• Elijah Ricks

Holding Down the Fort

It was another exciting week at the Ricks front.

On Sunday, Kira had a day full of meetings, so the boys busied themselves by playing together in the nursery room.

She called me before they came home, trying to figure out her password so that she could open a meeting on her new phone. She's the host of the meeting each week, and so no one can start it without her. After the password still wouldn't work, I offered to open the meeting from our home computer so that they could at least get it going. I then found that I had to sit there and admit people to the meeting. I then had to be sure to listen in so that I could mute the older people who did not know how to mute themselves, producing all sorts of interference for the others. I even interrupted the meeting trying to call Kira from the app, but everyone could hear the phone ringing in the middle of their conversation. Fortunately, Kira's got it working on her phone now, so we shouldn't have to go through that again.

Once they were home, I got the boys fed and then Kira took Carver to a meeting back at the church. Hakan was his typical Sunday self - an unmitigated nightmare. He just wanted to mope around and pick fights with Merritt. He kept going out of his way to find and upset Merritt. I banished him to the upstairs, let him think about what he was doing for a while, and then I offered to work on a project with him. One of my suggestions was to build a little fort out of cardboard. What I meant was to make a model inside which Lego figures or something could fit, but he thought I meant a big one in which he could fit. I wasn't sure I wanted to do all of that, but I remembered where I had some big boxes stored, so we busted those out and got building. As usual, he was a completely different person once he had something productive to do.

I had the idea to put Christmas lights inside, and Hakan used the foam letter and number squares to build a floor. We covered it with a sheet, and that thing was all the rage for the rest of the day.

Hannah occupied Merritt in the backyard while Hakan and I worked on the fort. She built a small snowman in the light snow, which he promptly knocked down once it was all finished.

Naturally, as soon as Merritt came back inside to see the fort, he and Hakan got along famously. They dragged Hannah inside the fort (she's thin enough to fit through the door), and played lots of games. Once Carver was back from the meeting, he joined in the fun and read library books to his brothers inside the fort.

Hakan's now got a goal to build a bigger fort, and he might just get his wish after I uncovered a treasure trove of large boxes later in the week...

As the little guys enjoyed themselves, I frosted a gluten free cake I'd baked for Carver. I left out a couple of slices for him for the next two meals, and froze the others in individual packages so that he could get one out at each meal. I had promised he could have a slice once the cake was ready, so he asked where it was and I told him where the plate was with the two slices. He ate both, "misunderstanding" that he was supposed to each just one. Very smooth...

With Hannah over and no school the next day, we stayed up to play a few rounds of dominoes before calling it a night.

Monday morning was a good time to sleep in, and we needed it. Of course, the boys are incapable of making it past 6, as the glory of moving images awaits for them on any device they could dream of. In any case, we awoke to some snow, which was pretty typical for the whole week. I fed the kids breakfast while Kira got ready for her morning client. She left early so that she could visit a bedridden sister in the branch. Once she came home, she took Hakan and Avey to the dollar store for some treasures. Once they were home, of course, they ask where I buy my painter's tape, because now we're out and Avey still wants some for a project in her room. I buy it at the dollar store.

Kira and Avey then headed off to some stores to shop for clothes. They were gone much later than anticipated, but found some good stuff. I mostly just managed the children and tried to squeeze in some more work before classes started the next day. I sent out announcements to my students for how to join the broadcasts of my lectures. Of course, only about 70% of the students check their email, it seems. I bet it's just a few more years before professors have to use Facebook and Instagram to contact their students. Anyway, Hakan got to play with one of the neighbor boys for a bit, but he got cold after not too long, so he left. Hakan, who would die before acknowledging air temperature, was disappointed, but lived. Hannah was over to make some checkers (chocolate-dipped peanut butter and Ritz cracker sandwiches) and watch a little tv once the ladies were back.

Tuesday was the typical school routine, and then I had a little bit of time before teaching my first class of the semester over the computer. Kira and Merritt joined their remote library class and made a craft. I then had an interview over video chat with a job candidate, and then took Apollo on a walk out in the snow. The poor guy hasn't seen his doggy friend all week, thanks to the cold and snow. I then made a brief grocery run and picked up Avey from drama club.

Avey's got a new school schedule, which includes art and swimming. She seems excited to have a change, and can't wait to get to swim more, although this week was mostly just getting oriented to the class and then doing a swim test.

Hannah was over for some tv that night, and a big snow came through. We were worried about her getting home ok, but she made it with just a couple of scary moments. She found out that one of her coworkers at her office job tested positive for Covid, so she had to get tested. Luckily, her bus job said she could keep working there because she's socially distanced from this coworker and they wear masks. She was feeling rather crummy for a couple of days before getting the results, so she thought she might actually have it, but the test came back negative on Saturday morning.

