Writing and wringing the moments sapless.

Violet heaven behind the house. Between polishing, editing, and attacking the Defect/or poetry collection, I steal time for seeds and flowers. It’s hard to juggle writing, editing, the foreign country of writing/publishing networks (for which I lack a passport), gardens,…

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Will D. Campbell, a man unlike any other.

The first time I heard Will D. Campbell’s name was in the context of a conversation with an elderly neighbor whose voice churned confetti and fireworks as she described her favorite “bootleg preacher”. I was intrigued- but all that breastmilk-induced…

wildcrafting

So here it is- my favorite way to play… Making things from other things we find throughout the day. Crafting with natural materials, organized by material. An P indicates printing pleasure can be satisfied, while a B indicates that this…

Why the only cure for now is nature.

The Eldest shows Amy a discovery at Tannehill. In the latest issue of The Atlantic, James Hamblin explores the emerging profession of “ecotherapy”. My heart skips and cartwheels to see Richard Louv’s name quoted in a mainstream media outlet. Children…

Why I homeschool.

Inspired by Mommycoddle, who explained her personal reasons for homeschooling, I thought I’d do the same. There are so many stereotypes and assumptions about homeschooling parents and homeschooled families that it makes sense to reaffirm why we, as individuals, choose…

Where I’m From: A Poem Game.

I am from rusted barbed wire, from Gauloises and old Romanian folk tales. I am from a Hunter 27 which became a Island Packet 36, mornings stirred by the sound of waves gossiping with fiberglass and sweat-moist sunprints on my…

What we learn by watching harvester ants.

Gnome holds her cheap plastic ant after giving it a kiss. It’s all about insects lately. Each night, the insect for the next day is introduced in the form of a cheap, plastic replica. Little B. bounces around the room,…

What I learned today at Hurricane Creek.

This is how we remember the Creek, how it appeared in our minds when we planned our picnic there today. And then there was this. And now there is this. A “this” with a disorienting and shocking effect. When I…

What ever happened to the Wankel engine?

At a meeting with fellow community-garden oriented neighbors, we met a really neat gentleman who filled our imaginations with all sorts of interesting things. From a high-tech neighborhood of underground homes in North Texas to rotating watering schedules, we were…

Weaving together botany and ecology.

Botany has been my favorite subject this learning season, and our study of herbs only adds to the daily marvels. However, kids seeking plants in fields contributed to some pillaging of local species, so I was grateful to discover a…

Watching a luna moth emerge and dry its wings.

It was the Eldest who first spotted the bright green friend crouched in a corner of the castle exterior. “A friendly dragon,” we determined. Moving closer to establish the requisite rapport, we realized that our friendly dragon was actually a…

W.J. Cash’s “Mind of the South.”

Reading W.J. Cash is like watching a country club social group learn how to buckdance. The Mind of the South, while earnest and thoughtful, leaves one with the aftertaste of fried chicken wings from a fancy restaurant. A certain type…

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“Visitation”, a prose poem by David Shumate.

Fall is hammocks by the fire. I’m slightly in love with David Shumate’s book of prose poems, High Water Mark. Apart from admiring his craft, my affections tend towards the particular. I am grateful for his “Prescription For Insomniacs”. Because…

Using gouache paint with kids.

I love the versatility and mystery of gouache paint, and since I couldn’t find an online resource for sharing gouache with kids, I decided, of course, to be the source of my own desires. What’s so great about gouache? Gouache…

Two days and nights in Covington, Georgia.

Leather chaps for sale. My in-laws kept the kids while the King and I escaped to a bed and breakfast in Covington, Georgia. Upon our arrival in this charming small town, we were greeted by loud, incessant revving-up of a…

Trips with travel tickets.

Inspired by that amazing Mom’s Minivan, I created some travel tickets that the kids can use to keep up with our trip as we drive to Ohio. Since the baby might require more frequent nursing stops, our travel time is…

“To You”, a poem by Kenneth Koch.

