Monday, October 30, 2023

Miriam is 14!


October has been a rather busy month, and Miriam was rightly particularly worried about the week of her birthday. Last Sunday the youth had their Worldwide Testimony Meeting. Miriam played the piano for that at our building. We also had to be at the stake center earlier in the day for a musical rehearsal. Miriam and I both participated in Women at the Well, a musical production by Kenneth Cope, and although most of our meetings were via Zoom (so we had a number of Zoom meetings to attend), we also had to get Miriam together with the soloist she played for.

That performance was this Sunday. Miriam played Daughter, Arise. I was a narrator.

Miriam (and Zoë) also had their fall festival for piano on Saturday, for which they both had to play a number of memorized scales and pieces. 

Also, we had our ward Halloween party scheduled for Friday night and a multi-stake dance scheduled for Saturday night. 

Also, the youth were in charge of games for the ward party, so on Tuesday night they were supposed to meet to continue preparing for their game stations. Last week they met and made monster posters to go over the corn hole game and talked about other activities they could do—like doughnuts on a string and things like that. 

Instead, they had their own little Halloween party this week because for some reason our ward party was moved from Friday night to Saturday night. They announced this on Sunday caused a bit of a stir because everyone had already planned out their weekend with the ward party on Friday evening. There was some discussion about whether or not the youth should "sacrifice" attending the dance in favour of running games stations at the ward party, but I told my older girls that was ridiculous and encouraged them to go to the dance. 

Serve others...and don't be a doormat. 

Like, there are only a handful of youth in our ward. It's good for them to get out and mingle with other youth in our church who aren't in our ward. If the conflicting dates had been a question weeks earlier, I might have encouraged my girls to be of service at the ward party, have the rug yanked out from under them mere days before the dance, when they'd all been excited about their costumes and everything? I don't think so. 

They're still kids and kids get to be kids. 

Anyway, we had all of that going on the week of Miriam's Miriam's birthday. And the fact that we were just moving the girls from Grandpa's house to our house. And the fact that we were still due to get our carpet installed. In fact, the carpet was scheduled to be installed on Miriam's birthday!

(Unfortunately, the installers' van broke down so they weren't able to make our appointment and rescheduled for the following day. Miriam is still counting it as her most expensive birthday gift, however).

Here she is standing in her freshly vacuumed room that has a real ceiling, fresh carpet, an actual closet, and a door. It's like a real room!

Yakety Yack

Rachel spoke in church today...finally. She was supposed to give a talk in June, I think, but we were going to be in Utah, so they rescheduled her for a bit later. But then they spontaneously changed around our stake presidency (a member of the stake presidency, who was from our ward, had just submitted mission papers and was being released so he and his wife could go on their mission, and another person from our ward was called into the presidency), and this reorganization meeting just happened to occur the week Rachel had been rescheduled to speak, so her talk was postponed once again. 

So, yes, finally this week was the week she had to speak in church.

You'd think with so much notice she'd have had her talk ready well in advance, but no. She wrote it at midnight after coming home from a multi-stake youth dance in Athens (Grandpa drove the girls and a friend out there, and we are so grateful). 

She had had a lot of time to brainstorm about her talk, though, so it was easier to write than if she hadn't even been thinking about it...but still!

Here's her talk (she read it all in about 2 minutes flat, so she was really zooming through it):

Saturday, October 28, 2023


The past three weeks I have been filled with horror watching the news coming out of Israel and Palestine. The attacks of 10/7 were unconscionable, horrific, abhorrent, disgusting, and absolutely condemnable. I mourn with Israel and for Israel for the senseless deaths that occurred that day. Their resulting fear, anger, and grief are both palpable and understandable. 

However, I also must unequivocally condemn their retaliation against a nation, who is not a nation, whose only army is not an army, and which is full of people—fully fledged humans, not some animal-human hybrid—who have no where to flee, and whose import (and export) of food, water, power, and aid is controlled by the very people who wish them harm. 

The footage I've seen coming out of Palestine is disturbing to say the least. 

I've heard it said that "On October 7th, Hamas murdered 1,400 a country of fewer than 10 million people. This would be equivalent to over 50,000 Americans murdered in a single day.  That’s 20 9/11s. That is why October 7th is another day that will live in infamy." 

