Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

You have made known to me the path of life: you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. - Pslams 16:11 NIV

Image credit: Angel Guide

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Make it from Scratch

Merry Christmas Eve, Eve as my kids like to say, and welcome to this week's edition of the Make it from Scratch carnival. Here are a few last minute ideas for your Christmas celebrations and more.


As expected the sweet treats abound in this week's carnival. Feast your eyes on these holiday treats.

mom2my9 presents Super Lemon-y Sheet Cake! posted at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven.

Our Red House presents Gran's Fruit Mince posted at Our Red House.

MC presents Oreo Snowball Truffles posted at Shibooya.

Mama Bear presents Coffee Chocolate Chip Biscotti - A Christmas Project #5 posted at I've Got a Little Space to Fill.

Liz Nast presents It is autumn and that means PUMPKIN PIE FOR DINNER! posted at Industrial Light and Morons.

Julie presents Fun and Tasty Christmas and Holiday Desserts posted at More4kids.

Joanna presents Rachel Ray's Fudge Wreath posted at One Krusty Mama.

HappyCampers presents Don't Buy Caramels Anymore...Make Your Own! posted at The Adventures Of The Williams Family.

Woman can not live by sweets alone. (Though she certainly could try this time of year.) presents Exploring Czech Food – Part VI - Famous Potato Salad (Poznavame Ceska Jidla – Cast VI - Slavny Bramborovy Salat) posted at, saying, "It is hard to find an authentic recipe for the real Czech potato salad, which is traditionally prepared during Christmas. This recipe will give you the closest taste using ingredients from abroad and will make you famous amongst Czech and other European communities."

vh presents Christmas dinner plans posted at Funny about Money.

Mary@SimplyForties presents Why Not Try A Duck? posted at SimplyForties, saying, "It's not as hard as you may think!"

Kelly from Almost Frugal presents 5 Ways to Use The Rest of That Cranberry Sauce posted at Almost Frugal Food.

Stephanie presents Canning Stew Meat posted at Stop the Ride!.


Pretty up your Christmas table, gifts, and outfit.

Joanna presents A Christmas Centerpiece, Year 2 posted at keeping feet.

Kris presents Veggie Might: Bead Me Up - DIY Holidays Part Two posted at Cheap Healthy Good, saying, "Thank you for hosting!"

Belle presents Handmade Decorative Hair Pin posted at Homesteaderbelle's Blog, saying, "This is a post about a hair pin I made with a bobby pin, seed beads, and wire. "

makingthishome presents The Greenest Wrapping Paper You Can Make (for free!) posted at Making This Home, saying, "What a fun project. Thank you, and I look forward to everyone's ideas."

RecycleCindy presents Pointed Granny Dish Cloth posted at MyRecycled Bags.


A little of this and a little of that made from scratch.

Alex presents Cat Urine Smell Remover Recipe posted at Home Life Weekly, saying, "It can be difficult to remove cat urine smell from furnishings as the cat urine odor tends to linger, well instead of buying expensive odour removers, this recipe can be used to remove the odor of other pets as well."

Anthony Delgado presents Website Promotion from Scratch posted at Need Extra Cash?.

Stephanie presents Edible Gifts: Putting it all together posted at Make It From Scratch.

Thank you for joining us this week for Make it from Scratch. Submit your posts for next week's carnival using the Blog Carnival form. The carnival will be at A Dusty Frame.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It is a gift...No it is a science lesson.

I saw this wonderful (and inexpensive) idea for a Christmas present over at Greenhab. We put several of these together using paper white kits purchased at Aldi for $4 a piece. Each kit contained four bulbs. We also bought several bags of pretty stones at the Dollar Tree. The glass containers we already had. 

We planted the bulbs about two weeks ago. Some of these we gave away before the plants really had begun to grow, but now they are growing and I can't help but see a science lesson here. When else can you grow a plant and actually see the roots? 

I brought all the kids into the kitchen for an impromptu science lesson. We talked about the plant parts and their functions. The cool thing is the learning doesn't stop there. 

We are keeping one of these for ourselves and in a few weeks should see the flowers. Then after the flowers fade we can talk about how the bulb stores up energy. At the end of the summer we will allow our bulb to go dormant for 5-6 weeks and then start the process over; the complete cycle. How cool is that? Kellen is less than impressed, but I think the other kids will enjoy it. 

You just never know what may turn into an educational opportunity. These were intended only for Christmas presents. They have become a pretty science lesson also. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

A new Christmas Tradition?

This week the kids and I were talking about Christmas Day, and the subject turned to what we should have for our Christmas dinner.  After cooking a traditional meal for Thanksgiving, and enjoying other similar meals with our church and 4-H group in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are ready for a little something different. But what?

I thought it might be fun to let the kids help choose the dishes. They were all for this idea, and quickly started offering suggestions. Their suggestion all sounded delicious, but let's just say they were a little heavy on the main dishes and desserts. So we decided to write down some food categories on small pieces of paper. We threw the papers into a hat and everyone drew out a category to choose a dish from. We started with the youngest.

Vivian drew "dessert" out of the hat. Her choice; cookies.

Nolan drew "appetizer." After explaining to him what that meant and giving a dozen or so examples, he finally settled on shrimp.

Lydia picked out "side dish." It only took her a second to decide on mashed potatoes. 

Kellen got the other "side dish." His choice; pepper jam with cream cheese and crackers. I felt this really was an appetizer, but could not convince him, so a side dish it will be. 

Tim drew the coveted "main dish" category. We will be having grilled chicken breasts wrapped in bacon. Unless of course a deer is taken, then it will be bacon wrapped fillets. 

That left me with the beverage choice. It will be sparkling fruit juice for the kids and wine for the parents.  I may try to make egg-less eggnog also. 

It may not be the most nutritionally balanced meal, but it will be delicious. We had a lot of fun coming up with our menu. I think this may be a new tradition in the Appleton household. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Warm and Cozy

Almost fourteen years ago, Tim and I embarked on this wonderful adventure called marriage. There have been good times and rough times, and so many memories made. The adventures started from day one of our marriage. 

We were married Tim's freshman year of college, during his Christmas break. Pressed for time and money, we decided to rent a cabin from a family friend for our honeymoon. 

The cabin was located nearby, in a remote area of Central Ohio. Being in the middle of nowhere, in a cabin during a cold Ohio winter may not appeal to some, but to two young, wildly in love outdoor enthusiasts, the romantic appeal was tremendous. Not to mention the price was right. 

