Quick Lit: April 2015

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Product Details Bomb: The Race of Build-and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Steve Sheinkin): This is a fantastic YA non-fiction book that held everyone’s interest.  It handled The Manhattan Project and all the spying that went with it in fascinating detail.  We listened to it on CD.

Busman’s Honeymoon (Dorothy Sayers): This mystery follows Gaudy Night (one of my all-time favorite books) and completes the train of thought developed begun there.  What does marriage look like?  How do we blend two lives without one person disappearing under the other?

Product DetailsThe Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis): I’ve been listening to the recording by Joss Ackland, whose chuckle perfectly fits “your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”  Lewis’s keen observation of human nature is only matched by his ability to prescribe the antidote.  I’ve been listening to it as I make dinner each night, and then I go to dinner chastened by my own sin and amazed by Lewis’s insight.

Product DetailsNumber the Stars (Lois Lowry) is such a beautiful picture of human courage.  This time through, I’ve been struck by the idea of how it’s easier to be brave when we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle before us (thank you, Uncle Henrik).  My kids wanted to read it again as soon as we finished– that’s a recommendation for you!

Product Details The Endless Steppe (Esther Hautzig).  Obviously we’re on a WWII jag around here.  I read Hautzig’s book of Siberian exile as a child, and it stuck with me.  Reading it today, Esther’s story is just as vivid and universal as it was to me thirty years ago. Hautzig doesn’t minimizes the horror of war or exile and still manages to write a story full of hope.

Most of this is school reading, which seems odd to me given that we had Spring Break a few weeks ago. I had a kindle full of books (and a few in my bag, too) and managed to touch none of it. But that’s how things are right now: everything that has to get done right now is getting done, but that’s all I can manage.

What are you reading?

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Running: by the birds

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Goodness, I love spring.  I love the tulip bulbs blooming and the trees budding.  Most of all, I love that the birds are back.

I had a lapse in my running.  You know: illness and darkness and vacation… it added up to a few weeks with no miles on my feet.  As I age, I lose fitness so much faster (and regain it so much more slowly), and these last few runs have been hard.  The ease I felt in my long January runs was absent.  I am slowly clawing my way back to running.  To function.

But the birds are back, and each time I see one, I am inspired to go a little further.

  • a house finch singing from the peak of my neighbor’s roof.
  •  the pair of robins flirting in a budding apple tree.
  • a flock of redwing blackbirds in the reeds and cattails.
  • a hawk, sitting completely still on a stone wall.  Over my music, I could hear a frantic, repetitive keening that I thought was from him, but it was from the terrified prairie dogs he was watching.
  •  a flicker, so pretty I tried to snap a photo, but he was long gone by the time I had untangled my phone from my pocket.

Hope” is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without the words/And never stops- at all-

And sweetest – in the Gale- is heard/And sore must be the storm/That could abash the little Bird/That kept so many warm-

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land/And on the strangest Sea/Yet- never- in Extremity/It asked a crumb- of me.  –Emily Dickinson

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: April

Pretty: Spring cleaning this week! After so many years of feeling like the kids’ cleaning didn’t help me much, we’ve reached the point where 30-45 minutes of our working together really can accomplish a lot!
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Of course my photo of that is not a sparkling kitchen, but the cleaning rags and the bathroom rug drying. Hmmm…

Happy: We have a tradition of going out for pizza our last night of spring break. The paper-covered tables and crayons work well for the whole family, from 7 to 77. We play “guess what I’m drawing” to “lightening-draw” to “hangman.”

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Funny: While Moriah and I skied, Phoebe and Sam (or Phoebe and her grandparents) toodled around town looking at all the sculptures. Being the sculptures.

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It was an extra bonus that all the bears were dressed up in pink for the town’s American Cancer Society fundraiser.

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Real: We arrived early at dance class. Probably they should have been practicing their dance, but… but no. Apparently it was time to fence with sticks.

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All right, friends– a blessed Triduum to you all, and may your Easter be full of joy!
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Daybook: End of March

Out my window: the sky is changing from purple to white, like an ombre-dyed shirt. We returned from vacation to find Spring everywhere.

not my tulips:
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In the garden: Consequently, we spent a good part of yesterday uncovering the garden.  Even with all our little baby plants, we had a pile of stems, thorns, and leaves which the kids dragged to the alley on the sled.  Most of my rose bushes have red and green new growth on them.  The iris are all up, and the clematis is greening up.  Our crabapple trees are leafing out, and the peach tree has a few blooms.  None of my tulip bulbs came up, though- well, they came up in December and then were frozen by a snap cold front.  I wonder if they’ll try again next year, or if they just gave up and moved south.

In the school room: I’m excited about Jonah’s English unit on Revenge and Mercy.  I just framed some questions for him to ask, and he’ll choose the books today.  Alas, The Princess Bride isn’t on the list.  We’re plan to work on some study skills: active listening, note taking, and organizing notes.  Dartmouth College has some great resources on these topics, and I plan to have the kids practice while watching some Ted-Ed lectures, which are short and focused.  SweetP plans to read me a Frances book today.  (She may have to read a few: they’re ALL my favorite.)

Around the house: I spent the weekend washing winter clothes; Sam spent the weekend putting them away. Now the kids and I can do some “spring cleaning.”  I’ve budgeted it into our schedule, and I’m hoping that will mean we actually do it.  In reality, we’ll probably do some today, and then I’ll say, “Let’s all be outside instead!”  At the end of every winter, I’m always too spent to clean, and then spring hits and I just want to be outside.

after the trip:
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On my book pile: How to Read a Book (Adler), The Monument Men (Edsel & Witter), The Screwtape Letters (Lewis).  I’ll be adding whatever Jonah picks for his six books on Revenge and Mercy. (I’m hoping he chooses The Count of Monte Cristo.)

In my shoes: I didn’t run at all last week.  I’m hoping this week holds some runs, but between covering the hospital tonight and 3 extra services at church, it may not happen.  Are you running?

Grateful: that Mandy is home, for a good vacation, church yesterday, for popsicle and porch-swing weather, Sonia’s safe return from Liberia, and after-dinner walks.

popsicle weather:
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Praying for: the energy to finish the school year well. New jobs for B and L. So many friends & family with health issues right now (both acute and chronic). Heather & family. The Neals and Simons. Tillie. A holy Holy Week.

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.

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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.