7QT: My baby is going to graduate

One: I ordered Jonah’s high school diploma today.

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.

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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?

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Calamity: You Have Dysentery

Fresh off the heels of winter break, I started in on Spring semester with new energy and a few new plans. I try not to overhaul everything, but I had a few changes to make:

  • make a few more field trips happen, especially with Phoebe and Moriah. (The boys online and college schedules make that more difficult for them.)
  • run longer distances regularly.
  • begin a more formal literature class with Owen and Moriah. I bought a few of Bravewriter’s Boomerang units to this end.

Our first field trip was to History Colorado, a museum in downtown Denver with some good hands-on exhibits on mining, small-town Colorado life in the early 20th Century, the displacement of Native Americans and the Sand Creek Massacre, and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. They also were advertising an Oregon Trail IRL exhibit, which fit right in with our history studies (and our generally sick sense of humor.) Alas, the Oregon Trail IRL is a special event (this Saturday only, tickets must be purchased in advance, if you’re interested.)

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Several days later, I came down with the stomach flu. It wasn’t actually dysentery, but it was close. Enough said, though it certainly put a stop to my running (ha) and most of our worthwhile activities at home.

Once I recovered, we had another field trip, this one to the Colorado Symphony’s Time Travel concert for grades 3-8. It was outstanding (and not just because no one came down with dysentery afterwards.) They began with a full orchestra and then “traveled” back through time to the Baroque period, explaining what the orchestra looked like then. As they moved their way forward, the orchestra grew, and each change was explained by a commentator between the pieces. The whole concert was one hour- just the right length for a squirrely fourth grader (not that we know anyone like that) and included John Williams’s Sherzo for X-wings from The Force Awakens. It was altogether a great concert, and I highly recommend it. (There’s another concert on Feb 6- the link to buy tickets for homeschoolers is here.)

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Anyway, I wish you lots of great field trips that don’t end in drawing a Calamity! card. If you have one to recommend, please post it in the comments.

Daybook: Mid-January

Outside my window: It’s 67 degrees and sunny. My windows are open and Julian (a.k.a. Cat#2) has spent the day watching birds at the window. The chickens even laid four eggs yesterday.

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In the kitchen: Cuban Flank Steak with Mango Salsa (from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game), and Deviled Eggs. I am very grateful everyone wants to cook right now. Phoebe (a.k.a. Chef #2) even cleaned up, but don’t say anything because I don’t want her scare her off from doing it again sometime by accident.

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Chef #2

At lunch, we had ice cream sandwiches. I think Mary Poppins had a song about that. “Just a small ice cream sandwich helps the algebra go down!” We listened to Randall Munroe’s Ted Talk on math answering cool questions.

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In the school room: One of the questions Randall Munroe can answer is, “How much force did Yoda use to raise Luke’s X-wing fighter from the Dagoba swamp?” (He needed Star Wars wikipedia page to find out the mass of an X-wing fighter and the gravity on Dagoba.) And here’s a link to Wired Magazine, where they calculate the physics of the tie-fighters’ formation in the Star Wars trailer. Just in case you needed it for some lunch-time math.

We are also reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter right now, but the effect is blunted by our own balmy weather.

On my reading table: I just read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which Owen & Moriah are reading for school. I’m listening to A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter. I thought I was almost to the end, and then I checked and I’m only on chapter 16 out of 34. I’m not sure what’s going on, or if I’m going to be able to get through it all the way before the library yanks it off my device. And I’m reading Helen Thorpe’s The Newcomers, which is excellent.

Grateful: for tomorrow’s release of my second book, Lost Things. I’ll be over at Karen’s Killer Book Bench tomorrow with details on its release, an excerpt and a giveaway. If you can’t wait that long, all the pre-order links are here.

I’m also grateful for the two cats (Graycee and Julian) who joined our family last week.

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A game of Bird Bingo with Julian.

Praying for: Mandy, Bishop Gerry, Austen, Lori, Ruth, Christine. Refugees. Patience. For our cats to become friends.

Snow books

It’s finally snowing here for our first day of winter break, and we’re going to pull out all our favorite snow books today. They are (in no particular order):

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The charm in Uri Shulevitz’s Snow is that Boy with Dog knows better than everyone else who tells him it’s not going to snow. The illustrations are fantastic, and the sparse prose is exactly right.

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Virginia Lee Burton’s classic, Katie and the Big Snow, is chock full of details. The only thing I change when I read it aloud is “The doctor couldn’t get her patient…”

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Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon perfectly captures the haunting silence of a snowy night.

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Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day was Phoebe’s favorite when she was little (and I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that I substituted her name in for the main character’s.)

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Jaqueline Briggs Martin’s Snowflake Bentley is the true story of Wilson Bentley, the man whose passion for natural beauty led him to photograph snowflakes. His work was amazing, and this children’s book about him is beautiful.

