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You know all those bloggers/articles/people who are so convinced that happy, eager, earnest, and curious people like me are secretly hiding our dark side and desperate unhappiness? The ones who say we cry ourselves to sleep each night no matter our public front? (Yes, I actually read such a statement within the past four months). The satirical blogs that lambast people for living in “perfect world” while implying that we’re concealing deep pain beneath our razzle dazzle?

They’re right. My life is utterly horrible.

At least, believing such a thing was part of my self-given writing assignment today. What would it be like to walk around looking for things to criticize, hate, and judge negatively?

After all, it has happened more than once that I have been critiqued for not offering balance in this blog. My blog has definite purposes: 1) show thankfulness and appreciation for beauty and goodness in the world; 2) be a record for family members who keep up with my comings and goings via my blog; 3) explore the ways in which we are free agents writing our own narratives and move about in a symbolic world; 4) chronicle for my children our best times; and 5) inspire others to create and work hard to make beautiful memories in their own lives/be a source of rough ideas for lesson plans and school options. Although many of my current experiences revolve around my family, I actually don’t consider myself a “mommy blogger.” They just happen to be the means through which I grapple with the world most of the time. I actually consider this blog more philosophical than anything else, (that is, when it is not a boring-or-not-boring diary entry of my daily life) and was starting to hit more of a stride with that last spring.

It’s even been suggested that I am probably not as happy as I seem to be. It’s even been suggested that anyone who isn’t offering harrowing accounts of their ups and downs every moment in life must not be “real.”

Since when did misery and complaint become the standard for being real?

So I decided to Velveteen Rabbit my butt today. We’re getting all Velveteen Rabbit up in here. Can I take a single day of my life and make the move from fake to real? Can I become dissatisfied enough with my choices and my family to win finally the title of cynical and judgmental realist? It would take some effort, but I woke up ready for the task. I mean, who wants to be just a stuffed bunny all her life? Right?

So here we go:

5:45 AM:


Getting up early to run really sucks. (Sorry for the diction, but I have to use the words most common to people who complain). I hate being up early (how am I doing so far?). Look at that unkempt bed hair. Geesh. You’d think I’d be glad some day to be confined to my bed in old age. Then I will never have to get up, slug through sleepiness, and greet the sunrise again. Part of my fakery has been to celebrate my freedom to do this, to enjoy my body’s ability to work hard and pull through sleepiness for a longer term goal. What was I thinking? I should have been dwelling all this time on how hard it is…

5:47 AM:

The cut and bruise (under the skin, against the bone) that I got yesterday while playing full throttle with Eric, Katie, and the other soccer kids at the park? Dang, maybe I shouldn’t have even pushed myself today. Then I can be a victim of my own circumstances, and then whine about them. Instead, I can’t quite shrug off my optimistic ways completely (this being real thing will take practice), and I hurt each time this leg/foot hits for 5, 477 steps of my 5 mile run. Really, it hurts for 2,700-something steps, since it only hurts when I hit this leg on the pavement, so I guess I should be thankful—oops, my bad, that silver-lining crap is not allowed for non-fake people.

I decide on mile three that so far I am failing my assignment—it is hard for a runner to be in a bad mood. I think about ways to up the ante. Hm. My hurt leg… What is that acronym that entitled people like to use about their first world problems? MILF? No. That’s something else completely. FEMA? FEMLA? What is it? Oh yeah: FML. That’ll show my life what’s what. The more I FML, the more raw and real I will be.

7:00 AM:


I missed the trash when I was trying to throw my tea wrapper away. Time to start cussing. From what I can tell, cussing always equals real.

