Back to School Daybook 2022

Outside my window: Darkness (but green.) We had a ton (by Colorado standards) of rain in August and everything is very green. As an attempt to thwart the beetles devouring my roses, I didn’t prune them after they bloomed, so I’m not going to have a second set of blossoms. But the black-eyed Susans are reaching for the sky, and the zinnias and other pretty flowers I put in the herb garden are lovely.

very, very green backyard. It never looks like this in August

In the kitchen: I’m finding a new rhythm. There are only four of us here for the next few weeks (and after that, only three!) Already I’m realizing my recipes are all too big. I have popped a few half-recipes into the freezer, and I’ve figured out how to adjust my pizza dough recipe to make just two large pizzas.

My favorite thing right now is fresh herbs on pizza. (Our favorite: skip the sauce. Just brush the dough with olive oil, sprinkle on herbs from the garden, and top with a grating of parmesan.) Last night’s version: rosemary, thyme and oregano.

kitchen table bouquet of flowers from the garden

With the kids: this is the section formerly known as “In the school room.” They are still in school. I am not, though so far, school and its requisite forms and supplies and schedule are still occupying a large amount of headspace. This year I don’t get to make any of the decision- I just have to keep track of everyone else’s.

In mid-August, Sam drove with the older three to Chicago, where I met them after P’s volleyball tryouts. The family gave Jonah a lovely graduation party. We visited Judy, added some of her furniture to the moving van and drove to Champaign. The best decision we made was hiring two hours of moving help to unload the truck and carry everything up three flights of stairs. We spent two days nesting with Jonah. There is a great Thai restaurant around the corner from his apartment, and a large bookstore a few blocks away. It was a very short, intense and valuable trip. Since our departure, he has had to do lots of adulting (dealing with a gas leak, trying to get his internet set up, finding a car mechanic) and I have had to do lots of Nothing Useful to help him. It’s an adjustment.

grad school kitchen with his bird statutes

Owen has another month here before going back to school. They finished their summer job and now have time to make lots of music and hike with me.

Selfie at an overlook near the beginning of the hike. We didn’t look nearly as fresh at the end!
Owen playing the beautiful piano at Grandma’s senior living home

In the whirlwind that was August, we also moved Mo to college. Surprisingly, everything fit in the car (and more importantly, in her room.) We like her roommate and are excited for all that’s ahead of her! (Unfortunately, she came down with Covid-19 this week and is pretty miserable. Ugh.)

road trip to college
the stunning garden in front of the building where most of Mo’s classes will be

Phoebe has had two weeks of school, three weeks of volleyball practice, two games and a tournament. She is exhausted but is really enjoying volleyball. So far, so good. And we are hugely grateful for that.

In my shoes: I’m still not running, but I’ve been riding our exercise bike a ton, first through the Giro d’Italia, then the Criterium de Dauphine, Tour de France, Tour de France Femmes, and now La Vuelta a Espana. So fun.

Grateful for: It’s very easy when all these major leaps in life stage are happening to see how far we have come, but I am even more grateful for all the healing and risk taking that happened in fits and starts over the past few years, and all the support we received along the way.

Mo, practicing on the school’s concert harp

What I’m reading:

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice. Linda Villarosa’s Under the Skin.

Praying for: Judy. Mandy. Lori. Quick and complete healing for those who are sick. Patience. Good friends for my kids. Hope.

Daybook: May 2022

Outside my window: While Phoebe rehearses for an end-of-year choir performance, I’m working at a table in the children’s section of a local library. Outside there is a hands-on garden with large percussion instruments. The children who stroll by, however, are more interested in throwing the wood chips. Inside, there are children explaining bugs and dinosaurs to their parents as if those tired adults have never heard of either before. A mom just trailed by, telling her child, “Okay, but I don’t want to get too many science books.” Maybe she doesn’t know how cool bugs and dinosaurs are.

bookshelves in the children’s section. Not pictured: the cluster of kids playing Minecraft on the computers

In the kitchen: we will be out of the house a lot this week for the aforementioned concerts, but I did make baked French toast from Tieghan Gerard’s lovely cookbook, Half Baked Harvest EVERY DAY. I would loan you my copy, but I drooled on all the pages.

In the schoolroom: We have been passing back and forth lots of “last day of ______” texts. Jonah finished college classes (graduation in 10 days,) Mo just took her last community college class for high school (graduation in 2 weeks,) and Phoebe finished her math and Barton (spelling and reading for dyslexia.) We have two weeks of chemistry, economics, literature, and French left. Poor Owen just got out of Covid-jail at college and still has a full month of school to go.

kitchen table chemistry experiment

In my shoes: My knee has stalled my couch-to-5K program while I wait for an MRI and make decisions about what to do. The last time my surgeon operated on my knee, it lasted 11 years, so if that’s where we are headed, I am in good hands.

