Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday School Show and Tell

If learning isn’t fun, then you’re doing something wrong…

Our school year is about to begin. Pencils are purchased and sharpened. Crayons are new and smell amazing. We have paper and new folders, glue-sticks and scissors. The kids are ready to start. Pushing me to go ahead and get going on our fun. Soon enough…. Soon enough.

For now, we’ll let the anticipation build and give mom a few more weeks to catch up around home.

But you… Your assignment starts now!

Home school mommas and teachers are busy creating a great learning space. Whether elaborate or plain and simple, setting up a space for supplies and for fun, interactive learning is important.

So here’s where you come in.

Calling all homeschoolers, teachers, preschool workers, and grandmas. If you teach a child, I hope you’ll join us for our “Saturday School Show and Tell” first assignment.

Your mission, should you choose to inspire us…

  • Share a few photos of your learning space.
  • Tell a great organizational tip that has made life easier or learning more fun.
  • Share some of the great learning tools that grace your learning area.
  • Give us the scoop on some great back-to-school savings.
  • Or, All of the Above.

Get started on those blog posts… Tell a friend. We’ll meet back here on August 13th to share the fun of a teacher’s Show and Tell Saturday. Share those great learning ideas. Oh, and invite your friends to join us.

And if you don’t have a blog… Get one.
It’s free. It’s easy. It’s fun.
We all hope you’ll join us and share your great learning ideas.


Mrs. S.

It’s A Farm Thing….

I really didn’t want to go. I was about 16 years old and the National Farm Machinery Show was in town over Valentines Day Weekend. My folks were so excited to have great tickets to the tractor pull. Ahem… On the night of the school Valentines Dance. I did NOT want to go. I’m pretty sure I let my feelings be known, too.

Of course, I went. Not that I had a choice. I’m not sure I ever told my mom and step-dad what fun I had. Well, now that my secret is out…

The big tractor pull is fun, but nothing beats the tractor pull at the county fair. I might just be that city people wouldn’t understand… It’s a farm thing, I guess. But to us, it’s a lot of fun seeing our neighbors, and my little-big brother, and my baby sister get out there and show off their tractors. We cheer for our friends, our favorite kind of tractor, and sometimes for the under-dog just trying to get the sled across the field. It’s fun.

But, I didn’t know what fun was until last Thursday. We took all four kids to the county fair for the Pedal Tractor Pull. They had about 6 different pedal tractors and two pint-sized sleds for the kids to pull. Serious cuteness.

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Sam got a little help from the nice fellow that was running the show. He was not a contender for the trophy, but he sure was cute. By the way… green is not our tractor color. Just gotta say that… We prefer red tractors (That’s Case IH for you city folks).

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Sarah… Well, she was adorable as usual. She was thrilled to get to pose for a picture with the fair queen. That’s all she really wanted.

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Mary gave it her best and placed in the competition, allowing her to pull again in the championship. Hooray for my girl!

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And this guy… He got a full-pull. He won his weight class and came back to win the championship, too. I’ve never seen such a happy boy.

It was some good farm fun with other rural people. I love the county fair and hot summer nights…

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Living it up at the county fair… Loving the Demo-derby.

Hope your county fair was tons of fun, too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, I’m counting my blessings and sharing them too.
Hope you’ll do the same.

I’m thankful for…

A shallow rubbermaid container and a few little buckets

A bit of dish soap for bubbles

A garden hose with nice cool water

A nice big deck and my chair in the shade

Four happy kids.

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What are you thankful for today?
Hope you’ll share in the comments a few things that just made your day!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Old-Fashioned Knowledge

I know many of my long time readers already know of our “Crazy Experiment.” Here’s an update on our progress.

Our heat pump gave out a few years ago. We love heating our house using the downstairs woodstove, so we didn’t worry too much. When we got around to getting an estimate on replacing our old system, $6000.00 meant we were faced with a big decision. We had the money, but we’d been saving it to build a barn. We knew we could heat our home without the central air, but could we live without air conditioning?

Most folks would just finance the barn and put in the new heat pump. Well, I guess we’re not most folks. We remembered (a bit vaguely) life without central air. We decided to try a summer without air conditioning and, if successful, build a barn in the fall. Little did I know, it would be a crash course in some good old-fashioned knowledge. Now, I doubt many people will choose to live life without air conditioning, but these common sense tips might just help you be a bit greener or save some cash.

