7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.

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Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.

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I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”

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Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

When you can’t take the real news any more, check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.

Eclipse resources

Just a quick check in today with a few resources about the total solar eclipse happening next Monday, August 21.

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For my favorite essay about the eclipse, here’s a link to Annie Dillard’s Total Eclipse. (I wonder why she named it that?) I read this essay (again) last fall after I made us reservations in Wyoming. I came out from my room with tears in my eyes to tell my family we were going to the eclipse. They all looked at me in bewilderment until one of them asked, “Um… Mom, are you crying?”

No pressure, but the Atlantic reprinting will expire the day after the eclipse, on August 22.  After that, you can find Annie’s Dillard’s essay in Teaching a Stone to Talk, and in her more recent anthology, The Abundance.

It might be too late to buy eclipse glasses, but if you already have some, double check that they meet the requirements necessary to protect your vision. For a list of vendors who have certified their filters and glasses, check here.  The glasses should say “Meets the requirement for ISO 1231202:2015.” Don’t ask me what those numbers mean. I have no idea.

If you can’t get glasses in time, you could still use the eclipse as an opportunity to study the retina and how light causes vision. Here are some resources for that: how sun damages your eyes, a 47-second video on how the retina works, and a Crash Course video on vision.

For more information on the eclipse’s path, check NASA’s site of maps, both interactive and state-by-state. NASA also has links on to how to build a safe solar viewer (for anyone who can’t get their hands on safe glasses), eclipse art projects, and educational resources, including ones specific for homeschoolers!

The Atlantic has all sorts of articles on the eclipse.  Here’s a link to their coverageSpace.com had a great article explaining why the eclipse moves west to east, instead of east to west.  The L.A. Times addressed what sort of behavior we can expect from animals during the eclipse.  And if all of that is just too much, here is a link to Space.com’s beginner’s guide to eclipse viewing (with a video from NASA).

Here’s hoping we can plant and water the seeds of wonder and curiosity in the next generation.

 

 

Countdown to school: T-7 days

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I have seven days till we start school.  This is my 13th year homeschooling, and my last year homeschooling my oldest.  Granted, things may change, but at this time it’s looking like I have a few years more to go.  No matter how many years I’ve been doing this, every year feels like a new, distinct challenge.  Here’s how I’m talking myself back from a precipice of anxiety.

We don’t have to start everything all at once.  When my kids were littler (and for the one who’s still little) I don’t start everything all at once.  I begin with a favorite subject (or two), and one that is new to us, sandwiching the new between the old.  Then when those are rolling well (which might be a few days, or in a harder year, a few weeks), I add the next.

We’ve got good books.  Much of our schooling is based on books, and if all else fails, we can retreat into our living room and read books for a week or two until I figure out where to go from here.

We take advantage of early-fall weather.  I love the fall as a time for hikes and nature walks and family bike rides.  There will be plenty of time come winter to hunker down at home for longer lessons.

“Important things will be repeated.” I stole that quote from my favorite medical school professor (Dr. Wood), and it’s true.  We can repeat and refine as much as we want, so why am I so worked up about every moment being critical?

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I take this quote to mean that we are learning together all the time, in the attitude (atmosphere) of our home: we ask questions, we pay attention, and we are curious; in the habits (discipline) we practice, and in all aspects of life.  Thank you, Charlotte Mason.

Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. –Charlotte Mason

SQT: Small triumphs

Seven nearly-random observations about life on 8/11/17.

