Author Archives: Amy

Odds & Ends: mid-summer edition

1-IMG_4953-001I started to title this post the “where ya been?” edition or the “I’m still here” edition or the “moving” edition or the “chaos” edition, but I’m choosing to focus on the bigger picture here.  :-)

So, it has been exactly one month since we turned over the keys to our home of sixteen years to a young family of three.  Astonishingly, this happened on our sixteenth wedding anniversary, so it was sixteen years to the day that Steady Eddie and I had moved into our home.  Here’s what Steady Eddie had to say about it in what might be the sweetest FB status update there ever has been (well, to me, anyway 😉 ):

16 years ago on this same night Amy and I walked into this house as Mr. and Mrs. ———- with our Ford Thunderbird and Beretta GT. Tonight we walk away with four children, our Ford Windstar and Dodge Grand Caravan and many wonderful memories and turn this home over to another sweet couple. A bittersweet day but I am so thankful to God for blessing my life with Amy. I look forward to our new memories in our new home and I am so thankful to share them with my beautiful Amy.

This month, and the weeks before it, have been full of more work and chaos and tears than I ever imagined.  I don’t think I really understood what it meant to move before we embarked on this journey.  After all, when we moved into our first home, we had practically nothing, and we’ve accumulated a considerable bit more than nothing since.   In addition to the difficulty of moving has been the disruption of routine, and we’re still working on getting that back.  God’s blessing has been on our family in countless ways, though, a few of which are

  • childcare!  Nana kept all four children daily for several weeks so that we could work without hindrance or worry.  Not only did she keep the kids, she also put us up at her home for quite a while, washing our laundry and cooking our meals, while our new home was being worked on.
  • help!  My daddy has almost singlehandedly painted the entire main living area of our home, which is about 2000 square feet.  Steady Eddie and I helped a little, and my uncle also helped on several of the rooms.  Daddy, Steady Eddie, and my brother-in-law also cut, hung, and painted crown moulding in every room except the kitchen, dining room, my office, and the boys’ room.  My mother came daily for a couple of weeks and helped with the unpacking.  In addition to this, we had the help of friends.

Now that we’ve been here, I am beginning to see what a huge blessing the house itself is and will be in the future.  We had to do quite a bit of work to it (with more still to do), so it was hard to see this through all the work and angst.  Now that we’re more settled and have actually begun to hang things on the walls (and most of the books are shelved), I can see it.

  • IMG_2902It’s about twice as big as our first home.  On the ground floor we have about 2000 square feet, about the same as our first home.  However, our new-to-us home has a full, finished basement, which is a little less than 2000 square feet.
  • The basement is a huge blessing.  This is where our school room/rec room; the girls’ Lego, sewing, and art hideout; our library; a good bit of storage; the laundry room; and a full bathroom are located.  Another blessing in this is that now we have a place to hide out from severe weather in.  Considering the fact that we live in a very tornado-prone area (and we had an EF-1 tornado hit within blocks of our other house last year, plus a couple touched down near our new home last week), this is a pretty big deal.
  • We have a huge, light, airy kitchen and dining room.  They are open to each other and just feel so spacious.
  • Our living room is big, and one of its walls is composed almost entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows.  For someone who loves natural light, this is a big blessing.
  • We live in a super quiet neighborhood.  It’s a big neighborhood, but at night you’d almost never know you were surrounded by lots of houses instead of just. . . crickets.
  • We have a large backyard.
  • We have a two-car carport, and as of this afternoon, it’s actually junk-free enough for both cars to be parked in it.  :-)
  • We have three bathrooms, which is great for a family of six.

I could go on, but I won’t.  I hope this doesn’t come off as boasting or bragging.  What I’m really trying to do is thank God for his blessings and have something to remind myself when the 4000 square feet feel more like a curse than a blessing.  😉



In other news, well, not much has been happening.  :-)

  • The girls have continued piano lessons this summer, and they have also been going to a weekly sewing class taught by a retired teacher (whom I used to teach with) who also happens to be a professional seamstress.  They’ve really enjoyed that, especially since some friends from our co-op have also been in the class.
  • They’ve been reading a lot–Lulu has read and re-read her favorites, while Louise has been on a nonfiction (especially biography) kick.
  • I’ve been listening to podcasts a lot.  My favorite during this move has been A Slob Comes Clean.  It has helped me stay motivated regarding getting (and trying to keep!) our home in order.
  • I’ve finally gotten back in a shallow groove (but still a groove!) with reading.  I’m hoping to publish my review of Homesick by Jean Fritz in the next few days, and right now I’m pretty engrossed in Go Set a Watchman.  Have you read it?
  • The next few weeks promise more of the same:  lots of housework, punctuated by trips to the pool, church, shopping trips, and trips to the library.  Louise will be attending an art camp next week, which means we have to get up and out the door fairly early every single day.  This will be a good motivator for me to get on the ball with our homeschool plans.  😉

What’s new with you?

