Sunday, January 31, 2010

On the Menu

My belly is full from a big bowl (ok, maybe two bowls) of Randy's Sunday Night Fried Rice. It really is the best. Eggrolls--we buy those from the grocery store. We've never found quite the right way to make them.

And my deepest apologies for not posting Randy's Fettuccine Alfredo recipe that I raved about last week. How rude of me. My friend Sarah had to actually call me to get it because I am so delinquent in posting it. So before we go any further, here it is:

Randy's Fettuccine Alfredo

8 oz of fettucine
1/2 cup butter (don't even think about substituting)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. whipping cream (or half-and-half if you must)
3/4 cup Parmesan (freshly grated, not Kraft)

Cook fettuccine in salted boiling water until al denté. Drain, toss with a little oil to prevent sticking, and set aside. Melt butter over medium heat and sauté garlic 1 minute in a large sauté pan. Add cream and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to bubble. Add Parmesan and stir until smooth and creamy. Turn off heat; add pasta to sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately with fresh ground pepper and more Parmesan. Additional ingredients, such as sautéed shrimp or crabmeat, are an excellent addition.

Okay, now that we have that over with, I'll report on last week's menu items. This Chuck Wagon Soup , which I needed for a crockpot night, was absolutely fanTAStic. My only adjustment was that I left out the tomatoes. Everyone loved it, including the two friends of Laurel's who were dinner guests. (Unless, of course, they were lying to be polite. One never knows with these well-bred children.) Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves was also absolutely amazing. I made this (using chicken breasts instead of parts and pieces) with mashed potatoes and a few other side dishes, and I am telling you—it was superb.

I did not get around to: Black Bean and Corn Chicken Taco Bake, Corn and Potato Chowder, or Pioneer Woman's Ribeyes. Instead, we had homemade macaroni and cheese one night, and Rachael Ray's Black Bean Stoup another night. This is my favorite black bean soup recipe, although I do leave out the tomatoes. (As you can tell, my people have a thing about chunky tomatoes.) Oh, and Randy and I also went on a DATE and ate at an actual RESTAURANT sans children. We have a fabulous Thai restaurant here, and I had gift cards. Happy day!

We usually only have dessert on Tuesday nights when my parents come over, and this week I made this hot fudge peanut-butter cake in the crockpot. It was good, but I have an oven recipe that is actually a bit better. Still, if you need a crockpot dessert, this one's great.

Coming up this week:
General Tso's Chicken
Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes
Calypso Beef Soup (Randy is skeptical of this one but I think it sounds good)
For the Cub Scout Blue and Gold banquet, I'll be picking up pizzas for the boys and making this Buffalo Chicken Wing dip for the parents.

What's happening in your kitchen this week? I can't wait to hear my friend Laurie's report on her Turnip and Chickpea Cobbler.… Need some ideas? Check out Menu Plan Monday and Tasty Tuesday and also my What's for Supper list. It's growing every week!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Road to Independence, Part I

"You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable."
~Kahlil Gibran

When our oldest was born, a co-worker copied this whole Kahlil Gibran poem out for me and gave it to me with a gift. I'd read Gibran before and had his book The Prophet, but I don't know that I'd ever really read it until she gave me this poem. I've carried this image of our children as arrows shooting forth ever since, knowing that our ultimate goal in parenting is to let our children go forth.

I've never considered homeschooling to be a place to hide from the world. Some accuse homeschoolers of trying to shelter their kids too much, with "shelter" used as a dirty word. I do think that some parents choose to insulate their children to a degree I find disturbing, but this is certainly not limited to homeschooling parents. Shelter, to me, is defined as being a refuge or a place of protection, not a prison. A place of comfort and of catching one's breath, of learning to stand on one's own two feet and stretch.

Now that my oldest is in his senior year, I frequently hear this kind of statement from those with younger students: "I can't imagine my child ever being ready." And they don't just mean being ready academically, but being ready emotionally and physically. Being independent. Spreading those proverbial wings. Being an arrow.

(And don't forget: arrows don't always hit the bulls'-eye, or even the target.)

The road to independence was deliberate for us. I took a relaxed approach up through grade 6. Certainly not unschooling, but definitely far from school-at-home. But starting in seventh grade, I began giving Jesse more and more independent work. I would give him a checklist of the things that needed to be done on his own and check his work after he finished. I know that lots of parents start the checklists earlier, but checklists didn't fit well into my relaxed K-6 philosophy. I wanted him at this point to take more ownership of his education.