8:07 AM:

And now I find there’s no toilet paper. We have some still left upstairs, but I guess I should have hoarded some a little better. Man, my whole day is ruined now…

10:15 AM:


My washing machine, which is old and a hand-me-down, had the dial break off. How unFAIR. That’s right, I used it. The F-word. I usually never use this word because of its perverse meaning (which is, “I am not getting exactly my way so I am going to whine about the universe and its luck factors”), but as a newly minted pessimist who feels abjection over everything and also like a constant victim, I am going to lament how unfair my life is that I can’t have everything perfectly working in my house or the newest of everything. I mean, why should I have to allocate money and make choices/sacrifices? If I could have the newest and best of everything, it would be so much more fair because…because.

10:30 AM:


I decide that I need to figure out a reason to be angry or upset with my husband so I can publicly shame him. Maybe if I publicly shame him, not only will I be more real (hurrah!) but also I will generate the side benefit of starting a petty fight with him and making our lives more miserable and real this evening, too. Maybe I will emasculate him enough so that he will change whatever behavior I put online for the world to vilify. I’ve got it, I think! The computer cords. FML, and when I am trying to vacuum, too.

10:32 AM:

Darn it. On the day I need it MOST, the precise day I ascend to being real and complaint-ridden, the VERY day, this is the worst mess I can find from my children. Usually, our house is much, much more toy-strewn, but I bore down and picked up yesterday. Guess I should have spent a whole blog last night boring people to tears with how difficult it is to pick up toys (or coach the children to pick up toys) day after day. It makes me real, dontcha know? But no, like most moms I just hunker down and do it and try to keep my house as tidy as possible without whining about it. It’s a job. Motherhood is work. I knew that when I signed up…but I need to start pretending I didn’t, so I can act surprised when it turns out to be work. Then I can find grounds to complain…maybe the “not fair” route again? It’s so hard, I don’t like work, it’s not fair. Then I start comparing myself to other mothers and their clean houses, because you CAN’T be real without feeling insecure, too. My college education, work and life experience, and anything else that gave me the confidence to make decisions and stand by them and to like myself at the same time—well, I guess I should forget all about those. Because confidence in a woman is unforgivable, isn’t it?

12:10 PM:


I got lazy and slacked off on my assignment of looking for negativity for a bit. Then lunch hit. Score! Eric pointed to his cucumber, “I don’t like this.” When I asked him how he knew since he’s never tried it like that, he then pointed to his yogurt covered raisins, “I don’t like those, either.”

What are you—an alien? Who doesn’t like yogurt covered raisins?

There, I did it. I have now publicly shamed my son’s dislike for lunch. Publicly complaining about children online as a requisite for being real? Check. My creds are building, I can feel it. Too bad it has to stay online forever and ever so that he may one day find it. In my life of fakery, I often avoid doing this for ethical reasons (just as I avoid shaming my husband), but to be real, you’ve got to throw as many people as possible under the bus. Sorry, Eric. Take one for the team, buddy.

After lunch, I start getting very bored with my assignment for the day. It’s hard to find things to dislike, let alone hate. I wish I could muster up some jealousy or something for some random person, but I’m just not feeling it. My mind is too habituated to improving myself and owning my own flaws, versus hating others for their accomplishments. I am not accustomed to making comparisons between myself and others…what to do, what to do? I seem to be stuck.

I begin thinking about Leo Tolstoy’s opening line to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I’ve always thought that was a strange line. To me, it is unhappiness that seems dreary and dull. Critiquing everything as pathetic, unworthy, or unfair   starts to be monotonous. You can predict exactly how a negative person will react to most things. But joy and hope and optimism have so many more nuances, to me. I guess only negative emotions are valid ones, though, in our culture.

