Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Miscellany

* Poor Randy. He is out on the sun porch, AKA the pet room, cleaning up cat vomit and the ants that are flocking to the vomit. Pets are so disgusting and so much work. I have no idea why we insist on having them, other than that we truly adore them. Most of the time.

* I would feel guilty that he is out there doing such a nasty job, except that I've been working my butt off all day, painting and cleaning. One of my goals this summer is to paint the guest bathroom. I have just one more coat to go, and I'll be done! Of course, I also got distracted and decided to paint a dresser and some picture frames.

* This has been a fantastic summer for company. We are truly blessed. In May, we had the Campbells (incredible friends we met via blogging, yes really) and the Shields (soulmate college friends), and Randy's family. In June we had Randy's brother Greg. In July I got to have lunch with some of our best friends from our Iowa days, and on Monday, our other best friends from Iowa are coming to visit. I just feel so grateful to have all these people in our lives. Also, my house has gotten several good cleanings this summer!

* Duncan spent the night on a boat with his friend last night (and his friend's father and grandpa). He had a fantastic time and stayed up really late. Today, he is trying everything to stay awake. This mostly means that he is eating and talking nonstop. He's still awake, but I'm exhausted. I am trying all kinds of things to distract him so that I can have a few minutes sans chatter. Up next: corn shucking.

* I've now finished Week 6 of Couch to 5K. I am so not a runner, and I've always despised running, but I love this program. And I ran 25 minutes twice this week! Having friends to do this with makes all the difference in the world. I can do just about anything if I have someone with whom to talk.

* Speaking of talking, shucking the corn only distracted Duncan for 5 minutes. That kid is fast. He is now crawling between the cabinet and the refrigerator, chattering all the time. Next distraction: I've told him to go in his room and pick up 50 items.

* You know what's sad? Schools in my city started back a week ago. The school is right by the city pool. Imagine being in school on a hot day in July, watching people swim. I can deal with the whole starting-school-before-Labor-Day thing, although I find it irksome. But starting school in July? I'm pretty sure there should be a law forbidding that.

* And here's another thing that's irksome (I've never used that word before, so why not use it twice?): the pools around here close tomorrow, August 1. It's so absurd, I can't even think about it without grimacing and wanting to write a letter to the powers-that-be.

* Duncan's back, after cleaning up 50 items, playing the piano, and looking at an argiope spider. I've completely lost every thought in my head. He just announced, "I'm hungry." Shocking.

Anything irksome happening in your world today?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reading Poetry with Children

“Whatever you do, find ways to read poetry. Eat it, drink it, enjoy it, and share it.”
~Eve Merriam

Poetry is terribly misunderstood. Most of us were introduced to complex, often incomprehensible poetry when we were in school and learned quickly to dislike it. But poetry doesn’t have to be a jungle of symbolism and metaphor, heavy with hidden meaning. …

{I'm over at The Homeschool Classroom today. Catch the rest of this post over there!}

The Homeschool Classrom

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's peach season in Tennessee, which means I spend a few weeks as a peach broker. My brother has an orchard full of incredible peaches, and I have dozens of repeat customers begging for them. In return, I get all the peaches we can eat and some to freeze. We've had peach cobbler, peach muffins, peach shakes and smoothies, and of course lots of just peaches. Here is this morning's peach muffin recipe, which is my favorite yet:

Peach Muffins

1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 banana
1 c. flour
1/2 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. plain yogurt (or vanilla)
1 c. fresh, diced peaches

Cream butter. Add sugar and beat until light. Add egg and banana and beat well. Add vanilla and yogurt and beat again. Add flour and baking powder and beat. Finally, stir in peaches. Drop by spoonful into muffin tin (I use liners). Bake at 400 for 20 min. Makes 12 muffins.

Peach season always makes me think of what might be my favorite poem by the poet Li-Young Lee. There are few poems that speak to me in such a place as this one does, the place where I was a girl raised in the midst of apples, peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries. That orchard within.

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

- Li-Young Lee

Hope you can find some locally grown peaches where you are. They are good for the soul.

~Linked up with Tasty Tuesday and Tuesdays Unwrapped

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Memory: Summer on the Lake

This has been a hot, hot summer so far. I don't think we've ever had a hotter one in the 10 years we've lived here. My daughter is now a year past the play-with-toys age and fully into the "what should I do?" age. I dislike labels, but she really is a 'tween, even though she'll be a real teen in a month.

