And He’s 8

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This is my beamish boy. He turned 8 at the end of January. In the past I’ve tried to write letters to my children on their birthdays, but this year I’m struggling to keep up with all of my responsibilities. So, I’m just getting to this now.

This is my Asher. My sunbeam. My giggle. My fresh breeze.

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Asher is all I could ever want in a son. (And I can absolutely say that about both of my sons.) Asher is brave and honest, mischievous and fun-loving. He is kind and giving, and willing to pitch in. He’s a fierce warrior for justice. He is strong and righteous, but also sensitive and easily embarrassed. He is well-loved by everyone he meets. He is precious beyond all things.

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Lately Asher has had a series of brief illnesses. Several colds and a stomach bug. Nothing serious. His asthma is being well maintained, so that’s a relief. But he’s had illness after illness and it’s resulted in quite a bit of time at home with me. And while I hate when my child is sick, I do kind of love those quiet moment of cuddling and reading, working on my laptop beside him while he rests on the couch. I guess he really likes that kind of at-home time, too, because he’s been having a hard time coping on the days he’s been well enough to be at school. We seem to keep starting over. Just when he kind of gets his feet under him again and starts feeling comfortable with the school rhythm, he comes down with something new. Then he must reintegrate again. This means tears, feeling sad and lonely at school, missing mommy. He’s being supported by teachers and staff, and I couldn’t hope for a more loving environment for him. Little by little we’re bolstering him, helping him through his anxiety.

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He was in a pretty good place recently—just in time for a two week spring vacation. He was delighted to have his free time at home, with his favorite playmate Lucas and the neighborhood boys to knock around with during vacation. He likes his days easy, and prefers not to be told what to do with his time. (I can relate.)

Loves #8yearold #birthday #celebrations #family #love #boys

Anyway, I’m jumping back to January now: Asher’s 8th birthday was wonderful, full of friends and family and a visiting Bacon dog. We had his party at the indoor swimming pool like last year. Swimming in a heated pool at the end of January is a treat!

My friend Criss helped me fulfill Asher’s birthday wish: He wanted a cake depicting the Hungarian Horntail and the arena from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. No small order there! But Criss is a baking genius, and when I told her his wish she amazed me by saying, “Sure. We can do that.”

And we did.

Hungarian Horntail dragon in a rocky arena with golden egg, inspired by Harry Potter IV (vanilla cupcakes). Criss was the genius who sculpted the dragon body. I got to make the wings.  #friends #community #learning #gratitude #birthday #celebrations #8yea

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And he loved it. He even ate a bit of the gum paste dragon later on.

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He dodged the camera all day #8yearold #secondgrader #birthday #celebrations #beauty

I think the party was a big success. And I think this boy is the bees knees.

Home sick again

He teaches me something new every day. This week, since spring break ended and he went back to school, has gone better than I expected. Monday was a bit rough, but he seems to be more quickly getting back into the school rhythms. There’s nothing in the world like a happy Asher.

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I love him so!

 

Lilacs

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My plan for today was to take my family to Volcano to see the daffodils at Daffodil Hill, then have lunch somewhere quaint, drive through the countryside, and maybe visit Indian Grinding Rock. It’s a perfect day, cool with some cloud cover. The grass is green, the light’s pretty even—ideal for photos.

Instead, Asher’s sick. (I wish this child could catch a break!) Three of us are home; we let Lucas escape with his bestie. Ian is working. I will soon start working. We’re doing necessary things instead of what we wanted to do. It’s fine, really. There’s laundry and other chores …

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Still, I’m feeling a little glum while the scent of lilacs wafts through my window. Thank goodness for lilacs.

100 Salad Summer

100 Salad Summer #100saladsummer

I’ve decided to do a challenge that I’ve just made up for myself. I’m going to eat 100 salads this summer (it’s got a nice ring to it: #100saladsummer). I don’t diet very well. I am totally committed one moment and then, as soon as I’m hungry, my commitment usually vanishes. So usually I don’t diet. Which is a fine trend that I don’t really care to try to break. And I don’t have time to research the latest food thing. But I started thinking it would be better to eat fewer burritos (my weakness) and more salads. So. This.

