Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year and Black Eyed Peas

There was one major tradition that I was introduced to when I started dating my husband.  His Dad firmly believes that eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day brings prosperity.  With having a third generation family business, prosperity is a serious matter.  It doesn't matter who you are, how long you have been in the family, or if you even like the way they taste - if you are in the family you eat black eyed peas. PERIOD I remember when we first started dating, I could hardly swallow one black eyed pea.  Then as the years went by I would act like a five year while trying to swallow one spoonful with a huge glass of tea.  Nineteen years later, I can honestly say that I have grown to like these little peas...beans...peas - it's confusing, man!  I do think the name has a lot to do with the distaste; black eyed beans, black spotted beans, white and black beans all sound so much better. So now, I look forward to this deep-rooted, Southern tradition.  Our kids have joined in since they were on solid food.  However, their opinion are split on the issue.  They all agree to eat them because of the tradition of prosperity, however, their love for the pea/bean varies.  Our oldest will choke down one and only one with a huge glass of tea.  Then he will grimace and shake as if he just made a huge sacrifice for our family business.  Our middle child will eat and eat and eat multiple bowls of black eyed peas... only for the rest of us to suffer in misery later...  Our youngest will gladly eat her bowl while proudly proclaiming how they are "full of protein" (she is all but 5). I could give you an actual recipe but that isn't how I make them.  This is what I do:

I will remind my husband at least six times to please bring home a bag of black eyed peas and 1lb. of bacon.  Just like my turkey at Thanksgiving, I cross my fingers and pray that my black eyed peas do not get sold to someone else. :)  Once the beans make it safely to our home, I soak them over night in cool water.  Then on New Year's morning while I am enjoying my coffee, I chop and fry the pound of bacon.  From here I chop an onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper.  After removing most of the bacon grease, I add the onion and peppers to the bacon and cook for a few minutes.  I drain and rinse the beans and place them in the pot with the rest of the goodness.  Next comes water and chicken broth.**I use low sodium chicken broth in place of water for most recipes.  It really gives everything a better taste.  The water/chicken broth must cover the beans.  Next it is time for seasoning.  I typically just use salt and pepper along with a small amount of Cajun spices.  I bring everything to a boil and then simmer for a 2,3,4 hours.  **Cornbread and hot sauce must be present at the table. :) It is not a recipe, it is love, and the hopes of prosperity for our family business.  Too much???  On New Year's Day this is how we rank what is important: God
Black Eyed Peas - Amen!!! Here's to 2016!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Fudgies

So I am in my happy place - Christmas Baking Season!!!  This year I am "filling the freezer" for my parents, grandmother, and Charlie's grandmother.  Last weekend we made multiple pans of lasagna, King Ranch Chicken, and individual servings of chicken pot pie.  Last night I made Christmas Fudgies (we also call them Graham Cracker Fudgies).  Today I am hoping to make ranch seasoned crackers, chocolate covered pretzels, and a batch of homemade bread is rising on the counter as we speak.  Tomorrow will be our last day of the baking spree with our annual cinnamon rolls.  Like I said, it is my happy place! :)

I thought I would share the Christmas Fudgie recipe.  It has been passed down from my great grandmother Elsie.  The cookies (if that is what you want to call them) were a favorite of my grandfather (her son).  He was a favorite of mine, so these cookies have naturally become a favorite because they remind me of him. :)
There is something so special about a handwritten recipe.  I also love anything that is in my grandmother's handwriting. :)

The recipe is super simple, and only calls for 3 main ingredients.  

Christmas Fudgies:

6oz. chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
1 box (3 sleeves) graham crackers - a little under 4 cups

**Crush graham crackers into small crumbs and place in large bowl.  Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove top, stirring continuously to keep from scorching.  Remove from heat, stir in sweetened condensed milk.  Pour mixture of chocolate and sweetened condensed milk over graham cracker crumbs and stir - a lot! :)  Once combined, scoop out small amounts and roll into balls.

At this point you can be done or add various ingredients for some different options.

Option 1:  roll balls in powdered sugar (so, so good - see picture)
Option 2:  roll balls in coconut flakes 
Option 3:  roll balls in crushed nuts

And that is it!!!  Super simple and really yummy!!!

