Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sept. 30, 2006: Soccer Saturdays

For the past three years, Saturday mornings in September and October have been devoted to soccer games. Upward is such an awesome program, and our kids have been blessed with coaches who go out of their way to make the experience spectacular. This particular Saturday morning was one of the perfect ones: cool but not chilly, breezy, and sunny with the leaves just starting to lighten. Good friends and happy kids. All that was missing were Randy and Jesse, who are at Boy Scout Camporee.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If I were to ask my kids that question today, I’d get variations on the same theme: Duncan would choose something along the lines of a motorcycle driver or a guitar-playing monster-truck driver; Laurel would choose veterinarian; and Jesse would choose software/game designer. When I was Laurel’s age, I also wished to be a vet. I’m not sure why, other than that I loved stuffed animals. By age 9, I’d been mauled by a German Shepherd, thrown off the back of a pig, and traumatized by our possessed cat. But I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else.

I think that choosing to be a veterinarian was an easy answer, because my real vision of my life was too undefined to explain. I knew what I had inside of me: a love of words. I knew that I would have to write, and I would have to read. And then combined with this was the overwhelming desire just to have a family—to be a mom. Give me paper and pen, a book, and a family, and I’ll be happy. How does a child verbalize this when asked that perennial question, “What do you want to be when you grown up?”

I’m not sure I ever dreamed of being a writer, exactly. I just knew that somehow I had to write. My first novel (illustrated) was called An Illinois Family and consisted of three chapters, in which a family endures a devastating tornado. From the age of nine I wrote faithfully in a diary, a habit that continued through my twenties and even sporadically (very) into my thirties. Blogging now has become my journal, and I’m much more faithful to this medium than I was to pen and paper in the past several years.

Naturally I was an English major in college, although my small college was woefully short on creative writing classes. Most all of my friends in college were bibliophiles; we spent many weekends scouring the dusty racks in Johnson City’s finest thrift stores for whatever we deemed purchase-worthy. My dream, then became to own a used book store/coffee shop, and I began my collection more earnestly. Randy and I collected bookshelves before pots and pans. (Only one of those shelving units still survive 17 years later: the sturdy shelf my grandmother bought to house her new set of encyclopedias.)

Although I certified to teach high-school English, I never loved teaching. It just seemed like a good, practical thing to do with one’s life. I found one of my true vocations soon after graduation, working for The Business Journal of Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. I discovered that I loved editing and desktop publishing. A few months later Randy and I packed up our ever-growing stack of used books (for our future used bookstore) and moved to Oxford, Ohio for his graduate school at Miami University. For the next three years I worked as the assistant editor and desktop publisher for an international business association headquarters, a job I absolutely loved. Meanwhile, I collected books, wrote in my journal, and headed into a new vocation that I had known all my life was my true calling: motherhood.

After Randy finished his master’s, we moved to Ames, Iowa, where we spent the next five years. Randy was working on his PhD at Iowa State University by now, and I realized that this was the time I needed to pursue my writing. I applied for graduate school at the university and started the third year we were there. Although I only took 3-6 hours each semester and thus was not immersed in the program as full-time students were, those three years mark the time when I truly found my writer’s voice. I applied for a fellowship, which was awarded to me. I began sending poetry to little magazines for publication, and suffered only one rejection letter among several acceptances. I was now, officially, a writer.

In the near decade since then, I’ve been stretched beyond anything I could have given words to as a child, or a college student, or a young mother. We long ago sold off or gave away our used book collection (well, those that were duplicates, anyway) and our thrift-store bookshelves. Easily half our shelves are inhabited by kids’ books of all sorts and levels (thus “teacher” as vocation re-renters the picture). Submitting my writing is, at this point, occasional. I’ve got an upcoming magazine article and have been published in a couple of local anthologies in the past few years. I also use my editing background to earn a little extra money each month by proofreading. But perhaps more importantly at this time of our life is that I am using my background in writing to teach writing courses at our support group’s enrichment classes. Homeschooling parents are, in general, notoriously fearful of teaching their children to write, so I like to think I am helping families to feel more successful.

And of course I’m still reading. I can’t plow through a weekly seven like I once did, but I still manage a book every week or so in my nightly half-hour of before-bed reading. Every now and then I’ll have a vision of this awesome homeschool bookstore/coffee shop/hang-out, complete with laptops and a Lego station.

Why do we ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up? Why are we trained to expect answers like doctor, firefighter, or ballet dancer? We know, truly, what we all want to be when we grow up: happy. Most often it’s not one career or calling but a mixture of these that rounds us out, gives our lives definition, shapes our identities. Happy. That’s what I meant to say all those years ago.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

September 15, 2006: Don't My Kids Know that School's Out?

