The New Normal

For the first time in over three months, we left the house as a family! Actually, it’s been almost three months since any of the children left the house, and it’s certainly the first time any of us has gone anywhere we didn’t absolutely need to. But the weather is beautiful today, so we drove out to Cahokia Mounds.

In the end, we didn’t even run into anybody. Monks Mound was pretty crowded, but we stuck to the trails on the other side of the road, and while we did see a few people in the distance, we never crossed paths with anyone else. It was a lovely day to be out, and it was so nice to get out of the house! We even saw some baby egrets (I wish I had gotten a picture…they were so cute!), and of course, some goslings.

Hopefully we’ll make it back to the Missouri Botanical Garden before too long. I know that will be more crowded, but their safety plan looks good, and now we’ve all had some experience wearing masks outside, so I think we’re almost ready!

2019-20 School Year–Week Thirty-Five

And so ends another school year.

It was a fairly low-key week, with no field trips (obviously), and several subjects already wrapped up. We continued taking our daily pre-lunch two mile walk around our neighborhood, and while I miss playing tennis, I have to say that time of walking and talking together has probably been my favorite thing to come out of our modified schedule, and I’ll be sad when it gets hot and we won’t want to do it anymore.

Turkey and Bunny read about the fall of Constantinople in world history, and we finished US history, with most of our attention on FDR and WWII, and a brief race through the decades following. They worked with limits of a function in pre-calculus. They also finished reviewing various comma rules in grammar, and read an ode by Phyllis Wheatley.

Ladybug wrote a 1,200 word paper on one of her favorite books to finish her writing curriculum for the year. Her final chapter in history focused on the California Gold Rush. She finished science by learning about the five senses. She also read about Paul’s final missionary journey in religion.

Chickadee finished reading The Sword in the Tree. We also finished My Father’s Dragon. She wrapped up her study of astronomy. Her math lessons were mostly review, although some more complicated borrowing when subtracting was a fun surprise for her.

Today we built a Lego set, as we always do on the last day of school. It was nice that Moose was able to be with us for our last day, even though he won’t be done (and graduated from eighth grade!), until the middle of next week. This time it was the Lego Ideas ISS, which goes well with all of our other Lego space sets!

This is the most anti-climatic last day of school I can remember, and I have to admit, it was kind of a sad day for me. I had so many things that I wanted to do in the last few months…visiting the Van Gogh exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, touring the Mississippi River exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, spending many lovely hours walking around the Missouri Botanical Garden and sketching the spring blooms, enjoying tulip time in Forest Park, and visiting the St. Louis Zoo were all on my list. Obviously, none of that could happen, and we also haven’t been able to look forward to our annual trip to Chicago that we were supposed to take next week. I’m also trying not to think ahead to the future too much, because it scares me a little when I think of what the beginning of our next school year, Turkey and Bunny’s last year of homeschooling, could look like. I’m trying really hard to focus on the positive, so I’ll leave you with some pictures from Wednesday, when we got to play with dry ice, something we probably wouldn’t have gotten to do if it wasn’t for this weird time of isolation:

Mother’s Day, Isolation Style

Like everything else lately, Mother’s Day this year looked a little bit different from our normal celebration. I still took a picture with the Fab Five, and I even wore my Mary Blair mother and child print dress from Pinup Girl Clothing, but we had to take the picture at home instead of at church…not being able to go to church was probably the biggest disappointment of the day for me!

In the end, dinner ended up being a lot more special than usual on Mother’s Day. We never go out, because I just don’t have the patience for it, and I often end up cooking…something that I enjoy, but usually something pretty simple. This year, I decided to splurge. Since we can’t go to Chicago in a few weeks as we had planned, and won’t be stopping for lunch at Portillo’s on the way home, I decided to bring Portillo’s to us, with their mail order service. I thought the price was very reasonable, especially given how much meat they included, it wasn’t hard to heat up, and I’m not kidding when I say it tasted almost as good as if we had been dining in the restaurant!

Dessert was another splurge…as long as we were already having a Chicago day with dinner and the movies we watched (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, While You Were Sleeping, and Save the Last Dance, plus catching up on a few episodes of the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance), I decided to order an Eli’s Cheesecake. It was also delicious, and again, almost as good as having it in Chicago!

These are strange times to be living, but I think we’ve been doing a good job of adapting and creating new special memories!

