Saturday, January 27, 2024

On Friday

It was warm (and dry) enough to run yesterday, so Benjamin and I put in a 5k, which was easier than we thought it would be considering the long-ish break we took during that cold/wet snap. I know that earlier I said that I'm more of a winter runner because I'm opposed to getting all hot and sweaty (I grew up in Canada where getting hot and sweaty isn't the norm) but I also don't particularly love running when it's cold outside (and I'm rather disinclined to obtain cold-weather running gear since...we live where we do...), nor when it's raining cats and dogs (though I rather enjoy running in a light rain). So what we could say is that I'm a unicorn runner. I run between x and y degrees, otherwise I'm hibernating or at the pool. 

After our run, I took the kids (Benjamin, Zoë, Alexander, and Phoebe) to the library where we picked out some new stories to read. Andrew created a website to track what we read, so now the kids—who have long (but inconsistently) been keeping track of what they read on spreadsheets—can see a real-time count of how many books they've read so far this year (as well as how many books their siblings) have read. It's been a real motivator around here! The kids are each determined to out-read one another. 

Needless to say, they were all quite excited about visiting the library. 

While we were walking through the parking lot, the kids were thrilled to come across quite a magnificent an oil splotch:

A few weeks ago we were fascinated to watch a flock of red-winged blackbirds foraging around in our backyard, which led to a little research project on birds. Alexander researched red-winged blackbirds, themselves, to learn about their behaviour and migration patterns and diet and so forth. Zoë chose to research hummingbirds and Benjamin chose to research grackles. (The assignment was to research a bird native to Georgia that we've had a personal encounter with, that is, a bird that we've observed firsthand. The kids are researching various topics (such as behaviour, diet and migration, listed above, as well as conservation status, reproduction, appearance, etc.) and are also required to write about their personal encounter with the bird and write a poem about the bird; we've also been doing drawing tutorials from the Audubon website to help us illustrate our reports). 

Anyway, I recently read the book Wild Kingdom since the poet Jehanne Dubrow was recommended to me, and the very last poem in her book is about grackles! So I read that to the kids (along with several other of her bird poems, to get the kids' wheels running) and they loved it. You can read the full version here, but in the poem she describes the grackle's "purple- / stained, iridescence / of oil spilled on asphalt," and that language resonated with the kids. The linking of a grackle and an oil spill was such a salient metaphor that it really got the kids thinking about how they could describe their birds. 

We're still workshopping things, but here's Benjamin's poem so far:


The iridescence of your charred silk 

feathers in contrast

with your gold ring 

eyes makes your appearance

that much more dazzling



He was particularly proud of that opening line: "the iridescence of your charred silk / feathers in contrast / with your gold ring / eyes..." Iridescence is a word he glommed onto before we'd read Dubrow's poem, while he was doing his research, so he already knew he wanted to use that word in his poem, but the pairing of "charred silk" feels fresh and surprising, I think. We'll see what we can do to challenge that ending. 

It's pretty cool, though, how poetry can give us a reason to all stop and stare at an oil splotch in the middle of the parking lot. I suppose oil splotches have always been somewhat (unfortunately) dazzling, but on this particular day the kids were more awestruck than usual by the rainbow luster of the oil-on-wet-pavement phenomenon because they were thinking about birds.

After our library visit we went to the park where we played a lot, worked on square roots, completed a science lesson about how the sun hits the earth at different times of the year and how shadows change depending on the angle of the sun, and then went for a little walk to find a quiet place to sketch. 

Uncharacteristically, I took no pictures of the children playing at the park, but I did push Phoebe in the swing for what seemed like forever, and she loved it. Zoë also used the swings and nearly flew out of Earth's gravitational pull she was going so high! Benjamin discovered that he's reached the age where swings are starting to make him feel sick (apparently this dilemma can be solved by swinging more, not less, so if you want to re-learn to enjoy swinging, it's possible). Alexander was mostly obsessed with climbing up the slides. There was lots of tag.


Sometimes I get so wrapped up in talking about my wonderful children that I forget to write about my own accomplishments. In fact, when I started this post, I thought I was going to write about me (and then I didn't somehow) because, you see, when we were leaving to go to the library I was a little bit frustrated. 

It had taken us far longer to get ready than I wanted it to so we were leaving a little bit late. And a number of strange things happened, like that I gave Phoebe something for lunch (which she ate) and then I found her covered in spaghetti sauce (how?! Because another child made themselves a bowl of leftover noodles for lunch and Phoebe was jealous so they gave her some without my knowledge and she made a huge mess), and then in the excitement of leaving the house, Phoebe peed her pants (which was ridiculous because I'd taken her potty only a few minutes before that; evidently she was holding back on us) and was chaos getting out the door. 

But we got all four bags of library books, a bag of school books, a bag of drawing supplies, and a bag of snacks into the car. And all the kids managed to get buckled in their seats, with shoes on their feet, and a mask in their hands, with only one life-and-death altercation over who got to sit in the middle seat beside Phoebe. And I was just so glad to finally be leaving the house...but still feeling a little flustered over all the energy it took to be doing so...that I forgot that I can't just back out of the garage anymore. 

