Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chiles Rellenos Eggrolls

This is the recipe for the delicious Mexican eggrolls I love to make! When I found large cans (20 whole green chiles each) for a dollar at a local grocery store, I snatched up thirty of them just so I could make these. They really are easy.

The filling:
Brown 1 lb. ground beef, 1 med. onion and a clove of garlic. Drain. Add 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. ground cumin and 1/4 t. oregano. Add 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese.

Lay out a eggroll wrapper. Lay a whole green chile opened up on the eggroll wrapper. Top with some of the ground beef mixture and wrap eggroll style. Fry in a little oil until golden brown on all sides or deep fry. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

I'm Not Kidding

Ford actually got me a megaphone for a Christmas present. Not this exact one, but a megaphone nonetheless. Our kids are not excited. We, on the other hand, much enjoy tormenting them. What fun I'll have waking them up for school after Christmas break. Of course, they will have the option of using their alarms to get up here on time, but when the don't.....mwhaha!

Merry Christmas!

We've been enjoying Candace and Michael here for the last couple of weeks. Ford's business was so swamped (which is a huge and unusual blessing this time of year) he needed help and since Michael's work was slow, they came down to stay with us for a while. Now Priscilla is home from college too. All of the adults in the house have been going to work at 8am, leaving the four younger kids and I home during the day. Then at night, everyone is home together. It has been the perfect balance between peace & quiet and fun.

This morning we had our own immediate family's Christmas with gifts from Ford and I and the much anticipated stockings. The rest of today will be spent loading up the presents, packing overnight clothes and cooking food to take to Grandma & Grandpa's, which is just next door. My sister, Lori, and her family will meet us over there for a grand total of twenty people!

Our tradition is that each family basically prepares a whole meal for Christmas Eve and we add it all together buffet style. Mom and Lori usually make more traditional Christmas dinner type foods, while I choose the ethnic variety. This year my contribution is shredded pork tacos, chiles rellanos eggrolls, mexican rice and black bean & corn salsa. Yum! We dress up and have a nice dinner together with loads of desserts that Grandma makes. We have a dirty santa present exchange and a sort-of-talent show. Then we ALL spend the night. We wake up, open presents from the person who drew our name and spend the rest of the day lounging in our pajamas, playing games and eating leftovers. We usually stay until the next evening.

Needless to say, it's most everyone's favorite twenty-four hours of the year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our God is an Awesome God...

...that line can sound so cliche, can't it? Awesome. It's still a great word. My little dictionary that sits here by the computer says awe is a mixed emotion of reverence, dread and wonder. I would say fear instead of dread, but basically awe is the right word.

Today I read the first chapter (well, the first half of the first chapter) in John Piper's Desiring God.

I'll be honest. I just don't care for Christian books. I absolutely love my Bible. I read it regularly, study it in depth, teach from it, underline freely, write notes in the margins and just plain delight in it. But Christian books on theology...uh, I think I need to go clean out my refrigerator. I won't go into any reasons for my aversions here because I don't want to follow that rabbit trail right now.

I stumbled across this title while reading over at Dewey's Treehouse and saw that this book was available online. My girls have ordered some of Piper's books and I knew he was a popular author so I thought I'd check it out. I printed the first chapter and settled down with my cup of coffee before I woke the kids up. I read this excerpt and felt like it did a good job of summing up something I feel like God has been trying to show me this year. Not that I have been through any major trauma this year, but if it can apply to bigger situations, why not smaller ones?

"When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved....

But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts-good and evil-brings him delight."

So often, all we see things through is the narrow lens. We rightly feel grief and anger. But that is so often where we stop. We don't move on from there. Oh, maybe we decide to take the big step and "forgive" because we know it's wrong to harbor anger and bitterness in our hearts. Scripture is painfully clear about that. So we say, "I forgive you" but it doesn't always prevent us from only seeing through the narrow lens.

Much of my prayers this year have been, "Lord, help me to see through Your eyes" or "Help me to love so-and-so like you do". Over and over again I have prayed for His viewpoint. Talk about God not giving us a stone when we ask for bread! I feel like I have received freshly ground, whole wheat, delicious, nutritious, satisfying bread this year. Sometimes the results of these prayers have been almost instantly miraculous and other times more gradual, but after looking back a bit, effective nonetheless.

I have seen one thing for sure. Love and grace triumph over punishment and self-righteous judgment. Occasionally, I see a glimpse of His Glory and even just that glimpse, that tip of the iceberg, feels so overwhelming it makes me wonder how I will be able to bear more.


I'm still so amazed that the majority of my children have such blond hair. I thought it was funny one evening when all I saw was this peeping out from the side of the couch and I had to wonder which girl it was. It was Kezzi napping on the couch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Silly Boys

I was going through my camera, deleting pictures to make room for more when I came across these nutty poses.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I saw this quiz on Becks Bounty and thought I'd give it a try.

