Seven Quick Takes: Is school over yet?

One: We’re in the last days of school for the year.  Originally I had us going into the first week of June, but when I counted up the days I had two weeks extra.  Hooray for counting.  Everyone is squirrely (myself included).


Two: Jonah and Sam had a great time (four days’ worth) in Beijing.  The rest of us survived without them and waited each day for their photos to trickle into Photostream.  Now Sam is trying to get back on Colorado time, while Jonah had no problem.  Oh, to be fifteen.


Three: The lilacs and iris are blooming.  I managed to snag the landscapers at my neighbors’ house and got them to aerate my lawn for $10.  No appointment, no phone call.  Win-win.


Four: We haven’t been as lucky with the computer repair people, for whom we waited all yesterday.  Anyone else having trouble with Windows 10?

Five: Jonah is looking for a job, diligently making the rounds of all the local businesses.  Moriah has expanded her dog walking business and is enjoying her well-gotten gains. Yesterday after ballet she bought herself a lemon bar and then told the rest of us about it in excruciating detail.  Owen earns extra money by mowing the lawn.  Anyone have a suggestion for a job for an 8-year old who needs to buy her own lemon bars?


Six: I had the world’s worst run last week.  Well, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But everything bothered me: my new socks, the rock in my shoe, the waistband of my pants, the endless ballads that kept coming up Pandora no matter the station, the annoying podcast I switched to… Only the birds kept me going.  Look, goslings!


Seven: I spent so much time trying to explain why Sam and Jonah’s flight flew through the arctic circle to get to China I finally bought a globe.  Now for two weeks, we’re going to cram geography and nature walks.  What’s left in your school year?

For more quick takes, check out Kelly!


Family Summer Reading Program

My kids like to read. They don’t all love it yet, but they never will if they don’t encounter good books.


Our library runs a summer reading program every year, and we have enjoyed that, but my kids are all done with its requirements a week after registering, and then we have 2.95 more months of summer.  What’s a mom going to do?

So I made my own summer reading program.  In the early years, it’s just volume: try to read a little every day. But for my older kids, I wanted to push them into new genres and introduce them to new friends.  Here’s what I came up with.

Read one book from each of these genres (a book you haven’t read before!) during the summer and win a book of your choosing.  (I put a price limit here.)

1. A biography, autobiography or memoir.

2. A how-to book or a cookbook.

3. A devotional.

4. A classic.

5. A play or short-story collection.

6. A Newbery or ALA winner.

7. An international book.

To fulfill these requirements, one child read a biography of the Brothers Grimm, The Harry Potter Cookbook, Henri Nouwen’s Return of The Prodigal Son, The Three Musketeers, The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, and Barakat’s Tasting the Sky.  Another one read The Diary of Anne Frank, a book of knitting patterns, Not a Fan, Little Men, Kipling’s Just So Stories, Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons, and Daughter of the Mountains.

One child’s first question was, “What if I refuse?”  Excuse me? I said. The second question was, “How am I going to find all these books?” But I had a list of suggestions for that, too:

  • Ask a librarian. They love to help readers find good books.
  • Biography/memoir: choose a time period you like (for example, the Cold War, or the Medieval period) or a famous person who did something you admire (eg, Shakespeare). D’Aulaire, Diane Stanley and Kathleen Krull all write biographies we like.
  • How-to: think of something you want to learn about. There are the “Idiot’s guides to” or “Dummy’s Guides To” or lots of other how-guides on the shelves. (Figure out the call number for the subject you are interested in a browse the shelves.)
  • Devotional: this is a book that helps you spend time with Jesus. We have a bunch on our shelf that are written by people who really loved Jesus (Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson).
  • A classic: Mom & Dad have LOTS of suggestions about these. Do you want to read a great adventure? A thrilling escape? Something funny? A romance? A mystery?
  • A play for short story collection: we have some good plays in the house- Shakespeare, A Raisin in the Sun, Our Town, Antigone. We have short stories about an American girl after WWII (Victory Over Japan), people trying to survive in nature (Call of the Wild), about time travel (Fire Watch, Impossible Things), or without a theme so that each one is different.
  • We have a list of all the Newbery and ALA winners. They also have them at the library.
  • An international book: this is a book about someone in a different country. I have a stack of international novels on the shelf in the study, or you can ask a librarian.

Feel free to borrow and adapt this list to make it fit your family.  Happy summer reading!

Daybook: Beginning of May

Outside my window: we had snow for three days this weekend, but the sun is back.  Lots of little birds are singing, and the grass is all uneven and needing a cut. Kind-of like my boys’ hair.

In the kitchen: I have this Cooks’ Illustrated Almost-No-Knead Bread in the oven.  I haven’t decided yet what we’ll eat with it… but it should have some kind of yummy sauce we can sop up with the bread.


In the garden: Everything is very green.  My spinach and lettuce are coming up and are almost big enough to attract the attention of the vicious predators in my yard.

In my shoes: Between the bad weather and our 30 hour famine, last week’s mileage was low.  I’ve penciled my runs for the week and am hoping I can make them happen.  With Sam and Jonah in China next week, it may be harder then. I did have one lovely morning run where cranes unidentified water birds were still dipping in the creek when I went by.

The lilacs will be blooming though, so that should make it easier. Can you tell I plan my runs entirely based on the flora and fauna in season?

Good thing I’m not shooting for pace.  All my photo-taking would surely throw that off!

In the school room: Jonah’s in full exam-mode.  The rest of us are focusing on geography and reading. What about you?

