Saturday, January 15, 2005

Warm Up America Project

My first blanket for the Warm Up America project.

Today, I finished my first blanket for the Warm Up America Foundation. It has taken me several months to complete. This organization is comprised of volunteers that make blankets, either knitted or crocheted, one square at a time. Someone one asked me if it wouldn't be better to just buy blankets, as they aren't very expensive, rather than devoting a lot of time to making these afghans by hand. There is some logic in that, but it isn't about logic.

Cindy Carple, who organizes our local volunteers, asked me to make a card to give with the afghan stating that I thought the recipient was special enough to receive this hand-made blanket. She explained that when they first started the project, many of the homeless would not take the blankets, not believing anyone would take the time to make and give them something so special. This project is about having a warm blanket, but it is also about imparting caring and concern with the gift. When you have made something that to you is more than a blanket, but is more like a creation, you can't help but feel a connection, even if you don't meet, to the person who wraps it around his or her shoulders. The colors in this blanket were chosen for a woman, perhaps one with small children like me, but one who hasn't been so lucky in life.

Each time I worked on the blanket, my small son asked, "You make a blanket for people that are 'told (cold)?" When I replied that it was, he stated that HE was 'told, too, and would I make a blanket for him? So, my next blanket will be smaller and for W.

My girls helped make balls out of the skeins of yarn this time and are starting to practice simple stitches so that they can help. For now, I hope that they are learning by my example.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Big Shoes to Fill

Well, the day is almost here when one of my daughters can say she is as tall as I am. For those of you that know me, that's not saying much. In my stocking feet, if I stand really tall, I make 5' 2", maybe minus 1/2" on the days when I've carried W all day. Over the past year, my two daughters have repeatedly amused themselves with measuring how tall they are and how their line compares with the line on the door jamb labled "Mommy".

I knew it was all over when the younger daughter, complained that her shoes were too tight every few hours for a year. She went from a seven to a size 10 Wide women's in one year! This was a relief in some respects, for she was no longer able to run to the muddy barn in MY shoes. But finding shoes that look appropriate for an 11 year old in a size 10 wide is no easy feet (I mean feat).

A. measured in only 1/4" less than my height today. Okay, so I'm hanging on to that last shred of being taller. I wonder what it is going to be like to look up to my little girl, who still occasionally needs a hug and holding. Should I sit on her lap to comfort her? Books on parenting don't give tips on this subject.

You can see it in her bones - she is going to follow in the footsteps of my tall husband's side of the family. L, on the other hand, seems destined to be a petite woman like me. She is happy with her fate, as she knows anyone can be tall - by being on the back of a horse.

As they grow, I wonder if the effects of carrying a 30 pound toddler around will cause me to shrink further. Perhaps with all the nostalgia for decades past, platform shoes will come back!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Dead Things

W, my almost 3 year old, became fascinated with understanding the word "dead" after visiting my sister's house over Christmas. He is trying to come to an understanding of the word, I think, as he uses it to describe anything that "doesn't work". Animals can be dead, just as a favorite toy which has "dead" batteries is dead.

My sister's husband is an avid and professional hunter, and has trophies displayed in their living room. One is the head of a bull elk. It is very impressive and caught W's eye immediately.

"What's that?"
"An elk," I told him, not paying much attention.
"What are those?" he continued.
"His horns."
"I don't see no legs," he said, cracking me up. "He's dead?"
"Yes, he's dead," I said.
W looked across the room to the deer on the wall. "Deer dead?"

He proceeded to go around the room looking at each animal. There were many: deer, ducks, mountain goats, fish, all proudly displayed. At each one, he asked if the animal was dead. Now, brother-in-law was in the room and was squirming a bit at the attention to the word. Enjoying the moment, I replied, "Yes, W, they are dead, Uncle Joe killed them." Uncle Joe was not amused. I was.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Today, we went downtown to the Louisville Science Museum for a field trip. Located right on the Ohio River, we noticed all the flooding, right up to our favorite parking lot adjacent to the building. The muddy, rolling water was a sight, with chunks of things floating by. The kids were quite amazed at the flooding even along the highway coming in. We talked about the marks on the bridge, showing past flood levels, and how the flood gates work. No boats were visible on the river, reminding me of the terrible accident in Pennsylvania the other day, sinking a tug boat and killing three crewmen. (Read about the 1937 flood in Cincinnati on my dad's website,

We enjoyed the IMAX, "Space Station" which generated a lot of discussion about space travel and exploration. One daughter mentioned while she wouldn't want to be an astronaut, she would like to "fly" in zero gravity.

To get my dear young (almost 3 yo.) son to walk to the theater to see the movie, we told him of the polar bear that stands outside the entrance to the theater. Wouldn't you know, the (stuffed) polar bear was gone.