I agree that an atrocity of that scale is mind-numbing, but I don't think we can stop doing math there. 

I mean, if we are going to do the math, let's do the math!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Orange you glad?

The thing about setting goals, in my opinion, is that the best time to start is now (not next week, not next year). So in that spirit, I offer the following story of Phoebe, who is forever getting into food (and everything else, for that matter). 

She recently learned how to operate the water and ice dispenser in the fridge, for example, so while she's somehow always been able to coerce several people to give her a drink of water (and ice!) and thus end up with several cups of water sitting out all over creation, her independence has exacerbated this issue. We now have cups of ice/water sitting out all over creation. I have tripped on cups on the stairs, in the middle of the hallway. They've been knocked off stools and counters and benches. The child goes through as many cups as she possibly can. 

So thank goodness her siblings have figured out the "coaster system." We don't use the coasters because we care about surfaces so much, but because using a dedicated unique coaster helps everyone else remember which cup they've been using. So everyone else uses one cup per day and Phoebe uses...20 or so. 

The solution here might be to own fewer cups, but I digress.

Frivolity and fritters

I think I'll attempt NaBloPoMo this year, to help me get back in the habit of sharing stories more regularly. I never imagined I might fall out of that habit, but also feel like I sort of have. Not entirely, of course, but just a little bit. So many other things are eating up my time, so many things are weighing heavily on my mind. Like, for example the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the war between Russia and Ukraine, tonight's mass shooting in Maine. It can be hard for anything to hold a candle to the news sometimes. 

This is a picture I took of Zoë on October 16; she and I had gone outside to entertain Phoebe and I was feeling like my entire life was frivolous (given the news), while also a pretty big mess. But we had a fun time blowing bubbles together.

Monday, October 23, 2023

I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints...

The last thing our contractor did this week was paint the exterior boards he had to replace on the side of the house. Evidently he spilled a not-insignificant quantity of paint on the ground, which Andrew knew about, and which Andrew warned the children to keep away from. 

I'm sure you can see where this story is going.

For the record, I did not know about this spill or I may have done more than warn the children to keep away from it. I also may not have done much more...we've been so exhausted this week, staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning working on the basement. 

On Friday night the girls—who are finally back at our house after spending three weeks at Grandpa's house—had a fire night with their friends. When their friends went home, Andrew and I roped them into helping us finish putting carpet in the unfinished portion of the basement. They weren't terribly happy about this, since they had planned on showering and going to bed, but they were good helpers nonetheless. 

In order to put the carpet down we had to move furniture, roll the carpet padding out, roll the carpet out, move furniture onto the carpet we had just rolled out, roll the carpet padding out, roll the carpet out...until the room was carpeted. 

Although the carpet was more ore less rectangular, there was more cutting and taping involved than I'd like to remember. We must have put the carpet padding in sideways or something because we had to cut so much of that. Anyway...

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Waste not, want want

On Thursday we attended our co-op. 

Phoebe went to nursery with Rachel for the first hour and did fairly well, but one hour is about all she can handle in there. She refuses to go to nursery alone and needs to be with momma. 

(Interestingly, today she played with Zoë for somewhere along the lines of nine hours while we were working on the basement and she did just fine without me. Of course, they had unlimited snacks and TV and trampoline time, so it felt like a party. But still...)

So she comes to my second hour class—Holiday STEM—with me. I'm one of three co-teachers (in addition to the head teacher) in that classroom, so it's not like my presence/attention is 100% necessary and I can easily split my energy between the students and Phoebe. 

Because we're so close to Halloween and it's a holiday STEM class, the activities were all centered on Halloween. We did some apple-themed activities in September and some leaf-themed activities last time we met. I think it would be neat to see some other holidays factored in there because I know we had, like, Sukkot at the beginning of October, and Diwali is coming up in November. But, I get that while we're a non-denominational group we are also a de facto Christian group. Personally, I think some awareness of other religions would do us some good...and thus the reason for my thesis...and perhaps PhD. 

Evidently I should suggest a world religions course for our kiddos. 

