Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, I’m thankful for…

Blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sunshine, and a full clothesline.

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The hostas that brighten the space under the deck.

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Playing in puddles.

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My sweet friend who shared these pretty irises with me, divided from the bounty of flowers in her dear grandmother’s garden.

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Herbs to plant and herbs in my garden springing back to life, giving me sweet anticipation of homemade pasta with fresh veggie sauce.

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What beauty is brightening your life today?
Hope you’ll count your blessings and leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Little Men

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of….

Boys and girls are different, have you ever noticed? I continue to be amazed at the difference.

At our last birthday party, the little girls (outnumbering the boys 2 to 1) played together so nicely that I might have forgotten they were there. They played dress-up and fixed each other’s hair. They also pulled every My Little Pony and Little People doll out into the middle of the floor and commenced to sorting them by color, pink and purple of course. They played nice, quiet games.

The boys, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say that they were a bit rowdy. It was rainy outside and they were stuck playing in a house that was filled with 30 or more people. They used tinker toys as weapons. They ran through the hallway yelling. They threw toys at each other. They wrestled. They got hurt. Then, they wrestled some more. At least one of them decided jumping off the bunk bed would be fun.

I spent the afternoon, along with my mom, step-mom, and mother-in-law, fussing at the boys to calm down. There’s a time and place for “boys to be boys,” and it wasn’t in my people filled house. I’m so glad the next party is in June. I’m already praying for outdoor play weather and limited injuries. Perhaps I’ll re-stock my first aid kit between now and then as it is probably depleted since the December of Many Stitches

All this got me thinking about raising boys. Boys have it rough in our society. I bet many of them spend their days hearing the words “NO” and “Have you completely lost your mind” all too often. Little boys are stuck at home all day with their mommas and their sisters. If they are lucky, they may have a little brother to keep them company. With so many dads out of the picture or working in 9 to 5 jobs an hour away, our boys are without male influence most of their day. When they go to school, they find that many of their teachers are women, they are expected to sit in a desk for hours on end, and are discouraged from doing anything that might cause injury or damage. Our boys are lacking many of the good things they need in order to grow into good, strong men.

I want to be a good mother to my boys, but it’s so hard for me to be the influence they need. My oldest boy wanted to learn to ride a bicycle the summer he turned five. The bike we bought him was a bit too tall for him. So when I saw a smaller one at a yard-sale for $3.00, I happily paid the lady and put it in the van. I unloaded it when we got home and went inside to change the baby’s diaper, telling him that he was welcome to try it out in the front yard and I’d help him learn to ride at naptime. I had only been in the house for a few minutes when he came in to tell me that he could ride his new bike. I didn’t believe him. Yet, proof was easy to see as he coasted across the yard. It didn’t take long before he learned to pop wheelies and leave skid marks in the gravel driveway. He loves slamming on the brakes, sliding the bike sideways, and then measuring one foot in front of the other to see how long his latest triumphant skid mark is. All this boyish risk taking makes me wheeze and have heart palpitations. It’s hard being a momma to a boy.

I’m still finding my way in this frightening territory, but I have learned a few things.

  • Teach boys to have compassion for others. The mushy, gushy stuff doesn’t always come easily for them. Sometimes, they need us to explain how their little friends are feeling and help them understand and feel empathy. Besides, it’ll be good practice for when they grow up and get married.
  • Let boys have jobs to do around the house and brag on them when they do the job well. Boys (and girls) need jobs to do and they need to feel the the pride associated with a job well done. They also need to be needed.
  • Boys need an outlet for their physical energy. Whether they participate in sports, take care of the family livestock, tote firewood, pull weeds, ride their bikes, or climb a tree, they do need to do something active every day.
  • Boys need to see their father or some man in their life working. They need to be taken on as an apprentice by that person, learning to fix cars, hoe a garden, drive a tractor, or drive the family car. Boys need to learn how to be a man of worth. Best way for them to do that is to have a man of worth in their life who loves them enough to teach them and spend time with them.
  • Boys need to learn how to treat other people respectfully. They need to learn to treat girls as girls, knowing that they are often stronger and bigger and need to be protective of the ladies in their life. They need to be taught to be gentle and respectful to older folks. They need to learn to be quiet and dignified when the situation calls for that type of behavior.
  • Boys need to learn manners. I’m not talking about which fork is best to use, but the practice of being considerate of another’s needs and comfort.
  • Boys need good books and role models. Most of what I see in the main-stream that is targeted for boys is not, in my mind, appropriate encouragement for what I want my little boy to become. There are good things out there, but they are few and far between. I want my little boys to see strong, compassionate, honorable men who do what is right, say what they mean, and are tough as nails.

I’m still finding my way in raising boys. Truly, it is a challenge that I want to get right!

