Wednesday, January 20, 2021

I'm so tired of my house (dumb stuff I want to remember, part 1)

One thing that has recently surprised me about all of this, is how many changes I'm making to my house. I don't know if it's just that I'm just so tired of it (being stuck in it for ten months will do that), or if because our lifestyle has changed so much that our needs have also changed. Whatever the reason, we've made a lot of changes. (Well, maybe it's not that many.)
  • New living room coffee table (the wood table on the wood floor was driving me crazy)
  • New dining room rug (now that Bruno is gone, we don't have to worry about it getting pooped on, barfed on, etc.)
  • New family room rug (again, there's almost too much wood)
  • Cleaned out recipe books to make room for a less-cluttered built-in cabinet in the kitchen
  • New shoe organization at the door. We had this old, broken thing that was holding way more shoes than we use, especially now.
  • Put up shelves in boys' rooms to display LEGO builds so that they're not all over the house
Then there are the BIG changes. After too many large rainstorms that brought water into the basement, we decided it was finally time to get a french drain installed. Thanksgiving weekend we cleared out our basement closets entirely and put all of that stuff in the middle of the basement floor. (Our closests are large and held a lot of stuff. It was terrible having it all just sitting there for weeks and weeks.) The drain installation required destroying the closets. So we had to install new closets, with new walls, floors, and ceilings. The rain (and pets and boys and time) also made the carpets terrible, so we had to get new carpets. After nearly two months, we have a like-new basement, full of new carpet, new closets, a new TV, and a new closet system in the "master" bedroom. All that's left is the necessary new couch.

And of course, finding space for everyone to work and school at home has been tough. We just don't have extra room for anything. The boys are set up for online school in their rooms. I have been working in the playroom, which is less than ideal (space, temperature). Chuck started the school year working in the Scamp, but then winter came and it just became harder, so now he's in the basement. It's not great, but where else can he go? There's barely room in our bedroom for our bed, so that's out. we're out of space. So basement it is.

I guess it doesn't seem like that much. However, what's making me sad is how much I feel like we need a new space with more space. Or just a garage. Or just everyone needs to leave the house.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Covid-19: Questions to Ask Friends I Haven't Talked to Since this Began

Because I haven't really communicated with friends, I can't believe how much I miss our conversations. UPDATE: even though we aren't running every Thursday night, we did start doing Thursday night firesides. Jenny has a gas fire thing in her backyard and we go over and sit (six feet apart) and talk. It's lovely.

What are you reading?
After I finished Gone With the Wind, Everett and I swapped book recommendations. So I'm currently doing The Fellowship of the Ring and he's reading Anne of Green Gables. My mom sent me a package of books, and I've never looked forward to a package as much as I have this one. UPDATE: It arrived Thursday and it was amazing!

What are you watching?
Chuck and I are working our way through Orange is the New Black. Once we're done with that, maybe we'll move on to Unorthodox or Succession.

What are you buying?
Some clothes for all of us, the CUTEST shoes for me, office stuff (because you know, home is the new workplace).

What are you creating?
When I get the energy for it, I bought some wooden pendants for cross stitching. I even bought some for the boys to make as Christmas gifts. Also, I took our family videos for the years 2013 through 2018 and turned them into DVDs. That feels like an accomplishment for sure.

What are you yelling at your kids?

What are you baking?
Obviously cookies, banana bread, some whole wheat bread, and one boxed cake because it was Friday, but, more importantly, these delicious pop tarts. I highly recommend them. After writing this I realized how sad my baking resume looks. I need to bake more.

But what I definitely don't want to talk about is coronavirus.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Covid-19: How I'm Feeling Now

One thing my Mormon food storage lessons didn't teach me was to stock up on books. (I promise this is related to the title of this post.) I've depended so much on my local library in recent years that I haven't bought books in a long time. And, unfortunately, I didn't get as many books as I needed before the corona shutdown because, well, who expected it to be like this? I didn't. So at the start of the shutdown I was reading my then-checked out book (Becoming by Michelle Obama). But once I finished that, I was forced to go to my poorly-stocked bookshelf. I decided to reread some of my favorites, starting with Gone With the Wind.

Remember in GOTW when the war ends and Ashley Wilkes comes home? He's completely discombobulated by this new world. And worse than his discombobulation is the fact that he just can't figure out how to live in the post-war world. He's a fancy gentleman, bred for reading, sitting, and land owning. But this job description no longer exists during the reconstruction, and further, he doesn't want any other job and struggles to find his place. This is kind of how I feel. Not that I feel like a fancy lady not able to work. But rather, I really don't care of this existence. I want my old world back.