We packed our hiking boots, our favorite foods, a huge bottle of wine, a few games, and headed off to the woods. When we arrived we cranked up the heat, started a fire, and went to setting up the kitchen in our first "home" as a married couple. 

While unpacking and getting organized, we were blissfully unaware of the fact that the cabin really was not warming up. We prepared and consumed a meal, and sat down to play cards at the table. Though we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, as the sun set, we began to notice that our toes were awfully cold. As were our noses, and was that my breath I just saw?

A check of the thermostat revealed that it was not just our imagination, the cabin was cold. The furnace was running, but the vents were blowing cold air. We called the owner of the cabin, Dan. 

Dan was a retired small town preacher. He reminded me of a backwoods Santa. He had a gray beard, balding head and the round belly to go with it. Most likely you'd find him in jeans with suspenders, a button up plaid shirt, and hiking boots. He was kind, and not easily riled up. 

He explained that the gas for the furnace came from a well on the property, and that sometimes it just didn't have enough pressure to keep the furnace going. He tried to walk us through a fix that sometimes worked. It didn't work for us, and he said he'd be there in the morning. 

Thinking of that situation now, I know I'd be hopping mad if that happened to us today. I can assure you that now, if the electric goes out and we are left with only the fireplace for heat, I do not in the least find it romantic, but fourteen years ago it only added to the ambiance. 

The bedrooms were on the opposite side of the cabin from the fireplace, and freezing cold. We pulled one of the mattresses out into the living room, and laid it on the floor in front of the fireplace. We made the bed with every blanket we could find. We snuggled in under the blankets, and had no trouble staying warm. 

Late the next morning Dan came, tinkered with the furnace, and got it running. The rest of the week the entire cabin stayed warm and cozy. The mattress, however, stayed right where it was for the duration of our romantic winter honeymoon in the woods.  

In our fourteen years I wish I could say that we have embraced every challenge with such enthusiasm and idealism. There have been times I’ve been down right frustrated and angry at situations we’ve faced, but I can say we have faced those challenges hand in hand. From the other side of the challenges, we can appreciate them for the growing experiences that they have been. After all isn’t facing challenges together and learning from them what this adventure called marriage is all about? 

This post has been entered in the Scribbit Write Away Contest. December's theme is Keeping Warm. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trying to out smart me again....

I'm feeling the pressure to get things wrapped up for Christmas. That combined with a virtually empty refrigerator and cupboards pushed me to do something I normally would not consider - an all day shopping spree - with four kids. 

Yes, I normally take the kids with me to get groceries. Then we are talking about half the day and two, maybe three stores. Yesterday we left at 10 and did not return until after 5, making a quick stop at the library, hitting seven different stores, stopping only for lunch with Tim. It was craziness I tell you! 

In the midst of all this Vivian (2) devised another way to try and out smart  her momma. Vivian loves to push the cart. She thinks she should be able to push the cart solo. I don't mind letting her help, but c'mon she is two. She can't see to drive the cart, even if she could actually handle the thing.  It is a pretty regular battle, especially in stores that have the smaller carts like CVS or the Dollar Tree. 

Yesterday in the Dollar Tree, she was insisting on pushing the cart. I told her she could, but then I went to the front of the cart to help steer it. Oh the drama! You'd think I'd taken her favorite toy away. She finally settled down, and decided if she couldn't push the cart herself she wanted nothing to do with it. 

She was content to walk beside the cart, and after awhile she started playing a game. She was pretending to be the momma. The kids play house a lot and take turns being the parents, so this was nothing out of the ordinary. But then she turns to me, grabbing the cart,  with mischief in her eyes, and says, "You Vivian. Me mommy. Me push the cart."

This Little Piggy

The piggies aren't so little anymore...Christmas ham anyone?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why so quiet?

Since I haven't posted in over a week you might think it is quiet around here. Is it ever quiet around here?! Nope there is always something going on. 

Thanksgiving was good.  Aunt Hazel, Terry, Jeff, Gail, Uncle Steve, Ashley, Miles and Amy all joined us. Thursday was nice and a few of us got up super early to go shopping. It was mass craziness, but really I don't mind. It is a different kind of mass craziness than what I usually shop with. (Meaning shopping with four kids!) I found a few things, and marked a few people off my list. I still have a way to go. 

Monday it was back to the normal schedule; school and band. We had co-op on Tuesday, and went to a friends on Wednesday for a bit. Tim was off Friday which always messes me up. I like when he is off, but then it seems like a weekend, but it isn't. Then he goes to work on Saturday and it doesn't seem like a Saturday, but more like a Monday. And well, I'm rambling. . . .

Today we got a space ready in the barn for the sheep and moved them there. Maggie looks to be getting pretty close to lambing. It may be a few weeks, but with this super cold we are having, I'd rather be safe than sorry. We put Mini with her, but apparently Maggie still isn't happy and was crying and tried to get out when Papaw was up there. We don't have the ram. He was loaned out to service the ewes of a friend of a friend. He agreed to keep him over the winter, and that is fine by me. It is so nice not fighting that big bully every feeding time. Not to mention we don't have to worry about him fighting with the other animals now either. 

We were supposed to have a church dinner, but it got cancelled because of the weather. Yes, it is that bad here. It was in the teens last night, and never got very warm today. It snowed a good deal of the day. Tim drove home at about 10 MPH. He said the roads are all iced over. They were predicting a cold winter. So far they are right. 

Tim decided to go out and hunt since we weren't going anywhere tonight. Now, I have to figure out what is for dinner. Feels like a clean up leftovers night to me. Then maybe a family movie night and bed. Hope you are keeping warm where you are!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Let the Season Begin

.... Gun season that is.

Today was the first day of deer gun season here. Our resident hunters, Tim and family friend Terry, each got a deer early in archery season, but then, in what has become a pattern over the past few years, the deer have been scarce. Hopefully, they will each get another in gun season.

Hunting is a big deal here. Not just in the 100 Acre Wood, but in the state. In the area of Ohio we are from a fair number of people hunt. I would have called it a fairly normal activity. In fact, the school that I did my student teaching in made the first day of gun season a day off school. But hunting there is not nearly the big deal that hunting is in this state.

