Sunday, May 29, 2011

Am I Becoming a Thrifty DIY Junkie?

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. ~Napoleon Hill

Over three years ago I made my own sourdough starter from scratch with the plan to bake organic sourdough breads. One loaf of organic whole wheat costs between $5 and $6 where I can find it. I do get a employee discount at a co-op health food store because I regularly submit articles for their bi-monthly newspaper, but still that brought the price to about $4.50 unless it was on sale. So, I got the idea that I would make my own and I wanted to do sourdough for two reasons--well, maybe three: (1) I really like the taste, (2) I would never need to buy yeast, and (3) it would be a challenge. Making sourdough breads, I have come to learn, is an art. The flour, the weather, the temperature, and scheduling, all still challenging, but I have enjoyed it enough to continue to do it.

Then I added making my own yogurt regularly. More recently I added granola. I am planning to make my own mayonnaise and ranch dressing soon, very soon as I think we just finished the mayo at lunchtime.

I tried making butter this past week, and I must say that I did not plan that one out so well. Next time will be better, hopefully. What I produced was a laughable glob with strains of cheesecloth mixed in--please, don't ask. I really could not explain how that happened even if I wanted to do so.

I have been wanting to make homemade soap and I have gone so far as to purchasing lye, which is not so easy to find these days, but I have not decided on a recipe or even if I want to try hot or cold processing. I will get there if only out of necessity, because the woman from whom I have been getting soap has quit the business and has just a small inventory left over.

Last week I played around with a homemade weed killer made of vinegar, salt, and water, but even though it is not toxic to people and animals, it is very bad for all plants and must be used carefully. I painted the formula on various weeds to see how each did and may use a few drops from a dropper this week on some others. I have to say that the poison ivy is the most resistant it seems, but I am still determined to take it out, hopefully without killing off the English ivy, which is entwined with it. I may try cutting it and using the formula on the fresh cut to see how that works.

On my errand day, when I saw we had just enough laundry detergent for a couple more loads, I bought a box of borax, washing soda, and three washing soap bars called Fels-Naptha. (It should be noted that Fels-Naptha is also good for washing off the oils that cause poison ivy rashes on clothes and skin, which I will probably be needing.) Yesterday I made a very small batch, about ten to twenty loads worth of "powdered" laundry soap, because I used a fine grater for the Fels-Naptha. I washed my first load, all black clothes, in my front loader on cold to see if it would all dissolve. We have pretty soft water here and it did very well. When I run out of fabric softener, I will use vinegar and baking soda formula for that--I know, I also thought that was just impossible without a science project volcanic reaction, but there is a way to do it, they say, and many people think it is the best.

I am psyched now with all the DIY and frugal information I can find online!

Months ago I bought several boxes of dishwasher soap on sale, but as soon as it is gone, I am going to make a homemade version of that too with borax, baking soda, and citric acid with vinegar for the rinse. That might happen sooner than later now because my husband fixed the dishwasher and was put back in place last night.Thank you, Honey! Our lunch dishes are waiting for more to join so we can run it fully loaded.

I just learned that citric acid is great for sprouting seeds, because it prevents bacteria and mold growth. I like sprouts but I stopped doing them because even with regular rinsing they can have problems like that. Plus with all the gardening I am doing and the more I plan to do next year, I am thinking citric acid could be a very good thing to have on hand for more than dish washing.

My latest thing...cutting hair. I used to cut my own hair for years. I had something like the Farrah Fawcett shag. (Yes, I do have really thick, wavy hair with lots of body just like that.) The thing about my hair is a mistake is pretty easily hidden and it grows really fast so no big deal. In the last fifteen years, I had a style that was not so easy for me to cut myself, especially in the back, but I always shape a bit around the face and top for six months between appointments. Usually, the Princess and I only get a haircut twice a year, spring and autumn just before her recitals, however we skipped last autumn because of finances. She did not mind because she wants very long hair, but the ends now are very old and dry, sorely need of trimming off. She told me that our neighbor cuts her children's hair (curly hair) so she thinks I should cut her hair myself too...her thick but ultra straight, silky hair. I appreciate her thinking I am talented, but blunt cutting straight hair to a nice, even, well-shaped "U" is something that I did not have confidence in doing, until this morning...I searched online and found Feye's method for self trimming long hair, which uses hair bands so that you can actually cut your own long hair into a straight blunt, a V-shape, and a U-shape. Yes, I am now confident I can do this, so within a few days the Princess will have a $12 haircut for free in just minutes, if all goes well.

I also made homemade lemonade for the very first time this week. I cannot believe I have never done it before! The secret to making it very good is in the skin. Yes, I put the whole lemon minus seeds (but I missed a few) in my Vita-Mixer blender with sugar and water and just a pinch of salt to counter any bitterness. Very yummy, but I am not sure if it was cheaper than buying the organic lemonade we usually get...when it is on sale, that is. Mine was definitely better though.

What should I do next? Any suggestions?

Oh, and did I tell you that I am seriously considering beekeeping next year too?

~ My Lord, help me to use my time and talents wisely and frugally, but help me to be sure that what I do is not only cost effective but not time wasting. Help me manage my time and my priorities well too. ~

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sharing Stories of Two Lifetimes

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget. ~Unknown

I suppose I began thinking over my childhood after writing my last post. I used to live in a small community next to a lake in Ohio. We lived in a cottage that was meant to be a summer rental and was not very warm in the winter. There were not many children in the area and some only lived in a rental property for a few months. However, there was one girl just a year ahead of me in school who lived nearby.

She was the only child of older parents. Her father had a pipeline job that would make them move temporarily for a few months at times, but they would eventually come home to their farm. She had horses and taught my brother, my sister, and I how to feed apples to horses with our hands flat. She had a white painted playhouse in which we once had placed tadpoles caught in the ditches where we were not suppose to be because of the water moccasins in the area (and my brother did bit by one once). She had own room all to herself and a phone in her room! We had to go next door to my grandmother's to use a phone, a party line then, and phones were used so rarely in those days. I do not ever remember being envious of my friend even though she had so much more than I did, I just enjoyed playing with her. My family moved to a small city to live with my mother's father and the one time we stayed there for a vacation week, she was gone with her family.

My mother told me some years ago that she had found out where my friend was and her married name and maybe even her address, but I did not contact her. I am not sure why...perhaps it was because of my past. At her place or in Mr. Ike's yard, a large yard behind our small one, I could play out my illusions of innocence, normalcy, and even joy. At the same time, I am sure I did not seem so "normal" to other people. I always felt people knew things about me, but most people probably did not know much at all in reality.

