Feathered Aspen

Week of 1/18 & 1/25


4:51 Am – Hell yes!  Snow day!

The girls are still sleeping away and likely will be for the next few hours.  I’ve got my coffee and bananas here.  Outside, the world is covered in a blanket of snow. All night I kept looking out the window thinking to myself and pumping my fists “snow day, snow day, snow day.”

Time to write a bit.

The past two weeks have had their ups and downs.  The biggest down was getting hit with yet another stomach flu bug last Tuesday.  I barely made it out of my classroom before filling a trashcan with chunks.  Ugh.  I spent the next two days knocked out again.  Both Ellie and Lu got it again too.  Lily, the only one in the family to get her flu shot, escaped again. (How’s that for anecdotal evidence?!)  We spent the rest of the week recovering and getting our GI tracks back in order.

Last week also marked the beginning of Lily attending her new school.  She was a bit anxious the first two days and would cry about not wanting to go.  Really, I think she was worried about not getting to spend time with Ellie and Lu.  InIMG_1697 terms of the school though, she loved it.  This was her when she came home on Monday and I asked her how school went.

In the welcome and orientation packet to her school, they warn not to expect (or really ask) your child to talk at length about their day and what they did.  That impulse is a grown up response.  Kids, especially, three and four year olds tend to live in the present.  Their minds are on whats in front of them.  They don’t have the same capacity and desire as we do to recount what they’ve been doing.  Instead, the school asks parents to be attuned to the ways that school emerges during unexpected times like when a child might sing a school song in the bath tub or talk about an art project when drawing.

This totally makes sense.  Last fall we sent Lily to a lackluster ECE school in DPS. At the time, I didn’t think about it this way and would pepper her with questions which she’d never answer.  As you may recall, we ended up pulling her out of that school after two weeks or so.  Upon reflection now, its interesting that those “moments” of school, as her new school calls them, never really emerged at home.  What she was doing there, never really seemed to affect or influence her actions or thoughts at home.  In the end, we pulled her out because the driving was a bit much, the food they gave her was wretched, and they often sent her home with branded corporate material.  At the time, we decided that she was still young, and the sacrifices weren’t worth sending her to a mediocre DPS school.  Plus Ellie is home.

Its striking now to seem how much of an impact her new school is now having only after four days!  She was generally in a great mood all week.  At home, her creative play has been off the charts.  She spent all week drawing, cutting paper, gluing, painting, and putting up art installations (seriously, she took almost an hour on Saturday to create an art work on our refrigerator that went way beyond just hanging a picture.)  At school yesterday, I opened my backpack to find another piece she wanted me to take to work.  She has also been singing a lot too.  She hums or rambles words to herself.  She will also sing to me if I ask here.  “Lily, can you sing me a song?”  “Sure daddy-o, which one do you want.  I have 6 mermaid songs.”

Part of the school’s no media policy encourages families to cut out the radio and music in addition to screens.  At first, I was a bit saddened.  I always have music playing in our home.  However, with music playing, it discourages you from making your own and using your own creative outlets.  And, now seeing how much she has been singing in the past week, I get it.  I’ve set the goal to not play the radio in the car with her (that’s also nice too so we can talk.)  I’m going to try to reduce the music I play at home too. I don’t think I can give it up entirely though.  And, it has me thinking that maybe I should pick up the guitar again soon too.

On a final note about Lily’s school, we’ve learned and been thinking a bit more about story telling.  Ellie went to the parent meeting on Monday.  There, the teacher told parents not worry much about reading to their kids, but instead to focus on story telling.  Similar to music, books and stories can limit you to one thread or idea.  They are also not created from within.  Reading when older is essential to expanding our world and thus our creativity. At this age, the teacher argued, oral story telling is more impactful and age appropriate.  Reading, she claimed, is better suited for older children.

