Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thats My Girl!

It's not often that one gets to be a hero. It usually necessitates being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it  involves having the right set of skills for the situation. It always requires a willingness to get involved; Right Now. All of those variables lined up together today and I got to watch my daughter become a hero.
Here's how it happened: The kids and I were all dressed up for a funeral for an old friend in the next town. We were driving Tori to work and pulled into a gas station just before the intersection of an Interstate Highway. As I started to pump the gas, we all saw a thoroughbred horse running past us! This horse was obviously running loose and had just turned off the highway onto the side street we were facing. A number of cars and a truck were following alongside of it and we could hear someone shouting at the horse.It was obvious that this horse was a runaway and needed to be caught!  Tori got out of the car and asked me if she could help. I appreciated this because we all knew that if she did, we would be late for the funeral. Having been taught that "life is for the living", I immediately told her to "go for it" knowing that she could be a real asset in this improbable situation.
She took off  on foot to catch up to this horse parade. When I finished pumping the gas, we drove into the neighborhoods about a quarter mile and found a number of vehicles pulled over including a sheriff's car and an unmarked police car with lights flashing. They were at the end of a cul-de-sac which happened to be fenced. As I came closer I got excited wondering if indeed, Tori had been able to help. Sure enough, there I saw her and another lady helping the horse which was being walked around, securely fastened on a lead rope! Tori had been able to help catch the horse! She had then put the halter back on which had become twisted  up. Using a knife borrowed from one of the men there, she had also removed the horse's blanket which was bunched up around it's legs.
The horse was in bad shape and bleeding heavily from all four hoofs and it's lower legs.We found out that this horse had been running along a major highway for 7 miles!!!! It had been followed by folks in cars trying to find an opportunity to corral it. No one knew who the owner was and phone calls were being made to find a trailer to take the horse out of the residential neighborhood. It was amazing that this situation hadn't caused an car accident somewhere along the way. If it had gotten into the middle of the huge intersection near-by, it could have been much worse.
Having done all she that she could, Tori got back into our car with blood on her hands and I took her to work.We were all so thrilled with the chase and the successful outcome. Tori was shaking a little and we all told her how proud of her we were.This horsewoman was in the right place at the right time and didn't hesitate to do what she could to help.To God be the Glory! The rest of us went on to our funeral, and were only five minutes late!

Spirit Night

We recently hosted a fund-raiser for a youth organization at Chick Fil-A. I LOVE Chick Fil-A! There is no comparison between it and McDonalds. They are in totally different leagues!
The food is so fantastic, although pricey, and I love that they are closed on Sundays. They actually have it posted that they close on Sundays so that their employees can worship and be with their families. Of course it always seems that when I want to go to Chick fil-A, it is a Sunday! This sets up  a stronger desire to go, because now I can't!!!! By heeding the Ten Commandments, this business is no doubt more successful than it would be by being open seven days a week. Imagine that.

Chik Fil-A allows groups that are doing something good for the community to host a Spirit Night at their restaurants.The group has a specific date and time and they advertise amongst themselves to have dinner there during that time period.Chick Fil-A will then donate 10% of the total receipts sold during that period, if folks mention your group name.We advertised to family and friends...
and some of them came out to join us!
They also offer their Spin-The-Wheel game to the group to use. For 50 cents, a spinner can win free food. Most of this food requires a purchase but the ice cream and brownies are free. The group is allowed to keep all the money they make from this game.
Another mother and myself were in charge of this fund-raiser.We worked hard on it, exchanging many e-mails to hash out the details.We brought our teen-age daughters to the initial meeting with the marketing director as this was their group and we wanted them involved. All of the teen-agers in our group volunteered to help during our Spirit Night.
 At last the big night arrived. I invited my entire family and treated all those who could make it to a delicious chicken and waffle-fries dinner which included milkshakes! Sam and John helped out with the door opening and greeting and Miss J. helped folks to spin-the-wheel.
Sam was a big help in leading the cow around for safety and then got to wear the suit himself, making his night! Disappointingly, when all was said and done, we raised only 130 dollars for our group! I know that I spent more than a third of  that on food! At first, I thought that maybe I had wasted my time and energy on organizing this kind of fund-raiser. It would have been so much easier to just write a check! Of course it would have been- but that misses the point!!! I have come to realize that we achieved our goal- our teen-agers  worked together to do their own fund-raising. Sometimes that can be a slow process.
       It also shows that Chick Fil-A does have a very successful business model!  I know that we brought in customers, just not enough to make a huge difference when you are talking only 10%. At Spirit Night, our family enjoyed a good dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and our teen-agers increased their team spirit by working together to pull this off.  