These are my rules for myself:
1. They are meal salads, which means they can have meat or other protein or fat or dairy or carbs like croutons or quinoa, but they must be mostly vegetables.

What do you think? Join me? Encourage me?

Cross Country

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for four months now. A-hem.

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Lucas joined the school’s cross country running team this past fall. He’s in sixth grade and it was his first opportunity to be involved in school sports, and he jumped in with both feet and tons of heart. The team started practicing even before the school year began, and Ian and I watched with wide eyes as he completed two after-school practices each week and ran meets on many Saturdays and a few Wednesdays too. The sixth grade boys turned out in force (I think we had eight from our class), and for many of them it was their first team sport experience. I am so proud of them. They were supportive of each other, encouraging, and really gave it their all.

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They trained hard and had a lot of fun too. Practices often involved running more than 3 miles.

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They practiced and ran races in 100-degree heat. Races were usually about 1.4 miles or 1.25 miles long.

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These are shots from their very first meet at the Lagoon Valley Classic Invitational in Vacaville.

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This was a meet that took place at Capital Christian Center school. I love this photo because it illustrates what it’s like to have sixth, seventh, and eighth graders racing at the same time! (Fortunately, they gave medals for the five fastest boys in each grade.) It also illustrates to me how much growth our boys are going to experience in these next three years.

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Some of our boys are just born to run; they’re fast and lithe, and they want it bad. But all the Sacramento Waldorf School boys were dedicated and worked hard to improve their times. And they all did through their training.

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Lucas got 5th place (among 6th grade boys)! He is feeling great!

Lucas came in fifth of all the sixth graders at this Capital Christian race. It was a very proud moment for him.

Over the course of the season, which was about eight weeks long, he improved his mile time by more than two minutes. By the end of the season he was running a mile in under-7-minutes.

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This was in the foothills at Foresthill High School for the Wildfire Invitational. The Waves middle school runners were warming up. This course took them a little more than a mile through the forest. It was a beautiful location.

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Go waves! Last middle school meet of the season.

And how’s this for a culminating moment? In the last meet of the season (“The Other Meet”), the runners trekked out over a track through an undeveloped field on the edge of some soccer fields. They ran past a hornet nest, and the insects stung them. Some described seeing runners covered in hornets. All of our boys came back with a sting or two. They kept running and all of them finished the race! So tough! I think I would have flipped out had I been in their shoes.

The middle school runners’ season ended in the middle of October. The Waves high school runners continued to train and run till Thanksgiving. I somehow misunderstood the team schedule and assumed that Lucas would train through November also. When we learned that was not the case, it was a great disappointment for him. He was having the time of his life and getting so good, he just wasn’t ready for the season to end! I am quite sure that he will be on the team next fall.

The Waves high school runners went on to perform very well in statewide competitions. They run faster and farther in their meets. The coach is looking at this big crop of young, middle school runners with excitement, perhaps imagining what they will do when they are older.

We are so proud of Lucas and what he accomplished! We are delighted that his first team sports experience was so completely positive, so affirming and encouraging. We are so grateful to the coaches, the other parents, and to kids on the team for such a wonderful time. And we cannot wait for next year’s season.

Love is …

* An extra much-needed day of work, and appreciation for a job well done
* A mom friend who takes my boys home with her children and feeds them
* Parents (kids’ grandparents) who arrive home, safe and rested, from their vacation
* Delivering the requested milk and bread, and turning on the heat in the house 12 hours before they get home
* Shark tooth necklaces and sea salt seasonings from Hawaii
* An assistant basketball coach/dad turned coach, who is passionate about teaching, connected, and dedicated to helping our boys get the most out of their season
* A little boy who writes his own game books
* Friends who run with you, even if you’re slow
* Friends who hike six beautiful miles with you, and let you cover even more territory in conversation
* Visiting friends from out of town who don’t mind either sleeping bag or early-morning boy bounces
* Blueberry muffins from scratch, because someone small asked for them
* Big boys who need and ask for an extra cuddle at night to help them fall asleep
* Friday night fish tacos à la Daddy
* Friends who take you to places in your hometown’s backyard that you’ve never seen before
* Grandmas who take boys to school and pick boys up from school
* Watching my son and his friends/teammates win a basketball game
* Helping friends with their farm-to-fork movie contest
* Date night featuring a sushi gift card and The Hobbit.