Geez. Don't they know that it's past 3 p.m., so all learning must stop? But they're in there this minute making recycled paper. A big, gooey mass of wet paper on my shiny clean dining room table. (OK, Blogless Leigh know that's a lie. I've never had a clean dining room table.) Laurel appears to be adding yeast to it (who knows the origin of that thought process), and Jesse is telling her (sensibly) to spread it out flat. I keep hearing phrases that frighten me, like "Don't come in here, Mommy!" and "Stop drooling! That's disgusting!" And...scariest of all..."I'll go get the blow-dryer now!" Geez! What's wrong with those kids? Don't they have any math homework to do?

Monday, September 25, 2006

September 25, 2006: Apple Unit

Apples speak “autumn” to me like nothing else. I was raised in a home where apples where as important as oxygen. My father is a fifth-generation orchardist, a retired fruit breeder and professor at Cornell University, a consultant, and partner of Cummins Nursery. Three of my four brothers have, in some manner, followed in my father’s footsteps. It’s only natural that we do an apple unit study every couple of falls. I have not written this out in my traditional unit study format but rather have listed activities, recipes, rhymes, books, and other resources. If you want a great apple read as a parent, I recommend Frank Browning's Apples. Admittedly, I'm partial to this book because my father is mentioned several times, but it is an excellent and lyrical book about apples.

Information and Activities
• Buy as many different varieties of apples as possible. We came up with a total of 14 varieties from 3 different produce markets. Make a chart with various information on each apple: color, number of seeds in each apple, taste, etc.. First count the seeds in each apple and then tasted one slice from each apple. Describe the apple and write down your reactions (sweet, sour, mushy, crispy, bland etc.). We each picked a favorite and recorded that as well.
Save a slice from each apple to see which will take the longest to brown. Be sure you label each apple slice (you can do this by putting the slice on a labeled piece of paper.
Save a couple of seeds from a few different apples. Take 1 seed from each apple and place inside of a damp paper towel piece. Label. With the other seed from each apple, place in slightly damp soil. Label. Discuss what might happen. Watch and record data over the next few weeks.
Look at the stickers from the apples. Where are most apples grown? Check here for more information about apple commerce.
• Apple Facts
• “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”
• History of the Apple
• Read Robert Frost’s “After Apple picking": Write apple poems using various formulas (haiku, cinquain, couplets, etc.)
• Take a field trip to an apple orchard. Watch cider being made.

Apple Recipe Ideas
• Apple pie: Mix all kinds of varieties after your science projects.
• Applesauce: (Peel, core and quarter about 8 apples. Add 1/2-1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water and 2 tsp. of cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, mashing often with a potato masher. Cook until desired texture.)
• Fried Apples: (Cut apples into slices. Fry in butter with 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1 T. cinnamon. Serve with biscuits.)
• Mini Pies: (one refrigerator biscuit per child, apple slices, cinnamon, sugar Have each student press out their biscuit. Take one apple from the filling and place to one side. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the apple. Fold in half. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the top. Bake according to the biscuit package and enjoy.)
• Baked Apples: Cut apple in half and core. Fill core hole with a dab of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Put in microwave for up to 1 minute.
• Dried apples: Slice apples into rings and hang to dry for a week or more.
• Lot of recipes from FamilyFun.

Arts and Crafts
• Apple Mural/Acrostic: Make mural using apples to paint with. We just made a big sheet like wrapping paper with all kinds of apple prints. When dry, write A P P L E vertically down middle. Write words or phrases that describe apples by each one.
A—autumn, aromatic
P—pretty pink petals
P—pie, Pink Lady
E—exciting, edible, excellent

• Enchanted Learning has all kinds of apple activities, from crafts to apple books, for all age levels.
• Carve apple heads. Soak in lemon juice and water for 1 hour. Hang to dry for 2-4 weeks.
• More apple craft ideas.

