Friday, December 27, 2013

Something Special

Someone was just a little excited about their Christmas present. It was so much fun to watch her! She told me awhile back that she wanted a new bike for Christmas, but knew she wouldn't get it because it was too expensive. I really didn't give it much thought until I was doing some online Christmas shopping and found an great deal on a cute girly bike!

The hand me down bikes we have are boyish, and truth be told, not in the best shape. Last summer Vivian wanted to learn to ride, but some of the bikes were too small. Some were too big, and often there were tires or other things that needed fixed. She tried a couple times to learn, but was easily discouraged. Then Christmas morning she got her very own bike.

And that folks, is all the motivation she needed. Once she and Tim had the bike put together, she was riding in a matter of minutes. Now every couple of hours she pipes up, "I am going to go take a bike ride," and off she goes. She has trouble going up hills, but on the level or down the hills, she is riding as if she has been riding for years. I guess she just needed a little more time, and a shiny new pink bike.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Week Before Christmas Break

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas at school were intense. There wasn't a normal schedule week in the mix. There was a holiday meal. There were snow delays and a snow day that cancelled a concert, and rescheduled it so that both the elementary and middle school/ high school concerts were the same night. There were extra practices, and time spent in class on music. Bible lessons, reading lessons, music, crafts, and discussions were all pointing to the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus. All this building the excitement and anticipation of Christmas and Christmas break. The final week of school included our concerts, and parties.

This is my class the night of the concert. I had put up some of the morning work for the next day. They came in that night and got to work. They crack me up.

These are my four monkeys. It seriously is impossible to get a decent picture of all four of them at once. ~sigh~ The boys were thrilled to wear bow ties! Lydia was less than thrilled to wear a dress, but Vivian loved it!

The elementary concert went very well. The 5th grade band played. (Sixth grade band plays with the middle school.) The kindergarten sang a few Christmas songs. K-6 sang Joy to the World in English and in Spanish. Then 1-6 had their program. The program was "How Far is it to Bethlehem?" The songs in this program are very sweet and tender. They teared me up a bit. Tim got teared up a bit at the concert too. 

Elementary Concert

Can you find the Appletons? Lydia top row. Nolan in the middle. Viv second row.

Lydia sang in a small group.
Originally the two concerts were scheduled for two nights. The snow day cancelled the original date for the middle school and high school concert. That concert was moved to the same night as the elementary. It was a very intense day, but it was nice to have it all at once. It was nice to not have the kids out late two nights. There is talk of combining the concerts next year too. We will see. 

The older student concert was a nice variety. There was band, choir, and guitar pieces, but also a good mix of solo music and dramatic speaking. 

Guitar Class

Kellen and Ben playing Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.

Guitar class with middle school choir.

Tim gave the tenors a little support on their a capella piece. 

The concert was Tuesday. Friday was our last day before break. It was a half day and consisted mostly of our Christmas parties. The wonderful moms of my class arranged all the food and the craft activities for the party. They did a great job. One of the craft activities involved getting my hands dirty. 

The kids had to get their hands dirty too. And look what we made. A memento of my first class at CLCS.

It isn't a party without food! 
Thank you moms of second grade. (Thanks too for the pictures I swiped. My camera died that morning.) 

With that, we began our Christmas break. I can not tell you how satisfying it was to come home and unpack those lunch boxes and put them away in the closet. It was wonderful to stay in bed an extra hour or so on this Monday morning. Teaching is enjoyable, but intense. Breaks are extra sweet! 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ahhh I needed this.

And here I am again at the end of another month wondering where the heck time went. Life is always busy, but these fall months have been a whirl wind. I knew I would turn around and the holidays would be upon us. Here they are. While these months may or may not have been busier than before, our time is certainly less flexible. Daylight hours are too short, and filled with school. Weekends are a rush of errands, farm work, and church. I hesitate to say much. I don't want to sound like I'm whining and complaining. I know we made this choice. Truth is we really like our jobs. We really like the school. I am grateful, and I don't think this choice was a mistake. I'm just tired. We are still adjusting.

Then this week at school came. It was more laid back. My class did different and fun things. We cooked a pumpkin and made bread in the crock pot and butter to go with it. We made crafts. We were supposed to have 2 1/2 days, but because of threatening weather our 1/2 day was canceled.  A five day weekend was ours to enjoy.

