

We practiced a lot of things. And then Phoebe woke up from her poolside nap and began commanding my attention.

Happy 7th birthday to Zoë

 It's true! It's true! We have a seven-year-old on our hands and she's wonderful!

Here's Zoë standing in front of our new birthday tree(s):

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Zoë's non-party

"I found my invitation to Zoë's birthday party," our little neighbour told me when I stepped out on to the porch to look a worm Alexander had found. It had been uprooted and drawn to the surface by the drizzly—at times downright downpour-ish—weather.

It was a quizzical-looking thing, with a distinctive hammerhead. Knowing it's invasive, I went back inside to get some salt. While I was gone, Alexander and the neighbour chopped the worm in half, which is cool because they reproduce via asexual fragmentation so now we essentially had two hammerhead worms on our hands. No matter. I scooped it into a plastic baggie and added some salt. Poor dear(s). 

"I found my invitation to Zoë's birthday party," our little neighbour repeated, waving a rather soggy, rather empty piece of paper in my face. 

"You must be mistaken," I told her. "I haven't planned a party for Zoë this year."

We'd considered baking cupcakes and setting up a table in the cul-de-sac for neighbours to stop by and grab and somehow convince Zoë that that is a party. But...it was raining...so we didn't. 

"Don't you love her?"

"Oh, I love her immensely. I just didn't plan a birthday party for her."

Our neighbour, an only child, considered the mathematics of this.

"But I have this invitation..." she insisted.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins (May 12)

This was an interesting, but very quick, stop that we probably won't be repeating. We found it touted as the "creepiest hike in your state," so naturally Rachel wanted to visit it. Supposedly the ruins are haunted by Baynard (who won the estate in a poker game), himself. But we didn't see any ghosts and the hike was more like a walk (and not even a long walk, at that). It was interesting to see the tabby block ruins and read about the history of the place, but we really only spent a few minutes there (which was especially disappointing because although the site itself is on the list of national historic sites, it's only accessible by a private road and there's a $9 toll per vehicle, which we did not know about beforehand—and it had to be paid in cash). 

So, anyway, it was neat...but not $18 (tolls for two cars) neat.

Here's everyone reading a plaque in front of the big house:



Sunset on the beach (May 11)

I literally don't understand the order these pictures uploaded in. They are all completely out of order. Suffice it to say, we headed down to the beach for a sunset stroll on May 11, knowing it would really be our last chance to do so (we had storms in the forecast for May 12, our last "play day").

I'm going to try to put things in order the best I can.

Here's Zoë and Andrew strolling down the boardwalk together:

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Beach Day 2 (May 11)

Our second sunny day at the beach was much the same as the first, except that we made better use of the shuttle and Andrew only had one meeting in the morning so he was able to join us a lot sooner.

This day really turned into our sand castle day. I think we were all still a little worn out (and sunburned) from playing so hard the day before, though we did eventually get in and do a lot of swimming and boogie boarding. Even Grandpa tried his hand at boogie boarding!

Here's Zoë dancing on the sand:

 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Unraveling

Phoebe and Zoë are working on sharing a room. Sometimes it goes wonderfully and other times it can be a little rough. 

Yesterday was a little rough.

Phoebe woke up around 4:00 in the morning (by my guess) and because Zoë left her fairy lights on when she went to sleep, the room was fairly light. So instead of immediately calling out for me, Phoebe seems to have done a little bit of playing first. 

That's normal for babies to do in the middle of the night and really would be fine, except that by the time I heard Phoebe it was around 4:30 and she was wide awake. And Zoë's music was on—"Rewrite the Stars" on repeat forever. Her volume was rather low, though, and she appeared to be sound asleep. 

I crawled into Phoebe's bed to feed her (she's on the bottom bunk—which is just about floor-level—rather than a crib) and she just...was wide awake. I mean, she was happy to nurse, but she was obviously very ready to start the day.

