Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I poison us?

It's about time we heard from the "Amber's Flops and Falls and What She's Learned From Them" category, isn't it? I don't like posting about other people's flops, but when it comes to my own, (though I've been told this shouldn't be the case) I actually enjoy sharing. It seems to lessen the embarrassment if I have other people laughing with me. (Note: not at me!)

Anyway...I'm sure you're wondering about the title of this post. Believe it or not, the title poses a serious question. Did I poison us?

The "us" is my family, and the "I" is me, of course. The poison....well, that showed up in the form of one of my famous recipes.

This is a recipe that I will not be sharing in its entirety, just encase some of you cannot resist the temptation to try any new recipe you read. This is not one you want to repeat.

It's a pity, though, because it tastes so good.

I've recently been put in charge of all breakfasts at this house. It's a nice arrangement because I don't mind getting up early and, believe it or not, I actually like thinking about food early in the morning. This morning I had planned to make granola.

BUT - and this is where I start to blush - I have been reading lately about how hard un-soaked grain is on your digestive system. Phytic acid in the grains needs to be broken down, or "predigested" in order for your body to truly make use of the nutrients. This can be done by soaking grain in a acid medium for several hours. Most grain-soaking recipes recommend using buttermilk or kefir to soak the grains, and to do so overnight.

SO - and this is where I started to get into trouble - I decided that dry-baked, ordinary, un-soaked granola (which I LOVE more than candy, by the way) was not the best thing to serve my family. No, no, not I. No indeed! I was going to serve my family soaked granola!

The plan was quite simple. Soak the oatmeal overnight, then in the morning pop it in the oven until it was dry again, and proceed to make the granola as normal. I knew the texture might be a little different, but figured it would still taste good.

We didn't have any buttermilk or kefir on hand, but I wasn't worried. Wasn't sour cream just as good? It was certainly similar. I dissolved a small scoop of the white stuff in 3 cups of water and poured it over the oats. Covering the bowl with a towel, I left it sitting on the table and went to bed.

This morning, I poured the thick mixture into a pan and popped it in the oven.

THIRTY minutes later, the stuff was still stiff and thick. It was a lot like oatmeal, only a little browner. I gave up on achieving the perfect crumbly texture, and mixed in - as well as I could - butter, brown sugar, honey, coconut, and walnuts. I sampled it. Mmmm, this stuff wasn't so bad! Back in the pan it went, to cook for another twenty minutes.

When it came out, I mixed in some flax seed and crumbled graham crackers (don't make a face - it's tasty this way!), and rang the breakfast bell. (Yes, I realize I've practically shared the recipe with you, but please just forget most of what I've told you.)

Mom dubbed the stuff "chewy granola." I kept the name and proclaimed the title to my siblings when they sat down at the table and asked what "that" was. They good-naturedly served themselves some, and we sat and had our normal breakfast time. One of my sisters and I even had second helpings of the granola.

I liked the taste, though one of my sisters said it would be much better if it wasn't almost too thick to swallow. Also, I couldn't quite figure out where that hint of sour taste was coming from. Two of my siblings asked me if I had put lemon juice in this "chewy granola." I assured them I hadn't.

Slowly, it dawned on me.

Was sour cream supposed to sit out over night? Could that little scoop of it be causing that sour taste in the whole batch of granola? I hoped not.

Breakfast over, we hurried to our tasks for the day. I got busy doing some sewing, and my mother took some of my siblings to the library. About 10:30 I found that I was developing a terrible stomach ache. At first I thought that maybe I had just had too much breakfast, but then it got worse. This was certainly the most painful stomach ache I've had in years. I wanted to double over and groan.

Shortly before noon, my mom called the house on her cell phone, just to see how things were going. When I told her how I felt, she mentioned that one of my younger sisters had been complaining of a stomach ache as well. It just happened to be the sister who had eaten a second helping of granola.

I didn't feel like eating at lunch time, but I ate a small something anyway, hoping to settle my insides. But it took until 3:00 for my pain to leave. My lower insides still feel strange.