I was thinking about what I did when I was that age during the long summer days. I don't really remember being bored, although I suppose I must have been at times. I am pretty sure my life consisted of four things: reading, lying out in the sun, talking on the phone, and playing in the lake.

When I was 14, 16, and 17, I got new playthings: baby nieces. Sometimes they lived near us, sometimes they didn't; but I loved to pass the time with those little girls. They are all grown now with babies of their own.

This is my first summer in perhaps my whole life not to visit my hometown in upstate New York in the summer. I think there might have been a couple of years when we lived in Iowa that I couldn't make it there. But now our house belongs to someone else. He kept our sail boat, and I hope he spends some hot summer afternoons catching a bit of wind on Seneca. I hope he invites some friends over for an evening bonfire and watches the big orange moon rise over the water.

It would be enough to make me weep, if I hadn't done all my weeping already.

Do you have a Monday Memory to share? Leave a link in the comments. I'd love to visit.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In the Smokies: Laurel Falls (and why we don't go there)

Laurel Falls is one of the most visited spots in the Smokies. It's close to Sugarlands Visitor Center, which is close to Gatlinburg. And it's paved, so it's wheelchair and stroller accessible.

When we first moved here, we took a picture of Laurel and Jesse in front of this sign (Duncan wasn't yet born) and swore we'd return every year to take their picture by the sign. (Laurel, by the way, was not named for these Laurel Falls but for the laurels in upper East Tennessee where we went to college.)

The thing is, we really don't like to go to Laurel Falls. In fact, this was the first time we have been in about seven years. Randy needed to drop his car off at the Sugarlands so that he could hike from Laurel Falls back to the Sugarlands, so Duncan and I decided to hike the first portion (just up to the falls) with him. (You can read about the rest of Randy's hike on 900-Miles.)

It's not that the trail, being in the Smokies, isn't pretty. I don't think there is any spot in the park that isn't beautiful.

There are a few nice views along the way.

And trail-side treasures.

And hiking in general is just a good thing to do on a summer day.

What I don't like about Laurel Falls is that this is what you see at the end of the trail:

All these people, and many, many more to come (a bus was just letting off as we returned to the parking lot), taking pictures of this:

It's probably about the least impressive falls in the Smokies. I felt sorry for the people hiking up with such great anticipation. I felt like apologizing. One lady was huffing and puffing on her way up and said, "There had better be something amazing at the end of this trail! It had better be a pot of gold!" ("Or," her husband replied, "a bar!") I hope she found this to be worth her efforts. I suppose that if you don't know some of the other beautiful spots that the Smokies has to offer, you could be thrilled with the pot of gold at the end of this 1.3 mile trail.

Dear Tourists,
I am happy that you are here exploring our beautiful park, and I'm glad you are getting exercise and fresh air, but please don't wear high heels when you hike. It's just silly.

Linked up on Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset, Moonrise

Yesterday evening Randy and Duncan took a quick hike on the Foothills Parkway while they waited to pick Laurel up from her Bible study. And this is just one of the many things I love about where I live: with less than an hour of time to "kill," you can hike through the woods and up to the top of a tower and see the sun set and the moon rise over the Smoky Mountains.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the Evening

It's easier to sit around the house, to scatter our own ways. To play a mindless game on Facebook or send a few emails while the kids play in their own rooms. If you are a parent, you know how it is. We are tired in the evenings. Introverts like Dr. H. and me crave down-time, without chattering activity. For us, an after-dinner walk keeps us from cocooning.

For years and years we've ended our day with an evening walk. We've walked countless blocks in Ohio, Iowa, and Tennessee. I can remember perfectly all the different places we've lived and the routes we've walked with a baby in a stroller and one riding a tricycle; or one on a bike, one by the hand, and one in a stroller; or just all of us on foot.

Something about an evening walk lets us be together quietly. We comment on the new plants in a neighbor's yard or wonder why that yellow dog on the corner lot isn't out barking. The temperature finally cools down to a bearable point, and the sky takes on the evening softness.

We nearly always have the same destination: a big open hill just a half-mile from our house. Laurel finally feels confident enough to walk the dog, who is strong and not particularly well trained.…

and Randy carries a plastic sack in his pocket for the dog's evening deposit.

