Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Birthday Bash

Larry just celebrated a milestone birthday and he expressed a desire for a party! Tori planned a get together that also included my birthday as we are born a week and five years apart. Although I heavily resisted the idea of a party, I had a wonderful time and appreciated everyone taking the time to send good wishes.
Luckily, it wasn't a surprise so we could all clean the house on Saturday and prepare the refreshments.
Slow cooked pork butt made for a delicious BBQ, with homemade cole slaw, served on potato rolls.
It hit the spot.
Cindi brought a vegetable tray and we all were amazed that the cauliflower got eaten up first.
When does that ever happen?
In addition to our own family, we had Mom and Dad and some of our cousins who came to join us. That all helped to make the party great fun. Very typically, I will prepare for a party and be all ready but have forgotten the most important part- to invite folks! I am always under the impression that people are too busy and I don't want them to have to buy a gift etc....As it turned out, there were no gifts but only cards and good wishes. That suited me perfectly! I couldn't imagine having to give gifts so close to Christmas and that was freaking me out.

At the same time, Sundays are great for visiting! There is always enough food, for like the loaves and fishes, it multiplies to feed everyone. Next time, I need to pick up the phone to invite more family and not feel like I am imposing on their free time. We do try to run a guilt free operation here, so when Jeff and Chelsea texted to say they just couldn't make it, we all let them know how glad we were that they could just say that and then stay home to get something necessary accomplished!

One of these contests was very evenly matched and took awhile to complete. The other one was not so evenly matched and was over in seconds!
It is always a pleasure to see our grandchildren and in fact, we had four generations present as we often do.
How sweet it is!
Natalie came in later after a day of fox-hunting to join the festivities, happy that everyone was still there.

Grandma and Grandpa brought us balloons for the purpose of giving away to all the children, which the kids all loved. Maybe we will continue their tradition of giving gifts on our birthday to the grandchildren instead of receiving them!
I appreciate the effort that Tori put into organizing this party and for getting a special cake made. It was a lot of fun and I am so glad that my fears gave way to appreciating the moment. You never know how many birthdays one will have and I am glad that we could celebrate this one together and with our family as well.

Holiday Reading

It took me over a month to re-read Emma by Jane Austin. Between getting ready for Christmas and the regular duties of a busy mother, free time for reading didn't happen. Also this book is deep and a few pages are plenty to read at a time because they provide so much food for thought. Early on, I had to put the book down to watch the movie on NetFlix. I had to see again how everything would turn out. I kept seeing so many of my own character flaws in the well intentioned but bungled meddling of the main character! It was painful.I will say that the movie with the lovely Gynneth Paltrow is very close to the book and a delight to see.
Now I have begun Mansfield Park by the same author. I have never read this before but saw the movie on NetFlix which is spectacular. The characters are very interesting and so full of human nature. For some reason I used to think that people of times past were "better"than we are, being less selfish etc. Not so! We all seem to have our little plans and designs and this book captures some of them. I absolutely love how the characters in these novels speak more directly than we do in saying what they really mean, but they do it with perfect manners at all times. My manners are quite odd at times and I am trying to take a lesson from these ladies as I read!
John has read some more Orson Scott Card novels, Children of the Mind and Speaker for the Dead. These books continue the Ender's Game series. This author must be work very hard, for all the books he has written.
Juby has read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell for her Seton book report. She will need to start writing that up, in a five paragraph essay format, later in the week.
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes is a Newberry Medal winner and our current Read Aloud. Ginger is the Pye family's dog who is pretty special and winds up being stolen. This book was written in 1951 and I am astonished at how free the children are to roam around town all day and into the evening without their parents. This is a completely foreign concept to modern day kids but I remember and lived  (a decade or so later) during the time when this was normal. Also, these kids never watch a screen in the book but are constantly having adventures and finding things to do outside. I miss those days! We haven't finished it yet but I do hope they find their dog.

Fresh Bread

A good friend of mine has the awesome job of picking up the leftover bread from that day's supply at an upscale local bread store, once per week. Her duty is to deliver it to a Food Bank in the next town.

