Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Truck Troubles

I Thessalonians 5:18:  "In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of Christ Jesus...."

1.  We're thankful that only the "Drive" gear went out 22 miles from home and we still had "1 and 2" left to drive back.
2.  Thankful that when 1 and 2 gave out, it was in walking distance to the house.
3.  Thankful for Hannah's and Andy's strong legs to carry them up the hill and around 1 "S" curve to the house.
              3.A.  Thankful that I was not alone with the girls when it gave out!
              3.B.  Thankful that the weather was pleasant when it gave out!
              3.C.  Thankful that we were on a straightaway when it stopped going forward.
4.  Thankful that, although its gonna' cost a whole stinkin' lotta' money to fix my truck, we have the means to get it done.
5.  Thankful that we were safe on that long, long drive home, and that the transmission didn't actually fall OUT of  the truck, even though pieces of the transmission fell INTO the truck.
6.  Thankful that we live in such a beautiful area and got to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home!
7.  Thankful that the transmission place was able to send a tow truck and include the cost in their bill.
8.  Thankful that they were able to get my truck first thing on Monday morning and get right to work on it!
9.  Thankful that the girls and I enjoy being "homebodies" and, to us, there is really no such thing as "being stuck at home."
10.  Thankful that Andy saw this may have been a roundabout answer to another prayer we had about another venture we were going to pursue.

Coincidentally (yeah, right), our history lesson today was about the Greek mathematician Archimedes.  He's the one who first used ropes and pulleys, which provided a better way of lifting.  It was a great tie-in to the use of a winch to drag my heavy car up the back of the tow truck.  It made history come to life ~ exciting!  So there's a reason #11!

All aboard....

Hey, look at those pretty flowers!




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Never a Dull Day (or Night)

That was SOME storm that rolled through last night!

The girls and I were enjoying the almost-end of The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit, a free Kindle download  (Parts of it are hilariously funny, but parts of it do drag on....), which something caught my eye outside the window in the storm.

At first I thought it was a streetlight.  But, then, we don't have any streetlights.  THEN, I thought it might be the moon.  But, I reasoned, we were in the middle of a very strong wind, rain and electrical storm.

Only then did I holler out for Andy to come look at the fire on the power line.  Eeesh.

We called '911' and Appalachian Power, and both made it out in great time.  By the time they got here, though, the fire was out (I tell ya, that was some heavy rain!), but we wanted them to look it over just in case.

Its not much to look at today (look at the brown leaves), but the result is that that AP has put in an order to get all of the trees down that side of the yard trimmed up and off the power lines.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

math laugh

OK, so I had Han finishing up the (Virginia) third grade SOL test this know, the most recently-released one on the DOE website?  Even though she's only finishing second grade, I wanted to get an idea of where she is; there's a couple areas we haven't learned yet.

Anyways, she got to number 42*:

A girl placed eight blocks like the ones shown, in a bag:
She pulled one block out of the bag without looking.  Which color block is she MOST likely to select?
a.  red 
b.  green
c.  blue
d. yellow

*not copied exactly so I don't get in hot water with the DoE

Hannah stared at the problem for a minute, before she said,

"uh-uh!  I'm NOT puttin' MY hand in THAT bag for NOTHIN'!"


"You can't get ME to put my hand all the way in that bag for NOTHIN.  NO way."

"Han, what are you talking about?  Read the problem again."

"I DID.  And I'm not putting my hand in ANY bag without looking first.  There might be a scorpion in there."

(Allow me to point out that I had prayed for patience this morning, because I knew we'd be doing many many possibly difficult math problems in this test and she tends to go balky during long math sessions.  THIS is how God answered my prayer.)


[Laughing so hard] "What do you mean?  Why would there be a scorpion in the bag?  Look at the problem and just do the problem."

"Nope, I'm not putting MY hand in THAT bag.  Maybe there will be another hand in there that will pull me in."


"Hannah, its a lunch bag. She brought it from home.  Its new.  There are no scorpions or hands in it."

"Then why can't I look?"

"Hannah," (trying not to get exasperated) "its not you doing it."

"But there might be another one of those caterpillars in there that would bite me.  Or a scorpion.  Or fire ants."

"You're not actually the one doing it, though.  The girl is."

"OK, then, it would be blue."

"Why did you choose blue?  (I only asked on this one problem, as I was devastatingly curious!)

"Because its at the bottom and on the side and if I kept my hand on the side to avoid whatever is in the bottom of the bag....."

OBVIOUSLY, probability needs to be included in our curriculum for next year.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The end is in sight!

Less than one month to go for Hannah's second grade year, and WHEW, what a pull these last couple weeks will be!

