{phfr}: mid August

{Pretty}:  There are three hibiscus bushes, huge and thriving, by the water fountain on the path where I run. I stop to get a drink, but the whole time I’m just marveling at their beauty.

When I was pregnant with Owen, one of my friends at work hosted a party for me the night before his due date. We all sat around her fireplace, and she taught me how to knit. I drank a gallon of Raspberry Zinger tea and prayed that the raspberry leaf would promote my labor. After the ninth or tenth cup, as I was floating away on a tide of tea, I read the box and discovered that there was no raspberry leaf in the tea: it was all hibiscus.

{Happy}:  We’ve been to the Botanic Gardens now four times this summer to see the Chihuly. Every time we go, I see something new or learn more about the glass. So many of the sculptures seem to have grown up in the plants- I’ve walked right past them in the conservatory, thinking the glass itself was an exotic tropical plant.

{Funny}: This enchanting guy is a Poison Dart Frog. The Botanic Gardens has a terrarium of them by the door to the conservatory, with a note explaining that without the alkaloids in their natural diet in the Panamanian forest, the specimens here are not venomous. It seemed interesting but an academic point until my friend Tamarin located this large one– much bigger than the ones in the terrarium– hopping free among the plants.


{Real}: We visited friends this week and played a rousing game of Blob Tag. [An aside: when I wrote this post, my autocorrect kept changing it to Blog Tag.]

(One person is “It”. When she tags another person, they hold hands and try to tag more players. The blob gets bigger and bigger– you hope– until the last person still free becomes the new “it”.)

Earlier that morning, my planned four mile run was abbreviated into a [really slow, lame] two-mile run, and I was beating myself up about it until we started to play blob tag. After being “It” multiple times, I calculated  that I ran more than a mile, all in a desperate sprint with an inadequate bra.  Now my “bad run” has been reframed into a “good warm-up.”


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We had a day in the mountains Monday.  A dear friend from medical school brings her family to the mountains every summer, and drive up to meet them not-quite halfway at a park along Gore Creek.  My kids think of it as “our friends’ creek”; they think it’s ours.  Either way, I’m grateful for the tradition.


It made me realize how little unstructured time we had outside last year.  I had grand plans for walks at the state park and time to play in the St Vrain River near my parents’ house.  But the flood last fall caused the river to change course, and both of our places were closed.

Jonah was accountable for attending his community college class, and that meant we were tied to his schedule. We still managed outside time– riding bikes, sledding and skiing– but it lacked the pull of water-play.  We were going somewhere, even if it was just up and down the hill, and I missed the unstructured nature of creek play.


The little girls made a pine cone pond.  The bigger girls sat in the middle of the ice-cold creek and watched the birds.  The boys built a dam and a swimming hole and forded the creek.  I lifeguarded and sat still as the past weeks’ tension in me unwound.

I am wondering how to fit more unstructured outside time into our lives.  The chickens have helped with that, but part of me is a mountain girl, and I need the hikes and the frigid waters tumbling down from the Continental Divide.

Daybook: early August


Out my window: the chickens are in my cucumbers.  Next year I’ll make fencing, but this year… well, I find I like watching the chickens more than I need cucumbers. So I’m happy to share.

In the kitchen: our CSA share has been bountiful, which surprises me given how much rain we’ve had.  Right now my favorite is green beans.  We like them fresh, or sautéed with a little garlic and soy sauce, or steamed…

On the calendar: this weekend alone is a birthday party, a hospital shift, Tae Kwon Do class, a planning breakfast, a meeting after church, lunch with friends, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Tempest.  That’s after I make it through today’s dentist visit, meeting at school, and visit from the Dell computer tech.   But now that Sam is not going to Liberia next week, I find my brain has opened back up and I can plan.  I will post more about the decision-process later.  The situation in West Africa is so heavy on my heart; thank you for praying.


In the school room: the high school we had “choiced” into for Jonah decided not to allow him to do part-time there, so we are now deciding between a different once-a-week homeschool program and two the community college options for his math.  Other than that, most of the pieces of our autumn schedule have come together.

I know you can’t see SweetP in the boat, but she’s there, safe in the bottom– I promise we didn’t lose her!

Grateful for: July was a month of many visits from dear guests.  The trips were all short and incredibly sweet– full of prayer and laughter and blessing.  I’m also so grateful for a really good vacation over this past weekend.  Phoebe was able to swim every day multiple times; everyone loved the white-water rafting and wants to go again; Sam and Owen had a great hike up the mountain; and my heart filled up with mountain air and space and wildflowers and hummingbirds again.  All much needed.


Praying for: the Neals’ trip to Fiji next week.  All the Ebola victims, their families, and all those working in incredibly difficult conditions to save them. Mandy. Judy. Heather & fam.  The Simons’ plunge back into life in Davao.  Clare.  My children.  Kathie’s healing. My friends who are foster parents– what a ministry.




A History Booklist for the 19th Century


I’ve received a few emails asking for a more detailed book list from last year, so here it is. It’s roughly in historical order, and I’ve added a few notes about content.  We read lots of others, but these are the ones I will do again when we come back around to the 19th century.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Latham) This is one of my all-time favorites.  Nathaniel Bowditch was a self-educated renaissance man who revolutionized nautical navigation in the early 1800s. 

Fever, 1793 (Anderson)  Anderson makes the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia come alive.

Amos Fortune, Free Man (Yates) My children begged to hear this one. Fortune was a brave man of deep faith and convictions.  We will read it again.

Chains (Anderson) This book about slavery is vivid and hard, but it’s well worth the read (for middle school and up, I think).

Amazing Grace (Metaxas) Another of my favorites about William Wilberforce, the English orator and politician who ended the slave trade and changed the culture of England.  It was an independent-read for my 8th-grader.

Those Rebels: John & Tom (Kerley) This deceptively simple picture book held all of us enthralled. It’s about the conflict and deep friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  It opened some great conversations.

Adironam Judson: God’s Man in Burma (Hambrick) I didn’t expect this read-aloud one to capture my children as quickly as it did.  Judson’s childhood (he was born in 1788) is vividly portrayed and the descriptions of his experiences in Burma are fascinating.

A Picture Book of Lewis & Clark (Adler) Adler has a whole series of basic but informative picture books. We like them.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition (Webster) This was a simple independent read for my 8th grader.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Lewis) I read aloud selectively from this primary source, but the maps and journal entries were great.

A Picture Book of Sacagawea (Adler)

Streams to the River, River to the Sea (O’Dell) O’Dell has such a gift for making characters come alive. This one’s about Sacagawea.

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame and What the Neighbors Thought (Krull) Krull’s biographies are always entertaining.  This one was no exception and was a picture book for the younger crowd.

The Great Little Madison (Fritz) We all loved this one. She blended great details of his life with an insightful analysis of his understanding of the constitution. It started great conversations.

Dolly Madison: famous first lady (Davidson) We liked this one because it treated her in her own right, instead of just as James Madison’s wife.

James Monroe (Teitlebaum) An 8th-grade independent read.

Andrew Jackson (Meltzer) Another 8th grade read-alone.

Hispanic Heritage: Wars of Independence (Sanchez) This was a good overview of Latin America’s Wars of Independence.

Simon Bolivar (De Verona) The writing wasn’t amazing, but the details were good.

The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal (Harness) Everyone asked for “just one more chapter” of this one.

The Battle of the Alamo (Jeffrey)

By the Great Horn Spoon (Fleishman) This novel about the California Gold Rush is so good. My 5th-grader read it alone.

The Monk in the Garden (Henig) 8th-grade read-alone. It’s about Gregor Mendel (the “father of genetics” and how he conducted his studies.) Jonah still mentions Mendel.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, Free Man (Douglass) A classic for many good reasons. An 8th-grade read-alone.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers (Fritz) I just love Fritz’s history biographies.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom (Weatherford) Both the text and the pictures in this are stunning. Appropriate for all ages. You will want this one on your shelf.

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad (Cole) This is a new book, a powerful wordless story your kids will want to look at again and again.

Abraham Lincoln (Raum) An 8th-grade read aloud. Solid.

Abraham Lincoln (D’Aulaire) Like all of the D’Aulaires’ biographies, you will want your own copy.

Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln: The Writing of the Gettysburg Address (Fritz)

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Adler)

Across Five Aprils (Irene Hunt) 8th-grade independent read.  It was great fodder for discussions of how the press influences public opinion and the effects (intended and unintended) of war.

The Red Badge of Courage (Crane) Again, an 8th-grade independent read.

Abraham Lincoln’s World (Foster) This read-aloud was our history “spine” and it does a good job of covering both the roots of the Civil War and the revolutions all over Europe.  It took us six months to read it all, but it was worth it.

Little House in the Big Woods et al (Wilder) Wilder’s perfect descriptions an vivid stories opened history to me as a child. It’s not different for my children. These are classics about westward expansion.

Caddie Woodlawn (Brink) Woodlawn’s family is more settled than the Ingalls, but her descriptions evoke the same period with equal authenticity.

Lyddie (Paterson) An independent reader for an 8th grader about the challenges of industrialization during the 19th Century. Beautiful, brave, challenging.

{phfr}: late July

{Pretty}: These beauties were perched on a log by the lake where I ran last week.  They were so gorgeous they made my heart hurt.

{Happy}: Our friends who live in the Philippines stayed with us for a few days.  What a blessing to spend time with them, to be able to hear what they’re learning and seeing and doing there… not to mention to have our kids all hanging out.  I’m grateful.


{Funny}: My favorite part about the chicks is how much my children love them.  Jonah tries to make everything fair by holding each of them equally, even when some of them clearly don’t want to be held.  Owen, on the other hand, prefers to hold only Rhonda (his) but will hold her all day.  Moriah definitely projects her own fears and anxieties (rain, wind and thunder) onto the chicks, but the chicks don’t seem to mind any of it.  And Phoebe doesn’t want anyone to hold her chick, Marshmallow, who is vying for Head Chick in the flock.

Here’s Rhonda, when she was still fluffy.

{Real} :  I’m grateful for the end of our swimming season.  The meets, which run all morning, wipe me out and then we come home and I’m supposed to feed the children?  They’re hot and tired, I’m hot and tired, and nobody is really hungry.  One day I managed to make four grilled cheese sandwiches for them.  Here’s what was left over.

After that, I declared it was “find your own lunch” after a swim meet, which has worked much better.
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