If you like police procedurals with a literary edge, Mary Birk’s Mermaids of Bodega Bay (Terrence Reid Mysteries) is for you.
If you like cozies, you’ve got Becky Clark’s Foul Play on Words (Mystery Writer’s Mysteries), Nora Page‘s Better Off Read (Bookmobile Mysteries), Cynthia Kuhn‘s The Semester of Our Discontent (Leila Maclean Academic Mysteries) and Karen C. Whalen’s Just What I Kneaded (Culinary Cozies).
If you enjoy paranormal suspense, you’ll be excited to read Shawn McGuire‘s Family Secrets.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy Margaret Mizushima‘s Killing Trail, set in the Colorado high country.
The second book in my Kate Deming medical suspense series, Lost Things, is included.
Okay, how do you enter? Go on over to Becky’s website and sign up for her mailing list, or comment, or share on your favorite social media site… all the details are there. The contest ends on March 30, and good luck!
Wow, it’s been busy around here. No one has been hospitalized, and we’re not moving, but it still feels like the gerbil wheel is spinning on high. There have been several triumphs recently, which I will share here in the spirit of telling you how low my standards have sunk.
One: I just vacuumed out the couch. In addition to finding 756 pencils, crayons and crochet hooks (which we hadn’t actually noticed were missing), I found the cat’s favorite toy (a super ball with eyeballs on it), 432 Dove chocolate wrappers, a purple Barbie shoe, and three squeezable applesauce wrappers. (Are they wrappers or containers? Whatever they are, I’m not buying any more of them.) It was an error not to take a photo of the detritus before vacuuming it all away.
Two: Last week I got an email from an observant educator in West Virginia who wanted to know if we would be traveling to Charleston for my child’s AP exams in May, or if we had an alternate WV address other than the one I had put on the AP registration form.
That’s right. I registered my kid for AP exams at George Washington High School in Charleston, West Virginia. For those of you who are new here, we live in Denver. Colorado.
I contacted Total Registration to try to correct this error, but of course it was a holiday weekend. And I couldn’t register for the correct exam until the wrong one had been canceled. And the local AP coordinator had to sign off on any cancellation. And the all the teachers in the entire state of West Virginia went on strike. And the deadline to order exams looms, grand-piano style, over my head.
Three: I also missed the deadline to accept an invitation for my child (same kid, who could make a case for thinking I’m out to get him) to play a piece by Mozart in a concert next summer in Mozart’s house. That’s right: after I badgered my child into learning Sonata IX, I sent my confirmation email to the wrong address,it bounced, and I couldn’t find the right one. I missed the deadline, and it was a holiday weekend, and there was an old lady who swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.
Four: The reason all these things are happening is that I need an executive assistant. I have had a bunch of really sick patients who need a lot of medical coordination lately, and there is never time to do that while I’m in the office. So I’m left making call my calls to other doctors in the time I would normally be taking care of things around the house.
Wanted: organized, helpful daytime assistant willing to make phone calls, register children for activities, drive carpools, double-check locations and deadlines, go to the post office, find appropriate costume pieces for the school play, and complete home repairs.
Five: You heard that right. Home repairs. Our Wi-Fi and security system went out a few weeks ago. Being efficient, I ordered a new router and didn’t stress about the security system until I missed some deliveries that needed signatures because I couldn’t hear the doorbell. So I checked the basement, where I noticed that the plug that fed the router and the security system was dead. Turns out I didn’t need the router after all. Just an electrician. And someone to schedule the appointment. And someone to stand by the door so we can hear the the knock. And someone to drive to the post office to return the router I didn’t need.
Six: In other news, I did manage to wash my hair once this week. I didn’t find any Barbie shoes or cat toys in it. Just writing implements.
Seven: Yesterday morning I woke up to the email from the Mozart opportunity:
Dear Mrs Rodrigues, we received your email and have your son registered for the Mozart concert. We look forward to hearing him play in Vienna.
If I had an assistant, I might let him or her correct my name, but I’m just going to sit here by the door while I listen for the piano tuner and feel grateful that my kid gets to play Mozart in Vienna in August.
The West Virginia teachers are back in the classroom, and that observant educator in Charleston approved our cancellation. If you need me, I’ll be on the AP website trying to register my kid for some tests. There can’t be that many schools in the country named George Washington. I’m sure I’ll find the right one eventually.