In eighth grade we added several co-op classes that required homework and thus made him accountable to someone other than his parents. OK, well, actually, I did teach two of the classes that he took, but still: he had regular homework.

(Station break: if you're reading this and you don't homeschool, I can't even explain this concept to you because you're thinking, "Duh! My kids always have homework! Are you a moron?" But of course it doesn't work that way in home education. All of their homework is homework, except it's not really that kind of homework. One reason that we, in fact, began to homeschool was because we found the amount of homework in public school at 1st grade to be ridiculous and obscene.)

So, back to being accountable to someone else. Although we'd always been active in our co-op, the classes had been enrichment classes up until this point—classes without letter grades. But beginning in eighth grade, Jesse took two high-school level courses: algebra and physical science. Both classes (taught by homeschooling parents) were in a fairly traditional classroom setting with tests and homework and the whole shebang. Our co-op classes only meet once each week, so the kids are given a whole week's worth of lessons (and thus 5 days' worth of assignments) in one class (classes lasted up to 1.5 hours).

These classes brought a new dimension to his life. The previous year had given him a good foundation in working independently and following a checklist; now he was putting this into action and doing his work for someone else. Trust me, it makes a difference.

We went through some stressful weeks, especially with algebra. Dr. H. helped him with his lessons. But he did the bulk of the work on his own, including studying for tests. He began to develop his own system of studying.

So heading into high school, we had a pretty good foundation of working independently. But we built up to this very gradually. One of the key reasons that we chose to homeschool was so that our kids could have a l-o-n-g childhood without the stress that comes along with traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Rather than doing reading comprehension worksheets in school in sixth grade, Jesse was playing Legos on the floor at home while I read aloud to him. Rather than playing dodgeball for PE, Jesse was outside building forts, digging holes, or hiking.

It's a life we chose deliberately, and our ultimate goal has always included strength of character and independence.

Stay tuned for more on the Road to Independence as we move into high school… driving… jobs… dual enrollment… and college.

Read Part 2 of The Road to Independence.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Wordless" Wednesday: Quilt

Finishing a quilt is, for me, a tremendous accomplishment. I'm sure I make all kinds of quilting faux pas, but it is therapeutic and the result is so satisfying. I think I've made eight quilts in the past 13 years, and this is for sure one of my favorites. (I wish I had taken pictures of the other ones, come to think about it.) My daughter and I began this quilt back in the summer for my friend's new baby, and we gave it to them a week or so ago, right before Micah's six-month birthday. (I got distracted and had to put it on hold until Christmas break!)

For more "Wordless" Wednesday posts, visit Wordless Wednesday and Five Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Slice of Life

Today, among other things…

Doing school in a nice warm bed …

Fun with a big box (AKA, who needs toys; I have a box!) …

Paying bills, including sending a deposit to secure Jesse's place at Belmont University…

Peeling somewhere around 40 cloves of garlic for supper

Making dessert (yes, in the Crockpot) …

A cup of tea…

Tackling a bit of paperwork…


Supper with my parents—and five side-dishes to accompany the chicken…

After dinner chat, subject: genetics…

Post-dinner Legos, Duncan and Oma…

And a game of cards, baths, American Idol. Now, a quiet evening in a warm, well-lighted, and well-lived-in home.

Hope your day was filled with bits and pieces of an ordinary life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Memory: Mur

I was thinking today about my grandmother. We called her Murry, or Mur, and I have no idea why. I was the sixth grandchild, so I didn't have any say in the matter. We called my grandfather Pa. I was only eleven when Pa died, and I don't remember him well. Mostly I remember him just like in the photo above, sitting in a recliner with the newspaper. He was a quiet, tired man.

But I remember Mur well. We visited every summer of my childhood, spending a couple of weeks reconnecting with the dozens upon dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins who still lived in Mt. Vernon and Dix, Illinois. She had a wonderful sense of humor, dry and witty. She made big home-cooked meals. She had the soft southern accent that comes from growing up in Southern Illinois. She said "warsh" and smelled like the most wonderful powder. We pulled taffy and sat on the front porch, watching the fireflies on a hot July night in the midwest. We spit watermelon seeds and salted fat tomatoes that cousin Clint brought over in his garden basket. We took car rides and bought ice cream cones for Jeannie, her little dog. People called her "Helen," and I was glad my middle name was hers.