Again, I had the same reaction as I did with the music.  But, as I thought about it some more, and noticed this week how Lily, of her own accord, told me multiple stories, I think there is something to this as well. (Side note: when I was sick and laying in bed again this week, Lily didn’t want to come with in three feet of me.  Instead, she pulled up at chair at the end of my bed and told me a story about mountains and fuzzy animals for almost thirty minutes.)  Humans are story tellers.  Prior to written records, and I would argue still today, much of our culture is passed through oral tradition.  Much of what we know about our families, how to cook, etc… we didn’t learn by reading, but instead through spoken word.  Lily’s teacher encouraged parents to pick up and embrace this tradition.  She urged parents to tell stories rather than read stories.  She also encouraged those stories to be personal and based upon truth.  Rather than begin a story with “once upon a time…” begin with “I remember when…”  So, this week, we’ve been telling more stories and trying to create more of an oral tradition in our house.  (I must also admit, the oral tradition strikes a nerve with that repressed Classics major in me. I nearly majored in Classics in college because I’m in love with and fascinated by ancient Greek culture, which was deeply imbued with and driven by oral traditions.  I think I am going to start telling Lily some greek myths soon too.)

So yeah, we’re loving Lily’s new school.  Another boon this week, Ellie was able to already switch around Lily’s schedule so she is going two days a week instead of four.   This was always our preference for this age.  It saves a big chunk of change and gives Lily more time with mom and sister.  She’ll be full time soon enough (and when the school is free.)

So what else?  In the past two weeks, we’ve continued to work on our home updates.  The new table for the eating area is complete.  I built it.  Ellie finished it.  This weekend, I also started building a bench for the eating area.  This bench will be built into the half wall that divides our kitchen and living room.  I’m building it to have lots of storage underneath and behind for all of our arts and crafts supplies.  We’re hoping to have it finished this weekend.  I’ll try to post some pictures then.

In other crafting news, Ellie has been inspired to start sewing children’s dolls.  There’s a bit of an experiential and learning curve, but she’s really getting the knack for it.  See what I mean?  Its fun for me to see her excitedly crafting away.  The girls love it too and have been helping out.

Work.  Ugh.  This year has really been a tough one.  I just can’t seem to figure out the group of students that I have.  So many of them constantly complain “this boring” or “I don’t want to do this.”  At first, I always think its me.  Is my lesson not engaging?  Is it not relevant?  Teach For America drilled the adage “what teacher actions led to those student actions” down our throats, and it still resonates with me.  So, I’ve done A LOT this year to make sure what I’m teaching is relevant and engaging as well as student centered.  Yet, a large portion of my students, and not just in my class, refuse to do any work.  They are adverse to reading or asking questions.  When I probe deeper as to what would not be boring, they don’t really have an answer.  When I ask what they do outside of school, they say video games, Facebook, snapchat.  Ugh.  It kills me how plugged in my students are.  My bias is obvious, but I feel like media is stupefying my students.  They want flash and bang and ephemeral selfies.  They don’t care about the war in Syria.  Or the migration crisis. They had no clue what was happening in Iowa yesterday. They want to sit at home and play Fifa or shoot zombies.

I’m ranting I know.  The truth is not all of my students are this way.  In fact, I have many students who are doing very very well.  I think its likely, that a good portion of my AP students will pass the test, and some may even earn 5’s (the highest score possible).  I have many, many gems, but the ones I’m not reaching are the ones plaguing my thoughts.  I posted grades yesterday.  That’s why I’m feeling this way. For the ones plaguing me, its bleak.

This year, my school moved to an “incomplete” policy.  In a nutshell, students don’t earn zeroes for work they don’t complete or turn in.  Instead, they get an “incomplete.” They then have until the end of the year to make up or turn in that work.  Yup.  This means, I must accept and give full credit to an assignment from October that I receive in May.  Ugh.   The idea behind the policy was to give students more opportunity to pass their classes.  There was concern that hard deadlines were the reason so many students were not on track to graduate.  In general, I agree with this policy, and I have seen a good number of students use it to make up crucial assignments and keep on track to earn credit for first semester.  However, the result that I am seeing now at the start of the second semester, particularly with my unmotivated freshman, is that they see no reason to do their work on time.  I assigned a big research project on an ethnic conflict of students’ choosing.  We worked for two weeks.  The report was supposed to culminate in a presentation to the class on their findings.  Out of nearly forty groups, only 8 presented.  The rest told me they would make it up.  Ugh.

Additionally, we’ve been encouraged not assign homework.  Apparently in this day and age, students should not be expected to work outside of class.  This is just one policy with which I really disagree.  Colleges will give students boatloads of work to do on their own. I understand that the school day is long and students have lots on their plates at home.  However, students should work and read on their own.  Homework should be manageable and flexible.  Our students are not in college yet, but at some point they need to figure out how to work and read on their own.  Thats how you learn!  That’s what life is!  That’s what happens in college!  How can we be college preparatory and not expect students to work outside of class?

