Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Replacing Accusations with Compliments

Yesterday, was not a great day. I awoke with a pile of unfinished, but due, business on my desk, 20+ technical/customer service emails in my work box, a Cad computer down at the plant, and a bee hive in desperate need of attention. I was swamped before I could take a breath. I began work and when my son got up he came in for his morning hugs and I brushed him away. I told him I had only two hours to finish the project and I didn't have time for our usual few minutes. He walked away. I felt guilty, but kept working. A little while later, he presented me with a cheese omelet and some orange juice. I, of course, said thanks, but continued working.

After I finished the major project and answered the e-mail, we left to go to the plant to work on the computer and take care of the EDI (electronic invoicing). Both children were extremely patient as they waited a couple of hours. By the time I was finishing there, the hardware store for which I do network maintenance found me and was having problems. The children, again, waited patiently while I restored files.

At home, I was able to locate some wired foundation (from my sixth grade teacher). My husband retrieved it on his way home from work and I was able to build 9 frames. I was so excited to get the frames done that I ran out to install them right at that minute even though it was threatening rain, it was almost 7 pm and getting a little dark, the bees were stressed because of heat and over crowding, and I was going solo (my husband took the children swimming). Obviously, this wasn't a pleasant morning of beekeeping and to make it worse two bees found a way into my bonnet. Since I didn't have help and the hive was vulnerable and fiesty, I had nothing to do but continue my work. I was stung once right under the eye. When the children and husband got home they were nuturing.

The same children who are helpful, patient, and nurturing also trash the bathroom, use 3 to 4 towels a day, make tremendous messes, and leave my tools out in the rain. The point is that I frequently say my son's name twenty times a day in that accusatory, don't move a muscle voice. Yet, I forget to say thank you twenty times a day for all the little niceties and patience. I take those things for granted because my children are well mannered, thoughtful, and helpful almost all the time.

While I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, though there was no reason to close one of my eyes since it is swollen shut, I thought about this. I got out of bed, woke each of the children, and said, "I forgot to say thank-you for . . ." Ridiculous to wake them, but I wanted them to know I recognized that they are patient while I work, thoughtful, and helpful. I am going to make a point to make more compliments than accusations - though 4 towels a day will never be tolerated.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Getting Back into a Rhythm

I was incredibly productive this past weekend. I didn't leave the property for more than an hour, but accomplished much, though none of it had anything to do with paid work. Today, the paid holiday ended and I don't feel like I can move under the "didn't dos" from before the weekend. So, I have accomplished little at home and little at work. I lost the focus or desire somewhere in the night.

My children seem to be at loose ends without their routines - school and ballet. My son still has scouts, but it doesn't seem routine since it is the only activity now. My son is banging around outside and the Princess is begging for a movie (I haven't given in, yet). I seem to have that same the same blase attitude.

Maybe, tomorrow.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Kitchen Project Finished

I have actually finished my reorganization of the kitchen/school storage areas. I will see how it works during the art heavy summer. The tall paper and Meet the Masters portfolios are to the left. Next is the assortment of papers stored in "In/Out" Boxes. His and Hers pencil sharpeners (thanks to my mom) and a scale. Next comes my solution for the art supplies and math manipulatives - small drawer units purchased at Dollar General for cheap. I like them because you can remove the whole drawer and set it on the table so wobble eyes, crayons, and feathers are easy to use and, hopefully, put away neatly. I captured two of the permanent drawers for school, too. I put all the flash cards, which are on book rings, in one of the drawers. I haven't put anything in the other. I like that empty drawer feeling. I don't think I have ever had an empty drawer before.

As school draws near I will put, ONLY, the books we are using on the counter top above or if I get really ambitious I will make room in the cookbook bookcase. I don't really use every one of the 150+ cookbooks and 100+ magazines stored there, but as soon as I give or throw something away I want it for something.

Memorial Day

From the Red Clay Hills of Central Mississippi, to all those who served to uphold the ideals of this country and to protect this country, I salute you!! The sacrifices to maintain the freedoms we, so often, take for granted have been many.

I only hope that our greed and lust for power do not negate that which has been so loyally upheld.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Breath of Air

The whole mood has changed within minutes. The temperature is dropping and a breeze is blowing. I hear thunder. Earlier today, I thought we would smother in the oppressive heat and humidity that has clung to our area all week.

Finally, a release. I am waiting on the porch for the first drops of rain.


We moved into this house almost a year and a half ago. I bought fabric about six months ago. Yesterday, because I didn't want to clean the school stuff from under the counters, I made the lined shades to keep the sun from blasting through the west windows into the kitchen thereby turning it into a sauna. In my defense it was so hot! I think the temperatures outside were 92, but with the 50% humidity it felt hotter. It was cooler inside, but the humidity was the same. I was problem solving, not procrastinating.

Today, because the kitchen is cooler and has that nice filtered light, I will finish cleaning the school stuff. Unless, I can find something else more pressing.

Help!!! I am so good at procrastination.

If I ever get the kitchen de-schooled, I will post pictures of my memorial kitchen that I got to design and help build within the walls of this old house.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

De-Schooling the Kitchen

Yesterday, I began de-schooling the kitchen. Unfortunately, the job is so huge that I will be doing the same thing today. I am amazed at the sheer volume of stuff - some of which I don't even remember using. Even though this is a drudge, it is also a good lesson. I don't need to buy so many things. Fewer items used more often would work just as well.

Today, I tackle underneath the cabinets and the drawers. Though I have one section that stays relatively well kept(the paper storage), the other two moving towards three cabinets have lost their plan. When I get everything taken out, I will try to come up with another method that will contain the art supplies, pens, pencils, rulers, markers, math manipulatives, etc. Princess can sort the markers and toss the ones that don't write and sharpen all pencils that are worth saving. Why do I have 10 rulers when I have only 2 children? Even with the 10 rulers, why could we never find even one when the math lesson called for a ruler without having to spend 20 minutes searching?