What have your learned along the way in the process of raising boys? What has stretched you the most? Hope you’ll leave a comment and share your observations and boy-raising knowledge. This momma needs all the help she can get.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Re-birth of the Victory Garden

It was a tumultuous time, with the world at war. The boys were enlisting to fight and defend their country. Uncertainty hung thick, covering every aspect of day to day life with questions. As the boys went to fight, their family hung a star in the window to represent them. All too quickly, many stars were replaced with a gold star when they found that their loved one would not be coming home.

Every effort had to go to protect and support those dear ones so far away. They collected metal, saved every scrap that might help. They shared cars when transportation was needed. Basic necessities were rationed so that everyone would have just enough and those fighting overseas would have all they needed. Folks planted victory gardens in their city yards. It was an all out effort, uniting the citizens. They all knew that what they did could make a difference.

Though our circumstances are different, this generation has it’s own fight to win. Our economy has faltered due to some staggering blows. There is war. There are hardships. Where once we had such a bright future, we are now faced with uncertainty and unemployment.

What will the future bring? How high will gas prices climb? Which countries have nuclear weapons? How will the U.S. recover from the debt it has accrued? Will our dollars be worth anything when all is said and done? How will climate change affect our everyday lives?

With no clear answers for our future, we find ourselves worrying. We worry about our jobs and our family members who are unemployed. We feel the strain at the gas pump and the grocery store. We all know folks who are overseas fighting an enemy that is elusive and dangerous. We question the science of climate change, the effects of the chemicals we use, and the reality of energy constraints.

And we fight.

We fight to keep what we have grown so accustomed to having. We want to fix what is broken, as long as we don’t have to feel any of the pain. We just want to go on living in the dream where we have all we want or need, financing to get what we can’t afford, and everyone is provided a “good” life. We want to have our party without seeing or feeling any responsibility for the mess we create.

All of our selfishness will come to nothing.

Hanging on to this unsustainable way of living will only dig our country deeper into the mess we have made. So why do we continue?

I’m ready for a change and I have been for a while. Working and striving to accumulate cheaply made, often toxic, plastic junk that will soon break leaves me cold. Walking through the chain stores that sell these items gives me a headache and makes me want to cry. I’m sick and tired of this “good life.” I’m tired of picking up junk. I’m tired of putting bag after bag into the trash or the recycle. I want more.

I want to live a life that is rich in the things that matter. I want to eat nutritious foods that taste good. I want to find more of what I’ve been missing, like the farm fresh, free range eggs our hens produce and the fresh, sweet heirloom tomatoes that grow in my garden.

I want to shop in stores that are owned and operated by local folks who care about how my kids are growing. I want to buy things that are worth having, made of real materials that cause minimal damage to the earth and the folks who make those items. I want a wheelbarrow that is made like the old one at my mom’s house, with it’s heavy metal wheel and unbelievable strength despite it’s years.

I want to spend more of my time with friends and family and less of it being entertained. I want my kids to be outside playing or by my side learning about life. I want to watch them play and hear their crazy, imaginative stories. I want to cherish these moments that really matter.

And those things, that kind of life… That’s what I’m seeking.

As long as Americans seek out homogenized, plastic filled, full bellied, soft couch, and fully entertained lives, we will continue to go down the same road we are currently traveling.

While it may be fulfilling for some, it’s not enough for me.

If the United States wants to recover, I believe it will take a united effort from it’s citizens. Budget cuts just won’t cut it.

I’m not sure what our “victory garden” will look like. I’m not sure how deeply we will need to sacrifice. Perhaps it’s time to find out. Maybe, Americans will find that putting down the toys, letting their bellies get a little empty, and rolling up their sleeves to do a bit of hard work is a better way and a worthy sacrifice for the benefit of our homeland and our children. They may even find it to be a better way of living.


What do you think? What has living in these times taught you? What solutions do you see for our problems?
All respectful comments are appreciated, even if they differ with mine. ;) I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Heart Chickens

I Heart Faces is having a pet photo contest this week.

I just couldn’t resist sharing this one!


I caught this amazing picture of my hens last fall.

I can’t believe how perfectly they posed for me!

I Heart Chickens.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Children’s Literature

Something about my Children’s Literature class in college always rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was the way the professor insisted that we sign up to take turns bringing snacks. More likely, I just didn’t enjoy the books we were sharing very much.

I love reading. I always have. I remember being excited to get sick because that meant I could stay home and read.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Green was to blame for this love of literature. She read the most wonderful books to us in the afternoon. They didn’t have pictures or flashy, pop-up, interactive, noise making features. They had words, wonderfully crafted and strung together to tell a story that put pictures right into my mind. I loved that time after lunch when we sat in our desks and the world went quiet to everything except the sound of her voice weaving a story. I knew then, the importance of learning to read. Ramona Quimby was a girl I could like, and those kids from The Boxcar Children had such amazing adventures that I could imagine myself there with them.