Yesterday was her birthday, and she would have been 117 years old. I can't quite wrap my mind around that, yet my own mother is now 82 years old. Mur died 25 years ago, when I was a freshman in college. I remember getting that phone call early on a February morning, and sobbing on the cold metal stairs. I loved my grandmother. I didn't know her the way my older brothers did, who knew her when she was younger and when we lived just an hour away. But I knew she was glad to have me, the granddaughter after a long chain of grandsons. She bought me my first pink dress, that hangs in my closet still (my own daughter wore it for her first Sunday in church, age 9 days), and her china, edged in pink roses, graces my table each Christmas day.

These are the things I remember: the way her nylons sagged at the ankles, her brown shoes. The way she put on lipstick when the doorbell rang. How she said, "It's your time" when it was my turn to play in a game. How soft she was, and how much she loved us.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Menu

I love food. I especially love food on nights like this when Randy is making fettuccine alfredo. He makes the best I've ever had; in fact, I never order anything with a white sauce at a restaurant because I'm always disappointed.

(He is trying to make me fix the broccoli, but I'm ignoring him. I figure if I keep blogging, he'll do it himself. Side dishes are overrated anyway.)

So, as usual, I didn't get to everything on my menu last week. We had hamburgers one night and my Dad's birthday supper another night for which I contributed Rainy Monday Beef Stew (even though it was a rainy Friday).

(Excuse me while I fix the broccoli.)

OK, now where was I? Oh yes: last week. So, the winner of the week was this Ginger Beef, which was absolute amazing. I did substitute chicken for the beef with great success, and if you try this recipe, you should be aware that it serves only two. I did not notice that until I finished cooking it and wondered why there wasn't very much. For no apparent reason, I assume every recipe serves 4-6. Randy and I loved Marci's Tortellini Stir Fry, but Laurel wasn't here for that one. She is our adventurous eater. Duncan just ate plain tortellini. Jesse isn't a big fan of peanut sauce, so he wasn't crazy about it, but who cares about him. He can always eat fish sticks. The Tomato Chipotle Soup was not the biggest hit. Randy and I both liked it, but it was very, very rich. If I were to make it again, and I might, I would use it as a side dish and make some kind of panini be the main course. A whole bowl of the tomato chipotle was just too much. But we did remark on how we could feel the Vitamin C coursing through our veins! (Or arteries, or however that works.)

So coming up this week, I have a few more new recipes on the menu: Black Bean and Corn Chicken Taco Bake for when my parents come to supper Tuesday evening and Chuck Wagon Soup for Thursday when I need a crockpot meal; and we'll also be trying Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves and Corn and Potato Chowder, which I didn't get to last week. If I get really ambitious and feeling like a serious carnivore, I might make Pioneer Woman's Ribeyes. I happen to have four in the freezer.

That's what we're eating in SmallWorld these days! What's happening in your kitchens? You can find some good ideas at Menu Plan Monday and Tasty Tuesdays.

(And was that fettuccine alfredo ever gooooood! I can feel the, um, cream and butter coursing through my veins....)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Birthday Friday

My Dad is 85 today. I know, really. If you know him, you can't believe he's 85. Even writing that number seems crazy to me, because, well, if you know him, you really can't reconcile that age with my father.

Almost everyone was here. Four out of us five kids and our spouses, seven out of nine grandchildren, and one out of two great-grandchildren. And my Mom, of course. My brother Stephen and his wife Jen drove all the way from New York just for the weekend.

We had warm soup and home-baked bread and chocolate cake. It was noisy chaos. We shifted from room to room, picking up conversations here and there, dropping others. Dad lost one of his hearing aids and couldn't hear most of what was happening.

So I wasn't surprised to find him here in the quiet kitchen with Randy while everyone else gathered in the dining room and living room. Randy had just found out from a conversation between my Dad and my brother John that, while my Dad was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, he studied under a professor who is now considered a giant in the field of genetics. Randy was totally awestruck. (In case you don't know this, my father and my husband are both botanists. Yep, married a man like my father, and glad of it.)

Justus, the first great-grandchild, helped his Great-Opa open his gifts. Tomorrow, the menfolk have big plans. They like to build stuff, and it looks like they are going to spend the day turning Mom and Dad's patio into a screened-in porch.