My family is convinced that my granola is to blame. Sad thing is, I agree with them! But how could such a noble project go so wrong? All I wanted was to make things easier on our digestive system. I keep thinking there must be some way to make soaked granola. Edible soaked granola, that is. Should I try again?

Sad as the state of things is, I can't help laughing. There is a redeeming quality in being able to laugh at yourself. My life would be pretty miserable if I couldn't.

But you know what is terrible? My older sister, Heather, is taking a turn doing a breakfast tomorrow. She decided on zucchini bread (yes, it's that time of year again!). In the interest of saving time, she has already made the bread.

She's also already cut a slice to sample.

And she gave me a bite.

It's perfect. Delicious. Savory.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Reflections on the VA 2009 Homeschool Convention, Part 2

I'm back again - this time to finish publishing my notes from day 2 of the convention.

It came to my mind a few days ago that I didn't tell you about our time outside the convention center on day 1. Before I go into details about day 2, I have to finish day 1.

Driving around Richmond is always fun; so much to see and stare at. We don't exactly live in the country, but we're not from a huge city. There is a definite element of drama in visiting the big city. I wouldn't want to live in the downtown of any city, but I like visiting. It reminds me that the world isn't made up of all country folks.

I like walking the crowded sidewalks with my family (particularity my brothers and Dad) beside me. I like looking up at skyscrapers, so high they make me dizzy even when my feet are smack on the ground. I like the sidewalk shops, with doors open to the breeze, giving me glimpses of colorful merchandise packed on the shelves.

I like seeing the people. Many of them have bored, hopeless expressions as they slump on benches waiting for a bus. Teens in black clothes and silver jewels compete with each other in goofiness and bragging. Business men in dress clothes hurry across the crosswalks toward the skyscrapers. Ladies still in their nurses' uniforms park by the sidewalk to stop in a store on their way home from work. If you see another family with children, you know they are headed for the convention center, same as you.

The sidewalks near the conventions center are mainly red bricks. I love brick sidewalks - they're so quaint and sturdy. We did a lot of sidewalk-walking this trip, because on day 1 we got to the convention center late, so the parking garage was full, and we had to park several blocks away.

At first we thought we'd never find an empty parking space, but we finally pulled into a crowded public parking area, and paid for a space. We had driven around so much in looking for a parking space, that we were rather disoriented, and we had to get directions to the convention center from the man in charge. He told us the quickest way was through the alley and out to another street, then to turn left, walk two blocks, cross a crosswalk, and we'd be there.

Through the alley.

This was an experience.

Do you like mystery stories? I do - most of the ones I've read, anyway. You know how they always contain dark alleys and masked men? This alley would have been a perfect story setting.

No - there were no masked men there. And it was broad daylight. But it was mysterious, just the same.

Brick buildings, several stories tall, formed the human-built canyon. The space we entered was about five feet wide - just big enough for a car to squeeze through, if it wanted to.
Above our heads, rusty fire escapes were attached to the buildings, but there were no windows near the ground level. The alley had evidently been paved with asphalt many yeas ago, but in places the tar had worn away, and the old stone road was exposed to our feet. Here and there were puddles of gray water, giving a damp feeling to the cool shade of the buildings. The place smelled like a garbage disposal.

The alley twisted and turned, like the worn pavement under our feet, and took us around a left-hand turn, toward the sunlight. We passed a wide cement stairway going down below the street level, with a chain-link gate blocking the entrance. We wondered where it led. Further on, four brick steps led up the side of the wall on our left, to an antique door that was painted black. A wild sign had the name of some shop on it in bright colors. I wondered what the front door looked like.

And then we spilled out onto the brick side walk that bordered the street. Several people lounged about, waiting for the bus. We turned left and passed several shops on our way down the street. The sun was shining, the heat was reflected from the road, and everything was normal.


But kinda interesting. It was an experience.

