Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trying to Stay Cool

Oh, mercy!!!  It is too hot!  So much for it not being too bad if the humidity stayed low!  On my trip to/from Thomaston today, my car thermometer hit 111 degrees!  That was going down the road, not just getting in the car and turning it on.  Yikes!  It stayed between 106 and 108 most of the way.

Our property is located in a sand belt in Georgia. Our soil is soft, dusty sand.  Since it doen't hold water, we have had a hard time keeping the pigs cool.  We have been wetting them and the sand down every few hours during the day.  Today has been the hottest day.  Bill went out early this morning and put the kiddie swimming pool back in their pen.  This time he put sand in the bottom of it to try to keep them from turning it over and playing with it.  Either the idea worked or they were just too hot to try.  Either way, we finally have a way to help keep them cool during the heat of the day. 

This afternoon when I returned home, I went up to check on them.  This is what I found!

The Three Little Pigs!

It was so hot that I still had to wet them down and add more water to the pool.

I guess this one thought climbing a tree might help!  :)

I am praying for cooler temperatures and rain soon.  I don't know how much more the land and animals can take.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jacob!

Oh, where does the time go?!  My sweet little baby has turned four!  I simply cannot believe it!  His birthday is actually on June 25.  We celebrated at together at home on Monday.

BUT, no birthday in our house is official until Aunt Debo (my sister, Debbie), has made the real birthday cake!

A few family members were on hand.  In the red shirt and hair net is my mother who helps my sister.  Beside her is my stepmother, Ann.  Then there is my husband Bill and my father, Howard.  Standing on the left in the back, are my sister, Debbie, and her husband, Arkie.

Happy birthday, sweet boy!  I love you!  May God always lead you and guide you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Back To Life

I just thought I would share a little thought from my week.  Believe me, my friends, this is not a boast.  Please, read to the end.

My yard is really like a jungle.  If you stand still more than five seconds, there is a good chance your feet are going to be covered by ants.  If you should stand still more than three days, there is a good chance you are going to be covered in weeds.  I have never seen such in my entire life!  Well, I made a vow to myself this year, that since I was going to be at home all the time, I was going to keep my flower beds weed free.  Wow!  It has been so hard!  Yet, I had been doing an okay job.

One day a several weeks ago, my husband decided to sell a lawnmower to trade up.  He got a call one day from a widow lady who wanted to look at it.  She came and fell in love with our place and said she would come back with her sister and brother-in-law to get the lawnmower.  When she came back, she told us we had been awarded The Garden Club's yard of the month.  I was honored, but I was a little embarrassed.  I take care of our yard for our enjoyment in God's wonders, not to be showy.  Is that a real word?  Anyway, we knew she would be coming back to take a photo of the yard, so I have been taking extra care to make sure there were no weeds and to make sure everything that the sprinklers couldn't reach got watered and looked nice.  Well, last week, everything quite literally fell apart.  The sprinklers stopped working and I got really sick.  It was the first time in nearly two years that I have been sick.  Wouldn't you know it?  When I first got sick, I still tried to water the plants.  I barely succeeded, but I couldn't even get the hose reeled back up on the broken hose reel.  So, there it lay, waiting on me.  lol.  By the end of the week, I lost my two new lemon verbena plants and five of my new lavender plants.  :(  The grass looked really awful, and the weeds were horrible.  I just had to hope that I would quickly feel well enough to get back out in the yard before the lady came back to take the picture.

Well, I did finally recover.  On Tuesday, I think it was, I felt well enough that I planned to tackle the yard before all hope was lost.  When I got up, however, my husband needed me to go run an errand.  Now, this errand required me to drive 45 minutes one way.  Upon returning home, the children and I had to go with him another 45 minutes in the other direction.  He needed us to go in case he bought the old farm truck he was going to look at.  He didn't buy it, and we headed back home.  On the way home, we realized he needed to go get feed for the pigs.  Upon returning home later in the evening, we found a sign in our yard.

