My Father’s Lawn, and Mine

He mows it in crisp lines so it looks like a baseball field.

In my memory, it’s lush and cool when you return home from a walk or an errand, encircled by North Florida humidity, shaded by two maples and a pine. (That was years ago. Some of those trees have aged and died.)Read More »


Commonplace Book, 54

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

Also on the recent menu

What I’m fixing:

  • In the continuing vein of mediocre cake skills, what do you do when you tear up a cake all to hell trying to get it out of the pan? If you’re me, and not cutesy enough for cake pops, you crumble it up further, throw it in a fancy wedding-gift dish with instant pudding and Heath bar bits, and call it trifle. BECAUSE IT TRIFLED WITH YOU, FIRST.Read More »

Homeschooling Takeaways from The Importance of Being Little

(NB: This is one I listened to as an audiobook so I couldn’t mark it up or copy down passages quickly enough. So quotations here were either hunted down online or are from excerpts and interviews that jive with the book.)

In Erika Christakis’s The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups, I was reassured to find many of my hunches are supported (while sometimes being called into question as the purview of overeducated financially stable white people). Her book tackles the problem of quality in American preschool programs as a social justice issue while highlighting the many points of mismatch between preschoolers’ needs and what educators, policy makers and parents believe they need. She very rarely even broaches the possibility of keeping kids at home during the preschool years, and never mentions homeschooling kindergarteners at all, even though the book’s scope includes that age range. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating. Here were some of the most striking takeaways for me:

Read More »

On Mentors

Emo photo of Willingham straight out of 2004

I attended Mercer University from 2004-8. It was an exciting time to be a student there, but maybe it’s always exciting to be an undergraduate. Beneath the heavy, humid stillness of Middle Georgia, the college was in upheaval, and discussion cropped up all over campus over what, exactly, it meant for the institution to be Southern Baptist, to be situated in that hazy, noble thing called the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I was a scrawny student watching from the sidelines, becoming increasingly vocal in our round table classes on Paradise Lost and Pascal and Jane Austen. But I was perhaps most captivated by the children’s literature class I took with a young and dynamic professor, Anya Silver.Read More »

Camping, Roots, and Other Mixed Home Ownership Metaphors

One of the kindest things anyone ever said to me occurred in the kitchen of my newly bought very first home. The previous owners hadn’t listed the house, so it hadn’t gotten realtor-ready before we bought it. I had hoped, since the owners were friends-of-friends and had met us and seemingly found us charming, that they would clean it up nicely before we moved in. They had apparently decided that leaving us flowers and champagne was enough (and this was v nice, to be sure, but also my baby’s onesies were grey with someone else’s dirt and dog hair).

We had lived there for several weeks, and I had been trying, inexpertly, to deep clean the house while chasing a three-year-old and crawling baby. It wasn’t going very well, and when I mentioned my frustration, my truly lovely sister sent me money as a housewarming gift to hire a cleaning service.Read More »