Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Pictures, Installment Numero Uno

Tyler and Aunt Sally

Jeff and Aunt Sal

James reading the Christmas story with Chappy...this was one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  Every year, we read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Grandpa used to read it, then Dad, and when my brother was old enough he did it too. Now that James can read, he got to participate. He read a few verses all by himself!

Tyler checking out his new play mat

James was quite thrilled to get a Wild West play set. It has kept him occupied for hours already.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bonus Photo (Don't View While Drinking Coffee)

Ninja Scissors

My hair has been driving me crazy. Absolutely nuts! Sometimes I get a wild hair (ha, ha) and think I will try growing it out. Sometimes I just don't feel like finding a place to get my hair cut and actually going to get it done. And I think that I still have some hair dressers distrust due to a serious hack job I got in high school. It was so bad, my short 'layers' were more like bad bangs that could only be corralled by a Pebbles-inspired pony tail. Visiting a new hair dresser is like playing Russian Roulette with your follicles. But alas, I was at my wits end. Ready to pull a Britney Spears and shave my head. I was going to call and make an appointment when Jeff said 'I'll cut your hair.' I said 'YEAH RIGHT!!' But he was serious. And if there is anything I know about Jeffrey, it is a) he will research the heck out of it, and b) he has a bit of the old OCD that would ensure that my hair (hopefully) came out looking presentable, instead of like I'd lost a fight with the weed whacker. I also figured I could always go somewhere and get it fixed should things head south. So, I said OK. After going on a YouTube bender, Jeff felt he had watched a sufficient number of tutorials and read about enough methods that he was ready to get started. He showed me an article on 'Hair Cutting for Dummies' entitled 'The Five Minute Haircut' which immediately made me rethink my decision. In the end, I decided regardless of the end result, the experience was bound to be amusing. And it was. There we were, in the bathroom at about 9:30 at night, trying out some internet tutorial on my hair. It worked, and my hair passed the test. Several people at church the next day came up and told me they loved my new hair cut. Everyone got a chuckle after they found out who cut it. Jeff has decided to change his name to Geoffrey and go into business. Now taking appointments! :)

P.S. I will post about Christmas soon. I had this written but forgot to post. Oi!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Christmas Par-tay

Last night was Jeff's Christmas party. This year, we weren't going to go for a few reasons, but Jeff was told by the BIG cheese that he should 'strongly reconsider' coming. So he did, and we went. And I was right! Jeff got an award, and not just any award. He was given the award which is basically 'employee of the year' type thing. Each year, they give it to one person who has made great achievements for the company. This year, because the company has grown so much (over 50 new employees this year just in Marlton) they decided to give it to 2 people. The award is really quite an honor. The owner of the company spoke about how the recipient of the award stood out due to their initiative and hard work, etc.. And then they announced Jeff's name! It was pretty awesome! He now has a fancy framed certificate and an even fancier watch. If it were me, I would be afraid to wear it. 

The party was nice. In fact, it was the nicest party so far, and that is saying something because it is always very fancy. To give you an idea of the caliber of the place, note that the bar was made entirely of ice and had the company name carved in front of the ice pillars. They served lemon sorbet in between courses to cleanse the palate, and the butter was served in flower shaped pats on plant leaves. The dessert bar was outrageous.  There was the dessert drink bar, which included all your dessert-themed adult beverages, along with root beer floats, hot chocolate, etc.. There was a chocolate fountain, with all manner of dunkables. There was a waffle bar, pancakes, crepes, cheesecakes, creme brulee and about a zillion little tarts and truffles and cake balls and layer cakes. The think that cracked me up the most was the table that had comfort foods on it. There were little triangles of PB and J, crusts removed, and cookies with glasses of milk. I don't know about you, but there is nothing I want more after polishing off a plate of ginger glazed salmon with pickled ginger rice than a PB and J sandwich. Or not. It was a nice touch though. If you couldn't find something there to make you happy, well then, you must not have a pulse.

