The sky has been really beautiful. I’ve been walking a lot and trying to notice.
In the kitchen:
In the school room:
We are finishing up the semester. Today there was a field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Owen and I took a walk. They told me about Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935.) We talked about Charlotte Mason’s homeschool philosophy. And Owen told me I had prepared them well for a college literature class. (There are not enough heart emojis in the world to put after this statement.)
We have a few things planned this month, though we’ve already had a cancel or reschedule a few of them. Phoebe, Sam and I made it to Zoo Lights two weeks ago during the Members’ nights. It was warm and not crowded. The porcupine was super active, and the llamas and elephants were all out. It was lovely.
The Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light is on the schedule, as is the Lion King at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (these are the tickets we bought as a family Christmas gift 2 years ago!) Our rescheduled date for the Wonderbound’s December performance, Winterland, is this week. And this weekend was Mo’s Nutcracker, which was delightful. It sounds like a lot, but it works out to one outing a week. The rest of the month we are watching Christmas movies together and playing games. (If you’re looking for suggestions, check out Connie Willis’s list of Christmas movies at the end of her book of stories, A Lot Like Christmas.)
On my mind:
When my kids were little, I had a lot of plans. Not just long-term plans for what I wanted our life to look like, but also small plans. When we finish x, we move on to y. A lot of that was survival as a mom surrounded by small people, but much of it was an illusion of control. I might had control over where all the bodies were at a given moment, but I never had control over what my kids learned from our time together.
Both our college students were home for a week at Thanksgiving. Double bonus, they’ll both be home over Christmas. As they’re growing and reflecting back on our years together, I get to hear more of what they really thought as we learned together. I get to share the Why behind the How. Sometimes, it worked out the way I wanted it to. Sometimes, it backfired.
Anyway, these next few weeks I am trying to hold things lightly. Plans, secret hopes, get togethers: they may happen, they may not. I am trying to have open hands, so that I can receive what comes rather than looking for something different. And I am trying to be open to letting go of my expectations.
Out my window: our maple tree is in its full glory. I love this tree.
In the kitchen: Mo made me this fantastic birthday cake topped with maple leaves. We were watching Little Women (2019) yesterday, and I requested Marmee’s cake. (I don’t know what flavor hers was, but mine was carrot.)
In the garden: Last week there was a freeze alert. The clouds moved in, six snowflakes swirled around without actually touching the ground, and Phoebe and I ran outside to bring in the last of the tomatoes and herbs. The kitchen was covered in rosemary, sage, chives and thyme. Bunches of rosemary are hanging in Phoebe’s room to dry, and I had trays of them in the oven. Then Sam turned on the oven to make the satay. Three minutes later the whole house smelled of rosemary. Anyway, today I have to crush all the dried herbs into jars to reclaim the counters.
Pro tip: fresh herbs in flower bouquets smell amazing.
In the school room: Mo is putting the finishing touches on her essays for the Common App. Colorado has a free day (this year, it’s been extended to three days) for applying to the state colleges. It’s a good nudge to get the application done early. We are reading Annie Dillard for English and have moved into the 19th Century in US History.
This week’s topic in 8th grade Economics is inflation. Yesterday we tried to find the exact items included in the Consumer Basket of Goods, which is surprisingly hard to find. Phoebe’s going to make her own basket of “essentials” and compare prices from three months ago. We will use this same basket later when we talk about purchasing power parity.
This week’s Chemistry includes Nova’s Beyond the Elements, hosted by David Pogue. We’ve also been reading Sharon Creech’s lovely One Time together.
We also have lots of volleyball on the schedule this week.
On my reading table: In addition to the above school books, I’m reading two (as yet) unpublished novels for fellow writers and Elizabeth Hoyt’s Not the Duke’s Darling. I just finished Margaret Mizushima’s seventh Maddie Cobb novel, Striking Range. So good.
Grateful for: friends loving on my kids who are far away. So many birthday messages (thank you!) Miles on my feet. Snuggles with my kids at home. Sam (a million times, Sam.) Our mental health team. All the folks at church who are putting our youth space together.
