Monday, May 30, 2011


Thank-you to the men and women who risk it all to obey orders, whether they agree with them or not; a loss of their freedom to ensure ours.

My husband served in the U.S. Military along with his father, brother, cousin and uncles. I love the fact that these intelligent, nurturing, committed men have been willing to fight for the legacy of freedom that we enjoy in this country. Not every decision is correct, not every war well managed. The fact of the matter is, people still come to America in droves seeking that which we are born in to... the right to make our own decision, get educated, make money, vote, wear what we will, marry whom we love, have children or not, move around, disagree, and so much more.

It's not a perfect system but it's a system that offers an open hand of favor to those who embrace it. And for that I am proud to be an American. And deeply thankful to my fellow Americans who don the uniform, take orders and risk everything.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Green Grows the Garden

 It was  a long cold winter and spring has carried on the trend. Cold and wet. We finally have courageous plants tentatively poking their heads above dirt: Spinach, lettuce and celery, rows of green beans and beets. Cub was in charge of the carrots and, while they are growing, they are congregating in 3 little clumps. Not sure if I'll be able to salvage more than a handful or we just need to start over.
Brassicas: broccoli, cabbage, green and purple, Brussels sprouts. I didn't bother with cauliflower. The last year we planted them they grew but were not worth eating. Cukes, zucchini, pumpkin, winter and acorn squash. We also have a couple varieties of tomatoes, green, red and yellow peppers, basil, parsley, eggplant.
We've made beds even though we have plenty of land. Visually it's just easier for me to cope with contained areas than what looks like an overwhelming amount of area to contend with. They are a modified square foot (the lettuce, obviously, is planted in rows). Really, the key to gardening, as most other things, is finding a system that works for you.

Just above the lettuce you can see the strawberry beds. They are about 30 feet long and part of my plot to create an edible landscape. Along with the strawberries we have heavily producing grape vines, 4 heavily producing mulberry trees, rhubarb that doesn't stop and one lone raspberry bush that survived the fire trucks and new drain field construction. We also put in a asparagus bed and more berry plants this year.

Our trend in life, and in gardening, is what we do well, we rock at. Beyond that, not so much. We always have way too much of many things, and other things fizzle out with dull consistancy.


Last year we had a zillion strawberries but because we weren't able to clean the beds very well the berries were very small and tart. I raked the beds HARD this spring, probably halving them. As you can see, they don't look too worse for wear.
We'll be harvesting spinach and salad wthin the week. Here are 2 of our favorite salads:

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Large bed of spinach leaves, sliced strawberries, roasted walnuts, shredded cheese (colby or fresh parmesan).
1/2 c. light olive oil, 1/4 c. white vinegar, 1/2 c. sugar, paprika. Blend well.

Apple Chicken Walnut Salad
Large bed of torn lettuce and spinach leaves, thinly sliced mild onions, chicken breasts cooked and thinly sliced (I boil them in a pot with chicken base from Sam's) and caramelized walnuts. Serve with dressing of choice.

(to caramelize walnuts, "melt" 1/2 c. sugar in a heavy bottom pan, add 1 tsp nutmeg or Cinnamon. When sugar is completely liquid, add 3 c. of walnuts. Stir till coated, turn out onto wax paper until cooled - be careful not to burn the sugar) Or, you can simply put the walnuts in a heavy bottom pan and "roast" lightly. They are delicious either way!

Linking up with the Homeschool Village Garden Challenge. And while you're there, stop by and read How to Prepare Your Kids for Survival in a World Gone Global.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Season in Full Swing


The weather has been wet, rainy and chilly. It's green out here on the Great, Wide Open Prairie, but not yet warm. There are plants in the garden but they are tentative, bidding their time and waiting for warmth.

Feet in our Family (see picture above):
The bare and dirty (good clean dirt, hence "Feeche").
The bare and polished (hence "Queen" before the KB).
The heavy, hobnailed (think loud and 11).
The zebra striped wild thing (think cutie patootie).
The feet not found (A. Think "Gone Adventuring" -that would be our oldest and
B. Gone to get the camera (that would be Me).
The practical ready for anything (think manly Husband type).

Reading Silesian Station by David Downing. An American journalist who happens to be a Communist and expat in Germany becomes an agent, make that double, triple agent, just before WWII; Alice in Wonderland surreal. He portrays the calm before the storm, the bizarre alliance between Hitler and Stalin and the "normalcy" of life, despite the rampant thugism (made that up myself) right before the war.

School this week consisted of Grammar (R & S all around). Typing Tutor, 1/4 Mile Math, Chem for Feeche, Poetry, SOTW, Lego League, lots of walks & jogs, romping through fields, and good long reads. Flower would like summer to consist of one long sleep-over with friends.

