Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Other little things from last week.

Hubby and I went looking through antique shops. I was particulary interested in finding a drop down or secretary desk, but so far the ones I like are a little out of my price range. I did get a couple of small things though.

I loved this little dish.
So cute and a little shabby since some of it's gold plating has been worn away, but that's why I liked it so much.
I've been wanting a small dish to put beside the sink for the baskets and stoppers, and this was just perfect.
I love old linens and these dainty little handkerchiefs were just adorable.
And this linen kitchen towel was calling my name.
Coffee on one side,
and tea on the other.
I was also able to enjoy these little beauties everytime I've washed dishes. I think I may see if I can get sunflowers to grow down that whole side next year. What a sight that would be while washing up.
This is one up close. Isn't it perfect?
When you do manage to get a picture of one without a bee on it, there's sure to be one on the way - as was this little fellow to the left.
Or maybe an inchworm, like the one near the top of the center of the flower on the right.
This is the first year we've planted the large yellow sunflowers and we've enjoyed them so much I can't imagine not planting them in the future. We didn't have to plant the orange, Mexican sunflowers again this year. We had plenty of volunteers from the ones that went to seed last year.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

A little of what's going on around here.

So this is part of what's been happening here recently.
Okay - so this has been in the works all summer, but I love seeing the veggies grow up over the deck. Most of this is beans, but there are some cucumbers to the left.
And lots more tomatoes.
We've been able to use our own for a large part of what we've canned this year.
T.Lynn just loves helping out with the food mill.
All these tomatoes (and this is my really large stock pot),
cooked down into this much tomato paste.
These little 7oz baby bowls were perfect for holding the standard 6ozs of tomato paste once you left the proper head-room for freezing. Don't worry, the paste is red, but the bowls are blue and green so it makes it look weird.
This bushel of peaches we picked up were far from ripe, but since the grower had recently had a death in the family I didn't get picky. We laid them out on some tea towels and covered them with a couple more until they ripened. It took about a week. You can see them in the back of the photo of T.Lynn. That was my biggest problem. For a week we either ate on tray tables in the living room, or took shifts eating at the table. To say the least, it was a little interesting.
But when all was said and done, 16 more quarts of peaches made it into the cupboards. And everything was finished up just before my grandmother got really sick and then passed. It allowed me to go visit her without worrying about everything I still had left to do. I know I shouldn't worry about something like that when this sort of thing happens, but it's to easy to obsess over everything you think you should be doing - especially when it comes to putting up food for your family. After buying food in bulk, or even if you have a large surplus from your garden, it's not easy to walk away when you know that preserving it will feed your kids the rest of the year. I'm thankful the canning was done and I felt free to spend time with her.

The girls have been at my mother's since my grandmother's funeral a week ago Saturday. It's been a nice long vacation for them, but for me? Well......
The garden doesn't seem to know that the girls aren't here, and that hubby and I can't eat nearly as much produce by ourselves. Too bad gardens don't come equipped with a pause button.  What's pictured, with the exception of two of the tomatoes, came in on just one day. I added it to the other 2 dozen tomatoes and 6 or 7 cucumbers we already had, and we are eating what we can. On top of that, 8 cantaloupe have ripened  this past week, plus I've cut okra every other day, and pulled beans off almost every day. I haven't pulled many of the peppers though. There are a lot of them that I've left on the plants because they'll last better that way. The plant will slow down it's prouduction, but in the case of the black hugarians, that won't be too bad. BTW - the red peppers on the table are black hungarians. If you leave them on the plant they, like any pepper, will turn red. So, while the girls have been gone I've been tending the gardens, foisting extra produce off on the neighbors, and when all else fails and you just can't let it go to waste...
...you can it, or blanch and freeze it, even though all your little helpers are unavailable.

Sometime in the next few days I'll share a bit more of what I did this week, but this post is already long, and to be honest, I kind of want to kick back and relax for a little bit before the girls come back tomorrow evening. 
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Life long learning.

