Daybook: Mid-summer

Outside my window: the sun and the wildfire haze are duking it out. Right now, sun is winning, at least where we are.

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It’s been hot enough that if I don’t run early, it doesn’t happen at all. But the morning light has been worth getting up early.

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In the kitchen: on Wednesday, I did a minor cooking marathon while it was cool enough to have the windows open. We ate 24 breakfast burritos in 24 hours. (Before you judge, please remember that there are six of us.)  Anyway, now they’re gone and I’m going to have to make food again tonight. Sigh.

Around the house: Honestly, it’s a mess. Yesterday I found one of the kitties poking at a group of ants carrying away breakfast crumbs. I did manage to get some laundry done, so at least we can wear clean clothes around the dirty house.

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In the garden: Not much. I thought I had a lot going on there until I pulled all the weeds, and now I can see that there’s only a little bit of bitter lettuce, two carrots, and zinnias. Thank goodness for the farm.

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In the school room: we are on official break. This is the first summer I didn’t set learning routines for us (normally, some math and foreign language.)  Part of the change stems from my teens’ job schedules, and part of it is the desire to give my kids unstructured time to hang out together. I’m not thrilled with how much time is being spent on screens, but I am thrilled with the family game nights and the insides jokes they’re developing.

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Meanwhile, I’m working on next year’s school plans.  I’m outsourcing some science (AP chemistry for my 10th grader, Biology for my 9th grader), but I have a lot of prep to do for literature and history.  We’re on the ancients again, so I’ve been reading Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World. Her delightful sense of humor shines between her really insightful connections between the streams of different civilizations.

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome

I’ve decided to use Bravewriter’s Boomerang (high school) and Arrow (5th grade) curricula as the framework for our literature/composition study. I previewed a few lessons last winter and was happy with them, so we’ll be doing more this year. I like the book lists, so I’m reading those and writing my questions for those as well.

Also on my reading pile: I’ve just reread Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, which is one of my all-time favorite books. (It’s on the Boomerang list for the fall.)  Every time I reread a favorite, it’s like a new book because I am a different person than I was the last time I read it. This time, I noticed all the times he talked about how the soil cannot keep the young people in their communities.  What ties a young person to home? It’s a question planted deeply in Wendel Barry’s books, too, and it’s on my mind.

The book talks about fear, and the many ways that fear causes us to build walls and barriers between people and communities. The picture of forgiveness painted in the book is powerful.  Lots to think about.

Grateful: My kids have attended a backyard theater camp run by a pair of retired teachers for 14 years, and they are hanging up the towel after this summer. This year’s play was Much Ado About Nothing.  The kids managed to perform 21 pages of Shakespeare (cut down from 56 pages) after a week of rehearsals and set-building.

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I am so grateful for Gracie and Don’s investment in my kids and for the weeks of low-key backyard fun and creativity they’ve given us.

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Phoebe was Leonato, and Moriah played Beatrice. (Total typecasting.)

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Praying for: so many people dear to me are struggling under depression.  I am praying for them, and also for those struggling with chronic pain. Finally, my heart is breaking for the families torn apart at the border, and for refugees trapped in camps that, as horrible as they are, are marginally better than what they left behind.

What’s on your mind?

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Daybook: mid-March

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Outside my window: snow, but not enough to shovel. Just enough to make driving a pain. Last week our crocuses bloomed, and the tulips are getting taller. Sam pruned the roses earlier this month, so we can actually see the bulbs emerging.

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In the kitchen: kittens wolfing down their tuna. (I should used a cat metaphor there. Lioning? Cougaring? Ew, no. Wolfing will do.)

Sam went to the grocery store yesterday, so there’s a chance I’ll cook some food this week. Moriah made these lemon basil cookies, so in a pinch we can just eat those.

We can’t eat it, but my orchid rebloomed. This is the first time I’ve ever kept one alive long enough to bloom a second time. Hooray.

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In the school room: We’ve had a lot of performances. Willy Wonka (we are the proud parents of an Oompa Loompa) and High School Musical, Jr. were early in the week, and dance was this weekend. Whew. Everyone is beat.

During the plays, we had a lot of complaining about “being forced” to watch one’s siblings’ performances. Then afterwards, I asked them all what the difference between the performance and the dress rehearsal was. (Same stage, same cast, same costumes, same lines… but no audience.) We had a good discussion about the importance of the audience, and- thankfully- everyone came without complaining to the dance performance.

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I might be slightly biased, but I thought they were great.

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We all are ready for a break. The boys’ outside classes all have different spring breaks [they lose], but we are trying to embrace a lighter schedule. We took a few good walks [totally worth the whining] and are planning to see the Degas exhibit later this week.

In my shoes: I managed one run this week, and I love walking. I’ll take what I can get.

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On my reading shelf: I’m creeping through Deuteronomy, Hannah Coulter (Wendel Berry) and The Newcomers (Helen Thorpe.) I have a shortage of reading time right now.