I wouldn't say everyone hunts here, but I bet everyone has a good friend or family member that does. Camo, gun racks, and four wheelers in the back of pick ups are frequent and normal sites. Sunday, our local news station had a fairly long segment on the six o'clock news about how to site in your gun. The local paper regularly has hunting articles, and Sunday's edition featured about a 3/4 page article about the start of the season. It confirmed to me that deer season is a big deal here. (Read the full article: Deer Season Starts)

It brings $233 million into the state economy.

Last year during the two week buck season 67, 213 bucks were tagged.
Over 67,000 bucks in just two weeks in a state that is only a little over 24,000 square miles. That is crazy to me.

Deer season is a big deal to me too. It fills my freezer, and is our "beef" for the year. Cooking venison is different than beef though. Gail asked me for some deer recipes. I referred her to a post I wrote on another blog, Venison Roast. The main thing to remember is that deer has less fat than beef, and will dry out easier. Steaks are best cooked medium at the most. When Tim butchers he cuts the tenderloin into thick steaks which we wrap in bacon and grill medium rare. Those are the best!

Roasts need to be cooked with liquid. Since writing the post above, I have had better success with cooking roasts in the crockpot. They turn our very tender when put in the crockpot with broth or other liquids.

After the roasts are cut from the legs, we (mostly my mom) makes broth and stew meat by boiling what is left. The stew meat is canned. It is so convenient and delicious to use with noodles or rice for a quick dinner.

Not exactly recipes, but ideas I hope. Enjoy the season, and your venison.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cooking Rabbit

Living here in the woods, and becoming more self sufficient has involved cooking a lot of new to us foods. Luckily, we are pretty adventurous and enjoy trying new things. Our gardens have consisted mostly of your standard vegetables. New vegetables have come in the wild foods that we eat. The food group where we've had the most learning to do is the meats.

We are learning to cook venison, rabbit, lamb, and soon will be learning about goat. I'm happy to say that the only meat I buy now is sausage and bacon, and we should have our own hog in the freezer late this winter. It is a good feeling.

Rabbits are wonderful meat sources. They can produce a lot of meat year round. They are easy to raise, and would be ideal for an urban homesteader. The meat is lean and mild. In fact, rabbit meat is extremely healthy. It is lower in fat and cholesterol than chicken. See rabbit meat nutritional facts.

Ideal market weight for rabbits I'm told is between 3-5 pounds. We usually let ours get bigger than that, up to 10 pounds, before butchering. In young rabbits, the meat is still tender and it is enough for a meal for us when they are larger.

Yes, it really does taste like chicken. In fact, I'm willing to bet if you served deboned rabbit to anyone they'd never suspect that it wasn't chicken they were eating. Though they taste like chicken, they obviously aren't shaped anything like a chicken. Learning how to cut the meat has been the hardest part. The best meat is in two long strips along the back. The belly meat is tough, but can be used in soups and stews. The front legs are similar to a large chicken wing while the back legs are comparable to a chicken thigh. I mostly cook the rabbit whole in a crockpot and debone to use. Sometimes, like for the grill, it needs to be cut into pieces. Then, we cut the legs off and cut the back into two or three pieces, depending on the size of the rabbit.

So how to cook it? I think that I've used rabbit in just about everything I used to make chicken with. Like chicken, it works well with a variety of spices and herbs, and can be cooked lots of different ways. As I mentioned above I mostly will cook it in the crockpot. The first meal I will serve it deboned and then use any leftovers to make soup, casseroles or other meals. One of the best things we've tried with rabbit recently is BBQ. The rabbit was cooked in the crockpot, deboned and then reheated with homemade BBQ sauce, roughly based on this Western North Carolina Vinegar Barbecue sauce. Rabbit is also excellent grilled.

Cooking new meats has been interesting. There have been challenges, but learning to use rabbit has been as easy as substituting rabbit for chicken in a recipe.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh she is a smart one

Awww isn't she cute and sweet?

Don't be fooled. Although she is terribly cute, and can be incredibly sweet, behind that veneer the wheels are turning.

Vivian has a bad habit of asking for something to eat, eating a bite or two and saying she is all done. Then ten minutes later she is asking for something different to eat. It drives me nuts.

I'd rather let food go to waste (Well not exactly to waste since we feed the scraps to the animals, but that is expensive feed!) than to force the kids to eat when they aren't hungry. One thing I've done is to give her very small portions, but even then she doesn't finish it. The other, and much more effective approach has been to save her food. then when she asks again for something to eat, I pull out the food she did not finish. This does not meet with her approval most times. We've been battling this way for sometime now.

This morning she decided she was going to try to out smart me. She ate maybe two bites of her cereal. When I picked up the table, I set her bowl on the counter. It wasn't there long. Yes, the cereal was very soggy, but it isn't like the milk had turned or anything. Soggy cereal is gross I know, but we are trying to break a habit here. I went out to let the chickens out. When I returned, Vivian was dumping her cereal into the sink.

She had that "busted" look on her face for a brief minute. Then she smiled sweetly, and said, "I hungry." Oh yes, she knew exactly what she was doing. I simply responded, "Then you shouldn't have dumped your cereal." She had no argument, but simply walked away.

Cute? Yes she is. Sweet? Most certainly. But don't forget smart and tricky too!

Friday, November 07, 2008

More Annoying than a Political Ad

I do not enjoy election season. I do not enjoy politics. Although I respect the foundations our government rests on, in my opinion the whole government has just gotten too large, too complicated, and the elected officials, along with many of the people who put them there, too self serving and short sighted to ever make any real change. I still try to stay somewhat informed. I vote, but let's just say I'm slightly disenchanted with the whole process. 

Frankly, this election season I was more ambivalent than ever. Neither of the gentlemen running for the top seat of our nation inspired me in the least. Neither promising to lead down a road that I wish to follow. Then consider that I live in an area which is bombarded with political ads from three states. Can you understand that when the election is over, I just want it to be over? I'm tired of hearing about it. I'm done with it. 

To the best of my recollection this is the first even remotely political post that I've ever posted on any of the blogs I write. Although I am so ready to be done with all things to do with the 2008 election, even though I've never expressed support for Obama or McCain on my blogs, Obama supports feel the comment sections of my blogs are a place to celebrate the Obama victory. And one to insult the people of West Virginia for not voting for Obama.  

