Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Oh, Happy Day

Thankfully, parks have re-opened in our city (not playgrounds, but trails and such).
About a week and a half ago when they were still closed, we set out to see if the rumors were true that a park in our neighboring town was still open. And oh, happy day, it was true!!
Our walk was on one of those weird weather days where the wind is chilly and the shade feels quite nippy but the sunshine is warm, so we sported an odd mismatched assortment of shorts and winter coats.
We were all SO happy to get out of the house and explore in the wild for a while.

Afterward, we hit Chick-fil-a for dinner.
As we pulled up to the drive-thru line, we immediately noted that it wrapped all the way around the building and through the parking lot...we were about the 15th car in line.
Because of their lightning-fast service, I had us all guess when we would reach the corner of the building. My guess was closest--it only took us about 4 minutes!
I never cease to be amazed at their efficiency.

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 and Daily Life

There have definitely been some moments of frustration during stay-at-home orders,
but I really can't complain--our lives have not really been changed all that much.
So what does daily life look like during quarantine around here?

Sam is working from home every day. Occasionally that comes with frustrations, as he is sometimes limited by his laptop and without the computer and office set-up he has at St. Jude, but overall he loves working from home! He is able to lay down while he works, he is seldom interrupted (a big change from work), and he gets to be cheered by hearing the kids say and do funny things throughout the day. He is under pretty intense pressure at the moment due to several projects converging, so maybe working from home has been a blessing.

Talmage, Wesley, and Lincoln have definitely had moments of frustration and sadness as things have been cancelled, but overall they have taken the changes in stride and are positively thriving with creative energy! They constantly have a project going, such as:
-digging a system of canals in the dirt in the backyard with different sections going to different areas each boy designs and then bringing the water table over to pull the drain plug above the main canal and watch the water flow into all the different branches
-creating "stores" where each boy made dozens of creations out of paper, tape, and cardboard and then designed their own currency which they hid around the house for each other to find and then come spend at their stores they had set up in different rooms
-designing dozens of cardboard weapons with different magical abilities and intricate forms
-using pocket knives to cut all the way through (!) planks of wood to attach sticks and paper sails, wrapping things in tape to make their boats water-proof, and then racing them in the bathtub (which was too small, so we'll be heading to a creek to race them soon)
-creating a new style of art in which they swirl markers through a mud puddle and make various designs with the ink as it drains out of the marker
All of those projects, along with many others, have been 100% their idea and their execution. They are reading a lot, biking a lot, playing basketball a lot, and LOVING our homeschool lessons.

Maxwell and Benson have not noticed much of a change. Maxwell has had moments when he has asked about some of the changes and he knows all the answers if you ask him ("We're not going to church because of the c'ronavirus. It came from China."), but I'm not sure how much he actually internalizes. For example, the other day Sam's laptop broke and, after he got a new work computer and got things set up and working at home again, he exclaimed, "Is the c'ronavirus fixed???" Benson struggled for the first week or so that Sam was home because he is a MAJOR Daddy's boy and he was constantly screaming and knocking on the bedroom door, asking for Daddy. Thankfully, he eventually adjusted. Both he and Maxwell are so happy to run around after their big brothers all day long.

