I’ve taken a break during the last couple of weeks as far as writing goes, but the photos have continued.

Autumn Sunday

I can’t remember a time with so much rain. It seems like it’s been raining for six weeks, ever since the hurricane near-miss that swamped the coastal area of South Carolina and drenched us, flooding our basement. Since then, we haven’t had a week that I can remember without at least one day of rain, which means any drought we were having has been settled and then some. This has been especially true during the weekends: rain, rain, rain. And that leaves us with few options but sitting inside and fishing.

But eventually, we have to go out. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, with umbrellas, we cannot possibly stay in the house the entire weekend.


E on Soup

We tried a new soup tonight for dinner. The Boy wasn’t impressed. A few comments through dinner:

  • After the prayer: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” “Daddy, I asked Jesus for a different soup.”
  • After the first bite: “Daddy, this soup tastes like, like sea turtles.”
  • Later during dinner: “Daddy, some soup is good, and some soup is not so good.”
  • Still later during dinner: “Daddy, I need some water to wash the taste.”
  • When I told him he’d had his last bite: “Hurrah!”

Magic Toys

Once upon a time there was a magic room. It was not magic. The toys in the room were. So that made the room magic. A little girl named Sue who was about seven years old owned the room. Sue didn’t know that her toys were magic, but she did notice strange things sometimes.

So one day she decided to put up a video camera in her room. The toys did not know that the video camera set up. So when they started to talk and move Sue’s camera caught it all.

When Sue developed her film she couldn’t believe her eyes. When Sue showed her parents, her parents couldn’t believe there eyes ether.

So Sue got rid of those toys and got new ones. Her next toys were not magic, but from there on she was very careful when she bought her toys.


The moral of this story is that be careful of what you buy (especially toys)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good Day

DSCF7036Have you ever had a good day? Well, I did today!!!! It was a really good day.

  1. When I got to school today my teacher told me to go to the library so I can be the leader of the month. So I went on the morning news, and said my name, grade, and teacher. Then I got a picture, sticker, and two coupons.
  2. We had a sub in P.E. ( she was my P.E. teacher last year and I got to see her again).
  3. We got to start reading groups.
  4. We ONLY had half a math sheet and spelling for homework!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  5. We got to watch Goosebumps for recess ( it was raining all day).
  6. E (my brother), mama (my mother), and I went to McDonald’s for ice cream (that was one of the coupons).

That was my good day.


The Girl decided that she wanted to help K make barszcz, that most perfect of all uses of the beet. We’re meeting friends for a post-trick-or-treating party tomorrow night, and the hosts asked K to bring barszcz. What can I say — she’s a master. Everyone loves her barszcz — both varieties.


The Girl peeled some of the beets before heading off for a bath then peeled some of the carrots afterward. They all simmered with parsnip, garlic, onions, and some herbs to make the stock that will form the basis of the soup.

“Since it’s not a postny soup,” she said, “I also threw in some smoked ribs.” Which is to say, because it didn’t have to be vegetarian because of Lent or Advent, she used a few of the ribs I smoked a few weeks ago.


The other request was for smalec. In a word, smalec means lard, but to call the dish that shares the same name simply “lard” is a gross injustice. “Lard” is for frying donuts and cutlets. Smalec is a little slice of heaven — or perhaps a little glob of heaven, for it is essentially fat.


Fat with bacon bits, finely sliced (and sauteed in butter) onions, and slivers of apple (fried in the bacon drippings). At least that’s the way K’s mom taught her to make it. There are probably a thousand and one varieties, and truth be told, we’ve already begun experimenting: we took some of the meat from the ribs used in the barszcz stock and chopped it finely to mix in with the other ingredients for the smalec.


“Why not?” K shrugged when I suggested it. “It’s all pork.”

The Two Extremes

It’s third period — my first academic period this year, as my  two planning periods are at the start of the day. (Why? Not so important, but it’s a nice schedule: I have plenty of time to get ready for classes, then the classes themselves just fly by. Suddenly I hear the afternoon announcements and think, “Already?!”) The first student comes in well before any other student.


“Daddy, let’s play.”

“Whew! I missed the hall-pocalypse!”

