19 April 2020

Distance Learning

Grandma Debbie left Monday morning, her phone wrapped up in foil. The Utah border is monitored now for travel across state borders. It's safe to say she's got a clean bill of health. Sometimes it sure feels like we're in some strange post-apocalypse novel. We all felt a bit let down on Monday after Grandma left. I've taken up the gauntlet reading Freckles to the boys. My Scottish and Irish accents are quite pitiful.

For FHE the kids wanted to have an egg hunt. Amelia and I hid (aka threw) handfuls of plastic eggs out on the back lawn. I carefully hid quite a few for those wanting a challenge. Josie was almost in tears each time she found a real decorated boiled egg, all she wanted were the chocolate filled plastic eggs. She found the least candy eggs so her siblings pitched in and gave her a couple from their baskets.

We tried to do school everyday in the morning. By Tuesday I emailed Phillip's teacher saying "I give up!" She assigns 10-12 items everyday in 4-5 subject areas, a zoom meeting, plus constant emails. Phillip was so frustrated, all the assignments were stupid and dumb, busy work. I am so happy Phillip's 504 plan allows for accommodations, we worked out that he needs to complete 5 things using different parts of his brain (reading aloud, writing, verbal math, explaining something, etc), just so he is learning but not by sitting and doing worksheets. Everett and Evelyn flew under my radar most days. I'm sitting directly by Phillip for 3-4 hours each day to spurn him into action, it's 80% bluster and 20% actual work. Everett stayed "busy" doing all the easy assignments. Come Friday he had about 4 hours of the in-depth assignments. Evelyn does her hour-long zoom meetings and reads. This week her teacher decided to assign 4-10 assignments everyday on seesaw, just busy little work that I completely avoided. Amelia, such a good girl...she worked hard and got all her work done before noon everyday. I feel like the teachers are trying to work hard to earn their money but making sure the parents work harder at their job. I cannot even imagine what this experience is like for parents who are also working from home.

Almost every afternoon this week the older kids congregated to play Barbies in the little girl's room! I listened in a few times...they were playing Barbie and Butler with a baby Elsa. Oh my gracious, I was near tears from the laughter. So hilarious. Amelia was so boooooored she made blackberry meringue cookies from scratch! Yum. The batter tasted like marshmallows.

The movers busted 1/4 of the food storage buckets. Phillip helped me transfer the contents into new buckets and resealed the lids. I was able to save 3 feet of room in the under-stairs storage closet with a touch of reorganization. Each afternoon I worked to decorate, hang wall galleries, and move furniture about to my satisfaction. By Saturday I finished 90% of all the decor, the downstairs area is finished. I have absolutely no idea what to do with our huge bedroom! It is mostly empty except the bed, two night tables and a dresser.

This weekend Justin worked on prepping the lawn for Spring. There is a local store, Zamzow's, that offers a yearly lawn program for $100. The store sells you the necessary fertilizer, weed control, and grass seed for the year then sends reminders to distribute the items on schedule. Pretty cool! Justin turned on the sprinkler system, the game of whack-a-mole continues. One sprinkler head in the back is completely broken off, the geyser was impressive. Phillip helped mow the lawn. Justin mowed over the lawns a few times to get the grass short enough for the fertilizer.

Friday night I loaded up the truck with all the boxes and paper from our move. I made Justin take a trip to the county dump on Saturday. He had to wait quite a long time and get a lecture from the cashier about staying home. I felt liberated to clear those boxes from the garage. I worked for hours Friday and Saturday to straighten up and organize the garage. By end of day on Saturday I still can't park in the garage but another couple hours should change that! I really want to buy a bike parking system for the plethora of family bikes we have. Most of the time the bikes are all tangled up in an impossible mess. I hope this next week will start with less chaos...hoping that leads to a better school week. I picked up a sprinkler during my Walmart food trip. The kids immediately set that up under the tramp for some cold spring fun! 

Church today was so nice. Justin organized a church schedule for us to follow. We sang "The Spirit of God." Phillip gave the opening prayer. Everett, Evelyn, and Amelia bore their testimonies after the sacrament. We watched Elder Gong's conference talk then discussed it. Josie chose to sing I am a Child of God. Evelyn's cute church teacher sent her an envelope with a paper crown to decorate and some fun activities to do when she's bored.