And you wanna know something funny? I made myself a fascinator clip using my very own chicken feathers. It looks huge in this picture but its not really that big. I used some feathers from my sister, and threw in my own too. For one, I think they were pretty, and two...I know that people see me and think 'oh, there's Jeff's wife...the one with the chickens!' In fact, last year, one person told me that she thought I would look more 'farm-ish'. So, it was incredibly funny to me when two of Jeff's coworkers came up and started talking to me about the chickens, and how I 'slaughter' them and they could never do that, etc, etc. I refrained from telling them that I had feathers in my hair from the very chicken that is now residing in my freezer. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


This morning my Bible study went down to Kensington to bring a Christmas brunch and speak to the ladies there. We were quite the bunch, all meeting in the parking lot of a preschool in the burbs, and caravan-ing down to the city in a parade of mini-vans. We were hauling our kids and our pretty breakfast foods. For those of you who don't know, Kensington is what is considered one of the worst parts of Philly as far as crime, poverty, etc. It is a different world down there. We met in a row house next to the church, which the pastor there described as a former 'shooting gallery' aka drug house. I can't really think about that too much or it freaks me out. The place was completely packed with almost 30 women. We each got up and talked about our favorite Christmas traditions. As I was preparing for my part of the talk, I kept thinking about how many privileges we take for granted. I talked about our activity-oriented advent calendar, where we do things like 'drive around and see the lights' and 'go outside and look at the stars.' I assume that many of the women there don't have cars. They may walk or take the bus, train, subway, etc.. And I am not sure if it is safe to go out at night and stand around gazing up at the stars. It is a different world down there, to be sure. The other thing I have noticed in my visits down there is that when there is food, they eat like it is their only meal of the day. I imagine for some of them it might be, or at the very least, the best food they have access to. The thing I loved the most about going down there (besides I got to feed people ;) is that everyone was so interactive. When I talked, people talked back to me, and gave me uh-huh's and Amen's. It was fun. During the breakfast, a few people from our church watched our kids for us. When I picked them up, the lady told me that my kids were so cute and sweet, and that her goal was to keep Tyler from needing stitches while he was in there. She has never been around Tyler before, but she has his number! :)

As a side note: Guess what?!?! Jeff passed the FE exam! Woo!!!!!!

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Katie has two favorite songs: "You Are My Sunshine" and "Oh, My Darling (Katie Grace)". Every night, she asks me to sing them to her over and over. Lately, she has been singing along with me. She knows all the words and it is so sweet. She can also a few verses of Amazing Grace pretty well. The other night when we sang it, she asked why we didn't sing about 'snares,' so we had to sing that verse too!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pictures and Ramblings (Technically: Rantings)

The last couple times we have been near Target, Tyler has pointed in the direction of the Devil's Lair, also known as Toys R Us. At first, I thought he wanted to go because it bright and colorful. But he started talking about wanting to go there to buy 'Thomas' trains. What?! I really can't remember when, if ever, he has been there. It has to have been at least a year ago, if not more. I really HATE toy stores. While I have fond memories of standing in the aisles of KB Toys in Mesa Mall trying to figure out how to spend my piggy bank stash, I have yet to take my kids to a toy store for kicks. Go ahead, call CPS, but the whole commercialism of toys, and the gimme-gimme-gimme, I have to have it! thing makes me feel a bit hostile. Here at ye olde Groves homestead, our kids play with sticks and rocks. They do have toys too, lest you think I am a total scrooge. I just am not a fan of a LOT of toys. Or toys with batteries. Or toys that only do one thing. Or Tickle Me anything. Anyway, all this rant to the heck does Tyler know what Toys R Us is?! Did someone take him there without my knowing?! I think I would rather him hanging out in a smoky pool hall than the Devil's Lair! I ended up telling him that we will only go there if he gets Christmas money, at which point he can buy himself whatever he can afford. Until then, you can find us sharking the regulars at the pool hall. 

Here's my little sunshine hanging the fragile ornaments. She is such a great helper! There were a few ornaments that didn't have hangers, and she asked 'is this one that needs to perch?' 

The boys snuggling before school

A dress I made for myself and finally got a picture of.

Tyler making Christmas cookies

James hard at work

Katie showing off her creation

Tyler got a knife and added a butt to his gingerbread man. Boys! And it actually looked very realistic after baking.

The doll I made for Katie for Christmas. I can't wait for her to open it! I had so much fun making it. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Surprise Visitor

This morning on the way back from the bus stop, I heard two women in the neighborhood talking about a dog running in the street. My first thought was that it was one of the dogs from the farm house across the street, because their dogs ALWAYS get out. However, the lady said she had found a yard that had a kennel and looked like the dog's home. I walked past her and saw my neighbor, out looking for his dog. I told him that I thought the lady had put the dog in the wrong yard. This particular dog is nearly blind and can't find its way home. In fact, my neighbor says that if the dog gets outside, the only way he can find his way back is if he finds the sidewalk and follows it to the door. We parted ways so he could go look for the dog. When I got home I heard the chickens hollering up a storm. They were really being obnoxious, and not in the normal 'hey, look at me! I laid an egg!' sort of way. I went out and shushed them. That was when I saw Mugsy, sitting forlornly next to the chicken run. It all made sense. The lady must have seen the kids' pallet fort and mistook it for a kennel. She put the dog in the yard, and he followed the patio thinking he would get to his front door. When he didn't, he just sat there dazed and confused. He heard me coming and started running toward me. He ran right into my stone edging because he didn't see it. I managed to get him home and explain to the neighbor what happened. At least we got a good laugh out of it. I don't think the chickens were amused.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Little History Buff