"Where is he?" asked son.
"I don't know," I answered.
"Where's da polar bear?" asked son.
Desperate for another answer that might work, I tried, "He's in the basement getting cleaned."
"Let's go see it," replied son. No, can't do that, so we tried looking around a little. We hear a rather large rumble, which I think was the furnace or air system kicking on, and son was ran back to where we had been sitting, sure that there was a monster somewhere. The movie then distracted him and I was happy to leave the polar bear subject behind.

Hours later at home, son asks, "Where's da polar bear?"
"Getting cleaned in the basement," I tried.
"Where's the polar bear?"
"I don't know."
"Where's the polar bear?"
"He went to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus."
I knew there was some answer that he'd accept! End of discussion.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Delayed Gratification

One day, the little boy said, "Put on my socks and my shoes and my coat. I am going to ride the 'fractor (read tractor) and not be scared." So, Santa took him outside and indeed, the little boy can now drive the tractor with no problem. Okay, maybe with the occasional bump into something, but pretty good for a little boy.

Click here to see original story.

Swiss Steak Recipe

This is an adaptation of a family favorite, great for the crockpot on a cold, rainy day like today.

Swiss Steak

Put into a large crockpot:
2 pound chuck roast
15 oz. tomato sauce
2 T. soy sauce
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion sliced or chopped
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. black pepper
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. dried parsley
1 t. dry basil
3 T flour (to thicken sauce)
baby carrots
salt to taste

Cook in slow cooker on high for 5 hours or until meat is tender.
Serve over hot egg noodles (we use whole wheat).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Goat

"Am I the goat in this one, too?" my husband asked when I handed him a printout of my latest blog. I laughed, because he was in that blog, though certainly not as a goat. He was outfoxed by a chicken, however. I write from things in my life, but family members might be concerned that what they say will end up fodder for my blog. I wonder what Erma Bombeck's husband thought of her writing?

Friday, January 07, 2005

PETA Bread

I don't choose the ads on my blog, but they are generated by some computer programmed to scan the content of my blogs. The ads are meant to match the content of my musings. It seems to have a lag time of several weeks, but I imagine it is also difficult for this computer, because I tend to write about a variety of things.

Before Christmas, I had some spice packet recipes to be used as gifts - add your own chicken. Chicken recipes websites and spice websites started showing up about a week later. Then, I noticed one for PETA concerning "The Hidden Lives of Chickens". Being a chicken owner and eater, I thought I ought to check out the link, since it was on my blogsite. (I try to check most of the ads just to make sure they aren't totally objectionable.)

We raise chickens for pets and for eggs, and wouldn't eat our own chickens, being named and all. We love chickens. The article contained many true and interesting facts about chickens. I don't know if all the information was correct, but they seemed to leave out a few other facts. Such as: chickens in a coop will seek out and peck to death any chicks that are not their own. Chickens can be very cruel to the chickens on the bottom of the pecking order. Roosters can be ruthless.

A picture of "Oscar", a Barred Rock rooster we once owned, still sits on the desk of my insurance agent. In all the years he had been an insurance agent, he'd never been bitten by a dog while photographing house or visiting clients, but he was attacked and "bitten" by Oscar. He was photographing our barn for his records when Oscar spied him.

Oscar would run across our lawn like a velociraptor and attack anyone moving about. His beak would put holes in clothing, and if you were unlucky to get the full force of the attack, he'd put a hole in your leg, too. My children came to be afraid to go outside without a stick if Oscar was loose. He was really bold to go after my husband, but he was smart, too. Madder than a wet hen, K would go to kick him, and the rooster would jump right at the point of impact, dodging the blow. Even madder, K would kick even harder. I don't think he ever managed to connect.

After hearing my mom scream on my front steps as Oscar went after her, he almost knocked him down my dad, and he scared several friends' children, Oscar became chicken and dumplings. Oh, not on my table, but a friend came to claim him from the coop while we were on vactation. All we found were a few feathers. I imagine he was a pretty tough bird.

Oh, and I had chicken for dinner tonight. See recipe below for Herb Marinated Chicken. It was great!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Christmas Expectations

Santa had a soft spot this year. Mrs. Santa, who in actuality is the real work elf each Christmas, thought she could hold back. But there was this one toy, sure to please a little boy that LOVED tractors. His books were about tractors, his favorite activity was riding with his daddy on a tractor, most of his toys were tractors, he dreamed tractors. And, Santa, he had a John Deere tractor, little boy size, that ran just like a real John Deere tractor, and even had a wagon to pull. Santa couldn't help himself and brought the toy home to the little boy.

Now, Santa saw the large box, and was sure that all he had to do was open the box and display the tractor for the boy to find. Santa was dismayed to find many little pieces and stickers, and instructions translated from Chinese. He spent the evening working on this puzzle.