Watched The Importance of Being Earnest this week. The kids did this play for the Festival of One Acts 2 years ago, adapted by my talented and amazing friend, Michelle. The movie is funny and captures dry Brit wit extraordinarily. An all star cast, including Judith Dench and Colin Firth. (fwiw: I was a bit shocked at a brief moment of inappropriate anatomy being displayed).  

The animation and artwork were amazing. The story a combo of history, folk lore and myth. Think of it as a re-telling of Beowulf. Fascinating. (disclaimer: Flower was distraught over how a "dark" place was displayed so use caution if you have young or sensitive children).

Also, The King's Speech. Loved it (who didn't). Because of the swearing we had the notsolittles bow out.
Loved it (did I say that already?)

The Saturday Special at HSV this week will be "How to Prepare Your Kids for Survival." I've listed 7 "Survival Skills" our kids will need to compete globally. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

KB hit the floor last week at school and has been doing cuts, color, manis, pedis, and facials with gusto. She is loving it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2010/11 Yearly Homeschool Wrap-Up

We have wrapped up the year. It's official now because we took the kids out to eat and gave them presents for a job well done. They were not academic gifts. Flower got a craft kit, Cub another Star Wars figure and a small pack of bullets, Feeche a huge pack of bullets and KB the audio CD Focus on the Family Radio Theater of The Screw Tape Letters with the string attached that she had to let us all listen to it as well. It's one of her favs and she and Feeche have sections of it memorized. They quote it at odd times and appear to be either brilliant or just very odd. Anyway, we fed the frenzy.

We had just moved back in to our house last August (after a house fire, check out the Tear Down to Build Up posts if you want to read the drama) after a long summer of working on the house and wrapping things up with the insurance company and contractor. We jumped in to a program here that offered an enrichment co-op one day a week (Music, Art and unit study) and an Academic Class Day one afternoon a week. While the boys attended Tutoring Center, Flower and I often went to a freinds' house where we did WWE II and visited. The year became less chaotic as it went on and I think we accomplished a lot.

Singapore Story Problems 3A & B
Spectrum Math 2 & 3
Math Minutes 2 & 3
Various pages from Horizons 4

ETC 6,7, 8
Reading daily- several pages to me and then I to her.
WWE II (with friends)
IEW's poetry

We began SOTW Activity Guide IV

The continents with map work (co-op)

Moody Science videos

Art (co-op)
Choir (co-op)

Singapore Story Problems 4 & 5
LoF Fractions
Math Minute 5

Writing Tales I & II. This included grammar and writing a paper a week (TC)
IEW's poetry

From Sea to Shining Sea book and workbook (TC)
SD State History (co-op)

Behold and See 5 (TC)
Science 6 Seton (TC)

Mapping the World with Art (TC)

Art (co-op)
Choir (co-op)
Logic (co-op ext)

LoF Algebra
Financial Peace (co-op)

IEW's American Lit (TC)
Poetry (TC)
Shakespeare (co-op ext)
history of our Mother Tongue (co-op)

ScienceChemistry (TC)
Botany (co-op)

Oral Interp (TC)
Art (co-op)
Choir (co-op)
Dancing -ballroom

We also read a ton of books aloud and separately, and watched a boat-load of movies, listened to books on tape. My goal with the books and movies is to re-iterate history or science lessons and still allow the kids some down time without indulging 100% in total brain mush activity (though, admittedly, we do some of that as well). The kids all contribute extensively to house work and gardening.

Along with academics the kids showed great improvements in various personal areas. Feeche is much better at managing his own work and assignments, Cub is more willing to take instruction and do things he doesn't want to without a lot of arguing, and Flower is reading with ease, for the most part.

I listed the stuff that we do, partly in order to make sure I know what we did last year (cause it all gets blurry after a while-kwim?) but also to show that homeschooling doesn't mean that you have to do it all at home. We are dedicated to intentional education, not necessarily homeschooling, and outsourcing, when you have the means available, is a very viable way of getting the job done, if it contributes to your overall goals and vision.Too,when I list English for Cub as an outsourced course, realize that he and I were working together on it 3 days a week.

Big Wins
LOVED Dr. H teaching Chemistry and Mrs. K teaching writing for Feeche. It is so good for the older kids to be getting feed-back from other invested adults!
Writing Tales was terrific! While I love how IEW has their writing instruction set up better I really appreciated the grammar throughout the writing lessons and the weekly writing assignment. Writing in groups is the way to go for accountability!
My kids continue to love and excel with Life of Fred, Writing With Ease and Story of the World.
Singapore Story Problems were THE find of the year for me. Difficult, challenging and fantastic!
And, Choir in co-op. I LOVE the fact that my kids have such fantastic music instruction in a group setting, learning songs they'll be singing their whole lives.

