An Early 16th Birthday!

We decided to celebrate Moose’s 16th birthday a few days early!

It was a rather space-themed day…we got him a pair of astronomy binoculars, and he received some space books and a planisphere to go with them. And a Lego set, because I don’t think it’s really a birthday if there are no Lego builds!

This afternoon, he led a rather raucous family game of Uno:

The space theme continued with his cake, which he asked me to decorate with the phases of the moon. I had to do it freehand, so it wasn’t perfect, but he seemed happy with it. I think it’s funny that he asked for a cake that went so well with his presents without his even knowing what they were!

It was fun to celebrate his birthday on a Saturday when we didn’t have any commitments, instead of on a weekday when everyone is busy with school and work!

First Day of High School, In Person

For the first time in almost 18 months, I dropped Moose off at school this morning!

Even though he’s a sophomore (I can’t believe it!), this is his first year in the high school building. It’s a strange way to experience the (continued) transition to high school, but I’m sure he’s up to the task, and he’s already excited about some of the things he’ll get to do this year!


Today is Moose’s 15th birthday!

We started the day with a breakfast of his choosing…toaster strudel:

He did have school today (which was a bit of a disappointment after the unicorn that was the birthday long weekend last year!), but since he’s doing distance learning, he was able to open his presents at lunchtime, which is way better than waiting until after the school day is over!

For dinner, he requested White Castle, which is easy enough to carry-out:

And he wanted a chocolate cake with m&m’s…I was pretty happy with how it turned out!

Now all five children have celebrated their birthdays in the time of COVID-19, from Turkey’s 17th birthday in March the week the stay-at-home order was announced to today, at a time when we’re wondering if we’re going to see increased restrictions again. We haven’t been able to go out to eat, or have family and friends over, or even go somewhere fun for any of the birthdays, but I think we’ve still had special celebrations, and it’s certainly a year of birthdays we won’t forget!

Pumpkin Picking in the Time of COVID-19

I was kind of worried about pumpkin picking this year. Actually, I had pretty much given up on the idea of us going, and I was planning on just buying a pumpkin when I went grocery shopping, because there was no way we were comfortable with piling into a tractor-pulled wagon with a bunch of people who would hopefully be wearing masks. But then I found out that most sincere pumpkin patch in the area, Braeutigum Orchards, was not only requiring masks and social distancing, they were also offering the option to walk to the pumpkin patch, and that was something we were all comfortable with! Yesterday was the perfect fall day, so we took a break from school to find the Great Pumpkin.

Actually, in some ways, in addition to being a slightly new and different experience, it was a superior experience. We got to see some parts of the farm up close for the first time ever, and it was beautiful:

There were still quite a few pumpkins left, even though it’s pretty late in the season. One thing I love about Braeutigum’s is the wide variety of pumpkin shapes and colors they offer. Being able to borrow one of their hand wagons was a fun new experience, and made our job much easier, too, which is how we ended up with four different pumpkins in three colors!

We stopped to visit the animals while we were there…we always see the chickens and turkeys, but we don’t usually get to see barn cats…we came across at least six of them!

Taking pictures was a little different this year, what with the masks and all, but it’s a memory.

Did I mention it was a beautiful day?

Of course we picked up apple cider and apple cider donuts to enjoy at home:

This was a really positive experience in a surreal time, and made yesterday feel almost like a normal day!

First Day of High School

Moose started his freshmen year of high school this morning! It’s not the way we had planned, as his campus moved to distance-learning for at least the first few weeks of the school year (only after we had already made the decision for him to learn from home for at least the first semester, though), but he’s still officially a high school student!

Eighth Grade Graduation

Tonight is Moose’s junior high graduation. Since I couldn’t get a cap and gown picture (the school never even made it to the point where they would order them before things shut down), this one outside of his school will have to do!


K to 8

Today is Moose’s last day of junior high (his virtual graduation is yet to come, on Thursday). Let’s take a look back at every first day of school from kindergarten through 8th grade!

And his last days of school in kindergarten and 8th, kind of. The kindergarten graduation picture was easy, but his “last day” of 8th grade took a little more thought. I didn’t get a picture of his actual last day of classes at the physical school, because at the time, who could have known that would be the last day? So I decided on the day about two weeks ago when we dropped off a few things, and picked up his 8th grade stuff, including a nice sign they had made for our yard.

Up next…high school!

The Last Time

It’s official.

The state of Illinois has ordered schools to remain closed through the end of the school year.

It’s a decision I knew was coming, and one I agree with, but it’s still hard. My heart hurts for Moose, who won’t get to finish his eighth grade year at his junior high, who won’t get to have his final band concert, or walk at his 8th grade graduation. My heart hurts for the teachers, who don’t get to see their students every day, too. And for all of the school district employees who have unexpectedly found themselves without work.

But my heart breaks, most of all, selfishly, for what I’m losing. Our afternoon walks to and from Moose’s school.

Almost since he started early childhood education at the neighboring elementary school at the age of three, we’ve made a habit of walking to pick him up when the weather was nice. Not during the very early days in preschool, I guess, because our subdivision was so new then that it didn’t yet have a stop light. But once they installed a crossing, we would walk in the fall and the spring. Initially, those treks would involve a stroller, as first Ladybug, and then Chickadee, was too small to make the two-mile round-trip on foot. Eventually, though, we ditched the stroller, and all enjoyed walking together.

There were occasional days when interest was low. The rare cold winter morning when, because Ryan needed the car for something, we would have to walk, regardless of the temperature or precipitation. Or a hot spring afternoon, where walking again was a necessity, but not necessarily enjoyable. For the most part, though, we chose our walks when the weather was pleasant, and it was something I looked forward to as the temperature cooled off every fall, and as it warmed up in the spring. We would notice changing leaves, blossoms and flowers, and animals along the way. And we would talk…about everything. Sometimes, the children would recite memory work for catechesis or poems they memorized for school. Or we would talk about current events, or plans for upcoming holidays, or just whatever we were interested in at the time. The topics have changed over the years, but the enthusiasm for discussion remained the same.

I knew this would be the last year, after so many years throughout early childhood, elementary school, and junior high, that these walks would be an option…the high school is not even close to within walking distance. And I intended to make the most of our time. Which I think I did…to a point. To the best of my somewhat limited ability, anyway. We walked many afternoons in the fall, making up for the days in 2018 when I couldn’t do so because of my broken ankle. And I had plans to continue to do so this spring. We did walk a few times in 2020, on the rare nice winter day. But if I had known that March 11 would be the very last time we would make that trip on foot together…I don’t even know. I don’t think I could have enjoyed it more. Maybe I would have attempted to slow the moment down. Maybe I would have tried to make the walk last a little longer. But if I had known then that would be the last time, I hope I would have done something to savor that last opportunity just a little bit more, especially knowing what I know now about what was coming…