With these policies, there is now a culture amongst some of my students that it is unacceptable for a teacher to ask you to do homework.  You shouldn’t have to do it.  And hey, with the incomplete policy, we’ll I’ll just make it up another day.

Lately, I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall with these students and these policies.  I really don’t know what to do.  I wish administrators would examine the root of the problems stemming from the culture in which we live in.  Our struggling students are checked out and tuned out.  No new grading policy is going to fix it.  We need to address the larger issues of why students check out.  Why don’t they want to engage with the world?

So when I’m stressing about school, I’ve been running.  I had a good stretch the week of 1/18.  Last week the flu set me back a bit.  Tappering down now this week and next to rest my legs up for my first race of the year.  Over President’s day weekend we’ll be traveling out to Moab with our friends John and Kelsey and their kids.  John and I will be running the Moab Red Hot 55k.  I’m feeling pretty good lately and am looking forward to the early season race to test my fitness level (and the strength of my always troublesome IT bands).

Week of 1/18 – 11h 26m  59.2mi  7,818ft

Mon – 12.4mi  MLK day family jogger slogger and Tempo workout

Tues – Off running.  Strength training in gym (hips)

Wed – 5.8mi Easy commute home

Thur – 10.5mi Commute to work & Temp workout on track

Fri – 5.6mi Date run with Ellie

Sat – 24.7mi – Morrison Triple Crown:  Linked up the summits of Green Mt., Mt. Morrison, and Mt. Falcon.  Felt really good. I’ve been trying to adapt my body to burn fat on long runs, so I completed the entire run on a single zucchini muffin.

Sun – XT – Family Bike ride (10mi)


Week of 1/25 – 8h 17m  42.4mi   ~4500ft

Mon – Morning strength training (hips), then 5.1mi Sloan’s – Felt like crap.  Think the flu was coming

Tue & Wed – off Flu

Thur – 6.1mi family jogger slogger

Fri – 8.0mi 6x Zenobia Hill repeats

Sat – 15.5 Green/Winters/Dino ridge with Will

Sun – 7.6mi – Snowy family jogger slogger (with eagle sighting!)


I wrapped up January then with 213 miles on the month. I was just shy of climbing 20,000ft.  And, I spent roughly 38hrs running.  I good start to the year!

What I’m reading and listening to.

51fn0md37nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I finally finished listening to Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Born to Run, I thought the story was intriguing.  McDougall
chronicles the Cretan resistance movement to the Nazi occupation during WWII.  Throughout it he explores how the fighters we able to move and survive in the Cretan mountains while being starved out by the Germans.   I found his portions on adapting one’s body to fat burning over carb burning to be the most interesting.  He recounts numerous studies and stories of how fat is superior energy source to carbs a51wynjumagl-_sx354_bo1204203200_nd that conventional running wisdom has been out of touch for a very long time.  In my experience this is definitely true.  When I can keep my exertion level below an aerobic threshold, I can go for a long time.  I’m curious to read more about the Maffetone method, read Tim Noakes The Lore of Running, and really experiment on myself with how I can adapt my body as I train for another 100 miler.


Well, that’s the news from our little corner of Colorado, where all the women are crafty, all the men run far, and all the children are playing in the snow.

The past two weeks in pictures


Our MLK day adventure searching for the magic tree that makes colors swirl.


Daddy-o taking mama’s work out seriously


Our own bedroom!  (Plus, great gifts from Ecuador.  Thank you Pietaris!)


Bike riding


Hot mama


Snuggles with Grandma.



Drawing with Nana


Green Mountain in the pre-dawn light


Running Dino Ridge


Summit of Mt. Morrison


Summit of Mt. Falcon


What to do with short hair?


Family day fun


“I’m nursing my cat.  mmmhaahaheee”


And, then this one was weaned.  Sad mama.


Lily’s emoji drawing


Lily took these last two.  Very artistic shots huh?


Eagle at Crown Hill

A call for comments:

Tell us one of your oral traditions.  Start with “I remember when…”

What’s your opinion on media and education?  Are screens stupefying today’s children?


