Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fall has arrived

 School continues here. At home. Every day. EXCEPT! One day they go to A's house and this week they got to swim in her pool during breaks and at lunch so I had two very happy children when I picked them up.Unfortunately, next week is the last week for swimming as they need to drain it for the impending winter. It's already feeling very much like fall here. Leaves are falling, the deer have all turned gray and the nights are chilly. But the biggest indicator of fall is that the stores are full of pumpkin everything. Lucy's turn to cook with me was this week so she picked out a vegan frozen pumpkin pie to make. Oh my goodness it was delicious! We made the crust and baked/cooled that before she whipped up the filling. It was so delicious and creamy that you would never know it was completely vegan.

Yesterday was a teacher in-service day and I had planned to take them on an outing and get away from school for a while but both girls said they preferred to catch up on their work and stay close to home. Lucy had a lot less work so pie making served as a good distraction and I upped her knowledge of fractions by hiding some of the measuring cups so she would need to figure out how, for example, to make 1 1/4 cups with only a 1/3 and a 1/8 cup. That was fun...not.

Now that we're a few weeks out from our Covid diagnoses, we scheduled in a blood test to see if we have any antibodies, especially for Lucy as she had a negative Covid test.

We should get those results any day now. After that the girls were to meet in the school parking lot to get their band instruments. They both chose to learn percussion. Since we had about a half hour to kill beforehand, we stopped for a quick snack downtown.
Mrs. Owens had them set her sample bells set up first.
Then proper hand placement.

Then they set up the drum. She didn't have the sticks on hand so they used the mallets for demonstration.

Earlier in the week, Kate created some friends out of her PE balloons.

Living in the woods definitely means a near constant battle to keep nature from living in our house. Len plugged some holes around our A/C unit where we used to hear mice scampering up and down the walls and Bella solved our basement mouse issues in a rather bloody gruesome way. Then we noticed holes in our eaves on both sides of our house. Traps were set in the attics and a "chew covering" was put over the holes to ascertain what kind of critter was trying to get in. Within a day, the hole was back and it was determined that a squirrel started the hole and a woodpecker came along and did some additional damage to one of the eaves.. The other remained untouched.

None of the traps in the attic had anything after 2 weeks of checking. We've since gotten the fascia repaired and the holes have reinforced wire netting in case they return. 

In the meantime, I've found a more permanent spot for Kate's homeschool. She has been floating between the dining room, the living room couch, the coffee table, the kitchen table and the deck. For a child that thrives with consistency but is loathe to admit it, this has been a disaster. So I cleared off the table next to my desk and set her up there. We got a WiFi extender so we can handle A when she's here for school and it also enables them to take their iPads outside for PE without losing connection.

She seems to like it so far. And she's the quieter of my two so I can actually get some writing of my own done! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chatting with a new friend

 The girls' Chinese teacher from last year suggested that they keep up their language skills by speaking with another student. She has a teacher friend in Beijing who has a 5th grader who wants to sharpen his English skills so she got us connected. We met today for the first time over WeChat. The goal is to spend 15 minutes conversing in Chinese and 15 minutes in English. We tried to brainstorm some getting to know you questions to get things rolling. I think it went pretty well for a cold call with three 10 year olds!

Monday, September 14, 2020

What we have lost

I don't normally post things from other writers but this post was so poignant and pinpoints exactly what I wish I had written. From one artist to another, I appreciate her thoughtful analysis of what the Trump presidency has done to our humanity. It's not about Democrats or Republicans anymore. It's about what it means to be human. And the funny thing is, I don't even see joy in the people who do support Trump. 

I’ve been wondering why this entire
country seems to be under a cloud of
constant misery.
Why we all seem to be Russians
waiting in line for toilet paper, meat, Lysol.
Hoarding yeast and sourdough starter
“in case we can’t get bread”,
Buying stamps so that one of our most
beloved institutions might survive.
Why we all look like we are in bad need
of a haircut, or a facial or a reason to dress up again and go somewhere.
There is no art in this White House.
There is no literature or poetry in this
White House. No music.
No Kennedy Center award celebrations.
There are no pets in this White House.
No loyal man’s best friend. No Socks the family cat.
No kids science fairs.
No times when this president takes off his
blue suit-red tie uniform and becomes human, except when he puts on his white shirt- khaki
pants uniform and hides from Americans to
play golf.
There are no images of the first family
enjoying themselves together in a moment
of relaxation.
No Obama’s on the beach in Hawaii
moments, or Bushes fishing in Kennebunkport, no Reagans on horseback, no Kennedys playing touch football on the Cape.
I was thinking the other day of the summer
when George H couldn’t catch a fish
and all the grandkids made signs and
counted the fish-less days.
And somehow, even if you didn’t even like GHB, you got caught up in the joy of a family that loved each other and had fun.
Where did that country go? Where did all
of the fun and joy and expressions of love and happiness go? We used to be a country that did the ice bucket challenge and raised millions for charity.
We used to have a president that calmed and
soothed the nation instead dividing it.
And a First Lady that planted a garden
instead of ripping one out.
We are rudderless and joyless.
We have lost the cultural aspects of
society that make America great.
We have lost our mojo. Our fun, our happiness.
The cheering on of others.
The shared experiences of humanity that makes it all worth it.
The challenges AND the triumphs that we shared and celebrated.
The unique can-do spirit Americans
have always been known for.
We are lost.
We have lost so much
In so short a time.