Mothering

There are some moments when I despair. I look at these two strange beings who bicker and occupy my home, who confuse and frustrate me, and are so different from me, and I wonder if I am having any civilizing influence on them at all.

Then I get sick, like I am now, and they come to me with soft small hands, stroking my skin and hair, bringing me cool wet cloths for my forehead, and rubbing my shoulders. They hold me close, cuddle up next to me, worry about me, and whisper sweet words of comfort.

And I feel their mothering and hear my own words coming back to me. It’s a mirror, and a window to their future selves.

Giving Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday. I warn you, this post is going to try to do too much.

Thanksgiving vacation has been all in all pretty great. It started a day early with my grandmother’s funeral services. That first weekend was full and emotionally difficult, but the funeral services eased into an early Thanksgiving family gathering (Ian’s family this time), where people were kind and gentle to me and let me slide on everything because I was sad, and then a party at my home for Tony and our local November birthday girls. My friends made it soooo easy for me to host that party by helping to prepare my house. Once I got over being embarrassed by the neglected state of things, I let go and allowed them to make the place sparkle and shine. When the day of the party came, I just got to sit back and enjoy having my home full of lovely, friendly people. Many, many thanks to Lady K and Jami for making it so perfect.

Trail

I got to do two trail runs with Stacy. She is a super running partner for me—very encouraging and she has introduced me to the joys of running on the trails instead of the street. We’re evenly matched, and that means I don’t have to worry about holding her back, and vice verse. Running near the river means we get to see vistas and oak trees, deer trails and sparkling sunshine. This fills my heart as much as the running does.

Sunday's trail run

While they had time off, the kids and I did some normal stuff, like shoe buying and errands. We had lunch with Papa and Uncle Mike one day. I couldn’t help but think I should go and visit my grandmother, but … the time for doing that is done.

Running with my boys; I think we're ready for tomorrow's 10K.

We went running at Del Campo high school’s track on the day before Thanksgiving. We were getting ready for The Run to Feed the Hungry the next day. Thanksgiving morning dawned and we four went to East Sacramento to run a 10K. My goal was to run together as a family, keeping to our six-almost-seven-year-old’s pace—run when he could run, walk when he wanted to walk. It kind of worked and kind of didn’t. I kind of got the experience I had hoped for, but … well, let’s say that Ian was right and I was wrong and it is evidently too hard for fast boys to slow down enough to meet mama’s family experience agenda. We’ll chock this up to experience; I don’t actually know if we can do this event together again.

Asher ran 5.5 miles. We walked the rest and I’m so proud of him. He was absolutely determined to run, and lots of people cheered him on all along the course.

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Here we are after the race. There were approximately 30,000 people there. The weather was perfect. The mood, festive. The course started and finished at Sacramento State University and looped through lovely East Sacramento. It was nice and flat.

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And let me boast a moment by saying that running this 10K was an incredible accomplishment for me, personally. I’ve never been able to run this far in my life. I am slow, but the training I’ve been doing these last two months has paid off.

A big part of why I’m pushing so hard to rewire my brain about exercise is because I see how naturally movement and athletics comes to my family. I see how much joy they derive from using their bodies and I want very much to be a good role model for them. I also want to be physically capable of doing things they like to do. They have inspired me to be better about this aspect of my life.

Anyway, Thanksgiving. We went to my parents’ home for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed a few hours with them and my brother and his girlfriend. It was relaxed and easy, and just what I needed.

Today's trail run

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Sorry, more trail run pics. (Stopping just a sec to take a photo is fun and then I have pretty evidence that I really did it.) Stacy doesn’t seem to mind. We ran yesterday morning I am thrilled to keep going even after meeting our race goal.

Mom and Dad, and Mom's sibs and sibs-in-law, minus one

We visited with my mother’s side of the family yesterday, too. Her brothers were in town visiting, so we got all five siblings together. Many thanks to my cousin Emily and her husband Mike for hosting. The shape of our family has changed and it was nice to meet all the kids and get them together. It was sweet how well they got along!