Medieval Castle

We purchased this castle kit for Meg when she was studying the Middle Ages. I'm not sure if that was when she was in 8th grade or 10th because this topic is covered in both years of  Mother Of Divine Grace's history curriculum.
She assembled about half of it before moving on to other things. It has been stored on a shelf, unfinished for at least six years. 

Sam asked if he could finish it and worked on it off and on for about a month making a great deal of progress.

Then Natalie came home from school with an assignment to bring in a castle! While she worked on other aspects of her project, Sam got hot on finishing this thing up. There is nothing like a deadline to get things completed!
Although this kit was wonderful, it was definitely harder than it looks to glue these buildings together and to assemble the roofs and turrets.

Somewhere along the way I had thrown out the main tower to the castle but we were able to improvise and it was hardly noticeable. As it happened, Sam and I were up long after Natalie had gone to bed on the night before this was due. I didn't mind. It was nice for him as a homeschooler to experience this kind of pressure. It had to be finished and it had to be good!
Sam added the little cardboard people that came with the kit to the courtyard. Horses and mounted men holding javelins in a mock jousting match were glued across the moat. The last thing to be done was to attach the castle to some very sturdy cardboard for carrying purposes.

Thanks to her brother's and sister's help, this castle, which was at least six years in the making, helped Natalie to get an A on her Middle Ages project!  Do I have a problem with that?  Not at all! That's what family's for.Together, we can get the job done.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Of Mud and Men

These happy guys are giving the thumbs up sign after a great day of riding ATV's  in the mud!!!!Need I say more? Why not....!!!
 As the mud covered quads came in on the trailer, Jon got on for some vicarious fun! That means, he wished he could have gone with them! He soon will because they just picked up another one to share!
These are the results of their adventures, all of which were removed before coming into the house.
Heavy rains were predicted for our area so I set everything up for a good rinsing. Why did I do it instead of leaving it for them? Because I can't help myself! Doing someone else's work is always more fun than doing my own!
These actually don't look too bad in comparison but I still didn't want caked mud in the washer.
The torrential rainstorm  missed us and only about an inch fell. It didn't do the job...
Larry set up a custom clothesline for this operation and sprayed off each piece a number of times. Seeing the mud and how much all the guys are enjoying these ATV's,  I was reminded of a quote by one of America's greatest and most-loved heroes, George Washington.  He once wrote " Let Thy pleasures be manly, not sinful."
 Riding ATV's in the mud is manly. So is cleaning up the mess that it creates!

Ash Wednesday

Through late February and early March, a few Mom's Blogs started to pine for Lent. I won't go that far but I did start to notice that there was plenty of room for improvement in my behavior and attitudes. Lent is a time for realizing our "nothingness" without the Grace of God. It is somewhat like a spring cleaning for the soul.While the ashes are being applied to the forehead the priest says, "You are dust and to dust you shall return". It is a penitential time to reflect on the temporariness of this life's pleasures in  contrast to the REALITY of  eternal life. The Church asks us to fast, pray and give alms.
         During Lent, many Catholics give up something that they enjoy in order to deny themselves for a change. God, of course, doesn't need our sacrifices. We need Him, however. I am more aware of my utter weakness when I am struggling with temptation. A mistake is to go through Lent on my own steam. I am doomed  to fail. I once heard a priest say in his homily that Every temptation can be overcome with God's help. I didn't know that. The idea is to be brought to our knees where we  beg God to help us in the Spiritual Battle that is constantly being waged all around us and may I say in us.
        This year I  added some character flaws to my line up of things to give up. This has been an exercise in being aware of just how often I do plunge into anger, impatience, criticism and complaining. Obviously I can never get rid of these by wishful thinking. I believe that God can help me resist these temptations by praying right then and there for His help (and then by keeping my mouth shut). I continue to fail to do that! This Lent I am more aware of my unworthiness but have full confidence in His unfailing Mercy and Love.I hope that I will develop some more compassion for my children's occasional foibles by seeing how constantly I fall and how willing He always is to help me. Maybe by the end of Lent, the flaws that I picked out would be less of a problem if  I could be more merciful to them as He is with me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cooking with Carl