~Warhol Caldwell (Lauren)

Friday, September 11, 2020

Learning Pod begins!

This week our learning pod with their friend A began. She comes to our house on Tuesdays and they go to her house on Thursdays. We're starting with 2 days a week to see how it goes before we consider adding days in. Easier to give than take away right?

To say Kate and Lucy were thrilled is an understatement. They are so very happy to have a friend over that they were vibrating on Tuesday morning. The only flaw in the plan is that A is in a different homeroom than Kate and Lucy so that means for at least 2 hours during the morning, all three of them are in separate zoom calls. And none of them seem to have breaks at the same time so I had to point out that "At school when you have a break in your class, you don't wander over into another person's class and start chatting...it's the same in homeschool even though she's sitting at the same table." Sigh.

The good thing is that they do have the homeroom meeting together as both CI teachers do that together with all 40 kids.
(You may notice that I still have the Spring banner up over the fireplace. Ugh ugh ugh! I feel sometimes that we are frozen in that moment when the world seem to have stopped. It's now nearly fall and I dare say none of us would have imagined that we'd be stuck in this time warp for so long. It feels surreal and I really have to struggle to maintain hope that things will get better, they will go back to school, we will finally have a President that is worthy of the title and will try to solve problems instead of blaming others and being a "cheerleader" when it suits him and a race-baiting fear monger the rest of the time....but I digress.)

Then it was individual work time until noon. Next time I'm going to have A sit in Kate's old spot directly across from Lucy as Lucy just could not keep from looking at A's screen to see what was happening in her class.
Lunch break!
It's been rainy and cold (highs in the uppers 50s/low 60s) all week but they went out in the rain anyway for recess.
Dried off and back inside for afternoon specials...library this time.
Homework sometimes extends into the after-dinner hour for this one. Len is the go-to math helper extraordinaire!
On Wednesday night, both girls packed up their bags and Lucy made a lunch list for me since "you're out of practice packing lunches mom."
Kate was busy making her own list...for Christmas. It reads like a college student packing list: furniture, transportation, entertainment, comfort items. All she needs now is beer money and a plane ticket.
During PE class at A's house, the teacher asked them to go outside and do something fun. This was beyond fun for them!

I'm thinking that the half hour all-school meeting first thing in the morning is well-intentioned but ultimately I'm inclined to bail on this in the future. To be sure, a lot of things are going very well or as well as can be expected in this unusual atmosphere. The teachers are killing it every single day, keeping them engaged in their tiny screen boxes and providing opportunities for small group work in break-out rooms. But I'm looking for ways to minimize screen time and trim unproductive activities. I think the 8-8:30 meeting is an obvious choice.

Moving on...last week was gorgeous and sunny but a little cool so Brinkley found a warm patch to sunbathe. I had no idea he was doing this on the table however.
One of the first signs that winter is coming, even before the leaves turn and fall, is that the deer's coats turn from fawn color to gray. And the babies lose their spots. You can see the doe in the background is already turning colors and the baby in the foreground has her spots barely visible.
Our garden is still hanging on. I harvested a late crop of scarlette runner beans and used up the last of our carrots and bell pepper for a red tofu and noodle curry one chilly evening this week. It was a big hit!
The dahlias are making the bees very happy and brightening our tabletop as well.
Kate wanted to make something so she picked out a no-bake cheesecake recipe. It was delicious with cherries on top.

Last week the girls had their annual physicals. We were scheduled for August but then we had to reschedule when we tested positive for covid. Both girls got a clean bill of health! Since it was such a nice day they both asked if they could go to the playground I used to take them to when they were littler. Turns out they had completely refurbished the playground so they had a great time exploring it.

And finally, a little Brinkley fun. He turns his head in the same direction that I turn mine when I talk to him.

