Sunday, July 26, 2020

Unstoppable Knights!

It's happened. Our break from school has now gone on long enough that some of us are reversing evolution.  Clearly we need some structure in our lives soon so that Sammy can stop swinging from the light fixtures by his prehensile feet. 
 Arizona coronavirus cases jumped up in June and July, so people started to be more cautious.  Eloise, Ryan, and Jared were separated from the rest of their swim team group into a strokes class so that we could comply with new regulations at the larger swim team swimming pool on the number of people allowed in the water at once.  They missed the big group, but they made a lot of progress with the closer instruction, so this ended up being a good thing. 
 The change in swim team time did mean that Eloise had swim team right before socially distant gymnastics (which is a workout and a half by itself).  Monday nights are a very tired time for Eloise.
 This is especially true when she forgets that she has a massive exercise afternoon ahead and runs four miles before lunch.  And she can't figure out why she has started having muscle cramps.  This girl never stops!
 Monsoon cloud cover has come to stay in the afternoons and evenings.  This has not been conducive to seeing comet NEOWISE in the night sky, but it has made good conditions for being outside in the afternoons. The boys draw elaborate systems of roads and railroad tracks to bring their toys out to play on.  If it wasn't still hot enough to drive them inside within an hour, they would probably be bringing the blocks out to build structures next to their roads, too.
 B got a hole in his face.  His teeth had been creeping forward as the grown up teeth behind them pushed them out.  You can see in this picture that his remaining front baby tooth is not at quite the right angle.  He is very pleased to be a jack-o-lantern.
 My kids got some letters from their Georgia cousins.  B got right to work writing back.  I think second grade pen pals are about the cutest thing ever.
 Eloise and Annie love to bake together.  My ministering sisters brought me some friendship bread sourdough starter.  We decided to be unfriendly with it and just make lots of sourdough cakes for ourselves.  Annie and Eloise were happy to help.  Annie loves treats.  We shared with each other and with Grandma and Grandpa. 
 Sammy keeps a box of his lego creations under his bed.  He brought them all out to be documented.  I love to see his imagination providing all of the things he has made with histories and abilities.   
 B made the Tucson temple, complete with a blue fountain on the left and a car in the parking lot.  We miss our regular temple days. 
 We made some wobble robots from our Astro Camp box.  Eloise figured it out in about ten seconds while the rest of us struggled. 
 Success!
 We all got them working eventually.  Jared came in and started when the rest of us were done, slapped it together, and got it working on his first try.  Apparently the littles were just struggling because their engineering inept mom was helping them.  We all have our talents.
 And the other tooth came out.  B was elated. I think this grin came from adrenaline because he was so worked up before we pulled it.  Eating and talking are getting more complicated for this guy.  The grown up teeth have erupted already, though, so he won't be toothless for months and months like Eloise was. 
 Jared loves his independence.  Freedom to explore on his own is his great joy these days.  Last week he announced that our Friday night movie should be "Spies in Disguise." I was up to my elbows in pizza dough, so I said that we could watch it if he went to the redbox and got it himself.  He took Dad's credit card, with permission, and biked to Walgreens to get the movie himself.  When our cousins couldn't come over and watch it with us because Megan had a sore throat, he biked the movie over for them to enjoy after we had finished it.  Jared is responsible to walk Shadow most mornings so that I can hide from the sun and get my exercise indoors.  He stayed in our neighborhood for a few days, but Jared knows his way all over Rita Ranch, so he asked permission to go a little farther afield.  This week he walked Shadow to the dog park over a mile and a half away, sometimes taking a circuitous route.  Shadow is an old lady, and has never really cared about other dogs, but it's a treat for Jared to be so far from home on his own.  Sometimes, if I'm free, I will go pick them up (which Shadow likes a lot- she rides home on Jared's lap), but Jared doesn't mind walking both ways. 
 Friday was Pioneer Day in Utah, where I grew up.  Pioneer day is the anniversary of the day that the Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, ushering in the era of my ancestors arriving in Utah and escaping persecution in the East.  When I was growing up, Pioneer Day celebrations were bigger than the 4th of July.  Independence Day is the warm up for Pioneer Day, when there are better parades, better fireworks, and more fun traditions.  I know it won't be the same for my kids, who have never lived in Utah, but I still like to mark the day.  We celebrated on Saturday, because that is when all of the cousins could be there.  We did some pioneer games in Grandma's back yard.  Leg wrestling,
 stick pull,
 (I love Rachel's warrior face)
 three legged races, missionary tag,
 "Button button," a family history game that Eloise adapted from an idea in the Friend magazine,
 and taffy pulling.  I may not have let the taffy cook quite long enough. 