Easter in Idaho

I've almost missed a month of our lives. Time is marching onward and forward without stopping to consider all the things I need to get done. Ha ha ha.

In my previous game of catch up we were staying with James and Miekka. We enjoyed lots of fun cousin time. Miekka gave me a crash course about home schooling, a desire I've had rolling about my brain for years now. Just never felt like a good time but with the current state of affairs, this could be a test run. Sunday on March 22nd was very special. Jacob gave a really good talk (his first I understand), Emmie played her violin, our family sang He Lives and He Loves Us. Home church is pretty amazing.

Monday the 23rd we packed up the van on the final leg of our journey. We stopped off at Jana's home to spoil Hannah and Rachel with some Easter goodness. Hannah and Josie got cute little Easter buckets to play with. My kids always loved to play Easter for days before and after the holiday. Hiding and finding egg is such fun. Amelia and Phillip fought over Rachel's attention. The little girls all enjoyed some sunshine before we left. We met Justin at a hotel in Boise. After 2 plus months we were finally able to join up with Justin. The drive took us about 5.5 hours, a fantastic amount of time considering we live in a different state. The kids and Justin enjoyed some pool time while I took a walk in the gym. The best part of the evening was watching HGTV and eating Noodles and co. Tuesday we drove to an Air BNB he rented for the week, a roomy 5 bedroom home. The kids were stoked to have their own rooms to sleep in, Phillip and Everett eventually decided it was too scary so slept in the same bed the last few nights. Just around this time the Covid-19 situation was worsening and spreading rapdily. I was able to get enough fresh food and a little cupboard cushion to last us 10 days. Justin had to work from the Air BNB so we had to keep the noise down. The kids got to play on their devices for way too many hours that particular week. Everett was especially happy with the games kept with the house: Sorry, Monopoly, Mancala, Rumikub, Operation, etc. We spent a chuck of time playing board games. It was a rainy, cold week so we mostly hunkered down. I called the moving company on the 20th to update on our household goods delivery the next day. I was appalled the dispatcher said to expect our truck around April 3rd or 4th?!? What in the world were we to do with an empty house and just the items we could fit into our vehicles? In a time of crisis?

Justin had a mild freak out. There was no toilet paper to be found, cleaning supplies were in grave shortage. No soap, sanitizer, facial masks, gloves, milk, eggs, bread, canned goods, baking supplies. Really all the basics were raided from the stores right the same day we moved into the area. I was not in a great mood when we had a situational meeting to plan out a course of action. He got up at 6 am on Thursday to work at his office, he picked up some toilet paper at Winco right when it opened up. I went on a shopping spree purchasing air mattresses, basic kitchen utensils, towels, pans, etc. If we had to survive in our empty house for a week we needed to be ready. I kept all the purchases still in bags and sealed in case our truck came earlier. I was able to pick up some items from Goodwill just hours before the the company closed their doors until the "Stay-at home" order is lifted. Friday that week we learned our shipment would arrive on Monday or Tuesday. Seems like I did a chuck of shopping here and there to get items we needed. The kids and I spent several days at the house painting bedrooms. At Home Depot we had to wait in line outside to keep social distancing (6 ft apart) and store population down. The kids enjoyed playing in our new empty house! Hide and seek is epic in a new empty home. They also found back yard treasures buried in dirt patches. I showed the kids how to make a parachute with the large plastic drop cloths! Evelyn snagged one to make a cute Elsa dress. Painting the rooms was a process! The little girls room took the most time and paint. Spending the day at the new house was a good way to give Justin some peace at the Air BNB and still let the kids be noisy. Amelia really wanted some fun colored "tips" in her hair. She picked out a pretty blue color (indigo) for her tips. Whlep, the color turned out nearly black and the tips ended up to the lower half of her hair. We fell victim to "Covid hair failure." Thankfully, a couple weeks later the black faded into a strange blue-green color. I'm not destined to be a hair stylist.

I heard the school district and school offices would be open for one day following the end of Spring Break. I was at the elementary school bright and early with the kids to finish enrollment. The office had packets, workbooks, iPads, chargers, and other school supplies for the kids. Distance learning is the name of the new education game during the Corona Virus "Stay-at-Home" order. At the Middle School the Registrar told me she had no idea what to do with new students yet...the district was undecided on a new system for distance learning and new students. Amelia was off the proverbial school hook until the next week; she technically started on the 6th but did not accomplish much until we had some teacher zoom meetings. The younger kids quite enjoyed playing educational games on their new devices.

