Life in Every Limb

Summer Fun: Home Stretch

It was the second to last full week of summer break, and my pace was slowing, but we still had some fun times!
On Tuesday we had breakfast at Nick and J’s, a former Waffle House now locally owned and serving breakfast and lunch, with the most enormous pancakes I have ever seen.  William ate two entire orders of French Toast.
We followed up breakfast with our very first visit to Plumb Creek Park, which is a five minute walk from our house, that is if there were any safe way to walk there.  Y’all, I’ve known they were building this park eventually since we moved in, which was seven years ago, so I was super excited to finally get to walk around there.  The walking trails are not quite finished but I foresee this as a great exercise spot when it gets cooler.
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On Thursday I kept a promise made two weeks ago when we stumbled across Bull Run Park, and took the kids swimming there.  I highly recommend it.  It’s not crowded. it’s shady, and the water temperature is comfortable.  I found it soothing and peaceful.  But we are buying water shoes before we return because Lorelei cut her foot on something.  It’s not a swimming pool, y’all.
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Friday we left town for a long-planned trip to Nashville, which is about three hours west of us.  The trip had a dual purpose.  First, to visit my sister and her family, and for the kids to see her house; and second, to go the Nashville Zoo.  Both parts of the trip were successful.
We visited on Friday and went to the zoo Saturday morning.  Someday I will write a whole post about the zoo and share more pictures, but the short version is that we were there for about five hours, and it was delightful, with lots of shade, happy animals in lovely habitats, and more opportunities for interacting with the animals than is typical in our experience.  William declared it one of his favorite zoos.
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Summer break is almost over and I’m sad because we’ve had so much fun that I don’t want it to end.  If you want to read more of our adventures, click on any of the links below.
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy
Exploring History
Adventuring
 
 

I Don't Want Your Freedom

Read the title.  Can you hear George Michael (RIP) singing?  Is the song stuck in your head now?  Because it’s been stuck in mine for the past couple of days as I contemplated this month’s theme!
I’m not sure what George Michael intended to convey in the song, but it got me thinking.  When my husband and I were married, someone thought it was hilarious to bring a ball and chain to the reception and attach it to his ankle.  I was not amused.  Which, however, leads me to another song, this one by Paul Overstreet and aptly entitled Ball and Chain.  The relevant lyrics are: Love don’t feel like a ball and chain to me; when I’m close to you my heart feels wild and free.
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

Summer Fun: Adventuring

Last week I fell far short of my promised one-fun-thing-per-day promise.  I had a good excuse, though–I went to Nashville from Wednesday until Saturday to visit my sister.  Emily kindly provided some entertainment for her siblings in my stead, taking them blueberry picking.  And John took them to a “magnificent” (according to William) Asian restaurant to dine while I was gone.
But we did have one big adventure on Tuesday, one that did not turn out at all as I had planned!
We lived in South Knoxville when the big kids were little, and every Wednesday morning for years I used to take them to breakfast at Shoney’s.  Shoney’s was a big favorite for our family back then because we didn’t have a lot of money, we had a lot of mouths to feed, and kids ate free at the buffet!
So just about every summer since then we make a point to head south to that same Shoney’s to recreate some of that long ago summer fun.  Usually there’s a waitress or two there who still remembers us from back in the day (not this time, sadly).
That’s what the plan was on Tuesday, to be followed by a quick trip to the Fort Dickerson Overlook, perhaps a short walk on a trail, and visits to Scottish Pike Park and the new Suttree Landing Park that William and Lorelei have never seen.
Most of that will have to wait until another day, as you will see!
After a big breakfast, we drove up to Fort Dickerson Park and went to admire the view from the overlook.  I will never forget the first time I saw this view, about 25 years ago.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing–it was like I was in some enchanted faraway land instead of about a mile from downtown Knoxville.
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Now, I’ve been to Fort Dickerson many times, but this time I saw something new–a trail just to the left of the overlook.
And that’s when I had a bright idea.  Why don’t we explore it, I said.  Let’s just see where it goes, I said.  We can always turn around and come back.
So we braved the kudzu and started to walk.
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And we walked.  And we walked.  And we sort of committed.  Eventually it was clear that we were walking right around the lake.  I figured we’d end up at the bottom (I’ve taken a trail that goes there from a different parking lot) and then surely there would be a way back on the other side.
Sure enough, after a fairly easy walk we ended up exactly where I thought, and we started hunting for that other trail.  At first things seemed to go fairly well, and we made our way along the opposite side of the lake, heading in exactly the direction we were supposed to.
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Until, that is, we ended up at a very dead end, standing right on the bank of the lake with a sheer cliff several hundred feet tall in front of us.
So we doubled back to where we had taken what was clearly the wrong fork and kept walking, only to eventually realize the trail we were on did nothing but circle us back–after a long time, I might add–to an area close to where it began.
By now we had come to realize that there WAS no trail on the other side.  We had two choices for how to get back to the car–take the trail we’d come down to begin with, or leave the park and go by road.
Did I mention that it was about a million degrees by now? (Well, at least 90 anyway.)  And we didn’t bring water.  We were tired, exhausted, and dehydrated as we made our way to the parking lot and thence to Chapman Highway, which if you are not local I need to explain is NOT the kind of road you really want to walk on.
Fortunately, there is a sidewalk–on the wrong side, naturally–and we were able to find a safe way to cross the highway.  We trudged doggedly up the hill and then crossed back over to the park entrance and finally made it to the car.  Y’all, we had walked FOUR MILES.
We drove straight to Weigel’s and bought Icees and much water, which I actually poured right on my head.  I apologized A LOT for my poor leadership skills.  But it was an adventure!
Read more of our summer adventures below!
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy
Exploring History