I was so embarrassed!  I asked my husband to call her and tell her what had happened, but he didn't have her number anymore.  In the meantime, I worked last night and this morning getting most of the weeds out of the beds, and our sprinkler system was fixed this morning.  We were finally able to reach lady this afternoon.   We asked if she could give the award to someone else this month, but she couldn't without it being a big ordeal.  Thankfully, she had not taken a picture for the paper!  She said she would come back Monday morning!  What a blessing!  The grass should have time to green back up some, and my flowers should have enough time to not look so wilted.

As I watered the flowers this evening, my mind wondered as if often does to a greater story behind the chaos.  I thought of how my yard fiasco mirrors our lives through God's eyes so often.  How many of us find ourselves going through life thinking we have it all together?  Then all of a sudden, through a bad choice or a rough turn of events, we become ugly on the inside.  One bad decision leads to another and, with each decision, we die a little more.  Soon, we can hardly be recognized.  Just as I felt hope for my yard slipping away, we feel there is no hope for us.  But I have good news, my friend!  If we can come to God, there is hope!  I had seen my yard at it's best, just as God has seen us at what we thought was our best.  I also watched my yard begin to die before me, just as God watches us as sin causes us to die.  If my simple, human heart ached over watching my yard die when I knew the solution, how in the world must God feel to watch us dying in our sin when he has provided the solution, life eternal, through his own son?  Oh, how he must hurt and long for us to turn to his answer, Jesus, our savior!  Can you imagine how he must feel when we do?  Just as I get to watch my yard come back to life, God gets to watch us come back to life when we accept his gift of forgiveness.  How beautiful it must be for him to watch his children return!

I am so thankful he has forgiven me of my sins and has brought me back to life!  I just wanted to dedicate this post to praising him for what he as done for me and for my family!  I want to praise him for giving me the courage and boldness to share with others!  He has placed in my life some beautiful Christian ladies when he knew I needed them most, and I am so grateful!  Thank you, reader, for taking a moment to share in my joy!  What praise do you have for him today?

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Year of Homeschooling in Review

I was just thinking back again today at how different my life is compared to what it was one year ago.  What a joy and blessing to be where I am today!  Today, as I put away a Christmas present that I ordered early, Alissa was working on some school work.  The thought went through my head that if I was still teaching, instead of doing work this summer, we would be "vegging-out" and using summer break as the excuse.  My whole life and train of thought have changed.  Alissa is still doing a small amount of work every day.  On a heavy day, she may work for one and a half hours.  On a light day, she MAY work an hour.  Why stop?  Real life doesn't stop.  Working now will enable us to take a break during the holidays if we wish and enable us to officially end our year early in the spring next year when we are ready to be outside enjoying the beautiful, mild weather days.

Right now, Alissa is working on math and language arts everyday on, and soon, we will be adding social studies through the use of lapbooks.  Today, though, I thought I would give an overview of the curriculum we used last year.  I was inspired when I read anothers blogger's review of her year.  Maybe others out there, like me, enjoy reading about the experiences of others with different curriculums.  Please, remember, this was my first year.  There may be much better programs than what I used.

For math, we used Saxon math.  I used Saxon math for four years as a public school teacher and I loved the program.  I knew from the very beginning of my decision to homeschool that I would be using Saxon math at home.  I love that Saxon uses a spiral learning method.  When one new skill is covered, it is continually reviewed all the way until the last lesson.  In most curriculums, once one skill has been taught, the skill is never looked at again.  My child needs the continual review in order to really retain the skill.  Alissa really liked it, too.  It was probably her favorite subject.

Language Arts:

For phonics, we also used Saxon.  The Saxon phonics is much more intense than the math, but it is WONDERFUL!  This was my first experience with Saxon's phonics program, but now I am ready to be a sales representative for them!  lol!  I believe in it that much.  I was/am so amazed at what a difference it made in Alissa's ability to read and write well.  If you have a child who is really struggling with reading and spelling, I highly recommend this program!  It even taught me a thing or two-not that that would be a hard thing to do!  :)