Monday night the 30th we heard from the truck driver that the moving truck would be at our home by 8:30 am. I sent Justin over bright and early while I packed and moved out of the Air BNB, ensuring it was clean and orderly. Our move-in day was a rainy and cold day. We arrived to hear the mover cussing and muttering under their breath about the amount of boxes and furniture to unload. My large library cabinet elicited lots of complaining. After lunch I was unpacking some boxes when I heard Phillip yelling the garage. I peeked out to find him pointing at Josie who was kneeling on the driveway. Took me a couple seconds to realize he was yelling that Josie had fell out of her bedroom window. Just a few minutes earlier Josie and Evelyn were in their room playing while one of the movers assembled their bunk bed. He had the window wide open to bring in some cool air. The girl's bookcase was in front of the window, Josie climbed up on the double sill to get around the bookcase. She lost her balance and fell right through the screen 14 feet to the pavement below. We are all convinced she was caught by her guardian angels. She landed on her back/bum and then bonked her head. I scooped her up to assess the damage (not my best nurse moment), brought her to the couch and looked her over. She was in shock with that wide-eyed stare only Josie gets when she is super scared. Nothing seemed broken but I did notice her left hip was starting to bruise. I scooped her up again then headed to the van. Amelia folded up the middle seat so Josie could lay on the ground while we drove. Justin gave her a hurried priesthood blessing before we drove off. At the ER I had to stand in the middle of the closing doors and shout out the situation, soon a doctor came to look at Josie laying in the van. He said it was ok to pick her up and move her to an empty ER room. Thankfully the ER was completely empty, quite unusual for all my ER visits. Josie refused to stand or put her legs down. We were all most worried about another concussion. She was crying quite hard still in shock. Eventually, they had me hold her to calm her down. Josie immediately fell asleep for a good 20 minutes. She woke up when a nurse came to escort me to the CAT scan room. Josie was crying but remained still during the scan. She kept saying, "I don't like this white tunnel!" over and over. We were allowed to leave once Josie stood up and walked across the room. Her scan came back clear with no internal bleeding. Poor kid hobbled about the next few days but a good night of sleep and pain killer helped the most. I am still reliving that experience with alternate endings in my mind, imagining broken neck, appendages, back, severe concussion, etc. How that kid walked away is a complete and utter miracle. She earned a slurpee, candy, and an elephant purse at the gas station. The next day our new Primary presidency stopped by with a get well gift and card! That was so thoughtful.

By the time I got back home an hour later the moving truck was gone, the guys worked double time to get it all unloaded in the rain and leave our cursed residence. The foreman texted later for an update on Josie's status. I can imagine he felt pretty helpless during the situation. The entire situation was a complete accident. After unpacking every single box unloaded from that truck I can say we are missing between 8-12 boxes of belongings. We are missing a box with a silly part to put the desk together, a box with the bins for the boys shoe holder, several boxes of pantry food. I miss the food boxes the most, the boxes with my canned tomato stuff, the Mexican box, the canned meat, the olives, the tuna, blah, blah, blah. Just a very inconvenient time to lose canned goods! I called the moving company about our missing boxes, no word yet, Mary said to call back in a week to check on the missing boxes. I was most worried about a file folder of important documents I had on the computer desk. I was so busy packing the kitchen I did not notice the movers packing up the desk until it was too late. The folder also had an envelope with $500 cash I was given for a child care and a photo session. The folder was shoved into a plastic set of drawers near the desk...found that this week. Answers to prayers are real, I prayed to find that folder and money many times over. The kids each claimed a large wardrobe box for a week or so. Everett loved to read inside his box, stuffed with soft lovey toys, pillows, and blankets. He even watched General Conference from his box. Mia and Phillip played "Robox" with their creations several times. Amelia had some goofy humor going on with her box, "social distancing mode, passive-aggressive mode, and aggressive mode!" Each mode had a different stance inside her box. That girl is hilarious.