Somtimes I have this weird thing about lining things up... It has to be from all my years of dancing and staying in formation. :)

Happy baking!!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our Treasured Nativity Scene

When I was growing up one of my favorite Christmas decorations was my mother's nativity scene.  Since the figures were plastic, she allowed me to sit and re-arrange each piece.  My grandmother had given her the nativity set and my grandfather built the stable.  Over the years, my grandmother bought a new piece for each of her grandchildren.  The result would be a full nativity set by the time we were married and in our own homes.  My grandfather also built most of our stables.  I think mine was store bought but I love it just the same. Our little nativity set has also become a favorite of our children.  It sits on the table behind the couch just begging to be played with.  I have noticed that there isn't a day that goes by that one if not all of my kids take the time to move the characters.  Sometimes the characters are crowded into the stable because...well, it is raining. :)  Other times the characters are spread out.  I also noticed one day that the wings from the angel had been removed and were laying beside the stable.  I couldn't quite figure out the meaning behind that one. :) Yesterday when I was tidying up the living room, I noticed a new arrangement of the characters.  They had been organized by their role in the birth of Jesus.  All of the wise men were gathered together.  The shepherds were in a different area but still circled together.  Baby Jesus was left alone in the stable with the animals.  The part I found so fascinating was the scene of Joseph and Mary.  They were huddled tightly together with the angel.  It looked as if the angel was encouraging them about the importance of their child's birth.  I wish I could have heard the conversations and imagination of the child who arranged this scene.  It was so beautiful and sweet.

I feel like our little family has changed so much with our Christmas traditions.  Years ago the focus was Santa and a little of Jesus and his birth.  Now it is the exact opposite.  The kids still believe in Santa but is just isn't the focus.  They mention Jesus's birth (and move the characters of the nativity scene) on a daily basis, yet maybe mention Santa once a week.  It has been a welcomed shift.  In a way, I let the kids dictate what is important and then steer them back when needed.  But I have to say, they have really allowed Jesus to guide their Christmas season. I am going to begin a nativity scene collection for each of them.  I think I will give it to them for the first Christmas they are married.  I had better get started.  Oh my!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dear Jeans - I am leaving you for Leggings and Y.P. (a.k.a. Yoga Pants)

I read a blog post today that said you should eliminate as much stress as possible during the holiday season.  You know, it suggested things such as, not over-scheduling, trying not to be the "Pinterest Mom", being intentional with family traditions, trying to relax and just enjoy this time with family, etc.  I thought about this for quite some time.  I am pretty good at keeping our schedule manageable.  I have my pinterest freak out moments but for the most part I really do enjoy the craft and festive part of the holidays.  All in all,  I manage the holidays well.  Except for one thing. This one thing must go... This one thing is evil... This one thing does not make for a healthy relationship and will no doubt ruin my holiday season... MY JEANS!!!!! So today, I make it official and I pledge to end this relationship with my jeans.  Here goes... Dear Jeans,
The time has  come, this relationship between the two of us is unhealthy.  I try and I try to stay positive but you just drag me down - always such the Negative Nellie.  When I put you on and begin to pull you up, I like you... until about mid thigh.  Then you turn all ugly and rude.  What did I ever do to you?!  You mock me when I accidentally catch a glimpse of my mid-thigh struggle in the mirror.  When I do get you up to my waist, you make me grand plie and attempt the runner's stretch.  If I sit in a position that is anything less than perfect posture, you make me look like a muffin.  Sometimes, you even make me loose my breath when I put on my shoes.  And even with all of this, I thought we could make it work.  But your ridiculous behavior on Thanksgiving was the final straw.  I can't go on like this. Again, I have tried and tried with this relationship but you just won't give, even when you are filled with room to stretch.  You are stubborn.  You are rigid.  You are no longer a part of me.  I am a better person with Leggings and Y.P. (a.k.a Yoga Pants).  Leggings and Y.P. are so forgiving.  They never mock me and they are so eager to give.  So, this is it.  We are done for this holiday season.  I was given the advice to get rid of all things stressful and that would be you, Jeans.  I have a feeling I am going to be a much more pleasant holiday shopper, Christmas baker, and all around better person if I spend this time with Leggings and Y.P.  Until mid 2016, you will live in the closet.  I hope you can understand, during this time of year MY EMOTIONAL STATE NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY MORE THAN MY HIPS.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Turkey Talk

