Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Baby Talk

While getting ready for bed recently, my two-year-old went potty in the toilet. Of course, I told her what a big girl she was becoming, and she said something rather cute. She looked at me with her cute little still-baby face and said, "I'm not so yittle anymore, Mommy!"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Remember These Guys?

These little fellers/ladies aren't so little anymore!

Out-growing the garage!

Our dear guinea keets will soon be moving out to their permanent coop. Well, as soon as it's finished, they'll be moving out there. That project has taken up every spare moment of my husband's time this summer. When it's all done, I'll post a picture of it, too.

I've learned several things from this bird experience so far. First, I don't mind the noise the guineas make. Second, while watching the funny little birds, don't accidentally walk into the fly tape hanging in the garage. Twice. Third, these birds are so dumb that they poop in their own water! Fourth, it takes a genius to keep inventing ways to keep them from pooping in their water. Fifth, I really, really hope they eat all the ticks because this is a lot of work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wait For It. . . Wait For It. . .

Yup. I didn't wait for it. How disappointing.

Not quite ripe.

How very, very disappointing.You see, this was to be our first taste of delicious home-grown watermelon of the year.

We hadn't even planted it. It was a volunteer in our front flowerbed, seed likely landing in the mulch by way of spitting contest when the children were enjoying a cold slice of melon last summer. This spring, our boys came running in the house, excited to tell us that a watermelon plant was coming up right at our front door, and we let it grow.

We kept careful watch, rejoicing over the first blooms and again when the small green ball started to form. If you've never watched a watermelon grow, you might be surprised to know that they can literally double in size in less than a week.

Well, our first melon grew and grew. We waited and watched for signs of ripeness. Now there's a bit of disagreement among gardening folks about how to tell if a melon is ripe. We've tried several methods with varying results. The most accurate for us in the past has been to look for the tendril closest to the melon; when it withers and turns brown, the melon is supposedly ripe. It's not 100% for us, but it's worked some.

So I actually did wait. Really, I did. But my doubts and desire for sweet melon got the best of me. I broke down a little bit and thumped it. It sounded ripe and juicy. The closest tendril wasn't brown, but it was wrapped around a brown leaf of something else. That's close enough, right? I mean, it was so hot yesterday!

So pluck it I did. I chilled it. After supper, with a heavy sense of dread, I stabbed it with my big knife and started cutting. Before it split open enough for me to see, I knew. Yes, I knew. The smell was not sweet enough. There was too much resistance to the knife's blade. It was an unripe melon.

Luckily, it wasn't too green to eat. I sliced it all up and set it in a bowl on the back porch. "Come and get it!" I hollered, and the children came running from all over, quickly devouring practically the entire thing. I guess it didn't go to waste because they really enjoyed it, probably because they love getting messy outside and spitting seeds all over. And I'm okay with that, but next time, I'm waiting.

This post was shared at Monday's Homestead Barn Hop.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

_The Hancock News_ Column--July 2, 2014

I am a reader. I love reading. I read books about parenting, homeschooling, cooking, and health. I read adult fiction, children’s novels, picture books, and even telephone books. That’s just the beginning. I pore over junk mail, email, catalogs, magazines, and blogs. However, the reading I absolutely can’t wait to find in the mailbox is “black and white and red all over.” Yes, the newspaper.
With taking care of and homeschooling six children and assorted pets, I’m a busy mother. There’s simply not enough extra time every day for me to sit down with a daily newspaper. Sure, every once in a while my husband will bring home a newspaper from a larger city, but my mainstays are my two weekly newspapers.
My grandparents were born and raised in North Dakota but moved away and spent most of their lives in the Seattle area. As long as she could read, Oma received her small hometown’s weekly newspaper in the mail. She kept tabs on births, deaths, wedding anniversaries, and any news worth telling. This is one way she stayed connected to the community she’d left so long ago. 
In the same vein, I page through my own hometown newspaper each week, searching for familiar names and faces so that I can keep in touch with the place I will always call home, even if I never live there again. Losing touch with home, to me, would be losing a part of myself. I imagine I’ll subscribe to the Grant County Press until I can read no longer.
Now I call a second place home. Ten years ago my husband and I, along with our newborn baby, moved to Hancock, the location of my husband’s first call out of the seminary. I remember so clearly driving in the dappled late afternoon sunshine on the shaded country road approaching our new church and home, sight unseen, and wondering excitedly what this new place, this new life would be like. It was a complete mystery to us.
It was The Hancock News that helped fill in many of the question marks. In its pages I found library story times, yard sales, store advertisements, and information about Canal-Apple Days. I read about the people who make up the community, some whom I’ve met, some who remain strangers, and some I won’t see again until the final homecoming. 
The Hancock News helped me fit into my new home. That’s why small town newspapers are vital still today. They forge a strong community, helping us connect with each other in a fast-paced, quickly changing world. It was true for my grandmother, is true for me, and I hope will be true for my children, too. So thank you, Hancock News, and happy 100th birthday!