Books about Apples
Aliki. The Story of Johnny Appleseed
Anderson, LaVere. The Story of Johnny Appleseed
Asch, Frank. Oats and Wild Apples
Bennett, Denise. The Color Tree
Berger, Melvin. An Apple A Day
Blocksma. Apple Tree! Apple Tree!
Bourgeois. The Amazing Apple Book
Butler, Stephen. The Mouse and the Apple
Caseley. An Apple Pie and Onions
Cowley, Joy. The Apple
Curran, Eileen. Look At A Tree
Davies, Kay. My Apple
Demuth, Patricia. Johnny Appleseed
Dodd, Lynley. The Apple Tree
Eberle. Apple Orchard
Gibbons, Gail. The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree
Gleitner, Jan. Johnny Appleseed
Greenaway. Apple Pie
Greene. John Chapman: The Man Who Was Johnny Appleseed
Hale, Richard and Nicky Wilbur. Worm
Hall, Zoe. The Apple Pie Tree
Heuck. Who Stole the Apples?
Hodges, Margaret. The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed
Hogrogian, N. Apples
Hunt, Mabel. Better Known as Johnny Appleseed
Johnson, Hannah Lyons. From Appleseeds to Applesauce
Johnson, Sylvia. Apple Trees
Kellogg, Steven. Johnny Appleseed: A Tall Tale
Kozjak, Sarai. The Apple Tree That Would Not Let Go of Its Apples
Kurtz, Shirley. Applesauce
LeSeig, Theo. Ten Apples Up On Top
Lindbergh, Reeve. Johnny Appleseed
Little, J and Devries, M. Once Upon A Golden Apple
McMillan, Bruce. Apples: How They Grow
Maestro. How Do Apples Grow?
Marzollo, Jean. I Am an Apple
Micucci, Charles. The Life and Times of the Apple
Moon, Cliff and Bernice. Look At An Apple
Noble, Trinka Hakes. Apple Tree
Norman, Gertrude. Johnny Appleseed
Nottridge, Rhoda. Apples
Parnall, Peter. Apple Tree
Patent, Dorothy. An Apple a Day
Priceman, Marjorie. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Rockwell, Ann. Apples and Pumpkins
Saunders Smith, Gail. Apple Trees
Scheer, Julian. Rain Makes Applesauce
Schneiper, Claudia. An Apple Tree Through the Year
Selsam. The Apple and Other Fruit
Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree
Slawson, Michele Benoit. Apple Picking
Thomas, Ulrich. Applemouse
Tryon, Leslie. Albert's Field Trip
Watson, Tom. Fox and the Apple Pie
Watts, Barrie. Apple Tree

Teacher Resources for Apples and Growing
Charles Micucci. The Life and Times of the Apple (Creative Teaching Press Apples)
Apples (Teacher Created Materials)
Paulette Bourgeois. The Amazing Apple Book

Finger Plays and Rhymes

Apple On A Stick
Apple on a stick, apple on a stick
I can lick it all day and not get sick.
Apple in a cup, apple in a cup
I can drink it all day and not fill up.
Apple in a crunch, apple in a crunch
I can eat it all day, it is so good to munch
Apple in a cake, apple in a cake
I can eat it all day with no tummy ache
Apple in a pie, apple in a pie
I can eat it all day and never cry.
Apple in a dish, apple in a dish
I can eat it all day, it's so delish!

Red Apple
A little red apple
Hung high in a tree
I looked up at it
And it looked down at me
"Come down, please" I called
And what do you suppose---
That little red apple
Dropped right on my nose!

Five Red Apples
Five red apples in a grocery store
Bobby bought one & then there were 4
Four red apples on an apple tree
Susie ate one & then there were 3
Three red apples. What did Alice do?
Why she ate one & then there were 2
Two red apples ripening in the sun
Tommy ate one, & now there was 1
One red apple & now we are done
I ate the last one & now there are none!

Five Little Apples Sitting On A Gate
Five little apples sitting on a gate.
The first one says, "Oh, my it's getting late.
The second one says, "Fall is in the air."
The third one says, "Don't worry my dear."
The fourth one says, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one says, "I'm ready for some fun."
Oooh, went the wind and out went the light
and the five little apples rolled out of sight!

Five Apples Sat on a Gate (Tune: Farmer in the Dell)
Five apples sat on a gate, five apples sat on a gate.
Heigh dee ho, dee high dee ho, Five apples sat on a gate.
The first apple said, "Hello", the first apple said, "Hello"...
Heigh dee ho, dee high dee ho, Five apples sat on a gate....
(continue counting apples down to one).

Climbing Up the Apple Tree
Climbing up the apple tree, (climb in place)
Swinging on a limb! (Raise arms above head, sway left and right)
If I hear a robin, I may (cup hand near ear)
Sing along with him! (sing tra la la)
And Robin, if you fly away, (Put hands over eyes)
Here's what I think I'll do: (Point with index finger)
I'll wish a pair of sparrow wings (gently flap arms at side and move around)
And fly away with you!"

Ten Red Apples
Here I have five apples. (hold up five fingers on right hand)
And here are five again. (hold up both hands)
How many apples altogether?
Why, five and five makes ten.

Eat an Apple
Eat an apple; (Bring right hand to mouth)
Save the core. (Close right hand in fist)
Plant the seeds. (Bend down touch hand to ground)
And grow some more. (Extend both arms out)

Picking Apples (Tune: Frere Jacques)
-use when picking up legos, blocks, etc.
Picking apples Picking apples
One by one
One by one
Put them in a basket
Put them in a basket
Oh, what fun! Oh, what fun!