My frustration levels were maxed out the rest of that week (March 31- April 3). I felt so discombobulated with boxes, paper, and missing items cropping up all around me. I needed to just unpack and get the house livable before trying to unravel the great distance learning mystery. I wake up every morning to 30-40 new school emails. Each teacher has a different method of communication, assigning work, keeping tabs on students, etc. Phillip alone has 10 different passwords and username combinations to memorize. All the kids have zoom meetings at varying times each day. We went into survival mode: just do a little math, lots of reading, and learn something new every day. That's what I could do! Phillip and Evelyn won't just sit and work like Amelia and Everett. Those two kiddos need constant supervision to accomplish any work. I could spend 4 hours each day just making Phillip check all the boxes his teacher sends out every morning. Thank the heavens Amelia is used to working on a laptop and easily assimilated herself into all the classes. She is completed with her workload by 10-11 each day now. Everett does the easy work but hates the longer assignments.

Thursday I was putting something into the hutch when the top part of the hutch seemed shaky, I shook the hutch to test it's security. Evelyn asked me in that moment if there was an earthquake. I told her "No! I am just shaking the hutch to make sure it is safe!" Turns out there was a 6.7 earthquake right at the same moment. Evelyn was the only one who felt it for what it really was! The quakes continue. Amelia is still laughing about her dream during the largest Utah quake. She dreamed she was in a milkshake machine at the gas station. Hope the Yellowstone caldera doesn't blow! Yikes, that would not be good.

My goal was to have the house in sane conditions for General Conference. I unpacked about 80% of all the boxes by Friday evening. The kitchen, pantry, and living room were all in relative order, enough order to focus on Conference. Conference was truly a wonderful, new experience. We will never forget the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. Conference was streamed from a small meeting room with a maximum of 10 people in the room at a time. We were spiritually fed in a time when a powerful virus swept the world. A time when life as we knew it shuddered to a halt. A time when economies fell, doors closed, businesses failed, and personal contact stopped. A time when parents were NOT OK at home with all the stresses falling on our shoulders. A voice called in the chaos and we heard the voice of our prophet. We participated in a sacred Hosanna Shout in a worldwide Solemn Assembly Sunday morning. I felt the connection with all those souls shouting for joy in a time of chaos. President Nelson asked us to fast as a church again on Good Friday for the resolution of the Corona Virus. He announced a temple in Dubai and in China as well. A new proclamation was revealed, instead of a new statue in the sacred grove there is a monument of testimony written in words. I listened closely, needing answer to a particular prayer in my heart. I am considering home schooling next year for my kiddos. I need that answer, it will be tough enough to home school I need the Lord on my side! I am still unsure if this is my next path, more prayer and consideration must be in the future. We enjoyed conference crepes Sunday for lunch after the morning session. Triple thumbs up! Jeremy and Yulia welcomed their daughter over the weekend as well. Hooray! Welcome to the crazy little Miss Ksenia.

Justin's only set of truck keys went missing. He went out on Monday to move the truck only to find it was moved a ways down the road. Problem is...Justin can't recall moving the truck. We're not sure if the neighbors pushed the truck out of their parking spots or if Justin moved the truck and forgot. The keys are MIA. We might find them in a couple years. Justin took the bull by the horns and called a locksmith to get a new set of keys made. The truck is back in our driveway a week after parking it down the street on our moving in day.

Tuesday I bought a new digital piano! Hooray! I got to do a spot of shopping at Target and Winco beforehand. Buying a piano from a closed store was quite the interesting story. I stood outside the store and called the number. I spoke to a salesman through the glass doors, pointing and gesticulating towards the piano I wanted to purchase. He opened the door to load up the piano into the truck, then quickly retreated back into the store and locked the doors. Payment and other communication were completed over the phone in the parking lot. I had to turn back twice to get the manuals and then the power cord!

Before leaving for running errands I told the kids a special surprise was coming. Amelia was annoyed and ever so curious about the surprise. She asked if it was a person...I said yes (a delivery guy), if I knew the person (Fed-Ex?), if it was an item (delivered by a fed-ex person). By far she pestered me the most. Just 2 minutes after leaving for errands Justin texted that the surprised arrived....drum roll please?! A TRAMPOLINE! For those who know Justin...know he has a sore spot for trampolines. He calls them death traps and accident makers. True and true. Trampolines are almost on the same level as clowns and Disneyland for him.  In a moment of weakness he let me buy a trampoline as a device to get the kids outside during quarantine...and for parenting alone for 9 weeks. The kids are soooooooo excited.