Our Thanksgiving was laid back and relaxed. We watched the parade. We had a small group (for us) of nine for lunch. We had a typical spread with a few surprises which included a lot of local ingredients and things from our farm. It was delicious, and we all stuffed ourselves. After dinner we went for a walk.

Grateful Turkeys
Can't go without the dogs.

We visited momma turkey hen. We had three hens sit on nests this fall. The first hatched a small clutch that we found cold and weak. None of that first clutch survived. The second hen hatched out 10 which seem to be strong and thriving. We have moved them to the brooder pen. This hen is still sitting on her eggs. We  really didn't expect any fall poults. We consider these a bonus, and hope they will be some nice big Thanksgiving turkeys for next year.

Producing for next Thanksgiving

Normally, we go and chop our own tree at a local tree farm. Yesterday, kind of on a whim, we decided to chop some from our own property. Generally, our pine are tall and straggly, but there were a few in a more open area that were a bit fuller, and decent for a Christmas tree.

This tree will work.

Mamaw's tree.

They may not be as nice as the commercial trees, but they are pretty in their own natural way. Of course the saved time, money, and self sufficiency of it makes me smile. It also makes me think we should thin out some of our pine groves, or transplant some to more open areas so we can have our own trees every year.

We took the trees back to the house. We trimmed ours a bit to fit, cleared the space, and dug out the tree stand. Tim got it all set up, and Lydia started to fill it with water. Then we heard the water pouring more than into the stand. Then we saw the carpet getting wet. Our stand had a hole in it. So, the tree is back outside, in a bucket of water. Tim is looking for a tree stand this afternoon while running other errands. Decorating will wait for tomorrow. We ended the day with more food and games.

Today, Tim spent the morning cleaning up outside around the farm. He got a trailer load of scrap. It is amazing how things accumulate around the farm. I intended to start Christmas baking, but cleaned up the rest of yesterday's mess, paid some bills, did a little online Christmas shopping, and here I sit some more on the computer. It has been a nice, easy, and relaxing day.

And it is only Friday!

It seems like our weekend should almost be over. It feels like I should be in that night before school press of laundry, lunches, paper grading, and crock pot meal planning, but it is only Friday. It just now is the weekend! Lydia even remarked how long this weekend feels, and that we might be bored on our 3 week Christmas break. Oh no, I do not think so girl! This is fabulous. All of us at home, and house and farm projects getting done at a leisurely pace. This is just what I needed, and Christmas break will be even better. I am giddy with anticipation for summer.

This extra long holiday weekend is just what I needed. I feel refreshed, and ready to go back to it, at least in a couple days that is.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I think it is a universal challenge for parents with more than one child. With the oldest, it is easy to protect, to shelter, to control what they see, read, or eat. Then when the next child comes along it is more challenging. The older child is an influence on the younger. The older child is watching and doing things appropriate for their age, but the younger child is exposed. By the time you have four children with an eight year age difference, the youngest child watches things you would have never have dreamed of letting the oldest see at the same age.

As we mom's always tend to do, I've felt some guilt over this. Nolan and Vivian didn't watch Bob the Builder, Sesame Street, Dora, or many other little kids shows like their older siblings. Kellen and Lydia were already beyond those kids shows and the younger ones wanted to watch what the older ones wanted. The trend has continued through the years, and I've often been amazed at what we allow the younger ones to watch when I think of what the older two loved at the same age. They all watch Dr. Who for goodness sake! At seven (Vivian's age now) Kellen's favorite show was Fetch (PBS.) It is what it is, I guess, and I don't know how it could have been different unless we didn't watch any TV or everyone had their own TV in their rooms.

The same has happened with their music. The youngest never really listened to children's songs. They listen to what Kellen listens too, and sometimes his choices are interesting to say the least. He has quite eclectic taste in music, and thankfully has been wise enough to weed out most music with explicit lyrics, especially when his siblings are present.

Today Lydia, Nolan and I were working in the kitchen. Nolan was singing something softly. I really didn't hear it, but Lydia says to him, "Nolan, I think that song is about gambling." Her tone clearly implied that he shouldn't be singing that song. Nolan argued that it has nothing to due with gambling, but was about chasing the the Lucky Charms leprechaun.  Say what?!

So, he sings me a bit of the song, "Up all night, just to get lucky."

It was hard to keep a straight face, but I managed to ask him how he knew the song was about Lucky Charms. He back tracked a bit, and admitted he didn't know for sure. He continued to make his case for how this made perfect logical sense. Lydia went right along with him. I just smiled to myself, and said a quick prayer of thanks for their adorable innocence. May it last for a long, long, time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Say Goodbye to October

The weeks fly by. Next week is a busy one, and we'll turn around and it will be November! October was full of activities.

