7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.





Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.


I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”




Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

When you can’t take the real news any more, check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.


7QT: Summer Screen Time

Although our weather doesn’t quite feel like summer yet (we had 6 inches of snow a week ago), the kids are in full summer mode, which means eating popsicles, staying up late, and trying to have non-stop computer time.

Last summer, we implemented a checklist in order to make sure our days had some redeeming qualities, amidst the hours of screen time.  It worked so well, I’m implementing it again.  This year I’m trying to hold them to the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendation for no more than 2 hours* of screens per day, although some of us can do an hour just in the bathroom!)


So here, without ado, I present the 7 most common complaints in response to our summer screen time plan.

  1. Our friends can have as much computer time as they want! (I doubt this is true. In fact, I know it’s not true. It just feels true.)
  2. Owen’s been practicing for hours and won’t let any of the rest of us practice! (This one is actually true, and it’s why we now have two pianos.)


3. I’m doing __________ (swim team/ballet/gymnastics) later, so can that count as my exercise?



(The answer: not if you want to have computer time before you go.)

4. But there’s nothing to read!



5. But the house is already clean! (Ummm….. no.)

6. There’s nothing to make! (How about breakfast? Or lunch? Or dinner?)

7. But I’m so booooooooooored! (Actually no one uses this one, because when you’re bored at our house, it means you get to clean the bathroom.)

What does summer screen time look like for you?  Are you texting your kids in the bathroom to tell them to slide the iPad out under the door?

Go check out Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

*update: I had originally write 1 hour (the AAP recommendation for 2-5 years olds.)  My children were so mad about this that actually went and looked up the recommendation for themselves.  It’s two hours per day of any kind of screen, for children older than 5. And no screens in the bedrooms, because they’ve been shown to interfere with sleep.


7QT: the April blur

One: I can hardly remember back to Lent, even though we’re not a full two weeks into Easter.  I know I totally stank at my Lenten disciplines (does that mean I picked the right ones, since they drove me right into an awareness of my need for grace?). Instead, I spent every spare minute studying for my board exam.


Two: my friend Lori came to hang out with my kids during my exam.  (Excellent, but then I wanted to be with them the whole time!)  I should have the results just in time to register for the October exam again if I failed.

Three: One day while I was studying at Starbucks, a dog came in and got a puppiccino.  Apparently this is a thing.  And she liked it. A lot.


Four: I had a list of things as long as my arm that I’d put off whilst studying (think showering, cleaning, cooking, exercising, answering emails, and all the other work sundries that I wouldn’t let spill into our homeschooling time).  When I finished, however, I spent a week just reading novels because I was so fried.  This week I managed to drag on some clothes, do yoga twice, and put up our Easter tree.


Five: meanwhile, life marched on.  The girls had a dance performance at school.  Here’s Phoebe as Little Red [Riding Hood] and Moriah as a wolf (she’s the one in the furry legwarmers and scary make-up- second from the right):


Six: This week I am finally finding my groove again, though Sam traveled to the middle-of-nowhere FEMA training site to learn how to protect us all from Ebola.


Don’t you feel safer now?


They seem to be having a little too much fun.

Seven: Tuesday I got to watch my friends’ 11-month old.  He loves Moriah, so she did a bunch of the baby-toting, and to be honest, he slept a lot.  But when he was awake, I spent most of time trying to figure out how to baby-proof my kitchen.  It involved a lot of rubber bands and kitchen tools to prop open drawers.


What’s going on in your neck of the woods?  Hopefully no Ebola.  Check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!

7QT: Spring break

This week was our spring break, so most of our time was spent pretending the children weren’t playing video games and watching bad Disney TV.  But I have a few photos to share.

One: Last weekend was Mo’s contemporary dance show, which involved transporting large numbers of costumes from the studio to the theater, and large amounts of dancing and portable snacks.  Not my strong suit.


Sorry for the blurry photo, but it’s actually hard to take photos in the dark.

Two: After the performance, we drove up to the mountains, where spring has hit for real.  The aspen trees are blooming (I didn’t know they did that, actually. Who knew?) and the snow in places was like mashed potatoes.  But still, skiing beats not skiing.


Three: The day all four of us skied, Phoebe spent the morning saying she wanted to go home.  We talked her into eating lunch on the mountain, and then she spent the afternoon racing us all down the hill. We are calling it a case of severe hypoglycemia-induced orneriness.

She was determined to ski her first black diamond, so we ended up on this horrible moguly run that had me frightened for her.  But when she saw a shortcut off it to the run next door (as it were), she stood up and skied bumpity bump off the mogul run, leaving me trying to catch up.  She did her first black without event, and then ran into a fire extinguisher getting out of the pool later and gave herself a huge egg on her head.


Four:  I’m not normally into movies, but this week we watched several.  First, we saw Hidden Figures.  What a great film.  How come I had never heard of these awesome women before?  (Because they’re black, that’s why. Our country is so messed up.)  The movie was great.

Five: Then we watched Wag the Dog, a 1997 comedy. (IMDb’s description: Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal.)  It’s rated R, but without graphic visuals on anything.  The dialogue moves quickly and is so cynical.  The commentary on our political scene is prescient.  Who knew I’d ever be missing George W?  Next up: Dave.

Six: And because one dark comedy isn’t enough, then we watched Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, a 1964 comedy about the insanity of the Cold War and fluoridation.

Seven: Now we’re headed down the mountain a day early, hoping to beat the storm that’s promising to freeze all the flowers on our peach tree.


Somehow the tree survived last year’s freeze.  And despite what I thought in 8th grade, we all survived the Cold War.  Here’s hoping.

7QT: Can we take the rest of the month off?