We went to Wonderbound’s October ballet, Penny’s Dreadful, last Friday. Wonderbound is a local dance company known for their collaboration with other artists and their contemporary choreography. We love their shows. They bought a new performance space last year, and it was set up as a café in Paris. The ballet was a vampire story. I don’t even like vampires, but I loved the show, and we had a great night.
Praying for: friends with big decisions on their plates. That my kids would know how much they are loved. My aunt. Those who work, or watch, or weep this night.
September has been the month of college. We moved Owen into their dorm in Chicago, and Sam and I have been working with Mo on applications.
Thirty years ago my parents steered me toward a small liberal arts college, but what did they know? I thought I knew everything at 18 and chose a state school across the country because a) it was really far away and b) it offered me a full scholarship. I never considered the similarities between that school and the university down the road I had soundly rejected, though I could articulate clearly the reasons why University Down the Block was not right for me. I’m not sure if visiting State School Across the Country would have made alarm bells ring for me, but certainly a semester of classes did the trick. During my freshman year there, I applied to five completely different schools, abandoned my scholarship, and ended up at a much smaller liberal arts college that was a great fit for me.
So you can imagine my great apprehension about my kids’ applying to college as homeschoolers. This seems silly to me in retrospect, since I applied to nine colleges myself and then to medical schools three years later. I should be an ace application coach. But this felt different, because we didn’t have the high school application machine behind us.
Mo is my third college applicant, and I have a few suggestions for how you as a parent can make your child’s application process smoother.
One: Keep good records all the way through high school, including book lists.
Not every school requires this, but some colleges want a detailed list of the classes you offered at home and the books you studied. This blog was my secret weapon, but if you don’t have years of curriculum blogging to turn to, you can look back to your school planner/calendar. Our library keeps a running list of all the books we’ve checked out over the years (happily without an asterisk on every book that we turned in late.) If you haven’t kept good records so far, be kind to your future self and start now.
Your child should be keeping a list of their volunteer engagements, awards, speaking opportunities, honor societies, quiz bowl championships, etc. This list will be helpful for several purposes:
·The adults who have agreed to write your student’s recommendation letters will need the details in order to highlight your child’s strengths.
·This will be invaluable to your student in writing down all their accomplishments for school and scholarship applications.
Two: Location, location location.
Our one rule for our kids’ college search has been to choose a school where we have someone we we can call to sit with them in the emergency room until we can get there.
This rule led Jonah to an excellent school that has been a great fit and is 10 minutes from his godmother.
This rule led Owen to an excellent school in Chicago where we have both family and dear friends.
This rule helped Mo’s list of zero schools expand to eight colleges in five cities. The amount of mail my kids get from colleges is overwhelming. Mo didn’t have any idea where to start looking, but Google did the work for her when she put “college in _______ with dance and math majors” into the search bar.
Three: Don’t let finances determine where you apply.
Finances come later, after your student has been accepted.
I had the misconception that we would only be able to afford a public state college. I’m not convinced that piecing together twenty small scholarships to cover a big bill is worth it, but the extra financial resources of private colleges/universities changed the financial equation for us.
Jonah got into several liberal arts colleges we considered more or less equivalent in quality, cost and prestige, but using the same data, they calculated our financial aid completely differently. I have no doubt that he ended up at the right school, but we almost didn’t apply there because I thought the cost would be prohibitive.
Four: As much as possible, use the Common App.
Remember when every college had its own application? Me too. The good news is that many colleges have come together to streamline the application process. The Common App allows your student to fill in all the demographic and school information once online, and send later it to as many colleges as they desire. The Common App includes a common essay, with a variety of prompts to choose from. Alas, individual colleges still have individual fees for applying. That part didn’t change.
Five: Consider using supplemental classes or test scores to help standardize your child’s application.