Kellen traveled with his friend, Savannah,  and her family to D.C.  I never quite know how to refer to Savannah. Neither of them like the term girl friend. For a time, we referred to her as his romantic interest. We have called her the girl he is courting, but that is a mouthful. So, his friend, Savannah, it is. They actually went in September, but didn't come back until October. So, that still counts for October activity doesn't it?

All reports were that it was a great time. Kellen tolerated the ball game they attended, and then he and Savannah were in intellectual heaven visiting book stores and museums. He did complain a little about the American Girl Doll museum and the 50+ pictures Savannah took there. The tables were turned though when they spent the entire day in the Aerospace Museum, and according to Kellen, still did not see all he wanted to see.

Lydia spent a week in Florida with my mom, brother, his family and in-laws. They went to Disney and Sea World. Lydia got to go for the price of her airfare. The trade off was she got to be a helper to the adults for all the younger kids!

They all had a great time. Lydia came back pretty tired, but I think she thought it was worth it.

I took my class to the Heritage Farm Museum. The items at the museum are a perfect fit with our history curriculum. We had talked a lot about farming and colonial times. Earlier that week we had talked about apprentices and the printing press. It was fun to see those connections being made when they saw in real life the things we had discussed in class.

Three 300lb pigs went with us to school one day. My class had been asking me to bring a pig in since they found out we had pigs. I think they had a little pig in mind, but we brought big ones instead. The hogs were Kellen, Lydia, and Nolan's Ham, Bacon, and Egg projects. They had to be to the processor that afternoon. Getting there in time meant the pigs came to school with us on a trailer. As you might imagine, they got a lot of attention that afternoon. Kids of all ages also got an education about where ham and bacon come from. 

Today, Nolan and Lydia went with their classes to the Columbus Zoo. Tim is on his way now to pick them up. The report from another parent whose husband went was that the weather was pretty miserable. It actually snowed. The animals weren't out. (Who can blame them?!) That was an adult perspective. I am betting a child's perspective will be a little different. We sent them well bundled, and I think they are going to think running around the zoo with friends is going to be pretty awesome regardless of the weather and animal activity. 

Tomorrow the kids are off school. The teachers have in service. (Which is why I am writing on a Thursday night instead of grading papers or making lesson plans.) My kids are so excited. They will be going to our homeschool co-op with Savannah's family. They can't wait to see their friends. 

We are processing chickens on Friday, turkeys with another farmer on Saturday, and the list of before winter farm tasks is very long. Next week is Grandparents Day, and there is a bustle of activity leading up to that day. There is a half day of school Friday, and Monday is all day/evening parent teacher conferences. 

Do you hear the circus theme in your head? I do. My head is spinning. 

Today. at school, a parent that helps at lunch time told me she knew that she knew me from somewhere. She figured it out. She has been reading my blog. She asked me how we are teaching and doing everything else. The answer is we are not. 

As an aside do any of you fellow bloggers find it awkward when you meet someone who reads your blog? Maybe I'm just weird. It is flattering when someone says they read your blog, but then my first thought is always, "They know so much about me." I'm sure that sounds stupid. I know I write a public blog. But those of you who know me in real life, know I'm not nearly as talkative in person. I can't explain why I enjoying sharing so much more in writing. Anyhow, mom who I talked to today, if you are still reading,  sorry if that conversation was completely awkward. :) 

There are things that aren't getting done now, but it seems like no matter what we are doing, we can't get it all done. When we weren't teaching, Tim was working crazy hours, and I was spending a lot of time on things for The Wild Ramp. As much as we think, and say we want a quiet, simple life, it seems we are quite good at filling up every minute of our day with some sort of activity. I'd like to put the blame on "the world we live in," but I have to admit that even though we say no to a lot of things, we are the ones responsible for this crazy busy life. It will calm down some day won't it? In the meantime, we'll be doing the things we love, the things we need to, and trying to keep up with all that entails. 

And November is almost here, and the holidays. . . 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Time Flies By

We are quickly approaching the middle of October, and the end of the first nine weeks of school. WOW! What can I say about school now? It is exhausting. That doesn't mean we don't like it. It just means we are very tired by the end of the week.