Outside my window: snow on the rooftops, but the paths are clear, which means I have no excuse not to go for a walk today.
In the kitchen: oatmeal and yogurt. Two of the kids became vegetarians (again) last week, so all my stockpiles (i.e., a freezer full of locally-sourced organic meat) are less useful than they normally would be. The other child eats like a bear (80% berries, 20% meat and candy) so we’re having some growing pains again. They tell me not to prepare anything differently, but then I bear the brunt of the hangry when the carbs they ate for lunch wear off. This is fodder for lots of discussions about nutrition.
In the school room: yesterday was our first ski day of the year. (The teen who doesn’t like to ski had a full day with work in the morning and robotics in the afternoon.) I managed not to zip my pocket, so I lost my credit card somewhere between the living room and parking lot of the ski area. (It could be worse- I could have lost it on the lift!) I said a prayer I would find it, and we skied anyway. When we got back to the car at the end of the day, I found the missing Visa inside my ski boot. No wonder my calf was unhappy.
Today it’s back to geography and spelling, Chagall and biology, Sense and Sensibility and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, the Medes and the Persians, adding and subtracting fractions, precalc and stoichiometry. In no particular order.
On my reading shelf: I just finished listening (again) to Connie Willis’s Crosstalk. Such a great book. I’m about halfway through Michelle Obama’s Becoming (it’s so good I keep stopping to write things down). Also a reread, and well worth it: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
Grateful: for a few miles in my shoes thus far, and some yoga. It’s been a struggle to get out there (and I have a million excuses) but I’m always glad afterwards. And during.
An eleven year-old’s birthday party a few weeks ago. She felt very loved.
Friends who have kept in touch, across miles and years.
We had a lovely three weeks with Jonah before he went back to school, which he’s clearly loving. I’m grateful he comes home, and I’m grateful he goes back to a place that’s a great fit for him.
On my mind: we’re looking at school plans for next year, specifically AP classes versus dual enrollment. We’ve had good experiences with both, but with different goals. I’ll try to post about this in a few weeks.
Praying for: Mandy. Judy. The Neals. My kids. Refugees. Furloughed friends. The ability to choose our response to hard things in our lives… it looks easier than it is.
For the past few years, I’ve used Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2-question template for evaluating the year past. As I sat down this year to ask “What worked for me in 2018?” and “What didn’t work for me in 2018?”, most of the answers come in mixed bags. Some part of my system worked, while another part didn’t. Unfortunately I don’t see any quick fixes for the latter, but please pipe up if you see a glaringly obvious solution (or a splendidly clever one!) I’m overlooking.
Finances: We paid for a year of college. Granted, we had significant help from my parents, but we did it. We are one (hopefully) sixteenth of the way there. Hooray! I credit automated transfers to savings, the January Money Diet (in the past found at Happy Simple Living) and including the kids in some of our frequent talks about the budget. It’s hard to include them without freaking them out, but for the most part, we walked the tight rope, and they have some understanding what the budget looks like.
Reading: I read a ton of books. What worked here was leaving them lying all over the house, using the library’s audiobook loans while driving the kids all over town, and a brief slump into a turtle phase while I was trying not to think about Jonah’s leaving for college.
We became a house
with cats again: This one is really a mixed bag. We adopted two cats at the end of 2017, and
one of them got terribly sick. (Like $1000-vet-ICU-bill-and-then-euthanasia
sick.) It was heartbreaking and
expensive, and for twenty-four hours we thought we were going to be the source
of a local rabies outbreak. How’s that for irony?
Anyway, we adopted a third cat and have been a happy home
with two cats again, except for the allergies and cat litter. It turns out that
two cats pee twice as much as one cat does. (Who knew?) Anyone have a brilliant
solution to the cat litter problem? Anyone? Bueller?
A challenge from our priest last Christmas spurred me to read the Bible chronologically
this year. We happened to be on ancient history, so much of my school prep
dovetailed with the old testament in a really enlightening way.
Exercise: I was having a good exercise year until the first of October, when I broke my toe. You’d think I would have just upped the yoga and waited to heal, but instead I sat around feeling sorry for myself, and I lost two months of fitness while it healed. Now I’m back to where I started a year ago. I think the problem is that I really have one good block of time I can count on every day, and I’ve been using it to write instead of exercise. I need to carve out a second chunk of time and make movement a priority.