I also kept hearing the distinct sound of pages turning. 

So I climbed out of Phoebe's bed to peek at Zoë, who appeared to be fast asleep again, but was now suspiciously holding a book.

I climbed back into bed with Phoebe to finish giving her what was apparently going to be her breakfast. And then we got up. 

I grabbed her, I grabbed my book, and we headed downstairs to hang out quietly while the rest of the house slept. She played. I read. And then...Zoë walked downstairs to join us. 

Zoë played with Phoebe and I read until around 6:30 when Phoebe began to act like she was ready to go back to bed or take a nap or whatever. I wasn't sure what to call it, but I was happy she wanted more sleep because I did as well. 

"It looks like Phoebe's ready to go back to bed," I said. "So I'm going to go lie down with her. What are you going to do?"

"Oh, I'll figure it out!" Zoë sang out. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Beach Day 1 (May 10)

We had some balmy weather on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 10 and 11), so we spent those two days at the beach. Unfortunately, those were also Andrew's busiest "work" days, so I was glad to have Grandpa around to help me get the kids down to the beach. One of Andrew's students needed to defend their dissertation one of the days (somewhat important, I suppose) and then he had a couple other meetings that he couldn't miss. Not much of a "vacation" for him, I suppose.

Grandpa, on the other hand, forgot his "electronics bag" at home, so his laptop was left sitting all alone in his living room the whole week...along with all of Grandpa's toiletries. 

Good thing they have stores in Hilton Head!

Anyway, on our way down to the beach we stumbled across an alligator sunning itself (as I mentioned in an earlier post). Here are a few more pictures of that little surprise:


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Savannah (May 9)

Our last stop of the day was a quick progressive dinner in downtown Savannah. Honestly, Savannah is one of those places you could wander around in all day and not get bored. The architecture is charming; it's dotted with public squares and there's the riverwalk and all sorts of interesting things to see. But, we charged through following Andrew. 

I said something about how "my dogs are woofing" because we ended up walking about 10 miles on that Monday and I carried Phoebe for most of it, either in the sling or the backpack, as shown here, with my hair pulled up under Andrew's baseball hat to keep Phoebe from yanking on it (she would not ride in the backpack while he was wearing it, but was happy to do so while I was wearing it).

Andrew and Rachel both looked at me like I was crazy. We don't have any dogs. And there was no woofing.

"This is an idiom," I said.

They'd never heard of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Oatland Island

Our next stop was Oatland Island Wildlife Center, which is run by the Savannah-Chattham county school district (something I thought was pretty cool). We had wanted to go last year because our neighbours highly recommended it, but I think it was closed due to COVID. 

Here's our group standing in front of the visitor's center, which was once the retirement home (?) for the Order of Railway Conductors. There wasn't much for us to do in the visitor's center, but I imagine there are classrooms and things for school groups to use. There were certainly other areas of the center that appeared to be geared toward school groups (such as the sugar cane processing area).


Fort Pulaski (May 9)

Last Monday was supposed to be quite chilly and overcast, so we decided to spend the day doing dry-land activities around Savannah. Our first stop was Fort Pulaski, named to honour Casimir Pulaski (a Polish military commander known as the "father of American calvary," who died in the Revolutionary War). Pulaski died in 1779, fort construction was ordered after the war of 1812, construction began in 1829 and was completed in 1847. Confederate troops claimed the fort in early 1861, and in April 1862 Union forces based at Tybee Island conquered the fort using a new "rifle cannon." 

At the time, most known cannons only had a range of a half mile. Tybee Island is about a mile away from Cockspur Island (where Fort Pulaski stands), so the fort wasn't really expecting to be attacked. But...they were. Many shots hit the outer wall and a few landed near the powder magazine on the far end of the fort, spurring on a surrender (for fear the whole fort would blow). 

This fort is known as the fort that rendered brick fortifications obsolete since it was no match for the rifle cannon.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me remember what we learned at the fort).