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The first thing we learned, is that it isn’t always best to have the windows open. It seems crazy shutting the windows on a 90 degree day, but in today’s super insulated houses you can catch that free, cool night air and bottle it up in the house by shutting the windows each morning and closing the blinds to shade the sun. A few well placed fans and a lot of begging a pleading with the children to keep the doors closed, and we have a pretty comfortable house where the temperature rarely creeps above 83 degrees. Wanna save money on those cooling bills? Catch cool night air, and don’t forget to close the blinds to keep the sun’s rays from heating up your house.

Now, 83 degrees may sound hot. I guess it is pretty warm, but this amazing thing happens to the body when living without air conditioning. Believe it or not, it is possible to get used to the heat. I remember going to summer camp and feeling like I might melt that first day out in the heat. Funny how by the second day, we all adjusted to the temperature and rarely found it bothersome. It’s the same way now. Our bodies adjust to the warmer temperatures. It’s so nice being able to go outside to picnics or to work in the garden without feeling miserable. It really does make a difference. We adjust to the temperatures so thoroughly that going to an air conditioned restaurant can actually be uncomfortable. We don’t need to live without air conditioning to benefit from this knowledge. Just turn the temperature up one degree each day and see just how warm you can live comfortably. It may be surprising just how enjoyable it is living above 70 degrees.

The clothing we wear has a dramatic impact on how cool we feel. Contrary to what seems to make sense, it’s not the amount of clothing we wear that makes us hot, but the kind of material that makes a difference. A summer blouse made of cotton will be cool in any weather, whereas a similar shirt made from synthetic materials will make anyone miserable in a very short time. It’s amazing how much more comfortable natural fibers are. Next time you are going to the amusement park or an outdoor wedding, check the tag in you clothes. Natural fibers will keep you looking cooler and crisper than the folks wearing polyester.


We built our little barn and decided to spend this second summer without central air.Likely, we’ll keep on without that new heat pump for a few more years and a few more home-improvement projects. We did invest in a few cheap window air conditioners for the few days when the heat index jumps way up above 100 degrees. It’s nice to have the relief when we have guests who are unaccustomed to the heat and in the kitchen when I’m canning. All in all, we’re happy living a little warmer with the windows open. The frogs sing to us at night and those cool night breezes carry the scent of honeysuckle. Doesn’t hurt quite so much getting that electric bill, either.

Here are a few more tips to beat the heat.

  1. Plant shade trees strategically around your house. Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the winter, letting the sun warm the house. During the summer they provide shade, sheltering your home from the harsh summer sun.
  2. Save those hot jobs for late in the evening or early in the morning when it is cooler outside. Take advantage of that hammock or a downstairs room during the heat of the day. Relax and read a  good book, feel free to sip some iced tea.
  3. Hot nights are tough. Get those fans blowing and give the kids some damp bandannas to sleep with instead of those heavy blankets they love snuggling with. It makes all the difference.
  4. Keep a mist bottle filled with water and a few drops of lavender oil to spray on faces and arms when the heat is too much.
  5. Do your cooking on the grill. Hamburgers taste best fixed there, but so do many vegetables. Zucchini, quartered and drizzled with olive oil before grilling… Oh, yum! We even make pizza on the grill. It’s amazing. Experiment and have fun.
  6. For cooking that must be done on the stove top, be sure to use a lid and the lowest heat necessary. When the corn on the cob is cooked, remove it from the water and dump the water on that nasty patch of weeds in the driveway. That will kill the weeds and keep your kitchen from heating up too much.
  7. Throw away the to-do list on the hottest days. Eat ice cream for supper and go swimming at the lake. Keep a sense of humor and have fun.

Got a tip for keeping cool or saving a bit of money? Hope you’ll share it with me. :)


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Monday, July 18, 2011

One O’clock in the Morning…

And here I am… Finally sitting down with a glass of strawberry wine finding the words to share with my friends. Five quarts of green beans have been picked, blanched, cooled and frozen. One 4-H project has been completed under the watchful eyes of momma. Five loads of laundry washed, hung to dry, and brought in to be folded and put away. Popcorn is still on the family room floor.

