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The days just move along and move along.  It is all a-whirl.

Seventh grade ends tomorrow.  This is only the second time that Julia has greeted summer with enthusiasm.  She understands enough about time to appreciate breaks.  I find the transition from school to vacation unnerving.  Work in school has been on the wane.  Her big “country project” for social studies was finished two weeks ago.  Her last book review and spelling test about a week ago.  Math has dribbled to a close.

However, on the up side, the China project was a magnificent way to end the school year.  For the first time, Julia was interested in her home country.  She learned to write some simple characters (practicing them for days on end) and used them to decorate a fan.  She looked through our family photos of our travels in China, picked some out to include and looked up information about them.  She remembers nothing of the sights, only some of which she saw.  This was the first time she was willing to engage in the conversation of where we went before we met her and after we met her.  She drew a beautiful Chinese zodiac and then did two black and white landscapes with her art teacher.  There was a presentation evening at school and Julia wanted to bring in her tea set and chop and a few extra fans.  She asked me to make fried rice and she handed little bits of it out to her classmates and their parents.  Her engagement in this process was awesome making me only more aware that such hands on work is what she needs to absorb information.

How this needs to be her high school experience!

Today was the annual middle school field trip to a movie and the community swimming pool.  Julia picked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as her movie and she told me that she didn’t need ear plugs to see it.  I saw the trailer and it is not a quiet movie.  I’m sure she will need ear plugs on other days but nice to see she could do without today.  Swimming was another story.  According to her teacher, Julia did not go into the water until it was almost time to leave and then she jumped off the diving board.  She apparently spent a lot of her pool time, combing the ground for spare change.  She had spent her treat money at the movies and wanted something else at the pool.  Her teacher said that Julia found about eleven cents, not enough to buy anything.  Julia can be a bit obsessed—ok, really obsessed — with what is on the ground.  In this, she is much like her great-grandfather who regularly found money on the ground and who brought home all sorts of treasures that he would find on his walk to and from work.

My challenge with the end of school is always how to ease into summer work.  I both want to give Julia a break and begin our summer schedule.  This summer, we’ll be doing some multi-digit multiplication and some practical time work.  Maybe a bit of money exchange thrown in as well.  Julia asked to read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and we began it last week.  It is pretty hard for her but she is attacking it with the same verve that she first read Harry Potter.  We saw a production of the play a few weeks ago and the story is holding her interest.  The slowness of the story and the small events of the opening chapters are helping her comprehension.  I am still looking for a teacher’s guide to help me guide her through it.  The third piece of her summer work while we are home is cello.  Julia has worked on three pieces towards the end of her Suzuki Book 1 and her teacher is pressing her to work with a metronome.  She was not enthused about buying one but I found an app (of course) and Julia quickly figured it out.  She needs to concentrate and keeping constant time is very hard.  I feel like she is on the cusp of understand and another two weeks (before we leave) will not be enough time to get it into her body.  We will come back to it, I am sure.

The final piece of summer work during our travels will be her communication with folks at home.  Last year, Julia wrote emails to a little band of adults with a few kids thrown in.  People wrote back to her now and again.  Not too many or too often.  It was a good experience.  I want to make it a bit more immediate this year and I’m thinking of teaching her instagram.

For myself, I’ve been working on my very long to-do before traveling list.  Weeding and mulching.  Also appreciating my garden which has been looking pretty splendid this spring.  Iris and peony time is almost over.  The beds in the back garden is filling up for the first time, albeit a bit weedy.  I have a three big plantings of delphiniums that will soon bloom.  I am hoping that tomorrow’s predicted rain doesn’t knock them all over before they have a chance to flower.  I have a very healthy crop of yarrow for the first time and a my new hollyhock plants are coming along nicely although there will be very little bloom this year.  I’ve come to realize that my garden beds are really spring and autumn bloomers with very little happening in the middle of summer.  Last year, I thought of making an effort to get more summer perennials in the beds but this year, I’m thinking that since I intend to travel all the summers that I am able, having boring flower beds in the summer works out quite well.

Travel planning is at full tilt.  I’ve found lodgings in Genoa and Milan.  We’ll stay with my friend in Turin.  I finally decided, with the help of my friend’s suggestions, to spend our fourth week in a very small town on a very small lake.  Orta San Giulio will be the scene of our week by water.  We’ll swim, hike, visit an island monastery in the middle of the lake, explore the little town, eat and spend time doing very little.  If the B&B that I’ve found accepts our reservation, we will have a home.  I’ve decided not to drive this year in Italy.  Instead of ranging far and wide, I want to sink into place a bit.  It is just a week in each place and I am hoping to do more than see this big sights.  I am hoping to wander small streets and get lost, sit by fountains, eat and see if I can figure out how Julia and I would do in Italy for a much longer stay.