On the farm

Well, Kentucky summer is finally here.  The heat held off for a nice long while, but it looks like it’s here to stay.  I am dutifully slathering the kids in sunscreen, but mostly we make them wear hats and spend a lot of their time in the shade.  Sydney cut an opening in the huge honeysuckle hedge that lines the farm property, and now the kids have a room-sized cool and very dark hidey hole where they spread out their waterproof groundsheet (thanks, Mom!) and color and read between wandering expeditions.

We also have something of a rhythm going for the market on Saturdays.  The kids let us unpack the car and set up, and then they take over the back of the car for the rest of the morning.  A picnic basket with breakfast, ice water, and 11:00 smoothies also seems to help.


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Oxford, MS

At the end of May, I left Sydney and the kids for a conference in Oxford, MS.  I realized I’ve been there four times in the past decade, mostly because Ole Miss is both William Faulkner’s hometown and the site of the annual conference on his work.  This time, though I did go on a Faulkner tour of town, led by a colleague, I was there for a conference on British writers.  I felt a bit like I’d brought the wrong dress for the venue (I gave a paper on an English WWI soldier), but I enjoyed the mix of Deep South and British accents when everyone mingled after the talks.

Mom drove down (from Iowa!) to spend the week with me–and to visit one of her favorite places.  We enjoyed food at a number of the restaurants around the courthouse square.

We also hit all three locations of the independent bookseller, Square Books, and she humored me with a trip out to Faulkner’s house.

Most of the time, though, we just enjoyed walking the area: large old homes, lots of history, and gorgeous gardens.  I hear the tailgating’s remarkable, but you won’t find me within a hundred miles of Ole Miss once football season arrives.


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Penners to Market

Yesterday was Sydney’s first appearance at the Wilmore Farmer’s Market, which will run on Saturdays from 8-12 for the next six months.  This being a family affair, we were all there.  And, although I know he was nervous about pulling it all together and having enough produce to fill the table, he made a great showing.

This is a very small farmer’s market, but we have hopes that we can slowly build up the number of people who come.  A number of friends stopped by, despite its being graduation weekend (thus the appearance of one friend in a suit), the rain (one cold-hating friend sprinted toward us with “I’m only out here because of you!), and visiting family.  I only dared sneak a picture once the market was nearly at an end, but Sydney had a full table throughout, and the kids spent most of the morning playing games together in the back of the car.

The kids did pretty well with the long morning, the cold, and the walk; since Sydney had a full car, the rest of the family walked the mile to the market, which should usually be less chilly than it was yesterday (40 degrees!).  Although I suggested that Katherine, who hates being cold, could settle in with a book in one of the front seats of the car, she maintained her chilly perch peeping out the hatchback: “I like watching.”  Once we got home and she started setting up a game, we saw she had been learning a few things:


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Katherine’s Social Calendar

Yesterday, Katherine had a very full day.  She had a reading part in the second-grade play, “Frog Follies.”  I thought there would only be a few beaming parents in attendance, but as the bleachers filled and filled with families and the other grades in the school, I started to wonder how Katherine would do.  Her eyes got big 🙂  But she took on her job and spoke just as clearly as she had in our kitchen earlier that week.

On our walk to the car, we talked about how you can be nervous and get the job done.  Given how much of our teaching of small children concerns learning to love this or that, and getting enjoyment from the activity (“Love to Read”), it occurred to me that performance is something of an anomaly: you are quite likely to find it nerve-wracking and  you need to be able to perform without warm and fuzzy feelings.

Katherine also had a piano recital last night. She played several pieces and a couple of scales.  Her teacher does a lovely job of making this seem like an “event,” and Katherine loved the cupcakes, cookies, and punch that followed.

At the university, my week has also been filled with events (Katherine actually tagged along for some of those), and we have a few more next weekend with graduation, but very soon our family will be far removed from such things.  Our summer looks to be a mix of writing, farming, playing with the kids, and very little that is specific to a set calendar block.  We’re all looking forward to the change of pace!


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It was oddly quiet in the house this morning

So I went looking, and this is what I found:

Domino, famously picky about people, is a sucker for a good throw, and he’s learning that Nathaniel is now finally able to sit still.


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Farm Hands

Sydney is unbelievably busy this month, trying to make up for lost time in getting things ready for his first farmer’s market–in two weeks!