For the reading component of language arts, we used Sonlight.  We also used Sonlight for history.  While Sonlight is good for some, it was not a good match for us.  I liked that it was a Christian curriculum, but Alissa just did not enjoy it.  Her reading books were much too easy for her.  The day we got the books in the mail, she picked up one of the books for the end of the year and started reading it.  Sonlight would have let me swap them, but with it being our first year of homeschool, I made the decision to keep them.  I decided I would rather her/us experience success and confidence rather than getting harder books that might push too hard and cause us to get discouraged.  She finished the books by Christmas.  I used books from our personal library and public library to finish out the year.  I did order the second grade books off ebay for her to work on during the summer.  That was before I made the decision to change curriculums for next year.  She also enjoyed some of the read alouds included with Sonlight.  Many of them were well-above her head, so to speak.  I found myself having to explain a lot to her.  It wasn't a horrible thing, but she would get very bored.  She is a do-er.  She would rather be doing something or making up her own story.  Every time I would take a breath, she would want to know if we were through.  :)  This doesn't make Sonlight a bad curriculum.  It just didn't fit her.  For many, it would be a perfect fit.  Many love to read/be read to for long periods of time.  For those, it would be perfect!  I loved the fact that my lesson plans with Sonlight were already done.  I will miss that this next school year!

I taught basics such as verbs, nouns, capital letters, punctuation, subjects, and predicates through writing and DOL (daily oral language).  Daily oral language was something I used in my classroom.  Basically, a sentence is written on the board with mistakes in it.  The student has to find and correct the mistakes.  Multiple choice questions or fill in the blank questions can also be used.  These are good for having a student identify or list parts of speech.  For example:  Which word is a noun?  List three verbs.  Underline the subject.  Underline the predicate.  etc...  This summer, we have had a great addition to our writing regimen.  Alissa now has a penpal.  It is turning out to be a great experience!

For science, we used LifePac.  The units were really too easy for Alissa, but it allowed for a lot of extra exploration outside of the curriculum.  I liked the fact that Jake (3) was able to participate in a lot of the activities.  I have looked at the units for second grade, and it doesn't look quite as easy.  I think Alissa will be doing a lot more independent work with it this year.  The fact that it is easy is okay with me since it is science.  We like adding activities and doing research beyond what is in the books.  The research often leads to great little writting projects!

For the next school year, I have decided to continue using Saxon math and LifePac science.  I went to a used curriculum sale and found the teacher's guide for Saxon and all but the first three units for the second grade LifePac curriculum.  For everything else, including Bible studies, I will be using the second grade curriculum from BJU Press.  I spent a long time piecing together the different pieces of the BJU Press curriculum and the missing pieces of the Saxon math and LifePac science using and  The savings were well worth the long hours and trouble!  If I had bought everything new and together, I would have spent about $1000.  I saved about $700!  I will have to sit down one day and figure out the exact numbers.  :)

What are your thoughts about your year or curriculum?  I would LOVE to hear about it!

Father's Day

My children with my father on Father's Day

We had a busy Father's Day weekend.  Bill had a rare, full day off work on Saturday.  Since he had to go back to work on Sunday, we spent the day together as a family on Saturday.  I always feel so refreshed and happy when we have time together.  I had to go to the grocery store, so we all went together.  I let Bill decide what he wanted for his special meal.  He had a hard time deciding, but he finally settled on meatloaf, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and sweet peas.  He didn't decide what he wanted until we were already in the car on the way to the store, so I just had to hope I got everything I needed for the meatloaf since I didn't have a recipe to check!  I didn't get everthing, but it turned out to be a good thing.  I ended up making a really yummy meatloaf recipe.  It is Monday, and Bill is still talking about it! 

Here are the recipes for the meatloaf and mashed potatoes if you would like to try them.  The recipe makes two loaves.

2lbs. ground beef
2 1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 t garlic salt
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped bell pepper
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 c. ketchup
1 c. quick cooking oats
5-6 shakes worcestershire sauce

Topping:  mix all the topping ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until needed

2/3 c. ketchup
2-4 T brown sugar (depends on how sweet you like your sauce)
2 T prepared mustard
3 shakes worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all meatloaf ingredients well.

Divide the mixture into two halves.  Place each half in a loaf pan and shape into a loaf.

