Monday, November 30, 2009

My Baby is 13

We celebrated my ds's 13th birthday. There are no more little ones in our home. DS actually turned 13 last Wednesday, but we had his party yesterday. We gathered family and friends around and ate until I think we may have exploded (We've eaten more in the last week than some small countries consume in a month). It was a wonderful day though.

One of his gifts was this beautiful walking stick that friends of ours made DS. The time and energy his puts into these sticks is amazing. This particular one is made from left over redwood. It looks heavy, but is light as a feather.

The funniest part of the day came prior to the day when we were planning the menu. In lieu of a traditional birthday cake, ds wanted pie and so for dessert we had pumpkin pie and lemon meringue pie: an odd choice but delightfully tasty. And his food choices may have brought him a future wife. The daughter of close friends was at the party and was so inspired by his dessert choice, she swore that if they could have a lemon meringue pie for a wedding cake, he would be the perfect future husband. We all laughed, but wouldn't it be funny if one day we were all cutting pie on their celebratory day.

This birthday though reminds me how few years we have left with them at home. The days are passing so quickly. DD has passed me out in height and DS is only inches away. They are both becoming so responsible and self reliant. Only a few more months and DD will be 15. I look at them at wonder where the time has gone.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine

If you homeschool, you will probably get a good laugh out of this one:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Review - Sold

In this time of Thanksgiving, we so often overlook the simple things that we should be thankful for. When you read this book, you will realize the true depth of your thankfulness. Sold is young adult book written in a simple diary / free verse style. The writing style will bring you closer to the 13 year old narrator, Lakshmi, who begins as the hungery Nepaleese child who has just entered womanhoold. As if her suffering without food isn't enough, it actually becomes "the good old days" when her gambling addicted step-father sells her into the child sex trade of India.

This book will tear your heart out. And while it may be easy enough to read for a 3rd grader, its mature content should be left to older children who can process some of the horrors that they will read.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Matthew 25: 35-36

So many of us are blessed. As the scripture says, our cup runneth over. So why not during this time of Thanksgiving don't we pass on our blessings to others.

In my life, I have found this philosophy to not only to help others, but also as a way to replenish my soul. Even when I don't feel like my cup is running over, I look for ways to share what I do have. After I share, my life looks much rosier and I feel better.

Today, our family is actually serving at a local homeless shelter. I have ham and maccoroni and cheese cooking in the oven; a cake sitting on the counter frosted; green beens and pickles are ready to go. I had been feeling very nervous about our serving this time. Our belt was feeling a little tight and I began to wonder if we could really afford to give in this way, but I knew that people were relying on us; futhermore, no mater how tight our belt was, it was way looser than the family's using the shelter. So, I decided to breathe and trust in God. Today, as I began my cooking , my husband called. He got a commission check that we had been waiting for and his boss bought him a vehicle to use for work. Phew! Thank God from whom all blessings flow. I will surely be looking for more ways to serve.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Operation Christmas Child - delivery

What a wonderful day yesterday. Our church wrapped and packed 58 boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Today, I will bring them to a larger collection spot so that they can begin their journey toward a child in need. This has been a tremendous way to start the holiday season. The focus turns toward giving rather than receiving.

On that note, our church has decided to use months with a fifth Sunday to do special service projects. However, we need some ideas. I would love to tap into your ideas on ways to give service. With what groups do you work with? How do you give service? I appreciate any ideas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

12 Days of Homeschooling

A little early for holiday songs, but this is too funny not to share. And I can tell you that I have heard everyone of these comments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Foster Care Children Need Suitcases

Do you know that most foster children carry their children in just a garbage bag? I cannot even imagine being removed from my family, let alone having to carry my things in a garbage bag. What does such an action say about who you are? If you have an extra suitcase or duffle bag, why not find a foster care agency in your area or your state's department of child services and see if they will accept a donation. Most will be happy for your donation.

Sometimes making a difference in the world isn't changing the course of a river, but making it possible for someone else to navigate it.

Family Traditions Revived

One of the questions on our foster care in-take questionnaire is about traditions. What traditions did you grow up with? What traditions have you added? What ones have you gotten rid of? and of course, the always present "why?" Well today, an old tradition was revived. Eight years after my mother's death, her caroleers are set up for Christmas again. My father finally admitted that he wasn't going to set them up again and if I wanted them I could have them. I didn't even hesitate. I went up to the attic and had them packed in my car before he could even finish his sentence. My mother loved these Caroleers. She took exquisite care in setting them up and made elaborate landscapes for them. I had to take a slightly different approach and encourage my daughter to think a little outside the box. We did not have to do it exactly like Grandma. In fact, we couldn't do it exactly like her, but now they are out all around the house. I realize it is a little early for Christmas, but it was either lug the boxes to the attic in order to lug them all back out in three weeks or just set them up and carry empty boxes. I opted for the later and the extra three weeks will make up for some of the time they have spent in boxes over the past 8 years.