Perhaps I wanted to keep the memories as they were, that my friend still lived at the small farm and I could visit her anytime if only in my memories. To know who she became and what she is doing now would remove the mystery and fade the memories perhaps. Who knows? We might not even like each other as we are now....

Well, today I remembered her name and the town in which she used to live. I looked it up and found her Facebook page and there was a picture of her. I knew in an instant it was her, but I have this staunch conviction to not join Facebook, so I found her husband's business and called explaining briefly who I was and that I was hoping to get his wife's phone number. He was very kind as he gave me her cell phone number and told me she was out running errands as she had the day off.

I called the number not having a clue what I would say and was almost relieved to get her voice mail. (I mean, could it be that we would have anything at all in common? Did that matter, really?) At least this way, I thought, it would be up to her whether she wanted to really talk to me or not. A few minutes later she called me back.

How do you fit the stories of two lifetimes into just a part of a day? It is impossible. Before the conversation ended, she gave me her email address and I promised to send her my blog address. Pictures were promised also.

Since she will be reading this, I just wanted to tell her something I did not on the phone: Thank you, Debbie, for being my friend. You may never know how much your friendship meant to me.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for all times I was able to be a happy child playing with my friend. ~

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Would You be so Kind Please...

Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath. ~Eckhart Tolle just say a prayer for me. I do not like talking about my faults as I think that they should be obvious enough as it is, but I am in need of a little help with feelings of anger. I am not sure if it is lack of hormones or that my daughter is ten or just that I feel alone so much of the time because my husband is away from home so much (not lonely really, just...alone) or if I just need a vacation. There are many excuses from which to choose, but usually when something is eating at me this long it has something to do with my past and something in my present is triggering it.

The last time I noticed such a trigger was when the Princess turned six years old. I just could not remember her actual age when I was asked or just thought about her. In my mind she went from five to seven. My mind would just not accept she was six, as if I could just skip it. I had to examine this and I realized that something horrible happened to me when I was six that changed me. I will not be going into what it was exactly, but it had to do with my father and how he abused me.

When I was ten, as the Princess is now, my brother Christopher died. He was just one year younger than me. In fact, his birthday was just two days after mine and was just a month away. We had to share our birthdays and even the cake. I wish now I had not been so selfish as to want my own cake because I have had plenty since that year and it has meant so little.

My brother was a troubled boy. I supposed we all were troubled really. My father abused us. My mother often neglected us as she like to use escapism and often she placed all the responsibility of my siblings solely on me. She also did not protect us being so afraid of my father herself. Because of all this, I never trusted either of my parents, but there was a time when Christopher really needed help and we all were too wrapped up in the little ruts of our own survival modes to notice his desperation.

They called it an accidental suicide as if he did not mean to cause his own death, but my mother and I knew it was his second attempt, the first being just a year or two before. He might have meant it only to scare us as before because he was angry, but unlike the first time, there was no threat and no witnesses. He stomped up stairs alone and then there was only the aftermath.

I remember seeing my father in tears when he arrived home. It was a surreal moment. The man who treated us so badly and at times could have kill us himself was in tears over the death of his son, my brother. Why did I not protect him? I know why. I was a child myself, a scared child, even a cruel one then because had I not said "I wish you would get lost" and even "I wish you were dead"? (Oh, yes, I did say such things then but never since.)

I became a Christian soon afterward. I believed in having hope, real hope, for the first time in my life. I really thought my father would change and he seemed to for several months, but then it all went back to the way it had been before, however I was different. I was no longer as frightened as I had been. I realized that I could be the next one who would be so desperate and I found anger had replaced much of my previous fears.

However, I also learned that I did not like the results of allowing myself to be angry outwardly. It usually resulted badly and I did not like hurting other people's feelings. I did not like being the abusive one, so I learned to turn my anger inward toward myself. Later, I suffered a terrible depression that lasted two years after I turned twenty.

I have healed of my past since then, but there are still scars and I am still surprised when my attention is drawn to one, as when the Princess turned six. I have forgiven and mercifully have forgotten much of everything until I notice that something is driving me to avoid something, like not saying my daughter is six years old, or I am having mounting unrest and anger issues. It usually takes some time and prayer for me to understand the source of it. Once it is revealed, it all disappears as mysteriously as it started.

In the meantime, unfortunately, I tend to feel hurt, get over-sensitive, and drive away the people who mean the most to me. I am so disgusted with myself because my daughter probably gets the worst of it as she is around me the most, although I have not been much better to my husband, who has been through this before and has so much patience with me.

So, here I am in my own self-made pit of despair asking for some prayers. I have been fighting this for a few months as it has been building, but it is now wearing me down. I have not really been sure of the source, not sure I have it even now, but if not I think I am close. I am thinking that perhaps I need to forgive myself for not protecting my brother, as I am not sure I ever allowed myself to forgive myself completely and perhaps I am making my daughter feel as badly as I did at the age of ten, in a way punishing her as I wish to punish myself. Perhaps that is it.

After I wrote this all out, I did not want to post it...but then I thought that it might give someone else some insight of the struggles one goes through inside the cycle of abuse. I have not abused my daughter, but I have been too easily irritated and hard on her lately. She has been displaying an attitude that adds fuel to this fire, but I wish with all my heart to cool it down for both of us. After all, I am her parent and should be the good example for her in how to overcome bad feelings and treat others well. It is more difficult when you had bad examples in your own childhood, but God provides what is needed, I have only to accept what He has provided to make this right.

~ My Lord, I have been avoiding You because I am ashamed. You gave me so much guidance and time to heal of that past and break a cycle before you gave us this child. Please do not let any part of it touch her now. If this is not the source of my restlessness and anger, please reveal it. Please, let my anger be replaced with forgiveness and keep my relationship with my daughter as I wish You to keep Your relationship with me, full of patience, healing, encouragement, and genuine love. ~

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gardening at the Speed of Bunny Berries!

Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson

Okay, it probably will not take off as one of those catchy phrases (unless you have a rabbitry) but "gardening at the speed of bunny berries" has true meaning for me. Averaging ten kits per kindle rotating with two does is a lot of poop! Mixed in with that is some hay that falls down while they are eating it and we have the most excellent mixture for enriching Georgia clay. I mean, it turns compacted red clay to a rich brown workable soil with a bit of tilling and plants thrive like I never have had plants thrive before. It almost looks as if I have the green thumb. Some gardeners keep a few rabbits just for their berries that can be used right away, no aging required!

Now the problem with our property is that we had four years of drought and towards the end of that, the entire Atlanta area was in serious trouble with the amount of available drinking water. We were advised to not just conserve but to not use any water for outdoor use. People conserved water so well in my county that we almost did not have enough water used to properly treat the sewage. Apparently, it takes a certain amount of water to treat used water.

