Mid-Winter Update: What’s saving my life right now

I’ve enjoyed Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What’s Saving My Life series for a few years. In that spirit, here’s what’s saving my life right now:

Thick hand cream and rubber gloves:

During the winter (and with all my hand-washing in the clinic) my hands get so dry they crack. There are lots of expensive options out there, but I like the $4 Vaseline’s intensive care deep moisture cream. This is not a sponsored post. I think it works; I like the price; I can still open doorknobs afterwards. All the same, I still need to use rubber gloves for all my household tasks involving water.



For the first time ever, I recently returned a candle to a store because the fragrance was too strong. (No, I hadn’t burned it yet.) Generally, I love candles, the more the merrier. Burning them all winter long (especially in February) makes me feel cozy and warm.


Normally in February, I reach for old favorites. I hate investing my imagination in a new book and discovering I have chosen poorly. Currently on my reading table: Pride and Prejudice and The Westing Game.


Getting Outside

There’s a direct correlation between how much time I spend cooped up indoors and my mood. At this stage in our schooling and in life, I have to be very intentional to make my outside time happen, but when I make it happen, life is better. For all of us.


My current favorite music to listen to includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, the music from the musical Waitress, and Ingrid Michaelson.

What’s saving your life right now?


7QT: My baby is going to graduate

One: I ordered Jonah’s high school diploma today.

Yes, I am showing you Meg Ryan’s ugly cry because 1) my ugly cry is really, really ugly and 2) I am old.

Two:  I had to write in the name of our school. Years ago, we spent a few days brainstorming names for our home school. That was long before we had reached full enrollment (of 4) and all the grades (currently serving 4th-12th.) We came up with all sorts of lofty-sounding names, none of which I can remember now, but after two days they all sounded so ridiculous that we didn’t name it at all.

Three: Several hours earlier, Jonah had texted me because he forgot his calculator, which he was going to need later for an exam. He wondered if I could drive it to him.

Image result for Jennifer Garner bringing project to school

No, I could not. I am not Jennifer Garner. Lucky for him, he had cash and could go to the bookstore and spend his own money on a calculator before his test. #parenting.

Four: But I could order him a diploma, so I did. At lunch, I mentioned to the other kids that we had never named our school. They wanted to know why it mattered, and I mentioned the little matter of a diploma, and then Moriah started to cry because Jonah is going to graduate and move away.

Five: So here we are, friends. We started this homeschool journey 13 years ago, thinking it would be a one-year experiment. Now we’re ordering diplomas and having ugly cries.

Six: My advice to you is to name your school early, or it will be too late and your school will be the NoName Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Seven: Any ideas what he should write for his yearbook quote?

Image result for bart simpson graduation

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In which I become the old woman who keeps cats

Sometime last year, my kids downloaded an app called Neko Atsume. It’s a Japanese Kitty Collector app (that makes it sound like that is a whole category of apps) in which you set out virtual food and virtual toys to attract virtual cats to your virtual yard. The cats, in turn, give you virtual fish and little virtual mementos of their virtual visits. What’s not to love?


There’s truly no action in this “game.” I’m not sure it should rightly be called a game at all. No competition. No skill. No prizes. No levels. I love it anyway.


This is Jeeves, who was very hard to attract to my yard, finally came last week, and gave me a small silver pocket watch. (More typical mementos include “random seeds” and “A small used stuffed penguin.”)

Anyway, while I was off collecting virtual cats, Sam began adopting real cats. This is Graycee:


and this is Julian:

I have to ask: who is this man who keeps bringing home cats, and what did he do with my husband? (If you see my actual husband somewhere, let me know. Reward offered.)


Calamity: You Have Dysentery

Fresh off the heels of winter break, I started in on Spring semester with new energy and a few new plans. I try not to overhaul everything, but I had a few changes to make:

  • make a few more field trips happen, especially with Phoebe and Moriah. (The boys online and college schedules make that more difficult for them.)
  • run longer distances regularly.
  • begin a more formal literature class with Owen and Moriah. I bought a few of Bravewriter’s Boomerang units to this end.

Our first field trip was to History Colorado, a museum in downtown Denver with some good hands-on exhibits on mining, small-town Colorado life in the early 20th Century, the displacement of Native Americans and the Sand Creek Massacre, and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. They also were advertising an Oregon Trail IRL exhibit, which fit right in with our history studies (and our generally sick sense of humor.) Alas, the Oregon Trail IRL is a special event (this Saturday only, tickets must be purchased in advance, if you’re interested.)



Several days later, I came down with the stomach flu. It wasn’t actually dysentery, but it was close. Enough said, though it certainly put a stop to my running (ha) and most of our worthwhile activities at home.