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Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

I finally got to read Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, just a few months after I stated my intention to read it for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge.  It’s the only read-aloud we’ve finished this so far this summer due to our move and lots of general busy-ness, but it turns out that it couldn’t have been a more perfect read for us.  The story is a summer story, after all.  It’s the story of Portia and Julian, cousins who discover a deserted neighborhood of old houses bordering a lake-turned-swamp.  It turns out that a pair of siblings who spent their childhood summers there have returned to spend their golden years in their old neighborhood.  Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton are a lovable and eccentric pair, and they make Portia and Julian’s summer interesting and adventurous.  Enright’s descriptions are delectable, as always, and the story’s continued appeal is as much owing to her powers of characterization as they are to the story itself.  I don’t love this one as much as I love the Melendys, but I’m definitely glad I read it, and we’ve already continued with the sequel, Return to Gone-Away.   

Here are a few excerpts that I enjoyed in particular.  I hope these will whet your appetite for Enright’s delightful stories!

This description is from the first time the children see the inside of Mrs. Cheever’s home:

Their first impression was one of density.  A large herd of furniture grazed on a red carpet; each wall was covered with a different kind of wallpaper, one patterned with roses, one with ferns, one with stripes, and the fourth, Julian thought, with things that looked like bunches of broccoli.  On the wallpaper many large pictures stared out of heavy frames.  The windows in the room were half hidden by plants and vines in hanging baskets and curtained with old dark velvet portieres.  Everything that could have a cover on it had one.  An upright piano in one corner stared out from under a draped arrangement of fringed plush like a severe Turkish lady.  All the tables had covers on them, of course, and the chairs and couches each had a collar and a set of cuffs.  (39)

For some reason I love descriptions of houses and rooms, and this is a particularly good one.

A couple of phrases and sentences I particularly like:

. . . mosquitoes, tuned like peevish violins, approached and departed. . . (81)

Her white hair, curled in multitides of little pleaty ridges, was dressed in a pompadour, and on top, like a small vessel on a choppy sea, a red velvet bow was riding.  (37)

I love this description of Mrs. Brace-Gideon, one of the more memorable denizens of Gone Away in its prime:

She was waht you might call imposing.  Yes, indeed she was.   Her hats were loaded with roses or plumes, and her fingers were with jewels:  oh, diamonds as big as that!  Rubies!  An emerald like a spoonful of mint jelly!  And she had a lot of necklaces looped over her chest:  Venetian glass beads, pearls, gold chains.  There was a sort of solidness about her.  I can’t describe it.  Even her hair, the way she wore it, looked solid, like one of the round, dark loaves of pumpernickel we used to see at the Vogelharts’. . . (195)

We give this one a Highly Recommended.  (Harcourt, 1957)

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The Brainy Bunch by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding

I read a book!  A whole book!  :-)

(Excuse me.  I’m just a little excited because it has been well over a month, maybe more like two months, since I finished a whole book.)

When I saw The Brainy Bunch:  The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve on the new books stand at the library, I knew it would be a quick read, and I thought I might pick up a few pointers or at least be inspired by it.   It turns out I was right about being inspired, though perhaps not in the way one might expect after reading such a book.  No, I am not rushing over to the local university to enroll Lulu, age eleven, for the fall semester, nor am I eagerly looking at the schedule for the local community college.  The Hardings’ idea is that education should be compressed to the essentials, and that their children should begin high school level work as soon as they’re able.  Thus, if the child if working on high school level material, it goes on their high school transcript, no matter their age.  Each child is also encouraged to discover their educational/career path early, and with that goes early preparation for college entrance examinations.  They discuss various “loopholes” or “back door methods” that have allowed their children, who are not geniuses or even necessarily super smart (by their own admission), to get into college before they’re even teenagers.  One of these “back door methods” is that when they lived in California, their older girls were able to take the California High School Proficiency Examination to “test out” of high school.  Alabama, the other state where they have spent most of their children’s schooling years, has no such option.  In Alabama they have used the early transcript, dual enrollment, and transfer credit “loophole.”  These methods have thus far produced an engineer, an architect, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a composer and musician, and the list goes on.  (There are ten Harding children!)  Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the method, one can hardly argue with the results.  All of older children have a voice in the book, as well, and by their own accounts they have been happy with this method of education.