Clever kid, that boy. Makes me laugh quite often.


“Where?” “In the sandbox!”

Fourth period. Kids are starting The Diary of Anne Frank. I have them exploring the Anne Frank museum’s interactive tour of the Secret Annex. Kids who might otherwise be distracted and distracting are silent, looking at the last place Anne Frank was physically free.


Fifth period — also Anne Frank, but a little ahead of the other class. They’re acting out the first scene in preparation for mini-projects that involve staging select scenes from the play. A student who can be disruptive and disrespectful turns out to be a masterful actor.


Sixth and seventh periods — English I Honors. We’re finishing up a unit on poetry, looking at Shakespeare’s sonnets in preparation for the upcoming unit on Romeo and Juliet. I have them look at sonnet 130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

We go over unknown vocabulary.


“What is ‘dun’?”

“What does it sound like?”



I raise my eyebrows.

“He’s comparing to his mistress to poop?!”


The school day’s over then, but not really — there’s always hall monitoring to get through as the kids head home. Ten minutes after the first students are dismissed, I see her. She stops dead in her stride and half glares at me.

“Why did you write that on my report card?” She pulls it out to show me, but I know what I wrote. She was one of several students for whom I left extensive comments in the grading system, comments that get included on the report card.


“Let’s hide from N!”

The comment was an honest assessment of how this young lady has been doing in my class. I pointed out that she has “demonstrated some very disruptive behavior this quarter” but that recently has shown improvement. I explained that she needs to improve her ability to “reply disrespectfully to teacher redirection” and mentioned her “problems staying focused and refraining from disruptive side-conversations.”

“Why’d you write that?”

“Because I need your folks to know what’s going on in the classroom. I haven’t been able to get in touch with them.”


“But now I’m gonna get cussed out!”

And suddenly everything becomes a little clearer.

Autumn Leaves

We always have leaves in the trampoline when we head down to do some jumping. Even in the summer, there’s a smattering of leaves that we have always swept away before we begin jumping. There are always just enough to be a bother. The sweeping process, in fact, has been quite beneficial: it’s motivated L to learn how to be a more efficient sweeper.

Today, when we made it down to the trampoline, it occurred to us that, with so very many leaves on the jumping surface, it might be fun just to leave them.

We were right.

Cooking over Fire

Except for organized, group events, I don’t remember really having any kind of bonfire growing up. It just wasn’t something we did. Part of it was likely where I grew up, for certainly kids who grew up in the country must have had bonfires. But those of us who grew up in developments, planned right down to the arrangement of identical-floor-plan houses, it probably never happened. At least it never happened in my universe.

For K, on the other hand, growing up in Poland, they were like baseball games or tailgating in the south: just something one did. Go for a walk in any of the woods that surround K’s home village and you’ll eventually find a spot where some group or other threw some rocks in a circle and lit a fire. And many houses have a fire pit somewhere on the property.

Since Nana and Papa gave us a fire ring that someone gave them — it’s Christmas all year round in our backyard — we’ve been having bonfires fairly reguarly as the weather permits, which means generally spring and fall. Open fires in 90 degree heat and pea-soup humidity are not very pleasant, but now that things have cooled down and the humidity has dropped to normal level, we try to have a little fire every now and then. The kids adore it, and we find it’s an almost magical family time. But there was always something missing: food. We roasted weenies on sticks sometimes and made s’mores every now and then, but that’s nothing compared to the feasts Poles prepare on their bonfires. This week, though, we bought a cheap kit to suspend a grill over the flames, and tonight, it was like being back in Lipnica again.

Autumn Tomatoes

Even though it’s nearly November, we still had tomatoes in the small raised beds we accuse of being a garden. For the last several weeks, though, the ripening process has all but stopped, and so ahead of tonight’s possible freeze, K sent the kids out to pick the remaining tomatoes.


They were to segregate them into red and green, with the plan being to eat some of the green later this week in the form of fried green tomatoes and putting the rest in paper bags to ripen slowly.


Given the color distinctions, everyone felt it was best if E just held the bowl.

Autumn Sunday

It’s during this time of year that the early morning sun is so spectacular. It’s not that the leaves are kaleidoscopic for they’re all still green here in the South. It’s the angle of the sun at this time of year.