Well, what do you know? I've taken so long telling you about where we parked on day 1 that I don't think I have time to record notes from day 2. And I still want to post about what's been happening in our garden! So much to say, and so little time. And I'm not really sure why I posted this little tale about an alley. I just thought that perhaps you'd find it interesting.

...I can't think of a way to end this blog post, so I'll say bye for now and get on later to - ahem - record my notes from day 2 of the convention.

Us at the convention with a family from our church. They are on the left, and we are on the right. Center guy in the black jacket is my brother Curtis (he graduated one week later!), then Mom is to the right of him, Tiffany is in front of her, Lezley is beside Tiffany, Dad behind Lezley, Heather next to Dad in the red, me behind Heather in the pink, and Justin beside me in the green. (Sorry about the poor photo quality. Dad's camera is not working very well lately.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Entry

Have you ever wondered what is must have been like when Jesus returned to Heaven?

Okay - I know He's God, and it's kinda funny to talk about Him not being somewhere, but as a man He had chosen to limit Himself to one place, and that one place was earth, not heaven. He'd been gone from there 33 whole years. No doubt my view of things is warped, as a human, but that seems like a long time to be away from anywhere, especially a place so wonderful as Heaven - where my Father dwells.

He left.

Those words alone must have caused great sorrow among the angels, but to have Him return and bless them with His presence again must have made them shout for joy! I think of myself as having a pretty good imagination, but this scene is beyond me. I don't know enough about Heaven, and angels - not to mention God the Father and His Son - to picture this in my mind. ...But somewhere inside me, beyond the reach of my mind's eye, I can feel what it must have been like. The very ground must have trembled.

The day He left earth and returned to Heaven...what rejoicing must have taken place among the hosts of Heaven! He had gone to earth as a humble baby. He returned as a conquering King. He had defeated death, and now led captivity captive. No doubt many more souls were in Heaven the day He returned than when He left - now they welcomed their King they had longed to see, and proclaimed His goodness and righteousness that enabled them to be there.

Jesus had fulfilled the Father's grand plan of the ages. He had completed the sacrifice that had been planned before the foundations of the earth were laid. No longer was His death in the future - it was finished! Nothing stood between man and God. The blood debt had been paid, the substitution made for those who were also called before the foundations of the earth were laid. His children had been bought. This was no suffering dying saviour who entered Heaven's gates, but the very Son of God in all His splendor - the Lamb looking as if it had been slain. The King of Kings, and LORD of Lords. The King of glory! Brilliantly bright in His light, awesomely strong in His power, and full of goodness and truth.

We have wished that we were there to see Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Can you imagine this entry, this march of victory? No Pharisees spoiled this march. No tears were shed over the city as He approached. This was grand, glorious, and perfect.

We hope to hear our Father say "well done, thou good and faithful servant" when we enter Heaven's gates, but can you imagine what the Father said to this Son? I don't think any language on earth could effectively translate whatever it was He said, but I'm sure it included the words "well done," and I can't imagine the volume with which those words were said. The golden streets themselves must have vibrated with the voice of the One who welcomed His Son.

What a day it must have been. Those gates - shut through all ages until the One worthy to enter had come - lifted up their heads and opened to the King of Glory. And I'm certain all of Heaven rang.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.
Psalm 24: 7-10

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reflections on the VA 2009 Homeschool Convention, Part 1

I've decided that every day is busy, so I might as well get on with that blog post I keep putting off until "things quiet down a little"...so here I am!

On Saturday my brother Curtis graduated from high school. My grandparents were in town, and we celebrated Father's Day together. Tomorrow is my father's birthday, and in this "in between" day we have green beans to can, sewing to do, and all the little things that make up a busy household. Life is life!

But that isn't the blog post I keep planning. Today I want to share some of my notes from the VA homeschool convention we had the pleasure of attending last week.

When I hear people talk about "sharing their notes" I often prepare myself to be bored, but I hope that these fragments of what struck me during the workshops will be of some help, amusement, profit, or encouragement to you. I don't take notes like most normal people - I don't really write down the main points of the speaker (usually). Instead, I write down things that I want to research when I get home, interesting trivia tidbits, and the like. So please bear with me, and just take whatever bits of this interest you.