After the kitchen, I will move on to the book cases in the living room. After this long weekend, I will know which things I need to buy, which things I can give to others, and which things need to go into the garbage. I like to get this re-organization done early so I can spend the summer concentrating on getting the materials we need without the panicky last minute rush in which I have a tendency to over buy to compensate for my lack of planning.

I suppose I should quit talking about it and just get to work.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Roosters Crowing

The little roosters are starting to crow, though it is hardly a crow yet. They alternate between squeaks and toots, honks and squawks. I'm amused by this stage because when the young roosters are practicing their vocals, they have no clue how awkward they look or sound. They feel as proud as the older rooster who is strutting his stuff in front of the adolescent females, yet they sound ridiculous.

I am reminded of adolescent boys going through the motions of being a man - just an act for a while.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Aroma of Summer

Magnolia, not the Japanese kind, and gardenia is blooming now in Mississippi. Both of these wonderful flowers smell deliciously sweet. Unfortunately, all I can smell is the chicken litter my husband has spread on the hay field across the road. Every time the breeze blows across the gardenias planted by the front door and down the dog trot, it is also blowing across the chicken poop. My plan to have the lovely aroma of gardenia circulating via the dog trot has failed miserably.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Small Bee Emergency

Yesterday, when we got back from the Delta, my husband said, "Take a look at the bees. There are more than usual out on the front." The temperature was over 90 degrees so bees should be out of the hive, but there were still too many. I didn't think these new hives would need another brood chamber yet, but I was wrong. The other colony is not as strong, but this one is bursting at the seams.

So, today my husband and the Princess added another brood chamber and re-arranged the frames so that there are only 9 frames in the lower hive body. Losing a full brood frame to the upper chamber helps the bees move up faster and also makes it easier to remove frames and inspect bees. We use two different colors for hive bodies - green and white - so we can keep track of the rotation. The green frame in the white hive body is a plastic drone foundation. Supposively, mites prefer the drone larva, so we have one drone foundation per hive. Once the comb is built, the eggs laid, larva formed and sealed we will remove this frame and freeze it, thereby killing the mites. When we replace it, the bees will clean out the dead larva and the process begins, again.

The children started helping with the bees when they were 3 - just old enough to hold the smoker or hive tool. My son, when he was three, dropped the smoker into the bottom of a double hive when I had about half of the frames out looking for a queen during a requeening. The bees were not happy, so I told my son to run. Unfortunately, I had chosen this day to throw caution to the wind by wearing black pants. Most of the bees came out of the hive and attacked my pants (my legs), but I was able to maintain my composure and reconstruct the hive. I don't ever wear black pants anymore (except last month when my friend's bees swarmed and one other time)

Beekeeping started as my hobby. My husband was not interested at all. We still lived in town and he thought we would be a nuisance to our neighbors. Once we got the first hive, he began watching the proceedings from a distance. Then he moved closer and closer. Now we have to take turns working the hives. He loves it. Today was his turn to handle the frames, though we were all out there looking. In the last picture you can see a typical brood frame with capped honey at the top, some "green honey" below, and different phases of brood below. That glob on the bottom is free form brood. We removed it. Some bees keep a neat chamber and others tend to build and glue anywhere. We prefer these bees, even though they make globs because they are so calm that I trust my children to be around them, even in short sleeves.

With these strong young queens we could have double brood chambers and honey by the end of the summer in these two new hives. These bees earned the cliche, "As Busy as Bees."

Did I mention what an amazing MIL I have?

My MIL is, truly, a Southern woman -- gracious, beautiful, and strong. Even at 75 she has maintained her feminine shape, dares a hair to turn gray on her naturally brunette head, drives all over the country, maintains a beautiful yard, volunteers profusely, has a full social calendar, and still has enough time to make me and my children feel extra special when we invite ourselves to her house. She even has a drawl that would make Scarlett O'Hara jealous. I am amazed - constantly. O.K. I feel a bit inept, too.

I wonder if they taught all of that at Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) or if she was born that way or if her Mother taught her. The children and I were running late because the air conditioner was not working in the van and decided, after 15 miles, to return home and change vehicles. She called by the time we got to Greenwood to find out if we were stranded somewhere. When we arrived she greeted us at the car and we visited on the back patio and I got her to show me her flowers. She knew every species (She is a Mississippi Master Gardener) and exactly when it would bloom. We went inside and dinner was prepared with seemingly no effort. It was just whisked onto the table (obviously prepared before hand and warming on the oven, but we never saw the effort).

After dinner my MIL had chosen a movie especially for the children and sat down to watch it with them while leaving the most recent copies of magazines I enjoy, but don't subscribe in our room. She also retrieved a new book she thought I might enjoy. After the movie, the children and I slipped off to a perfectly made bed. The starched sheets are cool and smooth. The blankets are encased in the sheets so there is no scratchy wool touching you and the whole experience is finished off with a comforter to create the perfect weight and starched linen pillow cases on an abundance of pillows.

In the morning we had a full breakfast with sausage, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and slushy orange juice. Again, produced with no visible effort. She had also read the newspaper and found an article about sleep deprivation because I had mentioned something about another article the night before. All the special touches like gardenias and magnolia blooms in vases, the magazines specially for me, the movie for the children, the starched sheets, the article clipped from the paper, the guilt free supper, and the slushy orange juice make a person feel welcome.

When I first married my husband, I took these things for granted. We only visited at Christmas because we lived so far away. I suppose I felt we were special visitors. Now, I know that anyone who shows up gets the same treatment. She is a true Southern woman who would have it no other way.

I am going to practice so I can continue the tradition. Where is that starch?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


One of the bags containing perfect wedding gifts, wrapped in Bolivar Chronicle overruns, for my good friends who are getting married next month and ex students who are marrying next weekend. I am so excited that I was able to get something beautiful and useful, all in a timely manner.