“It’s the best time of the year in South Carolina,” K always says. Sunny cool days that invite backyard play.

And it’s time to begin decorating — first Halloween. Pumpkin ghosts to hang on our Crepe Myrtles in the front yard.


Of course there’s always time for the sandbox.

Disaster Lurking

Saturday in the fall means a day in the yard more often than not. We have neglected our yard, however, and so we had quite a bit to get caught up. Rain for several Saturdays didn’t help much either, other than encourage growth of our lawn, which amounted to more work.


With a batch of pumpkins for fall decoration, the kids had a bit of work as well. They each got a small, personal pumpkin but had to share a large one. On his half, E elected for an all black pumpkin, then decided that he might like to have an entirely black pumpkin and began slowly taking over the whole pumpkin. Much to L’s frustration.


While they were painting, I was trimming all the hedges when I discovered the fourth nest of yellow jackets since we moved here. Or rather, they found me, with one giving me a welcome present just below my left eye.


Two catastrophes in one day. If only we could keep all catastrophes at this level.

Daddy Day

“Daddy, there’s no working today.”

They’d been talking about it all week, the coming Daddy Day as they called it. Friday was an optional work day at school, so I availed myself of the opportunity to be off work and spend the day with the kids. And the kids were ready for it, complete with a plan. First we had to have pizza for lunch. “It’s been so long since we’ve had pizza,” L begged. Then we were to go to the Denver Downs, a local farm that turns into an autumnal playground every September. That was the plan. The actual day fell out a little differently.

By Thursday, a little television time was in the morning mix: L has been getting disks of the old 80’s show Full House, and the latest DVD arrived Thursday. “Can we watch an episode or two in the morning?” So we did.

It was then that the no working comment came up, for during the second episode — I try not to let on, but I don’t find Full House fully engaging — I’d gotten the laptop and began fiddling with this site, trying to get rid of a graphical element that has annoyed me for ages. L thought I was grading papers, though. Showing the PHP and HTML that I was wading through to try to find where the element is inserted in the code so I can take it out didn’t convince her. “Looks like student work to me!”

Another change: everyone needed a library book refresh. The Girl scored exceptionally well on her fall MAP reading scores, which showed that she’s reading four or so grade-levels higher than her actual grade (as opposed to some of my students, but that’s a gripe for another post, one I’ve made several times). It was time to get her out of some of her favorites — Cam Jansen and the Magic Treehouse series — and into something a little more challenging. Since she’s developing an affinity to mysteries, we ended up walking out with a Nancy Drew book, a Hardy Boys adventure, and a couple of Encyclopedia Browns.

After pizza for lunch at a local establishment that has fantastic pizza but looks like it hasn’t had a renovation since its establishment just a few years before the debut of Full House, the Boy took his nap, and L and I played school. I got to be Frankie, the bad student. And having had plenty of experience from the teacher’s side of the desk, I knew just what to do. L, having no personal experience with such things other than watching her teacher deal with the one or two behavior issues in her class, struggled a bit. I tried to give her some classroom management tips, but it was hard switching roles, so I just let her struggle and tried to make it amusing for her. For example, when it was time for writing, I wrote my composition about — oh, let’s just change the topic.

The after-nap plan, by this time, had changed as well, after having already changed. Denver Downs got bumped the night before because of a little bit of hoarseness on the Boy’s part. “He’ll need to have a nap,” K explained, which meant no chance of going to Denver Downs. Too far, too tiring, too everything. So we settled on the zoo. But by the time we got to the zoo, there was only a bit of time remaining before they kicked everyone out for Boo in the Zoo, the annual waste of time and money, rather the trick-or-treating in the zoo after hours when all the animals are stashed away for the night and great herds of children rush through the zoo collecting small portions of sugary treats from various stations in the zoo, all for a ridiculously expensive price. I guess it’s fundraising for the zoo, but K and I decided long ago it’s not worth our time or money.

Instead, we played at the playground across from zoo, hiding, climbing, running, and being just generally silly.

After dinner, a little trampoline time before I packed both the kids off to bed as K was at choir practice.