ONE: Are your friends/family sending you lots of first day of school photos? We have been getting them, and the traffic patterns around the neighborhood have definitely changed. I rode my bike to the clinic this week, and the traffic to the campus (it hosts both a middle and a high school) was backed up a full mile. Two cars almost hit me as they crossed the bike lane to get to the drop off lane. Everyone is a little out of practice.
We don’t start school again until next week. Jonah will head back for his senior year of college (!) and we’ll do a family road trip (first one in 3 years, since the Year of too Many Road Trips) to take Owen to college next month. I’m elbow-deep in school prep.
TWO: We went back to the beach this month, for the first time in years. It was wonderful. Sam didn’t open his computer all week. I barely cooked at all (remember this gem from the Onion?) and came back refreshed to try some new recipes. Which is good, because it’s peach and tomato season.
Last beach trip:
This beach trip:
THREE: Peach season! I think the easiest way to preserve peaches is to wash them, slice them in half, remove the pits and freeze them like this on a tray. Then, once frozen, they are easy to pop into bags. I like them in halves for lots of recipes, but for smoothies I will often quarter them. I don’t take the skins off. They add fiber and make everything pretty.
FOUR: This is the time of year that we rearrange desks. Our rule is that kids can’t have screens (phones, computers, TVs, DSes, etc.) in their bedrooms. This requires lots of desks on our main floor, and we shuffled people around and cleaned spaces up.
FIVE: This year, I’m going back to using BraveWriter‘s Arrow curriculum for my eighth grader. It’s a literature-based writing curriculum that has everything I need (grammar, mechanics, good books, great discussion questions.) They choose great books, and it’s flexible enough to adjust it for each student’s unique needs.
SIX: Turns out I don’t have seven takes today. But I have this awesome photo of the beach to leave with you. Happy end of summer, friends. May there be fresh peaches and tomatoes in your day.
One: It’s been a year since Jonah came home for spring break with his laptop and backpack of clothes and then found out he wasn’t going back. As we all know, a year is a long time to be doing… whatever this is we’re doing. It’s not quite perpetual quarantine, but I sure hope this isn’t the new normal.
Two: There are signs of hope: vaccinations are rolling out, and I’m so encouraged by the research showing their efficacy. I’m not ready to eat at an indoor restaurant yet, but I did hug my fully-vaccinated parents (and was so happy, I forgot to take a photo.) Jonah is back at college- it doesn’t look like it did pre-pandemic, but he’s on campus and is so grateful for that.
Three: Work is… weird. For everyone’s safety, our office has moved most of our visits to telehealth. It’s great for chronic disease management (looking at you, diabetes!) but terrible for well-child care. So much of my diagnosis is really made through history, but there are some things even a good history can’t tell you. Every day, I see four or five people who have survived their own personal COVID-19 infection and at least one who has lost a loved one to it.
Four: I have been walking. I developed a bad case of metatarsalgia in September and haven’t run since. Thanks to a used-car’s worth of orthotics, my foot pain is, better, but I’m still not running. Walking instead is different, but good. I can definitely go longer, and it can be more social. I just passed 200km for the year so far.
Five: Owen picked a college. Now we just have to get them through the next seven months till it starts. Early action (that’s the one where you apply early, hear early, but aren’t committed to a school you can’t afford before you get the aid package) is really great. I wish more schools offered it as an option.
I realize what a gift this is: that my kids have had choices, and that they received enough financial aid and scholarships to make it possible for them to choose based on preference and not just dollars. But it also feels like major vindication to me, after all those years of wondering if our choice to homeschool would hamstring my kids. It hasn’t, and for that I am enormously grateful.
Six: The girls and I have been watching The Great British Bake-Off. It is the first time I’ve really appreciated “reality TV.” Now we walk around the house saying things like, “Just a few minutes shy of a perfect bake” and “it’s not bad at all” and craving self-saucing pudding.
Seven: So here we are in 2021, which so far looks a lot like 2020.
