Since we're not off adventuring, I decided we could at least spend a little time at the park together this evening. I joined a "buy nothing" group on Facebook, mostly to get rid of our bassinet and bouncy chair and other things Phoebe has finished with but we don't want to store, but you know me and a good deal (free...is the only "good" deal)...
Last week I made Andrew go pick up a pair of rollerblades.
Today it was a collection of books.
And the park was so close to where the books were that we decided to all go. It's been ages since we've all been to the park together. And by "all" I guess I mean "with Daddy."
They talk about how grad school is hard. And we lived it. And it was hard.
But we hadn't heard how hard starting out on the tenure track was. For the record, that's hard, too! There is always, always, always more work to be done. Papers to write, papers to grade, courses to revise, etc. etc. etc. It's not a job you can really clock out of. So learning how to achieve balance—especially in a pandemic (when he had to redesign his classes at the drop of a hat and so forth)—has been an uphill battle.
It's true that we don't have Rachel or Miriam with us, but it's still significant that we went to the park together. The kids were pleased that it was mostly empty so they could play. Alexander explained COVID to anyone who got near.
"Hi. Yes. My name is Alexander. COVID is a thing, you know? So, just...like...we can play but we have to keep our distance. I got the vaccine. But so far only one shot of it. My mom says I need two. And it doesn't really protect against getting COVID, you know, but it gives your body a head's up on how to fight the virus if you get it. Have you got it? We got it. We all got sick but we're better now. And now I have the vaccine—but only the first dose, so it's still important to keep our distance and..."
He just exudes pandemic-kid vibes.
Zoë, reminding me of me, wore all white to the park, which I wasn't thrilled about but also...it's totally a move I would have made when I was her age. I had two white skirts (that my cousin Jenna shipped up to me when she outgrew them) that I absolutely loved (because they were from California, which felt like such an exotic and stylish place—Disneyland is there, you know! And this thing called Hollywood! Super cool to my little-kid, my-neighbourhood-is-the-world mind). Anyway, I wore these skirts all the time! One was denim and the other was cotton. And just...I wore them all the time.
To the park, in the woods, climbing trees, playing kickball, splashing in Hyde Creek.
So why should I be concerned that Zoë wants to do the same thing—visit a park in the woods to climb some trees and splash in the Chattahoochee?
Here she is conquering the monkey bars:
This outfit is the same outfit that Rachel wore to Aunt Sarah's wedding years ago...when she was only three. It might be a different blouse (I'm not quite sure), but it's definitely the same skirt. So if it looks like the outfit is far too small for Zoë's seven-year-old body...that's why.
We've officially reached the stage of homeschooling where I honestly don't care what my children wear when we go out. It aligns pretty closely with the stage of homeschooling where my children (at least my younger children) have no idea what grade they're in.
"What's your name?"
"How old are you?"
"Oh. I'm eight! What grade are you in?"
"But what grade are you in?"
"But what grade are you in?"
"I'm learning cursive and fractions."
"But what grade are you in?"
"Yeah...ummm...cursive and fractions and about atoms and stuff."
"But what grade?!"
Second, dear. She's in second grade. Grade two. But it doesn't really matter. She doesn't really know to care about grade levels. And I think that's fine. She's learning cursive and fractions and atoms and stuff.
She has been dying to learn cursive, so we've finally been hitting it hard this week while Rachel and Miriam are off galavanting across the nation's capitol. Both Zoë and Benjamin need to work on their penmanship, in general, but feel that practicing printing is too babyish. But they're both intrigued with learning cursive (especially after discussing primary vs. secondary resources in our social studies curriculum and seeing primary resources written in such fancy cursive that they couldn't read it!). I figure learning and practicing cursive will improve their printing as well, since we've been talking a lot about shapes of letters and focusing on our form (for example, many letters use "c" as the first stroke: c, a, d, g...). So we've been comparing cursive letter forms to printing letter forms and this way we're able to rope Alexander into practicing some letters as well.
Here's sweet Phoebe perched on the wall:
And here she is about to go down the slide:
I had Benjamin help her turn onto her stomach and we sent her down feet first. She seemed to like that alright.