We're a three-car family these days. I'm still not quite sure how that happened when it feels like not too long ago we were only a one-car family. But we have three cars. And one of them lives permanently on the pull-out spot on our driveway. So I started pulling out of the garage but quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to reverse into my spot. 

I considered texting Andrew or Rachel to come outside to move the other car, but I'd left my phone in the diaper bag (another bag! that we'd brought with us, like we were moving to the moon or something), which I'd tossed in the trunk, and there was no way I was going to let any one of us back into the house because it's like a black hole. It's gravitational pull is so strong we might never have left had any of us returned inside (Benjamin had offered to run inside as well). 

"We'll just back out of the driveway," I said firmly.

"The whole way?!" Benjamin asked. 

"The whole way."

"Are you sure? I can just run in and get Dad."

"People back out of their driveways every day."

"People don't have our driveway."

That much is true.

It took me two tries—and was a little terrifying—but with Benjamin guiding me "a little bit this way" and "a little bit that way," we managed to back out of the driveway! I might never do it ever again (see not about how it was terrifying), but I did it! 

I also submitted a chapter proposal for a book yesterday, which was only slightly less intimidating than submitting a book proposal (which I haven't even begun yet because that's so intimidating that I'm still stuck at the bottom of the driveway debating whether I can start outlining things back out on my own, or whether I should run back inside the house for help).


Our Durham book club is having their annual (or sporadic) "Destination Book Group" right now? Or they recently had it? Or...I'm not sure what. The idea of attending a "Destination Book Group" one day is almost alluring, but also somehow not. There are just so many people there who I don't know because I didn't overlap with them in Durham and I'm not saying they're not worth getting to know. I just...meh. It feels too extravagant an expenditure at this point. But it's fun to see everyone's excitement about it online. 

Last year I guess they did a writing prompt, so this year they offered one as well:
this time instead of reading what we've written on the last night, we're going to use it on the first night as a "get to know you better" with our new ladies. Here's the prompt --I can't wait!!!
Ten Weird Things I've Done or 
Ten Weird Things About Me

I didn't write anything for this prompt specifically, but as I was brainstorming about it I realized that it was hard to come up with weird things. Mostly I wanted to come up with brave things—things that scared me at one point, but which I managed to do. Things like backing out of the driveway or submitting a book chapter proposal. Those things aren't really weird, nor are they incredibly unique. But somehow they're meaningful to me in the moment. 

I'm not sure we need to be unique all the time. Sometimes the universality of life is more important than the individuality. So in that case, I don't know that I crave weirdness or uniqueness or being outstanding. 

So I don't know what I would have written in my "ten weird things" essay.  


Benjamin has been doing drawing tutorials from the Audubon society quite religiously lately and has created some beautiful illustrations. He found some information about a drawing contest with the Audubon society (which I'll have to ask him about because I can't find it) and said that one of his goals is to draw a bird every day (ambitious, but we'll settle for "regularly") so he can get really good at it and then submit a picture to the contest next year.

"I don't think I'll have a chance at winning," he said, "But I think it would feel good to just...submit...something."

Shoot your shot. I get that. And I like that he's realistic about the impending disappointment of not winning. Rejection is...much more common than acceptances...when it comes to publishing and contests and what-not. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep you from trying. 


Anyway, all in all not a bad day.


  1. Thoughts: I had to back out of a spot in the parking garage at BYU that was between the wall and a car that was straddling the yellow line, and I thought I would die of anxiety. And I am never parking there again!! But--it is kind of weird to be bad at backing up, right? Most people just do it. So that it probably a bit weird about you. And most people don't submit book chapters, so that is maybe a little bit weird, too. About contests: some years, for the MLK writing contest, there have been three cash prizes, and we only got three entries. So defintely worth taking your shot!!! This year, we had 24 entries, and still three prizes, and those are not bad odds. Chances one in eight.

  2. A weird thing about you: outside of Mormon circles, having six children is kind of weird, right? ;) (My mom's brother has six children so don't take offense... and he's not Mormon.) I actually know several evangelical types who have large families though I'd say the majority have 2 to 4 children. I remember years ago Bridget mentioned it being a bit of an oddity having 3 children in Finland, so... :)

    My not having children is a weird thing about me. I could probably come up with ten about myself. :)

    1. Alas, this group started as a church group so six kids hardly sticks out there. 😂 My neighbour up the street grew up in a family of six kids, though, so he…understands things. :)

    2. I'm glad you've got a neighbor who understands. :) My dad is the oldest of six (and then his mom remarried and had four more whom he never lived with since he and his five siblings lived with their grandparents), but that's another generation (or two?) than you!

      And one of my friends from high school has 8! So I do see large families, but they are not super-typical in my circles.

      There is a lady (single mom, even) who hiked the Appalachian Trail last year with most of her children. She has fifteen! And she's young-ish. Here's their Facebook page:

  3. We have got your back, Nancy! Susanne and I can list all your weirdness!! Like your thumbs!!

  4. Hahaha! With friends like you… ;)