Monday, December 31, 2007

A pig-sty on wheels

That was our van, before the big cleaning. Each child filled a Wally-World bag with his/her own personal trash. I vacuumed and scrubbed. Hopefully it will stay clean until Thursday, when I will begin transporting my creative writing students to and fro.

Today was a perfect example of why people should live in the South during winter. Except Anna (of course) we were all outside. Peter and Adam wielded a sledge hammer, removing part of our asphalt/concrete slab in the driveway. After working with the sledge hammer, Peter discovered that the mattock now feels rather light :) So he asked if we had any stumps to be removed. Well now, my boy!! We allowed him to attack a very large holly stump. It is now out. When Philip saw that his 13 year old brother was going to successfully remove a stump that he, the larger boy, had failed to do this fall, he decided to weigh in on the matter. Very satisfying.

All that to say, it was a gorgeous day - perfect for all kinds of yard work and cleaning the vehicle of choice. And the best thing about doing yard work in the South in the winter, is that you can do it when all the leaves are off, and nature has bared herself for inspection and subsequent improvements. Much easier than clawing one's way through the foliage in the tangle and heat of July.

What the children are reading:

Julia (8 yrs) - A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

Peter (13 yrs) - Reassess Your Chess
Artemis Fowl series
Valley of Secrets

Anna (15 yrs) - Agatha Christie & the occasional Jeanette Oke

Philip (17 yrs) - his computer screen. Sometimes a little Rex Stout.

Julia met us at the door a moment ago. "I have to go take my weirdo tests," she said.

She is developing a new language. "Ollustria!!" She greets friends and strangers alike. This means hello. She said it to people at church yesterday when we were given a moment in the service to shake hands and greet one another. She is a very imaginative child.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yes it's dead

Adam said he'd need to visit Radio Shack to get a special screwdriver to take apart the broken camera. I, however (hum), succeeded in opening it with a little fix-the-spectacles screwdriver. Thus, we began delving into the bowels of the tiny monster.
Adam must have spent 2 1/2 hours this afternoon taking apart that thing. About 23 tiny screws lay around the house. He really only needed the lens assembly, which he did acquire. He took it outside, where his car-working lamp gave better illumination on the subject. Once we resorted to tweezers. He got the lens to retract again! The tricky surgery was almost over, and he could've said to the nurse next to him, "Please close for me, Miss Jones." However, putting back together is the hardest part, and... that's when he broke it.

So, the camera is officially dead, and in the trash. G - you offered a camera, but I don't want it if it will leave you without one. However, if you don't need it, that would be wonderful!

I must say that having no pics encourages me to use more descriptive language. It's good for a writer.

a long vacation

This has felt like a long one. And we have 3 more full days off, before we go back to school. Very satisfactory.

Adam preached just this side of Winston this morning. He got wrong: the time of Sunday school, the time of the service, the name of the location, the exit #. Thankfully, the folks there were flexible, and all went well. Bless him, he is rather an absent-minded professor type occasionally.

It's raining. It's been raining quite a bit this past week. We need it badly.

My brother Mark, his wife Faith, and their 5 lovely children stopped by last night on their way to the mountains. We had a nice impromptu meal and the children played for a while. I like being a 'pit stop' on the way to the grandparents, because we get more company this way! It was a nice visit.

We've been watching some Nero Wolf DVDs lately from Netflix. I really like them. Adam is a big fan of Rex Stout, and has gotten Philip to read a bit of him too. Timothy Hutton does a good job as Archie, and he directs also.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Back from those mountains

We had a lovely two days in the mountains at my parents' house. Wednesday morning we woke to about 2 inches of snow - a surprise to all, and a joy to the children.

Adam and I went shopping for next year's Christmas lights - he bought 2000 lights for the eaves of the house. I went to my favorite resale store, which was having a 50% off sale. Fun, fun! Adam found a wool sweater, cardigan with pockets in front - an old-man sweater. I found some fun slip-on shoes (like I need another pair, but for $1.50, why not?), and a great set of bookends for 50 cents.