An Elf

Like one of Santa's right-hand helpers, you're dedicated and devoted. From their pointy shoes to their pointy ears, the elves, and people like you, are the man in red's secret to success. Do you really think one person can make all those toys, harness the reindeer, wrap all those gifts, and get around the world in one night?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Manipulating with a Magnadoodle

I found this on Ford's night stand while I was getting ready for bed one night, right after I told Annalise that it was too late for me to read to her. Needless to say, I caved and read to her.

All Seven Together

Everyone was here together for Annalise's baptism. From left to right: Candace (21), Abel(12), Kezzi (18), Annalise (8), Priscilla (19), Hope (16) and Luke (14).

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Moving Forward

Cindy at Dominion Family wrote this post in November. I am in the first steps of a stage she is already familiar with. I'm am happy to find the joy in this time of life and to see that God is just as faithful now as He was when I leaned on Him for all of the little kid issues. This quote reflects what I am seeing happen in our home.

"On the flip side, when the children start flying away it happens just as fast. The seismic shift in family life can leave gaping holes. But when the dust is settled, something amazing usually takes place. Everyone moves up a notch. Maturity levels rise. Relationships change and blossom. A child who was content to be under the radar is suddenly a leader. I have seen this happen over and over again but it is always a source of surprise and encouragement to me."

I am seeing one example of this in Hope right now. She has really been blossoming. It was hard at first to see her go from one of four girls getting ready for bed each night, all in the same bathroom, crowded around one mirror, laughing and talking happily to having large quantities of time alone. But what magnificent things she is doing with that free time! The songs she is composing and singing are truly wonderful!! Her dad just gave her his violin last night and now she is experimenting with that. And she wants a guitar for Christmas. It's amazing to see sorrow turned to joy.

Without the big girls around, it's been easier to see how strong and capable Luke has grown. This morning he went and got the Christmas tree out of the storage building, carried it in by himself and assembled the whole thing with a little help from Abel and Annalise, who both insisted on joining in the fun. I didn't have to do a thing. He has also grown very valuable in Ford's business, taking over the production of one of his most important materials.

With Luke gone working many afternoons, Abel and Annalise have spent a lot more time together and that has been good too.

Everyone really is moving up a notch and adjusting to all of the changes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Poem by Priscilla

I stole this from Priscilla's facebook page, with permission....
A poem I wrote inspired by the story of Eustace in The Dawn Treader; a story which illustrates God's faithfulness to inflict beautiful, cleansing pain on His children.

The Undragoning

I lay e’er long on a bed of comfort
My rough parched self displays no shame.
My jewels, naught such, may taunt yea hurt,
But I turn my head and refuse the pain.
My mind as a wheel spins tales of such
That throne me higher than a King.
'Tis treason, plain and clear, but search
The kingdom wide and you’ll find none true.
Yet amidst the mutiny the ruler rules
And in spite of the rebellion a servant will hear.
The King steps down and with His claws
He pierces deep a gaping tear.
He searches through stubborn scales until
Against smooth skin I feel His paws.
A cry escapes my lips as I
Again feel shame form blessed strength.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finally Back...

After my laptop died, I did not have internet at home. The only way I could check my email or be on the internet was by going down to Ford's shop. I just never wanted to take the time to blog down there so that is why there has been a two month lapse in blogging. But I'm back on now, so let the posting begin! My only handicap now is that I don't have a connection for my camera so there won't be pictures until I make a trip to Wal-Mart. And I'm dying to get it because I have a beautiful picture of all seven kids when they were all here a few weeks ago and I can't wait to post it.

Well, for the moment, life is settled down a bit. We have become used to having Pris away at college, but I bet we might win the prize of the "most visiting family" up there. She's been home quite a bit too. What can we say? We have no defense except we love and miss her. Kezzi has been busy trying to get a job. I bet she's applied to twenty places locally. The economy is definitely being felt by her. The younger four are busy with school and play. Hope and Abel are spending a lot of time at play practice getting ready for opening night, which is the day after Thanksgiving. Hope spends almost every spare minute at her keyboard writing music and singing. Pris has a friend at school who is going to help get a little clip recorded and up on youtube or something like that. We'll post a link here when that happens.

I'll try to start putting my thoughts into blogable format and get back on track.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Night In the City

Last night I enjoyed a beautiful evening in the city with some of my favorite women in my life. Both of my oldest daughters were there along with my sister and her two daughters and her youngest son. Candace is here for the weekend while her husband is gone on a retreat. Priscilla came down for the evening but had to get back early to prepare to leave at 4am for an out-of-state frisbee tournament. Kezzi was my only daughter who was not with us.

First we sat at the park while Priscilla worked on a drawing assignment. Then we had a wonderfully relaxing time having dessert and coffee at the coffee shop and afterwards walking across the bridge. On the way home we all sang songs to quiet the little ones. It was so nice to hear Candace's voice in the mix again.

It was so nice to be with both of the older girls though it might have made things worse for Annalise who cried quite a bit over having to say goodbye to Priscilla again. Pris is also really homesick, even though she's loving it at school. She keeps complaining about having two lives and wishes we could be a part of her life there. She's been super busy and not getting enough sleep so I suspect that is making it harder for her to cope with her emotions. We are all looking forward to Fall Break, Thanksgiving and a month together at Christmas time!