Because I want to get this piece published today, I get the kiddos set up with popcorn and Cinderella. I am one of those real moms who sometimes pulls out a movie to get a breather in the afternoon now that they no longer nap. Heck, sometimes? More like “fairly frequently.” I am home free, I think, and then freaking yes! They start arguing over which movie…oh boy, my bunny fur is becoming shabbier and more real by the second. It gets better when one of them has a brief meltdown about something unrelated to the movie. Out of everything good and beautiful my kiddos and I experienced today, I should blog about the minor irritations and make that my focus, right? Because by some axiom, it is so much better to focus on what goes wrong. I think the word is “relatable.” I don’t usually relate well to people who like to focus on life’s bummers, that’s the problem, and those aren’t the kinds of bloggers I read. I relate to people who are looking for excellence, trying to discipline their minds, and producing things, moments, memories of value that will keep our world evolving toward a more lovely and successful place for everyone. When we spend our time complaining, we are ungrateful. When we are ungrateful, we are the furthest away we can possibly be from humility.

By this afternoon, I give up on my assignment. I’ve got enough for my satire piece, and truly, I am spending too much time hunting around for trouble. With only so many hours in a day, I need to spend that time making things as beautiful as I can no matter how challenging that may be sometimes.

Besides, we had this to make:


And I don’t want to spend one more second of this day not celebrating it for its unfettered potential. It’s time to make magic, if only for a moment.

This very long post about running my first half marathon is not for the faint of heart, so if you are one of my friends and family members who are into this one, thank you so much in advance for reading. I have so many thoughts about today—just trying to process them all, in any discursive way I can think of, ha ha!


Carbo loading at Buono’s last night in Long Beach!

PART 1: Since I have a tendency to tie all things into literature…

Since children’s literature is all the rage at our house these days, on my mind as I write this journal entry is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Harold is a young artist whose purple crayon becomes the symbol for his role as the author/creator of his life. He embarks on a journey one night—the reader assumes it is merely in Harold’s head as he draws on his paper, though there are other possibilities that are resonant of Sendak—only to find that his crayon both creates the labyrinth in which he finds himself and becomes the only tool by which he may return to his bed (or, at least, a imaginary drawing of his bed).

Harold is the creator of his path. He gets lost this way and that. Sometimes he wonders where he is. Other times he is content with not having a plan and living by a stream of consciousness. He draws himself into and out of trouble. He settles down at one point for a long picnic. Mostly, he is content until that moment when he wants more than anything to get back to the place where he is himself.

For awhile he cannot remember the way home, and then, suddenly he does. He remembers where his bedroom window is relative to the moon. The moon: the reflection of the sun’s fire, the symbol of what ignites to keep all of us on Earth growing and living and changing.

At points in my life I have been Harold at the picnic. Figuratively, in the sense of settling myself down to a quiet spot and forgetting to think about what to draw next, content but never truly hungry. Literally, too:  years of overeating and making too many immediately pleasurable food-centric goals because those were easier to pursue than other goals. There was no way to fail at the art of baking and eating, and there are ways to fail at riskier goals. Took me awhile to figure out what I was really doing there, but eventually I did…

And I grabbed my crayon, and that was running and overhauling my nutrition.

And I found my moon, and that was my inner spark that I remember glowing brightly at age 17 and 18, and which I had begun to surrender until it was a dim ember.


And I found my way back to myself. And I feel like the person I was when there was laughter in my eyes at everything. And I feel like that girl who had so much living left to do at 17. And I feel like the person I was when I was hungry…really hungry. Not for food, not for playing it safe, but hungry for achievement, hungry to prove my worth to myself, hungry to push myself until I could find my breaking point, hungry to know myself. To draw my own character and pathway, to write my own narrative and plot, to take ownership of flaws and all. To face fear, particularly of failure (the perfectionist’s curse), and to resolve to be stronger than that fear whatever it took.

PART 2: Training and goals

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I ran my first half marathon this morning in Long Beach.

Heck, it wasn’t just my first half marathon; no, this was my first official race ever in my life. Two years ago—all of my life, in fact—I would have said I would never be the kind of person who could accomplish this. I would have laughed out loud if someone had said that one day I would be a distance runner, and not only that, but that I would love it and breathe it and want it. I have never been particularly athletic, with the exception of some rec soccer for a few years and a small period of time when I jogged and biked with my mom. I’ve never raced in a pool; I’ve never raced on a bike. In fact, I have never done anything of athletic significance.