We had a relaxing visit with my sweet parents. The only downside was that I forgot the ONE ESSENTIAL THING - the sound machine. We got a sound machine several years ago to help
Adam with his tinnitus. After about 3 weeks, both of us were in total dependence; I couldn't sleep in the disturbing quiet of a a room without it, and Adam couldn't sleep with the noise in his head. So, for our 2 nights in the mountains, we had lousy sleeping. But the days were good!

Today I took down the tree and, with the help of 3 strong men, rearranged the furniture in the living room. This, in anticipation of 2 couches that we ordered today. We went to this fun store, looked at the Broyhill, noted the great sale prices, and picked out 2 sofas. The present blue sofas in the living room will descend into the den. I picked out RED sofas! Adam was pleasantly stunned that I didn't choose some variety of brown.

Still no photos. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in words

That's right. No pictures yet. I'm tired of mooching off of my teenage son, who really doesn't want me to touch his new fancy-shmancy camera. And Adam hasn't gotten around to repairing the old one.

So, in lieu of pictures, you will receive our Christmas morning in the style of the 1700s, i.e., in words alone. Many apologies.

Adam fell asleep immediately after reading the penultimate portion of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" last night. He'll finish it today, with Scrooge's Christmas Day. The children also went to bed, except Philip, who stayed up until after 1:00. Internet. We allowed it on his birthday.

I carried Julia's surprises into the living room: a saucer chair, lined with fuzzy purple fabric. On it, I set her new porcelain doll. She's decided she wants to start a collection. And she had a Victorian dollhouse sticker book tucked in behind the doll too. I bought that at Biltmore House. I enjoyed playing with it this morning very much :)

We did successfully rise Philip from his bed this morning. When we want him, we go into the dining room, which is directly above his bedroom in the basement, and we stomp on the floor. Works every time. Philip got: a 3-hole punch, a very fine stapler, stapler remover (why would you have one without the other?), extra staples, and paper clips. That's what he said he wanted! (This is a guy who, the other night, wore a suitcoat to the movie theater. He has his own style. He wears ties to school many days.)

Peter was perfectly happy with a new book. He also got a watch.

Anna got clothes. She says she's still sleepy and is in her room.

This afternoon we'll drive to my parents' house, just in time to go up the mountain in the evening dusk and see my parents' windows lit with Christmas lights. The house will be decorated with all her little ornaments. She'll be pulling the delicious supper from the oven, and their little black gas heater will be flickering away. My mother keeps a warm robe in the upstairs bedroom for me, so I don't have to pack one (we all know how much space a winter robe takes in a suitcase). That's a sign of real affection.

Adam plans to shop tomorrow. He wants to buy Christmas lights for next year, while they're on sale, and before they're all gone. So, if you're reading, Daddy, just know that we will disappear to town tomorrow morning and be gone awhile. But we'll hang around on Thursday.
I need to return a book (a lovely book about Fairies that Adam bought for me). Peter needs to return a shirt. Otherwise, we're all very happy with our gifts. I discovered, pleasantly, that I did not spend enough money on myself, so I think I have some shopping to do. If I can just think of what I want. Hmm.

Adam is finishing his chocolate-making today too. I'm sitting at the kitchen counter, blogging away. Julia is playing with fairy stickers.

Merry Christmas to everyone. May the miracle of God, coming to us in a human body, fill your minds with gratefulness today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My baby

turned 17 years old today! Can you see the "17" in candles?

His daddy made him a big loaf of bread. Otherwise, his birthday consisted solely in the camera with which these pics were taken. He's not a boy who requires a big party or anything, thankfully.

A little teenage creativity

Anna goes for the long look. Not everybody can pull this off. She has that gypsy look.

Turtles, part II

Chocolate. Pure chocolate.

The finished product. These are a little bashed up from being in a ziploc bag in the freezer. The ones we delivered to friends this afternoon looked better.

I bit into this one straight from the freezer. Oh so good!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Turtle Prep, part I

Philip came to the rescue with some pictures!
This is sticky stuff.


More yum

It's Turtle Time!

Wish I had a photo for you. The camera is still busted. Adam says he will find instructions online for taking it apart and realigning the zoom onto its tracks. Last night Philip bought his new camera for an outrageous sum - his entire Christmas and birthday present combined. He got some special type of card for it, plus an external hard drive for his computer. He's been snapping pics all day.