2019-20 School Year–Week Thirty-One

I know, I’m late…but does it really even matter when time has lost all meaning?

Last week in pre-calculus, Turkey and Bunny started working with arithmetic series and sequences. In physics they started a chapter on electric fields. Their current health chapter is very appropriate…its focus is on peace in difficult times. They also got to read and analyze Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (you know…the famous one).

In pre-algebra, Ladybug began adding and subtracting polynomials…the FOIL method is approaching! She continued to learn about digestion in science. Her history studies focused on Mexican independence. She wrote a short essay about Robin Hood after having read the tale previously.

Chickadee had a review lesson in spelling, which was nice, because we haven’t exactly been getting around to every test. In math, she started measuring in quarter-inch increments. She finished learning about Saturn in science. We’re getting close to the end of The Phantom Tollbooth…I don’t want it to end!

And here’s a look at the one constant in our days…a two-mile walk around our neighborhood. It’s nice to get out of the house for something, even if we are a little weary of seeing the same houses every day!

A Markel Family Easter, Isolation Edition

I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.

On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.

We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.

We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:

We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!

We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!

I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:

But once again from our living room:

We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:

We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!

I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!

We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:

I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!

I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?

I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!

Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:

The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:

On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!

For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:

We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!

So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!

2019-20 School Year–Week Twenty-Eight

So, we were back to school this week following a week of spring break, but let’s face it, nothing is normal anymore, so we just did the best we could. First things first…my classroom now has five students, with Moose joining us for distance learning! That’s the one nice thing about this whole mess!

So, our school days have been a little different (we can’t go play tennis right now, but we did take a long walk around our neighborhood every day this week, both for exercise and to get out of the house), and we didn’t get quite as much done as we probably should have, but given that it was the week following a “vacation,” I think we did ok!

Turkey and Bunny graphed sine and cosine waves in pre-calculus. They started a very timely new chapter in health…one on infections. In physics, they began a chapter on mirrors…the ray tracing has met with mixed reactions. I think we finished learning about Reconstruction in US history, but I’m honestly not sure. Oh, and they read about the bubonic plague in world history, and I’m sorry, but it’s just too soon.

Ladybug worked with various forms of metric to English conversions in pre-algebra this week…weight, volume, and temperature were all included. She also started a new chapter in science, one that focuses on energy. We continued reading The Phantom Tollbooth. She wrote a temporal comparison about the Great Chicago Fire for writing.

Chickadee continued to work with multiplication facts in math. She read a new book called Mouse Tales. In science, she learned about Jupiter’s red spot, rings, and moons. She also got to do distance-learning catechesis for the first time!

And in related news…Turkey and Bunny received their SAT scores today. I won’t share the actual numbers, because they’re not mine to share, but I will say that they both scored above the mental goal that I had set for them, and I’m very proud of how well they did!

I don’t know exactly what next week will look like. I know we won’t be going anywhere, and I hope we’ll get everything done that we should, but I’m also learning to be flexible, and adjust my expectations and schedule as necessary!

2019-20 School Year–Week Twenty-Four

We finally got to go on a field trip this week! The St. Louis Science Center is hosting an exhibit about DaVinci, and I was just waiting for the right moment to go, which turned out to be Monday. It’s really cool, with lots of hands-on activities and replicas of DaVinci’s inventions and artwork, and we really enjoyed it!

On to the rest of the week. Turkey and Bunny began the first of several lessons on functions in pre-calculus. They finished the first act of The Merchant of Venice, and they even got to compare Shylock’s character with the Ferengi of Star Trek. In history, they read about the sultanate of Delhi. Their health lessons focused on the cardiovascular system. They finished the chapter on periodic motion in physics

Ladybug learned about skew lines in pre-algebra. She worked on outlining and rewriting in her writing course. In history, she learned about one of my favorite monarchs of the 1700s, Catherine the Great. She finished the lesson on the five kingdom system in science.

Chickadee worked on carrying to the thousands’ place in math. She continued learning about space rocks, adding asteroids to what she knows about comets. She started reading the Frog and Toad books, which I’m very excited about, because they were some of my favorite stories when I was a child!