As much as the pandemic has been difficult on so many levels, it gave us a bonus ten months together as a family. The massive amounts of time at home together showed our fault lines and took away many of the distractions we’d been using to ignore our problems. For months of 2020, it was just the six of us, the cast of Community and a handful of mental health professionals we were lucky enough to find early on.
February flew by in a haze of doctor’s appointments, parental surgeries and hospital visits. Here’s hoping “in like a lion, out like a lamb” applies to more than weather.
We’re having a schooling vacation in Washington D.C. this weekend. Here are a few of the early highlights.
One: Sam flew out a day ahead of us to make it here for his conference, so the kids and I endured our 4:30 am wake-up call and long day of cross-country travel without him. Our first plane was full of babies, and I spent the whole flight being grateful that this was not the trip I flew solo with a baby in the backpack, a toddler trying to wander off and a four-hour delay because of a snowstorm. Oh- I was also grateful for Southwest’s Wi-Fi and my kids’ phones.
Two: The two schoolish “vacations” we took last fall nearly did us in, so I was very careful as I planned this trip. [I tried to link my posts about those trips but apparently I was so traumatized I didn’t write about them.]
First, we opted not to drive. There are families who can drive two thousand miles together and still speak to each other at the end, but we are not one of them. Second, we rented a house instead of trying to cram five people into one (or even two) hotel rooms. When the kids were little, Sam and I always tried to get a hotel with a pool (kids who swim are kids who sleep), but our needs have changed. Our criteria now when we look for vacation rentals are location (close to our destination, or close to public transportation), a small kitchen (eating out with teenagers is really expensive!) and high speed internet.
Three: I pre-ordered groceries to be delivered soon after Sam arrived, and the minute we put our bags down, we were all snacking on carrots and guacamole. I know this sounds ridiculous, but teenagers are hard to feed and need to eat almost constantly, like toddlers. (Also like toddlers, the moment you buy a jumbo pack of cheese sticks at Costco, they announce they’re no longer eating cheese.)
Four: Last night Phoebe and Momo wanted to go out and explore, so we walked over to the Mall and admired all the national things: US Capitol, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Museums, National Ice Cream Trucks, National Carnivorous Plants (at the Botanic Gardens).
Five: Owen was done last night and opted out of the evening fun, and it was fine. It still astounds me that my kids (some of them, at least) are old enough to hang out at the house by themselves. I remember so vividly the years where it felt like they were stapled to my side, and we had to be together every minute. I am grateful for not having to drag an unwilling child along with us somewhere (or curtail everyone else’s fun because someone just can’t take it.)
Six: This morning we went to the White House. Of course, in the rush of trying to get five of us out the door for an 8:30 tour, I forgot my photo ID and our tour boarding pass. We were already on the train when I remembered, and I had to make a sprint to the opposite train, run back to the house, and grab everything. The White House self-guided tour was quick. It felt like the security to get in was longer than actual the tour, and I wondered if the tour changes based on the administration (i.e., a longer, more informative tour might reflect a president who values history). I was struck again by the price paid by the children of our modern presidents. (I am grateful for Michelle Obama’s book which first made me think about the cost they pay.)
Seven: And that’s all we’ve done so far. We have a few days, and I hope to hit multiple museums (the woman suffrage exhibit at the Library of Congress, and the African American History and Culture Museum are at the top of the list), but for now, we had to come back to the house and rest (a.k.a. check Instagram and watch Parks & Rec). Anyone want a cheese stick?
We’ve been schooling for a month now, and it’s time to take quick look back at how it’s gone so far.
One: I always have intentions to start slowly and ease our way into school, but I find the high school schedule is less accommodating of that plan than I’d like. On day 1, we dropped Jonah at the airport to head back to college, had a full day of school, and then Moriah and I took off for Red Rocks for the OneRepublic + Colorado CSO concert that was her birthday gift. What a great concert in a stunning setting. Seeing her happiness, watching the sun turn the mountains red, letting the music pour into me- my heart was very full that night.
In addition to their own music, OneRepublic played several of the songs Ryan Tedder’s wrote for others (Rumor Has It for Adele, Suckers for Jonah Brothers, Halo for Beyonce) and sang a stunning song by another songwriter. I appreciated his highlighting the often-invisible songwriter.
