Daybook: Mid-May, 2020

Outside my window: gray and green. The temperature today is supposed to top out at 41 degrees (F). I brought the fuchsia plants in so they wouldn’t go into shock. The trees are recovering from the late freeze and finally have some leaves.



I splurged on some hanging flowers for the porch. Normally I don’t,
because when we travel they all die, but… this summer we’re not traveling.

In the kitchen: Last night Phoebe’s first harvest of butter lettuce inspired me to make hoisin tofu lettuce cups and hot & sour soup, but my broth didn’t turn out right. It was a disappointment. However, not all was lost.

While I was trying to finish the final steps to put everything on the table, I had six hungry people chatting all around me and getting in my way. Once all the hungry people are fed, they want to disappear immediately into their own pursuits, though I would love for them to linger. I’m thinking a platter of hors d’oeuvres before dinner might prolong the pre-dinner linger. Please send me your favorite appetizer recipes in the comments!



My favorite part of Zoom school: Bob Ross-like
watercolor paint-alongs with the art teacher.

In the schoolroom: This week is the end of college finals for Jonah, and AP exam week (1/2) for Owen and Moriah. Phoebe had her first committee meeting (via Zoom) for an environmental action group she joined. It all sounds great on paper, but we are exhausted. According to the numbers we should continue school through May 29, but I going to call an audible (Omaha!) and wipe the final week of school off calendar. I figure we had less disruption to our school than, well, most of America, and we can just be done.

In my shoes: While all our lives are better when we move, we’re still struggling to do it.

On my mind: white privilege. It greases so many wheels in my life. I am beginning to see how systemic racism is much of the ground underneath my feet. I don’t know how to pull it up, but I am learning to look where I am walking. It’s not enough, but it’s a beginning.

Also: how health care system pays for procedures, not for thinking. For treatment but not prevention. We are seeing the effects of this in so many ways right now, from the failure to follow through on pandemic planning to the financial crisis in many health care entities.

Grateful:

  • for my neighbors’ creativity
  • for a weekend that managed to be both fun and restful
  • the technology that has made it possible to stay connected with friends and colleagues far (and near)
  • Sam’s hard work
  • my nephew’s college and MBA graduation
  • policy makers trying to thread the needle of economic survival in the face of loss of lives

Praying for:

  • clear answers and compassionate care for a hospitalized friend
  • family members who have to be advocates from afar
  • the lonely
  • safe spaces to grieve whatever we have lost, even if it’s smaller than what our friends/neighbors/communities have lost
  • students trying to show what they’ve learned during this much-interrupted year of learning
  • Mandy, Judy, Joanie, Eric & family, Jennifer, Clare

Daybook: November 2019

Out my window: many shades of brown. We lost the last of our fall color with the hard freeze and snow last week. We’re supposed to get snow tonight, but today everything is degrees of brown and tan.

In the kitchen: my kids are coming and going more these days and need nutrient-dense snack food they don’t have to prepare ahead. Our regular staples are Humus and carrots, Spicy Black Beans (from Run Fast. Eat Slow), and a mountain of fruit. This week I’m planning to make a double batch of roasted chick peas (these go fast!), banana bread and some tiny quiches (baked in muffin cups). What are your homemade go-to snacks?

What I’m hearing: The house has been full of music, between the cello, harp and piano. I can’t get enough of it. In the rare moments someone(s) isn’t practicing, there’s a lot of Taylor Swift and Hades Town on the Spotify playlists.

I hit a slump in my audio book queue and have been trying to find some engaging and new-to-me podcasts or books to listen to. I downloaded a couple of Audible originals and have been enjoying This Podcast Will Kill You. Any suggestions?

On my feet: The early October snow and our unusually cold temps drastically reduced my road miles. I realized that since I renewed my Rec Center membership in February, I’ve used the gym once.  Unless something changes, that sole trip will have cost me $182.

The moral of this math problem is that I need to get back in the habit of basing my running not on the weather, but on a schedule I plan ahead and write on my calendar.  If the sidewalks aren’t clear, I go to the gym.  (I have three months to turn that lemon of a membership in strawberry lemonade Nuun.)

The girls and I are planning to run the Mac & Cheese 5K next weekend for our favorite local organization, FosterSource. Let me know if you’ll be there and we’ll look for you. (We’ll be the ones dressed as mac & cheese.)

In the school room: This will be week 12 for us (or one third of the way through the year). Our habits are established and for the most part, are good. Phoebe still hates her new reading/spelling program but is starting to recognize the benefits. She’s enjoying our current read (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH) and likes our schedule for the weekly subjects (Botany, History, Poetry and Spanish). We’ve had some good literature discussions, and Moriah thanked me last month for forcing her to take US Government. This week she’ll begin her weekly Spanish tutoring.

Around the house: Last week we made a new house cleaning plan. The kids stepped up to divide the tasks and agree on a plan. I’m hoping that turns my mornings back into writing time, instead of growling-about-how-dirty-the-house-is time. (And if we’re lucky, I’ll finally do something about how filthy the windows are.)

On my mind: I joined a one month challenge to learn about and practice clean speech. It’s based on Jewish principles of good communication, and I am loving the daily emails and thoughtful perspective. There are also local lectures throughout the month if you’re in Denver.

