Picture Interlude…Because He’s So Cute

*Click to enlarge. And you’ll want to.*

Just a few recent ones of our precious boy. You can tell how much he loves his sandbox … he wanted to become ‘one’ with the sand, apparently.

Then, showing off his Thomas pajamas and later perusing our wedding album.

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Chestnut Mt. Cuisine

Chestnut Mt. Memories Series: #3

My mother graduated college with a Home Economics degree. We sometimes like to say that she majored in Mama-hood. And let me add that she must have graduated with honors. And distinction. And a solid gold, diamond-encrusted tassel.

Some of the sweetest memories of my childhood are seated at a bar stool, watching Mama cook dinner, wash dishes, or knead dough. In the mornings, I would wake blinky-eyed and shuffle into the kitchen for breakfast. Our pajamas were almost always one of Daddy’s t-shirts.

In the summertime, breakfast was usually homemade muesli with milk. In order to save some money, Mama would mix a huge batch of muesli in a trash bag. Imagine this excitement for a little kid. What?? We’re gonna pour cereal in the TRASH?? And mix it all up?? What crazy fun! Then we would divide it into a few Tupperware cereal containers to last us a couple of weeks.

When it was still dark in the mornings (and cold and unwelcoming… and school was involved… blegh) warm Cream of Wheat was on the menu. Except this was no ordinary Cream of Wheat. This decadence was served up in three hoogley* bowls with a splash of cold cream. Then, the best part, Mama would come to each of our bowls and sprinkle in a teaspoon of white sugar, her patient and gentle voice singing, “Look – it’s snoooowing!” Wheat in a bowl never tasted so good.

By far, though, the biggest treat that Mama had in her vast culinary repertoire was homemade bread. She kneaded the dough in a hand crank machine and made it look easy. It was not; especially when you have toothpick arms.

Often it was bedtime before the dough became bread. This was so disappointing, especially when the smell of warm heaven reached our bedroom. Every once in a while, though, Mama would peek into the darkness of our room and whisper, “Bread’s ready.” We’d scamper out of our beds, climb up on the stools, and find a slice of bread, still warm from the oven and slathered with butter and strawberry jam.

Having a ceramics business was not always lucrative, but we were never hungry. Mama cooked amazing, delicious meals and even taught us how to enjoy and behave during a seven-course dinner. She not only fed us, she nurtured us. And of course, that is truly why we never went hungry.

*hoogley bowl: a wide, shallow ceramic bowl, perfect for Cream of Wheat, too-hot soup, pasta or anything else you wish to eat. Daddy made a bunch of these. The name is just from our Craft imagination … I’ll have to do another whole post on our weird language. 

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Chestnut Mt. Memories Series: #2

I have a confession. I’m not a pet person. It’s been a gradual change, but I’m confident that the evolution is complete. Don’t get me wrong – if I’ve come to your house full of pets that you adore, I haven’t loathed every second of our visit or thought any less of you or your furry (or scaly) family members. I appreciate the bonds that grow and thrive with having one of God’s creatures to love. I too shared that bond with our Welsh Corgy, Binky.

Binky entered the Chestnut Mountain scene even before my family lived there. As a puppy, she was a wedding present for my parents. My mother adored her. Binky didn’t bark too much. I don’t remember her licking my life away. I don’t even remember her having stinky dog-stink. She was low enough to the ground that she was a playmate, even when I was an unsure toddler. About a half-mile away, a mountain lake was our daily summer excursion. Binky scooted right along with us, tongue wagging, and a great big doggy smile panting, “I’m comin’ too, I’m comin’ too!” Her nails, click, click, clicking on the pavement. In the lake, Binky let us grab onto her long shank hair and patiently towed us around in the muddy water. She was awesome.

We had some other transient mutts that shared Chestnut Mountain with us, but Binky was the constant. She was the faithful. The quiet and gentle friend, a presence that kept loneliness (and probably some bobcats and snakes) at bay.

When I was in first grade, we had to put Binky to sleep. She was going blind, deaf, and had trouble eating and walking. Daddy drove her to the humane society in our green VW Rabbit. A couple hours later, he brought home a lumpy black trash bag.