We were blessed to be able to spend two days at the convention, and there were three workshops each day, plus a keynote session which everyone attended. I volunteered during one workshop, so I listened to five speakers plus the keynote speaker. To avoid hard choices, I'll simply share my notes in the order I attended the sessions:

Workshop #1: "Finding Hope in the Valleys of Life," by Mr. Steve Demme

My brother Curtis and I attended this workshop because it was our first chance to hear Mr. Demme in person. I wasn't sure what exactly he'd be speaking about, but the title sounded good, and I knew I wanted to hear him speak. For those of you unfamiliar with his name, this is the founder of the math curriculum, Math-U-See - a program I only used my last two years of high school, but which I fell in love with and plan to use with my own children some day. I knew Mr. Demme was an excellent math teacher, but through this session I got a glimpse into his personal life. He has a special-needs son, and this session focused on what to do when life gets tough. I had been having a very hectic and emotional week, and this was a breath of fresh air. You can see from my notes that I did a lot more listening than I did writing.

~ The wise man and the foolish man both got rain. (This may seem simple, but it was the first time this thought had presented itself to my brain. Profound!)
~ "God does not exempt us from suffering - He transforms us in it."
~ Learn how to breathe! Just let go and let it out. Psalm 55:22
~ When in the valley, we need three things: we need the body of Christ, we need to pray, and we need to read God's Word.
~ Note to self: check out thefamilythatstaystogether.org, joniandfriends.org. and "When Robin Prays."

Workshop #2: "Building a Family Based Business"

This workshop was geared more towards the business man or engineer who wants to work from home, as opposed to the cottage industry family, but we still were able to take some nuggets of profit away. You'll notice I have more of an "outline" in these notes, because I was basically just copying things off the screen instead of writing my own thoughts down.

~ To build a business, you must UNDERSTAND the customer
~ Entrepreneur Guidelines/Steps:
* Define your business views, principles, values, etc.
* Define your own skills, gifts, passions, experiences. List them.
* Evaluate your resources; money, time, physical, family
* Know what you're aiming for - think about the future, how the business might grow, and what that will mean for you.
* Analyse the following: Industry, Financial, Operation, Product/Service, Customer
~ Identify unmet needs, services to meet those needs, and resources to help you.
~ Are you going to buy a business, build a business, or franchise?
~ DO IT! Try, adjust aim, try, adjust aim, and try again. Don't spend all your time aiming and never firing!
~ Write a financial model. Talk to experts in your field.
~ Write market strategy.
~ Check out NewVentureLab.com

Workshop #3: Days of Old Herb Farm

This was a lot of fun. The speaker is a fairly new business gardener; a man who lost his job and turned to his hobby (gardening) to make a living. He now sells books he's written and travels to a few places to speak. I was impressed by his combination of knowledge and humbleness and eagerness to learn and try new things. I loved looking at the photos of his backyard in the presentation.

~ A website about a family who produces a $2,000 worth of food on 1/10 acre: pathtofreedom.com
~ If I plant pea seeds and get only 2 or 3 pods, I'm dissatisfied - what about spiritual seeds? Am I happy with low production?
~ Compare prices; grow the most expensive stuff, buy the cheap stuff.
~ Check out Bill Mollison
~ Raise In-Demand Dogs for money
~ Plant corn in circular heaps - the way Indians did
~ Check out John Jeavons "How to Grow More Vegetables."
~ Hexagon planting spacing
~ Have 2-4 hens in a "chicken tractor."
~ Check out "Victory Egg Garden" by George Lansing
~ Use "water glass" for preserving eggs. (This point really fascinates me. Anybody have experience with using water glass? I'm all ears.)

Keynote Session to end Day#1: by Voddie Baucham

Our favorite sessions were those by Mr. Voddie Baucham. Being encouraged academically is great, but being lifted spiritually is so much better. God's hand was on these sessions. My notes don't do it justice; I was too busy listening. This was our first time to hear Voddie Bachaum in person, and we loved it. We even got to speak very briefly with him afterwards.