Lori and I were both commenting on how nice it is to occasionally visit the city with all of it's different sights and sounds. There were two girls on the bridge playing their violins with an open music case full of dollar bills before them. All kinds of people were walking back and forth. Beautiful buildings lined the river banks. People playing in the park - frisbee, football, roller blading. I wouldn't trade my country life for any of it, but it sure is nice to have a little city experience now and then.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thought for the Week

Here's a little note to myself and anyone else to whom this might speak:

Don't dwell on all of the things you can't change. Don't focus on all the areas with which you find yourself powerless to fix. Instead concentrate on the good you can do. That is where your energy is best spent. "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness."
Psalm 37:3

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Lake Project

Yesterday we took some time to explore around the lake. We found at least twenty different wildflowers in bloom. I was busy taking pictures to take home and identify. We plan to make a family nature notebook that will contain pictures of specimens from the lake area. I'm really excited about this project. I thought it would be fun for visitors to look over the notebook before taking a walk down there so they would have some idea of what they might see.

Here's a picture of a part of the lake. This group of trees was meant to be an island but that didn't happen since we were stopped in the middle of the project. Now, I'm glad it's not because it's a great place to explore and as it is, you only have to hop the canal which is off to the right of the picture) to get to it. I'm sure we would not visit it as often if it required a boat ride to get there.
This is one end of the wetlands. We were told to expect all of these plants to fill in along the edges farther down.
This is the picture of farther down. It's bare right now with only little seedlings showing up along the shore. It will be fun to see it come alive.

I took many pictures of the wildflowers, but I'll only include one here of this beautiful cardinal flower.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Looking Forward

Things have settled down around here. And my friend was right, I'm adjusting quicker than I thought. However, Pris and I both cried as we hugged each other hello this afternoon when she arrived for her first visit home for the weekend. But we are all moving on and enjoying life.

I feel like I have so much to look forward to this fall. I'm very excited about serving as mentor to the MOPS group at church. I must confess it's excitement one minute, and the next it's a feeling of being totally inadequate. When that feeling comes I remind myself that of course, I am, but HE is not. I'm also excited to be able to help a new homeschooling support group get started in Knoxville. A new group that wants to study Charlotte Mason is forming and I will love every minute of helping them get off the ground.

Our school plans are going well so far this year and we are enjoying all being on the same history topic each week with Tapestry of Grace. Our first topic was John Adams and we've all really been enjoying watching the HBO miniseries on his life. I hated to leave my old favorite, Ambleside Online, behind but I really felt we would all benefit from being together, especially Hope, who as the fourth child has often been lost in the middle. She and I have really been enjoying our conversations on the things we are learning. I'm still using lots of AO books as extra reading, especially with Annalise. She has a basket by the loveseat in my room filled with AO Year 2 books that I hope to read aloud to her this year.

Next week we start two new activities. Our local YMCA is offering PE classes that we are going to participate in. And our little support group is getting together once a week for Nature Study and some more PE type activities. In addition to these active outings, we have been getting together with some other families once a week to play ultimate frisbee and tennis. Luke and Abel are chomping at the bit for tennis lessons and since we no longer have the girls' dance tuition and supplies to pay for, it looks like something doable.

Personally, I am looking forward to the cooler weather. I love fall. I love bonfires on the hill. I love cozy mornings with all the kids drinking hot tea in the living room with the fireplace going while I read aloud. I love walks in the crisp air.

We have some more good news here at Shadybrook Acres. Last year while digging our lake, the government officials shut us down because we disturbed a "wet-land area". We were very disappointed to have the work stopped before we could finish it. After corresponding with them back and forth and then submitting our plan, we have restored the area of concern according to our proposal. The new work also included a walk way around the lake, which turns out to be an even 1/4 mile track. An official came out last week and walked around the lake with Ford and gave his approval! As he walked with Ford, he pointed out and named many of the plants around the lake. He said in a year and a half we wouldn't believe how the plants would fill in and make it a beautiful place. What we thought was trouble ended up being a blessing because we are going to have a unique habitat to explore. I'm so excited to spend time studying nature down there!

So, I'm thanking God that there is so much to enjoy right now and so much to look forward to.

"Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise..."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Clock Struck Midnight...and she's gone...

(the title is referring to Steven Curtis Chapman's song - Cinderella)

It's been a week since we dropped Pris off at college and I think I have pulled it together enough to write about it now. The weekend was rough for me, then it was better Monday and Tuesday. On Saturday when I was in tears, Annalise came and hugged me and said, "I don't want to start crying again because I'll never stop." That didn't help. Wednesday evening I was a little sad again because she wasn't here to ride up to our women's Bible Study. But I'm adjusting. It was weird at first because it felt a little like grief. I felt embarrassed to say that or to even feel it. I have felt grief before and I knew I had no logical reason for feeling it now. She's not even very far away and she's in a great place. People try to reassure me with telling me what a great head she has on her shoulders and how she'll be fine. It's really not that. I'm not worried about her. I know I'll just miss her being here every night. But mamas have to grow up too.