Friday, September 4, 2020


I love how Brinkley rolls the ball to me with his nose. He totally trained me, not the reverse.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Two months down! Oh wait, it's only been 2 weeks...

It just feels like two months. Zoom/Screen fatigue is real. Because I can only think in bullet points these days, here's a screenshot (internet lingo) of the good, the bad and the ugly.

1. One 15 minute movement break that is supposed to include a bathroom break, a snack and something other than sitting is not long enough when your day starts at 8am and doesn't end for lunch until 12:15. I know they're trying to cram everything in for the morning but gosh it's a long haul.

2. I have been very impressed with how computer literate my two are. They find where they need to be and criss-cross between platforms with relative ease, figuring out how to simultaneously be on the zoom call while pulling up work from another app. It's been amazing to watch.

3. Hungry, tired and glazed over children do not make for happy children in the afternoon. Getting them outside in what has been gorgeous weather is even harder now that they are catatonic in front of screens for 4 hours every morning. I thought it would be easier but it seems that the roots they grow in those 4 hours becomes harder to pull out with each passing day.

4. Part of the problem is that they are starved for the company of their classmates. All they want to do at lunch or after school is jump on Hangouts or Roblox so they can chat and play with their friends, even if it is virtual.

5. From 8-8:30am is a Specials Showcase that technically I don't think is really required and I have mixed feelings about it. One the one hand, it does get them up and moving if they pick the gym teachers. The problem is there are two zooms and it's a potluck so you never know what you will get when you log on. If they happen to pick a more sedentary zoom meeting with a different specials teacher, then I'm not super excited about an additional 30 minutes spent staring at a screen listening to a presentation.
So far we've been lucky and picked the PE special about 80% of the time. They are much happier when they can jump around first thing in the morning.
This is where Lucy seems to have settled on for her permanent workplace. 
Kate will sometimes work at the dining table but most of the time she prefers to be on the couch in the living room. (Please disregard the mountain of laundry piled next to her...at least it's folded!)
For classes they have together that don't require work on the iPad (like the morning meeting), we hook up an iPad to the tv so they can see everyone better. Having them in the same homeroom this year has been a game-changer even with Kate leaving for math and reading. Juggling two schedules is much easier than the three we were juggling last year.
After lunch they have a specials class (STEM, art, music, PE or library). Depending on the subject they will either stream it on the tv or set up one iPad at the table. This day was art so they set up their supplies at the kitchen table so they could work side-by-side.

While Lucy still prefers the consistency of one work location, Kate does not.

We went for their annual physicals with Dr. Ettner yesterday. He talked to them at length about movement breaks, exercise, proper nutrition and suggested they sit on balance balls while working to help work their core and sneak in some exercise. Lucy's ball was too short so she borrowed mine.
Lucy gifted a large ball to Kate on her birthday last year so Kate was back at the couch with hers.
They are much more self-sufficient than last year leaving me more time for gardening. I finally got control of the Japanese beetles only to find I had a pretty serious white fly infestation. It took me most of a morning to clean up the dead leaves and spray down all the plants. I'm not sure if our pumpkins will make it and even the cucumbers took a pretty big hit. The garden needs a lot of TLC this fall and next spring with some soil amendments and general cleanup. Len has been cutting back some of the tree branches that have started to overshadow the back half of the garden as well. I feel like most of our outdoor time this year has been keeping the two acres of flora from taking over our house.

When I'm not gardening I seem to be cooking. We had an abundance of figs so I made some amaretto soaked figs to put over ice cream or yogurt.
 Sugar, water and amaretto, boiled until syrupy.
One to keep, one to share.
I think this has been my favorite purchase to date. Every day I am asked, "What's for dinner Mom?" Asked and answered every week. And I don't have to think about it every day either...I just look at the chalkboard in the morning to be sure I don't need to pull something out of the freezer and we are set.
Kate decided that she NEEDED blue hair. She purchased the hair dye on our last shopping trip and the big day was this weekend. Her hair took the dye better than I thought it would, with her highlights making the blue lighter and darker in various places. It looks good and she's pretty happy with it. It does show up best outside, looking more brunette when it's dark inside.

Poor Lucy. She wanted just her bangs dyed blue. All it did was turn her hair pitch black. There is a definite line marking the dyed and non-dyed part. I never realized just how brown her hair is!
And finally, on one of our walks recently, Lucy found a turtle trying to cross the road. His friend a little further away had not made it, having been crushed by a car earlier. Lucy rescued this one and put him far away from the road. Just hoping he stayed there!


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