My MIL, ever efficient, was able to get us to Merigold at 9:56 a.m. this morning. McCarty's opens at 10 and within minutes the small showroom was packed. We were able to shop while we could still appreciate the subtleties of shape, texture, and color and before we felt pressured by all the others who were looking for similarly priced pieces. After choosing a few pieces, we took a break and walked the gardens.

The gardens are beautiful in their naturalness. Limbs of small trees are allowed to flow over the paths and moss is allowed to cover surfaces of the fountain. Yet, there is structure in the rooms and pebble paths. Carefully controlled Bamboo and aged cypress is the canvas for the other plants (many of which are singles). The verti-linear movement of the bamboo and cypress has a very Asian feel, but the seemingly chaotic plantings of persimmon, fig, hydrangea, ferns, and mosses warm the atmosphere. Pottery bunnies and pigs hide in every corner. Huge pots, none of which are for sale, are thoughtfully planted and placed. I would have loved to sit and daydream in the cool, damp shade of the gardens. Instead, we were rousted back in by the swelling crowds of shoppers.

These are the pieces I bought (except for the bluebirds which I will explain later). I know! There are more than two pieces. I always say, buy a gift for others and then one for yourself. The signature Mississippi River is clearly visible on the nutmeg pieces. The vase is a replica of bamboo. The bluebirds are a gift to my children. Mr. McCarty gives each child a bluebird to ward away sadness and bad thoughts. Each bluebird is a little different and is packed in its own signature bag. Mr. McCarty signs and dates the card and teases the children and makes them feel truly special. I think he actually said, "Stop selling and wrapping, we have important visitors." He was speaking of my children who left feeling significant.

Nothing more needs to be said, but I will add that the McCarty's live their love and version of truth and you can feel it in the interaction with the customers, the unity with nature produced in the pottery, and the dedication to the small Delta town. Read their story at their web site.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Mississippi Delta

I'm leaving shortly to travel to the Mississippi Delta to visit my completely cool MIL. The children and I will spend the night with her and then go to the McCarty Pottery place in Merigold, MS. The McCarty's are celebrating 50 years in the business this year (or was it last year). Their gardens are beautiful now (May) and I love to buy wedding gifts when the gardens are in their prime.

I absolutely adore the McCarty pottery tradition. These people have lived simply, made beautiful pottery, and created a full life doing the things that make them happy. The pottery is made out of Mississippi clay and each piece has a Mississippi River somewhere on it. Most of the pieces are useful (bowls, vases, platters) and can be used in the oven. What's not to love -- beauty and utility thrown together in perfection.

I'll take pictures.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hive Entry

The front door of one of our new hives is a busy place. There are bees fanning, guarding, entering, giving directions, exiting, and just cooling themselves. Sometimes you even catch them house cleaning -- removing dead bees, brood that didn't make it, or other debris.

Today is pretty warm so there are many bees fanning. They do this to keep the hive the proper temperature for brood rearing and to take some of the humidity from the air for honey production. When it gets really hot, they fan to prevent the wax from melting.

We added an onboard waterer to each hive today because the temperatures are predicted to be close to ninety and there is no rain in the forecast for at least ten days. Bees, like all animals, need water. We make it easy to get water because the hive is less stressed that way. Less stress creates healthy colonies that can ward off mites and disease and produce more bees and honey.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I found out "What Was With That"

After tormenting my husband for over a week about his video escapades in which he filmed someone else's child instead of our own, he said he wanted to see the tape. We watched the tape together and during that time I found out that he was filming without the aid of LCD screen. He was filming through the eye-piece which explains why he kept saying it was so dark he couldn't tell it wasn't our child. I am still amazed, but feel a little better.

Saturday Morning Beignets

The children have been begging for beignets. They sing a song we made up after the hurricane to try to get me to make the fried bread.
Cafe Du Monde, Cafe Du Monde. Even though you washed away, we still think of you at home.

Cafe Du Monde, Cafe Du Monde. Even though you washed away, we still need beignets. Let's fry some at home.

I know the song is stupid and that Cafe Du Monde didn't actually get blown away (they did close for remodeling to take advantage of the lull in their business and missing employees), but what can you expect from children who need a sugar fix. I made beignets the Saturday after Katrina to celebrate New Orleans and because my oven is electric and my stove top is gas. I didn't have electricity, so we fried breakfast. The children have been singing the song ever since.

I gave in this morning!! I am writing this as the dough rises for the first time. Here is a recipe that tastes like Cafe Du Monde beignets. They have a packaged beignet mix for sale, but fresh is best. This recipe is from A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South by John T. Edge.

French Market Beignets

1 cup Milk -- scalded
2 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Sugar, Brown
1 tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Yeast, Active Dry
3 cup Flour, White, Unbleached
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Salt
1 ea Egg
Oil -- for deep frying
Sugar, Powdered -- liberal amounts for sprinkling


Heat the milk in a saucepan to the scalding stage. Do not let it scorch. Stir often. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and add the brown and granulated sugar. Pour in scalded milk and stir until butter is melted and mixture is lukewarm. Add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Sift together the flour, nutmeg, and salt. Gradually add about half the flour mixture to the milk to form a batter. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Stir in the remaining flour. Cover and let rise for about an hour.

Knead gently. Roll out on a floured board to 1/4" thickness. Cut into diamond shapes. Cover. Let rise while you heat the oil to 385. Fry, turning only once. Drain and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm.
Use liberal amounts of confectioners' sugar to make it authentic. We were in New Orleans a while back. My husband was working and the children and I were playing (exploring the French Quarter, eating beignets and mufflalettas, and trying to find the best praline). We bought some beignets to take when we met him. The children kept nibbling and I wasn't worried because the sack still felt heavy. When we got to the convention center to deliver the beignets, there was nothing but powdered sugar. In the bag was, at least, a quarter of a pound of sugar. I thought I was carrying beignets and all I was carrying was the topping. Needless to say my husband was disappointed.

Friday, May 19, 2006

We now have more cats . . .