Until the past 16 months.

I’d already been running for about four months last October when I watched my dad race his first half marathon in Long Beach. He made me so, so proud that day. Here was a man who had completely overhauled his life, too, though that would be his story to tell. He had his crayons out and blazing for a couple of years, and I will always respect him so much for the ways that he has decided to evolve beginning in 2007. I don’t know if he was afraid when he began to seek his inner spark again, but I imagine he might have been. As I watched him race last year, it still did not occur to me that I could ever do that with him. He inspired me to keep going in my training (at that time, I was beginning to achieve 3 miles on thrice weekly runs after spending the summer struggling with 1s and 2s). He mentioned how fun it would be to run Long Beach together.

It was going to take a lot more convincing than that, but apparently he was up to the task. 🙂

Sometime in the spring of this year I hit my first 6 miles. My friend Elaine was totally inspirational, and there were others as well. One day in late spring/early summer my friend Steve mentioned that he ran an 8-er along the beach one morning. Well, of course I had to see if I could do it, too. I could…but it was slow and painful. My rule for myself, though, was:  when you are out for a run, you will never walk. And it had been since starting in June 2012. One crazy day I pushed myself to do 9.5. My dad intensified his call for us to do the Long Beach half together.

I was terrified.

If I committed, I was going to work at it. If I committed, I would be putting myself out there and have my times and so on looked at publicly. If I committed, it was all or nothing in the training no matter how early I had to get up or what else I had to do without (TV late at night, weekends sleeping in, coveted personal time given to this instead of to other hobbies). It would mean going out the door even if my babies were up earlier than expected and cried a bit (they did a couple times, then they adapted—good to know). It would mean, above all, becoming emotionally invested in a set of outrageous (it seemed at the time) goals and worrying about being hard on myself if I didn’t perform a certain way.


So I said yes.

Who wants to be ruled by fear, right? Plus, I wanted to experience this as a father-daughter event with my dad. It would be a memory with him.

Training started. I trained at first by just varying my run lengths and listening to my body. I pushed whenever I could push. I tried to get a little faster and stronger each time. I ran at least five days a week. My initial goal was to finish the half.

In mid-summer I started getting times that made me think my goal could be to finish in 2 hours.

Then a couple months ago, I confided to Bill that I wanted to go sub-2 hours.

Finally, it was a whisper in confidence to my husband two weeks ago after we had been studying my times and progress: I want to go 1 hour 45. It was so big, I could hardly say it. Yet based on my progress it was reasonable. Challenging enough, but not unreachable…

Part 3: The taper

When Bill and I got married, he had no reason to believe he was marrying any kind of runner. He married me anyway, despite the fact that running had been a huge part of his life (both as a decathlete and coach) since high school. There is no one I have ever met, either, who knows more about the whole history of track and field than Bill does. He can recite stats and anecdotes about races that took place decades ago. He coached for awhile at UCR. By the time we got married, he was no longer running but it was still a HUGE passion for him that I did not share. Kind of like when I talked about Brit lit to him. I appreciated his knowledge, but we could not truly share it. We connected on so many other topics, though, that we did not need to share this. Still, I always found myself wishing I could have known him back when he ran or could access his passion with him in a more meaningful way so that I could know him as fully as possible.

I trust my husband’s knowledge of running completely. I asked him to be in charge of my taper. He knows my body and had been charting my times with me. We would spend time looking at splits. I knew he would taper me perfectly. I told him that I have so much faith in him that, whatever he asked me to do for a taper, I would do without a single question.