While a huge benefit of homeschooling is the individuality of our kids’ educations, this must be hard for colleges to interpret. Does “Alternative linguistic structure in creative writing” mean my child taught themselves full Elfin grammar from the Silmarillion and wrote a 300-page epic fantasy fan fic novelin Elfin, or does it mean they made captions for four memes that were popular on Twitter? I say, put it all on the transcript, but prepared to include in some detail what that meant for your kid. (See #1 above.)
If your kid has a strong traditional academic background as well, be sure to highlight it. Community college coursework, summer classes at your local college, and nationally standardized exams are helpful to schools trying to understand where your child fits academically. I’m not talking about just the ACT and SAT. AP exams and the National Latin Exam would work for this, too.
Six: Start thinking early about the application essay(s).
The Common App essay prompts are released in late summer and are good topics for early fall writing. The application essay is your child’s opportunity to show off their special interest in medieval armor, African dance, or matrices. Of course the essay should be well written and comply with the word-count guidelines.
We’ve gotten mixed feedback from friends/teachers my kids asked to read their essays. Advice leaned toward writing a generic, self-aggrandizing essay that highlighted the child’s academic strengths. But the schools my kids were most excited about asked questions that encouraged creativity. The schools that accepted them quickly and gave them the most scholarships were the schools for which my kids took risks in their essays. If I were reading thousands of college application essays, I would certainly notice the ones that demonstrated an unusual interest or sense of humor about a universal experience.
Many schools have essay requirements above and beyond the Common App essay. One is often some variation of, “Tell what aspects of our school make us your ideal college.” Rather than rolling your eyes at this one, use it to prod your kid to look beyond the shiny brochure that came in the mail to consider the school’s unique strengths or weaknesses. As we did the research for this with Owen, it became abundantly clear that a school high on their list would be a terrible fit.
If you’re looking at schools early enough, you may find essay prompts that work for multiple schools. These are the supplemental essays about the applicant. “Tell us something you are passionate about and that your application would be incomplete without mentioning.” Save time and choose to write these essays instead of ones that might work for only one school.
Seven: Get help with essay mentoring if you need it.
If coaching is writing is not your strength as a parent, or your parent/child relationship is too strained right now to do this, I encourage you to outsource your essay coaching. While putting themselves on paper for strangers to read may seem like the biggest hurdle, in reality our kids might have a harder time putting themselves into writing for us. The dance of self-revelation is a delicate one, and you might not be the best coach at this time for your kid.
Eight: Early Decision and EarlyAction are different beasts. Early Decision allows a student to apply to only one college early (usually around November 1,) and if they are accepted, they are committed to that school even before seeing the financial aid package.
Early Action, which is not offered at many schools, allows a student early consideration of their application. They may apply to multiple other schools for Early or Regular Decision, and they do not have to commit to a school until the regular deadline in the spring (after financial aid has been awarded.)
We had good luck with Early Action for Owen. I think it made their application stand out in a year with record college admissions. Being admitted early also meant that the school began considering them for merit-based aid early, while there was still money to be spent.
Nine:Consider visiting a few schools at some point, but don’t make this the pinnacle of your process.
With Jonah, we visited a few schools in the fall of senior year. This backfired, as those became the only schools where he could imagine himself. Then, when those weren’t the schools he got into or we could afford, he felt disappointed and stuck. We finally visited his most affordable choice at the end of April, and he found his people within ten minutes of arriving on campus. It all worked out, but I wished we had been more strategic in visiting categories of schools instead of particular favorites.
Owen had a chance to visit two large state schools, Jonah’s small college, and a mid-sized urban private school before applying. We talked about these as prototypes rather than specific college options. We had plans to visit Owen’s top two or three choices before making a decision, but COVID made all college visits virtual which wasn’t helpful.
For Mo, we made a list based on location and her unusual choice of major (see #2.) We plan to wait and see where she gets in, what her financial aid looks like, and the state of the pandemic before visiting her top choice(s).
Ten: Most importantly, keep college in perspective.
College is not the end point of education. College does not define a person’s worth. Having a college degree does not make someone educated. It does not guarantee kindness, happiness, or meaningful work.