It’s been a busy week, filled with green beans, pickle making, and getting my oldest off to camp and then back, trying to keep up with the never-ending laundry. I’d like to find time to make some of those old-fashioned crystal pickles mom used to make, but I must admit that I’m a bit glad to see the cucumbers slowing down a bit. The corn is coming on fast, with silks that are already turning brown. I expect to be in the kitchen, freezing up a bunch by the weekend.

It seems that the list never ends. And I’ve been craving a bit of quiet, a keyboard under my fingers. It feels naughty, sitting here when I should be in bed sleeping. But here I am. Making the words. Letting them pour out, really.

And I feel bad that my Sunday wasn’t a day of rest. None of my days are, really.

But somewhere in the midst of things that must be done, we snuck in a trip to the beach at a local lake. We spent a bit of time at the playground. We had a family picnic at the lake. I did a bit of yard-sale shopping. We ate ice cream for supper. And honey and I went out, just us, to buy diesel fuel and grab a few sliders at the White Castle.

Our days are full of work, but we weave in fun and memories where we can.

Somehow, it’s enough. It’s rich. It’s lovely. It’s good.

Missed you all this busy week. Hope your week was wonderfully busy, filled with accomplishments and folks you love. :) Hope the upcoming week brings many memories, too. I may be a bit scarce for awhile, but that sweet corn will sure taste good in December.

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Garden Planning, 101

I’m sharing this post at Playopedia. Have you checked out her site yet? If you are a mom of littles, then you will love, love, love the ideas for play that are being shared there! Hope all my friends will check out her seriously terrific resource! You’ll be glad you did.


~Planning a garden with help from the little ones.




It may be hard to imagine planting a garden when there is snow on the ground and a chill in the air.  As my desire for spring is nearing it’s peak, I can’t help but think this is the perfect time for curling up by the fire and dreaming up my grand garden.  Truth be told, it won’t be long before those first seeds can be sown.  Now is the perfect time for ordering seeds and finishing the spring cleaning (so you don’t miss a single moment outside once the weather warms).

Gardening with littles is hard, unless…

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You get them involved in the planning.

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Gather up those seed catalogs and a piece of brown paper. 

~Oh, Seed Savers, how I adore you…  Such beautiful pictures and rare varieties… 

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Let them make lists of their favorite varieties.

Sarah is particularly taken with the pink variety of blueberries that are so popular this year…

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It just seems wrong, doesn’t it?  Cutting up catalogs that are so pretty.  Give ‘em the scissors.  You know you are going to order online anyway!

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Now, let them plant the crops in neat little rows.

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Oh, what a pretty little garden!  Look how it’s coming together!

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Will it all fit?  Looks like we’ll be tilling up a bit more ground this year. 

Now, if I could just get them so excited about cleaning their rooms….

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flashback Friday

Today’s flashback takes us way back… To memories of gravel roads and riding on Grandpa’s old Nova. You can click on the link to be taken to the original post or just read it here. Hope this one brings back memories for you.

Sweet Hymns on a Dusty Gravel Road

I loved riding around in that old yellow Nova with him, my grandfather by choice though not by blood.  I don’t know how old I was when I met him, but he officially became my step-grandfather when I was 9.  He didn’t have to accept me so totally as a granddaughter, but he did and I’ve never doubted his sincerity in this inclusion and acceptance. 

Life was pretty crazy for me at the time.  My world as I knew it had been pulled out from beneath me with the death of my beloved grandmother.  Add to that the changes that came from meeting my real dad and his family, the addition of a step-family and new baby brother, and a move to a new school… I was so confused. 

Maybe that’s why those little trips to town or church, riding in that old car down dusty gravel roads meant so much to me.  Maybe it was his cheerful ways.  Perhaps it was that he listened to what I had to say when others were so busy.  He helped me to gradually make sense of it all.  He gave me good advice based on his love of the Lord and helped see me through many difficulties.  He also sang the sweetest old hymns as we would drive.  When I learned the words, I’d join in.