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I loved Carolyn Haywood’s Snowbound with Betsy growing up and dug an ancient copy up a few years ago. I still love it.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter haunts my dreams: the food running out, the Christmas box that couldn’t make it, the cutting for the train…

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Winter Holiday, the third book in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, takes place on a frozen lake and is full of all the fun you imagine you’d have with like-minded kids and utter freedom.

I don’t think we’re going to have enough snow to give me time to read all of them today… but I’m going to give it a shot. What snow books am I missing?

Daybook: Mid-December

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Outside my window: dark. And cold, too, though it’s supposed to warm up enough for a comfortable run later. Whether I’ll have time is  different matter.

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In my shoes: I’ve been running at the end of the day again. Somehow, between the aforementioned darkness and cold, I can’t quite get myself in gear to run before our school day starts. Instead I’ve had a few beautiful sunset runs, one under the Supermoon (which connected me with a whole bunch of moon-runners on Instagram) and one where I saw an enormous owl, whom I managed not to scare away.

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In the kitchen: I’m in a cooking funk.  I write out meal plans but don’t want to go to the store, so when it comes to four o’clock and I drag myself back into the kitchen (which is invariably awash in piles of dishes and school books and bags and mail) I realize I don’t have some crucial ingredient.  Some weeks are like that, even in Australia.*

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When I went though my photos last week, I found that I had taken almost the exact same photo of this ornament 7 years ago. His name is Harry. He’s what I feel like every day at 4:30p.m., which is exactly why I need to run in the afternoon.

On my reading pile: We started our annual reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and we all sat around chuckling at the same jokes as we always do. I love that book. When I’m without children, I’m reading Lydia Reeder’s Dust Bowl Girls, which I mentioned over here on my book blog.

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In the school room: I realized a few weeks ago that we hadn’t been doing enough art.  My high schoolers were whining and complaining when we did it, so I’d been skipping it, but my youngers need a lot of art. So we’re back to sitting at the table while I read, at least once a week. The boys can opt out if they want, but I’m making it available. (More often than not, they join in, even though they’re too cool# for it.)

We’re doing our exams this week on history and literature. This involves narrations (e.g., drawing a comic, making an annotated diagram, writing a page, or asking 5 questions about the reading).

Also, it’s recital season. Last week we had two recitals (one piano, one piano and violin), and this week we have a concert and two Nutcracker performances. It must be December.

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Grateful for: great music teachers. My in-laws’ beautiful reminiscences of their dad last week. Xeljanz. Running. The upcoming release of my book, Lost Things.^

Praying for: Mandy, Judi, Lori, Christine, Bishop Gerry, Scott, Aimee, Austen. All those who are mourning lost loved ones more than ever at this time of year. Refugees and those who minister among them.

*No, I’m not in Australia. #No, it’s not humanly possible to be too cool for art. ^Coming out January 10, 2018.

Daybook: late October

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Outside my window: Still dark. But once the sun comes up, there will be leaves to rake and a crisp morning. I’m hoping to make it out for a run today.

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This autumn has felt especially colorful and precious to me, and I think it’s because I missed much of autumn last year because of my injury. I couldn’t run, or even really walk around the neighborhood, because my foot hurt so badly. Now I am so grateful to be outside.

In the kitchen: my mental energy is elsewhere right now, so it’s going to be easy staples this week: simple soups (butternut squash, potato-dill, Jerusalem lentil) and eggs of various kinds. And maybe some pumpkin ribbon bread.

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In the school room: Phoebe had a breakthrough last week, seeing some progress in areas that have been challenging for her. I think it’s very hard to be the youngest- she spends a lot of time thinking she’s behind, when really, she’s just younger.

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Meanwhile, Jonah is working hard on college and scholarship applications. This process has shown me where lie some gaping holes in my educational plans. It’s hard to be the oldest- he’s the guinea pig for all my theories.

Today is the end of our first quarter. We need to get to the library for new books (and return all ones that are overdue…)  I think it’s time to schedule a reading day.

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We collected a bunch of leaves two weeks ago before the snow, and last week I got around to ironing them in waxed paper.  The kids couldn’t remember the word for ironing board and were very puzzled as to why I had it out. We certainly never use it for ironing clothes.

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Grateful for: second (and third and fourth) chances. The medical miracle I witnessed last week. Friends.

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While Jonah and I look at colleges this weekend, Owen’s going to visit his godparents. I am so grateful for our children’s godparents and their investment in our kids.

Sam and I had a chance to get away this weekend. It was a trip we’d scheduled and then had to cancel last year. We slept in, read books, ran long, and ate delicious meals we didn’t have to prepare or clean up afterwards. So many gifts.

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Praying for: New life, both literal and metaphorical. Mandy. Luke. Upcoming college visits. Discipline. Our group of four young confirmands at church as they prepare for confirmation.

 

Seven Quick Takes: Smack down edition

One: In accordance with the cosmic law that Low Must Follow High (I know it’s not true, but it feels true), I am here to report on the smack down that followed my last message of hope and encouragement.


“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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