We took her up Friday at lunch time. When we arrived there was a team of students outside each dorm, waiting to help the freshmen move in. We pulled up and within seconds everything was unloaded and carried up to her room. She found out later than the group had been going over the list of names when they saw hers and because they liked the way it sounded they were repeating it over and over. That explained why a girl had later said that she had heard Priscilla's name about 100 times that day!

When we got up to her room, her roommate was already there and had the room all arranged nicely. Kezzi, Hope, Annalise and I got her all unpacked and settled into her room within an hour or so then we went to lunch at the cafeteria. After that we went around taking care of business like getting a mailbox, a parking permit and books. Then the students met their orientation teams on the lawn while the parents had a meeting in the chapel. I couldn't have been more pleased with the meeting. My favorite part was when they opened up the microphones for the parents to pray for the students. I was moved to tears to hear so many fathers and then a few mothers pray out loud for their students first year. It really was beautiful.

We had dinner and then Ford and the boys met us up there for the parent/student meeting. That meeting was awesome too. Great messages from the president of the college, his wife, the dean of students and others. They had a panel of professors on stage in a question/answer format. All of them were characters! And I loved the things they had to say. They were asked what mistakes they made in their college days and what advice they had to pass on. They got talking about putting too much emphasis on the grades and advised the students to care more about actually learning and growing. They had a lot of great things to say.

Next we hung around on the lawn where they were serving ice cream. They had various tables set up according to majors with upperclassmen there to answer any questions. Since we were going home for the night and coming back in the morning for more parent/student meetings, we decided to not bring our kids back the following day. It was just not worth them getting up early enough to leave the house by 7am so they said goodbye there. Annalise especially broke my heart as she held onto Pris for some time. She sobbed all the way to the car.

The next morning we went back up, Ford, Kezzi and I. We had a lovely time of worship and more great speakers. I was particularly impressed with the standard of conduct. They simply expect them to live up to their Christian faith but without all kinds of specific rules. They said the dress code was "modesty" and admonished the girls to care about the Christian brothers. They told them to get in the habit of checking with other girls in the dorm to find out if a particular outfit is ok and to hold each other accountable. (I have marveled every time I've been up there at the girls clothing - for the most part it's been pretty modest.) The dean of students also went into detail about the internet access and how there were blocks in place but if attempts were made to go to unwholesome sites, they would be flagged and talked to. They went on to explain why and because they cared about their lives and their future, they would intervene. Other policies were covered and again, I was very pleased with everything. After a quick lunch, we said goodbye too.

We've talked to her several times (Yes, I know it's only been a week and I haven't been pestering her. I've waited for her to call us. ) and it sounds like she's having a ball. She's loving meeting all the new people and especially playing ultimate frisbee with the ultimate frisbee club. She called me last night after a more than three hour game! Today was the first day of classes. I'm so thrilled that she is going to have the opportunity to learn from some really great men and women and have the opportunity to meet some fine young people too.

We are going up to pay tuition and visit with her tomorrow afternoon. She wants us to take her off of campus so she can visit with us and not be distracted by all of the people she's meeting. She doesn't have to twist my arm to take her away and keep her all to ourselves!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Countdown

We are in the countdown phase of Priscilla leaving for college. Five days. On Friday we'll be taking her down and getting her settled in her new room.

This morning we stayed home from church to get things packed up. We've been so busy the last week and we have something planned for every night next week, so this morning was our only chance to get some things done. My hope is that if we tackle all of this today, she will have a nice relaxing week ahead.

It's been funny to note this week, that while she is on the verge of being more independent than ever, she has been continually asking me about what she should do about this or that. "Should I come to the get-together this Saturday night or stay home and finish my essay? What if I take my laptop and finish it there and then hang out with everyone afterwards?"

She was getting overwhelmed last week with everything that had to be done, so I offered her a plan and she gratefully accepted it, relieved to not have to think about those details. She jokes, "Mom, can I take you with me to college?" No, dear. But somehow I will find a way to be there whenever you need me.

I really am so excited for her. At the same time, I've been trying not to face the reality that looms ahead until I absolutely have to. Last night, while talking to some friends about the little details of getting her ready, one knowing mom looked me in the eye and said, "You'll be all right." Oh, yes, of course. But then why am I suddenly choking down the tears? One week, she promises. It'll only take a week to adjust. Hmmm. Dare I believe it?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Voted World's Best Sauce by Shadybrook Acres

Quite a few months back I bought a bottle of this amazing sauce at Sam's and we've been in love ever since. Yesterday we bought twelve bottles during our Sam's shopping trip. After watching how we descended upon the first bottle at lunch today, I am wondering if I should have bought more.

Today at lunch Hope was commenting that we are the weirdest eaters. She was wondering how many people would eat what we were eating for lunch. Part of our lunch fare was a block of cream cheese with this sauce poured over it as a spread for crackers. That turned into a spread for the whole wheat bread Kezzi made yesterday and then we added shredded chicken to the sandwhich. Of course, as accompaniments we had to open the marinated artichoke hearts we also got yesterday and the black olives. We've come a long way from the standard peanut butter and jelly that used to make up 90% of our lunches when the kids were little!