Bake for thirty minutes.  Remove the loaves from the oven, pour off the grease carefully, and pour the topping over the top.  Return the loaves to the oven and bake for an additional 20 - 30 minutes until done.  Yumminess!!!  :)

These are the potatoes I used to make the mashed potatoes.  Please excuse the pineapple.  I rushed in from the grocery store and started cooking before putting it away! :)

Mashed Potatoes

3lbs. yellow potatoes
1 stick of butter
4 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup milk
salt to taste

Peel and cube potatoes.  Boil potatoes until tender.  Drain off the water.  Into the potatoes, add 1 stick of butter and sour cream.  Use a potato masher to mash potatoes.  Slowly add in milk and stir until potatoes reach desired consistency.  You can use more or less milk.  Add salt to taste.

Our meal was yum, yum, yum!  We ate it for supper and lunch two days later!  Try it!  You might like it!  :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guess What I Made!

Today started out normal, well, almost.  I went to let out the chickens and noticed there was an egg.  I went on and fed the pigs, and one nicked my finger making it bleed.  I headed back to the chicken coop to recover the egg and saw one of our rabbits hopping around.  It was an "Oh, no!" moment.  The children and I spent a long time chasing that rabbit all over the place, but we could never catch it. The one we were chasing was Jake's rabbit.  I told him to tell the rabbit good-bye in case we were unable to get it back in the pen.  We finally came back in.  I would see it every now and then hopping around.  Later in the day, the children wanted to go check for eggs in the coop.  Alissa came running back in the house yelling that Mickey Mouse, the rabbit, was dead.  Sure enough, I went outside, and the poor, beautiful thing was dead under the car.  Our dog was desperately licking and nudging him trying to make him get up.  The children handled it surprisingly well, considering they cried for two days the last time we lost a rabbit.  They came in the house and wrote about it and have been okay since.

I have been sick, and all the commotion of chasing the rabbit and feeding the pigs took a lot out of me this morning.  After feeding the children breakfast, washing clothes, and feeding the children lunch, I had to take a nap.  After getting up, I decided to tackle a project I have been wanting to do for a long time.  I have put it off for fear of not getting it right and making a mess of things.  Can you guess what it was?  Here is a clue:

Yep!  I decided to conquer my fear and try my hand at making preserves!  I bought strawberries earlier in the week, but I only needed a few of them.  I had just enough leftover to make two jars of preserves.   They didn't turn out clear and pretty, but considering I have never done it, or watched anyone else do it, I was very happy with how they turned out.  If you promise not to laugh, I'll show you a picture.

I told you they weren't pretty, but I'm celebrating anyway!  There was a little left in the pan when I was done, and the children and I couldn't help but try it.

It was SO yummy!

What tips do you have for creating clear preserves?  I could sure use any help you can offer!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's for Supper? Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Corn

I have been so caught up in life and a little cold, that I have fallen behind in my posts.  I have been doing a lot of cooking lately.  Okay, okay!  I confess!  I am a rotten mom!  My children had to eat a frozen dinner tonight because I just didn't have the energy to cook a meal after fighting whatever sickness I am fighting.  I did warm up the greenbeans I cooked last night!  That makes it better, right?

I LOVE my convection oven.  I picked it out because it had a rotisserie in it.  I LOVE rotisserie chicken.  If you don't have a rotisserie, take heart, and keep reading.

If you have a rotisserie, the hardest part of this "recipe" will be getting the chicken centered on the spit and getting the legs and wings tied up!  Once that is done, sprinkle the chicken generously with a rotisserie seasoning.  I have only recently started replacing my store-bought seasonings with homemade seasonings, so this time, I used the rotisserie seasoning I already had in my spice drawer.  I hope I can find a recipe soon to make my own.  I just haven't taken the time to search for one yet.

Once the chicken was seasoned, I placed the spit in the oven, set the temperature to 480 degrees, left the door slightly ajar (per manufacturers instructions), and let the oven work it's magic for an hour.  After one hour, I ended up closing the door because it was taking too long to cook the chicken!  I let the chicken cook for one more hour and checked the temperature of the chicken to make sure it was done.  Ah!!!  It was perfection in an oven!!!  A beautiful, crisp skin and very juicy, moist meat on the inside!  MMM...mmm...mmm!