~ Luke 6:40. The disciple will be like his master. (This thought, this promise, holds so much thought packed into one phrase. I will be like my master. This is good if my master is Jesus; it's an encouragement to not give up, and to remind me that He is faithful to complete what He starts. But this is also a warning; those whom I treat like my masters I will become like. It's also a sobering thought as I look ahead to being a parent someday. My children are going to be like me. Whoa! I'd better be following Christ!)
~ People make the right moral choices "not because they heard sermons on this topic, but because they have a biblical worldview."
~ The three foundational skills in education: Read! Write! Reason!
~ Worldviews are formed:
* Informed
*Over time
~ Elements of a worldview:
* View of God
*View of man
*View of truth
*View of knowledge
*View of Ethics

That sums up my notes from day 1 at the VA 2009 Homeschool Convention. I wanted to share both days in one post, but it's getting late, and I don't have the time to do day 2. I'll have to try again later. I guess you have plenty to digest in this post for awhile. Hope you enjoy at least a little of this!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The basket of wet laundry was only slightly heavy, and the damp clothes smelled like the damp earth and grass beneath my feet - only with a touch of fabric softener. As I hung the sheets, they snapped in the wind. It was one of those mornings when everything is so warm and humid that you don't realize a cool wind is blowing until you hold up a sail.

Turning to survey the yard behind me, and also to enjoy the sunshine (it's been raining a LOT lately!) I noticed a flash of green. A brilliantly colored inchworm sailed from his invisible thread, dangling from tree branches many yards above us. Though I was in the shade, he caught the sunlight - and the breeze. Twisting, tumbling, wiggling, he was visible, ...then disappeared, then reappeared.

What must it be like to sail like that? Such a thin thread - I cannot even see it - yet he flies high in one direction, then is blown far away in another. He is carried up into the sunlight, wriggling as if he enjoys the heat, then circles down, down, down, and yet does not hit the ground. His range is enormous, his thread amazingly long.

Turning back to the bedsheets, my eye follows the clothesline to the tree on which it is tied, and I see lichen growing there, cradled in the branches like fluffy quilts in a baby's bed.

I finish the clothes and go inside, but something pulls me back out for a closer look. I grab the camera, wanting a picture of the inch worm. I spot him from across the yard and step closer slowly, trying to find him in my camera lens.

It is a hopeless task. He flutters like a breath of wind. There is no holding him. He flies toward me like a miniature rocket, and I think I am going to catch him on film, but then he's gone, and I've lost sight of him again. It's okay, because the camera has stopped working anyway.

I slowly approach the tree and lichen. I've always hated that stuff. To me, it equals death. I know it only feeds on death, and therefore is an announcer, not the cause, but I have a hard time keeping the two roles separated in my mind. Lichen likes dead things.

This tree is my friend. As far back as memory goes, I have played around its roots, climbed its branches, had wooden swings hanging from a nice straight branch, leaned against its solid frame and soaked up warmth when I was sad, and pretended all sorts of plays around it. Somehow this tree is part of my childhood.

But trees have lifespans, too.

Lichen shows me what I've known for quite some time; my friend is dying. I want to hate these pale pink-white frills that are sucking up his remaining energy. But something stops me.

This lichen is actually pretty. It is unlike the dark red crinkles I've seen growing on other trees; it's light and plump. I reach out a gentle finger and stroke it, then quickly pull my hand back.

It's smooth, and dry...and rubbery. It actually feels...living. I take it between my fingers and pinch a fold of it. It's fat and strong. Part of me wants to squeal and say "ooooo yuck!"

But part of me is full of awe. He made this too. It's fascinating. It's unusual.