One and a half: I added a few OneRepublic songs to my running playlists, as well as Aftertaste by Shawn Mendes. It’s got a great beat for running, but the lyrics are confusing: “I’m PermaNick, you can’t replace me.” Who the heck is PermaNick?
Two: Our house has been full of music, between Owen’s recent trip to Vienna and the Harp Fantastia coming up. (I’m writing this from a coffeeshop while Moriah rehearses with a room full of harpists for a concert at the end of the month.)
Years ago, before I even met Sam, I imagined my future family as always singing. I thought we might have a quartet of singers- not quite the von Trapps, but something in that neighborhood. That’s not how it’s turned out, but my prayer to have a house full of music has been answered.
Three: While I generally love having lots of music in the house, I’m not thrilled about how it has become the latest bedtime stall tactic.
Me: Please go brush your teeth and get in bed. [5 minutes passes. I hear the cello. I run upstairs] What are you doing? I said to get in bed.
Her: [innocent eyeroll] But Mom, I’m flossing!
Four: P.E. in our school continues to evolve. I learned a long time ago that I have to exercise every day, or the teacher (and all the students) will be sorry. I keep running (and stopping every few minutes to take photos), but I also want the kids to find some sort of outlet for all those huge, angsty teenage feels they have. So Owen and Sam have been training for a triathlon (completed today), Moriah continues to dance four days a week in public (and eight days a week in the kitchen), and Phoebe and I have been riding our bikes everywhere.
Five: Imagining we could afford a new (to us) car with a kid in college (ha!), we went car shopping. Our prep work included all sorts of weird google searches, including “is the Subaru outback a harpmobile?” We found a 2011 outback (certified harpmobile) in good condition and were ready to trade in our 2004 Sienna minivan, until they told us the tiger-claw scratches on both sides meant it was only worth $1500 as a trade-in. (Good thing we’re not trying to trade in the garage.) Ergo, no “new” car for us.
Six: In case you were wondering, we are studying some academic subjects, too. Phoebe is working hard on her reading/spelling (and finally with some results, now that have a program that works with her strengths). She and I just finished reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street– what a delightful book! Owen and Moriah have US Government and Comparative Politics and American Literature with me, and Moriah’s doing precalc at home. I’ve outsourced AP Physics, Biology and Calculus (thank goodness!) and will add some Spanish into the mix soon.
We’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., next month, which should dovetail well with our government studies. Between Trump’s antics and Brexit, there’s certainly plenty of supplemental material in the news to keep us very busy.
Seven: We also had a visit from Aunt Mandy for a week. Uncle Matt popped in for two nights. We used Mandy’s visit as an excuse to go to the Botanic Gardens for an afternoon, which met my goal of having a field trip once a month. I’m planning to count all of D.C. as October’s field trip.
One: It’s Friday, and a week from now my oldest son will move to Ohio for college. Jonah has packed boxes and boxes of books and bird statues. It makes me worry his legs are going to be cold.
I have a mountain of things to do, but I don’t handle change well, even good change, and I’ve been dissolving at weird times into a little puddle of tears. To cope, I have been binge-reading Robert Crais books. I’m sure it’s helping.
Two: Summer is almost over. We made it to the pool a lot, and while I never managed a hike in the mountains (rotten children didn’t want to hike), I did take a few runs in the cool mountain air. (By “air”, I mean “without air.”)
Three: I didn’t set any sort of school schedule for the kids because of their work schedules, and it has meant they have degenerated into going online whenever they are not working or (for the youngers) being actively entertained. I am looking forward to reestablishing a healthier routine fall, although I know the detox is going to be a pain. The age gap between 10 and 18 (or even 15) feels a lot bigger than it did when they were 2 and 10 (or 2 and 6), and it doesn’t work anymore to have the same standards for them all. I’m sure you can imagine how the 10 year old feels about this.
Four: It has been a weird year for the garden and our CSA. Early heat and hail killed the corn and green beans. I did manage to make pesto with our basil and some spicy garlic from the farm.