This is another National Monument that offers a Junior Ranger badge. The kids were quite excited to get to work on their booklets.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Critters and swimming

The other day the kids wanted to make a habitat for a moth that they'd found. I figured they'd found a little lawn moth or something, so told them to go ahead and choose an "throw-away" container or something to use. They found a cottage cheese container in the Tupperware bin and filled it with mud, since that's what they'd done for the billion snails they'd found after a storm not too long ago.

I wasn't too concerned about them drowning a lawn moth in their muddy habitat, but changed my mind once they dragged me outside to see this moth specimen with my own eyes. This was no mere lawn moth. This was a majestic creature, too regal to drown in a muck-filled cottage cheese container:

Lunar eclipse at home and star-gazing on the beach

I know I just said that I was ultimately happy leaving the beach when we did because that gave us the weekend to recover, but last night when we were observing the lunar eclipse Andrew mentioned how amazing it would have been to watch the eclipse on the beach and suddenly I found myself wishing we'd consulted an astronomer before we booked our trip.

Oh, well. Watching it from our cul-de-sac was fine.

The girls watched "A Quiet Place 2" at Grandpa's house last night and came home late and rather jittery (it's a suspense movie), so we let them stay up late to watch the eclipse with us. We put the younger four to bed, but woke Benjamin up shortly before midnight so he could take a look at the moon as well. He was pretty out of it for a while

The moon is behind you, dude...

Andrew shared some beautiful poetic words by author Manu Saadia:

An eclipse is when you experience the movement of the spheres, orbital mechanics, gravity and all—the truth that we do live in space.


SNORT!

These pictures are still from Mother's Day, a week ago now...before we were all sore and sunburned and worn out. By now we're all feeling greatly recovered from our vacation. Part of me was a little sad that I hadn't planned to stay through the weekend, but you know how trips like these go—you really need a vacation from your vacation by the time you're done. 

Yesterday I shared our more action-filled parts of the day: wading in the water and playing volleyball and things. Today I mostly have Phoebe pictures. She's a pretty chill little thing.

Here she is chomping on her thumb and trying to squirm around so she's not facing the wind:

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Mother's Day (May 8)

When we planned this beach trip we had no idea it was Mother's Day weekend. It was simply a week that worked for us—we looked at schedules for finals and last teaching days and so forth and didn't really consult a traditional calendar at all. So it was a nice surprise to wind up at the beach on Mother's Day. 

We woke up and attended our sacrament meeting via Zoom before heading down to the beach for some wholesome recreational activity.

We've been playing a lot of badminton lately. Several years ago we got the cheapest set we could find at Wal-Mart. The net is still going strong, but the rackets all broke. Restringing a racquet probably isn't too difficult, but we just ordered replacement rackets instead (since some racquets were a little bent, etc., etc., etc.) and turned the old racquets into butterfly nets for the kids...which they then brought on the beach trip.

The first frolic at Singleton Beach (May 7)

When we got to the condo, I watched the very littlest people...

Friday, May 13, 2022

Wildly unsafe

Getting to the beach was so easy; Phoebe had not yet discovered her passionate dislike for traveling in her car seat. Our stopping and going was perfectly timed with her desired napping schedule, so she slept in the car, woke up for Ocmulgee,  slept in the car, and then screamed for the last half hour before we made it to the condo. That, I suppose, is when she realized how terrible traveling can be because she screamed every other time we put her in the car after that!

We arrived at the condo, took the elevator up to the fourth floor, found our door, and explored the inside. Zoë, Alexander, and Benjamin claimed an obvious children's room with a single and full bed. Andrew and I took the main bedroom with a full bed and adjoining bathroom (but then it ended up that it was easier for Andrew to sleep in a full bed with Zoë and Alexander than to sleep in a full bed with me and Phoebe, so Andrew slept in the kids' room and Phoebe and I took the whole bedroom/bathroom combo for ourselves, which I felt a teensy bit guilty about all week). Grandpa took the other bedroom with a full bed. Rachel and Miriam were on the hide-a-bed in the living room. It worked out well.