Screen time: This is the one area that abjectly didn’t work. As I have used my phone for tracking more things (and children), it’s harder not to pick it up at every spare moment, and it’s really hard to tell my children to put down their devices when my face is glued to a screen. So here’s to big changes in 2019.
What about you? What worked for you (or didn’t) in 2018?
It’s been a few years since I wrote a post on how I love the church year and how it loves me back. I used to post every year on our Advent traditions, and what I loved about Lent and Ordinary Time. But then some of my posts had the opposite effect of what I’d wanted. I shared a practice that was life-giving for me, and it was making other people feel bad. That had to stop.
But, as a perpetual optimist, I’m back this year to try again. I want to share a few things I love about the Advent, which began yesterday. Happy New (Church) Year.
Advent is about waiting and making room. It is a season for contemplation. I need more of all three of those in my life, so it’s no wonder Advent is my favorite season.
There are a million and one resources out there to enrich your Advent, but I’m not here to talk about those today. I don’t want to add anything to your burden, because Advent is about waiting to receive. Making room. Advent isn’t asking you to do more, or be more.
“Mom, that Prepare sign is really freaking me out.” — child
Advent is asking us to rest in a place of waiting. Waiting on God to fix what’s broken. (Not my strength. I’m more of a Sarah kind of gal.)
Anyway, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. Even if you don’t have any candles, or can’t find your Advent wreath (or don’t have one), or if the broken light is the second one in the string and none of them will light, or you are too overwhelmed to dig any of your decorations out of the basement, or they all went down with your house in a fire, and your kids refuse to snuggle on the couch to listen to The Best Christmas Pageant Evereven though we do it every year but now they think they’re too old for it…
Even if all of that is true, it’s not too late. You don’t need to do anything. Because Advent is about the promise that God is going to show up in the flesh to take care of everything. It’s not going to look like what we expected, and that’s all right, too. Our job is just to make room to see what the Incarnation really looks like.
Charlotte Mason talks about Mother Culture. It’s a funny play on words. Is the culture supposed to be my mother? Is she talking about socialization for mothers?
The Domain of Arnheim, Rene Magritte
I like to think of it in a Julia Cameron Artist’s Way kind of way: in order to keep feeding my children a rich diet of art and music and thought, I need to be feeding myself. Like an oxygen mask for a home educator.
The Happy Donor, Rene Magritte
Or, like the yogurt starter (aka culture) I use every week to make my yogurt. While the recipe books tell me I can use keep using last week’s yogurt to start this weeks, I find the yogurt tastes better if every 2-3 batches I use some fresh starter.
Mason encourages home educators to keep reading books for themselves, not just with their children. She says we should have 3 books going at all times:
Besides my Bible, I always keep three books going that are just for me – a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel or one of poetry. I always take up the one I feel fit for. That is the secret: always have something ‘going’ to grow by.”…
While I don’t strictly adhere to this recommendation, slipping into a book for a few minutes each day helps me immensely. But sometimes I need more than that.
Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte
This month I had a chance to slip away (twice!) to an art museum without my kids. At the beginning of the month, my friend Amy and I hit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for their Magritte exhibit. It was a great collection of works. (I also listened to audio tour through their free app and was able to show my kids a few of the pictures that way. I think it’s freely available even if you can’t make it to the museum in person.) The day was delightful on so many levels: reconnecting with an old friend, amazing art, time away…
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare by Claude Monet
Then for my birthday, we happened to be in Chicago. I met my friend Gina at the Art Institute of Chicago. My kids had expressed interest in going, but I said no, not without a twinge of guilt. We had just a few hours, but we hit a whole bunch of my favorites: the Chagall windows, A Rainy Day in Paris, Van Gogh’s bedroom, Cezanne’s Apple and Oranges. While her conversation was the biggest blessing of that day, the art itself filled me up in ways I’d forgotten I needed.
Still Life with Basket of Apples, Paul Cezanne
My kids have recently put up some resistance against Picture Study, but the joy I felt at seeing the originals of pictures we’ve studied reminded me it’s worth it. Their disappointment in not going told me it’s worth it. I have renewed motivation to keep up with the daily work.