Our kids have internalized pressure that Sam and I never intended them to feel, and it has caused them a world of hurt. Make sure your teenager has no opportunity to misinterpret your enthusiasm for the next step of their schooling for a statement about their worth as a human.
Out my window: It’s harvest time. The peach tree has been heavy laden, and we’ve been harvesting and freezing peaches as quickly as we can. The days are still hot, but the nights are fresh enough to make the house cool again.
In the garden: uh, peaches. And my tomatoes are slowly coming in. Our fruit trees all managed to bloom between the terrible snowstorms last spring, so we also had a bounty crop of pears, which were delicious. We ate pear upside down cake four times and ate pears for days.
In the kitchen: Sam pulled a bunch of long-frozen meat out of the freezer to make room for the aforementioned fruit, and we had a highly successful brisket he made in the Instant Pot. Tonight will be red lentil dal and naan, just to balance out all the meat.
In the school room: School has been a mixed bag thus far. Calculus at the community college is good, except for the parking situation which is disastrous. Volleyball starts this week, and anxiety is high- but we have been playing volleyball almost daily, which is fantastic. My cousin (who is an actual volleyball player) and her BF came to play with us. They even brought their own net. We can’t wait to do it again.
Literature has been good: 8th grade is reading Shakespeare this month, and we’re watching lots of adaptations for comparison. (Two thumbs up for 10 Things I Hate About You; She’s the Man didn’t have enough soccer and was pretty cringe-worthy. And why wasn’t Title IX a thing in 2006? Next up: The Lion King.)
We finished Garlic & Sapphires (Reichl) for senior English- so good. It has inspired lots of exploratory college essays (i.e., describe an event/place you participated in from two different perspectives. How was your experience different in each case? How were you different during the two experiences?)
I completely miscalculated 8th grade Chemistry and chose a textbook that requires tons of high school math. So this weekend I scrapped it and redid my curriculum. While that was a pain, I loved going through all the archived episodes of Science Friday to find ones that would supplement my lessons. (Next up, World-Class Tips for the Home Fermenter!)
We are gathering college dorm supplies. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have bought a used bike when we were in Chicago in the spring and figured out how to store it. Instead, I will be looking for a used bike 3 weeks AFTER every other college student in Chicago just bought one.
In my shoes: No running. I’m still walking, riding my bike to work and playing lots of volleyball. One of our favorite races is back- the Mac N Cheese 5K– and it’s supporting our favorite charity, Foster Source, so come join us!
Grateful for: Sam and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary. He is such a gift to me. Also: we played croquet in fabulous hats at youth group on Sunday, and on Saturday some of us put carpet in the new youth room. (It’s coming together!)
Praying for: Haiti. Afghanistan. Refugees everywhere. Those affected by Ida. Those who mourn. The isolated. The lonely. The sick. Health care workers (I see you, lab techs and chaplains and respiratory techs!) caring for those with COVID-19 and all the other viruses going around right now. Jen. Mandy. Judy. My kids.
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.
Outside my window: we had a weirdly rainy June, and July has been an oven, so everything is very green and extra enormous, even the weeds. Somehow the fruit trees managed a huge bloom between the late spring snowstorms, so the fruit trees are heavy with tiny pears and peaches. The roses finished blooming just as the Japanese beetles were arriving, so the beetles have thus far been thwarted. It’s like everything and everyone spent the entire last year of quarantine planning how to make up for lost time.
In the kitchen: the saga of the Seven (actually we’re down to five) Silly Eaters continues. Do you know that book? It’s my favorite Mary Ann Hoberman book, and Martha Frazee’s illustrations are perfect. One of our therapists recommended eating out more as a form of exposure therapy, and so instead of my cooking weird, crazy meals to meet multiple people’s dietary needs, we spend hours each week arguing over which restaurant to go to. Will it be too crowded? Do they use paper or cloth napkins? Are they paying a living wage to their workers? It’s fun, I tell you.
In the school room: It is summer, so I’m not actually teaching anything formally. However, Moriah is doing the Colorado Governor’s school but over Zoom, just so that every postponed fun thing we were looking forward to would be dead by the time we do it. It’s been full of lessons in “independent time management” with her family peering in the French doors to make sure she’s not playing computer games on the side and wasting this beautiful opportunity.