You knew who was conserving the most because their lawns looked terrible and ours was in that category. My gardens just died away. Some of the drought resistant and hardier plants made it through, but my gardens looked like something you would expect to see in the dessert. When the drought broke in the fall of 2009, it really broke and we had the worst flooding in the area. Since then rain levels have been normal. I supposed I should have tried to do something last year with the lawn and gardens because, unfortunately, grass and garden plants do not recuperate without some help as fast as weeds, poison ivy, and opportunistic herbs that jumped their confinement can seed and grow. The other factors were funds, time, and energy. It takes far more of my energy to deal with weeds because I try not to use chemicals.

This year I decided that I may not have pretty flowers where I would prefer, but I do have garden beds that were worked up well over the years right next to the house, so why not use them for food gardens instead of trying to start food gardens somewhere in the back yard and still have these beds looking pitiful. Hmmm! I keep hearing from the Lord that I should make do with what we have. And instead of trying to look at all the garden beds at once or even a whole garden bed, both which overwhelm me, why not work with one small patch at a time and even do something like square foot gardening since we have this unlimited supply of natural ready-to-go fertilizer.

And I have been spending most of my weekends and the cool mornings and evenings outside taming nature's wild greens. This is now how the front right side looks.

We just tilled and mixed in our secret soil enrichment formula so this bed is ready to plant, which I will be doing part of today and probably tomorrow mostly likely.

This is lettuce off the ground.

Here is one area that looks luscious now but looked horrible last year. I was about to give up on it because it was the one garden bed where the grass was growing more than the lovely variegated vinca. The purple clematis was not doing that well either. Is it not odd that the grass will not grow where it should, but becomes an aggressive weed where you do not want it! I gives me a sense of pride that all that weeding I did last year helped the vinca win out this year. I suppose I should think about painting that mailbox, eh? You can see in the background that my daughter has created her own little garden box and to the right (outside of the picture) is her "playhouse" which made up of a few branches and lots of imagination under a tree she climbs.

We have four rain barrels catching the rain from our roof via the gutters but two need some repair as the overflow hosing has slipped and they are only holding half of what they should. Thursday there is a possibility of rain and I am so hoping it does because lugging water cans is getting to be much with my expanding gardens and I also want to catch this precious resource that falls freely from the heavens (I have told my daughter rain is angel's tears of joy, which is why it makes things grow so well) so I plan to fix those barrels by then, hopefully.

~ My Lord, please bless our little gardens.~

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just Horsing Around

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction. ~ Cowboy saying

Do you remember Duke and his escapades? Well, at Miss Annette's we have three large horses that like to horse around when coming in to the barn to eat and be sprayed to protect them from fly bites. Senoya has the first stall on the left, but she likes to go for a stroll in the barn just to see the other stalls, although she does not usually go into them. Hammer, the largest and sweetest of the horses, (at least he is sweet on me) is the newest and sometimes gets confused about where he is supposed to go, although he should know by now and may just seem lost because he likes the attention. Then there is Duke....

Duke purposely goes into a stall next to his, which is where an Iceland pony called Mack is already. He did this last Friday and I went into the stall to walk Duke out. Determined to stay, Duke put himself against the far wall, which made Mack have to back up and that was towards me. Mack is easy-going, but any equine can get annoyed when crowded by another horse in his own stall and the way he backed up suggested to me that he might be of a mind to kick.

Now here is the problem. If you are really close to a horse, he cannot get enough power behind his kick and you just get a strong push and maybe a bit of a bruise. If you are far enough away, you are out of the kick zone. Unfortunately, I was neither. I was in the perfect kick zone.

I backed up quickly out of the stall to get out of that kick zone and, in so doing, tripped over the lip at the bottom of the stall door. I fell down in a sitting position onto my behind on the right and then back to scrape my left elbow just a bit. Right then I was thinking how I wish Miss Annette had not laid the bricks paving the barn walk just a couple of weeks before and I had landed on the previous dirt floor. Thankfully, I had no serious injuries, but with my history of back problems I was concerned about how it would affect me later. I remember thinking "Well, my Lord, I knew injuries were likely to happen around horses and I have prayed that if all this has Your blessing that You will protect us from serious injury, particularly my daughter's piano hands."

First things first. I walked back in to get Mack out of the stall and then we had room to get Duke out and to his stall next door. All was well.

When I got home an hour or so later, I put arnica cream on the injury and did some other things later on before bedtime that are too involved to described right now, expecting to have a flare up with my back that could take weeks to calm down, but hoping I would not. The next morning, I had only a bit of tightness in my traps and upper back that was gone with just a bit of arnica cream.

Isn't God just the greatest?

Today I have a bit a soreness only if I sit a particular way so all is well enough. Today is Friday and we are going back to the barn late in the afternoon. Today I am determined the horses will not get the better of me with who goes to which stall.

Well, it is a plan. We shall see how that goes.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for protecting me, even in my own foolishness, from serious injury. ~

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peer Pressure and Punishment

No child is immune to peer pressure.
~Kathi Hudson, Raising Kids God's Way

Yesterday, even though we prepared her for months about how to handle the situation, the Princess gave in to the questions about the missing rabbits and told one of her friends "we butchered them." We had told her to simply say they were gone and not disclose any other details. Now this particular girl is not one to keep a secret, is adopted, goes to public school, her mother is a vice principal of a high school, and her father left the ministry to become a U.S. Marshall. Another girl joined them, whose family homeschools, she is the youngest of eight, and they are vegetarian (mostly as they do eat chicken), and she cried for the Princess to tell the secret that the first girl was teasing her about not knowing. Both girls are a little younger than the Princess, but seem to have the upper hand in manipulating her.

Now I would not have a problem with the whole neighborhood knowing that we have rabbits but I would rather they did not know why (which will probably be known to all very soon now) because we live in a R2 zone where the county codes forbid "livestock." To be in compliance so there would be no concerns, the rabbits have to be hundreds of feet from the property lines. Basically, one must have at least five acres to comply: we have about a half acre. The county codes specifically names the types of livestock and rabbits are not in the list, but technically we are raising them as livestock—I suppose, although this is just to feed our own family—so this might be considered a violation of the codes. Now I have friends who have laying chickens in R2 zones, so I know it usually is not a problem unless one gets a complaining neighbor and we were trying to avoid that.