The Not So Great
My big I don't like this year was how uninvolved I was with Feeche. Part of that was due to circumstance and it got better throughout the year.
SOTW IV Activity Guide is a bit over Flower's head. I've modified it to make it work but it's a stretch.
It's odd to think I've taught my last child to read. I've been teaching reading for 20 years and it is one of my favorite things to teach. I LOVE it when the kids make that break-through between illiteracy and literacy. A new season, which is great, but bittersweet about leaving the old behind.

Overall I'm happy with what we accomplished, am grateful to the wonderful co-op and Tutoring Centers Tutors we had available to us and was ready to finish when we did.

How did your year go? What did you accomplish? What were the big wins? The big losers?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Snoozing in the Arms of Love

This is our good friend and neighbor, Stan. He is holding Drake on his lap, who decided to take a little nap.
Drake is Stan and Cyndi's 6th child, 3rd by adoption. Drake loves his Poppa and loves to ride on the mower with him!

Stan & Cyndi are a matched set.
They are both humble and Godly people that show love and compassion to the least of these, over and over again.
 They are solid gold, true blue, crazy for God radicals.
They witness and testify to the Living God by how they live each and every day.

Isn't this a perfect example of what it means to rest in Jesus? Safe and secure in the arms of love.
 I think  that it's easy to forget that God delights in us, just like Stan is delighting in adorable little Drake.
God delights in us.

Stan was injured several weeks ago and needs prayers for complete healing.
Would you agree with me in prayer for my friend?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing on the Hearts of Those We Love

Ginny writes about the notes that she leaves for her children each night. I’ve been thinking about this, the love notes that we leave on the hearts of others. The love notes that others leave us with. I chose Christ, reluctantly at first, because of the Love Note that He wrote on my heart. It was a note of tender desire, ownership, generosity and fullness. I was compelled by all that He offered.

A life of faith and trust in Jesus is an interesting thing. It is the most intentional of lives. As my husband said yesterday, there are 2 kinds of people in the world; committed Christians, and everybody else, and everyone on the face of the planet knows the difference. Can one say that about any other faith system? No. And, of course, the reason why is because Christianity is not a system regardless of how many have tried to distill it to such, it's a relationship with the Master of the Universe.

So, while a life of commitment to Yeshua is the most intentional, it often seems the most controlled, or the most chaotic. How does one measure and test hearing from the Lord, obedience to Him, a vibrant life of faith vs. something else? A life poured out often looks like personality disordered craziness.

And while it gives the appearance of stinginess and choking suffocation, or else utter chaos, it is only by immersing oneself in a life of conformity to Christ that one is finally, and fully (if that is even possible), able to write notes of truth and meaning on the hearts of those we love. Everything else is motivated by reaction or conformity or false philosophies that bind instead of free.

We are called to be faithful to write Truth; faith, love and hope, on the hearts of those we love. Of course, it is their choice, or not, to embrace those words or to walk away. I have seen a man who walked away from the words written on his heart and it was a tragedy. It grieved those writing the love story and the trail that he blazed on his own left contention and strife. He claimed freedom but it was all selfishness as he was committed to pleasing his own passions, drives and desires. If that is freedom, it is the carnivorous sort.

I'm no expert. I write little spiteful 7th grade notes far more often than I write notes of generosity and love. And I am often frustrated at how confined my life is, often because of obedience and conformity to Christ. And, too, I feel anger, and heart hurt, at those who are spiteful and mean spirited in response to the love notes I have so generously, sacrificially and laboriously written. I work to take captive every thought that demands that outcomes are my problem, because they're not, even though the lies of the enemy insist that they are. Writing notes that are bigger than ourselves is difficult and tedious work. Listening to notes of expansive love, rather than stingy subtraction is a discipline, too.

Last night was another night of feeling very broken and torn, attempting to distill meaning from notes that are tattered and barely recognizable. And my husband wrote a note on my heart in response to the turmoil. He said, "Be at peace, be still. God loves you. He delights in you. You are His. You are safe. You have enough." And my heart expanded and my world stilled because Truth was written on my heart.

I think about the notes that I write. Some are well done. Others I've left too long, others are sloppy. Intentional living demands sacrifice. What notes are you reading and writing?

