This moment: clears!

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They let Sam start drinking today.  He’s doing great.

If all goes well with liquids today, we may get to bring him home for the weekend. Plan is still surgery Monday.  Thanks for all your prayers and warm wishes.

If you run into Mary Poppins this weekend, let her know we need her over here Monday-Wednesday next week.

Thanks, friends.

“She took her shoes off!”

The girls and I had a miniature adventure last week.  We had to drop Owen at volleyball game half an hour early, and I didn’t want to spend that time in the gym..  There’s a “pretty little wilderness” at the park by the rec center, and the girls were game to take a turn in it with me.
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Can you see the white pelican?  Neither can I, because the girls were so loud they scared it away.

We ignored the infrequent raindrops and pretending it wasn’t threatening to pour.

We saw Canada Geese, white pelicans, cranes, mallards, Redwing blackbirds, and swallows.  There must have been a gazillion bugs on the lake, because the swallows were crazy.

The longer we walked, the more elongated the pond became, until I was afraid we weren’t going to back it back in time for Owen’s game.
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shortcut…

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“Finch Forest.” 3 trees, no finches.

I thought we were almost all the way around, and then the path cut steeply away from the rec center.  Five minutes till the game.  We took the gravel path toward the rec center until it sank under 4 inches of cold, flowing water.  What to do?
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The girls are still telling everyone we meet, “Mommy took her shoes off and went through the water!!”  Brrr!

Had I known what a kick it would give them, I would have taken them off much sooner.

They’re already asking when we can go back.

{phfr}: February

{Pretty}:  Sam brought me flowers before he left for Hawaii. That’s fair, right– he gets a week in Hawaii and I get tulips?

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They are my favorite flower.

{Happy}: While he was gone, we had friends come to stay for the week.  One of our adventures took us to the science museum, where the kids spent hours playing with this ball machine.

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{Funny}: In the gem exhibit, my friend’s 4 year-old kept pointing to the crystals and saying, “Elsa’s magic!”  She hasn’t even seen the movie.

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{Real}: Even better, my friend brought crafting stuff and my girls got to make hours and hours of crafts that I neither had to plan, nor clean up. Can’t beat that!

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Happy Birthday: Seven

How I love seven!  SweetP at seven is mostly past the angst of five and six (lots of ambition, no skills) and into a time of increasing achievement and confidence.

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Seven likes practical jobs. Important jobs.

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Seven knows what kind of cake she wants and has to frost it herself.
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Seven can lose herself for hours in playing with Legos.

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Seven wants to show you the Lego castle and tell you blow-by-blow how she built it.

Seven wants to stay up late to catch the Tooth Fairy.

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This was a big year for our seven year-old: a move, new friends, lots of travel, a broken arm and many resulting disappointments. I am so grateful for her heart of prayer and tenderness. I know she’ll keep growing, but Seven is pretty wonderful!

Daybook: Twelfth Day of Christmas

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A merry Cretaceous Christmas to you, too.

Out my window: darkness.  And cold.  Somehow the chickens keep giving eggs, despite the cold, although a few of them despise the snow so much they block the ramp.  Every few minutes they peep out from the coop, and I can hear their disappointment that it hasn’t melted yet.  It’s going to be a long winter for them at this rate.

In the kitchen: I have barley soaking and some really good beef broth.  We’re going to have beef and barley vegetable soup. Vegetable soup with beef and barley?  Too many modifiers to figure out what order to put them in.

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The world’s hardest puzzle. It’s been up for twelve days and we’re nowhere near finishing it.  This was the first time they all sat down to work on it.  I told them they couldn’t play computer games until they’d each assembled 4 pieces.

Around the house: Sam did a round of purging with the boys this past week– too-small clothes, toys and games and books they no longer enjoy.  Owen’s desk is clear, and he was so inspired he came looking for some schoolwork to do on it.  Our Christmas decorations are still up.  I’ll take them down tonight or tomorrow morning for Epiphany.  I like to fill the house with candles for Epiphany, the season of light.

In the schoolroom: We don’t have a schoolroom per se in this house, actually.  But the assignment sheets are filled and we will start work again today.  I am eager for the return to routine.  We’ve hit World War 1 in history. The National Latin Exam is around the corner.

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This flock of snow-hens doesn’t mind the snow.

Grateful: that everyone was healthy through the holidays- so few families can say that this year.  That SweetP enjoyed her birthday.  For Sam’s time off.  For a good meeting yesterday about our church’s children’s ministries.

