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Grade 5, a new beginning 

It is that time of year again. The days are lengthening, the temperatures dropping (maybe a little? Soon, at least), and football is right around the corner. It is time for a new school year. Although Calvin does some school work year round (math, spanish, and music mainly), and though we live with a general atmosphere of learning, we do still celebrate the beginning of the tradiitonal school year the same way others do: with new books, new tools, and, now that he's older, a return to the pencils, papers, and desk.

Although our local schools didn't start until this week, the day after Labor Day, we went ahead and started a week earlier because we'll be taking a couple of extra vacation weeks during the year (shh! Don't tell). It was quiet around here, and plenty easy to settle down to business, so we're now well into our second week of fifth grade and it's sliding along pretty smoothly. I'm actually a little in awe of how much easier the work goes down this year, and of how much he loves his very first honest-to-goodness text book. It's a Spanish text, the only curriculum we could find to fit our needs, so I'm thankful for his enthusiasm.

Actually, it's going to be a year of many firsts for us. In a couple of weeks I'll be dropping Calvin off for his first ever public school class—fifth grade band. And he's taking tap and ballet dance lessons, both new to him. And I feel like this year especially he's growing right in front of my eyes, not only physically (as evidenced by my having to return the hiking shoes I got him for a larger size only two weeks later), but in confidence, poise, and occasionally ornery moodiness. There's a first for everything.

But with new beginnings come some closed doors. There will be no more cy365 this year: he's asked to have it taken off his school list and I'm barely keeping up with it anyway. And the bus stop play is different this year, because his two best friends, being different ages, now attend different schools and are picked up at different times. For Calvin this means getting up earlier if he wants to see his 5th grade friends off, then he gets a second go at bus stop play with the slightly younger crowd twenty minutes later. So far it hasn't been a problem, but we'll see how long the older kids want to get up in the cold and dark to play ball against the garage door before school.

I posted our Year 5 School Plan (a resource and goal list) here.

History: Story of the World Volume 4

Tech & Engin: Snap Circuits with Student Guide 

Geography: Draw the USA

Math: Math-U-See Geometry

Michael Clay Thompson's Level 4: Classic Literature Series, Sewing School, Javascript for Kids, Drawing With Children, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, Avancemos Spanish 1

Avancemos Spanish 1


Sometimes you just feel like camping


Final voyage of the hippo car

Twelve years ago Jon won a composing internship in Los Angeles. It was a well earned honor and a very exciting opportunity, and because we were young and impetuous we threw caution to the wind and wrapped our fairly newly married and very newly house-owning lives around that moment. We arranged a long-term house-sitter (my brother), a hiatus from my job that would allow us to keep the health insurance, and even a job offer for Jon on his return. The one thing that we didn't know what to do with was our cadre of dogs. We had three, one of which was a paraplegic dalmatian with a wheel chair and some very special needs. So what do you do when you have a dog—three dogs—that you can't leave behind on your once-in-a-lifetime journey/exploration/vacation/internship? You trade in your sedan for a car that will accommodate the entire group and you all go together.

That car was a Pontiac Vibe, and all on our long journey, whenever the sun was low on the horizon, first early in the morning as we headed west, then late in the evening as we aimed home again, through mountains and plains, the brown of dry desserts and the verdure of lush valleys, its shadow stretched out in front of us on the open road as a fat, round hippo with adorable ears sticking out on each side. Our hippo car.

This all took place long before our blog, and the story of the two-month journey is a post all its own, but the story of that car, purchased with packing two months of necessities and three dogs in mind, turned into a twelve year saga. It trucked those dogs from Michigan to California, and later from Michigan to Washington D.C. Even later it was the car we brought our baby home from the hospital in, and the car that hauled all the dirt for our first garden, and boxes when we moved, and picnics when we hiked.

It's been a great car—no recalls and no major problems, just twelve years of oil changes, tire rotations, and all other regularly scheduled maintenance appointments. But all good things must come to an end, and, twelve years being a good run, when our hippo car started showing signs of wearing out, we decided it was time to take the money and run towards the down payment on a new car. So we drove our twelve-year-old hippo friend one last time . . . to the dealership where we traded it in for a new car.

I should end there, because this post is about saying goodbye to our hippo car, but when any door closes, another one opens, and there is a new car in our midst. When Jon told me four years ago that he wanted an orange Hyundai Veloster, I thought he was kidding. He was not.

We drove there in a hippo, we came home in a pumpkin.


Away from home

I dropped him off at camp this morning. The real kind of camp, where he has to take a sleeping bag and pillow, and toothbrush which he will have to remind himself to use (along with the shower, let's hope he reminds himself to use the shower, too).

I didn't do very many sleep away camps when I was little. Once. I remember going to horse back riding camp when I was in elementary school. It might have been a Girl Scout camp. I remember helping in the mess hall, and mucking out stalls. I remember that of all the girls for some reason I just couldn't get the hand of the trot, or maybe it was the canter. I remember the frustration. And I remember the fun, but I also remember being very, very homesick at night. That feeling lasted for me long into high school, when spending a week at band camp was a delightfully magic time for me every summer, but with nights that left me feeling bereft of my own bed and family. I even cried sometimes when I was away for simple overnights at friends' houses.

So you'll forgive me if I was a little worried for Calvin. Logically, in my forethinking brain, I have no real concern. Calvin is more easy going than I think I was as a kid, and I think he'll take these first two nights away from home and family (ever!) like a champ. In fact, if anything he's likely to be sorry when the week is up (which is a feeling I also remember very well, especially at the close of band week every summer), but that didn't stop me from worried just a teeny tiny bit somewhere in the back of my uncontrollable reptilian brain. So we all talked about it a bit the day before I dropped him off. We told him that when I was young I suffered terribly from homesickness, but that his dad not, and I told him some of the coping mechanisms I had used when I was young to get through a long week.

Then in the car on the way to drop off, eary on Wednesday morning, Calvin told me that he was really, really going to miss me, and he asked me to take care of his animals for him. I asked him if he was starting to get worried, but he said that no, he just thought that would be a sweet thing to say so that I wouldn't feel sad. He was using my own coping mechanisms on me.

Wisdom is sometimes lost on the old.


Day 83: Run-down

Running right on down our list of errands, that is. New tires, new books, (cow in a purse), fresh cupcakes.