All of my cats are neutered or spayed and guess what? I still am the proud owner of three kittens. Princess found them by the pile of trees waiting to be milled (Katrina damage). They followed her and are so human friendly that I know they are not a product of a feral cat. I made her leave them out there to see if a Mama cat would come for them. None did!

I know one of my "friends" dropped these here when we were away for the weekend and that makes me so angry. I don't want more cats - six is enough. My vet bills are already unbelievable because I feel the need to capture and neuter every feral cat that sets paw on my property. Now I have 3 more.

They are cute, though!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Looking forward to summer

Though temperatures will be 90+ tomorrow, I don't count summer as summer until my sisters start visiting for things like BLTs, blackberry picking, all day chow-chow, tomato sauce or pesto making, or jelly gelling. My sisters both live in the city, but they still crave a bit of the country summer action. I crave their visits. These visits are casual though directed and fun though productive. Tradition reigns. The children are able to play unfettered by school and usual obligations and the sisters get to chat, work, and eat.

On one of our more productive days we made and canned 10 gallons+ of slow cooking tomato sauce while still visiting, monitoring children, and keeping everyone fed. Sometimes we aren't as productive. The last time my sister was here she remembered finding four leaf clovers in my front yard when she was little. We had to go look. Sure enough, there were enough four leaf clovers for each of us in that one little patch. We just had to take the time to find a bit of luck.

Even though the motivation is to have some vegetables, fruit, or jelly in the larder or freezer to show for the day, the highlight of these days are the hours in which we reminisce about summers past and garner memories for our children.

I can barely wait!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Light Reading

When I was on my mini break this past weekend, I read three books. They were all excellent light reading. Mama has a few bookcases of paperback books of assorted reading material - nature books for shells, sea and beach life, and star gazing, many classics, and many more light reading books. I never take any books when we vacation, because I like to be surprised and I know Mama wouldn't let me down since she frequents this cute little independent bookstore in Gulf Shores called Just Books.

The first book I pulled from the shelf was Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews, who also wrote Savannah Blues which I read last time I was at the beach. Little Bitty Lies is a Southern Ladies book in that much of the humor is derived from the cliches of Southern upper class life - the perfect chicken salad and Country Club, and protocol. The plot explodes with a cover-up lie so that "society" will not know Mary Bliss's husband has left her and her daughter penniless. Full of all things that make a page turning weekend read - intrigue, relationships, and secrets. I was unable to put this book down, so read through the night until 4 a.m.

The next book I read was Azur Like It by Wendy Holden. I didn't care for this book as much, but I am willing to suspend disbelief in almost any circumstance. A young reporter, Kate wishes to break free of a small town atmosphere and her family. She gets a chance in a not so believable way in which she ends up at the Cannes Film Festival. Many twists and turns, but most are predictable.

My last book was wonderful. Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan is a story of struggle of a middle aged woman to find herself after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Though this book would appear tragic at first, there is nothing tragic in Rose Lloyd's handling of the upheaval in her life.

Believe it or not, after reading all these books, I still had time to boogie board, walk on the beach, build a sand castle, and cook for my family.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Planning Geography

Geography is one of our least formalized studies. We read books about the countries we visit in history. We also study geography in science. This year, in our most formalized study, we read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne and plotted the course of their travels on a map. However, we frequently don't have a subject named geography on our plans. I really like plotting the course of characters on a map and reading a bit about each of the locations, but unless I find another great living geography book, we will go back to studying geography within history and science. No matter how we study geography, these are a few of the resources we use a lot:
  • World of Where is a wonderful computer map study aid, which lets you test by countries, states, provinces, or cities. View Political borders or physical world. You have the solar system, too! It even has a spoken mode for those youngest learners. All this and the price is right at only $11.95!!
  • Borderline is a fun card game that helps make connections between states in the USA or countries in Africa, Europe or the World. You don't have to know geography to play but you will definitely learn some.
  • National Geographic Magazine with all the wonderful images, maps, and thoughtful articles is still a bargain monthly geography curriculum, especially when used with the web site to find articles relating to your area of study or to locate or see a map. There are also great resources at the Xpeditions site
  • A wall map is essential and luckily we subscribe to National Geographic and get one each year.
  • Uncle Josh's Outline Maps CD-ROM is a great resource with 125 printable maps in pdf format. I like these because you get both historical maps and more recent images.
  • NEA State by State Booklist provides a listing of books that will help you read across America. I know this is no help for Canadians and Europeans.
I know I've probably forgotten something. Does anyone else have favorite resources?

Monday, May 15, 2006


In the event anyone noticed I was not posting with my regular enthusiasm, I've been on a bit of a vacation - a treat after finishing ballet and scouts and before gardening and canning take over. We went to the beach in Alabama and I am amazed at the recovery of nature. This area has been directly and indirectly affected by many hurricanes and tropical depressions lately - especially Ivan in 2004, Dennis, Rita, and Katrina and a few others in 2005. Some of the storms were just in the Gulf and not a direct hit, but with the constant pounding the beaches and especially the dunes really took a hit. Yet, all the scrap wood is gone. Look closely at the picture. The Gulf has worn the wood into smooth, stone shaped pieces. We still found some unexpected things, like an upper denture plate and a 55 gallon drum, but for the most part the beaches are restoring themselves.

The dunes are rebuilding (thanks to the help of snow fencing and some of the scrap washed ashore). The sand crabs are scurrying as usual and some of the vegetation is trying to make a comeback. The trees next to the lagoon are green, again, rather than salt soaked brown. Even in February, the evergreens were still brown. I didn't see a single sea oat, though, and they are my favorites. Maybe later.

The brown pelicans were fishing so there must be fish. The humans were also fishing, though I didn't see many fish being hauled out. Re-creation of the beach eco-structure will take time, but seems to be moving forward. This beach is a nesting ground for sea turtles and I didn't see any trace of nesting. The save the sea turtle group usually marks every found nest to protect it and they had found none either. With all disruptions (hurricanes) perhaps the turtles will lay later. Maybe they were blown off course. I hope not. My children and I love turtle season.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's With That?