All Around The Apple Tree
sung to the tune of Mulberry Bush
Here we go round the apple tree, the apple tree, the apple tree
Here we go around the apple tree
On a frosty morning.
This is the way we climb the ladder -pick the apples -wash the apples -peel the apples -cook the apples -eat the apples
On a frosty morning!

Here Is An Apple
Here is an apple(make circle with thumb and pointer)
and here is an apple(make circle with other thumb and pointer)
and a great big apple I see(Make circle with arms)
Now let's count the apples we've made (repeat above actions)
1- 2 - 3 !

Ten Red Apples
Ten red apples grow on a tree (Both hands high)
Five for you and five for me. (Dangle one hand & then the other)
Let us shake the tree just so (Shake body)
And ten red apples will fall below (Hands fall)
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. (Count each finger)

Worms In The Apple Tree
(Tune: Kookaburra)
Look at all the worms in the apple tree,
Eating all the apples they do see,
CRUNCH, when they eat their lunch,
There will be no apples left for me.
Look at all the birdies, they do call,
Eating all the worms up, one and all,
SLURP, little birdies burp,
Guess there will be apples after all.

Apple Tree Rhyme
Way up high in an apple tree (hold arms over head)
2 little apple smiled at me (hold up 2 fingers to cheeks)
I shook that tree as hard as I could (pretend to shake tree)
Down came 2 apples. Mmmm, they were good! ( rub stomach and smile)

Apple Poem
Apples big,
Apples small.
Guess what?
I like them all.

A Little Apple Seed
(Tune: Eensy, Weensy Spider)
Once a little appleseed was planted in the ground
Down came the raindrops, falling all around.
Out came the big sun, bright as bright could be
And that little apple seed grew to be an apple tree!

Tiny Apple Seed
(Tune: Insey Weensy Spider)
The tiny little apple seed was planted in the ground,
down came the rain, falling all around,
out came the sun, as bright as bright can be,
and the tiny little appleseed became an apple tree!

Use a flannelboard with this. Make a small brown seed, about 10 blue raindrops, a big yellow sun and the tree with red apples on it.

Apples Are Falling
(Tune: Are You Sleeping?)
Apples are falling, apples are falling
From the tree, from the tree.
Pick up all the apples, pick up all the apples,
One. two, three; one, two,. three.
(Use appropriate motions for actions)

Two Little Apples
Two little apples hanging on a tree
Two little apples smiling at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down came the apples
Mmmm were they good!

Apple Surprise
Way up high in the apple tree,
A little brown worm smiled at me.
I winked my eye, And what do you suppose?
A shiny, red apple dropped on my nose!

Five Red Apples
Five red apples hanging in a tree (Hold up five fingers)
The juiciest apples you ever did see.
The wind came by and gave an angry frown (Fingers flutter downward)
And one little apple came tumbling down (One finger falls)
Four red apples, hanging in a tree, etc.

Four Little Apples
Four little apples dancing in a tree, (Let four fingers dance)
They danced so long that they set themselves free. (Fingers fall)
They continued to dance as they fell to the ground
And there by some children these apples were found. "Oh!
Look at the rosy one! (Hold up one finger)
"It almost bounced!" "I'll take the red one!" (Hold up second finger)
Another announced.
The third child laughed as he chose the yellow one. (Hold up third finger)
"I'll take it to Mother, ‘cause she lets me have fun."
The fourth child put the last one on a tray (Put fourth finger in palm of left hand)
And carefully carried the green apple away.

Apple Tree
( Tune: Twinkle Twinkle)
Apple, apple tree so tall,
I can hardly wait till fall!
When your apples I can pick,
Fill my basket, eat them quick.
Apple, apple tree so tall, I can hardly wait till fall!
Apple ,apple tree so fair,
What do I see growing there!
Green and round and plump and sweet,
Soon they will be good to eat.
Apple, apple tree so fair,
What do I see growing there!

Do You Know the Apple Man?
(Tune: Muffin Man)
Do you know the Apple Man,
The Apple Man, the Apple Man,
Do you know the Apple Man,
Who likes to play with me?
Oh, he has a great big smile,
A great big smile, a great big smile,
Oh, he has a great big smile,
And likes to play with me.
Oh, he has a bright red face,
A bright red face, a bright red face,
Oh, he has a bright red face,
And likes to play with me.
Oh, he has a star inside, A star inside, a star inside,
Oh, he has a star inside, And likes to play with me.

Apple Roll Chant
5 little apples in the bowl
1 fell out and started to roll
It bumped the table and hit my feet!
How many apples left to eat?
4 little apples in the bowl...
3, 2, 1 little apple in the bowl.

