Update December 17, 2020

Hi all! I’m back after a break. I finished How to be Less Stupid About Race, by Crystal M Fleming, and started listening to Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Marino-Garcia. I am still reading Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Thoughts on Books I’m reading

How to be Less Stupid About Race: This is a radical viewpoint on racism. I didn’t agree with everything she had to say. I thought her analysis of American politics was particularly harsh. I think it’s going a bit far to call Obama an Uncle Tom. However, a lot of what she said resonated with me once it was able to sink in (such as the fact that pretty much every institution in the US is white supremacist at some level.

Apparently IL2 had too many CheezIts.

I totally decluttered the basement in expectation of having my startup business (selling books online) down there. It was quite a feat, and I’m proud of myself. It looks great.

IL2 had his birthday party.

And the kids put up the Christmas tree. The star didn’t fit on top, though both kids tried.

Not sure why neither looked at the camera. Maybe they thought I wasn’t ready?

We got D11’s assessment back from the school, and they finally admit she has a learning disability, specific to her writing and working memory. It’s great that she’ll finally have help with this. I think it’ll put her on the right path to success. They’re working on writing an IEP right now.

M8 caught an elf with D11’s help. When she was pretty young, D11 caught some elves by propping up a box with a stick. Apparently M8’s elf felt an 8yo should come up with a better trap. So the elf didn’t fall for that, eating the Snickers bait and leaving a note that M8 needed to be more clever. The next day, M8 was feeling very discouraged (even cried at night!) I felt pretty bad. But they had built another trap despite his frustration (good for him for working through it). They put a towel over the open toy chest so that the elf would walk on the towel and it would collapse, capturing him in the toy chest. They built a staircase so he could get up there.

When the kids got up in the morning, they discovered that D11’s elf Piper had closed the lid on Pooper (M8’s elf), who was climbing out. Pitter and Patter (more of D11’s elves) had pushed over the staircase. What’s more, Pooper and built a toilet out of Duplos and left a Starburst poop in it. M8 refused to eat it.

Puck, one of the cats, photobombed the picture.

IL2 likes to run around only in a diaper, and mostly we let him. But if he pulls off his diaper, we have to pin him down and put on pants. Lately, IL2 has started taking off his pants, too. So we’ll have to make do with onesies for a while. I just bought some long legged onesies to get him through the winter.

IL2 wore a mask for the first time – MN only requires one at age 5 and above, but I thought I’d try it out. He really liked to be like the bigger kids.

D11 made some wonderful Macarons. She often has difficulty with recipes, probably because of her working memory, but this time she did fantastic! And it was a hard recipe, too. (Maybe the added stress of complication made her more careful. We should try her out on more difficult recipes.) She even bought her own food processor for the recipe.

Yesterday, Governor Walz announced that elementary schools can open again, at full capacity. We’re still waiting to see what the district decides to do about that. It’ll be great if they can go back full time, though I’ll miss having a babysitter on Wednesdays, which are currently their short days.

Update December 3, 2020

Happy Thursday everyone! This week went well as far as reading goes, and uneventful as far daily life goes. I’m currently still listening to How to be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M Fleming and reading Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Aaron and I finished Tricked by Kevin Hearne and started the next book in the series, Trapped. And the family is still chugging through the last Fablehaven book.

Thoughts about books

How to be Less Stupid About Race I admit to some surprise at Fleming’s claim that Obama was an Uncle Tom. I did agree with her that he was more supportive of war-like efforts than I would have wished, but I’d never thought of him as promoting racist agendas. She claims that he didn’t condemn police departments for disproportionately killing black people, and that he was standoffish about #BlackLivesMatter. She points out that he frequently signed off on the bombing of brown people. I can’t really say whether she’s right or wrong, since I am not well-educated on this topic. I do remember him saying that Trayvon Martin could be his son. I am inclined to think Obama was somewhere in the middle of Fleming’s opinion and the hero-worship he gets from many fans.

Underground Railroad Still not sure where this is going…But I’m enjoying it.

Tricked Good continuation of the Iron Druid series. It’s the fourth book in the series, and they’re just as good so far as they were at the beginning. I have heard it peters out toward the end, but there are three more left.

Life in general

D11 opened her gift from Aunt Eleanor a little later than the rest of her gifts – and she loved it:

Thanksgiving was fun (for me, anyway). I cooked a turkey (brined, and roasted breast-down for juiciness), stuffing, and garlic mashed potatoes. Dad, Aaron, Loki, and I had a lovely dinner. The kids were with their mom. Aaron ended up work a few hours on Thanksgiving because he was on call, and things blew up. But he took an hour off to feast with us.

