A Little of This and That in September

Oct 4, 2020

I was going to say that September was divine in terms of weather. Then I remembered the record-breaking windstorm (see below) . . . and the fires . . . and the lack of rain, and I decided that maybe it wasn't so perfect after all. But there were days scattered throughout that felt perfect, so we'll take those! The ups and downs of the month included . . . 

Running . . . from a swarm of angry wasps. One evening, we were picking up all of the fallen apples from our tree. It is a large tree with thousands of mediocre apples, and we're ready for them all to fall so we can be done with them. In an attempt to hurry things along, Mike climbed up in the tree to give the branches a vigorous shake. All of a sudden, I heard him say, "Ow!" and then watched as twigs and branches broke in his quick descent out of the tree. He scrambled to his feet and then yelled to the boys, "Run! RUUUUUUNNNN!" He raced out of the backyard, looking half-crazed and slapping himself. The boys were confused but followed him to the front yard where Aaron and Max also started yelping, "Ow! Ow!" Then Mike charged into the house, and that's when we finally saw some of the culprits fall from their clothes to the floor. Realizing they had just brought them into the house, they ran back outside where they continued to wage battle for a few more minutes. While Mike had been up in the apple tree, he had inadvertently put his foot right into a wasps' nest. The wasps crawled up inside his pants and shirt before he realized what had happened. All told, Mike got about ten stings, Aaron got two, and Maxwell got one. It felt like a scene out of a movie watching them all race from the backyard with the wasps in hot pursuit. When Mike went back to the tree fifteen minutes later with a can of wasp spray, they had posted a sentry and were getting ready to swarm him again. It was an adventure.

Listening . . . to the most amazing music at a David Archuleta concert. I mentioned last month that our family was watching the seventh season of American Idol. It was so much fun, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. So when Mike and I found out that David Archuleta was doing a drive-in concert in Idaho Falls, we jumped on it. It just seemed like the most fitting culmination to our summer. We looked forward to it for weeks, and I have to admit that I maybe said a few prayers pleading that we would actually get to go and that this would be one thing in 2020 that would not be cancelled. And it was just the most fantastic evening. Yes, all seven of us were crammed into our minivan, and we didn't all have the best view, but it didn't matter--the music streaming in through the open windows was glorious. And really, the thing I was most worried about was that Clark or Ian would get bored or restless and make it miserable for the rest of us. But they pretty much stayed in their seats the entire time. At one point, David A. was talking, and Ian yelled as loudly as he could, "Hey, David Archuleta! START SINGING!!!" It was the first concert David Archuleta had been able to do in 2020, and it was also his first time performing any of the songs from his new album, so it just felt really special to be there. He also shared a lot of really candid, beautiful thoughts about recognizing your own worth as an individual and holding firmly to your own values and ideas, and I thought it was really inspiring.

Getting . . . pulled over. After the David Archuleta concert, we had to drive the three hours back to Salt Lake. At about 11:45pm, a state patrolman turned on his flashing lights and pulled Mike over. It got all of our hearts racing a little bit, especially since it was so late at night . . . and also because I had just read a chapter in Talking to Strangers that was all about how policemen pull drivers over for something small if they suspect there might be something more serious worth finding. It turned out that one of our headlights was out (which we didn't know) and also our license plate light (which we also didn't know). He let us go on our way, but then of course we were worried that we were going to get pulled over again for the same thing. 