Last night was my daughter's final ballet performance of the season. Even with more atrocious weather we made it to Thalia Mara Hall with dancer, costume, ballet shoes, make up, and hair gel. I did forget the tickets, but called the Director from the car and he fixed it for me. My husband, his mother, my son, my sister, her son and daughter, and her husband also made it to the performance.

I stayed back stage with the Princess(No, I am not one of those pushy backstage moms, just a friendly face in the sea of chaos). My husband was supposed to video the performance. He did, only he didn't video our child for over half of the dance. What is with that? How can he not know his own child? He has lived with us these past six years. He delivered this child and yet he could not pick her out of 12 girls. He even did close ups of the other child. He zoomed in for 2 or 3 minutes and still did not notice that she did not even resemble Princess. I don't get how that could happen. I know the spirit of the child, the movement, and the detail. I could never mistake another for my own and cannot understand how he could. What is with that?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Homeschool Country Fair!

I'm over at the Country Fair! Check out all the great information and resources!!

More Rain and Skunks!

I awoke this morning to yet more rain and the lovely perfume of skunk. Obviously, the yellow dog and a skunk weren't getting along. We have a good many skunks here. In fact, during this time of the year I rarely make the 2 mile trip into town without seeing a dead skunk in the middle of the road. All the scared country folks have killed almost all of the bobcats in our area and now we get to smell skunk first thing in the morning because nothing else wants to eat that pesky varmint(My theories only). I really don't mind skunks since they eat mice, voles, grubs and insects, but I don't really want them under the porch or next to my chicken coop.

I know I will want this rain later in the season, but now I would like to plant a few more plants and seeds in my garden and I can't get out there because of standing water. We had storms Saturday night, yesterday, and again this morning. This is completely normal weather for Mississippi, but I don't have to like it. As it is, I will be so late with my black-eyed peas that I will have to pick them in the over 100 degree days. I wanted to be finished with row vegetables before then.

Maybe the house will get cleaned if it keeps raining.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Taming the Paper Animal

Construction paper in at least two sizes, plain white printer paper, notebook paper, handwriting paper, graph paper in a few sizes, worksheets, narrations, art projects, math work, flash cards for math, sight words, and Latin, art cards, and more have found a way into our house and have taken up residence. I am amazed at the quantity of paper we produce, use and store in our homeschooling journey.

The first year we homeschooled, I didn't do a great job keeping up with all the paper produced. In fact, I don't have a good record of what my son accomplished, when he did it or how he did it. In Mississippi being unorganized is no big deal. In fact there are no recordkeeping requirements. Even so, I do worry that I will need records or want records, so have found a way (even though I am organizationally challenged) to tame the paper animal. This is what has worked for my family.
  • Plastic Ticklers divided into 12 sections (one for each month) have been a wonderful addition to our home school. Spend extra to get the plastic because the reinforced paper ones don't hold up for the full year. I get a different color for each child and have been consistent with the color from year to year. This makes filing automatic even the first day of the new school year. Since I only have monthly labels, even if I only get around to filing once a month I am still organized, but I find that I file daily or at least weekly because it is painless. I know this system is not up to the standards of many, but this is a real life plan. As an added bonus, since there is no interior organization any works or art, stories, papers from museums, scout stuff and other non-official school items can be stored without messing up "the plan." All of the work is stored by month and is there if needed or wanted.
  • Book Rings - the bigger the better - add control to all flash cards. Since I was planning to re-use most of our resources, I wanted to have all the cards. Flash cards seem to hit the floor and disappear. I solved this problem by hole punching the cards and placing each set of cards on a separate book ring and then hanging them on a hook where they are easy to use and store. We use this for math facts cards, sight word cards, Latin roots, Child -sized Masterpiece cards, and sentence combining cards and I have not had to duplicate work or re-purchase because of lost cards.
  • In/Out Boxes Stacked under the counter have controlled, not alleviated, our paper clutter. I use these to separate the different types of paper. The stack takes only 12" of under counter space. The children and I can find which paper we want without pulling 500 sheets. As an added benefit you can see when you are running low before you need a specific paper and don't have it.
  • Beside the stack of In/Out Boxes I have a few pieces of 11 x 17 cardboard standing to keep our out-sized paper and portfolios fresh.
We have a few things that don't fit the plan, yet they have a plan of their own. We have done the Meet the Masters Art Program for a few years and these masterpieces are stored in the portfolio made in the first lesson. These are stored next to our In/Out Boxes. Our Nature Journals are treated like books and are stored on the bookshelf.

Planning can create a pile of paper too! I have notebooks in which I write lists and ideas and just write, but as far as official planning I have a secret paperless weapon, HS Planner. This planner lets you be as meticulous as you need to be. You can even give grades and make report cards. I don't use those items, but I do use most everything else. There is a place to keep up with everything you do and you can even create your own forms. I have been using this program for a few years and it is intuitive, works on both Mac and Windows, and is written by and for homeschoolers. The best thing is that it keeps the records for all years, not just the one you are using. Click a child's record and then move from K - 12 easily. I love this in the books read section. I can look back and see what my son read and enjoyed in first grade and make sure my daughter has a chance to read the book. You don't lose anything, which is great if you have multiple children.

As I write this I am laughing at the thought that I, of all people, am sharing my organization methods. I am not a domestic goddess, nor do I pretend to be. I am sharing this from a disorganized place. I have tried many notebook methods and other wonderful sounding ways of managing homeschool record keeping and planning. These failed for me, because they entailed too many sections in too many notebooks without needed flexibility, and I found that after a month the structure was barely hanging on and that there were so many items that really didn't have a place so they were tossed or got put in the wrong place. In the face of failure I tossed all of these schemes and simplified. I have been using the color coded ticklers, In/Out Boxes, HS Planner, and book rings for 3 years and feel success!