Sunday the kids came back home from their mom’s. They really enjoyed themselves there. D11 then then completed the requirements for 2 robotics badges in Girl Scouts through a Zoom meeting. She’s excited as she hasn’t earned many (any?) merit badges so far. I guess her troop isn’t big on them.

Update November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This week I finished listening to How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi, and started How to be Less Stupid about Race, by Crystal Marie Flemming. I continued reading Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (my decision to read Economist was foiled by my library getting rid of it). Aaron and I decided to listen to a half hour of an audiobook every evening, since M8 complains about the scary noises if we watch Supernatural. We will start by finishing up Tricked by Kevin Hearne – which we started on a road trip in September. We are also continuing reading Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull as a family.

Thoughts on books I’m reading

How to Be an Antiracist: I know a lot of woke people don’t agree with Kendi about reverse racism (that black people can be racist about both white people and black people), but I think that until all forms of hatred and discomfort with people based on their category (race, ethnicity,  gender, and sexual preference, etc.) are eradicated racism will be rampant. I do see other people’s points that racism should include a power differential as well – and that non-whites can’t be racist, but as of right now my definition of racism does not include a power differential. Maybe my mind will change as I read more on the topic over the coming year.

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: Flemming is probably going to totally disagree with Kendi on reverse racism, though I haven’t reached that point in the book. Right now, we’re covering the difficult (for me) topic of how systematic racism is a form of white supremacy. I see her point, but I have always defined white supremacy as an extreme position such as those of neo-nazis. But I also see that in order to move the more recalcitrant people onto the antiracist realm, there must be a paradigm shift.

Underground Railroad: The anachronisms, as well as Whitehead’s decision to make the railroad a literal railroad are confusing to me. I suppose he is trying to represent racism as it has changed in the US over time? I’ll see as the book progresses.

This week for the family

The weekend went well. D10 had her 11th birthday party. It was a virtual mystery party. It had a good turnout – Aaron only had to play two characters. It was about a king whose trident had been stolen, and we needed to determine which of the characters (acted out by the party attendees) was the thief. She really enjoyed it, as well as the presents she received. Aaron and I bought her two dresses, the first 4 books of the School of Good and Evil, and the Wildwood trilogy. She’s enjoying the School of Good and Evil books. Her grandma bought her a smart watch, and my dad bought her a bag of rubber chickens. M8 got whoopie cushions as his half-birthday gift, and IL23mo opened his presents early to receive 4 board books and a train set.

IL23mo wants to learn to ride a bike.

I’m now an official seller on Amazon, and am watching a whole bunch of videos to figure out how to sell books properly.

Today I am having a small family gathering.

Update November 19, 2020

Hi everyone! I’m SO close to finishing listening to How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. I was reading Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, but I think I’ll move to audiobook for that. I’ve decided to use my personal reading time to read The Economist magazine, and save my book reading for audiobooks. We’ll see how well that works. 🙂 I’ve also decided to try my hand at “flipping books” for some extra cash. Basically, you go to thrift stores, garage sales, and other book sales and scan the books with an app which tells you how much the book sells for on Amazon. If there’s 100% profit margin or more, you buy the book, and sell it. I’m just starting out by selling a bunch of dad’s old books, some of which are valuable. That will tell me how easy it is to sell books on Amazon and generate some revenue for the business, if (in January) I find that I do want try selling books for a business.

This weekend was fun. My friend came over and the kids dressed up and watched Paranorman. This happened just on time, since we are now back to being restricted on having people from other households over at our house. (New orders by the governor on Wednesday.)

While going through the lot of dad’s books I’m selling, I discovered 3 vintage Boy Scout books with copyright dates from 1913 – 1932. I sold them to a boy scout friend who is interested in that sort of thing.

Anyway, that really covers this week! Not much happened, because not much CAN happen during these times. D10 can’t even go to her swim team anymore, because youth sports have been halted as of tomorrow. But this weekend she has a virtual birthday party coming up. It’s a “mystery party” where everyone gets to act like an assigned character, and solve a mystery. It’s kind of dumbed down for the sake of being virtual, but hopefully it should be fun.

Update November 12, 2020

Hi all! Hopefully you had a good week. This week I spent time reading Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead and listening to How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi. I’m enjoying both thoroughly. 

Saturday,  Aaron raked the leaves and readied the house for winter. I helped a bit, and also worked on some indoor work. D10 will be switching on Tuesday to a different swim team, since the much less expensive district team finally opened back up post coronavirus. It will be very different for her, as it is competitive, and has meets. We’ll see how she likes it.

Sunday, we broke the pinata that we were going to break on Halloween (which we didn’t do because D10 was under quarantine at her mom’s house). IL-23 mo loved the bat, and had difficulty sharing.