When we reach the big hill, we let the dog run free. She and Duncan always take off together for the first run. Because she is part Australian Shepherd, she herds us. It's awfully cute and a bit annoying.

Sometimes we bring along the frisbee.

Sometimes we just sit and talk about nothing much, like how dry the grass is…

and watch the train go by and the airplanes take off.

An evening walk is just one of those things that grounds us, that makes us take a breather from the busyness of life and the buzz of technology.

“Few people know how to take a walk.
The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Linked up on Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting with the Sky and Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm Back!

Did you notice I was gone?

I've spent the last 5 days in Cincinnati at the national convention and 15th anniversary bash for American Heritage Girls. How much fun did we have?

Seven of us moms/leaders and 10 of our troop girls were able to go to this phenomenal event. We wished the other 60 girls and their moms could have attended, too! We filled our days with workshops, shopping, eating, networking, seminars, meeting lots of new friends, enjoying each other, sweating, and occasionally swimming and sleeping. One afternoon we (about 350 people) took a field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati, which was amazing. I wish we could have spent a few more hours there.

We came home with tons of ideas, encouragement, and anticipation for our new year; we'll be starting our 8th year as a troop (the first in Tennessee) in September!

My menfolk all did great while we were gone. Dr. H. and Duncan took a backpacking trip, which is beautifully documented at 900 Miles. Jesse worked and hung out with his friends. The house was clean, laundry done, and fried rice waiting when we returned home.

And I'm sorry to say, but I deleted all 457 new blog posts that showed up on my Google reader.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WordSmithery Week 10: Writing About Self

Welcome back to the WordSmithery! If you are brand new here, I recommend that you go back and start at the beginning. My goal with the WordSmithery is to make creative writing exciting for writers of all ages. Here's what we've covered so far:

As always, this lesson is loosely scripted. You might eliminate some things or add others as you go. As you know if you are a regular here, I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics. And remember: parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too! Go back and read the first couple of lessons to find out why. Here we go! (This lesson is rather long. I'd recommend doing it in a couple of days rather than all at once.)

Week 10: Writing About Self

Up until now we have mostly been writing poetry and learning how to make exciting sentences and descriptions. Now we are going to talk about another kind of creative writing: nonfiction. What does nonfiction mean? (something that is true)

What are some types of nonfiction? (biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, newspaper articles, research papers, etc.) What about advertising? Is that a kind of writing? Would you call that fiction or nonfiction? (wait for answers and discuss)

When we think of non-fiction, we often think of writing that deals with facts, sometimes with almost nothing besides the facts. Nonfiction doesn't have to be only facts, however. You can be as creative in writing nonfiction as you are in writing fiction or poetry. In fact, writers have come up with a special category for this kind of non-fiction: creative non-fiction. You are mostly going to write about yourself, actually.

What are the first things that we need when we write? (words) Over the next few weeks I want you to be really good observers. I want to you to really look at people and places and try to form descriptive phrases in your head.

This week you are going to do a self-portrait. Back in Week 4, you wrote a poem called Self-Portrait.

You are going to really observe yourself this week, and you are going to describe yourself in writing. You are going to write more than just FACTS about yourself. More than just: my hair is black, my eyes are blue. Instead, you are going to write a creative self-portrait.

Listen to the difference between these two:

I am 12 years old. I have black hair and brown eyes. I am 5 feet tall. I like to read and hike. I like to eat pasta. My am wearing blue. My name is Kelly.

What does that tell you? (Facts about this person.)

Now listen to this.

Everyone says I look like my mother, except my mother, who says I look like my father. I suppose like most people I am a blend of both my parents, a little of my mother in the eyes (those hers are blue and mine brown) and face, and some of my father in the mouth and nose. I like to wear jeans, a sweatshirt and my hiking boots. My wear my long hair in braids. I always wear a gold cross necklace. My grandparents gave me the necklace when I was five-year-old when I visited them, and it's one of my prized possessions. My favorite meal is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, with garlic bread and broccoli. I’d top off that meal with a creamy cheesecake and chocolate sauce.

Do you get the idea? Instead of just reporting the facts, we add interesting bits of information when we write creative nonfiction. We tell a story while we tell the facts.

Let's do a little exercise to help you get to know yourself better. You are going to work on comparing yourself today with your “old” self. Think about what you used to look like, or what you used to like to do, hobbies, beliefs, fears, preferences, etc.