Most of what I got from this book is encouragement in parenting, homeschooling, and holding my children close.  I’m not on board with sending my children into a university classroom at age twelve, and neither am I really on board with compressing education down to the essentials.  I prefer a broader education than what I perceive the Hardings encourage from their book.  It seems to me that there must’ve been a whole lot of running around to get their children to their classes, with mom and the other children staying nearby and walking around the college track or sitting outside the classroom.  I don’t think this would work for me or my family, to be so bound by one child’s schedule.  The Hardings’ motto is that they give the attention or time to the child who needs them most at the moment, which is obviously the one who is “college age.” However, I am encouraged by their story to consider alternatives to the traditional educational path.  I guess you could say we already do that since my children have never been to traditional school.  It is still easy to slip back into the traditional-school mindset, though, and this book is a good reminder that children are capable of more than we give them credit for.  It also made me look at dual enrollment in a slightly new light.  I was an AP English student in high school, and I admit to being something of an AP snob.  After having taken many English classes at our local university, I know that I learned a lot more in AP English in high school than I ever did in college. I really thought I’d work toward my own children testing through AP to see how they fare.  After reading this book, though, I see that dual enrollment is perhaps a much more practical (if not as prestigious 😉 ) way to go.

The Brainy Bunch provided me with lots of food for thought.  Although I had a hard time at times following the narrative (it seems to skip around a lot and really could’ve used some editing to bring it into focus more), I’m glad I read it.  (Gallery Books, 2014)

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Newbery Through the Decades: The 1980s

newbery through the decades

Who’s ready for the 80s?  I started kindergarten in 1979, so I spent all of my elementary and middle school/junior high years in the 1980s.  That means that while I’ve read a number of these books, most of them were pre-blog, so I have only one link to share today.  That also means that the list is almost wide-open for me, since most of these that I’ve read were so long ago that I don’t remember much about them.  :-)

1989 Medal Winner: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

Honor Books:

  • In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton
  • Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers

1988 Medal Winner: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

Honor Books:

  • After The Rain by Norma Fox Mazer
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

1987 Medal Winner: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

Honor Books:

  • A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant
  • On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber

1986 Medal Winner: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Honor Books:

  • Commodore Perry In the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg
  • Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

1985 Medal Winner: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Honor Books:

  • Like Jake and Me by Mavis Jukes
  • The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks
  • One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox

1984 Medal Winner: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Honor Books:

1983 Medal Winner: Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt
Honor Books:

  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Doctor DeSoto by William Steig
  • Graven Images by Paul Fleischman
  • Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz
  • Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton

1982 Medal Winner: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard

Honor Books:

  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944 by Aranka Siegal

1981 Medal Winner: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Honor Books:

  • The Fledgling by Jane Langton
  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

1980 Medal Winner: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos

Honor Book:

  • The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

As for what I’ll actually read, my number one priority is Homesick:  My Own Story by Jean Fritz. It’s one I’ve wanted to read for a long time, and we’ve also really come to appreciate Jean Fritz as an author this year through our journey through American history.

I also notice that there are a couple of poetry books on the list this month.  Maybe we’ll use Joyful Noise as a part of our first poetry tea time in our new home!  I’m also intrigued by the other few nonfiction pieces.  I happen to know that Lincoln:  A Photobiography by Russell Friedman is lying on top of a stack of boxes in the basement of our new home, so since I know where that one is, maybe I’ll read it, too.

I’m also interested in The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.  I know she’s a beloved fantasy writer, and I’ve never read anything by her.  The Road from Home:  the Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian also piques my curiosity, mostly because the book Forgotten Fire, which is about the Armenian holocaust, is one of the most heartbreakingly memorable books I’ve read.

Ah, so many books. . . !
What’s on your Newbery Through the Decades list this month?

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Newbery Through the Decades: 1970s/June link-up

newbery through the decadesRemember how I said this is a no-stress challenge? Well, when I wrote that way back when the calendar turned from 2014 to 2015, I had no idea that we’d be moving right smack in the middle of the heatwave of 2015, or that we’d have multiple issues with the house we have purchased, most of which have prevented us from making the progress we’d normally make.  (Steady Eddie and I are both very hard workers when we have a goal, and we’ve had lots of help to get this done.  All of the problems have been outside our control.  We still haven’t even slept in the house overnight!  However, we have made significant progress in the past two days.  I expect to have the whole family moved in today or tomorrow!)  I said all that not to elicit sympathy but to say that no, I haven’t actually finished a book for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge this month.  I’ve definitely been preoccupied with other things.  :-(  I am 2/3 of the way through the very short Knee-Knock Rise by Natalie Babbitt, but seeing as how I don’t even know where it is at the present moment, I can’t very well finish it.  If I do find it and finish it, I’ll try to come back and share my semi-coherent thoughts about it.  :-)

What about you?  Has your June been conducive to reading?  Please share!

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