Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Our Week at the Fair

The Midway at Sunset

Since moving to our new home just under three years ago (Seriously, where does the time go?) we have developed a new tradition.  The county fair grounds are right near our house.  We ride our bikes there, have homeschool park days there, and enjoy events and activities held there year round.  However, there is one week each year that we really look forward to.  The last full week in July gets busy in our neighborhood. The St. Clair County 4-H Fair comes to town.  The Skerbeck Carnival pulls in, and scores of 4-H members set up camp.  It's amazing to watch the park transform into this beautifully functioning city of sorts.  There is more that goes on there than we are able to participate in, despite our best efforts.

The Sings at Sunset
This year marked the third summer we've spent at the fair, and it held many new experiences for us.  We actually participated in the Scavenger Hunt hosted by the St. Clair County Library System.  The area they set up in the Welcome Center is a refreshing oasis for those of us with young children.  There are puzzles, games, crafts, books, bathrooms, and air conditioning.  What more could a mom ask for after spending a long day on her feet in the hot sun than a cool place to rest while the kids unwind with some quiet activity.  Seriously, whoever thought up this idea is a genius in my book, and I thank them heartily.  The library oasis was made even a little more sweet this year when I received a phone call this past Monday morning asking, "Is this Annabella's mom?"  Talk about weird to hear that on the other end of the phone.  She won an awesome Little Critter gift pack in the Scavenger Hunt drawing which we will pick up next Tuesday on our regularly scheduled visit to the library.  How exciting for her!

Annabella cooling off with an A-B-C puzzle.

Avery loved the farm toys!

Harmony creating a farm scene.

Make a Wish!
The fair is always a little extra special for Harmony as it is always held the week of her birthday.  It's like one giant celebration all week in her honor.  Not really, but what memories she'll have for the rest of her life.  If only it were so exciting around here in January!  I love, love, love that they have a dollar day for the kids.  All rides are one dollar from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on one special day of the fair.  That is the only time we ride rides, and how exciting for me to realize that my little kids are not so little any more.  There are "big kid" rides that they can ride with me.  Wow!  How did that happen?

Avery on the Carousel

Annabella on the Carousel

Harmony with my niece, Jordan, on the carousel.

Me riding with Avery as his friend, Justin, drove the car.

The first night was the rodeo.  Flying Star Rodeo put on a wonderful performance.  It was so refreshing to me to be at a public event that opened with prayer followed by the Star Spangled Banner.  The kids loved it! Avery played cowboy with his jump rope as a lasso for the rest of the week.  Super cute!

A Cowboy Welcome

Country Pride

The Clown

Bucking Bronco

Maybe the biggest highlight for our family was when Avery got to participate in the Power Wheels Race on Saturday night.  What fun!  He did great coming in 3rd Place making the cut to participate in the final race.  He was slowed down, and didn't place, when his wheels got caked up with mud.  He was super bummed, but he enjoyed the experience greatly.  I sure hope we can get our hands on another vehicle so that Bella can do it with him next year.  It was precious listening to her cheer him on.

He's wearing the red helmet.

More fair fun:

Daddy having fun with the wee ones.

Papa and Harmony

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flourish by Mary Jo Tate - Apologia Book Review

Flourish Book Review
Honestly, I was nervous to take on this review.  I, a homeschool mom, struggle greatly with finding balance in my day, my week, my life, and reading had somehow gotten knocked near the bottom of my list of priorities.  I had been existing in survival mode.  However, when the opportunity to review Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms came to me through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew via Apologia Educational Ministries something in me told me to take on the challenge.  The big clincher for me was that Mary Jo Tate is a successful homeschool mom that works from home, and when I reviewed the chapters of the book I saw that she included one titled Home Business where she shares her personal experience and wisdom as a successful, SINGLE, work-from-home, homeschool mom.  Talk about some pretty big hats!  My attention had been peaked, and I accepted the challenge.

If I chose to focus on the perceived negative, I failed my challenge.  I have not finished the book.  However, I choose to focus on the positive.  There are 16 chapters in Flourish, and I am a mere five pages from completing Chapter 15, Home Business; the magic morsel that I had been searching for when I began this personal challenge.  I did get a little more than I bargained for.  Once I received my book in the mail from Apologia, and I read the first chapter, I was hooked.  What I didn't realize was that Mary Jo Tate would call on me to take some action on my own behalf.  At the end of each chapter Mary Jo a page titled Take Action!  I was a little nervous when I saw that first action step at the end of Chapter One.  However, I would not be so easily discouraged.  I grabbed a blank composition book from our homeschool cupboard and got to work.

The first Take Action! step was basically a review session for me.  See, I have been really working on self-reflection and have really been taking the time I need to evaluate where I am as an individual, where we are as a family, and where we stand as entrepreneurs.  I have been doing a bit of the dirty work already, so the first step didn't throw me any real curve balls.  The one glaring thing that did stand out to me though is that I do not have ANY written goals.  NONE!  I, the constant goal setter, had somehow allowed the waves of life to grab hold tight and beat me against the shore, over and over again.  Somehow, I have managed to lose my footing and stop doing something I consider completely essential to a successful life.  I have NO written goals for myself.  I have NO written goals for my family.  I have NO written goals for my homeschool.  I have NO written goals for our business.  ZIP.  ZERO.  ZILCH.  NADA.  This, thanks to Mary Jo Tate, will soon be remedied.