Anyway, this evening, Adam started making his Christmas turtles. He started with the caramel - home made, of course, with peanuts. It takes forever to get it to medium hard-ball stage. We just spent an hour forming it all into little discs. Tomorrow, after they're frozen, we'll dip them into pure chocolate; using frozen caramel will temper the chocolate naturally, eliminating the need for paraffin . And they are SO wonderful! We have to give them away to keep from eating too many.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Date, part II

We ate lunch on the Biltmore grounds. They've taken the old stables and converted them into a large shopping area with a restaurant - the Stables. Here' a photo looking down from the "hayloft" (where we ate). You can see the 'stalls' where the horses used to live. Cute, huh?

On one end of the house, outside the library, is this wysteria trellis. Huge vines.

I took this photo of the 'back side' of the house. Then I promptly bumped the camera against the stone ledge where I was standing, and messed up the zoom lens. Sigh. No more photos after that!

We got a great deal today - 2 tickets for the price of one. Adam saw this house on a school field trip last month and wanted to go back with me. To him, the house has regal beauty. It oozes elegance, comfort, community, elevated thought. The art, books, music, architecture - all smack of a desire to achieve on this earth what we hope for in the next earth. As Adam said, when he first saw the house, all he could think was, "In my father's house are many rooms...."

Christmas Date

Today, Adam and I went to America's Largest Home. It was cool and damp, but we had a great time.

Our day started here, at our local pharmacy/ eatery. I forgot to take a photo of our breakfast: 2 eggs over-medium, biscuit, grits, bacon. Coffee. Yum. Plus a table of old men who eat there every morning. Every neighborhood needs a place like this.

Adam drove.

Here's a close-up of some of the great limestone facade. The house is build of steel beams, brick interior walls, and limestone outside. Mr. Vanderbilt did not want it to burn down.

Here is a picture to prove I really did go.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Christmas to me!!

I shopped for my Christmas presents early, quite early. Here is my new small rug in our entryway. We got these rugs at this store.

And here's the new, 8'x10' living room rug I've been wanting for the past 10 years. It's perfect. It reminds me of my mother's rug in her dining room.

Here's a nice fuzzy shot. Must've been taken by Philip.

Here's a more full-room view. I love our Christmas tree, but I'm eager to take it down so I can rearrange the furniture.

Here's a piece of paper I found under the couch when I was moving it. It's in Julia's elfish hand. It's true -- Anna is our family's notorious present sneak-a-peek.

This evening, Adam and the girls are going to our church for the church's childcare Christmas program. 2- and 3-year olds singing "Away in the Manger." I'm staying home to watch "Jeeves and Wooster."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fait Accompli

Yes, the semester is over. All textbooks turned in. Grades finalized.
Adam got a wealth of teacher gifts - he gets more since he teaches middle school. He got a stash of cash and gift cards. We went out to lunch today on one. That is a nice way to start the last week before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Try that again...

Here's a little celebratory picture. These are a few of the gifts our students have been giving us. Hot drink mixes, brownie mixes, bread, candy, plants, mugs. And a lovely pair of homemade earrings. I'm wearing them right now.

I am celebrating because I just finished (did you hear that, FINISHED!!) my regular grading! Tomorrow I give my LAST exam, and I will grade them as I sit there in the classroom. Then those hot little grades go on the computer, and this lady goes home at about 10:00.

Anna and I had so much fun shopping at Penney's last Saturday, I might go back. I found a shirt I really like. It's Christmas red, with a floral design on it. That's kinda wild for this old woman.

Time to celebrate!!!

These pics didn't load like I wanted them to, but oh well. Turn your screen sideways (or your head, if you must). This is one of Julia's Christmas presents. She couldn't wait till Christmas to have it over her head at night! It drapes down over her pillow and her beanie babies. Fun, huh?

