Friday, September 8, 2017

August Reads

Having a single post to cover all I read in 2016 was a bit overwhelming—both to write and, I'm sure, to read. So I've decided instead to do a monthly recap of books I've read, and share a little about each book. For past months, see:
January Reads 
February Reads 
March Reads 
April Reads 
May Reads  
June Reads
July Reads

I was going to say I didn't read much last month, but I guess that pile isn't too shabby. I read very little on our three-week road trip. I brought plenty of books with me and bought even more along the way (national parks have the best book stores), but I didn't find time to read more than a few paragraphs. But it appears that I made up for lost time when I got home.

Read-Aloud. I started reading A Wrinkle in Time to the kids in the tent at night on our return trip and finished up after we got home (with only E listening at the end; he's my best audience). I was surprised to find nothing familiar about this book, even though I've always assumed I'd read it at some point in the past. I was also surprised by the religious element. I'd thought the L'Engle books were the humanist antidote to the Narnia books, but that must be something else? While we were driving, I had E and Z each read aloud from books I'd brought along for them (gifts they'd received over the last year but hadn't yet read) and was appalled by the atrocious writing and just generally dumb premise in both of them (one by a bestselling adult author) so I was pleased that the writing in Wrinkle was decent and the story carried along at a good clip, but my reaction overall to the book was, "Huh?" I just found it kinda weird. Maybe because I'm not usually a sic-fi reader I haven't learned to suspend my disbelief? I don't know, but at least now I can say I've read it.

Poetry. After we got home, I got back in my read a poem or two each morning habit, and read the short collection, Mothering Through, by Catharine Murray, which I had picked up earlier this summer on the alumni book table at my MFA reunion. I'm not a great judge of poetry, so I won't speak to the quality of these poems, but other than the subject matter (the author's young son dying of cancer), I will say they weren't terribly memorable.

Fiction. And it would appear I was still in summer reading mode this month, continuing with the Elizabeth Peters/Amelia Peabody marathon that's been going on all summer. The boys and I even listened to audiobooks of two of the books (which I reread earlier this summer) on our drive out to Colorado. I suspected they would enjoy the ones where Amelia's son, Ramses, is young (and always stirring up trouble) and I was pleased to find I was correct. I finished the Painted Queen, which is the posthumously published (and written by another author) final book in the series, and I was still disappointed in it, for all the reasons I went into last month. The disappointment was tempered by the fact that six books follow The Painted Queen, if the series is read in chronological (rather than publication) order. I read the next four and I'm halfway through the fifth of these, which means I'll get back to more Serious reading later this month.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thru-Hiking en Famille

The last (for now) of the short pieces I've been writing over the last year about our Colorado Trail hike last summer has just been published in TrailGroove Magazine, Issue #35. My piece, Thru-Hiking en Famille is less of a how-to than a how-we-did, but if you're looking looking for tips on getting your family out on the trail, or are just curious about the nitty gritty details of our trek, or if you just want to see more pictures of Colorado's scenery, please check it out!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Multiples Illuminated

While I was away on our cross-country road trip, this book was released:
In which my essay, "Individuality, Mutuality, and a Game of Twister" appears.
You can read an excerpt of my piece here.
If you have twins, triplets, or more, or if you just like horror stories, consider purchasing a copy:
Amazon (paperback) 
Amazon (Kindle
Barnes and Noble 

Monday, September 4, 2017

September Newsletter

My September Common Ground newsletter went out today. If you don't already have a subscription, you can check it out here and subscribe here. If you've already subscribed but didn't receive your copy, check your spam folder and "promotions" tab.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ One Week in Late August

Last Wednesday I went out and took some photos of late August happenings, with the full intention of writing a Wild Wednesday post, but then I got busy doing other things and it never happened. I considered a Wild Thursday or Friday post, but those days got filled up, too (oh, how glorious that school is back in session!!). Now here it is Wednesday again, and I thought I'd do a little compare and contrast from one week to the next.

Late August is goldenrod season around here, and a few species, including early goldenrod, were blooming.

Now the early goldenrod has gone by,

But several other species are coming online.

I haven't had a chance to go out with my field guide and identify  them yet (or re-identify, since I'm pretty sure I've learned them at least once or twice before).

Last week, most of the queen Anne's lace was on its way out, though a few were still blooming

By this week almost all (except for a few small ones here or there) have gone to seed.

The tall asters had come into full bloom last week,

And are still the predominant flower in the fields.

I had seen this puffball mushroom, about the size of a softball, on my morning walk up the driveway. By the time I came by again around noon, some little critter had nibbled away at it.

Over the next few days, it turned black and slimy and now this is all that's left. When you stamp on it—which is irresistible—it gives off its spores, like a cloud of purple smoke, which smells oddly of chocolate.

There were a few of these teeny tiny puffballs along the driveway as well, each about the size of a large grape, covered in a spiky white skin.

The skin dried and cracked, peeling away, leaving behind a brownish volcano that spurts little puffs of greenish-yellow spores.

One of my favorite flowers growing on our property is this sedum, called live-forever. Most of our wildflowers are white or yellow, and while I might not choose to dress in or decorate with magenta, I'm thrilled whenever it grow wild on my land.

It is, unfortunately, not so aptly named. Just a week later, and the blooms and stems have turned a rusty red.

What's wild in your neck of the woods this week?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Long Road

19 days
17 states
5 national parks/monuments/memorials
6,271 miles

We had so much fun driving across country the last two summers in a row, I decided why not do it again this year?

Just kidding. My parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this summer, so we had no choice.

