7 QT on Skis

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This is the child who can’t ski. Instead, she spent the week going out with her grandparents and doing performance art.

1. This week is our mostly annual ski vacation. It has been an unusual year, especially because SweetP’s broken arm precludes her participation in our two usual activities: alpine skiing and swimming.  So we didn’t make our perennial trek to the world’s largest hot springs pool (talk about salt in a wound!) and haven’t been spending our evenings in the pool here at the resort.

2. My 10 year-old daughter, however, loves to ski and none of her body parts are currently casted, so there was nothing to get between her and the mountain.  Sunday, we all s(minus SweetP) skied together.Everyone was finding their legs again after a year off skis.  Our Epic passes track every time we ride a lift, which my parents think is creepy and Big Brotheresque.  (The rest of us, who are more smart-phone minded, think it’s pretty cool.)  We skied 6712 vertical feet before the boys’ quads made us call it a day.

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3.  Additionally, my 12 year-old’s Mountain Lab Camp was this week, from Monday to Wednesday.  The camp was a 117-miles drive each way.  Monday’s drive was easy in sunny weather.  On the way back from camp, my daughter and I stopped at Breckenridge and skied another 9404 vertical feet in the afternoon.

4. Can you see the teeny tiny lift at the top of the photo?  We rode up that, to an altitude 12,256 ft above sea level.  I thought the wind was going to blow my girl right off the mountain, but she held tight and skied down turn by turn.  The view was amazing.

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5. The next day I could hardly walk.  I put her in ski school.  That’s right, I paid $210 for the right NOT to ski for a day.

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“Yeah, we had a good time skiing cross-country. Mostly we tried to run over each other’s toes.”

6. Wednesday, the snow hit.  I drove another 117 miles down the mountain in snow– while the opposite side of the highway was actually closed because of bad conditions– to pick Owen up.  I almost got the car stuck within the camp. I ate lunch with his cabin before turning around to drive another 117 miles back up the mountain.  The good news: he had an excellent time, and we had a great book on CD (Bomb by Sheinkin) to listen to in the car. Total camp miles: 468.

7. Yesterday, we went back out on the mountain for another 18,324 vertical feet.  That’s right, my friends, the sound you hear is the screaming of my quads and calves. I don’t have another $210 for ski school, so most likely I’ll be out there again today.  Wish me luck.

For more quick takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Daybook: Mid March

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Out my window: darkness.  I don’t love the early-morning dark, but I do love the evenings that are bright and warm enough to take a walk after dinner.  There are so many signs of spring around here, most notably that the birds have returned.

In the kitchen: We had lots of guests this weekend, and I did lots of cooking – chili and cornbread, chicken pot pi and peach pi, make your own pizzas- but alas, we have very few leftovers to show for it. The children will be happy, but I do love leftovers for lunch.

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On my book table: The Monument Men (Edsel and Witter). How to Read a Book (Adler and Van Doren). (This one is very dense, and I’m learning so much!)  I’m making a stack to take on vacation, too. Any suggestions?

In the school room: Goodness, it’s been hard plowing here lately.   I’ve planned a lighter week with some breaks and lots of good reading.  We finished with the Armenian Genocide and Great Depression and are now into the cheerful days of WWII. Ahem.  I need to order our standardized tests, but I think we’ll wait until May , when SweetP is out of her cast.  All those little bubbles to fill in would just be too much for her left hand.

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On my mind: I am so grateful that I’ve gotten to shape the conversations we have about hard issues.  There is a lot of political discussion at my kids’ once-a-week school, most of it at the middle school lunch table and much of it not very nuanced (hard to imagine, I know).  Last week I fielded questions from my kids about capitalism and totalitarianism, abortion, gun control, immigration, infant baptism, the shooting in Madison, adultery, and fiscal policy.  I really want my kids to be able to look at a question or issue from many sides, and I want them to listen to the heart of someone else’s experience before they make judgments.  I know that snap judgments and either-or thinking is very developmentally appropriate for children, but I believe that the art of listening (truly listening, not just nodding while I formulate my own opinion) is a skill that has to be taught and practiced.  So we’re practicing.