Somehow Jonah’s postponed summer research program managed to assemble twenty vaccinated college students who are all obsessed with biology, and he has had an amazing summer doing ornithology research, hiking in the Great Smokey Mountains, watching Planet Earth and applying for graduate school.
Owen has been working long hours lifeguarding at a very sunny, very crowded outdoor pool, or as I like to think about it, “reflecting on the benefits of higher education.” It will also make them grateful to go on vacation with us, so there’s that.
Phoebe’s summer has been a hodgepodge of pet sitting, speaking at environmental rallies, volunteering at the botanic gardens, diving, and complaining. She won her age group’s regional diving meet last week after a very controversial, late protest lodged by the East German judge that will go down in history. Today we’re headed to the country club for the state meet. The riffraff is reminded to bring their own towels and that the use of cell phones and the wearing of denim is not allowed.
On my reading pile: Ostensibly I’m prepping for our fall classes, including Moriah’s senior English literature class and a middle school course on the economics of the Green New Deal. (Teach to their interests, right?) In reality, it means I’ve been rereading all my favorite memoirs (including Tina Fey’s Bossypants on audio) and wondering how the planet is going to survive capitalism.
In my shoes: This has been the Summer of the Hike for me. It’s not the once a week I fantasized about, but it’s certainly more hiking than I’ve done in recent memory.
Grateful: We have continued our dinnertime practice of gratitude, and it works! It works! There is far too much to list here, but I am grateful for the chance to celebrate my dad’s birthday with him, some vacation on the horizon, being back at church in person, Moriah’s dance company’s fantastic production of Giselle, and an army of tiny origami pigs.
Praying: to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
One: it’s unbelievable to me, but we are graduating child #2. We were able to host a senior recital at a church near us. Both the space and the weather were perfect: open windows let the evening light, fresh air and birdsong in; we had room to sit distanced from one another; and the piano was beautiful. We had an opportunity to thank of three of Owen’s four music teachers. All in all, it felt miraculous on many levels.
My heart is very full. There were many days- months- when I didn’t think we would get here. I am reminded of Owen’s asking us in 7th grade, “What would you think if I went to public high school?” I grieved then, both that my daily time with them would be less than what I expected, but more that Owen’s passion hadn’t revealed itself. Owen couldn’t see the benefit to homeschooling. Six months later, when the time came to choose a school, Owen told us, “I only asked what you would think. I didn’t say I wanted to go.” But the reality was that in the intervening six months, they had discovered music. It was one step on a long, hard road, and music often was not enough- but I am so grateful we are here today.
At this point Owen doesn’t plan to study music in college, but I am so grateful for the last four years and the time they devoted to it. It has more than repaid them.
Two: Jonah was home for a week, and it was lovely. It was also so busy I could barely see straight. He left this weekend for a summer environmental studies research program in Kentucky. Two month ago, Sam and I started piling his summer supplies on his desk and felt ridiculous for doing it so early. However when the tornado of the week began, I was very grateful everything was ready.
Three: Phoebe’s summer plans are coming together. She will continue her environmental justice work and was thrilled to be invited to speak at a recent rally at the Capitol.
She was accepted into the Denver Botanic Garden’s Horticulture volunteer program. She was hoping for 30 hours/wk, but it turns out she will get 2-4 hours/wk. It’s not enough, but it’s something. It will be such a relief for her to leave the house. Also, she got her first vaccine last week, so there’s that. I am so grateful for the vaccine.
Four: My friend Lori is now running a food truck for ice cream sandwiches. Hooray! Not only did we get to go to the soft opening, we got to eat ice cream sandwiches! Hooray! And fate conspired to give us this super fun photo of us in our matching jackets. Hooray!
Five: I finally had my first mammogram. And colon cancer screening. And DEXA scan. Turning fifty is no joke, friends.
