Start of the 2017 School Year

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Our dear Lucas started tenth grade this year, in the last couple of days of August. He’s taking Spanish 1, Math 2, Chemistry, World History, English (focusing on literature), and PE. I’m thrilled with the literature curriculum: The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Raisin in the Sun, Lord of the Flies, and Fahrenheit 51. How fun is that!?

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Lucas really seems to like high school, though he hasn’t always loved all of his classes and teachers. He’s strong, confidant, and has many friends. He’s committed to his schoolwork, and we’re trying to find the right balance between giving him his independence and supporting his efforts. (Parenting in a nutshell.) He is really enjoying riding his bike home from school some days, which is a 10-mile ride that takes an hour. Lucas is a wonderful guy and I’m super proud of him.

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Our sweet Asher has started fifth grade. This year is quite different in that he has a new class teacher for the first time in four years. His beloved former teacher got the opportunity to take a class at the Waldorf school in her city, after four solid years of commuting an hour each way to work at Sacramento Waldorf School. We were sorry to see her go. Asher and she had a good bond. We wish her luck with her new class!

The new class teacher has a lot of energy and an upbeat personality. We don’t know her very well yet, but we’re hoping for a good year. Except in the weeks leading up to the start of school, Asher was feeling very nervous and sad that he can’t just stay home all the time, with all of his family and his fluffy dogs. Instead of feeling excited for new opportunities, he feels anxiety and dread. On the last day of summer break, he was beside himself with nervousness and sadness, so our strategy for the last few days before school started was to provide distractions galore.

If there’s a softer, more loving school for him anywhere, I don’t know where it could be.

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On the first day, all of his buddies looked happier than he did.

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Fortunately, we have a lot of friends there who love him very much. Neva always props him up and takes good care of him. I’m forever grateful.
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We have a handful of new students in grade five, and they have a few new teachers (math, strings class) to get used to. These kids are a lively bunch!

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That first morning handshake. Hello, Ms. Thorman!

In the almost two weeks since this first day, we have seen Asher relax a bit. He’s getting used to the new routine; knowing the rhythm, knowing what’s going to happen in a day makes all the difference. Asher still isn’t exactly comfortable yet, but I’m hoping this will come with time. He’s such a lovely, sensitive person, and I hope we can find a way to support him through this stuff.

Asher has decided to switch from strings class, where he was playing viola, to winds class. He has taken up the flute. This move was largely influenced by the fact that a number of his good friends switched instruments and classes this year. Although I really hoped he would stay with viola (because this is one of very few schools in California that teach strings and have orchestra), he’s pretty sure about his decision. (I think he would like to play the “jazz machine,” which is what he calls the saxophone. We have my old flute for now, though.) I think it helped him to have a choice in some part of his school day. So be it.

And there we are. Getting up earlier has been a bit tough. Both Lucas and I are not morning people. But we’re muddling through, feeling a bit tired from all the adjustments, and I think we’re all looking forward to the weekend!

Here’s to a great year! Blessed be!

Love Is …

Love is …

  • Friends who host a teen traveling solo for the first time and show him around one of the greatest cities in the world
  • Going to the funeral of my dad’s best friend, even though I never met the man, to support my dad
  • Parents who gamely resume and add to their volunteer kid taxiing to and from school
  • Friends who admit they are struggling and ask for assistance; if we don’t know, we can’t help
  • Boundary setting that comes from experience and maturity; “no I do not want to work over the weekend”
  • Long snuggles spent comforting a distraught little boy who is trying to work through a lot of big feelings
  • Ending a year-long commitment that is no longer right for our family; saying no (or no, thank you) is sometimes the most right thing
  • Speaking out for justice on behalf of others more vulnerable than yourself
  • Getting involved in politics, even when it’s well out of your comfort zone to do so
  • Reading a novel aloud to my son, who was a reluctant listener at first but then turned into a please-just-a-few-more-pages listener by the end of the book
  • Beautiful, delicious meals prepared nightly by my dedicated husband, who works all day and then cooks for us
  • Rededication to schoolwork and routine, and facing into new challenges
  • Company matching for employee disaster relief donations (Harvey, in this case)
  • Buying tickets to Hawaii for a family vacation in January, and grandparents who help fund it
  • Sheltering in place at home, cool and comfortable, while California roasts
  • Fluffy dogs who love and worship you no matter how many mistakes you made today
  • Working with dedication and through exhaustion for months and month because that’s what’s required for your clients, your partners, and your family (I love you, Ian)
  • Our magnificent Village that offers to help in some way nearly every day
  • Going through beloved belongings and realizing it’s time to let some go so that other children can play with them
  • Exploring Old Sacramento with our boys during Gold Rush Days, which was surprisingly charming because cars were banished from the old timey streets
  • Delicious end-of-summer lounging by the pool