When people ask me what subjects I feel are the most important to teach my kids, I tell them none of them are. And just for the record, I get some pretty funny looks with that response. Don't worry, I do teach my kids all kinds of subjects, I just don't feel they are the most important things to focus on. My goal is not to teach about every single ancient civilization, or that all of my children become capable of accurately reproducing the periodic table. I don't care where you go to school, you will not remember everything you're taught. Shoot, I don't even remember everything I teach. I'm constantly having to review, or look up new things, or research topics. Since there's a bit of a gap between my older two girls, and my younger three, I'm always going back over stuff I've not only learned myself, once upon a time, but also that I've already taught the older two. Then there's all the bits of new information I'm unearthing during any research I'm undertaking. And we won't even get into the things that just catch my eye and cause me to look up everything I can find on it. Sigh - there's just not enough time. Suffice it to say, I feel this quote.

"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." ~ John Cotton Dana.

My ultimate, educational goals for my children have always been the same.
1) That they learn to read WELL, and that they enjoy reading.
It doesn't matter to me whether they master it at 4, or not until they are 15, I just want them to be able, not only to read, but to fully comprehend what they've read. And I want them to love reading. Whether or not you can read is almost immaterial if you won't. I recently bought the book Endangered Minds, and the author, Jane M. Healy, talks about the rather huge problem of aliteracy in younger generations. I don't want this for my own children.

2) That they love to learn.
I want them to be interested in things; fascinated with life and God's creation. I want them to wonder how and why things work. I want them to marvel at everything from the workings of a beehive to the ancient wonders of the world. I want them to see and experience things, and then have a thirst for finding out what they can about it. I dislike seeing people totally wrapped up in themselves, and/or day-to-day nosensical garbage; people who don't ever have anything better to talk about that who's currently a favorite to win American Idol, or any other "reality" show. I definately don't want my children turning out like that. I want to be able to have marvelous, enriching, challenging conversations with them for the rest of their lives.

3) I want them to know how to think.
Yes, how to think. Not what to think, although I'm rather partial to some of my own ideas, but how to come to a decision about something on their own. I want them to be able to listen to one side of an argument and then find out the other possibilities, weigh out the options/opinions/etc. and think it through on their own. I want them to be able to figure problems on their own, and not drudgingly. I want them to find it a challenge that they willingly embark on.

4) I want them to know how to find information.
And not just by clicking on a search engine on the internet. I want them to be able to use the library, research texts, periodcals and anything else available to them in order to find out about the world around them. My children are very much at home in the library. When we lived in a much larger city, the girls adored wandering through a very large library. Ri has been with my step-father to visit, and make use of the library at the State University he taught at (...seven stories of books Mama!), and though the library near our house is very small, the girls have learned how to use the feature that allows them to order (from other libraries) nearly any book they want and have it shipped to the branch we frequent. And they use that feature often. We don't even have to go to the library to order it. They have everything set up online so they can check the available titles at our own branch, and order anything that isn't already there, then the local branch calls us when the book(s) arrive. It does cut out a few extra trips.

5) I want them efficient at basic math.
This may seem like a 'no-duh' type thing, but...well, lets just suffice it to say, I want my children to be able to count back change. I also want them to know their multiplication tables, not cringe at fractions, and how to at least figure rough percentages in their head. Come on, everyone should be able to figure out what a 10-15% tip would be without whipping out their cell phone and using the tip calculator. I didn't even know cell phones had tips calculators - well, not until about a year or so ago. Now I use it as a game. Give me a number and lets see if you can input the info, and have the phone give you the answer before I can come up with an amount that's less than $1 off what the phone says. I don't quibble down to the penny (or even a quarter) with a tip anyway, so I figure in round numbers when I tip. That's certainly close enough for government work, and the poor waitress/waiter that deals with our (usually) large table deserves the extra change. So, while the girls are welcome to go as far in math as they want (Kay hated math and only took basic and practical math courses, while Ri wanted to take advanced math courses), I just want them very good at what I feel to be ordinary, everyday math.