The kids have taken the big changes in our lifestyle in stride, seeming to recognize that they’d better claim the farm as their own, since they’re clearly going to be spending a lot of time there.  It also seems to have helped that Sydney bought a small wagon, which makes trudging all over the farm more fun.

Both kids have been helpful with tasks like finding and hauling small rocks and even weeding!  This seems like a great time to start a farm.  We’ll see how they do at spending every Saturday morning standing on hot concrete at the market . . . well, at least it’s right next to the train tracks that run through the center of town, so our train-loving boy will be thrilled.


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Easter Adventures

Although I love marking the full season of Lent and often make grand plans for the entirety of Holy Week, the reality is that Easter often fall during the busiest time of year for us.  This year is different only in the extent to which that is true: Sydney’s farm launch and the final few weeks of the school year coincided this year, and our family was a bit too tired and worn out to get into a more disciplined celebration.  So we took opportunities where we could.

The kids and I did Easter egg hunts with the neighborhood at our town’s park and their Sunday School classes at church. Once the first egg hunt was over, I lent the kids (only temporarily!) for a tent shade the heavy quilt made by my grandmother, and they remained holed up in the playground turret, sorting candy and playing with new toys while I mowed the lawn.  Since they only eat a few pieces, the selection process is very extensive.  I gave them a few ground rules, and then said that I was starting the mower and would leave the rest up to them.  That bought me a couple of hours of quiet time!

Katherine also took part in an Easter reading at church.  She complained about not liking to read in public, but she did a great job.  The reading also led to some really interesting discussions between our kids on the way home from church, as they asked about the Easter story, baptism, and a host of other things that won’t be settled in one car-ride conversation.


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I realize that the word ‘random’ technically is misused at least half the time people utter it, but this takes the cake:

United Airlines said on Monday that after nobody agreed to voluntarily give up their seats, airline representatives chose four passengers to leave the plane at random based on ticket class, frequent flier status and check-in time.

Yeah, just like the US chooses who to kill with a drone strike perfectly at random based on connections to known terrorists, extremist rhetoric on social media, and so on.

Still, I suppose assaulting a passenger on your aircraft is considerably worse than such linguistic barbarism.

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Katherine Turns Eight

No, in case you were wondering, Katherine hasn’t lost the reading habit.  I imagine that it helps that Dexter seeks out her lap (and overflows it) when we have nap/reading time in our house.

Nathaniel got really excited about the possibility of helping make Katherine’s birthday special, so much so that he forgot how to spell her name–but got all of the curlicues in there somehow.

When I realized that Katherine’s birthday would mean we could ditch one of the carseats in our Prius, I checked the height and weight requirements for kids outgrowing the carseats.  Sydney asked, “Do we even know how tall they are?”  Well, no.  When I was in elementary school, there was an annual height and weight measurement, but I haven’t seen anything like that here.  So, we did that today, which gave me the info I needed to fill out the “height predictor” models I remember seeing at the doctor’s office.

It didn’t surprise me that Katherine will likely be an inch or two taller than me, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that Nathaniel may well be more than half a foot taller than me.  Not only will I likely be the shortest person in our family, but Sydney may not even hold onto tallest.  Forget badminton: we clearly need to get a volleyball net!

The weight checks were helpful, too, since they remind me that we need to make sure that the kids become more aware of other people and objects around them.  They are no longer little things that will bounce off adults; they are quite likely to take the adult out if they’re not careful.  So, grandparents beware!

The kids got a game of bird bingo, which we played as a family before leaving it to the kids so we could work outside.  It was really funny and sweet to hear them reading “Splendid Fairywren” and “Pied Wagtail” out loud to each other.

As per usual in our house, our main gift to the birthday child is that he or she gets to pick the birthday menu.  I probably need to set some limits on that.  Both Katherine and Nathaniel made lists that, while not long, would have made for a Thanksgiving feast.  We’ve ended up spreading things out over three or four days.  So we’re going to enjoy having some food in the house as Sydney and I prepare for some end-of-semester hunkering down.


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“April is the cruellest month”

So said T. S. Eliot in 1922.  Every time we get to April in the academic year, I have to agree with him.  So many delightful things (weather! walks! flowers! planting seeds!), but so little time to appreciate them.  Lots of major papers to grade and so few weeks before the semester ends–but not so few that you can just barrel through.  I am clearly a bit overly tired this week.  Today, after watching me go in circles in our conversation, Sydney finally laid it out there for me:

“You are barking up a red herring.”

Nothing like mixing metaphors to slap an English major back into wakefulness.


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