Seattle Musings and A List

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We returned on Sunday from a glorious Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington. There we were hosted by Mike and Kimmie and got to spend some comfy, quality time with them and other friends we rarely see. This was Asher’s first trip to Seattle, and he fell for it hard, not least because he loves blustery, rainy days and it Seattle obliged us with rain.

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Our journey up, by plane, was kind of hellish, as fog had socked in SeaTac and the pilot flew us round and round above Portland for a while. Then he landed us in Portland, which was good because we were able to buy sandwiches, but then we were out of queue and didn’t actually make it to land in Seattle until 4 p.m. Originally we were supposed to arrive at 8 in the morning. Long long very boring day with not enough food for my hungry boys. The worst part is that it robbed us of a precious day in Seattle.

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HOWEVER, once we were there, our vacation was on! We saw Tony on Tuesday night. And on Wednesday we got to explore Pike Place Market with Kimmie, visiting food stalls for Thanksgiving supplies and kitschy gift shops and comics stores for fun. I ate a duck burrito for the first time.

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Thanksgiving Day was lovely. We cooked and hung out. We made multiple grocery store trips–so much that Mike called it Five Store Turkey. All the side dishes were vegan, and Kimmie made a stuffed seitan dish and a glorious mushroom gravy. Ian roasted root vegetables. Trevor and Sara and their son S came for dinner and Trevor made several delicious desserts. I burned my brussels sprouts because I was so busy relaxing and visiting. My cranberry sauce turned out well, however. A few other friends dropped by near the end of the day.

The kids loved getting to play Mario Kart and we watched Ant Man and Wasp. S took to Asher immediately. It was fun seeing Asher interacting with him and being the bigger kid.

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On Friday, we met up with Trevor, Sara, and S again and made a walking tour of University of Washington. Trevor attended grad school  and also taught there. So he shared some of his experiences and showed us around the campus. Unfortunately, the library and all the buildings were closed for the holiday.

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We also got to go to the MoPop and enjoyed the Marvel exhibit. Asher loved the fantasy collection (Gimli’s axe! Saruman’s staff!) and the horror collection. What is it with the fascination with horror films even though he’s never seen one. (Or has he?)

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Because airfare during Thanksgiving weekend is atrocious, we elected to drive home. Even with car rental, gas, and one night in a hotel, we probably saved $1,000. And after our flight up, the kids weren’t too keen on getting on an airplane again. They weren’t especially keen on driving 13 or so hours home, either, but it is what it is. Honestly, traveling with these guys is really easy now. They were wonderful, even under the worst of circumstances, and I can’t wait to take them back to Seattle.

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We stopped briefly in Portland and visited Brianna and Jasper. Haven’t seen her since summer of 2015.

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I’m so grateful for this trip, for the opportunity to do extraordinary things with my family. Ordinary time is sacred too, of course, but exploring the world together is a privilege.

* I love my friends. They are brilliant, generous, compassionate, kind, forgiving, talented, hard-working, committed, and wise.
* You might not guess it from its name but Monster Manor is the most hospitable and comfortable place in the U.S.
* Seattle has charmed the socks off both my boys. (I couldn’t be happier about this.)
* Lucas really liked U of W!!!! I don’t blame him one bit!
* 5- and 6-year-old boys are TONS of work. I have had no less than three ample opportunities to rediscover this fact. My kids are so EASY now, comparatively.
* Sometimes you can befriend a 16-year-old girl and then see her periodically and again when she’s 36 (approximately) and be wowed all over again, for a thousand more reasons.
* Pike Place Market is the bomb. I wanted lots of stuff for myself; I bought two refrigerator magnets.
* It’s pretty rad to book and pay for a hotel while traveling down the road. And it gives you a good goal.
* Washington and Oregon have WAY more water than we do. California has WAY more people.
* With climate change, I think I should buy a few thousand acres up north–get a jump on future agribusiness.
* We returned to Sacramento at that vivid autumnal peak, when the trees are practically vibrating with their most intense colors, and you wonder if your eyes are seeing some infrared wavelengths you can’t see at any other time of the year. It’s magic. Don’t blink.
* Alice Hoffman is still my fav author. Here on Earth was deliciously dark. I love an unhappy ending.
* I had a tightly, tidily scheduled workweek planned; then today it unraveled, opening ugly unbillable gaps. I always want to ask PMs, “When exactly did you realize your document would be late? And why did you not inform me then?”
* I can hustle like a badass with 13 years of self-employment under her belt: I now have plenty of replacement work.
* Phone, “unbillable” is a word. I want “unkillable” work even less than I want unbillable work.
* Asher believes that Avatar the Last Airbender should be a Thanksgiving tradition the world over. He is probably not wrong.
* It appears that my father will take us to, or pick us up from, the airport at any time: even 3:45 a.m., which is a bloody ungodly hour. Good to know!
* Alaska gave us each a $75 discount on our next flights because of our colossally bad 10-hour day flying to Seattle. Where should we go?
* Kimberly’s mushroom gravy and Mike’s turkey and vegan stuffing are divine.
* It’s possible that my burned Brussels sprouts were partially redeemed by my warmly spiced cranberry sauce. It’s great on bagels, too.
* Ian may be allergic to cats.
* Lucas has been to Seattle twice and has yet to see Mt. Rainier. It was hiding both trips.
* Our dogs are tiny fluffy stupid misbehaving dummies who are naughty and that bodes ill for future trips. I missed them.
* My uncle is making (slow) progress after his third (“The Works”) cardiac surgery. I am thrilled.
* I estimate that Asher and I are on page 4,490 of Percy Jackson Takes Over My Life With Ten Books.

Halloween Time

I’m working up a post about our wonderful family vacation to San Diego, but it’s taking a fair amount of time and there’s just not that much free time these days. Some procedural things I used to do when writing a blog post have changed, and it seems like the new way takes longer. I don’t know.

Let’s see, it’s Saturday before Halloween, which is one of the best days of the year. Tonight we’ll be attending the 10th annual Shannon McCabe’s Vampire Ball, which somehow we’ve managed to miss until now. A Death in Bloom is playing two sets of music tonight, and Ian’s thrilled to be performing with them. He’s debuting a Cure cover, which he’s never done before. He’s all aflutter. I’m so fucking proud of him. He’s pursuing his music with dedication and determination, and it’s paying off!

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So, soon I’ll put on my vampire clothes and get dolled up. It will be a fun night I’m sure.

Lucas, my lovely young man, went to a Halloween dance last night, dressed very smartly. “I don’t like costumes as much as you guys do,” he said, when I asked him if he needed a costume. (I remember when he did love costumes and cosplay as much as I do. We have to give him room to change.) Tonight he’s with friends, attending a haunted house and staying over.

My little guy got to attend a Halloween party last night. “Mom, I don’t want to wear the whole werewolf costume, just the mask.” He, too, used to be all about dressing up, and I have the evidence here and here and here.

That’s OK, though. They get to go through this phase, just like all the others. Asher’s a sixth grader now, and that self-consciousness is taking hold. It’s right on time, really.

I hope everyone has some deliciously spooky fun tonight or next week for Halloween. It’s one of my fav holidays.

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Halloween, 2016

Yosemite Trip

My little love is off with his class to Yosemite for three days. It the first sixth-grade trip and we’ve been on the edge of our seats as to whether he would go. He’s had a cold for the last five days, and didn’t feel up to going to school. Plus, he suffers from a lot of anxiety about being away from home, without his parents, brother, and fluffy dogs—a lot of anxiety.

Last night though, he was feeling a bit better and started to rally. With gentle, steady pressure we suggested that he go on the trip, that it would be great fun and he would learn a lot. The program the class will participate in is a really cool real-world environmental sciences curriculum. They’ve been studying geology in Main Lesson, and this is a hell of a capstone experience!

We carefully packed his belongings, finding nearly everything on the list. Then I made an after-dinner grocery store run for some special lunch/snack items, a new water bottle, lip balm—anything that would excite him about the trip.

This morning he bravely got ready, made an enormous lunch for himself, and marched out the door. I know he is scared. I know he’s worried about the “anxiety train,” which races away with our thoughts and feelings in a whole string of frightening what-ifs. I know that one of the things he worries about it getting sad, lonely, and anxious, and then feeling embarrassed on top of it all. I have so much compassion for him. I was the same kind of kid myself: sensitive, worried, anxious.

Parenting him through this is always tough, but I think we’re getting better at it. The whole time we told him going on the trip was his decision
(given his cold). Honestly, I really wanted him to go on the trip, though, and I’m very happy he decided to.

He was tense and stiff at school, gave me a shy hug and joined his classmates. I’ve briefed the teacher and chaperones, and I know they all have his back. They’ll take care of him and give him extra support if he needs it. It’s wonderful to have a community of people with him who have known him since he was 5. Two mom friends/chaperones sent me photos, and so I’m placing them here, without context.

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I love my boy and his brilliant, sensitive, beautiful soul.

Asher, I hope Yosemite is amazing for you. I hope you can relax and enjoy this glorious place on earth, with these great people. I love you and I believe in you. Way to face your dragons, my love. Blessed be.

Starting Sixth Grade

A new school year started last week, the day after Labor Day. This was the first day of sixth grade. My little love finds transitions very hard. He has been dreading this day, and we’re all trying to support him through it.

Asher is clever, kind, smart, empathetic, sensitive, loving, funny, and brave. He may not seem brave when you see his sad face, but this is evidence of his courage: He suits up and faces his fear and deep discomfort. I have tremendous faith in him and his abilities. I am so very proud of this boy. I love him. I grok him.

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The first day went OK, in part because it was a half-day. Over the next three school days he gradually got used to it again. His nervousness manifested in early rising and he was getting ready  and making his lunch long before it was time to go to school. He is cautiously optimistic about his new class teacher, and sad to see his movement teacher go.

I told him that there would be a few days of discomfort, and those feelings are big and real and valid. But that after a few days, that uncomfortable feeling would lessen and soon he would be all right again.

