Nimbus loves it when I put on the electric blanket. We cozy up after lunch while I work on my computer. She puts toes in the air when she reaches peak comfiness.
As mentioned briefly last time, I have been building craft kits for the school Halloween parties.
Parents are not allowed in the school year, and no outside food either. The party solution from the PTA was for volunteers to supply holiday crafts for their kids’ classes. I’ve always served as a room parent/party committee. It was a no-brainer to sign-up this year again – ONLY a craft (versus the traditional craft + games + food) and no obligation to coordinate with other parents! The hardest part has always been scheduling room parent meetings to agree on each item, waiting for emails to be returned, and crossing fingers they supply what they promised. Much easier by myself! I waited a couple days to let other parents have a chance to sign-up. When none stepped forward I signed-up for both my kids classes. Then last week I got a text that the other fifth grade parent dropped out, asking if I could cover the crafts for their class too. Of course!
Today I dropped off 84 craft kits with prepared supplies for each kid to complete two crafts, four different crafts all together. Plus spare parts for the teachers to hand out as needed. They were organized and split between 5 boxes for classes with both in-person and remote students.
We were supposed to include written instructions for the teachers to do the crafts. I thought it would be more helpful if I demonstrated each of them on a video for them to pause/replay as needed. Then the teachers would be free to roam around helping and encouraging kids. Of COURSE I had to set the stage with props, light the candles, and wear something spooky. If you want to do some crafts with your own supplies, watch my videos here!
Tonight had some new excitement with video games. Ben treated himself to a Switch Ring adventure game to try to get more regular exercise. We used to go to the gym 2-3 times per week, but obviously stopped in March. Jogging is unbearably boring and I’ve become a poor walking partner since the weather has cooled and darkened. This game looks like a fun way to get more exercise. Jack was jealously watching Ben break-in the game. He eagerly starting his own save file when given the chance. Maybe some competition between the two will keep them playing longer! I had a fun time watching them while I brewed a pot of herbal tea and stirred a large batch of steel cut oats for breakfast this week.
We’ve been busy bees since school started again. Let me try to catch up with some photos of notable days.
Not pictured from the last month: my bouts of mask-sewing, my packing 90 craft kits for classroom Halloween parties, and Ben’s quarantine 6 day quarantine while he was sick with a cold and we waited for his COVID test result. (Negative, and he’s feeling good again, and no one seemed to have caught the cold).
Little Sam turned 7 years old! We had an extended celebration. The week prior, my parents came out to play and have some NIJ time. I can’t believe it, but this is the ONLY picture I took all weekend.
Not pictured: swimming at their hotel and visiting Edgewater Marketplace to enjoy their large variety of food and little art show.
Saturday we hosted a small party with appropriate precautions. Just three friends, entirely outdoors, wearing masks, with non-contact game. Sam has been very into Pokemon lately, so we had a Pokemon party. I made a two flavor cake (chocolate and strawberry). I made pokeball beanbags and a toss target with all his favorite pokemon. The kids went wild with it, and then got their sticky hands out of their goodie bags, attacking the board and each other.
The main game was a hunt. I laid out 11 pokeballs (made of paper plates) with 5 similar cards for them to collect (3 friends +Sam + Jack) and a clue for where to find the next hidden ball. They were less delicate with the game than I expected, roughly tearing into the prizes and racing off before the clue was read as soon as they had an idea where to look. I think they had a great time with it.
Cake and presents and playing with Sam’s new hover drone rounded out the short party.
Sunday morning we celebrated Sam’s real birthday in the usual fashion – presents, favorite meals, and playing whatever he wanted.
This morning the kids went back to school in-person. Nerves were high. Their packs were extra heavy with supplies because there was not a back-to-school night when we could have delivered classroom items earlier. Also, they had their masks and shields and hand sanitizer bottles to deal with.
Also a friggin’ SNOW STORM.