Some of the kids had moderate success, but eventually the taffy got very, very syrupy.  We made a massive mess, and everyone had a great time. 
Later that afternoon the kids had their last swim meet of the season.  Eloise won her breaststroke race!  All of her exercise is turning her into a powerhouse.  Summer is winding down, but the Knights are unstoppable.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Summer heat is here. Ugh.

We have been having church at home (usually at Grandma and Grandpa Knight's house) going on five months now.  It started out really strange to not have regular church meetings, but it has been really nice to do church with our family.  We have sacrament meeting, usually including a couple of songs and a talk or a testimony.  Last Sunday was the first Sunday of the month, so everyone who wanted to share a testimony got a chance to do so.  Then we adjourned to the dining room for a primary lesson.  In-person church was scheduled to start up again on July 12, but the plan was for a very brief meeting, and only half of the ward would be invited to attend each week, so we have alternating weeks.  Mask wearing is strongly encouraged, people will be seated at a distance, there will be no singing, and attendance is not mandatory.  We can continue having home church, and we probably will for a while at least, since Grandma and Grandpa will be staying home (people over 65 are advised to avoid large gatherings).  It will be nice when the pandemic is over, but these home church meetings have been really wonderful.  
 We have been enjoying astro camp in a box.  This week we did Astronaut training.  The boys loved this activity where they would take turns assembling a space station with a barrier between them, and then try to describe the configuration of the pieces so that the other person could create an identical space station. 
 We learned that astronauts lose some of their sense of taste in space because of the changes in their blood flow without gravity.  We had to do taste tests of different mystery liquids from matching white powders that came in the kit. 
 That sour lemon liquid was quite the shock to the taste buds. 
 B and Sammy quickly identified sugar water and helped themselves to seconds, and thirds. "We're experimenting!" Mmmmhmmm.
 B brought his space station game to his cousins' house to share it with Ryan after Spanish class one day. 
 The kids are fascinated by the treadmill, but we don't really want them playing around on it.  Todd got the brilliant idea to let the kids watch cartoons as long as they keep the speed above five miles per hour the entire time.  They also have to run 3/4 of a mile before they can turn on the videos.  This is very motivating for B and Eloise.  One day B ran 4.25 miles before he decided he was tired!  I was watching him the rest of the day to see if he was extra worn out, and he didn't ever show signs of being more tired.  He has amazing endurance for a seven year old.  Eloise also frequently runs over 3 miles. 
 Of course no one ever seems to get tired of swimming.  We are SO grateful to nice neighbors who have let us swim in their pools almost every day this summer.
 This week we were hit with true Arizona summer.  The high temperatures have been soaring over 105 every day, and the low temperatures are hovering around 80, so there isn't really any relief from the heat when the sun goes down.  I've been getting my exercise with the kids in the pool, or on the treadmill with a fan blasting. 
 Eloise asks every day to get to do something a little different.  The endless monotony of it being too hot to do anything outside while all the museums, movie theaters, skate rinks, and bowling alleys are closed is wearing on her, so when my friend Judy invited us to volunteer loading food into trucks at a local food bank, I knew Eloise would be happy for ANYTHING to do away from home.  These kids were troopers.  They loaded boxes of chips and orange juice onto trucks for two hours in the 104 degree heat, running into the warehouse to stand in front of the fan between loads.  We were amazingly sweaty.  Especially me.  Sweating is one of my super powers.  I am an efficient self-cooling machine.  After volunteering we were excited to go to 7-11 for free slurpee day, only to find out that THEY CANCELLED 7-11 FREE SLURPEE DAY!!!  I handled school moving into the home.  I handled cancelling all of our travel plans for this summer.  I handled church closing, and having to wear masks and wash hands a lot when I get groceries.  But I have NOT been self isolating for five months so that my second favorite holiday could be cancelled!  Not cool, 7-11.  Colette bought us slurpees anyway (I hadn't brought my wallet).  She gets the title for coolest aunt.  I bequeath it to her.  Jared and Eloise were awesome.  When we got home from hard labor at the food bank, it was time for our Saturday hour of chores, and there was very little complaining from these overheated, exhausted kids. 
 While we were out, the boys did this puzzle all by themselves.  They are all about the puzzles these days. 
 We had the cousins over on Saturday night for a round of Killer Bunnies, which Annie won, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which B managed do do very well at, even though he kept coming to me and whispering, "What should I say?" 
 After the cousins left, the clouds rolled in, and we got a real Arizona monsoon, complete with wind, a few drops of rain, and a spectacular lightning storm.  The temperature dropped a few degrees. The lightning storm at sunset made the sky a really strange tornado-y color. 
 We all came outside and set up chairs to watch from the garage.  Todd has an app that tells where the lightning is striking, and it got within a mile of us. 