Grateful: For the abundance of these days. For good conversations with my kids. For walks and crocuses and birds awing and hens laying eggs again. For all of it.

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Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Austen. Caregivers and new parents and those who grieve. Kids making college decisions (and their parents). Stillness within the storms.

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Daybook: Early March 2018

Outside my window: They are finally building the income-qualified housing on our corner (promised 10 years ago!) so I’m hearing lots of big trucks. I just heard a concrete mixer pull up, so we may go watch them pour some foundations later.

In the kitchen: Phoebe is making pancakes. It’s rare that she gets to cook alone [i.e. without a big sister telling her what to do], so I’m trying not to hover.

Also, we finally hung the pendant lights in the kitchen. We moved into this house four years ago and have been looking for glass pendants in cobalt since then. I thought I’d found just the right thing in a bar about a year after we came, but they had been brought back from Florence in the restaurant owner’s luggage. This fall, we were up in Estes Park for a weekend, and someone told us to check out the glass blowers up there. Turns out they’ll do all kinds of custom glass work, and this is what they did for us. I love them.

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Around the house: I came home from my hospital shift this weekend to find the house piled with laundry. (Sick + house guests + washer that wasn’t draining = laundry mountain. #math) I spend half of Monday watching DIY videos on how to clean out the drain trap, flooding the laundry room with water, scooping out all the detritus from the trap (ewwww! I know people think what I do at the hospital is gross, but it’s got nothing on this) and trying to screw the plug back in. I watched the first three loads with great trepidation, lest my insufficient torque allowed the water to drain all over the floor, but I think I solved the problem. Now I just have to fold it all…

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In the garden: I haven’t started any seeds yet, but the chickens have definitely noticed the change in the light. They laid these for us this morning.

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In my shoes: February was a bust for running. Between sickness and travel, I ran twice. That means I’m to square one for distance. On the bright side, I run slowly enough to see all the minute changes happening in everyone’s gardens. Tuesday I saw daffodils, crocuses, and all sorts of colorful branches fattening up their buds.

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In the school room: Owen’s robotics team competed in Utah last week and did awesome (mombrag!) although they didn’t qualify for Worlds. Two weeks ago, all three of the big kids placed at National History Day regionals, so now we need to make some improvements in their projects for state. When we turned the corner into March, Jonah’s AP exams suddenly felt much closer (at least I remembered to register him for them this year!). He is still anxiously checking the mailbox every day for college letters. Lots going on.

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We are reading Little Town on the Prairie (spoiler alert) with new eyes now that Jonah is looking at college. When we read it seven years ago, the passages about Mary’s impending departure were not so personal to us.

Speaking of spoilers, the kids keep reminding me of the day we drove past Vinton, Iowa, and I pointed out that that was where Mary went to the school for the blind. We had only read the first few books and had not gotten to On the Shores of Silver Lake. Three horrified children (and one baby) all started screaming, “Mary goes blind??!!!”

Grateful: For our new niece who arrived last week- what a blessing! For healthy outcomes at the hospital after some scary moments this weekend. For this awesome Ted talk we watched (Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work), for last month’s visit with my friends in NC (still savoring those moments), and for getting to see Hamilton last week. (We were only able to procure 4 tickets, which meant the girls were out of luck. But then Owen ended up traveling, and Jonah gave his ticket to his sister. Awwwww.)

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Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Lori. Ruth. Austen. Christine. Rev. Anna’s move. Those suffering from depression or violence (or both.) Refugees.

 

 

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.

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: End of November

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Outside my window: it’s cold today, after 75 and sunny yesterday. Similar (emotional) swings are occurring inside the house as well. The light and shadows are so close and so stark this time of year.

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In the kitchen: today we’re going to have beef pasties. This is my new favorite grab-it-and-go meal. (I just wish someone else were doing the prep before I grabbed it.)

In the school room: we really needed our break last week. Now we are regrouping and trying to press on till our longer break at Christmas. I took a few minutes Sunday night, when I do my usual school prep, to assess the growth so far this year and it’s been significant. Hopefully I will remember that when I stare down far we have to go.

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In my shoes: We went for the independent (a.k.a. free) turkey trot this year, and I ran a beautiful four miles. Yes, it’s the same four miles I usually run, but it seemed sunnier than usual, and I felt lighter. (That feeling went away after dinner.)

In my reading pile: I spent a good chunk of the weekend reading, finishing Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Gabaldon), Sourdough (Sloan), and The Attenbury Emeralds (Walsh). The trick after so much feasting is going back to being able to read only a little bit here and there.

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Grateful for: a Thanksgiving celebration with my parents.  We shared dinner and decorated their Christmas tree with them, which has become a cherished tradition. It’s been two years since Sam was miraculously healed. We are still celebrating that! I’m grateful for Phoebe’s confirmation this weekend- it was joyful and beautiful and precious.

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Praying for: More miracles, of new life and healing, in other lives that are dear to me. Mandy’s new knee (going in today!)

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.