The "grandkids"

Asher and I have been reading a lot about Pilgrims, and the “first Thanksgiving” of 1621, which is entirely mythologized in our American culture. We’ve read about the time when the Wampanoag encountered the colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts, who were able to settle the area because the former occupants, the Patuxet tribe, had been wiped out by disease. Amazingly, this interest Asher has is completely his—I didn’t choose these topics or books for him. Doubly amazingly is that both books about this time of American history do not give the American myth of the first Thanksgiving.

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We’ve also been reading about Vikings, and how archaeologists and historians know what they know about them. Asher seems to have a budding interest in history.

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We watched some “Avatar The Last Airbender,” a family autumn staple, and a movie called “Arthur and the Invisibles.” We have snuggled in, cooked and eaten meals together, gone to piano lessons and basketball practice, and the boys have started working on Christmas projects. Ian and I had a date night, Lucas did math homework, and I painted a bit and today I planted irises and tulip bulbs.

See what I mean? Too much in one post, and a full and wonderful week. We are thankful for so much love and abundance in our lives!

Favorite Fall Soup: Butternut Squash and Leek

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

This is by no means a foodie blog. My food photos aren’t pretty enough and I don’t spend most of every day in the kitchen. Nor do I have all the gizmos and gadgets and pretty work surfaces and good lighting. Nevertheless, I do cook good stuff.

Here is my favorite fall soup hands down (and I love soups—my kids say I specialize in soups and stews). I present it here because some friends on Facebook have been asking for it. Incidentally, I never measure when cooking this. I don’t think it’s possible to screw this up.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

This soup makes a wonderful fancy starter for a holiday meal, but also serves as an easy, earthy weeknight dinner when paired with a salad and bread.

3 lbs. butternut squash
4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil with a tablespoon of butter for flavor)
3 large leeks, washed well, halved, and chopped.
6 fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 oz. cooked bacon, chopped (or fake bacon, or omit entirely)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup sour cream
2  tablespoons chopped chives

Slice the squash in half and scrap out the seeds. Cook the butternut squash, cut side down, in a baking pan with a little olive oil in it, in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I usually turn the oven off and let the oven cool with the squash still in there. Cooking the squash well is the difference between this recipe being easy and fighting for your soup; and cooking the squash early in the day makes this next part nicer: Scrape the cooked squash from its skin.

Let’s take just a tiny moment and contemplate the humble leek. Leeks are WONDERFUL! Seriously, why aren’t leeks in everything?! Just be sure to wash them well, because soil can get trapped among the layers of the plant as it grows.

In a large pot, melt butter (or heat olive oil) over low heat. Add the chopped leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft and browned, approximately 40 mins. If you get distracted and/or have the heat too high, they may burn. Trust me on that. Discard thyme stems, if you used fresh thyme.

In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy, drain the fat, and chop the bacon into crumbles.

Put broth, squash, and salt into the pot with the cooked leeks. Simmer over moderate heat about 20 minutes. With handheld blender, puree soup until it’s smooth. Add pepper.

Serve soup warm with 1 teaspoon sour cream, some bacon crumbles, and some chives in each bowl. Serves 6, or so.

My friend Sonya tried this recipe last night and she thinks it’s the thyme that makes it awesome. Her teenage exchange student from Germany liked it so much he reheated it this morning and ate it for breakfast. That’s quite an endorsement, I think!

 

Recipe is adapted from Food & Wine Books, Soups and Stews, 1994.

And So It Turns

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I actually asked myself today, “where can I write about all these feelings I have to process them?”  Um … oh yeah! I have a blog.

It’s a full, exciting time and I am finding myself short on spare time. But, when I don’t write, I get kinda weird in the head, so I think it would be good for me to write more. This is a lesson I seem to have to relearn frequently.