Making . . . a midnight visit to the emergency room. I'm still not done talking about the wasps, just fyi. Apparently I could have written an entire post about our wasp escapades. A few weeks after the first encounter, Mike got stung again. One of those stings was right below his right ear. It gradually became more swollen during the course of the day. His ear was so taut, it looked like rubber. This happened to be the same day we went to the David Archuleta concert. After we got home (around 1:00 in the morning), Mike couldn't get to sleep. He could feel the swelling traveling down his neck and into his throat. He didn't think he was having an allergic reaction, but since he'd never had one before, he didn't know for sure. He first tried calling and talking to a doctor, but that proved to be completely useless. So he just took himself to the emergency room instead where they confirmed that it was not an allergic reaction but just a result of the swelling having nowhere else to go. They told him to take some Benadryl when he got home and just wait it out. I was asleep for this entire ordeal and woke up to find a string of texts I had missed in the middle of the night, which Mike had sent just so I wouldn't worry if I woke up to find him gone (but even with the texts, I know I still would have panicked so maybe the deep sleep was a blessing). Can you say, "Good riddance, wasps"?!

Removing . . . the offending apple tree. After trying for a couple of weeks to exterminate the wasps (including vacuuming up hundreds of them), Mike finally decided to just take down the entire tree (but he wised up and wore a beekeeper's suit while doing it). There was really no reason to keep it: it was partially dead, it housed murderous wasps, it was ugly, and it was loaded with about a bazillion apples that we had absolutely no use for. I recently saw the wife of one of Mike's cousins put up a post on Facebook that said, "You know what's better than owning fruit trees? Having great neighbors who own fruit trees." I tend to agree with her. Unless you are someone who finds a lot of joy in harvesting and preserving fruit in a variety of ways (which I am not), fruit trees tend to just create a huge mess. So we decided we'd rather plant something we loved instead of hanging onto the bane of our existence. 

Looking . . . for salamanders at Cecret Lake. We went on a fun family hike over the Labor Day weekend. We reached the beautiful little lake just as the sun was cresting the mountain, and the light glinting off the clear water was just breathtaking. We found some salamanders swimming around, and Maxwell was delighted to find a dragonfly nymph (seriously, the joy this brought him was almost comical). Aaron accidentally dropped one of his shoes in the water. It floated away too quickly for him to retrieve it with a stick, so he had to go in after it, and let's just say that a lake of melted snow is not the warmest thing, even at the end of summer. Even with that though, it was still such a pleasant day, and I'm always grateful we live so close to the mountains.

Getting . . . two root canals. I went to the dentist for a normal cleaning. They took x-rays--no cavities. They cleaned my teeth. They were about to send me on my way for another six months when I asked what I could do about some discoloration on my eye teeth. I expected them to recommend some bleach strips, which they did at first. But then the doctor and the hygienist consulted with one another and said, "You know, it's actually pretty strange that it's just those two teeth. Maybe we better do a sensitivity test." When the dentist pressed it to my tooth, I felt absolutely nothing--not a twinge or a prick. I knew then that whitening strips weren't going to do anything to fix this problem. The dentist asked me if I had experienced any trauma to my mouth, even many years ago. When I said no, he asked if I'd had braces as a teenager and if any teeth had been pulled next to those two. I confirmed that I had. They then delivered the bad news that the nerves were dead in both of those teeth and I would need a root canal in each one before it turned into a bigger problem. I was so disappointed and kind of wished I had never asked about the whiteness of my teeth in the first place. But I feel better now that it's just been taken care of. And the good news is that they were able to internally bleach the teeth, which means I was able to avoid getting crowns, at least for now. 

Speaking . . . in church. Mike, Aaron, and I had the opportunity to speak in our new ward on our first Sunday back at church. It had been more than six months since we had been to church, and even though we have loved having church at home as a family, it felt so good to be with our new neighbors. It wasn't the same, of course, with all of us wearing masks and no singing and being spaced apart from each other throughout the chapel, but we didn't mind. 