"The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life--by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality.  The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual.  He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove.  He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past--and he has to be equipped to acquire futher knowledge by his own effort." ~Ayn Rand

So yes, we teach reading, writing, arithmetic, physical science, geography, history, anatomy, agriculture, etc. We learn about nouns, pronouns, fractions, polygons, ancient civilizations, longitude and latitude, types of clouds, past presidents and kings, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. But first and foremost, we read, we challenge them to think, we encourage them to imagine, and we get excited about ideas, inventions, flowers, storms, finger paintings and lizzards we find in the garage.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Two Thumbs up for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

In my post about gardening and pantry organization, I mentioned having little success with the Amish Paste tomatoes I grew this year. After the post, I decided to e-mail Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is where I purchased them, and let them know of the problems I had. I wasn't looking for a refund, or anything else really, but I figured that any company with integrity may want to know if one of their products was not producing up to par. Since they specialize in heirloom seed I felt they would definately want to know that the seed I had may have been mixed, either due to cross-pollination, or perhaps in packaging. After sending them an e-mail briefly describing the problems I had with the Amish Paste, and assuring them the other seeds I had ordered from them had produced beautifully, I received a very nice reply. They asked more specific details with regard to the unusually shaped tomatoes and asked if I knew the lot # of the seed I'd planted (I had kept the packet). Then they told me they would replace the pack of seeds, even offering me the opportunity to choose another variety if I didn't want to try the Amish Paste tomatoes again. I rarely have need to return anything, and even more seldom complain about a product, but most of the time the response is a little lukewarm at best. I was greatly relieved that they wanted more information about the problem. For a company offering the service they do, it would have been a little disheartening to have received a generic reply to my e-mail.

I look forward to continuing doing business with them. Plus, you really should try their purple calabash tomatoes. They are outstanding.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

90 Years is a long time.

A long time to live, laugh, love, grieve, work, and then live, laugh, love, grieve, and work some more.

My grandmother passed away in the early hours this morning. Along the 90 year path she traveled, she enjoyed the three brothers her father and mother had given her, and then numerous half-brothers, and one half-sister which came along quite a bit later. She had five handsome sons, and her list of grand-children, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren is seemingly endless. But as with any life, it comes with it's share of heartache. Her mother died when she was only 8. Several of her half-brothers died in infancy. The youngest of her brothers by her mother was killed in Vietnam, and another of her full-brothers passed away when I was in my teens. Several more of her half-brothers have also passed away in the last few years. Her older brother, and a couple of her half-siblings are the only siblings to have survived her. She has out-lived nearly all of her childhood friends and stood by one of her sons as he buried one of his daughters (her 2nd grandchild), who was only 36 at the time. But far and away the worst grief she ever expirenced was the death of one of her own children. Her oldest son died of pneumonia when he was only three. At the time, my uncle was around 18 months old and she was about to give birth to my dad. I can't even fathom what that time must have been like for her.

My grandmother was an extremely hard worker. Because of my grandfather's alcoholism, and my grandparent's subsequent divorce, care of my father and his brothers fell squarely on her shoulders. She worked third shift for years and years because it paid fifty cents more an hour, and she needed every penny she could get in order to provide for her and her sons. Her independence helped her greatly when she was younger, and had to support her children on her own, but it did make it difficult for her to adjust when she became frail and really needed help from others.

She started working in textile mills in 1934, at the ripe old age of 14. She had decided she was grown, moved out of her grandmother's house (where she had lived much of her life after her mother's death), and got a job. She passed for older than her true age, and they weren't too particular about labor laws in those days. The person in charge of hiring didn't ask her age, so she didn't tell. Later, when a supervisor suspected and did ask, she was just told not to spread that information around too much. She retired in 1985 after working for 51 years.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from family dinners spent at my grandmother's little duplex. There were always way more of us than there ever should have been in such a small place, but we enjoyed every minute. It had to be freezing outside to keep us from spilling out onto either the front or back porch. She had a magnificent, climbing, yellow rose growing up a trellis that formed a living screen for the front porch and there was a lovely weeping willow in the front yard. She always had a vegetable garden in the back half of her half of the yard, and we'd play games on the concrete steps leading down from her back porch. There was a tall hedge between her and the church next door that was overrun with honeysuckle, from which we would drink nectar each summer. She had an old vanity in her bedroom where she would let us sit and play dress-up. Okay, maybe all of us grandchildren didn't share in that experience. I'm pretty sure my brothers didn't. My cousins, all of which were girls until I was 13, and I would spend the night and take turns brushing each others' hair. We'd laugh and joke, I'm sure being quite silly, and grandma would get all cracked-up. We'd have her laughing so hard she couldn't breathe. It was hilarious.

