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.

 

Daybook: mid-September

Outside my window: Today is the first day in a few that the air is clear again.  The smoke from the fires has meant I’m seeing lots of asthma in my office, and terrible allergies at home.  Y’all know how it kills me to run the A/C, but it’s hot enough in the afternoons still that keeping all the windows closed is unpleasant. First world problem, I know. At least I have windows.

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It didn’t occur to me until well after I took the photo that perhaps this wasn’t the healthiest air in which to run.

In the garden: It’s time to bring in the 13 butternut squash we grew.  I say we, but of course I mean the soil and sun and water.  All I did was prune the vines when they tried to take over the lawn.

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said vines, said lawn

In the kitchen: The farm has been giving us lots of tomatoes and corn, good summer food.  We’ve been freezing lots of marinara (anybody have experience using their Instant Pot as a pressure canner?) and peaches.  I’m going to be so grateful for those peaches when we finally remember to use them in my smoothies and crumbles.

In the school room:  We have been taking field trips.  It wasn’t my intention to start in so early with field trips, but I couldn’t pass on the eclipse, or on MSF’s Forced from Home exhibit last week.

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We were pretty impressed even with the partial eclipse leading up to totality.

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And then we were blown away. Midday darkness, cold, and the corona… it was incredible. Even my skeptical husband was impressed.

The MSF exhibit Forced from Home is absolutely worth a day. (Find the upcoming stops here: Forced from Home.)  The exhibit begins with an introduction to the work of MSF (a.k.a. Doctors Beyond Borders) and then allows you to walk through the refugee/IDP experience in an interactive fashion, forcing you to make hard choices with inadequate information.

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I hoped the exhibit would give us all a better sense of what our refugee friends went through, and it did that in a small way.  The bigger, more surprising impact it had was the opportunity to show my kids and dad what my experience in the Cholera Treatment Center was like. (NB: I did not work with MSF, but with Samaritan’s Purse which was working in the same area of Haiti.)  The MSF volunteer led us to a model of a cholera treatment center, and talked about the gritty details of it: the cots with holes cut in them for patients too weak to make it to a toilet, the IV poles, the buckets used for toilets… My family were able to see some of what I had done, and what was a transformative experience for me.

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Forced from Home is a great exhibit, staffed with actual MSF volunteers who are articulate about their work and why they do it.  Definitely make time for it when it comes near you.

Grateful: that our school rhythms are beginning to become habits.  For Sam and Phoebe’s good trip to Chicago. For meaningful work and the inspiration of others who are so brave. For my friend Lori & her crew’s coming up to go to Wonder Woman with us. For a weekend walk with Christy.

Praying for: refugees, IDPs, asylum-seekers, migrants and others forced from home, and those who work alongside them. For families who lost loved ones on 9/11. For the ability to listen to one another.  For many near to me who are hurting and afraid.