Monday, April 6, 2020


Birthday #2 in quarantine.

Lily turned 20 on Saturday.
My girl has grown up. Quarantine has been hard for her--she's on leave from her job and there isn't much to do (and she is a DO-ER!), but she played with the kids and got Claussen pickles. So what more could a gal ask for?

Love you, Jane.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Quarantine Snapshots

There's been joy in this roller coaster journey. Small snapshots into what really matters.

I've been more aware of the light, watching how it changes my mood and affects my world.

People have gotten more creative. My neighbor set up a fun scavenger hunt for many of the kids on our street for the morning of St. Patrick's Day. That was when this all seemed new and fun and temporary.
My kids were pretty creative at the beginning as well. Eve made an Amazon box into a car that parked on our back patio for a week.
Hyrum used the wax surrounding a Babybel cheese as a seal on a letter requesting game time, and Eve wrote us the sweetest note. She frequently drops notes around the house for me, and I hope she never outgrows it.

I bought a new plant at the grocery store. Brad noticed water on it one day but didn't think anything of it . . .
. . . until he saw it again the next day. When I googled the plant, we discovered that this plant "weeps" when it's overwatered, but that it doesn't hurt it since it's native to the rainforest. See the drip on the end of the leaf here? Cool, right? I'd never heard of that.
Early in our quarantine adventure, I took the kids out to buy a few more pittisporum for our yard. It's funny how just looking at this photo from three weeks ago makes me feel like somehow we were doing something "wrong." 

God blessed us with an incredible rainstorm. AZ kids love the rain and never pass up a chance to run around in it--because it's usually warm. Not this time. But that didn't prevent them from getting soaked and laughing.
I took my fiddle leaf fig trees out, but the storm quickly blew them over and ripped a few of their leaves, sadly.
We are lucky that we get to spend quarantine with the Johnsons, the cute family that lives in our guest house. We share the yard and otter pops and and goldfish crackers and card games almost every afternoon. It keeps all of us a little more sane.
One afternoon they set up an obstacle course in the back yard, and Eve was the photographer.

Marc is the cool dad, and they even went camping in the backyard one night. Ruby stuck her head out and yelled, "GOODNIGHT JEN!" before they zipped it up for the night.
Strangely it was one of the coldest nights we had in March, and halfway through the night, Marc had to put on the rain fly so the little people didn't freeze.

There's been a lot of reading in this house that loves books and stories.

Tucker's family has been here most days, but that is the extent of our exposure to the outside world--six little people and their four parents. It's strange that the world has shrunk to that now.

We began our quarantine with lots of bike rides along the canal, but those have slowly lost their allure.
I was laid up after a minor bike crash a few weeks ago, but I'm back exercising and running along the canal I love. Before long, it will be hot and I won't be able to run any time of the day.

We watched this pair of ducks for weeks, hoping to see babies following along between them, but it looks like they either didn't lay eggs this spring or that none of them hatched. That idea made Eve very sad for the poor mama duck. And me, too.

I'm very grateful that Target has been deemed an essential store. I can get groceries and essentials (in theory, but still have yet to see TP on any shelf anywhere since this whole craziness descended) and chocolate-covered Peeps, since Target is the only place I've ever seen them.
Admittedly, I've purchased way more than my share of these delectable creations.

I've watched the night sky closer as well, since I lock the feathered ladies in their coop every evening. There's such peace in the transition from flaming color to darkness, and often I stand out there for a moment to remember how good life really is, despite all the crazy inconvenience and fear and everything else.

Friday, April 3, 2020

A Dog's Life in Quarantine

How's Cleo handling this whole quarantine scene? Much like the rest of us.

She gets so happy when someone walks by or comes in the front door.

But  most of the time, she sits just inside the threshold and watches. (It's been gorgeous weather here, so we've had the door open much of the time--makes me feel not so closed in.)

She loves the spot of sunshine just inside the doorframe, and she will stay there for hours. Even when Amazon or UPS approach the house with a package, she remains there, still and quiet and unaffected by their presence. With the same delivery people coming all the time, they've learned to trust her and greet her before returning to their trucks.

She's also mystified by the arrival of our nine new feathered ladies. She knows she can't go in Brad's raised beds, so she watches from the other side, sometimes placing her feet on the bricks to get a better view of the chickens. She will run from gate to gate, peering at them and wondering what they're doing in her yard.
She waits expectantly for her people to emerge from the enclosure, never attempting to come through the gate, and never barking at the birds. It's strange, almost like she understands her world is separate from theirs and she has to keep her distance (such a quarantine metaphor there, but I'll let it pass).
She is the best dog ever. Even when I leave the gate slightly ajar while I'm feeding or collecting eggs or shutting the coop for the night, she stays on her side of the fence, patiently waiting for me to come back out to her.
Lucky for both of us, we can still get in our ritual lap around the block every morning. No kids to greet her or ask to pet her or call her name from behind the school fence. No cars with dogs behind the glass. 