I read the book, Gone with the Wind when I was in middle school. I loved it then and I still enjoy re-reading it to find the little tidbits I didn’t truly understand at that tender age. When I finally saw the movie, I was disappointed. It’s a great film, mind you… The book just held so much more for me. I also remember reading The Odyssey and imagining the scenes as they unfolded. I’m glad I haven’t seen a movie for that book as I doubt it could keep up with my imagination.

Despite my love of reading, the current favorites in the children’s literature world leave me a bit cold. We read a lot of them, mind you. My kids love the library and they enjoy the quirky little stories and the gimmicky little books as much as the next kid. I must admit, I LOVE the Llama Llama books very much! There are many children’s books I could recommend, but there are also many “duds” that make me wonder why the publishers bothered.

I suppose I am not easily impressed with lift the flaps or with bright shiny covers. I am turned off completely by what I would call “social agenda” books. I also dislike the books based on cartoon characters.

Sometimes, I feel so thankful that my eldest’s early reading ability forced me to look for age appropriate books on her skill level. It has opened up a world that has been, largely, unknown to me. I’m so glad my knowledge of children’s literature has not been limited to the trendy and often flashy examples which were shared in my education courses or the ones that pass as literature in the children’s reading textbooks.

I have found a wealth of books I never knew existed. Books that are rich in words, challenging in vocabulary, straining the imagination with their descriptions of unknown worlds. I am growing to love these books which are, quite simply, the classics.

Kipling’s “Just So Stories” started the adventure for us. We loved learning “How the Elephant Got His Trunk” and “How the Camel Got His Hump.”

We journeyed along with Laura Ingalls as she grew up in the Little House Series. A favorite from my childhood, to be sure.

We found the original version of Winnie the Pooh to be much deeper and better than the one we found on the Disney movies and books.

We are discovering the nature filled worlds of Thornton W. Burgess in his book, “The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad.”

What amazes me about these wonderful books is the timelessness and joy of the words they hold. Even my four year old listened attentively for five chapters as Unc Billy the possum and Jimmy the Skunk trailed Mr. Toad to the Smiling Pool to see what he was really up to. The children enjoyed the black and white drawings that were included in the book every ten pages or so, to be sure… But I know they were painting their own pictures in their heads along the way.

So, on your next trip to the library, skip past those flashy picture books and go hunting for timeless classics bound in plain gray or green or yellow, and read them aloud to your little ones. Let the author’s words, penned one hundred years ago, speak to your children. Let your darlings dive into the deep end of children’s literature where their imaginations will take them to great places.

I bet you’ll find yourself enjoying children’s literature again, too!


For a great list of classic books, check out the book list on

Many great classics are available for free download on your Kindle.


So, what was your favorite book when you were a child? What do you love reading with your children? Have you visited/re-visited any of the old classics? Hope you’ll share with us! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, I’m thankful for…


My Momma.

We weren’t always friends, you know.
First, she was my mother.

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She tickled and played with me, and she comforted me.

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She also taught me to mind.

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She put up with me during my teen years.

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Me and my baby sister, Becca, when I was about 17 years old.

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My momma around that same time.

Somehow, we made it through the rough transitions when I left home.
She helped me shop for a desk for my first apartment.

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Now, she is more than my mother. She is my friend.

And I am so thankful.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Year Ago…

I posted this April 18, 2010. Just thought I’d share a re-run today, of a post that is very special to me. A memory.


The hottest part of the summer was always the best. A day would come when a nine year old girl would arrive at Grandma's house and find a factory of green bean production. Sometimes the work of picking the beans in the garden was already done. Those piles of beans would fill the bushel baskets till they were nearly overflowing.
The kitchen was a hot and mysterious place with all those shiny pressure canners. It was strictly off limits to kids. I'm pretty sure the men folks didn't wander in there either. Mom and Grandma owned that territory, bustling around filling jars and emptying the finished jars onto big, spread out bath towels.
They didn't mind their exile from the kitchen. The living room would be filled with those bushel baskets, parked next to various family members who were snapping beans into big mixing bowls or dish pans. Sometimes the television was on, but usually it was a time for visiting. The men in the family enjoyed the break from farm work in the heat of the summer.
The nine year old girl loved being big enough to help. There was a TV tray for her to use, a dish towel in her lap, and a big pile of beans waiting to be snapped. For the first time in her life, they gave her a small kitchen knife and showed her how to use it to cut out small bug bites in the beans. It was the first time she got to really contribute to the work of the family. In that living room, she was able to work like an adult and be a part of the adult world. She liked it.
It was a hurried time, as they had to keep ahead of the canners in the kitchen. Still, they sat in the living room talking and listening to stories from Grandpa. For that day, three generations of the family would come together to work with a single purpose, home canned green beans that would fill the shelves all winter. They enjoyed each little pop that came from the kitchen signaling that another can had sealed tight.
It seems like another world to me now. Grandma Belma passed away a few years ago and Grandpa Tuck has moved to North Carolina. I miss having their presence in my everyday life. Now, my mom is the grandma in that house. My Mary is the young girl, exploring the world and contemplating adulthood. I'm in the middle, filling the role of mom, trying to pass on the knowledge and love of past generations to my kids.
I hope and pray that my kids and eventually my grand-kids will have the opportunity to work alongside many generations of family to accomplish a common goal. There is no better way to learn family history, a great work ethic, some very funny stories, and build family bonds. Yeah, I loved those hot days of summer.....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Zoo