Can you believe it is two weeks from Thanksgiving?!  I love Thanksgiving, it is one of my favorite times of year.  Now when I married my husband, Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. When you are the third generation of a family owned and operated butcher shop, the holiday season is a bit busy (a bit busy is code for pure craziness).  He and his family will be working 12-15 hours days until the end of December.  But we will take pure craziness over slow business any day.  My mother-in-law often tells the story of how they had enchiladas one year for Thanksgiving because her turkey had been sold to a customer.  I have always panicked a bit that the same would happen at our house.  The closer it gets to the big day the more I start asking my husband if our turkey is well hidden in the back.  You think I am joking...:)

Anyway, last year I wrote two blog posts regarding turkey tips.  I managed to get my husband to answer a few turkey related questions.  I thought I would post the links in case you missed it last year.  Click the link below the image to read each blog post.

If you think of any other questions let me know and I will try to get an answer for you. :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

One of the Many Differences Between Women and Men

Over the weekend I decided that one of the main differences between women and men (at least in my household) is the use of...


Or if I am referring to the men in my house, then I mean the lack of using adjectives.  Let me explain.

My oldest is getting very close to crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.  Over the weekend, my husband and son went on a camp out while our other two kids and myself stayed home.  This was the first camp out in our fives years of camp out experience that I did not attend.  At this point, the boys are learning to really work through the various parts of camping without the constant help of an adult (ex: setting up tents, sleeping in a tent without Mom or Dad, cooking, using a compass and various camping tools, etc.).  It seems to be an easy step for dads but a bit of a freak out session for moms...well, okay for me!  

So, on Friday I sent my two oldest men off to the woods.  The two I have known and loved the longest - off to the big, scary, wild woods.  Okay, okay, off to a state park about an hour away.  In my heart it might as well have been somewhere with Bear Grills.

I knew my husband would not send me text messages or pictures because he is not the texting type.  :)  So I tried to convince myself that no news was good news.  Easier said than done.  

I was shocked Saturday evening when I received two pictures from my husband.  I was literally jumping up and down at the proof that they were alive!!!!!  

Manning the grill

So I did what any mom would do... I responded with questions.  This is where the use of adjectives or lack of anything descriptive became an issue.  Here is the conversation that took place directly after I received the picture.

Me/Mom/Woman:  Hi!!!! How's it going?  Did y'all get soaked this morning?  Who is his tent mate?

Charlie/Dad/Man:  Will talk when get home

**Insert me flipping out because what could a statement like that possibly mean?  Also insert that there was about 30 million years passing between each text!

Me/Mom/Woman:  Okay, but that makes me worry even more.  Has it been positive?


**Insert me really pacing the house at this point and remembering how much he was not a phone type person when we were dating - ugh!

Me/Mom/Woman:  Okay seriously, you can't leave me hanging like that.  Do you only want to talk at home because you don't feel like texting or because things aren't going well?

Charlie/Dad/Man:  The whole day was fine. 

**Insert me stating aloud - FINE?! WHAT DOES FINE MEAN?

Me/Mom/Woman:  What does fine mean? Fine, like we are just getting through or fine like good?

Charlie/Dad/Man:  Good

**Insert me not being able to let this go.  I need more details!

Me/Mom/Woman:  On a scale of 1-10?

Charlie/Dad/Man:  8 to 9

**Insert my blood pressure coming way down and me praising Jesus! :)

Me/Mom/Woman:  Okay that makes my heart happy.  I will leave you alone now.  I love you both!

Now, do we all see how that text conversation could have been so much shorter if he had just used a few adjectives from the beginning?  Seriously, we went from "Will talk more at home" to an 8 or 9 on the scale.  That is a huge difference!  But not to my husband/dad/man - it all meant the same.  I on the other hand have aged by five years that will be evident to everyone by the wrinkles on my face.  The damage cannot be undone.


My true love has always been an "under communicator" and I am definitely an "over communicator".  We knew this 19 years ago and have managed to make it work.  Luckily, we can laugh about things like this.  I think in a way he was having fun stringing me along and I was having fun driving him nuts with 20 questions.  :)  I love him - all of him - 

...even his lack of adjectives. :)

**It is already the same way between my daughter and sons.  She will ask them specific questions expecting specific answers.  When they don't respond in detail she lets them know it.  She also tattled on one of her brother's this weekend while using air quotes.... she's a little fireball.  She will need a husband like her father.  We are already praying for the one...:)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Big Brother to the Rescue

Today contained one of those moments when you get to witness your child taking on more responsibility.  The weather has been so pretty the past couple of days so a couple hours into our schoolwork I announced BREAK TIME!!! and we headed outside to ride bikes.  Things were going really well until my youngest got a flat tire on her bike.  We had just aired up tires yesterday so the conclusion was that her inner tubing was flat.  