Then write in this form:

I used to be…

But now I am…

I used to be…

But now I am…

For instance

I used wear glassesbut now I wear contacts.

I used to wear braces… but now my teeth are straight

I used to ride a bike… but now I drive a car.

I used to sleep with 22 stuffed animals…But now I just sleep with my bear.

(Do these until they can't think of any more.)

We’re going to do another exercise here to get you started. Here is a portrait of a person. This is a self portrait by the artist Pablo Picasso. Let’s look at this person and describe him:

Look at his hair: What does it look like? What color is it? How is it combed? Is it curly, straight? Does it look as if it needs washing? (Write as they say it)




Shape of face:

So what can you tell about this man from his face? Does he look happy? Is he scared of something? Is he mad? I think his eyes hold great sadness. (Let them talk about this for awhile.)

I’m going to give you all your writing assignment now for next week. Try to write at least 5 sentences, but write as much as you can! (Have students work on this all week.)

Nonfiction Self-Portrait Assignment, Week 10

Describe yourself in writing.

Remember to write more than just the facts. Try to use metaphors and/or similes. You might describe how you look, your favorite clothes, how you feel today, your favorite activity, etc. Try looking at yourself in a mirror while you do this assignment!

Example: My eyes are as brown as an M&M. My hair is the color of straw and feels soft as cat’s fur. My forehead is creased because I have a headache, and my eyebrows look kind of mad. When I laugh, my cheeks bunch up like crabapples or plums. I am wearing a pair of jeans that is too stiff, but my sweater is warm as an afghan. When I awoke this morning, I found that the dog had eaten my whole pack of Juicy Fruit gum, and this has made me cranky. I live in a brick house that has room for many.

Week 10 Journal Assignment: Observing Details

Day 1: Describe what you see when you look out your bedroom window. Use at least one complete sentence.

(Example: The leaves are brown and falling off the trees. The neighbor, dressed in a sweatsuit and slippers, is getting his newspaper.)

Day 2: Describe what you are wearing right now. Are you comfortable or uncomfortable? Is there an article of clothing you wish you could change?

(Example: I am wearing my oldest sweats: an old blue sweatshirt and my paint-stained gray sweatpants. The only problem is that my socks have bumps in the toes. I wish I could find the perfect pair of socks!)

Day 3: Describe your mother or father in a few short sentences.

(Example: My mother is tired this evening. She has been busy all day, packing to go on a trip. I can see by her heavy-lidded eyes that she wants nothing more than to crawl into bed.)

Day 4: Describe your dream vacation in a few short sentences.

(Example: My dream vacation would be a summertime tour through the UK and Germany. I’d like to visit castles, cathedrals, and every famous building. I would want a lot of money and my whole family with me.)

Hope you enjoyed this week's WordSmithery! One more thing: if you are enjoying SmallWorld's WordSmithery, help me spread the word by copying the button below and putting it on your own blog post or your sidebar! Thanks!

SmallWorld's WordSmithery

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Memory: Bubbles

We had rain today—lots of it. It was glorious. But nobody went out to play in it. Used to be that every time we had a rain after a long, dry spell, the kids would all run out and soak it in. We had a short rain Friday evening for the first time in two weeks, and Duncan did run out to play. But I could tell it wasn't as much fun for him all by himself, and he didn't stay out for long.

This is one of my favorite pictures of rain play. The kids spilled a bottle of bubbles and found that blowing bubbles in the rain is truly magical. I have this photo enlarged and framed in my kitchen. I love the curve of his neck and the wet hair plastered against his head and those sweet lips blowing bubbles.

And don't even get me started on rains back in Iowa, with Jesse puddle-jumping in his yellow rainboots.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happy 50th Anniversary, To Kill a Mockingbird

(My apologies to those who also follow SmallWorld Reads for the duplicate post, but some things bear repeating!)

On this, the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, it seems only appropriate to republish a post I wrote two years ago, the last time I read My Favorite Book Ever. And so, from April 2008:

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

I've been putting off this review for a couple of weeks now. How can I possibly express the utter perfection of this novel? I first read Harper Lee's phenomenal debut when I was in high school. I fell madly in love with it and read it again. Read it again in college, again in my 20s and in my 30s. It is the only book I have read more than twice (other than the Bible) since I was a child. I have always maintained that it is my favorite book, and after reading it again in my 40s, I wish that a spot existed higher than #1.