The kids seems to have found a groove, and our school days and evenings are going much more smoothly. Some still have a lot of work to do outside of classroom time, but time management and attitudes have certainly improved. The kids are making friends, and enjoying the school activities. This week was spirit week, and the kids enjoyed dressing up for the various themed days. I had to laugh though when they asked, "What is a pep rally?!" 

The elementary classes have a character trait award every week in chapel. Last week's trait was obedience. Lydia and Nolan both won the award for their class! I was so excited for them. Surprised for Nolan, perhaps, but still excited and proud. We were pretty confident he would respond well to the structure of school. We were right. He is doing very well academically too. Math is the only things he isn't doing as well as hoped, and that is because he needs to memorize his multiplication tables. 

And in the meantime on the farm.....

Things still happen on the farm, though mostly on Saturdays. We recently were awarded a grant from the Fund-a-Farmer Project to improve our pastured poultry production. We have set up phase one  with electric net fencing, a portable shelter and new outdoor 50lb feeder. This is going to be a great set up that allows us to keep the poultry on fresh grass, and get them to parts of the property we were unable to use before. We are finishing up our last batch of broilers for the season on it now. We also have some roasters in that pen too. And you may notice a laying hen or two in there. Those girls adopted the roaster chicks. They've been good mommas to them. One even chased a hawk off one day. We decided they could stay.

In the garden, we have set up our low tunnel. This tunnel was part of grant program organized by The Wild Ramp. This cover is just a heavy row cover, but we also have plastic to use for colder weather. Now, if I could just get it planted.... I plan to start various greens and am considering trying a few other things yet this fall. We will have this set up, and will hoop house our raised beds also. 

We've experimented with season extension before by riggin' together our own hoops. It has worked fairly well. I really like the set up on this made for the purpose tunnel. It should be easier to use and more sturdy. We'll see what we can grow!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Plugging Away

We are entering into week five of school. It seems like the first day of school was just yesterday. Most days it seems like we are still figuring out this new schedule and new responsibilities. Every now and then I catch a fleeting moment of feeling like I have it all under control. My standard answer to the question, "How has school going?" is this, if I had only gone back to work, it would be going well. If only the kids had gone to school, it would be going fairly well. The two together is very intense.

This is a good school. The students, while not perfect, are well behaved and respectful. The staff is friendly. The academic level is high. Even in this good school, I am daily reminded of the inherent flaws in the way we do school. In my own classroom of ten there is a huge gap in abilities. Challenging the one end while keeping the other with us is so very difficult. These kids don't think for themselves. They don't do for themselves. They are great at following instructions, but that only gets you so far in life. Now whether that is the "system" or parenting is hard to say, but it bothers me.

I see the flaws affect my own children. I have one who is frustrated that the classes are moving too slowly. I have one who is acing all reading assignments, but failing math, and struggling with a load of homework every night because they work at a slower pace and the things aren't getting complete in class. Another who is doing fairly well, but has a hard time sitting still, and refraining from sharing stories every time they come to mind.

We moved both girls down a grade level. Vivian wasn't quite on the same reading or math level as the rest of the second grade. She may have been able to struggle through if I wasn't the second grade teacher. In my class, when she struggled she wanted to be mommy's baby. She is shining in the first grade, and we are both much happier.

Lydia has always struggled with math. She just couldn't make the jump to sixth grade math. In hindsight, I should have know that wasn't going to work. Moving to the fifth grade has helped, but it is still very hard work for her. She is often frustrated by her school work.

I've struggled with feeling like I've failed the kids. It is hard to see them struggle, and not feel like you failed by not preparing them adequately. But then this is one of my gripes about the system of school. Very few talents are appreciated. Academic and athletic strengths get all the glory. If you don't shine there, it easy to get lost in the crowd, or to feel like a failure. I wish Lydia could get a grade for her cooking skills, or for her caring and nurturing skills. She is an incredibly talented and wonderful young lady, but right now also a very frustrated one.

The kids are learning valuable skills, beyond academics, that we missed at home. They all have been learning to be better organized. They are learning to meet different expectations and deadlines. They are learning better time management.

Tim and I are enjoying being together more. Tim is much less stressed and tired. I like to tease him that he is the only one in the family who has gotten a win win from our new schedule. We are certainly enjoying the new found wiggle room in the budget. That is a huge stress removed for us both.