Losing . . . electricity. Northern Utah was hit by a violent windstorm early in the month. It knocked down beautiful, old trees all around the city and left a wide path of destruction in its wake. I woke up around 3:00am on the Tuesday morning when the storm hit. The wind was howling around the house, rattling the windows so hard I was worried they would shatter. I couldn't get back to sleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up for the day a little before 6:00, I realized that the power was off (and probably had been since I first woke up). The boys all went to school, but Aaron's school didn't have power for the whole day, and so they did all of their work in the dark (they cancelled for the rest of the week because I think they realized how ridiculous and impossible that was!). So many people lost power that we did not have high hopes of it being restored quickly. We ended up borrowing a generator from Mike's sister, and it saved us. We could preserve all of the food in our fridge and freezer, wash one load of laundry per day, charge up our phones, and plug in a few lamps at night. We shared it with our neighbors, and Mike transported it back and forth every morning and afternoon in a wheelbarrow. It wasn't convenient but it was definitely manageable. Our power was finally restored Friday evening, 86 hours after it went out. We ran through the house turning on lights and rejoicing. There were other parts of the city that didn't get power for another 72 hours after us, so we were grateful we got it back when we did.

Auditioning . . . for jazz band. Aaron has been playing the trombone since he was in fourth grade, but his level of commitment has been pretty casual.  But this year, in addition to being in cadet band, he decided he wanted to try out for jazz band. When he expressed this interest, I was supportive, but I didn't take over. I realized this was something I didn't have to become personally invested in; it didn't matter to me whether he did jazz band or not, so I could give him full responsibility for it. There was something so freeing about this. I didn't have to stress if he didn't adequately prepare for the audition or sign up for a time. If he wanted it enough, he would put forth the effort, and if he didn't, he would miss the chance. I listened from a distance as he struggled through the audition piece. He asked for my help a couple of times, which I was more than happy to give, and after a few days, the song was actually recognizable. He signed up for a time and went to the audition by himself. The next week, he came home absolutely beaming because the results had been posted, and he had made it in. So far, he loves it. I don't think I've ever seen him so happy about any activity. He cheerfully gets up forty-five minutes earlier in order to be out the door on time, and he practices every afternoon when he comes home. I realize this enthusiasm might not last forever, but I'm so glad he has found something he loves that I don't have to nag him about. It's a good development for both of us.

Celebrating . . . one year post transplant! I cannot believe it has been one whole year since Maxwell donated his life-giving bone marrow to Aaron. Some of the days were agonizingly long, but now that we're on the other side of it, it seems like the time flew by. It has been a year of miraculous healing, and we celebrated as best we could for it being a busy Wednesday in the middle of the week. It actually felt rather symbolic to have it come on a day that was so packed with all kinds of normal activities. We wouldn't have had a day like that a year ago, and we feel so blessed to have our lives come so full circle in such a short time. I plan to write up some introspective thoughts after Aaron does all of his baseline tests again next month. 

Worshipping . . . in the temple. All of the Utah temples are still closed except for live ordinances. This means you can only go if you know someone who is going through the temple for themselves. We were used to going to the temple on a regular basis before the pandemic, so it has been hard to not be able to go for so long. But then, we caught a lucky break. Our nephew, Steven, began his missionary service in July and was finally able to secure a temple appointment for this month. He was allowed sixteen guests, and Mike and I were among the privileged few who got to go. It felt wonderful to be back in the temple, especially since we got to be there with Steven and a few other family members. 

Meeting . . . virtually with the boys' teachers. SEP conferences were different this year because we couldn't meet with the boys' teachers in-person. But you know what? I kind of liked it. It was super convenient, and Mike could even just join in from work. The one thing I kind of dropped the ball with was Aaron. Now that he's in junior high, he has seven teachers instead of just one. I wasn't sure I wanted to meet with all seven, and by the time I decided it would be a good idea, all but two were already full. I'll do better next time. We sure are grateful for each and every one of these teachers!

Showering . . . the birthday boy with lots of attention, well wishes, presents, many happy returns of the day, treats, pie, and all that jazz. Bradley turned nine years old. His birthday came right in the middle of the week. I thought he might not like that because it was a busy day with school and work, but he actually loved it. He said it was the best birthday he ever had. Bless this child who is so easy to please! I think he liked going to school because all of his friends wished him a happy birthday, and he is all about recognition. He received a subscription to Kiwi Crate, which he was thrilled about because he loves projects. In the evening, we sang to him over key lime pie and then played his new card game--basically all of his favorite things.