I'm looking forward to quiet summer nights on their screened-in porch, watching children chasing fireflies. That's what it's really all about.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Band on the Roof

My oldest (with the guitar) and his best friend. Good thing it's Wordless Wednesday because I don't have enough words to explain this whole thing. For more "Wordless" Wednesday posts, visit Wordless Wednesday, Momspective, and Five Minutes for Mom.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On the Menu

So, I didn't mean to lie about what we were eating last week, but I used a couple of key ingredients last week in other recipes and forgot that I had a church potluck, so we switched things up a bit. We did have Indian Chicken and lentils, which is always a huge hit at our house. We also tried Greek Pasta Bake. This made a huge pan. My parents came over to dinner that night, so this recipe served 7 with enough leftovers for 4 more servings. The verdict: everyone LOVED it. My only modification was that I used fresh spinach instead of frozen. I added this to the What's for Supper list.

Instead of Arroz con Pollo Soup (because I accidentally used some of the ingredients for it), I made Pioneer Woman's Chicken and Rice Soup. Soooo delicious! I substituted carrots for celery and left out the pimentos, and it was fantastic. Everyone loved it. This served 6 people with probably 4 bowls of leftovers.

So we never got to Tomato Chipotle Soup. I'm not sure why. That gets moved to this week's menu. I have a few new recipes to try this week: Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves, Marci's Tortellini Stir Fry, Ginger Beef, and Corn and Potato Chowder.

And, the best part is, Dr. H. did the grocery shopping this week. (The bad news is, we're already out of laundry detergent and cooking oil.)

Whatcha eating this week? Got any new recipes for me? Tons more at Menu Plan Monday and Tasty Tuesday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

Math, math, math.

So this week we started by cozily reading by the fireplace, wrapped in blankets and laughing at the antics of the family in Cheaper by the Dozen

and ended up at the dining room table doing math sheet, after math sheet, after math sheet.

I declared this "refresh your math memories" week. The kids seemed to have forgotten everything related to math over our lengthy Christmas break. I felt a sense of desperation creeping in. I even felt something I rarely experience: holy cow! I'm a crappy teacher! It was just a fleeting moment of panic, and I'm back on stable ground. Amazing what a week's worth of drilling can do.

The vast majority of the week was spent doing drill sheets from this free math worksheets site. We also played some simple card games that I turned into math drills, like the old stand-by, War.

And for an afternoon reward, we'd read a chapter of Cheaper by the Dozen.

Cub Scouts and American Heritage Girls started back this week, as did flute lessons, show choir, and the literature/geography class I teach. Next week in our last week until our co-op classes start back in earnest, so I'll have to start doing my lesson plans more seriously this coming week. I'll be teaching two essay classes and a literature circle focused on black literature.

More weekly wrap-ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Show Us Your Life: Workin' It

So there's all this talk of diet, exercise, and weight loss over at Kelly's Korner, and I thought I'd jump in. Recently, I tried an experiment. Sometime this past fall, I decided I'd stop exercising and eat anything I wanted to see how much weight I'd gain by Dec. 31. Well, maybe I didn't actually set out to do that, but that's what I did. I feasted on chips and Christmas cookies, large portions, leftovers for lunch, and all kinds of delicacies. Not surprisingly, I gained several pounds and felt crappy, but let me tell you, it was fun to eat anything I wanted!

But now I'm back to eating like a skinny person, counting calories, and exercising every day. It's what I've done most of my life, except when I was pregnant. So step-by-step…

1. Eat like a skinny person. Before I eat something, I ask myself, "Would a skinny person eat this?" The question itself makes me feel guilty. The question really is, "Would I, at my skinniest 25-year-old self, have eaten this?" If the answer is "no," and if I am feeling driven enough, that will be enough for me to not touch that piece of luscious chocolate cake with thick, creamy icing.

2. Count calories. I do, every single day. My goal is to stay between 1200 and 1500 calories. I like the system at SparkPeople. It's very easy to calculate your daily calories and make substitutions with their program. I like lists, and I like checking things off, so this works for me.

3. Exercise every day. I allow myself one day off per week. When the weather is nice, I like to walk three times a week. My current favorite programs are the 30-Day Shred and The Biggest Loser Weight Loss Yoga. I alternate those two DVDs. My favorite way to exercise is to hike in the mountains, but lately it's been way too cold for that around here.

Eat like a skinny person, count calories, and exercise: it's not a terribly inspired plan, I know. I am blessed in the good weight genes department, BUT I still gain weight, and quickly, without regular exercise and vigilant eating. In a perfect world, I could eat chips and salsa twice each day and brownies for dessert every night. But pretzel rods are good, too.