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He tapered me perfectly. He spent two weeks on my taper, each day telling me what to do. He found ways to speak in a coaching language I understood describing the kinds of runs he wanted me to do and how he wanted my legs to feel when I was doing them. We are so close that sometimes it feels like our minds share thoughts. It was amazing how many times during this process, even down to the day when I whispered my new goal to him, that we were thinking the same things about the process. He asked me to do a tempo run at 5K last Saturday. I went sub-7 minutes average per mile.  Many people might think that was crazy a week out, but I did it…and he was correct.  I never doubted it. I knew he would get my legs to where they needed to be if I just obeyed what he asked of me.

My legs felt perfect today. I could almost not believe how they felt. I could not have asked for better legs this morning. As much as I have loved my Bill, sharing this with him has only made me love him more. I don’t let many people unchecked into my “runner’s head” because it is so mental, but letting him in has made us that much closer.

Part 4: Results

My official time for the Long Beach Half Marathon is 1:43:06.

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According to one result site, I was the 110th woman out of 6906. According to another, I was 107th. I was also either 19th or 20th in my age-gender grouping (Female 30-34) out of 1222. (Some of the results are still sorting out a bit). At some point, I might post the link on Facebook, but as of this writing, these are the results I have. I think if you have my bib number, you can go check, too.

When I found out some of this data I was laughing, like, “WHAT?” 19th or 20th in my gender-age group? Hold on. When did I become that kind of runner? It’s almost ridiculous to think that I did that, and I will be processing that one for awhile.

My splits are still coming in officially, but I have them unofficially on my GPS. Most of my miles were under 8 minutes. My average pace was 7:46.

Part 5: Emotion

I cried a bit when I crossed the finish line, and I thought I might since I’m an ooshy-gooshy. It was the culmination of so much work, and I met my most wild goal. I felt so bowled over by how much all of that hard work paid off with that time of 1:43:06 and how this truly was one of the biggest and most important events in my life so far….right up there with marrying Bill, laboring our kiddos, getting into Stanford, and being part of the Mock Trial team that won county in 1998. This moment is part of my narrative now, and the fire within that it represents is a fundamental part of me that I will never surrender ever again.

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The surprising emotion occurred, though, as I was waiting in line to start with my dad. Bill, my mom, and my kiddos were over by the starting line to see us, and we were waving and blowing kisses. Suddenly I really took in the fact that my children were there…and that I so much want for them in their lives to set wild goals like this and go achieve them. I want them to feel that spark in their hearts, too. I also started thinking about how becoming a runner who is also fueling herself healthily has changed the kind of mother I am toward them (more patient, etc) and how they deserve that. Partly this whole lifestyle change started out for me, but it was also for my whole family. I want them to have me at my best—-and I am not talking about being thin. I am talking about having me at my mental best, at my most driven, at my most vibrant, my most excited and eager. And I want them to one day be as proud of me as I am of my dad.


In fact, I had to look away after a point because I was starting to get weepy and I had a race to run.

The other moment I welled up with tears was around mile two. I was crossing a bridge and looking out at the sunlight breaking through the clouds over the Queen Mary. A boat was nearby making sprays of water into designs. It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever seen, and I felt such….freedom. Like the kind of freedom where your heart soars way up into the sky and you breathe in that cleansing air and you feel so alive.

Part 6: Particulars?

So if you have continued reading this far, you deserve a thank you and I am humbled by your patience. In trying to process every thought I have had about today, I have made a true mess of this blog entry. Just so you know, I do know that. 😉


I started in the 2:10:00 wave with my dad and then decided to get quickly into my pace. I had been forewarned by many not to jump out the gate, and I took that to heart. If there was one thing I wanted to do at this race, it was to control it mentally. I did a sub-8 and wound through people. I hit my pace and then cruised. My legs felt great, thanks to Bill’s taper. The first four miles seemed to zoom by. I tried to look around and fully savor the day, and to be present.