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August Days

The month of August seemed like a million, billion years long. It’s been the hottest summer I can remember. I read that while we in Sacramento don’t have the hottest summers in the U.S., we may have the sunniest summers. Which means no relief. Whatever. We’ve been sweltering for weeks, and frankly we’re all tired of it.

We got to go to a great punk show: Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. It was my first show at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, which was built in 1926. Beautiful venue and a beautiful crowd. I may have been the only person there without any tattoos. We saw friends there, too!

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On my mama’s birthday, August 21, we were gifted with a super-rare astronomical phenomenon: a solar eclipse. Although we don’t live in the path of the totality, we still got a very cool experience. Ian made a camera obscura so we could safely view the partial eclipse.

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And we were surprised to have our friend Gary visit us and share his eclipse glasses with us! Not only was it lovely to see Gary, but his generosity enhanced the eclipse a lot.

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No cool pics of the sun. I don’t have the equipment. We kind of hoped our dogs would act weird in some way, but no, they were entirely chill.

Later that day, Asher got to go to the movies with my mama, and then we cooked dinner for her and my dad.

Daddy Flew!

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For Father’s Day this year I was flippin’ brilliant! The boys and I bought Ian an iFly experience at the indoor skydiving place in Roseville.

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We kept it a secret and on Father’s Day took Ian out to a lovely Indian buffet. Then we headed to iFly. There was a pretty long wait time, despite our appointment, but it didn’t matter because we were all pretty excited for him. And we got to see lots of other people try it.

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Best helmet!

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Like I said, I was feeling pretty damn smug about this gift!

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Ian got two 4-minute flights in the air chamber. That sounds very short, but it seems to be quite a workout.

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I think it was a big success!

And after all that, we visited my daddy, whom I love with all my heart.

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Springtime Whirlwind

Spring came and went quickly this year. I wish I had done a better job of capturing all the moments of joy and learning here. I can’t beat myself up about not blogging, though. That’s not really healthy. I’ve continued to take tons of photos. Sometimes I find myself at a loss for words, or maybe energy for words. The photos I take are sustaining to me. I so enjoy having them.

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In February something fairly significant happened. Our 60-foot deodora cedar tree from our side yard fell over in a big, long rainstorm (not quite a whirlwind, but close). It landed on the front corner of our home. Since then, we’ve had to learn a lot about homeowners insurance claims, hiring contractors, etc.

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I’m really missing this tree, but it has opened some doors for us. I’m grateful to this tree; even in its demise it helped us out.

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I’d love to say that the damage was repaired rapidly, but it’s been slow. In the intervening months since the tree fell, we have paid to have the tree removed, hired a public adjuster, put plastic up on our roof to keep the weather out of our home, signed contracts, looked at roofing, chosen new masonry for the front of our house and chimney (the impact of the tree on the house caused the masonry to peel away from the building). The damage could have been much worse and far more inconvenient. We’re just taking things one step at a time and being patient as best we can.

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This is Nick. He removed the much-despised lava rock from my house. I have wanted someone like Nick to do this for 18 years. Thanks, Nick!

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Terrible old roof had to come down. Carpentry repairs and new masonry had to go up, one stone at a time.

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We’ve made significant progress, especially since the beginning of July. It’s been very noisy at home lately, with carpenters, roofers, masons, etc., working as early as 6:30 a.m. (The July heat has been truly unkind, with many days up to 105-110 degrees!) Theoretically, the roofers were finishing up today, which means when I get home from work there will be a NEW ROOF! Probably. The stonemasons finished on Sunday and the place has a whole new look, with beautiful Red Rock ledge stone.

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Bit by bit, the work is being done. We’re hoping to put in more insulation in our attic, and maybe have the ductwork under the house inspected and fixed. We’re planning to paint the whole place. The list is a mile long. We won’t get to do everything, but it’s going to be sound and safe again soon. It is home.