When my step-grandmother passed away, the church members came to sing the old hymns at her funeral.  As hard as it may be to understand, I wanted to sing along through the tears, in worship and thanksgiving to our Lord, but also as an honor to her.  I wanted to sing in memory of all those beautiful Sundays I spent sitting next to the two of them singing those songs.  I have to wonder how my grandfather felt hearing those same hymns that day.

It was their example and those beautiful words in the hymns that helped to make room in my heart for a strong foundation.  Their lives taught me so much about love and joy and faith.  My grandfather has moved a plane trip away, but he is still a vital rock for our family.

I guess that is why I still love it when we sing an old hymn at church.  Many of the songs we sing are newer, more current.  They are nice, but…  Somehow, those old hymns are so sweet to my ears.  They bring me to deeper worship and sometimes to tears.  From time to time, I find myself singing one of “his” songs as I work around the house.  Then, I see the enormous impact of their lives upon mine.  Thank you, Grandma Belma and Grandpa Tuck.


~By the way… Do you “follow” FLTS yet? You can follow the blog or you can “like” it on Facebook. It makes my day and it also means that you’ll always know when there is a new post. Hope you’ll “like” my blog and share it with a friend. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, I’m thankful for…

An answer to the mystery of the missing bike.

A little boy, no longer searching for his lost love… aka his bike.

Good neighbor parents who discovered a bunch of bikes hidden in their woods, interrogated their young boys, and made the boys return the bikes they stole.

My husband’s bike (we didn’t know was missing) is back in the barn.

My little boys bike… well, they are still looking for it. But at least we know where to look now.

Here’s to good neighbors, doing the hard thing and teaching their little boys a lesson I’m sure they’ll never forget. Here’s to my little boy, who is working on forgiveness…

The boy and the bike, way back when it still had training wheels… two whole years ago.


Blessings sometimes come in crazy forms. Hard to recognize, they are blessings, nonetheless.

Hope you’ll look for blessings today, too. And if you like, please share a few of your blessings in the comments. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seven Sisters

sarah monkey

My kids love riding over the Seven Sister hills. You know the ones… out on Beck’s Mill Road. Those hills “get your tummy” every time, kind of like a tame roller-coaster ride.

I remember the thrill of those hills from my childhood, too. Only, I wasn’t strapped into a child’s car-seat. I wasn’t strapped in at all. I remember standing up in the back of grandma’s LTD and feeling that amazing sensation while trying not to bump my head on the ceiling. It was a different time.

My seven year old finds it hard to believe that we didn’t have car-seats back then. When I tell her that we didn’t even wear seatbelts, she looks at me as if I just told her that dinosaurs were still roaming the earth back when I was a girl. I’m not completely ancient. Really, I’m not.

Those “good old days” were fun, but I sure am glad we use car-seats and seat belts these days. I witnessed an accident years ago, in which a big van and a car collided. The van was full of children, one was a baby, and not one of them was wearing a seatbelt. Thankfully, the injuries were limited to broken bones, bumps, and bruises. Had they been wearing seatbelts, those kids might have walked away from that accident rather than getting their first ambulance ride. Wearing seatbelts does matter. These days, I wouldn’t consider letting my kids ride without a seatbelt.

I want to keep my kids safe. I think all parents do. We start preparing before they are even born. We put plugs in all our outlets, research the safety of cribs, and we move all of our dangerous chemicals out of reach. Some parents even buy foam bumpers to cushion their coffee table. These are good things, but sometimes I wonder if we go too far in our pursuit of safety.

Mom and I were sitting on the porch swing watching the kids play the other day. The kids were playing nice, but some of their “dare-devil” antics were worrying me. I suppose I told them to be careful a bit too much, because my mom told me to quit fussing at them. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit on edge lately. My baby boy has made not one, but three emergency room trips this year. The boy is accident prone. All the stitches and hospital bills have gotten to me.

The more I think about that day, the more I wonder if there isn’t a happy medium between the super-safety-parenting of today and the rather laid-back-parenting of days gone by. I want to keep my kids safe. I’d do just about anything to keep them from experiencing pain. Safety is good, but it comes with a price.