Spending . . . a day at the cabin. Because of SEPs, the boys had Friday off of school, so we went up to the cabin for the afternoon and evening with Mike's sister's family. It was just the most gorgeous day: the temperature was perfect, the canyon was bursting with color, and the sky was crystal clear. The kids found two snakes (which were promptly christened "Pretzel" and "Curly Fry"), a praying mantis ("Johnny John John"), and some slime berries (i.e., buckeyes). When it was time to go, no one wanted to leave. It's hard to say goodbye to a perfect day.

Reading . . . a book with my cousin. Ever since the pandemic started, my cousin, Erin, and I have been Marco Poloing on a regular basis. It's been so fun. We've swapped book and show recommendations, and she's given me lots of tips for doing my hair curly (which is currently not going very well, by the way). One day, she mentioned a book she'd checked out from the library, and it was one that I'd been wanting to read as well, so we decided to both read it and then discuss. It was an enjoyable read all on its own, but that enjoyment was elevated because I had someone to talk to about it. 

Relenting . . . to a pool table. Mike has wanted a pool table ever since we moved into this house. I kept finding excuses (too big, too expensive, no space for it, etc.), but when a friend of his offered to give him one for free . . . well, it was just too good to pass up. Everyone has been having a lot of fun with it. Part of the problem for me was that we couldn't have both a pool table and an entertainment center in the basement, but I've been doing some rearranging in my head so that the living room can accommodate the TV instead. So who knows . . . maybe we will just completely embrace the idea of teenage hangout in the basement and give up the family room completely.

Resuming . . . Harry Potter. The arrival of fall means Harry Potter for us. Aaron, Maxwell, and I are on the sixth one this year, which feels a little crazy to me. I'm not ready to think about this series being over. Reading one book each fall has been one of our favorite traditions, and I'm not sure we'll be able to give it up when we finish the last one next year. We are actually flying through this one (well, as fast as one can fly through a 600+ page book . . . ). Mike is reading the third book to the younger boys.

Welcoming . . . Angela home! My sister is back from her eighteen-month church mission, and we are all thrilled about it. I checked the boys out of school for about an hour so that they could say hi when she stopped at our house briefly on her way home from the airport. We've seen her several more times since then, and the boys are just so happy to have their favorite aunt back. 

Finishing . . . a few knitting projects, namely a cardigan, a cowl, and a little stuffed Mary. The cardigan had the most unusual construction; it was basically knit as a geometric shape (composed of a vertical rectangle, a horizontal rectangle, and another vertical rectangle) and then seamed up to create the most beautiful back and sleeves. I'm quite smitten with it actually, and it was so exciting to watch it come together. The cowl was one of the most enjoyable objects I've ever knitted. I started it back in April but forced myself to put it aside a few times so that I could stretch out the process. The yarn was scrumptious and the colorwork was addictive, and it is just the perfect size to wear around my neck. The stuffed Mary is part of a little nativity I'm making for Christmas.

Cutting . . . my hair. Between Aaron's illness and the pandemic, I hadn't prioritized a haircut in a very long time. I finally made an appointment (and ironically, it was the week that covid cases spiked higher than they ever have). I was just going to get a trim, but then I decided I'd rather get my money's worth and chop off a bunch. Plus, I needed a change. I'm not totally in love with it, but hair always grows back, right?

Teaching . . . my friend, Kathy, how to knit. It was Kathy's birthday in September, and I gave her the gift of knitting! She came over on a Saturday morning, and I taught her how to do the basic stitches. Then on the following Saturday, she came back, and I helped her get started on a hat. Kathy is very creative and crafty, and she took to it easily and improved quickly. I think she might be hooked, and nothing makes me happier. I love passing on this skill to other people. 