What a world this is. What creation is found in it. What a Creator we have.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Beans, Herbs, and Pea Pods

I'm back from the Homeschool Convention! ...Sore body and all. (I guess my tumble was harder than I thought - I had an extremely sore body over the weekend. :):) )

The convention was absolutely marvelous. I know I said before we left that I was hoping to meet some homeschool graduates - I didn't, but I met several very nice other people, and was blessed very much by the speakers I heard. And it was lovely to be able to just spend some time with my family.

There's something odd about me; I have a terrible time taking notes. Perhaps it's because, as a homeschooler, I didn't grow up listening to a teacher talk all day while I took notes, or perhaps it's just my personality, but when I hear someone speaking and know I'm supposed to take notes, I get overwhelmed. I want to write down everything they say. Then, of course, I can't even focus on what they're saying! It took me until I was well into my late teens before I got the hang of note-taking. But even now I don't usually take notes. I prefer to cram it in my head.

But at this convention, I took notes.

That's how good it was.

I hope to share my notes with you over the next few days. I'd like to share some tonight, but I also want to tell you what I did today, since that's freshest in my mind. (I have to organize my notes anyway.)

I canned green beans!

Four quarts, to be exact. All by my lonesome, too! Mom usually does the canning here, but she had something she had to do today and, as any gardener knows, beans don't wait for anyone.

So out I went, around 10:00, to sit in the bean patch and pick. I was thrilled by how heavily the beans have come on - in the two days we were gone, they went from pale purple blossoms to plump green beans. The picking was very easy. I was using a 5-quart ice cream bucket, and I filled it twice. Lezley had gone out and picked before me, and she filled a 4-quart bucket. I was very pleased with my little sister's determination and hard work!

Then I sat and snapped all those beans. Is there anything quite like the smell of fresh raw green beans, the fuzzy rough feeling of the beans snapping between your fingers, and the taste of beans in your mouth, to tell you that summer is on its way? Snapping beans always brings back so many memories for me. It's almost as good as looking through an old photo album.

Mom was out of the house, and as I snapped, a plan formed; what if I was to finish these beans before she got back? What if I was to can them all alone? The adventure attracted me...and so the challenge began. I poured over Mom's trusty Ball canning book as I finished the beans, and then headed out to the kitchen to try my hand at canning. I've watched Mom do it so many times....

I won't bore you with all the details, but I actually canned my first 4 quarts of beans! Mom got home before I had the jars in the canner, but she let me finish them. ..Except I had to run out, so she watched them while they cooked. And Dad helped me fix the canner just right before I started the jars in it, so I guess I didn't do everything. :) But it was still fun.

I also dehydrated my first herbs today. My basil plants have grown like crazy, and I picked a whole colander-full of sweet basil leaves. They filled the dehydrator to bursting. After supper, the leaves were dry and I started crumbling them into a glass jar. The pungent smell of basil hung in the air, and the leaves were sharp against my fingers.

You know what? Not only had the leaves shrunk as they dried, but they continued to decrease in volume as I crumbled them. By the time I was done, the green pile didn't even rise an entire inch above the bottom of the mason jar.

I stared at the little heap. So much work. So much fragrance. And my fingers condensed it all to this little pile. All the moisture removed; only the body of the leaves remain.

What an illustration, I thought to myself. How many people go through life piling up pleasant things, working hard for things they see as huge and important? And how much of what they pile will last through eternity? Will it crumble away? When their life is sifted through at the judgement seat, what will be left? A little pile? What will be left of my life? How much time do I spend on things that don't matter? What will be the size of my pile? When the moisture of worthless things has been dried away, what will be left?

That reminds me of something I heard at a gardening workshop at the convention. I'll leave you with this one thought from my notes:

"You plant seeds expecting to get more in return. If you planted peas and only got one or two pods back, you would be very upset. You expect a big yield; lots of peas! So why are you content with such small yield spiritually? Why is it okay to grow only a few spiritual pea pods on your plant? You would be upset if your garden plant did that poorly. Why aren't you upset about your lack of spiritual pods?"

I cannot answer this question to my own satisfaction.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I started my day out by falling down our basement stairs at 9:00 in the morning.

