Tuesday, December 29, 2020

COVID for Christmas

We bought plane tickets to go to Utah for Christmas back in March, just as COVID was beginning to make its mark in the US.
As things escalated and travel restrictions and restrictions on gatherings cropped up more and more, I wondered if we were going to be able to make the trip.
When our flight was changed, we discussed seriously whether or not we ought to go.
We talked about various family members' health and comfort level with seeing us during the pandemic and brainstormed ways we could accommodate the needs of everyone while prioritizing health and safety.
We finally concluded that, if I was able to move our flight up a few days, we rearranged the order in which we would be seeing family groups, we were vigilant about staying home during the week before our trip, and we got COVID tests before coming, we could do so with assurance that we would not be bringing sickness to anyone.

I learned that our county offers COVID tests to anyone, for any reason, for free, so I gratefully scheduled tests for all of us except Elsie in a drive-thru setting. I was mildly concerned about the cold symptoms our youngest three had, but they mainly just had congestion and I knew that wasn't the primary mark of COVID, so I was relatively unworried.

But the cases in Memphis skyrocketed the week before we were to leave. Tennessee was the #1 state in the US for COVID rate, and Shelby County (where we live) was the #1 county in Tennessee.
There were over 11,000 positive cases in one day in mid-December in Tennessee (compared to about 3,000 cases at its peak in the summer).

And then we got word that there had been another case in Lincoln's class.
We got our tests early Thursday morning, and Lincoln reported that kids had gone home sick all that day and his teacher had been out for the past few days.

They told us we would receive our test results within 24 hours, so we anxiously awaited our test results on Friday morning. We got an email stating that Lincoln had tested positive, and suddenly everything changed.
Lincoln had complained of a headache off and on for a few days at the beginning of the week, but we didn't think much of it. He hadn't had any other symptoms of sickness, and his headache was completely gone at the time of the test.
Sam left immediately to go pick up Lincoln, Wesley, and Talmage, who were all at school.
And I started making phone calls, spending much of the day changing travel plans, cancelling reservations, informing the school, and changing plans for our involvement in the church Christmas program that Sunday.

When the kids got home and we told them the news, Lincoln was quite scared.
After hearing so much about COVID all year, it was a bit alarming for him to hear that he had it.
Sam sat him down and explained the scientific reason it didn't affect children very badly and drew a diagram for him. When Lincoln was still scared in spite of our reassurances that this was very likely not a big deal, Sam asked if he wanted a priesthood blessing.
Lincoln definitely did, so Sam gave him a blessing and after that he was totally happy and unconcerned.

The other boys' disappointment about our cancelled trip to Utah was delayed a bit due to their surprise at hearing that Lincoln had COVID. But after the dust settled, they were pretty devastated.
I just couldn't handle it when I found Talmage shut away in a room by himself, reading his scriptures to try to find comfort.
We were pretty sad for the remainder of that day and I let the boys watch Christmas movies and overload on sugary Christmas treats as a diversion,
which only partially soothed their pain.

I did what I typically do in the face of disappointment...
moped for a day, shed a few tears, ate some treats, 
and then woke up the next morning with a determination to make the best of things.
I squared my shoulders, set my jaw, and started making plans for an unforgettable Christmas break filled to the bursting with happy experiences and memories.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Can we just take a moment to appreciate this little lovely's perfectly squishable cheeks?
I shower those soft little pillows with kisses all the day long,
and can you blame me??

I love those cheeks so much,
but I am also missing this tiny little bundle.
She's no longer content to cuddle all the time!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Spelling Bee

Talmage was so excited when he won his class spelling bee, thereby qualifying for the school spelling bee!
The big day came and he nervously put on the shirt he had to wear to participate and headed out the door to school. I had been told I would be able to watch the proceedings over Zoom since we weren't allowed to watch in person due to COVID restrictions, but was disappointed to learn later that morning that I would simply be sent a recording of the spelling bee.

I spent the day feeling a bit anxious for him--wondering how it went and whether he was happy with the outcome.
Just before I left to pick the kids up from school, I saw that I had missed a call just a few minutes previously. I listened to the voicemail and heard Talmage's voice quietly, calmly say, "I won the spelling bee."
I was so excited!!

I started gushing and asking questions as soon as he got into the car and he excitedly gave me a play-by-play. I explained that I had felt sad that I couldn't be there because I felt that if he got out he just needed his mom to give him a smile and a thumbs up and provide what little comfort I could from a lunch table in the cafeteria, and then I said, "But you didn't need me!"
He smiled a little and said, "I still needed you."

And my heart broke just a little.

When we finally got the recording, I watched him spell the winning word and then, even as they congratulated him and announced that he won the spelling bee, saw him turn and give a big thumbs up to the girl who had gotten second place.
He got a Barnes & Noble gift card and some treats, and he gets to advance to the next level (provided he passes a preliminary test in January)! He is excited and nervous, and I am hoping I somehow get to watch in-person this time and give that big thumbs up one way or the other,
just like a mom is there to do.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Little Bits

Maxwell drew this owl by himself one morning--isn't is so cute?!?