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  1. I just made a record-fast trip to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I brought approximately 80 pounds of school books to prep for lessons (starting school in 10 days! ack!) and then only made it through one before they called me.  I am happy to report that my photo is marginally better than the one I had taken 13 years ago, immediately after my worst haircut ever. (It was a “short shag” and is the only haircut I’ve ever gone back to have fixed after the fact.)
  2. When I got home I realized I’m flying to my uncle’s funeral tomorrow and have no driver’s license (for up to 30 days.) Thank goodness my passport is current.
  3. Our farmers are donating a full share of vegetables to our refugee friends. It had taken so long for her to call me I’d given up, but instead it’s just been a busy year. (I can relate to that.) So starting next week, they’ll be getting delicious yumminess like this: image.  Hooray!
  4. Owen’s godmother was in town and took him out to brunch. It has been such a blessing over the years to have my children’s godparents to share in the care of and prayer for our children. (As an added bonus, I got to spend time with her too, after brunch.)
  5. I have been following the IAAF track and field world championships, mostly on youtube. (If you know a better way to do it without cable, please let me know.)  The most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is the sprint finish (after 26 miles!) of the women’s marathon.  (That’s a youtube link.)  Those women are amazing.
  6. We spent yesterday in the mountains with my friend Christine and her kids. She and I have been friends since medical school (24 years now).  Even though the kids are getting older, all of mine rearranged work and other schedules so we could spend the day together. (Side note: it still startles me that the kids’ calendars are as busy as mine.)
  7. I know I came across as an Instant Pot skeptic on my recent post.  However, I just hard-boiled a dozen eggs (start to finish, 22 minutes, so only slightly faster than on the stove) which were the easiest-to-peel eggs I’ve ever made.  I thought I had tried all the tricks on how to make a fresh hen’s egg peelable, and none had worked till now.  The Instant Pot made the perfect hard-boiled egg.

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I really, really hope Owen is standing on a rock.

Check out Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.

Daybook 8.7.17

Outside my window: rain. We were supposed to meet friends for a hike, but due to a high fever and rain (or, either one of them individually), this is what we’re doing instead:

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Yes, that is the 2014 movie, Annie. I like to think of it as Dickens lite.

In the kitchen: Meal prep. This is the difference between cooking on vacation and cooking during the school year. I plan my meals and shopping year-round, but during the school year, I don’t have time to cook ingredients on school days. So I broke down and bought an Instant Pot. (This link will take you to the an affiliate link for the Instant Pot on Amazon, and any purchase you make will benefit a great organization, Foster Source, that supports foster families. If you buy through them, Colorado foster families receive training and direct support. Thank you!) The Instant Pot jury (that would be me) is still out. Yes, I can cook an enormous amount of chicken for salads and enchiladas and future recipes in less than an hour, but man, the thing is huge. I feel like NASA every time I turn it on. Is this the time it’s going to explode?

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Before I loaded up the rocket Instant Pot, Moriah made miniature apple strudels for lunch. At some point I will have to come up with something else to have with them.

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Also, I have some bread rising. It’s my first time making this recipe (Oatmeal Bread, from The More with Less Cookbook) since early spring, when it got too hot to bake bread. I always seem to forget something on the first round. Initially, it required a trip to the grocery store, because I forgot to check my ingredients before I started throwing things in the bowl. Hopefully I didn’t forget to put anything in the bowl.

What I’m hearing: Dear Evan Hansen on Pandora, which means a funny potpourri of clear tenors (like You’ll Be Back, from Hamilton) and angsty high school songs (like Beautiful from Heathers). Also, a chicken is announcing that she just laid an egg. That’s a different kind of angst.

In the school room: school supplies. I love them. Also, stacks of books and half-laid plans. I have a ways to go. More on school planning coming up.

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On my reading list: I’ve been listening to All Clear on my runs and hikes. I’m also rereading The Martian (see above note about NASA) while I wait for Lost in a Good Book (book two in the Tuesday Next series) by Jasper Fforde to come in at the library.

On my mind: Our numbers are dwindling around here. Jonah is working about 20 hours a week, and Owen has been volunteering most days this summer. It has meant a constantly changing number of faces around our table, and in and out of the house. This fall will be more of the same, with Jonah at a local college for classes a few days each week. I guess it’s getting me ready for next year’s big shift, but even this is uncomfortable.

Grateful: for our weekend celebrations of my dad’s 80th birthday. (He would like to say that, despite how this photo appears, he is not an invalid. We were going for “king on throne” but managed instead to achieve “doting family surrounding patriarch in wheelchair.”)