I'm sure over the next few months we'll come up with a new cookbook called 101 Ways to Eat Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More Changes

We began work on our new formal garden this spring. Thanks to a friend's husband, who is a professional landscaper, we had a great start with a plan down on paper. It's still a work in progress and may remain so for quite some time. I am quite the ambitious gardener in the spring, but when the hot water sets in, I retreat to the house. I hope to add some trees to it this fall and maybe finish the walkways before winter. Another new addition was the painting of our house. We got rid of the green and went with tan. Priscilla is the one who chose the color. Too bad we couldn't have painted in some green grass! This project is also in progress until we finish painting the block walls of the walk-out basement, which you can't really see from this angle. That will be another project for cooler weather.

Kezzi's Puppy

Yes, that's right. Kezzi has a puppy. Kezzi, the one who said she hated dogs and that she would NEVER EVER have one and wouldn't even marry someone who had to have a dog, has a puppy. The first night she brought her home she set up the baby playpen and slept IN the playpen with her! Just goes to prove the old saying - never say never.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's August Already???

Wow! Like always, the summer has flown past. I've actually been too busy to even think of blogging. Just keeping up with email has been a challenge, not to mention the garden! I've canned too-many-to-count pickles (bread & butter and dill) Also lots of jam - peach, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry. Now it's high gear for tomatoes (salsa & spaghetti sauce), peaches, and green beans!

Kezzi was gone for a month but is home now. She has been a dream come true. It's like having two of me working around the house. On her own, she sees what needs to be done and does it. "Mom, how about I tackle reorganizing the linen closet today?" It's wonderful!!! So many things are getting a deep clean and reorganization. It's a wonderful way to begin a new school year. I love it when I get to be the one saying, "You've done enough today. Take the rest of the day off!" She's decided to not worry about what she will do next and for now she plans to help me around here and work for her dad occasionally. She'll get no argument from me!

The boys and Hope have also been a huge help this summer. It's been my first experience with boys who are growing strong enough to tackle big jobs. They've grown up so much this past year. Luke has reached the benchmark of being taller than Kezzi, who's the shortest of the girls. It won't be long before he's passing me up.

Pris is getting ready to head to college in about two weeks. She already has her first assignment which is the reading of a book and a paper due upon arrival. It's going to be an adjustment around here for sure but I'm so excited for her!

Ford and I have been enjoying evening boating trips down the river. Last year he bought two rafts at Sam's and equipped them with batteries and trolling motors. We take about an hour and a half to go up river and then come back just before dark. It's been such a peaceful way to spend an evening. Much better than restaurants and movies!

Well, that's about as much time for an update as I can spare. I've got to get back to the kitchen! Hopefully, things will slow down soon and I'll have more time to write.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July...

from Lucy and the rest of us here at Shadybrook Acres!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Latest Happenings

This morning Luke found a chicken hiding out in the woods. She is too traumatized to come back to the hen house just yet. Twenty -five new chicks should be shipped here next week.

We had our house pressure washed and painted. We also stained our deck a darker color to match the house better. It looks great and maybe when we get the deck furniture finished and put back on and the lattice stained, I'll post a picture.

Candace started a new blog where she is sharing her poems. I hope "train up a child in the way he should go" will mean she will keep writing poetry.

Kezzi is gone to Missouri for a month to spend some time with our friends and to work at a camp for children of prisoners. We miss her but we are glad she is having a good time and doing something worthwhile.

I was the "wedding director" for a wedding that took place this weekend. Basically, that just means I was the one who was in charge of bossing everyone and telling them when to go where. I think I was more nervous than the bride and groom! It went beautifully and it was a lot of fun too!

Grandma and Grandpa are home from their three week trip and we are so glad to have them home.

I'm going to savor July because besides Kezzi being gone, everything else looks like it will be wonderfully normal. My July calendar is nearly empty so far and that's a pretty sight! I do have a big Fourth of July bash at Shadybrook Acres on there and Candace scheduled for two visits. And somewhere in there I'm having the MOPS group out to show them how to can green beans and maybe tomatoes too. But so far these are all fun things that have no dread associated with them. I hope this month ticks by in a glorious slow way!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Hate Stray Dogs!

Especially when they senselessly kill all thirty-one of my chickens within a manner of an hour or so.

Two small dogs showed up on the other side of our hill yesterday evening. We shooed them away and thought that was the end of it. It never occurred to me to think of the chickens.

Last night we made a bonfire on the hill. Ford, Annalise, Luke and I decided to try sleeping out under the stars by the fire. At about three o'clock when my little dog was out barking and keeping me awake, I stumbled back down to the house and put her in. As I settled back down up on the hill, Ford was tossing and turning and complaining about getting bit by ants. Then I heard the roosters start crowing and I knew we would not be able to sleep. So we decided to head back to the house. We woke Annalise up and took her in with us and left Luke sleeping. That was 3am. All was well.