I want to go to work with thousands of people on a train and get angry at the slow walkers in Union Station. I want to send my boys to school and have a quiet house where my tasks are defined, and I have a list of all I should accomplish that day, which sometimes includes watching the latest Call the Midwife. I want to walk through a store with no mask, going up and down the aisles in any direction I want goshdarnit instead of getting angry at all the people not following the arrows. (WHY AREN'T THEY FOLLOWING THE ARROWS?!) I want to run with my girlfriends on Thursday nights instead of going to Jenny's backyard and sitting six feet apart, even if we dreadfully need that human interaction. I want to know that trips will happen. I want to know that my boys will see friends and family again.

So I'm angry a lot. I feel angry at our president, if for no other reason than I think he's an idiot. I feel angry when states start opening businesses when I don't think they should, and I feel angry at protesters. I feel angry at the grocery store when shelves are still empty. (I mean, don't the people know that Oliver only eats frozen hashbrowns for breakfast?! Who is still buying all of them now, seven weeks into our self-isolation?) I feel angry when I see Maryland's numbers are still increasing, which turns into feelings of hopelessness.

But still. We're healthy. Our family members are healthy. We have jobs and money and security. We even got our stimulus payment this week instead of August like I expected. But I can't help feeling afraid that, like Ashley, our world is forever changed, and not for the better.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Covid-19: Some Pictures of Things We're Doing, 3rd Edition

And here's some of the outside stuff we're doing.

Everett's troop had a "campout." Guess his theme? Sadly more than one inch of rain was predicted that night, so the boys opted to sleep inside instead. (They'd already done two other backyard campouts, so they weren't too bummed.)

One of the non-scout campouts.

It's been weirdly windy. So kites were flown.

More bike riding. Both boys have new bikes. What a world of difference they've made!

More hiking (starting to see a theme?).

We thought it would be fun to have a Saturday night campfire. So I guess we're doing that now. Last Saturday we made some dutch oven mountain man breakfast (for dinner). It was delicious! Chuck and I were overly-proud of ourselves.

This was on Easter eve so of course we roasted Peeps. They actually look quite lovely because of the browning of the sugar!

Oh Bruno! He lives!

Using the sun to burn things. He "drew" a face.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Covid-19: Some Pictures of Things We're Doing, 2nd Edition

Here are some of the inside things keeping us busy.

We've done a few puzzles; this one was the hardest by far.

LOTS of Lego.

The boys even did some biographical Lego art.

Playing with cups.

I made some masks. These went to missionaries, but I also made some for us and a couple for ward members who needed them.

I re-did the chores, assigning some new ones. I think the new method will be better? Each boy has eight chores a week, but they alternate, so one boy isn't always stuck with recycling or whatever chore they think is the WORST. We'll see how it goes.

I had to get creative to send the following message to all three other housemates: I'M ON A WORK CALL. DO NOT BOTHER ME. Sadly, the oldest housemate didn't get it.

The boys do some school work.

Chuck made a big cookie!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Covid-19: Some Pictures of Things We're Doing, 1st Edition

Here are some pictures from March

Hiking somewhere on the AT. This is one of the shelters.

Everett turned 12!

Our neighbors gave him a nice socially-distant celebration.

Lots of walks and bike rides.

Making a mess of the basement.

Installing vinyl stickers in the bathroom.

The boys and I hiked to Washington Monument (not to be confused with the Washington Monument)_. We did this hike again in April with Chuck.

Made a cake just because.


More hiking, this time with some stream fording.

Everett joined a scout troop right before this happened, and they've been having meetings weekly via Zoom. I'm super impressed with this troop!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Covid-19: (A Rough Outline of) What My Work Day Now Looks Like

1. Log on at 6:00 a.m. from my home workspace (aka, the playroom)
2. Do my paid job in the same room where my boys are doing breakfast screens
3. Make sure my boys clean up their breakfast dishes, which usually requires asking three times, the last one a bit louder than the previous two
4. Do my paid job
5. Break up brother fights
6. Do my paid job
7. Encourage the boys to get chores done so they're not all saved until Saturday
8. Do my paid job
9. Manage the schooling by making sure they're logging on at the correct time
10. Do my paid job
11. Manage the schooling by making sure they're doing their weekly assignments
12. Do my paid job
13. Enforce morning recess
14. Do my paid job
15. Tell them to go back outside and finish recess because they were only outside for 10 minutes
16. Do my paid job
17. Make (and eat) lunches
18. Give the boys screens
19. Do my paid job
20. Sign off at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Covid-19: The Day to Day