If you don't have a rotisserie, you can still use the rotisserie spice to season your chicken before it is baked.  Try it!  You might like it!  Any leftover chicken makes and outstanding gourmet chicken salad like some grocery stores sell.  I'll have to post that recipe later.

I also made roasted corn in the oven.  Bill usually does it for me on the grill, but he was out on a run.  To make the corn, (Are you ready for this?  It's really hard.  You might not be able to handle the complexity!)  Turn your oven on and set the temperature to 425 degrees.  Place the corn, husks and all, in the oven and leave it there for one hour.  (All ovens are different, so you might want to keep an eye on your corn the first time you prepare it this way.  It is okay if some of the outer husks turn brown.)  After one hour, remove the corn, let it cool a little for a few minutes, and carefully peel off the husks.  Be careful!  The corn can be very hot!  Rub with butter and enjoy!  I know, I know, I shouldn't post such complicated recipes.  I promise to do better!  :)

Happy cooking!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Praise God!

Some days I get overwhelmed, and just  don't want to do it anymore.  I don't want to check on the animals again.  I don't want to go out for another feeding.  I don't want to water another plant.  I don't want to cook another meal.  I don't want to clean another mess.  I don't want to hear another sassy remark.  I don't want to teach another lesson.  I just want to be quiet, be surrounded by quiet, and not be interrupted.  Does it happen?  Of course not.  But I do have to go to the quiet place of the heart and pull from the strength that is not of me, but of my heavenly father.  I have to quiet my spirit and remind myself that the emotional and sometimes hormonal storm will pass.  Being a woman is such a blessing, but sometimes the hormones rage, and it isn't always pleasant.  I praise God that he has brought me to the place where I can recognize the mood for what it is and guard my attitude and words more closely until the emotions have passed.  I am not where I want to be, but at least I am moving in the right direction.

Having said that, there are moments in those times that purely lift my spirit.  I know God hears my heart and knows my faith that he will see me through and make me a better person if I rely on him and not give in to the temptation to turn into an overgrown two-year-old!  :)  Last night was one of those such moments.  As I put my children to bed, Jake asked if I would sing bedtime songs.  I had let the children stay up really late so they might spend a few minutes with their daddy who had just come home from a two day run.  I was worn out and didn't really want to take the time to sing, but I just couldn't say no.  I settled in to the rocking chair in his room and commenced to singing bedtime songs.  It's funny how I much I love this time with my children.  One of the songs says, "I'm climbing up that ladder and I'm going the top of the ladder oh what joy there will be.  The angels are holding up that ladder for me."  Jake in his three-year-old way of hearing things didn't quite hear the words correctly and wanted to know what "jathebe" meant.  I had to explain it was "joy there will be" and that we will be happy in heaven.  He wanted to know if he would live in heaven one day.  I told him if he loved Jesus, believed Jesus died for him, asked Jesus to live in his heart and asked him to forgive him of his sins and make his heart clean, he would.   He told me he wanted Jesus to live in his heart.  I asked him if he wanted to pray and ask Jesus to live in his heart and he said he did.  I led him in a little prayer, letting him repeat after me.  How precious to hear him speak life-giving words.  Some say he is too little to understand.  I say he understands as well as he is able and better than many adults.  He understands that we can't get to heaven without Jesus.  He knows Jesus loves him and that Jesus died on the cross.  He knows that Jesus did it so we can go to heaven.  He knows that when he does "bad" things he needs to ask to be forgiven.  During a visit with my mother today, he was eating his lunch.  He turned to my mother and said, "Nana,  we have God in our heart!"  He was trying to share with her what he had done.  What is left to understand?

After he prayed, he had to have a whole discussion about heaven and how Jesus would pick him up and tell him how big he was, and he talked about who would be in heaven, and he talked of how he would have different clothes.  Oh, the faith and love of a child!