I cut my hair last week and then dressed up as Aunt May for Halloween. (Not the sexy Marisa Tomei Spiderman Homecoming Aunt May. The jaded Lily Tomlin Aunt May from Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.)

No one who came to the door could figure out I was in costume, even though I was carrying a baseball bat. Note to self: for next year’s costume, pick something not quite so close to home.

Things have been tougher than usual at work, and I was close to losing hope. While the need for my work is great, the business of medicine makes the practice of medicine really difficult. We had a good meeting of doctors/NPs/PAs recently, and I’m feeling renewed energy to fight the good fight. The question is where to (re)start.

Grateful:

  • for my colleagues at work
  • that Mandy is home
  • our church (especially the youth group!)
  • for the kids’ stepping up their cleaning game
  • for friends who love on our kids in a myriad of ways (including taking them for a weekend so Sam and I could go away)
  • for Sam’s and my weekend getaway to La Jolla

Praying for: kindness in hard conversations and wisdom in the decisions that follow. Gentleness in how we judge ourselves (and others).

Daybook, mid-January (2019)

Outside my window: snow on the rooftops, but the paths are clear, which means I have no excuse not to go for a walk today.

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As long as I keep moving, I won’t freeze over.

In the kitchen: oatmeal and yogurt. Two of the kids became vegetarians (again) last week, so all my stockpiles (i.e., a freezer full of locally-sourced organic meat) are less useful than they normally would be. The other child eats like a bear (80% berries, 20% meat and candy) so we’re having some growing pains again. They tell me not to prepare anything differently, but then I bear the brunt of the hangry when the carbs they ate for lunch wear off. This is fodder for lots of discussions about nutrition.

In the school room: yesterday was our first ski day of the year. (The teen who doesn’t like to ski had a full day with work in the morning and robotics in the afternoon.) I managed not to zip my pocket, so I lost my credit card somewhere between the living room and parking lot of the ski area. (It could be worse- I could have lost it on the lift!) I said a prayer I would find it, and we skied anyway. When we got back to the car at the end of the day, I found the missing Visa inside my ski boot. No wonder my calf was unhappy.

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Blue skies and snow for miles

Today it’s back to geography and spelling, Chagall and biology, Sense and Sensibility and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, the Medes and the Persians, adding and subtracting fractions, precalc and stoichiometry. In no particular order.

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The cat could be working harder.

On my reading shelf: I just finished listening (again) to Connie Willis’s Crosstalk. Such a great book. I’m about halfway through Michelle Obama’s Becoming (it’s so good I keep stopping to write things down). Also a reread, and well worth it: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Grateful: for a few miles in my shoes thus far, and some yoga. It’s been a struggle to get out there (and I have a million excuses) but I’m always glad afterwards. And during.

An eleven year-old’s birthday party a few weeks ago. She felt very loved.

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This was a hard core game of spoons.

Friends who have kept in touch, across miles and years.

We had a lovely three weeks with Jonah before he went back to school, which he’s clearly loving. I’m grateful he comes home, and I’m grateful he goes back to a place that’s a great fit for him.

On my mind: we’re looking at school plans for next year, specifically AP classes versus dual enrollment. We’ve had good experiences with both, but with different goals. I’ll try to post about this in a few weeks.

Praying for: Mandy. Judy. The Neals. My kids. Refugees. Furloughed friends. The ability to choose our response to hard things in our lives… it looks easier than it is.

Daybook, late October

Out my window: darkness. But there’s color out there, and soon I’ll be able to see it.

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This is not a maple tree.

We had an early snow and hard freeze right at the beginning of the month, but our maple tree somehow wasn’t affected and we came home to a blaze of red that makes my heart sing.

In the kitchen: I have a butternut squash in the oven. Butternut is one of my favorite foods.  I put it with pasta in this sage butternut penne. I use it in place of pumpkin in this Pumpkin Ribbon Bread (minus the pecans). The trick, of course, is to make your squash ahead, either diced and roasted (for the pasta or any yummy autumn salad) or baked and scooped out of the shell (for breads and desserts), because once you decide you need pumpkin ribbon bread (or pumpkin cream cheese muffins) you can’t wait the extra hour for the squash to bake and cool.

In the school room: We just got back from a 9-day road trip. Somehow all the bags are unpacked and all the laundry is clean, but I still feel like the car is still moving. I’m in the kitchen, inside a giant minivan full of irritated humans and fast food trash, and we can’t. stop. moving.

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Today is a pull-it-back-together day. I wish I had thought of that when I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and a weekend working at the hospital. Hopefully we will be able to find some of our books and read for a few minutes today.

In my shoes: There has been no running since October 3, when I broke my toe. Usually I can buddy tape it and after a few days I can grit my teeth and move on. Not this time. My goal today is to try a running mile and see what happens. If I can’t get back to running, I’ll have to look into the gym schedule (ugh).

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This is not my living room.

Grateful: for a good trip. We packed those nine days full of good (and old, like us!) friends, birthday celebrations, opportunities to meet Jonah’s college friends whom we keep hearing about, wedding celebrations, and ancient history.  We were the recipients of endless hospitality and delicious meals. After 3250 miles, we’re still speaking to each other. Not bad. Alas, I couldn’t get blackout on the license plate game (though I’m close!)

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Praying for: Mandy. Judy. My kids, in all their various states of process and dilemma and angst. The gift of remembering that God isn’t finished with me yet.

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?

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.