Praise the Lord; it could have been much worse. I was only five or six steps from the bottom when my flip flops lost their grip on the wooden stairs and came out from under me. I've lived in this house all my life, and in the thousands of trips I've made on those stairs, there have been many times when I tripped or missed a step. ...But I've never fallen. Always wondered what it would feel like.

Now I know. The moment I felt my feet slipping I tried to catch my footing, like I've done dozens of times but, though my feet hit against the edge of the step, they kept slipping off and in another instance I realized I could not stop myself from falling.

I half-fell, half-slid down the steps - trying to stop the whole way. It was strange, because my feet and lower back were hitting the steps, and my hand gripped the railing, but everything slid anyway. I couldn't grip my hand strongly enough, and my feet kept slipping out from under me.

I think I scared Mom a little, because she was in the kitchen above me and heard me fall, then groan at the bottom on the cement floor, and for a minute I couldn't answer when she called "what was that?!" Thankfully, I'm safe and sound - just very sore. :):)

In retrospect, I can't help thinking that those moments were a lot like my week. All week long I've been feeling like a runner on a treadmill that won't shut off - I've been constantly on the go. And I've felt like I was slipping - losing control of my happiness and contentment.

Some people thrive on a hectic lifestyle.

I don't.

I don't mind being busy, but this type of busy is terrible to me. I'm out of the house 3-4 hours a day, and when I'm here I'm trying to catch up on cleaning, writing, reading, and sewing...with little time left for other things. Besides farm sitting, I also have a major cleaning project going on in my sewing area, sewing to do, and I have to pack and get ready for our trip to the convention, plus the garden needs some work. I'm staying up late and trying to get up early - usually failing, and cutting into the time I usually use for my Bible reading.

Gasp! Dare I share such things on the world wide web? I guess I dare. I'm not happy with things being this way for so long, but you know what? God uses even circumstances I'm not happy with to teach me...so in a way, I am happy. I've learned many lessons this week...and felt many more. I'm glad I've gone through this week. There have been nuggets of pleasure dropped all along my path (there the resemblance to falling down the stairs doesn't hold true). I've had moments of sweet fellowship with friends and family. I've met new people. I've felt a closeness with my Saviour. I've got an almost-clean sewing area!

But there have been bumps too, and now that I'm almost at the end I'm starting to feel sore. And I think I may have worried my family a little, with my groaning. ;)

The week isn't over yet - and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week are equally busy. In fact, all of June is pretty packed. But I think I'm getting my second wind.

Forgive me for rattling on. My life can't sound very exciting or applicable when you aren't living it yourself. If you get nothing else out of this post, get this; when you are going through life at a pace that displeases you, and feeling like you're swimming with your wrists tied....go ahead and let go of fighting. It's too stressful. Cast yourself upon the Raft of Jesus Christ, and let Him give you the grace to keep going - and not only keep going, but to keep going with joy and peace and pleasure. Laugh a lot. Pray even more. And remember nothing lasts forever.

What a life this is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Virginia Homeschool Conference

Are any of my Virginia-resident readers planning on going to the annual Virginia Homeschool Convention in Richmond? We'll be there, Lord willing!

Yes - the day after I finish farm-sitting we'll be heading off to Richmond. This year we'll actually be spending the night and staying for both days of the convention - something we've only done once before.

To tell the truth, my family has only been to the convention twice in past years. I find it amusing that I've lived all my life in Virginia, been homeschooled through all 12 grades in Virginia, and only went to Virginia's homeschool convention once while actually in school. After this weekend, I will have gone twice while out of school.

Many of the families who go to the convention are younger, just starting out on their homeschooling journey, but there are some families there who, like my own family, have members who are out of school and yet come with their family because they have younger siblings who are still in school. Though I love meeting people of all ages, I have to admit I'm hoping to get to meet some other homeschool graduates at the convention - and isn't making new friends one of the best parts of travel?

And of course it will be delightful just to spend time with my own family as we travel together - 'specially after such a busy two weeks. I've had moments in the past few days when I felt as though I hadn't said "hello" or "good morning" to half my family before it was time to say "goodnight!"