 Twice now it has so happened that the Food Bank was closed due to snow or a holiday. I have been able to assist her in dispersing big boxes of this delicious artisan bread and pastries!
It is certainly to their credit that the bread store/restaurant goes to the trouble to make sure this bread is sent to feed the poor and that the food is not wasted. In order to accomplish this same goal when the food bank is closed, it is great fun for me to deliver loaves of uncut bread to my friends and every family I can get to until it is gone, all in one day.
After visiting my neighbors, I headed up to  Mom and Dad's house to visit. We picked up the little cousins to visit at Mom's with us after setting them up at home with of loaves, baguettes and pastries to eat and freeze.
The bread is sent out of the store in big boxes and part of the management process for me has been to bag it up in family sized portions in plastic grocery bags. I took the bread up to Mom's to help give it away.
 We fed the kids some cupcakes...
and had a wonderful visit.
Before I left Mom's, I was able to package up the sweets nicely because they had all been put into one large box.
Not wanting so many calories in my house, I continued to pass out the bread and pastries to more friends until 10 pm that night when it was all gone. This was a super fun job because everyone was pleased to receive a bag of fresh-smelling, specialty baked bread to enjoy over the cold weekend, to eat with a pot of soup or chili, perhaps.

A Close Call

This is the scene of the car crash that Natalie had on a recent icy night. Sure enough, as I have often heard, this area is less than 5 miles from home. Traveling too fast down a very long, steep sloped hill, she hit black ice. She braked and began a series of twists, turns, going from side to side and wound up in this creek. The jeep landed passenger windows side down, over the edge of the embankment in this icy cold water.

A passerby, (not the first because the car was not well visible from the road), saw her lights and stopped to help. With super-human strength, and no doubt with the assistance of both of their Guardian Angels, he lifted her door up so that she could crawl out. She called us from his cell phone crying that we had to get there right away.

I grabbed a blanket and started to make haste to get there, terrified at what I might find. Larry had already gone to bed so he quickly dressed and we headed there as fast as we could safely make it on this ICY night with freezing rain. There she stood with not a scratch on her, shaken up and apologetic for taking the car out on such a night. By then three other vehicles had stopped to help. I was so grateful to all the gentlemen who chose to Get Involved. I thanked them all from the bottom of my heart and try to remember their intentions in my prayers.

When the policemen got there, they needed her license. Sam, who came with us to the scene, crawled into the jeep to fish around for it and was successful. This time, it took two men to lift the door straight up without the aid of adrenaline and God's Grace! The side of the jeep was flush with the road because this is an embankment and the angle for lifting anything was terrible.

 The windows all broke on the passenger side and Natalie said that she was beginning to panic. Hearing the creek water  running into the car, she thought that all the fluids from the engine were leaking and would soon explode. The passenger door mirror is still in the creek when these pictures were taken over a week later. They don't capture the cold, snowy, icy, rainy, dark night as it happened. When the  tow truck arrived, he took one look at the car and said that what we needed was a wrecker. That was promptly dispatched. At that point we went home, carefully traveling the icy roads and slid around ourselves .It had taken me awhile to call home to say that Natalie was alright and Juby had been sobbing, holding the calendar that Holly and Tom had made for us on the page filled with pictures of her beloved sister.

The jeep was declared a total loss. We are sad to have lost it but are Thanking God that we didn't lose our daughter. For days afterward, we were all in a state of shock knowing how fast your life can change. We were acutely aware of coming close and experiencing a near miss to death or a  serious injury.


Meg told me that she occasionally has the chance to work on Sudoku puzzles at work when things are slow. I explained that I tried one once but was no good at it. I then watched her complete one and got the bug! These things are fun and addicting!  Pulling up some You Tube videos, I learned more techniques for solving these number puzzles.
During my first week of attempting to finish the daily puzzle published in the newspaper, I went to visit Mom and Dad at home and found Dad working away on his book of them
He has been doing them for years and has developed some great strategies for eliminating possible numbers for each square, block, row and column.
So far, I have determined that I can solve only Easy puzzles. Dad can do the difficult ones but it can take him awhile. Meg says that she sometimes has to walk away from a puzzle and then can "see" a solution when she looks at it a fresh. I am so excited to join this craze and am now delighted to pour a hot cup of coffee and sit down with one of these puzzles for a little bit of leisure each day if I can.