Let me just say, I recently learned that bike tires have inner tubes.  I just assumed they held air, I didn't realize it was an actual tube on the inside.  Honestly, I never stopped to think about it.  In a matter of seconds she was in tears and so upset.  Big brother to the rescue!

Our oldest jumped right in and said he could fix it.  He had just fixed his own inner tube (for a Cub Scout requirement) with my husband yesterday.  I double and triple checked if he was really sure but he double and triple assured me that he could do it. :)  With directions (from him - an eleven year old) to move my car out of the garage, I got out of the way and he got to work.

It wasn't until about half way through the process that I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures. 

In this picture he has removed the chain and tire from the bike (not to mention two really stuck bolts).  He has also removed the original and damaged inner tube and is placing the new inner tube into the tire.  He was pretty much beaming as he got to rummage through Daddy's tool box.

Here he is positioning the chain back onto the bike.  It was at this point that I said, "Wait! We haven't aired up the inner tube!"  At which he calmly reminded me that if it had air in it, we wouldn't have been able to get the tire back on the rim... 
Oh right, I totally knew that... :)

Placing the bolts back on.  I think he was pretty proud of how much grease was on his hands. 

My thirty year old - I mean 11 year old setting up and working Daddy's air compressor like a BOSS!!!  Seriously, it was impressive.  I kept referring to parts as thingy's and doo-hickey's at which he would calmly look at me, pause, and then give those things their correct names.  So patient with his mom.
Little sister waiting very patiently as he finished.

And, she's off!!!!

I am so proud of him.  He put his free time aside to work on his sister's bike.  Now, I did extend our break time to allow him to experience the satisfaction of completing something like this.  Needless to say, he was pretty much strutting around when it was over.  The whole thing was adorable but also a reminder of how fast he is growing up.  Also, very educational for me in the department of thingys and doo-hickeys.  :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Caramel Apples - Success!!!

We tried our hand at caramel apples this afternoon and I think we were pretty successful.  I did spend some time researching the best methods on Pinterest (of course).  My cousin had warned me that due to the waxy texture on the outside of the apple,  I may have a hard time getting the caramel to stick.   All of the blogs I read agreed that the wax was an issue.  A couple of the suggestions were to boil the apples for thirty seconds, wash them with soap and water, or sand them down with sandpaper.  That last one seemed a bit far fetched to me.  I decided to go with boiling each apple for 30 seconds.  Obviously this made the apples very hot so I thought it would be a good idea to place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.  I figured a hot apple may also cause the caramel to slide off. While the apples were chilling in the freezer, I got the toppings ready and began melting the caramel.  Now the obvious method for melting the caramel would be the microwave but we are currently a microwave-less home...  Gasp!  Actually, it hasn't been that bad.  We have learned we can live without a microwave and I really like having the extra counter space.  Back to melting the caramel, my first attempt was the old method of boiling water in a pan with a glass bowl on top.  This was taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!!  I lost my patience and placed the caramel squares in a sauce pot with a little milk, stirring like a mad woman so it would not scorch.  So even though this was a bit risky, it worked really well and fast.  I know what you are thinking.... She really knows how to walk on the wild side.... No???  Oh, alright then.  I never have been the adventurous type. :)
(This picture cracks me up.  It was taking so long they pulled up a chair.  Notice Ginger was also very interested.)

The next part moved super fast.  I called one child over at a time, helped them roll their apple in the caramel and then move it into the toppings.  I really wanted to get cute pictures of their excitement mixed with concentration but there really wasn't any time for that.  We were dealing with melted caramel after all!
(Our toppings included, crushed graham cracker, mini marshmallows, crushed peanuts, and mini M&M's.)

Another tip I found on Pinterest was to turn the apples upside down on a cooling rack (sticks pointing down).  This was a fantastic tip and helped us to really pile on the toppings.