The rabbits are under our back deck and hidden from view, plus the rabbits are caged and quiet. It is not like we have a large "livestock" operation here. We currently have three breeding does and one buck and a kindle of around ten at any given time in six cages. We keep things clean so that odors are not bothersome. We use the bunnies berries in our gardens—I have to say here that I have never had such healthy tomato plants since we have lived here! The rabbits are not running around in the yard...well, one did get out this week because the Princess forgot to latch the door properly but came right to me and was placed back in the cage. We decided to keep her as a breeder for the California buck we shall be getting soon, as our goal was to crossbreed New Zealands with Californians, but we could not find a breeder with Californians at the time.

Anyway, whatever comes of this, the Princess will receive punishment today for disobeying us. She has been feeling a great deal of peer pressure since she began playing with both these girls, one a bit more than the other, and we do not want her to lie, but we do want her to learn that she still needs to obey us and that not telling everything about private matters is not lying. Obviously, we also do not want her to lie, but to learn to discriminate and that is a hard learning process with a honest child. She picked up a book for teens at a consignment sale a few weeks ago and identified—on her own!—that these girls were using peer pressure and how to resist it, but it still is not something one just gets without some stumbling blocks along the way.

I explained to her that homeschooling was considered illegal in some states at one time and that some parents were jailed for teaching their own children, but they believed that what they were doing was not only legal, but they felt called by God to homeschool. We felt the same about raising the rabbits, that the law was not well defined, and we prayed about it and believe raising rabbits would be acceptable. (Maybe God's blessing of it might be tested?) I also asked her what she would do if someone wanted to know where her friend was but was planning to hurt her. The Princess said she would probably lie and I reminded her that saying nothing at all would be one way not to tell where her friend was and it was not lying either, which is against God's will. I explained that sometimes we give her specific instructions because it will protect her or others without going into details about the how and why at the time.

I was concerned because she was less eager to obey us than accommodate her friends. I know this happens with children and usually at younger ages when they spend less time with their parents and more with peers due to work, daycare, or school, but it was never so pronounced as yesterday that there is a tug of war going on in this child. She is more independent, which means she will make more decisions on her own and consequently more mistakes. She wants to please her friends and be liked. She also wants to please her parents but there are also more demands on her from us because she is able to take more responsibility. She should want to please God the most and it was discussed that disobeying parents is like betraying their trust, as the one girl betrayed her trust in telling the other that she had a secret, and when she betrays us, she also betrays God who told us all to obey our parents.

Her father is currently in a neighboring state and hopes to be back later today, but we discussed the appropriate punishment last night. The Princess understands the gravity of what she has done and that once a secret is told, it is no longer a secret nor can it be pulled back. We decided that neatly writing "I will ask my parents when in doubt" on two sheets of paper will do this time.

~ My Lord, this is the beginning of the time I like best in children, when they are beginning to take responsibility for themselves and gain independence and making decisions about who they going to be. Give me wisdom to temper her growing independence with the realization of her still needing dependency on us as her parents and on You her Eternal Lord. Guide her to make better decisions and may her stumbles be small ones. ~

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking Out Loud: This Time It Could Be Different

When they learn in their own way and for their own reasons, children learn so much more rapidly and effectively than we could possibly teach them, that we can afford to throw away our curricula and our timetables, and set them free, at least most of the time, to learn on their own. ~ John Holt

I have not been looking for a homeschool group. I have written about my reasons a few times; basically I just felt my Lord had told me "no" and, when I tried it anyway (convincing myself I might not have heard correctly), it really did not work out well (proving I had heard well enough). The Princess had fun but most of groups are are co-ops, and I had, still have, no desire nor any calling to teach other children or have my daughter taught classroom-style at this time.

I talked to another homeschooling 4-H mother about her recent experience. She had been in a Christian homeschool group, a pretty active one, but under the pressure of newer members they just made some changes to their statement of faith to which all members must agree. These changes singled out this family in its wording because, without mentioning the religion, it obviously was against Catholicism and they were the only Catholic family in the group.

This woman and another 4-H mother, who was in the same group, are now thinking of starting their own homeschool group. We discussed some things about structuring a group. You see, I thought about this some years ago, starting my own homeschool group, but I did not know that many people in the area. I had these ideas of a group with a statement of faith and all that, but after I had joined a co-op, I realized that I did not want a co-op. That leaders can get to be controlling or just want it their own way...and, sadly, I might just be one of those people to fall into that trap. I also did not want to teach other children nor have my child taught in classes or anything so structured. The first group I joined was also all inclusive and we had people of all faiths, including Catholic, Baptist, Christian Science, Judaism, Messianic Christian, Pagan, and Atheism. Religion was not the focus of the group and they were nice families, but I felt called away from it and one Atheist, who might have a mental disorder, made it rather easy for me to make break because of her unpredictable reactions causing me some concern about the children she was around, particularly my own as she seemed to single me out more than the others.

Before I joined a homeschool group, I used to just meet with another mother who had an only child the same age and same name as my daughter. We would have a play date each week and sometimes we had to make changes in our schedules, which was easier being just the two of us, but we did not do many field trips together and we did not have enough to get group discounts. What I most want in a homeschool group is just group discounted field trips and maybe some play dates, picnics, and general social outings, perhaps a science fair kind of thing, or a play. I don't really want structured classes, but would be willing to have a special teaching projects from time to time.

This is my dream...

My ideal homeschool group is not one well-structured group. It is number of small intimate groups that govern themselves and are networked with other small groups at times meeting together for a field trip or other outing for a group discount. There would be no centralized leader of all and that way each group could be as structured or unstructured as it would like to be.

When any one of the groups gets too large or any one family doesn't feel one group is a good fit, they can go to another one or start one of their own and still be in the collective. I believe this will work because after watching the homeschool groups in my area, that is basically what happens anyway, but with bad feelings left over usually.

When I explained this to my husband last night, he mentioned it is like the Tea Party with no central leader but a very specific focus. Now I thought of this a few years before the Tea Party started, but yes, it is just like that!

The group the woman had invited me to join, but now has left, had its play date on Thursdays, which is impossible for me, so I would most likely would rather be in a small group with a play date on another day. In other words, each group could have its own play dates or the play date set for all groups or both. I like structure but with my lifestyle I need flexibility.

On the other hand, I am not sure I can fit another "thing" into our week. We have 4-H and Miss Annette's farm, which we can volunteer more time and the Princess can ride more often now that I have a vehicle. The other problem I had with a homeschool group is we had so many activities that I felt I was squeezing homeschooling and housework in between and that I should be giving that time to church activities instead.

Basically, I do not know if a homeschool group would work for us or we for it right now. I like the activities we have at this point. They are not overwhelming nor do we have to compromise too much although they do overlap at times: The last two years Princess could not go to a really good 4-H field trip because she had a piano recital that same day.