There’s no better recipe for a summer birthday than a cool and refreshing Jello cake. I’d never had this classic until I met my husband; the recipe is how my mother-in-law makes it. Instead of a fork, she uses the handle of a wooden spoon to pierce the cake to make the holes slightly larger. She freezes leftovers, and her children actually like this cake even more as a frozen treat. Also, if you prefer real whipped cream to whipped topping (like I do), go ahead and slather it on instead. 

Jello Cake

1 white cake mix (or your favorite homemade white cake, prepared)
1cup  boiling water
1pkg.  (3 oz.) Jello (any flavor, but I like the red ones best)
1/2 cup  cold water
1 container (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed
fresh berries to garnish, optional

Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 13x9-inch pan. Cool cake in pan 15 min. Pierce cake with a large fork at 1/2-inch intervals.
Add boiling water to gelatin mix in small bowl; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water; pour over cake. Refrigerate 3 hours or longer.
Frost cake with whipped topping. Refrigerate 1 hour. Garnish with fresh berries, if desired.

*This post was shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth's "The Art of Home-Making Mondays" Link-Up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pretty Posies

My kitchen windowsill on any spring or summer day

Do you see that cute and tiny little vase on the right? That was a Mother's Day present to me a few years ago, and it is rarely empty. It came with a cute verse that made me cry, but I've since misplaced it. It conveyed the purpose for such a small vessel--for all those flowers/weeds plucked by tiny hands for Momma.

Is my windowsill unsightly with all of those dried out or decaying flowers? Nah. Despite daily fits or other upheavals including (but not limited to) sibling fighting, refusal to do chores, bedtime defiance, and general contrariness, there are moments when Mother is treasured and loved, when little (and not quite as little anymore) boys and girls find time to leave their play to bring me a bit of beauty.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Big Book Has Arrived

To those of you homeschooling out there, this picture needs no explanation.

But if you are left wondering about that gigantic book on the cluttered desk, that, my friend, is what I wait for each summer. Yes, I page through almost all of it. Oh, I could never read the whole thing (and really, who would want to?), but I do skim it each year.

This most magnificent work of art is the Rainbow Resource Catalog. It has everything a homeschooler could want, plus everything is reviewed. It grows and grows. It is now at 1,360 pages. Massive, eh?

If I'm not careful, it can be quite dangerous, but I'm not talking about the damage that could be done if I threw it at somebody or something. It sets me to dreaming, dreaming that I need way more than I do to adequately teach my children. It makes me wonder if my curriculum is "the best" for my children. It sometimes can induce a bad case of Greener-Grass Syndrome.

However, if I'm careful, I can find good deals on things I already had on my shopping list. I can read another opinion about a product I'd been considering. I can find ideas for activities I'd like to do for school. It is a great resource.

If you homeschool and haven't ever seen this, order one (for free) at rainbowresource.com.  If you don't homeschool, you should check it out anyway because they have an awesome Christmas catalog full of cool educational and fun toys. Of course, they also have an online catalog, but that isn't any good when you need something for the little ones to sit on when it's time for haircuts.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Yesterday we were blessed with rain for our growing garden. Unfortunately, along with rain came some heavy duty winds. The wind actually lifted our guinea coop into the air and moved it. The need to anchor it a bit before the keets are moved into it, along with a door issue, made it necessary for us to change our design slightly. 

