Monday, July 22, 2013


On Saturday I co-hosted a bridal shower along with a few of my favorite people.

It is such an age we live in!  There are hundreds upon hundreds of creative, fresh and innovative ideas for bridal showers on Pinterest.

We ignored all of them.

Instead, we stuck with tradition:  mints, nuts, cake and punch.  The tried and true.  Or should that be the tired and true?

Although it all could be considered a bit stodgy and although there was certainly nothing worth pinning, a lot of love and care and classically beautiful elements went into the shower.  We gathered together our best crystal and silver.  We baked and decorated delicious and beautiful homemade cakes laid on a white damask tablecloth.

The crowd was diverse...ranging in age from 16 to 80-something.  Advice flowed.  Margaret reminded us how important it was for families to eat 'with everyone's legs under the table.' Honey, a widow after 61 years of marriage, advised us to 'say 'I love you' often, because you never know if you'll have the chance again.'  Then it was the tears that flowed.  It was a good day of feminine fellowship.

By far the freshest, most beautiful element of the shower was the bride-to-be herself.  She is marrying a very lucky fella.

The beautiful bride to be in the brown blouse and the hostesses

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Playing Up

The Warriors in action

Yesterday was the last day of his summer basketball season, which was a character-building exercise referred to as playing up.  Playing up means his team (the Warriors) comprised mostly of 7 and 8 year olds was pitted against taller, stronger and more experienced 9 and 10 year-old teams.

Their coach said, "What doesn't kill them will make them stronger."  From the stands, it was difficult to tell which was happening.  It was sad to see a couple of the kids who were stand-outs from the regular season regress under the pressure.

There is a happy ending to the story, though.

They won the last two games of the season!  Both games were against the same team.  We, the Warrior fans, shook our heads knowingly, "They're playing up too."

Also, although my son's enthusiasm exceeds his on-court talent, his skills and tenacity notably improved during the season.

After one game, his coach texted my husband to say our son was the star of the game.  He "played smart and hard and didn't quit or get frustrated."  He later told us that he'd welcome our son on any team he coaches in the future, calling him 'very coachable.'

That really makes me happy.  Like Mark Twain, I can live for two months on a good compliment.  Especially when it is directed toward my kids.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Seeing Red

Last night, with a blatant disregard for both the calendar and the thermometer, I made tomato soup and grilled cheese for supper.  We have lots of tomatoes that need to be used.  There has been a recent onslaught of tomatoes from the garden accompanied by an onslaught of brown grackle-like birds we've yet to identify.  These birds are tomato lovers like me so every tomato has a big bite taken from it.  Like this:

Tomato soup always reminds me of my sister.  When mom asked what kind of soup we wanted, my request was always potato, hers tomato.  Often mom would oblige us both.  Last night's soup made from fresh tomatoes I roasted in the oven was quite tasty, but potato soup still has my heart.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hope Floats

The kids have swimming lessons for the next two weeks.  I'm looking forward to an hour a day in the shade of the pool-side gazebo with a book, leaving the work to the professionals.

In the past, swimming lessons have been met with dread.  My son, especially, was terribly afraid of the water.  He would put his nose in the water for the merest second then flip his head up, shaking the water off his face in a panic.  His fears were the subject of many of my prayers.

The first year of lessons as a four year old, he took lessons at the YMCA, and he didn't even get in the water.  The high school age teacher couldn't convince him to get him.  I went shopping around for more experienced instruction.

I found out about lessons at the high school pool in a neighboring town.  The main instructor, also the high school swim coach, had a reputation for being tough.  The cost was also considerably less than the YMCA.  The next year I signed him up there.

I remember him at five sitting by the side of the pool, feet dangling in the water, shivering sitting next to kids who were still in diapers.  I saw him look for me in the stands through his goggles, the headstrap making both ears bend outward at an unnatural angle.  He with his little-boy arms and little-boy chest had never looked so vulnerable.

Fortunately, two years of lessons under the oversight of the coach and his drill-sergeant tactics helped get my son mostly past his fears.  He passed to the third level, which means he can swim.  As much as the lessons, both of my kids have also benefitted from unstructured time in the water.  We mostly rely on the kindness of friends, relatives and neighbors who either own or have access to pools, but we've also sought out opportunities to swim in creeks, rivers and lakes.  We aren't picky.

This year we've gone with a third, more local, kindler and gentler option for lessons.  The instructors with this new outfit are young but seem to know what they're doing.   The past two years it's been one drill sergeant to a dozen kids.  As you can see from the picture above, the ratio here is much better.

It's good to have the swimming demons mostly vanquished.  It makes my reading time in the shade much more enjoyable.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Reading Book Ending

After over 200 lessons with 2 different kids, I'm about to put this friend away for good.

There has been some weeping and a little gnashing of the teeth along the way.  We (the book and I) are a little worn from the experience.  But, the process of teaching my kids to read while snuggled on the green couch, soft light-brown hair against my cheek with this plain but powerful book has been one of the most satisfying joys of my life.

The book ends on the fourth grade level.  Neither of my kids were reading on the fourth grade level at the end of this.  Not even close.  However, they were both solid readers and had at least been exposed to all of the phonics rules that the English language has to offer.

I know from going through the process with my son, it'll take a lot more time for that information to distill.  I've found All About Spelling to be an excellent follow-up.  It goes through the same phonics rules (only much, much more slowly and thoroughly) from a spelling angle.

With both kids the question was:  Where do we go from here?  With my son, we launched into McGuffey's Third Eclectic Reader, which is recommended in The Well-Trained Mind.  I loved that.  My son didn't.  It is a little heavy-handed in teaching moral lessons.  I loved that.   My son didn't.

Even though I want them to learn whether or not they find it pleasant, I do want reading to be a joyful experience, so I'm going to go a different route for the younger one.  I'm going to have her read aloud to me the early-reader classics.  I've made a page for her first grade reading list.  Here it is.