Anyway, we were doing Halloween-themed STEM activities and one of the projects was to figure out how to stack candy corn to see how tall of a tower they could make. The kids were very excited about this—because candy—and kept asking whether or not they were allowed to eat it. 

To be fair, I'm pretty relaxed about these things and probably would have shrugged and told them to make their own choices. But the mom in charge was like, "Oh, goodness, no! You've all been touching them! They've been on the table! They've been dropped on the floor! They're filthy! We'll throw these away and I will give you some clean candies—if your moms allow you to have sugar—on the way out the door."

So that's what happened.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Moving furniture

October has been a whirlwind. We've mostly been keeping busy moving furniture and moving furniture and moving furniture.

First we moved everything out of the girls' room and away from the wall in the storage room so the basement could be waterproofed. When the drywall was up in the storage room we started to piece the storage room back together, though it's still quite a cumbersome mess since all the stuff from the girls' room is in there as well. 

Last night Andrew and I moved all the furniture in the LEGO room so that we could lay down the old carpet from the girls' room in the LEGO room (we can't reuse their carpet for their room because the footprint of their floor has changed—they have a closet now and we had to take out some of the built-ins). And then we moved the furniture back onto the carpet we just put down. And then we moved all the furniture from the "main room" into the LEGO room so that we can repaint in there. 

That doesn't sound like a lot once it's all written out. I think what's overwhelming is knowing we have to move everything back to where we ultimately want it (and need to finish putting carpet in the LEGO room).

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Alexander is 6!

As I may have mentioned, Rachel and Miriam have been staying at Grandpa's house while we've been under construction over here. It's given us a little taste of what life might be like in the next five years or so, with both those girls grown and gone. And, really, it hasn't been so bad...but only because they're still close enough to come home for dinner.

They'll be happy to be back in their own room (soon), I'm sure. 

The last couple of nights, Rachel has stayed late working on Alexander's birthday cake, requiring rides home (to Grandpa's house) in the wee hours of the morning. I drove her home on Thursday night. Andrew drove her home last night. 

It's really kind of a strange dynamic we have at our house lately.

But Alexander's cake turned out beautifully. He requested an owl-shaped cake, which he felt would be a challenge for Rachel, who prefers to make round cakes. It would help her expand her skillset, he told her—help her grow in ways she didn't think she could. 

And it was a challenge that allowed her to explore several new techniques. 

Anyway, when Rachel and Miriam turned up at the house this morning, Alexander took one look at them and said, "PRESENTS!"

So that's what we did.

Miriam had helped wrap presents one evening when she was here late and we had them set out in the music room the last couple of days. Alexander mentioned that he decided for his birthday he might like to have some presents and I said, "Too bad. I don't think we have any of those."

"Can't I just have those presents?" he asked, pointing to the stack of presents.

"Oh, those presents? I guess so," I said. 

Here he is ready to open presents this morning:

Thursday, October 12, 2023

A wee hike

We had planned to go hiking this week, but instead we're just hanging around at home while our house is being prettied up. Today our contractor worked on the roof because rain had been leaking through the roof, running down the walls, and pooling inside the walls downstairs. 

Our roof was disclosed as "new within 5 years" in our paperwork, but apparently the previous owners just slapped new shingles on top of the old shingles. The old shingles were already old and tired in this particular "valley" of our roof and the new shingles were (according to our contractor) installed poorly—they bent them rather than overlapping them at an angle...or something...which compromised their integrity from the get-go. So, anyway, the new shingles soon cracked, the old shingles were cracked and no one thought to put any flashing down in this corner, so the wood was all rotting away. 

But! It's fixed now, so all the rain water we're getting tonight (and we're getting plenty) should be running off the roof instead of inside our house. 

Tomorrow they're fixing some of our siding that is rotting (in this corner where all the rainwater was leaking through our house instead of...not) and they'll be putting up drywall soon. And then we can paint and get new carpet and stick the girls back in there. 

And then we can go hiking. 

Today I just took the kids to the park and we did a very little walk there. Rachel's taking geology this semester and she's supposed to go out and identify rocks. This week she's supposed to be looking for sedimentary rocks. I'm not sure we found any...but maybe we'll be able to sneak away for a hike this weekend. 