At 7:00 Luke knocks on our bedroom door. He comes in wide-eyed to tell us that those stray dogs woke him up licking him in the face. He headed to the house and saw nine chickens dead in the field. He was clearly upset. We got up to apprehend the dogs while they were still there. Luke headed out with a garbage bag to collect the dead bodies and found even more dead in the hen house. In fact, every single chicken was dead.

The dogs had been on a major killing spree. I could understand one or two eaten chickens. But thirty-one just killed and left there?

It must have happened after sunrise because the nine chickens would not have run out into the field in the dark. I don't understand how Luke did not hear the ruckus since he was sleeping so close by.

I am so mad and I just feel sick about it. We were so excited to have raised some of the chicks ourselves. A few days ago, one hatched and we put it inside in the chick box. It's all we have left now. The yard is so quiet. Devoid of (poultry) life. It's way too quiet.

Now I am going to have to order new chicks. And we need a new habit of locking them in the hen house at night. We may be in the market for a new Great Pyrenees pup. And this time we are going to train him to protect the chickens. Pal is getting old. He normally would never have allowed stray dogs to be on our property.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Wonderful Vacation...Part 3

One day we came in and visited the Audubon Swamp Garden even though it was a sweltering 100 degree day.

On our last day we checked out of the resort and headed back to Charleston. We took a tour across the Charleston Harbor and out to Fort Sumter.
Here is a picture of what remains of the fort. It was not nearly as impressive as the pictures of it back during the Civil War. It was still interesting to see the place but I didn't take a lot of great pictures, because once again it was a hot, hot day.

Dad Saves the Day

As I was really struggling yesterday, things were happening. Priscilla's college sent her a CD of a musical group from school. Then she checked her email after coming home from work and found an email with her roommate-to-be's contact information. I was secretly (ok, maybe not so secretly) hoping these would be tugging her that direction. And then when she started facing the procedures to try for the other school, she was quickly getting overwhelmed. I must admit I was cheering inside but trying to guard that spark of hope at the same time. I know, I'm a bad mama. But in my defense, I did try to help her by starting to fill out the application while she was at work. But I got stuck with requests for information that I did not know. Honestly. [grin]

She flopped on my bed in agony over the college decision and she was wishing someone would tell her what to do (someone besides me because she says I'm hopelessly biased!). Her daddy came to the rescue. After spending a few days considering the matter, he gave his input and expressed his desire for her to stay close to home. She agreed. So, now we are moving forward as previously planned.

Funny thing is that now I had to face her going far away, the move to the college campus close by doesn't seem so bad. I think I can...I think I can...

In the meantime, I'm trying to savor every moment. Tonight I took three of the girls up to the mountain lake for a relaxing evening swim and Sonic shakes on the way home. I had an unexpected treat of getting a call on my cell phone while sitting on the beach from Candace. I think I'll make it.

I never took childbirth classes but I'm thinking I could use those breathing techniques through these changes that I'm going through now more than I needed it then.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This May Be Harder Than I Thought

I've mentioned quite a few times about the changing dynamics of my family with children growing up. I've always known that I can't hold them too tightly and that God may have plans for them that take them away. I thought I was ready for that. But I've been crying all morning just anticipating a probable change this fall.
Priscilla had everything all in line to go to a college that is only about an hour and twenty minutes away. It hasn't been easy finding a local Christian college with an art major. She wanted to be able to live at home and attend classes somewhere where she would be encouraged in a Christian worldview with her art. Even though she would have to live on campus with the college she chose, she and I both took comfort in the thought of weekends at home and the mid-week possibility of going down there for a lunch date. I have been thinking that it is a smaller step that I could probably handle, not real easily, but handle nonetheless.
When the girls were preparing to go on an out-of-town trip for a week and a half recently to the Worldview Academy Leadership Camp, I was reading Annalise her bedtime reading because Priscilla, who frequently reads to her, was busy packing. She looked at me with sad eyes and asked me how long the girls were going to be gone. I told her we were going to have to get used to it because next year she would not be living here. Then Annalise began to cry and so did I. We just held each other and cried.
Now at this late time, when I thought all of the plans were set, Pris is considering a college in Missouri where she would not have to live on campus, but could live with some dear friends of ours. If she goes there she will be attending the same school as her best friend, in fact, living with her and her family, who have been like a second family to Priscilla. She feels that it is difficult to find good friends like them and being able to rely on them for encouragement and stability on a daily basis would be very helpful.
She has met one of the art professors who works at the college in Missouri because he is the father of some kids she knows, and she has been very impressed with his work. Not just the technique of his work, but the messages they contain. Priscilla is not so sure the college she had planned to attend with give her the inspiration and direction she desires.
So, she is applying for this college in Missouri, eleven hours away, to see what might be available. And we will see what happens over the next few weeks. All of us want God's will for her above all, but that doesn't mean it won't be agonizingly hard to see her go.
We went through a difficult time with Priscilla when she was seventeen, a time she relates as a part of her testimony now, even on her college essays about her personal testimony. It was a time that brought suffering for both her, her father and I, and even others, but through it she began to know God for herself. It was also a time when our love for each other was tested. When it looked like all was lost, LOVE stood strong. The storms came, the floods raged, but the Rock that the house was built on was not washed away. I guess since we came so close to loosing our relationship with her, it seems all the sweeter now. It's something I have praised God for so many times. So, you see, not having her near will be difficult indeed.
The scary thing is that it's just the beginning. Our children all arrived one right after the other, and it's likely they will be gone one right after another. I didn't raise them to sit at home and be my pets. It's exciting to see the people they are becoming and the things they are choosing to do (and not do). Nothing is sweeter than to see each of them enter into their own relationship with the Lord. I'm very proud of them. I look forward to the future, and dread it at the same time. I know it's a time in my life to receive the bittersweet changes. And even though I know many tears will be added to my bottle, I know just where to find the strength to face it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Wonderful Vacation...Part 2