Six: My neighbor offered his & his son’s services to lay down new mulch and dig the dandelions out of our front yard. (And two days later, another neighbor asked if he could come dig them out for me for free.) So the front yard looks good. However, the back yard is a forest of dandelions.
Seven: Now that summer is officially here, I’m hoping to reinstate some routine into my days. Daily prayer, yoga, walking/running, reading, cooking, hiking, gardening, preparing for fall school… and tea on the porch. Want to join me?
The longer I go without writing in this space, the more overwhelmed I feel about trying to dive back in. So I’m going to ignore how deep the water looks (and how much life has changed over the past 10 months) and just start writing.
Early on in the pandemic, Sam’s family decided to connect via Zoom, but given the sheer number of us and the age range (ages 1-77) we had to be creative about how to do that. We came up with some great ideas, and I want to share them here in case your family has been struggling to make your group Zoom (or Hangouts) time a success.
The Name Game
This is a game we play often when we get together, and it works online as long as everyone also has a phone (or an adult nearby has a phone.) We choose a theme (eg, Disney characters, or historical characters, or desserts) and designate one person as the Writer. Everyone else chooses a name (eg, Gaston, Rasputin, or Tiramisu) that fits in the category and reports it to the Writer one by one. The Writer records them all (just the names- no need to write down who chose each) and then reads the list twice to the assembled group. No worries if three people chose the same name: there will just be three people named Elsa.
It’s very important there’s no table talk about the names during the reading (i.e., no one asks, “Who’s LaFou?”) because that will cement the name in everyone else’s head, and there’s an advantage to choosing a forgettable name.
Once all the names have been read, the guessing begins. The goal is to be the last person guessed.
Player 1 guesses by asking another player if they are one of the names that were read. For example, “Phoebe, are you The Beast?” If she is, she joins Player 1’s team, Player 1 whispers their name to her, and they address another player to see if they can guess their identity and gather that player to their team. If she is not, then it is her turn to guess someone else, and so on. Each time an identity is successfully guessed, the players join together, creating larger and larger teams, until there are only two teams left trying to guess the still-unknown player’s names.
In person, we move around the room and reassort based on who the teams are. On Zoom, that couldn’t happen, but it still worked. This is a good game with lots of kids and adults of different ages. Only one person has to be able to read, and the slight timing disconnect online didn’t matter.
The Great Family Bake-Off
Five groups took part in this, and each one was tasked with making a dessert within a time limit using only the ingredients they had on hand. One household was designated as the judges. (They judged mostly on presentation, since we had people participating from multiple states.)
One challenge was for each household to make a trailer for a summer blockbuster movie. (We used an app, but several other groups made theirs simply by cutting a pasting video footage.)
I made a scavenger hunt, in which each household had fifteen minutes to find/make as many items on the following list as they could. (I recommend assigning assigning points generously.)
greatest number of mismatched spoons (1 pt each)
smallest Christmas tree
best pet costume
most inspiring fridge magnet
keys (1 point each)
condiments from take-out restaurants (1 pt each)
creature from outer space
most complete puzzle
most expired food
the most Draw 4 cards from Uno
a rainbow of somethings (crayons, t-shirts, etc.)
the most annoying toy sound
The best part of this challenge was enjoying each other’s offerings for each category.
We’ve played a variety of games over Zoom: Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary being the most successful.
After schools restarted in the fall, many of them virtually, more serious Zoom fatigue has slowed down our online adventures, but we’re game for some more, if you have some to recommend. How has your family used technology to connect while far apart?
Outside my window: our maple tree is gorgeous. The crabapple already turned crimson and shed its leaves, and the maple is molting. But its color is still fantastic. Unfortunately, the warm, dry weather has been working on the side of the wildfires. I’ll trade my fall color for wet cold if it will put out the fires.
In the kitchen: this is birthday week, so the kitchen is full of treats. I’m trying to decide if cake with Spring Fling cake counts only as dessert or also as breakfast since it has zucchini and strawberries.