I used a playlist made up of tried and true favorites. A few days ago I tried a new playlist I had made, thinking it would be meaningful to put songs in order from childhood through present day and “run through the phases of my life” for 13.1 miles to add a layer of significance to the event. Well, I tried that out on a run and it did not work. So a couple nights ago I retooled the list to what I listen to now. Perhaps there are some phases I really don’t need to revisit, eh, even for the sake of narrative?

As I headed out toward mile 6 I caught up with the pacer who was pacing for 1:50:00…and who had left a few waves before we had. I tucked in with him for awhile, then passed him. A former student of mine from 2008 lives in a house on the Belmont Shore area, and she was out cheering. That is, I knew she was, but we missed seeing each other. Still, A, I kept picturing you there and looking for you and it was extra motivating to keep doing my best. I loved everyone’s signs, and there were some really funny ones that made me laugh and smile and kept me entertained.

I took water a few times but had nothing else during the race. I fueled up beforehand with a Pro Bar, which I usually eat after. I train always on no fuel, which (I happened to read a couple weeks ago in Runner’s World) apparently is a good thing to do if you want to burn carbs more efficiently on the day of a race. I didn’t know that for most of the summer, but I guess it helped. I took nutrition after the race, and the little amount I had beforehand seemed to work for me. I did cramp after a bit of water around mile 9, but I ran through it.

The other weird thing was: my toes. My legs never hurt during the race, but at one point all ten toes were zinging me for about a mile. I told myself, “Oh well, you don’t need toes; you need legs.  You’ve got your legs. Now get going!!!”

heart run

(Heart for Bill)

One moment I loved was Bill cheering me on around mile 6—was it? There was just this spot, and my gut knew he would be there. We hadn’t talked about it at all beforehand, not even when looking at maps. I just knew suddenly as I was approaching it that if I looked for him, I would find him there…and he was. It was this totally cool and weirdo-married-person-Oneness moment of such a bond between us that there was no doubt in my mind, and right as I came around to that straightaway, sure enough there he was just like I knew he would be. Communication on another level? It is almost like my mind’s eye saw him there before my eyes saw him there. He was tracking me in various ways (he can always see my phone’s location, for one thing), and I could tell by his face and voice that my pacing was going really well, the way he had coached me to go. It was super motivating for the next few miles.

I started slowing down into the 8 minute range on mile 10, but then knew I was coming in for a landing and had to pick it the heck up. I increased pace and then sprinted the last part of the last mile all the way down the chute, coaching myself out loud (yep, probably several runners thought I was crazy), saying, “Fight for it. Fight for it. Go. Go. Fight!” By then I had actually caught up to part of what was termed the “elite wave”—I know, right? Once again, it was kind of hilarious, like I was outside my body observing this alien creature I’ve turned myself into. I was just kind of like, “Okay, just go with it!”

Part 7: Aftermath

After I came in, I watched with my family for my dad to come in and then we walked back to our hotel (Hilton). We had an extended check-out time, so that gave us a bit of time to change and have a leisurely lunch. I refueled right after the race on a banana and protein bar, and then I had a yummy lunch: baba ganoush, hummus, flatbread, and then an arugula salad with red and golden beets, pecans, warm goat cheese, a bit of grilled chicken, oranges, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. All my body craved was veggies and a bit of protein.

Then we came home, and it was back to our lives here. We cleaned the chicken coop, let the girls out for a run, practiced a bit of soccer for Katie, watered our mums, and generally had a quiet sort of evening. I made a super spinach and pineapple smoothie with Greek yogurt and almond butter and bee pollen to have with dinner. So yummy!


Watching for my dad

I still cannot believe this all happened, but I know I will keep this day with me always and pull it out for strength and motivation to keep improving myself. One of my primary thoughts that started even last night, though, is this: what is my next big goal? What do I work for next? I am thinking about trying to get faster at the 5K and also get some smaller races under my belt this year to gain experience. A mini-triathlon has also crossed my mind… We’ll see. 😉

Stay hungry, stay foolish, right?

Thanks for reading!



