A lot of my time and emotional energy this month has been dedicated to the question of what school was going to look like for my boys in September. It generated a whole lot of stress, to a pretty debilitating degree, as there was all sorts of information, thoughts, and feelings to navigate on the route to arriving at a decision. It was one of those textbook rock and a hard place things where no matter what we decided we knew there was no completely right decision and we felt that as parents we would be failing our kids in some way. We arrived at the decision to opt for distance learning, which we could make work for our personal family dynamic. I then spent time making peace with that decision and figuring out the logistics of making it as successful as possible. And then, just a few days ago, the school district announced that school would be virtual only for the first marking period at least. So it turned out all those sleepless nights going back and forth on what to do were pointless. I am still busy with yet more Zoom meetings about school but at least I know for sure what is happening now (no small thing for a control freak like me) so the only uncertainty remaining now is whether I will be working or furloughed come September.
Anyway, in much more positive news, we have continued to keep ourselves busy and occupied in the Pict household. My husband continues to work from home full-time and the boys and I are filling our days with projects and fun. Some of what we have to do might be boring (chores) but we are never bored. We always have To Do lists longer than time permits and I don’t think that is a bad way to live so long as we can appropriately prioritize those listed items. We have not done a lot that generates blog fodder this month but this post contains some snippets of some of the things we have been up to.
Despite being together 24/7 – which has the potential to be a powder keg of emotions and frustrations – the four boys are getting along really well together. They are finding the right balance between time together and time apart. The only arguments that have broken out are completely daft. One argument was about whether the Turkish city was best when it was Byzantium, Constantinople, or Istanbul, and another debate was about whether the best siege weapon was a canon, ballista, or trebuchet. They managed to unite on catapults being the worst. The boys also continue to make progress with their chosen summer projects. The oldest is making a computer game on a Greek mythology theme, the 13 year old is learning Latin, and the 14 year has actually completed the online course he was enrolled in about the history of movies. Incidentally, he (sporadically) writes a movie review blog which you should check out if you are a cinephile.
My youngest son doesn’t have one big project he is working on as that would not be appropriate for him. Instead he has been working on all sorts of smaller scale things, some with me and some independently. One thing he did was complete that jigsaw puzzle that also appeared in last month’s blog post. He also disassembled an old busted chromebook, made pizza from scratch, and painted a birdhouse he had previously made. And then I remembered why we had never completed the birdhouse project before: because we don’t have a low enough tree branch to hang it from. So now I need to problem-solve a way of attaching the birdhouse to a tree that does no harm to the tree. Suggestions are welcome.
Our oldest son passed his driving test! That’s a milestone for him and also for us as parents. He is actually not very enthused about the prospect of driving but we felt it was important for him to get his license and we preferred for him to be a new driver under our auspices. We let him put it off for a year and then persuaded him to just get on with it. Taking the test with Covid mitigation measures involved some peculiarities but maybe that made him less rather than more nervous. He did great and we now have three drivers in the house.
We have been tackling some overdue household projects. It was not so much that we had procrastinated over them as that other projects had queue jumped because of something suddenly needing to be replaced or a household emergency. One of those neglected projects was giving the kitchen a makeover. It was not in the budget to overhaul the entire kitchen (which was installed in the early 1990s) and honestly it was not necessary as the cabinets are all still in really good condition and completely functional. The microwave was, however, literally falling apart so Mr Pict installed a new one and then it was just a case of freshening up the walls with a lick of paint. The dual aspect windows at the far end of the kitchen means I could not hang any art work on that large blank wall without it rapidly bleaching and the space is too narrow for hanging anything that might get bumped into. I, therefore, had the idea to put up a large pinboard. That way I can pin up all of the letters and notices and appointment cards the six of us generate and which usually get piled on the fridge doors. Now the fridge doors can just be a gallery of the boys’ artwork and my weekly meal plan.
This was what the kitchen looked like just before we embarked on the project.
And this is what it looks like now, the walls switched from magnolia to a silver grey. It is a subtle difference but it is so much cleaner looking and so much lighter.
My art space is the kitchen table at the other end of the kitchen. We have a dining room so we don’t need that table for eating and, therefore, I can leave it set up so I can grab art time in little gobbets. The problem with that permanent set up is that I sometimes accumulate a lot of clutter on my art table (which I share with the cats) and it gets a bit chaotic. I, therefore, used this opportunity to streamline and simplify my art table set up. I kept out only the things I use frequently and stored the rest away elsewhere. Three of the four chairs were also too broken to be safely sat on so we got rid of those and got new ones. I neglected to take a photo of the before scenario but you get a glimpse of it in this photo of one of my cats “sharing” my art space.