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut That will solve a murder case unsolved for years Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window Through which he saw her head, connecting with Her shoulders…

“To Lou Andreas-Salome” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

In 1897, while roaming the busy streets of Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely traveled, intellectual woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé. His relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips…

Thoughts on violence and Sandy Hook.

We spent our weekend in Atlanta visiting with extended family- but the story of the Sandy Hook massacre was never far enough from my mind. Every mother who loves her children knows her children- knows in some silent, unspoken way…

Thoughts on “perfect parenting”.

An early morning outdoor ballet session. Whenever I run across the “perfect” family, the one in which the children “obey” immediately and everything seems to work like a well-oiled machine in which the parts know their place and the place…

Thinking about Amber and what people think.

Today, between clouds and sunshine, I’m thinking about Amber laying in a trauma unit at UAB surrounded by machines and people and noises she can’t quite process. I’m thinking about how little I know her… and yet, how effervescent and…

The weaning.

Milla on a tearful afternoon… I’d like to say that it was a wonderful experience in which we discovered new ways to relate to one another and show affection. I’d like to say it was pleasant. I’d like to be…

The visiting terrapin.

Micah, Milla, and Angie discovered a box tortoise in the shrubs today. Max observed that the turtle’s radiating golden markings would “make a cool tiedye pattern”. And then John Wathen stepped forward with a smile and asked to hold the…

The tempestuous twos: Reconsidering the “terrible twos”.

Given my rapture with toddlerhood, I use the words “terrible twos” uncomfortably. The word “terrible” doesn’t sit right with the excitement of the new independence that toddlers display. Tempestuous twos is my preferred description. Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnik and…

The story of a poncho family.

Designing and sewing ponchos for my family causes me to see ponchos everywhere. Suddenly, the poncho has become an object of my not-so-discreet fascination. When Max inquired about the origins of the poncho, I realized I needed to study a…

The secret life of pine trees.

There is a tall, stately conifer in our backyard whose branches begin above the treeline; it’s as if they are hungry for direct sunlight. Max and I have been arguing over what type of pine this might be, and today…

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The Romania hit list.

Romania through the lens of Betuel Hreniuc. More here. The countdown to our Romania trip has officially begun. In less than two weeks, Patrick, the munchkins, myself, and my beautiful mother will be flying to Romania to introduce Pat and…

The recent memory of camping with cool people.

The weekend before the last, we went camping with Matt and Sarah. A week later, the camping gear sits in the garage, still unsorted and unattended. I’m don’t report this out of guilt- merely amusement that we managed to find…

The process for helping out a friend.

Our dogwood friends have started blooming, and a few on the backyard tree still had their eyes closed this morning- a great opportunity to really savor each step of their development. Unfortunately, I am focusing on this tree today because…

The postcard as political protest.

John Heartfield did everything he could to avoid serving in the German military during World War I. He and his friends, dabblers in Dada like Georg Groszt, believed that people liked the black-and-white agitprop of war and companies liked the…

The poetic life of the egg tooth.

Three eggs discovered at a rest area in Kentucky. The last few lines from Gail Mazur’s poem, “Evening”, come to mind. The lines in which the elderly woman insists that she wants the blue eggs more than the promise of…

The playlist you’ve been waiting for.

Funny how I find myself missing those friends who love the CDs you burn for them because you just know they need to hear those songs. I did actually name a playlist after a friend- Wendy’s Whistle- who lives out…

The perfect day that made no promise.

It didn’t have to be a perfect day. One might even say that I began the day by jinxing it. We drove to Alabaster for an herb co-op only to discover that I had mixed up the times. Suddenly, we…

The ones that got away.

Micah at Hurricane Creek. Fly fishing is one of those things I hope to carve into a few spaces in my life as the kids get older. And reading books like Howell Raines’ The One That Got Away, a memoir…

The mysteries of the Mississippi River.