They felt unprepared and unaccustomed to the cold weather. They refused boots and gloves and umbrellas when I was getting them ready, but I think they regretted that. Their hands were frozen as they waited to be let in the building. Sam’s eye shields fogged up but he claims he likes it and it looks like a video game and he refused my offer to get anti-fog spray. Jack was so very very nervous about everything. All week he’s had butterflies and keeps thinking he has COVID symptoms. (He doesn’t.) He’s normally a little hypochondriac, worse so now. The wildfires have been pumping smoke into the air for weeks, so I think we ALL have a little sore throat these days.
Special screening entrances meant we had to skip the traditional front-of-school photo, and I had to give kisses good-bye separately because they enter on opposite sides of the building. I peeped in the windows as I walked away and was happy to see happy kids. Inside in familiar classrooms with smiling teachers and out of the icy rain, they looked calm and happy. Sam took a seat in the front row near the door (excellent for airflow!) and Jack appears to have a seat next to his best friend (score!). I saw Jack dutifully put on his face shield in addition to his mask, despite concerns all week that he would look dumb and different.
I’m still hella nervous. I think we should all be in remote school still, that’s the safest option. But our elementary is putting all possible precautions and protocols in place. The kids are ecstatic to be back in real school around other kids. They will learn and grow much better in a school environment. But is all that worth risking? We will see.
For now, it’s freezing outside and my house is warm. When I opened the door it was deadly quiet inside and the scent of waffles cheered my soul. I sat down to write this and Nimbus snuggled up to my side and has been fervently purring. Obviously I’m not the only one pleased to have a break from the kids and the heat.
School was going to start remotely. I needed a way to switch the kids’ brains into school mode, to let them know summer was done. So I proposed that we mark the end of summer vacation with a few themed days. They excitedly agreed, and we settled on a Harry Potter Day, a LEGO day, and a Freedom Day.
Harry Potter Day was easy with our household stock of supplies. The kids dressed in their robes and made a puzzle of the house crests. We watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Jack and Sam have been reading the books aloud together and only finished the first one a couple days before. So it was fun for Sam to watch the movie for the first time. Jack and I were so pleased with the bright colors, fun and mystery, and low stakes of this movie. Later in the franchise it becomes so dark and grim. Still, Sam had to cover his eyes during the troll scene – it was a little too scary. Afterward we made mini treacle tarts.
LEGO day was also easy to do on a whim. I picked up a Jello Jigglers kit at the store as a special treat. Otherwise the kids occupied themselves with “Master Building” their own creations, played Lego video games, and watched the Lego Ninjago movie. We had Lego shaped pizza for lunch and sandwiches on Eggo waffles for dinner.
The last day (above) was Freedom Day – a repeat from the start of summer. It meant the kids could do whatever they wanted all day (aside from usual safety rules) until 5pm. Sam stayed in pajamas until dinner time and had Teen Titans Go on the TV for literally hours. They slugged around the house and didn’t have to do any chores or go outside to play. They were in charge of their own food too. I think Sam ate nothing but frozen yogurt tubes until dinner. Jack made a few more smarter choices about getting dressed and eating a varied diet. But he indulged in a marathon of youtube videos by the Carlin Brothers and Mark Rober.
The kids had a memorable last few days of vacation. Much fun.
Today was the “first day of school.” It was really about 3 hours of online orientation between the two kids. Some with parents listening, mostly just the kids. We elected to do face-to-face school this year. I’m really on the fence about it, but the kids want to return very badly. They promise to follow all my guidelines and requests for their health safety and they understand that I might switch them to 100% remote if the protocols planned by the school are not actually being performed.
Either way, all students are starting with 2 weeks of remote-only. The first in-person class day is scheduled for the day after Labor Day.
The mood in our home was lackluster. We tried to make it feel special, but it just isn’t. Maybe tomorrow, when they both have a full day of remote school scheduled, it will feel more real.