Five: We stunk at pruning the peach tree, so it auto-amputated its top half during a wind storm two weeks ago. We still have lots of peaches, but I feel bad for the tree. I kept watching its branches sink lower and lower, and–remembering the agony of the third trimester—knew just how she felt.
The pear tree seems to be better designed to manage the weight of her own fruit.
Six: We have had all sorts of health scares and complicated parenting dilemmas this summer. (e.g., Which chemicals should a 10 year-old have in her chemistry lab? Why are we the mean parents who are anti-sleepover?) Jonah took a job that was disrespectful of his time, and he ended up missing our family vacation in the mountains. Owen has been a loyal worker at his job, and every time I turn around, they give him an extra shift. He never says no. I am full of self-doubt, wondering when I should push and when I should let the kids learn the consequences of their decisions.
Seven: We are heading into the mountains for the weekend. I still harbor fantasies of hiking, but I will be happy if we just get our feet into the lake. We should have a good view of the Perseids meteor shower. Then Sam heads to Guatemala for 3 days while I try to finish packing Jonah for school. For the sake of everyone at his college, I am going to insist he take some pants.
One: This is NOT the SQT where I will reveal where my oldest is going to go to college for the simple reason that he doesn’t know yet. So there. However, this IS the SQT where I will diss bitterly on all the ridiculousness that this process has entailed. You’re welcome.
Three: There are three options for applying, and the process is different from back when I applied. Here’s my primer on applying to college.
One recruiter (I think she was from Duke) described Early Action as dating. You can date more than one person and you can apply early action at multiple schools, except when the schools specifically say they are serial monogamists and they don’t like you to do early action applications at more than one school. (Or, in case you’re my son, who took that analogy to heart and said, “I would never date more than one person at a time, so why would I do Early Action?”)
Four: Then there is Early Decision, which is like getting engaged. You only ask one school to marry you, and if they say Yes, you’re done in December as long as you can afford the school that you chose. If you can’t afford it, then you have to break that engagement and move back into the regular dating pool with everybody else.
Five: The rest of America’s 17 year-olds apply with Regular Decision in January and February. With great relief, they hit send on that last application and think they’re done until May 1, when they’ll have to make a decision. But they’re not actually done, because there are Intentional Learning Communities (I’m not making this up) and scholarships and dorms and research fellowships with their own applications and essays and deadlines that just keep coming. The students aren’t really done… and now they’re mad. They’re like the Bachelor who’s back on the show after an earlier stint as one of the many candidates hoping for a rose and then came back as the Bachelor but broke his last engagement and knows America hates him but is really sure he’s going to find love this time around.
Six: I think the nail in the coffin of this process for my son was a prestigious private school that invited him to apply for one of their Intentional Learning Communities that came with a scholarship. He wrote three extra essays and then, after about 6 weeks, received a letter addressed to someone else, “Dear Lauren B., we’re sorry that we have to inform you we can’t give you the scholarship…” He emailed back to say, “Hey, I’m not Lauren B.. Can you check on my application?” To which he received an email reply, “Okay, we looked and you didn’t get it either.”
So that school is off the list. (The more schools that behave badly, the easier it is to choose!)
Six: We’re currently down to two schools, one of which we will visit for the first time this weekend. He is an alternate for an Intentional Learning Community (see, this actually is a thing at multiple schools – I’m not making it up) but will only get that spot and scholarship if the first choice cis- white male (CWM) with a smidge of Mexican backs out and goes somewhere else.
Seven: So, with 10 days left before the deadline to choose, our current decision algorithm looks like this:
Really, this is just like the Bachelor. With lower ratings. Stay tuned.
One: After two weeks of illness (one child on antibiotics, another on Tamiflu, me on nothing as I hacked up one or more of my lungs) we are finally clawing out way back into schooling at home. Sam is coming down with something now, too, but since he’s goes to work to be sick, I don’t really count him as one of the stricken.