James B. Eads, lover of the Mississippi. Reading Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry introduced me to a fascinating character by the name of James Buchanan Eads. In his…

The Mona Lisa: An investigation.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Oil on poplar, 77 × 53 cm, 30 × 21 No discussion of portraits is complete without reference to the most famous (and, in my opinion, overrated) portrait of all time. I remember the…

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The midwife bill gets a hearing in Alabama.

Micah at the March for Midwives last year. And it needs your support. Mark your calendars and support a female’s right to choose the way in which she welcomes her little ones into this world. The Public Hearing for SB…

The men under the pecan tree.

Mrs. Liddell knew how to tell a good tale. Here is a historical ditty about how the Presbyterian church put an end to the practice of “telephoning for catfish”: The men under the pecan tree never tire of talking about…

The March for Midwives.

Micah and I spent some together this morning just the two of us at the March for Midwives, put together by the Alabama Birth Coalition. She is such a sweet, tough little creature who always leaves me with reason to…

The magic of nocturnal life.

Image source: Mental Floss with “10 fun firefly facts” This weekend, the King cut the backyard grass for the first time in the spring season. At my begging request, he left a small patch of grass and wildflowers uncut under…

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The lyrics and life of Alabama poet, John Finlay.

Thanks to his article in the Alabama Literary Review, Jeffrey Goodman brought a new Alabama author to my attention. The author is John Finlay, whose brief-by-modern-standards life begins in Ozark, Alabama, where he was born. His father had a farm…

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The Lost Ladybug Project.

More on that citizen science bug thats been nibbling at our time. The Lost Ladybug Project (LLP) is a wonderful citizen science project for all age groups and it is especially appealing to parents and teachers of children in grades…

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The liberating habits of compassionate men.

During my first pregnancy over ten years ago, I devoured books on the topic of raising boys. As with every new terrain, it made sense to cross-reference the maps made by those who came before me. The most important conclusion…

The kids you see.

It was one of those mornings when everything went just as planned. I even remembered to pack extra snacks and refill the water bottles for everyone. But the perfect plan didn’t quite buy me time to sit back and savor…

The joys of slacking in Colorado.

Max licks his lips and ups the chapping ante. Off to ski school we went, all three little people outfitted and overheated in the backseat of the spaceship that rode like a hockey puck over a vaseline-smothered slip-and-slide. The King…

The home of Hudson Strode.

There is a very special house in our neighborhood– a house that belonged to a literary scholar who endowed the home and surrounding property to the University of Alabama. This man was known to most as Professor Hudson Strode. Prone…

The heart of the matter.

It’s the generic reasoning offered by even the most open-minded of my friends and acquaintances- School is very important because it “socializes” children. Without it, socialization of this particular sort just doesn’t occur. And while many express concern and dismay…

The guys who give Walker Percy.

(Photo credit: The End of Irony) A few years back, I saw Lee Bains in his former costume as a Dexateen or something in-between. Bains’ pulsating stage presence reminded me of how Bruce Springsteen used to fill out his jeans…

The Great Backyard Bird Hunt.

In case I haven’t mentioned how much fun unschooling Max has become, let me rave about it right here right now. Case in point: The Great Backyard Bird Hunt from February 16th-19th is a “textbook” example of how we learn…

The first taste of fall.

It came as a more of a scent than a taste, though the feeling of it lingered on my tongue as I climbed into bed last night. That first chill in the evening air- the one that signals the end…

The first day at the farm.

Milla chases a kitty towards the herb and vegetable gardens at Koinonia. Having been raised in a home where the basement often served as temporary residence for an Eastern Orthodox monks, nuns, and artists, my heart holds a special fondness…

The face of courage when losing a child.

The first time I met Bethany, she was managing to joke and make light of the challenging early months with a high-needs baby. Having been one of those mothers and having failed to remain as calm as Bethany during the…

The Ezzos come over for dinner with my family.