Visit Kelly's Korner for more insight into the world of weight loss and exercise!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Miscellany

* I am exhausted. Second and fourth Thursdays—American Heritage Girls meetings—are like that. But in spite of the long, chaotic day in which I talk to lots and lots and lots of people, I love AHG days. Those faces! Those sweet little girl faces and the beautiful big girl faces. I love them all so much.

* I came home to a noisy house but there was pizza. And soon the two noisiest (Jesse and his friend), cleared out for Boy Scouts, and now my house is so quiet.

* I also came home to a box from Land's End with my new swimsuit in it. And guess what? It fit, even after two slices of pizza! They have loads of swimsuits on clearance right now, by the way.

* I am touched and heartened by the outpouring of financial help for Haiti that is being talked about on blogs, various yahoogroups, and Facebook. So many good places to give—and people are really doing it, not just talking about it. Did you see that Pioneer Woman is holding a contest? She'll donate a total of $1000 to the charity of the winners' choices for Haitian aid. That is phenomenal.

* I'm looking forward to World Lit and Geography tomorrow. The kids are all bringing in various types of Asian food, and we're having a wonderful speaker.

* But tonight, I need to take my contacts out, put on my favorite black lounge pants, and lounge.
What's your favorite lounging attire?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pink Chucks

Call me crazy, but I think 12-year-old feet are just as cute as baby feet. Seriously, the green/red argyle with the pink shoes? You can't get much cuter than that. For more "Wordless" Wednesday posts, visit Wordless Wednesday, Momspective, and Five Minutes for Mom.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New on the Menu

I've been having that "I'm tired of all my recipes" experience lately, so I've been searching for new ones and experimenting on my family. They are pretty honest about telling me if a recipe should become part of our "What's for Supper" list or if it should be tossed.

Probably everyone's favorite new addition is Marci's Tortellini Chowder. I'm telling you, this is absolutely fantastic. I crave it. In fact, I want some right now, and I just finished eating. (An added benefit of this recipe is that, if you have a child who doesn't eat soup, you can just give him a bowl of the tortellini.) Do yourself a favor and make it this week!

Pioneer Woman's Ranch Style Chicken was a huge hit this week. I put these on hoagies, and everyone loved them. This is getting added to The List.

I made the Mexican Lasagna from Pioneer Woman tonight. It was well received but not gushed over, and this makes a huge casserole, even though I halved the recipe. Or maybe even thirded it, or however you would say that. Anyway, it made a very full 9 X 9 pan, which is way too much for a family of 5 that doesn't do well eating leftovers.*

I also made Taco Soup from Tasty Kitchen, Pioneer Woman's cooking site. Three of us loved it, although I'd replace the hominy with white corn next time and the ground beef with ground turkey (Jesse doesn't eat red meat) next time around.

I have a few more new recipes to try in the upcoming week, along with a couple of old favorites, like Indian Chicken and lentils. This week we'll be trying Tomato Chipotle Soup, Arroz con Pollo Soup, and Greek Pasta Bake. I hope my family still loves me after all this new recipe frenzy.

In other kitchen news, Randy replaced our leaky kitchen faucet with a shiny new one!

What's happening in your kitchens this week? Got any fabulous recipes to share? There are bazillions of ideas at Menu Plan Monday each week.

*A note on leftovers: I alone in our family absolutely love leftovers; however, I seldom eat them for lunch because our suppers are nearly always our big calorie meal. Unfortunately, I am in my 40s. 'Nuff said about that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

SmallWorld's WordSmithery: Form Poetry

It's time for another WordSmithery lesson!

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:

Lesson #1: Introduction and Journals
Lesson #2:
Introduction to Creative Writing, Featuring Good Words
Lesson #3:
Using Powerful Words to Create More Interesting Writing
Lesson #4: Similes
Lesson #5: Metaphors and Strong Verbs
Lesson #6: Alliteration and Spring Flowers (or Fall Leaves)

Lesson #7: Writing About the Weather

I also have a place for you to share your kids' writing and read other kids' writing to your children: Share Your Writing! I encourage you to share there or link back to your own blog. My kids love to read what your kids have written!

One more thing: if you are enjoying SmallWorld's WordSmithery, help me spread the word by copying the button on my sidebar and putting it on your own! Thanks!

And now for Lesson #8: Form Poetry. 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!