Grateful: For this energetic group who joined our 30 hour famine this weekend. (More details to come.)  The church gave us a weekend away (where/when TBD) as a thank-you for our service with the children, but more than that I’m grateful for our new children’s church coordinator (that might not be the right title) who’s coming on board.  For lilacs and bird song and meaningful work.

Praying for: So many marriages.  Youth making decisions about college or not, and how to pay for it.  Campus ministers. Foster parents. Those who grieve. Faithful servants around the world and at home. Mandy, Heather, Danielle, Justine, and Becky. Gabby and Joshua. Refugees. The hungry.

Daybook: End of April

Out my window: dawn.  The tulips are at their end (here’s one last photo for you) and the iris are thinking about opening.  The birds are noisy already.


In the kitchen: nothing yet.  I’m sure someone will be begging to make some kind of dessert before the day is out.  I love that the children like to bake, but I think it would be better if they wanted to cook actual meals.

In the school room: I’m writing Jonah’s last AP biology exam.  He has a week and a half until his AP calc exam, and two weeks till the biology exam.  I’m feeling the pressure and am hoping not to pass it on to him.  Meanwhile, we’re trying to balance hikes and outside time and art with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.  We just read a lovely book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin.  (It was my answer to the kids’ request for a book that “isn’t sad.”)

On my mind: I’m thinking about next year and beyond.  Owen & Moriah have expressed interest in “regular” high school, so we’re looking into those options. We’re blessed to have several good choices and time to evaluate them.  The kids have been thinking about their ITBS tests and have identified areas they’d like to add to our learning for next year (that’s the point of it, right?).  So I’m exploring more formal geography and science curricula.

In my shoes: We visited friends yesterday and had planned a hike, but then the kids were all in their play-groove and none of them wanted to go.  So we adults hiked without them.  I can’t tell you how unimaginable that scenario would have been to me even 5 years ago, but they really are growing up!



There was still snow in the shadowed areas, and as we climbed out of the trees and up toward the light, the snow melted, the water flowed, and baby leaves unfurled all around us.  I thought I was in Narnia, when everyone kept saying, “Aslan is on the move!”  What a gift.


Grateful: for the hike, and old friends.  (Or, maybe better phrased as friends to grow old with.)  An amazing sermon yesterday. Spring. Sam.

Also, my paperback is out!  A box of them arrived on Friday.  So fun. If you were waiting to read it in paper, it’s now available on amazon.

Praying for: Mandy, Heather, Justine, Danielle.  Marriages. Teenagers graduating. Refugees, and those who serve them. Sarah, the Neals and the Simons.



Not Quite as Bad as Predicted…

The snowstorm, I mean.  All the same, we spent lots of Sunday shoveling and banging the fruit trees to keep the branches from breaking.




They may not plow the streets in Denver, but they do clear the running trails. I was grateful to take a run in the afternoon. When I got back, this was all that was left of our little friend.


Quick Lit: April 2016

I’m starting with the YA titles this month.

The Fourteenth Goldfish (Jennifer L. Holm): This book is a delight.  Ellie is your average 11 year-old whose grandfather is a mad scientist.  And yet, maybe he’s not mad.  We listened to Georgetta Perna’s lovely recording and enjoyed every minute, so much so that we fought over the CDs when we had to take 2 cars.  Highly recommended.

Product DetailsFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Kate DiCamillo):  DiCamillo’s highly illustrated novel may seem like an odd choice for an audiobook, but K.G. Campbell’s reading made me wish she read me all the comics my children bring to me.  Flora and Ulysses are an unlikely pair, but when I need a superhero, I’ll be calling them.  Highly recommended.

Product DetailsOne Plus One (Jojo Moyes): Like its characters, One Plus One is a hard sell.  Its narrators are a divorced cleaning lady/waitress, her odd math genius daughter and mascara-wearing stepson, and a tech developer accused of insider trading. It took me a bit, but knowing how much I’ve enjoyed all Moyes’ other titles, I persevered.   Once the pieces had come together, I was hooked.  There was only one moment when I had to put the book in the freezer.  Highly recommended.

Product DetailsThe Bronte Plot (Katherine Reay): I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I expected to.  Like Reay’s other offerings (here are my quick reviews for Lizzy and Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley), The Bronte Plot depends heavily on a literary background of the Brontes and Austen.  This time, however, it felt less like name dropping and more like dysfunction.  I was still rooting for Lucy, the troubled MC, but this time it was harder to find her among all the books and vases and tourist attractions.  Still recommended.

Who has time for a haircut? Not me.

I know there are people who know how their hair looks best, and they keep it just that length/style/color and make it work for them. But I am not one of those people.

I’m in the camp of people who grow their hair out, only to cut it short again. But because my hair is my one beauty (thank you, Amy March), it gets lots of comments. (Don’t think I haven’t noticed your eyes wandering to the top of my head as you’re talking to me at church.) Lots of positive comments when it’s long, or very short. When it’s in between (which is about 85% of my life), it gets a lot of comments like, “So… did you get a haircut?” and “Are you, um… doing something different with your hair?”

My hair is unreliable. It looks good super short for about 2 weeks, and then it looks ridiculous for another month before I can make it to the “salon,” where a helpful professional invariably asks me, “Have you considered covering up some of your gray?” But when I can’t even manage to make it in for a haircut more than once every 8 weeks, I suspect that “covering up my gray” would become yet another personal hygiene task at which I fail.

So yes, I’m growing out my hair. And no, that’s not a dead animal on my head. Thank you for asking.