My grandmother loved flowers. Two of her favorites were yellow roses and African violets. They are certainly the two I associate with her. She had that gorgeous rose outside her house, and she always seemed to have some of the most beautiful African violets inside. I was determined to get an arrangement for her with African violets in them and was extremely dissapointed to find that they apparently aren't very popular this time of year. With hubby's help, I finally found a small shop that had a few still in bloom and after picking up a planter and some filler plants, I made my own African violet arrangement.

I think she would have loved it.
She would have liked the purple monkey behind it too, but we probably won't take that to the funeral home.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting organized in the garden and pantry.

I'll admit it. If you came to my house, opened the top level of my "pantry", and plastic containers fell out on your head (which is a distinct possibility), you probably wouldn't think kitchen organization was my strong suit. First off, I want to let every building contractor, real estate agent, and anyone else concerned know that a two ft. wide set of floor to ceiling cabinets is to the world of pantrys what a 4' x 5' slab of concrete in front of your door is to porches. A sad, sad little imitation of the real thing, and not worthy of the name. Also, you have to bear in mind that the vast majority of dishes washed in my house are not washed by me, and even fewer get put away by me. I've told them how to do it properly, but you know how it goes; unless I stand in there watching, shortcuts will be made. And since I don't have anymore available time to sit and watch than I do to try and keep the kitchen clean all by myself, I just continue to rant and rave everytime the plastic containers fall out on my head, and routinely assign people to reorganize the cabinets and drawers. *Before any of you girls come complaining to me that you're not the culprit, I'll admit that some of you are much worse about this than others.*
But I digress.
What I'm specifically talking about today is keeping records. I've only been canning since moving to this house three years ago, so I'm still fairly new at it. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to keep a list of everything I made, but it wasn't until after reading a post about keeping a canning log on the Food in Jars blog that a light bulb went off in my head. Well that would be useful. It would be much better to keep a log of what you made and how much of it you ate during the course of the year, than to blindly can whatever suited your fancy, ending up with shortages in some things and overwhelming abundance in others. In June, with that in mind, the girls and I pulled all the jars we had left out of the cabinets in order to take inventory. I used that opportunity to purge a couple of jars from the first year we canned, along with some things that just didn't look like they held up as well. I also went ahead and purged some jam that had not been as popular; no since keeping it if no-one will eat it. I made a list of everything that went back into the cabinet, and as soon as we started our canning again, I purchased a small (6.5"x9.5"), three subject notebook to keep my canning log in. I transfered the list of already canned items to the first section, and started listing the things I was currently canning in the second. When the final batch of peaches was finished last week, I took inventory of my jars and lids, listing that in the third section. I plan on putting a note of any major seal failures in the first section. We had several jars of pie filling pop their seals last year after we had an accident in the cabinet, so we wouldn't want to count those in with the amount we actually consumed. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the coming year.

The other thing I've decided to start keeping records of is my garden. Our gardens have never been particulary large. It's been easy to remember where everything is planted, or which types of plants I've grown. This year we doubled our garden space and I plan on putting at least a couple more beds next year, so I don't want to continue relying on my memory to keep up with what was planted where, or how each variety of plant performed. I've already drawn maps of the garden beds for the last two years, noting where each different type of plant was grown; not necessarily the particular variety, just whether it was a cucumber, tomato, etc. My notebook will hold these maps, along with information that will help me keep track of which varieties of veggies or herbs I chose to grow each year and how they performed. There are several things I'll be making note of from this year, and a few things that I remember from last year.  For instance: I grew purple cherokee tomatoes last year but was not impressed with their taste or yeilds. A friend from church had similar results with hers, but that won't necessarily rule them out.  My aunt loves them, and another friend's son produced impressive cherokees this year. Sometimes where you get your seeds or starts from has a lot to do with it. However, the purple calabash tomatoes I planted this year turned out so delicious, and with such good yeilds, I may just stick with them. Also, I had excellent results from my Roma tomatoes last year, but the Amish Paste tomatoes I grew this year have been a sad disappointment. They produced poorly and repeatedly developed blossom end rot, though the conditions that cause it are usually quite easy to reverse. They also did not produce true. This may be the result adulterated seed, or because the strain is not completely stable, but whatever the reason, I got several small tomatoes that were more like typical tomatoes than the oblong, thick walled paste tomatoes. Though many of the fruit that did develop fully were huge, it doesn't make up for such a small, overall yeild. The one Roma volunteer that popped up in front of the house more than out-produced all six of the Amish Paste tomatoes I planted. I plan on saving seed from that prolific little plant.  Another thing it may help to keep a record of would be pests. An example of that would be how I chose not to plant Rutger tomatoes this year. The plants did pretty well last year (especially given the circumstances), and the tomatoes tasted good, but they were a magnet for tomato horn worms. Almost all of the worms we picked off our tomatoes last year came from those plants. At one point they munched the entire tops out of all the Rutgers, seemingly overnight, while leaving the Romas beside them alone.  The Rutgers rallied quite well after we diligently picked off worms for several days, but if they are that attractive to the ugly little buggers I'd rather not deal with them.       

So we'll give the log books a shot. I'm sure they'll be very helpful if I'm conscientious with my record keeping.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

No. I'm trying for one with green eyes, and other answers to "those" questions.

With regard to my last post, Megan Jenelle asked, "I wonder . . . what have been some of your responses to the questions? Any good but ladylike comebacks? Just wondering . . . ".

So I decided it would make a good post. I'll warn you up front - not all of the responses have been ladylike. Sometimes my lack of patience is plainly evident. Some are humorous, and I do have a very strong sarcastic streak in me, but some of them, especially with regard to our beliefs are fairly good (and not sarcastic) answers.
Keep in mind that all answers are dependent on who is asking the question and why. Some people are genuinely interested, some people are nosey, and some people are just plain rude. Others will get instantly offended when you answer a question with something along the lines of, "Because we feel this is what is best for our children.",  and some professing Christians will get more than a little offended if you tell them you're trying to follow God's direction with regard to how you raise/educate your children. The minute someone else, particulary another women, gets the idea that you feel a mother should stay at home with her kids (whether or not you actually said that) the battle lines are drawn. It is my expierence that with some people it is a no-win situation. They will get offended at the most obscure comment, or try to keep questioning you until you do say something they object to. I like to be as honest as I can with my answers (well, sometimes - like when I'm fairly sure they aren't just trying to be crass), but I also try to word things as non-controversially as possible. There are times though, that you just have to chalk the whole thing up to not casting your pearls before swine. Some of the answers were reserved for family members - as far as I'm concerned it's pretty much no-holds-barred with them. They've known me my whole life. If they are going to ask me stupid questions, well...  I will answer them properly when I feel the joke episode has come to an end.

1) Do (Don't) you know what causes that?
This is never asked seriously. It's rude. Period. No - it's never funny. Okay - maybe I'm just a bit touchy about this. Uhhh, on second thought, no I'm not. It's crass. This never warrents a real answer and to be honest, I usually tried to ignore it. Unless you were related.
Sometimes the sarcastic part of me took over and I'd say,  "Well I'm not sure, but I think there's something in the water.", or "I don't know, but I think it's contagious." 

2) You should get that fixed.
Yeah - everything I said about the first question applies to this comment as well.
Again, it was often ignored, but I have answered with, "Ummmm, it doesn't appear to be broken.", or "Everything seems to work just fine."

3) Are they all yours?
This one can be fun. Some answers:
"Ummm, I think so.", or "Only the girls." (This one usually has them looking around.)

4) Are you trying for a boy?
Well intentioned or not, this question never fails to grate on my nerves. It insinuates the girls aren't good enough and even if that wasn't the questioner's intent, I always felt as though the girls could potentially take it that way. Ask them now and they'll admit they did feel that way occasionally when we were asked the question. Some answers:
"Of course not.", "What for?", "No - in fact we're hoping for another girl.", "We're trying to set the world's record for the most girls one family can have in a row.", "No - we're just trying for babies.", and my all time favorite, "No, I'm trying for one with green eyes." To understand this one better it helps to know that I was expecting T.Lynn (our youngest) and my husband, and all four of the other girls have varying shades of blue, blue/grey eyes. I have hazel, but not the kind with brown in them. They are a funny, changeable green/greenish-blue, and although they only occasionally look true blue in person (or so I'm told), in pictures they often look very blue. Because of this, I wasn't expecting to have a child with green eyes anymore than I was expecting a boy. Maybe my weird hazel, but not green. Never fear though, poetic justice is always right around the corner. T.Lynn has green eyes. Not blueish green, or changeable, or anything else. Just green. You gotta love it!

5) You have FIVE kids???
Really - with the way some people say it you'd think I had forty or fifty. Of course a lot of people just start counting. Some stop and start over repeatedly, on occasion never getting past two. And most of the time the kids aren't even moving around, confusing the counter. Once they were all lined up on an elevator and then I only had four.
I ususally cut to the chase when I see/hear someone counting and just tell them five. That's when I get the above question.
*Ri here. Sometimes when people start counting us, some of us have a nearly overwhelming desire to start moving around and darting behind each other. We've never actually done that, but that desire is there nonetheless!

6) All girls?
Or any variation of that theme - All girls? Only girls? No boys?
I would really love to start looking around, muttering something like, "They were just here....", but so far I've restrained myself. The girls will admit to wanting to say, "Do you see any boys?", or "Yeah. We have boys, but we don't like to let them out of the house.", so they've also restrained themselves admirably. We usually just sigh out a, "Yes, all girls.", or "No boys."

7) Oh, you must be so patient.
No I'm not. The girls are old enough now to either snicker, shake their heads, or come right out and say, "No she's not.", or "Her??" Sometimes I'll take the time to explain that I'm not particularly gifted with patience, but that my mother used to say she had made sure she raised us in such a manner that she would be able to enjoy spending time with us, and that I had done my best to do the same with my own children. At other times, particularly if the person saying it was asking advice because she assumed I was patient, I would explain that part of the reason my children were reasonably well behaved was not because I was patient, but because I was intolerant of annoying behavior. For example, I really dislike whinning and squealing, so I didn't let my kids whine or squeal. I wasn't patient with it, I just didn't allow it. I would often go on to explain, not how to be patient (except with the fact that it would take a bit longer to correct a bad habit than to set a good one to begin with), but how to correct whatever problem they were having.

8) How do you do it?
Often this is a rhetorical  question. When it is I'll say something along the lines of, "I don't.", or "You just do it.", but occasionally it's legitimate and then I explain that I'm not supermom. I just keep doing what need's to be done; crossing things off my list or moving them on to the next day, or week. I'll often explain that there's no way I can do it all. I have to train the girls to help and then I spend a good deal of my time delegating and following up. I've also told people that with God all things are possible. (No - I wasn't joking.)

9) How do you manage them all?
"With a whip and a chair!!", or "Good 'ol fashioned military training." No joking here, I've really said that, but all kidding aside, when this question is sincere I usually use the same answer with regard to my mom and training them in such a manner that I'll be able to enjoy being around them. I've also said, "With a lot of prayer."

10) Why so many? (This has a few different variations as well.)
"Because we love children." "Because we feel children are a blessing from God."

11) Are you Mormon? (Or Amish, Mennonite,  etc.)
No - We are Christians.
As I said before, that doesn't seem to help some people and they'll go on to ask, "Well, what are you?" Some people start off asking that. You wouldn't believe all the potential answers that bounce around in my head when people ask me what we are. (Ummmm - human? or That's classified.) Of course some of them just ask what denomination we are. It all usually boils down to me explaining that we would be considered fairly conservative Christians and that we attend a family integrated church. Then I usually have to explain what a family integrated church is.

11) Why do you wear dresses?
We do believe you should dress modestly. We don't believe you absolutely have to wear dresses (as in, we don't believe it's a sin for women to wear pants), but we do feel that dresses are the best answer to dressing modestly and femininely. Sometimes I answer by stating simply that we wear dresses to be modest and as a way of honoring the differences God has created between men and women.

12) Why do you practice courtship?
We won't go into all the, "That's crazy." comments we get on this one. There isn't enough time in the day, and I usually ignore them. Ri's biggest problem is with all the comments about her not being able to think on her own because they feel practicing courtship means I, or my husband will try to control her life/marriage. She has taken to telling people they'll have to come up with a more original question/comment if they expect her to answer it.
We feel it's important for a young couple to focus on their future lives together, to take time to really get to know one another without getting sidetracked with a lot of the stuff that normally goes on during casual dating, and we want to maintain purity.
You have to remember here; Ri and he are both adults. They are willingly submitting to this.

13) Do you have to (wear dresses, practice courtship, not wear makeup, have long hair, have lots of babies, homeschool, etc.), because of your religion?
No. These are personal convictions of ours. Well, most of them anyway. We don't all have long hair - not the type where it's never cut. All of us keep our hair cut to whatever length we currently want it, but we do prefer them to at least have it down to their shoulders. We do wear makeup - when we want to anyway. If you're asking if we believe in birth control, that depends. We do believe you should welcome children into your lives, but we also believe you should use common sense. Sometimes refraining from having children for awhile (possibly for health issues) could be a good idea, but we would use natural family planning. I wouldn't use the pill or any other device/medication.

Homeschool questions

1) Is it legal? (You can do that?)

2) Don't you have to be certified?

3) How do you do it? (Is there something you have to do to teach them at home?)
I explain our state's requirements.

4) Why do you homeschool?
Depending on the person asking this, it can be a long or short answer.
We feel God tells his people that they are responsible for teaching their children about the things of God continually (Deut. 6:6-7), and that the best way to achieve that is to homeschool them. Public school not only doesn't teach about God, but by teaching from an evolutionist's standpoint it goes directly against what God teaches us. Then there's all the garbage that goes on in school. I don't think it's a good environment for children at all. I am responsible for teaching my children about God. Trying to find someone who'll do that for me isn't really embracing my responsibilities.

5) What about socialization?
"They're girls - what makes you think they'd have any problem socializing? They talk to everyone!"
"Are you kidding? If they knew my social security number so would half the county."
"Well, we let them out of the house/off the compound every great once in awile."
Then there are the times the girls mention something about a popular singer, book, or movie and their peers will say something like, "You know about that/them?" To that, my girls have gotten to where they say, "Yeah. Every so often something drifts into the bubble we live in." Then again, sometimes they beg and plead for someone to come up with something original to say.
When we're being serious, which I have to admit isn't often with regard to this question, we'll explain that having them around all kinds of people, in every situation, from every socio-economic background, and of all ages, is a much more normal form of socialization than being stuck in a classroom with 25-35 other kids of the same age all day long. And it is.

Okay - I know that's long. There were some serious answers and some not so serious answers, but I hope you enjoyed it.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Are you like the Duggars?"

I have fielded a lot of strange questions in my time, but that one...well, it got my attention, and temporarily left me at a loss for words.

I've said it before. Strain against societal norms, especially when you're raising children, and you automatically set yourself up for every inane comment and asinine question immaginable.
Just try having more than two kids without hearing, "Don't you know what causes that?", (BTW - never ask that question to an extremely tired mom in the third trimester of her fifth pregnancy. She is physically unable to restrain herself for the millionth time, and you'll most likely wish you hadn't asked her - at least not in public.), or the ever popular, "You should see about getting that fixed." And if you only have kids of one gender you'll inevitably be asked if you're trying for the other gender. (Both of those are also comments that should be withheld from a tired, pregnant mom.) Oh, and let's not forget, "Are they all yours?"
While they're babies, and then (gracious me!!) toddlers, you'll be asked when you plan on returning to work. The older they get without you seeming anxious to dump them in daycare, the more you'll start getting "the look". The one that suggests you've either lost your mind, or that you're failing society by "not doing anything".  And don't worry, you won't just get the look. Some of the braver souls will actually ask you when you plan on doing something worthy again.
Announce you're homeschooling (or simply answer the oft asked question of why your kids aren't in school on a school day) and you may as well have begged society to hunt you down with a barrage of criticism. You can recite the questions/comments in your sleep, you hear them so often. And the looks, comments and questions vamp up again when you dare to continue homeschooling through high school. Never fear though, society won't actually have to hunt you down because you get the questions everywhere. Now what was that question about socialization?
Wear dresses, practice courtship, have longer than average hair (by that I just mean none of them have hair above their shoulders), and fail to wear makeup most of the time (never mind that this is just because you're too lazy to put it on) and you'll get:
"What denomination are you?"
"Are you Mennonite (or Mormon, or Amish, or Fundamental, or ......)" We're Christian doesn't seem to answer them sufficiently.
"Do you have to.......?" Fill in the blank here with any of the above mentioned items, from having more than two kids, to wearing dresses.
"What are you?" This is one of my favorites. I have to bite my tongue often when asked this question.

But, despite all my years of training in this sort of thing, I was completely unprepared when asked if we were like the Duggars.
Like the Duggars???
It took me a minute or two. Long enough for her to go ahead and explain that she had already asked the question of my older daughters and they had suggested she talk to me. I'm sure my bemused expression was part of the reason she hastened to add that she only asked because we seemed like such a nice family.
Well thank you, but still...
With the question still fumbling around in my head, I did manage to ask her, "In what respect do you think we're like the Duggars?" She went on to tell me, "Well you have such a lovely family," (thank you), "and you have a lot of children," (5 is a far cry from 19), "and, well....". I had to extrapolate from there. I made the assumption that all of us wearing dresses had something to do with the association as well, although she was too polite to say so. I told her that I knew little of the Duggars. Of course I know who they are, but I don't watch their TV show. I do have one of their books, but it doesn't really explain all their beliefs so I was limited with regard to how I could comment. I do know that they speak of their beliefs being responsible for why they dress modestly and homeschool, but here again, beyond passing on that bit of informaiton I was at a loss. I also know that they hold strongly to living a lifestyle free of debt and shared that too. They describe themselves as conservative Christians, so I went on to add that as such, we would most likely believe some of the same things, but we would probably have differences as well.

The whole experience left me more than a little amused, and with yet another strange question to add to my list.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Making Life a Little Easier

If not life in general, then at the very least, canning.

Last year we did all the tomato sauce by hand; peeling, coring, chopping, and squeezing out the excess liquid before cooking it down. For Christmas last year, I asked my mom for a Roma food mill. I love it. We just washed and chopped the tomatoes and ran them through the food mill. It took a bit longer to cook down because there was more liquid, but the time savings in the prep work more than made up for the additional cook time.
My largest stock pot, filled to the brim.
Some of the sauce is behind the peaches.
Don't ask me why the picture looks pinkish - I think cameras hate me.
One of the things we used some of the tomato puree for was barbeque sauce. I got to cook, and taste, and cook, and taste some more until I liked it. We don't use barbeque sauce much, but I'll like the fact that we'll have homemade on hand whenever we want it.
We also finished up our diced tomatoes for the year by making our homemade version of Rotel. What made canning the diced tomatoes extra special this year was that we raised all of the tomatoes we used for the plain diced and the Rotel ourselves. Even the peppers we used were homegrown - most from my younger brother, but some from our own garden as well. We used a mix of red and green cayennes from my brother, and poblanos and black hungarians from our garden. I think it'll be a bit hotter this year - I can't wait to see.

Tomorrow the plan is to make some blackberry jelly, and some blueberry and mixed berry jam. Yummm. I love canning.
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