Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring!

Having grown up in snowy upstate New York, I don't know if I'll ever get used to spring coming in February.

We're not talking a few random flowers. My yard is filled with daffodils. The Bradford Pear is just days away from being covered in delicious white blossoms.


We never even had a sticking snow this year. I think I'm OK with that, just for a year. But I'm not sure I am nearly ready to begin yard work all over again. The weeds are already flourishing in the rock garden, and I never even had time (or cold enough weather) to do a winter pruning.

The south is a crazy place to live, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Ramblings

* I'm sick. I have the worst cold I have had in years. (I probably say that every year.) Yesterday I had to teach class, and then I came home and collapsed. Today I have to go to the eye doctor, and then I plan on coming home to collapse. Yes, I am spreading my germs around town, just like every one else. So wash your hands and don't pick your nose.

• Last night our co-op had its annual "Black and White Dance." I hated not to be there, chatting with my mom friends and taking covert looks at my beautiful daughter. But I was at home eating vanilla ice cream and reading, which is my version of collapsing. Here she is before the dance:

She's so beautiful. I was just emerging from my awkwardness at this age. I think we had it rougher in the 80s.


Here she is with her two trusty sidekicks. They said last night's dance was the best ever. After the dance a bunch of her girlfriends came over for a High School Musical bash. I have no idea why. They thought it was hilarious. I could hear them still at 4:45 a.m., singing and laughing. I am so grateful that she has such good friends.

* So, I've made an observation about mom blogs. I truly believe that mom blogs that get an insane amount of traffic have this in common:
1) a tragedy, and/or
2) sharp wit, bordering on constant sarcasm and flippancy, and/or
3) constant give-aways.
(Pioneer Woman is probably an exception to this. She is witty, but I wouldn't call her wit sharp nor is she sarcastic. She has a great deal of warmth about her writing. She does give some awesome stuff away, though.)

* So big deal, right? Except that I am a little competitive, and sometimes I think about making tons of money on my blog. Or more than that, getting some kind of Big Award, like being on Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs. It's absurd, I know. I'm still on blogger, for Pete's sake—I don't even have a WordPress blog! How lame is that? But I have been thinking about it.

* But. Let me say right now that I do not want any tragedies in my life, nor do I want to spend 6 hours/day on my blog, nor do I want to give stuff away, nor do I wish to be constantly sharp-witted. It clashes with the voice inside my soul.

* And that's all I have to say. It's a Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining, the daffodils are flowering, and, in frenzy of domesticity, Randy has made banana bread. I am off to the eye doctor, who I hope will give me a prescription so magical that my 46-year-old eyes will be able to read small print.

Linked up at Miscellany Monday at lowercase letters

Friday, February 24, 2012

This Moment: Boy in the Morning


{this moment} - A Friday ritual at SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Cat, Old Cat

I think it takes a new kitten to fully appreciate one's old cat. I had about two still shots of the kitten. The rest of the pictures of her were a streak of color, a blur of stripes. Over and over she clawed her way up the couch and then jumped off, finding a bit of fluff on the floor to attack or pawing the dog's tail.


And then, the old cat. I could take photos of him all day long because he rarely moves off the couch. When he does, it is only to go outside to roll around in a sunny spot on the driveway, or it might be to move closer to the fireplace.

He sure is a good old cat.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chair Redo

My great room redo started back in November, when I began turning Duncan's old bedroom into our office. First I painted the walls; I then painted an old lab table and spruced up a dresser. I've cleaned the carpets, added new curtains and a window bench, and started organizing the cabinets.

It was time for the chair.

I've had this chair since I was three years old. I distinctly remember bringing with us from Florida, where my grandparents lived, to New York in our dark blue station wagon. It was a gift from my grandparents to me, although why a chair seemed like an appropriate gift for people with 3 or 4 kids on an 800 mile trip, I have no idea. Anyway, I love this chair for its sentimental value. But it was in need of some loving. And so…


Here it is now! I got my inspiration from this painting, sold on Etsy. This was one of my first Pinterest pins, 36 weeks ago according to my board. (It takes me awhile to put ideas to use sometimes.)

First I painted the chair a soft antique white and sanded down a few edges for that distressed look. I found a bird-on-branch silhouette that I liked by googling, traced it on the chair, and painted it with plain acrylic paint.