One: Our run of warm, dry winter days has ended.  Last Sunday, I saw these flowers coming up.  Today, our emerging tulips are frozen and buried.


Two: It’s February, which means everything feels like a slog. Why is that?


Three: We’ve been shaking up our school subjects in little ways, like multiplying with sugar cubes and writing poetry with magnets, but there’s only so much I can do to lighten the load for my high schooler.



Four: last week I registered him for the ACT, the SAT subject test and 2 AP exams. (Between his exams and my Boards, this spring is going to be full of bubbles.) It took me three hours just to register him, and I speak the language. I can’t imagine trying to negotiate this in a second language, or without experience.

Product DetailsFive: Meanwhile, we’re still plodding away on all our reading.  We listened to The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread (Kate DiCamillo) on the way to ski last week. It falls in the category of Good Books that Are Saving My Life Right Now.  Neither of the girls remembered it from the last time we read it.  The audiobook is fantastic; the story (and storytelling) are truly wonderful.


Six: The children have played that digital piano into the ground.  Two notes are malfunctioning, so it sounds just like a broken hammer on an actual piano.  Owen still plays it three or four hours a day.


Seven: We made it up to ski again, this time for an entire day. Phoebe did her first terrain park. I did not ski the box with them.


Now they want to know when they can ski without me. Just because I wouldn’t ski the box! So rude.  Soon they’re going to be asking me to drop them at the gondola.

Go check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.

SQT: home from the hospital

One:  Sam is home.  This is the important thing.  They sent us home Tuesday, less than twenty-four hours after they cut a seven centimeter incision into his abdomen. (TMI? At least there’s no photo.)  At last they glued it closed (and maybe used a few stitches under the skin) before they kicked him out.

Two: Consequently he has a new respect for all you women who have had C-sections and then had to care for babies afterward.  This is no joke.

Three: This leaves me to be the mean caregiver who is consequently yelling at him all the time to walk around and use his incentive spirometer, since we don’t have any nurses to do it for us.  Hopefully his pain medicine will keep him from remembering much of this.

Four: Now that he’s home, the children can stop worrying that he’s going to die and focus on complaining about how much math I assigned them.

Five: And fighting over who gets to put up which figure from the Advent calendar.  This is the one time of year I wish I had five children instead of four, because 25 divided by 4 has a remainder, so it is NEVER FAIR who gets to put Baby Jesus in the manger.  I have one child to whom fairness is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. And who ALWAYS TALKS in CAPITAL LETTERS when THINGS ARE NOT FAIR.

Six: We are discovering that our friends are amazing cooks.  Especially of ice cream. My children have never had it so good.

Seven: Ack! I have to go! There are only 5 eggo waffles left, and who will get the fifth waffle?  IT’S NOT FAIR! (I am so glad to be home!)

Check out Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes as I pack for Guatemala

1. So I’m leaving tomorrow and still haven’t packed anything.  I am a packing procrastinator, and this time I’m glad I waited because LAST NIGHT I found out that we will be staying at the banana plantation where the clinic is (think 90 degrees F and 95% humidity with no breeze) instead of at the coffee farm (50 degrees with misty rain at night).  I need a totally different set of accoutrements.

Where I thought we’d be staying:

2. Like a mosquito net soaked in DEET.  I don’t want malaria. Or dengue.

3. When we lived in Cairo, the mosquitoes loved me.  Once I slept outside my net and half my face was so covered in mosquito bites that I looked like I’d had an accident.  I hate mosquitoes.

4. It’s 32 degrees and threatening snow in Denver right now.  It’s a good thing I believe that germs are what make us sick and not going through a shocking temperature change or going out with my hair wet.  (And my hair will be dripping wet with sweat in Guatemala.)

5. Normally when I’m leaving imminently, I spend the day sewing a piece of clothing I don’t really need.  Or something for our house.  When I was going to Haiti with no idea what treating cholera was going to look like, I made a skirt.  When I was heading to Thailand, I made this cute quilt.  (The quilt was a winner, if I say so myself.)  But my sewing machine is totally, completely dead.  I thought it was just mostly dead and took it to the shop, but the repairman called me to say that I’d have to replace the foot pedal and plug ($60) first so that he could replace the motherboard ($130 without labor).  I’m pretty sure I can get a new sewing machine for that.  But anyway, no new skirt.

6.  I am completely addicted to black tea.  With sugar and milk (or preferably, half and half).  Now I’m not even sure I’ll have access to a refrigerator.  How am I going to keep my milk cold?  And really, if this is my biggest problem, it’s going to be a good trip.

7. I am traveling with my friend Pam who worked with me in Chicago for five years, was with us as a doula during my labor with Owen, and traveled to Haiti with me the first time.  Let’s just say she’s seen me at my worst.  Last night she reminded me of the our first night in Haiti.  We had taken the red-eye from Denver and got to the compound around noon, where they greeted us and told us to take a nap because we’d be working the night shift that night.  I got up at five and found there was no milk, no way to heat the water for my tea, and no Pepsi as the truck couldn’t get through because of the riots.  Night shift minus caffeine equals no good.

The next morning, after a harrowing night of trying to keep children from dying of cholera, the chaplains asked us what we wanted to pray for.  I said I needed a NICU nurse who could put an IV in a rock, and I needed the Pepsi truck to come.  The chaplain blinked at me for a minute and then prayed that God would hear our requests, no matter how frivolous they seemed.  I went to bed.  When I got up at six, they introduced me to Theresa, the NICU nurse who had just landed and would be working the night shift with us, and Pam told me that the Pepsi truck had gotten through.

So anyway, if you need me today, I’ll be busy praying for a refrigerator.

7 Quick Takes is Jen’s idea and her blog is so fun– go check her out!