Most of you know that I'm not one to get riled up easily, but these commenters really tick me off. I am fully willing to attribute part of this irritation to hormones, to the TV experience my family had last night, to the field trip I drove an hour for today that was not what I was expecting, or to the inconsiderate person on a chat group who unjustly accused a friend of being biased and then got mad when another friend defended her. Yes, basically right now I'm irritated with people in general. I'm tired of inconsiderate, self serving people, and commenters who use my blog to celebrate an event that I've not discussed at all, fall into that category. 

The election is over. Obama and the Democrats won. I am not celebrating. I would not be celebrating had it gone the other way either. So, to those who are celebrating, keep it to yourself, and let's move on. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day in the Woods

We belong to a co-op that meets every other Tuesday. My children have made a lot of great friends and look forward to our meetings. This year our meeting happened to fall on election day. Because the building we meet in is a polling place, we thought we might have to cancel co-op for the week. Instead we decided to have co-op in the woods.

Yesterday we had round about 50 people here. (I never did get a count.) We had beautiful weather and lots of fun. Activities included a scavenger hunt, petting the animals, sack races, egg tosses, and eating apples tied to a string. (Or off the string as the case may be.) We also had hayrides and a campfire with s'mores. Everyone brought food to share and we feasted after all the activities. It was a wonderful day. Here are a few pictures:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Beauty of Homeschooling

I know homeschooling isn't for everyone, and that is ok. There are so many things that I love about homeschooling. It is hard to imagine not homeschooling. Well, there are days I do imagine it, but those mostly come on the grocery days where kids are running down the aisle, crying, begging, or fighting. On those days, it is oh so easy to imagine them being in school, and me shopping with just one child instead of four, and someday shopping all alone. Oh yes, that would be a beautiful thing . . .  Wait a minute this post was supposed to be about the beauty of homeschooling, not my fantasies of peaceful grocery shopping. 

As I was saying, the last few weeks I've really appreciated some of the advantages of homeschooling. This appreciation has not come at the shining success of our educational pursuits. It has been earned through the frustrations and trials of learning addition and subtraction.    

Lydia quickly caught on to the concept of addition and subtraction, and she was great figuring out problems, as long as she could use manipulatives. Her math book quickly moved on to double digit problems and using manipulatives for every one of those quickly became cumbersome. Soon she was frustrated and shut down. She wasn't even able to complete problems she easily figured the day before. I was getting frustrated. We were getting nowhere. 

This is where the individual attention that comes with homeschooling is such a blessing. Instead of her falling behind while the class moved on, we are able to slow it down and work at her pace. She has been playing a lot of math baseball in an effort to sharpen her skills.   We also pulled out a workbook that we didn't use last year. The pages are very simple, and she flies right through them. It all serves to strengthen the foundation and make math a less overwhelming subject to her. 

She still needs manipulatives a lot more than I'd like, but she is getting quicker and gaining confidence. So much confidence in fact, she is teaching addition and subtraction to her four year old brother. For several days now, after her lessons are done, I've found her sitting with Nolan and a beginning addition workbook page. It is simply adorable. 

Our math curriculum is set aside for now. There is no pressure to get through the text or to keep up with the class. Lydia is learning addition and subtraction at her own pace. Right now that pace requires a lot of repetition and patience. The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility to provide her with that. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

They are very literal at that age....

A few weeks ago, Papaw had Nolan (4) and Vivian (2) with him to do chores up at the barn. They all had an unpleasant surprise when they got there. One of the horses was dead. 

Biscuit had recently been weaned from Sophie, and Sophie was being kept in the barn during the process. For those of you who don't know, Sophie was a wild thing. She was easily spooked, not broken, and a big bully in the pasture. Papaw had hoped to be able to work with and train her, but the time to do so was never there.

Sophie was not happy to be in the barn to say the least. She refused food and water for the first few days there. Though she did start to eat and drink, she never was content in the barn. She pushed and pushed at the gate, and apparently some of the block were not solid. She eventually pushed the block out which caused the upper support to fall on her head, killing her. This is what they found when they went to feed the animals that day.

Sophie was hardly a pet. In fact, the kids were scared of her. They were not upset that she had died. Papaw buried her in a big hole on a hill by our driveway.

The other day Nolan was with Mamaw and Papaw. Mamaw and Papaw were talking about the animals and the subject turned to Sophie. One of them commented, "I still can't believe we lost Sophie." To which Nolan immediately replied, "We didn't lose her. She is in that hole by the driveway."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Same Battle, Different Child

On this journey called parenting, one of the things that has amazed me the most is how different every child is.  The fact that two children coming from the same gene pool, raised by the same parents can act and react so differently boggles the mind. 

Our four are no exception. They all have very unique personalities and traits. It is good. It keeps things very interesting around here. 

Though they are all individuals, there also are a few common traits that can be seen in them. Out of the four, the two that are most alike are Nolan and Vivian. The both are independent and strong willed. They both know how to lay on the charm. It is dangerous, I tell you. Adding to it, they both are very active. It is exhausting, I tell you. 

Long time readers have read many a story about the adventures of Nolan. In the last year or so, he really has mellowed out. Not that his personality has changed, he is till plenty ornery, but he seems to have learned to respect the boundaries a little better. Just in time for his little sister to come behind him and push me to my limits again. 

Oh she is sweet, and she is cute, and she knows exactly how to use it. She is full of personality. She loves to run the show. She is not afraid to tell anyone what she wants or thinks. One of her latest insistence's is that she wear her pink cowboy boots everywhere we go. 

These boots were in a bag of items given to us by a neighbor. They are cute, but don't exactly match everything. Viv doesn't care. She wants to where them everywhere. I had to draw the line when she wanted to wear them with turquoise shorts. 

Oh, and do those boots get attention! Vivian basks in it. If we are out somewhere, and someone notices the boots (as if you could miss them) she smiles sweetly, makes sure they have a good view of her boots, and says, "My pink cow boots." She is a charmer! 

Last night the above picture is what I found in my bedroom. How could you be angry with that face? Well I was, for a moment anyhow, until I thought, "What a great picture for the blog."

It isn't just boots, or getting into things she knows she shouldn't. She is pretty insistent on having everything her way all the time. She does not take no for an answer, and will dig in her heels at every turn. 

So, here we go again. I'm gearing up for the battle, reviewing what I wrote a year and a half ago, Dealing with a Strong Willed Child,  when it was Nolan I was battling, and praying that what worked with Nolan works with Vivian too. After all, they are a lot alike, but also very unique. 

