Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Timucuan Preserve (a guest post by Benjamin)

May 26:

On the way back to  Georgia we stopped at a place called The Timucuan Preserve. 

It is on an island in the middle of the Saint John River. [Mom edit: The drive was surprisingly beautiful. We were on a winding dirt road for a good 10–15 minutes. The canopy of trees above us, draped with Spanish moss was divine.]

Fort Matanzas (a guest post by Benjamin)

 May 24:

14 miles away from the Castillo de San Marcos there is a tiny fort  called Fort Matanzas. Its perimeter is only 200 feet and its sides are only 50 feet long; it is shaped like a very short L.

It was made two years after the British laid siege to Saint Augustine because the Spanish had been resupplied via the Matanzas River so they needed to protect the inlet. The solution...

Fort matanzas!  

Castillo de San Marcos (a guest post by Benjamin)

May 24:

A couple days ago we were in Florida visiting a fort called the Castillo de San Marcos. The oldest masonry fort in the US is so cool! They built it in a star shape so that they could catch their enemies in a crossfire, which basically means that you are getting shot at from three sides.

That is terrifying! 

Caldecott's Grave and Our Lady of La Leche (a guest post by Miriam)

May 21, 2023:

On Sunday morning all of us were supposed to go to the older part of Saint Augustine, but that didn’t work out very well. Because of the stomach bug that we got right before we left for Florida, we all took turns being sick, and today was Rachel’s turn. We were planning on making our way to the ferry at Fort Matanzas today, but we decided that maybe that wouldn’t be the greatest idea, considering Rachel was feeling nauseous the entire day, and going on a boat, with nausea, not a good combination. So instead we spent the morning and afternoon in downtown Saint Augustine (and the surrounding area).


Pirate-y Stuff (a guest post by Zoë)

May 22 (a day no one was sick):

We went to Florida for a week. In that time, Miriam made a bonnet [knit head kerchief], that on the way there [to the Pirate and Treasure Museum], she said she felt like a pirate in the bonnet. 

Later, we made up the nickname Smee-me. Like a pirate. 

Smee-me [was wearing] pirate clothes* when we called her Smee-me, and she hated it!!!! Like, literally! She said, I quote, “I said I felt like a pirate! I don’t anymore!”

*What I mean is that she was wearing a striped shirt and black pants. Pirate clothes. See???

Anyway, we got to go to the pirate museum at Florida, AND got to fire a REAL cannon! I mean, who even lets KIDS fire cannons? The coolest thing I did though, was fire a cannon! It was CRAZY! It wasn’t a real cannon, [but it was still pretty cool. We put a lighting stick to the touch hole and held it there until *BOOM!* Phoebe was scared of it]. My favorite part of the pirate museum was probably firing a cannon. It was awesome!

Some stories

Today's word count: only 464. But I entered this evening almost too exhausted to think and was having trouble putting thoughts together. So around 1:30 I went downstairs to get the sheets out of the dryer, only to discover that while I put the sheets into the dyer, I never turned the dryer on!

Why were the sheets in the dryer? Because I washed them, obviously. That's a good thing to do somewhat regularly (or so I hear), but we had a special reason for washing them today.

You see, Phoebe joined us in bed at some point in the night, as she usually does, and she was a little difficult to settle. And she kept squirming and sniffing. And I didn't think anything of it, really, beyond, "Why is she so sniffly?! She can't have a cold. We just got over the stomach flu!"

But, like, whatever. Kids pick up germs everywhere. If we had to have the sniffles, we'd get through that, too. If only she'd settle down and sleep!

Finally (after much nursing and squirming and sniffing), she fell asleep. 

And when I woke up in the morning I realized that she had not had the sniffles. Oh, no. She was suffering from a bloody nose. There was blood all over my pillow, all over the bed, all over her, all 

So the sheets had to be washed. 

But at least she doesn't have a cold, right?

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Watch a storm roll in with me

For some reason or another, I was alone with the kids at the beach late Sunday afternoon/early Sunday evening (May 21). Miriam will be writing about what we did on Sunday downtown. But when we got back...I took the kids to the beach. 

Perhaps Grandpa was napping.

Perhaps Daddy was making dinner.

Whatever the case, Mommy was at the beach with the kids. Even Rachel had tagged along (though only to sit on the beach since Sunday was her sick day and she didn't feel like playing much).