Grateful: We just made a short trip to Ohio for Jonah’s research presentation. I loved watching his passion in action and how he worked the room. He’s going to be a great teacher. His love for all things birds feels like a perfect extension of his four year-old love for dinosaurs.

Jonah being professorial at his research presentation

We also spent time with Jonah’s godfamily, and that was a treat in itself. They recommended a local bookstore, Jonah recommended another, and we spent two afternoons inhaling booksmell and following rabbit trails on the shelves. What a gift.

Mo (with bookstore haul,) Phoebe and Clyde (remember him?)

Praying for: lots of medical needs right now, friends who are mourning, and relief from pandemic fatigue. Energy to finish the year well.

Daybook: mid-February 2022

Outside my window: blue skies, white snow. All our sidewalks are clear- I have a new obsession with the importance of clearing the snow/ice.

In the kitchen: this has been a bad week in the kitchen. I have a renewed appreciation for the importance of crisis meals sent by friends. Thanks, Renee, for sending pizza and salad on Wednesday (it was delicious!)

In the school room: Meh. This hasn’t been a banner week for school. Mo has classes at the community college and is doing research on the Ludlow Massacre for National History Day. I introduced her to the Library of Congress’s online searchable newspaper archive, Chronicling America, which has been huge for me in my own historical research.

Phoebe and I are discussion Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth (so good!) and working on distance=rate x time problems for math. (Two trains leave Chicago traveling opposite directions. One travels at 150 mph, and the other…) We are still working our way through the Barton curriculum, she has French tutoring with Sam’s cousin Laura, and she’s reading Jacqueline Woodson’s beautiful book, Brown Girl Dreaming.

All right, maybe school is going fine. (Writing it down always makes me feel better about it.)

Here’s a link to more information about Doughnut Economics.

On the sofa: Jonah called from school (in Ohio) last Saturday morning. He was outside his dining hall on the way to the gym when he slipped on a patch of ice. He told me his ankle was broken and an ambulance was on its way. Sam and I sat biting our nails while we waited for an update, which came from the ER doctor an hour later. “I don’t see him getting out of this without hardware,” he said. Thank God for his godmother who was at the ER two hours later (after anesthesia and reduction of the dislocation.) Her family cared for him until we could get him a flight home the next day. He had surgery Wednesday and has enough hardware in his ankle to set off all the TSA’s machines. Due to his inability to bear weight for 4 weeks and his upcoming spring break, he’ll be home for a bit.

Grateful: So much. For Jonah’s godfamily. For the quick reduction of his ankle fracture, so that we could go quickly to surgery, and for his awesome surgical/anesthesia team. For food from friends. For good books and bad snacks and the pianist at the children’s hospital whom I never saw but who played beautiful music that eased my anxiety across the atrium. For our neighbors who rallied to loan us a shower chair, a wheelchair and a wheelie knee scooter. For my colleagues who stepped up at the last minute to take care of my patients. For the buckets and buckets of prayers offered on Jonah’s and our behalf.

For our friend David, who passed away this morning. He was a lovely person and will be missed.

On my mind: While we sat there for hours at the hospital, we watched other families come and go. Many of them were clearly pros at this. Knowing how hard things would be post-op, they knew to ask for the waiting area with the benches, and pillows and blankets so they could sleep while their child was under anesthesia. Some brought noise-blocking headphones and laptops and worked from the surgical waiting room. They had wheelchairs loaded with medical records and spreadsheets to keep track of everything their children have been through. I was again aware of how charmed our child-rearing has been, and while far from smooth, it has not involved major hospitalizations or surgeries. How blessed we have been.

Praying for: Mary, Dan and family. Jonah. Mandy. Judy. Roman & family. Those professional parents who have lost count of their children’s hospitalizations and surgeries. For eyes to see my blessings and the will to count them.

Daybook: Peak Summer

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.

The Seven Silly Eaters

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.

Peace to you today, friends.

In which I become the old woman who keeps cats

Sometime last year, my kids downloaded an app called Neko Atsume. It’s a Japanese Kitty Collector app (that makes it sound like that is a whole category of apps) in which you set out virtual food and virtual toys to attract virtual cats to your virtual yard. The cats, in turn, give you virtual fish and little virtual mementos of their virtual visits. What’s not to love?

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There’s truly no action in this “game.” I’m not sure it should rightly be called a game at all. No competition. No skill. No prizes. No levels. I love it anyway.

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This is Jeeves, who was very hard to attract to my yard, finally came last week, and gave me a small silver pocket watch. (More typical mementos include “random seeds” and “A small used stuffed penguin.”)

Anyway, while I was off collecting virtual cats, Sam began adopting real cats. This is Graycee:

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and this is Julian:
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I have to ask: who is this man who keeps bringing home cats, and what did he do with my husband? (If you see my actual husband somewhere, let me know. Reward offered.)