This is but a sampling of the little scenes now created all over my house. I will not need to add to this collection at all.
Two other fun Christmas traditions in our house are cutting a fresh tree and making a gingerbread house, both I'm sure will be featured in up-coming blogs. What holiday traditions do you have?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No Guns Allowed!

I was the mother, who swore my kids would never play with guns. I told relatives not to buy even play guns. I admonished the kids when they turned Legos or sticks into guns. I drilled into their heads that guns were bad. Then DS was involved in Cub Scouts. Cub Scouts allows / encourages shooting with bb guns. I was horrified and scared when my husband told me that there would be shooting at summer camp. I made my husband promise that he would take extra care of DS and watch extra carefully when they were at the range. DS came home from that camping trip ecstatic. The range master was impressed with his accuracy. DS had posted 5 shots within the size of a dime. He had qualified as a sharp shooter. This should have been a sign of what was to come. DS was very proud of this and wanted to do more, so we found a range that practiced competitive shooting. This was not a fluke. DS moved up a 22 long rifle and DD wanted to try too. I sat through their safety class with them to see how they were instructed. I cannot voice how nervous I was about this. I had been taught to fear guns. Perhaps what I should have been taught was to fear people who use guns unsafely or with the intent to do harm. Perhaps it would have made more sense to have gun safety classes vs. telling us to never touch them.

Anyway, flash forward DS has now made the alternate spot on the State rifle team two years running and both children have gotten their hunting licenses. DD has even passed the bow course. The rifle sports and hunting opportunities have allowed for great family bonding, incredible self-control, a growth in self-esteem, and patience. If I had known what this sport would bring to our family, I would have brought the kids to the range instead of being so scared.
Having this knowledge also may have saved my children's life when they, along with a friend, found a gun in the woods. All the kids had experience with guns and knew the power they held, they were not curious, and were aware of mis-fires etc. They did not touch the gun, but immediately came to get adults to handle the situation. I'm not sure that their reaction would have been the same had they not experienced the power of a gun and knew they could use a real one the next time they were at the range. In fact, there have been studies showing that children that have been told not to touch guns, will; so if you think your warnings will save your children, you may want to think again.Check Spelling

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Simple Dutch Oven Cooking Recipe (oven friendly too)

My son is a master Dutch Oven cooker. In fact my entire family loves Dutch Oven and outdoor cooking in general. This week DD and I had a Girl Scout activity in which we went letterboxing and then returned to the house to cook on the fire. Because of time constraits, I had to find a quick Dutch Oven recipe (not as easy as it may seem - many take several hours not including fire starting). DH mentioned Chicken Parmesean. So we had for dinner: chicken parmesean, salad, and bread. For dessert, we had cherry cobbler and a pineapple upside-down cake.

If you are interested in the chicken parmesean, here is the reciped and the beauty of it. You start with pre-cooked and breaded chicken cutlets. You can buy them in the freezer section. I think we bought Tyson, but I'm sure there are other manufacturers. This alone saves a ton of prep time. Line the bottom of the Dutch Oven with tin foil (you will appreciate this during clean up). Add a layer of sauce, just to prevent sticking. Put in the cutlets. Put a little more sauce on each one. Sprinkle mozzerella on top. Cook with 10-12 charcoal briquetts on the bottom and 6 or so on the top for about 20 minutes. When chicken is warm and cheese is melted, dinner is ready enjoy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Creating an Echo Map : balancing your life on paper

As I have mentioned, we are in the process of becoming foster parents (thus the decrease in blog posts). In our most recent class we did an activity which would be helpful for anyone. It was called an Echo map. An echo map is a graphic representation of how you spend your time and the rewards or costs of that time. It basically looks like this:

In the center write your own name. Then on each of the outside bubbles write people, places, or things that take up your time / you are responsible for. After that connect each smaller bubble to the mane bubble using a line.

  • A solid line represents that this activity / person replenishes you and is a positive part of your life.
  • A dotted line represents that this activity / person is neutral and neither taxes nor benefits you but has to be dealt with.
  • A fuzzy line represents that this activity / person is stressful and depletes your energy.

Yes, you may have activities or people that are connected with more than one type of line. When you are done, look at your map. You may be surprised by what you see. Seeing your life graphically represented may cause you to make some changes. Are there more solid lines or more fuzzy lines? Are there any solid lines? If you compared these connections with the time spent on them is your time dedicated to the most productive, rewarding things?

If you try this activity, let us know about your epiphanies. Did you decide to make any changes?

P.S. It is tough when you do this activity next to your spouse and he puts a solid line to your name but you put all three lines to his circle - - -ooops! It may be better to do this in private.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We are official volunteers

It was a big day in our household. DD and I posed for our official Old Sturbridge Village volunteer badges.