Zoë's 8th birthday (a guest post by Rachel)

Two more of us fell to this week’s mysterious plague today: Mom and Grandpa. Because 2 of the adults were down for the count, Zoë had a pretty low-key birthday. In the morning we just hung out at the beach (Grandpa was still feeling alive at this point so he came with us). 

6 little kidlets sitting in a tree...

Here are our sweet kids in a live oak tree outside of the Fort Matanzas National Monument just last week (May 2023):

Rachel (15), Miriam (13), Benjamin (10), Zoë (8), Alexander (5), Phoebe (1)

And here they are sitting in a tree along Flytrap Trail (Carolina Beach, NC) in April 2017:

Miriam (7), Benjamin (4), Zoë (1), Rachel (9)

What a difference six years can make!

Photographs, Words, Bees, Pointillism

Years ago I read something about how if you took many photographs, one was bound to be a good shot. 

That is not to say that photography does not require skills, because it absolutely does (skills, I might add, that I do not necessarily have). It's just to say that by sheer quantity, you're bound to stumble into something akin to quality. 

I feel that way about writing right now. I have this goal to write about 1000 words per day on my thesis at the moment, which feels like a lot and...not a lot...but usually quite a lot, really. This evening after getting Phoebe into bed, I wrote 1374 words. 

I'm positive they're not all quality words, but I'm hoping by the sheer quantity of them that I managed to say something worthwhile (or at least worth keeping). 

Honeybees "may visit up to 100 flowers per trip and make up to 50 trips per day," which means that they can visit up to 5000 flowers per day, and "in order to produce 1 pound of honey, 2 million flowers must be visited." Bees make their honey drip by drop, the same way I'm going to stumble-bumble across my thesis finish line.

All that is to say that I took this picture of these bees enjoying my neighbour's milkweed this afternoon and I think it's pretty. And I wrote 1374 words in this second-to-last chapter and so phew.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sick, sick, sick

Part of the reason I'm having the kids help me write about our beach trip is because I...really have a bunch of other writing I have to do. I need to write another chapter of my thesis this week (hopefully in just the next few days) so that I can spend the first couple weeks of June editing away. But another reason I'm having the kids help me write about our beach trip is because I didn't experience it all. 

None of the adults did. 

Before we left on our trip, Zoë got sick. And then Benjamin. And then Phoebe. 

We were all fine on the drive down (thank goodness). Phoebe was a gem because she was experiencing the fever-part of her sickness and so she took a couple of epic car naps! It worked out great!

We all went to the beach when we arrived and had a great time. The next day, however...

Friday, May 26, 2023

First day on the beach (May 20)

We just arrived home—safe and sound—from St. Augustine. It was a...week...a week full of wonder, a week full of woe. Mostly I think most of us had a good time most of the time. The rest of the time we took turns with that tummy bug I alluded to earlier. But I think every day at least some of us managed to hit the beach and have fun. And on the very last couple of days we all managed to get out and do things together. So all in all it was a wonderful time!

Here are a few pictures of our first little jaunt to the beach on Saturday (May 20) when we arrived. We unloaded the cars at the beach house (after convincing Alexander that we really had permission to be there) and then while Daddy went to get some groceries, the rest of us headed out the door and to the beach. 

Whereas last year we had to walk and walk and walk along the world's longest boardwalk to get to the beach from our "beachfront" condo, our beach house was literally 300 feet from the beach (about a 1 minute walk to the boardwalk, which was also rather short). The kids were confident enough that they would walk back and forth between the beach and the beach house alone or ahead of us to fetch things or use the bathroom or rinse their feet off or whatever (depending, of course, on which kids we were talking about and which adults were where).

I wouldn't want to stay there during a hurricane, but it was quite lovely for while we were there.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

No room at the inn

I wasn't thrilled about the idea of driving to the beach right in the middle of a stomach virus. On the day we left, I was still up with Phoebe at 3:00 in the morning, trying to settle her to sleep (without nursing). She had thrown up all over the two of us at around 9:30 and was just so miserable. I cuddled her in her bed because that's the only way she wanted to sleep—face to face, nose to nose. I don't enjoy trying to sleep like that on the best of days (being breathed on grosses me out), but on stomach flu day it's even worse. She was all full of gulpy hiccups and I was fairly sure she was going to throw up in my face at any given moment, but she didn't and we finally fell asleep. 

The next morning we loaded everything up and headed out—with incontinence chucks spread underneath each child in the vehicles and emesis bags for everyone. Phoebe was worn out so slept most of the drive, which was a pleasant surprise. And no one threw up, which was an even better surprise!