A wise friend and mother of eight once told me that you never make a decision about having more kids while you're pregnant or when you have a new baby. The time is just too intense. There is too much stress. The emotions run high. You can't make a rational judgment. I am applying that same logic to this situation. Am I glad we made change? Ask me at Christmas, or maybe in June. :)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Tending the Bees

Bees are one of many things on our list of "we've like to have someday." I'm a little in awe of bees and their important role as pollinators, and of the delicious honey that they produce. Start up costs, and lack of knowledge have kept us from diving into that area of agriculture.

A beekeeper we know through The Wild Ramp, Gabe, mentioned his backyard was getting pretty crowded with the bee hives he was keeping there. We mentioned that we would love to have bees on our property. A few weeks later he brought out four hives.

Last weekend he came to tend them, and see if there was any honey. He brought an couple extra bee keeping jackets so we could watch, learn,  and help.

Gabe was great at explaining as he worked. Unfortunately, Nolan and Lydia weren't home, but the rest of us learned a lot. The honey production was disappointing, but Gabe said that is the story of all bee keepers in our area this year.

The bees are kept near one of gardens. I just love to watch them and their coming and goings while I'm there working. They have been up there all summer long, and the only person to be stung has been Tim. He has been stung multiple times while working in the garden. It is kind of strange. For some reason the bees must think he is a threat.

We are so happy to have those little pollinators and honey makers here!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week One

We are on the other side of the first week of school, Tim and I's first week of teaching in over a decade and the kids' first week of school ever! I am not going to lie or sugar coat it. It was rough. It is a huge adjustment for us all. The kids have been angry. They've been in tears, and so have I. One even passed out in class from what we can only assume was a combination of not eating enough and stress. We all are exhausted.

But we made it through the first week.

All the places in homeschooling that we were more relaxed on are glaring in my face as the kids struggle in their classes, and we work with them at night. It is easy as a homeschooler to spout the benefits of children working at their own pace, the importance of life skills over book knowledge, or the development of the child's interest and strengths. At my core I still know that all this is true, but it is hard to not feel like you've failed your kids when they are suddenly with a group of their peers and are "behind."

We will work through this.

The things I don't like about the system of education are also glaring in my face. At this small, private school, there isn't nearly as much red tape, hassle, and ridiculousness. The system I refer to is the classroom, age level, memorization, cookie cutter system, the do school for 7 hours and then do an hour or two of homework.  Kids don't learn at the same pace. It is so easy for them to feel like failures in this system, and so many character traits and life skills are hard to value in the academic system. Life is more than memorizing your multiplications tables! The system leaves little room for figuring it out yourself or critical thinking.

We will do our best to encourage and celebrate those things the system doesn't.

At the end of the week though, it isn't all bad news. The kids don't hate school. I count that as a win.

I am enjoying teaching. I'm pretty much flying by the seat of my pants. Often I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing. The school routines are new to me. Teaching an elementary group is new to me. Learning that with Vivian, who is "behind" and a little clingy, in my class is a challenge. A completely full day of students combined with full nights of helping my own kids leaves me with almost no preparation time for class. The kids are sweet. They are co-operative, and luckily I'm pretty good at winging it! The teachers around me are wonderfully helpful and supportive. The elementary building really works as a team, and that is a great experience.

Tim is also enjoying it. He is less stressed, and having fun with the different age levels he teaches. Our latest nights home from school are about the same time as his earliest nights home from Kerr's. Our nights have been filled with chores, dinner, homework, and getting ready for the next day, but it is nice to have the family all home working together.

It is refreshing to work in a Christian environment. I'll admit to some reservations there. The church is more conservative and traditional than we are, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might. The atmosphere is loving, encouraging, and Christ focused. What a difference from other work places we've experienced.

At the bottom line, the two paychecks are nice. Granted any "extra" this month has been consumed by school uniforms and supplies, but it is so nice to see that wiggle room in our budget again. We are ready to attack that last looming debt monster of student loans that is still hanging over our heads.

It was a tough week. There will be more tough weeks until we are on the other side of the adjustment. Though there were times this week I had my doubts, I still feel like this is the right thing for us as a family. There is another family at the school who has been a great encouragement to us. He is Lydia's teacher. She teaches high school math. They were in our shoes three years ago. Their four had been homeschooled from day one. They struggled with the switch. They survived and thrived.  We will too.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Preparing for Changes

August is here! This summer has been a strange one. There has been lots of rain, and for the most part it has been cool. It feels like fall already with warm days and cool nights. It feels like we haven't even had a summer, and here we are a mere two weeks until our summer vacation days are over and we set out on this new adventure of private school. I'm not ready!

The past week has been a blur of school shopping, last days of summer play dates, school paperwork, searching Pinterest for classroom ideas, talking nicely to the tomatoes to hurry up so I can do some canning before school starts, and trying to prepare the gears to make the shift to our new activities and schedule. I'm exhausted!

The kids are warming up to the idea. Vivian is thrilled. She has been from the beginning. She will be in my class, and to her this is the best decision we've ever made.

She is not ready for is the getting up early. Our kids have never been big on sleeping in. They are usually all up by 7. Vivian, in the last week or so, has decided she loves sleeping in. Not only sleeping late, but then lounging in her bed for awhile after she wakes up. I've been dragging her out of bed between 9:30 and 10:00. We will need to leave for school before 7:00. This is going to be an adjustment.

Nolan is the most adamant that this is a horrible idea. Have you seen this angry face before? This picture was taken a few years ago, but Nolan still makes the same angry face now. If anything it is more intense. This is the face we get any time the word "school" comes up. The face, along with a lot of grunts and growls.

The other day he and Vivian were having a conversation about the money he earns from his Ham, Bacon, and Egg project.  He told Vivian, "Next year I am going to put all that money into my savings account. I'm going to need it for college because now that we aren't homeschooled, I won't be so smart. I won't get as many scholarships."

Between you and me, I think Nolan will probably love school the most. He is very social. That is part of the reason he is so upset about the change. He is sad to be leaving all his homeschool friends. Once we get through the initial transition, I think he will love being with other kids every day, and I think the structure of school will be good for him too. We'll see.

On a complete rabbit trail, in the interest of writing this down before I forget, Nolan and Vivian had another interesting conversation the other day. We were processing chickens, and they were helping me package them up. They cut and seal the bags for me. They help me get the trays ready for packaging. We use biodegradable trays with absorbent meat tray pads something like this:

They were putting the pads on the trays for me and making a stack. I'm not sure how the conversation started, but this is what I heard:

Vivian: I don't know. I think it is toilet paper.
Nolan: I thought they were diapers.
Vivian: Diapers?! They are too small!
Nolan: Diapers for the chickens.

They were talking about the meat tray pads.

Back to the subject on hand.

Lydia, my sweet sweet Lydia. She doesn't have much to say about school. When you ask her how she feels the answer is "I don't know." She really is just an easy going, go with the flow, cooperative child. We met her teacher. I think that helped put her a little more at ease with the change. I think she is a little nervous. That is understandable. School is something completely new. I'm a little nervous about math. It has always been hard for her, but she has worked hard the last couple of years. She has gained some confidence in math. I think it will be ok. I think she too will enjoy having her friends around every day.

And then there is Kellen. This picture pretty much sums up his reaction to going to school. His biggest complaints have been about the loss of freedom. He has complained about the dress code, the required courses for graduation, and things like that.

He is used to pretty much learning what he wants when he wants. Deadlines and structure are not part of his homeschool experience. We keep pointing out that it will be good practice for college.  I think he gets that even if he doesn't like it. He also appreciates that there will be classes he can take there that are hard to cover at home like sciences with labs, foreign language, and classes he can get help with like higher math where he is well beyond his mother's math skills.  I think he understands why this is the best thing for the family even if he wishes it would have happened a few years later.

Personally, though I am far from ready, I can't wait until we are past this transition and into the new schedule. The transition is hard. It is like we have each foot in a different place. We are trying to tie up the loose ends on one side while we plan and prepare for the other side. I am very sad to leave our flexible, laid back homeschool life. I am sad to leave the co-op we've been a part of since Vivian was an infant. Sad that I've had to step down from the board of The Wild Ramp. Sad that this change also means changing churches. There are so many people that I'm going to miss regularly hanging out with.

I am excited though for us to embark on this new adventure as a family. I can't tell you how thrilled I am for us all to be going to the same place on the same schedule every day. I am excited for my second grade class. There are only seven kids, and in many ways it will just be an slightly expanded version of what I've been doing for years. I am excited for Tim to be home in the evenings, for the time on the farm we'll have on breaks, and for the breathing room in the budget. This is going to be a good thing. Now, if I can just get through the next couple weeks!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Never say Never

Once upon a time a newly married couple were in college together. Both were pursuing teaching, one in music, one in social studies. They dreamed of the days when they would be teaching together. They'd have their own little family. They'd teach in the same school district their kids attended. They would be on the same schedule with  the same days off. And summer. Oh they had big plans for summer. The plans involved an RV and the time to see all the beautiful places in this country.

