Feather hunt

The boys and I got out of the classroom yesterday morning to look for feathers. We’re studying flying creatures in Zoology, and since feathers are a defining characteristic of flying creatures, it made sense to see what we could see about them. With the dog in tow, we went to the duck pond to feed the masses and then explore the perimeter of the water’s edge.

We found a number of other treasures on our hunt, including a severed crayfish claw.

Feeding the ducksHappy Weekend to you, reader. Go Vols!


It’s Football Time in Tennessee!

You knew we were gonna do this. We just had to wait for football season to start.Game time

In fact, I bought a dog jersey from the pet store last week but ended up returning it because a large was too small. Major is nearing 60 pounds.It's football timeDo not be fooled by his good looks. I took this photo right after he stole a green tomato off the picnic table and ate it. What a stinker!

Go Vols!

The Patio Party that wasn’t.

Despite our five-month-long effort to prepare the backyard for a big bash celebrating my father-in-law’s 70th birthday, we spent the entire evening inside on account of rain.

Of course it rained!

Yet, there is still much to be grateful for. Above all, Bill was surprised by the event and had a wonderful evening, which was the point. And even though we were not able to enjoy our backyard for the party, there will be other opportunities for that and the work needed to be done anyway.

Do you remember the sand pit? The previous owners of our house left an empty space where they used to have an above-ground pool.

Original backyardToday, you would not have known such a wreck had existed. Though we had help from landscapers, let me brag on Chuck for building that wooden retaining wall entirely on his own.

The Patio Party that wasn'tThere will be other parties and gatherings to enjoy in this space, but it wasn’t meant to be Saturday night. Instead, we sang Happy Birthday and socialized inside the house, which was fine in the end.

Happy 70th

Blowing out 70 candles

Bill in Vol Pants

Miller Family, 2013

August 17, 2013

Actually, there was one in the family who enjoyed the patio Saturday night, yet he was small enough to fit under the eave and stay dry.The only one who enjoyed the patio party

Party Hearty

A couple of weeks ago, after a storm, the setting sun cast a gorgeous light against our house. I grabbed my camera and ran outside so I didn’t miss it. Everything was pink and purple for about five minutes.

Front light

Pink and purple

Back lightTomorrow night, our home will be full of family to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. I’m convinced the party will be grand, but let’s all keep our fingers crossed for a sunset like this instead of the thunderstorm that preceded it.

Exploring with my explorer

We woke up to rain this morning, which means the boys will be bouncing off the walls by noon. While wishing for dry weather, I remembered that I had a slew of photos to post from the weekend.

One of the things that makes Jeremy fantastic is his love for nature and animals. I’d love to say that it’s because we’ve raised him that way, but that logic wouldn’t hold for Jackson. (He needs books and air conditioning, please.) No, Jeremy was just born with an innate appreciation for the outdoors, so when we spent Sunday afternoon in the mountains I grabbed him for some one-on-one time to see what we could see.

Sidebar: Chuck and I joined the Smart Phone Club again with very limited service to the interwebs, which was intentional. The best part about upgrading my cell phone from a 1985 model is having the ability to take amazing photos.

Here are a few shots I took at the river with my little soon-to-be-ten-year-old explorer.

Mushroom Ring This big Azure Little fungi Grub Nature boy Shells Where the fairies live

Party Day Trip

We scooted down to Chattanooga on Saturday for Grace and Jake’s  birthday party. These children belong to some of our favorite people, so not only did the kids get to play together but I got some Amy time. As a rule, spend as much time as you can with people who make you laugh. ♥

In other news, this is what happens when I ask my husband to take a picture of my friend and me. Jennie and Amy with ChuckHe can’t always help himself. He comes by it honestly.

Jennie and Amy for realMatching tattoos! With glitter!

Matching tatsMustache stickers are in. And if you have two mustache stickers, then you can really look like Tony Stark.