When you were born near Halloween, my darling girl, Autumn forever changed for me. My sweet Pumpkin June, a name of two seasons, you gave October a magic that never will subside. All cozy days are wherever you are. You were the start.


My silly yahoo at Target, playing around with the Medusa head! Last week we made a Target run to get some new orange lights for our playroom and our patio and Celestial Seasonings Pumpkin Spice tea. At $2.39 for 20 bags, it is a bargin that helps me to cope with PSL season (only had two so far, both at Disneyland, and “cope” is not an overly dramatic term—I love those, and this is a difficult and tricky time of year for me as I continue to monitor and maintain my weight loss). Yet now I have this tea, which is far less caloric, far less pricey, and far less caffeinated (although it is made with a black tea so there is some). I have a cuppa almost every morning!

eric and mommy


My smart and handsome and kind-hearted, witty boy: you are loved for an eternity. You are…everything. The way you smell, the sound of your voice, your thoughts… As I tell you every night: anywhere you go, I want to go, too.


We went to Riley’s Apple Farm in Oak Glen on September 29th



My little family in the orchard


Pull, Eric, pull!


Eric gathered apples to make apple cider



Katie helped Amie and Boppa with their gallon of cider



Go, farm girl, go!



Mommy and Eric made a gallon of cider together!


Listening to bluegrass at Riley’s


We made apple butter with some of our apple harvest from Riley’s.



We also made baked apple donuts with maple glaze. (I am running, running, running, by the way, or I wouldn’t do this. My half-marathon is this coming Sunday)!


And with another part of our Riley’s harvest, we made a jar of plain applesauce and a jar of pumpkin applesauce…


In Autumn, this happens: lace dresses and chicken coop chores.


And we had our first egg…and our second…and our third…and now one or two almost daily…from our girls. It has been magic. They are delicious! I remember fresh eggs from my childhood—-what a treat! Katie loves checking for eggs throughout the day as we work on our studies.



More eggs!


There were batches of pumpkin muffins (no sugar, no butter/oil) with shards of 72% cacao.



October haul from the secondhand bookstore in Temecula. I found the last of our FIAR books that we needed (Ferdinand by Munro Leaf), plus Jan Brett, a Caldecott winner, an illustrated version of part of a Longfellow poem by an illustrator we adore, Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice, another Patricia Polacco book that we’ve checked out before and to go with our Polacco book we’re using for FIAR this year, several Magic Treehouse books, bios on Anne Frank and Rosa Parks, a book by Jane Goodall (a current interest of Katie’s after we finished her biography), and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, which we’re in the middle of right now at Katie’s request. I have noticed that several former teachers bring books to this particular secondhand store, so when they are cleaning out it is the perfect time to augment our homeschool library. I am a children’s lit nerd, and it is the one thing I collect without too much reservation!

eric mumskatie mums

sarah mums

We had our annual planting of the mums, a McGaugh tradition even pre-kids!

pumpkin soup

Roasted apple (from our apple picking harvest) and pumpkin soup with homemade chicken stock as the base. Topped with 0% Greek yogurt and toasted pecans.



We used Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake and waffle mix to make spiderweb pancakes (and not-very-awesomely-cut cantaloupe pumpkins) along with McGaugh eggs and apple sausage for breakfast yesterday morning.

‘Tis the season! It is time to be festive here in our house! We’ve decorated for Halloween and have been listening to some of our favorite Halloween tunes. I did make the mistake of showing Katie Michael Jackson’s Thriller video—she loves the song but is now scared to go outside by herself. Good one, Mommy, good one. I tried to play it off with, “Let’s learn the dance!” but I think all she can think about are the zombies punching their arms through the windows.

Sometimes I do get a wee bit zealous…


This week was especially fun as we made room in our schedule to delve into our Five in a Row selection, Wee Gillis (Munro Leaf), and to submerse ourselves in learning about Scotland. Eric studied the ordering of numbers up to 5 (although he actually can count to 11), the letter Dd, relative size, patterns, sequencing narratives through pictures, and more.