Time at college was complete, and the couple found that public school teaching was not all they dreamed. The man looked at other careers. The woman continued to teach for a time, but found it hard to leave the new baby with babysitters, and with the birth of their second child, the woman also left the teaching profession.

When their oldest child was school age, the choice of public schooling was not appealing in their location. The choice of private schooling was not even considered because of cost. So, it was decided homeschooling was the way to go for the time being.

The couple and their growing family, third baby had arrived and fourth on the way, had the opportunity to move out of state with family. The new home was out in the country with plenty of space for gardens, animals, and kids to run. The man found a job that seemed a perfect fit for him, and the couple moved. A few months later the new baby had arrived.

By this time homeschooling was very much a part of this family's life. They loved it, and the kids learned from books and learned from life, hard work, and all that comes with raising animals and gardens for your family. The man worked long hours, yet finances were still a struggle, and the family looked for ways to make all the things that were important to them fit with the mundane things of this life.

The woman worked a part time job for a number of years. That was a help, but she worked when the man was home and family time suffered. The little farm grew and began to sell at farmers markets. The family hoped to create income flow there, but kept tripping over the same hurdle. The farm need to grow a little more. It needed more muscle, and more time. The man, working 50-60 hours a week, just wasn't around enough. The family missed him, and the farm suffered.

Then a friend recommended the man for a teaching position at a private school. The couple thought, "This could be the answer to our time problem." At the same time, knowing private school pay scales, wondered how they could make that work financially. The private school asked the man, "Your wife doesn't teach does she? We are looking for a second grade teacher."

The couple were taken a back by the opportunity in front of them. This is not exactly what they had in mind. This was not their plan, yet, in so many ways it seemed so right. It took them back to the dreams of their early marriage. The family, together, on the same schedule and the same calendar. Instead of summers travelling, summers would be spent together working on the farm. The financial piece was there. The time piece was there. The family piece was there. It seemed a perfect fit.

The family is embarking on a new journey, and a huge change. Some of the younger members have a little less peace about the change than the man and the woman. The realm of school is unknown to them. The man and woman are confident the children will thrive once the ball gets rolling.

This life is full of surprises. Dreams that were once put on a shelf to gather dust sometimes find their way back to the realm of possibilities. They don't always look exactly how you expected, they rarely happen on the schedule you plan, but they do happen often when you least expect it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Never Ending Learning Curve

I love gardening. I love getting out there and working in the dirt, and I particularly love the pay off in fresh produce the garden provides. Gardening is therapeutic. It is also challenging, like a puzzle that changes a little every year. Just when I think I have a particular aspect manstered, the weather, the pests, or something else throw me a curve ball, and I get to learn something new.

Last year we tried Florida Weave to trellis our tomatoes for the first time. It worked wonderfully, and I thought I finally had the "trellis tomatoes" part of the puzzle figured out. This year we set it up, and I have dutifully been adding string as the tomatoes grew. It was all going so well.

Then this morning I found this:

It might be a little hard to see from the photo, but two of my once beautifully trellised tomato plants just escaped and plopped themselves right down on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I found the problem. The bottom rows of trellis string had broken.

Last year we used whatever we could find for string. Most of it was baler twine, and I used all we had last year. We aren't baling hay this year, so I didn't want to buy so much. I bought a smaller roll of thinner twine. Both were natural materials, but last year's was heavy. I'm sure a contributing factor this year was all the rain. The string stayed wet, and just rotted away.

So this morning I spent a couple hours going through tomato rows. This was the only spot where I found plants actually lying on the ground, but there were many spots where a line of string was broken. I did my best to give them a little more support with some fresh string. Next year, back to the heavy twine.

And while inspecting and re-trellising, I found something new in the tomatoes, Margined Blister Beetles.

I've never seen those before. I had to and google it. The bad news is they will eat the tomatoes, and their blood will make your skin blister. The good news is they only stick around for a couple weeks, and can be killed dropping in soapy water. They can join the Japanese, and bean beetles that I've been dealing with in the same way.

So garden, you are throwing me new challenges this year. I'm up to it! I will figure out your ever changing puzzle. Now, I expect my reward! Produce all ready. My pressure canner is getting lonely!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Three Weeks with the Cousins

My niece Ashley, and nephew Miles moved to Florida a couple of years ago. They came up for a three week visit this summer. It was so great to see them, and the time went super fast. We kept busy with farm tasks (as always.) They worked for mom some around her house, picked berries, helped feed animals, and Miles helped process chickens. Ashley, conveniently, slept in that morning.