Flying . . . a kite. My parents gave Bradley a kite for his birthday, and he loves it. Before this, he'd only ever had kites from the dollar store or of his own making. I think it was something of a shock to him to have the kite lift off of the ground and stay airborne, climbing higher and higher in the sky. We've been having some gorgeous weather lately, so hopefully he gets to fly it a bunch this fall.

Kicking . . . off the newest season of The Great British Baking Show. Oh man, it feels so good to have this show back. It's just what 2020 needed.

There's always more to tell, but I guess I'll cut things off there. Hope you all are staying safe and healthy as we continue to soldier on! 

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Sep 18, 2020

I used to try to make an effort to read at least some of the same books as my kids. But lately, I haven't had much of an interest in their reading material. For most of fourth grade, Maxwell's favorite series (along with its multiple spinoff series) was Warriors. In case you couldn't guess, action packed drama involving warring cat clans is definitely not my thing. 

Aaron is a much more eclectic reader than Max, but this summer he has either been reading books that I recommended (which I've already read) or long-winded fantasy series (also not my thing).

As part of our summer reading program, the boys could earn a book after twenty hours of reading (ten hours for Clark). For the first two months of summer, Aaron was literally earning at least one book every week. At one point, we kind of ran out of ideas, so I had him look through this excellent list of adventure books from Erica at What Do We Do All Day (seriously, all of her lists are good, but this one is a particular gold mine). He selected The False Prince, and after reading through the summary, I said, "Hey, that actually sounds like a book I might like, too." 

Luckily, knowing that his mom might be interested in the same book as him is not a turnoff for Aaron. Once he was done with it and confirmed that it was very good, I checked out the audio and gave it a listen. 

Although his life is not luxurious in any way, orphan Sage is quick on his feet with an even quicker mouth, so he gets by just fine. But one day, just after stealing a ham, his life makes an abrupt turn when a man named Connor, one of the country's regents, stops by the orphanage and handpicks Sage for a secret project.

After a great struggle with some complaining and insults thrown in, Sage finds himself in the back of a wagon with three other boys: Vladimir, Tobias, and Roden. They exchange what little information they know, but it is soon clear that the four of them were chosen for a role that only one of them will ultimately fill. Connor gives each of them the chance to leave before he reveals the full plan, and when Vladimir accepts the offer, Connor has him shot in the back before he even leaves the campsite. The other boys quickly realize this isn't a game, and Connor will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

And what does he want? To save the kingdom of Carthia from war and destruction. The king, queen, and prince have just been murdered, leaving no heir to the throne. There was a second son, Jaron, who was  supposedly killed by pirates four years before, but his body was never found. Connor has evidence that Jaron actually did die, but he plans to take advantage of the hope the country still has that Jaron is alive. 

And that is where Sage and the other boys come in. Connor takes them to his estate for two weeks where he trains them in all of the arts, graces, knowledge, and traits of Prince Jaron. At the end of the testing period, he will choose one of them to be presented as the long-lost Prince Jaron and ascend the throne as the rightful king of Carthia. 

I listened to an interview with Jennifer Nielsen about writing this book, and she said that once she had the character of Sage firmly in her mind, everything else fell into place. She said that Sage became this living, breathing person for her, and she would think about him constantly and what he would do in various situations in her actual life. 

When I heard the way she talked about Sage, it suddenly made sense why the story worked so well for me. It was because Sage was so convincing--even with his conflicting actions and attitudes. He was 100% believable, and I think a lot of that had to do with Jennifer Nielsen's relationship with him: it was affectionate and personal and very intimate. He wasn't just some character that she dreamed up to execute a certain idea. She took the time to get to know him--his layered complexity that made the story so rich and thrilling.

I'm so glad she took the time to get him right because if Sage hadn't clicked for me, the whole story would have fallen flat. As it was, I enjoyed the whole thing very much and thought it had some good twists and turns.