I've Been Planning #2

Next year we will be studying Ancient History and I am attempting to link as many subjects as possible to this study. Science will be no exception, though there will be deviations from ancient studies here because I also want to focus on Biology. I want my children, especially my oldest to be able to identify the differences and similarities of plant and animal cells, identify and describe the parts of the human body and plants. I also want to get more serious about the scientific method. Here are the resources:
  • Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way tells the story of the birth of science using quotes from Ancient texts. Science began as an attempt to explain realities and garner predictability in the calendar. I like the historical approach to science, the introduction of early scientists (many of whom I would have neglected), the short reading segments, and colorful illustrations. I was able to get this book at Powells for $8.98 and for that price I can overlook the PC handling of the first couple of chapters.
  • Ancient Science by Jim Wiese -- This is a book of 40 experiments ancients. The book is divided into sections based on ancient cultures like Science from the Dawn of Time and Science among the Pyramids. These experiments are not particularly scientific, but lots of fun for your youngest scientists.
  • The Science of Life by Frank G. Bottone, Jr. is a thin five chapter book that delves into the five kingdoms - Prokaryotae, Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, and Protoctista - through experimentation. We will use this book as a base and supplement with microscope work, nature study, and the study of the human body.
  • As a supplementary text we will use Usborne Internet Linked Science Encyclopedia. My son has used this book until the covers have fallen off. The internet links are kept up-to-date via the Usborne website.
  • We also have the Usborne Internet linked Book of the Microscope to help us on our microscopic journey. My cousin who was a microscope researcher came up and helped my son with his microscope after he first got it and after those initial lessons he can really scan and focus. Our microscope came from Great Scopes - a family run business. We also got some really good pre-made slide sets from them and they have ideas, lessons, and links for the microscope.
As usual, I am so excited about another year of science. I have always loved science, though eventually the public schools squashed the love. When I was in fifth grade science in public school, there were no experiments. We just read a text, answered some questions, and moved to the next chapter. I am so excited that I can offer my six year old and 10 year old a different science experience. Isn't homeschooling grand?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Just as I Expected

The Yellow Dog has turned into an egg sucking, chicken chasing not to be trusted nuisance of a pet. A few weeks ago, The Yellow Dog was walking around the yard with an egg in his mouth. We, of course, chased him around and got the egg before it was broken. I have been making a point of going out to the barn every time I hear a hen announcing an egg. Even so, I think he has been getting a few.

At Easter The Yellow Dog stayed at my parents' house while we were in Memphis and guess who found the first egg at the hunt? Right. The Yellow Dog found the first, second, and third eggs then finally they had to put him in the dog kennel. My sil took pictures, but she doesn't have digital and you know how long it can take to finish rolls of film, take them twenty miles to the nearest photo developer, and then remember to pick them up. I will post the image if I ever get it.

Even though The Yellow Dog has never approached the large chickens, he has started chasing the little ones. I don't think he means to hurt them, but wants to toy with them. They flutter, fly, and run around more than the older birds and he is just a puppy. Unfortunately, he is a huge puppy. When he catches one, he plops his big paw on it and starts gnawing. My husband brought one chick to the house on Thursday. He was clipping the hay field and saw the Yellow Dog hiding in the tall grass and then realized he had a chicken. We thought the chicken would die even though she had no visible wounds. She was soaking wet from dog slobber, couldn't stand and was in shock. I kept her separate for the night and the next morning, she was perky and wanting out with the others. So, technically, the Yellow Dog has not killed a chicken, but he is sure trying.

We decided to keep the Yellow Dog in the dog trot during the day and only let him out after the chickens are up for the night and when someone was with him. This worked for two days, before he ripped the screen and left to chase chickens. He is now attached to the porch post with one of those dog tie-out things. My husband tried to let him off the guide while he was doing chores, but he went right for the chickens. I feel terrible for him, but we've given him at least ten chances. Once the chickens are bigger, he will do better. At least I hope.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Baby Birds

After reassurance from Julie Zickefoose, my son and I peered inside the new birdhouses that we made for a homeschool project. One of the mothers in the PEAK group had a birdhouse party. We said we could come, purchased the materials, and then came down with a stomach flu. We didn't get to build with the other homeschoolers, but once we got the materials we built two houses and both houses have babies!! There are four sleeping babies in this house. My son opened the box and at first said, "They are dead!" Then he said, "I guess they aren't dead, but they sure look like it." They did indeed. They were sprawled out in the nest like they had flown a marathon, much like my chicken bitties look when they are sleeping. The babies are not pretty yet, but are larger than I thought they would be. I'm so excited!!! I guess I missed a cue. I knew that they had hatched because the parents have been in and out so much, but either they grow extremely fast or they have been there a while. They have some feathers. Now, we are going to keep a close eye on these houses so we can see the birds fledge. Isn't homeschooling just the best!!

After this season, I am going to add baffles to all the boxes so I am sure the birds will be safer. There are several books about improving the chances of bluebird survival available at Bird Watcher's Digest Nature Shop.

Garden Fairies

My princess and I just left the garden - forced out by impending thunderstorms. While my husband and son went to a bull sale, we tilled, planted some more marigolds along a fence and planted zuchinni, yellow squash and patty pan squash. We also righted the bean poles from last weekend's storm and did a great deal of weeding. Princess ate her weight in carrot thinnings.

I love gardening with the children. They love watching things grow and even the tasks I hate, like weeding, are made into a game. Princess danced around the border we were planting depositing seed as if she were a fairy. I need to capture that garden fairy spirit every time I enter the garden so I won't miss the smallest miracles and transformations and the joy in gardening.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Loose Ends

We are slowly wrapping up this year's official school. We try to learn all the time, but officially have a vacation in which we take a break from all planned/organized school activities. As a compromise with the children we have decided to end earlier this year while the weather is pleasant and start again when the temperatures hit 100 and the humidity over 90%. Even so, I am determined to finish some of the wonderful books and projects we have started.