Hmmm....things about which to think and pray...again!

~ My Lord, last year I remember feeling that our choices were so limited because of transportation and finances. Now I have a bit more freedom and consequentially more choices, but I also believe that just because we can do a thing does not mean we should do a thing. Guide us, my Lord, to the activities You would have us do. May we always be in Your Will in all things. ~

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One State at a Time

Our entire school system is based on the notion of passive students that must be "taught" if they are to learn. . . . Our country spends tens of billions of dollars each year not just giving students a second-rate education, but at the same time actively preventing them from getting an education on their own. And I'm angry at how school produces submissive students with battered egos. Most students have no idea of the true joys of learning, and of how much they can actually achieve on their own.
~Adam Robinson, co-founder of The Princeton Review

Homeschooling parents, you simply MUST to go to Home Spun Juggling to see all the really great comics there! What a delight!

There is nothing like educating your own child. It is an amazing experience with all the highs and lows. Once in awhile a person asks if I am concern that my daughter's education with have "gaps." Here's the thing: who decides what are the gaps? I was educated in public schools and I feel there are gaps in my education and it probably was done on purpose because there is only so much a child can be taught in a few hours a day. In fact, I have never yet met anyone who knows everything, which means everyone has gaps in their education, right? It is not like the person cannot learn later on as I am doing right now myself.

I decided that the Princess and I would begin to work through the states, one by one, in the order of their statehood. I do not have a timeline as to when we will finish this project, we are just taking it one state at a time. I am using Study Starters, but that was just for an outline for our journal. We did Delaware first. It located on a peninsula called Delmarva, which is portmanteau (blend of words) formed by the names of the three states on it: Delaware, Maryland, and Virgina. The name Delaware came from Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the second governor of Virginia, so there were no tribes that called themselves the Delaware actually. The Lenape, which means the people, originally lived along what was later named the Delaware River. They spoke a form of the Algonquian language and were called the "Grandfathers" by the other Algonquian tribes because of their belief that the Lenape were among the oldest groups in the Algonquian nation.

Did I learn this in school? No. I learned to memorize the state capital Dover and maybe the largest city Wilmington, and be able to find Delaware on a map in fourth or fifth grade. That was about it.

This is just one of the many reasons I truly enjoy homeschooling. I learn many things I did not learn before so my education is improved also.

~ My Lord, thank you for homeschooling and please continue to bless homeschooling all over the world. ~

Monday, May 9, 2011

Just Doing Some Things

Happiness consists in the attainment of our desires, and in our having only right desires. ~St. Augustine

As stated in my last entry, I have been busy, very busy, and I generally like it! If feel more fulfilled and productive and worthwhile and pleasantly exhausted at the end of some days. I do have some time wasting habits that I would still like to change, but even so I am doing a lot, actually getting so much done.

I have always busied myself, but the difference I think is I have been tackling those things I had planned to do and just never got to. I decided that some tasks just seem overwhelmingly big to me, which freezes me from even starting them, but lately I have been breaking them down as one small task of the big plan and then the next small task. The really odd thing is I am not really planning it all out, just fitting this and that into my time. My thoughts are more like this "I can do this while the Princess practices piano" or "I can get this started at least" or "I have an hour so I should be able to do this in that time."

I have to tell you that it is nothing that is natural for me. I mean I am cooking dinners when my husband is home and even looking forward to it! Who is this person? (By the way, he likes cooking.) I have prayed to be more like this and then sometime in the last few weeks I realized I was like that. Also, I am stronger than I have been in the past with more stamina, which is something I usually do not have.

All I can say is that I think God is answering my prayer and changing me without me working so hard at trying to change myself. I love that! I have always told people that we try to change ourselves the hard way and the easier way is just to ask the Lord. Whenever I want to lose weight, I ask Him and it does happen...not immediately, but it does happen.

I know that God is not a genie to grant me my every wish, but I also know He loves me and wants to give me things I desire as long as He sees those things as good for me also. Apparently, I am making a few better choices.

Excuse me, please, I have some things to do now.

~ My Lord, thank you for all the things we have been doing and the things we need to do. Thank you for keeping us in good health and being able to enjoy the changes in our lifestyle. Thank you for Your wisdom and Your gracious giving. ~

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It All Started with a Horse

Let me 'splain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
~Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride, 1987

I am writing as fast as I can because I have this really merciful gift of forgetting the details of bad things that happen by the next morning, so I am sure that I am only writing the highlights of what I remember, believe it or not!

Friday April 29th
Friday evenings we have been going to the Miss Annette's to help feed horses and clean the barn and generally do whatever Miss Annette needs to be done. Last weekend we were to have a 4-H Work Day on Saturday, but Miss Annette never passes up the opportunity to begin a job early so she started us all Friday evening. My husband worked with other men preparing to put up new fencing. Began I walking and clearing the fence line of the back pasture of growth and found the breaks and grounds of the electric fence, which would explain why one horse in particular was escaping earlier that week.

Saturday April 30th
Saturday people were assigned all kinds of jobs from putting new fencing and repairing old fencing to cleaning the barn bathroom and moving items up to the loft from out a room to be used as the new larger tack room and making signs for the Spring Fling the next weekend (which was this weekend...but we are not there yet). Anyway, I worked on finishing what I had begun the night before all alone in the back pasture with gloves and clippers enjoying the sounds of nature. I guess Miss Annette thought I was more than capable of handling it all by myself. I was thinking that I should have been somewhat sore from the work I did the night before, but I was not. I was not sore that night either, tired but not sore. In fact, oddly, I have been stronger than I ever remember being since I was a teenager--no kidding! I think it has something to do with just being around the horses. Anyway, I finished and did some cleaning of chairs and started the children on the signs and we ended up being there all day...all day with another all day commitment for the next coming weekend, which was this weekend.

Tuesday May 3rd
Tuesday was the 4-H awards ceremony. The Princess was thrilled to get a larger trophy this year because I actually kept track of the points for when we volunteer time (and all the other things) and we volunteered quite a bit of time this past year.

Thursday May 5th
My husband birthday is exactly one week after the birthday of the Princess. Only was this my errand day and he worked really late, so we planned to celebrate the next evening. Plans are such funny things!