Monday, October 06, 2008

Listen up guys

The pastor played this at church on Sunday. Men, this could save your marriage!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tearin' Down the Barn part two

Yesterday was Tim's day off work. So we headed to work on tearing down the barn. Tim and I drove separately. By the time I got there he had all the siding off except one wall. That final wall was covered in tin that did not want to come off. After removing the floor boards and some of the other structure, Papaw and Tim sledged the wall off in one piece.

As you can see, by the time we were down there was not much left. Most of what is left in this picture is unusable. We do have to go back to get the last trailer load of wood, but the tear down is done.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Demolition

Saturday morning a notice went out on Freecycle offering the wood, metal roofing, and loose hay from an old barn that was to be torn down. With several outbuildings on the to do list, we were soon headed across the river to a nearby town with my parents, two vehicles and two trailers to haul stuff in.

There was one other taker on the offer who arrived before we did. She wanted to build a small garden shed, so we worked out what she needed to salvage, and the rest was ours for the taking. First we went through the contents of the building. Mom found a decent porch swing and some other things. I found some old jars, including half gallon canning jars. There also was a whole box of unused jelly jars!

Next was the loose hay in the loft. What a messy, stinky job! Papaw would rake the hay down and Tim would shove it in the end of the cattle rack while Mamaw and I tried to stuff it in as much as we could. Eventually we gave up and let Papaw and Tim handle it.

The hay is old. There probably isn't much nutrition left in it, but it will make great bedding or filler. They baled it yesterday and it made 20 bales. They went back and got the rest, which filled the cattle rack again. The second trip yielded 26 bales.

Next the men (and my little man) headed to the roof to remove the metal sheets. They ripped off and Mamaw and I stacked them in the trailer. The other people were there also working on taking the siding boards off the one wall.

After the roofing was all off, the guys knocked out all the boards that the roof was attached too. Again Mamaw and I stacked. Next came the notched rafters. Four were given to the other people for their building and the rest were loaded on top of the roofing in the trailer.

The younger kids helped some and played in the yard. There was also a box of books leftover from a yard sale. Lydia spent a lot of time reading those herself, and reading to Nolan and Vivian.

We worked about six hours, and were just about at our quitting point when the owner offered to buy us dinner. Gratefully we accepted and he went to town and brought back pizza and pop. While he was gone we cleaned up the area a bit, and he returned to find us all sprawled out in the grass exhausted. This picture was taken when we were almost to calling it a day.

The process seems very simple as I type about it. In reality, it was a lot of hard exhausting work. We all are still dragging from the hours of physical labor put in that day. There still is a lot of barn to tear down yet, but all those materials will be put to use in new buildings here. The hard work will save a ton of money. Now to find another day and the energy to go do it again!

Monday, September 22, 2008

When you can't!

Kellen bought a Nintendo 64 game system (our first) about a year ago, and I was concerned about the battle it would become with Kellen. It has been no battle with Kellen, but Nolan well it is a different story. 

The kid is infatuated with Nintendo. He doesn't care if he is playing. He is just as happy to watch Kellen play. When they figure out a new trick or how to get to the next Zelda level, Nolan wants to call Tim at work to tell him about it. He tries to tell me about it, but has figured out I am basically clueless. Our donkeys are already named after Mario characters, Luigi and Daisy, and now Nolan wants to name our new cat Toon Link. 

Since school is in and the new TV rules are in place, the Nintendo does not even come on most days. That hasn't stopped Nolan though. He may not be able to play the games, or even watch Kellen play the games, but he can read about the games. 

His new thing is to get the booklets that come with the games out to read. Well, not really read, but to look through. He will spend a good hour pouring through the little booklet. He will show Kellen the pictures and  give his interpretation of what those pictures mean. He gets so excited. (Kellen in typical big brother fashion is not impressed.)

I don't know whether to be happy he is looking at a book (of sorts) for so long or be frustrated that I can't get his mind off Nintendo!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boys will be boys

The boys have found a new form of entertainment. This kept them busy for hours yesterday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

T.V. Time Rules

Back to school is an adjust whether your children go to school or you homeschool. This fall we've fallen back into the book routine fairly smoothly. What has been a little rocky is TV time.

We don't watch a lot of TV, even in the summer, but I am a little more generous with TV time in the summer heat than I am during the school year. When we started back to the books Kellen (10) and Lydia (6) fell easily into the routine of no TV until school is done and we've eaten lunch. Nolan (4) was not so compliant.

Every morning the first thing he would ask me was to play Nintendo. When that answer was no he would ask to watch TV. When that answer was no he would ask to watch a movie. When that answer was no he would give up, for about an hour, and then we would go through the whole process again. I thought I was going to lose my mind! (or throttle the kid) Finally after a few weeks he got it through his head that the darned TV was not coming on for any purpose until after lunch. Then began the next phase of the battle.

Those of you who know my bright determined child may guess at what happened next. He would scarf down lunch, declare, "I am done," and ask to play Nintendo. I'd set the timer and let him play. Immediately after his time was up he'd ask for a snack. UGH! A few days of making him wait for a snack fixed that problem. He decided he better slow down and eat a better lunch. But still our TV time rules were not working.

Even after Nolan finally got in the routine, the TV was driving me crazy. The problem is there are four kids. Each of them want their TV time, and of course all the others want to watch while someone else is getting their time. So the TV was on basically all afternoon, and I was constantly hearing bickering about whose turn it was to pick. I tried getting them to agree on something, but with two boys and two girls ranging from 2 to 10 it can be a little difficult to find something everyone likes. Nothing was working for me.

Then I happened across something in a book I was reading that made a light go off. Why does each kid get to pick something each day? Why not give each kid a day that is theirs? Aha!

So we started the new TV rules. We rotate days for who gets to pick what is on for the allotted time for TV. I didn't assign specific days since we aren't always home on the same days and weekends don't count.

This is our second week for it, and it is working like a charm. The kids keep track of whose day it is, and I've yet to hear any arguing or complaining about what the person picks. They know how much time they have and plan accordingly to watch the shows or play the games that they really want to.

Last year TV time during the school year wasn't a problem. This year it has been an adjustment. I guess it is growing pains that come with the kids getting older. Rotating the days each child gets to pick what to watch has saved a lot of bickering, and cut back on the amount of time the TV is on. It is working for me!