Katie continued with proper nouns; daily journal entries that focus on capitalization, complete sentences, word spacing, spelling, and punctuation; phonics; reading practice; ordering steps in a process; addition strategies (doubles, and doubles +1); vertical addition; translating word problems into number sentences; penmanship/copywork; map reading; and more. She took a history test on the seven continents, four oceans, natural resources, and United States neighbors: she earned a solid “A” on her test, and her confidence is building. Mine is, too: I am pleased to see both formal and informal evidence of her learning in our schooling model. Toward the end of the week, she also took a Chapter 2 math test and also earned an “A” on that test. It’s going well. Our biggest area to improve is getting her to remember those writing conventions we’re working on, particularly spacing between words and letter sizing in small spaces. I have been giving her tricks for this, and I think what it amounts to at this point is just practice, practice, practice—just like it did for me when I was in first grade!




Eric uses our apple cards to put the numbers in order


Our “Dd is for dump truck” project—thanks Pinterest! Seriously, what a great resource if you are a person who likes to curate.


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We had “Dd is for dirt cups” as a snack this week, too.

In Wee Gillis, the main character is a Scottish boy who must determine whether he will spend his life with family in the highlands stalking stags or with his family in the lowlands calling cows. In the end, he decides to become a bagpiper in the middle of both places. He has spent his life building up his lung capacity and breath control by calling for the cows in the mist and by sitting silent as a stone in the highlands, so he can play the biggest bagpipes in all of Scotland.

We had so much fun with the science of sound and breathing this week!

First, we made a model of a human lung using part of a tonic water bottle, a balloon, a rubber band, and a bag. The balloon was the lung, and the bag functioned as the diaphragm. Katie wrote down our materials for our experiment:




Playing with our model lung:

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Eric learned, too!


Soccer practice: holding hands with a new friend




Math test happiness!



Eric used autumn themed pattern cards and manipulatives (thanks, Susan!) to practice math concepts. He loves the bats, squirrels, and owls.


Art: practicing cross hatching, just like that used in Wee Gilis.



We made some chocolate Scottish shortbread—had a bit, and gave some away!



Patting the shortbread dough into our shortbread pan.


Festive for Scotland week!




Art: we looked up several examples of tartan and then practiced painting some!



Katie memorized part of Robert Burns’ poem “My Heart’s in the Highlands” and performed it for us.



What is sound? Sound is vibration, the pushing away of air…

And we also made a pretend bagpipe from a paper bag, cardboard tubing, and construction paper:




The bagpipes inspired us to dig back out our balalaika project that we made when Katie was about 3 years old and to repair it. Kiddos had a jam!

This week has started off with a bit of the autumn sniffles, but we’re getting business done. It is “Ee for elephant” week here, and Eric is starting to do a bit more bookwork, as well. Katie is finishing up a botany unit, and we’re also off on one of our own tangents: she is super interested in Jane Goodall right now, and we finished a biography and have been viewing as much as we can about her and her chimps on YouTube. Both the kiddos are enjoying a nightly nonfiction reading about the Sioux indians (it has lots of pictures but is quite lengthy, so we’ve been breaking it up into bits). Katie is continuing with addition strategies, but we’re also stepping back into subtraction at the same time.

We will also be taking time to enjoy the season. We went to Oak Glen this past weekend for apple picking, and we’ve been spending some time each day using our apple harvest in the kitchen. We also want to decorate for Halloween this week, and we have my cousin’s baby shower (for which I am planning the four games and prizes) this weekend. Little less than two weeks, also, before my half-marathon. I’ve been keeping mileage up, and also have been having new PRs/PBs during my speed work runs (3.3 miles in 25 minutes has been my best so far). This is a gloriously full and beautiful autumn!

Sarah McGaugh

Sarah McGaugh


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