And to be honest, I was kinda dreading the whole prospect. But once we got past the anticipation stage of the trip and on to the actual trip, we had a great time.

C did not join us (his exact words: "I hope when people ask me why I didn't come along, you say somebody had to work to pay for this trip."). Which meant a lot more driving for me. He usually does somewhere between most and all of the driving, while I knit, read, nap, and entertain the kinder.

M, however, has his learners permit and did a fair amount of driving in the states which honor other states' permits (which is most of them). This was a terrifying experience in many ways. But, as I reminded myself over and over (and over and over) again, better he get his first road trip/multi-lane freeway/80 mph highway driving experience with me in the passenger's seat, rather than in a college buddy's near broken-down jalopy. I remember my first road trips and I'm lucky I and my friends are still alive. He did great, but still I nearly wore out my imaginary brake pedal. Needless to say, I did not get any knitting/reading/napping/entertaining the kinder done.

Because C wasn't with us and because I didn't have to worry about fitting the trip in between work obligations or within limited vacation time, I aimed for a bit more of a relaxed pace than usual, and left the return trip open-ended.

On the way out, we took the long way through Missouri to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's Rocky Ridge Farm, and stopped by Mushroom Rock State Park in Kansas, a side trip C and I took when we drove out with a three-year-old M.

In Colorado, we attended two big family events and hung out with various relatives, doing city/suburb stuff like going to the pool and the climbing gym, eating out, and window shopping. We also went for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiked the first 6.5 miles of the Colorado Trail, which we missed last summer because we'd begun at an alternative start point, and visited a glacier.

I thought for a while about heading up to Yellowstone on the "way" home, but decided that would be too rushed (and, no doubt, crowded). Instead we headed west to the top corner of Utah, and spent a couple of days in Dinosaur National Monument, then drove diagonally across Wyoming to see Devils Tower. From there, we hit the requisite sites of Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and The Badlands.

We were the ultimate tin can tourists, popping into parks for a few hours. My twenty-something self would be horrified by our rushed sight-seeing, but it poured rain while we were at Devils Tower (which, by the way, is incredible, despite the crowds), so more than the shortest hike around the base would have been miserable.

And there's really not much to see at either Crazy Horse or Mt. Rushmore (in truth, I'm conflicted about both of these sites; on the one hand, amazing human ingenuity and artistry, on the other, is it ever right to desecrate a mountain, whether for a coal mine, a ski resort, or a giant sculpture of a dead guy/guys?). My only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend at Badlands, like a couple of days. We went on two short hikes, and despite the kids being tired and cranky and determined to get out of South Dakota by the time we got there, it ended up being one of their favorite places.

I have to give the National Park Service credit for establishing very efficient sight-seeing tours of their parks. We had a full day, two nights, and an afternoon in Dinosaur, where took two driving tours, stopping off at all of the overlooks, and went on two short, beautiful hikes. The actual dinosaur bones were almost anticlimactic after all of the incredible scenery we took in. I have a super secret plan to go back there and raft the Green River in two summers, after the boys graduate 8th grade/high school. I may even get a job in order to pay for it.

Did I mention that rain followed us almost everywhere we went? 

I discovered that there's no way to get across the country without looking at a LOT of corn. But I did enjoy the fields of sunflowers in South Dakota and appreciated that Minnesota leaves a swath of tall grass prairie growing alongside the highway.

Having done this trip several times and several ways, I've found that the nicest way across the country is to cross Pennsylvania on I-80, then zig-zag down Ohio to I-70.

This way you avoid most of the yucky industrial junk, in the northern parts of the vowel states, avoid most of usurious tolls in those same states (plus NY and PA), have to endure less tractor-trailer-truck traffic, and get better scenery. You still get some sketchy interstate pretzels and multi-lane traffic, in almost all of CT and MA, as well as some midwestern cities, but having taken the long way on I-90 through the heart of Chicago, I'll take Hartford.

As for the kids, this was their third year in a row of driving to Colorado and back, so they did pretty well, sitting in the car all day and helping out at campsites (except when we stayed with relatives in CO and visited my aunt in Missouri, we camped every night).

We had very long days (either C is a faster driver than M and I are, or he's less judicious with rest breaks) and they kept it together really well. M acted as second adult, taking on a fair amount of driving, and bossing people around. We listened to audiobooks on the way out (a challenge in my rather noisy car), as well as music.

On the way home, I had E and Z take turns reading out loud from their respective books (they'd both finished the books they wanted to read and were stuck with books I'd brought along from the bookshelves at home). In each state, they read from their travel atlas. And they got to play a lot more video games than I allow at home, although whenever we went somewhere with a view, I made them put them down ("scenery not screenery" became the mantra).

I don't know what the boys will remember from this trip. The deluge in Utah that nearly washed away our tent? The kind neighbors in Pennsylvania who shared some white gas so we could cook our last night's meal of macaroni and cheese? The glacier? The lizards? The mountains? The desert? The buffalo we barely caught a glimpse of as M zoomed by at 70 mph? The endless seas of cows? The rabbits? deer? pronghorn? lizards? Nearly unlimited Asphalt 8 on their iPads? The dozens of relatives they met for the first, and possibly last, time? Endless corn fields?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Newsletter

The August issue of Common Ground, in which I wrap up my 100 Day Project of watercolor painting, flew out to inboxes yesterday.
If you didn't get your copy, you can read it, and also subscribe, here.
If you are a subscriber and didn't get your copy, check your spam box and "promotions" tab in Gmail.
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