When we got the announcement that schools were closed, I knew immediately that we needed a schedule, as much for my boys' sake and for my own. So for the first two weeks when Chuck wasn't working, we had a great schedule. Mornings were for chores, outdoor play, indoor play, hiking, Scouts and German for Everett, and recorder practice for Oliver. Next up was lunch. After lunch was screen time, giving everyone much needed rest time. Following screen time was time for more outdoor play. Then dinner, scriptures, journals, and maybe a family show (Malcolm in the Middle, mostly). It was great. The weather was (mostly) great, so we were able to get out on most days which helped everyone's mental and physical health. Every day was pretty much the same, with the exception of Tuesdays and Thursdays when I had to work (from home, of course). The days were loosely scheduled, but enough that my kids knew what to expect and I didn't have to hear, "Can we have screen" fifty times a day. I felt like I could keep this up for a long time. Well, some time. Well, a few weeks...maybe.

But then. School started. Remotely. On the plus side, the school system did as best as they could given the situation. Schedules were distributed, expectations were communicated. Elementary kids were to do math and english in the mornings, and secondary kids did all subjects in the afternoons (to lessen demands on electronicals within a household). But after two or so weeks I just couldn't make it work. We tried to get some schedules and routines incorporated with the schooling, but just couldn't do it.

Why? The big problem was that while Oliver's schedule was pretty set (MWF at 10 was math, TTh was reading), Everett's changed. He didn't have any classes on Mondays; Tuesdays and Thursdays are odd periods; Wednesdays and Fridays are even. BUT the teachers aren't required to hold actual classes; they're only holding "check ins" or just office hours. So he could have 1st period at 12:45 but then no 3rd and maybe 5th at 2:35. It was just so piecemeal and really hard to work around. I needed the boys to get out and have "recess" (what I started calling outdoor play once school was back in session), but it was harder and harder to squeeze it in because we just never knew if he'd have to get to class or not. And when Oliver went to math class, it was 20 minutes going over topics they covered months ago. (Apparently the county wanted everyone in the same place and his class was ahead.) It just didn't feel worth it. And if the boys don't have schedules and I don't know how long things are going to take, then I feel like *I* can't do anything. If I wanted to sit down and read for 30 minutes, I didn't know if I really had 30 minutes or just three because class wasn't class it was only a check in. And if was only three minutes, immediately the boys were asking if they could have screens. It was simply not sustainable.

So Sunday night I reached out to Oliver's math teacher to tell her he would not be joining her class. He would do the assignments, but just not log on to Zoom at 10 each MWF. What a load off my shoulders. Doing this completely freed up our mornings and put some routines back in. Now, MWF mornings are chores, recess, indoor play and then we go to lunch. After lunch both boys work on homework. It is so much better. The boys will be able to get outside more, something they desperately need. I will be able to know how much time I have to do stuff for me. (And by "stuff for me" I mean chores.)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Covid-19: The Things We're Mourning

In no particular order, here are the things that were cancelled and we're sad about it:

My parents visit to us
Chuck's sports on TV
Caps games (including the whole post-season)
Erin's Thursday night track runs
Boys gone all day at school
Camping trips
Oliver's fencing
Everett's hockey
Everett's escape room birthday party
Banff film festival
Youth activities
Everett's scout campouts, including the week-long one at Goshen
Two-day shipping from Amazon

We know some of these don't really matter; they're small things. But, they mattered to us. We liked them, that's why we chose to do them. And we miss them.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Covid-19: My Coronavirus Uniform

I saw a tweet recently that talked about how after wearing sweats for x number of days, the tweeter started calling jeans "hard pants." It's exactly how I feel. I know what I wear during a global pandemic is a lighter topic, it's still one I want documented.

I really have only two outfits, and they're basically the same. I'm wearing these lovely black leggings, which are lined with fleece and just warm enough as our house and the outside are just barely cold. They fit my short legs AND have a great wide waistband that doesn't come to my chest. They're comfortable, but enough pant-like that I can wear them on walks too. I NEVER wore leggings as pants in the before time; I really only wore them on work-from-home days and to run. But not now. I'm wearing jeans today (it's laundry day) and I'm just over them. I'm about to put on pajamas, and it's 2:30 in the afternoon.

On top, I have two t-shirts that I alternate with two sweatshirts on top. The sweatshirts are PERFECT. I had a black one before this began, but then bought another one from Poshmark because I loved the black one so much. They're warm, cuter than a plain sweatshirt, and the best part is that they have 3/4 sleeves. Which, in this era of constant handwashing, the shorter sleeves are much appreciated. So I alternate between the pink sweatshirt with black and white striped tee and the black sweatshirt with the orange tee underneath. Seriously. This is all I wear. (Notice how I didn't mention a bra. That's because I'm not wearing one. Sports bras for running and hiking are it.) How I'll revert to hard clothes is a mystery.