Pinterest saved the day again with this link to "how to paint letters perfectly." Basically, you print out whatever you want to paint in the font that you wish, position and tape them where you want them, and then trace over the letters very hard with a ballpoint pen. The pen leaves an indentation, which you can see only on a bright, sunny day in front of a window, if you are like me.

If you look really hard, you can see the words on the section above the paper.

A tiny paintbrush and a steady hand are essential for this project. A kitten is not.

I could only do one line at a time because my hand got really cramped. But I'm kind of wimpy like that.

Also, I had to wait for the perfect light, and we've had many rainy days.


And that cat kept wanting to pounce on my paintbrush. But ultimately, I finished it. And I am sooooo very happy with the result!

My last step is to put a couple of coats of polycrylic on the seat, just to make sure the paint doesn't get rubbed off.

I'm getting closer to actually working in the office. Next up, the search for the perfect comfy chair.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up

What we've been doing around here:

Lots of being cozy, happy to have our fireplace fixed for the first time in 6 years.

Trip to the opera for British Lit class to see Romeo and Juliette. Read about how much I love opera here.

American Heritage Girls Annual Father/Daughter Banquet. Always a beautiful event! This year 150 Dads and daughters attended. Phew! Laurel put in many, many service hours preparing and cleaning up.


Enjoying Laurel's new kitty. New kitties are terribly, terribly distracting, prancing across desks, tossing pens up in the air, and just being generally adorable. And energetic.

Laurel's read lots and lots of English poets and written several poems of her own for British Lit. I honestly don't know what she's doing in her physical science class at co-op, but I know she got a 100% on her last exam. Duncan and I are still traveling in China for history, geography, and literature. We're in Norway during World War 2 for one co-op class (reading Snow Treasure for literature circle), and having fun with similes in another (creative writing, using my WordSmithery program). Come to think about it, I don't know what either of them are doing in their art classes at co-op either. What an uninformed parent I am!

What else? Some things just continue on as always. Math is math. Grammar is grammar. I made a resolution to put some Pinterest finds to use, and Duncan and I began a learning about simple machines this week. We're putting together a "how things work" lapbook and planning on doing all kinds of experiments. I checked out David Macauley's The Way Things Work from the library, so we'll take lots of time going through that. Like years.

That wraps up our past couple of weeks. We're taking a day off today. It's my birthday.

Here I am at 46. I have a sore throat. But I am so completely enjoying all my Facebook greetings, and friends stopping by in real life with cards, gifts, one delicious mocha cupcake and one poem, written by my daughter's best friend, that made me cry. Tonight I have dinner with my family to look forward to, and this weekend we're going to tour the Biltmore, thanks to my friend Donna and her free tickets.

I don't need to say it, but I will: Life is good.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Romeo and Juliette: A Trip to the Opera

Last week I made arrangements for my British Lit class to go to the opera. We studied Romeo and Juliet last semester, so going to the opera Romeo and Juliette seemed like an excellent opportunity.

Can I confess something? I don't really get opera. This is my third one. I've also seen Madame Butterfly and Medea. It's kind of like the feeling I have when I watch ballet; although, truthfully (and my apologies to all of you who have little ballerinas), I like opera much, much more than ballet.

Oh please. I'm an artsy kind of person. I could stand in the Louvre for days and days and days. I can listen to the symphony for hours with only a few pleasant naps (on my mother's Russian pony fur coat, but that's another story). I eat up plays and musicals.

It's just that I don't get opera. I just get… well, here it is. I'm saying it: I. Get. Bored.

I would actually rather attend a football game than attend the opera or ballet. I can't believe I just said that. But at least at football games (I've been to two in the past 22 years), I can watch people and eat hamburgers. Operas and ballets are in dark rooms, and everyone is so serious. And snacks are seriously frowned upon.

So there it is. At the end of my 45th year, I have admitted my utter lack of appreciation of these two fine arts.

P.S. I did not share my opinion of the opera with my literature class. At least 3 of my students voiced that they really, really liked the opera. And I am tremendously happy that they were all exposed to opera. Maybe someday the rest of them will be opera lovers. Or maybe they'll comment on the drunk guy in front of them at the football game. Or maybe both.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Putting Pinterest to Use

My goal: to make Pinterest more than just a place to collect ideas. I want to put those ideas to use. So each week I'm going to list a few of my pins and put them to work in my life.

