What I’m into (June edition)

A few things on my mind right now…

The camp spreadsheet. I made a spreadsheet covering what the three big kids are all doing for the summer. It has their names along the top and the weeks of summer along the left. I am quite proud of this document. I printed up copies for G (nanny) and my husband. It is a living document, as we decided that the 5-year-old could do an additional week of gymnastics, and she is also not old enough (it turns out) for a casual "camp" a friend is organizing in her back yard. But it is a logistical masterpiece all the same. My husband noted that if I should die suddenly, he didn’t think he'd be equal to the task of constructing a camp spreadsheet, and he would have to enter the dating market waving around the camp spreadsheet as an example of what he was looking for.

That casual back yard camp. Last summer, it was my boys' favorite week of the summer. A friend hired two college girls to watch her three kids and their friends. They played in the creek, made up their own games, and so forth. We all chipped in to pay the sitters. A regular camp feels some sort of need to be themed, or overtly educational. This camp did not, and the kids loved it.

The OFF THE CLOCK draft. Initial feedback from my editor at Penguin Random House is positive. Phew! I am hoping for an on-sale date around this time next year.

Strawberry banana smoothies. Frozen bananas make it like a strawberry shake, but without the ice cream. Also, we've got a lot of strawberries to get through before they go bad.

Wolfgang Puck asparagus and goat cheese pizza with Chardonnay. If you happen to be stuck in the Indianapolis airport, terminal B, get this combo.

Magazine photo shoots. I agreed to be part of a round-up Philadelphia magazine is doing with ideas and wishes from various Philadelphia-area women. As part of this, some of us were photographed. The photo editor and photographer decided people should stick with a white/cream/silver color scheme in their outfits. I really never wear any of these colors, but I dutifully found white jeans and a white blouse and headed down to the studio on Martha Street in the semi-gentrified Kensington/Fishtown section of Philly. I donned my bone-colored Jimmy Choos and strutted around a bit. We shall see how this all turns out.

Reading on the porch. It is a lovely way to spend an hour after the 2-year-old goes to bed but before the older kids need to. The boys have started playing on the driveway with a few neighbor kids, which is a nice non-screen way to spend summer evenings. I realized this morning that we will have 7 kids at the bus stop in the morning next year!

Geology. I have been hacking my way through John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. This book is very, very long (it's a compilation of several shorter pieces about the geology along I-80 through the U.S.) but quite interesting too (it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999). Consequently, I have been thinking a lot more about rocks than I have since I took a geology class in college. The concept of how exactly the crust of the earth is moving and regenerating itself is fascinating. The top of Mt. Everest, notes McPhee, is actually marine limestone. Whoa.

TBR recommendations from readers. Thanks to ideas people sent me after my "Books read in May" post, I now have the next few titles all lined up! Please keep the recommendations coming! You can always email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com if you don't like to post here.

PaperMate InkJoy gel pens (0.7mm). Currently my favorite writing instrument. These write smooth, featuring solid ink delivery without being too fussy.

Working from home. While I travel a decent amount, when I'm not traveling, I work out of an office next to our kitchen. I am occasionally reminded of how this makes our lives possible. A few examples this week: I am here while the 2-year-old is napping and G has taken our minivan to get the state mandated emissions inspection. If I were working elsewhere, either she would have had to drag the 2-year-old to that or one of us would have had to do it on the weekend. Earlier this week, my husband had gone to NYC for the day, and then learned that someone he had been trying to meet with for a while was expecting to meet with him in Europe the next morning. Unfortunately, my husband hadn't grabbed his passport that morning, and while you can buy a new shirt at the airport, that's the one thing you can't travel without. So he called me, I packed his overnight bag and stuck his passport in it, and a courier came to take it and meet him somewhere between NYC and Philly (and then he'd turn around and go to one of the NY airports). The courier was pretty comical. He showed up in a pick-up truck, and then wanted to put my husband's bag — with the passport, though he probably didn't know that — in the bed of the truck (because his giant dog was in the cab). Picturing it bouncing out somewhere on the highway, I asked that he please not do that. The passport made it and my husband made his flight. Another thing: I got to run with a friend during the day yesterday when she was working at home too. And I'm wearing jeans on a day that is not casual Friday!

Listening to music on the treadmill. OK, I know this seems incredibly obvious, but I occasionally discover that I have blind spots in my life. I'm mostly running outside these days, but given that I'm running daily, sometimes there are days where I need to get in a quick run when I don't have childcare, or it's raining (or, soon, the problem will be that it's 90 degrees). So I use the treadmill probably twice a week. In my mind, running on the treadmill is boring, and that's just the way it is. But then I realized I was paying for Apple Music (I don't remember signing up, but I must have) so I can stream lots of different albums to my phone. I've now been running while listening to Brad Paisley, Ed Sheeran, the Jurassic World soundtrack, whatever strikes my fancy. It really does make the time go faster.

The Costco Connection. I'm in the June issue, identified as the author of several time management books AND as a Costco member, which is quite true (as my debit card statements and the volume of Parmesan cheese in my fridge will show).

