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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

What worked (or not) in 2018

For the past few years, I’ve used Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2-question template for evaluating the year past. As I sat down this year to ask “What worked for me in 2018?” and “What didn’t work for me in 2018?”, most of the answers come in mixed bags. Some part of my system worked, while another part didn’t. Unfortunately I don’t see any quick fixes for the latter, but please pipe up if you see a glaringly obvious solution (or a splendidly clever one!) I’m overlooking. Untitled

Finances: We paid for a year of college. Granted, we had significant help from my parents, but we did it.  We are one (hopefully) sixteenth of the way there. Hooray! I credit automated transfers to savings, the January Money Diet (in the past found at Happy Simple Living) and including the kids in some of our frequent talks about the budget.  It’s hard to include them without freaking them out, but for the most part, we walked the tight rope, and they have some understanding what the budget looks like.

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Reading: I read a ton of books.  What worked here was leaving them lying all over the house, using the library’s audiobook loans while driving the kids all over town, and a brief slump into a turtle phase while I was trying not to think about Jonah’s leaving for college.

We became a house with cats again: This one is really a mixed bag.  We adopted two cats at the end of 2017, and one of them got terribly sick. (Like $1000-vet-ICU-bill-and-then-euthanasia sick.)  It was heartbreaking and expensive, and for twenty-four hours we thought we were going to be the source of a local rabies outbreak. How’s that for irony?

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Anyway, we adopted a third cat and have been a happy home with two cats again, except for the allergies and cat litter. It turns out that two cats pee twice as much as one cat does. (Who knew?) Anyone have a brilliant solution to the cat litter problem? Anyone? Bueller?

Devotional reading: A challenge from our priest last Christmas spurred me to read the Bible chronologically this year. We happened to be on ancient history, so much of my school prep dovetailed with the old testament in a really enlightening way.

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Exercise: I was having a good exercise year until the first of October, when I broke my toe. You’d think I would have just upped the yoga and waited to heal, but instead I sat around feeling sorry for myself, and I lost two months of fitness while it healed. Now I’m back to where I started a year ago. I think the problem is that I really have one good block of time I can count on every day, and I’ve been using it to write instead of exercise. I need to carve out a second chunk of time and make movement a priority.

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Screen time: This is the one area that abjectly didn’t work. As I have used my phone for tracking more things (and children), it’s harder not to pick it up at every spare moment, and it’s really hard to tell my children to put down their devices when my face is glued to a screen. So here’s to big changes in 2019.

What about you?  What worked for you (or didn’t) in 2018?

Advent: it’s not too late to make room

It’s been a few years since I wrote a post on how I love the church year and how it loves me back. I used to post every year on our Advent traditions, and what I loved about Lent and Ordinary Time. But then some of my posts had the opposite effect of what I’d wanted. I shared a practice that was life-giving for me, and it was making other people feel bad.  That had to stop.

But, as a perpetual optimist, I’m back this year to try again.  I want to share a few things I love about the Advent, which began yesterday. Happy New (Church) Year.

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Advent is about waiting and making room. It is a season for contemplation. I need more of all three of those in my life, so it’s no wonder Advent is my favorite season.

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There are a million and one resources out there to enrich your Advent, but I’m not here to talk about those today.  I don’t want to add anything to your burden, because Advent is about waiting to receive.  Making room. Advent isn’t asking you to do more, or be more.

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“Mom, that Prepare sign is really freaking me out.” — child

Advent is asking us to rest in a place of waiting.  Waiting on God to fix what’s broken. (Not my strength. I’m more of a Sarah kind of gal.)

Anyway, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. Even if you don’t have any candles, or can’t find your Advent wreath (or don’t have one), or if the broken light is the second one in the string and none of them will light, or you are too overwhelmed to dig any of your decorations out of the basement, or they all went down with your house in a fire, and your kids refuse to snuggle on the couch to listen to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever even though we do it every year but now they think they’re too old for it…

Even if all of that is true, it’s not too late. You don’t need to do anything. Because Advent is about the promise that God is going to show up in the flesh to take care of everything. It’s not going to look like what we expected, and that’s all right, too. Our job is just to make room to see what the Incarnation really looks like.

Grateful: Thanksgiving, 2018

Lots of blessings to count this year. Here are just a few from my list, not in any order other than ease of pulling the photos.  I am grateful:

+ to live in a place that recognizes the importance of open space

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+ for the days I remember to make getting outside a priority, and the friends who encourage me to do so

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+ for artists and their work, especially work that tells truth and shows me kindness and beauty that is stronger than the evil around us

Members of the original Broadway cast of 'Come From Away.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Members of the original Broadway cast of ‘Come From Away.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

+ friends from far away, and poetry

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+ having this nutty crew all together for a week:

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I am grateful for you, friend.  May you have time to count your blessings this week.