Praying for: Heather & fam.  The Neals and Simons. Mandy. Judy. Kathie. Gentleness.

What Worked in 2014

Anne’s recent post on what worked for her inspired me to think about what worked around here before I set goals for 2015.  I am so often focused on fixing what didn’t work that I change what is working. Proverbial baby and bath water.  So I made a list.

1. Our new home.

After seven months of being a guest in my parents’ home, I am so grateful to be home.

But even before that, we were spending so much time in the car.  Just for his work commute, Sam saves 112 hours a year commuting. That 28 minutes a day is the long enough for a short run, or a leisurely conversation, or half a child’s soccer game.  The library was a twenty minute drive each way; now it’s a ten minute bike ride (or a three minute drive).  A wide path is a block away, and we walk (or bike or run) it daily.
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We also took advantage of some of the other neighborhood activities, like Shakespeare in the Park (“All’s Well that Ends Well”– 10 points if you can name the movie I’m quoting here) and a Frozen sing along.
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The Tempest in the park
2. The daily schedule.

Oh, how I dreaded making this white board schedule.  Its main benefit, I suspect, is that I can no longer set ridiculous expectations for what we can accomplish in one day.  Gone are the days of planning to clean all the baseboards, put away the winter clothes, read the complete works of Emily Dickinson and take a nature walk in one day.
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3. Working out while the kids are at swim team.

Planning the afternoon for my workout time is counter to many fitness “experts,” but it’s working for us.  Knowing that I get an hour (or more) of uninterrupted running time gives me a reason to push when the kids feel lazy and don’t want to bother.  Knowing that I have 75-90 minutes with no other demands on my time has pushed me past the 30 minute run. Now my “regular run” is anywhere from four to six miles.
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one of my favorite places to run

4. My doctor.

2013 was rough for me health-wise.  In January I started seeing a new (to me) doctor who not only listened to me, but also encouraged me to listen to my body.  2014 wasn’t perfect, but we’re getting closer.

5. Monthly meal planning.

It’s so easy for me to fall into a cooking rut. Looking at a whole month at time helps me to try more new meals here and there and make sure we’re not eating pizza every week. We spend a big chunk of our budget on food because we buy local, organic sustainably produced foods whenever we can, but planning by the month makes it more affordable.

6. Our cooking “curriculum.”

I had planned a very formal cooking course with the children for this year that I scrapped in favor of watching some food TV and encouraging challenges like Chopped At Home and asking the kids to prepare dinner from start to finish.  They have all gained skilled and confidence in the kitchen. (I’m still waiting for their palates to broaden…)

7. Regular blogging.

I’ve had a great time participating in link-ups like {phfr}, Short Reviews (formerly known at twitterature) and 7QT.

8. Visiting relatives in Chicago.

We changed things up this year, visiting family in Chicago in the summer and staying home over the winter holidays.  We are a big family ad putting us up is always a challenge, made harder when lots of family descends at the same time.  Our off-season visit gave us time with individual family members instead of as a huge group.  Then we flew Sam out for various weekends when we could do the most good. I think it works for this season.

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bowling fun with Aunt Mandy

9. Our church home.

We’ve been there 10 years.  We all are growing, learning and serving.

10. Our new homeschool “school.”

We have always used a once a week enrichment program to supplement our homeschooling.  This year we tried a new program, and all the kids are enjoying it.

Your turn. Feel free add a link or list in the comments.  Thanks for your support and conversation in 2014!

The Weekend’s Jingle Bell Run

We had a blast on Sunday at Denver’s Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis research.  Last time we ran it, Sam was working, the temps were near zero, and I threw my back out trying to carry Phoebe inside my coat to keep her from getting frostbite.  Given that, it could have been pretty bad and still been better that 2012.

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Saturday night, we prepared costumes.  We went back and forth: Jonah wanted us all to go as characters from A Christmas Carol, but the execution on that was going to be tricky.  In the end, Sam & the girls went as Christmas gifts; the girls, Owen & I wrote letters to Santa asking for a cure for RA and pinned them on our backs, and Jonah was Jacob Marley.  I’m not sure anyone knew who he was, but he had a good time rattling his chains.

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Our friend Britta had us over for breakfast, and then we made our way to the race.  It was snowing big, fat, wet flakes which made the road slippery. Phoebe immediately fell in a big puddle.  I thought that was going to be it for her, but she pulled it together and walked the whole 5K.  Owen, Britta and I ran, though Owen sent us on ahead.