Twice Exceptional Parenting Is Challenging. Here's Why I'll Never Change a Thing.

I have a large intimidating binder and a husband who is a lawyer to bring with me to IEP meetings.  I send emails to teachers, I have conferences with the principal, I advocate relentlessly even when it makes me uncomfortable.  I have become THAT MOM, and I don’t care if people at school don’t like me as long as they accommodate the needs of my brilliant and quirky son.
He was out of the ordinary from the moment of his birth.  He didn’t walk until 17 months, and didn’t get into trouble the way his big brothers did.  He had a vivid imagination, spending months at a time insisting that he was a pirate named Captain Cutler (one of many identities he assumed), and once scandalized a patron at the local Shoney’s who asked about the stuffed ostrich he was carrying by announcing: “It is the Ostrich from Hell.  Its name is Blood.”
Read the rest at Not So Formulaic.
 

Catholic Minimalism Redux: Week Three

Oh, I was so excited for this week.  I am ALWAYS wanting to minimize my kitchen more and more.  Back in January, I got a lot done.  BUT, I had intended to go back and do more during the catch-up week, and as I have explained, Week Three ended up being my last week.
I didn’t follow the day-by-day instructions this time, for one because I only recently organized all the refrigerators and the pantries are pretty empty at the moment, and also because I wanted to hit areas that I didn’t get to last time.
This first drawer is my favorite.  No before picture, but I bet you don’t need to see this because I just know you have this drawer at your house too.  You know, the one that is always getting stuck shut because there are too many utensils in it.  I got rid of so much stuff from this drawer and even organized it a bit, and now every time I open it I feel happy.
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I still have too many knives in here, but maybe I will be able to bring myself to get rid of some more next time.
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This was another drawer that was overstuffed until I got rid of some aprons and also some chef hats. (Why did I have chef hats? And I rarely use aprons.)
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Here’s the silverware drawer before:
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And here it is after.  This is really going to make me happy too.  I had to fight with Lorelei over that egg slicer even though we have literally NEVER used it in seven years.  (She’s a bit of a hoarder.)
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I bet you have a cabinet like this one too–one that stuff just falls out of and you slam the door and hope for the best?  Anyway, I did this one last time and I’ve done it at least once since and I probably will have to keep at it every few months or so . . .
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But for now, doesn’t it look wonderful?
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This is another thing we’ve maintained very well since last time, so no before picture, but we tidied it up a bit.  How’s that for a junk drawer?
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I am far from finished with the kitchen, but I am planning to do more during catch up week, both because I need more time and because Emily will be home then and I need her help.  So stay tuned for that, and for next week when Kids’ Rooms are scheduled!