Works for Me Wednesday: find more ideas and tips.
Photo credit: P. Costa

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Telling it like it is (photo added)

The other day Lydia spent a good portion of the day over at Mamaw's house. When she came home I waste teasing her about being gone so long, and asked her why she liked Mamaw's house better than home. She didn't miss a beat, and informed me, "Because Mamaw's house is clean." Ouch!

Yesterday I was out feeding the pigs and Vivian was standing in the driveway near me. She had found the spray end of a backpack water toy that we have. She was using it as a microphone and singing her little heart out. I couldn't exactly make out the words, but she was sure into her singing. She was swaying and dancing to her own music. I smiled at her and asked if she were singing me a song. She gave me a look that pretty much implied that I was out of my mind. Then she tells me, "No, sing piggies." Now I know where I rank.

This morning Vivian decided to serenade the pigs again. I had to add a picture!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On the job training, again.

Our ram is a big old boy. He is tough, and has a tendency to be a bully. He isn't exactly mean, but he will push you around. He has sent Papaw, Tim and I all flying a time or two. His favorite target once was Billy Bob, the goat. Billy was pretty young when we got him and the ram was the boss.

We separated them, and during that time Billy grew up. He still isn't as big as the ram, but he has a large set of horns that more than compensate for the body size difference. The last time they got together, while we were moving some animals to a different pasture, Billy got the better of the ram. He gave him a couple of good scrapes and small punctures. We put bag balm on the sores, and other than the ram being a bit more humble for a few days, he was just fine.

The ram's latest tangle we suspect was with a deer about a week ago. He had two puncture wounds, one on his front leg and the other about mid abdomen. We covered them with bag balm and didn't think anything else about it.

About mid week I noticed he wasn't acting quite himself. He stayed in the barn a lot, and wasn't waiting at the gate to plow me over at feeding time. It was very hot this week, and he has behaved similarly in the heat before. I didn't think much of it, and was happy to not have to fight him to feed the sheep.

Then yesterday he came out for feed while I was still there. I noticed that the wound on his abdomen looked black and not healed, and he stunk. Not your normal sheep stink, but a rotten stink. I tried to look at the wound. It wasn't easy to hold him and look at it, so I decided to wait until Tim was home to help, but I supected fly strike.

I knew sheep were susceptible to fly strike. I had read a bit about it when we were deciding about docking the lambs tails. The problem is that I had only read about it in conjunction with tails and flies laying eggs in manure that could accumulate on the fleece. I never even thought about it being a problem elsewhere.

Looking back it seems silly that I wouldn't see that there is a connection. Blow flies like sheep. An open wound is a warm moist place perfect for laying their eggs. Well, duh! But that seems to be how we learn things around here, a little at a time, putting bits and pieces of knowledge together. On the job training you could say. I know this is part of the learning curve with animals, but every time something happens I feel so bad.

If you're squeamish you may want to skip ahead to "SAFE NOW."

When Tim got home we went out to look at the ram. The wound looked to be the size of a quarter, so we didn't expect cleaning him up would take long. Tim pulled back on the wound, which in fact was nothing but black rotted flesh, to expose it and found it full of maggots. I couldn't look, but the smell was awful.

He started scraping them out and just kept finding that the wound and the maggots went deeper and longer along the rams abdomen. Tim trimmed back fleece and dead skin, scraped out maggots and poured on peroxide or alcohol for about an hour and half while I tried to keep the ram still. We were all exhausted by the time we were done.


The ram is left with a gaping wound about four inches long. We debated stitching him and tried to find information on the internet, but with no luck. Most of what I found addressed pets, (This can affect almost any animal, but sheep are the host of choice for the fly.) or for commercial farming, not for homesteaders.

We think we got all of the problem out, but are opting to keep the wound open and clean it out several times a day with antiseptic just be safe. The ram was given a dose of penicillin and we removed him from the pasture and barn. We tied him out and are moving him around the yard to keep a closer eye on him and to give him a cleaner place to lie down. We also gave him a good spraying of fly spray to try to keep the flies away.

He seems perfectly happy and is eating, and hopefully headed for a full recovery. From other accounts I read about in severe cases (I can't imagine what that would look like.) the animal is listless and lethargic. It will kill them and it is best to put them down. This was bad enough. I am glad to have caught when we did, though I wish I had paid closer attention earlier.

Lessons learned from this on the job training session:

1. Fly strike can happen at any weak point on the sheep.
2. Fly strike can affect other animals.
3. I need to pay more attention when an animal has a wound or is not quite acting like their normal self.

These are hard lessons to learn.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Save the Bees

Yesterday we went on a field trip to Stiltner's Apiary. The kids enjoyed it, especially the taste testing. I found it fascinating. Mr. Stiltner has raised bees for a long time, and works for the State Agriculture Department. He knows his stuff.

He walked us through part of his bees. He keeps millions (literally) of bees. He explained some cross breeding projects he is currently working on, and showed us the process used to get the honey. All along the way giving lots of interesting tidbits and facts about bees. I learned a lot.

The Africanization of bees.
I didn't even know there was such a thing, or that it was a problem. Basically African bees are very aggressive toward people and other bees. They also are genetically dominate. His bees are very gentle, and his cross breeding project is an attempt to get a hardy, productive and gentle bee suited for West Virginia. He suggested that those who want to start with bees do not order queens from Florida or California because they are likely to be Africanized there.

The demise of the bees.
He recommended a National Geographic production about bees. Another mom at the field trip said that PBS also recently showed it. I don't know the exact title.

You may have heard about the great numbers of bees that are dying for reasons scientists can't explain. According to the film, if the current loss rate continues there will be no honey bees by 2035. If you've seen the animated Bee Movie, you know what happens when the honey bees stop working, plants stop producing our food.

Health Benefits of Honey
I know that honey is supposed to be a healthier sweetener, but am not very educated on the subject. A couple of things he mentioned on the field trip caught my interest.

Honey can help those with allergies, but not any honey will do. You need to eat honey that was made locally or at least in a place with similar vegetation. Honey produced far from you was made with pollens that you don't encounter, and therefore won't help your allergies. Makes sense doesn't it?

According to Mr. Stiltner honey that is mass produced has little more health benefit than sugar. The processing it goes through kills all the good stuff. Ever microwaved your honey after it crystallized? That is a no no too. It kills the good stuff. Warm it up with hot water or in a sunny window.

