The quiet before the storm

We spent a whole day at home, preparing for our upcoming adventures.  Since we have been at the farm quite a bit in the past few days, both kids seemed eager to settle in with Legos today.  This is what they came up with:

While Sydney tackled the garden beds, I tried to make good on some of the farm veggies that he’s packed into our fridge.  Lady cream peas with vegetarian sausage, zucchini bread, and strawberry-and-arugula salad helped us clear out at least some of the greens.

Tomorrow we’re all driving to Ohio to drop Katherine off at choral camp at Rosedale (Sydney’s old college).  This is her first time on her own, but thankfully we know a number of other kids and adults who will be there, so that should make things easier.  In typical Katherine fashion, she started packing quite a while ago and kept a list on the fridge of items that had yet to be added.

I’m heading to Virginia on Tuesday for work, so Sydney and Nathaniel will be in charge of the house, the cats, and the farm.  After some priming by me, Nathaniel is seriously excited to be a real farm hand this week.  Little does he know that it’s going to be 90 degrees for the next few days . . .


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Perils of filling my kids’ heads with old books

Both kids are reading up a storm this summer, punctuated by long walks and roaming the farm.  And eating, of course.  That, to me, is the perfect summer combination.

The kids are also sharing a lot of books.  When we got a batch of books from the library recently, Nathaniel hunted up books and Katherine hunted up her own, but after they got home and plowed through a few they’d chosen, I soon found them curling up with books that the other one had checked out.  They’ve had fun talking about them, too, or recommending books to each other: “Be careful: there’s a scary bit in this one, but otherwise I think you’ll really like it,” or “Stuart Little is so funny.  You have to read it.”

When I have a say in things, I have been encouraging a lot of classic children’s books, given what I’ve seen from their preferences.  My kids are easily scared or confused by books that have a lot of pop culture references (they weren’t terribly impressed by the Star Wars nods in Wonder, much as they like the rest of the book.  And contemporary books often wind them up before bedtime, rather than help them settle in for the night.  I can see why: reading from an earlier time relied less heavily on suspense and action; even the Nancy Drew books are stuffed with description, far more than dialogue!  But I’m discovering that there are drawbacks to reading from an earlier time.

When we were out driving recently, I sighed when I saw a cement mixer pull onto the same winding, no-passing-for-miles road that I needed to take.  The kids were encouraging: “Maybe he’ll pull off soon.”

“No, babe.  The concrete company is all the way at the end of the road, and I bet he’s headed there.”

Then Katherine surprised me: “Maybe he’s going to his mistress not far from here.”

(Stifling my surprise as best I could): “A what?”

“You know: a mistress.  Someone he works for.”

“Hmm.  Right.”  Then I explained that we don’t tend to use “mistress” to identify a woman we work for any more.  I didn’t explain that we’d dropped that use like a hot potato after the term became a euphemism for other things.

“Oh, okay.”

And off she goes. We’ll see if she remembers my lesson.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Beautiful summer color

One of the most enjoyable parts of being at the market is fielding the “What is that?” questions from people who stop by.  Did you know that you could get cauliflower in four different colors?  The purple seems to go over well here.  If it weren’t simply the most striking color, I’d worry that people were showing excessive school pride (Asbury is purple and white).  If Sydney could somehow pull off a UK blue, he’d really have a hit on his hands.

Don’t worry: Katherine’s doleful looks in recent pictures have to do with her sudden shift from try-too-hard smiles to dislike of being asked to hold still for pictures.  She’s not actually downcast at cozying up to potatoes.  This is still the most flattering of the eye-rolling, tongue-sticking-out poses she offered us, but Sydney and I warned her that we’re keeping the rest for possible later use at graduation parties and weddings.  In the picture, she’s holding a giant mixing bowl of tiny new potatoes: most of them are too small to sell, but they’ll be perfect for roasting with rosemary and olive oil at home.

Katherine was recently encouraged to keep an eye out for volleyball camps.  Apparently someone noticed that she’s pretty tall for an eight-year-old.  I hope she can make it through with fewer knee injuries than I got, but Sydney and I both really like volleyball, and I hoped that, eventually, we’d be able to put together a game with the four of us.  Nathaniel doesn’t seem to be lagging behind in size; now we just have to work on coordination.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment