Oh, Elizabeth, where have you been?

Okay, totally. Who has heard of Elizabeth George Speare?

Full of Joy's mom who is a PhD extraordinaire and expert on the subject of early childhood ed, turned her on to this author. Since Dr. S was also MY mom for four months when she was our faculty sponsor on a college European studies tour (like a couple of years ago), I do everything she tells me. Thanks for passing on the Speare love.

Our first borrowed book from them was The Sign of the Beaver. Fantastic book. So good. We chose it for Giles ... a boy book. Wilderness living. Hunting. Fishing. Indians. Surviving. The main character who has to live in the wilderness, hunt, fish, meet (and befriend) indians and survive is 12 years old. It's a fantastic read. We read it aloud, and it knocked off My Side of the Mountain for the top spot.

Then, we borrowed The Witch of Blackbird Pond on audio discs from the library. And listened to that in the car. Rich and awesome book. I was weary of the witch in the title, but it's okay! It's a look at New England in pre-revolutionary years and a struggle in a Puritan community with an outcast (witch) Quaker living by the swamp. Beautiful book. We all loved it and I appreciated the look into Puritans and Quakers, groups I've largely ignored. Sorry.

And, we read The Bronze Bow.

Oh, Elizabeth. Where have you been?

She won the Newberry for The Bronze Bow in 1962 ... and only started writing after she had raised her family. She was born in 1908. She won at least one more Newberry (The Witch of Blackbird Pond), and received the Laura Ingalls Wlder Award for her "fine body of work."


The Bronze Bow. Oh wonderful. This is her only book set outside of her native New England. It's set in Capernaum! Yes, in Bible times! Jesus is a character in the book. Oh, it's great. Especially for lovers of historical fiction.

One of my homeschool mentors, Cheryl Lange, talks about higher level thinking and learning, where we receive information in such a way that we process it and order it ourselves, as opposed to having it fed to us in a textbook. Reading works that expand our vocabulary is one tool to use, and books that help us order events in our mental (or posted on the wall) timelines. Indeed, Charlotte Mason herself told us to lay off of the twaddle! I think they both would recommend this book.

Incidentally, I bumped into a family last night I knew when we were at our elementary school. I was catching up on the news (still the same - teachers don't respect the principal, immeasurable discipline problems with the kids, a Maps for Kids plan that took away a new gym). They were so excited their son loves to read. I was excited for him too! And still am. I always ask what they are reading to make sure we are not missing out. He's reading Captain Underpants. It might be very fine literature and is probably along the lines of Junie B. Jones who has entered our house. But I wonder if these vocabulary words are used by Capt. Pantywaist?

avenge and revenge

We wrote those words down as we read, and Giles' assignment is to look them up and write down the meanings. He looks them up on our handy widget dictionary. I know we're missing skill building by not getting out the old Webster's and flipping through, but it's also so cool to be able to have information so quickly.

We also became familiar with the Hebrew calendar ... the months of Ab, Nissan, Tishrei. (Thank you widget Wikipedia on those).

Thank you to the late Mrs. Speare! Calico Captive is next on our list.

Friends in High Places

This was my kind of day. Spontaneous and special.

My friend and radio mentor Billie Rodely works for Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin as her communication director. Very nice and not a bad pay off for getting up around 2 am for the better part of her career to get folks to work with all the news they needed to know during the morning drive (the coveted slot for radio folks)! Billlie also had a fantastic career at OETA with the documentary show Stateline, where she garnered an EMMY award. She has an entire credenza FULL of awards acknowledging her fantastic talent and wonderful career.

I love Billie.

She had invited the kids and I to come visit the congresswoman's OKC office when Fallin, "please call me Mary," was in town.

Another opportunity happened today, and I emailed Billie to see if it would be okay if we brought two Rwandan college students with us! Alain and our friend Placide who are going home to Kigali THIS week after spending two years here at university. They come back here in August to finish their undergrad degrees in engineering.

Sure, she said.

After a morning of shopping for electrical adaptors, various electronic devices and accessories for folks back home, we rushed home, tried to dress up and headed downtown for the meeting. In the elevator, I had to give a couple of kids spit baths (not Alain and Placide), and I wished we had dressed more nicely, and had hair cuts.

On the way to the office I briefly coached the kids not to give home schooling a bad name (don't embarrass me or cause her to run back to Washington to try to outlaw homeschooling!). We reviewed the proper way to speak to her, and that they better answer questions they were asked politely and loudly. All the while, I was secretly praying she didn't ask some complicated math question (like 12 x 11) or ask anyone to recite the Gettysburg Address.

Billie led us on a grand tour of the office, but Cong. Fallin wasn't there yet. While we were peaking into the congresswoman's very nice office, we heard her come through the main door. We were in her office. BUSTED. I don't think she minded! (hope). Later, the kids and I giggled that we should have hidden behind the furniture and jumped out and yelled "Surprise" when she came in!

She met Alain and Placide, and Giles, Lydia and Grant and let us get a quick picture in between important meetings about important matters. She heads back to Washington tomorrow.

She was impressed with the Rwandans, was familiar with their country, was proud they are receiving their education in Oklahoma to take back home to help in building up their country. And to me and the kids she said it was a very neat honor to be able to homeschool!

Great day.

Because we had not had enough fun, we then walked over to the Renaissance Hotel because Giles was SURE someone famous was there. There were at least four big tour buses ... you know, the star kind. One of the bus tags was from Tennessee. Isn't Kenny Chesney coming to OKC soon? Hey. Maybe it's him. The Rwandans, of course, didn't know who he was, so we started singing any song we knew ... and all I could think of was "when the sun goes down."

Because I am an adventurous (lookey loo) mom, we went over to the lobby to people watch. It was a great decision because Alain and Placide thought the lobby, with its open atrium covered with skylights 15 floors above us, was really cool (too bad we didn't have time to go to the Skirvin). Giles (and his child at heart mom) was sure Kenny would saunter in any moment, just like in a country video!

Then, we decided to ride the elevator to the top floor to look down!

Oh. We can't get to the top floor, we discovered, without a special key. At the next elevator stop, a gentleman got on, with the special key! Hey, I said, mind if we get out just to look around?

Sure, he said. No big. Our elevator opened right in front of the pres. suite. Kenny's in there! We were sure. Did we even know when his concert is? No. Do we even really like him? Nah.

Besides being goofy, it was just neat to watch the guys look down! They loved it but admitted a slight bit of squeamishness.

Then there was a magnetic force dragging us into the free concierge room. You know, the places we've heard about, with free food and drinks and fancy furnishings and all of the latest magazines. And only certain special people ($$$) get to go in there.

NO, we didn't take any food! Be for real! But we did take some pictures of future executives in deep negotiation! And checked out the view from 15 floors up of Bricktown, interstate system, and the hospital where Stan works.

We finally left, but just as our elevator door closed to take us down, the Pres. Suite door OPENED. It could have been Kenny. Probably not, Giles. Probably not, I assured him.

Hey, wasn't it cool to meet the congresswoman! Remember that?

I just checked the Ford Center schedule and see Kenny is not here this week. But Kanye West is! I'm pretty sure that was some of his posse we saw, and probably his people in those buses.

I can't wait to tell Alain and Placide. I think Kanye would appeal to them more than margarita cowboy hat dude ... oh, but not as much as meeting a politician!

Here we are on top of the parking garage.

Beavers Bend Moment

Be Content With What You Have

I love our children's ministry at church, though I do teeter on the brink of burnout. I'll just admit that. But sometimes the lessons are just as much for the adults as the children.

We do a large group format where the kids sit and have a lesson presented to them based on scripture. Then the kids break up into small groups to dig deeper and be shepherded by our awesome volunteers who commit to serve these kids for 9 months at a time.

Large group is usually funny, and zany. Our main teacher Brian, is hilarious, and can also send those key messages home and into little hearts ... with the "cross-training" of the holy spirit, of course. (this picture was from another lesson - about reading "recipes" to know that you don't put onions and pickle relish in donut batter just because you like those things on your hotdog. Don't ask me what the scripture was, I was too busy taking pictures.)

Anyway a few weeks ago, our lesson was based on the scripture, Heb 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

The illustration was so funny. Brian played a greedy guy, and Lance, his buddy, got to absorb the lesson with being able to say "I am content with what I have" (with lots of help from the kids) when Brian presented himself with a king size candy bar, and Lance with a little fiber bar. Brian got a box of donuts, Lance got one. Brian got an iPod, Lance got a cd. And on and on.

Be content with what you have.
Be content with what you have.

For the parent volunteers in the room, it was a reminder of great scripture ammunition to take home!

"I want an iPod."
Be content with what you have.

"All of my friends have been to Disney World."
Be content with what you have.

"All of my friends have (wii, xbox360, trick bikes, shotguns, hunting leases, american girls AND accessories, every piece of Star Wars gear ever made)."
Be content with what you have.

"So and so has a cell phone."
(egad) Be content with what you have.

But really, this lesson went straight to my heart.

"Different house with a big yard and dogs (and maybe llamas)."
Be content with what you have?

"A vehicle that can safely leave the city limits."
Be content with what you have?

"Furniture that is not torn, not out of style and doesn't require slip covers to hide its ugliness and that HAS CUSHIONS THAT DO NOT SLIDE EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SIT." (ahem. I'm okay).
Be content with what you have?

even "Highlights in my hair"
Be content with what you have?

Be content with what I have.

I don't think necessarily that just throwing that scripture at our kid's will take away their natural tendencies to want and want and want. Be content with what you have, BECAUSE the Bible says so, that's why.

Sometimes that doesn't even do it for my greedy heart.

We can add that God takes care of our daily needs and way much more.
We can talk about perspective - of the families we know that are broken, or the families we know that are here illegally and live in fear, people living in war zones, people who are lonely, the people who don't have anyTHING and people who have EVERYthing, except the joy of Jesus.

We can also let scripture truths reassure us that we are called to something higher and better, it's eternity with Jesus. And we are not to conform to the world, or live of it but in it.

Ultimately, that we TRUST God with what he gives us. And his plans to prosper us, not to harm us, and to give us hope and a future. And, to whom much is given, much is expected.


By the way, we failed at chicken egg incubating. Entirely.
Too emotional to write about right now.
And sort of ashamed that we bungled life so badly.
But we learned. Oh boy. Did we learn.

LIFE is not easy. For a chicken or anything or anyone else.

God's masterpiece and design for everything, however, is so brilliant.
This experiment made that point a "teachable moment" for all of us.

I have a new respect for Hens. They are great moms.
No manuals needed for them to keep their eggs the right temperature, the right humidity and to know which ones needed turning without making a sharpie mark on the shell.


Our vocabulary word for Friday was RETREAT.
Definition: what our family does when the parking lot of the zoo, and all adjacent parking lots are crammed full of school buses! Back slowly away .... turn and RUN, in this case to the park with Living Joy and three other home schooling moms (along with 16 kids, one awesome aunt and one awesome grandma, by the way).

Geography for the day ... reading all of the school names on the sides of the buses and figuring out if we knew what towns they represented.

Logistics of the day ... coordinating the mom minivan/car brigade and redirecting to a park.

Ultimate word of the day ... FLEXIBILITY!

Lesson of the day for moi ... find my cell phone or get a new one. Sorry!

Nothing against field trips. I went along on a few while G was in K and 1st grade, including the zoo. It was the worst day of my life. Being responsible for six or so kids whose personalities I did not know (were they wanderers, would they listen, can they run faster than me) and who belonged to other parents, was pretty stressful. I had never counted to six so many times in my life as during those few hours there. Head count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 .... panic panic ... where is SIX?

Oh there he is, trying to climb into the alligator pit.

Postscript (a few minutes later, while throwing some clothes in the dryer, and picking out a million pieces of a former tissue stuck to every piece of clothing) ... I was reminded of how very very very blessed we are. We have a zoo pass. We can go to the zoo anytime we want. We throw garage sale money, or some extra cash for it, because it is a fantastic "bargain" to have that pass. So we can go to the zoo anytime we want. In fact, we go so often, that only a few of our 16 kids (mostly mine) were bummed that we didn't go this day.

I am reminded about the folks who don't live within ten minutes of a great park or zoo, like we do, and could not afford the admission cost or a pass. And I was also reminded of Chandy's post during Spring Break , some of her kids had NEVER been to the zoo. We take it for granted. WOW.

On Target

Announcing Grant Shelton as the second place finisher for all K - 2nd graders at the Archery Contest he participated in last weekend with Campfire USA! SECOND! Signing up Grantie was an afterthought. The real archer in the family is Giles!

But so are lots of other 3rd to 5th grade kids out there, for G was edged out of the top three in his age bracket.

And Giles' friend who came with us, in the 6th grade level, placed second, for his age. Go Lane!

Giles was a champ for being ecstatic for his bro and his bud!

Grant is so proud to be getting a ribbon. The rest of us are in shock. The poor kid is left handed but right eye dominant, and that eye was dilated with a drop to help strengthen his other eye. This was also his first time to shoot real arrows at real bulls eye targets. Most of his arrows went under the target! The instructors were champs and very patient in helping him. So were the other archers behind his flight, since Grant kinda slowed down the entire tournament.

Way to go Grant. I should have taken more pictures!

Here's the second place archer.

Here's one of Giles' targets.

We are corn

Has anyone seen King Corn, the little independent documentary that traces a couple of best friends who forego getting jobs after college graduation for an adventure into solving a mystery of why we are corn? We saw it last night on PBS. (Handy to have that little indie film company go along with ya).

In 2006, these dudes moved to Iowa to learn where our food comes from. They rented an acre of land, planted genetically altered corn with stalks that will grow close together and resist even the most harshest poisonous herbicides. And signed up for government subsidy. They attempted to trace their bumper crop into the food chain and found that about a third of it would go to export or to make ethanol, a lot of it would go to feed animals and a lot of it would go to make high fructose corn syrup that is present in virtually every box and jar on the shelves of the grocery store. (I have found that you have to be totally on the ball as a label scanner to avoid it. But sometimes you get tricked. I bought some barbecue sauce the other day from a little lady selling it for her church. She said it was her recipe, and they cooked it. Stan had bought it before and raved about it so I was so excited to get some. I read the label when we got home. It's in there. How does that happen? Can you buy high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient?).

The documentary was fascinating and frightening. I knew it would be. One of the premises the guys stated for this journey is that some say this (our) generation will be the first to have a SHORTER lifespan than the previous generation. Why? Corn has a lot to do with it.

They showed us some cattle feed lots with cows packed like sardines gorging themselves on grain. They interviewed scientists who told us how awful corn diets are for cattle. They showed us how the freak-of-nature-resilient-and-horrible-tasting corn makes it's way into every part of a Happy Meal. Corn fed beef, syrup in the bun and the pop, the corn oil fries are cooked in, and probably the napkins too! Oh, don't forget the ketchup.

We are corn. It's in our hair.

In Iowa, the old homesteads are gone. Replaced by corporate farms that plant miles (literally) of rows of corn. More yield and time saving when you don't have to turn those behemoth tractors! The local farmers who are still around and playing the game don't much like it, but what to do?

Our food scares me. For my family and for all of us. Stan told me he heard (on NPR) a story about how Asian countries are backing off of rice production because of costs, and a lot of that rice goes to feed the hungry in places like Africa. (How Africa came to depend on food from another continent is another thought thread entirely).

Another reason to move to our own little farm. I am encouraged that we, the people, do seem to be getting it, and trying to make changes. We belong to an Oklahoma Food coop, where we buy eggs, grass-fed beef, chicken and buffalo, awesome cheese, and vegetables from farmers all over the state.

Even in our neighborhood, I see we are going to offer a little farmer's market on the first Saturday of each month.

I've been rereading Jordin Rubin's books again, The Maker's Diet and Rx for Healthy Living. Good stuff and scary. Such a complete turnaround to the way we eat and think and buy and cook. We still eat too much at McDs and rely on convenience food more than we should .. my children's (and my) tastes love it all. It's hard to eat healthy. And expensive. And takes planning. I'm not a planner.

But we try.


We are ready.

The brooder is ready. The eggs are in their hatching stance.


We've made a few mistakes along the way. Perhaps fatal. And we all feel anxious and terribly guilty.

Just goes to show that artificial nature can never really take the place of momma. And the Dad of this house is in charge of all future projects that involve LIFE. Because he's the one who reads directions.

(still need a farmer, btw)

Catching up

For Grant's birthday, Dad took the day off and we Amtrakked down to Paul's Valley. Actually Stan drove the van because we didn't want to be stuck in PV America til the train came back that night. It was awesome. Train riding is the way to travel. Since it was Feb., we saw lots of winter scapes (sort of lifeless), but we could also SEE through the formerly leaf-filled trees lots of pastures, ranches and towns. We would love to do a long trip on the rails. But it costs about the same as chartering planes, so it's probably not happening.

The Conductor found out it was Grant's birthday so they wished him a Happy Birthday over the loud speaker. Called him a handsome guy wearing cool camo. Grant was so embarrassed. Loved it!

In order, are some pictures of our arrival in PV ...

OOPS. (note Giles pulling my hand down ... my animation apparently was embarrassing to him)

After trespassing on the old train, we went to the Toy Museum in downtown Pauls Valley.

Then Dad showed the kids his former haunts from when he lived there right before he took his lovely bride. Then we ate at Bob's Pig Shop, visited Bedree chocolate factory, got cherry limeades at Ballard's drive-in for the ride home (just to make sure we were getting our RDA of sugar!), and had the kids at their gymnastics class back in OKC by 2:45. WEW.

Outside Bob's Pig Shop. (Seeing Lydia's face in this picture reminds me she was kicking the end of the flu, but we forced her to come along anyway ... and like it.)

Later, CAKE.
I never want to wish our time away, but I do love it when we are all at even numbers ... 6, 8, 10. We live this way til August when Lovie turns 9.

Happy Birthday Grantie!

Honorable Mention

Giles entered a nature photography contest from the Oklahoma Historical Society. He got an Honorable Mention (and no money, as he pointed out).

Still, we're proud. And he's fired up. If you have a chance, look over all of the entries. I think some of the photos are oustanding! I admire all of the parents/teachers out there who let their child enter the photo that might not have been quite in focus, or one that with just a little cropping or altering, would have been a winner! What restraint!

Makes me proud of all young photographers in our state. And I'm also proud of the great nature in our state! Backyards. Parks. City. Country. Flora. Fauna. Buffaloes. Ice. Sunsets. We have it all!

View Photo Gallery


Grant came up with the word to describe our candling exercise. HOPE.

Who knew incubating eggs could be so metaphorical?

Our candling exercise to check the development of our 28 eggs was an adventure in patience, trial-and-error and ingenuity. One of the hardest parts was "making" our candler. But we persevered and finally figured it out. One clear result we found is that instead of candling in a "darkened" room, it's best just to candle at night! But sheets and blankets over windows helped this morning.

(28 because two met with accidents while turning. We are not pointing fingers).

We read about egg development.
clear means no development,
a blood ring means the embryo is dead,
a small dark spot within a mass of little blood veins floating means life.

Our emotions were not in check and started to nosedive when the first half dozen eggs presented clear or blood ring.

Failure. We had failed.

But then ... is that a small dark spot? Are those veins. Is it floating? LIFE.

YES! We have floating! We have dark spots.

Our moods improved and we proceeded. We decided to mark the eggs with the bloodrings and clearness with a "U" for unknown. We just could not throw them out or call them dead without Dad doublechecking us.

The life eggs got a happy face.

18 smiley faces
10 U

Parental Discretion is Advised

I feel I should warn, since I've been blathering on about John Adams. The last episode reunites Abigail and John after their three year separation. She joins him in Paris while she's been back on the farm, and enduring the war. Their initial greeting, after this absence, was sweet but a little distant. No embrace. No tears. Just joy. Hmmm. Okay. Those were modest times!

Then they went to the privacy of their chamber.

Parental discretion is advised.

I had begged the kids to come downstairs and watch the show with Mom & Dad, but they ignored me. For once, I was glad!


Had the kids been watching, I can just imagine the comments we'd be making. "Kids, look at that bird out the window." ... or "Let's go pop some corn."

I know I would have said ... AT LEAST THEY'RE MARRIED.

Couldn't help but wonder what the high school students watching it in history classes thought.


Other People's Books

I've been re-reading Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I read it the first time very quickly more than a year ago (I couldn't put it down), and I needed to go through it again.

It's a book everyone interested in Rwanda, faith, God, hope ... should have on their shelves.

But I borrowed it this time from the library! I can't remember if I have purchased this book already, but it's not in the house. I love sharing books. So, to restate, books about such topics should NOT remain on shelves, they should be shared and read and re-read.

On page 190, near the end of the book Imaculee is recounting her God-destined journey to finding a job after the genocide, after she lost almost all of her family, after she survived the war, crouched in a tiny bathroom with several other women for three months ... there was a pencil underline on three statements on this page, marked by someone else ...

I envisioned it, I prayed for it, and now I had it! (her job)

I was living proof of the power of prayer and postitive thinking, which really are almost the same thing.

God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap in to His power.

God has given me a dream that I can envision and am praying for. It is a vision of having Alain's parents in the audience when he graduates from Oklahoma Christian University. Can you just imagine? Sending your amazing son off to America, trusting in the value of the education he would get in a place called Oklahoma, and trusting in God's plan for him, that he would be safe and looked after? How they miss him. How proud they are of him. His school marks are excellent. He's a leader. He is one of the kindest, most amazing young men we know. His future is bright!

We have two years to plan, save and make it happen. Any ideas on fund-raising?