We are finishing our last geography lessons. If you remember, we are reading Around the World in Eight Days and mapping the progress of Philias Fogg, Passepartout, and Figg (and now Aouda) on their adventure. This book and study have far exceeded expectations. As you can see (if you can see) we are in San Francisco. Actually, we got on a train today, but don't know where we stop next. As we have travelled we have read some reference material, looked at pictures of some of the landmarks mentioned in the book, and done a travel book with hand drawn entries and narratives. Here is my 6 year old daughter's page on Big Ben in England.
O.K. I know the photography is poor and you can barely see anything, but see the stick figure under the clock face? This is the holding area/jail for parliament members who get out of hand. I suppose we read too much Stephen Biesty since both of the children drew the cell and none of the pictures I showed them had a see through wall. Isn't it remarkable how children pick up on a minute section in a reading and attach themselves to it?

I am proud of my children for their work, but also proud of myself for slowing down enough for the children to enjoy the study and truly come away with a sense of the countries. Of course, the book lends itself to reading only one or two short chapters a day so I had some help there. Also, the Around the World narrative calls attention to cultural, religious, and geographic highlights so it is easy to direct and obtain further information. All this and the book is also an interesting read for all involved, including my husband who gets his feelings hurt if we read during the day so he misses something.

Another loose end, that will not soon be tied is our modern history study. We keep getting side-tracked. My son has gotten interested in tanks, guns, early fighter planes, etc and there is a lot of war in modern times. Right now, we are finishing Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji which is a story of World War I from the perspective of a carrier pigeon who helped advance the Allied Forces. Even though this is a Newbery Winner book, I had never seen this wonderful story mentioned in homeschool circles as a WWI resource. I wonder if it is because it is written from an Indian (Hindu) perspective and not an European view. We are enjoying this book as a read aloud because the Indian names, unfamiliar religious practices, and poetic language combined to make it a difficult read. Besides, my six year old didn't want to miss anything. Today, when I took my daughter to the city for ballet, every single pigeon we saw may have been Gay-Neck. This neglected book has really made an impression on my children. Obviously, if we are just finishing WWI, we have a few more wars to cover before we officially close the school year. Fortunately, my children have never associated history with school.

Once these loose ends are tied, we will rest and plan for the next official school segment scheduled in August.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Free Ranging

My chickens have been steadily moving further and further away from the chicken hut. When I first gave them free range I was scared that I had waited too long. They just didn't seem inclined to move more than 50 feet from the hut. All of the other chickens we have had in the past seemed to burst forth much more quickly. This past week the chicks have been in the back yard, side yard, and further into the pasture than ever before. They progressed by leaps and bounds.

Still, if I or either of the children go anywhere near they run up to see if we brought any treats, pecking frantically at our feet. They love waffles and pancakes especially if they are dripping in strawberry syrup or honey. They are also partial to grits and rice, but will grab and run with anything thrown their way. Then the whole mob will fight over it. We always bring enough for every bird, but the competition is still startling!

Isn't it funny how homeschooling, children and farm animals have so much in common.

Aphids and Lady Bugs

My garden is too wet to cultivate, plant, or repair any damage from the cows' party, but I could look and I found aphids (you should be able to see them on the picture) on what is left of my sugar snap peas. Yuk!!!! I also found a Lady Bug doing its job - eating the aphids. I garden organically and love to see a balanced eco-structure working in my garden.

Non-organic gardeners usually run for the Sevin Dust at the first sight of an insect. This is a huge mistake since Sevin Dust kills good and bad. Most of the good bugs take longer to reproduce, thereby giving the bad bugs a head start the next go round. By not killing the good bugs, I now have a helper in my fight against the aphids. I may have to hose these plants with soapy water because there seem to be so many on a couple of plants, but at least I do know that nature is working to help me.

Country Fair!!

I love the Fair! You will find me on the ferris wheel at the Country Fair for the next few weeks! You can ride too! Click the above link for all the information so far. Essentially, this fair is for any homeschooler who does not wish to support the Pearls, Homeschool Blogger and their off shoots. The First Country Fair was a blast! And I could click on every link without fear.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Acceptance, Change, and Truth

I have been lucky that in my life, I have had wonderful experiences to teach me acceptance of people -- all people. I grew up in a miniscule town. Around this town lived grumpy opinionated older people, rebel flag waving red necks, fundamentalist Christians who don't allow the women and girls to wear pants, cut their hair, or wear any jewelry, proud Ku Klux Klan members, the Choctaw nation, blacks, farmers, gays and lesbians, the more moderate Baptists and Methodists, and others who eluded niches and cubbies. Diversity is everywhere, but in a small town enclosed by swamps and poor roads, diversity is personal. You know to call out to Mr. Malcom before you touch him because he will turn around swinging. You know that Clem is not buying antiseptic for a cut, but to drink. You know that Mr. Willie Dee knows every rule and is on as mathematical a schedule as Philias Fogg. You know who has a short fuse, who likes to drink, who likes to fight, and who is in trouble. There are few real secrets.

Living here has taught me to find what I believe to be truth within myself and then stay true to that center. No, I will never agree with the prejudice of the Ku Klux Klan nor the closed mindedness of the exclusive conservative Christians here, but I live here and I belong to the community. Belonging means thinking about individuals. Yes! The individuals in the community are not always people I want to invite over for dinner (So, I don't). In fact, many times, people get angry, stomp around, and say terrible, hurtful things. Yet, even on the worse days, no one here would be left in the cold, stranded on the side of the road, or hungry. After a healing period, communication resumes.

Living here has taught me to bite my tongue in anger and wait; stay true to what I believe and live my life from that point; and, finally, to live a life that may show others who don't believe as I do that there are other options -- a Dickensian type of existence. What this means is that I am kind to all individuals, listen to ideas without attacking or sacrificing my morals, and continue to seek changes in small ways through individuals.