Bike riding took up a huge portion of our time. We rented bikes the first day and also a little bike trailer to haul towels, goggles, book bags and groceries. The scenery was beautiful and so different from our region of the country, with swamps, marshes and palmetto trees everywhere. One day we rode to the state park and rode all through the marshes and jungle-like woods on the bike trails there.
Luke was always racing ahead of us to look for wildlife. You can see him here under the bridge looking for crabs. Thankfully, he didn't run into any alligators.
The woods were beautiful with a tropical feel.
And miles of marshes everywhere with water fowl.
Luke had a contest with a king snake that didn't want to be caught.
But after wrangling with it for several minutes, Luke won, but only after the snake emitted some stinky stuff on his shirt, which he used to throw over the snakes head before he caught it.

A Wonderful Vacation...Part 1

We had a great time on our vacation last week, even though it was a bit of an adjustment going from seven kids last year at the beach, to only four this time. Of course, Candace is married now but Pris and Kezzi were out of town at a Worldview Academy Camp in Missouri. I missed the girls terribly. However, it was quieter (which is good and bad) and much cheaper to eat out, rent bikes, and buy my favorite tuna steaks for the grill!
This was our first time vacationing in Edisto Beach, which to my delight, is just a hop, skip and a jump from Charleston. Charleston is my favorite city that I have visited. It's like the Boston of the South because it's so rich in history.
Here is our much reduced family at Rainbow Row.

And then we made our way to The Battery park.
We love the live oaks and the views of Charleston harbor and Fort Sumter - the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
Then there are always adventures on the beach. Thanks to Luke, we always enjoy close up views of the local wildlife.

Riding waves is always the favorite pastime and by the end of the week I was even braving it. While I enjoy the beach, I don't like the ocean where things are swimming all around me waiting to bite me or sting me. But the waves just looked too fun, so I had to try. I did get a very small jellyfish sting, wouldn't you know. Twice we saw fishermen reel in these small sharks. And why do we want to swim here again?
We also saw many horseshoe crabs while walking on the beach at high tide but I didn't have the camera. Yuk! I don't mind snakes or spiders but crunchy shelled beetle like animals give me the willies. And horseshoe crabs look like giant insects. Eeeww.

I read this book last week and have been ruminating on it quite a bit.
The author Mr. Holzmann, also author of the Sonlight curriculum, makes a case for Christian singles to treat each other as brothers and sisters with their purpose being to bless one another to the glory of God. He encourages us to aim higher than drawing a line in the sand regarding physical relationships and rather to think biblically about the purpose of the relationships in the first place. After listing several things that, of course, should be avoided, he says:
"But God wants you to judge your relationships by higher standards than these. He's not merely interested in what things you'll avoid, but in what things you'll do: how well you'll bless your brothers and sisters; how well you'll lead them to faith and obedience; how upright your speech will be; how loving your actions."
The text is loaded with scriptural references, which I LOVE!
Mr. Holzmann argues that Christians men and women should be able to get to know each other in a sibling type of relationship that can easily lead to marriage, saving all forms of boyfriend/girlfriend types of things until after the engagement.
The family at The Common Room has experienced just such an arrangement that has led to the recent engagement of one of their daughters. We've also posted on this blog about our friend Rachel who had the same experience. So we have seen first hand that this model can work.
Of course, this type of relationship can only be entered into with others who have the same understanding. Mr Holzmann had to enlighten his wife-to-be, at one point, to the fact that he was not interested in being her boyfriend, but wanted a sister/brother relationship. He strongly emphasizes the necessity of being mature enough and ready to explain and stand strong in your own convictions.
We've been guarded over our daughters' relationships with young men. Not guarded enough in some cases when the girls were too young, but maybe too guarded after they had become adults. Upon entering into a relationship with two exceptional men at church, I can see more easily how this model can work. Quite a while back, our two oldest ended up on a boat with these two young men and I couldn't have been more ok with it. I knew they had a reputation of being men of integrity. My time spent with them had confirmed that fact. I knew these men were ones who understood their role in relationship to my girls.
One thing I really liked about this book is that it put the responsibility directly on the young person, unlike some other courtship type of books that are hyper-dependent on the fathers. He says if you don't have the internal strength to stand on your own convictions, you are not ready to be spending time alone with anyone. This has caused me to think differently about how I feel about one-on-one time between my girls and other young men. However, he does also make points about not doing anything that might cause you to stumble and discourages extremely private places. He also addresses not giving the appearance of evil and having exclusive "ownership" type of relationships. Overall, I thought it was a good balance. He also points out the wisdom in getting to know someone first in a crowd type of situation in order to learn if they are someone with whom you want to spend more time and to ascertain if they are a trustworthy person. He suggests this approach for both male and female friends.
This book is an excellent place to start if you want to explore the way your children might enter into relationships with the opposite sex. Even if your children are very young, I encourage you to start thinking about these issues now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Blast From the Past