Author: Joshua

I am a husband and father. I am an outdoor enthusiast, adventurer and ultrarunner. I like to cook and eat. I love to travel and explore. Most of all, I like to do the things I love with the people whom I love.

7 thoughts on “Week of 1/18 & 1/25

  1. I remember when… I was in elementary school and every single day my mum would ask me horrible boring adult questions about how my day went, what my friends’ parents did for work, etc. etc. I can remember exactly how I felt when she would ask me those questions, and remember wishing she would ask me interesting things instead, or just stop asking me stuff. She was doing her best to communicate, but it wasn’t what I needed. On the flip side, I was also never into “back in the day..” or “i remember back when….” stories from adults, because that was usually the start of something long and boring. I’m thinking I didn’t know any captivating storytellers. I still don’t!

    Those school policies sound insane. And you’ve given me something to chew on regarding music and reading in the home. Not sure how I feel about it except that hearing classical music at preschool age made me rabid for playing an instrument of my own, which didn’t let up until I was able to start taking lessons.

  2. Great posting, Joshua. Thanks for sharing.

    Lately, I have been thinking about the value of memory, of the importance of passing family and collective history from one generation to the next. I have been doing racial justice work, for instance, for folks from the synagogue and the TC Jewish communities, and it’s always helpful to remind everyone that Ashkenazy Jewish folks weren’t seen as “white” until maybe the 1950s or so (There’s a great book that outlines this called When Jews Became White Folks). I always want Ellie, Hannah, and Eamon to remember that they are just one generation removed from rural working-class roots. I do think that as the years pass, it is harder and harder to connect with those memories. Which is precisely why they must be kept alive.

    Technology. Ugh. I am of a mixed mind. I can remember my first Internet dial-up. I asked Ellie if she’d like to go to the Cambridge (the university, not the town) library. A couple of clicks, and there we were, looking at lists of books kept in building just miles from where Grandma Vivienne lived! What places interest you, Ellie? Tasmania. A search – I am not even sure how we did this (was it Netscape?) – and I found an elementary school teacher in Tasmania. We emailed him, and two days later, he emailed us back. Remarkable.

    And yet, I see students who are emotionally tethered to their phones, and when I ask them to put the phone away, they are aggrieved. I watch Eamon study for 20 minutes, then watch a video for 20 minutes, and so on. It doesn’t seem like a great way to engage material. For my generation, the technology boogie man was television. Seriously, ESPN almost ruined my junior year in college! Now, television seems so benign, so dated, compared to the instant gratification of wifi.

    I hold fast to the axiom that technology is neither good nor bad; it’s just a tool. It’s how we use the tool that matters. For the most part, I don’t think young people are taught very well how to use technology (and I’ll plead guilty as charged in this regard). I feel for you, Josh. It’s an uphill – but worthwhile – battle.

    Be well!

    • Reminds me of another book, also related your family history, that I read in college called How the Irish Became White.

      I agree with you about technology. The question I always ask myself is to what end are we using it? Could we accomplish that goal without the technology? Could we even do a better job without it? There’s no doubt that tech opens so many doors and provides so many opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have. I think you’re also right that trick is teaching young people how to use, or at least how to limit and filter themselves. I don’t necessarily think tech is THE problem with younger generations, but an outlet for tuning out. The question is why do they tune out? How do you get them to care?

    • I remember your first dial up connection too! It blew my mind.

  3. I remember when…my parents used to bring me to family gatherings in Esko/Cloquet to family that lived super close to us, but we didn’t actually know well. Often, instead of running off with the rest of the kids, I would hunker down in whatever room my dad was in and listen to him re-account tales of his childhood. He had a whole series of stories about how his twin brother escaped near death experiences by pounding with his head (once he when under the ice in the river and broke through, another time the snow plow drove over their snow fort while they were still in it). I loved listening to the same stories over and over, and I was proud that other people found my dad entertaining.

    Kyle and I have on-going inside joke that he love/hates the songs I make up on the spot, and I act overly offended when he criticizes their simplistic lyrics (e.g. my name is mimi, & I like to dance in my turkey pants). I am definitely going to tell him that according to Waldorf pedagogy he’s killing my creative soul.

    Also, I’ve read ‘When Jews Became White Folks’–such a fascinating read!

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