Here's our latest Girl Scout! She's holding her first earned badge, the pottery badge. She's enjoying it so much.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Okay, so the busy Christmas week is O-V-E-R. Here's this weeks' line-up:

Sunday PM: youth program at church, with all our family participating in one way or the other. Family night supper too
Monday: last day of regular classes, with an all-school chapel in which Philip gets to play his trumpet. I will be grading.
Tuesday: exams. I will be grading. But I get to leave work at 11:30!
Wednesday: one more exam. I will be grading furiously. I'm done at work at about 10:00!
Thursday: School is out. If my grading isn't done, I'm dead meat. I will sleep very late.
Friday: Adam and I will go to a local diner for breakfast and then take off for a day at Biltmore House in Asheville. That will be a wonderful day.

I will give you a photographic record off the week, IF I can get that camera back from my almost-17 year old. I can't wait until he gets his new camera for Christmas, so I can have his old one full-time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

too busy

Monday: community choir rehearsal
Tuesday: community choir concert
Wednesday: Bible study and choir rehearsal
Thursday: daughter's elementary Christmas program
Friday: frantically shop for groceries

You won't hear from me until Saturday.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fourth Christmas Tradition

Here is my last family tradition, unless I think of another one. This is our Jesse Tree.

We got our Jesse Tree in Mississippi years ago. Our whole church participated. Each family bought a small artificial tree. Each family was given a little booklet (see it on the right). The booklet gives a scripture verse and lesson for each day of Advent, and a picture that goes along with it. The days follow the story of creation, fall, and redemption through the Bible, and follow the promise of the Messiah to its fulfillment.

Each family in the church was assigned a day of Advent, and was required to make a set of ornaments (all identical) reflecting the picture corresponding to that day. Our day was Joseph's coat of many colors, and I made about 25 little paper coats. Someone made 25 little rams (Abraham's offering). Another made 25 Noah's arks, 25 little temples, 25 mangers, or 25 Jacob's ladders. Then we came to the church and divied up the ornaments, so that each of the families had a complete set of Advent ornaments for their Jesse Tree.

Each day of Advent, one of the children places the appropriate ornament on the tree, and we remember its place in God's plan of salvation, as revealed in the Bible. It is a wonderful way to "prepare the way of the Lord" again, in our hearts, as we approach his birth anew each year.

An unexpected blessing of this tree is that, each year, I remember the various families who made those ornaments. Mike and Clarissa made all the ones from styrofoam. Vickie made the angel. Patty made the ark. Each family has a history, a memory of trials and victories, a testimony of God's fulfilling of his promises in each life. We're far from Mississippi now, but the Jesse Tree is a yearly reminder of our loved ones there.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Third Christmas Tradition

This is our manger scene. I know, it doesn't look like much. In that way, it resembles our other Christmas paraphernalia.'s special! The actual figures I've had for many years, and I suppose they were given by my mother, or maybe grandmother, long ago. The ones in the stable are plastic. The little shepherds and sheep to the right are ceramic.

But the stable itself: Adam made that from a few scraps of wood. We lived in a 1870s home in central Mississippi at the time, and he was tearing a porch off the house. He used a few pieces of the porch for this creche. We were soon to leave that house, the first home we'd bought, and one we loved dearly. This little barn is like a small chunk of that house that I've been able to carry around all these years. I like the chipping white paint. It resembles the house!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A helpful boy

Here's Peter, removing ivy from the house. It had started to encroach, as you can see, and long strands had begun to grow out from the house.

Peter was nervous on the ladder.

Julia's contribution was moral support.

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Recently I purchased a small book of Shakespeare's sonnets - all of them. Most people have read a Shakespearean sonnet or two in school, or perhaps a few more if they are lovers of literature. But I'd never read all of them. Actually, I still haven't. But I was surprised at the first 10 or so. Shakespeare, in addressing the woman he loves, has a bone to pick with her. Do you know what it is? Too much make-up? Not enough kissing? More cheesecakes please? No, my friend. Shakespeare's beef with his amour is that she isn't having a baby. A baby! He is all bent out of shape that she isn't replicating herself in a multitude of little lovely babies, passing those adorable genes on to the next generation. Of course, he says it is nice ways (usually), but he is persistent, oh, is he persistent! Here's a little bit of one for your enjoyment:

Sonnet 9

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That thou consumest thyself in single life?
Ah, if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep,
That thou no form of thee hast left behind....

