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Sparring for promotion June 25, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family.
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TKD4-2008-06-24

For the past year, Benjamin has been taking tae kwon do classes while Rachel is in her Gymnastics class. They both love their activities and it’s good exercise.

Tae kwon do students start off learning the basics as a white belt. Early belt tests included learning various patterns (sequences of movements like kicks, blocks, and punches) and the tenets of tae kwon do – Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.

Benjamin just tested for his high green belt – that’s the green belt with the black strip down the center of it. When you reach this level, promotion tests include sparring with other students and even the instructor.

Here are some pictures from his promotion test.

TKD1-2008-06-24

Benjamin and another student sparring during the promotion test. Benjamin is in the red sparring gear.

TKD2-2008-06-24

Benjamin trying to block his opponents kick.

TKD3-2008-06-24

Benjamin lands a good one.

He’s now a 4th degree high green belt.

Pictures That Really Get Joe’s Goat (and Chicken) June 24, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Joe is pretty much a cattleman at heart. According to him, beef cows are ideal because they are low effort. You go out in the morning, you count them, and you’re finished. No egg gathering, no horns to get unstuck from fences, and so on. Of course in reality, there is a little more to it than that, but to Joe even cow manure on the shoe is a pleasant thing as compared to even one dusty footprint from Roxanne the perching chicken.

Most of the time, he’s good about tolerating these “lesser creatures,” though there are times when they make steam come out of his ears. Here are a few of his (least) favorite pictures.

Here Crackle and her son Lightning McQueen are lounging in the cow’s feed trough- the NERVE of them!

For a while, the goats took to letting themselves out of the fence (holding their breath and pushing through the electric wire). Being that they love us so and want to be close to us (hee hee), they made the porch into their evening bed-and bathroom. Back when they were small enough, they slept on the chairs sometimes.

I never did get a shot of the goats playing king of the mountain on the cows’ hay rolls. That REALLY got Joe’s goat!

I guess this chicken needed to relax on the porch swing. If only she had a glass of lemonade…

This hen had been comfortably reclining until she saw me. When I approached, she braced herself for the usual “Shoo! Shoo! Get off the porch, poultry!!” It’s really time to get the chickens back in the tractors. (We had released them when we went on vacation to make it quicker and easier for a friend to feed them for us. But no more Mr. Nice Guy).

Benjamin’s Need for Speed June 21, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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About a year ago, Benjamin began asking if he could get a go-cart. “Ahh, hmmmm… have you done your chores yet today?” was a pretty typical response to start with. We sorta hoped the interest would pass. They are expensive, can be dangerous, we don’t really have a place to put one, and a bunch more reasons we could come up with topped our list of why Joe and I weren’t too hot about the idea. But his interest continued and so did the question. We finally said he could save his money and buy one.

Each time we went to a store that sold them, Benjamin checked all the prices and lamented about how long it would take him to save for one. He tried to convince Rachel that she really wanted one too and that she should save her money also. She flip-flopped about it as other things caught her fancy.

I’ve mentioned in the past that we live in a pretty wonderful community. Our neighbors, fellow church members, friends from our homeschool groups, and so on are just really kind people on the whole. We feel so blessed to live in such a great place.

Out of the blue, one of our friends stopped us after church last week and asked if we wanted their go-cart. Not did we want to buy it- did we just want to come get it for free? Her daughter had just gotten a 4-wheeler and they didn’t have room for or need both. The go-cart had been given to them and they wanted to pass it along. The sister-in-law that had given it to them 6 months prior had received it as a gift for her children from other church members when her husband passed away. That is the kind of church we go to.

So, after all that longing, Benjamin was looking at exactly what he wanted at no cost to him. Needless to say, he was overjoyed.

So, with strict rules about where he can put the pedal to the metal, always wearing a seatbelt and helmet, etc., he is tearing it up. After 3 days, I had to put the brakes on laps around the house since the grass was rapidly disappearing, but he’s found plenty of other places to ride on 24 acres.