Two: Man, getting back into this is rough. In the midst of that, Sam and I both traveled. I really should have stayed at home, but… I wanted to see my friend. I saw her, but I spent the whole time afraid I was going to give her the plague.
Three: Speaking of plagues, we adopted a lovely cat. His name (spoiler alert) was Julian.
Then his larynx swelled up, and despite high-dose steroids and a veterinary ICU and more steroids and another vet, he still died. After his necropsy, at which the vet couldn’t determine the cause of the allergy/infection/laryngeal edema NOS, she called me back to ask if I’d been able to get his shot records from his previous owner. No, I hadn’t. So she put us on Rabies Watch, had the county public health nurse call us to find out our travel plans and if any of us were acting strangely, and billed us $65 for rabies testing. Just like that, our family went from the infectious disease specialists to the possible source of an urban rabies outbreak. (Better spoiler: he didn’t have rabies, and neither do we.) Here is a gratuitous photo of the new cat, whose rabies vaccination I have documented on paper.
Four: Anyway… now, two weeks later we have adopted a replacement cat, and everyone is trying to get back in the groove. To that end, everyone made it to the co-op for classes this week, all the adults went to their gainful employment, and I’ve been trying to teach things to the children with limited success.
Five: On Monday, I made it till one-thirty before I had to crawl into my bed for a nap. When I got up, I went to see where Phoebe one of the children was with her work.
Mom: Where are you with your school work today? Do you need help with math?
Anonymous Child: Why are you asking? Don’t you have some work you’re supposed to be doing?
Mom: I was under the impression that helping you with math was my work.
So that was really successful. I should have stayed in bed.
Six: Yesterday I finally made it outside for a run. I discovered three things:
two weeks without exercise turned me into a meatball, and I couldn’t breathe.
spring is coming, whether the bomb cyclone and Storm Emma realize it
exercise is my anchor activity. Once I made the effort to exercise again, all sorts of other things became possible, like making dinner and putting bleach in the toilets and following up on my daughter’s math.
The guardian of spring.
Seven: However, an anchor is not entirely sufficient to return everything to normal. In order get us back in the routine, I had to pull out the paints and insist everyone make some art while I read aloud to them. An hour later, the children wandered off to play Minecraft and left me with a huge arty mess to clean up. I think this means we’re back in the groove.
Yes, I am showing you Meg Ryan’s ugly cry because 1) my ugly cry is really, really ugly and 2) I am old.
Two: I had to write in the name of our school. Years ago, we spent a few days brainstorming names for our home school. That was long before we had reached full enrollment (of 4) and all the grades (currently serving 4th-12th.) We came up with all sorts of lofty-sounding names, none of which I can remember now, but after two days they all sounded so ridiculous that we didn’t name it at all.
Three: Several hours earlier, Jonah had texted me because he forgot his calculator, which he was going to need later for an exam. He wondered if I could drive it to him.
No, I could not. I am not Jennifer Garner. Lucky for him, he had cash and could go to the bookstore and spend his own money on a calculator before his test. #parenting.
Four: But I could order him a diploma, so I did. At lunch, I mentioned to the other kids that we had never named our school. They wanted to know why it mattered, and I mentioned the little matter of a diploma, and then Moriah started to cry because Jonah is going to graduate and move away.
Five: So here we are, friends. We started this homeschool journey 13 years ago, thinking it would be a one-year experiment. Now we’re ordering diplomas and having ugly cries.
Six: My advice to you is to name your school early, or it will be too late and your school will be the NoName Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Seven: Any ideas what he should write for his yearbook quote?
I know y’all are very concerned about how Jonah’s college search (and our search for college funding) is going. We are making definite progress on both fronts. I’ve been getting lots of ads for subscription boxes in my feed lately. For only $24.99 a month, I can have a box of practically anything delivered to my door—boxes of books, or beer, running gear, dog treats or purses, beauty supplies or gourmet snacks. Because I’m never one to miss out on a trend, and because college is really expensive, I want to offer you my own special twist on the subscription box club:
TiredMomBox! For only $19.99/month, club members will receive one “artisan” (a.k.a. shoe) box for the month’s theme, and the warm fuzzy feeling you can only get by helping us pay for our son’s college tuition.