This is a bigger deal than you might think. As a homeschooler, DD has never had a photo ID and has been frustrated a few times when this came up. Most of her friends have school ID's, but we have no need for them. Once, she even made up our homeschool ID's, but this volunteer badge will be a real photo ID. I think possibly for one moment all the dressing up was worth it for her. I think that she will cherish this ID for a long time. It won't be long until she has a driver's licence to replace it, but for now today was a big day in the life of a teenager.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins Day is today, the first Saturday in November. The day was coined by Al Capp, the cartoonist of Li’l Abner. Sadie was actually a character who debuted in his strip on November 15th, 1937. Due to her popularity, she actually began reappearing annually and the idea of an unmarried woman perusing men spread across the country.
I remember asking a boy to my first Sadie Hawkins dance. I took one deep breath and blurted it all out. I’m surprised he understood a word I said. Fortunately, he agreed to go or I think I would have died of embarrassment.

One thing that Sadie Hawkins day taught me is how hard it is to be a man / boy in this society. I can’t imagine having to ask other people out let alone asking them to marry you. What if they said no? This is an official thank you to all the men who have taken initiative over the years. I think to commemorate this day, we should all take the time to tell our men how much we appreciate them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review - Cold Sassy Tree

Do I have a book for you - Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns is one of my all time top reads. Recommended by our library director, our book club chose Cold Sassy Tree for this month's read. It was fantastic. However, I will recommend that you do not read it in public. I completely embarrassed my children when I both laugh and cried in public with them in the vicinity. I mean who cannot find it funny when Grandpa chooses a new wife and everyone is horrified because his last wife is has only been in the ground for three weeks, but Grandpa relents, "She ain't gonna' get any deader." I literally went around reading this section to people because I thought it was so funny. Beware though, that there are tears too. The story of Cold Sassy and its residents is an emotional roller coaster that will bring you to love the town and the whole Blasklee Clan, even the spoiled Aunt Loma. I highly recommend this book to all of you.

Our next read is going to be AJ Jacobs Guinea Pig Diaries and then for our January meeting, we are going to do the book club in Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society fashion and each report on a book of our choice. We've opted not to make Potato Peel Pie as the recipe sounds atrocious. If you have other suggestions for our group, please let me know.
I am also personally fitting in The Book Thief, Jesus Interrupted, Sold, and the Knockout Entrepreneur; so you can look forward to many more book suggestions in the future. If only there were a few more hours a day to read. Of course as my DD keeps saying, "If you would read faster, you could read more, Mom."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2012 will it be the End of Days

One of the great lines in Girl Scout Law is "Use resources wisely." This phrase repeats in my mind in so many different ways. In this case, DD and I used our resources to find some free educational resources. DD checked the computer and found a free seminar at a nearby college. I think this is a great way to get DD acclimated to the college world. She will get to see campuses and sit through real lectures. I realize that she doesn't have "homework" and such, but it is a good first step.

Today's lecture was on the Mayan Calendar and how it supports or does not support the current mania of human annihilation in 2012. The speaker Dr. Edwin Barnhart has worked extensively on the Mayan Civilization. His work is primarily in archaeology and research, but even he understands the interest in 2012. The lecture was fascinating. Proof of that came when he said that he had to wrap it up as he was out of time and DD turned to me and said it couldn't be over yet. It was more that an hour past lunch and she hadn't even thought about it until the class was over. She took over 5 pages of notes.

We have also taken free lectures on King Tut and the history of the wolf. With many, many more colleges just a short ride from our home now, I think that we will be attending many more.

I did have to admit to my husband that it did cost something, because DD and I had a delicious lunch together. Mother / daughter time is very important me and something I intend to continue even after we add a new child to our life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Feeding the animals through winter

It was not my intent to feed the birds, but apparently they are enjoying my front door decorations. At first when we drove up the drive the other day, I thought the bottom had been eaten away, but upon closer inspection it was clear that someone, or many someones, have been nibbling away on our decorations.

So apparently, my reduce, reuse, recycle kick has extended to house decorating - - -holiday decoration or animal feeder? I guess it all depends on your perspective.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween - Fall Rituals

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween yesterday. We had a whopping one trick-or-treater. I'm glad I did not go too crazy buying candy. We'll have a lot of leftovers, but as our kids didn't go trick-or-treating I guess it all evens out. If you could have peered through our windows, this is what our house looked like at Halloween:
Carving central. As we waited so long to buy our pumpkins, we got a really good deal and only spent 5 cents per pumpkin. I will certainly note this for next years plan and budget. This year we used white pumpkins as opposed to the traditional orange pumpkins. Beggars can't be choosey at 5 cents per pumpkin. DH said that while they were smaller, they were much easier to carve.

Anyone for Pumkin Pie ; ) I told you homeschoolers were geeks some times.

We had one more carved after I took the pictures, so I'll try to get shot tomorrow.