Lesson 8: Form Poetry

We’re going to look at some form poems this week. Most poets do not use form poetry, but some write only in form poetry. What do I mean by form poetry? Poetry that follows a particular pattern. Do you know the names of any forms? (Cinquain, haiku, tanka, couplet, ode, limerick, sonnet, ballad, senryu, tanka, etc.)

Here are a few patterns for form poetry and a sample of each on. (Try out each one on the board as you go.)



Line 1: One word (noun or name)

Line 2: Two adjectives describing Line 1

Line 3: Three verbs telling what Line 1 does

Line 4: Four words telling more about Line 1

Line 5: Word that means the same as Line 1


White, cold

Sitting, smiling, melting

On the snowy hillside




Line 1: five syllables

Line 2: seven syllables

Line 3: five syllables

Reaching to lilacs

Memories of a backyard

Spring sun warms my neck.

Lovely butterfly

Fluttering above the earth

How fragile you are.


Line 1: Five syllables

Line 2: Seven syllables

Line 3: Five syllables

Line 4: Seven Syllables

Line 5: Seven Syllables

This brittle winter

Trees stand stark as old soldiers

Determined and glum

Embarrassed to be caught stripped

Of their summer uniforms.


Line 1: Begin with descriptive word and add two items that fit description

Line 2: Something that rhymes with Line 1.

Little daffodil, popping up its yellow head,

Better hide from the snow or it will soon be dead.

(You can put lots of couplets together, and they can be a long poem.)


Line 1: Three accented syllables

Line 2: Three accented syllables; rhyme with Line 1

Line 3: Two accented syllables

Line 4: Two accented syllables; rhyme with Line 3

Line 5: Three accented syllables; rhyme with Line 1

There was a young man from Alcoa

Whose best friend was a six-foot boa.

It never did bite

But it hugged him so tight

That the young man is now no mo-ah.


A poem in honor of someone or something very important to you.

Ode to My Favorite Jeans

Oh, my lovely blue jeans!

How happy I am when you are clean

Folded soft and smooth at the top

Of the laundry basket,

Waiting for me to wear you.

Write some of the above poems together, and then read some poems together. Giggle Poetry has perhaps hundreds of poems that kids will love, from food poems to mushy poems to scary ones. Here are some limericks created by kids (carefully screen any limerick sites—sometimes limericks can be a little racy!), and the Children's Haiku Garden has loads of haiku written by both Japanese and American kids. For a great book of limericks for kids, I recommend John Ciardi's The Hopeful Trout.

Journal Writings, Week 8

(Refer to the poetry patterns in Lesson 8)

Day 1:

Write an ode to a stuffy or runny nose.

[For example: Oh, stuffy nose, how I long to relieve you of your disease! How I wish to give you one good blow and suddenly free you! But stuffy nose, you continue to plague me, wear me down, torture me. Free me, oh nose!]

Day 2

Write 4 couplets about your favorite animal.

[For example:

A koala looks so very sweet

From his fuzzy head to his sharp-clawed feet. ]

Day 3

Write a haiku about whatever month it is.

[For example:

March comes in chilly

and grows warm in the middle.

Bringing greens and blues.

Day 4:

Write an exaggeration that begins: One time I was SO cold…

[For example: One time I was SO cold that my arms turned to popsicles and my brains froze into a solid block of ice.]

Day 5:

Describe a perfect winter day.

All material on the page copyright 2009-10, Sarah Small.

Snow Day!

Hope you had one, too!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow and Other Miscellany

* It is a very, very exciting event to have snow here outside Knoxville, Tennessee. We have about an inch of the beautiful stuff and perhaps a bit more will fall. The kids are going to go sledding at my parents' tomorrow. Since our one sled that we brought with us from Iowa broke two years ago, they think they will be sledding on cardboard. What they don't know is that my smart parents went out and bought sleds a month ago, so yay!

* I have lived here for 10 years. I barely scoff at an inch of snow anymore; instead, I've learned to take joy in what little we get. I hardly even scoff at Tennessee drivers. Tonight Jesse was out driving and said the road were truly terrible. I was terribly thankful that he made it home without incident, being, well, a bona fide Tennessee driver.

* Here's a new one in the life of a homeschooling mom: Duncan came to me around 3:30 today and said, "Hey, we never did math today!" He ran to get his math book and brought it to me. Pretty much I bet that is a unique experience.