When we were about a half hour away from our destination, it suddenly dawned on Alexander that we might need a hotel room or something. So he raised the issue to us. 

"We might want to think about getting a hotel room or something," he told us. "Because I don't really want to sleep in the van like this. It's kind of crowded. And I just think a hotel room would be a good idea."

Evidently we should have communicated our plans better. Alexander can be a bit of a worrier. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Nest Update II

Our little cardinals hatched right on time, as far as I can tell. Here they are about a week ago while momma bird was taking a break from incubating:

She's been busily sitting on and fussing over those eggs for about two weeks, turning them this way and that way and keeping them nice and warm. I did not see hide nor hair (beak nor feather?) of the daddy cardinal until a couple of days ago when I saw him bringing some food over to momma bird. 

Mother's Day and Phoebe's 18 month stats

Mother's Day was quiet and lovely. The kids were kind and gentle with each other all morning, which is all any mother really wants for Mother's Day, anyway, isn't it? I guess not. Perhaps I just have low expectations. But I believe that low expectations are a healthy metric for most things—you don't have to impress or woo me, truly. Just being you is enough. 

Of course, it helps if you're pleasant to be around and are doing your best to make sure that everyone around you is having a good time, too. And my kids did just that. They treated each other with respect, and helped Phoebe be happy all morning—the absolute best gift!

Here's Phoebe up on Benjamin's lap before church:

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

This is just to say...

Phoebe had her 18 month well-child visit at the doctor yesterday. 

The doctor suggested we give her some melatonin before bed to help her wind down.

She hasn't slept through the night in...ever. Is up a billion times every night. 

Before bed she likes to (a) stand up in her bed and then fall face first, like a tree trunk, onto her pillow or (b) swing from the bed slats like a monkey (she's on the bottom bunk) or (c) roll around and turn somersaults and things like that or (d) whatever else she can think of.

This she does for approximately two hours. If we leave, she screams. And she'll scream forever (trust us). 

So we just sit there and say, "Lie down. Lie down. Lie down."

And she does...for all of ten seconds before she's up again...and then she'll hit the magic moment when we say "Lie down!" and she does and...falls fast asleep within those ten precious seconds.

Little Purple Pansies

One of the kids' favourite songs to sing during primary is Little Purple Pansies. They love it so much that they sing it spontaneously throughout the week and can relate it to virtually any lesson we have about anything...ever.

They also think it's hilarious to sing it with a thick Cockney accent, especially the line right before the chorus where they get to sing, "Try, try, try!"

Little purple pansies, touched with yellow gold,
Growing in one corner of the garden old;
We are very tiny but must try, try, try
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

In whatever corner we may chance to grow,
Whether cold or warm the wind may ever blow,
Dark the day or sunny, we must try, try, try
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

They put on their thick Cockney accent (as best as they know how...and considering everything they know they learned from Dick Van Dyke as Bert in Mary Poppins, their accent is not very polished) and belt out, "Troy, troy, troy!"

It just so happened that this song was selected for the opening song for family night and after the kids sang, "Troy, troy, troy!" Alexander hollered, "Greek joke! Get it! Because Troy! Like Helen of Troy!"

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Spring Piano Recital

After a rough night with Phoebe, we spent the morning helping to clean the church building. I had been curious about whether the windows might open and, as I suspected, they do not. I don't know when we decided that schools and churches and things should not have windows that open. From my memory, all of my schools and church buildings had windows that opened...until I moved to the States. But I could be wrong about that. 

To be fair, a lot of the buildings I frequented growing up in Canada legitimately did not have air conditioner systems (only furnaces), so the only way to cool off in the summer months was to strategically let the cool early morning and evening breezes inside. We'd have windows open and fans on in June when things started getting warm at school. And I know for sure that we could open the windows at church (not that we would ever climb through them). 

But our church building here either has windows that doesn't have the option to open or has windows that had the option to open at one time (but has since been screwed shut). 

The state of emergency has ended, and I understand that and actually back that decision. We're not flying by the seat of our pants anymore. We need to move forward. But, in my opinion, moving forward involves opening windows, bettering our air filtration, or making any sort of mitigation effort whatsoever. The CDC strongly recommends that ventilation should be a top priority. Just throwing that out there.

Anyway, Phoebe was ready for a nap by the time we came home, so she and I had a lovely nap together while Andrew took Alexander grocery shopping. And then everyone played a lot of Zelda. "Tears of the Kingdom" came out yesterday so there has been a lot of Zelda play the past couple of days.