I have gotten a bit stir-crazy at times, because most of my favorite activities to do with the boys are outside the house. But I've finally figured out a routine with homeschooling and other activities that I think is working well. I decided to abandon the suggested activities from the school (they weren't working well for our family situation and were all review and totally optional anyway), and instead came up with my own mash-up of various approaches to different subjects. I teach science lessons to all the boys together (we are doing this Marine Biology unit right now) and history lessons to everyone together (I am totally in love with this curriculum I purchased along with the activity book, and I plan to use this regularly through the summers even when school resumes!), and they do their own math (using Common Core workbooks they used at school) and their own assigned reading (which I assign and follow up with a book report). We then do one supplementary activity each day, like music, art, or cooking. 
Maybe the fun will wear off after a while, but so far I have loved teaching them and it has been a great creative outlet! We have made "cave paintings" after learning about the early nomads, we have made an ocean in a jar and a model of the ocean with a tidepool out of dirt and blue water, we have conducted buoyancy experiments with salt and sugar water, we've made an olive oil lamp out of an orange, the boys have read fascinating and challenging books for them, and I have had so much fun coming up with book report ideas for them (like Lincoln making a civil war diorama with dollar store toy soldiers after reading a book about Clara Barton, or Talmage spending an hour of the day blindfolded and with ear plugs in and then writing an essay after reading Helen Keller's autobiography). 
The hardest part of all this has been the constant MESS that results from all that creative energy the boys have. Our backyard is at least 50% dirt (usually horribly sticky clay-like mud) that results in the boys all needing showers after just a few minutes of play! Our house is constantly covered in scraps of paper and cardboard and tape, and their bedroom floor is a sea of Legos almost every day. We work together to clean up a lot throughout the day, but it's a lot for me to handle (and produces a LOT of laundry!). I believe the mess is worth the opportunity for them to create and explore of their own volition, so I am trying to grow in patience with it all.

Monday, April 20, 2020

15 Weeks

Thanks to Talmage for taking these pictures.
And for telling me that I looked like Mary Poppins.

Here we are at 15 weeks!
My big ultrasound appointment is just 3 weeks from today--we are SO excited about it!
We are planning on a boy, but we won't be disappointed if it's a girl!
It's kind of surprising how often I have consulted blog posts about my previous pregnancies, so I'm going to go ahead and record a few details here for my own reference purposes.
We're pretty much par for the course in every way, so for my long-time readers who aren't interested in reading the same thing for the SIXTH time, feel free to scroll on past.

Nausea: It's pretty much passed! There were a few weeks there where things were pretty rough, but I was never throwing up. I'd say it was in the harder 50% of my pregnancies in terms of how I felt.

Insomnia: It's been no joke this time around! I'm commonly awake for hours in the middle of the night in spite of applying the things I've learned in fighting insomnia in my previous pregnancies. I'm not sure why this is the case since I don't feel overly stressed or anxious, but for whatever reason it's very difficult to get good sleep. I usually resort to going out to the couch where I can turn on some music without bothering Sam and sticking a lavender satchel by my head until sleep finally comes. One good thing about COVID-19 has been the fact that I get to sleep in every day! With the last four pregnancies I've had a trademark insomnia album I listen to in the night (Wesley=Peace Like a River by the Tabernacle Choir, Lincoln=Tender Mercies by Steven Sharp Nelson, Maxwell=Wonders by the Piano Guys, Benson=Be Still by Jason Tonioli), so I've followed suit with this one. I've put together a playlist of songs by Audrey Assad and they are so soothing to me in those nighttime hours!

Food: In the beginning I had some weird cravings which were surprising to me. I usually have a difficult time stomaching most fast food, but before I even knew for sure I was pregnant I had the strongest craving for a Wendy's bacon cheeseburger! Sam went to pick up Wesley from a birthday party and walked in the door with a couple of them for me. I was so excited and oddly ate both of them in one sitting! I also had a strange craving for processed cheese for a while. I haven't had weird cravings in the last several weeks, but I am back to my usual pregnancy desires for smoothies, fruit drinks, and Dole tropical fruit cups allll the time.

Ulcerative Colitis & Anemia: My UC has flared up during this pregnancy, as usual. Thankfully St. Jude offers amazing insurance so my medication, which would cost over $1000/month without insurance, only costs $5/month! With that medication, I've been able to keep things relatively under control so far, so I only have mild anemia right now.