Once I recovered, we had another field trip, this one to the Colorado Symphony’s Time Travel concert for grades 3-8. It was outstanding (and not just because no one came down with dysentery afterwards.) They began with a full orchestra and then “traveled” back through time to the Baroque period, explaining what the orchestra looked like then. As they moved their way forward, the orchestra grew, and each change was explained by a commentator between the pieces. The whole concert was one hour- just the right length for a squirrely fourth grader (not that we know anyone like that) and included John Williams’s Sherzo for X-wings from The Force Awakens. It was altogether a great concert, and I highly recommend it. (There’s another concert on Feb 6- the link to buy tickets for homeschoolers is here.)


Anyway, I wish you lots of great field trips that don’t end in drawing a Calamity! card. If you have one to recommend, please post it in the comments.

What DIDN’T work in 2017

I posted a few weeks ago my list of what worked for me in 2017. The less fun list is here: what didn’t work for me.

I don’t necessarily have solutions for these, which is maybe why it’s taken me a few weeks to post this. I like solutions, but maybe some of these don’t have answers. These problems are just going to sit there, like the neighbor’s cat on my fence who taunts me and runs away when I yell at him at the window, and then comes back an hour later. I’m not going to move; my neighbor isn’t going to keep his cat away from my chickens. We are at an impasse. Also, I don’t particularly relish talking about things that bug me; it feels like whining.

Here we go.


I used to have a small group of homeschooling moms with whom I met regularly. For a few years, we met each month to discuss a reading. In other years, we got our kids together to hike when the weather was nice or do crafts when it wasn’t, and then we’d talk. As the kids have gotten older, a lot of them have transitioned into formal schools, and some of my friends have moved away. I no longer have a homeschooling mom community, and the kids’ day at their homeschool school is my day in the clinic, so I’m never the one doing the drop off, pick up or volunteer hours. It’s hard homeschooling high schoolers, and I could use some advice. More than that, I miss my friends.


Too much screen time

As my kids have gotten older, we have increased their access to the internet and screens in general. This has led to my own increase in screen time, and the perils of that (for me) have included a feeling of hopelessness from too much news. I want to talk news and politics and current events with my teenagers, but I find it overwhelming. (Plus, my daughter put Cookie Jam on my phone and I quickly developed an addiction to it. I have now joined Cookie Jam Anonymous and am working through the twelve levels steps.)


Not enough outside time

The increase in screen time and the decrease in outside time have gone hand-in-hand. As my kids have taken on tough online, AP and college courses, we have become more tied to a schedule, which has made long afternoons digging in mud at the side of the lake nearly impossible.


Our house is a mess. I am grateful when we have friends over, because it temporarily pushes cleaning up to the top of the list. It’s gotten so bad lately that Owen has taken to cleaning up.


(This photo has nothing to do with anything, but I like it. I wonder who took it, since I’m usually the photographer.)

Getting together with our refugee friends

We had our refugee friends over right before Christmas for breakfast and games. It was not great. I realized we hadn’t spent significant time with them for almost a year, and that’s a really long time when you don’t have much history together. I want to know them better and get past the awkward smile-a-lot-because-that’s-all-we-can-really-do, but we have so little time in which to do that.

I think that’s what most of this list boils down to: time. I don’t have more than 168 hours/week and never will. I used to be manage our 6 schedules and plan them to our best advantage, so that swim team for 3 kids happened at the same time as a swim lesson for child #4, during which I could take a run. Then we’d have three hours to play outside, or take a hike, or volunteer every week at an ESL class.

Now, child #1 is on campus from 8-2, child #2 has a music lesson from 2-3, child #3 is in dance class from 4-5:30, and child #4 wants to be home all afternoon so she can play with her friends. I can’t streamline it, but I still have to be the driver, which means that my time is chopped up into all sorts of little sections that are too small for what I want time for.



Last January, Sam and I went away to Mexico for five days. It was stunningly beautiful, and we were so grateful for the friends who stayed with our kids to make this happen. We wanted to minimize decision fatigue, so we went to an all-inclusive resort, thinking it would be delightful to be able to eat any time we want and spend the rest of our time on the beach. We learned really quickly that we were not resort people. I felt like I was trapped on a cruise with a bunch of drunk strangers, and the only people I really wanted to talk to (other than Sam) were the restaurant and housekeeping staff, who were lovely. (The whales were also lovely, but harder to talk to.) In the future, we will skip the resort, even if it means we have to cook for ourselves.


We did manage to get away for a weekend in October (thanks, Mom and Dad!), which did work for me, and as time with our oldest (and money for vacations) will soon be very limited, I think we will have to plan more short road trip-type getaways.

Your turn: what didn’t work for you in 2017?


Daybook: Mid-January

Outside my window: It’s 67 degrees and sunny. My windows are open and Julian (a.k.a. Cat#2) has spent the day watching birds at the window. The chickens even laid four eggs yesterday.