After the big snowfall, I was awoken early Wednesday morning when our neighbor started shoveling his driveway and turned on his snow blower before heading off to work. That, combined with the sound of Merritt bouncing around in his room, led me to give up trying to sleep. I found Merritt half naked in his room, prancing around like a mental patient in a medieval asylum. Apparently he had not used the potty in time, and then didn't think it prudent to put on new underwear and pants by himself (further support for my simile in the preceding sentence).

I got him dressed and settled, and then shoveled our driveway, fed the kids, showered, and headed off for my dental appointment, where I finally got my permanent crown put in. I then went back home to record another lecture for a class. Kira was having a rough go of supervising remote learning for the kids. They seemed to have a lot more assignments than usual, and Carver just couldn't seem to find the motivation to stick with it.

Hakan's really clicked with his reading, though. He used to struggle with even some of his "sight words," but now he's zipping through reading pretty well. It's great to see him gain some competence. He also passed off one of his math tests this week, focusing on adding 3.

I had another interview with another job candidate, and then took Avey, Hakan, Merritt, and Apollo sledding. I regretted that, though, as there was a strong and very cold wind blowing directly against us the entire time. It was painful after just a few minutes. Avey and I were ready to leave pretty quickly, but Merritt seemed to think he might survive. Hakan did his usual thing, refusing to acknowledge his own mortality. The rest of us warmed up in the car while he tested the limits of human perseverance. He had a lot of fun riding down one of our sleds like it was a snowboard. He made it a few times without falling, thoroughly impressing us icicles in the car.

Thursday was awful for all of us. I teach for a total of 6.25 hours on Thursday over three courses, one of which goes from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Because that's during the bedtime routine, I figured I should probably work from the city so that I can be uninterrupted, and so that Kira doesn't have to worry about keeping everyone from interrupting me. What that also means is that I don't get home until about 10:40 p.m. thanks to the train schedule.

I helped with the breakfast routine and then got myself ready to go, then Kira dropped me off at the train station, but we got there just as my train was arriving, so it was far too close for comfort. I was thrilled to find that my new laptop could connect to the train's wifi - my old one could never even see the network, and so I was always limited in what work I could do on the train. Now I'm an unstoppable force.

On my end of the day, I had lots of work going on, not really getting a break until lunch. I was looking forward to then going to my favorite restaurant in the city, but I was heartbroken to find that it was "temporarily closed." I left Chicago on a high note, though, because after my late class, two students stayed on the video call to ask a couple of questions, but first both wanted to tell me that they found my statistics videos very helpful for their class last semester (I wasn't their professor, but their professor directed them to use my videos [with my permission]). That was a nice way to end the night.

Kira picked me up from the station and reported a long, but decently okay day. The kids were about average, but she found herself more patient. Avey was a big help, doing all of the trash gathering to put out for the next morning.

After I was gone all day, Apollo was beside himself with joy to see me again. He couldn't believe that I actually still existed. He came upstairs with me and laid down at the foot of the bed, apparently not able to let me out of his sight. I took him back downstairs and hung out with him for a few more minutes before he fell asleep and I snuck back upstairs.

Kira kindly let me sleep in a little on Friday morning, but I greeted the kids before they went off to school. The plumbers came by again to see if they could finally solve our issue. They sealed up a pipe they suspected was the source of the problem, but then the house smelled strongly of the sealant for the rest of the evening. He recommended opening the windows to ventilate, but of course it was only about 20 degrees outside. We finally couldn't stand it anymore, so opened everything up for a few minutes to try and exorcise the smell. Now, we just have to wait and see if it solved the sewage smell...

Kira did some of her tasks for her calling and work while I took over watching Merritt. I took Apollo on a walk in the afternoon while Avey kept an eye on the boys so that Kira could keep at it. Kira has a mental health presentation she's trying to put together, and has lots to do for the rest of her calling, too.

In fact, the next morning, she left in the morning to help out with a service project, moving furniture out of a now-unused missionary apartment. That took less time than we both anticipated, and I was feeling pretty energized after a good night's sleep, so she stayed out to run several other errands, and I worked on keeping the kids busy. I organized my closet so that I could fit several more totes in there that have been plaguing my work space and bedroom for the last 2.5 years. While I was in there, I also cut out a section of carpet that I could use to make a patch for that large gash in the middle of the room. Once Kira was home, she did what organizing she wanted to of the totes before storing them, and I took the three boys and Apollo to the park. We were the only ones there for almost the whole time, and despite the cold, they all played for a good long time. I had to finally drag Merritt and Hakan away, although Carver was ready to leave.

Apollo had a grand time, as he was off the leash for almost the whole time, sniffing and running to his heart's content. He covered a lot of ground, and then he even joined the boys on the playground equipment for some fun.

We came home in the late afternoon and then I ate a meal and got sewing that carpet patch on. I don't know much more than the basics, but it looks a lot better than it did with just the unsightly gash, so that's worth something. Kira finished up her part of the organizing, and now we have our room back!

We've had a typical Sunday so far, but there's still plenty left that could go awry, so stay tuned for all of that next week...

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