Monday was uneventful, besides the family going out to dinner with my dad. I also had a run-in with the special ed teacher at the kids’ school. She said that she didn’t need to talk to me about D10, she would just talk to the bio-parents. I told her that I was sorry I was unwelcome, since I’m the main caretaker. She backed off right away at the word “unwelcome.” I hate being treated like a secondary parent!

Tuesday, D10 had her first lessons on the competitive team with the school district, she had a really fun time. We also found out that dad’s contractor was exposed to COVID, and could have exposed dad, Johnny, and me if he caught it from his friend. I imagine it’s unlikely to have passed that quickly from friend->contractor->dad, but I guess these are the stressful times in which we live. Still, right after being quarantined because of the family fever, I don’t want to be quarantined again for known COVID exposure. On the flip-side, we came up with a fantastic virtual party plan for D10’s birthday, which we will celebrate on the 22nd of November.

Wednesday was noneventful. I read about the new restrictions in MN – mostly restricting sizes of parties and closing restaurants and bars at 10pm. Nothing that impacts me. I’m waiting to see if they’ll close the elementary school this week or next. High schools and middle schools are already closed. The neighboring county just closed their elementary school.

Anyway, have a good week! Hopefully I can make some blogging rounds later today.

Update November 6, 2020

Hi all! It’s been a while. I haven’t been feeling myself due to a bout with bipolar destabilization. Then everyone in the family got sick with fevers, but not coronavirus. Not sure what that was about.

Halloween was a bit of a bust because D10 was quarantined at her mom’s, and IL22mo was sick. But everyone was feeling better on Sunday, and we found out it wasn’t coronavirus, so we all had a nice day carving pumpkins and dressing up.

Update October 3, 2020

Well, it’s been another busy week and a half. I did a lot of shopping – some of it was looking for flippers and a kick board for D10’s swim team. They gave a link to an online shop I could buy from, but they only gave me the list 2 days before the first meeting. Delivery takes 3 days. So I searched and searched and called and called. I couldn’t find anywhere that sold that stuff (at least in D10’s size). So I emailed the coach, and she said it wasn’t needed till next week! Grr. D10 insists there a place not far from here, and clearly I needed to look for an aquatics store. (I did.) Still not sure what store she’s talking about. However, D10 is loving her swim team, and had renewed love for it when she finally got her flippers and kick board on the following Tuesday.

I sold my plasma for the first time in 6 months. I’m trying to save up for some extracurricular activities including a major camping trip once a year. We’re hoping to start hitting up National Parks, but we’ll start next year with the headwaters of the Mississippi. In theory it goes to a good place?

Sunday started out with IL-21mo saying a full sentence. Granted, the first time was echoing me “Is that a kitty?” He actually pointed at Puck and repeated. Then later, he pointed at some unknown thing and said “Is it that?” At least, I think “that” was the last word. Regardless, he used a questioning tone of voice.

On Sunday, I told M8 he needed to “make his own breakfast,” which consists of pouring himself a glass of whole milk. If he can independently steal cookies, he can independently pour a glass of milk. (I didn’t say that to him.)  He refused out of principle for a full hour, despite knowing he doesn’t get screens till after breakfast. Finally he poured it, and took another hour to drink it. I didn’t get to go grocery shopping that morning. 😏

Aaron finished the front beds Sunday so that he could use the left-over rocks as drainage rocks on the wall. I spent time cleaning and running errands.

Afterwards, we all had dinner with dad.

Monday was a great day for spending time with D10. We went to the YMCA to try out Zombies, Run! At first it was a huge success with her; however half a week later she said she didn’t want to do it anymore because it was scary. This was a bit confusing for me – why didn’t she say that to begin with? It was HER idea to do Zombies, Run with me. I never made it seem like I would be hurt if she didn’t want to. So I’m not sure if she was trying to save my feelings, spend time with me alone despite it not being something she enjoyed, or if she just changed her mind. She DID say she wanted to run with me anyway, so I think it’s one of the first two.

D10, M8, IL-21mo and I all worked on scrapbooking this week.

😂🤣 #BeforBraceis (I laugh, but I hope that she can look back on old photos and see something besides her teeth some day.)

Oh…and let’s see. This happened:

Puck (the cat) hates IL-21mo. Not sure what overcame him.