Tony StarkOh yeah! The birthday kids! →Grace and Jake←

Grace and Jake's bday party

My Money Maker

We’ve reached a pivotal point with the dog. He has to start earning his keep. No longer do I view his shenanigans as a path to my slow, painful demise. Instead, these events are becoming content for a children’s book series. I came to this realization after he snuck in my bathroom, where I was mopping, and stole the bottle of Softsoap.

I can’t fight this force of nature any longer, so I might as well make him work for his vet bills. I mean, if he’s going to lick the Clorox bleach off the kitchen floor after I mop it, why not work that to my benefit?

You want to drink the Softsoap? Help yourself!

You want to swallow a dirty sweat sock and vomit it up four days later? HAVE FUN WITH THAT.

You want to steal a paring knife off the kitchen counter for a chew toy? GO RIGHT AHEAD. Start with the pointy end and see what happens.

Yes, really:

Eat a knifeThe children’s book idea is not my own. A Facebook friend left an ingenious comment in May on one of Major’s pictures:

Major StorytellingIs this possible? Would anyone care? Could this be the solution to my lack of having a beach house? I answer that with a strong maybe.

I know letting him in the backyard without a leash is a huge risk. It means he’s probably going to dig aggressively for the speck of whatever smells wonderful five feet underground. It means he might finally rip the cucumber vines off the garden fence. It means he might chew the cover off the grill and swallow it whole. It means he might eat the citronella candle, wick and all. I sort of don’t care enough at this moment because if I didn’t put him outside right away then I was going to kill him for chewing on my laptop cord when there was a rawhide bone RIGHT BESIDE HIM.

This is after he snatched the sugary crust off my freshly-baked zucchini bread as it was cooling in the pan.

So this means I need an illustrator, an agent, and someone to constantly tell me to do this. Now taking applications for all three.

Until you find Major in a bookstore, you can follow him on Twitter @MajorHound.



Canoeing, Fireworks, and Salem

But not all at once.

Our week with Jacob ended with a rainy Fourth of July Hurry-Up-and-Light-the-Sparklers extravaganza. The weather was dreadfully wet, but we managed to squeak out a quickie-canoe trip on the river on Wednesday and one more swim on Thursday before storms forced us inside for the rest of the day.

Then we swam to Dayton, Ohio, to swap Jacob for Jeremy, and swam back to our house Saturday evening. I’m so over the rain and I miss Jacob. Whether he realizes it or not, the true gift of this week was having my 12-year-old nephew all to myself.

He’s a great kiddo.

Canoe trip

Jacob canoes for the first time







At the end of the week I asked Jacob to rank his favorite things from his time in Tennessee. No. 1 was time spent in the river, which I expected. No. 2, however, was a pleasant surprise. He said he really enjoyed the pets. That makes sense, though, since he and Salem were best buds every night during movie time. (Major was mostly tolerable, which is pretty good considering…) _DSC0101In third place, for those wondering, was all the food he enjoyed eating with his non-vegetarian aunt Jennie. We ate well and often. Nature and food = Tennessee. 🙂

City Boy in the Country

This is the beginning of a kid swap with my sister. She took Jeremy for a week while I have Jacob. (Owen and Jackson will get a turn next time.)

On our first full day of having my 12-year-old nephew here with us, we took advantage of good weather and drove to the mountains. I wanted Jacob to put his feet in the river. While Jeremy is enjoying city life in Chicago, I’m giving Jacob a peek inside country living.

Me: “We’re going to the river!”

Jacob: “Okay. Is it dirty?”

For the record, he loved it.

A good view iPod photo opp Get in the river He loves it Clear water Swimming with Jack Really loving it

Happiness is…

…best friends coming in town for a much-needed visit:

Millers and Valocvins 2013

Jennie and Amy 2013

Chuck and Matt 2013

Grace 2013

Jeremy 2013

Jake 2013

Jack 2013

…sitting by the fire:Fire…and watching your garden grow:Red Bell Pepper


LavendarHappiness is also finding out that the dog finally vomited that sweat sock he swallowed four days ago, but I don’t have any pictures of that.

The day Major was good.