Summer Fun: Exploring History

Y’all, it is HOT.  And our access to a swimming pool is gone.  It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.
I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway.  Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.
I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all!  This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.
Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us.  We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.
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Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).
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Friday was really exciting.  Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge.  There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before.  Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park.  On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.
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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
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Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it.  The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres.  We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!
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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!
That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!
For more summer fun, read on:
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy

Catholic Minimalism Redux: Week 2

Week two of the Catholic Minimalism challenge is bathrooms.  We have four of them!  Last time around, I thoroughly minimized the two upstairs.  In the time since, the one on the main floor was repurposed when Emily moved all her things to the basement bathroom, which I won’t be dealing with at this moment as she is sharing it with her brother and his wife, who are moving out soon.
So . . . all this is to say that I did a quick go-over of the bathrooms on the first day and then devoted the rest of the week to the upstairs hallway, including the linen closet and the laundry room, all of which have been long-time disaster areas.  Here are some before pictures:
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This is the hallway at the top of our stairs, which leads to three bedrooms, a bathroom, the laundry room, the playroom, and the linen closet.
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These are pictures of the terrible laundry room with the ridiculous amounts of tablecloths I needed to go through as well as things we actually use but never put away.
I did not take any before pictures of the linen closet because it had been minimized already and did not really look that bad.
Here’s what I did:  First I bought four new laundry baskets from the Dollar General Store and organized all that laundry (clean!) from the first picture.  All that belongs to my son and daughter-in-law, who are only here temporarily.  There is nowhere to put it, and it’s not mine to minimize, but it looks much better coralled.  I also got William to carry all those boxes down to Lorelei’s room, because she was too lazy to do it and they have been sitting there for weeks.
Next I got Emily for moral support and we went through all the tablecloths and placemats in the laundry room plus all the towels and bedding in the linen closet and got rid of SO MUCH and put the rest away.  Everyone has their own towels already, and I only kept three extra emergency towels.    I was able to get rid of things I had held on to last time we did this, and I am sure that I will be able to let go of more tablecloths especially next time around.  Minimizing is an ongoing process and a mindset and you don’t have to everything all at once!
We will be going to Goodwill later this afternoon with three kitchen garbage bags full of towels, bedding, and table linens in good condition that someone else can enjoy!
The last step was to get Lorelei to help me go through the clothes that she never puts away in the laundry room.  We got rid of some and sent the rest downstairs to her room.  I also purchased two additional laundry baskets to keep her and William’s clothes organized as they leave the dryer and make it easier for them to be transported to their real home.
Here are the linen closets, the laundry room, and the hallway now:
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A little Catholic decor to finish things off


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Next Week:  Kitchen!
For more adventures in minimalism, read on:
My explanation of Catholic Minimalism.
Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week One Redux

A Plethora of Peacocks: Lessons from Drama and Real Life

Back in my high school days, the Drama Club was one of my favorite extra-curricular activities.  I participated in every production that occurred while I was a student.

My all-time favorite role was Penelope (Penny) Sycamore, the mother in You Can’t Take It with You.  This wacky woman, the matriarch of an eccentric clan of characters, was always at her typewriter, writing plays.

As the climax of the action nears, we learn WHY Penny writes plays–because eight years ago, a typewriter was delivered to the house by mistake!

I think about his whenever I talk about the peacocks in my house.

We moved here nearly seven years ago, after our previous home burned down.  For three weeks John and I and the “little kids” lived at my sister’s house, the big boys stayed with friends, and our dog hung out at my other sister’s (Emily was away at college).  We needed somewhere to move quickly, somewhere that would accommodate our large family and our need for an in-home office.

We ended up in a home that had been customized by the prior renter, who apparently had a thing about peacocks.  There’s a peacock stepping stone in the garden and a statue just outside the front door.  There are peacocks painted on either side of the front entry and another in the breakfast nook.  There’s even a tiny one in their family coat of arms which we’ve chosen not to paint over in order to give this very new house a little bit of history.

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Now we could have asked our landlady to paint over all the peacocks.  (We did ask her to paint over the red tree on the living room wall which was encircled by the words “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one, single, solitary step.“)  Or we could have just tolerated the peacocks.

Instead, like Penelope Sycamore did with her misdelivered typewriter, we embraced the unexpected.  Searching for meaning, I found that peacocks have been a Christian symbol of resurrection, which seemed fitting as we left our old lives more or less in ashes and started all over with a new home and new possessions.

And, as it happens, Cracker Barrel has a collection of peacock decor items which have over the years put me in serious danger of becoming a crazy peacock lady.  I have a peacock lamp and a variety of decorative items like candle holders and vases in peacock colors.  I bought throw pillows to match the theme and eventually plan to paint one wall a peacock blue.  I even have peacock shoes!