In the kitchen: Cuban Flank Steak with Mango Salsa (from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game), and Deviled Eggs. I am very grateful everyone wants to cook right now. Phoebe (a.k.a. Chef #2) even cleaned up, but don’t say anything because I don’t want her scare her off from doing it again sometime by accident.

Chef #2

At lunch, we had ice cream sandwiches. I think Mary Poppins had a song about that. “Just a small ice cream sandwich helps the algebra go down!” We listened to Randall Munroe’s Ted Talk on math answering cool questions.


In the school room: One of the questions Randall Munroe can answer is, “How much force did Yoda use to raise Luke’s X-wing fighter from the Dagoba swamp?” (He needed Star Wars wikipedia page to find out the mass of an X-wing fighter and the gravity on Dagoba.) And here’s a link to Wired Magazine, where they calculate the physics of the tie-fighters’ formation in the Star Wars trailer. Just in case you needed it for some lunch-time math.

We are also reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter right now, but the effect is blunted by our own balmy weather.

On my reading table: I just read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which Owen & Moriah are reading for school. I’m listening to A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter. I thought I was almost to the end, and then I checked and I’m only on chapter 16 out of 34. I’m not sure what’s going on, or if I’m going to be able to get through it all the way before the library yanks it off my device. And I’m reading Helen Thorpe’s The Newcomers, which is excellent.

Grateful: for tomorrow’s release of my second book, Lost Things. I’ll be over at Karen’s Killer Book Bench tomorrow with details on its release, an excerpt and a giveaway. If you can’t wait that long, all the pre-order links are here.

I’m also grateful for the two cats (Graycee and Julian) who joined our family last week.

A game of Bird Bingo with Julian.

Praying for: Mandy, Bishop Gerry, Austen, Lori, Ruth, Christine. Refugees. Patience. For our cats to become friends.

7QT: Our How-to-pay-for-college plan

I know y’all are very concerned about how Jonah’s college search (and our search for college funding) is going. We are making definite progress on both fronts. I’ve been getting lots of ads for subscription boxes in my feed lately. For only $24.99 a month, I can have a box of practically anything delivered to my door—boxes of books, or beer, running gear, dog treats or purses, beauty supplies or gourmet snacks. Because I’m never one to miss out on a trend, and because college is really expensive, I want to offer you my own special twist on the subscription box club:

TiredMomBox! For only $19.99/month, club members will receive one “artisan” (a.k.a. shoe) box for the month’s theme, and the warm fuzzy feeling you can only get by helping us pay for our son’s college tuition.

Resolutions Theme (January): you will receive a box of selected fitness gear I bought in years past and no longer use, such as handheld weights of different sizes (no two alike!), fitness bands I can’t get the knots out of, and prenatal and postpartum yoga DVDs I never want to see again.


Middle-Aged Romance Theme (February): you will receive a box of take-out pizza, a bottle of two-buck Chuck, and a Kipper video to put the kids in front of so you and your hubby can have a conversation. (Try to look deeply into your husband’s eyes as you decide who’s driving the swim team carpool this weekend.)

How Long Is Spring Break? Theme (March): I will send you all the old, dried up craft supplies from my closet, and—as a bonus for new subscribers—the leftover pieces from the puzzles and board games we got rid of last year.


Earth Day Theme (April): you will receive a box of leftover kitchen scraps to add to your compost. Good feelings for doing the right thing are included.

Mother’s Day Theme (May): I will send you two hours of free time. However, odds are good that you’ll waste it pinning things on Pinterest and feeling bad that you aren’t one of those moms making a forever-memory with your family.

School’s Out! Theme (June): June’s box comes with a summer calendar, marked with 100 days’ worth of super fun daily activities. Your family will enthusiastically do three of them in June (Spend a day at Water World! Hike the Monument Incline! Go out to breakfast in your pajamas!), one in July, and then spend all of August complaining that they’re bored.

Put Your Best Face Forward Theme (July): This month subscribers will receive all the old make up I’m going to clean out of the bathroom: clumpy mascara (your eyelashes have never looked this thick!), concealer that might not have dried out yet, and the Clinique lipstick samples I’ve been saving since 1989. You don’t want to miss July’s box!


This is just a sampling of the goodies in store for you with your TiredMombox! Subscription. Thank you for your support for the college of my son’s choice.

Fine print: A one year subscription is $19.99/month, plus $7.99/month shipping. There is a $5 shipping surcharge for the January box because the weights are heavy. May’s shipping is still $7.99 because you will have forgotten at that point that you’re paying for this every month, and you can’t figure out how to cancel your subscription.

Finer print: For the record, I was going to name this box something way cooler, but when I Googled the names, MomBox, SuperMomBox and WonderBox were already taken.)

Go check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!