There wasn't a lot of usable closet space, unfortunately, so all of our stuff was just kind of "out" all week. The kitchen cupboards were all full of dishes...so our food was just...out on the counter. The hallway closet contained the HVAC system. My bedroom closet contained the water heater.

"A water heater??" Alexander said when we opened the door. "In the closet?! That is wildly unsafe! They should have put this thing in the basement!"

Our water heater is...in the basement. 

I pointed out that the condo doesn't technically have a basement. Beneath us is another apartment. Beneath that is another one. And under that one is yet another one. Below that is the parking garage. 

The water heater had to go somewhere and this closet seemed like as good a spot as any. 

Then I reassured him that it was perfectly safe.

We had bigger fish to fry when it came to safety—keeping our eyes peeled for alligators. Here's Zoë by a sign in front of our condo, warning us that alligators are common in these areas.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Always fun for everyone

This last semester was rough for Andrew. My semester was fine; busy, but fine. Andrew's semester was just rough. His students were burned out and he was burned out and...I don't think he's ever been so happy to submit final grades before. 

He gets Maymester off before he's back to teaching again. 

But when I say he gets Maymester off, I mean that lightly. His vacation time has been interrupted for various meetings (dissertation defense meetings, among other things), so the past couple of days Grandpa and I have taken the kids to the beach and Andrew has met up with us later. And the funny thing is that it's way more fun for everyone when Daddy comes!

They have a lot of fun with Grandpa, too, I think. He spent a lot of time out jumping in the waves with the kids. 

It's even possible they had fun with me, though I'm more anxious about everything (sharks, guys...and alligators...and snakes...and ticks...and sunburns...and meteors crashing into the planet) so I spend more time doing things like slathering children with sunscreen than playing (they burned anyway, but think about how much worse it would have been without my efforts). I tend to have an extra hard time loosening up and playing when I have a nursing baby because what if she needs me and I'm cold and wet and covered in sand (or worse, eaten by a shark)? That would be horrible (or at least uncomfortable). 

Anyway, Daddy was fun for boogie-boarding, danger-sandcastles (the ones built down by the surf), and all sorts of adventures. Grandpa was good for wave jumping and Phoebe naps. I was good for shell hunting and safe-sandcastles and sunscreen reapplication and Phoebe cares. Divide and conquer. 

But this is a post mostly about how great Andrew is to us. 

I am typing this up while wearing his sweater (because the thermostat at the condo is set to freezing and my sweater is...somewhere in the room with a sleeping Phoebe...and I'm freezing...he is, too, but he's letting me have a turn).

He's done a great job juggling work and play on this trip.

Here are a few pictures of him playing this afternoon—watching the waves with Phoebe:

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Phoebe vs. the other kids

Taking this week to relax and be a family has caused us (or at least me) to reflect on all our sweet babies, who have been alike in some ways and different in others. They've also been a lot of hard work! I was realizing, as Grandpa was pacing the beach with Phoebe, how easy a trip like this would have been with children ages 5 to 15 (really only 4.5 to nearly 15). 

All of the kids can feed themselves, dress themselves, sit up by themselves. Most of them can swim proficiently. All of them can help shlep stuff to and from the beach. Easy.

Or at least easier.

Phoebe is wonderful but—man!—babies are a lot of work!

Anyway, when we pulled up to our condo at Hilton Head after a long stretch of driving, I hopped right out to unbuckle Phoebe, who was screaming inconsolably in her car seat. I fully expected every toy I'd handed her to cascade onto the ground the minute the door opened, but they didn't. She was hoarding all the toys in her lap. 

It was Alexander who would toss toys overboard (to the door-side of his car seat so that no one could grab them for him). 