This one is the first book in the series, but I can't decide if I want to read any of the others or not. I honestly kind of liked it as a standalone novel. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'm worried that Sage won't be as fascinating or exciting of a character in subsequent books, and since he was the reason why I loved this book so much, I just don't want to risk ruining that. 

I would place this book solidly in the 10-14 age range, but a younger child could enjoy it as a readaloud, and I obviously still enjoyed it very much as an adult. 

A Little of This and That in August

Sep 6, 2020

I saw on the the news that this was the hottest August in Utah on record. And I believe it. The heat felt absolutely relentless at times . . . and this is coming from a person who is generally a heat seeker. Add to that the oppressive smoke from the California fires, and there were times when we couldn't bear to be outside. But all in all, it was a good month with some exciting milestones and fun times, such as . . . 

Giving . . . Clark the nickname of The Town Crier. In our family, Clark is the one who loves to spread information. It doesn't really matter what it is--dinner is ready, there's a package by the front door, we are going to grandma's--it brings him a great amount of joy to tell others about it. One evening, we bought some bar stools from the classifieds. By the time Clark saw them, almost everyone else already knew about them. But he said, "Does Bradley know yet?" And when we said no, he raced off, yelling, "Bradley! Bradley! Did you hear?! We got new bar stools!" Too bad a town crier is a career of the past because I'm pretty sure Clark would be an excellent one.

Finishing . . . an online class. Aaron decided to take an online class this summer (Digital Literacy) in order to free up a credit in his school schedule so he could take another elective. He worked on it almost every day for the full two months, and even then, there was still a mad rush at the end to get everything finished and turned in on time (including a proctored test that he didn't realize he'd missed until two days before the end of the term). He definitely didn't love it, but I think he really will be glad not to have to take it during the school year.

Sleeping . . . on the trampoline. The boys had been begging to do this all summer, and we finally relented. I have to admit that I'm a little nervous at night; I like being able to go into their rooms and check on them and hear them if they need me. So even though it wasn't like they were off camping in the mountains, they still felt farther away than normal. Ian started out with them, but as soon as it got dark, he came inside. The others knew that they could come inside at anytime, and I fully expected at least one or two of them to be in their beds in the morning. But they were actually all still sound asleep on the tramp when I woke up and also, as we discovered a little bit later, covered in mosquito bites. That put a bit of a damper on the adventure, but they still loved it. 

Watching . . . American Idol . . . from 2008. In search of something to do, the pandemic forced us to dredge up reality shows from the past where the outcomes were determined long ago and contestants have long since moved forward with their lives. No, we're not that desperate. The real reason is that our kids have been fans of David Archuleta for a long time, and Mike and I realized that they didn't know anything about him, nor did they know anything about the show that gave him his start. We thought they might think it was fun to watch him move up the ranks and also get this little slice of reality TV history. And they have actually loved it and are all so into it. It's pretty nostalgic for me to watch as well because I have a lot of memories of watching that season while being very pregnant with Aaron. The one downside to watching it twelve years after the fact is that they can't actually vote for David, and I know they want to. 

Passing . . . up Bamboo. Aaron reached his first height milestone this month. He is officially taller than my mom. Of course, that's not a huge accomplishment since she's only five feet exactly, but I know she's just the first one, and he's probably going to shoot up in the next couple of years. I'm already mentally preparing myself to be the next casualty. 

Tasting . . . chicken sandwiches. For one of our dates this month, we did a little taste test with Mike's sister and brother-in-law. We went to four different fast food places (Arby's, Popeye's, Chick-fil-a, and Shake Shack) and ordered the deluxe chicken sandwich at each one. As we ate it, we ranked it in terms of taste, texture, and a number of other factors (Mike had, of course, made up a detailed score sheet for each person). It might surprise you to know that Arby's bun won by a landslide while the chicken patty from Popeye's was the crowd favorite. However, Chick-fil-a won the competition overall because there's just no way to compete with their customer service and general experience. 