They each have a desk set-up with computer and headphones and basic school supplies. They got to meet their teacher and talk to their classmates a little. The motto at our school for now is “start slow to go fast.” I can tell the teachers have learned a lot from our chaotic switch to remote learning in the spring. I hope this goes well, and I hope they can be safe in the classroom.
My weekend project took an extra two days, owing to problems with my sewing machine. I battled and overcame, and here it is!
How appropriate that Sam is wearing a dragon shirt today. He isn’t outgrowing his love for dragons – unlike his clothes!
I’m still a beginner quilter. This is only my third ever. Now that I’m sorting out my machine malfunctions and quirks, I sort of had fun! I might even be able to actually “quilt” the next one, using top stitching instead of tying. I’m already thinking about ideas for some Halloween prints I’ve got in storage. But first- more COVID masks!
We are surprised and delighted by the success of our new vegetable beds.
So far we have harvested green beans three times.
The strawberries are infrequent, but a tasty treat that the boys fight over.
Our carrots taste good despite their petite nature.
We have enjoyed cucumber slices a couple times and have several ready to pick – I might turn them into refrigerator pickles.
The arugula was good while it lasted- the bugs like it too, and it’s all going to flower quickly once the weather got hot. This green lettuce is going strong and we’ve had several harvests.
There’s two broccoli heads coming in and more on the way. They have aphids and it’s a daily fight. We tried poison, diatomaceous earth, and even tried 1,500 ladybugs. The aphids keep coming back. I tore out the worst affected plants and leaves and just check it every other day, dosing with more diatomaceous earth.
We have okra that’s only now starting to grow pods. It’s been struggling between the shadows of the towering broccoli and the tendrils from pumpkins and cukes – I’ve cut off their strangling grasp a few times.
Onions are doing something. I’m mostly ignoring them. We also have pepper plants. They’ve been stunted by the crazy green beans and carrots. I recently staked back the beans to give the peppers more sun, hopefully I can get some before summer ends.
Finally, there’s our pumpkins. We got two good gourds forming that the kids excitedly check on every day. “The pumpkins are so big!” They tell me over and over. They keep trying to call dibs, but I tell them we will see what survives before deciding who gets to carve them. Last week I installed slings made from repurposed supportive wear. I read you should do that if they weigh more than 5 pounds. It cracks me up!
(I’m trying out the new wordpress editor, still figuring out how best to share photos with it.)
One of the last things we did before the shelter-in-place order back in March was a visit to the zoo. They opened to the public again last month. I got a reservation for us to try them again this week, as a fun change of scenery for the kids. While Ben and I run errands regularly, the kids have been mostly home, day in and day out, all summer.
The zoo website said they had a lot of precautions in place for safety: reduced crowds, staggered reservation times, masks required for everyone (this was before the governor made masks mandatory in public for Colorado), all indoor spaces were closed, pathways are all one direction now, and extra sanitation stations and portable toilets set up everywhere.
It was fun overall. The kids say they had a good time and were glad we went. But I felt like it was not a great success. Mask use was pretty good, I’d say over 90% wore them well. But there was still the occasional family with noses and even mouths exposed. Anyone walking while eating and drinking had the mask off too. Also, it was more crowded than I would have liked. Because of the one-direction traffic flow, there were lots of clumps of people around visible animals, and traffic jams when someone stopped in the pathway.
I don’t think any of us were at risk for infection. The kids were excellent at keeping their masks with filters on on their faces. They didn’t touch handrails or signs, and asked for hand sanitizer when they made a mistake. We swerved away from people whenever possible.
The other problem was, of course, it was the afternoon of a hot July day. Can’t be helped 🙂 I packed water and hats and a cooling towel. We took lots of breaks to rest and had ice cream and juice to stay cool and hydrated. No matter, it was still sweltering. There weren’t many animals out because of the heat.
So it was a fun change of pace, but I don’t think anyone is clamoring to return until the weather cools and the crowds thin.