And then it was time to get ready to go to Miriam and Zoë's piano recital! Here's Zoë sitting pretty beforehand:

Friday, May 12, 2023


This afternoon I made it to the pool with all the kids for the first time this pool season. We do wish the sun would have come out, but we had a lovely time splashing about, anyway.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Obstruction of Correspondence

On Tuesday we put together some Mother's Day cards to mail out to some important women in our lives (because it's good to tell people you care about them and it's nice to receive something in the mail that's not a bill every once in a while). We ended up choosing nine relatives. Zoë made a picture for each one (and printed off one of her recent poems) and we also had everyone sign a card for each recipient—that's 72 signatures in total! 

We got nine envelopes, put nine stamps on nine envelopes, addressed nine envelopes...licked nine envelopes. Alexander thinks that's the worst part. He's probably not wrong. And then we put those nine envelopes into the mailbox...for Wednesday (because by the time we were finished we had missed Tuesday's mail). 

Here's a couple of things to be aware of: (1) we are always home (pretty much) and (2) we check our mail all the time because that's one of our methods to cut Phoebe's fits short. 

She always wants to check the mail because it means she gets to go outside. But she also understands going into things that it's only going to be a brief visit to the mailbox (not an entire afternoon of outdoor joy) so she doesn't get upset when it's time to head back inside. 

We check the mail when we know the mail hasn't been delivered. And we check the mail when we know we've already collected the mail for the day. We check the mail a lot. Specifically Phoebe checks the mail a lot...with the help of many people over the course of the day.

I was thinking Tuesday was a pretty good day to get things into the mail. Aunt Ruth's card, I knew, would be late (since that would be international mail). But I figured all the domestic mail should arrive by Sunday.

Did you know that it costs $0.63 to mail a letter these days?! 

For some reason that feels outrageously expensive to me. But anyway...thank goodness for "forever" stamps.

Anyway, on Wednesday when we checked the mail, our letters were gone—off and away!—and our mail was in the box and we thought everything was right in the world. 

Then this afternoon, just as I was settling down with Phoebe for a nap, I got a message on NextDoor:


Here is Phoebe trying to lick the cat:

She doesn't quite seem to understand why the cat might not want her to do this. The cat gets to lick herself, but Phoebe can't lick the cat? Seems unfair!

Sprinkle, sprinkle, little hose...

Since our first little trip to the pool on May 1, it's warmed up significantly. Whatever little springtime cold snap we were experiencing was replaced with weather that is quickly turning hot and humid. We, however, have been unable to make it back to the pool due to super fun things like (1) it's the end of the semester and I had a poetry reading to give and a poetry reading to attend and a major paper due and so forth, and (2) we took our van in to get a tune-up before we try driving across the country with it.

The good news is that our mechanic felt nothing major needed to be done. Even better is that we have our van back again, which means we can go to the pool!

To make up for not being able to go to the pool, I did let the kids talk me into setting up the sprinkler for them yesterday. They had a blast!

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Poetry readings

On Saturday, Andrew planned to make tacos for dinner, but then decided Sunday would be a better day for tacos. Besides, Grandpa came over and gave us all a lesson on how to change a tire and we ran out of time to make tacos:

1) Loosen the lug bolts
2) Jack up the car
3) Take off the lug bolts
4) Take off the tire
5) Put on new tire
6) Tighten lug bolts in a star formation (top, bottom, side, bottom, side)
7) Done!

Friday, May 05, 2023

A good day

Benjamin was on fire today!

Not literally, of course, but by 11:00 am he had worked on his programming course (he requested to learn Python and has been doing great so far), revisited any math lesson he only got "two stars" on and earned "three stars" (all without prompting or asking for any assistance), he unloaded the dishwasher (Alexander's job) and took out the kitchen trash and recycling (Miriam's job, but his favourite chore), decided that we should have spaghetti for dinner because we had leftover meatballs from the meatball subs Daddy made for dinner last night, pulled out some noodles and sauce from the storage room and set them on the counter...

And so on.

As I said, the boy was on fire!

The only thing I sort of asked him to do was take out the trash, and I didn't even really do that. I was just throwing something away and sighed, "We've really got to take the trash out..."

And Benjamin said, "Done!"

And started preparing to run it outside to the the rain. No hesitation!