Oh, I have worn make-up exactly twice, and both times had to do with church meetings. One was for a Relief Society we did over Zoom, and the other was for a sacrament meeting we did over Zoom. To be honest, I look much better with make up. I know it. I don't even hate putting it on. But I despise taking it off, which means it could sit for two days and then it starts hurting my eyes. So I don't bother.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Covid-19: The Beginning

When I knew schools were shutting down for the forseeable future, I ran to the dollar store to get journals for my boys. I knew this event would be something they would remember forever, and I wanted that memory as correct as possible. Keeping a journal also helps with writing skills, and given the unknowns with school, I figured it couldn't hurt. (Of course, whether we'll be able to read Oliver's is up in the air. Ugh, third-grader handwriting.) But I should have done the same for Chuck and me: required writing. March 11 seems like forever ago, even though it's less than four weeks. I just remember that night, sitting on the couch, watching shows with Chuck, but mostly paying attention to crazy news I was reading on my phone. What in the world was happening?! It seemed like dominos were falling, first one thing was cancelled, and then another, and then another. It was all so shocking.

Of course I thought of myself and what all the closings and cancellations would mean. But then I thought of my husband and our boys. As we sat down to dinner on Friday the 13th (the last day of school at actual school), we told them three things:

  1. The adults in the house were not worried about those who lived in the house. We felt confident that even if we got sick, we'd be fine. And that the kids had the best chance of all of us! We were worried about older neighbors, older family members, those we know who already have health problems. But we wanted them to not be afraid.
  2. Be prepared to feel lots of things. It is okay! We're all feeling loss and mourning. It's okay to feel angry. It's okay to feel sad. We're all feeling it. It's okay to be bored. With all the restrictions, we know there will be things we can't do. And be stuck in the house might be fun at the beginning, it will get old. So Many Feelings.
  3. Be prepared to hear, "I don't know" a lot. There are so many things that are changing so quickly that we just don't know what tomorrow will look like. At the time, we didn't know if my parents were still going to be able to come out. We didn't know if we could go camping. So much unknown, so hard.
And now, almost four weeks later, these things are still applicable. Something new will come up that we learn is a loss, and we're sad/mad all over again. There are still so many things we don't know. And it's hard. But we're getting used to it. Maybe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chuck Update

Like me, nothing too much going on. Unlike me, turns out he's NOT allergic to the outdoors. Which is surprising because he hasn't been able to breathe easily for as long as we've been married. He visited the allergist on Monday and found out he was only allergic to oak trees. Psh. I mean, good for him. I was actually looking forward to our twice weekly dates at the shot clinic.

He lost someone very important to him in February and is still dealing with that. Death sucks.

Otherwise, his calling is okay, his after-school job is okay. Life is okay.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Me Update

Really, nothing too exciting is going on. Here are the highlights:

  • Allergies: I haven't been able to breathe clearly without the aid of drugs since September. It's miserable. I'm going to blame my poor running on it, but I'm not sure that's medically sound. I treated it with pills first, and then when that wasn't working, flonase. Finally I decided to see an allergist. Turns out I'm pretty much allergic to the outdoors (trees, mainly). Great. I'm also super allergic to cats (WAHOO!) and dust mites. I was given a prescription-strength drug to try, but I don't love it. So I think I'm going to try the shots. I really really just want to breathe through my nostrils again.
  • Camp: It's definitely so much easier to do this a second time. It almost feels too easy, you know? But I have all of my materials from last year and as we're going to the same place, not much has changed. There really are many, many more callings that would be worse for me. Teenage girls crack me up.*
  • PTA: What a mess. We started the year with a four-person executive board; I'm the treasurer. Our president nearly quit in December and was convinced to stay on. However, she does nothing, not even responding to emails or texts. Awesome. Our vice president just had baby number five, so she's out. And the secretary was ghosted by the president early in the year and I have no contact info for her. So it's me. Just me. And our parents really don't do anything. I take money, deposit money, write checks, design fifth grade t-shirts, and try to update our taxes so that we're in compliance. It's a lot. But I'm not sure how to do more on my own, so pretty much we're going to do nothing. Lame.
  • Hiking Goal: With Rhett playing hockey on Saturdays and more rain (shocker), we haven't gotten out yet in March. I'm hoping to change that with a hike Sunday. We're doing okay, and have camping plans for spring break, so I think we're on track. I'm totally making us custom patches when we're done so commemorate it.
But this really is our slow time of year. Finally Monday was a bit warmer. I ran without a vest and gloves; it was lovely. I'm sure summer will be here in April. Sigh.