But the next day, Santa was rewarded as the little boy shook with excitement to find the tractor behind the sofa. He wanted to try it, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus, eager to see him enjoy the tractor, put the boy on the tractor and bid him to push the pedal.

Now, 2 miles per hour sounded pretty slow to the Clauses, but you know, inside the house, 2 miles per hour is pretty darn fast. Little boy drove straight away into the prized piano. Everyone gasped! He got off the tractor, expecting a reprimand, yet, the Clauses bid him try again! Not knowing to mount on the side without the pedal, the little boy stepped on the accelerator and the tractor took off without him.

The little boy is now petrified of the prized tractor and says he will try it again "someday" when he is older and it isn't scary. Mr. and Mrs. Claus are left to consider their dashed expectations for Christmas excitement.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Next Generation Out Loud

Do you have a writer in your family? Next Generation Press is taking submissions for a contest. Winners will be in their next anthology. The contest is open to ages 13 - 19 and covers a number of genres. Deadline is February 15th. Click on Next Generation Out Loud to go to the website.

Home School Family Soap Business

Looking for some unique gifts from a homeschool business? Check out Soaps and Potions webpage. Barbara's homeschooling family makes reasonably priced soaps and other neat items. If you look under The Process, you can see how they make the soap from raw materials. As you can see from the photos, her children are involved in the process.

Bookadventure Website

My kids recently re-discovered this website that we've enjoyed before: It suggests books by reading levels or genre. Kids can take quizzes on books they've read and they earn points. Though we've never redeemed points, the girls seem to enjoy taking the quizzes.

Here's their intro:

Book Adventure is a FREE reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists from over 6,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they've read offline, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes. Book Adventure was created by the Sylvan Learning Foundation and is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, Inc.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Much of our learning comes from our everyday experiences, including math. Sometimes, however, there are math concepts that are beyond our everyday experiences. It has been our choice to follow a math curriculum. It is one subject that I really want my kids to know.

You may think that my desire to have my kids love math stems from my engineering background. Actually, I think it more comes from the overall power that understanding math gives an individual and that I have experienced in my own life. Though I wouldn't want to repeat my engineering education, I also wouldn't want to give up my math background. Math teaches you to think.

Lately, there has been a lot of press about the ranking of U.S. students versus other countries. While the following article provides no answers, it does give some very good arguments why it is important to find a way to teach math. One interesting point, is that the author, Arthur Michelson, writes "I don't have the big answer. I teach middle school and try to find an answer one child at a time. When I can get one to say, 'Wow, that's tight,' I feel the joy of a small victory."

Now, that's why I homeschool.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

High School

Homeschooling used to be considered rather radical, but it is becoming more commonplace these days. Many people respond to our admission that we homeschool with their list of people that they know that homeschool, followed by their reasons they themselves do not. Some of them then throw in a compliment of sorts. "I don't know how you do it. I'd go crazy." This generally is a polite way of telling me that I'm the crazy one.

As the girls get older, I am asked more frequently "how long do you plan to do this?" High school seems to be the general concern. Socialization was the issue in the younger years, and I am concerned about it. We do need to cut back. It is hard to get any real school work done. But lately, the concern is how my girls are going to be prepared to go to college.

Not too long ago, I met with two dear friends from college. Both, like me, graduated from college with an engineering degree. Neither one would, nor would I, again go to engineering school if sent back in time. High school, for us, seemed to be geared toward getting into college, and into a program that would procure a high paying, secure job on exit. It did that. They didn't lie about that part. We all did well after college. But, high school years, and later college, didn't really explore who we were, what we really wanted out of life, and how we wanted to live it.

I've been doing some research on what I would like high school to be like for my kids, and I will be writing some about what I have found. I've looked at some home high school curricula, and so far, found it rather dry. Surprisingly, the first thing I have found that has lit my light bulb is a public school, which is unfortunately in Rhode Island. Perhaps some of the ideas will be adapted to our home high school.

The Met School, run by Dennis Littky, requires the students to do a lot of hands on work, work study and portfolios. There are no tests, no grades. It has no required classes. "I believe that there is not one set of subject matter that all human beings need to know," Littky said. "There is so much knowledge out there. The key is loving to learn, finding knowledge and then applying that knowledge." Founder of the Met School and co-director of the Big Picture Company, they are building a network of small schools with a similar philosophy. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have considered tapping the homeschool community so far. Most of Met students go on to college.

On, there is a list of the expectations of each grade level that I thought I might be able to work into our homeschool. I think designing such a home high school may be a challenge, but in the end, I hope that high school will be a time of learning for my kids not of facts, but of who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

Information on the Met

Learning Goals and Expectations at the Met

LA Times
To to this website, sign in (register), search for "Littky" and see article entitled "Tests are History at This High School"


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