This swing is probably the #1 reason I'm able to get much done. I love holding Elsie, but with 5 other kids I need my arms free for several hours each day. I will forever praise the baby swing! I'm so grateful all my kids have loved it!

A sign you're a toddler in the midst of a pandemic: Benson started pretending the magnetic letter L was a thermometer and walked around beeping as he held it up to each of our foreheads, just like he sees us do before school each day.

The boys are all still enamored with Elsie...

...for good reason. (Check out that receding hairline! She lost all the hair on top of her head around 1 month old, but it has grown back in so nicely and so fast!)

Park days are happy days.

We love our library trips. On this particular trip, the children's librarian was chatting with us and, as it was the day before Thanksgiving, she asked Maxwell what his favorite Thanksgiving food was. He thought for a moment and then lit up. "Do you know what one of my favorite Winter foods is?? Snow!"

When Daddy talks to Elsie--she loves him!

Our mantel is difficult to decorate in any way. There is actually a built-in alcove above the fireplace, but I had no purpose for it when we moved here, so I built this large white panel and we hung it up with a piano hinge alone the top. I then put metal shelves in the alcove, and I now have a great hidden storage cupboard! But it leaves only about 2 inches of mantel space. I've been wishing for a long time that I could find some kind of narrow Christmas village to put on it at Christmas time, so when I was walking through Target a few weeks ago and saw these wooden houses in packs of 2-4 for $5 each I was so excited!

Talmage and Wesley's teacher sent me this picture. It is her picture shelf at school, featuring pictures of her children...and Elsie. :D

And pre-dinnertime reading by the Christmas tree is a sight I will always love.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Rest of Thanksgiving Weekend

I realized that we really ought to increase our cautiousness about possible COVID exposure around Thanksgiving time to ensure that we would be able to go to Utah. Those three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were a critical time for us to avoid getting sick.

So we didn't plan to do much for the remaining two days Breanne would be with us.
On Friday morning I asked if she would be willing to snap a few pictures of our family in front of the garage door in hopes that I'd be able to cobble something together to send out on a Christmas card.
I was pretty pleased with the result after a five-minute photo shoot (and an edit session that was quite a bit longer than that...)
I liked most of the kids better in one picture, but I liked Wesley and Maxwell better in a different picture, so I spliced them and hacked away at them until I was satisfied.

She also caught a few of me with Elsie--I realized I had essentially no pictures of me with her since the hospital! Elsie wasn't too thrilled to be out in the cold, but Breanne caught a couple of sweet ones.

Then we headed to the park.
In order to make it more of an "adventure," I drove to a neighboring city to visit a park further from home. The first park we pulled up to was swarming with people! It looked like there was a tennis tournament going on or something, and there were kids all over the playground. In my paranoia about getting sick before going to Utah, I told the kids that we would not be going to this park and countered their disappointment with the assurance that they would rather go to Utah than this park.
We went to another park a short distance away, and I was dismayed to see that this park, too, had many kids playing at it.
So we turned around and came back to visit a tried-and-true park close to home that seldom has anyone there. The kids had been in the car for over an hour by this point and had taken the disappointments in stride, so I rewarded them with a quick stop at Sonic for lunch before we got to the park.
Benson's happy face with his corn dog just brings me so much joy.

We came home and spent the afternoon with leftover pie, lots of laundry, and another round of Poetry for Neanderthals. 
We also started our annual Christmas book countdown to Christmas!
I love it how when Breanne is around we end up with pictures of moments that we otherwise wouldn't have captured, like our entire family piled on one couch with the big quilt my Grandma made stretched over us all.

We also end up with a lot of additional pictures of this face because, well, she's just as cute as a button.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Elsie's Newborn Pictures

I really struggle with newborn pictures. It is so hard for me to pose babies and keep them asleep and get good light, and then the edits take me forever. I finally finished Elsie's pictures and, while they aren't exactly professional quality, I am grateful to have captured the fleeting newborn stage before we closed the door on that chapter of her life.
She's only two months old but I already miss it!

It has been 2 sweet months of cuddles, sweet smells, adoring brothers, smitten parents, and recent enormous smiles and coos. We are still just over the moon for her.
-She is a great sleeper and typically wakes up once in the night for a feeding, although sometimes she sleeps through the night! This has definitely not been the norm for our babies and has been SO appreciated.
-She smiles so big when we clap her hands rapidly or kick her legs.
-She loves to watch her brothers play.
-She is pretty even-tempered and content and will gladly hang out in her swing, sleeping, for hours during busy times.
-She is growing fast and has the best cheeks! We smother them with kisses all the day long. She is already fitting well into her 3-6 month clothing.
-She loves to be swaddled up tightly and when we sing to her she will respond with coos.

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