Morning workout, 8-week fitness challenge, Waves Women

I’m back in the saddle with the whole exercise-for-fitness journey, which is my conflicted little hamster wheel. (It had been a long time since I was exercising regularly and I won’t bore anyone with the reasons why.) For the last seven weeks I’ve been going two mornings a week to a workout with a group of moms from our school. I call us the Waves Women, though our group has no official name. One lovely, enthusiastic lady recently became a personal trainer and she offered to whip us into shape in an eight-week program. I caught wind of this group a little late, but joined up. We’ve been exercising in the mornings in the park right next to the Waldorf school. The workouts at first were a little hard for me, but they’ve become much easier. And while I kind of hated it at first, as I have come to know these women better, I really have come to enjoy the whole experience. Because they are awesome. They show up and bellyache and laugh and try and modify and encourage each other. It’s very real and wonderful. (Many thanks to Black Francis for taking the photo above and letting me publish it here.)

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So, I would just like to say thank you to Meredith for giving her time and encouragement and energy, and thanks to all these super people for making this experience fun for me. Turns out I like working out with people I know!

I’ve also been doing a lot more walking and running lately. I’ve been walking with several friends semi-regularly and running a couple of times a week—but I had a cold for part of October and that slowed me down a bit. One day I walked 8 miles because I didn’t feel up to running, but walking was just right.

Good morning

It’s hard to go wrong when you can get out to places like this within just a few minutes. So, anyway … fitness. My motto right now is “Do more.” We’ll see where that takes me, but I can tell that I’m in a better place for it.

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This past weekend I acted as the officiant in the wedding of two dear friends. I was honored to be asked to do this work, and I am so happy for them. The whole thing was beautiful and I’m very pleased with how the ceremony turned out. Ian was the Best Man, and that meant that our boys were rather on their own for much of the day’s festivities. They were super good and I’m proud of them. There will probably be photos from the day floating about, but I confess I took none. I was too nervous before the ceremony to even think about getting out my camera or my phone.

Writing and performing this wedding ceremony has had me thinking a lot about love and commitment. About how two people can honor each other through time and changes and growth. How you continue to blend two lives in concert when people have differing needs and wants. I know that it takes work and patience and understanding. I know it takes open dialogue and discussion and that isn’t always pretty stuff. I know marriage includes a lot of unglamorous things that fall into the highly unsexy categories of “Daily Grind,” and “Working the Plan,” and “Roles.” I’m 18 years into my marriage and it’s frequently bewildering but always rewarding. It isn’t a fairytale, however, and no marriage can be—unless we’re talking about the kind of fairytale in which fingers get pricked and sacrifices are made and sometimes the woods are dark and scary.

Anyway, here’s what I know about love: It doesn’t fall from the sky or blossom at your feet without effort. You make it, and make it, and remake it, again and again, every day. You plant the seeds of love in a thousand little actions every day. What I don’t know about love and marriage is a lot longer than this paragraph, I’m sure.

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And now, about Halloween. I am feeling like I blew it this year. But I also know I don’t need to feel that way. I know that in the past I’ve set the bar for our Halloween costumes pretty high, and this year—well, the wedding and my work ate up Halloween. We will still go trick-or-treating. We will still see friends and enjoy our spooky night. Our kids will end up wearing something. Lucas has taken point on his assassin costume. He’s relaxed about it, and not worried about it being fantastic. Asher is going as a potion maker, and we have found a couple of items at the thrift store and he’ll carry with him tiny bottles of colored potions. That’s all his idea and I don’t have to control it. Right? Right.

I love Halloween, and I will have other opportunities to go mad about it. Just not this year. And that’s OK.

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So, maybe this post is about starting again, about continuing to try, about compromise and doing the good work, and about forgiveness. Maybe.

Apple Flower Breakfast

Asher's breakfast

Breakfast on summer days around here is pretty relaxed. I don’t mind sipping my coffee and letting my kids get hungry enough to help themselves to some food. I think that I should not have to prepare every meal for them, now that they are competent enough to do some things for themselves. Sometimes our breakfast is home raised eggs from our hens; sometimes it’s cereal or oatmeal; sometimes it’s leftover pizza or a quesadilla. Lucas often prepares food for his brother or for all of us. This morning we all four ate different foods.

This is what Asher requested: Apple Flower Breakfast. This time I made it for him, but I think he can do it next time. Smear a honey-flavored rice cake with peanut butter and arrange apple slices to make a flower. The kid’s got style. (By the way, this makes a wonderful lunchbox meal, too.)

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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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