I’m so glad we purchased that membership to the Zoo.

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And not just because I love cheesy pictures like this one…

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Well, maybe the cheesy pictures have a little to do with it!


** Many thanks to Nathan and Lisa (and family) who met up with us at the zoo, today. It was such fun!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Party’s Over

But the mess is still here!

And as long as my baby boy is falling asleep in my arms, I thought I’d share these pictures with my sweet friends.

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There are four candles on that cake! Four!

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I started learning to decorate cakes when Mary was turning one. I’m getting better at it! I guess I should be, though. We did the math tonight and figured out that I have hosted 18 birthday parties for my littles!

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I like this cake. It was strawberry cake, layered with white cake. Yum!

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And the little cupcakes were a hit with the little girls.

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I have a feeling the butterfly decor will be migrating to the girl’s room.

The party was a smashing success, with 14 little ones running around my house! Poor things… I don’t plan party games or even send home goodie bags. What you see is what they got! But, they were happy, my Sarah was thrilled, and I am procrastinating on the clean-up!

The dirty dishes await. ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011


finding beauty 

That corn crib in the background….

That was a favorite play place for me when I was growing up.

Like those fancy playhouses in subdivision backyards, only without so much fancy.

But, I had an old broom to sweep away the spiders and dust,

A couple of old crates and boards to use as tables and chairs.

And one very, very big imagination.

Corn cribs and barns are quickly becoming relics of the past, much to my sadness.

They are structures whose current use and value doesn’t always justify the cost of repair,

Being quickly replaced by cold, metal buildings (like the one we recently built).

I mourn the loss of the old barns, with their huge beams…

The smell of straw, and hay, and feed.

The way the sunlight streams in thought the cracks and catches the dust floating through the air.

The momma cat, sheltering her new kittens up in the barn loft.

Family folks working together to stack the square bales in the heat of summer.

The sound of the rain hitting the metal roof.

As I drove home the other day, I paid special attention to the barns along the way.

Each with special stories. Each with an old beauty of their own.

It isn’t just the barns that are fading away,

But also a very wonderful way of life. An old way.

And I wonder what the future will bring.



Thursday, April 14, 2011


The perfect use for an old soft drink bottle…

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Cut it in half, flip the top half upside down, inside the bottom half and fill with dirt.

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Add bean seeds, ‘cause they grow so fast!

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Don’t forget the water! Fill it up so the water is a bit above the part of the bottle where the cap would go and the soil will remain moist.

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Keep a record of your work and make predictions.

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Watch it grow and keep records in your learning journal.

This picture was taken 7 days after planting.

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Don’t be afraid to pull up a plant for closer examination.

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Learn to label what you see.

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This is how we are learning.

Thankful Thursday

Today, being my sweet Sarah’s 4th Birthday, I’m thankful for…

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Early morning birthday gifts, unwrapped first thing.

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Big sisters who help little sisters read their new book.

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Hopscotch games, played inside the house!

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Candles that make us laugh when the wind blows them out.

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Purple icing and purple tongues.

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Surprise violas, found while taking a walk.

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In a patch that went on for what seemed like forever.

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What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mushroom Hunting!

We took a few hours to go to one of my favorite places, today.

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My mom and step-dad’s farm.

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This cute little mushroom was NOT what we were looking for…

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But this trillium caught our eye and we just had to stop and take a closer look.

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The may apples were a good sign that we were looking in the right place.

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And, well… This log just struck my fancy. I loved the textures of the peeling bark.

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When you’re looking for teeny, tiny mushrooms, you see teeny tiny flowers like this one.

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And suddenly, you see it! The first mushroom!

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But don’t move! Look around first, ‘cause there’s bound to be more!

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I guess if you stand on a log, you don’t have to worry about stepping on a mushroom.

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Once you start finding them, it’s awfully hard to stop.

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See it?

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And while you’re taking the time to do some looking, you start seeing all kinds of wonderful, amazing things.

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Great beauty in the everyday, simple things.

We went hunting for mushrooms but found so much more.