Why do I love this novel so much? I think because everything that matters is here. Jesus said that that the two greatest commandments are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength" and to "Love your neighbor as yourself." And in this novel, Harper Lee puts these beautiful words into action through her characters. Take, for example, these quotes:

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself:
I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks. ~Scout

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ~Atticus

Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house, they are company and don't let me catch you remarking on their ways like you were so high and mighty. ~ Calpurnia

Folks don’t like to have somebody around knowing more than they do. It aggravates them. You’re not going to change any of them by talking right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language. ~Calpurnia

On Religion vs. Following Christ
We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us. ~Miss Maudie.

If spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that's something I'll gladly take. ~Atticus

Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts our for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. ~Miss Maudie

Footwashers believe anything that's pleasure is a sin. Did you know some of 'em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me me and my flowers were going to hell? … They thought I spent too much time in God's outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible. ~Miss Maudie

Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of--oh, your father. ... If Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn't be as hard as some men are at their best. there are just some kind of men who--wh're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results. ~Miss Maudie

On Equality and Justice:
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ~Atticus

If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? ~Jem

How can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home? ~Scout

On Courage:
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. ~Atticus

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived. ~Scout

It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. ~Atticus

On Integrity:
They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience. ~Atticus

Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.~ Miss Maudie

On Growing Up:
The sixth grade seemed to please him from the beginning: he went through a brief Egyptian Period that baffled me - he tried to walk flat a great deal, sticking one arm in front of him and one in back of him, putting one foot behind the other. He declared Egyptians walked that way; I said if they did I didn't see how they got anything done, but Jem said they accomplished more than the Americans ever did, they invented toilet paper and perpetual embalming, and asked where would we be today if they hadn't? Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts. ~Scout

There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water. ~Scout

Atticus said that Jem was trying hard to forget something, but what he was really doing was storing it away for a while until enough time passed. Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out. When he was able to think about it, Jem would be himself again. ~Scout

On Parenting:
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em. ~Atticus

Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it. ~Atticus

Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him. ~ Atticus

There's a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep 'em all away from you. That's never possible. ~Atticus

On Education:
Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching me. "Besides," she said, "we don't write in the first grade, we print. You won't learn to write until you're in the third grade." ~Scout

The remainder of my school days were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. What Jem called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Atticus and my uncle, who went to
school at home, knew everything-at least, what one didn't know the other did. Furthermore, I couldn't help noticing that my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition, innocent of the adjustments my teachers thought essential to the development of Good Citizenship. Jem, educated on a half-Decimal half - Duncecap basis, seemed to function effectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books. As for me, I knew nothing except what I gathered from Time magazine and reading everything I could lay hands on at home, but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me. ~ Scout

The second grade was grim, but Jem assured me that the older I got the better school would be, that he started off the same way, and it was not until one reached sixth grade that one learned anything of value. ~Scout

I could go on and on. If you haven't read the book, please read it, and then read it again. I get more out of it upon every reading. I can understand why Harper Lee never wrote another novel. Some say she must have a world of writing stored inside of her, but it seems to me just pretty much covered everything already.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Bathroom Floor Project

So back a couple of months ago, I noticed that the black moldy stain that had been creeping across our bathroom floor for a year or more was getting soft, as in "Hmm. I wonder if I'll fall through the floor to the basement today?" So I said to Dr. H., "Are we ignoring the rotting bathroom floor?"

"Yes," he replied. I felt it important to mention to him that his brother, the computer/stock market/cooking/handyman guru, would likely not allow him to ignore the problem when he came to visit.

When his brother came to visit for Jesse's graduation, he casually said on the last night, "So, Randy. What are you going to do about the bathroom floor?"

"Um," Dr. H. replied. And so, his amazingly wonderful brother came back a couple of weeks later with all his skills and a truck piled with tools.

The first thing they had to do, after taking out the toilet and putting it in my front yard, was rip up the rotting floor. They discovered that this same project had been done before by the previous owners years before. Hmm.

That's just one of the boxes of rotten wood.

Eventually, the cut away all the rot and mold and got to the original subfloor.…

And then put in a new subfloor. I can now use the word "subfloor" with ease.