The glue like substance the bees use in the hive is like penicillin. In fact, it is nicknamed Russian penicillin and has been traditionally used to treat illness.

Papaw has mentioned getting bees several times. While I've always thought it was a good idea, this field trip has piqued my interest. Time to do some more research and move bees up on the want list. The other project that has been mentioned latley is maple syrup. Mmmm.... it is going to be sweet around here!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A little of this and a little of that

Having not posted for a week, you might think that we've been terribly busy around here. Tim has been busy with work, working late every night this week except Friday, and he will be working Saturday too. For the rest of us though, it has been comparatively quiet here at home.

Last Saturday mom and I canned apples all day. Something like 30 quarts of sauce and 20 quarts of sliced apples. I am ready to do some more, but don't have any picked. It has been raining the last two days, and I can't see dragging the kids out in the mud to pick apples in the rain. Maybe tomorrow.

The rain was much needed. The rest of the month was very dry. My fall garden, peas, beets, and beans need the water. The tank we use to catch rain water and water the animals was almost empty after staying full almost all the rest of the summer. Yes, the rain is good.

As for the animals nothing too exciting. Two hens are sitting on nests. The baby pigs are doing well. You can see charcoal and her piglets were making good use of the mud hole made in the pasture. Flame's piglets are doing well too. The little red one in the photo is the one we stitched up.

For the most part school is doing well too. The biggest problem I have is I can't get library books. It is a long story that is going to end in us paying for a book I'm pretty sure we returned. Frustrating? Yes, but I need books!

Lydia is having a bit of a mental block with math. She just shuts down. There were tears this morning. The frustrating thing to me is that she knows how to do it! When I sit by her she whips right through. When I am not there she whines and cries that she can't do it. I guess I'm going to have to hand hold her until she gains the confidence to do it alone. She is reading like a pro though. I can't believe how she has just taken off with reading.

Kellen is flying through his materials, like always. He really is into his trombone right now. He is learning to play the Mario theme by ear. He posted a video of it.

Nolan also wanted to do school this year. We are reading books, and playing games mostly. I printed out a freebie workbook for him, but I need some library books to supplement. Well you know why that isn't happening.

So, that is what we've been up to.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Navigating in West Virginia

I once considered myself to have good navigation skills. I liked to try new ways to get from point A to point B. I was confident that I could figure out how to get somewhere even if I'd never been that way before. And if I had a map in my hand, well, I could get anywhere.

I did not realize that I was simply spoiled. Spoiled by navigating roads that generally went the direction they started. Spoiled by roads that were labeled and maps that matched.

When I moved to the land of ridges and hollows, I quickly learned that my Northern navigation skills meant diddly squat here. Roads that appear to go west will actually end up taking you east. Not that I can ever tell which direction I'm heading in anyway here. The curves and hills mess with your sense of direction. I learned that trying an unknown way only leads to burning a lot of gas, seeing a lot of country side, and feeling like you'll never find your way out of all the twists and curves. Driving here is like navigating a huge labyrinth. I learned to only go ways I'd gone before, or to get very specific directions from those who knew the way.

Today there was a swim party for our homeschool co-op at a family's home I'd not been to before. They gave very specific directions from a variety of nearby places. The trouble with all these directions though is that from my house they made a big U, traveling south, going east, and then north again. Shouldn't I be able to just go straight east and get there faster?

So, I got out the county map. The swim party was just into the next county (of which I don't have a map,) but I could see one of the roads listed on the directions. Lo and behold it was directly east of me. And the "big" road I live near turns into another "big" road. (This is something I just don't get here. Roads are essentially the same road, but at some point get a new name. It is all so confusing!) This second big road goes directly to the road on the directions to the party. I felt like I'd just found the Northwest Passage. (Except I was going northeast, but you get the point.)

We set out this morning and headed to the "big" road. I am familiar with this road, but have not traveled it beyond where it turns into the second "big" road. We were traveling along observing the scenery. We saw the electric company trimming trees with a helicopter in a hollow. (Oh why didn't I get out the camera?) We saw a wide variety of beautiful homes, and some that were not so beautiful. We saw three housing developments on this winding curving in the middle of nowhere road. We were enjoying the country drive.

From the map the road we were traveling appeared to be the only sizable road. The road did twist and curve and at times would branch off. Of course there were no road signs to show which road was which, but this didn't phase me much. I just stuck to the bigger road.

At one point I did begin to wonder if I were still on the right road. I tried to draw on a northern navigation skill, looking at the address on the mailboxes, only to remember that mailboxes here are marked not with road names, but with some strange RR code that only makes sense to postal workers.

Suddenly the road had not more lines painted on it. Then it began to narrow. Soon I was on a one lane road in the bottom of a hollow. Could this still be the road I thought it was?

I really began to wonder when I came to a T in the road. I saw no T on the map I was looking at. Where was I? There also were no road signs. Having the map was no help, even if I were still in the right county. Left or right?

Luckily for me there happened to be some state road maintenance workers there. I asked if I should turn right or left to get to the road on my directions.

They looked at me funny.

And said that left would take me to some place I'd never heard of. Right would take me to a road I do know, but not the road I named, if I turned left after this bridge and right at this fork and right again at the old barn, or something like that. (I later realized that the road they mentioned was actually just another name for the road on the directions. I did know that the road changed names, but it didn't register in my confused state.)

I looked at them funny.

And asked if I was still on the second "big" road.

They looked at me funny again.

And said no you are on some road I've never heard of. Then they asked me where I was actually trying to go. I told them. they consulted each other on the best way to get there, and offered to take me to the road where the pool party was.

I looked at them funny again.

And they explained that they were waiting for asphalt. The truck had just left and had to go to a "nearby" town for the refill. It would be at least an hour, and they didn't have anything better to do. Well I think helping a lost mom with four kids is a better use of our tax dollars than just sitting there waiting don't you? The whole crew loaded up in the truck for the ride.

They must of driven me at least five miles to get to the road I needed to be on. Then they pulled off to the side and waved me on. We waved our thanks and followed the directions that led us straight to the house.

I'm forced to admit I can't navigate the back roads of West Virginia, even with a map. In case you are wondering, we followed the directions home, making a huge U and enjoying every minute of it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The kids are ready

Seeing that it is now the end of August, I thought that it might be a good idea to order our school books this morning. LOL! We still have a few things to finish up from last year, but I wanted to be sure that Kellen and Lydia had math books ready to go. They use the Key To and Miquon workbook series.