So in that way, Phoebe and Alexander are different.

Tonight at dinner, as I was feeding Phoebe guacamole and refried beans (and Zoë was turning up her nose at the same because she hates beans (though she likes guacamole)), I remarked how amazing it was that Phoebe has enjoyed everything she's tasted so far because Zoë didn't like her first taste of anything

Phoebe has had avocado and beans, obviously. She's also had strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, watermelon, apples, bananas, celery, green beans, carrots, peas, corn, red peppers...little tastes of sandwich bread, peanut butter, Ritz crackers, cheese puffs, daal, Cheerios, scrambled eggs, hardboiled eggs (just the yoke)... 

She really doesn't like to be left out of eating so she's pretty much had a taste of anything anyone has been eating. 

Here she is eating some pistachio ice cream from Leopold's (which his apparently the best ice cream in Savannah):


Monday, May 09, 2022

Ocmulgee Mounds

Many of the pictures that we have from the past couple of days were actually taken by either Rachel or Miriam, so it'll be like a surprise for me as I go through them. I spent a lot of time holding a fussy baby, so it just made sense to pass off the camera. 

We were actually pretty lucky on the way down here, Phoebe-wise. She fell asleep for her morning nap just as we were leaving, woke up when we arrived at Ocmulgee Mounds, happily toured around, and then when we got back in the car she was ready for her afternoon nap. She slept until we were about a half hour away from our destination and then screamed nonstop until we arrived. What a good little traveller, we thought. But we've not been so lucky in the car since then, so it's probably a good thing we called off that Utah trip (since Phoebe has decided the car seat is her personal little torture chamber).

Anyway, here she is taking a quick turn around the museum at Ocmulgee with Grandpa:

Friday, May 06, 2022

Phoebe vs. Blueberries

We had the world's most delicious blueberries with dinner this evening. Dinner was leftovers: tomato soup, tacos, pancakes, and dal. The blueberries were not leftover, but they were heavenly. Even the big ones, which I usually avoid because they are sometimes sweet and mushy, were tart and juicy (just the way I like them). 

Phoebe enjoyed playing with some leftover green beans, but she got really excited about those blueberries.

She looks like a normal, sweet & innocent little baby, right?

Thursday, May 05, 2022

New Podcast Episode

The kids have been working on another episode for their podcast. This time they discussed some Civil Rights Heroes—Rosa Parks, Myrlie Evers-Williams, James Holmes, and Evelyn Simpson Curenton. 

You can listen to it on Anchor.fm

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

A couple of achievements

Miriam had her National Piano Playing Audition today. She played two pieces, which she's spent the past couple of months memorizing. She was rather worried about performing them today, but ended up getting straight C's, which is a good thing—C is for "commendable" or something. A's are for things that "require attention" and hurt your score. But she passed with flying colours, as we knew she would. 

Here are a few videos of her warming up on a grand piano that costs just about as much as our house. She made a few mistakes, but that's bound to happen when you're learning on an electric keyboard older than yourself. Something tells me our keyboards somehow don't compare to this elegant 9 ft. grand piano (that, again, is worth as much as our house). She reported that she played better during her audition (only she and the judge were allowed in the room while she was officially playing, but since her audition was right around lunchtime, she was able to sneak into the studio to warm up early and Andrew went in with her then).

Here's 'Gymnopédie No.1' by Erik Satie:


Who would have thought?

Let's all take a minute to relish the fact that rain has been in the forecast—or even written into the clouds—for several days and yet when it comes time to actually rain...it hasn't. We've been bone dry over here!

So naturally, I decide to water the lawn yesterday (double-purposed as a water day for the kids) and in the middle of the night the sky unleashes a huge storm. Just so much rain! 

And thunder. And lightning. 

