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Ready to Rumble! August 31, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family.
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Check out the latest in Powder Puff football fashions!

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Okay, well really Lydia has been diagnosed with Positional Plagiocephaly, also known as Flattened Head Syndrome.

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When we were young, our parents put us to sleep on our tummies to ease colic and increase the likelihood we would sleep through the night. In the last 20 years, pediatricians have been urging parents to lay children on their backs to reduce the incidents of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This “Back to Sleep” program has helped prevent SIDS, but the downside of it is a marked increase in babies with misshapen heads. (Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear all kinds of statistics. I read today that it now occurs in one out of every thirty babies).

God, in His infinite wisdom, created babies with skulls that are not yet hardened so we can fit through the birth canal and also accommodate a rapidly growing brain. The bones of the cranium begin fusing as we reach one year old. In the meantime, the shape of the head can be affected, especially by lying predominantly on one side while sleeping. That is what has caused Lydia’s flat spot.

If the flattening is mild enough, it may not require any medical intervention and may even out on its own if care is taken to balance the amount of time the baby sleeps or leans against each side. But in many cases like Lydia’s, the baby has a “favorite side” they continuously turn the head to while they sleep. I would go in and turn her head to the left after she fell asleep, but she would roll it right back.

If left untreated, the uneven pressure may cause the forehead on the favored side to begin bulging forward, followed soon by the cheek and eye. Vision can be impaired too.

After getting a CT scan of Lyddie’s head and seeing a plastic surgeon, a mold was made and a custom helmet created. It will reshape her skull bones to round out the back and prevent the forehead from becoming uneven.

Lydia just received her helmet. Before I could get out of the elevator with her, a woman had already asked with a gasp why she was wearing it. I told her she had Plagiocephaly. I think I saw the woman take a step back and hold her breath until we got out, just in case it was contagious. Joe and I decided that we might have some real fun with our explanations, just to see people’s reactions. Like maybe that it’s for her protection since we keep dropping her or that she’s the newest rookie “crawlingback” for the Tennessee Titans. (Okay, we’ll eventually tell them the truth and maybe even educate them a little).

By the way, Joe suggested I entitle this entry “Does This Hat Make My Head Look Fat? “

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Over the Fence: Tobacco Farming August 29, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Our hundred year old house was originally a 90+ acre homestead. A whole lot of folks have lived in it over the past century and some of them sold off pieces of the land. Sixty of those acres on the north side of the house are now owned by tobacco farmers.

Over the last few summers, we’ve been here to watch the planting, cultivating, and harvest going on just a few feet from the property line. I thought readers who didn’t live in tobacco country might be interested, so I’ve snapped pictures since the spring.

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After the ground is tilled, disked, and frequently sprayed with herbicide, the started tobacco plants are “set.”

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Though it may look like these guys are just riding along, there is an interesting system going on. The guys on the outside are passing plants to the inside guys. They put them into the “setters” which are rotating around on those back wheels. As the wheels turn, they plunk the plants into the ground.

Notice the spray coating the ground as they go. I believe this is chemical fertilizer.

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Tobacco is amazing to me. With almost no rain at all, it still steadily grows while the blueberries I have faithfully dragged many 5-gallon buckets of water to are just barely clinging to life.

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About the first of August, the workers were out “topping” the plants. If you look carefully, you may be able to see the flower spikes on some plants in the foreground. These are broken off to keep the plants from going to seed and to redirect the growth to the leaves.

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Mid-August, the workers were back to cut the plants. They walked through swinging blades and piling up the plants.

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It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the plants were all hung on poles and then handed up to the guys on the truck. When the truck was full, they unloaded the poles onto special trailers used to transport the hanging tobacco to the smoking barns.

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It makes me feel a little better about our garden that despite the frequent drenching of herbicide on these weeds in the foreground, they’re still there and doing fine.

It’s no wonder to me that tobacco is highly carcinogenic. Between the herbicides and the fertilizers, a lot of chemicals are sprayed on it during its growth. Besides that, its leaves are sappy. We can always tell if our dogs have chased a rabbit through the fence because their coats are stiff and sticky for weeks afterward.