* My parents, brother, and sister-in-law came over for dinner tonight, which inspired me to not only take down the rest of the Christmas decorations but also mostly replace the "regular" decor. Except that I can't remember what used to be where exactly, and my walls look really blank in the dining room. I have never gotten around to putting up pictures after I painted last summer…

* Jesse got a drum set—a big one—for Christmas, and he and his friend have been having such a great time playing. I can't even explain what a fantastic experience it was to hear the sounds of "Freebird" drifting down the stairs from their music room this evening.

* My couch and book (Chris Bohjalian, The Buffalo Soldier) are beckoning.

And, by the way, black, Facebook friends.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday Miscellany

* I liked today. I was so distraught to find out last night that Laurel had an orthodontist appointment at 9:30 a.m. today, which would mean leaving at a heinous 9 a.m. on a really cold morning. (I know, I know: homeschoolers are total morning-out-and-about wimps.) But it really wasn't horrible (other than the $185) and we were home by 10:15.

* This was our first day back since who can even remember in December, and we got to start back with one of my favorite books, Cheaper by the Dozen. I read it aloud many years ago when Jesse was in 5th grade, and it was a highlight of the reading year. This time, however, we have this awesome study guide, written by my friend Kristina, to go along with the book. I've been awaiting the day when we get to re-read this book so that I could use the study guide, so I'm way excited!

* Jesse got the official word today that he's been accepted to Belmont University, his first choice. Yay for him! I'm so happy for him. And grateful on sooooo many levels. Now we just have to wait a couple of months to hear about scholarships…

* I made this taco soup recipe tonight. It was yummy, but Laurel disliked the hominy. Duncan and Jesse find anything resembling chili to be repulsive, so they ate fishsticks. I'm all about well-rounded meals around here.

* We had our first real event of the new year tonight: the monthly Cub Scout pack meeting. For one of the games, the boys got to mummify one of their parents with toilet paper. The boys thought that was the best game ever. They have an awesome Cubmaster who comes up with really good games. (I'm partial to him, as well.)

* I am still working on putting away Christmas decorations. My house is looking sadder and sadder as the green and red disappears. Makes me want to go buy all new stuff.

* But, there was that $185 at the orthodontist today.

Hope you all had a good day!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Memory: 2009, a Retrospective

You know what? I'm glad this past year is over. It was a hard year in many respects.

A year ago tomorrow, Dee Ann died of leukemia that she didn't even know she had. She was a distant cousin of mine and a friend from college. To say "friend from college" sounds trivial, but when you go to a very small private college, the word "friend" carries great strength and shared memories. And just a month later, another college classmate took his own life. There was such an outpouring of weeping and grief for this man, who always yelled a friendly greeting across campus and made people laugh. And sometime in between Dee Ann and Mike, Randy's biological dad passed away. I don't know the date. It was a quiet passing sometime in the winter. Randy traveled to Illinois for the funeral. They weren't close; Randy had been raised by his adopted father. But another leaving feels lonely and sad.

Lonely and sad. I would be lying if I said I weren't lonely and sad because of a long-time friendship that has fallen apart this past year. And I, I who have taken such pride (yes, I said pride) in my longstanding habit of not holding grudges, am nurturing a grudge. I am seeking more earnestly than ever an understanding of the concept of forgiveness. Forgive and forget, forgive and forget: for perhaps the first time in my life, I watch the two in an enigmatic dance and ponder joining.

This fallen friendship has made me cautious. Because one of my faults is that I failed to read between the lines—to grasp the hidden meaning of actions or non-actions—I find myself, well, questioning my relationships with other people. What signs am I not following? Did I miss an important signal in her body language? Are they talking about me?

Aaah, what a tangled web. My greatest desire this year, I think, has been for honest communication. Gotta problem with me? Please. Tell me now. I can't bear the suspense, and I probably don't understand the rules to your game. I need the directions, spelled out clearly and sensibly.

Honest communication. This spring some of our friends went through a trial of tremendous proportions. We cried with them, prayed for them, ached for them, and cheered for them. And loved them, nonstop and without conditions. Someday, I know, my writer friend will put it all in words.

Tangled webs. Late this summer we had to navigate through a tangled web of lies and manipulation, spun by someone who was supposed to be a role model. My husband is a kind, gentle man who has tremendous tolerance, even for fools. But this foolish man sent us into a tailspin that swallowed our time and energy. Cleaning up after him was exhausting, and yet there is a certain joy that comes with saying good riddance to such toxicity. A palpable freedom when the sore spot is gone. Still, those weeks were draining, and our hearts were heavy at seeing mean-spiritedness in action.