This is what it looks like now. Much less cluttered and more efficient. Still shared with the cats.
Another household reorganization project I had not gotten around to for ages was sorting through all of the bedlinen and making the linen closet more organized. I forgot to take a before photo so you will just have to trust me that this closet was a complete and utter mess with far too much crammed in and no ability to tell from a glance what sheets were for which bed. After the flood and the consequent reassignment of bedrooms and new beds, we also had some bedding that was surplus to requirement. It proved to be a bit of a Twilight Zone project, however. I pulled out all of the bedlinen and sorted it into piles: keep, donate, recycle. I generated two large boxes for donation and six garbage bags for recycling. You would think that would free up so much space in that closet but no. Once I started to put the linens we were keeping back in, I was still struggling to fit it onto the shelves. It is a shallow closet but that still makes no sense to me. The boxes contain the sheets and pillowcases organized by bed size. I need to come up with a neater way to store all of those bulky comforters and spare pillows. Again: suggestions welcome.
We have been so busy that we have mostly just been walking around our own neighbourhood. We did, however, venture slightly further afield by going for a wander around Ridley Creek State Park. Last time we went there it was Winter and we did not see another soul; this day, by contrast, the temperatures were in the 90s and it was swarming with people. The parking lot was so packed that we almost decided to jettison the plan, since we are taking social distancing very seriously. We walked a couple of the trails before we capitulated to the kids’ complaints about being sweaty and itchy. Incidentally, just in case you were wondering, our 13 year old has decided he is not cutting his hair for however long quarantine social distancing lasts. Brace yourselves for Cousin Itt appearing in my blog at some future point.
On a whim (and inspired by several of Claudia McGill’s blog posts) we had an explore of Norristown Farm Park. It was another baking hot afternoon so we stuck to one circuit without veering off to explore side paths or a bigger loop but we were still there for a few hours. It was great to have points of interest along the way to keep the boys engaged and create natural breaks in which we could rest in the shade.
I, of course, enjoyed seeing all of the decaying farm buildings. While the kids were paddling in a stream, I went for a donder around a ramshackle building where I encountered a fox (who was too speedy for a decent photo) and lots of my national flower. There was also a field full of sunflowers. It has been many years since I saw so many sunflowers gathered together. One of my brothers has a phobia of them so obviously I had to take plenty of photos to send to him.
We will definitely go back and wander there again and poke around in some of the areas we never made it to – but when he air temperature is cooler and we are better prepared.
And, of course, we are still baking like crazy. Despite the “pandemic pounds”, I cannot seem to stop baking. I justify it was being an activity to engage my youngest son in but really it is just comfort food for the soul. When we first went into lockdown, I had intended to learn how to make decent quality bread. I used to bake bread with my Granddad but have never had huge success independently. I have not actually embarked on that self-improvement project, however, partly because I have not had the time and partly because we have not been eating much bread so I don’t have the same inclination. If we are still social distancing when the days get chillier, then I might be motivated to dig into that project. Until then we will just keep churning out desserts.
Since it is now a tradition to include the cats in these “Pict pandemic posts”, here are Peanut and Satchi “assisting” me with the reorganization of the linen closet.
Doesn’t like sunflowers? Good grief!
Your ‘new’ kitchen is really nice but so was the ‘old’ one. Love all of the windows around your craft table. Natural light is always best.
The schooling is going to be a challenge for a lot of people but ya’ll got this. I have no doubt.
Thanks, Beverly. I do really love that corner of the kitchen because of how light it is. I can sit and draw and paint and watch all of the birds and wildlife in my back yard.
We have all sort of weird phobias in my family. My brother has the sunflower thing, one sister is scared of hydrangeas, and our Dad is phobic of bellybuttons and turkeys. My fear of heights and clowns is really normal by comparison.
I’m delighted to see your sunny many-windowed art studio!! Way to go!! So proud of you all for staying active and creating good moments!
I was delighted that your eldest doing a computer game based in Greek mythology. An eon ago I did illustrations for a computer game based on Beowulf. It was a fun project in the appetizer days of personal computers. Hope you son is having as much fun as I did!