Check out Ginny's lovely post and more inspiration at My Cup to Yours and the Hop, Time Warp Wife, Finding Heaven

Sunday, May 22, 2011

God's Plan

Our Hebrew fellowship group (Jewish roots of the Christian faith) started a 12 week G-od's Plan Course yesterday and it did not disappoint. 11/2 hours of recorded teaching by Rav Nate, paused often for discussion and questions. Several excellent points including but not limited to:

1) Israel's Dilemma: Israel was not birthed for her own sake. The state of Israel had no concept of who they were before God, especially as they left a life of slavery in Egypt. Israel questions God in Exodus 17:3, "Why now have you brought us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" God responds in Exodus 19:3-6....You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." God reestablishes the covenant He made with Abraham.
Israel is established to be a priestly nation to minister to the congregation of nations.

2) Who's a Jew? The descendants of Jacob, also known as "Israel" - "he who struggles with God." Hebrew is one who has crossed over, grafted in to the tree of Israel. Jews must be physically descended from Jacob's 12 sons, a Hebrew is not a ethnic delineation.

Being "Jewish" requires the following:
  1. A genetic basis. Family line is passed down through the Mother.
  2. Cultural practices, including the knowledge, resources, or ability to continue them,
  3. A continuation of traditions. rituals, beliefs or an object passed down within society with origins in the past. 
Had a fascinating discussion about what creates a tribe, genetics and the statistics involved in genealogy.

3)The double entendre the Jews spoke when demanding the release of Barabbas (instead of Jesus -the prisoner that was released instead of Jesus at the Passover feast- His name was Bar Abba, son of the Father. The Jews were crying, "Give us the 'Son of the Father."

Much food for thought with the promise of more to come next week via skype with Rav Nate.

Check out Pebble Crossing for more inspiration. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Schedue & The Winner Is...

AND THE WINNER of the CREATIVELY FIT Program and Book Give Away is:
Musical Mary!
Congrats, Mary! Shoot me an email and we'll get the prized to you! 
Thanks to every one for particiapting!

We are on summer schedule. The kids are doing typing, cursive, grammar, math drill, SOTW, poetry, memorization for drama camp (simple), memorization for Shakespeare camp (a bit more challenging, but only Feeche), and math. Why is it that not having an external weekly "due date" makes what we are doing seem so much more relaxed? Math drill, typing and strategy games are on the computer; SOTW & Poetry are on CD, the kids are old enough and know the routine enough on memorization to take responsibility for that themselves. And I continue to learn grammar with them.
Chinese Checkers has figured heavily into our post lunch activity.  

The garden is, for the most part, in the ground. We have a huge patch of strawberries and rhubarb, the grapes are still alive and well pruned thanks for Mr. Woodchuck, the mulberry trees are going to be full up and we planted several more raspberry, blackberry and blueberry bushes and finally, asparagus. Veggies include carrots, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, beans, basil, parsley, eggplant, peppers, squash, cukes, melon.

Swirling Girlie.
Flower has been having a blast these days hanging out in the south field. She has a whole Little House on the Prairie set-up, complete with "well system." KB has been doing some swirling of her own. She is done with the academic portion of the cosmetology program and hit the floor this week. So far she's done cuts, color, manis pedis and facials. She's made great tips, had fantastic feed-back and loves what she's doing! Woohoo.  

The front flower bed. It is full of plants that actually survive the windswept prairie. We've spent hours this week in the yard, moving plants, removing weeds, planting and watering. It's great to be outside. Now, if the wind would just DIE down and the HEAT would arrive. Seriously, I'd like to put away my jacket and socks!

"Bubbles." Another awesome pic by KB. Looking at things from a different perspective. Viking Man has a lull in his schedule before his next on-line class begins. We've spent lots of time brainstorming and reading  and re-thinking some things.
(The above picture is of Lilacs in a vase).

KB and Cub walked to the river, just before the rockin and rolling thunder storm that played all night. They followed Mr. Toad for awhile and brought home a bouquet of wild asparagus for dinner.

Good reads this week have included but are not limited to The Halls of the Dragon King,King Raven series, Dr. Seuss, Richard Scary,  Viking Man has been opening bins from the back of the attic and setting up bookshelves (a step towards actually really, fully moving back in!) and discovering that most of the books we kept are still readable. We continue to find mold on things, and continue to pitch, but the percentage keeps getting lower and lower. All that to say, Flower and Cub have been finding books that they loved 2 years ago and are happy to sit down and read them, even though they are way below their reading level. Maple Hill Farm and Are You My Mother among them.
Career Renegade, along with 4HWW have been challenging and thought provoking.

How'd your week go?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Reading 2 separate books on management (one home, one biz) and they both say the same thing: BATCH.

In other words, set-up time costs the same amount if you do a run of 1 or 10. So, cook and shop once a month instead of nightly;  check email once or twice a day instead of every 10 minutes, etc. This is why birthing multiples is much more efficient than just having kids one at a time.

I'm considering what we batch and what we could batch that we don't. How would this apply to homeschooling?

What do you "batch?"

From My Front Door

Country living, baby.