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Our kids commented on how the posters at the side of the course inspired them.  Walking for those who can’t.  Amen.  Let’s keep walking.

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{phfr}: mid August

{Pretty}:  There are three hibiscus bushes, huge and thriving, by the water fountain on the path where I run. I stop to get a drink, but the whole time I’m just marveling at their beauty.
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When I was pregnant with Owen, one of my friends at work hosted a party for me the night before his due date. We all sat around her fireplace, and she taught me how to knit. I drank a gallon of Raspberry Zinger tea and prayed that the raspberry leaf would promote my labor. After the ninth or tenth cup, as I was floating away on a tide of tea, I read the box and discovered that there was no raspberry leaf in the tea: it was all hibiscus.

{Happy}:  We’ve been to the Botanic Gardens now four times this summer to see the Chihuly. Every time we go, I see something new or learn more about the glass. So many of the sculptures seem to have grown up in the plants- I’ve walked right past them in the conservatory, thinking the glass itself was an exotic tropical plant.

{Funny}: This enchanting guy is a Poison Dart Frog. The Botanic Gardens has a terrarium of them by the door to the conservatory, with a note explaining that without the alkaloids in their natural diet in the Panamanian forest, the specimens here are not venomous. It seemed interesting but an academic point until my friend Tamarin located this large one– much bigger than the ones in the terrarium– hopping free among the plants.

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{Real}: We visited friends this week and played a rousing game of Blob Tag. [An aside: when I wrote this post, my autocorrect kept changing it to Blog Tag.]

(One person is “It”. When she tags another person, they hold hands and try to tag more players. The blob gets bigger and bigger– you hope– until the last person still free becomes the new “it”.)

Earlier that morning, my planned four mile run was abbreviated into a [really slow, lame] two-mile run, and I was beating myself up about it until we started to play blob tag. After being “It” multiple times, I calculated  that I ran more than a mile, all in a desperate sprint with an inadequate bra.  Now my “bad run” has been reframed into a “good warm-up.”

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Thirst

We had a day in the mountains Monday.  A dear friend from medical school brings her family to the mountains every summer, and drive up to meet them not-quite halfway at a park along Gore Creek.  My kids think of it as “our friends’ creek”; they think it’s ours.  Either way, I’m grateful for the tradition.

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It made me realize how little unstructured time we had outside last year.  I had grand plans for walks at the state park and time to play in the St Vrain River near my parents’ house.  But the flood last fall caused the river to change course, and both of our places were closed.

Jonah was accountable for attending his community college class, and that meant we were tied to his schedule. We still managed outside time– riding bikes, sledding and skiing– but it lacked the pull of water-play.  We were going somewhere, even if it was just up and down the hill, and I missed the unstructured nature of creek play.

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The little girls made a pine cone pond.  The bigger girls sat in the middle of the ice-cold creek and watched the birds.  The boys built a dam and a swimming hole and forded the creek.  I lifeguarded and sat still as the past weeks’ tension in me unwound.

I am wondering how to fit more unstructured outside time into our lives.  The chickens have helped with that, but part of me is a mountain girl, and I need the hikes and the frigid waters tumbling down from the Continental Divide.
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{phfr}: late July

{Pretty}: These beauties were perched on a log by the lake where I ran last week.  They were so gorgeous they made my heart hurt.
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{Happy}: Our friends who live in the Philippines stayed with us for a few days.  What a blessing to spend time with them, to be able to hear what they’re learning and seeing and doing there… not to mention to have our kids all hanging out.  I’m grateful.

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{Funny}: My favorite part about the chicks is how much my children love them.  Jonah tries to make everything fair by holding each of them equally, even when some of them clearly don’t want to be held.  Owen, on the other hand, prefers to hold only Rhonda (his) but will hold her all day.  Moriah definitely projects her own fears and anxieties (rain, wind and thunder) onto the chicks, but the chicks don’t seem to mind any of it.  And Phoebe doesn’t want anyone to hold her chick, Marshmallow, who is vying for Head Chick in the flock.

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Here’s Rhonda, when she was still fluffy.
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{Real} :  I’m grateful for the end of our swimming season.  The meets, which run all morning, wipe me out and then we come home and I’m supposed to feed the children?  They’re hot and tired, I’m hot and tired, and nobody is really hungry.  One day I managed to make four grilled cheese sandwiches for them.  Here’s what was left over.
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After that, I declared it was “find your own lunch” after a swim meet, which has worked much better.
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