Relaxing . . . at the beach. One Thursday night, my mom Marco Poloed me and said, "If you don't have any plans tomorrow, you should come to the pond with us!" We actually did, in fact, have plans (a tough hike in 100-degree temperatures and smoke-filled air), but we scrapped them because her plans sounded a lot more fun. And they were! We had the pond almost to ourselves, and we spent the morning floating in tubes, swimming, digging in sand, kayaking, and eating treats and snacks. The boys connected the tubes and kayaks to form a train and circled the perimeter of the small pond. My mom and I paddled back and forth across the length of the pond, chatting and watching the activities on the shore. When the beach started to fill up with other people, we headed over to my parents' where we picked raspberries and peaches and made the most delicious shakes. It was a nice way to say goodbye to summer. 

Playing . . . many, many rounds of Memory. This is Ian's game of choice right now. It's lucky there are six other people in this family because if he can convince each person to play it once with him every day (which, he often can), then that's six rounds for him. He has improved immensely since he first started playing it, and sometimes he wins fair and square. 

Cheering . . . on the Jazz once more. Aaron was so excited to have the NBA start playing again. It had been too long without his beloved sports. 

Canceling . . . the family reunion. Most of our family reunions were canceled before summer even started, but everyone was holding out for Mike's family reunion, which was to be held at a large cabin in Hobble Creek Canyon. Unfortunately, the Covid cases refused to drop and it was kind of stressing everyone out, and so a couple of weeks before it was set to happen, Mike's dad decided to cancel the reservation. But even though we couldn't all get together under one roof, we still decided to spend some time in the mountains together. On two separate occasions, we gathered in the canyon for yummy food and fun with the cousins. On the first time, Mike showed the kids how to make a trap with a box, a little bit of bait, and a string. It was quite the hit, and all of the kids caught squirrels and chipmunks all afternoon, letting them go each time. They had grand plans to do the same thing the second time, but I was pretty sure it was illegal to catch wild animals, so I told them they couldn't. They resigned themselves to games instead, which they liked just as much.

Going . . . to the park. We basically haven't been to a park since the start of Covid. But when some new friends in our neighborhood invited us to go with them, I just couldn't say no--we have been so starved for friendships since we moved. We had the best time. They took us to a park that we had never been to before: it had tons of play equipment and a stream and was encircled by paths and bridges. The boys got along great with the five kids in the other family, and Ian was the only one who was actually ready to go when it was time to leave. Clark and six-year-old Evie had so much fun that the two of them had a little playdate at our house the following week. 

Changing . . . wishes. Because of all of his medical adventures over the past year, Aaron was nominated to  be a recipient of the Make-a-Wish foundation. He declared his wish last fall (a trip to New Zealand). The wish was accepted, and we got passports for everyone in the family. The wish was supposed to be fulfilled in February of 2021. But then, covid happened, and all trip wishes were canceled. Not just postponed, but canceled. I called the wish director and told him Aaron would be fine to wait as long as needed for travel to be safe, but he said they were required to schedule the wish no more than a year after they received Aaron's application. It was very disappointing for Aaron, and I felt so sad for him, but we know we are in good company with many other people who have had something taken away because of covid. Anyway, he met with his wish granters this month to brainstorm a new wish idea, and I think he's still going to end up happy (although I don't think anything will be able to compare to New Zealand . . . ). 

Enjoying . . . junior high. Out of all of the boys, Aaron was the least excited about the start of school, which surprised a lot of people. Having missed pretty much all of last year, I think they expected him to be eagerly anticipating the return to a classroom and friends. However, you have to remember that last year was technically his first year of junior high, but since he hardly got to go, it meant that he was facing the newness of it all over again. Plus, he had no idea what the state of all of his friendships that took a break would be . . . would he still have those friends, or would he have to make new ones? People (especially kids reaching adolescence) can change a lot in just a few months. And then of course, we can't forget that Aaron basically hadn't woken up before 8:30am for an entire year, so the 6:30am alarm was not looking great. All of those reasons made me totally understand why he was dreading going back to school. So imagine my surprise when he came home on the afternoon of the first day with a wide smile on his face and practically bursting with things to tell me. He followed me around the house for a good forty-five minutes talking about each of his classes, all of his friends, the lunch schedule, and his favorite teachers. Aaron is usually my kid that I have to pry information out of, so I was kind of stunned, but also so so happy, that he was so willing to share. (Also, having him walk to and from school is pretty much the stuff dreams are made of.)