Here are the kids all balancing on a log for me:

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Reverse, reverse!

Last night while the older girls were at mutual and the middle kids were playing with friends, Phoebe and I spent some time playing outside. She'd grabbed an apple while I was tidying things up after dinner and kept on munching it down to the core (which was a welcome change from her usual bite-and-discard-and-grab-another method of eating apples). She took it on a walk around the block and then carried it about as we played at home. 

More than anything, she wanted some time in her car. She's figured out that she needs to keep her feet up if she wants to be pushed around by someone else, and she's figured out how to use her own two feet to push herself backwards (she loves travelling backwards and will often walk backwards walk backwards), but when you're travelling by car, sometimes it's nice to move forwards

Fortunately, we live on a rather steep hill and Phoebe discovered that if she goes backwards up the hill, gravity will happily push her down the hill (going forwards). She went up and down the hill several times, clever little girl!

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

I'm knitting! I'm a knitter! I knit something!

I have been so exhausted since finishing my thesis—like I just can hardly bring myself to do anything. To be fair, since finishing my thesis I went to Canada, had my basement flood, and our family has been sick for about a month. I also finished all the revisions for a paper that was just accepted for publication. I've been reading and researching a bit more to turn parts of my thesis into parts of a book proposal. I have also finished a couple of crochet projects and learned how to knit. Oh, and I'm teaching a ukulele class to a group of middle school boys (and one girl) and am still homeschooling the kids. And (daytime) potty trained Phoebe. And...and...and...

Okay. So perhaps I've accomplished a few things. I still just feel like I could sleep for a month. 

Anyway, Miriam taught me how to knit—and she was a wonderful teacher! She recently taught her fellow young women to knit over a series of evenings. They all made little square swatches that they plan to piece together to a make a little garland to hang in the Young Women's room. So Miriam had had a bit of practice showing others how to knit before she took me on as a pupil.

I was an anxious student because I had tried to learn to knit when I was much younger—around eight years old. Since my mom didn't know how to knit, she had procured a teacher for me, a woman in our ward who seemed to me to already be quite ancient: Sister Laura Vezeau. She was in her mid-seventies and all I knew about her was that (1) she was a widow, (2) she loved music and played the piano for primary, (3) she didn't drive, and (4) apparently she knew how to knit because my mom was taking me to her house so that she could teach me how to knit, too.

For several weeks I met with Sister Vezeau and she did her best to work me through the process of catching loops and yarning over and sliding loops from one hook to the other, and in the end I had a sloppy mess filled with dropped stitches, without ever quite being clear on what a knit was versus what a purl was. We never even got to casting off. 

I think I was quite a depressing student to teach, so slow to catch on was I.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Our own downfall

We are not precisely early risers over here. 

I mean, sure—Rachel and Miriam attend early morning seminary, so they get up early, but they ride with Grandpa (who is one of their seminary teachers), and thus the rest of us—thankfully—do not have to get up early. I know I spend a lot of time fussing about my poor sleepers because...I've had a lot of those. My children simply take a long time to wind down and fall asleep at night, and then also wake up several times throughout the night, but they've also never (or at least have rarely) been the type of children to want to start the day at 5:00 in the morning. 

All this is to say that we were relieved on Tuesday evening to realize that we didn't have to wake up early to meet the construction crew on Wednesday. Full disclosure: Andrew had been waking up to meet them while Phoebe and I slept. So Andrew was particularly excited for Wednesday morning. 

"Hey! I don't have to wake up early!" he said.

And so he stayed up late working. And when Andrew stays up late working, he really stays up late working. He's a night owl and is often most productive at night. As an eccentric professor, this is his...priveledge.

So it was particularly disappointing when, shortly before 7:30 in the morning, we were roughly awakened by the sound of gas-powered motors roaring to life, seemingly right outside our window. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep for a few precious moments more (I even put my earplugs in), but then another motor started up, and another, and another. 

And then there was a rather big thud.

"The neighbours must be having some trees removed," I thought to myself. "But...why start this early?!"