Last Sunday afternoon we shared a wonderful meal with our friend, Carl, who has been a friend of our family for many years. He wanted to treat us to his special meatloaf. He put it together and brought it here, and then he and I cooked for the next two hours together to create a feast for the family.
Carl made the biggest and most delicious meatloaf, ever! He prepared it in this stainless steel chafing dish which just fit into my full-sized oven. Here is his general recipe: 5 pounds of ground meat, a reg. can of tomato sauce, a small can of tomato paste, a bag of carrots cut into "matchsticks" which are available in the produce section, onions, green peppers and MUSHROOMS (mmmmm!) all sauteed together, 6 pieces of bread including the crusts, torn into pieces, some milk and spices and probably some bread crumbs. This is all I remember. After baking it uncovered for an hour and a half, he applied the topping which is ketchup mixed with brown sugar. This baked on for another 15 minutes or so.
He also happened to bring a family-sized package of chicken drumsticks! These he rinsed in a colander, patted dry and gently agitated in a plastic bag containing "Autry's Chicken Breader".
In Crisco shortening, Carl allowed the chicken to fry for about 45 minutes or so, turning carefully every 15 minutes.
When it was finished cooking, Carl asked if we happened to have any honey! I just started to buy honey again because I love it on toast for breakfast. He poured this over the fried chicken.
Right about now the house was smelling Fantastic, driving the neighbors crazy, no doubt!
 When the chicken was finished, Carl began to prepare his "Orange-Glazed Carrots".The carrots were actually canned, sliced carrots which I didn't even know you could buy. In a separate saucepan, Carl heated up orange juice and sugar.When it boiled, creating an orange syrup, he added a quarter cup of corn starch mixed in water using a whisk.
Cinnamon and Nutmeg were added to the glaze.
He drained the cooked carrots and slowly added the thickened orange glaze to them.
My portion of the dinner was easier! I made Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary cooked in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. These always turn out very well.
By Carl's special request, I also made Collard Greens and Bacon.These were the best I have ever made because the collards were so tender and fresh- it was like they were "Spring" greens.
Many of the kids showed up for this incredible feast and we had a large tablefull.
 I thoroughly enjoyed cooking with Carl.Wearing our aprons, we talked for two hours  about food and life. I forgot to take a picture of the desserts I had ready. One was Lemon Poundcake made with a pound of butter, 10 eggs and 3 fresh lemons and the other was our family favorite, Fat Man's Delight.You can be sure that we all ate too much of this fabulous feast. Thank you, Carl, for your wonderful gift of  food, time, and talent. It was a meal and an afternoon that we will all remember. 


In my experience, some of the best books written for young men are " The Hardy Boys" series by Franklin W. Dixon. These are the very first chapter books that I read aloud to my older boys years ago.They loved them and read them on their own after thoroughly enjoying the many that we read aloud together.
Remembering how close Jeff and Greg and I felt while sharing these books made me read them aloud to Sam and John. Like their brothers, both of them fell in love with these adventure stories and have been reading them continuously all year.

The wild and dangerous  scrapes that Frank and Joe Hardy get into and get back out of has inspired the boys' new game of "Sleuthing". The boys dress up in army vests and go into the neighborhood with flashlights and jackknives to look for clues.When I was a kid, we called this " Peeping Tom". This is Sam's Crime Lab, located in his closet where he can investigate evidence that they discover while sleuthing.
 What the boys get the biggest kick out of is how much "freedom" the Hardy Boys, who are upperclassmen in high school, have! They each have a motorcycle, a car to share, and a motorboat ready to go at all times.They love their Mom whose main function is to encourage them to eat the delicious meals she is always cooking! Frank and Joe are often tied up, sometimes to the railroad tracks, beaten and kicked and are on the go all day and night helping their dad, Fenton Hardy, to solve mysteries. Each Hardy Boys book is twenty chapters worth of fantastic vocabulary and arm-chair gripping suspense! These young detectives and their excellent chums, Chet, Bif and Tony, get into very dangerous situations and are always real gentlemen, especially with their occasional dates, Callie Shaw and Iola Morton.

They are wonderful heroes and I highly recommend  these books to every middle-school aged boy. John read three of them this week!