Five Little Apples
Five little apples,not any more.(Count on fingers)
I give one to________(Child's name)
And now there are four.
Four little apples are what I see I give one to _____________,
And now there are three.
Three little apples for me and you.
I give one to_____________, And now there are two.
Two little apples: oh,what fun! I give one to ___________,
And now there is one. One little apple,only one.
I give one to _________, And now there are none.

Johnny Appleseed
Thank You Johnny Appleseed
We owe you quite a lot
For the apples that you planted
With a walking stick and cooking pot.
Your seeds were planted far and wide
Across our frontier land
A friendly word you had for all
You gave a helping hand.
Thank You Johnny Appleseed
We owe you quite a lot
For lovely trees and apples
And the lessons that you taught!

Climbing Up the Apple Tree
Climbing up the apple tree, (climb in place)
Swinging on a limb! (Raise arms above head, sway left and right)
If I hear a robin, I may (cup hand near ear)
Sing along with him! (sing tra la la)
"And Robin, if you fly away, (Put hands over eyes)
Here's what I think I'll do: (Point with index finger)
I'll wish a pair of sparrow wings (gently flap arms at side and move around)
And fly away with you!"

Criss-cross applesauce (make an X on the child's back)
Spiders crawling up your spine (finger walk up child's spine)
Cool breeze (blow on child's neck)
Tight squeeze (gently squeeze the child's shoulders)
Now you've got the chillies! (You get a funny feeling like goosebumps)

Apple Surprise
10 shiny apples, hanging on a tree.
"Whish" went the wind And they all fell on me.
I picked up one and started to laugh,
When I found a surprise after I cut it in half.

Apples in the Fall
Apples, apples in the fall
Some are big, and some are small,
I wish I could eat them all,
Apples, apples in the fall.

Picking Apples
(Tune: Paw-Paw Patch)
Pick the apples, put them in your basket,
Pick the apples, put them in your basket,
Pick the apples, put them in your basket,
Way down yonder in the apple orchard.

Apple Song (Tune: Rock a bye Baby)
This is the tree (tree picture)
With leaves so green (leaves for the tree)
Here are the apples (some apples to hang on tree)
That hang in between
When the wind blows The apples will fall (drop down the apple pictures)
And here is the basket to gather them all. (basket picture)

Apple Rhyme
Apples, apples, good to eat.
Apples, apples, juicy and sweet.
Pick them off a tree, buy them at a store,
Apples, apples, WE WANT MORE!

Apple Magic
In every single apple lies
A truly magical surprise.
Instead of slicing down, slice through
And watch the star appear for you!

5 Red Apples
5 red apples sweet to the core.
1 fell down and then there were four.
4 red apples sitting in a tree.
1 fell down and then there were three.
3 red apples one for you, and you, and you.
1 fell down and then there were two.
2 red apples shining in the sun,
1 fell down and then there were one.
1 red apple left all alone
1 fell down and then there were none.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sept. 23, 2006: Glimpse of the Future

laurel and bess

Laurel and her friend Bess recently had an opportunity to get the works done at a beauty salon: finger- and toe-nails painted, copious make-up, and wedding-like up-dos. In black and white they still look mostly like little girls, but in full color....I saw the future clearly. How can a mom not get a lump in her throat when your daughter stands before you six years older? It's amazing what lipstick, a few coats of mascara and some (OK, a lot) of eyeshadow can do.

She had lots of fun, but she actually said, "Yay!" that evening when I suggested she go wash her face and get all the make-up off. Then she had to take a shower to get all that sticky hairspray out. That's my girl! I hope she gets married barefoot.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

September 19, 2006: A Day in the Life

I have journals for all three of my children, each started before they were born. When Jesse was little, of course, I wrote in his journal frequently. Laurel and Duncan have been good to get an entry once or twice a year. But some of my favorite entries are just the slice-of-life scenes--the "this is how our day went" reports. So in the spirit of that, here is a day at SmallWorld:

7-7:30 a.m.: Randy and the kids wake and eat a light breakfast before going to swim practice.
7:30-8 a.m.: I exercise; Duncan awakes and sprawls on the couch while I finish.
8 a.m.-9 a.m.: Duncan watches TV and plays while I eat, check email, blog, and shower.
9-9:45 a.m.: Duncan and I read a “T” sound book, do Lesson 18 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (in which Duncan reads “That rat is sad”), read from Ergermeier’s Children’s Bible, do several pages in the Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia, and complete a “favorite color” (“Go Vols” anaranjado) collage for Spanish class.
9:45-10 a.m.: Randy and the kids arrive back from swimming. Randy goes to work and the kids dry off and eat more breakfast.
10 -11:30 a.m.: We do Bible (Micah 6 and memory verses), Story of the World (Vol 3, Chapter 12), and read a chapter from The Dark Frigate (which we all agree is, so far, rather tedious—especially after reading A Murder for Her Majesty).
11:30-12:30: Lunch break, during which time the kids do various things while I check my email, blog, work for 15 minutes on a project for Stratton Publishing, and have a great conversation with a mom from Knoxville who wants to get out of Girl Scouts and into American Heritage Girls. She is excited about the possibility of starting a troop in Knoxville and is going to come visit us at our next meeting.
12:45 p.m. (whoops—we took an extra 15 minutes for lunch!): I check my email one more time and am delighted to find out, thanks to Dr. H., that today is “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” Now if only we were further into our book The Dark Frigate, when the main character gets kidnapped by pirates!
12:45-2:30: Jesse and Laurel work independently while Duncan and I work on his plants file folder. I then read The Hundred Dresses to Duncan and Laurel while Duncan plays with play-dough and Laurel plays with a potato. (She has a special affinity for potatoes.) After a couple of chapters, we decide to decorate the file folders with potato-turned-stamps (what better to do with a partially mutilated potato?). Laurel cuts the potato into slices and carves a shape into each slice. We discover that most of our paint is dried up, but we manage to squeeze out enough to decorate their folders. After this, Duncan and I do math and Laurel works independently. School’s out at 2:30 today.
2:30-3: Jesse digs a couple of holes for me so I can plant mums. I also weed and spread soil conditioner. Duncan plays outside. Laurel meanders here and there. Jesse uses some computer time.
3-3:30 p.m.: We snack, do random chores, and get ready to go to Jesse’s science class.
3:30-5:45 p.m.: We take Jesse to his Physical Science class. Duncan stays there with his buddies (and their moms) while Laurel and I go to the mall. Laurel buys 3 pairs of earrings with her birthday money. We go back and visit with our friends until class is over.
5:45-6:15 p.m.: Randy arrived home early and fixed some fabulous fried rice, which he has ready for us just as we get home. We are getting better and better each week at working out this Tuesday schedule. This week, with Randy coming home early and fixing dinner, is the best day yet!
6:15: Jesse and I leave for violin lessons. I get to sit all by myself in the car for 30 minutes and read while he’s at lessons.
7:15: We return home. Laurel and Duncan have showered while we were gone, so bedtime preparations are well underway.
7:45: Duncan heads to bed. Randy is reading Peter Pan to him.
8-8:30 p.m.: Laurel and I read another Christy book, and all our bedtime duties are done. The rest of the evening we’ll do our nightly ritual of folding a couple of baskets of clothes and then just relax, basking in a free evening.

September 19, 2006: Early in the Morning

Li-Young Lee is probably my favorite contemporary poet, so I was very happy to see him here in the American Life in Poetry's weekly pick. When I was in graduate school at Iowa State University, Li-Young Lee did a poetry reading from is collection Rose, from which this poem comes. I think he taught me more than any other how to speak a poem.
American Life in Poetry: Column 077
Li-Young Lee, who lives in Chicago, evokes by the use of carefully chosen images a culture, a time of day, and the understanding of love through the quiet observation of gesture.

Early in the Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

Reprinted from "Rose," BOA Editions, Ltd., 1986, by permission of the publisher. Copyright (c) 1986 by Li-Young Lee, whose most recent book of poetry is "Book of My Nights," BOA Editions, Ltd., 2001. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sept 17, 2006: A Tennessee Rite of Passage

2005 UT Football Games at Florida and against Georgia 014

I have hereby passed yet another official Tennessee Rite of Passage. That we've been in the Knoxville area for seven years and it's taken me this long to accomplish this unique task is amazing, but at long last: I have attended a U.T. football game!! And not just any U.T. game, mind you, but the UT/Florida game, which is the game of the year.

How to describe this experience? I've practically nothing to compare to being in the midst of thousands and thousands of crazed people wearing orange, or sporting bodies painted orange and white. In size, with over 108,000 attendees, this far surpassed the largest concert I've ever attended. (There were almost as many people in Neyland Stadium last night as there are in all of Blount County!) The unity of the crowd--the pure devotion, the absolute volume of emotional intensity--was far more profound than at any church-related convention I've been part of. The noise level was similar to being right up against the speakers at a concert.

Football is an amazing beast. It causes thousands of people to stand and sit, moan and yell, at the exact same moments. It causes grown men who are probably rather sedate and dignified in everyday life to yell "C'mon, baby! Please, baby!" at the tops of their lungs to tiny little men on the field who can't possibly hear them. It makes women dangle large orange "Ts" from their ears and stick pom-poms in their ponytails and...other places. (How do they get them to stay there, anyway?)