Resolutions Theme (January): you will receive a box of selected fitness gear I bought in years past and no longer use, such as handheld weights of different sizes (no two alike!), fitness bands I can’t get the knots out of, and prenatal and postpartum yoga DVDs I never want to see again.
Middle-Aged Romance Theme (February): you will receive a box of take-out pizza, a bottle of two-buck Chuck, and a Kipper video to put the kids in front of so you and your hubby can have a conversation. (Try to look deeply into your husband’s eyes as you decide who’s driving the swim team carpool this weekend.)
How Long Is Spring Break? Theme (March): I will send you all the old, dried up craft supplies from my closet, and—as a bonus for new subscribers—the leftover pieces from the puzzles and board games we got rid of last year.
Earth Day Theme (April): you will receive a box of leftover kitchen scraps to add to your compost. Good feelings for doing the right thing are included.
Mother’s Day Theme (May): I will send you two hours of free time. However, odds are good that you’ll waste it pinning things on Pinterest and feeling bad that you aren’t one of those moms making a forever-memory with your family.
School’s Out! Theme (June): June’s box comes with a summer calendar, marked with 100 days’ worth of superfun daily activities. Your family will enthusiastically do three of them in June (Spend a day at Water World! Hike the Monument Incline! Go out to breakfast in your pajamas!), one in July, and then spend all of August complaining that they’re bored.
Put Your Best Face Forward Theme (July): This month subscribers will receive all the old make up I’m going to clean out of the bathroom: clumpy mascara (your eyelashes have never looked this thick!), concealer that might not have dried out yet, and the Clinique lipstick samples I’ve been saving since 1989. You don’t want to miss July’s box!
This is just a sampling of the goodies in store for you with your TiredMombox! Subscription. Thank you for your support for the college of my son’s choice.
Fine print: A one year subscription is $19.99/month, plus $7.99/month shipping. There is a $5 shipping surcharge for the January box because the weights are heavy. May’s shipping is still $7.99 because you will have forgotten at that point that you’re paying for this every month, and you can’t figure out how to cancel your subscription.
Finer print: For the record, I was going to name this box something way cooler, but when I Googled the names, MomBox, SuperMomBox and WonderBox were already taken.)
“That’s right. It’s not true. It just feels true.”
Two: It happened on Monday, when we had one of our worst homeschooling days in a long time. There were tears (not just mine, which the children have come to expect so that they [the tears, not the children] make less impact than they might), and by the end of the day- when the work was still not finished- I locked myself if my room saying, “I don’t care what you do now, but I’m going to do some yoga.” I don’t think I slammed the door.
Three: We spent Sunday pulling out the garden, since it was going to freeze anyway. You may recall that I had planted mostly butternut squash and a tiny bit of carrots and broccoli, since everything else we get from our local CSA. I felt pretty boss when we brought all that squash inside. Also, we harvested a broccoli that was almost as tall as Phoebe.
Four: I made pot pie this week and thought I would be smart and put in some of the broccoli stem for extra bulk and nutrition. It seemed a little tough when I peeled it, but I figured it would soften up as it simmered. Spoiler: it did not. It remained the consistency of wood chips, and we had to pick it piece-by-piece out of the pot pie. And then it snowed.
Five: We spent the morning after the snow pulling out snow clothes so we could make a snowman and play outside, which was extremely fun for 17 minutes, and then the snow melted and I was left with snow pants or boots on every available surface. I will keep tripping over them until I put them away next May, when it will promptly snow again.
Six: I went for a run a few hours after the above photo was taken. I wore several shirts, my hat and mittens, and wool socks and dissolved a puddle of sweat after approximately eight minutes. But at least the view was stunning.
Seven: Now it’s Friday, and I cleaned all the old food out of the fridge. Look what I found! (I rock at this housekeeping thing.) I’m thinking that’s Aspergillus growing on what might have been cream cheese several years ago. I may have to feed my family actual wood chips later, but at least we’ll have a good science class first.