This Week on Pinterest

Most Promising Homeschooling Finds
Free Printable Worksheets: brainteasers, mazes, graphs, much more.
Free Audio Books: absolutely tons of free audio books, for people of all ages. Classics, unusual titles, and more. This one could be amazing!
Physics Lapbook(s): This Squidoo site has foldables and ideas for six physics lapbooks! It looks amazing. Since Duncan isn't taking any science at co-op this semester, I really need to look into this more. My goal is to begin one of these this week.
Science Experiments in a Bag: This is such a great idea. My kids used to love when I'd get out the leftovers from the Sonlight science kits. I need to make a bunch up for Duncan.
Synonym Flower: The link doesn't go into detail on this, but the photo is pretty self-explanatory. This is really, really cute and I just happen to be teaching synonyms in creative writing at co-op right now. This might have to be integrated into my WordSmithery curriculum!

Household
Job buttons: Kids can pick what they want to do and earn money around the house. This is an etsy site and I think the cost is quite reasonable, but I'll probably end up making these somehow on my own. My kids are always asking how they can earn money, and I always mean to put some kind of system into place. There is also a chore chart on the etsy store that gives lots of ideas for jobs.
Homemade furniture polish: Why not?
Magical carpet cleaner: I have tried this already, and it was amazing. I am going to work on a few more spots today.

Crafty
Magazine rack: This would look amazing in my new office and/or modified to hold cookbooks or whatever. I'm pretty sure Randy and Duncan would love to make a couple of sets of these for me.
Quilt: I like this simple quilt pattern. As soon as I get my sewing machine set up, I am going to start it.
Cloth coasters: We really need these. I'm always cleaning drink residue off our coffee and end tables. I repeat: as soon as I get my sewing machine set up....

Food
Mississippi Mud Pie: Ridiculous. I must try it.
Italian sausage and basil red sauce: Yum. I repinned this from my daughter, so I keep hoping she is going to make it.
Twice baked potato casserole: This is going to show up on our menu sometime this week.

****
I also like to see what others are pinning from my blog. Here are this week's 5 most popular pins from SmallWorld at Home:
Titanic Unit Study
WordSmithery Creative Writing Lessons
Homeschooling Articles
Lapbooking Resources
Rainbow simile poem


So how do you put Pinterest to work for you?
Follow Me on Pinterest

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good Mom


There are some mornings, like this one, when I am good mom. I make sausages and deliver them, carefully placed on a plate with a tiny bowl of maple syrup, to my 11-year-old, who is watching his morning dose of TV. I bring him a mug of hot chocolate sprinkled with marshmallows. He smiles and looks, frankly, surprised. "Hot chocolate?" he says in delight. "For me?"

Yes. Hot chocolate, for you. Because you are just a few inches shorter than I am, but for now you are still shorter. Because you are my blond, blue-eyed baby. Because you have dimples and smile. All the time.

I am not usually good morning mom. I usually grunt, "Make yourself some pancakes" (those would be the microwaveable kind) or "Pour yourself a bowl of cereal." I am usually glued to my laptop in the morning, if I'm not out running.

But some mornings, I want to nurture and please. Some mornings I am suddenly struck with the awesome knowledge that this is my privilege. That making a cup of hot chocolate is an honor. That seeing the grateful smile of my third child is a gift so far beyond ordinary that no one can possibly describe it.

It is simple, this mother love. It comes in waves of memory or quick blinks of realization that the years are limited. Some day, in just a few years, I won't have anyone around who delights in hot chocolate or who wraps himself in an afghan while watching cartoons.

A few days ago, he sheepishly stopped me as I was about to hug him goodbye. At youth group. His eyes said, "I love you, but please don't hug me here." I smiled. He knew I understood.

I give it this way while I can.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Black History Month: Children's Books and Unit Studies on Slavery

Underground RailRoad Sculpture - Battle Creek

February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada—and it’s a great time to educate your kids about the history of African Americans in the U.S. Sometimes we have a tendency to skip over or minimize the painful parts of U.S. history, especially the treatment of non-whites, including Native Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans. As author and historian David McCullough says, “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.”