James is very interested in history. His primary interests revolve around anything 'Wild West,' pioneers, covered wagons, stagecoaches, farming and cowboys. He is also very interested in the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I recently found a series called Liberty Kids at the library. Apparently it is/was a PBS series. Lucky for him (me?) there must be at least 25 episodes to watch. That kid is a sponge! He is telling me all about these various battles, and about Indians and the rebels and Hessians. The cool part is that a great deal of that history has occurred in our area. We are within close distance of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' house, Washington's Crossing and the list goes on. We drive through Trenton often, the place where George W. and his men defeated the Hessians on Christmas day. He has been playing George Washington with Tyler, who has no idea what is going on. Today, Katie was mad because the boys were chasing her. When I talked to James he told me, 'well, she is a rebel! We have to go after her!' I had to explain to him that you can't just volunteer someone to play with you. They have to WANT to play! :) When James' teacher emailed us the class Halloween picture a few weeks ago, we had to laugh. There were about 10 superheroes which all looked the same to us, your garden variety witches, princesses and lady bugs, and then James, dressed as Davy Crockett!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Installment

Here are a few pictures of the kids working on shoe boxes. Katie was very particular about stacking them just so.

James' official job is to load them into the truck. Katie and Tyler help carry them out.

He is an expert by now.

P.S. Beyonce the Monster Truck has now been used to transport not only our family, but these shoe boxes, and on Saturday, our ill-fated chickens. 

It's official! Tyler has a bike of his own. He...OK, I...dug into his coffers and used his cash to make the purchase. When I went to buy it, all the bikes were $80 and plastered with various licenced, trademarked, commercialized characters. I had a hunch that if I found a plain bike it would be cheaper. They had one, and it was $40! I am pretty sure I could buy a whole lot of Lightning McQueen stickers with that extra $40, but he doesn't know the difference anyhow. He just loves having his own wheels. Now if only his mother will get him a respectable bike helmet, so he can stop wearing his sister's purple princess helmet! 

And here is the generator box turned pirate ship I made for the boys last week. Did you know how beautiful a generator can look when it is coming up your driveway on a FedEx dolly? While it didn't help us during the hurricane, now we have backup next time the power goes off. We have finally joined the growing number in our neighborhood who are investing in generators due to fairly frequent power outages. But back to the boat, I saw the idea somewhere and have been looking for a good box ever since. This one worked out nice, and I used a broom handle and some PVC pipe to rig up the sail, which gets rolled up and down, depending on their navigational preferences. Argh, matey! Shiver me timbers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Real, Live Pictures!

I just uploaded pictures from my camera. Yikes! I am usually pretty good about that but there was a month's worth on there. Today I will post the pictures from the hurricane. This was our first hot dog roast, complete with fire wood provided by Sandy, and collected by our kids. 

Add caption
Random picture of a chicken. Who is now in my freezer. Incidentally, this one had so much fat it was amazing. Mom said she had never seen so much fat in a chicken. And she had no eggs in the shoot. I know you are dying to know, so I will tell you. Laying hens have eggs of various stages of formation in the hopper at any given time. The other chicken we butchered had a soft shelled egg (her signature), a yolk, and several smaller eggs brewing. She also had some weird tumor-like mass, which might have been why she had difficulty laying? Hmm, its just like high school anatomy, only I am not shooting sheep eye lenses across the room at a boy named Dennis. He's probably still in therapy for that one, but I couldn't resist. He was rather obnoxious, but when it came to dissecting stuff, he was incredibly squeamish. I am sure he loved having a part of an eyeball flying at him at rapid speed.

This was the power line above our yard. See the three wires twisted together?

This is what caused the problems: our neighbor's tree. It snapped the pole in half. 

The siding Jeff secured in the storm. Glad it didn't fly off!

I am totally done with hot dogs for a long time. Maybe forever.

And an awesome picture I forgot I took. This is me, smelling of Slim Jims, days without a shower, and starting to go stir crazy apparently. Scary!