I have worked myself through each chapter so far diligently working on each and every Take Action! step at the end of each and every chapter.  I even completely read the chapter on single parents.  If you are not a single-parent this chapter is still for you.  Mary Jo does a wonderful job giving insight to both the single-parent that has made the commitment to homeschool her children as well as homeschoolers like me who have the benefit of a supportive husband.  She provides Take Action! steps for both groups of people as well.  I appreciate the wise quotes throughout the book as well as the personal input from real-life individuals in the trenches today, especially in this chapter.  The single-parent led homeschool family can easily slip through the social cracks, so to speak, and there is great advice given here that both empowers the single-parent as well as equips the traditional homeschool family to be both empathetic and supportive.

Flourish Book ReviewMary Jo Tate has provided a true blessing in the writing of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms.  I have been telling others about it since I read the first four chapters in one sitting.  (Your do remember what I said about my struggle to find time to read above, right?)  It's a breath of fresh air, and should hold a place on the shelves of all homeschoolers, both new and veteran.  It would make a wonderful gift for any occasion to any homeschool mom.  Flourish is loaded with practical advice given from personal experience.  It is real life lived successfully with bumps and bruises bared.  For me, this equates to wisdom, and wisdom shared is multiplied.  Mary Jo Tate has effectively shared with us wisdom worth sharing.  Reading Flourish has been a blessing to me, and I know it will continue to bless me and many others for years to come.  It may just be the best $15 investment you'll ever make in your self, your family, your homeschool, and your business; all in one fell swoop!

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 
She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."
~Proverbs 3:13-18

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Irish Princess - a novel

I have made a concerted effort to spend more time reading, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it.  I am a major bookworm, and I found myself swept up in the throws of life.  This left me with the perception that I just had no time to read.  Well, I missed it greatly.  It was like a longing in my heart.  I cannot imagine life without books.

Most of the books I read are educational in one way or another; not by preference, but by necessity.  Or, at least my perceived notion that I need to be reading books about teaching, parenting, home schooling, education, and on and on.  However, I love to read fiction, and every now and then I have to remind myself to read a novel.  I mentioned The Irish Princess by Mickey Clement in a previous post.  I finally finished it, and I am so glad I didn't give up on reading it.

I have a strong Irish heritage, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about The Malloy clan, an Irish-American family living in Troy, New York in the 1960's.  It didn't take me long to get into the flow of Mickey Clement's approach to the telling of their story.  After a while I rather enjoyed learning more about the happenings of the Malloy family from the perspective of each of the family members.  Toward the end I couldn't put the book down.  I was anxious to learn how the story ended.  It was invigorating.  I missed that feeling a lot.  Now, my radar is peaked looking for the next novel to read.  There's just something about summer and a good book.  What are you reading this summer?

Monday, July 07, 2014


Country living hasn't worked out quite exactly as I had planned.  My ambitions out number my ambition by far.  As you well know, we've been flung a few curve balls since we moved.  It's caused me to take MUCH longer in accomplishing things around our so-called homestead.  Again, I almost threw the towel completely in on growing anything around here that resembled food for yet another summer.

When we moved here there was no real landscaping to speak of, so everything we do is completely new and has required a lot of manual labor on our part.  There was one existing flower bed around our front porch, and I had resigned myself to leaving it alone.  It wasn't planted the way I would do it, but it looked nice enough.  One less thing to worry about while we tackle the laundry list of things more pressing around here; chop wood to heat during winter, mow the grass, trim the trees, build a barn, build a chicken coop, build a hearth for a now needed new wood burner, etc.

Our home when we first purchased it with original plants.

A different plan came about, and I'm glad we are seeing it through.  Jack Frost bit real hard this winter here in SE Michigan.  We had numerous days with sustained 30-degrees BELOW ZERO temperatures.  I don't recall a winter that found me spending more time indoors ever in my life.  Well, the star attraction around our front porch was four lovely rosebushes that bloomed spring through fall.  The problem?  They are only cold-hardy to temperatures of 20-degrees below zero.  Yes.  They died.

My damaged trees and dead rose bushes this spring.

Once we determined the rose bushes were not coming back my husband cut them off at the base with his chainsaw.  We left it like that for a short while, but it was driving me crazy.  We're nearing the end of planting season, so vegetable plants are easily found for 99-cents here, and perennials can be picked up for Buy One, Get One FREE.  My kind of deals.

The kids and I stopped at a farm stand that we pass on our way back and forth to the chiropractor.  We found four heirloom tomato plants, 12 bell pepper, and four jalapeno peppers along with some daisies and a couple other flowers. I managed to keep them alive in their pots for about a week and was anxious to get them in the ground.  I kept trying to determine how it was I was going to get these plants into dirt, but be it pot on the porch or in the ground I really wanted to see them grow.

Fortunately, my hubby agreed to dig out the rosebush roots this past Sunday.  I decided to run out to a local feed store for rabbit food and bird seed.  Well, they have four greenhouses.  I found two kinds of lettuce totaling eight plants, four eggplant plants, two large basil plants, four slicing cucumber plants, and some more flowers.

The front bed along the porch replanted with flowers and vegetables.

The kids and I managed to get most everything in the ground right in the existing flower bed around the front porch.  We still have some peppers and lettuce to plant along with some flowers.  I am thinking the produce plants will go in big tubs on the porch, and we will add the flowers to a perennial bed we have been trying to establish the last couple of summers.  First, we need to pull a lot of weeds!

Seems funny to have moved from a postage stamp sized yard to nearly 11 acres and still be planting like I live in the city.  For now, this is a simple solution.  However, I still hold out hope for my cottage-style raised bed garden.  One day.  One day.


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