Sonnet 10 (after he's told her how hateful she is)

Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

Sonnet 11

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowest
Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase;
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay.
If all were minded so, the times should cease,
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish.
Look whom she best endowed, she gave the more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish.
She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

That's just a sampling!

Here's my paraphrase of Sonnet 11:

You're getting old pretty fast, but your little girl would grow up just as fast.
You could count her young beauty as your own, as you leave your beauty behind.
This kind of replacement is the definition of wisdom, beauty, and filling the planet.
If everybody felt the way you do, human life would be extinct in 60 years!
Nature makes some women ugly, harsh, rude; those women should die childless.
Beauties like you should have the children, obviously. Beauty is a gift - pass it on!
Nature has made you a "beauty stamp." Let's start stamping!

The Tree

Thursday evening we set up our tree. Philip missed his usual job of putting it together, so he did the light-stringing instead. Anna and Julia helped him.


We had a fire all evening, Christmas music playing, and then Adam continued his reading to us of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol."

Anna also decided that this year we should have a tacky tree. Here it is:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Second Christmas Tradition

Try as I might, I could not get a clear picture of this little menagerie. These are our Christmas sashes. Each of the children has one. I had one in elementary school one year (my teacher made them for us) and it left such a deep impression of the suspense of Christmas, that I had to make them for our children.

Each felt sash has 25 green yard pieces hot-glued to it. There's a bell at the bottom, and a little verse on the top instructing the child to each a piece of candy each day in December, until he gets to the bell; then it will be Christmas! Even our almost-17 year old still does this, and remembers to eat his Tootsie Roll each morning. You see that when I made Julia's (well after the others, since she was born a number of years later), I never got around to gluing the poem on hers. She only cares about the candy anyway :)

When I made these, I didn't have any perfect dowels to put at the top, to stiffen the top edge and attach the cord to. So I used old pencils. It makes them hokey and home-spun (as usual, for our family) but I think a little unique.

Each year, the children remind me after Thanksgiving, "Mom, you've got to get the candy for the sashes, remember?"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First day of Christmas traditions

Here's my first entry. These are our Advent Candles. It's rather homely-looking, I know. Adam made the stand himself during our first year of marriage. He was in seminary, and we had little money. He was working 4 part-time jobs to help out. One of them was in the seminary's maintenance shop, and there he enjoyed using their wood-working equipment. So, this little wooden thing is rather precious to us. Each candle has significance. The first, now burning, is the Prophet's Candle.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A teacher glows a little

Today, I had one of those rare heart-warming moments as a teacher. A student I've taught now for 2 years came to my desk and thanked me for teaching her (and, of all things, she thanked me for GRAMMAR!). She said her score on the SAT had gone up significantly because of what she'd learned in English class. Ahhhh. It was like balm to the teacher-soul, soothing rainfall to the teacher-ear. She's the 2nd student this year to tell me that about the SAT score. It is very reassuring - I must be doing something right!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On the Road Again

That's right. Beware all drivers in central North Carolina. Anna's daddy worked on his back, on the cold ground for hours yesterday (installing a new fuel line and a new fuel pump) on the 1988 Volvo, so that NOW, Anna again has a car to drive! Philip removed all the tires so said daddy could take them to be filled with air (that's how long it's been sitting in hibernation). Within mere moments of her having her shoes on again, the Volvo was humming down the road with Anna behind the wheel at a mighty 20 miles per hour! She discovered that, in the intervening 6 months without wheels, she's grown, and now she doesn't need to sit on a pillow anymore to see over the dash :)

Loving Daddy gets very nervous driving with Anna, so I took her out in the dusk for a refresher course. She did one loop one way in the neighborhood, and a second loop the other way. Except for drifting sometimes too close to the garbage cans, and sometimes too much in the middle of the road, she did fine.

In February, Philip gets his license. He's happy to see the Volvo running because with that license in his pocket he'll be able to drive himself to school. Which means he doesn't have to come with his parents. At 7:00 AM. Which gives him another hour of sleep. There is nothing more important to that boy than his sleep.