My 'kitchen' during the storm (note our dining area to the right)

Katie was also going stir crazy, and resorted to donning multiple pairs of undies as accessories

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, Chickens, Mmmm

My poor blog. I have neglected it so. And really, I have stuff I should be doing at this very moment but I'm choosing to act like those things don't exist. With Thanksgiving upon us, I am looking forward to eating lots of delicious home-cooked food and engaging in marshmallow fights. However, I will not be repeating last year's pooptastrophe, thank you very much. Each year, we invite 'strays' to our Thanksgiving feast, and I kind think we should start selling tickets or at the very least, a waiting list. Several people have said they want to behold the marshmallow fights, and I keep hearing of people who are un-scheduled on Thanksgiving. See, Mom and Dad, I have been on my best behavior only inviting one family! In other news, and in keeping with the Thanksgiving food theme, a few of our chickens will be landing on the table this week and not on their own accord. The older three chickens are slowing down their laying. One has stopped all together, one lays about two soft eggs a week, half of which break in the nest box. The other one is doing a little better than her counterparts. In the interest of not becoming a retirement home for disenfranchised chickens, two of them are going to become dinner. I know if I kept them over the winter the one would start laying again, but at a lower rate. The other one just can't seem to make an egg shell to save her life, poor girl. Anyway, its time to go. My sister wants to serve as a witness to the 'restructuring' of the chickens. We both have a weird fascination with those types of things, plus it still strikes major awe watching your little mama dispatch a chicken like a boss.  Rachel and I have determined that the most honorable application for a noble stewing hen will be a chicken pot pie. Sounds like a fitting way to make your exit, no?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Farm Hands And Shoe Boxes

Saturday James and I went to Farm Hands again. We missed a week because of the hurricane. This week, we made apple cider using old-fashioned equipment. There was an 'old timer' there who had what seemed to be every apple peeling device known to man. Surprisingly, today's apple peeler is much less efficient than those of the past. I am guessing this has something to do with safety. I'll tell you what, I want one of the old ones! They work so much better! He also had an old mechanical apple peeler that peeled 80-90 apples per minute. My favorite was an old apple peeler that he rigged up with the treadle of an old Singer, so you could use the foot peddle to turn the peeler. The kids got to make shriveled apple head dolls. Then we were on to farm chores, including feeding the chickens and collecting 5 dozen eggs. The kids also got to play in the hay loft again (I think one of their very favorite things!) and get bedding down for the lambs. At the end of the program, we all make a human fence and let the sheep go from the pasture to their pens for the evening. I think I have been designated the 'helping parent' since there is a large group, which I don't mind. I like being able to watch them having fun, and seeing the perma-grin on James' face. Other parents help around the farm as needed.

In other news, we spent the morning volunteering at our church. They are a Collection Center for Operation Christmas Child. Today, about 1500 boxes came in. We helped unload them, count and band them, and pack them into cartons. The kids LOVED helping! Katie and James just jumped right in and helped where needed, even going up to complete strangers to help them. Even Tyler was fairly helpful, helping me push the filled cartons across the room. The district rep came in and spoke briefly and showed pictures. It was both happy and heart breaking. Happy to see the smiles on those children's faces, big incredibly joy-filled smiles. Heart breaking, because she said that many of the children who received shoe boxes last year in a particular orphanage will probably not live til next Christmas because they have AIDS. I am so glad that they can have an opportunity to hear of God's great love for them. She also showed a picture of a child's flip flops in one village they visited. The flip flops had been so greatly worn down that the entire heel was completely gone, and the strap was tied on with some sort of twine. These are the kinds of things we just assume everyone has, but they don't. A 50 cent pair of flip flops may just be their most appreciated gift.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Hurricane, Part Two