Today our first day of in-person church was streamed on a facebook live feed.  The audio wasn't great, and when we tuned in the meeting had already started, so we couldn't figure out why our stake president was conducting instead of our local bishop or one of his counselors.  It turns out that the first order of business for our return to church was getting a whole new bishopric.  Our church has a lay clergy, so a bishop is usually asked to serve for a term of usually 4-5 years.  This came as a surprise because our bishop had been serving for only 2 years, but we believe that these changes are inspired.  I'm glad we tuned in, even though we had already held our home church, to hear such an important announcement.  We really miss all of our church friends.  It's nice to feel connected with them in a small way.  We are looking forward to normal times returning. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Happy Independence Day!

July arrived with monsoons!  These might not be true monsoons, but they are a nice warm up for the real thing.  We enjoyed some overcast skies and high winds. 
 When we took our game outside to enjoy the cooler weather while the sun was blocked by clouds, a few raindrops fell. 
 It was a huge relief to be able to be outside for a little while without being afflicted by the oppressive heat.  Until the mosquitoes arrived. We aren't accustomed to the humidity, either, so it feels alarmingly clammy when our sweat doesn't evaporate instantly.  Thank heavens for central air conditioning. 
 Jared thought this view of the night sky and neighborhood lights out our front window was amazing. 
 The fourth of July is one of our favorite holidays.  For the most of the past eight years we have gone to our ward's pancake breakfast on the 4th.  That isn't happening this year, but we managed to get a significant amount of partying in with our isolation group.  We started on the evening of the 3rd with a cousin sleepover.  The girls were at the Campbells', and the boys were at our house. All of the kids slept in sleeping bags on the floor (it's waaaay too hot for a real campout).  Eloise and McKenzie somehow switched places in their sleep, which was weird.  They stayed up late and woke up early, so we anticipated this being an emotional and short Independence Day. 
We were at Grandma's house before 7 a.m. getting set up for our own small pancake breakfast. 
 We had sausage, bacon, watermelon, cherries, orange juice, and chocolate chip pancakes.  The fourth of July is a holiday, but it is also Megan's birthday, so we needed to make it special.  This shirt, while festive, was not a good choice for July in Tucson.  I was sweltering. 
 Eloise lives for her girl nights.  I think Ryan feels similarly about the boy nights. 
 Happy birthday, Megs!  Already six years old!
 B demolished a plate of cherries and wore cherry blood around for the rest of the morning. 
 Pretty soon the day was warm enough that the only way to be outside was with water.  Todd ordered a canopy that fits over the pool this week because the kids had been complaining about the water being too warm.  I don't know that this will help that much, since it's still over 100 degrees for the better part of every day, and low temperatures are hovering around 80. Ugh. I miss Washington. 
 Because this pool is rather small for ten kids to play in at once, pool games are usually elaborate dramas.  For the 4th of July, appropriately, the kids founded a country called Swimarea.  They didn't have a president, they had a grand lifeguard.  Their new society was complete with a national anthem and traditional Swimarean games, like Marco Polo.  My favorite moment was when Rachel said, "And now, a traditional Swimarean greeting!" And all of the kids dove under water so they could wave with their feet.  Ryan and B founded Trampolinia when the pool started to feel too crowded. 
 After a while we went inside and fulfilled Megan's birthday wish of having "candy games." Much candy was enjoyed by all.  Since everyone was still around after a few hours, we went ahead and had our barbecue for lunch.  The heat was miserable, but the food was delicious. 
 After all of the candy and birthday cupcakes, no one touched the icebox cake Eloise and I made.  We even experimented with adding a strawberry jello layer to the middle.  Todd was skeptical about this, thinking that the jello would clash with the graham crackers, but it turned out great.  The jello did destabilize the cake a little bit, so it had to be propped up with graham crackers on the side, but the end result was delicious. 
 After lunch the kids all went to the Campbells' to watch a movie, and Todd, Colette, and I watched Hamilton.  The Broadway musical was just released as a film of the stage version by Disney.  Tickets have been impossible to get since the musical was released, so it was really cool to get to see what the hype was about.  And eat icebox cake, since we hadn't been chowing down on candy with the kids. 
We decided that we would do our small number of fireworks before it got too late, since everyone was tired after a long day in the heat.  Colette brought smoke bombs, and we set off poppers and sparklers and a few fireworks before 7 p.m. 
 Somehow the sparkler has disappeared from this picture, and B just has fire on his forehead. 
 Ryan was standing really close to this "grand finale" firework.  It started with a little flame, and Ryan inched closer.  All of a sudden it started snapping and popping really loud, and he leapt backward with his hands over his ears. 
We had the earliest fireworks in the neighborhood, and we were okay with that.  Happy exhausting Independence Day!