In the garden: the roses have revived now that the heat has passed. Also, the Japanese beetles seem to have died in that shockingly early snow/light freeze, so nothing is currently eating the roses. They’re gorgeous. I still have green tomatoes and butternut squash I’ll have to bring in before the temperature drops to the 20’s this weekend. Also, my spinach isn’t going to plant itself.
In the school room: Next week we start The Merchant of Venice. (And yes, Moriah, they do stand around in the street and argue a lot.) There was confusion over some concepts in AP Calc, so I hired a tutor. How lucky I am to have a college student/math tutor living in our basement!
In my shoes: I’m dealing with some foot pain that I think is going to need an X-ray and some extended rest, so the running miles are paused. I am walking, though, including a beautiful walk this weekend at the Lincoln Marsh outside Chicago. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.
Grateful: for a masked, socially distant birthday gathering with Sam’s family this weekend.
I had the opportunity to join a book club this week as they discussed one of my books, Lost Things. It is such a joy to connect with readers.
Colorado has universal vote-by-mail, for which I am so grateful. We have an enormous ballot that encompasses everything from President to local initiatives (should we reintroduce gray wolves? anyone?) and I can’t imagine trying to manage all of the issues and people in a ballot box with a line of people waiting behind me.
On my mind: Our Bible study just finished discussing Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. I highly recommend this book for a group discussion. He presents the concepts of racism in its many, varied forms and triangulates them with academic vocabulary, historical context and Kendi’s own personal journey. It’s not an easy book by any means, but easy books on systemic racism aren’t going to get us where we need to go as a nation.
Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Heidi. Justine & Aaron. Lori. Families. People who are lonely. The sick and those in quarantine, waiting to know if they will get sick. Teachers and parents who don’t want to be teachers. Students. Firefighters and those whose homes have been lost or threatened. Essential workers. People without work. Health care providers and public health officials. Justice. The end of systemic racism. The election.
Economics: we just unpacked the 2008 financial crisis and the TARP. One of my daughters is ruthless in Monopoly, and every time I remind everyone, “it’s only a game,” my budding economist reminds me the real world is more and more like a brutal game of Monopoly.
Botany: our fall seeds have arrived, and we will be planting soon. I’m saving my butternut squash and Roma tomatoes, but Phoebe pulled everything out of hers in anticipation of using her (newly repaired- thanks, Heidi!) cold frame. Thus: fried green tomatoes. The worms are still wriggling around out in their bin. I’m not sure how much they like the swing from 48 degrees in the morning and 84 degrees in the afternoon. We also did a unit on tulips.
AP Literature & Composition: We’ve decided that literary annotation is like showing your work in math: no one likes it, but it’s necessary. Yesterday I was accused of running a sexist literature class because with the exception of some of our poetry, we’re reading only female authors. Whatever. She’s got her whole life to read Hemingway.
7th grade: the mishmash that is the rest of 7th grade continues. Some serious math discouragement has given way to a new confidence. She took her first “real” exam (and then had her first experience with grading on a curve.) On Sept 25, the Global Day of Climate Action we joined a youth rally run by the Colorado Climate Strike, Indigenous Youth Council and 350 Colorado. It was so good. She continues to cook through an enormous vegetarian cookbook, and my friend Danielle gave her a sourdough tutorial. If you need her, she’ll be feeding her starter. Or making sourdough bread. Or sourdough pancakes. Or sourdough crackers. Sourdough, anyone?
Five: Quote of the week:
Papa and Grandma don’t overspoil us. They spoil us the perfect amount.
Six: After an early storm that brought snow but didn’t manage to kill anything in my yard, we are having a beautiful fall. (Yes, I probably just jinxed us.) We replaced the redbud tree that died in a brutal spring cold snap with… (drum roll please) another redbud. This one already looks better than the first one, though- somehow it never overcame its identity as Charlie Brown’s redbud tree.
Seven: We went up to the mountains for an afternoon to watch elk. Why is this always such a highly satisfying activity? We also found an open bookstore, which we greatly enjoyed. There were, however, lots of tourists wearing Nebraska and Iowa t-shirts and no masks. (That part we did not enjoy.)