What I am NOT into: The Adventures of Chuck and Friends. My 2-year-old is obsessed with this show on Discovery Family. In every episode, essentially, the anthropomorphized trucks do something naughty, then all goes awry and they learn their lessons. Chuck manages to be annoyingly self-centered and preachy at the same time. The 2-year-old always wants to watch it in the morning, and when I try to go off to do something else, he finds me and insists that I have my coffee and he has his milk on the couch while we watch Chuck. The good news is that he is seldom up before 6 a.m. these days. But I have been pondering how much earlier I would get up to avoid Chuck.

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16 Responses to What I’m into (June edition)


  1. Calee says:

    Since we’re going to be gone all summer, I’m not making my annual summer camp spreadsheet and my friends are very disappointed. Make sure you share that sucker and reap the social capital as well as the domestic!

  2. Diana says:

    LOVE that camp idea with friends! Front porch reading is also a HUGE favorite of mine in the spring/summer/fall (ours is fully enclosed with lots of windows). I almost always read out there for awhile during quiet time!

  3. ARC says:

    I love that you made the Costco Connection 🙂 Did I tell you that the Univ of Washington Continuing Education brochure had a reco for I Know How She Does It?

    I have a book suggestion (sort of) – Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout. Apparently it won a Pulitzer Prize, and I agree that the writing was beautiful, but I found it incredibly boring and depressing. I’m curious about what other people think 🙂

    • @ARC – so cool that there was a recommendation for my book in there! I’ve heard a few things about Elizabeth Strout from people – we shall see. Not 100% sure it’s the sort of thing I’d like (I’m laughing about your “recommendation” – you make it sound so good!)

  4. beth says:

    The camp spreadsheet is a thing where I live. A lot of the mothers share theirs via google docs so that you can try to match up with the kids friends. The hardest part of summer camps for me is that I need full working day coverage (pretty much the same as daycare hours from when my kids were younger). Finding camps that open in the 7:00 hour is really hard. We are doing YMCA summer day camps for most of the summer because they open at 7:30. We had to pass on a lot of others for the later start time.

    • @beth – I agree, this is rough on timing. There are a few camps around here with early drop-off options, but it’s generally more like 8 a.m. than 7 a.m. One of the upsides of hiring a nanny, particularly if there is a spread of ages with kids, is that there are more options for camps. Of course, paying for a nanny and camp isn’t cheap, so there’s that downside.

    • Shelley says:

      While I have a very flexible schedule, I also need full day coverage throughout the summer. When I start summer camp planning, I always feel like I must be in a small minority of families that have two year-round working parents without nanny coverage. I’m always amazed at the number of camps that are partial day or partial week and the few number of full-day camp options.

  5. A few comments! I loved the story about using your camp spreadsheet as an example for a dating app. Hope it is never needed!

    Do you remember doing a camp for neighborhood kids on our back deck one summer? You must have been in your early teens. It was a big success too.

    And…I never liked the Bernstein Bear books because of their moralistic bent but you kids liked them. Why? I don’t know. Why does your little one like Chuck and Friends? There may be a profound idea there somewhere!

  6. Shelley says:

    I’m huge on summer spreadsheets, too. Honestly, how else is someone supposed to keep track of everything, especially when it can be so different week to week. I love that your husband appreciates it so much (I had a very hearty laugh out loud at that line!) – I’m afraid mine just thinks I’m being too Type A about it! I am fully aware that I’m living vicariously through my son attending all of these camps – how I wish I could have a summer full of fun camps, too 🙂

  7. Dionne Merriott says:

    The reason you don’t have white, cream, or silver in your wardrobe … you have four kids! I can relate.

  8. SHU says:

    Just thought of your spreadsheet as I’m piecing together after school activities for fall (signup starts now . . agh!). It’s already hard w/ just 2 so I can’t even IMAGINE what it will be like in a few more years! I hate the idea of overscheduling but then there are so many cool opportunities and things I know the kids would enjoy.

  9. Jennie says:

    I have quickly realized this is one of my last real summer with all of my kids still being close. My oldest is 14, and this summer is job shadowing a local vet 3 days a week. Very soon he will be driving and dating and possibly getting a real summer job. So I have taken most of the summer off. It’s been strange not working from home. I have a few projects due, but not nearly my usual schedule. I am loving it, but also a little restless.

  10. Sarah K says:

    Your camp spreadsheet makes me so happy that our school district has started offering 2 full months of summer school. I only have 4 weeks of summer that I have to make alternative arrangements for.

  11. Meghan says:

    Back yard camp sounds amazing — I may see if that’s something my street would be interested in! I live on a U-shaped loop with a huge common space AND a homeschooled family with 3 babysitting-aged kids, as well as a handful of newly minted 12-yo babysitters who’d be great “junior counselors” 🙂 I also second the evenings outside — so lovely, as long as the breeze keeps the mosquitos away.

  12. Caitlin says:

    I’m also a big fan of podcasts while running–to me it’s much more distracting than music which gets me over the hump of getting started and any doldrums in the middle. (I enjoy music during workouts too.) That is cool about Costco Connection! I’ll look for the article. We’ve been members for a couple of months now and I too am a fan of bulk cheese buying 🙂 (Dubliner aged cheddar!!)

  13. Kenna says:

    I love reading on the patio during the summer. It’s already getting super hot in Oklahoma, but I’m on the patio with a book every chance I get!

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