Camping adventures, 2019 edition

Last week my eleven year-old and I went camping by ourselves. This was a somewhat spontaneous decision prompted by Dad and Owen’s heading to Europe.

To review, this is Europe (Westminster Abbey, London. Pop. 8.136 million)

This is Camping. (Heaton Bay Campground Spot 64. Pop. 2)

We were lucky enough to find camping spots both nights, though we did have to pack everything up between and move to the other side of the lake.

It was worth it.

Three things I learned while I was camping this weekend:

A younger child loves to be alone with her parent. There was no one to tell her how she was doing anything wrong. Without any hovering siblings who could “do it better,” she made 394 trips to the car to haul gear, learned how to set up the tent, made several of her own meals, built our fire independently, and did much of the clean up.

Dinner both nights: Hobo packets. (Apologies to actual hobos.)

Hobo packets work best when you bring pre-cooked potatoes from home. Also, a cooler full of condiments covers a variety of sins.

Fairy house. Wouldn’t you want to live here if you were a fairy?

Eleven is the perfect age to go camping alone with your mom. Eleven is big enough to work hard but young enough not to mind the lack of Wi-Fi. Eleven can pack her own backpack and follow directions about how far from the tent she has to be to spit her toothpaste, but still be excited to beat her mom at every game we brought.

Two nights and three days was long enough to be ready to go home to our own beds and cats and cellos, but long enough to feel like we were away.

What’s your most essential camping condiment? (Phoebe’s is dry BBQ rub. Mine was milk & sugar for my tea.)

7QT: Baby, It’s Hot

One: I know I was just complaining about how cold it was, but that was two whole weeks ago and I can’t remember back that far. At least the roses like the heat.

Two: We had a grill fire the other night. It smelled GREAT, but the peach tree immediately behind the grill was not happy about it. I texted the neighborhood group chat to ask for a fire extinguisher and I had two at my door in 30 seconds. (I like to think of that as neighborliness and not self-interest.) We seriously have the best neighbors.

Three: I’m giving a talk on physician burnout later today. It’s not pretty. Most of my creative/mental energy this week has gone into preparing it, and I’m simultaneously alarmed and exhausted. Instead of sharing it with you, here’s a photo of kids and cats. You’re welcome.

Four: The good news is that it’s cherry and apricot season, and we got both in our farm box this week. Yum.

Five: We had a picnic at church on Sunday. I love our church. A friend tried to take a new family photo for us. We have probably nineteen of these gems. To be clear, we’re the knuckleheads. Don’t blame the photographer.

Here we were trying to take a photo with everyone facing right…
Here we are discussing who will be on the bottom of the pyramid.
(Spoiler: No takers.)

Six: Meanwhile, life continues: advanced ballet intensive. Diving. Lifeguarding. Piano, violin, cello, harp, writing.

When Sam and I got married, I prayed we would have a musical family. I was imagining the von Trapp family singers (who surely knew how to stand still and all look in one direction for a photo). It’s different than what I imagined. Better.

Ballet feet.
She assures me that this face is not unhappiness.
It’s focus. Concentration.

Seven: Meanwhile, I’m in the throes of planning school. We’re in that awkward phase right now in which the books are arriving, but I haven’t put away last year’s books, so there’s nowhere for them to go except my floor.

I just finished rereading Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd which I’d been planning to use for our lit class and decided not to, because a character opts for suicide as a solution to her problems. Now I’m not sure what I want to substitute. I’m looking for a mystery, and I’d love an unreliable narrator. Suggestions?

Go check out This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

June thoughts on homeschooling

It’s the second day of official summer, and it’s 47 degrees and raining. I can’t decide if that means it’s still winter, or it’s already next winter.

June is usually when I do much of my school planning. I begin by looking back the year (you can find my thoughts on our specific curriculum choices in the 2018-9 tab above, or on the sidebar). Here’s the bird’s eye view:

What went well:

Phoebe playing Copeland, her cello
  1. We all survived the year. You think I’m kidding, but depression is no joke. I am SO grateful for our mental health team (two good therapists, a responsive doctor and an army of people supporting and praying for us every day).
  2. Music lessons. We have three teachers who are a good match for the three kids, everyone playing an instrument (or two) that they are excited about. A long time ago we decided that playing an instrument would be part of our kids’ education. We knew they’d resent us now for making them practice, or resent us later for letting them quit, so we opted for resentment+music. Today, it feels like we chose well.
  3. Learning testing. It took 9 months, but with the help of a great psychologist, we got a better understanding of P’s learning challenges and how to work with her many strengths.
  4. Poetry tea. (Almost) every Thursday, the girls and I went out to a coffee shop to drink tea and read/write poetry. Two years ago, I never seemed to get around to reading poetry with the kids, but because we pinned it to a little treat, it happened almost every week and man, was it fun!
  5. More ownership of their learning. I could put this in both categories (what worked, and what didn’t) but I think the benefits outweighed the downsides. My sophomore really owned their learning and managed their own time.
  6. Cooking as low-pressure reading. While we do have power struggles over whose turn it is to use the kitchen, following recipes has been a useful (and tasty) tool to show the benefits of careful reading.
Momo made a cake for Jonah’s 19th (!!!) birthday