We were interrupted by a major household move this year, and that, in addition to the various trips and illnesses, as drug our school year out much longer than I'd planned.  There was a point when I thought we were going to be finishing in April ~ ha!

("For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord)

As it is, we're planning to school right on through the summer, although with a different schedule.  We'll probably keep on going with math and grammar, but we'll put more emphasis on science and art.

There is a homeschool book sale coming up in a couple weeks that will help me fill in any missing holes.  I'm looking for a few books and a few other things for our "classroom."

WHICH is on my to-do list.  Our current setup doesn't seem to be working as well as it could be.  I was so used to schooling at the kitchen table that when we moved into this (huge, to us) house, we kind of kept close to the kitchen and living room.  But that is proving to be so very distracting to Hannah.  I'm planning to convert part of our basement into a school room, encouraged by the models I've seen in some of my friends' homes and online.  I'll start on it soon, but probably won't finish it until later this summer.

In the meantime, co-op wrapped up for the year with an end of year party complete with a moms vs. kids kickball game, pizza and popcorn & cotton candy.

What a great group of moms and kids we've met.  I'm looking forward to many years of learning and growing with these Christ-seeking and Jesus-loving folks.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


THIS is the hat that won FIRST PLACE in the Awana Crazy Hat contest at church last week.  

THIS is the girl to whom the idea occurred to use cicada castoffs on her hat and who spent only a very little time collecting their exoskeletons (science lesson!).  

We just witnessed the Magicicaida Brood I emergence....of 17-year cicadas.  Fascinating.  If you click on that link you can scroll down to a recording of the sound with which we've been deafened for the last two weeks.  They are quite melodic.

We turned this project into a homeschool science lesson (of course!), and learned that these little critters, whose "shells" she collected, emerged from underground after seventeen years of feeding on the roots of deciduous trees such as oak and tulip poplar (with which this region is well-supplied).

Typical cicadas with which you might be familiar don't emerge until later in the summer and are completely green with shades of brown.  These beautiful babies have startlingly red eyes and an orange tint to their body.  Hard to see on this picture, but THIS little girl is wearing one as a ring:

But back to That Hat:

When I saw the finished product, I kinda knew the other second graders didn't have a chance.  And I think she knew it, too.

Of course, I warned her:  you will forever be known as The Girl Who Wore Cicadas to Awanas.

She can handle it.

And had the Cubbies held a similar contest, I think you'd be looking at a picture of the winner.  Talk about a fascinator!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This is our family's version of a popular gut Amish dish.  Its kinder-friendly comfort food and it travels and freezes well.  Great for sharing with a recovering friend or bringing to a pot-luck dinner, AND you probably have everything you need for it in your pantry and freezer.

I never bring home leftovers.  In fact, I'm surprised I haven't shared it here before.  If you Google the name, you'll come up with a half a dozen varieties on both the ingredients and the spelling of the recipe name.  A friend shared this with me over ten years ago and its in regular rotation at our house!


1 lb. ground beef
(*optional: 1 small onion, diced)
1 can tomato soup
2-3 tbs. brown sugar OR molasses
American cheese slices (1/2 a package or so, I guess) (yeah, I know, but I said its comfort food, right?)
1 lb bag egg noodles (however wide you like)
1 can peas, drained (or equivalent amount frozen, steamed lightly) (*optional)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 to 1/2 cup or so of milk (or evaporated milk)

Brown ground beef, break apart into chunks.  Drain.  If you use an onion, chop it in small pieces and saute it in a little olive oil.  Add beef to pan with onion.  Add brown sugar or molasses to meat and stir, stir in tomato soup.  If its looking a little dry, add about 1/4 cup (not much!) of water to the can and swish to get the rest of the soup out.

Meanwhile, boil your noodles following package directions.  Drain them and stir in the cream of chicken soup.  Add milk to the can and swish good to get the rest out.

In a 9x13" dish (or any casserole pan - I usually divide this recipe into two pans and freeze one for later), layer about 1/2 of the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Spoon out about 1/2 of the noodle mixture over top.  Cover this with the peas, sprinkling them over all, including the edges and corners.  Layer the cheese slices (1 slice thick) to cover all of the peas/noodle mixture.

Layer the rest of the meat over the cheese, being sure again to cover it completely.  Layer the rest of the noodles over that, spreading to cover.  Finally, put a final layer of cheese over the whole thing.

Bake it in the oven at 350* for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and possibly the edges are starting to brown.  Really, don't be're just blending the flavors and heating through; everything is already cooked.

This is best when its been made several hours ahead of time and the flavors have time to meld.  But honestly, es gut right out of the oven; the whole thing takes about 1 hour from start to finish including cooking and cleanup.