They made trips to Home Depot at least once each day. This is what every surface of the bathroom looked like, and much of the dining room and living room, too. Plus, of course, there were a plunger and a toilet bowl brush by the living room couch, a toilet in the front yard, and shower doors on the ping pong table.

But that was all a necessary part of getting to this: our new bathroom floor. It is so pretty! I love it so much. And I love my brother-in-law so much for working his butt off for seven days for us. He even cooked supper twice AND bought us the game UpWords, to which we are now addicted.

And now Dr. H. feels sufficiently skilled to tackle our upstairs bathroom, which has gray carpet stained with red puke.

Don't ask.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Ramblings

* So my son's Eagle Scout announcement was in the local paper yesterday. I was really happy about it, except there were TWO typos. You all know how that grieves me. I know I need to just get over it, but here is how the last paragraph read: "Small is a recently high school graduate and will be attending Belmont University in Belmont beginning in August." (Belmont, btw, is in Nashville, not Belmont.) Is it possible that the editor of this particular section deliberately created these typos to torture me? (Yes, I double-checked and the errors were not on the original text I sent.)

* Tonight, tonight, the shower doors will be put back on and we can start using our main bathroom again (the one with the beautiful new floor). I take comfort in knowing that other people get excited about things like this.

* About 15 moms and girls from our American Heritage Girls troop are heading up to Cincinnati next week for the national convention and 15-year-anniversary. Yesterday we all got together so that they girls could make swap pins, t-shirts, and work on requirements for the 15th-anniversary patch.

It all looks so calm and peaceful. And cool. But for 2.5 hours, my co-leader and I were sitting on the dry grass with ants crawling over us, with temps up to 99 degrees, using duct tape and bleach to help the girls make t-shirts. Not a fun way to spend an afternoon in July in Tennessee, I'm telling you.

* The other day I bought extra-long sheets and an extra-long comforter for my oldest. You know, the ones that are made especially for dorm beds. Because he's going away to college in 6 weeks. ("At Belmont University in Belmont," for Pete's sake.)

* I am reading My Name Is Asher Lev, the book that Belmont will use as its freshman "common book" this fall. I don't know why I never read this before; I did read several of Chaim Potok's other books. I love it so much. I really want to go lounge around and read right now. But alas, yardwork, housework, painting, and children are calling me.

* Dr. H. just asked the usual Friday question: "What's happening this weekend?" The answer was a blissful: "Nothing." Hopefully that means we'll be heading up to the Smokies to do some hiking.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Petunias

Photo by Laurel Rose Small

My 12-year-old daughter took this photo of some petunias in a hanging basket and then worked with it in Picnik. I loved this picture in its natural state, but I think I love it even more now. That girl has an eye!

(And please note that I've kept all the petunias—seven pots!— alive through weeks of 90+ degree weather and no rain!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Looking for Summer Reading?

So far this year I've read 23 books, besides books read aloud to the kids. At this rate, I won't quite make 52 books in a year, which is my usual goal. Then again, I can usually read more than a book/week in the summertime. Unless I get stuck reading one for two weeks, like the latest one.

People are always asking for good beach reads. From the 23 books I've read so far this year, I'd probably suggest: Half Broke Horses (Jeannette Walls), Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford), Queen of the Big Time (Adriana Trigiani), and Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (A. McCall-Smith). These are really the only light-hearted, feel-good (for the most part) books on my list.

If you feel like getting hit with big whammies that will knock you off your feet emotionally, try Beautiful Boy (David Sheff) or Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers) or Still Alice (Lisa Genova).

My other favorites from this list are Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Ernest Gaines), Buffalo Soldier (Chris Bohjalian), Last Night at Twisted River (John Irving) and Mockingbird (Katherine Erskine). These are more intense reads than the "beach reads" but not as emotionally draining as the ones above.

Here's what I've read so far. Clicking on the title will take you to my SmallWorld Reads blog, where you can read my reviews. You can also click on the Reading Picks page here at SmallWorld at Home to see my favorites through the past few years.

Do you have any great books to share? I could never have too many choices on my Ever-Growing To Be Read List.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Fourth

Our 4th of July was a little more mellow than in years past. Dr. H. stayed home with a stomach bug, and half the cousins weren't there. Still, we had good fireworks and good food. My second and third brothers are the kings of explosives.

And most importantly, we had lots of good family there, even if several were missing.