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As I wrote the above, I realized that maybe there’s a reason why the role of Penelope Sycamore meant so much to me.  I don’t know whether I absorbed something from her, or if the casting was foreshadowing, but there is more of Penny in me than I ever knew.

Like her, I’m the mother in a houseful of rowdy people who may or may not be related to me at any given time.  Penny welcomed a Russian ballet teacher, an expat grand duchess, a drunken actress, and the mailman (who never left) with unfailing hospitality and good humor.  When my boys were younger it was not unusual for our house to be filled with people I had never seen before.

Penny didn’t let her family responsibilities get in the way of her personal pursuits, and neither do I.  Like Penny, painting or typing with the chaos all around her, I’ve learned to tune out all but the loudest screams while I blog or read.  I ignore the shenanigans in my basement just like Penny remained unfazed by the sounds of exploding fireworks in hers.

Like her, I’ve learned not to care about being conventional but rather to follow my heart and allow my family members to do the same.  Penny equally applauded her husband’s fireworks, her son-in-law’s printing, her older daughter’s dancing, her younger daughter’s engagement, and her father’s snake-collecting.  It never occurred to her to worry about what others would think of the family’s lifestyle.

Penelope Sycamore was completely secure in herself and her family.  She didn’t even think about whether other people would like her or not.  She was able to put worry aside, fully inhabit her days, and enjoy life as it came.  I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.

I will not die an unlived life . . . I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid . . .
~ Dawna Markova

Thank you, Penny.  Now bring on the peacocks!

Summer Fun: In Which I Grow Lazy

I’ll admit it–it is harder to have fun all the time than you might think.  Honestly, I really, really like sitting at my desk having uninterrupted time to get work done.  Leaving the house is stressful, and sandwiching fun in between not only work but also family business like medical appointments (two this week) is not easy.
So this week I outsourced some of the fun to John, and therefore this post will be short on pictures even though the week was not short on fun!
On Monday evening, John took the kids to see The Incredibles 2.  John and the kids all love movies, me not so much, so that’s been “his thing” since the big kids were little.
Tuesday I took the kids and Emily out to breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company, a newish place that I had been passing daily while picking up William at school and had been dying to try.  If there’s one where you are, you should go.  Only William was not a fan, because the waffles had infinitesimally tiny bacon pieces in them which he admitted he could not taste but had to remove one by one anyway.
Wednesday was the Fourth of July (I’m sure that is not news to you).  We had a cookout at our house with my family.  We had planned to go downtown for the symphony and fireworks show afterwards but it was like a million degrees so instead we took William’s suggestion (actually his demand) and watched Independence Day, which is definitely one of my top ten favorite movies of all time.  Bonus:  everyone in our neighborhood was shooting off fireworks like crazy and we could see them through our windows without leaving the television or the air conditioning.
Thursday was the big event of the week, planned for some time since I had bought a Groupon for it months ago–a visit to Rainforest Adventures,  which is an hour’s drive away in Sevierville.
Things I liked:  it was mostly inside and air-conditioned, we could see the animals up close and they seemed very happy and well-cared for.
Thing I did NOT like:  The overwhelming stench of animal urine that greeted us the moment we walked in the gift shop and literally made me feel ill throughout the two hours we were there.
Here are a few highlights:

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William with the serval


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Lorelei and William admire two ridiculously large pythons


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William with the black caiman


Friday it was John’s turn again.  This time he took Lorelei and William to see Ant Man and the Wasp.
I take Saturdays off.  So far they are all still sleeping which is fine with me.
See more summer fun posts below.
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer

When God’s Generosity Meets the Demands of Conscience and Science

I’m a cradle Catholic, born in 1967. And I recall hearing a lot about the birth control pill growing up. I doubt I had any idea how it worked, but I had the general impression from the books I read, the media I consumed, and the people I knew that taking it was just what people did.
I knew that Catholics weren’t supposed to use contraception, and I personally knew many families who appeared to take that teaching to heart. In my Catholic school at that time there were still many big Catholic families with seven kids or more. However, in twelve years of Catholic education I don’t recall EVER hearing this teaching explained. The Church, as I experienced it, taught it was wrong but not WHY. I definitely had the impression that this was some old-fashioned idea that was safe to ignore.
Read the rest at A Drop in the Ocean, where I am guest posting today.

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