Who knows what I’m saying in this photo, but my stellar eye infection really brings out the chatty Cathy in me. Clearly, not an Ezzo moment. Reading Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards’ Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future illuminates…

The end of summer playlist.

LA ISLA BONITA – Laura Barrett (via Cover Lay Down, original by Madonna) For my niece, Isla, who is as bonita as life gets. BLOOD LOSS – Horrible Crowes (via More Cowbelle) For all the elderly who have captivated me…

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The Doo Nanny is on my calendar for next year.

Thanks to Shannon Eileen’s blog post, I have discovered something else to get excited about. Because I’m not already overly-excited about so many happenings and happynings. Begun as a roadside folk art show in 1996, inspired by the Burning Man…

The day ends with play.

The children are hard at play in the backyard which, fortunately, got fenced in last year. Max is in his underwear while Micah is running around naked as a jaybird, her diaper and clothing long ago deemed too cumbersome for…

The dances behind us.

The salt water stretches backward like spilled ink. My sister always straightened her legs out over the rough, wooden planks of the dock, feet dangling alongside mine. We moved gingerly, careful not to stir up the wood into giving us…

The Cahaba Lily Festival: A best-kept secret.

Those Saturday visits to West Blocton always leave the ruffling of favorite memories in their wake. Actually, the Cahaba Lily Festival is not a secret at all- it is well-publicized and you can find details at the Cahaba Lily website….

The bioblitz beauty of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

We spent Friday afternoon in Pinson, Alabama at the amazing Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. Beautiful flora, beautiful people. The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Manager Charles Yeager made us feel welcome immediately. From the moment we signed the registration form and…

The best free online Christmas books.

Once again, Gutenberg earned my love. My favorites are marked with asterisks- most of these books are intended for a young audience. Enjoy them down to the last morsel. A Budget of Christmas Tales by Charles Dickens and Others (1895)…

the best free lesson plans

I’ve come across so many lesson plans or units that begged to be saved and savored on a different day or trajectory. And I’ve lost so many links to those lesson plans. This list o’ lesson plans will be organized…

The beard in history.

The best things in life have beards. The kids and I decided to learn more about beards today because it seems like all the settlers and pioneers we’ve been studying wore beards. In fact, history vibrates with the echo of…

The art of Igor Popov.

Igor Aleksandrovich Popov (1927-1999) was a Soviet artist who passed away a decade after the dream of communism was laid to rest in Russia. Fairly unknown in the West, Popov’s art expresses the theme that a true understanding of one’s…

The architecture of happiness.

One always finds something unexpected in a book by Alain de Botton. When he describes architecture and interior design as appeals to our hunger for beauty, he tells us nothing that the magazines and billboards don’t argue everyday. But when…

the alphabet

The alphabet rolls through this house like a John Deere in Baldwin County. So long as the alphabet days continue to abound, we’ll be sharing our alphabet experiences with you. Free printable coloring pages and activites are found at each…

Thanksgiving for immigrants.

This video was filmed from my mother’s kitchen at the crack of dawn without the benefit of coffee or extended sleep for Tino. We’re lucky to have Tino with us on this Thanksgiving so we can remember the original American…

Teaching kids to analyze environmental data.

As an exercise for the Eldest in percentages and social science, I created a handout listing all the EPA Superfund sites for Tuscaloosa, Alabama and nearby. (Download it below if you’d like to go on this adventure with your kids.)…

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Tannehill Trade Days.

Yesterday we made the 30-minute drive to McCalla, Alabama for Tannehill Trade Days. Our first stop was the craft cabins- wonderful old log cabins marked by the smoke coming from their chimneys- near the creek. I could not get enough…

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Talladega National Forest weekend trip.

We didn’t quite plan to spend the weekend in the woods, but we were quasi-prepared for the camping bug to bite… Which it did. We decided to drive the Talladega Scenic Byway from Trussville, and our first stretch-the-legs stop was…

Surface mining on beautiful Alabama streams.