All in all, it was a super fun activity.  I think this is now a Halloween tradition for our family.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Friday Night Lights and Homecoming Magic

When we made the decision to homeschool our kids, one of my concerns was regarding the various activities they would miss (especially in the upper grades).  When my husband and I were in high school we were both involved in extra curricular activities/sports.  My husband played football, threw shot put and discus, plus raised pigs with F.F.A. (which probably sounds really strange if you are not familiar with FFA).  I was on our high school dance/drill team and pretty much lived and breathed anything that had to do with dance.  He actually asked me to be his girlfriend after the Burning of the C (one of our homecoming festivities).  Which just so happened to be 19 years ago from this very day.  Which now makes me feel very old, so back to real reason for this post. :)  Like I was saying, the choice to homeschool did make me wonder if our kids would miss out on some of those experiences.  This is our fourth year to homeschool and I once again my pre-conceived idea has been proved wrong. We are very blessed to live in an area that has a large and very involved Christian homeschool community.  Last night, our homeschool athletic program was celebrating the homecoming football game.  The program is called W.I.N.G.S. (Winning in God's Service) and focuses on making disciples through athletics.  We decided to attend the game as a family and see what it was all about.  The program falls under T.C.A.L. (Texas Christian Athletic League) which allows the team to play other homeschool athletic programs, as well as, private schools from around the state.
2015 Varsity W.I.N.G.S. War Eagles - football players and cheerleaders

Like I mentioned earlier, my husband and I were both very involved in high school.  Plus, we went to a 5 A high school where athletics were a big deal and everything was done on such a huge scale.  I was a little unsure of what the homeschool program would involve.  Let me tell you, this program (W.I.N.G.S.) is a big deal!  Every little detail was obviously taken care of with so much attention and love.  In the homeschooling community, just about everything is volunteer/parent driven.  If you are a homeschooling parent you are involved 100%, which means every student's parents are involved 100%.  This makes for such a wonderful feeling and attention to detail at all events.  Just like in traditional school settings, parental involvement makes all the difference.
Having a great time with all of their spirit gear!

When we pulled up to the game I was surprised to see how many people were in attendance.  I bet there were at least 200 people, all stretched out along the sides of the field.  Everyone had chairs and blankets and most importantly, front row seats. :)  There was a concession stand with food and drinks along with spirit ribbons, team shirts, clappers, and pom-poms for sale.  The team had a great run-thru sign for their entrance onto the field.  The cheerleaders performed to the fight song and the crowd joined in with clapping and cheering.  There was also the mascot, War Eagle, which was pure entertainment for my kids.  I am pretty sure my oldest would like his future to be War Eagle!  It was such a special night.  The team won by a long shot :), the cheerleaders did a fantastic job during half-time, and my kids loved every minute of it. At the end of the game, all of the fans lined up in two rows on the field and cheered while the team ran through in victory.  My kids got such a kick out of
the players giving them high-five's as they ran through.  :)
This was our first experience with Six Man Tackle Football - it is really exciting and action packed!

Cheering and checking on the rules with Daddy

It just goes to show (once again) that the world of homeschooling offers so many opportunities.  Tonight, is the homecoming dance for the older students.  Which I must add, the parents have really gone the extra mile to teach them the proper etiquette for a dance.  For example, rules such as: 1.  Ask as many people as you can to dance.  Everyone came to dance - help to make sure they have fun. 2.  You may not decline an offer to dance with one person and then proceed to dance with someone else during that song (this is in response to how much courage it takes a young man to ask a young lady to dance).  These rules are so precious and necessary, yet rarely taught these days!  I love that little details like this are the expectations and the norm for these young adults.

We are #1! :)

Varsity Cheerleaders

Spirit!!! War Eagle and Cheer Captain

Again, I am so thankful we live in this homeschooling community and my kids will have the same opportunities in a few years.  God truly blessed our family when he placed us in homeschooling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Humming Bird Rescue

 I have to admit, when we started school this morning it felt as if we were really dragging.  As we went through our lessons, I just couldn't help but shake the feeling that we have hit the October rut.  We have been schooling since late July and will reach our 50th day this week.  We needed a pick-me-up that is for sure! After lunch the kids and I were making our way upstairs for our afternoon lessons when my youngest son screamed.  Somehow he was still downstairs (not really excited to read) and heard a thump at our window.  Then he discovered it was a small hummingbird.  My first response as I was running down the stairs was to keep the dogs inside.  They would have had way too much fun with that poor little bird.  My second response was a plea to God that it had not died right in front of my son.  All of my kids are huge animal lovers and pretty much live for any type of animal, vet, or rescue show on TV.  In fact, they play "animal rescue" all the time around the house. As we watched the tiny bird, it was obvious he was a bit stunned.  I decided to call my mother-in-law who is also a big time animal lover.  She rushed right over with syringe and hummingbird food in hand.  The kids watched in great concern as she picked up the bird and began to feed him.