We still had not finished songs at that point.  When he seemed to be finished with his discussion, I finished our songs and said bedtime prayers.  When we were done, he said, "Now we have to sing 'Praise God'."  That is what he calls 'Amazing Grace' because after we finish the verses, I sing "Praise God" to the whole tune of the song.  We finished singing the last verse.  As we started singing "praise God," His little hands lifted toward heaven, and I could only think "how beautiful."  I started thinking of how God must feel looking down upon that precious child singing praises to him.  I choked up and had to squeak out the rest of the words. 

What a blessing to see my child praise God.  Sometimes I feel so unworthy to be a part of the blessings God shares with me, but I sure do praise him for them anyway!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Okay, so I have always been a little quirky about my food.  I am one of those that does not like for my food to run together on my plate, lol, and I can't stand it when people say, "It's all going to the same place!"  Ugh, yuck!  :)   I like to enjoy the individual flavors of each dish.  ;)

With that being said, my husband has always loved pinto beans and coleslaw.  Those were two things I was never particularly fond of.  He usually only got to enjoy them while visiting his mother.  One day while visiting her, I somehow ended up with both of those items on my plate together and beside each other.  Oh, mercy!  The sight and thought of those two items running together just turned my stomach, lol, but I couldn't be rude.  I just had to stifle my repulsion and make myself eat it.  What do you know?  It was like a marriage made in food heaven!

I went home that day with an enthusiasm to learn to prepare the beans and coleslaw myself!  It took me a long time and a lot of experimentation to finally get it right, but I believe I have mastered it!  We had pintos and cornbread for supper last night.  My two children don't eat coleslaw, and my husband wasn't home, so I didn't make a mess to make coleslaw just for me.  I sure did miss it, though!  So, I thought I would share the recipe.  I know, I know;  you don't like pinto beans.  Remember, I didn't either!  I have had many a food converts, including me, sit at my table; just ask my family.  Try it!  You might like it!

To make the pintos, you will need
This is my best friend in
kitchen sometimes!

2 lbs dried pinto beans
12 cups hot water
2 generous, heaping tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
1 large stock pot or dutch oven

I soaked 2lbs of dry pintos according to the package.  After soaking, I poured off the soaking water, and then added 12 cups of hot water to the beans and brought them to a rolling boil.  Next, I added in the beef base.
Then I turned them down to medium low to low- it depends on how fast your stove cooks. I have one eye on which food will continue to gently boil even on low.   Cook them slowly until done.  That's it; no fat!  I know! 
It goes against every southern grain in me! 

Be patient!  My pintos usually take a long time to cook.  Be prepared to wait 1-3 hours, depending on how high of a temperature you cook your beans.  Keep an eye on the beans to make sure all of the water doesn't boil out.  Add more if needed.

While the beans cook, prepare your cornbread.  To make the cornbread you will need:

1 egg
2 cups of cornmeal
3 tablespoons of Crico shortening ( I use the butter flavored.)
1 -1 1/4 c of milk  (Sweet milk or buttermilk can be used.)
1 well-greased iron skillet.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, beat one egg.  Pour the cornmeal on top of the beaten eggs, but do not mix.  On top of the cornmeal, add the three tablespooons of shortening.  I like to use my fingers to gently cut in the shortening, being careful not to get into the egg at the bottom.  Then pour in the milk.  Mix all ingredients until just blended together.  I use my hand to mix up the batter.  That was the way I was taught.  I've been told you don't want to overwork your batter or you'll end up with tough cornbread.?  :)  Pour the ingredients into the greased skillet and bake for 20-22 minutes.  Some people say to get the skillet hot in the preheating oven before pouring in the batter, but I've never had much luck with it.  My cornbread always sticks that way, besides, that's not the way I was taught.  I like my cornbread with a yummy dark crust on the bottom so I make sure the top is nice and golden and the sides are pulling away from the skillet before I remove the cornbread.  When the cornbread is removed from the oven, carefully turn it out onto a plate.  Butter can be added if you wish, but I don't like adding the extra calories.  Mine usually goes straight my bowl of beans, so it doesn't really need it anyway!  :)  Yum, Yum!  I hope you enjoy!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!