Let me know if you made it, and if so (most importantly), what did your family think?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Homeschool Co-Op

The first thing I did before we were even wholly moved in down here was to research homeschool support groups in the area.  We're so fortunate that there are several in the area, so we were able to choose one that was a good fit for our family.  I can't tell you enough how important it is to me to have a group of kids and moms who are fellow travelers on the journey ~ every time we get a chance to talk I'm amazed that they have or have had the same challenges as we do as far as parenting, schooling or family relationships.
Younger homeschoolers getting ready for a nature walk
In Alleghany, my girls were some of the youngest in the support group and I benefited from the experience of the moms with older children.  Unfortunately, there weren't many cooperative learning (co-op) classes in which they could participate.  I don't think they were necessarily missing out, but I know as the time grew closer to when we actually moved to Franklin County, Han had started to ask for more opportunities to interact with kids her age.
(Isn't she just beautiful?!)

After a field trip to see "The Velveteen Rabbit" ~ a game of D, D, G in the food court of Center on the Square

Here in Hardy, we belong to CHEF ~ Christian Home Educators of Franklin (County), and what a blessing it is to us!  We literally thank God daily for the relationships we are developing among this remarkable group of families.  These are "real people," (my favorite kind) who pray for one another and share their struggles...
hmmmm, reminds me of:

Galatians 6:2:  Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ.

Probably easiest, most natural, and most enjoyable precept I've ever followed!

A whole 'nother post could be written about the elephant who sidles up to the (very predictable and not uncommon) conversation when someone finds out we school at home:

THEY:  And where do your girls go to school?
US:  We homeschool.
THEY:  (awkward pause)
US:  (in my mind:  "Here it comes....")
THEY:  But aren't you concerned about socialization?
US:  Well, they're in AWANAs, Sunday School, Children's Church, co-op, and they take other classes in the community....
WHAT I'M REALLY THINKING: (Yeah, like I really want them to go to a government school, learning all sorts of disrespectful, non-Christlike behaviors from their same-age peers, artificially separated into groups by age, developing a type of "us vs. them" mentality, being exposed to ____________ all kinds of garbage -   not to mention teachers/admin who can't/don't share our desire to put Christ FIRST, etc. etc.)

So, uh, co-op helps to mitigate some of that.

We meet one day a week for 15 weeks a semester for two classes, and then it is (often) off to the park where the moms chat and the kids zoom.  We have monthly field trips and other impromptu get-togethers ~ most importantly, a monthly "Mom's Night," where we do a lot of that "supporting, bearing and encouraging."

Speaking of Biblical mandates, I saw this verse applied to a co-op group a bloggy friend attends, and I can't imagine a more perfect verse for this topic:

Hebrews 10:25:  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, 
but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It gives me a shiver of a thrill to read that!  Me, who would much prefer to live a hermit-ly life, staying home all day every day and poking around the house and yard ~ I don't need to be encouraged to meet together ~ for the good of my girls or for my own (very needful!) good!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ Easter Egg Edition

Easter Egg Hunt at Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount

Monday, April 2, 2012

Didn't I just mention how one of my students is easily distracted?  And here I am ratcheting up the beguilement!

Well, we all found it difficult to concentrate on this morning after we decided to take our school to the yard and give the chickens a field trip....but I think it was well worth it.  We just s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out our morning lesson time.

At first we just kind of enjoyed them ~ its only the second time they've been out of their coop for any length of time, and of course, they loved it.  The chickens did, too, ha!  Its funny how they stayed so close to us - must have been a lot of bugs for them to snack on.  They love cherry blossoms ~ isn't that funny?  They watch them fall and dive for them.  

But all too soon, it was time to turn off Chicken TV and get to work:

"Is that history?  'Cuz I just LOVE history!"
"Yes, Jeremiah, my favorite prophet!  Go on, go on, read!"
This nice Aracauna is right; we were reading from The Mystery of History about the prophet Jeremiah, also called the "Weeping Prophet."  

Hannah read some from the book of Jeremiah and from Lamentations:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

And THAT reminded me of the hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," of which we sung the first verse and chorus together...I couldn't remember the rest!  The Broadman Hymnal I picked up at a yard sale a couple years ago didn't have it ~ doesn't that seem strange to you?  Its such a perfect hymn.  Anyways, we did what we could with what I remembered and sang it through a couple times.

I think the chickens liked our singing, even though they didn't act very reverent (ahem).  

"More blossoms?  I see blossoms.  Are these cherry blossoms?  No?  What about bugs, any bugs on these flowers?"

"Did somebody say, "QUIZ"?!"  I'm outta' here!
Chicken roundup!
Alas, all good things must end, and after our Bible and History lessons, we moved indoors for the rest of our (less distracting) studies.