Grandma Debbie arrived a little while after I got home with the piano. She stayed with Jeremy and Yulia for a few days before coming up to visit and help. Josie was so cute with Grandma! Bless her little heart. Mom helped me unpack the remaining boxes. I set up a large shelving unit (from our AZ garage) in my new closet to store medical supplies and personal care items. Our new house does not have a lot of storage in the bathrooms. She organized the stuff on the shelves for me, organized the pantry a little better, pulled lots of weeds, and other grandma stuff. She started reading "Freckles" to Phillip and Everett in the afternoons. We love having Grandma around! Both Justin and I commented how much we love Mom for the confidence and love she has for our parenting job(s). She makes us feel like good parents. I started hanging up my plethora of wall art and photos. Sigh, decorating is good for my soul. Amelia made peanut butter cookies one night just for fun. We set up the trampoline Tuesday night. The stupid safety enclosure was another matter. The net had to be "sewn" on to the spring straps, we sewed it on crooked. Our engineer neighbor broke quarantine to help us set it up correctly. Once the net was sewed on correctly the supports went in smoothly. I am cursing the design because after just a day of intense kid usage the net is unraveling from the sewing job we did. The instructions are terrible and the method of attachment is also terrible. Guess we got what we paid for in the end.

We participated in the worldwide fast on Good Friday. All the kids, except Josie, fasted a little that day. Amelia made that her first full fast! We fasted along with many other religions, faiths, and peoples across the world for the eradication of this pervasive virus. I read many stories and posts on FB about folks participating in the fast even with a history of little to no faith, just a seed of hope. I think we saw a miracle of faith that day. Yes, the virus is still working and quarantine in effect until the end of April, but the levels are slowing. Medical progress is being made every day.

Friday night Justin treated me to some alone time. He reserved a hotel room in downtown Boise and sent me on my way. He offered to hold down the fort until midnight on Saturday! I was giddy with the prospect of sleeping in, watching HGTV, and eating food alone. I stopped by Sodalicious for a delicious soda and cookie to break my fast. My hotel was right down the street from the Capitol building. I got some take-out dinner and ate it outside in a cute little plaza. It was lovely. Once the hotel room I sat and thought for a good 2 hours about homeschool. I took notes, thought, prayed, and looked up the talks I tagged during conference. Still no definitive answer has come to me. I painted my toenails and enjoyed watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives...a favorite TV show. I woke up the next morning at 7 am when my phone battery died, turning off my sound machine. With the white noise gone I could hear a herd of geese honking on the 8th floor of the hotel patio. I fell back asleep until 11 am when housekeeping opened the door. The front desk let me stay another hour until noon. I headed back home. Stopped for an hour to read my nerd book and take a walk on the Stoddard trail. Then I did a spot of shopping at Fred Meyer...boy was that fun! I got a couple new dresses and shirts, some for the girl's Easter dresses, and flip flops for 70% off. Love finding good deals! Noone texted or called me for 22 hours. That is bliss for a haggard mom.

The kids were anxious for me to get home so they could color Easter eggs. Mom had the eggs boiled and ready to decorate! The hardest part was waiting for the dye tablets to dissolve. Ha ha. Josie was the cutest as she dyed her first egg...bright pink! Her expressions made me so happy. She is delighted with life all the time. The older kids were so creative in their designs this year, very purposeful in adding colors and elements. We had lots of color choices this year plus some fun shimmery paint. Josie could not believe the wax crayon magic...her egg had her name on it. Evelyn immediately shelled and ate her favorite egg.

Easter Sunday! We enjoyed a short lovely service at home. Justin administered the sacrament. Mom gave a thought. I spoke on the Book of Mormon and Easter (an Ensign article from this month) and shared my favorite MoTAB song. We sang songs and enjoyed a peaceful time. I sent the kids upstairs while I hid Easter baskets. I hid the littles baskets in easier places, still Everett was the last one to find his basket hidden behind the laundry door. Amelia and Phillip found their baskets without any clues. Then there was the sugar high and toy fest...all day long. Josie ate her entire solid chocolate bunny in one day. I warmed up a big ham in the crock pot, made scalloped potatoes, and two lovely challah loaves. Mom oven roasted a pan of asparagus. Delish. My Great-Aunt Nancy came for a short visit. I learned Nancy went to school with Justin's Aunt Carolyn and double dated with Justin's dad. Cool. Such a lovely day.