Sewing . . . masks. After months of having absolutely no interest in making masks, I finally surrendered. Three things provided the necessary motivation: 1. After trying various styles and types, we finally found one that we all really liked. And wouldn't you know, it was pretty much the simplest style out there. I was no longer afraid of making something that wouldn't fit because I had a perfect template to copy. 2. Maxwell and Bradley begged to make masks as one final sewing project using their leftover scraps. 3. My sister-in-law gave me several yards of thin elastic, so I didn't have to go through the hassle of trying to track some down online or in stores. Max, Bradley, and I made masks until the elastic ran out, and the homemade masks, combined with the store-bought ones, gave us a pretty good stash.

Riding . . . the bus. Although the bus has always been an option for my kids, it never made very much sense to take it because I would have had to drive to the bus stop, and it would have only taken me a minute more just to drive them to school. But now, we live within easy walking distance of the bus stop, and it also happens to be the final stop before it heads to school, which means the boys only have to ride it for five minutes, and they don't have to be get ready any earlier than they normally would. So it's really the perfect situation. This means that instead of being in the car five times a day like I was last year to transport my kids to and from school, I literally don't have to drive at all. Plus, it feels so old school to walk to the bus stop, and I love that.

Finishing . . . the dining room. I alluded to this progress in last month's update, but everything finally came together this month, and I am in love with the results. Of course we might still change or add some things to it, but it feels complete as is. What was once a room that I hated being in has now become somewhere that we gather often as a family. I love the dining table that we bought--it is simple and sophisticated and so easy to clean. I also love the rug, which helped anchor the furniture in the room and tie everything together. But my favorite thing is probably the framed black and white photos, which are all pictures that I took on various trips and adventures. It just feels so good to have one room finished, and I'm so excited to start tackling the next project (and I'm so lucky to be married to a person who loves to build, make, and fix things). Here's a little before and after:

Scoring . . . the yarn deal of a lifetime. One of my favorite yarn companies is Brooklyn Tweed. They had a tent sale in August where they sold seconds and overstocked yarn at a steal of a price. The sale began at 10:00 on a Friday morning, and I decided to set my alarm and see if there was anything worth getting. I had a pretty good idea of what I was hoping for--I had a certain sweater in mind and knew the number of skeins I needed for it. So when the sale started, I was extremely quick with selecting the yarn I wanted and paying for it. It kind of gave me a rush, to be honest. After I was done, I kind of kept expecting to get a notification that said there had been a mistake and someone else had purchased it before me, or something like that. It just seemed too good to be true. The yarn I purchased was normally $34.50 per skein, and I got it for just $7.00 a skein. After it was all said and done, I found out that they literally sold 10,000 skeins in less than thirty minutes. So it was good that I was so quick and didn't waste any time browsing. And now I have eight beautiful skeins to make a sweater and a hat with! I'm so excited.

Squeezing . . .  in a few more times at the pool before it closes for the season. This was definitely not our year for the pool, but we finished it off with a bang. Ian and I went multiple times together during the first two weeks of school, and all seven of us went one final time on a Saturday morning. 

Usually I mourn the end of summer because I love having my kids at home. But since we basically had five months of summer instead of ten weeks, I was ready for a change of pace. I've loved having Ian be my little buddy during the day, and the structure and responsibility that comes with school has been a good change for all of us. I'm even, dare I say, ready for some cooler weather. Fall is welcome here!

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