Friday May 6th
The real excitement started on this Friday night. A trainer came to work with one teenage girl and her boarded horse, Duke. He is a large horse, newer to the barn, but generally good-natured. Apparently, though, Duke is a bit on the nervous side about certain things. The trainer worked with a pole that she would use to eventually tap the horse. He is supposed to stand his ground with his rider, but Duke, even after a few training sessions with it, has not yet made peace with that pole. He took a step back, but eventually he stood in place while she tapped him on various places. Although I was busy in the barn, I would look over from time to time and see him shiver with nervousness, but he did well. Then there is an exercise where they place a shirt on the pole. The rider is supposed to take the shirt off one pole and ride up to place it on another. Duke just did not like that idea at all and the rider was down on the ground right after she took the shirt from the pole. The girl was all right with just some bruising and scraps. The trainer calmed Duke and began to use the shirt around him to the point she lightly waved it over to touch him on various places on his body. Again, I could see Duke was tense, even more tense than before, but he stood his ground.

Then I was up by the house and had a bad advantage point so I did not see what happened later. I also am not a trainer, but my aunt trained horses for a mounted women's police group and they could put firecrackers under the horse without it bolting...eventually. I learned much from her, but some of it is just what my grandfather called "good ol' horse sense." I have been raised to appreciate there is a delicate balance in training between challenging a horse and giving him time to get comfortable with something he fears. It is a special relationship and even a good trainer can be surprised by a horse's reaction, but still.... Seeing the building tension in Duke, I would not have done the thing she did next, which was tie on a plastic bag of rocks on his saddle with no rider. This not only makes a get deal of scary, noisy sounds behind the ears of horse, which tends to make them want to bolt, but if he does take off, they hit him on the sides and back as well, which keep him going.

Off went Duke...really off! He jumped the fencing of the inner arena and was out with the other horses, who had not been put out to the back pasture. Then the herd of horses together did what herds do when frightened, which in this case was to run in a frenzy around the outer paddock. My daughter and some other girls, who were in that paddock, were grabbed and pulled into the arena by another mother. At this point I can only see dust but others saw the previous week's fence escape artist, Senoya, a boarded mare owned by another 4-H'er who was there, had decided not to jump the wire fence between them and the miniature horses paddock, but she was too committed and could not stop. She fell into and over the fence, breaking it down and two mini's joined the herd. Senoya got up and was back running with the herd also with Duke's bag of rocks slapping him and making a great deal of noise.

Now there is a danger having miniature horses in with large ones. They can get trampled or kicked in the head, so Miss Annette, a 4'9" woman with bad knees and hips, was working her way to the minis trying not to get trampled in the process herself and I was right behind her knowing that she was determined to separate them from the four large horses and two ponies. Finally the two minis and one pony split off on the opposite side of the arena of the rest on their own. One teen grabbed one mini and Miss Annette, who was smart enough to grab a lead rope before she went into the paddock, got the other. The one mini was not not in the mood to be held and I walked quickly to get a lead for the teen. During that time my husband cut the bag of rocks off Duke's saddle with his pocket knife while the trainer held him.

With horses now standing still and breathing hard, everyone was in the paddock accessing them for cuts and scraps, which thankfully were fairly minor. The three injured horses, including Duke, were brought into their stalls. With the girls holding and talking softly to them, I sprayed every injury with an antiseptic. Duke was last and he was still quite tense, but he allowed the doctoring with only a couple of hoof stomps and nervous snorts. He was also given oral antibiotic, because of the three he had the worst injuries.

My husband, in the meantime, had begun work on the fence as Miss Annette's husband was quite ill in bed and could not. This required pulling a fence pole back over and reshaping wire. I dug out the broken cement and he cemented the based of the wooden post.

With all calm and repaired we went home to what was supposed to be my husband's birthday dinner. I was in a hurry as it was so late. I turned on the oven as I began throwing together my homemade pizzas, one white sauce and one tomato with ground beef, as he requested while he and the Princess fed the rabbits. Eventually, I opened the oven to find...the remainder of the Princess' birthday cake and the partially melted plastic container it was in--No, I am not kidding! I had put it in there to keep safe as it would not fit in the refrigerator and we planned to have it that night, but since it was 9:30 PM before we began eating, that was unlikely anyway. A bit of the icing had dripped down to the bottom of the oven and, as I was cooking the pizzas, it began smoking. I could just see how adding our fire alarm going off would complete the evening, so we opened windows which was all the invitation a few flying bugs needed.

My husband also showed me the handle of a rather expensive paring knife that was in with the cake had some melted areas, but it can still be smoothed out and used, but I was sick about it. This one being a replacement of one that I accidentally threw away with a pizza box some years before.

At that point, I just gave up and just tried to eat my dinner thankfully. My husband, seeing I was at the end of my rope for the day, decided to clean up the oven himself--isn't he sweet? While looking for oven cleaner that I did not even think I had because I rarely use anything besides a good scrubber, he found that water had been leaking under the sink from the connection to the dish washer, the one that is still broken and currently in our garage. He turn it off and pulled things out to dry. After that bit of news, I just pulled the covers over my head in my bed. Actually, we all went to bed as soon as we could because the next day, which was yesterday, we were to be at the 4-H Spring Fling early to set up.

Saturday May 7th
I face painted all day, except for a short time to relieve my husband from supervising the horse and pony ride while he ate during a break in business at my own booth. Duke was not brought but the other two large horses that were injured had been and Senoya probably should not have been as she seem uneasy, but we had no incidents there.

We went back to help Annette pack everything away and feed the horses. Then we went home to have clean up and have dinner. With two showers down and the washing machine working, I decided to hold off my shower until after dinner to be assured of having hot water. We have leftover pizza and the twice baked cake, as the Princess called it, which had a crusty icing that my husband liked. It would take the prize for being the ugliest cake with melted icing blobs off the cake, but the cake itself was still moist--if you can believe it! Anyway, it went well with ice cream.

So, I finally get my turn in a nice relaxing shower and I begin thinking about tomorrow being Mother's Day and dawns on me...the Princess and I were expected at the church right then for the Mother and Daughter Tea. I took a deep breath and resigned to we were not even going to try to make it, even though I really had wanted to go. The past week had been rather busy with 4-H stuff and I was tired. We all fell asleep early and my husband's sunburn looked like he might have a touch of sun poisoning.

Sunday May 7th
Well, we all made it to church and all the mothers received the nicest little notepad to stick in our purses; I so appreciated that. The Princess also made a present of hugs and kisses: the hugs being an outline of her hands attached to the outside of a quart canning jar filled with Hershey chocolate kisses, which I also greatly appreciated the jar and the chocolate as I never have enough of either one.

We stopped at Publix to get a fried chicken dinner as they are so much more reasonable than fast food chicken and tastier. We saw a teenager working there, who used to come to our church but goes to a larger one now and she had been on a short missionary trip recently. She was standing with an icing tube to help children decorate heart cakes for their mothers. We were not planing on another cake, but it was small and the Princess had fun doing it with her. The day's plans were to watch a DVD, mostly likely Avatar for the first time, with my feet up and have popcorn later on, as working outside would not have been good for my husband anyway.