Juby received a Kindle as her big Christmas gift from Jeff and Chelsea. She is the last one in a long line of siblings whom Jeff has spoiled on Christmas with something extra special. She is a terrific reader and she loves her new Kindle! It is her first piece of technology and she has figured out how to download good books from a collection that Jeff uploaded to our computer. I thought you had to get downloads at the public library so we brought her USB cord there when next we visited. I was amazed that you are supposed to do all that from home!
She is using the dictionary section to fill in her vocabulary words above. I don't mind that. She knows how to look words up in a real book dictionary. She is writing the words' definitions in her vocabulary workbook and having fun at the same time.
So far, she has read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and most of The Diary of  a Young Girl   by Ann Frank. I am a firm believer in the idea of "You are what you read", so I will supervise carefully what is downloaded onto her Kindle. I may even get to try reading on her Kindle because she obtained the Jane Austen novel Mansfield Park, hoping that I would read it that way instead of in book form.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Science Fair

On New Year's Day, we asked the kids to get out their homework. The Christmas break was over and it was time to get ready to go back to school the next morning. Shortly afterward, I found John sobbing, extremely upset and absolutely overwhelmed. He showed me a packet of papers about the science fair project which he received in October. The project was due in seven days and he hadn't started it yet. After I convinced him that yes, he did indeed have to do it, I reassured him that I would help him to get the job done.

That began a 30 hour marathon of working together day and evening for five days straight.The first two days of this week, he discussed his ideas for an experiment with his older brothers and sisters and we all tried to figure out a project that was doable in this time period. Snow had fallen and in fact that is what saved the day. Three successive days of school cancellations occurred, wrapped around a weekend  and we didn't loose power! What a fabulous gift of TIME!

Luckily, we have old encyclopedia sets which John used. He had to write a research summary and there were TWELVE other parts to the written portion of this project in addition to the backboard. Charts and graphs, hypothesis, procedure, variable, constant, dependent, independent, conclusion and bibliography were the words of the day. Luckily, John is great on the computer and I love to manage things and people!
At seven o'clock on the evening before it was due, the project was completely finished. What a feeling of accomplishment! We worked together very well for which I was extremely grateful. I drove him into school the next morning with the big backboard and the bound booklet with all the written work in report form. I was excited to hear about how the teacher liked it all. He said that he turned in the backboard but didn't know where to put the book portion of it so he didn't turn that part in... At that point things got a little loud around here!  What the ??????????  John had to then call the teacher at home to tell her that he had indeed finished the project but didn't know where to put the book portion of it as she had only told them where to put the boards. He learned all about it being HIS responsibility to make sure that he turns in things when they are due even if the teacher doesn't say anything about them.

I am grateful that I was able to scrap all of my weekend plans and that the family could eat sandwiches for five days because this project took everything John and I had.  I give the teacher very little credit for actually teaching seventh graders how to manage and execute a project with this many steps. Breaking this down into small chunks with the teacher checking the work would have made more sense to me as I didn't know a thing about this being assigned or due. Nevertheless, this whole experience was like the best of both worlds between homeschooling vs. going to school. This mother had the opportunity to teach John all the steps from taking notes to final editing which I hope will serve him well the next time he has a complex assignment, like a teacher would. Meanwhile, we had to accomplish such a large task which I might have been reluctant to assign as a homeschooling mother because of the intensity of the workload!

The Task of Hemming

I like to hem slacks and recently hemmed this teal colored sweat suit for Grandma Dolly...
and two pairs of scrub suit bottoms for Tori.
Grandma F. taught me how to hem and I still do it that same way.
I think of her when I have the rare opportunity to sew a hem.
I appreciate the fact that she taught me this life long skill which I really enjoy doing when I get the chance.
If you need something hemmed, bring it by!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day was crowded! It was abundantly full of family, food and fabulous gifts given as expressions of love. 
As our family grows, our living room gets smaller. We may have to go to an artificial tree just to save space!
Last year when Jeff and Chelsea were engaged, she noticed that the gift exchange (one present at a time) took too long. I was conscious of that as I shopped, and got fewer presents this year. Jeff said that I had it backwards. Now that she is married into the family, she has no choice and we should take even longer! Haha! We did speed things up so that we could enjoy visiting and eating.
 The most exciting gift of the day was Greg and Cindi's photogragh of a little family of safety pins with a tiny safety pin inside of one of the big ones. it took us all a few seconds and then screams of congratulations ensued as we registered their fantastic announcement.

                                                           Jon was feeling the love!
Handsome and Patience had a great day together and swept the kitchen with his new broom kit.
                                    The G-man loved his new game, Hungry Hippos.

By God's Grace, it was another very Merry Christmas.