Yesterday we were loading some 8 foot long 4 x 6 pressure-treated lumber into our trailer. I dropped my end. Onto my foot.

I, the woman who makes practically no noise during the throes of childbirth, screamed. More than once. I immediately took off my sandal as my foot swelled astronomically. In the short time it took my husband to help me hop back to my seat, my foot had a bump roughly the size of a large orange on top of it. Not that my foot is ever all that attractive, but this, my friend, wasn't pretty.

In route to the emergency room, we managed to make some phone calls for friends to meet us at the hospital and help us with the children. 

I tried not to think how a broken foot would impact the garden and all of our other summer plans. I tried not to wonder how in the world I would manage the little ones without being able to walk. 

I broke my other foot once, and it wasn't nearly as painful as this new injury. I sat in the emergency room waiting and waiting. Registration, waiting, triage, waiting, x-ray, waiting, waiting, waiting, exam, waiting. . .

I was so thankful for the help and conversation a friend provided to distract me from the pain.

Waiting still.

Then the x-ray results were finally received. It wasn't a break, but a bad contusion, the same injury my mother-in-law received when her marble rolling pin fell on her foot.

I'm in pain, but I'll recover. Perhaps I won't be hunting down tomato worms in the garden for the next couple of days, but I suppose I could do some summer schoolwork with the children. I could fold clothes maybe. I'll definitely be keeping my foot up and frequently putting ice on it.

Let this be a lesson to you, one you may have never thought of before. Don't drop heavy things on your feet. 

Monday, July 7, 2014


There's no two ways about it, work is hard, and hard work is even more difficult. However, the reward for hard work is great. That reward is satisfaction, and satisfaction is what I felt when I looked at the fruits of our labor on our table last week.

I dont' know why, but in years past, lettuce has been the most difficult vegetable for us to grow. It was always bitter or didn't thrive or bolted before it could be harvested. I complained and complained this year as I sowed seeds. Why even bother? Well, this year we had super lettuce!

A big bowlful of salad--lettuce, onions, and carrots--all from our garden.

Last summer we had a rough garden year because I couldn't work as much, what with me being big and pregnant and prone to emergency appendectomies.  The tomatoes didn't mind that I didn't tie them up or weed them as diligently as I should have. They gave us their fruits, and last week we were still enjoying them in spaghetti sauce. Yes, that italian sausage in there is also homemade from a hog my husband helped butcher.

It tasted good and looked thick in the pot, but does anybody know how to keep it from being watery on the plate?

The only blueberries we grow are on miniature bushes. They provide the children with some outdoor snacking opportunities, but we don't actually rely on them for fruity goodness throughout the year. For our yearlong provision of blueberries, we buy them by the 20-pound box shipped from New Jersey. We mostly freeze them in gallon bags for adding to yogurt, smoothies, muffins, and pancakes. This year we made jam with them. 

Even without cute sticker labels, these jars rock my world.

So while some days I just feel overwhelmed by all the jobs on my to-do list, each of those jobs, no matter how tedious or small, is not without it's reward.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Day Late

Old Glory rendered in poker chips

Yesterday I found myself remembering several 4th of July days from my past, comparing them to this year's. While it seems I've stored some lovely memories of the summer holiday, absolutely none of them bested yesterday.

And we spent it at home. Alone. Just our family.

The morning saw us working together to build a door for our guinea coop, children riding bikes in between stints of working, and my husband breaking in his new grill-smoker combo on a pork shoulder while I tried to help whenever the baby didn't need my attention.

Later we gathered out on the back porch to eat that amazing smoked pork, coleslaw (not amazing), and Cheetos (always amazing). My husband and I sat and did nothing for the first time in a really long time. Except at one point my husband felt the need to get up and weed one of the flower beds and move one of the plants to a place in the front yard. I didn't feel that need; I was good being lazy and watching the children play.