Rachel enjoys riding (always with a strong grip on the frame), but she isn’t tall enough to drive it yet. She’s good for about 15 minutes, then she’s had enough. Lydia is terrified of all things with engines, so she stays safely on the porch while he rides. The cats will skip a meal rather than cross his path. Unfortunately, the chickens aren’t much phased- they still hang around the house and lounge on the porch.

Sorry friends and neighbors- I doubt there will be any life left in this go-cart to pass it along after Benjamin is finished with it!

A Smile With A Hole In It June 19, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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Rachel was commenting to me just two weeks ago that her teeth and Lydia’s seem the same size. I reminded her that she’s had her teeth since she was Lydia’s age and that’s why. “So, they’re my BABY teeth?!” she gasped. Somehow, though she has been on the front row of Benjamin’s tooth loss, she’d forgotten about it concerning herself. Realizing that she had more in common with her one year old sister than her older brother in this area was almost too much. “WHEN will I start losing my baby teeth and get my grown-up ones?” she wanted to know. “When they’re ready,” was all I could say.

Last week, she gleefully reported that she had a loose tooth and began working on it relentlessly with both tongue and finger. Joe checked on it last night before bed, but said it still wasn’t quite ready to come out. Ten minutes later, a triumphant Rachel squealed and ran into our room with a tooth in her hand and a big smile on her face.

Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, BOY! June 18, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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We have happy exciting news!! God has blessed us with another child on the way!

We had our ultrasound yesterday and got to see our strapping young son on the screen. He is due at the end of October, but with past history, we expect him somewhere towards the middle of that month. Benjamin is especially excited about having another brother since God called baby Daniel home. Rachel said that it’s okay that this sibling is a boy- she’s just glad there is going to be another fun little person around the house. Lydia’s only comment was her new favorite word, “No!” She and her next brother will be around 21 months apart.

Thanks to those of you who have been praying us through this pregnancy so far. We really appreciate that.

Build Your Own Dinner June 17, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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We have a special-treat meal every so often around here, known as Build Your Own Dinner. It’s a favorite with the kids especially. We missed it for Benjamin’s birthday, but Joe chose it for his Father’s Day meal. The basic idea is to use foods to create works of art by connecting them if necessary with toothpicks. Only one rule- anything you use to build has to then be eaten. Here are some of our creations:

A smiley Rachel with her smiley face.

Benjamin’s propeller plane. Aircraft are always popular.

The Awful Tower (or a rocket, if you prefer). Rachel kept correcting my pronunciation and insisting I meant Eiffel Tower.

Joe’s cowboy seemed asleep in the saddle.

This was Rachel’s sunburst.

Benjamin’s motorcycle.

My angel, complete with strawberry wings.

Joe’s T-Rex. This one, also, kept nodding off. Dinosaurs are always fun to make too. We’ve made many a stegosaurus in the past.

Without the benefit of sharp toothpicks, Lydia concentrated her efforts on Roman ruins and a replica of Stonehenge.

It can seem a bit overwhelming to prepare for the meal, but here is a partial list of things we have used in the past. It is not necessary to have all of them at any one time, maybe 8 different shapes and several food groups with lots of creativity will do it.

hard-boiled eggs                         olives                             bananas

strawberries                                bagels                             whole pickles

French toast bites                      melon (in circles, wedges, or chunks)

cherries                                      pineapple                          bratwurst/hotdogs

cherry/grape tomatoes              celery                                cheese cubes

carrots                                     broccoli/cauliflower                grapes

marshmallows                         cucumbers (circles, sticks, halves)

There are so many other possibilities once you start looking through the fridge or pantry, but that’s all I can remember right now. I won’t lie- it takes some planning and prep, but the kids will be so grateful and you’ll be glad you took the time. For me, this is one of those things I really want to do for my family, but I’ve found if this had not become a special occasion meal, it may have been a one time thing. Everyone gets into routines and it’s so easy to let time go by without doing anything intentional to make memories together. Inertia and fatigue often sap the energy from my good intentions, but I really don’t want to regret the lost time later. I’m trying to be more mindful of the opportunities as they arise. This is a family tradition that I’m sure my children will pass down to theirs!