A good friend of ours grew tobacco until last year. He came close to a sunstroke and was in bed sick for days. Some of the wonderful farming folks from our church finished his harvest. He vowed to give up raising it when he recovered. His wife was so relieved since she had been worried about his health just from his exposure. Every evening he came home from working with it, he showered well. By morning, some of the chemicals that he had absorbed had oozed back out of his pores and left a silhouette of him on the sheets.

But the thing that keeps folks growing it is that they say they can’t make anywhere close to the same amount of money per acre as they can raising tobacco. An acre’s worth goes for about $6000. The folks beside us had at least 40 acres planted. That kind of money is hard to pass up.

Why We Homeschool, part 3 August 28, 2007

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Homeschooling.
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As fall approached, I vacillated between excitement that Benjamin was old enough to start this adventure and anxiety/sadness that we had entered this phase of our lives already. Benjamin was alternately excited and quite apprehensive before the year started. None of his neighborhood buddies were in his class and he didn’t know any of his classmates.

I got a good feeling from his Kindergarten teacher and the other children seemed nice. The parents at the school were very positive and involved. There was no Christian teaching, but we could handle that ourselves between home and church. Unfortunately, Benjamin experienced extreme separation anxiety. Every morning, I had to park and walk (sometimes pull) him to his classroom. I stayed for 15 minutes or so to get him settled in and started on the first activity. I said my goodbyes and left, but his teacher had to physically hold him in the room. She assured me it wouldn’t last more than a week or two. Nine weeks later, we had finally gotten past it.

At right about that same time, God prompted us to start looking into farms again. We had always wanted to raise our children with wide open spaces and animals. We were currently living in a nice neighborhood, but the houses were so close together that Benjamin couldn’t throw a ball in any direction without hitting a window. Our neighbors were nice people, but few shared our values. Most seemed quite caught up in “the world” and accumulating all its trappings. Our neighbor across the street sent his wife back to work so they could get new cars every year and they had a television so big we could watch it from our house! We were looking for a simpler life where children played outside (instead of video games), everyone contributed to the success of the family, we could raise our own food, and entertainment was more wholesome and family-inclusive. God had just the right place in mind.

At the beginning of January, we moved to what we consider a glimpse of heaven. We enrolled Benjamin in the public school a couple of miles from us. It has a wonderful reputation. The principal is great, all the teachers I’ve met are professional and loving, and the school has performed well on the things the government thinks are important. He had a good second semester of K and learned quite a bit. His teacher was happy to have me volunteer for several hours a week and welcomed Rachel, too. We were very content.

The following fall, we were back for first grade. Benjamin had a very good teacher and I was volunteering again as much as she’d let me. Being a former teacher myself, I was able to free her up to do small reading groups and such. I noticed quickly, though, that there were about 5 boys in the class that were already real doozies in the first week. They weren’t just a little naughty or off-task- they pushed, poked, and took things from other kids. They refused to sit down. They did almost nothing she asked and were extremely disruptive. Even keeping the boys within hand’s reach hardly allowed her to teach. Most had been to the office several times and had serious talks with the principal.

At home, I was noticing a change in Benjamin’s behavior. He was becoming more oppositional. He started having temper tantrums like we hadn’t seen from him since he’d turned four. The only thing that was different was his new group of classmates. We were concerned.

The following week, I stayed for lunch a couple of days and ate with the students in the cafeteria. That was really eye-opening. There were plenty of adults supervising the kids, but their attention was on helping kids get through the line, opening milk cartons, and cleaning up spills. They couldn’t hear or monitor individual conversations at the tables.

The kids had to sit with their classes at long tables. I sat in the middle and could hear what was going on for several feet in each direction. I was absolutely appalled at the topics discussed by these 6 year old boys. They were comparing “bad words” they had learned on late night television and making gestures I hadn’t been exposed to until college! We had so carefully chosen how we wanted our son to be raised and what we wanted him to consider “acceptable behavior,” and I could see his innocence would be lost in the matter of 9 school months!