And . . . . The point is. I do believe that using a supply line to "train up" your child is abuse. I do believe that luring children into wrong, just so you can punish them is cruel. I do believe in positive discipline in which natural consequences, none of which include hitting, are allowed to occur so that your child will learn. Of course, this natural means of training takes more time and patience than scaring your children into submission, but the outcome is a child who respects you - not as a rod wielding child beater - as someone who sets logical and thoughtful limits. The outcome is a child who is not scared to voice his opinion, ask a question, help the family problem solve. The outcome is a child who grows into an adult who will not beat his children or wife. The outcome is respect for a fragile human being who is depending on you for care. I am not a Saint. I have lost my temper on more than one occasion and screeched and yapped, but my children do not fear me. I am human. My children are human. If we make a mistake we apologize and move forward.

And . . . The next point. I still cannot support Homeschool blogger or the Pearls which means I cannot be a full participant in the Carnival of Homeschooling, but I will participate whenever I can (when a Homeschool Blogger does not host) because each time someone enters my site I have an opportunity to show that the calm in our family does not come from fear and that I am not scared to make mistakes and learn from my children. I will write for the Country Fair every opportunity I get because I believe in the Boycott and I respect the passion of the organizers who have brought so much attention to the wide spread "Christian" use of child abuse. I want change, yet I realize that change will pass from individual to individual(like the Pearl's method). I remain true to my heart and realize that sacrifices have to be made for ideals, yet I still shudder thinking of the personal attacks endured yesterday by brave individuals who believe with passion in an ideal.

I'm Zooming about the Internet . . . At last!

This morning an installer drove 90 something miles to connect my new Wild Blue Satellite for blazing internet connection speeds. I have been suffering with a 26400 patchy dial-up connection for the entire year since we moved to the farm. After Katrina, I had no internet or telephone at all for weeks and was down to one line permanently. For those who don't know, I work from my home via computer,which translates to complete frustration day after day. Today, I have freedom. I can finish uploading files quickly. I can now download all those cool online resources people have recommended!!! And . . . Blogging will be easier therefore I will do more!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The Thinking Mother and it is huge! Unfortunately, over half of it is written by HSB bloggers and I still refuse to support that company. For the next few weeks, the carnival is hosted by Home School Bloggers. So, I won't be there. Maybe there will be another Country Day.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I've Been Planning!!!

We haven't even finished everything planned for this year, but I have been planning for next year and I think I have found the scaffolding resources. I'll start with history since that usually provides our structure. We will be studying Ancient Times, again, next year (if we get finished with modern this year). I have searched and searched for just the right materials for my 6 and 10 year olds. We read a lot of books but find that we get bogged down in one area or drift around if we don't have a narrative (overview) to read as well. This is what we will use:
  • The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon -- First Newberry Winner book is a history in story form. Only the first 154 pages deal with Ancient Times but will be enough of a narrative to start us on our journey. We will save the rest of the book for other years. I will hold my 6 year old daughter responsible for this material.
  • The World in Ancient Times Series published by Oxford University Press -- Expensive($32 each), but excellent series of books on the Ancient Times and a great addition to a homeschool library. These volumes combine ancient artifacts, primary sources, modern investigative practices, and good story tellers to create a well researched and well written history for the middle school student and above. I like the series because the primary sources are documented on the page you are reading. If your child wants more, you know where to look immediately.
    • The first book, The Early Human World, uses archaelogical finds rather than ancient texts as source material. If you are offended by the theory of evolution you should steer clear of this first title, but it truly does a wonderful job of placing all of the hominids in time and discussing the work of Darwin and the Leakeys.
    • Other titles in the series are: The Ancient Near Eastern World, The Ancient Egyptian World, The Ancient South Asian World, The Ancient Chinese World, The Ancient Greek World, The Ancient Roman World, and The Ancient American World. There is also a Primary Sources and Reference Volume
    • The only annoyance I have found, so far, is the worn out literary device of the time travelling ATV used in The Early Human World. This is a pet peeve, but Joy Hakim used it in A History of US (though her mode of travel was a time space capsule), Susan Wise Bauer used it several times in different forms (flying carpets, etc) in The Story of the World and I'm tired of it.
  • Living History by Two Can Publishing Company is a colorful, compilation of several of Two Can's titles with activities galore. Make everything from ancient clothing to scale model homes, musical instruments, food, kites, gardens and art. My mother gave my son Make It Work Rivers and Ships by the same publisher and we had so much fun we went looking for more. Most of the projects are not one hour diversions, but more involved and require more than paper and markers.
  • We will supplement these resources with well chosen books of the times. I usually choose these books during the year based on what the libraries have available and which resources fit into our schedule. I rarely purchase books for the history readings (unless they prove to be unbelievable or well loved), but we have the titles below and will use them.
    • The Bible - We will try to read the entire book in the King James version.
    • The Odyssey and The Iliad -- Last time around we read Geraldine McCaughrean's version of The Odyssey which left my son begging for more. This is a truly wonderful retelling for children. I don't think he is ready for the full length version, but I want quality. I may try The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum. I am still searching here.
    • Beowulf - Again, we read a retelling last time and will do so again. We will try the Ian Serrailler version this year.
    • D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths -- We have this on tape and believe it or not this may be better than the book (I never say that), but the readers are unbelievable. Paul Newman, Sidney Portier, Katleen Turner and Matthew Brodrick have voices that are as rich as the stories.
    • Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick -- I've seen this book listed on several lists and have heard only good things. We will try it.
  • We have the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and will use that again. Here are some other items on our shelf from last time around that we will use again. Most were gifts from my Mother who has an obsession with bargain books. I know I'm lucky!
    • Amazing Pop-up 3-D Time Scape by Biesty, Hawcock, and Platt
    • Rome, A Fold-Out History of the Ancient Civilization by Leigh Grant
    • Everyday Life in the Ancient World by Hermes House
    • Kingfisher Everyday Life in the Ancient World
  • We will also try to use Timeliner to make a computerized timeline this rotation. I was given this progam a while back, but wanted the last four year sequence to be unified so have never used the program for the big timeline, only smaller ones. The company has ready made time lines and clip art available for those who use the program.
Check back later for updates and for next year's science, art, math, language, and others.