If you would prefer to explore the lives of African Americans post-slavery, check out all the offerings at Teacher Vision. You’ll find dozens of resources, including teaching guides, printable books and coloring pages on famous African Americans, from George Washington Carver to Jackie Robinson to Martin Luther King Jr. You could spend weeks on this site alone!

But I think perhaps the best place to start is with the history of slavery in the United States. From lapbooks to books to internet explorations, below you’ll find a list of some excellent resources for studying slavery. …

{Come on over to The Homeschool Classroom to check out my list of resources, including lapbooks and read-alouds, for studying slavery!}

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Miscellany

* I love Superbowl Sunday. I don't know one single thing about football, although I did absolutely love the show Friday Night Lights, but Randy gets very excited and makes fabulous food for the Superbowl. There's such a festive air about the day. On his menu tonight: sliders, shrimp, wings, chips and dip, chips and guacamole and queso. My contribution: chocolate chip cookies, but I only made those because Duncan is going to a Superbowl party at the church we've been attending.

* I should blog sometime about church. It's been 5 months since we left our church. I feel as if I am emerging, this past month especially, into a whole new world. I feel so unfettered, both by being gone from that church and from relinquishing so much of the anger I felt toward the leaders of that congregation. But this is a miscellaneous post, so I'll save that for another time.

Random picture #1: Our sweet pup and Laurel's new kitty, basking in the sun

* This week coming up is going to scary. I'm going to have to transport myself to survival mode. The week goes like this:
  • Monday: co-op all day, Boy Scouts at night
  • Tuesday: performing arts classes resume in the afternoon, Cub Scout Blue and Gold banquet at night
  • Wednesday: taking my Brit Lit class to see the opera Romeo and Juliette in the later afternoon/evening
  • Thursday: American Heritage Girls and Cub Scouts
  • Friday: Preparations for the AHG Father/Daughter banquet begin at 9:30 a.m.; Brit Lit from 1-4; head back immediately for final prep for the Father/Daughter banquet, which begins at 6 p.m.
And that doesn't include all the regular things, like homeschooling, visiting my parents, running, and watching American Idol. Also, we just started watching Downton Abbey and I don't know how that is going to fit in this week.

* Fortunately, my house is clean. That will help my frame of mind tremendously. I can handle a cluttered schedule much better than a cluttered house.

Random Picture #2: winter aconites—the first sign of spring, 1 month early.

* Is it just me, or is everyone joining Pinterest this week? I think about two dozen of my friends just started pinning over the weekend. Now comes the dilemma: do I follow all my friends? Do I follow my daughter's friends? I kind of liked living in my anonymous Pinterest tunnel.

* By the way, we're rooting for the Giants. (I will admit that I had to yell into Randy just now: "Is it the Jets or the Giants." I just wanted to be safe.)

Have a great Superbowl Sunday. May you have plenty of deep-fried food and ample trans-fats mixed in with a healthy dose of carbs.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Show Us Your Day-in-the-Life


Over at Simple Homeschool we contributors have been sharing our Day-in-the-Life posts for the past several weeks. (Here is mine.) Now it's your turn! Write up your own post and link up at Simple Homeschool. We homeschoolers l-o-v-e to read what other homeschoolers are up to. I don't know about you, but I always feel relieved when I read about other families that start at 10 a.m.! If you don't want to write one, be sure and visit all the links there. You'll get ideas, inspiration, and encouragement—and probably some amusement, as well!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Colored Glass




When my uncle died, we packed up his house. He was the curator of the family heirlooms: the china, old letters, furniture, photos. Everything. It was fascinating to see who chose what. One brother took a rocking chair, in which he said our grandmother used to rock him. Another wanted the flat-screen TV and a couple of sketches on the wall. A sister-in-law liked gadgets. A niece took some china and an old washtub. My cousin took a map. My son took a highly decorative Mason's sword that belonged to my Great-Uncle Mood.

Oh, there's more. Much, much more. A hundred years or more of family heirlooms, carefully divvied up. But today, colored glass. The pieces belonged to my Great-Aunt Flossie (the hobnail pieces in the top two photos) and my grandmother, Helen. I've always loved colored glass in windows, and I love even more the daily reminders of these three people: my precious grandmother, my Aunt Flossie, and our beloved Uncle Max.