We did some fun things too. We went to laser tag. Tim created a firing range, and friends came over for an afternoon of shoot followed by a campfire.

They spent a weekend in Ohio with their mom. Mamaw took them to the New River with their dad, and to the Exhibition Coal Mine.

Eric, Betty, Miles, Ashley

It was great to hang out with them again. I know my kids missed them a lot. They've grown up so much. I hope it doesn't take two years for the next visit. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Bright Side

All to often things just don't go as planned. We have good intentions, and often good plans, but snags trip us up. They are frustrating. They make us angry. Yesterday, we encountered such a snag.

Kellen was excited and ready to attend his second year of CTY Camp. His plane was scheduled to leave at 6:30. He and Tim were up at 4:00. I got a call at 6:30 from Tim. The airline would not let Kellen board. US Airways does not let minors fly alone until they are 15. (He will be 15 in one week!) The airline blamed the travel agency (and said this happens regularly.) The travel agency, Travelocity, blamed me saying I checked the wrong box.  I'll take part of the blame (though I'm not entirely convinced and there is no way to know,) but his birthday is listed on the ticket for goodness sakes! And seven days later this whole issue would have been a non issue! 

There is plenty to be angry and frustrated about here. And believe me, thinking through some of it makes my blood boil now. The end result of the morning was that Kellen did not get on that, or any other plane. My mom took the three younger kids to church and then dropped them off with our friends, the Richardsons. Tim, Kellen, and I were on the road by 8:30 for the six hour drive to Dickinson College. It wasn't it in our schedule. It wasn't in our budget, but it needed to be done. Now, I'm trying to look at the bright side.

  • Time with Kellen. He is rapidly approaching adulthood. He is busy with his own friends and activities. One on one time with him is rare. We got 6 hours of it. It was good.
  • We got to see where he will be spending three weeks. He flew in last year, and we never saw the campus, the staff, the dorms, or his friends. We went to the parent orientation. It was nice to see him off on location. And as friends have mentioned, at least camp was close, and his flight was scheduled early enough we could get him there on time.
  • We met his teacher. He looks like he is 12. Tim tells me I'm getting old. Kellen will be taking electrical engineering this year. His teacher actually is old enough to have just received his masters, and has been teaching some undergraduate courses. He is personable, and excited about the subject. They have lots of hands on activities. Building electrical things. Tearing apart electrical things. Soldering electrical things. No, I really didn't understand all of what the teacher was saying, but hey Kellen will, and he will love it.
  • Time alone with Tim. Another rare thing. We got six hours of it on the ride home. And we stopped for ice cream, and ate entire container of hummus by ourselves. Not, your typical date night, but it was nice. 
It really wasn't a bad trip. Calling it enjoyable might be pushing it a little bit, but it was fine, and the mission was accomplished. 

And Tim called the airline today. Kellen will be flying home as scheduled. That is good news! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Taking a moment to say a big thank you to those supported Kellen on his missions trip to the Dominican Republic. While there the team hosted a three day VBS, visited orphanages and played with the children. They visited Lilly House, a ministry to former prostitutes. They painted a church,  purchased and delivered food for a village, and provided funds for the purchase and installation of new fencing.

Kellen had a great time, and reported back about being impacted from the simple things that gave the children pleasure like homemade pinwheels and balls. He commented about the prevelance of rice in their diet. Rice was part of almost every meal. Homes, business, and other buildings were always fenced with chain link and razor wire. Below is a link to a video another team member made about the trip, and a link to a slide show Kellen made about the trip.

Dominican Trip

Thanks again for your support! 


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Hobo Dinners

One of our favorite meals is hobo dinners. They are nothing fancy, but there is just something fun about eating your meal out of a tin foil packet that has cooked on the campfire. We've even done them in the oven before, or on the grill.

They are simple and flexible. Start with a good sized rectangle of foil. Add meat. We often use stew meat or ground beef. Other meat will work too. Add chopped vegetables. The standard is potatoes, carrots, and onions, but green pepper, tomato, corn on the cob (cut in half,) cabbage, and other things work too. Use what is in season. Season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs, garlic, or other family favorite seasonings.

Tent the foil and roll down from the top and sides to create a packet.

Cook times will vary depending on your method, but generally about 40 minutes. Open one the packets to check if the veggies are done. When they are, it is time for dinner. Unwrap and enjoy.