What didn’t work well:

  1. Time management: This was a year of struggle over screen-time creep. I felt like every time I turned around, the kids “needed” more time on their phones/computers. Some of them did better than others, but it’s something I’m going to have to be more vigilant about next year. Our online classes make limiting this tricky.
  2. I don’t know what to call this. I love watching my older kids grow up and embrace their passions and opportunities, but I still have an eleven year-old who is home. I would love to give her the same warm, fuzzy, everyone-on-the-couch-in-our-pajamas school experience the older kids had, but that’s not what it looks like. And it makes me sad.

All right. I’m off to plan for next year: more counseling, more poetry, more tea, more music, less YouTube, more pajamas.

Seven Quick Takes: May Madness

May Madness: it’s like March Madness, without a bracket.

One: Last year I made mental notes (and paper ones) about how crazy May was, so that we would never do it like that again. And now it’s May, and it’s just like last year, only worse.

May is when my head is full of “finishing well” and what that looks like, and instead of executing what’s in my imagination, I am usually swept away by the avalanche of recitals, school dances/concerts/plays, and award ceremonies.

Blurry photo of Annie, Jr., featuring Phoebe as the diminutive tycoon, Oliver Warbucks
Piano recital
Spoiler alert: they played beautifully

Two: We haven’t quite recovered from April yet. Between robotics tournaments (including an amazing week with a trip to NASA), illness, swim meets, and piano recitals, we came into May pretty depleted.

I think the trip to Houston was worth it for the trip to NASA alone.

Three: So we’re focusing on good nutrition (read: Easter candy from the clearance aisle) and exercise.

These are the disgusting jelly beans left over after my children picked out all the good ones. They weren’t quite as bad as Berty Botts Every Flavour Beans… but they were close. (Not that that stopped me from eating them.)

Four: Okay, we could do better on the nutrition. But exercise, yes.

I’ve been running and doing yoga. I bribed the children to ride bikes for ice cream. We’ve been playing Kinect Sports in the basement. (I’m filing virtual bowling under the heading of Something Is Better Than Nothing.)

Best part of bowling at home: bowling in bathrobes.

Five: Now we’re just trying to focus on finishing well. This year (as opposed to last year), that includes embracing the art and music and time outside that I so easily leave behind in the push to finish all.the.things.

Denver Art Museum (yet again) for the win: the printmaking studio open right now is so cool. (The DAM is kind of like Duke or UConn: almost always makes the Final Four.)

Six: Finishing well (for us) means saying Yes to Giant Jenga and ice cream.

Seven: Finishing well means leaving time for reflection in the midst of all the doing.

What does finishing well mean for you?

Be sure to check out This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

Giveaway: a book stack!

I am so excited to be featured in Becky Clark’s Big Bodacious Box O’Books (and Purse) Giveaway.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. But even bigger (and better) is the big stack of mysteries by some of my favorite Colorado authors.

Becky writes mystery humor and has a new book coming out, Foul Play on Words. It’s the second book in her Mystery Writer’s Mystery Series that began with Fiction Can Be Murder.

Fiction Can Be Murder (A Mystery Writer's Mystery Book 1) by [Clark, Becky]

The winner of this giveaway will receive (do I sound like Bob Barker yet?) a signed book from each of these authors:

as well as a super-cool handmade book purse (you’ll have to go to Becky’s site to see it- but it’s so great!)

There’s something for everyone in the stack.

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 Pages Better Off Read (Bookmobile Mysteries), Cynthia Kuhns 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 McGuires Family Secrets.

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy Margaret Mizushimas 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!

Seven Quick Takes: Vacuuming the Couch Edition

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.

(For more better and likely quicker takes, be sure to check out the link-up at Kelly’s blog.)

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.

This cat is a terrible assistant.

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.

Daybook, mid-January (2019)

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.

As long as I keep moving, I won’t freeze over.

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.

Blue skies and snow for miles

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.

The cat could be working harder.

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.

This was a hard core game of spoons.

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.