Gonna Try to Post More

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It’s not like nothing is happening. Life is busy, rich, full of intense logistical and emotional challenges—lots of striving and attempts at recovery before more striving begins. It seems like with all that’s going on, it’s hard to find the moments and energy to write.

I’d like to change that, because I have a sense that time is slipping away. I have guilt that I’m somehow shortchanging us all by not chronicling our days here in this virtual space.

I’ve also found that when my life is challenging or I have thoughts and feelings that are, say, less than charitable, I clam up. Who wants to air their dirty laundry on the Internet? Not me. Now that sounds really dramatic, and like I have a huge beef with someone. I don’t. I just don’t always know how or whether to acknowledge the uncomfortable stuff. In a way, the culture of “positive thinking,” or whatever bullshit they’re calling it these days, has poisoned us, making us unable to tell our truths for fear of appearing a failure. I mean, if you’re blessed (by God), you’re successful—if you’re unsuccessful in any way, you must therefore not be blessed. See the problem? I don’t believe that; I think it’s totally toxic.

So, a tiny picture of what’s going on now:

We’ve just shipped Lucas off to Camp Winthers for his second week of work as a counselor in training (CIT). He worked the week of July 3, too, and unfortunately had a really tough time because of one extremely ill-behaved camper. From what Lucas described, this boy was recalcitrant, obstinate, and rude. He whined, threw rocks, ran away, and generally was as disruptive and uncooperative as he could be the entire time. Counselors and program managers talked to this kid, but they stopped short of booting him home, which is what I think they should have done. Unfortunately, Lucas was charged with dealing with this monster while the other counselors and instructors led the rest of the group and carried on with the art summer camp adgenda. Lucas is a great guy, and he did his very best, but it was extremely frustrating and stressful and more than he was trained to handle. He came home on 7/7 wiped out and angry.

In the intervening ten days, he has been home recovering, and taking a great week-long course in forensics at CSU Sacramento. He seems to have enjoyed it and learned a lot. The class got to analyze a crime scene, isolate DNA, do paternity tests—cool stuff like that. I think it was worthwhile and worth the cost. The program is Summer Academies and it’s just for high school kids.

I’m hoping that this week is wonderful and easier and that he comes home tired but happy and relieved.

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Asher is doing his second week at Effie Yeaw Nature Center this week. The camp is wonderful, but as he has done the same program the last two summers, he’s feeling kind of bored. This is especially so because he doesn’t have his posse with him. (I swear, I tried!) Fortunately for him, camp is only in the mornings. Tomorrow is the big, exciting day of rafting on the American River. (That’s really why we signed him up!)

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Asher’s 10!

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Well. This post is almost six months late. In late January, my baby son turned 10! We had a lovely celebration at home and then we took some of his best buddies to the movies. He chose to see Moana.

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After the movie we went to Leatherby’s for food and ice cream. It was a lively meal. Some of these guys have known each other since preschool.

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In January, we started Asher with viola lessons with Ms. S. She is such a wonderful music teacher. In just a couple of weeks she turned Asher’s experience of viola around from tears of frustration and embarrassment to accomplished playing. He stopped asking if he could stay home from school on orchestra days.

There are only a hundred million things I should have been writing about these last few months. I can only say that I guess I didn’t have it in me. Life is full and joyful and sometimes hard. This little boy is a delight almost every moment. Ten has been pretty great so far!

Confronting Language and Swears

Tonight we had a really good dinnertime conversation about language, swears, and insults. We discussed class, race, intimacy, and the concepts of manhood and what kinds of things are sometimes said to unman someone, degrade him, and make him feel less than. We talked about how sometimes we can say things in jest with close friends that are clearly not acceptable to say to a stranger, because personal history matters, what you’ve been through together matters: “We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow” (Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 2). We talked about words that are said in multiracial high schools by teens who are finding their way to friendships despite differences in background, skills, socioeconomic status, race, and gender, and then we contrasted that with what can and cannot be said in a private elementary school that is far less diverse, because context matters. My 10-year-old surprised me by busting out “fucktard” as a funny insult. Our teen insisted, “Just say the word,” and I totally agree. If you’re having a conversation about language you have to use it. We talked about how “fag” is used much less now (compared to when I was younger) than “cuck” (these days) to insult a man. And about what it feels like to hear these words of denigration. We talked about how “bitch” compares men to women unfavorably, as though the worse thing a man can be is like a woman, and how that might make women feel to know that’s what is meant.