It was wonderful to have such a good helper today! I'm sure this is a sign that Benjamin is maturing.

Here he is with a lovely bouquet of flowers he picked for me at the park this afternoon:

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Phoebe: Potty + mouth updates

Phoebe has been reaching some milestones. I believe I already documented that she has eight teeth now. Given that she's just about 18 months old, that's not a huge accomplishment. However, in the past couple of weeks she has been working hard, hard, hard on cutting her one-year molars. The top pair are about half-way through and the bottom pair are getting ready to erupt any day now. 

She has been somewhat chompy, and even left a few bruises on me from some well-placed chomps. 

Fortunately, she's figured out that Mommy does not like to be bitten (and she's typically a sweet and loving baby who doesn't want to hurt her mommy) so I've had fewer chomp marks on my arms and legs. 


Piano Auditions for Zoë and Miriam

This afternoon, Miriam and Zoë attended their National Piano Playing Guild Auditions and they, of course, did wonderfully. These kinds of auditions are kind of like the ACT or GRE in that you can't really fail them. You simply...get the score that you get. The guild notes that "should your grade be lower than you expected" students should "not be discouraged" but "encouraged to work harder the next year! If you have a higher grade, we congratulate you but encourage you to remain humble and seek even greater goals in the next Auditions." 

I think that's pretty good advice for life! 

Both girls were very stressed out about their auditions, perhaps Miriam more so than Zoë. Miriam entered 10 pieces for this Audition (all of which had to be memorized; last year she played only 2 pieces) and had to review all the scales and chord sequences in existence, basically, since she would be quizzed on them at random. Originally she thought she had to play them all during her Audition, which would have been about 90 minutes of scales and things, but her teacher soothed her spirits. It would only be 10 minutes or so of scales; they were simply making sure she was comfortable with all of them so that she wouldn't falter when the judge asked her to play. 

Miriam practiced every day until her fingers went numb. 

Zoë was equally present at the keyboard.

And their hard work paid off! They did very well (but even if they had scored lower than expected, nothing bad would have happened (just to clarify for those of us (*ahem*Miriam*ahem*) who need clarification on that issue).

Here's Zoë in one of the practice rooms (or out in the gallery? It was held at a piano store/studio) that Andrew took before she was called in for her audition (parents aren't allowed in during the audition, but he waited around with her prior to her audition and then after the two of them went out to the car and accidentally drained the car battery and had to jump start the car after Miriam's audition):

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Nest update

Yesterday when I peeked into the nest there were two eggs inside.

Today I see that momma bird has begun incubating so my assumption is that they are going for a clutch of three:

The green grass at the top of the nest is a "privacy fence" they added after they caught me peeking through the window at them. Prior to that, momma bird had been trying it out without that grass, but would get spooked every time I walked by the window. So they put in that privacy fence and evidently that's all she needed to feel safe. 

It's doing its job, though! I can just see her little tail feathers sticking up out of the nest (and they almost look like twigs). 

At this rate, we can expect the eggs to hatch by mid-May. 


Update on the update:

Momma bird has left the nest now my guess is that there are three eggs in there as of today and perhaps our pair is going for double or nothing (and that tomorrow she will lay a fourth egg).

Monday, May 01, 2023

Polar Plunge (Georgia Style)

It's really been a relatively mild spring for us. While we're usually hankering for the pool by May, this year our April has felt uncommonly cold. Today we were only in the 60°s, but the kids begged to go to the opening of the pool season, so we headed out there for a "polar plunge." It was a memorable FHE activity (that Rachel missed because she went driving with Grandpa, who was heading out to teach some temple prep lessons). Only Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander really wanted to get in. The rest of us just stayed in our street clothes (though I did pack swimming suits for me and Phoebe, just in case we changed our minds).

Benjamin was the first to jump in. He was very happy that the diving board was back up (it was broken for most of last year). Zoë was next to go off the diving board. Benjamin really swam just fine, despite the shock of the water, but Zoë was struggling a bit to remember how to swim, with it being her first time back in the pool and having it be rather chilly.

So I told Alexander that he shouldn't jump into the deep end. He may have been playing in the deep end at the close of last swimming season, but I didn't want him jumping in the very first thing this swimming season. He reluctantly moved over to the 4 ft area, which is still well over his head, and climbed up on the diving block (which I still wasn't sure about). 

Little birdies, little bruiser

About a month ago, we heard some wild chirping outside and stumbled into two male cardinals trying to prove to each other who was the bigger man.