Update September 21, 2020

This was another week that passed by as a blur. On Sunday, I had a “wake” for my mom – I cooked steak in the oven for a couple pairs of aunts and uncles, as well as my family and dad. The priest called up to ask some questions about mom, which I didn’t know the answers to. What were her favorite foods? uhhh. She ate everything that I know of. She never complained. What can I say? Broccoli and pasta, is what I said. lol. So at Monday’s funeral the priest announced that mom loved broccoli and pasta. lol. I was pretty pleased at the turn-out. I had three friends come to support me who I didn’t know were coming. It was, of course, a sad occasion, but I liked seeing my friends. My family all had a lunch at Outback Steakhouse afterwards. Then I relaxed the rest of the day.

On Tuesday I went and got a membership at the YMCA. D10 wanted to join their swim team, and a membership is necessary. I’m hoping we use it! I also discovered that IL-21mo knows how to put on his own shoes. And drink salt.

Tuesday was the kids’ first day of in person classes, which they seemed to enjoy. Wednesday was supposed to be their second day of online, but they skipped Monday because of the funeral. So they worked a total of 3 hours instead of 90 minutes that day. (Really? 90 minutes a day of work? What kind of education is that?) M8 needed a family picture for one of his assignments, and this is what he got.

Thursday, D10 had her tryouts for the swim team. She tried really, really hard. She wasn’t able to make it the whole 25 yards freestyle, backstroke, or breastroke, but she was able to pull off the strokes. The butterfly was pretty silly looking, but she had no experience in that whatsoever, so I wouldn’t expect her to know how to do it. She got into the novice team, which she’s excited about.

All week, I’d been working on getting the stuff out of my dad’s basement so that when the contractor came on Monday, the basement would be empty. We finished up the last touches on Friday! Yay! While moving things around in the shed, I discovered J16’s old hummer. It’s just the right size for IL-21mo, who even figured out how to use the peddle and make it move forward.

Over the weekend, my friend Todd and J16 came over to help Aaron build the wall. I discovered that I was unable to move the bricks with any precision, but they made a lot of progress without me. Sunday night, Aaron and I had a date. We went to an Indian restaurant (which was delicious), followed by a bar for a few drinks.

Monday was a lot of running around. The contractor came. I went banking. You know, errands like that. Also, I finally got the kids started on their scrapbooking project. You know? The one that I intended to do over the summer? I figure if they only work for 90 minutes 3 days a week, then I can supplement with extra reading and “art projects.” Scrapbooking is definitely an art projected. D10 finished two sides of one page, and M8 finished one side. I’ll have to start working on picking out pictures for D10’s personal scrapbook (the one for herself rather than the surprise one for her mom). I have a lot of pictures to go through.

I’m about to go to work at my PCA job for the first time in a while. I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine.

This week, I’m reading How to Be an Antiracist. I decided to try out whisper-n-sync from Amazon to see if it helps me finish the book faster. I watched a bit of Flash with Aaron and M8, a bit of The Good Place with D10, and Book Club with Aaron. Aaron is still reading Fablehaven to the kids.

Update September 13, 2020

Hi All! I’m back from my vacation and it’s been a hard week

Friday, I started out with a 2.5 mile walk with Loki. Then we drove to Sunriver, OR. We had a lovely house with a billiards table and a ping pong table. We got some reading in.

Saturday, the family went on a hike. Aaron had to stay back because he was on call with work. I had to stay back because IL-2mo doesn’t tolerate the backpack longer than a mile. M-8 also chose to stay back. But everyone else had a delightful time. I got a 2 mile walk in, though. Afterwards was an excellent taco dinner. Uncle Brett gave all the kids official Olympics 2020 souvenirs, telling them that if they don’t open the package, they’ll be worth something some day, since the Olympics were canceled.

Sunday was a relaxing day. The kids went to the park. Aaron and I missed the last family dinner because IL-20mo (um IL-21mo? Indeed.) crashed early.

Monday was our travel day. We started out at 7 am to drive to Portland, and arrived about an hour later than we’d hoped. Oops. But they transferred us to a new flight, and we got home a couple hours later than expected. When I got back, I heard that mom had fallen off the front porch and cracked her head on the sidewalk. She was in a coma and not expected to awaken.

The next day was a flurry of activity, none of it planned. We sadly had to withdraw care on mom because she was beyond the ability to recover. Dad, J-16, and I went together to say our final goodbyes, and her priest gave her last rites. The hospital gave us a lovely quilt that they had placed on top of mom to make her look comfortable. I had been planning on keeping it for myself, but then J-16 wrapped himself up and looked so happy with it, that I just gave it to him. After that, Dad, J-16 and I had some pizza. Then, of course, the flurry of phone calls. The day ended with watching a couple of episodes of Flash with M-8 and Aaron.

The next few days were a bit of a blur. We planned the funeral for Monday. Dad wanted a simple obituary and no eulogy because he hates funerals. (“They’re so sad,” he says.)