This was not the day Major was good. Mr. Persistant

StuckBut on Mother’s Day, he was exceptional. It’s as if he knew he needed to keep Mama happy. We took him to the river and he was wonderfully behaved, even when we met another blue tick hound and all hell could’ve broken loose. Though he has more brown markings than Major, this eight-month-old was pretty much his twin. (Major is on the right side of the photo.)


Major even allowed Chuck to lead him into the water, which is what we were hoping for. HandsomeThe dog was calm and obedient and walked on his leash like a pro. Unfortunately, all that goodness was left at the river because he’s been a pain in my arse all morning running around like a nutcase. Every time I tackle him to the ground, I whisper into his floppy ears, “You’re getting snipped tomorrow, big boy, so enjoy this while you can.”

Phil’s a big fat hairy liar.

PhilIt’s so fabulous to have snow on our spring break.


The boys are playing Legos, which is great and all, but I’d rather they be outside in the fresh air, bright sun, and blooming daffodils. I’d rather they come in hours later sweaty and hungry for lunch, only to eat quickly and run right back outside. Then I want to have to call them in for dinner because they’ve been playing so hard outside that they’ve completely lost track of time. Then I want them to talk eagerly about all the things they’re going to do tomorrow outside because it’s spring break and they can’t get enough of that warm sun.

However, there is no warm sun. There’s only a frozen tundra for a front yard and a swampy, icy mess for a back yard. Hence, the Legos.

It isn’t all bad, though. For me, cold weather means a fireplace, a book, and another cup of coffee. When I finish Love Wins, I’ll begin the Resignation of Eve.

I declare spring break.

The six-year-old is projectile vomiting. The nine-year-old has reached an impasse with triple-digit multiplication. The dog won’t stay out of the cat food.

I declare spring break.

Today will be a day of reading, writing, making sure my littlest is comfortable, and giving my oldest yard work to do so he can raise money to buy Skylanders. I might even go for a short run.

Warm weather is coming, and we couldn’t be more ready.


Splint and Spring

I was standing at the sink doing dishes, the boys were somewhere in the house, and I assumed the dog was with them. Still in my boots from having just gotten home, I took a step back from the sink to grab a towel and heard a loud yelp. Unbeknownst to me, Major was underfoot – literally – for I had just stepped on his tiny little puppy toe. He limped off and wouldn’t let me touch his paw. This was Thursday night and we already had an appointment scheduled for Friday morning at the vet. Perfect.

X-rays showed that I had indeed fractured his little baby toe with my haphazard step, thus resulting in a splint for four weeks and the cone of shame to prevent him from chewing off the tape. Commence Mommy guilt.

SplintRaising this dog has been a bigger challenge that we anticipated, to be perfectly honest. He is dominant, aggressive when playful, and busy, busy, busy. We knew a puppy would require extra work, constant attention, and a test of wills, but we did not anticipate the excessive biting and barking. Major is so lovable and cuddly when he’s sleepy, but when he’s awake and energetic, it’s another story. All of our tactics to curb the biting have backfired. They all make him more aggressive. We’ll be enrolling him in obedience classes very soon.

In other news, spring in nearly here, thank the sweet Lord. Little signs of new life are sprouting in our yard and this past weekend was a wonderful preview of what’s to come. It was 70 degrees and blissfully clear, which meant the pets and I could bask in the sun for hours. East Tennessee is about to get gorgeous.



Salem the Dog Whisperer

Look at the confidence. Salem is so certain that Major will stay right where he is that walking across the backyard is old news. No biggie. No threat. Life is good when you run the place. He who chases his own tail! Imbecile!

The Dog Whisperer

Major is still a challenge for me. He is loving and cuddly at night when bedtime is near, but the rest of the day is managed chaos. The only person who can control him is Chuck, who is second in command after Salem, and I’m desperately trying to assert my inner Pack Leader. It’s not working. My hands look like chew toys. To the stranger in the check-out line, I must look like I stick my hands in blenders.