Grateful for: Spring!  Spontaneous and well-planned get-togethers.  Deep conversations.  Our church. My friend’s new job.

Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Clare. The people of Vanuatu.  The Simons and Neals.  My patients.  Patience.

Quick Lit: March

Product DetailsThe Road from Home by David Kherdian.  This book is an account of a young woman’s life during the Armenian Genocide.  The story reads like a novel and would have flown by if my children hadn’t kept asking me to take a break because it was so sad. Veron, the main character, grows from pampered eldest daughter into a resilient survivor, and then into a young woman wanting to determine her own future.  There is kindness here, and bravery. Worth the read for the character and for the story, not to mention for the history.

Product DetailsFirst Cut by Mary Birk.  The second book in the Terrence Reid series, this thriller is broader in scope than the first.  Reid’s character deepens, and the relationship between Reid and his wife flows at the same dramatic pace as the story.  Read it with the lights on, though– it’s scary.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsAt Risk and The Front by Patricia Cornwell.  These two are the start of a second series by Cornwell, and although I don’t like the characters as much as I like Kay Scarpetta, the narrative is fresh and immediate.  The books are much shorter, and– so far– free of the serial killers that bogged down the later Scarpetta books.  I liked them.

Product DetailsBlack Notice by Patricia Cornwell.  I’ve been reading the Scarpetta books completely out of order, and this one caught me completely off-guard, as at the beginning of the book one of the characters I really liked was dead.  I kept waiting for Scarpetta to discover it was all a ruse or mistake, and that never happened, which I think was part of the point.  The grief was very real.  Cornwell does forensics so well, to the point that the dead speak, and this one was exceptionally vivid.

Product DetailsThe Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood.  This book came recommended to me as “Jane Eyre without Mr. Rochester.”  And as far one could describe Jane Eyre as a book about a young governess thrust into a house with secrets, that’s accurate. Unlike Jane Eyre, this is a YA or MG read-aloud without much emotional depth, and the end didn’t satisfy me.  None of the questions posed were answered.  My children, however, asked to begin the sequel immediately, which we’ve done.  I have to give a shout to the illustrator- the drawings had a whimsy entirely suited to the book.

Product DetailsWhat the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter.  This is the third book of Hunter’s I’ve read, and they are all true to a traditional romance formula. Beyond that, though, her characters are fresh and bold, with real issues and backstories she paints so well.  Her dialogue is brilliant, and I always come away feeling like I know the people I’ve just been reading about.

{p,h,f,r}- February 2015

Pretty: Our lemon tree is blooming again.  We have one lemon ripening on a [very dusty] branch, and many blossoms.  We’ll see if they can survive in the desert that is our living room.
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Happy: Owen celebrated his birthday.  I lost count of the cakes and dinners we had, but they were all good, and he was definitely happy about it all. However, he has asked me not to post his face here, so…

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His birthday was the first celebration we had in our home, so its anniversary was significant for me. I’m so glad we are here. Together.

Funny: This may count as doctor humor, but it has me chuckling.

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Real: Alas, reality is all too familiar to us.  We took a walk on Monday and stopped to play at the playground, where SweetP fell and broke her arm.  Again.  [Same arm but only one of the bones this time.]  This time I couldn’t tell just by looking at it, but she knew by how it felt.
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We’re back to ice packs and one-handed board games.  And no handwriting for the rest of the year.

For more everyday contentment in the form of {phfr}, go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Round Robin

We like to play games around here, but the disadvantage of age is hard on the younger ones.

So we’ve been playing a lot of round-robin chess.  We set up the game by the stairs, so everyone passes it about a hundred times a day.

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The checker here indicates that it’s black’s turn. Once Moriah has moved for black, she’ll move the checker to brown, and the next player will play for brown.

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Playing round robin removes your ability to play a long, elaborate strategy, since sometimes you’re playing for black and sometimes for brown, but this way we are all playing, and no one is upset at the end.

