Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2019, Day 5

Content warning: Discussion of former suicidal ideation and plan.

Today was our last full day together, so we did things a little differently. First, no critiques! Second, no chores or curriculum like instruments, typing, or math.

Our theme today is cookbook poetry. Each kid brought a recipe from which to write a poem. Before we tackled our own odes to recipes, we worked on a group-written poem. We also traded prompts and wrote poems about such excellent topics as feet and toothbrushes.

Then a joke about a sex talk turned into an actual sex talk, which was essentially this: Sex is good not bad. It’s not a milestone but a relationship. Sex is most definitely not a bad word or embarrassing but must be approached safely and with consent. They can come to me any time about anything and find listening ears and nonjudgment, as well as care when they need it.

This morphed into a suicide talk. Because I’m just that talented and fun.

They said they all knew about my previous battle againt suicidal ideation. I told them that my foiled almost-attempt was the best thing that has happened to me, because it clarified that I want to be here, on this plane of existence, for the hard stuff. My eldest nephew died two years after that foiling. I sat in his hospital room and told him that I survived for just that moment. For all the hard moments. And the great ones. And the ordinary ones.

I have this theory that adults begin to self reject when it comes to adolescents. We tend to feel like maybe they are disinterested in us. So we back off. I’ve made that mistake, and I don’t intend to repeat it with these nieces and sons of mine. The output they demonstrate changes. The interests shift. Their individual ecosystems grow. But I intend to stay planted within those ecosystems. I will not self reject when it comes to them. So far, at 11-14, they insist they will be doing book camp until they are 80 (my intervening death from old age notwithstanding) and want to know whether future spouses marry in to the camp. I’ll keep planning them until they stop coming. And we’ll continue to have interesting, complicated, sometimes difficult conversations during book camp and other times.

Why am I sharing any of this? Because my theme this year is planting and watering. That’s what book camp is. It’s planting. Love, memories, friendship, knowledge, tradition, trust. And watering them year after year.

So, that was ten minutes they’d never get back, and they dissolved into giggles when it was over. We still had a full day of work ahead. But first, we wanted to make our own treat for the day. After much discussion, we all agreed on lemon cake balls and set out to hunt down the ingredients. Two grocery stores later and we returned home to start cake baking. While the first cake cooled, four kids took a walk and the fifth stayed home.

When we finally started our recipe poems, everyone was ready to settle in again. Poem forms included: acrostic, haiku, limerick, AABB rhyming, and free verse. They were silly and wonderful and made us hungry.

After completing our cake balls, we ate some as a reward, of course. A few of the kids still had some work to do on an opus or two, but then the kids scattered to devices until supper. We rounded out the day with mangoes, watermelon, and Captain Marvel.

Here are some of the suggestions for Book Camp 2020: character development all week; movie adaptations; publishing process simulation; group opus; picture books; adapting short stories from original screenplays; and cookbook camp. We had one valiant recommendation for a two-week book camp. And they want to make the prompt jars and group writes permanent. The fort has to be permanent, obviously. When I asked them about tours in the future, they enthusiastically affirmed their interest to visit both publishers and academicians to discuss writing across the disciplines. See? Just when I think they’re not into something, they tell my how very wrong I am.

Kitchen Intuition Life

To Feed a Cold, Do-Over

Over at Indelible Words, I posted a similar post with a lamb soup recipe. Tonight, I’m suggesting chicken soup with a bit of a twist. Enjoy!

Our first fall semester in a physical school since 2012 has been rocky. Day One, Middling fell on bars – that are something totally NOT monkey bars, according to him – and knocked out one baby tooth, knocked loose one baby tooth, and ‘added mobility’ to a permanent tooth. Day 3, Third had a cold and Middling slept so poorly overnight because his dad was on a trip that he was a sick little raccoon in the morning. Middling had a half day. Third is still out with the cold – on Day 4.

I want to text my kids’ teachers and be like: We aren’t that family; I promise!

But I guess we are that family. Not the one who makes up stuff and pays no attention or respect to the school. But we are the family that has learned some pretty difficult lessons in balance. We’re the family who knows that school isn’t everything but is a thing. We’re the family that may skip homework a night to rebalance, or might take a half day rather than send a raccoon to school – no matter how clean the little creature may be, or might have frank conversations about the school handbook.

We are the family who virtual schooled for nearly four years even though the primary educator in the home also taught three 20-hour semesters a year and published two books. We are the family who has been through an abusive caregiver, the deaths of people we love, a grandpa’s heart bypass, a grandmother’s liver transplant, and a mother’s depression and anxiety. We won’t be cowed by handbook threats anymore than by colds. We’re here to partner with professionals to raise these kids within the context of their village. We’re the family raising boys to be okay without us while praying we never face that test.

We are that family.

And I suspect all the other families are, too. Each family has its past and its pressing present, its beliefs, its fears and dreams. Each family has a set of circumstances, and all are less than ideal. And teachers are part of families, too! Know what family you are and embrace it – there’s only one of you in the glorious mess that is all of us. And have a bit of patience with those families whenever you forget you are that family.

Meal Math: Chicken Soup with Stars

Part 1: Pre-Seasoning

  • 4 Tablespoons solid fat – butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard – whatever you like that is high-heat-able
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic – or one garlic clove per eater [you’ll need more for part 5]

Heat the fat, salt, and pepper in a deep pot over high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook over high heat until onion is nearly transparent, about 3-5 minutes.

Part 2: The Soup Base

  • 2 pounds raw chicken, diced with fat removed
  • 6 cups chicken bone broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, off the stem [you’ll need more for part 5]
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, off the stem, chopped [you’ll need more for part 5]
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, off the stem [you’ll need more for part 5]
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, off the stem [you’ll need more for part 5]
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Add the chicken to Part 1 and cook until the chicken appears white on the outside. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over high heat until chicken is done through and breaks apart easily. If you like a bit more clear soup, place the herbs and peppercorns into a tea straining ball or tied up in a bit of cheesecloth.

Stelline Pasta – tiny!

Part 3: The Grain

  • 8 ounces pasta, the smaller the better
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • water

Boil according to package instructions. Drain, retaining a scant 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Do NOT rinse. Cover pasta with the retained water and two cups of chicken broth.

Part 4: Add Veggies

  • 10 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, frozen
  • 12 ounces peas, frozen

Add the frozen veggies to the soup base and heat to a bouncing simmer for at least 15 minutes. If using fresh vegetables, cook until done to the taste.

Part 5: Boost Nutrition

  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, off the stem, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, off the stem, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, off the stem, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • salt

Three to five minutes prior to serving, add the herbs and oil. Unlike the longer-cooked seasonings, these barely-cooked herbs will retain more nutritional benefits. These herbs should be placed directly into the soup to be eaten if at all possible, meaning I get it if you have a toddler who will not eat leaves in soup.

Add salt to taste.

Part 6: Serve

Divide the pasta into bowls for the diners. Ladle 1 cup soup over pasta. Serve.


  • Buy fresh herbs on sale, strip them from the packaging and any dirt/roots, wash, dry, and freeze. Keep these in a crate or box in the freezer for quick access.
  • Frozen vegetables can be more cost-efficient than fresh vegetables, especially when buying organic and pesticide-free. Even at a store like WholeFoods, you can buy packs of multi-colored carrots, sweet potatoes, and corn relatively inexpensively. These save time, too, because they cook faster and require little preparation.
  • Cook your meat in advance and freeze for faster meals.
  • Look for sales on meats that are already trimmed and diced.
  • Make your own broth. It’s good for you, good for the environment, and SO delicious!
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