The hurricane pretty much shut everything down around here for several days. With no power, stores were closed or couldn't sell anything perishable. You know it is bad when Wawa, Dunkin' Donuts and H-Mart are closed for 4 days. After all, H-Marts sign proudly proclaims that they are open 365 days, 9am to 9pm. I talked to someone who worked at a Wawa that didn't lose power, and she said that on an average day, they sold 1000 cups of coffee. The day after the storm, they sold over 4000 cups and people were waiting in line for a hour just to get one. Crazy! If I was that desperate for coffee I would figure out how to make one at home. And worst of all, the library was closed til Friday. Oh, the horrors! We go a few times a week, and it was a sad state of affairs. :) In general, stores were sold out of the following: milk, bread, bottled water, generators, chain saws, chain saw oil, hot chocolate, ice, and all things perishable. Gas stations were closed because they had no power to run the pumps. And while all of this was an inconvenience, it was just that, an inconvenience. Lots of people had it much, much worse. The pictures of the Jersey shore are horrendous. I heard that the boardwalk we went to this summer was destroyed. A roller coaster from another beach town is sitting precariously out at sea. We were very fortunate. If we had had the rain they had forecasted (8-10 inches) the storm would have been disastrous for our area. As it was, there were trees down everywhere and there was a lot of wind damage. There was a church about 1/2 mile from us that had a large section of its stucco siding fly off. The forest on the farm where James and I go to work lost 60 percent of their trees. The forest looks like pick up sticks. Everywhere we drive, we see more trees down. It amazes me, however, how many trees fell and missed houses. After the storm, the power company called and said that this was the largest storm in their long history and that they had nearly 900,000 customers out of power. Outside companies ended up volunteering to travel to our area and help. The team that finally fixed our power was from New Orleans, LA. We were thanking them profusely and they said that we had helped them in Katrina and they wanted to return the favor. There were convoys of out of state power workers from all over. In fact, I still see them around and I think they are still trying to get things back in order. While our power was out, we tried to make the best of it. We bundled up and watched a DVD in Beyonce the Monster Truck. I knew that DVD player would come in handy! We built a fire in the backyard several nights, and cooked over it. Oddly enough, a month or two ago, our neighbor had stopped by and given us a box of 82 hot dogs and the buns to go with them. I never buy hot dogs, and I knew we would never eat that many. When I was trying to save the freezer, I decided those had to go. Jeff told me to put them in the fridge as 'ice' to keep it cool in there. Turns out, we ended up eating a lot of hot dogs before they thawed out and we had to throw them. That may or may not have contributed to the overall stench emanating from my clothes by day 3. Through an unfortunate series of events, I was down to one pair of pants. Here is the break down: 

Day One: Tyler the Iron Bladder had an accident during his nap. I don't think he realized it and he climbed into my lap. I realized it when I felt a nice big wet spot on my pants. 

Day Two: Repeat day one. Seriously!? Twice in a row? This is the kid that can hold it in forever. 

Day Three: Fresh pair of pants, no pee. Pants begin to smell like campfire, but no big deal.

Day Four: Campfire pants begin to smell fire-y. Starting to smell like truck stop Slim Jims. James asks what Slim Jims are. I told him it would be like if a hot dog and beef jerky had a kid. I got a blank stare. I should mention at this point that I haven't taken a shower in a while. 

Day Five: Would I rather smell like my kid's urine, or Slim Jims? That is the question. I decided Slim Jims are preferable. In a turn of good fortune, my parents' power comes back on. I begged the use of their washer, and was able to have clean clothes which smelled of neither urine or processed meat sticks. It's a Christmas miracle! Also, at some point in this timeline I was able to take a hot shower, thanks to the generator Jeff's coworker loaned us. 

Day Six: The power company shows up. Another miracle in and of itself! It took them a good part of the day and then the power came back on. Hallelujah! 

A few days later, they came to string up our phone line. What a crazy week and a half! We feel so fortunate to have such minor damage. Several people have told us since then that if anyone could survive no power, we could! One couple said they would take us with them if they had to survive on a desert island! :) I will say, we didn't have to eat out even once. I did briefly eye up the chickens, thinking they would make a pretty decent dinner should things get really ugly! 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Hurricane