This was the little bird when we first saw him.  He was not doing well and was very much stunned.
Here is my mother-in-law feeding him from the syringe.  We were able to see his long tongue as he ate.  As concerned as we were it was also so cool to see a hummingbird up close and still.

He was so pretty.  The kids guessed that he was a ruby throated hummingbird because he had a tiny red patch under his throat.  Because of this, they also guessed that he was a male.  
Due to his tiny size, my oldest son decided he must be a juvenile and not fully grown.
Our plans for the afternoon (to go the movies with friends) were derailed with this little guy.  We called a local non-profit animal rescue center called the ARK.  They said they couldn't send anyone out to our house to pick him up but that we could deliver him (45 minutes away).  Well that was a no brainer - road trip!!!!  The little hummingbird stayed in my mother-n-law's hand all the way there while she continued to feed him with the syringe.  The kids made several references to how they were on a real life animal rescue.  :)

Here is our little guy at the ARK in the hospital building.  

From this point, we said good bye and then visited some of the other patients.  Oh, and yes, the woman at the ARK confirmed that he was a juvenile, male, ruby throated hummingbird (proud momma moment right there). :)

It was an extra special day.  I don't think they will be forgetting any time soon.  After all, they saved a life today. :)

P.S.  We also lost a life - "George" my youngest son's whale shark stuffed animal which he got at the Georgia Aquarium this summer.  Apparently, while we were in the backyard with the hummingbird, the dogs entertained themselves by removing George's eyes.  

"George" may he rest in peace
So, in the middle of the bird emergency I was also dealing with this tradegy and an overly upset 7 year old.  I will be placing a call tomorrow to the Georgia Aquarium and having a new one delivered....

I really should not ask for excitement - ever- again.... P.S.S.  Update on George.  Just a few minutes after I posted this, my mom stopped by.  With her magical touch she will be able to fix both eyes and now George will also be a rescue. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Almost Eleven

In less than one month, our oldest son will turn eleven.  I just can't believe it.  On one hand the time has gone so fast but on the other hand, I can't imagine life before him. He is changing. Right before my eyes. I am watching him mature in so many ways. I am witnessing the way he is processing the world and taking more and more steps towards independence.  He already has such a firm faith and clear understanding of God. His love for Jesus is rock solid.  He doesn't question what he reads in the Bible, he simply believes it.  I have so many mixed emotions about this new age.  There are days, hours, minutes, when he is very much a young child.  But here lately, something new is happening.  More and more often, with each passing day I am getting tiny glimpses of the person he is becoming.  In the last couple of weeks, he has started opening the car door for me.  I love this.  I know it won't last forever, so I cherish it each and every time.  It is funny because, he treats me like a queen but he has always had a hard time showing that same respect to other adults.  We have talked about this and I try to encourage him to treat everyone the way he treats me.  But he always comes back to the same answer, "They are not you, they are not my mom."  It is a work in progress, but we are getting there.  :) For a boy who is usually blowing full steam ahead I just recently witnessed the most gentle moment.  We were caught under a covering at my daughter's ballet studio while it rained buckets.  We were trying to wait it out before running to the car.  While we were waiting, a young girl (she was about his age) was dropped off by her mother.  She ran under the covered area with her umbrella and then had a hard time trying to close it.  She asked if anyone could help her.  As I reached over to help her, my son spoke up and said he would do it.  In the most calm and composed manner he fixed the umbrella for her and then politely handed back.  She smiled and then blushed a bit.  I, on the other hand, felt like I was watching a clip from a Nicholas Spark's novel plus having an out of body experience all at the same time.  It was the most precious moment.  I couldn't believe how mature and grown up he looked.  I loved every second of that little exchange.  It showed me that even though he is rough and wild and 100% boy, he can also be kind and gentle.  Tonight, while his brother and sister were upstairs taking showers, I noticed it was just the two of us in the kitchen.  The TV was off and it was quiet.  We had the nicest conversation.  He has recently started riding in the front seat of the car.  I love having his company and conversation.  I am so thankful that I have been given the wisdom from my mother and cousin (whose son is 16) that these moments will pass and I should hold on to every second.  They has taught me to slow down when he is willing to talk and share.  I have also been advised to "play it cool" and stay calm in the event he wants to talk about a topic that may make me want to jump out of my skin, run around screaming, and then jump under the covers never to emerge again.  Thankfully, I am pretty sure we are no where near any of that and my biggest concern right now is when should I buy him deodorant.  :) 
This picture was taken by my cousin Kristi in 2010.  It has always been one of my favorites.
As I brace myself for hormones and the roller coaster that will come in the next couple of years, I am also treasuring these small moments.  I feel like God is giving me tiny previews of the man my son will be.  It is a different feeling and it is very hard to explain.  I feel like I am getting to know him on a different level.  I will continue as his care taker, food maker, laundry doer, but I also get to have this really neat relationship.  It is kind of like we are a team, a mother-son duo and I love it. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Homeschool Lesson: Dissecting Flowers