The speakers at the convention this year (Vodie Baucham will be there!) and the topics of the sessions all seem to promise a time that is not only fun but also spiritually-lifting and educational - many of the sessions are focused on entreprenurialism and family-run agricultural home businesses, which I am really excited about. My parents are excited about those sessions, too. :)

I wish I had time to update you on our garden; the tomatoes are around 5 feet high, the corn is almost waist-high, (except for the plants we had to replant), the squash bores seem to be visiting again this year, the beans are loaded with blossoms, the brocolli is almost finished, the peas are yeilding better than we thought they would after collapsing the trellis under their own weight...lots of stuff going on.

But I really don't have time to go into all that. In a little while I need to go finish spray-painting another layer of paint on a trashcan I'm dressing up. I've been cleaning my sewing area and I wanted a brightly-colored trash can to match my red-and-white theme. My sewing area sure needs the makeover! I considered taking before and after pictures to share with you, but truly didn't have the nerve to share "before" pictures. It was that bad.

But it's starting to look good now! Maybe I'll have it done before the convention.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Week

Can it really have been 5 days since I last posted? Well, then again, I can believe it. I've had so much going on - I felt like I was living 48 hours in each day!

My week began with a sewing camp; a 4-day event I've been planning for several months. This was a suggestion of my sister, Heather. She hosted a music camp a few years ago, and it turned out very well. I was a little unsure how a sewing camp would be received. I admit I first became interested because it was a way to make money over the summer, but after day 1, I knew I was going to have a blast, and I sure did! I'm so glad now that we had the camp.

Each morning started at 9:30, and went until noon. The girls each had a reversible apron completed by the end of 4 days, as well as basic knowledge about reading a pattern, hand sewing, and mending. I loved watching them spread their wings and try new things, as well as getting to know one another throughout the week.

Don't you love how they match - two blue shirts, two green? It happened by accident.
Pockets for the aprons. The girls were so patient while learning how to sew the hearts on by hand!

My own sis.
You know how it can sometimes be hard for a younger sibling to take instruction from an older one? I was so proud of Tiffany's work during the camp. She followed directions and worked so carefully and beautifully!

Then, of course, we had to show off our hard work!

Go Emily! You worked so neatly.

You too, Tiffy! Take a bow!

Sorry about the closed eyes, Julie, but you did great all week long! So proud of you!

You too, Soleil! Keep on smilin' and sewin'!

All finished!

Me with the girls.

So ended the sewing camp. During the afternoons I stayed busy in the kitchen, running errands, and cleaning.

But the week wasn't over yet (still isn't!). On the very day the sewing camp ended, I started farm-sitting for some acquaintances of ours. This place has 14-15 alpacas to care for, 1 cat, and 4 guard dogs - and I am in charge of them all for 8 days! I drive out there twice a day, and spend about an hour each time cleaning up poop in corrals, exercising the dogs, feeding, filling water buckets, cleaning food bowls, and so on.

Here are "the girls" - mamas and babies.

Did I mention it also started to rain here on the day I started farm-sitting? It's hardly let up since. The ground has become a muddy swamp, and this morning I did all my work in pouring rain. My boots and skirt were soaked up to my knees by the time I was done, I was covered with mud, and I had raindrops falling off the end of my nose. My brothers were helping me, and they were soaked too.

But we didn't care - we were having fun! The guard dogs are very lovable after I "passed inspection." Boy, can they bark deep! The sound alone would put fear into me if I was trespassing - and they have the teeth and body to back up their bark! I'm sure glad we're pals! They think I'm the cookie lady, I think. :) They are anatolian shepherds, and at 9 months old they are still puppies, but already big. "Mr. Green" is my favorite. He's the most aggressive to strangers, but also the most affectionate to me. Here we are, squinting up through the rain:

I need to get to bed so I can get up early and go out there again. Can't wait to see them!

The week isn't quite over yet. :)

Blessings to all of you!