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What’s new in family games at your house?

Momentum

We’re studying physics right now, so I have momentum on the mind. You know, p=mv. Momentum equals mass times velocity.

The other day, I had so much momentum I felt like Wonder Woman. I started the day with yoga and writing. Spurred by early success and the blessing of children who slept late, I spent time in prayer and reading before making breakfast. The 7:30 appointment with the repairman actually happened at 7:30 instead of vaguely within a “window from 8-12,” and he was gone before the children woke up.

We were expecting 9 medical students for dinner.

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After we planned the menu, one of them mentioned she only eats land animals. Did that mean yes or no to chicken? I wasn’t clear. Two sausage lasagnas turned into one sausage and one half-chicken, half-mushroom and spinach.
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One spinach salad with warm bacon dressing turned into two salads. The girls wanted in on the action, so the dessert of berries and whipped cream turned into parfaits made with homemade Lady Baltimore cake.

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Rolling along on all this momentum, I even managed to fit in a run. I was the living embodiment of Newton’s first law of motion: bodies in motion tend to stay in motion.

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And then this morning a child (who shall remain nameless) confessed that he/she might just have lost one of his/her school books. Several months ago. Then, as Jonah and I were going over a practice test for the National Latin Exam, he said, “This is the test I took last year!” That’s right, I had registered him to repeat the test he took a year ago. And there’s a only week until he’s supposed to take it. My parents came to take my daughters our, and I had several hours alone with the boys. Thinking I would be the fun mom, I suggested we see a matinée movie. They refused to go.

Instead of a rock rolling down a hill, I became a clown pushing a car up a steep hill through a bunch of chimpanzees playing tennis.

Good-bye, momentum. Velocity = zero.

I think this has been many people’s experience this winter. Things were going well until _________ (you fill in the blank: stomach bug, car trouble, virus, unplanned travel, death in the family…)   The trick is how to regain the momentum. How to get the rock moving again.

For me it was going to bed early and starting over the next day, fresh. I did a little exercise, spent some time in prayer, and gave a test push to the rock. It started up the hill.

I’m going to try to ignore the chimpanzees.

2015’s 30 Hour Famine

This was the third year our youth group participated in World Vision’s 30 hour famine.  The 30 hour famine is a program developed for youth groups to fast from food for 30 hours to raise money to feed hungry children around the world.  It’s a great program on multiple levels.

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It teaches kids about hunger.
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Prior to the 30 hour famine, my kids’ biggest food-related issue was that I expected them to eat vegetables.  During the fast, they can drink juice and water, but they actually get a taste (just a taste) of what it’s like to go to bed hungry. What it feels like to have your energy wane because they’re hungry.

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They also have an opportunity to learn about the impact of hunger and poverty around the world.  World Vision’s program includes Tribe, a survivor-type game youth groups can adapt for their own needs.  It has thoughtful and fun games that teach about hunger, education, water security, economic independence, and inadequate access to health care. This year’s Tribe focused on Ethiopia, and we learned some really cool facts about Ethiopia’s history and culture.

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Finally, the kids have a chance to make a difference.  Instead of leaving kids with a lot sad statistics, World Vision invites them to raise money for their programming around the world.  They also encourage youth groups to engage in a local project to alleviate hunger in their own areas.

Our service time for the past two years has been packing non-perishables to be given out at a food bank near our church.  The director gives us a brief talk about the breadth of neighbors in our area who need food assistance.  The kids also have a chance to imagine what their own meals would look like if their pantry had in it only the staples we packed that day.

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Obviously, I’m not a youth pastor, but I didn’t have to be to adapt this program to our small church.  I couldn’t have run it without the parents who participated, but I think we all learned something new. World Vision has two weekends when large numbers of students around the country participate.  This February weekend worked well for us because Lent is a traditional time for fasting.  Last year, we participated in the April weekend, but the first year we chose our own date in July.  If you’re looking for a flexible project for your youth, I highly recommend the 30 hour famine.