I asked them to pull out their workbooks to see where they were at in the current one and if we had the next one in the series. They did and I went about ordering the things we need for the school year. I glanced over to them, and they were both sitting at the table doing math! Then they pulled out their reading! Lydia even cleaned and organized her shelf of school supplies. (Now if I could just get her to do the same in her bedroom!)

I guess we have officially started back to book school routine!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On the way home from church

Nolan: Mommy when can I get my ears peered?

Because his sister used the same word up until a few weeks ago, I knew he meant pierced.

Me: Oh I don't know. Maybe when you are thirty.

Scattered conversation about why at the age thirty he could get his ears pierced.

Me: Daddy doesn't have his ears pierced.

Nolan: When will he be old enough?

Me: Oh I don't know maybe when he is fifty. You'll be old enough too when you are fifty.

Nolan: Fifty?! I'd be dead then!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Piglet Hospital and Nursery

Early this morning Ashley's pig, Flame, had piglets. Ashley and Miles went back to their mom's Wednesday, so Ashley missed it, but here is the story for her and you.

Yesterday afternoon Flame started building a nest. Yes, pigs build nests. It is an interesting thing to watch. She pulled up roots, moved sticks and branches, and leveled off a bit of ground. She even tried to pull the wire off the fence. The result was a lot of pulled of chicken fence, but I don't think she ruined it. Papaw put some hay in the building, and that enticed her to move inside with her sticks.

At 5 AM Papaw went to check her, no babies. About 7 he went back out and there were already half a dozen or so. Tim and I woke up to, "We've got babies." Papaw gets a little excited about his animals. He thinks that 14 were born, but only 12 are living.

One piglet got stepped on and had a big open wound on it's hip. Time for stitches. My kitchen was soon turned into a piglet hospital. Tim stitched the pig on my table. Thanks so much for putting some rags down honey! Ya know we eat off that table!

One runt was pretty weak. He is currently in a box in my kitchen. Kellen and Lydia have said they will bottle feed it. My plan is that they will feed it until it is strong enough to go back with Flame. Kellen's plan is to raise it as a pet. Despite our warnings that the pig may not make it, and if it does, we will not be keeping it, he has named it Arnold. He isn't taking very well to our feeding him, so I guess we will just see what happens. Any suggestions?

NEVER a dull moment in the 100 Acre Wood!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Little Teacher

Lydia has been teaching the younger kids sign language. It is so cute. I had to catch it on video, and of course, share it on the blog!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Oil Painting with Tim

Tim has taken up a new hobby, oil painting.

He isn't painting on canvas. He prefers to paint on wood or metal. He isn't using a wide variety of colors. In fact, his painting is rather monochrome and dark.

He is painting with used motor oil.

This is a little trick we learned from the neighbor. Used motor oil can be used to paint untreated wood and metal. Here you can see the manure spreader and a gate that have been painted. The oil soaks into the wood to preserve it. On metal, it helps prevent rust.

Our neighbor uses this method on several of his outbuilding as did his father before him. It stains the wood a deep gray color as you can see in this photo, except of course for the red doors. Apologies for the shadows in this shot.

The oil we used was saved from servicing the vehicles around here. It is a cheap and easy way to make our wood and metal last. The largest drawback I see from it is that it is a little messy. Not so much more than paint, but it did seem to take a little longer to dry.

I hope Tim enjoys his new hobby, there are a lot of gates and other wood to paint around here!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Finally, A Break in the Schedule

The kids returned from a long weekend and a trip to Cedar Point with Grandma and Grandpa on Tuesday. I'm done canning beans. I'm done freezing corn. Little Lambs is this weekend, but I've dropped off my clothes. We are done picking blackberries for those who ordered them. The tomatoes that are ripe are processed. The apples aren't ripe yet. I just want to pick some more blackberries for myself before they are all gone. Other than that, all the pressing work is complete.

And. . .

A friend emailed me the other day about an awesome field trip she is arranging for homeschoolers next week at the Huntington Art Museum. The topic is the Civil War and the kids are going to make pinhole cameras. I thought it would really be something the kids would go for, but was afraid that we wouldn't be able to make it. I turned to my planner for the week, and IT WAS BLANK! A whole week with no appointments or scheduled activities?! Well, it was until I wrote in the field trip to the art museum.

A lull in the schedule is just what I needed. I spent today piddling at various projects. Don't worry it isn't like I don't have anything to do. No chance of being bored around here, but it is nice to not have schedules, commitments, and over ripening vegetables breathing down my neck.

Ahhh......I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, August 04, 2008

New Pigs

Miles' pig, Charcoal, had piglets Saturday evening, eight of them to be exact. Tim and I were there when the last two came. Charcoal is a good mom, and fairly tolerant of us being around. Sows can be pretty mean when they have piglets. Charcoal has a gentle nature. I doubt it will be the same story when Flame, Ashley's sow, has her piglets. She is mean now. I bet she'll be a beast when her piglets come in about a week! Now the question is what are Miles and Ashely going to do with all these pigs?!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my dad's, aka Papaw, birthday. Happy Birthday!

Last week at the fair was crazy, but good. Kellen's rabbits placed about the middle of their class. He was slightly disappointed, but we were happy. The kids had a grand time being at the fair everyday. We walked the animal barns everyday. We watched the demolition derbies, mud bog, fireworks, and motor cross. Kellen showed his rabbits twice, and then sold them twice on Friday. Lydia participated in the open class for rabbits. They were both nervous, but did well. Kellen also took part in a watermelon eating contest.

Monday Kellen participated in the annual Battle of the Books. His team took third. They had all the questions right until the tie breaker round. His team has won the previous two years, so third was a slight disappointment, but Kellen handled it well.

Today Kellen is having Ryan over to spend the night for a late birthday celebration. It is actually Ryan's birthday tomorrow. Have I ever mentioned how crazy the end of July is for birthdays? For some reason the majority of the birthdays in this family are clumped around May and July. Kellen's was the 21st, Torrey ( a cousin) the 22nd, Avery's (Jake's youngest) the 27th, Jeff's (Tim's dad) the 28th, Jake's the 29th, my dad's today, and Gage's (Tim's brother's son) the 1st. It really is crazy!