What did they play, you might ask. Well, there was my son, standing up and balancing on a gigantic plastic detergent barrel lying on its side. We have two such barrels, and there were all manner of acrobatic attempts made, both with and without barrels.  I even tried my hand at cartwheels, something I wasn't able to do very well as a kid. Let me tell you, saying I'm no good at cartwheels would be a gross overestimate. It was laughable.

Certainly they enjoyed blowing bubbles and chasing them around. The two-year-old wasn't adept at that game and ended up with about half the bottle of bubbles in her mouth; I guess she was sucking in instead of blowing out. Anyway, she was finally able to blow a few bubbles, straight from her mouth, no wand needed!

If you'd dropped in for a visit, at some point you would have seen the children throwing paper airplanes. You would also have seen them running around, trailing paper airplanes connected via staples and yarn to a plastic grocery bag. I don't know what that was about, but they got a kick out of it. Who am I to judge?

I don't recall another 4th when the weather was so sunny and the temperature so tolerable. It was only in the 70s with a gentle breeze. In fact, as the evening cooled down more,  I needed a jacket, and later I added a blanket.

The skies darkened, and the lightening bugs came out. The older boys had no problem locating them for a little catch-and-release fun. My 5-year-old daughter whined for a bit about not being able catch them herself until I reminded her that she caught lots last year. My husband and I cheered her on for encouragement and then cringed as she smacked her hands together, flat, a little too hard. Weren't we surprised when she opened her hands and showed us a living bug instead of a smear of phosphorescent glow paint!

Then, then it was time for the big surprise they'd already guessed but which we kept denying all day--fireworks! In Maryland, it seems, most fireworks are illegal. If they bang, it's a no-no. If they leave the ground, no good. So we completely enjoyed the collection of legal fountain-style fireworks sold at Sam's Club. The gentle crackles and fizzing sounds didn't frighten any of the little ones. We also were able to get quite a show just by looking at the surrounding countryside where people were setting off their own (not fountain-style) light shows.

All in all, it was a mighty fine day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Do I Do It?

It's a bit of a running joke between my husband and me, but it's not always a funny joke. He likes to tease me about how I follow a recipe.

I'm sorry. That's misleading. He teases me about how I don't follow a recipe.

It's true. I like to think that I follow recipes exactly, but I've noticed lately that I simply don't. It's not just tried and true favorites that I feel comfortable enough to monkey around with. No, it's brand new recipes that I find on the internet that show gorgeous pictures with glowing comments. The way the directions are written is obviously good enough for everybody else.

So why do I have to stray from the safety of the proven? Sure, sometimes it's a really tasty creation, but if I'm honest with myself, just as often it's a total flop, a waste of time and ingredients.

I did it again tonight. Tomorrow is the last story time at our library with Miss Marilyn, the lovely librarian we have come to know through many, many library programs over the last several years. I wanted to make a decorated giant cookie (or two) for a farewell. I did a quick online search and came up with a confetti sugar cookie recipe that really had my mouth watering. I printed it off, clipped it to the hood of my stove, and got work.

Before I even preheated the oven, I'd already begun making changes in my mind. First, I decided to double the recipe. I have some lemons to use, so in went some lemon juice and zest. Because I'd added acid in the form of lemon juice, I decided it would help the baking soda do it's lifting job, so I used less baking powder. Instead of the 4 teaspoons of vanilla, I added just one squirt. As I often do, I substituted whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose. I didn't have enough white chocolate chips, so I just emptied the bag into the dough without even measuring. And finally, I didn't have rainbow sprinkles. I did have purple sprinkles, but I had only about half of what the recipe specified.

So how did they turn out?

Well, I'm not going to cut into them and make them look rat-chewed. I'm assuming they'll taste fine since the dough was yummy, and they look okay (if not actually rainbow-confetti-like). All that's left to do is decorate with a bit of frosting and more sprinkles. . . which I don't have, so maybe I'll need to use some colored sugar instead.