What a night! And miracle of all miracles, I even understood the game of football for the first time in my life! After years of playing in the marching band and watching every game in high school, after nearly two decades with football on TV from Saturday through Monday night, and finally--finally--I had a breakthrough! I found that if I concentrated very hard and watched every single move, I could actually follow the game! For me it meant giving up a lifetime of observing players' outfits and other fashion faux pas, but it was worth it for that moment of enlightenment when I, too, joined the rise and fall of the crowd. Truly a night to remember. And a special thanks to Chris and Caroline for sharing their tickets and their Row 10 seats with us!

Friday, September 15, 2006

September 14, 2006: The Deliciousness of Homeschooling

Tia references this blog in a post today. I was especially hit by this quote about that never-ending socialization question. The author is talking about how unsatisfactory those conversations always are; how, as a homeschooler, you never even come close to speaking your piece when someone says, "But what about s_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _?"

"Rarely in these encounters is there an opportunity to explain in glorious depth what home education is REALLY like: the freedom to explore, the excitement of following rabbit trails, the lack of testing or administrative pressure, the absence of certain social pressures, the luxury of time in which to immerse in a subject, the spontaneity, the opportunities for hands-on learning, the lightheartedness. It's a really delicious orange, see. But if you're expecting it to taste like apple, then of course you're going to look askance at it."

OH, can I please MEMORIZE this to say next time? The "glorious depth!" The "luxury!" The delicious-ness!! I know this feeling so well: the inadequacy one feels when "defending" homeschooling. How many times have I given a weak response to people (at church, especially), when they say, "I could never do that!" when in fact I mean to say, in my heart, "Homeschooling is not a chore nor a sacrifice. Homeschooling is the essence of being a parent. Homeschooling is nibbling parenthood to the very bone to get all the good stuff. "

Sunday, September 3, 2006

September 3, 2006: Moving Grandpa

I've known Randy's grandfather half my life--twice as long as either of my own grandfathers. From the moment I met this man with the massive hands and bluest eyes, he told me he loved me and insisted I call him Grandpa. This kind, gentle man has been my husband's greatest role model, the most stable and secure part of his childhood.

Twelve years ago we moved Grandpa and Grandma from their home in Danville, Illinois to an assisted-living facility in Columbus, Indiana (which was closer to Randy's mom). For nearly the first time in 60 years, they lived in separate quarters: Grandpa in an apartment at the facility, Grandma in the Alzheimer's wing. When Alice Rose died 10 years ago, we all feared that Grandpa's broken heart would soon take him, as well. But he rallied and has lived these last 10 years soaked in the bittersweet blend of relishing the present but mourning the past.

Today was spent moving Grandpa at last from his apartment into the health-care wing. There were over a dozen of us there, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and step-grandchildren, sorting through Grandpa's stuff, weighing the importance of one object over another. Grandpa watched it all from his easy chair--these people carting boxes in and out. "Take it, take it!" he insisted. "Don't you want this?" And so Greg took a well-seasoned wooden spoon and a meat grinder; Rich wanted brown shoe polish and his great-grandfather's saw. Randy's prize is Grandpa's army uniform and wool blankets.

Garbage bags full of "junk" were hauled off to the dumspter, and a dozen boxes were destined for Goodwill. Some piles Unce Rich and Randy's mom will sort through later: old letters, boxes of family movies, journals, photographs. What do you choose to keep in your last years? A clock. Your wedding photograph. A picture of your wife, your daughter, your son. Your cane with "ornery old Grandpa" carved upon it. Your favorite blue cardigan. Nearly 94 now, Grandpa has no need for ironing boards and suitcases. What he wants now is to tell his story again and again--to replay in his own mind or to his family the story of one good man's life: how he lived, how he loved, what he leaves behind.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Sept. 2, 2006: Laurel at Grandma's

I always said that Laurel would be the last one to go spend a week away at Grandma's. On the contrary, she's the first of the three to get her time along with Grandma. It's amazing how far she's come in the past couple of years.

sarah and laurel

On Wednesday we met Randy's mom in Berea, Kentucky, which is about halfway between our home in Tennessee and their home in Indiana. Laurel was nervous but very excited. I got all weepy saying good-bye to her (picture above). She then drove on to Indiana with Grandma and Grandpa Ben, while I drove back all by myself to Tennessee. On Friday the rest of us drove up to Indiana. And Laurel was as happy as a flower, all comfortable at Grandma's house. Just a year ago she was coming out of her shy-shell, but still shy enough to want to be wherever I was in the house. Now she is flitting here and there, taking the dogs out for a walk, grabbing a snack--her comfort zone has expanded. I am happy for her. It is lovely to see her feeling confident and bold, spreading her wings a little further each year.