Things are regaining a sense of normalcy around here. The hurricane sort of disrupted things around here just a wee bit. To be honest, weathermen are always hyping up storms around here and we didn't really think it would be as bad as they had warned. In addition, people in this area are prone to run to the store at the mere mention of a snow flake and clear the shelves of bread, eggs and milk. I didn't even know there was a storm coming til my neighbor told me on the Friday before. Note to self: pay attention to the news occasionally. Although we were not too worried about the storm, we did take our window air conditioner units out. On Sunday, I spent a few extra hours in the kitchen making some food, figuring we might be out of power for a day or two. I got caught up on my laundry, which only happens once every 4 years, or when my friend Erin visits. Monday rolled around and it was basically like a regular rainstorm, minus the heavy rain. It just drizzled most of the day with a little wind here and there. I think we all started to think that it had, indeed, been hyped up. However, evening rolled around and the winds were whipping like crazy. The power flickered for a while before going out. We put Katie downstairs in the boys' room. The neighbor has two enormous trees that were swaying in the wind, which of course was blowing in our direction. James was scared to go to sleep, but it didn't take him long. Tyler was oblivious and conked out right away. Katie couldn't sleep because she was scared. It took her a long time to go to sleep. Jeff and I couldn't really sleep, sitting there listening to the wind howl against the house and knowing that it was strong enough to cause damage. We just sat there on the couch in front of our huge front window and watched. The sky kept lighting up green and pink for hours. It was power flashes from power lines coming down. After a while we kept hearing sounds on our house, and Jeff thought shingles were flying off. Then he figured out that it was our siding. There was a long swath of it coming loose upstairs. He was afraid it was going to fly off and so climbed out the upstairs window to try and secure it. Let's just say that was one of the more tense moments for me watching him scoot his way down the roof with cordless drill in hand to try and fix it. He described it as 'intense' which is strong wording for Jeff. He did keep the siding from coming off but we will have to fix it soon. There are a ton of trees in our town and we sat for a while longer and watched them sway. Finally my nerves had enough and I went to bed, and Jeff followed not long after. When we woke up, there were lots of branches and leaves everywhere. So many trees in our area where knocked over. Part of our neighbor's tree fell on the power pole and snapped it off. The top of the pole spun around, twisting up the wires over our yard. The neighbor across the street lost at least three big trees on his property. On of them fell on his shed, causing little damage, before it rolled off and fell on his truck, causing a lot of damage. Another neighbor has a huge oak tree in their backyard, and the tree split right down the middle and is now hanging dangerously over the power lines. The crack has been growing since the storm, and he finally got the power company to come out and take it down. The tree is so unstable, they have a HUGE cherry picker-type thing and they are up there taking down one small section of branch at a this snowy, icy slush we are getting. I bet they love their job right now. The good news with that is hopefully we will avoid another power outage had that tree fallen on the lines. We ended up being out of power for 6 days, and the phone/internet was restored yesterday after 8 days. The old phone cable is still hanging in our yard, just waiting for Tyler to pull a Tarzan on. More tomorrow...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Quick Check In

Just a quick check-in...we are OK, just got the power back on this afternoon. Still no phone or internet. I'll post when we get our internet back.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Few Pictures

The kids packing candy bags for shoe boxes

James' Lego Wild West set-up

Complete with covered wagon

Those Lincoln Logs standing up beyond the horses are the forest

In other news, school has been cancelled Monday and Tuesday. So far we only have a little rain and wind, but tomorrow things are supposed to get hairy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Farm Hands

Last night I stayed out til midnight, believe it or not, with my Bible study ladies. I have absolutely no energy left, but I thought I would give you a quick bullet list of all the kids did at Farm Hands today. It was pretty much awesome! 
  • Shelled pop corn by hand and by antique hand cranked harvester
  • Harvested pop corn out in the field
  • Checked out the ice house...amazing!
  • Made caramel corn
  • Herded sheep
  • Fed chickens and collected eggs
  • Pumped water
  • Herded chickens into the coop (this was hilarious to watch by the way)
  • Climbed up in the hay mow and jumped down into the hay, over and over
  • Helped with fire wood
  • Learned about an old egg grader
  • Pushed the manure spreader all the way across the barnyard 'without horses!!' as James reminds me
  • Learned a little about blacksmithing
  • Watched the barn cat hunt and capture a mouse
  • Learned about wood ducks, corn worms, caterpillars and Osage Oranges
James was in heaven, and I loved it too. Watching the look on his face for 3 solid hours was priceless. He ran everywhere he went, that sort of joyous happy run that comes from being in his element. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


  • Apparently we are supposed to get slammed with 'Frankenstorm' soon. I had no idea til my neighbor asked if I had stocked up on supplies. Huh? My other neighbor talked to a manager at BJ's who said that bottled water was flying off the shelves. People around these here parts tend to freak out whenever there is a weather warning. On the other hand, if it is as bad as they say it might be, it could be bad. The question I must ask is WHY does a major storm always come the week before I do my big grocery shopping trip, when the pantry is getting low? Hey, if Armageddon hits we'll be eating a whole lot of jam and frozen peaches.
  • James and I start Farm Hands tomorrow. Yay! We are both very excited.
  • Jeff takes the FE exam tomorrow. Yay?! I am not sure he is excited about it, but looking forward to have it over with. It takes 8 to 12 WEEKS to find out the results. Insane.
  • I can't remember if I mentioned this or not, but I spoke in front of a large group of girls last week about Operation Christmas Child. I do not do public speaking, but I somehow convinced myself that I could do it, especially since they are school age girls. Turns out there were 35 school age girls, and a half dozen adults, but I did it and I wasn't even that nervous. I shared with them the letter I got from a girl in Zimbabwe this summer and they thought that was cool. After I talked, I had them make a bracelet to send to the little girls who will receive shoe boxes. Now I have 35 bracelets to send! I am also planning a craft night in 2 weeks to make handmade gifts for the shoe boxes. Since I am new to this, I have no idea what to expect. I might be sitting alone and forlorn, talking woefully to my hot glue gun. We'll see. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Last night I let James do part of his homework on the bathroom mirror. He had to practice his spelling words, so he wrote them several times with dry erase marker. He declared himself 'the luckiest boy in the whole school!' He asked if he could do number bonds and number sentences on the mirror. Of course! Then he told me to go out, because he had to write a secret message. This is what he wrote, shown to me in a fit of James-giggles:

Seecrit Mesij
I put a radl snac undr my Moms pilow and made her screm!

Creative writing at its best. The other day, he had to write a sentence using each of his spelling words, and illustrate one. He proudly wrote out 'Why does Mom have a beard?' and drew an illustration for that. I am sure the teacher was entertained that day grading papers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tyler, Sweet Tyler

We were at the store this morning and I was checking out. Tyler was in the cart and chattering away. I was not paying any attention to him. Next thing you know, things start to click and I realized what the little bugger was saying. Ever so matter of factly, he was telling the cashier that 'Katie have poop in her butt, and animals have poop in their...' and I cut him off at the pass. Thankfully the cashier didn't understand what he was saying, and I pushed the cart forward so he couldn't give her anymore helpful biology lessons.

In other news, Dad preached in church on Sunday. It was a superb sermon if you ask me, which you can listen to here. All week I had teased him about bringing my giant foam hand to wave around and yell things like 'Amen!' and 'Preach it, Brotha!' Shortly before the message, he looked so serious it was painful. He was in the preaching zone...Minister mode...the clergy cloud. OK, I'll stop now. Anyway, I wrote him a note on the back of a receipt and passed it over to him. He read it, smiled and went to pass it back. Then, he changed his mind and kept it. Mom and I looked at each other with an 'Oh, no!' look. Mom told me I was sunk. And she was right. Dad got up and said I passed him a note which read 'Dad, unfortunately I couldn't find my giant foam hand, so I brought my kazoo instead. I hope you don't mind.' And it felt just like old times.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Suitable Programming

At the risk of sounding like one of those 'when I was your age' finger-shaking curmudgeons, I must say that my list of suitable TV programming for the kids is shrinking. If it weren't for the fact that I like to take a shower in peace, I just might scrap it all together. However, it sure is convenient sometimes. We don't have cable, so that rules out just about everything. What is left is PBS, Qubo, and occasionally the Smile of a Child network. I have various beefs with these stations. Qubo is annoying, because every 3 minutes or so, there is an infomercial. These infomercials are selling two things: things your kids will beg you to buy and things that old people need, like scooters and life alert. I don't really know how those two things mesh, but whatever. All the commercials are annoying and I don't like my kids being assaulted by consumerism. Smile of a Child is a Christian channel, and I don't worry that they are going to see on there. It is simply a bunch of reruns of old-school stuff, including Superbook. However, there is this gentleman who does story time that leans forward and lectures the kids in a fire and brimstone kind of way, which is a little weird. I usually don't have to worry about this, because that station rarely comes in. And PBS, oh, PBS. I love PBS. I hate PBS. I feel like of all children's shows, theirs have the most propaganda. There are shows teaching children to tell their parents to Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! and to get all their shots, the flu shot, and heaven forbid you remove the stump from Sid the Science Kid's backyard, because it is a habitat. Dr. Seuss in the meantime, is imploring kids NOT to pick flowers, because flowers are somebody's home. I'm fairly certain that is communist or something. You can't pick flowers?!?! Hello! What do you think God put them there for?? Anyway, moving on. Beside these annoyances, there are several categories that I put TV shows in. They are as follows:

1. The Subtle Message Shows: Dinosaur Train (evolution), Sid the Science Kid (ultra enviromentalism, vaccines, etc.)

2. The Disrespectful Kid Shows: Clifford, Arthur (sometimes the kids are sassy and rude to each other or their parents which really annoys me. Also, after checking out an Arthur book from the library in which the 8 year olds play spin the bottle at a birthday party really turned me off to that)

3. Last, but not least, the SUPER ANNOYING shows. They include Barney and Daniel Tiger. Now, I realize Daniel Tiger is a derivative of Mr. Rodgers and it's probably un-American to hate it, but it is basically a preschool-themed cartoon musical. And if I hear the song 'If you have to go potty, STOP and GO right away...' one more time, well...I just might rip those bunny ears right off the TV. Looks like Daniel Tiger's on the black list.