It was noisy enough to send Alexander running into our bedroom. I pulled him into bed beside me. He was upset that he hadn't even been able to prepare by building a thunder fort. We talked about what causes lightning and what causes thunder. He was a little perplexed that thunder often will strike trees because "wood isn't even a good conductor," so it's nice to know that he's paying attention during our science lessons because, indeed, wood is not a good conductor. We tested out a chopstick with our Makey Makey keyboard yesterday and it would not conduct for us. 

I told him that it might be because electrons can move easier through solids than through gases, so even though a tree makes a better insulator than a conductor it's something solid for those electrons to move through. Plus, trees have...sap...and sap is maybe more conductive than regular ol' wood? I don't know, but I basically created this Reddit thread on the fly at 4 AM, so we'll say it was an okay answer.

I have plenty of memories of lying beside my mom in bed, petrified of storms, and asking similar questions. Once she told me about lightning rods and I imagined that we had an invisible one running right through our house (which at the time was a townhome) like a fire pole, because I couldn't quite understand the concept. Maybe our house had a lightning rod. Maybe it didn't. But it was a lovely thing to imagine because it made me feel safe. 

(My aunt's farm house definitely has a lightning rod, at least...that's what my cousins told me it was. At any rate they have a big, tall pole just beside their house. To no surprise to my mother, I'm sure, I'll admit that I used to climb up it.)

Alexander created his own way to feel safe last night. 

"That was a big thunder!" he pointed out. "It shook the furniture."

"It was very big," I agreed. "I felt it shake the house as well."

"I'll just pretend there's a man standing in the bathroom helping hold things together," he said.

Thanks for imagining that. The one thing I would prefer not to imagine. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

School days, sprinklers, and...some poop stories

Yesterday was a rough homeschooling day. To be fair, we'd just come off a week-long break (for finals week—mine, not the children's) so naturally it takes a while to kick back into gear. It seems almost silly that we took a break given how few days we have left until we hit our 180 day mark. 

To that end, Andrew suggested to the children during FHE last night that they only had eight days left of school, "unless mom decides to fudge the numbers."

Rachel and Miriam's hands flew up to cover their gaping mouths. 

We explained that fudging the numbers wasn't as bad as it sounds. After this week we'll have four days left of school, but I haven't counted any "catch up Friday" days this school year (there have been many more than four) so odds are we've technically accomplished more than our 180 days. Plus we have a few family (field) trips planned out that will be somewhat educational. Considering how few outings we went on this past year (thanks, Phoebe, for complicating things), I don't feel like counting these outings as school days is dishonest. 

We'll be completing some Junior Park Ranger books, for example. See? Educational. 

"So, wait...what does fudging mean?" the girls asked. 

We told them more or less the same thing the dictionary will tell you: that it means to falsify or devise as a substitute; to cheat or to exceed the bounds or limits of something; to fail to perform as expected.

"Oh, that's an actual word?!"

They thought Andrew was using it as a direct substitution word, similar to how The Good Place uses...fork, bench, and shirt. But, no. Andrew was not fudging his language in using the word fudge.

*****

And we are on a countdown to the end of the year. Like I said, yesterday was pretty awful, but today was much better.

Some weekend things

Phoebe woke up grumpy on Sunday morning and fussed and screamed through sacrament meeting as well as through primary. She took a three-hour nap after church and woke up a happy baby, thank goodness.

*****

The bishop approached Andrew to tell him that there would still be a Zoom link for sacrament meeting; it's just going to be a secret Zoom link because some people find it hurtful that others would attend meetings via Zoom rather than in-person. Weird flex, but okay. At least we get to continue our own little status quo while we wait for childhood vaccines (and then also for Phoebe to be old enough to wear a mask??). 

*****

On Saturday morning Grandpa took Rachel, Miriam, and Benjamin on a little bike ride to the park. I packed up Zoë and Alexander with their bikes to meet everyone else at the park (so they could ride around the pond with Grandpa and feel a part of things). 

Here's Alexander pushing Phoebe in the swing (she thought bumping into him was hilarious):