Bravo for a birdhouse!! As far as hanging one without hurting a tree I’ve had luck looping a coated wire around a trunk/limb and hooking to the birdhouse in two places. There are small carbine hooks that can be attached to either the wire or the birdhouse or both.
Congratulations on your new microwave, the painting and the reorganization of your linen cabnet!! Wow!! As per your request for suggestions for containing comforters, etc large bed linens, I’ve found the bags with drawstrings sold in my part of the world as “laundry bags” do the trick. I put a paper tag on the drawstring that says what’s in it i.e. “purple and blue quilt”. I have also similarly used the drawstring bags sold as camping gear for holding tents or sleeping bags. Paper tags on those drawstrings too. The laundry bags are usually cheaper – and are washable – but for one ginormous comforter only a large tent bag contained it.
Good luck with the school issue. Ugh. That would be worrisome. Here in Washington they’re saying online only school now.
And Yippee for cat assistants helping with our projects!
All the best to you and yours!
Thank you so much for the tip about the laundry bags! That is the perfect solution. That was driving me nuts because boxes won’t fit into that shelf but the bags allow me to still squash them into that space. Genius. I will look into your idea about the birdhouse problem too.
I do love my little art corner because of all of that light and the windows. I sit there and create while watching the birds visiting the feeders and the small critters running around.
I was in our garden just now and we have a “shepherd’s hook” that currently holds a bee house. A shepherd’s hook could also hold a birdhouse. I don’t know what these hooks are really called but garden centers where I live sell poles of various heights that are meant to stick in the ground and have a hook on top for suspending plants etc from a large hook. With one of those the birdhouse with a loop/hook on it could be placed anywhere in a yard – near a tree or not. I’ll look for an online link for what I’m talking about… back in a sec
I was in our garden just now and we have a “shepherd’s hook” that currently holds a bee house. A non shepherd’s hook could also hold a birdhouse. I don’t know what these hooks are really called but garden centers where I live sell poles of various heights that are meant to stick in the ground and have a hook on top for suspending plants etc from a large hook. With one of those the birdhouse with a loop/hook on it could be placed anywhere in a yard – near a tree or not. Here’s an online link to something like what I’m talking about https://www.lowes.com/pd/Bird-Feeding-Station/1000931910?cm_mmc=shp-_-c-_-prd-_-sol-_-google-_-lia-_-109-_-birdfeedersandseed-_-1000931910-_-0&placeholder=null&gclid=Cj0KCQjwgo_5BRDuARIsADDEntTZ9-Y2EpUGzLkvNUcXIr29Cd77wOf_2uDXoPKfcP75lbh-e35up94aAg2ZEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
That is what all of my bird feeders are hanging from. Great thinking. I will investigate whether it could hold the weight of a birdhouse. Thanks!
I love reading about your family’s adventures, Laura.. While there is no massive road trip to various destinations, you all are certainly managing to keep yourselves more than fully occupied and engaged on a whole range of projects. I am intrigued with the debates about Turkey and also about the relative merits of the siege weapons. I know that some parents worry about their kids’ brains turning to mush over the summer, but it looks like you have no worries on that score.
Thanks for your kind words. I feel as if we have not been busy enough and that I was scraping the barrel of activities we have been engaged in to create this blog post.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, Laura. So many others have been almost paralyzed by the pandemic restrictions and have vegetated in front of computer, video game, and television screens. In my book, making something with your hands is always a positive sign, whether it be building, cooking, or some creative pursuit.
That’s true, Mike. I guess it is easy to lose perspective when life feels so topsyturvy. Thanks for the pep talk.
I’m so happy you went to the Farm Park and had a good time. Makes me feel good that my posts were persuasive and it resulted in fun! I’ve also been to Ridley Creek many times (they have an orienteering course there, and we have done several trail run events plus just doing the paved loop). And it’s an adventure spot too. Glad the microwave and linen closets and all the other projects are working out so well. You have accomplished a lot. And congrats to your son for passing his driver’s test. All in all I think summer is going along great and I am enjoying hearing about it.
Thank you. I feel like we are being too indolent and that I am giving into laziness but I guess it is just because my life is in an abnormal rhythm right now. With so much to stress over right now, I should probably focus on being grateful for the gift of time in which to slow down and not be quite so driven and busy for once.
Number 4 son could come and cook me pizza any time! That looks delicious.
It really was delicious. He did a really good job.
Nice blog xx
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