I tearfully approached Joe and said I didn’t see how we could leave him in the public school. My immediate thought was to pull him out and homeschool him, but Joe wanted to try other things first. He suggested I try to have Benjamin moved to another first grade class. The principal was sympathetic, but said she really didn’t think that would help since the boys in his class were not the only kids like that.

We looked into the local private Christian school. The tuition was reasonable, but it would strain our budget and may force me to work, at least part-time. We prayed for guidance and eventually both came to the conclusion that we should try homeschooling.

 

For the Grandparents: Pictures of Your Youngest Grandchild August 27, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family.
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Grams frequently asks for pictures of Lydia and inquires about any new “tricks” she can do. So, here is a whole posting devoted to one of her favorite topics.

 

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Lyddie was about 3 months old here. Besides the sweet smile on her face, this picture tickles me because the warm-up is ballooned out to make her look like she’s been pumping iron.


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Lydia had a love/hate relationship with this popsicle. It was a new adventure- there is sugar and flavor out there that she didn’t know existed- but it comes in such a cold package! “Give me that! Get that away! Give me that!”

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She sits up quite well now and enjoys playing on the floor as long as she has company.

 

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This girl rarely naps, so if she plays herself to sleep, we leave her be! (She’s had a bad time with eczema on her legs, so I’ve had to keep frequent applications of medicine on them and her fingernails off of them- thus the jeans in August).

 

 

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Lydia has just discovered teething biscuits. She feels so big now that she sits at the table with us. She is starting to punctuate the conversation with a few of her own animated thoughts.

Forecast: HOT and DRY August 26, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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As Southerners, we are used to hot humid summers, but this is ridiculous! I took this picture of our outdoor thermometer yesterday. Notice it is in the shade (on the porch by the back door). And it was only 10:30 a.m! I’m not sure what the actual high was, but we’ve had over 2 straight weeks of 100+ temperatures. And we don’t live in Miami. This is middle TN.

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Since June 1, we’ve had less than 3 inches of rain, but LOTS of sun. The grass is brown and crunchy. We haven’t mowed since the end of May. Farmers around here are selling off stock as fast as they can (frequently taking a loss) just to avoid further debt having to feed the animals through the winter. Hay is going for up to $8 a bale as it rapidly runs out. A friend just purchased his hay from a neighboring state since it is getting so scarce.

The animals just lie around and pant. The chickens doze under bushes during the hottest part of the day and forage slowly with wings held out and mouths open. Egg production has dropped off to nothing, probably because they can’t keep enough water in themselves to stay alive AND make eggs (which are mostly water).

The donkeys and goats also lie around a lot. They are so listless that they don’t even mind sharing the same shade. Not that there is any worthwhile grass to get up for, mind you.

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The dogs give us pitiful looks and stare holes in the laundry room door. As an add-on to this old house, it is accessed from the porch. If I open the door to go in there, two 100+ lb Dane-mix dogs bolt past me and flop down on the slightly cool floor. That’s a LOT of dog for such a tiny space and it’s nearly impossible to find places for my feet if I want to go in also. I don’t have the heart to throw the poor gimpy things out. I can do laundry at midnight, right?

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(Here, Lucy sneaked in without Daisy noticing and she’s got the whole laundry pile to herself).

Please Lord, send US the rain that so many other places can’t absorb. And some relief from the heat would be nice, too.

Why We Homeschool, part 2 August 21, 2007

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Homeschooling.
3 comments

After I resigned from teaching, I made a concerted effort to do all those things that I said I wanted to do, if only I could. I wanted to parent in an intentional way, not just get through each day. I wanted to create worthwhile memories and begin habits and traditions that we’d be grateful for later. I certainly didn’t live up to the standards I had set for myself, (especially once colicky Rachel came along), but it was an improvement.

One of the things Benjamin enjoyed most was the “Together Time” he and I had many weekdays. It frequently involved book reading and some sort of art. We occasionally completed pages out of a preschool letter identification book or learned colors names. He so looked forward to those times when he had my undivided attention and I sat beside him while he colored or “read.” He would beg to do more or have Together Time on the weekends, too. He was also so proud of himself that he could show Daddy what he had done. It was really a wonderful experience for all of us.