 

2017—A Summary

2017—What can I say? In a lot of ways 2017 kicked my ass. I’ve despaired more times than I can count. I’ve also rolled up my sleeves and done more political activism than ever before. I’ve challenged myself in innumerable ways, through work, personal relationships, and parenting. I’ve also thrown up my hands lots of times, had too much booze, gained weight, watched a ton of TV, curled up and licked my wounds. Staying informed and engaged this year has been a matter of taking a daily barrage of gut-punches.

I am frequently exhausted by the mental and physical requirements of my job; it leaves me feeling depleted and out of gas at the end of many days. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I edit for a living, I embarked on a fun personal challenge to read broader and more challenging categories/genres of books for pleasure. Filling up my mind is always one of my highest priorities, and I’ve stretched into reading fiction and nonfiction about contemporary issues and people who are living lives that are a vastly different from my own. Rock!

I’ve also allowed myself a lot of time to change slowly. I see this as a kind of self-care in a year that by any measure surely required it. Win some, lose some. I barely painted at all, and I miss it every day. I still dream about painting at night. I struggle with finding the perfect cocktail of opportunity, free time, emotional wherewithal to face the complex feelings of ambition/desire/failure/striving/laziness/etc that well up when I approach a canvas. I barely exercise. I barely blog. These are things that have always given me joy or emotional and health benefits, and they have fallen by the wayside. Because I can only exist in this moment, not in all moments at once.

I’ve parented through a few doozies, and advocated for my boys a number of times in assorted settings such as school and health care. I’ve watched my children both maturing beautifully and in sometimes shocking and sudden spurts throughout the year. Learning to let go is a daily lesson, and I believe a quintessential quality of being a parent. As much as I want out of life for myself—and believe me that’s a long and glorious list—I want even more and better for them. But I am not them and they are not me, and ultimately we all walk our own paths. Nevertheless, I often feel like I am not one but three people, because there’s nary a moment when their needs are not at the top of my mind and factored into just about every decision I make. I’ve had to pull back from school activities and volunteering. I have feelings about this, but I’m learning to say no. Saying no can save you. And letting go, in measured increments, with love is the name of this parenting game, from that first Beltane dawn in 2002.

I am blessed to have found meaningful employment in a place I can grow and develop my career. I already said it’s taxing. It’s also truly wonderful to have friends and colleagues again—talented people with passion for what they do and amazingly clever minds solving enormous problems and working from value positions I can respect. My company has a slogan: We make big things possible—in areas that matter for humans and our environment. That I have a part to play, a contribution to make, in projects that will affect our state for the next 50-100 years is somewhat staggering and a source of considerable pride. What’s more, I learn about a dozen new things every day in subjects that were largely previously unknown to me: hydrology, cultural anthropology, historical architecture, air quality, noise and vibration, native California species I’ve never seen before, environmental justice, hazardous materials … the list goes on and on and on. What’s more, I can tell you with great confidence: big infrastructure projects and development are not done cavalierly in California! We live in the best state.

I maintained my freelance business this year, too, working joyfully with Sacramento Magazine monthly and taking on special freelance projects for fun. There’s one project that came to me this year that is very close to my heart because I get to work with two brilliant friends. I’m honored and delighted by this.

This year I’ve proven to myself that I can handle more than I thought. I’ve done a gazillion new things, sometimes clumsily, sometimes with grace. I’m on a board of directors. I’ve worked hard to maintain all my relationships. I try to make contact with three or four people every day. That’s called kin-keeping and I’m a badass at it. My friendships nourish me and fulfill me and I know it’s goofy when I say it on Facebook but I truly love you. I witness your heartaches, your striving. I sit with you when you’re depressed, and I celebrate your accomplishments every day. I am here for you. It’s who I am. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for loving.

My love, Ian, is my rock and my best friend. We are sometimes gasping for air in the grind of all this work-family stuff, but we’re connected and in it together. He’s my heartbeat, my song. In 2017, we’ve managed to put a new roof on our home and fix it up really nice. It’s water-tight, just right, and the place I love best of all. In. The. Whole. World. And 2018 is going to be grand in a whole bunch of important ways.

My family is good. My parents are well. My brother is doing great. My uncle survived not one but two open heart surgeries in 2017. One cousin had a beautiful baby girl. Another cousin got married to a wonderful woman. My aunt and uncle returned to Sacramento after five years in Geneva. My folks are in my life almost daily, and I feel their love and support as a constant, no matter what.

My Asher is sick. My Lucas has two good friends over tonight, for NYE (ethernet!) gaming. And though Ian and I had the opportunity to spend tonight with shiny friends and loves, cooler (sicker) heads prevailed.

In just about 36 hours we’ll be on a plane all together—Mom, Dad, Jonathan, Ian, the boys and me—heading for Maui where we will celebrate the new year and soak up some rays! Hello, 2018!

Probably all of this should be on my blog instead of here. But it’s down again for an unknown reason. I’ll deal with that later. One thing at a time.

Anyway, I love you. May this coming year be gentler, more peaceful and just, and more connected. May we find our courage and stand together. May we hold close our values and loved ones, extend a hand to a stranger, shine out our brilliance, and let our resilience be our strength. Happy New Year!

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.

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!

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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.

    © 2003–2018 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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