Tree-cutting crews don't normally begin work that early for...obvious reasons. 

Oddly, the thudding continued. 

"It sounds like someone is walking around on our roof!" I mused aloud.

My tired brain slowly came to the realization that someone was walking around the roof. Our gutter/roof cleaning company must have been paying us a visit!

"Aren't they supposed to give us advanced notice?" I moaned.

"Technically they texted me at 6:00 this morning," Andrew said, putting his phone down. 

So thus it was that our day began a little earlier than expected yesterday morning, after staying up a little too late the night before. But I suppose it was the staying up late that was our own downfall.


When we were flying home from Canada, our flight our of Calgary was delayed by about 5 hours, which wasn't a terrible thing in and of itself, but waiting for that flight would have caused us to also miss our connecting flight home. I called the airline and worked things out, but it meant that our departing flight was an hour earlier than originally scheduled (resulting in a bit of a race to get to the airport in time) and our flight back into Atlanta would be a little later than originally scheduled.

So, here we are snarfing some Tim Hortons for breakfast in the Calgary airport (surprisingly inexpensive airport food):

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

See what I meant? (See: wet cement)

Our basement was finished midway through the day. Andrew went down to verify that they'd done all the contracted work, wrote them out a check, and the workers went on their merry way. 

Phoebe thought this was a very good thing because earlier in the morning they gave her a good fright!

She had enjoyed watching the workers through the window. We talked about how they were loading up rocks to take into the basement, and that they were helpers—that sounds great, right? They were strangers, but they were helpful strangers, and seemed to just be working in the yard. So that's fine. 

And then—while I was upstairs working and the kids were downstairs work and even Phoebe was downstairs playing—one of the men came upstairs to ask if he could use the restroom. There's a restroom in the basement, but it had been cordoned off behind plastic worksheets and a veritable barricade of furniture. I told him that he was, of course, welcome to use our restroom, and showed him where it was (right across the hallway).

Phoebe took this interaction poorly, and I don't blame her.

How do visitors—particularly strangers—usually announce their presence at our home? 

They knock or ring the bell at the front door and then we get to decide whether to allow them entrance or whether we'll send them away. 

Not so today! 

Today a man she'd never met in her life simply materialized in the hallway—the horror!

She was nervous for pretty much the rest of the day, very clingy, very "uppy, uppy, uppy!"

I took her to watch the workers through the window and reminded her again that they are our special helpers and that she doesn't need to be afraid anymore. But...she's just a clingy kid, so that conversation did little to soothe her nerves.

Anyway, let's see...

Here are a couple of pictures Andrew took from the stairs showing the progress of the trench the workers dug in our basement floor:

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

A day at the park

We took homeschool to the park today. Rachel stayed at Grandpa's house, technically, so it was just the younger five (just). And, boy, were they excited to be there!

They were like, "Thanks for teaching me math, Mom! I really appreciate it!"

A study on curly-hair bed-head

Workers showed up early this morning to dump a (literal) ton of gravel onto our driveway, along with a billion other tools and supplies, so they could start fixing our leaky basement. It was also garbage and recycling day, so there were trucks going up and down the street—beeping, clanging, lifting, dumping, compacting...

Phoebe found this all very interesting.


Sunday, October 01, 2023

Polar plunge II (the last day of pool season)

On Friday afternoon I took the (healthy) kids to the pool. Miriam was feeling under the weather and, having rallied her energy to fulfill a few obligations in her schedule, wasn't feeling up to going to the pool with us (not even to lounge on the deck). So we left her at home while we headed to the pool to enjoy the very last day of swimming before admitting that autumnal temperatures are really upon us.

Andrew was out grocery shopping when we left (I figured he wouldn't want to come) but texted me to say that he was on the way to join us! The kids were all overjoyed because...dragging Daddy to the pool is quite the trick. He came with us once in May when the pool season opened...nearly drowning Alexander...and hasn't been back with us since. 

It doesn't help that we tend to go to the pool in the early afternoons before the schools let out so we can have the pool mostly to ourselves. Andrew is always having to work...

But Zoë wrote a story that guilted Andrew into taking an afternoon off to splash around with us. It's called Witching Hour and it goes like this: