Daybook: Late October

Outside my window: it’s cold today.  Not quite a freeze yet, but it’s coming.  I’ve been loving the fall colors this year and am hoping to get out today for a walk or run. Or both.

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In the kitchen: Moriah is making muffins.  “Even though I’ve only been cooking for 27 minutes,” she says, “it feels like an hour!”  I second that.

In the schoolroom: we’ve been really focusing on the basics: history, grammar, math.  We loved the biographies we read last week on Helen Keller, Theodore Roosevelt and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  This week is Jane Addams.  She was really a remarkable person.

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Colorado Gothic

Around the house: it would be really great to do a deep clean before we hit the colder days and have to spend more time inside.  I can’t find my indoor flip flops and am walking around on grit.  Ick.  But my tolerance for cleaning right now is low.

On my mind: the Ebola crisis.  While Sam has to focus on planning here, I am free to pray and think West Africa, and my heart is heavy.  What a tragedy.

On the needles: I just bought yarn for some hats for the kids, but I have to finish my fall sweater first.

On my reading table: our small group is reading Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin.  It’s a reread for me and is even better this second time around.  She’s wise.  I’m also reading Gene Cards by E.E. Giorgi, a fast paced Sci-fi thriller I’m enjoying a lot.

Grateful for: a hike this weekend.  It wasn’t strenuous by any means, but at least we were outside. In the mountains.   Today’s planned visit with a dear friend and her kids- we used to be neighbors and could meet any time for park play.  Now we’ve both moved, and it’s a production to get us together, but it’s always work it.  The full version of Let Us Keep the Feast, our book on living the church year at home, being released on Saturday for All Saints’.  The sixteen children we had in children’s church yesterday.

Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Lois. Clare. Erin. Those risking their lives to care for those with Ebola.  The Lawndale family.  West Africa.  Gaza.  Refugees.  Patience.

7 QT in which I turn forty-four

One: I turned forty-four. It seems old and just right at the same time.

Two: The boys had tickets to a comedy show last Friday, so I invited a friend and her daughter over for Thai food and pedicures as my “party.”
The best part of the whole night were the girls’ giggles as I rubbed their feet with the sugar scrub.
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Three: Then I spent the rest of the weekend sick in bed.

Four: Oh, wait. I did get out of bed long enough to cut all my hair off. Again. You wouldn’t think that three inches of hair would take me so long to style every morning, but it did. Or rather, looking at it every day and wishing I knew what to do with it was consuming too much of my mental energy. I missed my ponytail. Since I couldn’t grow one back overnight, I had to chop all my hair off.

Five: While in bed, I finished The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  Fantastic book.

Six: Then I read The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  Also wonderful, despite having the word epic in the title.

Seven: Spending the weekend in bed seemed to cure me, most of the way at least.  I took an awesome run on Monday.  Maybe I should spend more time in bed.

The little blue sweater

My niece was born a year ago. Several months before she was born, I started knitting her a sweater.  I like to pray when I knit gifts. I prayed for her mom, I prayed for her safe arrival. I prayed for her dad and for her siblings.  I prayed for her character and her future.

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The yoke of the sweater was confusing; several times I frogged it and started over.  As the sweater grew, it became clear that I should have knit it on miniscule needles, because on the 7s I was using, it was not going to fit her any time soon.  The pattern I was using had several omissions… like the length of the sleeves and body.  It just said, “Knit until size desired achieved.”  Well, without a baby on hand to measure, that was all conjecture.  I pulled up my February Baby Sweater pattern to give me some idea of how to proceed.

She arrived safely.  The sweater was nowhere near done.  Having missed the first deadline, I put the sweater away for a while.  Nine months later, I dragged it out again for some road trip knitting.  I finished the knitting but forgot to bring a needle to weave in the ends.

The new deadline was her birthday.  And by the skin of my teeth, I made it. Blocked, ends woven in, button on. Her little sweater went out to her birthday party and just fits.  Phew!

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Happy birthday, sweet girl!  (Don’t think that because I finished knitting for you I am done praying for you. Not by a long shot.)

Invisible Victories: a link-up

All right, friends. I know you have them: invisible victories, those moments where you triumphed over a challenge that nobody else even saw.  I’ve been reading them in your blog posts and seeing them when I lurk on fb.  Will you add them here?
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Some of my children do really well with a checklist of their daily work. They get up in the morning, get their work done, and then have all day to think and play and read. But two of my kids look at their list and think, “I’m never going to finish it all!” And just the thought of that makes it come true. We had a little meeting two weeks ago, and I asked, “What would help you get your work done?” and “What would make your day better?” We all answered, and I heard everything from, “Get rid of Math,” to “Make cookies every day.”

The practical suggestion was, “What if you made us a calendar for the day and put it up so we could see when we had to do each thing?” Everyone piped up and said that was a good idea.

I can’t tell you how long I have resisted doing this. Years, probably. When they were little, all the homeschooling blogs I read (because those were the only homeschooling models I had at that time) had complicated spreadsheets that showed where each child was at any given moment of any day.  I tried it, but my kids were more like water, or quicksilver, than columns on a spreadsheet.  On top of that, every day was different.  My work day looked very different from the day we had piano lessons. That meant five spreadsheets.

The bigger issue had always been that when I wrote down a schedule, I felt like I had to follow it. To the letter, despite diaper blow-outs and kids who needed longer naps (or a mom who needed a nap)… The schedule I made was a manacle on my ankle.  It chafed.

But here were four kids, all agreeing (when do they ever all agree?) that they wanted a daily schedule. So I tried it. I made one day’s schedule on the white board, so I could erase and change it easily. I made sure that only one person had “practice piano” at a time.  I eliminated squabbles over the school computer by scheduling their Rosetta Stone in different blocks. I wrote in when we would go outside so that it would actually happen, and when they would have a snack in order to eliminate the nineteen daily trips into the kitchen that stemmed from boredom, not hunger. I wrote in the chores I wanted done that day.

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And amazingly, it worked!  It’s been working now for almost three weeks.  Oddly, if I write that we are going for a walk, everyone puts on their shoes and we go for a walk.  [Almost] without complaining.  If I write that we’re cleaning bathrooms that day, the bathrooms get clean.  The biggest change of all has been that my daughter looks at one block at a time and does what’s there, instead of freaking out about the whole day at once.  And so far, it hasn’t felt like a shackle to me.  (We’ll see what I say in 6 months.)

Your turn!  Let’s hear them and celebrate with one another.

{p,h,f,r}: Autumn Days

Pretty:  I love autumn. I especially love October.  I love the color which is especially spectacular around here this year– probably because of all the rain we’ve had– and the light, which is so different from summer light. I walk around marveling at the color (“Look at that tree!”) and the light (“Look at the way the light is hitting the mountains!”) until my kids can’t take it any more.
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Just look at the color of this bush!

Happy: I also love the cooler days.  My kids like to lounge in their jammies in the morning, so getting them out to the park early enough in the summer to beat the heat is hard.  In the autumn, we can head out at midday.

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Look at how blue the sky is!

Funny:  Phoebe loves to make little rooms for her dolls all over the house.  If I find the family on a shelf, they live in an apartment.  She especially loves big books because “they make good floors.”  This family dinner occurred in the study.
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The other day I found a doll’s bathroom set up in the hallway. I draped a little piece of wet paper towel over the edge of the bathtub and put a chocolate chip in the toilet. When I called her and told her to ask her people please to clean their bathroom, she dissolved in giggles and ate the chocolate chip. So much for sanitation.

Real: As I mentioned, I love light.  But the light in my kitchen is killing me.  The other day, the glare was so bad it gave me a migraine.  Any suggestions on how to hang curtains over a three-panel sliding glass door?  I need some help here.
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For more every day contentment in {p,h,f,r}, head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter!

A Day in the Life: October 2014

5:45       I overslept this morning.  I crawl out of bed, creep to the kitchen to make tea, read 1 Corinthians and write. I hear Sam in the shower.  I put oatmeal on the stove.

5:56       Sam is out, making his lunch and breakfast. He doesn’t have time to wait for the oatmeal.

6:30       He kisses me and is off to work. I make a second cup of tea and continue writing.

6:30       Aimee, our guest, is awake and wants to run, despite the darkness.  I coax her into eating a banana and waiting until the sun comes up. I try to keep writing, but conversation beckons.

6:47       I finish my word goal (500 words), close my laptop and change into running clothes.  Yesterday Aimee and I ran a hill loop.  She called it an “easy three mile trail run.”  I called it “Speed Work with a 17 year-old.”  My butt still hurts from it.  I let her mom, who is awake in the guest room, know we’re leaving.

7:02       Aimee and I sync our watches. She’s going to run hill repeats, while I loop around the park slowly for 30 minutes.

7:21       I really have to pee, but the bathroom is in the wrong direction. I head for the bathroom anyway.

7:24       I don’t have time to make it to the bathroom. Kegels to the rescue.  I turn around again and head back toward the car.

7:38       I’m late.  I see Aimee sprinting up the hill again.
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Aimee, the 17 year-old rocket

7:40       We drive home.  In the bathroom, I realize I forgot to turn off my running app.  It logs my run with a 7:16 pace.

7:55       My running partner calls me and asks if Shalane Flanagan stole my phone. I’m pretty sure Shalane would have thrown her phone in horror if she ran a 7:16 pace.  The children are all awake, rattling around in the kitchen.

7:57       Now I’m really glad I made oatmeal.

8:33       Sue and Aimee head out to look at yet another college nearby.  We begin school.  Phoebe starts with copywork and Explode the Code.  Moriah begins with Duolingo (Spanish). The boys had already started: Rosetta Stone for Owen, Pre-Calc for Jonah.  While they’re all occupied, I shower.

8:46       Phoebe asks for help with math.  Singapore 1B is introducing multiplication in its casual way.  I love this curriculum.

9:02       Moriah practices “half” her piano.  I throw the laundry in.  Phoebe and I read library books: John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith; Lauren Child’s I Want a Pet and Maude, the Not-so-Noticeable Simpleton.

9:24       Owen comes out with a math question: how to do negative fractions. I tell him to skip that one for now.  Jonah starts Spanish, Moriah starts her math, Phoebe does her piano.  No one needs me, so I hang out in the kitchen, available.  Doing dishes.

9:47       The girls ask to paint.  No.  Instead, I pull out the clay.  I tell them we’ll be starting our family reading in the living room at 10.

9:58       I make another cup of tea and move the laundry to the drier and start load #2.

10:04    Close enough.  We are reading in Acts this fall, and then I read them To Fly: the Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old.  Some conversation about aerodynamics.  Phoebe has made a “shot” and a band-aid out of Sculpey for her doctor.  She plans to give these to him later this week when she gets her physical (and flu shot).  The shot looks like a pink dagger.  Tell me how you really feel.

10:31    I excuse Jonah to do his science.  I pull out the science I’m doing with the younger three.  We’re on the periodic table.  I love the periodic table.  After ten minutes, I realize that Owen has not caught the joy of the periodic table.  Phoebe isn’t even sure why I keep using the word “table” to describe it.  Moriah is starting to get it.

10:48    It is clear I cannot explain the period table, which is frustrating to me.  It’s like when I tried to teach Jonah piano in the early days: when the topic is something I really love, I am not a good teacher. But I eventually figured out how to teach piano and reading… so maybe we just need to put it away for now.

11:03    The girls again ask to paint.  No.

11:04    I read the news.  It’s all bad. More tea.

11:21    Moriah sets the table, and I pull out the leftovers.  Owen asks why we’re always having leftovers for lunch.  I say that we don’t like to waste food, so while we have leftovers, that’s what we’re going to eat.  Moriah grumbles that I never make anything she likes to eat, and that’s why we have leftovers in the first place.

11:32    Lunch.  I have already eaten two pieces of meatloaf standing at the counter before the kids even started.

11:53    Sue and Aimee are back.  We pack their luggage into the car, and I take them to the airport.  The kids are supposed to clean up the kitchen while I’m gone and begin their rest time.

12:41    I’m back.  The kitchen is fairly clean.  Not bad.  Put load #2 of laundry in the drier and put load #1 on my bed to fold.

12:55    I sit down with the book I’m reading, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  I have very little left, but I know it’s not going to end well.  I read it for hours at the swim meet and could hardly put it down, but now I can hardly pick it up.  McBride is an amazing writer.

1:20       The boys appear.  “Can I program?” Owen asks.  I say I want to go over what he’s done so far.  He explodes, telling me how much he hates the book I assigned him for reading.  I knew this last week, but I was going with the “once we start, it’s good to finish” theory.  When he tells me this book is like Peter Pan—which in his world means full of arcane language and inaccessible to him—I tell him we’ll switch.  Good thing I have a basket full of biographies from the library.

1:49       Knowing that prolonged silence is often a danger sign, I go upstairs to check on the girls.  Moriah is reading, and Phoebe has just cleaned her room. All by herself.  (Normally, she finds this task overwhelming. Her room has gotten so bad lately that I am overwhelmed, too.)  She tells me how she did it: “First I put my dirty clothes away, then the clean clothes, then the books, then the ponies…” And she really did.  I am truly amazed.  High fives all around.

2:01       I send Owen, Moriah and Phoebe to clean the bathrooms. Jonah’s assignment is the chicken coop.  I get the paints out.

2:15       Inspired by Phoebe’s diligence, I fold our laundry.  This sound like something easy, but somehow it is the task I never get to.  At the end of the day, I may have done five loads of laundry, but it’s all still sitting in wrinkled mass on our bed.

2:42       The girls are still painting.  Jonah and Owen have an argument over who should get to practice piano.  They both come to me with their superior claim to practice now.  I reflect back to both of them how it’s not about superior claims.  They work it out.  Owen practices now, while Jonah studies for his physics test.

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3:00       I realize the dinner hour is approaching.  I can’t find my journal (where I’d written my meal plan for the week) anywhere. Decide on Quiche for tonight, and I’ll pick up salad when I go to the store.

3:20       The quiches are in the oven (a plain cheddar one for the kids; leek and artichoke for us.)  I remind the younger three to come eat a snack before we go to swimming.  The girls finish painting.  I can’t face cleaning up the mess of paints and brushes.  Ugh.

3:29       I check my email.  This turns into a computer-based rabbit trail of looking for the summer swim times.  Owen’s times have really improved. I call him over to show him how much time he’s dropped, and he says, “Am I in trouble?”

3:38       Still can’t find my journal.  Remembering that I had planned beef stew for one day, I pull the meat out of the freezer and make a grocery list, blind.

4:14       We head to swimming.  The girls are picking at each other in the car.  I yell at them to stop. Not a highly effective strategy.

4:27       Owen & Moriah sprint into the pool.  Phoebe wants me to go with her.  She changes in the locker room and needs help with her swim cap and goggles, but then she kisses me good-bye and goes into the pool without me.  Across the locker room is a harried mom with her two toddlers.  “She’s very independent,” the young mother says wistfully.  We share a smile. Just yesterday, it seems, mine we all littles, too, who couldn’t do anything for themselves.

4:33       I go through my coupons before heading to the store.  Most of them have expired. I cross my fingers and hope that Jonah remembered to take the quiches out.

4:41       It’s a novel thing to go to the grocery store by myself.  I am able to compare prices and nutrition labels without children bickering at my side.  No one has to go to the bathroom.  I know it’s supposed to be a “great learning experience” for them, and “you can teach them so much math!” at the grocery store, but frankly I find taking children to the store exhausting (and not just because someone invariably says, “Are they all yours?” and “You have your hands full!”)

5:43       Check out, drive back to pick up the children.  They are all in good post-swimming moods. And are very hungry.

6:02       I unload the groceries from the car.  Jonah helps.  The girls are fighting over my shower.  (They have their own, but for some reason, mine is the favored one.)  Sam has started making a salad.

6:20       Owen, starving, refuses to eat the Quiche, but he is silent at his place, refraining from complaint.  When I offer him hardboiled eggs and an apple, he jumps at them.  The artichoke Quiche is a bust, but the spinach salad is good.

6:44       I send the girls to clean up the basement, where they find my journal. Hooray!  Jonah puts the chickens away for the night, while Sam and Owen clean up the kitchen.  I do fifteen minutes of yoga.  My body is very grateful.

7:03       The girls are still putting toys away, but happily.  Owen and I play double solitaire; Jonah and Sam play Scrabble.  There is an intense discussion of whether or not Jonah can use the word “EW”.  The Oxford New American Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both say no.  In the end, he found an N to connect it to.

8:01       I go upstairs, where the girls are ready for bed.  We read LaRue Across America (Mark Teague), The Little Red Hen Makes Pizza (Philemon Sturges and Amy Walrod), and Say Cheese (Lauren Child).  Kisses all round.

8:34       A hot bath for me. I never got to Owen’s negative fractions or to the dirty brushes and paints in the kitchen.  I read another few pages of The Good Lord Bird, but I don’t want it to end and switch to Runner’s World instead.

9:17       Sam comes in to brush his teeth and finds me dozing.  “Go to bed,” he says.  Very grateful that the bed isn’t covered with clean laundry, I do.

Not the Post I was Planning, so Grateful

I had planned a post on Links that make me think (as a counterpart to Links that Made me laugh) for today, but it was so depressing I’m going to skip it.  I think the heaviness in the world is weighing me down even more than the Pepsi and brownies.

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So instead, I’m going to share a few things I’m grateful for today:

:: a day at the Denver Art Museum. We didn’t actually go to any of the galleries; instead, we spent two hours in the hands-on sculpture area.  I needed that.

:: visits from 3 dear friends (and children) during the past week, all timed while Sam was away.  What a blessing to have some company!

:: that I noticed the laundry rotting in the washer after only one day, instead of two (like last time)

:: yesterday’s run in the pouring rain. I’m especially grateful that it was only sprinkling when I started. Had it been pouring rain (as it did once I got to mile two) I certainly wouldn’t have gone at all.  I stopped at one point to take a photo of the water pouring in sheets off a roof, but I was so completely soaked and cold that my finger couldn’t conduct enough to unlock my phone.

:: the warm-air dryers at the rec center that I used to dry my shirt while I waited for the kids to finish swimming. (The little kid next to me thought I was crazy.)

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:: girls who do school in costume.

:: boys who love to read on the couch.

:: the preterm baby we delivered last week, that mother and baby are doing well.

:: that Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home (Complete Collection) (Amazon kindle book or Paperback from Doulos Resources)  is available for pre-order. It’s coming out November 1st, just in time for Advent.

What are you especially grateful for today?