Karen’s parents weren’t planning on spending their retirement days trying to protect the value of their property and its natural resources. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to weight the costs and benefits of destroying natural beauty for economic…

Suds of the South 4.

THE KING: I know you love taking care of sick kids, but how would you feel about trying some local beers instead? HER: Today? THE KING: Right now. HER: Don’t twist my arm. 7.8 minutes later. THE KING: You look…

Storytelling with story blocks.

Inspired by the perfect simplicity of Teach Beside Me’s story starter blocks, I grabbed a sharpie and made a few blocks of our own today. The kids called out nouns and verbs to me while I tossed in a few…

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St. Patrick’s Day for Preschoolers.

I. “L” IS FOR LEPRECHAUN Start by coloring the “L is for leprechaun” coloring page. As your child colors, talk about other “l” words associated with leprechauns, including “lucky”, “little”, etc. Answer your child’s questions about the legendary leprechauns, though…

Smitten with flower press.

I found a charming little flower press on sale at Barnes and Noble and decided it was absolutely necessary for our learning this summer. It’s unusual for me to be enchanted or inspired by a brand, but if it happens,…

Slow and sad and striking songs: A playlist.

“All my best friends have passed away.” The elderly lady drops her pocketbook and apologizes. She feels bad about dropping her pocketbook on such a beautiful day when everyone else is running and skipping about with balls and picnic baskets…

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Sir Eustace, my sports trophy.

Friday flew straight in the face of every well-laid plan. But it helps to explain why my “home-making” posts are far and few between. By the time Max and Ellie got back after lunch, the girls had each invented the…

Signs of fall and watercoloring creations.

A fresh splattering of brown and red leaves lay across our lawn this morning. Our learning adventure for the day was sealed by the seasonal changes. As we collected leaves from the ground, we discussed what happens to deciduous trees…

sew for baby

P indicates a printable PDF tutorial or pattern. F indicates a personal favorite. INFANT AND BABY DRESSES 2-in-one dress (Pickles) P Amelie’s pinafore pattern (secondsister suaviloquy) P + F Baby dress/tunic with pattern (Randomness by Petchy) P Cowl neck sweater…

sew everything

A P indicates a printable tutorial or pdf pattern. An F indicates a personal favorite. PET CARE Catnip fish toy (Martha Stewart) Clothespin apron (Pick Up Some Creativity) Cool and cozy pet bed (Sew4Home) Country gent dog coat with pattern…

Searching for Franklin Daugherty and his Isle of Joy.

Franklin Daugherty’s wry Isle of Joy pits boosters against historic preservationists in Mobile. Excellent characterization that brings Lee’s Smith’s sardonic touch to mind, though Smith never manages to create a character as thick as McCorquodale, who admits, “Interior decorating was…

science & ecology

I love exploring our world through scientific frameworks- one of the many fascinating frames for understanding and interpreting the life around us and inside us. This first list of links includes generally excellent all-around science websites filled with experiments in…

Sailing on the Lady Lydia.

Last week, the King, the Captain, and the Max took a little sailing trip around Fairhope, Alabama. Since someone had to stay with the ladies, I tried not to feel too sorry for myself when that someone was me. Max…

Sailing in Maryland with Bunicu and the boys.

Me and Bunicu on Transylvania. Nine years of incessant change and sweetness spiked by the realization that I am not the ideal mother I always thought I’d be. As Bunicu sails across the seas somewhere with his wife and friends,…

Rural Studio Pilgrimage #3: Mason’s Bend.

Getting to Mason’s Bend Following the footsteps of Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio school around the corners of Alabama begins with a trip to the Pie Lab in Greensboro for us. After polishing off some quiche in the courtyard,…

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Rural Studio Pilgrimage #1: Newbern.

Rather than drive down to the beach in a hurried haze, we decided to start our vacation the moment the spaceship pulled out from the driveway. The first hour of the drive was filled with the sound of the kids…