It's getting dark earlier

I almost need to turn on the light in the kitchen to cook dinner. Almost, but not quite.

on the windowsill

The eyelet curtains suck against the screen as the kids run in and out, asking permission for this or that, dropping off and picking up whatever it is they need for their adventures: beach towels, goggles, fishing poles, shoes, water bottles.

There's a lukewarm bottle of porter poured into a chilled Ball pint jar sitting next to the book which I steal moments to read, in between chopping and sauteing. Have you read The Passage? Did you love it? Could you put it down? Will my husband mind if I read it before I give it to him, even though he was the one who told me about it and asked me to get it for him from the library?

Grandma Dunham's enchiladas are in the oven (Grandma Dunham as in my husband's grandma). To call them enchiladas seems an insult to Mexican cuisine. Ground beef, onions, and black olives rolled in flour tortillas, smothered with a can of tomato sauce, topped with shredded sharp cheddar. No one complains when I make this for dinner. There will be no leftovers to heat up for tomorrow's lunch.

It's a dinner made from memory, not written on any recipe card. I never knew Grandma Dunham, never tasted her own enchiladas (apparently made with homemade flour tortillas), but I've tasted her descendent's versions of the enchiladas, and committed their verbal instructions for making them to memory. I've received and passed on the memory of Grandma Dunham through the taste buds. It occurs to me that one day I might be known as Grandma Dunham, and I'll probably serve my grandchildren Grandma Dunham's enchiladas.

There's nothing quite as ho-hum or homey, as ordinary or comforting, as the dinner we will eat tonight, outside on the patio, as the kitchen's too dark and I don't want to turn on the lights. Not quite yet. Not until it's too dark to read.


Let's Face the Music and Dance


My husband is brilliant. Canning outdoors, using propane and a turkey fryer stand. He literally makes canning cool.
* * * * *
You know when you're on the dance floor, grooving to a beat, and all of the sudden the song changes tempo, and you don't know what to do? Do you slow down, speed up, keep your own beat, or leave the floor and get a drink? Yes, today was kind of like that.

According to our homeschool charter calendar, today is the first day of school. I am officially the mother of a third grader and a sixth grader. For the first time in our homeschooling history we are all excited about starting a new school year. But the music has certainly changed, and we're trying hard to transition - gracefully - into a new song, without stepping on each other's toes.

There's been a lot of chatter in the mommy blogosphere about family rhythm lately. Well, at least the corner of the blogosphere where I travel. Lots of ideas are floating around about improving, enhancing, and even changing the rhythm of family life. Add this to the ideas floating around in my own head about family rhythm and it's like there's a radio on in every room of the house, all tuned to different stations. It gets so loud I can barely hear the music of my own heart. The music that tells me to take it slow. Move one foot at a time. Follow the lead of my partners. Stop moving and just listen if need be.

We've got big plans for this school year. New textbooks, stacks of blank journals, lists of projects, classes on the calendar, hula hoops for P.E., lots of sharp number two pencil ready to go. We're ready to rock the homeschool dance floor! But as I stood in the kitchen tonight preparing dinner, mentally ticking off the list of things I had hoped to accomplish today, and starting to feel behind - already, on the very first day - I had to do a quick inventory of what we had accomplished:

Math for both kids
Science for Aidan
A book read by Avery
A cake made by Avery
Two new fish in our aquarium
Hula hooping for everyone
Five quarts of canned peaches
A loaf of bread baked
A bag of school supplies purchased
Our library basket refilled
Two duct tape wallets constructed
Dinner on the table

We kept a steady beat today, and we'll keep on dancing tomorrow, but to a different tune: the tune of Happy Birthday. Avery will be eleven. It's a common side effect of sixth grade. Time sure flies when you're busy dancing.


Happy Campers

at the dunes

at the dunes

Back to back camping trips - unexpected, but highly efficient. There was just enough time in between trips to get the laundry done, and all the gear was still piled in the garage and easy to throw back in our rig. Plus, we still had graham crackers and marshmallows left over from Tahoe.

at the dunes

"Camping at the beach" has been crossed off my summer to-do list.

at the dunes

After camping in two such different environments, I can say this: my children are about as different from each other as the mountains are to the beach. I live smack dab in between the two extremes. After all, I am a valley girl. Someone into positive B.S., such as myself, might argue that this dynamic creates balance in our family. It can also be a challenge.


Aidan was as happy as a loon running across the dunes gathering driftwood to add to the makeshift structure we found on the beach. Back at camp, he climbed trees, discovered nests, dissected owl pellets, and rolled down sandy slopes. At the end of the day he crashed in his sleeping bag, sand and found treasures spilling out of his pockets.


Avery, on the other hand, just wanted to know if there was a Starbucks nearby and if we'd be driving by any malls on the way home. Last child in the woods she is not. But I do not fret. Growing up, I was not that into nature either. Valley girls are usually most comfortable in highly populated and commercialized environments. And Avery, my little foothill home companion, is a valley girl at heart. The only treasure in her pocket is her iPod.

One day, she might find a latent naturalist growing within her. It is genetically possible. She might even hug a tree. And if not, that's OK. There's always a mall or two on the way home from just about every campground in California.

But my nature loving son and mall hugging daughter do have one thing in common: they both love the Iced Passion Tea Lemonade from Starbucks. And I love that the homemade version tastes just as good as the corporate one.

passion tea lemonade

Tazo Passion Fruit tea + lemonade = a perfectly refreshing drink to sip while unpacking.

We still have marshmallows and graham crackers left, so we might not be done camping this summer. We'll keep our sleeping bags and fishing poles in easy reach just in case the river calls to us.


Sunday Morning

sunday morning

You might be asking yourself, "Hasn't she taken this picture before?"

Yes she has. And everywhere she looks she's thinking, "Haven't I already taken a picture of that?"

But she's glad to be home. Where everything looks familiar. Where she's already taken a picture of it.

And yes, she enjoyed her week away from home. Endless hours on the beach. Four generations of family. Friendly adjacent campers. Three meals a day al fresco. Sleeping with her kids.

Perhaps the strangest highlight of her vacation: there were no fruits or vegetables to can at camp.

But now that she's home the green beans and peppers are ready to take a long, hot bath in salt, vinegar, and garlic.

She's got a lot of windows open. Around the house and on the laptop. Canning recipes. Movie showtimes (has anybody seen Captain America?). Emails to answer. Photos to upload (would anybody mind seeing more vacation pics?).

The question on her mind this morning, besides whether or not to ride her bike to the store to buy pickling salt, is: Why does writing matter? Patricia's homeschool convention workshop has got her thinking. Wondering. How can she find more time to write? What does she want to write about? Can she change lives with her words?

She'll have plenty of time to consider all of these things and more while toiling over a boiling pot of water this morning. And maybe she'll even escape her thoughts and her hot kitchen later this afternoon. Sit in an air conditioned movie theater. Be entertained by somebody else's writing. Where she'll probably wonder if just maybe someday the book of her dreams might be adapted to the big screen.

If a girl is going to dream, she might as well dream big. And if a girl is going to can, she better get off the computer and get started before it gets too hot.


Postcards From the Edge

postcards from the edge

Of Lake Tahoe.






The biggest decisions I'm making are:

Walk or Bike?
Shade or Sun?
Beer or Margarita?
Mint Chip or Mocha Almond Fudge?

And most importantly,

Cannonball or Belly Flop?

postcards from the edge

Yes, I'm soaring. Thank you Avery for capturing my flight!


email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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