Here are my darling four girls about fourteen years ago! I think Hope is 1 1/2, Kezzi 3 1/2, Priscilla 5, and Candace 6 in this picture. Somebody loaded this onto the computer and I just had to post it here.

My only solace is that someday maybe I'll get some little granddaughters that resemble their mamas.

Texas Supreme Court Rules Against CPS

Here's a link to the Grits For Breakfast blog post, where you'll find plenty of links of the news coverage. Hopefully, those kids will be home with their mothers soon. And hopefully, CPS has learned a big lesson. This is still AMERICA where we have laws about such things.

Strawberry Muffins

Yesterday we drove to a strawberry farm and bought 5 flats of strawberries. Six quarts went next door to my sister and the rest we processed in the food processor and put into freezer bags. Some went into quart size bags with 2 c. in each for the recipe below doubled. Others went into gallon size with 5 c. for jam making later. We did freeze some whole and I made two batches of jam, which we immediately enjoyed on whole wheat (white wheat) pancakes with turkey sausage last night, along with some sliced and mixed with some sugar. Even Grandma and Grandpa couldn't resist a last minute dinner invitation.

This is our time tested favorite recipe for Fresh Strawberry Muffins:

1 c. fresh strawberries
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

Crush the berries before measuring. Combine strawberries, sugar, butter and eggs in a large bowl and mix together. Add dry ingredients and mix. Grease muffin cups. Fill 10 cups with dough and bake 350 for 16- 18 min.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's Going On...

The garden has been consuming most of my time these last couple of weeks. Both the vegetable garden and the formal garden. The vegetable garden is all planted: tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, onions, peppers, okra, green beans, sweet potatoes, lettuces and some herbs.

We also built some raised beds and planted 50 strawberry plants.

The formal garden is taking shape (pictures to come soon, hopefully) Ford is working on painting and installing the white picket fence. I've been working on planting and mulching. The latest addition was 9 hydrangeas and a couple of Arborvitaes. I also planted a holly hedge in the yard. I'm all enthusiastic and a great outdoor worker in May but when the heat arrives, I'm an indoor gal, let me tell you. I don't like HOT. That's why everything gets a heavy dose of mulch because even those nasty looking weeds are not enough to lure me out of doors.

We are also in the midst of planning some trips. Priscilla and Kezzi will be taking their first road trip to Missouri soon while we take our annual trip to the beach. Having them grow up is bittersweet. It's fun watching them take off and experience life but I miss them being with us all the time. However, sometimes it is nice to "only" have four kids with us and I look forward to time with them on vacation.

Church activities are going well. We still LOVE our church and we all think we have the best pastor in the world. Some regular events are over for the summer, and that is a bit of a welcome break, especially since gas prices are so high. We've also been having a lot of fun with new friends who have a home church and often we go to eat together and hang out after our church is over. What a fun bunch of people! I love sitting around the table listening (and participating too) to one topic after another be served up and devoured with such lively discussion. Everything from the FLDS situation in Texas to growing apples to the Civil War. It's been a little bit of a different experience to be around a bunch of Yankee homeschoolers here in Tennessee who are every bit as passionate about the Civil War as many southerners I know, but from the northern perspective. I know it's not everyone's idea of a good time, but spirited debate is how I spell F-U-N!

I've finished the first week in my Precepts Ministries Hebrews study and I'm LOVING it! I look forward to it every day. I'm hoping to finish it this summer and start on the Covenant study this fall.

For some reason I've really been feeling the tragedy of the accident that killed Steven Curtis Chapmans little girl. Not only are they fellow Tennesseans, but he has always been a favorite of Kezzi's. I just can't help having them on my mind. I've been praying for them quite a bit. Especially their son who was driving the SUV when he hit her. Maybe it's affecting me this way because of losing my 4yo nephew in a car accident almost twelve years ago. I remember the grief all too well and the questioning of spiritual issues that comes along with it.

This weekend, we had a nice visit from Candace and Michael. They worked a lot at Ford's shop on a sign for their church but managed to squeeze in three trips to the Bluffs with all of the kids except Annalise. Once again we didn't fit in getting a picture of all of the kids together. Maybe next time. We also had our good friend Tristin for the weekend and that's always a treat.

Tomorrow is the beginning of our last week of school. After some lessons we'll do a good housecleaning and then head over for a BBQ over at Grandma and Grandpas in the evening. Yeah Summer!