She also enjoyed going down on Benjamin's lap (limbs tucked safely out of the way):
Then Daddy said, "Oh, she can go down by herself!"
This was quickly realized to be a mistake.
She did not enjoy herself very much but she made it to the bottom safely (it's a short slide).
Here are the kids inside a bubble:
Here's Alexander climbing around:
Here are the kids enjoying having a big, strong Daddy available to push them around and around at the park:
Here they are starting to regret asking him to push them so fast:
They all survived the ride.
And then were begging for more...
Here I am hanging out with Phoebe:
Keeping my hair back in a bun these days because Phoebe is a Hair Puller. She yanks out fistfuls of a time and there doesn't seem to be any real way to stop her from doing this (other than preventing it in the first place).
Here she is getting a ride in the swing, courtesy of Zoë:
She's pretty excited because she likes swinging. And things start out alright. Zoë remembers to be gentle because Phoebe is a baby. But Phoebe is giggling and Zoë starts to get a little carried away and...
...Phoebe suddenly remembers that she is not a fan of rapid changes in altitude.
She pulls her infamous going-down-the-stairs face, which we used to see on the daily but haven't seen for weeks and weeks because she's such a brave girl now and can tolerate the stairs. For reference, here's a video of Phoebe going down the stairs (from March, so around 4 months old, but this was pretty much every day for the first six months of her life; she only just has started to feel brave about altitude changes).
But the swing was too much today. Too much!
So Daddy took over pushing and just did wee, little baby pushes, and that was much better.
Here's Alexander and Zoë going as high as they can on the swings to show Phoebe it's not that bad:
Phoebe was happy to have Daddy carry her while the kids ran ahead on our hike, showing him all their favourite places to stop.
The river, of course, is their #1 favourite stopping place. Even though I always claim that this time we're not going to get wet.
Phoebe dipped her toes in as well.
And then pulled them right back out again...
...because that water is cold!
Here are the kids doing a pretty excellent job of not getting wet:
That was a close one.
And...there it is! The inevitable plunge into the river (100% accidental (this time)):
Zoë was cold and wet and Phoebe was getting bored (big yawn), so we decided to pick up our hike once again.
So the kids put on their shoes again...and then got back into the river...again.
Andrew even put Phoebe back in the river again, which she found a little annoying (but ultimately okay).
Here are the kids jumping over this gargantuan gutter:
Well, Benjamin leaped over it. Zoë and Alexander jumped around but never quite across it. Here's Alexander giving it a go (but really he just jumped into the gutter, not across it).
Here's Benjamin jumping across like it's nothing.
Not to be outdone, Zoë steels herself for the biggest jump of her life:
She springs off the ground and hurls her body into the air and...
...she makes it across!
She celebrates by asking if she can carry Phoebe around in the grass. Andrew let her carry Phoebe around the other day and now it's all she wants to do. Unfortunately, Phoebe is...let's just say she is not a picky eater. Zoë, on the other hand, is a picky eater. So Phoebe is a little...big...for Zoë to be carrying around. She loves to do it, but things often end up getting a little tipsy, so we have rules about the surfaces over which Zoë is allowed to carry Phoebe.
Grass? Go for it.
Cement? Absolutely not.
Carpet? If you're careful.
In the swimming pool? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.
Phoebe's pretty trusting of Zoë. And lately has been loving having Benjamin push the stroller. And wrestle with Alexander.
Those three were so patient when she was such a frail little newborn (and Mommy didn't let them do anything other than sit with her (technically Alexander is still only allowed to sit to hold her, though she doesn't often like to do that these days and instead engages him mostly by wrestling him when he's on the floor (he just lies there and lets her crawl on top of him)). But Phoebe has worked hard to bulk up so she can play with the big kids and they are excited to get to play with her, too.
It got to be about bedtime, so the kids led Daddy back through the woods to the parking lot...
(Okay, that doesn't really look like the woods; that looks like a road. Because it is a road. But they are walking towards the path through the woods, rather than following the road).
And while they walked, Phoebe chewed on Andrew's head and sucked on his hair and clawed at his ears and eyes...