 

Hey! I just caught a Ponyta!

You may have heard of a little phenomenon going on.  Pokemon Go, anyone?

Owen downloaded it last week, but it kept crashing on his phone.  Phoebe had better luck on my phone, and we’ve been walking around our neighborhood (and others) to catch Pokemon and incubate our eggs.  I think it’s hilarious.

Yes, I’ve read about all the downsides.  Pokemon Go may be getting almost as much press as the Donald.  But this is what it’s done to my stepcounter:

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A game that gets my kids asking me to walk around the neighborhood (“Can we go for another walk, Mom?”) gets five stars.  Did Michele Obama design this game?

I caught three Pokemon inside Old Navy last week, while Moriah was trying on shorts.  Old Navy for the win!

P.S. Yes, I fixed the terrible typo on my runniversary post, in case anyone was horrified by the idea of my running through Linden trees dripping in blood.

Too many loose ends

You know the feeling, I’m sure.  You’re an octopus, with so many tender tentacles dipped in shallow tide pools on the beach.  The water levels are uncertain, all changing.  Your tentacles are dangling like participles in the air, waiting till they can get back into the water.  Will you dry out before the tide rises again?  Perhaps the tide has just gone out.  You know it will come back in, but watching the ocean recede for six hours before it can rise again is killing you.

That was April and May for me.

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Now I’m on the other side of things.  I am swimming in new seas: working at a new hospital and planning the next school year.  I have given away some of my hats, including handing over the reigns of our church’s children’s ministry to a gifted, committed friend. A (different) friend’s baby, for whom I was keeping watch, has arrived safely.  Sam and Jonah had a blast traveling, and now all my chicks are back in the coop.
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The water has moved back up the beach, and all my arms are submerged again.  I’m busy in a good way, instead of fretting over a future I can’t control.

Where is your tide these days?  Too high?  Going out?  Swamping the tide pools on the beach?

Grateful: school this year

Sam and I jumped straight from “phew, we finished!” into “what’s next?”

The kids, however, are hoping to savor their accomplishments  for a few minutes.  And by accomplishments, I don’t mean their grades or test scores.  What they are most excited about:

Phoebe learned how to ride her bike.

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Moriah learned to make all kinds of baked goods and expanded her dog walking business to four days a week.

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Owen taught courses in computer programming using Scratch at the public library. (And somehow I refrained from sneaking in to photograph it.)

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Jonah had an adventure in China.

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I am thrilled by the perseverance each of them showed along the way.  What I love about home schooling is not when something comes easily, but being able to watch them confront a challenge and figure out the way through it.

Being present with them is an honor, and I am so grateful that we had this year of school together (even if I didn’t get to go to China.)

Daybook: late March

Out my window: Snow, and light (even though it’s almost dinner time.)  Goodness, I hate the dark, cold mornings when we change the clock, but I love running right before dinner.

In the kitchen: Momo made Irish soda bread this morning, to go with my green potato-broccoli soup.  Happy St Patrick’s Day!

What I’m hearing: The girls are singing Hamilton at the top of their lungs (“I am not throwing away my shot!”) while Jonah practices piano.  Honestly, it’s a little much.

Around the house: We have a vacation coming up, so lots of people are fighting over the washing machine.  I’ve been trying to get the floors vacuumed and the bathrooms clean before we go. (I don’t mind leaving a dirty house, but I love coming home to a clean one.)

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In the school room:  For some reasoneveryone is finishing math books at the same time. They didn’t start them at the same time, so it’s a mystery to me how this great Math Confluence came about.  We are enjoying CNN student news and Crash Course in World History regularly over lunch.  Reading-wise, we’re working on biographies and The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis).

In my shoes: I am slowing increasing my mileage after a slow winter.  It kills me that I lose fitness so quickly.  I ran 5 miles last weekend and then could barely walk the next day. #old

On my reading tableThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (everyone else listened to the audio book without me and loved it, so I’m catching up) and War and Peace (Tolstoy).  Has anyone ever noticed how long it is?  I’m on chapter 25 and am only 10% done, according to my kindle.  (But thank goodness I’m reading it on kindle, or I’d have wrist strain.)

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Burma is just over those mountains.

Grateful: That the chickens are laying eggs again.  That Mandy is off IVs and Heather is out of the hospital! (Those three items are not in order of importance.) Spring walks. Myanmar’s (Burma’s) election. That our Karen friends invited us to a birthday party- hooray for friendship!

Praying for: Refugees around the world, and hearts at home that would welcome the stranger.  Our friends serving God far away (and at home).  Wisdom as I make some job-related decisions.  Patience.  A restorative vacation.  Marriages. We have so many dear friends who are struggling.  Continued healing for Mandy and Heather.