On Thursday, M-8 swallowed a pill cam to see if there’s more inflammation in his intestines that the colonoscopy couldn’t reach. No news on those results yet. D-10, Aaron, and I watched Never Been Kissed. We’ll have to start a new show, since Once Upon A Time was removed by Netflix. Friday, I cooked spaghetti dinner for my family, dad, and my aunt Anne and uncle Darryl.

Saturday was pretty productive. Aaron got the first bricks laid on the retaining wall, while J-16 moved railroad ties to the dumpster we rented. There was a momentary fright when my car wouldn’t start, but the AAA guy managed to start it up in one go without even jumping it. After that initial trouble, I managed to get a bunch of work done around the house.

I finished three books while on vacation. Sorcerer of the North is part of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. In it Will discovers not all is as it seems at Mackinaw castle, where he has been assigned a secret mission. This was a fantastic addition to the story, and I am eager to move on to the next book.

Whole Brain Child is a parenting book which gives “revolutionary” advice on how to take care of difficult moments in a nurturing way. Mostly, it’s left brain / right brain sort of stuff. Appeal to the side that the kid is on, and move them to center brain. I wouldn’t call it revolutionary, though it provided some good advice.

The Golem and the Jinni is a fantastic historical romance about a Jinni who has recently escaped a lamp, a Golem who had just been made and arrived in New York, and the intrigue that surrounds them. I loved it. The characters were very well developed and the intrigue kept me interested the whole time. Highly recommended.

Update September 4, 2020

Hi all! I’ve been on vacation at my in-laws’ for more than a week. Lots of fun.

The flight to Oregon was uneventful. IL-20mo was hard to keep quiet on the 3 hour flight, and we almost had to taxi back to the gate because some kids refused to keep their masks on. Otherwise, a Saturday was a good travel day.

Sunday was great. I went on a 3.5 mile walk with IL-20mo in the morning. It was cold, so I gave my sweatshirt to IL, since obviously I didn’t bring one for him. 😱

In the afternoon, I went with D-10, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law on a 2 mile walk with IL-20mo in a backpack. I was checking his tolerance of the backpack so I’d know if we could take him hiking. We stopped at a park. D-10 was so excited by the playground that she desperately wants to drag M-8 there. He won’t be able to walk two miles, though. IL-20mo went down a slide all by himself with no prompting. I think that was his first time.

D-10 spent a lot of time on fuse beads, and M-8 on his tablet.

I did some reading as well!

I didn’t get to go for a walk Monday. IL-20mo didn’t cooperate. Maybe I should have tried the backpack. D-10 made a black berry pie with Popo and Papa. It was delicious. She tolerated one bite of it. Lol.

I got M-8 off his tablet for a while, and he played with IL-20mo.

D-10 and M-8 went to the park with auntie Eleanor, and stayed for over an hour (they drove there). Eleanor, Deirdre, Aaron and I played a game of Pandemic.

IL-20mo finally crashed from exhaustion Monday. He was getting up early and going to bed late and skipping naps because of the time difference and change of routine. Monday evening, he fell asleep in his high chair at 4:30pm and slept through till 5am.

Tuesday I took a morning walk with IL-20mo to the park. He was asleep by the time I got there, so I sat on the bench and took care of some calls until he woke up. Then we played for a while, and returned home.

I took another walk with my mother-in-law with IL-20mo on my back. That one was short, as carrying IL is hard and it was 90 degrees out. Then D-10 made a cheese pizza. I didn’t get a picture of the pizza before everyone pounced on it, but here’s her cooking with her aunt.

Wednesday was fun. Aaron and I went on a hike with IL-20mo. IL lasted about a mile in the backpack and started trying to climb out. We let him walk for about 1/8th mile, when he refused to go further. Luckily, he did this right next to a short-cut. (Good thing we had a map!) We plunked him back in the backpack and let him scream and beat Aaron’s head for the rest of the hike – which was about half a mile.

After that, Aaron and I took D-10 and IL-20mo to the park while M-8 stayed home to be “sedentary” (as he put it).

D-10 had been wanting me to sign her up for Habitica (a gamified to-do list) for a while now. So I finally broke down and did it. My sister-in-law also signed up. I went from a party of 1 active member to a party of 3 just like that. Now M-8 wants to join, but I’m afraid he’ll just kill the whole party by never doing his to-do’s. We’ll see.

Thursday, we went to the beach. It was about an hour’s drive each way, but it was worth it. Aaron, Deirdre, and Malcolm all got buried.

Unfortunately, since I am posting from my phone, there will be no place to comment on this post. See all of you commenters next week!