And in case you think such talk is inappropriate for the dinner table, or for a family whose youngest member is 10, I would have to disagree. For how much time do we have to cover these important issues? For how many years are children receptive to their parents’ opinions on these topics? Less time that you might think! And we do far more good by confronting difficult topics with our kids, expressing our thoughts and feelings about them–even our fear and uncertaintly–than by pretending that the world isn’t sometimes cruel, or pretending that our beloved children will never be faced with a choice to use cruel words, or pretending they will never hear these words levied at themselves. Language isn’t the problem, but problems can be confronted by and improved by an examination of language.

I Stand with Planned Parenthood

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Last week I attended a Planned Parenthood “Pink out” rally at the California State Capitol during my lunch hour. I’d estimate there were about 400 people there in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. California lawmakers wore pink scarves and blazers and pink boxing gloves.

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Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, presided over the rally at the west steps of the Capitol, just as she stands on seal of the state of California. (May she be with us these next four years because we need both wisdom and strategic resistance in the face of Trump’s attack on our democracy.)

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I’ve been a supporter of Planned Parenthood for years, however yesterday I initiated a monthly donation. I’m proud of this. I support every woman’s right to choose. And firmly believe that women’s rights are human rights—Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying this in 1995 in your speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Clinton took this idea to a global stage as First Lady, and it is now prominent in feminist discourse and was everywhere at the Women’s March on the 21st of this month.

The First Lady Hillary Clinton during her speech in Beijing, China.
By Sharon Farmer/White House Photograph Office – National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Link

With the ACA under attack, women, men and teens will need Planned Parenthood more than ever for basic health care screenings and all sorts of essential services. I am happy to help.

Thankful for Some Downtime

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Over Thanksgiving vacation, we escaped town for a little family vacation in Guerneville, CA. Ian found us a cute little flat via Airbnb that was just big enough for the four of us and our two little dogs.

Happy Thanksgiving from a cozy flat in the redwoods with puppies and boys and board games and Murphy beds and head colds and knitting and a fake fireplace and pumpkin pie. So much to be grateful for. Sending out our love to all people everywhere.

The weather was rainy and we all caught a cold, so our adventuring was circumscribed. Nevertheless, we had a lovely, low-key time. We read, played board games, and watched movies, while we sniffled and coughed and sneezed together. I know it’s kinda weird to be grateful for some slow, easy sick time, but it was nice not to have to worry about missing school or work, and just allowing ourselves time to rest and recouperate.

I’m not a huge fan of board games, but we played Pandemic for the first time and I really liked it. It’s a cooperative game in which all players must work together to save the world from diseases.

We did not save humanity from the Pandemic, but we have a strategy for next time.

We took a few walks around the neighborhood, visited the local roadhouse on Thanksgiving Day and had a lovely nontraditional meal. Asher picked fried chicken and waffles, which I think he’s never ordered before. I had a nice butternut squash pizza. The beer and cider were delish and it meant that we didn’t have to stress about trying to cook a “proper” holiday meal in a foreign kitchen.

Garden Mandala No. 84 Thankful #autumn #mandala #mandalaart #leaves #landart #gardenart #gardenartflowers #found #travel #thanksgiving #prayers #camellias #gratitude #redwoodsorrel #redwood #maple

Here’s the Thanksgiving mandala I made by gathering items from the ground and the verge in the redwood neighborhood of our little flat. This is mandala number 84.

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We packed ourselves, our dogs, and several boxes of tissues in the car and drove out to the beach at Jenner on Friday. We didn’t stay long; nobody was feeling great. But this walk on the beach was soothing and fun. Even though most of our vacation was cuddly, cozy time, this excursion was a highlight.

Goat Rock Beach

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Such a pretty beach! I wish I could visit the ocean every month.

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This one guy I know doesn’t much care to be photographed these days.

Silly Pippin

This guy acts surprises and delighted every time he’s included on an adventure.

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Armstrong Woods, Guerneville

On our final day off, after checking out of our flat, the rain let up and the sun came out. We stopped at Armstrong Woods for a little walk before driving home. Asher is very fond of forests, you see.

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So it wasn’t exactly the vacation we had envisioned, but it was lovely nonetheless. And now it’s a whole month later. They boys are dragging through the last couple of days of school before Winter Break. We’ll make it. And come Boxing Day, all will be cuddly cozy again.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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