Can she tell the world is different now? 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Birthday in Quarantine

My baby boy became a teenager on Saturday. This kid is always building something or fiddling with something or improving the design on something--usually weapons or DND related.

One of the strange facets of quarantine is that it seems to deepen almost daily, and it wasn't as long-term last Saturday. School hadn't been cancelled for the rest of the year, so there was a possibility that seeing friends was on the fairly near horizon.

(Side note: Best April Fool's Day joke in a while was convincing all three kids that Governor Ducey had ordered they all repeat the grade they're in next year. Hyrum and Eve fully bought into it. Micah was incensed for a moment, then he realized what day it was and saw through me.)

Hyrum had such a good attitude about his birthday. He's suddenly looking older and acting older, still without the whole emotional teen hormone roller coaster, so I'll take that as long as I can get it.

Hyrum is funny, and not just in a "I'm-13-and-only-funny-to-other-13-year-olds" way. He's fun to be around and I enjoy his company.

Hyrum is thoughtful. He shares freely (with everyone but Eve, it seems). He thinks of others and completes small acts of service to make them happy.

For example,  we have a young family living in our guest house, and since we share the yard and driveway and everything, we are all quarantined together. For Marc's birthday, Hyrum made him a lemon cake all by himself. I often wonder where this ability to see what people need without being asked will take him in his life. It really is a gift that blesses all of us.

Hyrum is learning how to interact with his older brothers on a new level. He's always been the baby brother with nothing important to add, but lately that field has been leveling out (along with the COVID-19 curve, right?). They are all becoming friends with each other, and it's incredible as the mom to watch that happen and see the foundation for their lifetime ahead as adult brothers. Chokes this mama up a little!

One thing that will really suffer during quarantine is his hair. We're only almost three weeks in, and look at it! I may have to break out my old haircutting buzzer . . . 

Five more birthdays until he's an adult.

When did he change into a teenager? I still remember this little Rum Diddy:

Love you, buddy. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Parable of the Gardenia

Yesterday, there was a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Idaho.
Probably won't even make most news feeds, but that's a pretty significant quake--bigger than the one that just rocked Utah. 
I couldn't stop thinking about it. Really? Another one? Can't the boat stop rocking for just a few days so I can recalibrate? 

Last May, my favorite grocery store closed. Without warning, signs appeared on the shelves that prices were marked down because the store only had two weeks left before closing forever.

It sounds dramatic, but I was devastated. I've lived in the same neighborhood for 25 years, and I shopped primarily at that store for 24 years. They didn't have the lowest prices, but they had friendly staff that I knew by name, they always had what I needed, I knew the store without having to think, and they had the best floral department around. I could always count on them for quick arrangements for a friend's birthday or teacher appreciation day.

Ironically, the week before I discovered the store was closing, I took a risky step in my newly discovered plant love journey, and I bought a gardenia. I fell in love with gardenias the first time I smelled one--in my corsage for my senior prom. Thanks, Jeff May, for a lifetime infatuation with the heady fragrance and fragile blooms. And ever since moving to AZ, I've tried to grow my own. Gardenias do grow outside here, and Brad has planted at least a dozen bushes, but not one ever survived.

I've seen gardenias successfully grown indoors on social media, and (if you're a plant-lover, you understand this) since you can never have too many plants, I impulsively placed a healthy gardenia in my Safeway cart that day. It was covered in baby buds, and I was certain I could get at least one to bloom.

When I found out the store was closing, that little plant became emblematic of my dedication to my favorite store. I couldn't let it fail--somehow a bit of those connections I'd made over decades of sharing shopping experiences lived on in that tiny plant.

The plant painfully dropped each bud, and with every loss, my hope diminished a little bit more until no potential blossoms remained. 

Brad told me I should get rid of the little gardenia bush because it would never blossom. But the little gardenia plant was healthy, so I kept it, mostly out of loyalty to my Safeway. I remained dedicated to watering and fertilizing and occasionally misting it, but no buds appeared.

Until February--nine months after I brought it home.

At one point, I counted ten new buds, and my hope resurfaced. Would they open this time? 

The first few yellowed then dropped, just as it had before. And my hope ebbed once more.

Just before we left for our Spring Break vacation, I checked my gardenia. The buds were getting bigger, but still no flower. I trusted it to my neighbor and left for five days. 

What happened while I was gone?
My patience and diligence and hope bloomed!

Today (two weeks later) the first two blooms have blackened and shriveled, but two more have taken their place, with one or two left to still open.