These are the days I cherish, with my children in red, white and blue and my parents in lawn chairs, soaking in family.

Linked up with Tuesdays Unwrapped on Chatting at the Sky

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cleaning the Shower Doors and Such

So this week's Big Project is putting a new floor in the bathroom. Don't worry: before and after pictures are coming. I mentioned a few days ago that my brother-in-law came to town to help Dr. H. in this immense project. Because he has knowledge and tools.

They are working really hard. I am so excited to have a new floor. Black mold is sooo out of style. But I don't get to just sit on my butt during this process. I have been charged with cleaning the shower doors. This is not fun. I despise shower doors. I want to buy pretty a pretty shower curtain from Target. I want to be able to change out this shower curtain for a new one when I get tired of it. But Dr. H. and his brother say [BLAH BLAH BLAH] (something about how shower doors are better than shower curtains [BLAH BLAH BLAH].

It takes a lot of work to clean shower doors that have a lot of soap scum on them. Please don't think I am an utter slob. I really clean the shower doors regularly. It's just that, well, they look ONE way in the bathroom in the dim light, and another way out in the sunlight when you go to clean them.

Don't judge me.

And so here is what I have discovered by googling "how to clean a shower door." WD40 is the bomb for cleaning shower doors. I tried toilet bowl cleaner initially, and that did okay but not great. But smearing WD40 all over the shower door and then scrubbing with a green scrubby pad worked great. Unfortunately, if you shower doors are as bad as mine were, you have to actually use some muscle. And wear gloves, please. (If your husband is a scientist like mine, ask him to bring them home from the lab. That's handy.)

After smearing and scrubbing, wipe it down with a rag and then smear it with liquid dishwasher detergent. This cuts the grease and makes it shiny. Now you can rinse off all the cleaners, wipe it dry, and hopefully you'll have a sparkly shower door.

See mine sparkling in the sunlight? I know! It's amazing!

And then there is the toilet in the front yard. I felt compelled to live by the old adage, "If you're going to have a toilet in your front yard, make sure it's clean."

That's my fourth pair of gloves for the day. I bet all those people coming home from work today enjoyed watching me clean my toilet.

Enough scum and such. Let's look at something pretty:

Happy holiday weekend!

Linked up at Tackle it Tuesday and Just for the Joy of It at Good, True & Beautiful

Thursday, July 1, 2010

School Plans: Chronicles of Narnia

I'm so excited about the upcoming school year. For the entire 10 years we've been homeschooling, I've used, at least to some degree, Sonlight. I love Sonlight. I love everything about it. Before I knew about Sonlight, I was going to write my own curriculum exactly like this—rich in excellent literature and full of history.

But we all need a break, especially after studying American History for three years. I never intended to spend so much time on American History, but I also didn't want to rush it. I used a combination of Sonlight and various supplements, resulting in Year 1 and Year 2 and, not yet posted, Year 3.

So starting in mid-August (which my Yankee self still balks at), we'll be embarking on a year of Narnia. I know! I'm so bold! My friends gasp when I tell them we aren't doing any history. But really, in the whole scheme of things, what is a year without studying dates and events, reading biographies, or sticking pins in maps? I feel quite confident that my kids aren't going to become academic rejects because they spent a year in a fantasy world. On the contrary, I think this year away will give them a chance to delight in a world with talking animals, Marshwiggles, and Dufflepuds.

We've read the books to them before when they were younger, and Duncan has listened to them all on audiotapes, but this year we'll spend about a month on each book. I actually bought Further Up and Further In, a whole year's unit study, many years ago. I'll be using that as well as various other sources that I find on the internet and in my own head. Of course we'll continue with all our other "regular" school: language arts, science, math, etc. But our "history" and literature will be largely Narnian. I also plan to add in The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, my two favorite George MacDonald books. I was happy to see that movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be coming out in December, corresponding nicely with our reading schedule. And in case you were wondering, we are reading the books in the order in which Lewis wrote them. I'm a purist like that.

You know what else is exciting? My set from my childhood—just like the one in the picture— is so worn out, with so many missing pages, that we'll have to get a new one. I just hope I can find one that has The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as #1.

I can hardly wait to start writing out my lessons. But first I have to finish reading essays from the co-op class that I taught. Lesson planning is my reward. That's not warped, is it?