That leaves Curious George and Bob the Builder. Can we fix it? Yes, we can!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So Far, So Good

Day four of Katie's chicken pox and she is doing very well. I think she has a mild case of it. The pox are all over her legs and torso, but only a few on her arms and none on her face. She is such a trouper. She says they itch a whole bunch, but she is not itching them. Either she has a whole lot of will power or the Aveeno Calamine and Oatmeal stuff is magic. Maybe its both. Anyway, its not too bad. The jury is still out on Tyler. I figure he'll come down with it the day after Katie finishes her stint. It may be the month of cancelled plans. We shall see.

In other news, James is loving school. He can't wait to go in the morning. He is also coming home with lots of interesting pictures and number bonds on the back of his papers which tells me he is finishing his work early. Next week, he and I start the Farm Hands program at Howell Living History Farm. I am not sure who is more excited! The parents volunteer to help around the farm, while the kids do farm chores and learn about the workings of the farm. The program goes for 6 weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicken Pox

So, Katie has the chicken pox...which I found out AFTER I had her in child care at church this morning. She has not been vaccinated for chicken pox. I had hoped that she would catch it naturally and gain immunity, otherwise she would have had the shot later in her childhood. I really didn't expect her to get it since it is becoming more and more rare. So, while I am not exactly excited to see my girl (and probably Tyler) miserable and itchy, it is what I had preferred. The doctor was very thorough and though she wasn't convinced that they were chicken pox initially, when she looked Katie over she decided it actually was. It was the first case she had ever seen. And NO, I will not be sending out any chicken pox lollipops.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


James brought home his first test this week. Test! A math test to be precise. Let me tell you, the boy loves math. LOVES it. And do you think he got that from me. That would be a big fat NO. But the test...there were 17 problems (or parts of problems) and he only got 1 wrong! They no longer give letter grades so the scale is different, but he got a 4 which is the highest, meaning my boy is ADVANCED in math. He can thank Jeff for that one. He is also enjoying reading and declared tonight that he loves school. Yay!

Katie the Crafty is at it again. She went to work on a plastic shopping bag, cutting a little here, a little there, until she proudly, and with a bit of humor, presented me with a bra that she made me. It was a wee bit ill fitting and not all that supportive when tried over my pajamas, but those details are trivial.

Tyler's latest hobby is to ride his tricycle full speed back and forth along the patio, making hair pin turns at the end. He will do this over and over and over again. Yesterday it was raining all day so I let him ride his bike in the garage. That was, until he crashed into the dryer one too many times.

Jeff has been having loads of fun studying for his FE exam. (Note the sarcasm there) Every night he sets the timer for 1 hour and works diligently through his practice tests and study notes. I even caught him cozy-ed up to his calculator manual. I thought those things were meant to be put away in file cabinets never to be seen again.

And with those updates, here are a few pictures from the last several days:

This is the Wendy's James built out of Legos. I was quite impressed. It has a patio with overhang, complete with lego hamburgers. The car could drive through and the interior had its own light and table.

On Saturday we went to Howell Living History Farm for their Fall Fest. I loved it! They showed you the whole process for growing wheat, from seed to baking as they did more than 100 years ago. This was a steam engine which was used to run the threshing machine. Tyler was scared to death of it.

The team discing the field after plowing.

Here is the steam engine hooked up to the thresher.

This is the thresher. The chaff went straight into the barn for animal bedding.

The kids got to grind wheat. Right after this picture Katie let go of the handle and it knocked her off the platform. Oops.

We walked out into the woods where the original homestead was and helped churn butter in the old kitchen. They had fresh bread, honey and butter for everyone. And we got to take home a bag of flour to make our own bread.

There were a ton of fuzzy caterpillars.

Hand holding on the way back. Can't beat that!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Easily Amused

I have always wanted to catch a salamander. When we spent the summer in Oregon we caught newts, which are a little different. Since I found out we have salamanders here, I have looked for one with no luck. We were at a birthday party a few weeks ago and found out that they have salamanders at the creek. You better believe I left some perfectly good adult conversation to go turn up a salamander. It was so darn cute, I made Jeff take a picture of me with my catch!

While I Was Away

Here are some pictures Jeff took while I was in Florida. The first few are of the kids enjoying Jeff's famous French Toast. The others are from the hike they went on. Cute!!