My life right now feels like those long nine months of waiting with no change in sight. Hope buds then falls off again. Things level out then something else happens. And my hope in a return to life B.Q. (Before Quarantine) moves farther away.

But it won't last forever, right?

I've adjusted to new grocery shopping experiences (I still get a little sad when I drive by the carcass of the store). I got my much anticipated flowers--and they are so much sweeter and whiter and more fragrant than if it had bloomed last May.

There's always hope.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


I keep telling myself that at least now we know what we're facing.
I wrecked on my bike last week--hit my head pretty good, scraped up my arm, and embarrassed myself in front of a friend who witnessed the whole thing.

The next morning I woke up with a pain in my back and realized I'd tweaked it in the wreck, and this sidelined my exercise for the rest of the week (but not my eating . . . ). I finally got back on the road yesterday morning, and while I was running, my watch erupted with GroupMe texts. I couldn't pull up the image and the texts were a little discouraging, but I determined to finish my run/walk before reading further.

Governor Ducey announced yesterday that AZ schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

Deep down I knew this was going to happen, but I'd recently convinced myself that the kids would get to return for at least a week or two to say goodbye to everyone and graduate and stuff.


It's so difficult to express how all this makes me feel. Admittedly, I cried for a few minutes before I could make it into the house and tell the kids--especially Micah. High school is so social, and I knew it would hit him hardest. They took it pretty well, but its' going to be a LONG eight weeks.

Every day brings some new twist in this story, and I'm tired of it.

Now Micah has real school online (not that involved yet, but ramping up), and the little ones are scheduled to be online by Monday.

Monday, March 30, 2020

First Two Weeks of Social Distancing

How two weeks of social distancing have played out at the Sanatorium:

The kids have responded miraculously well to it all. I'm sure that will wear off with time, but for the first two weeks, they got along beautifully. I do believe that one of the side effects of life coming to a virtual standstill is coming closer as families.

We've learned together--these three have been pretty forgiving when it comes to learning from their mom.

 I've made dozens of mistakes, and I don't know if they've learned very much, but they've each read and reported on at least one book not of their choosing (Micah--Unbroken; Hyrum--Endurance; Eve--The Giver and Gathering Blue). We've had a few attempts at math on Khan Academy, but with no direction from their teachers, I don't really know where to start them. We've watched Mark Rober every day and added in a little Crash Course US History from John Green. They're not progressing along a curriculum, but we have learned a few things.

The day we spent trying to make hexa-flexagons. Two hours and we finally got one to flip . . . 

We've worshipped together--Sunday meetings are shorter than normal, but we've had sacrament meeting and Sunday School each week, thanks to videos from the church and members of our ward, and handouts and directions from local leaders and teachers.

We've watched movies together--almost every night. UP, Captain Marvel, even added in some classics like Cool Runnings.

We've also been to stores with many barren shelves, pieced together a few meals when what we wanted was missing, and waved to our friends from six feet away as they walk the neighborhood with their families.
This social distancing will get harder and harder, and I'm anticipating a small revolt this week.

We've worked together--dug a new foundation for our chicken coop and adopted ten new hens (one died after only a few days, but the rest seem to be acclimating well).

This is S'mores, the short-lived member of our flock.
Eve was so sad.

All of them are tame and beautiful and lay consistently.
They've been a fun new distraction/addition to our family.

We've played together--almost every afternoon the kids play a few games of "Cover your A$$ets with Marc and Ashley (they live in our guest house and since we live together, we count as family, right?).

It's been pleasant most of the time, to be honest. AZ spring weather is perfection, with the slight breezes perfumed with citrus. We've been on bike rides and runs and walks.

Sounds like heaven, right?

I don't know if I'd describe it as heaven, exactly. But it isn't hell, either.

As for me, I haven't made time for my schoolwork. I had a big assignment due last Monday, but it was an excuse letter. I've eaten all. the. things and I wrecked on my bike last Tuesday, which resulted in a very minor concussion and a tweaked back that has lingered till today. I'm hoping by tomorrow I can get back to exercising. But the eating is all my own fault. I'm a big stress eater, and there's been plenty of that intertwined with the Shangrila moments.

So. Many. Good-n-Plenty boxes.

I don't know how I feel about all of the COVID-19 thing. We're following social distancing recommendations. We're fine financially. I wonder if this is all too much because of the economic toll. I wonder if this is all not enough because not everyone is following protocol and that will negate most of our efforts. I wonder if my neighbors are as strict with their kids or if they're stricter (and where should I be in that?). I wonder if someone I love will get the virus--and if that means I'll never see them again or is that just too doomsday and silly. I wonder how long can it continue and how much of our summer will be affected by this new reality we live every day.

It's a weird time, and life has changed in two weeks.

I can't say I hate it. But I don't love it either.

So strange.