When he was older, we enrolled him in preschool and Together Time pretty much fell by the wayside. We still read books and such each night, but the special time set aside to be an intentional, active part of his learning was lost. Kindergarten rapidly approached.

Years prior, when we had found out I was pregnant with Benjamin, we had moved to The Right Place (the county which had the best reputation with regards to its public schools). We intended to enroll our children in those schools and volunteer at every opportunity. I foresaw myself as “room mother,” PTA president, and such. I had no intention of homeschooling ever. I had gotten my degrees in teaching and had invested heavily in the idea that traditional schooling was THE path children should follow to become knowledgeable contributing members of society. Wasn’t homeschooling really just for the kids who had significant learning disabilities or lacked the social skills necessary to succeed in a group setting? Most children I had known while teaching that were pulled out to homeschool fell into one of those two categories. The rest, as best I could determine then, were taught at home because their parents had extreme ideas about education that didn’t mesh with the mainstream.

So, in the fall of 2004, Benjamin began Kindergarten in the local public school.

Officers Amongst Us August 17, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
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Being the agriculturally-minded folks that we are, we’ve been interested in joining 4-H.  I asked at the county ag extension office about it when we moved here, but was told there that you had to be in 4th grade to participate.  Not so, I learned recently.  So, yesterday we went to the first meeting of the year.

This get-together was mostly organizational and the main goal was electing new officers.  It seemed a good opportunity to get to know some people and find out more about the kinds of projects the club would be doing.

The kids split into older and younger groups to have their elections.  Lyddie was being entertained, so I helped out with the “Outdoor Cookery” competition practice that was going on to prepare for the state fair.  I was cutting meat in the room beside the Clover Buds.  I heard the slate of candidates read and turned in surprise- both Benjamin’s and Rachel’s names were on it.  “Well, I hope they aren’t too crushed when they don’t win- we only know one other family here and all these other kids know each other,” I thought.

I watched with curiosity as the heads-down/hands-raised votes were counted.  Imagine my shock when Benjamin was elected Photographer and Rachel was elected Vice-President!  (Yes, she is only 5).  I’m sure they will do their best.  I know I for one am looking forward to seeing the next business meeting!  😉 .

At Least The Heat’s Good For One Thing… August 11, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family.
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(No, I didn’t notice the water getting warmer all of a sudden…). 

Why We Homeschool, part 1 August 10, 2007

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Homeschooling.
2 comments

For quite some time, I’ve been thinking that I needed to write a post about our decision to teach our children at home. Somehow, though we believe strongly that this is what God is calling us to do at this point in our lives, I’ve had a hard time knowing how to tackle the topic. I seem to get too long-winded with information and history that is overwhelming. I’ll try to keep it succinct, but I still expect this explanation to be broken into multiple posts.

 

To give some background information- I am a teacher by trade. I have both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in elementary education. I entered the classroom with stars in my eyes and ideals in tact. I taught for several years in public middle school and was crushed by the reality of public education (at least in the middle school where I “taught”). I felt like all I had time to do was crowd control/discipline when I was passionate about teaching. Almost all of my colleagues had decided on a path-of-least-resistance and given up the fight. I just couldn’t. (There are many sad and disheartening details to the story, but I’ve forced myself to delete them and move on. That story alone could go on for many pages).

 

I knew I couldn’t keep putting my dear husband through nightly rounds of my frustrated tears, so something had to change. Either I had to stop letting it bother me that the only education I was sure the students were getting was one that should shock their parents OR find other employment.

 

I took a teaching position in a private Christian school and was so happy to really get to teach. In many ways, it was a dream job, though it certainly wasn’t perfect. The parents, administration, and students all had appropriately high expectations and the learning environment was wonderful. I had all the materials I needed to really do a good job. My only real holdout about the situation was a social class/ financial one. These children were so blessed, yet unaware of it. The keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and air of privilege was not something in which we wanted our own kids to be immersed.