Quietly – so quietly – we carried Binky into the woods, down a well worn trail. As Daddy dug a hole, I held onto Mama’s waist. A young dogwood tree stood as a marker above the red overturned clay. That was the first time I remember seeing Matt, big 5th grader that he was, hugging himself through shaking sobs.

The Binky Trail became one of my favorite places to frequent. Usually by myself when I wanted to imagine that I was lost, deep in the woods, with only my wits to protect me. Then Mama would ring the dinner bell and I’d scurry past the dogwood, back home.

Maybe that’s why I’m not much of a pet person. None could compare to the Bink.

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Good Dirt

Chestnut Mt. Series, #1

My dad built his own pottery studio on Chesnut Mountain. He would spend his days filling orders for everything from hotel lamps to plates, steamers, and cups. I learned to answer our telephone by saying, “Chesnut Mountain Pottery?” We had a brown and tan intercom from our mobile home to Daddy in the ‘Stude.’ His studio housed two potter’s wheels, a clay mixer, a pug mill, work tables, extruders, and an enormous kiln (one Christmas that kiln hid two dirt bikes for my brothers).

The cement floor of the studio was always cool compared to the hot red dirt outside. Especially cool next to the forbidden burners, shooting loud blazing flames into the kiln. After showing Daddy my side ponytails, my bare feet would walk out with a fine coating of white clay dust.

Attached to the side of the studio, was a covered car port. The ground was dirt and doubled as our sand box. Mikey and I would squat with our knees next to our ears, trying to coax the sand lions out of their perfectly crafted trap homes. Sometimes we succeeded. The little tan creatures would emerge, probably very peeved that we were not a juicy ant. Nope. Just two kids, tipping single grains of sand into his funnel and then leaving him, hungry and dissatisfied, for the next bug to exploit.

“Feeling dirty” was foreign to me. Dirt was our biggest adventure. It availed holes to sit in, mud to slug through, and treasure to bury. We would dig for black mica and fool’s gold and upon finding it, whoop and holler as 49ers hitting the jackpot. Matt and Daddy even dug a cave into the side of a huge hill. It was dubbed ‘The Dirt Hideout.” Dirt stairs led up to it and a dirt slide was a quick escape.

Daddy depended on clay (really just dirt if you think about it) for our livelihood. We depended on it for our play.

And, boy, it was good.

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Series: Chestnut Mt. Memories

I was born to a potter and his wife. We lived at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on 8 acres of woods, creeks, and bobcats until I was 10 years old. It was always summertime and never busy. We lived in a trailer and I had no idea that we were sometimes in great financial struggle. We were rich in love and imagination.

My James is beginning to form his first memories. These are the moments that he will draw upon when he faces his first daunting responsibilities and thinks to himself, “Man, if only I were still 6 …” Part of our job is to make these memories pleasant and secure.

As for me, Chestnut Mountain is my happy place. Literally, I mentally walk down our gravel driveway and a serene feeling wells up in my belly. I want to take you there and in the meantime, record these memories for myself.


An old shot from a newspaper article about my dad’s pottery business. Matt is the oldest, Mikey is snuggling with Mama, and I am glaring at the cameraman for obviously interrupting my play.
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An update on the youngest Thompson

There are three Thompsons living in our humble 3 bedroom brick ranch. The squishiest by far is the smallest one. Aka, The Buddy, The Buddiest, and when he’s being naughty – spoken with a low and serious tone – James.

But he is never naughty.

Oh, no. Never naughty.

He is super busy with trains and trucks and books. Trains, especially. If he spots a train, it’s a breathy, incredulous “uh!! Chuh-rain!”

He’s also getting in touch with his artistic side. Just yesterday, he helped me with a thank you note and drew on the back. He declared that the lovely scribbles were, none other than, a train! (This is a big step in developing drawing stages, by the way.)


He’s so much fun. I could go on about his adventures, but he’s going to wake up from his nap soon and we’ll hit the ground running.

Nothing terrible about the Twos!

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In the last year:

  • I began a new teaching job … and then ended that job (wonderful as it was).
  • Jim wrote and published a book.
  • James began speaking in phrases. He’s two now!
  • My Crohn’s disease simmered down dramatically.
  • Jim traveled to Liberia and back.
Those are only a few events, of course. We were so busy this past year that my previous blog was neglected to the point of forgetting my password. I’ve missed writing so much; I have so much to share and I hope you’ll stop by often!
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