Those, folks, were just some parts of my crazy week. There was more, but I am too exhausted to type it and the memory of all the bad stuff is mercifully fading...except that one thing: My husband put in a different memory card for our camera and told me the camera was already for me to use to get face painting pictures, but then it kept saying it needed formatted and would not let me format it so no pictures. He rarely messes up like that, but when he does...but in a day or two I probably will forget it also...he hopes.

~ My Lord, I am very thankful no one, including the horses, were seriously injured this week and that my husband was there to repair the fence. ~

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Harms of Homeschooling?

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.
~Ivan Illich in "Deschooling Society" 1970

I was clearing out my old saved emails and came across one that I would like to share. This one was in response to an article written over a year ago but the argument is ongoing. Here is the article written by Robin L. West and published in Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2009.

Here is my response:

Your article "The Harms of Homeschooling" has just come to my attention. I am a homeschooling parent, one who has no formal higher education, but a decent IQ and a healthy, driven curiosity. I homeschool for what most would describe religious reasons, although I would say "God led", and also because I am certain my daughter will receive a better education encouraging her true potential than she would in any school.

I learned about learning from a very well-educated, highly respected, and wise man: My grandfather had to quit school when he was in eighth grade and, from him, I ascertained that education is a life long pursuit for which one must take personal responsibility to acquire. He was a train engineer on the lower end of the middle class with a large library and a love for reading, but he was no one of importance, even though he had the largest funeral the city had ever seen until then, with the exception of a former mayor.

In my own pursuit of education, I have even studied some law, which is to say that for one year I was nearly a permanent fixture at the Stetson University College of Law Library in Gulfport. (I quite honestly believe that law should be a required subject for all children and it will be for my own daughter.) Your assessment of the legality of homeschooling struck a chord with me. It is something I have been explaining to fellow homeschooling parents for years now: Legally speaking, homeschooling is not a right, but merely an exception to compulsory attendance laws provided by statues in each state. On the other side of that, however, I believe it should be a constitutionally protected right without state regulation, which I am certain is the focal point of where we part in our philosophies.

This part of your article is what I found the most intrusive of my rights of privacy:

"Periodic visits would open the door to college and career counseling, of benefit to both the children and their parents. They would give the state a window into the quality of home life, and a way to monitor signs of abuse as well as immunizations."

Are you suggesting that the state would have the right to assess the home environment and lifestyles solely on the basis of the children being educated at home, even though no abuse is suspected? I have no fear of the scrutiny of itself but to such authority allowed any government so ill-used, historically speaking. If this should be a requirement for homeschoolers, it should apply to all children regardless of where they are educated, although I am not in favor of that notion either.

Since you have introduced the subject, I strongly oppose the ideology of mandatory immunizations against one's wishes, which further erode religious and parental rights, but even more so personal rights over one's own body and what is put in it. Your concept suggests the state has rights over the bodies of minors!

In addition, I have to question your proposal of noncompliance:

"The sanction for failure to comply with minimal curriculum, content, visitation, and testing requirements would simply be enrollment in a certified private or public school."

My concern here that these minimal requirements would be setting a double standard.

For this, I will quote myself:
"The public school system is a rather necessary default method to educate the masses, but a significantly inferior method to educate the individual."

In other words, it would be acceptable for the public school system failing to educate a child to the same standard expected of a homeschool, because it is the default system. There is no where else for these children to be educated.

The compulsory attendance laws do not magically ensure a quality education, it merely offers the opportunity for the child to be educated and it does this by requiring parents to send their children to attend public school. It places children's bodies in classrooms, but it does not require, ensure, or even promise to make the children engage their minds.

I will not address every point I find arguable in your article, however, this one also blared out at me:

"The ideal teacher cares about the child as an individual, a learner, an actively curious person—she doesn’t care about the child because the child is hers. The child is regarded with respect equally to all the children in the class. In these ways, the school classroom, ideally, and the relations within it, is a model of some core aspects of citizenship."

Ideally, perhaps. I really don't know many people who had but a few ideal teachers all the years they were in school. The classroom has never been the ideal model for encouraging individuality, but it may be the best one for conforming to the role of the submissive citizen, because the classroom is the ideal government authoritarian model. I am sure you have experienced a time or two that the moment a teacher walks out of the classroom, the children become lost as to what they should do and just go wild. One of the harms of public schooling is people are trained to believe that unless a government employee tells us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it, we will go wild without much self-discipline, self-reliance, or self-respect.

Therefore, I do understand your conclusion against deregulation of homeschooling as you are coming from the public school mindset: Many of the homeschooling families must be lost and going wild out here without directly being regulated by a government agent. While I agree that there are going to be some parents who use the guise of homeschooling to hide their abuses, I also have seen, even in this day and age of mandatory reporting, that not all abuse is caught by teachers nor is school the resting place of salvation when some children are only abused or abused more at school by other children or teachers themselves.

What we need is a higher standard within the public school system, because it is the educational default. That does not mean more money, better curriculum, or more high-priced resources. I mean that the teachers need to be highly educated and continually tested for competency as well as continually educated in how to teach, just like doctors and lawyers. When I have had young elementary teachers—yes, more than one, sadly—argue with me that the use of "me and him" is acceptable when used in the subjective case, as in "me and him went to the store", then we have the uneducated "educational experts" educating students while these students are led to believe that their parents are too uneducated to teach them better, so they should not listen to them at all. This additionally degrades the parent-child relationship, which degrades society as a whole.

While I teach core subjects, there are subjects that are required of my daughter at eight years old that are not on any standardized test: Latin, Greek, French, horses, music, piano, drawing, etc. She is generally advanced, but she dislikes math. So, if the state regulations were that my daughter would have to go to public school because she fell behind in math one year and, of course, there would be no provision in the law for all these other extra subjects to be considered, you not see the potential harm in more regulation? My daughter is highly gifted in the arts. I give her ample time and support to pursue this, but if she had to go to public school because she just hates math then her potential would be harmed because the arts are generally the first to be dropped when school funds are lacking.

Back to my grandfather, without all the fancy technology, my grandfather's eighth grade education in core subjects surpasses most twelfth grade requirements of today. The difference? Children were taught to respect adults, the teachers had higher standards because they themselves were highly educated, and there was a higher standard of discipline within the schools. I cannot speak for others but I do know that is what my daughter is getting in our homeschool and that she would not be getting it in our current default educational system.