 

Benjamin had been in daycare for 2 years, but we felt very conflicted about this. Joe had started his own consulting company and health insurance was out of reach for us as small business owners, so I continued to work after Benjamin was born. It bothered me that I was expending and “investing” almost all of my energy on 66 of other people’s children, but had so little left for the people God had given me primary responsibility- my husband and child. I knew the effort put into my Christian teaching (using one of the gifts He had given me) was pleasing to God, but I was less certain that I was using it in the right place. Was sacrificing family investment (not just regular work days, but afternoons, evenings, and weekends when I was required to chaperone events, coach sports, host open houses, and so on), even for the lofty goal of educating many children in a Christian way what God was asking of us? We felt less and less sure that He had in mind for me to continue. At about that time, we found out we would be blessed with Rachel.

 

Knowing that we would be adding a child to our family gave us reason to seriously reevaluate our options. We did the math and figured out that after paying daycare for two children, with my small paycheck I would be working for about $100 a month (aside from insurance). God had always met our needs. Still, we were apprehensive about taking the step of faith required to drop down to one income and have me stay home. We prayed about it and decided to tighten the belt, apply for independent insurance, and have faith that God would continue to provide. I resigned.

 

That was the first step in the story.

Meet the Flock, Part 6 August 9, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Russia and Psycho-Frizzle 

In this series of posts, I’ve tried to share the personalities and unique characteristics of some of our poultry.  Some readers are regular egg customers and like the idea of really knowing where their food is coming from.  Others that have requested more in this series just really enjoy hearing more about an aspect of farm living they will probably not experience themselves.  A few have met these critters and experienced their quirks first hand- they read with a wry grin.

 

This installment is a bit different than previous ones.  All the others have been about chickens we still have.  This one is more of a tribute or memorial, if you will.

 

Though I have mentioned these banty hens in previous posts, neither had ever gotten her due “15 minutes of fame.”  Both were favorites of mine.

 

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(Russia on a “bad hair day,” shortly after a rain). 

Russia was a black Silkie, named for the fluffy “hat” that reminded me of the tall fur caps often pictured on men in Siberia.  She had shiny black eyes, 5 toes on each foot (instead of the usual 4), and had black skin under her fuzz (instead of the usual yellowish-white skin).  Silkies were called that because their feathers do not lie flat in overlapping layers, but rather feel like down.

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(Russia hatched and raised a turkey.  This picture was taken when she was teaching the baby what to eat at about 2 days old.  A short time later, it was hilarious to see her try to usher the baby that was as big as she was under her wing). 

Russia was one of our best broodies, too.  She also volunteered to set any other eggs I gave her.  She was a great mom and lost her life defending her babies from a raccoon.

 

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PsychoFrizzle was a Cochin bantam that carried the frizzle gene.  That meant that her feathers were a bit kinky and also curled up and back toward her head.  She was a bit neurotic and tended to overreact with a great deal of squawking and running about over even small perceived infractions. 

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At the time of this picture, both girls were broody.  Russia was patiently and obediently setting eggs in the brooding house I put her in.  PsychoFrizzle had a thing about being alone.  She’d gladly set eggs, but only if she had someone to talk to.  (I can’t say I really blame her- 3 weeks is a long time to entertain yourself).  I put her into her own house with her own eggs and she’d bolt to Russia’s house the first opportunity she had.  Finally, I just let her bunk with Russia since Russia had begrudgingly allowed it.

 

Both ladies hatched out a clutch of eggs, but Psycho had to finish raising both sets.  Shortly after the chicks had feathered out, she disappeared. 

PsychoFrizzle had had a brush with death right in front of my eyes about a year ago.  I was standing about 30 feet away when a hawk dove down and made a grab for her directly in front of the henhouse door.  Psycho’s fancy feathers made her look deceivingly larger than she actually was, so the hawk didn’t get a good grasp on her.  As I ran across the yard (pregnant body making me oh-so-graceful J) waving my arms and yelling at the top of my lungs, the hawk tried to carry her off.  All she got was a fistful of curly feathers and Psycho took cover in the coop.  (Bless her little heart- she didn’t come out from under the nesting boxes for 3 days!).  I don’t know for sure what happened to her recently, but I suspect the hawk got a better hold this time.

 

I debated about posting Russia and PsychoFrizzle’s stories, but I really liked them, miss them, and wanted to give a little tribute to the girls. 

More stories with happier endings to come.