Heavy hearts. This August my parents sold their house in upstate New York, where I grew up. Though I did most of my grieving the year before, it was still hard, so hard, to say goodbye to this house. After the kids and I visited as we have every summer for years, this year, after weeping, I took a deep breath and drove away.

Those were the hard things. Those were the things that contributed to my spending this past year feeling slightly out of sorts, sort of not myself. Learning grown-up lessons and facing my own frailties.

But there was good, too. My family is strong and healthy. We laugh a lot and take joy in each other and the good, fresh mountain air and a home complete with much, much more than we need. My firstborn turned 16, finished his Eagle Scout project, went to Philmont Scout Ranch and hiked 75 miles, and got his driver's license. And applied for colleges. Randy and I celebrated our 20-year anniversary in a blissful getaway weekend with an amazing hike. And a hot tub.

We got to spend a weekend in the mountains with some dear, dear friends of ours. My parents moved just a mile down the road, and I can see their precious faces every single day. My sweet friend had a long-awaited baby boy. I got to go to my 25-year high school reunion and reconnect with friends I haven't seen in nearly that long. One of the best parts of the reunion was meeting again as adults and finding that some of the people I most related to are ones that I barely knew in high school. And that my best friend from high school was still my best friend from high school.

It wasn't a bad year; but it was a year heavy with outside clutter and aching, and I'm glad to see it go. This year there will be more hikes, more board games, more quiet evenings at home, more laughter, and much, much less drama. This year our oldest will graduate and go to college. My daughter will grow as tall as I am. My youngest will lose his babyish "r" and "w" sounds. This year when the dogwoods and redbuds are flowering, we'll drive my parents up to the mountains, because they'll only be a minute down the road.

This year—I know, I can feel it—the joys will be far more memorable than the sadnesses. It's a brand new decade, after all.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Books Read and Reviewed

For those of you who are faithful readers of both my blogs, I apologize for this duplicate post. But some of you may not know that I carry on another life on my reading blog, SmallWorld Reads. And today I finished a most satisfying task: compiling my list of my Top 10 Favorite Books of the year. Click that link to go to my reading blog, or read on below. I hope you add some of my favorites to your own TBR lists, if you haven't read them already!

I read 65 books in 2009, including 20 children's or young adult chapter books (I didn't include history books, picture books, etc.) that I either read to my kids or taught in various co-op classes.

It was a good year for reading, although I was often frustrated with myself for failing to read faster. I fell asleep too frequently during my allotted before-bed reading time. Someday I will again be a person who reads during the day, but for this season of my life, I must be content with my bedtime reading.

And so, out of those 45 "adult" books read, here are my favorites:

The Top 10

Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
Day After Night (Anita Diamant)
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Shaffer and Barrows)
Other Side of the Bridge, The (Mary Lawson)
People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)
Road, The (Cormac McCarthy)
Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)
Skeletons at the Feast (Chris Bohjalian)
Prayers for Sale (Sandra Dallas)

It was hard for me to narrow this down. I had about eight other contenders for the Top 10 list, but I'm sticking with the list above. These are books that are especially memorable to me. They were well-written, poignant, and captured my attention and imagination more than the others.

And for my number one favorite novel of the year: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Part of the draw for me is the "sweeping epic" aspect of this novel. I love "sweeping epics" that span generations. A book like this gives me that sense of closure. Nearly all my questions as a reader were answered; the prose was perfect; and I felt truly satisfied upon finishing the novel.

Below are my two lists. Click on the titles for my reviews of nearly all these books. (A few of the children's books didn't get reviewed.) If the book as one or two asterisks** by the title, I can't really recommend it with any sort of enthusiasm.

The Whole List of Books Read in 2009

Children's Chapter & YA Books Read/Taught
Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Bound for Oregon: by Jean van Leeuwen
Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Children of the River (Linda Crew)
The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff
Dear Mr. President: Abraham Lincoln--Letters from a Slave Girl (Andrea D. Pinkey)
Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudson
George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist by Geoff and Janet Benge
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Sounder by William Armstrong
Road to Paris (Nikki Grimes) YA
Sonshine Girls: Summer Secret (Rene Morris)
Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (Lensey Namioka)
Wright Brothers by Quentin Reynolds

And there we have a year of reading in my own Small World. I've started 2010 out with a bang, having just finished John Iriving's Late Night in Twisted River. How will the rest of the year measure up?

For more reading lists, check out Semicolon's blog beginning on Saturday, Jan. 2.