There are still a few other field trips I have planned for the coming weeks, but I’m not sure when we’re going to get around to them…I may space them out a bit more, but I haven’t decided yet!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

The final day of our weekend getaway was fairly low-key. We started with a trip to the Jewel to (finally) buy an I-Pass to make driving on the Chicagoland tollways a bit easier…and then proceeded not to need it at all on the way home. Oh well…at least it will be ready when we go back up in May!

We had planned to walk around the Chicago Botanic Garden on the way home, but wind chills in the single digits made that a less than appealing prospect. So instead, we stopped by the Chicago Baháʼí Temple to marvel at its architecture:

We also drove through the city, just so we could see the skyscrapers:

Of course we had to stop for a moment so I could walk along Lake Michigan. Have you ever walked on frozen sand before? It’s a weird sensation!

And, as always, we stopped for lunch at Portillo’s, where I had my favorite, the Italian beef (dipped, of course!):

So that ends another road-trip wrap-up. It was a pretty short trip compared to what we’re used to, and we didn’t get to do everything I had planned, but it was still a fun getaway!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

Last Saturday morning, we finally got a good look at the snow that had fallen the day before. What we couldn’t really see from our seventh floor hotel room, though, was all of the ice, because once the snow stopped, the freezing rain and sleet started! So we decided to just hang out in the hotel and visit Frosty Faustings, with some breaks to watch cable TV, because I had no desire to get back behind the wheel!

We were there as the event began for the day, and we started by checking out the games Ryan was working on (including, as he calls them, the “old man games”).

Of course we walked around…you never know what you’re going to see at these events!

We had plenty of time to play some games. A new favorite of the children was Them’s Fightin’ Herds, while I enjoyed a track and field game that was about as far from a fighting game as you can get…that figures!

For the first time ever, I even bought a piece of event merch…it turns out that if you slap a logo on a Chicago skyline, I can’t resist! (Also, Frosty Faustings has the most awesome logo ever!)

Of course I had to get a picture of the Fab Five:

And of the crowds in general:

We saw the cosplay contest finals…I’m always impressed by how creative people can be!

We ended up going back up to our room to watch the stream of the Tekken 7 finals on my phone, because the one downside to Frostys is that you can’t hear the commentary in the ballrooms, and we really wanted to hear what Tasty Steve had to say!

Up next: A little sightseeing on the way home!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

It’s that time again…time to look back at another winter weekend trip to Chicagoland!

Last Friday, we were up extra early in attempt to beat the expected winter weather out of St. Louis so we could meet Ryan up north in Wheeling for Frosty Faustings. And we did beat all of the weather on the way up (even though Moose’s school ending up canceling classes for the day!). It was a fairly uneventful drive, even though it was a bit nerve-wracking for me, as I don’t usually drive in that part of the Chicago suburbs, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It was nice and cold when we arrived at the Westin, but still pretty much clear, weather-wise, if not clouds-wise:

I’ve never stayed at a Westin before, and it was quite nice from the moment we walked in the lobby (the infused water was especially popular with the children!)…I especially loved the Lego model of the hotel they had on display!

The room was also nice, although it felt a little small compared the giant room we had last year at Frostys!

We took only the briefest of walks through the tournament area, because we realized that all of the things we had planned to do over Friday and Saturday would have to all be accomplished on Friday, thanks to an impending snowstorm.

Our first stop was the Brookfield Zoo. Just as we did last winter, we had an amazing visit, where we witnessed some new-to-us animal behavior (did you know that camels bark?!?), and enjoyed a walk around a very empty zoo. And the snow held off right until we left.

Then it really started coming down. We had tickets to Medieval Times, and it took us over two hours to drive from the zoo to the castle…traffic was horrible, and driving was very sloppy! We did finally make it, though, just as the castle doors were opening, which was a relief!

I didn’t pay for the VIP experience this time, but we had the best seats we’ve had yet…the second row, and right in the center. We also supported a different knight for the first time…instead of yellow, we were cheering for the red and yellow knight from the County of Perelada. As always, we had a great time, even though, as always, our knight didn’t win…at least our side won this time, and Bunny caught one of the carnations, which means that all three girls have now received one!

And then the harrowing drive back to the hotel. About a half foot of snow had fallen in just a few hours, and it was a mess. But there wasn’t much traffic on the way back, and everyone on the roads was content to go slow and careful, so it may have taken a while, but at least there was no pressure to keep up with traffic, which made it much easier to stay on the road!

Up next: Saturday spent at Frosty Faustings!