*Also, so do teenage boys. Chuck and I went out a couple weeks ago and had our neighbor watch the kids for the night. When Chuck texted him earlier in the day to make sure he was still planning on coming over, he replied, "Yeah, I'll show up." Hahaha. We now say this all the time. Yeah, I'll show up.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Rhett Update

We're quickly closing in on his birthday. So exciting. He's still playing hockey and is enjoying it. Sure, it can be hard to get him to go to hockey, but once he's there he has a good time. I get that. At school he's doing fine. We picked his middle school and even chose his classes. I'm still in disbelief that in six months I'll have a middle schooler. So weird. He loves scouts and thinks he'll keep doing it even after the church isn't. He sleeps in the weirdest positions and would prefer to sleep in one of his polo shirts, if only I'd let him. He's had a couple of band concerts with school, so that's been good for him. He loves reading, but loves reading books below his level and repeatedly. We're trying to change that.

He's definitely in an easier stage right now, for which I'm grateful. I expect (or just am preparing for) that to change come sixth grade.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Ollie Update

Whenever I start writing about Ollie, I always want to start with, "This kid." Because, well, this kid. He's just so...Ollie.

I think the biggest Ollie news is that we finally found an extra-curricular activity he's interested in taking. He likes many things, but I think he was terrified of having to get used to yet another adult whose job it would be to tell him what to do. But after seeing him running around the house, treating every piece of furniture as if it was at a playground, it hit me: PARKOUR. And of course, in 2019 in suburban D.C. there is a class for this. There were many classes, actually. So we picked the one that best fit our schedule and he's been going for a couple of weeks. He LOVES it. They jump on the trampoline, do burpees, and practice cool tricks off foam blocks. It's hilarious.

He's my dabber. This kid, way more than Rhett, does stuff like this. Rhett would NEVER dab, but Ollie? Yep.

Playing with my phone because his brother's band concert was boring. Ha.

I won't lie. He can be hard. He doesn't want to do what he doesn't want to do. But man, the kid keeps us laughing.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Valentine's Day

This is not a holiday I care about. But any excuse for treats is good enough for me. I had one gingerbread house leftover from Christmas, knowing I'd save it for Valentine's Day. The candy is just too fun! I had such high hopes. I should have known better. Sigh.

These strawberry rice krispie treats, however, were delicious. I don't believe you can go wrong with rice krispies treats.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hike 4: Patapsco State Park

The last time we were at this park was nearly seven years ago! INSANE! But I remember loving it so much. Of course, at that time, our boys were very little and not really in hiking condition. So given a holiday with decent weather, we trekked back up there to hike 5.7 miles. Not to spoil it, but the boys did it. The whole thing. This was the farthest they've ever hiked in one hike. I'm so so proud of them. Rhett never complained, except the one time he slipped and got super muddy. Ollie complained in the middle, but then realized how futile it was. But they were so so great. Ollie did not, however, break his record for number of pee stops. It was only six. Next time.

It had rained (of course it rained) the day before, so we were a bit afraid of mud, but for the most part, we lucked out! About ten days before we hiked, there was an ice storm. We think the heavy ice brought down many-a-tree because recently-downed trees were everywhere.

At our lunch stop, three old hikers teased (?) the boys. It was...weird?

Some old homestead.

As we approached the falls, there was a cool gazebo. Thankfully this was near the end because it's also where Rhett left his binoculars and where I had to run back to get them.

We finally made it to the waterfall. You can't see the girl in a BRIGHT orange dress getting pictures for her quinceanera.

Hey! We like each other!

This bridge! That boy! Those socks!

The hiking power beans for this trip are the HANDS DOWN best ones we eat. They may be the only ones we should eat. Get some.

83.1 miles to go!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hike 3: Lake Frank

We did this in early February. It was another chilly day, upper 20s, but it was perfect! There were so many puddles that would have been so muddy, but instead, they were fun little frozen ponds. It was really cool. The creek was gorgeous all frozen. The boys did great! Well, except for one part where we went to a pond near where Chuck grew up. (His brothers used to fish in it!) It looked completely frozen and the boys REALLY wanted to walk on it, but we told them it wasn't a risk we were willing to take, even if other people obviously had. Three weeks later we read that our county police found a dead body THAT DAY right where we were. CREEPY.

The lake. So cool to see it so flat and white. All three boys enjoyed throwing logs onto it.

Pond walking.

88.8 miles to go!