But what a beautiful morning to enjoy our freedom to school at home!

Rockin' the Homeschool

In a recent "aha!" moment, I made one simple change that has helped Han surge ahead in her learning ~

If you guessed, "Let the cat supervise her writing assignments," that would be pretty funny, but - wrong.

I was having so much trouble with her leaning her school chair up on two legs, rocking it backward on the back legs, leaning sideways to 'thunk' it on the floor and generally being wholly KINETIC while I was trying to get her to read/write/work out her math, that I was becoming distracted.

My parents bought us one of those great Cracker Barrel rockers for Christmas, and I used it to sit and read or teach.  But one day I just switched it for Hannah's flat chair and ~VOILA!~ the kinetic energy was still there, but it is directed to back and forth movement and not balance or 'thunking.'

Yes, its a little too big and she can't sit back in it, but she does very little desk work right now; mostly math.  I'll keep my eye out for a (cheap/free) rocker more in her size.  In the meantime, this is working out GREAT and I can tell a HUGE difference in her attention span and concentration.  Who'd'a thunk?

Now if only I could get that cat to come up with a few lesson plans.....

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Coop, Part 2

With the basement beginning to develop a faint odor of a poultry pen, it was time to do something about that elephant in the room coop, which, though solidly and heavily built, was poorly placed on the property.  Pooh.

There were tears, some yelling, some retching in the woods wringing of hands, and apology heaped upon apology, some rationalizations and justifications....but for the most part Andy just patiently ignored me and got right down to the business.

Ok, so the first plan was to take those three [differently size and tapered] found telephone poles you see sticking out on the right there and give the coop a ride, Fred Flintstone-style, stopping to switch poles out and pegging them into the ground with crowbars and stakes after each shove.

I think this method only works in cartoons.  Not only was this method potentially deadly, as the coop teetered and tottered on the mismatched poles, it was SLOW and HOT.

And I did a lot of screaming and hollering as I was convinced the coop was either going to fall backwards and flatten Andy into the hard ground or topple the other way and leave me dangling up in the air with a crushed pickup bed:  Andy said that only happened in cartoons, which was not very reassuring as it just made me think that he had gotten that whole pole-rolling idea therefrom....but I pointed out that this was just the kind of thing to get us on the funny video show, except I was not laughing (and we weren't filming).

It is relevant for me to pause here and note something that might at first seem to be off topic:  
I am going to share with you one of my "grammar pet peeves," and you will see why it is indeed relevant in this situation, and if you don't believe me, just ask Andy.  

I [we try not to say 'hate' in front of the girls, so let me just say ~] very strongly dislike it
when someone uses the word, "literally" if they do not mean it as did Webster.
As in:
THEY: "I literally died..."
ME:  "Really?  Then how can you be hereliterally making my ears hurt with your incorrect grammar??"

So, now you can know that when I say I literally had a conniption fit, you can picture -accurately- that I was alternately hysterical and panic-stricken.  See that blue rope?  It was tied around the base of the coop and to the ball hitch on the Dodge pickup, and I was in charge of moving the behemoth up the hill at a rate of 6-8 inches at a time, all the while watching it rock precariously on its unstable locomoticants.

We moved the coop a 'footprint'-length IN TWO HOURS.

Andy finally had enough of my hysterics, so he very generously consented to a switch in strategy:  skids swiped from the sweet Little's yet-to-be-reassembled swingset.

We've come a long way, baby!  Look where we are NOW compared to THEN! worked.  Rockin, but not rollin' ~

See that strong man?  He is lifting the coop into its final resting place with some sort of long iron pokey-rod.  Look at that nice flat land.  And it only took us about an hour because, with skids, we moved 6 feet at a time.

And, isn't that MUCH better?
Picture it stained the color of the house and with different-colored morning glories going up the side....
Looking like a home.  The tree in the foreground is a cherry ~ think pink blossoms and rich green leaves come summer.

And there they are.  The girls, safe inside their new home in its new location.  They're under a shelf that will (in theory, anyways) be where we'll store square hay bales, shavings and 5-gallon buckets of feed.  Above will be the nesting boxes (we're still months away from eggs) or buckets.  Andy designed the shelf to be able to hold either 5-gallon buckets we'll repurpose into nests (with 1/3 of the lid across the bottom to keep egg, straw and hen in).  It all depends which is easier to scavenge:  buckets or 2x4's....this project is decidedly not cost-efficient.

And, poof, its done.  Well, almost.  There's some caulking to block some drafts, and I want to landscape and stain the outside.  But now, the elephant has been moved and we can get to the business of raising chickens.

These girls have a lot of work to do, so I hope they are happy.  We will LITERALLY have to sell these their eggs for a dollar each order to, er, break even.