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Praying for: Mandy, Judy, Christine, Lori, Ruth. My aunt and cousins, who are mourning my uncle’s death. Patience and peace, even in the midst of change.

In which I remember what I forgot

We had an 18-hour turnaround time between coming home from the beach and leaving for the mountains for a weekend with friends. It would have felt like more time except that my Instant Pot (which I bought on Prime Day) had arrived, and I used six of those precious hours making Roast Potatoes, Pork Carnitas, and Beets. (For the record, they were all delicious, but the time it takes the pot to decompress at the end of the cooking time needs to be written down for all recipes, instead of a vague and nebulous “allow a natural release to occur.”)

Here are my daughters in our boat. Can you spot what’s unusual about this photo? (Answer below*.)

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The weather forecast for hours and hours of rain. We were grateful that our friends loaned us their house for the weekend. Sleeping in a beautiful, dry house is much better than sleeping in a wet tent.

Saturday morning, we laid around for a long time before we finally drove five minutes to the lake and the boat launch by our (dry) campsite.

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We unpacked the boats and realized I had forgotten to bring the sail*. This isn’t the first year I’ve forgotten a key piece of sailing paraphernalia. From past years, I have learned that the blue sailboat works as a canoe if I leave the tiller in it, so the girls were still able to paddle across the lagoon to “discover” the peninsula. That seemed really cool until we let the boys paddle significantly further to an island, but I promised that when they are 14 and 17, they will be allowed to go to the island, too.

Again, their competence was a shock to me. I know that coaching my children into competence is my job, and I spend a significant portion of my life doing just that. But their growing abilities still catch me off guard.

Sunday morning, I took advantage of the amazing weather (not a raindrop in sight, either day!) to take a run.  The path headed down from our friends’ house, across the road, and then along the lake. Again, I let myself stop whenever I wanted to admire the view (with or without the camera).

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The farther I ran, the better it got. Until I turned around and realized that now I had to run the same distance uphill. The view was still incredible, if lacking in oxygen.

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And now I’m home. Ten days away served their purpose to help me see home- with all its joys and responsibilities- with fresh eyes.

But next time I’m running uphill first.

Hello, friends. I’m back.

Well, hello there.  I’m glad to see you.  It’s been awhile.

You may have gathered from the sporadic nature of my posts in May and June that I was drowning a little bit. Drowning is too strong a word, but I was definitely treading water as fast as I could and couldn’t stop to write about it.

Now I’m back from a week on the beach and a weekend in the mountains, and I feel more like myself. Hopeful. Mostly content. Like tackling the mountain of laundry won’t quite do me in.

I’m here to ramble a bit about our vacations and how good it is to be home. Will you have a cup of tea with me?

Our beach trip was preceded by a panicked email from our rental company. Repairs on our unit (from last fall’s hurricane) weren’t finished, and they needed to move us to a different house. I spent a few days mad that they were moving us half a mile from the rest of Sam’s family and further from the beach… and then I got over it. The space worked well (good beds!) and we still were able to spend every day on the beach in way form or another. What was I all worked up about?

We spent the week:

feeding seagulls…
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burying cousins…
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walking at night…
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with the kids…
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and without…
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It had been 2 years since our last trip to the beach, and the kids were so much more independent than before.  It made for a much more relaxed week. I tried a few new things this year:

I bought flowers for our house. Every day I looked at them on the table and felt happy.

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I ran more.  And instead of focusing on how far or fast I was running, I stopped and took photos.

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I worried less about how many episodes of Friends the kids watched, and spent my time reading instead.

I polled everyone in our family before we went about what they wanted to do while we were there, and then we made (most) of those things happen early on. The only thing on the list we couldn’t do was spend a day at the National Seashore, which was my item. And you know what? That was okay, too. I allowed myself a little time to grieve it, and then I enjoyed what I had, which was pretty incredible.

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Next time we go- whenever that is- I plan to rent this bike and ride around town all week, except for when I’m reading books or walking on the beach.

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I’ll be back tomorrow with the final weekend of our trip, which we spent two thousand miles further west with more water.