In keeping them safe, will I steal the joy of learning to ride a bicycle? I cringe every time my boy slams on his brakes leaving a 20 feet long skid mark, but I do remember the joy that comes from riding fast. Should I keep my children out of the woods so they don’t get poison ivy? I could, but then they wouldn’t know the fun of building lean-to houses and hiking. Playing in the creek can be dangerous, too. But if I don’t let them play there, how will they know what the clear, cold water feels like on their feet? How will they find crawdads and watch turtles sunning themselves? I would hate to let the dangers steal the joys of these good, childhood experiences.

I guess the hardest part of parenting is knowing that I have to let them go. I’d like to keep them safe in a secure little world. I’d like to shelter them from every storm, work out every frustration, and give them all that they need. I can’t do that, no matter how hard I try.

I guess we just have to balance safety with letting our kids live their life. Little by little, we give them more freedom. When they are big enough, we take the gates down and let them walk up and down the stairs. We let them swing on the big swings at the playground. We stand back and let them work out some of their own problems. Eventually, we let them go out and play in the yard all by themselves. We get brave enough to let the make a few mistakes. Someday, we’ll even have to let them take the keys and climb behind the wheel.

There is a heated debate raging right now between the “helicopter” or hovering parents and the “free-range” parents. One side advocates close adult supervision and super-safe environments. The other side is pushing back, advocating free, unsupervised play. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I want to keep my kids safe, but I don’t want our generation to be the last to experience the freedom and joy of running through the woods without adults to interfere in our play.

It’s so hard, letting go.  I don’t suppose I’ll ever feel comfortable watching my girl swing upside down from the trapeze bar on the swing set or seeing my boy pop-a-wheelie on his bike. Guess I’ll just keep hovering in the middle, teaching the kids to be safe and giving them the freedom to play and learn. Driving over the Seven Sister hills is just as much fun while wearing seatbelts, after all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lawn Chairs, Good Food, Great Friends

The best part of a pig roast… Well, I think it’s the fun we have with friends and family.

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Little Glenn is one of Danny’s best friends. Which is nice, ‘cause his momma, Amy, is one of my best friends. And Amy’s mom and dad are very good friends of my mom and step-dad. And Amy’s grandma and grandpa were friends with my great-grandparents and used to help care for my grandmother. So that’s at least five generations of friends… How amazing!

Though the adults had fun holding down some lawn chairs and playing games, it was the kids that really made the weekend fun.

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The kids enjoyed wagon rides behind the four-wheeler.

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They were cute little monkeys on the playground.

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They found amazing bugs. In this photo, Sarah is holding a huge cricket.

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And Sam made “smoked sausage and macanoni and cheeses.”

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And then, they gave the kids some water balloons!

Water fight

And the children ganged up on this poor unsuspecting fellow.

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Much to the delight of Miss Mary, he did get even. Oh, my, did he get even.

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But my girl didn’t give up…

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She thought she’d get him back with this little bucket of water. But he was ready for her…

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Oh, no! I’ll just throw the whole bucket!

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Uh, oh! Run!

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One seriously soggy girl. One totally unforgettable memory for everyone.

What are they doing

Poor Sam just couldn’t figure out what on earth was going on.

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Somehow, we managed to get the kids dry, just in time for the fireworks.

smiling sarah

Here’s hoping your Fourth of July was as memory filled as ours was.


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Monday, July 4, 2011

Pig Roast

Some celebrations, you just don’t miss….

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The annual pig roast at my best friend’s house is one of them. It’s a weekend of camping, bonfires, sitting in lawn chairs, visiting with friends, watching the children wear themselves out, and eating great food.

This year, we went early enough to see the roasting of the pig.

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They are serious about roasting the pig. They built this rather perfect pit by dry-stacking some concrete blocks.

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Just add charcoal….

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Boy, that looks like a hot job, turning the pork on those racks. The metal grill on each side is wired together, so no worries about dropping the meat.

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Does this make your mouth water?

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Oh, heavenly ham. Well, ribs, actually…

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And the pulling of the pork begins.

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And you know… If you stand by long enough taking pictures, they will probably offer to let you do a taste test. And it will taste wonderful.

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With the pork out of the way, on goes the chicken. I wish you could have smelled that chicken cooking.

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Oh, my!

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Better get in line.

For more party fun… follow this link.



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Thirty Hand Made Days