Over the last few weeks we have been working on various types of plants, and all of the parts.  We have learned how to identify leaf patterns, classify according to vein structure, various root systems, and now the details of flowers along with pollination. The kids have been so excited throughout this unit.  They love getting out in the backyard and really getting a hands on lesson.  Today, we reviewed the main parts of a flower by dissecting real flowers.  We had five different types of flowers (hibiscus, sunflower, Esperanza, and blooms from a zucchini plant and star cactus).  We also had a quick lesson on safety with an x-acto knife. :) Using their notes from earlier in the week, each child had the opportunity to dissect the various types of flowers and locate the following parts:  petals, sepal, pistil, stamen, and ovule.  I often have people ask how I teach three different grade levels when using the same lesson.  My kids are kinder, second grade, and fifth grade.  We work through Bible, Geography, and Science as a family and then they complete Math, Language, Reading, and Spelling individually.  Both boys are taking Texas History for their specific grade levels at our weekly co-op and then they have assignments to complete (at home) throughout the week.  So, back to how I teach three grade levels using the same lesson.  This is a wonderful part of homeschooling.  It really is not as difficult as it may sound.  I start with what I call "middle of the road" information.  This is usually around a 3rd grade level and then I amp up the material for my fifth grader and tone down the material for my kindergartner.  For the flower dissection, I really wanted my kindergartner to enjoy exploring the parts of the flower using descriptive words and recognizing the key parts (petals, pistil, stamen).  For my second grader, I wanted him to be able to identify all of the parts we have been studying with some description (petals, sepal, stamen, and ovule).  My expectations for my fifth grader went beyond identification.  I also wanted him to explain (in detail) the function of each part.  We are also using Answers in Genesis for our Science curriculum which is geared towards teaching multiple ages at the same time.  It is wonderful! Needless to say the kids had a blast and the dissection was the perfect hands-on activity for reviewing the parts of a flower.

It really worked out that I only had one x-acto knife on hand.  I don't think I could have controlled three kids and three very sharp objects at one time.  I know my limits! :)

We found some very new seeds deep down inside the hibiscus.

Since only one child could dissect at a time, the other two continue working on their individual assignments until it was their turn.  This was a great motivator to get things done.

It was really exciting that we were able to see and identify all of the parts we had learned about earlier in the week.

We only had one bloom from the star cactus and zucchini plant.  So, to keeps things fair (because that is oober important to my kids), I did the dissecting and they watched.

The inside of the zucchini blossom really showed the ovary of the plant.  This was a very exciting discovery because it looked just like the picture in the book. :)

The star cactus bloom smelled SO BAD - as in week old fish bad.  This was a great example of how some plants have fowl odors to attract flies.  It was soooooo gross!

Then, Ginger, our two year old family member joined in.  She doesn't seem impressed by the smell, either. :)

There were some other neat parts to the star cactus bloom but by that point I had the awful smell on my hands and I did not want to touch my phone to take pictures.  I will say the inside of the bloom was really furry, which was also a neat discovery.

It was such a great lesson filled with excitement and some not so great smells.  :)

Just a thought:  To get a large variety of flowers you could call a flower shop and ask if they have a blooms that could no longer be sold.  This may be an inexpensive way (possible free) to get your hands on various types of flowers.