September 2, 2006: Musings on Shopping Cart DVD Players and other modern conveniences

A few days ago Randy sent me this story which aired on NPR on Wednesday. According to the story, tomorrow's shopping carts will be equipped with DVD players so that our children will be properly subdued during grocery-shopping excursions. The next day, Randy came home all excited because he'd emailed a response to that story, and his letter was read during "All Things Considered" on Thursday! Several of our friends have emailed us in the past couple of days since saying they'd heard Randy's letter on NPR. His letter protested the introduction of these carts, calling for disciplined children rather than children mollified--or perhaps stupified--by constant technological stimulation. But what I've realized in the past couple of days is that parents all over the world are probably applauding these new carts and eagerly anticipating the day when they hit Wal-mart. We have got to be in a minority of parents who believe in interacting with our children and promoting their creativity.

Now I must say that I was thrilled when Kroger introduced shopping carts shaped like cars for kids. Duncan and Laurel both loved "driving" around the grocery store, and the carts sure made my shopping easier. But to me there is a huge difference between carts that have DVD players and carts that are shaped like cars: the latter encourages kids to use their imaginations, the former encourages kids to be lulled into oblivion.

I liken this to having one's van equipped with a DVD player, with each child having his/her own screen. I know parents who say that they couldn't survive without movies in the van. I borrow a friend's VCR/TV unit each year when I make the 14 hour trip to New York, and it is fantastic! But every day? Every car trip, even the 6 minutes it takes to get to the store? I'm not saying that each of our car trips is intellectually stimulating. We rarely have conversations that are life-changing. Sometimes we don't even talk. In all likelihood, my kids would rather be watching TV when we drive 12 minutes to church or 2 minutes to Wal-mart. But they're not. Much of the time they are staring out the window, watching the scenery go by. Maybe they are thinking how beautiful the sky is. Maybe they are wondering what it would be like to be hiking in the midst of the mountains on a stormy day. Maybe they are thinking about what they'll do when they get home. Maybe they're not thinking about anything, but at least they are learning that it is not their right in life to be constantly entertained.

I am sad for this generation that is growing up without space to think. Wake up in the morning to SpongeBob, drive to daycare/school while watching The Little Mermaid, spend the day being entertained in a zillion different ways by other people, drive to Walmart while watching more of The Little Mermaid, watch Finding Nemo in Walmart, drive home with yet a little more of the Little Mermaid, and top off the day with--hey--how about something educational on PBS! It makes my head spin. How did we get from riding bikes all day and baking cakes in our Easy Bake ovens to watching shows about kids who ride bikes and bake cakes?

But enough. I proud of my husband for making his voice heard nationally. I'm proud of us for steering clear of at least a few of today's parent traps. And I am really, really thankful that my kids have a little time carved out in their lives just to think.

Friday, September 1, 2006

September 1, 2006: Painting Marathon

My friend Blogless Leigh actually tried to convince me recently that painting is fun. The conversation took place when I informed her that I was going to be painting Laurel’s room for her birthday. “Why are you dreading it?” she asked me. “I like to paint.” So, thanks to Leigh, I really had a good attitude when I started painting Laurel’s room on Tuesday. I even had a fairly good attitude when, after spending 6 hours in the van (taking Laurel to Kentucky to meet her Grandma and then driving back), I painted for another few hours Wednesday evening. But by 4 p.m. Thursday, when I put the very last coat on, my good attitude went out to the dumpster with the 8—yes, EIGHT—full bags of trash from Laurel’s room. EIGHT bags of trash in one little girl’s room. How is that possible? And so I think the reason I dislike painting so much, aside from my aching body, is that I dread the thorough cleaning that comes along with it. And the putting back of all that STUFF (minus the 8 bags of even stuffier stuff). I should say, too, that Leigh and BrownSugar did enthusiastically volunteer to come help me paint. I finished earlier than I thought, but I know they would have made the job much less painful!

I still have several piles to find a place for, but the room does look fabulous. We are driving up to Indiana today for the weekend.. Laurel is there now with her Grandma, with whom she has spent the past 2 days. This is her first solo trip to Grandma’s, and we miss her dreadfully! She is having a great time, though, and Randy’s mom is enjoying having her only granddaughter all to herself. AND, of course, I got to spend three days painting so that her room would look fabulous when she returns! Randy’s grandpa, and his brother and his wife will be coming for the weekend, as well as his Uncle Rich from Hawaii. We always have a fantastic time with them. Randy’s brother is an unbelievable cook. I am excited just thinking about the food we’ll have this weekend. But mostly I’m excited to see my little Princess. I miss her sweet smile and her giggles.