Academics is very important to me, but more important than that is character. My grandfather would not place his own children in schools as they are today, because they no longer teach what he valued in his own life and why people loved him so much. A child, at any point in his life, can learn math, a language, science, or whatever else taught in classrooms, but what is a society of educated children lacking character? Will they look to the government to tell them what to do and how to do it? Then, when they think the government isn't looking, they might go wild, proving to all how much they need more regulation so everyone else must also; thus it just perpetuates itself.


~ My Lord, please open the eyes of the blind. ~

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Between Crises

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD,
they will inherit the land.
~Psalm 37:7-9

I must remember to breathe....

Right now I am safe in my home. My daughter is with me working on her math lesson. I just saw my husband was online through Skype, so I know he arrived safely to the customer in neighboring state. There is only the clicking of my typing to break the silence. But, no. I hear the background. That which no one else hears, yet I cannot escape it. It is there. It is always there and the feelings that come with it.

I must remember to breathe....

Do you ever feel you are just taking a breath before the next crisis? If you are in a crisis, you cannot wait to get to the other side of it. Once there you really don't enjoy the peace very long because you are waiting for the next crisis to arise. I think this pretty much sums up a lifetime of mind-works for me...waiting for something bad to end just to wait for something bad to begin! And, all the while trying not to think of either by busying my mind with inconsequential stuff like watching TV (when we used to have the service) or playing games on the computer or anything else that keeps my mind from thinking about the realities of life and its terrible possibilities!

Yes, I like escapism! Too bad my problem is not what is going on around me as much as those what-if's in my own mind. My mind is rather busy and noisy! How can one escape the busyness and noise of one's own mind? I fully understand why people—intelligent people—begin using mind numbing drugs just to turn off the noise and all the anxiety it creates.

There is much, so very much, to be concern about right now. People think we are in the End Times, but things were very bad centuries before and believers thought they were in the End Times then as well. What scares me the most is I think we are just now circling on the outside edge of its whirlpool now realizing that we are caught up in something that is inevitable and we are going to go down that drain! Did we think we would escape it? Did I think that?

I must remember to breathe....

I really thought it all would happen in my teen years, perhaps because I knew I was not ready for adulthood and I used it as the lamest of excuses. I remember almost being disappointed when my timetable did not work and realizing that I must face adulthood. Now I fear what is coming, not so much for myself but for my daughter. It is very likely that the entire world for her will be a much different place than the one in which I grew already is, actually. And, yet mankind is basically the same as it always has been. My grandfather was known to say, "What they used to do in buggies, they now do in the backseat of cars, and they will do on airplanes." It is because mankind is essentially the same that the world will continue on a downward spiral of self-destruction.

My husband is the optimistic one. He says we were given warning. We should prepare as best as we can, and the best part, no matter what happens to us in between, in the end we win! We, those of use who accepted the Messiah and trust God, win. I suppose that should put it all in a different light for me, but there will be a struggle, a terrible struggle on earth, before we get to the winning line we are racing toward.

The things I enjoy doing like gardening, needlework, and art leave my mind free...too free sometimes. I can often find myself wandering down gloomy paths. I hear cries of sorrow, loss, tragedy, despair, and fear from all over the world and from some too close by. I even feel them. I wish I could hide away or suppress them with good thoughts, but it is futile for they are inside of very loud in the stillness. They even intrude on my prayer time when I would prefer to rest in my Lord. I want to give all these worries to Him and I do, but then there is another crisis. These things do not go away. They do not stop. They will increase like the pangs of labor.

I must remember to breathe....

~ My Lord, it is all so overwhelming to just listen to one day's worth of news. I wonder how You do it every day, every moment, with every individual on this one small planet in the universe where there could be more. You are really there, aren't You? And here with me as well? Please, comfort me with peace and help me to see it all through Your eyes. ~

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Counting to Ten

Take a deep breath, count to ten, and tackle each task one step at a time. ~Linda Shalaway

There are times when pictures say more than words...this may not be one of those times. The Princess is now ten years old...ten years...TEN...a whole decade! One fifth of my life has been focused on the caring and educating of this one child. Amazing! I want to slow it down. Will this sign work? Will she slow down so I can continue to watch out for her as a child? Probably, not. More importantly, will she remember what I tried to teach her and those little special things I tried to do for her, some not that easy and quite time consuming?

There is one thing I do for my daughter's birthdays, usually: I make and decorate a cake. I am no expert but you can see that I have made significant improvements throughout the years, even though I rarely make more than one cake a year. (I would not want to do this for a living.) For the sake of privacy, I am showing the cakes without her name on them, but most of them had her name and age on them.

Note to self: Do not place icing in freezer to cool it because it can change color, hence the color difference in the bear's fur. But seeing blue icing smeared on a one-year-old's lips is precious!

Outlining in a nice unbroken line is definitely NOT my thing, especially with black!

Wooly lambs are far easier to do!

We had so much stress that year that we did not take many pictures, not even for her birthday. I remember making a rocking horse cake but sometimes I get too busy living life to document it. The picture is of a furry Christmas tree cake I made for Christmas to celebrate Christ's birthday. This is a tradition we do not do anymore, because there are too many sweets to go around then as it is and it took too much time away from guests.

The Princess wanted a castle...this did not really qualify, but at least it was pink!

We spent her sixth birthday with her God-parents and my aunt and uncle. Her God-mother wanted to get a heart-shaped cake with pink roses, so I did not make a cake this time.

I was pleased she chose the Bob and Larry cake shape knowing that it might be the last time and I wanted to make it special...without black outlining. I found a recipe for a butter cream fondant and this was my first attempt with it. I loved that my back was not hurting the next day. It was actually fun working with something like a oily play dough and I was done in record time. I vowed to do more fondant cakes in the future.

You can read about Sammy Lamby with Hunny Bunny (why they mean so much to us) at Sammy Lamby Cake. I did part in fondant, but the swirls of wool are of a tastier butter cream icing.

Last year was the first time we invited friends over for the Princess' birthday. We made it very special as you can read at Our Victorian Princess Tea Party. This cake was entirely fondant, but a different recipe so that it would have the matte finish. I enjoyed making this one so much and was quite pleased with how it looked and tasted.

The rocking horse shape was used to make this chocolate, fondant-iced cake, but the Princess wanted something more real life as she is into horses so it was to be a grass pasture rather than rockers. It looks like a rather fat pony to me, but she loved it. Although I love chocolate, I usually am not fond of chocolate cake, but this recipe was pretty good.

You are a welcome to come by for a sample, if you would like....

~ Thank you, my Lord, for this young life that has enriched my own so much. Thank you that I can bring her a bit of pleasure and teach her that a person can be creative with anything, if they are willing to try and learn. One day, I suspect that she will be making one of her cake creations for me. ~