Other: I don't know if it's due to my pregnancy or if I've just developed some really obnoxious seasonal allergies, but I frequently have days where the itchiness in my throat, nose, and eyes is almost unbearable! Last night my throat was so itchy that I ate ice cream, followed by a popsicle, followed by a frozen Capri-Sun because the cold feels soo good on it. I'm also taking a nap pretty much every day (which actually seems to help with the insomnia). I have learned that my physical and mental well-being plummet FAST when I reach a certain point of exhaustion. I start to feel extremely overwhelmed by life and motherhood and my senses all go into hyper-drive so I am overstimulated by the smallest things, like a child putting their hand on my arm. The whole family just does better when I nap every day. Since Maxwell and Benson both nap well, it just leaves the other three to do some school work quietly and then play together while I'm out so it works out pretty well. And I'm starting to feel those first exciting fluttery movements of life inside me which is always so thrilling! The boys are ECSTATIC about having another baby and they wish I would have babies indefinitely, as long as possible. Sorry, boys...keep on dreaming!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Coronavirus Pinata

Way back at the beginning of March,
when COVID-19 was just gaining traction in the US,
Sam started questioning whether we should go on our planned Spring Break vacation to Nauvoo.
I was still all for it, but he was being discouraged from any travel at work,
and he was going to have to report it in addition to his feeling a bit irresponsible by potentially spreading it through our travel.

On Thursday, March 12, I started to agree with him.
It just didn't feel right to go, but I was heartbroken and I knew the boys would be devastated.
They had been looking forward to this trip for months and we had studied pictures of the beautiful (ahem, nonrefundable) Airbnb we would be staying in, we had talked about the amazing sights and fun activities we would get to participate in, and they were even excited about the road trip itself.
Sure enough, on Friday when the boys got home from school and I broke the news to them, there was a LOT of sadness in our home. It was a very sad evening indeed.
But on Saturday morning they seemed to have recovered totally and we planned a few fun activities to take away some of the sting (since that was the day we had planned to leave).
I kept an eye on the Nauvoo web page as well, and it turns out they CLOSED the sites that very day when we would have just been arriving!

As we did a few consolation activities, Sam jokingly mentioned that we should just make a pinata of the coronavirus and smash it. Lincoln overheard and was immediately thrilled. "YEAH!!!" he cheered.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a brilliant idea it was.
So a few days later, we blew up a balloon and started the process of making a paper mache model of the virus.
We spent about a week and a half doing the paper mache--we would put on a layer and then let it dry for a day or two before putting on another layer. I was worried it would be weak, so we slathered on plenty of layers!

When I felt it was sufficiently thick, I bent a metal hanger and put it inside and filled it to the bursting with snacks and a few treats (Hello, Cadbury mini eggs. How I love you.).
I then covered the opening with tape and we painted away (the boys decided on a murky green).

And finally, the big day came! On Saturday we finished up by gluing on paper embellishments, and then we had a blast breaking it open. Sam instructed us all on the different parts of the virus and how it works before we laid into it. It was surprisingly strong and took quite a few rounds of boys whacking it before it gave in.
It really was the perfect lockdown activity.
Thanks to my brilliant, witty, hilarious husband for the stream-of-consciousness idea.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Easter Symbol Dinner

Last night we had our traditional Easter symbol dinner.
This is a highly anticipated event at our house!
This year I made my own naan for the first time. I was hesitant because I didn't want to experiment and end up with hard or dry bread at our special dinner, but it ended up turning out pretty well!
 I brushed a little garlic butter on top to add some flavor, and Sam and the boys loved it! They were hollow and the recipe didn't use yogurt, so I guess maybe they were technically more like pitas? Either way, they didn't disappoint for our special dinner, although I will continue my search for the perfect naan recipe.

I also made spicy honey chicken and served some cheeses, fruits, and grape juice.

We used all white dishes and ate by candlelight. As usual, I had the boys identify as many symbols in the dinner as they could. One unanticipated symbol that I hadn't thought about before was the fact that the naan was hollow inside, symbolizing the empty tomb!
We played my favorite Easter album while eating,
and we shared some of our favorite stories about Jesus.
After we had cleaned up and the boys were in their pjs,
we watched Bible videos about the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a lovely, reverent evening, and a great way to begin the worldwide fast!
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