The dog won’t be neutered until May, so I know I’ve got this amped aggression to deal with at least until then. My hope is that after we sever that testosterone he’ll calm down a bit. Even the vet recognized how dominant Major is, so I know it’s not just my pansy demeanor we’re dealing with.

In other news, we woke up to snow this morning and it reminded me that I never posted a photo from our weekend snow. Despite its beauty, we’re all very ready for spring.

Weekend Snow

We needed a field trip.

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house. Today was one of those days.

Having never been to Wonderworks before, it seemed like a good place to kill a few hours with two busy little boys. Also, February was their “Homeschool Month” and we love taking advantage of admission discounts through our co-op membership.

Wonderworks is myriad of scientific exhibits that you can experience through simulation rides and other hands-on activities. We felt the wind gusts of a Category Four hurricane, the shakes and rattles of a 6.0 Richter Scale earthquake, and then we laid Jackson down on a bed of nails. Field trips are fun!

Rock climbers

We also put Chuck in the carbon freeze. Carbon Freeze

Bed of Nails

Life-size Lite Brite!Lite Brite


First Snow

All of that rain turned to snow last night, so the boys are itching to go outside and play. They’ve never worked so hard on their school work before. Oh, the lure of sledding is powerful! We have to hurry, though. Since it’ll be in the 40s today, it’s all melting fast.

First snow

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We’re about to swim to the grocery store, but I wanted to share these photos with you before we left. We’ve had a TON of rain this week. And by a “ton,” I mean ten thousand inches. And it’s still raining.

Our Christmas decorations are all down but I purposely left this string of lights strung in the homeschool room. Why? Because we can! Both of these boys wish they could be outside, but since they can’t they’re commiserating together on the back of the couch.



RainSalem is not interested in going outside for obvious reasons, so he’s been using the litter box per house rules. While I love his compliance, I’ve been completely spoiled by his indoor/outdoor status and have not enjoyed tending to his indoor potty all week. I’m sure he’d rather get back to his bushes outside just as much as I’d like him to.

Too wet


We knew the break in the rain was brief, so we took the short opportunity on Saturday to get outside and enjoy the unseasonable 70-degree weather. It was perfect, though a touch humid. (Humidity in January?) We found a very short paved trail that took us atop a beautiful overlook. Even though the hike was quite short, a certain six-year-old somebody barely made it. For as muscular as he is, the boy has the speed and endurance of a sloth.Path at Look Rock

Look Rock

Mossy moss

Hairy moss

the view



Jeremy's Close Up

Boy and a stick


If I could clone days like yesterday, I totally would. I had two happy, eager students who didn’t fight with each other and even ASKED me to continue reading aloud our current astronomy chapter on space rocks. (Comets are super exciting!) They finished their math efficiently and correctly, and for the win, they worked together on a crossword puzzle. Mine eyes have seen the glory of two brothers working in harmony.

Furthermore, they built a Lego city together last night with only mild bickering. Shock of all shocks. I assume our day of troubles was a necessary reset.

Part of me wonders if they were super sweet yesterday because Timmy was watching them from the bookshelf.

Timmy in a cup

Creepy Timmy watches everything.

Tea Pot Timmy

By the time school was over the boys had put on their costumes (Jackson as Captain America and Jeremy as a ninja) and ran outside to play. The school room/library/office had been abandoned, which left a quiet space for Salem to stretch out and relax. He usually hangs with us throughout the morning but he spent much of yesterday in hiding. I suppose he felt the tension of the week and didn’t want to participate.

Smart man.

Abandoned schoolroomHappy Weekend to you, and welcome, Butch Jones, to Vol Nation! All eyes are on you.

What used to be home

I was in Chattanooga yesterday for a memorial service and found that I had a little extra time to drive around the city we used to call home. While still very nostalgic, this place isn’t home anymore. It’s where Chuck and I met, where we graduated high school, where we got married and where we started a family. It’s the city where so many of our major decisions were made. And while I can pinpoint a slew of little special spots in Chattanooga that hold a sweet memory for me, home is where we are now. This city, this house, these people. It feels good and right and long term.

Happy Weekend to you, and Go Vols!