Rachel and the wasps June 16, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family.
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I’ve mentioned in the past that Rachel keeps us in stitches with some of the things she says. Here’s the most recent one. It may be one of those where “you had to be there” to truly appreciate it, but I’ll try.

Tonight we discovered that some wasps had started building a nest in the corner of our backdoor, the primary door we use when going or coming. So, I told everyone to stay inside and keep the door closed while I take care of it.

Apparently, Rachel didn’t hear me; just a few seconds after I had sprayed and knocked down the nest, out she came. Spotting the fallen wasp nest, she asked what I was doing. I told her “I’m taking care of the wasp nest that was in the corner of the door.”

She replied “Well, that didn’t go very well for the wasps, did it?”

Beach Trip 2008 June 13, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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Every summer for the last 7 or so years, my extended family has reserved condos on the Alabama coast and spent a week playing in the sun and sand, sometimes fishing, and recently scuba diving. The yearly beach pilgrimage has come to an end and we now return to regular life on the farm. We’ve got suntans, seashells, and fond memories. Here are a few pictures.

It’s hard to tell here, but Lydia really enjoyed bobbing in the pool. The only glitch to her week was that Lydia is apparently cutting new molars, so there wasn’t much sleeping. Hope we get all four molars at once!

Rachel was very proud of her new found ability to swim and tread water in the 5 foot depth of the pool.

Rachel had a great time treasure-seeking in this enormous pile of shells.

This was as far as Benjamin wanted to go back into the water after being stung in 2 places by softball sized jellyfish. Rachel later got stung too. We found lemon juice worked well to neutralize the sting.

This is next to the jetty beside the condo. Lots of people fish here, Joe and Benjamin like to snorkel, and it’s a great place to watch boats come and go.

Here they are with cousin Kay on the jetty rocks. You can see the pass behind them.

Lydia preferred the safety of the umbrella to the scary waves.

We see this pose a lot, no matter where we are. She’s like her mama in that she doesn’t like to have anything stuck to her feet and sand bothered her. She isn’t a fan of shoes, but there is a lot of dirt out there in the world. Feet must be frequently inspected and cleaned.

Joe got to go on two scuba trips, one with my brother Chris and one with my sister Sheryl. They dove some sunken vessels out of Pensacola. The second trip was particularly good. Maybe he’ll share more about it later.

It was a great week with reluctant goodbyes, but it’s always good to come home too. Thanks to the whole family clan for a very nice week.

How Well Do You Know Your Food? June 2, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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If you did a quick inventory of your fridge or pantry, could you identify the origins of the food there?  Where was it grown or raised?  How was it harvested?  What chemicals may have been applied to it or fed to it before it got to you?  And who produced it?  Who could you even ask?

The vast majority of Americans have no idea what the answer to any one of those questions is.  It is often said that the average food item in this country has traveled 1500 miles before we bring it home.  And, the only name we can put with that food is followed by a registered trademark symbol.  Hmmm…

For more and more of us, this aspect of our food chain is disconcerting.  With massive food recalls for beef, spinach, peanut butter, and so on, our faith in the industrialized production and distribution of our groceries is waning.  Even those so called “healthier choices” turn out to be a slight of hand- a major chicken producer was recently caught misleading the public by stating that its meat was antibiotic and hormone free, when in fact they just used less common drugs instead.  (At the moment, I won’t get into the deplorable conditions that require those medications to keep meat animals alive until slaughter age, but suffice it to say that I would be shocked to find out that it was possible to raise them without the drugs).

So, what is a consumer to do? 

Start with a little backyard garden.  Get a few tomato plants.  Plant some beans.  Let cucumbers climb your porch railing.  Anything you can grow for yourself will be healthier than what you can get elsewhere.  The best tasting, most nutritious food you can eat is picked shortly before it is served. 

If you don’t have the space or time for gardening, the next best thing would be to find a farmer’s market or Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) nearby and buy that local food.  In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, you can often find wonderful eggs laid by free-range chickens.  Special heirloom varieties will likely be available along with other tasty things that just couldn’t be shipped across country.  Grocery stores have to choose what can arrive intact at the sacrifice of taste and texture.

Go to the market when you have some time to stop and talk.  Ask questions about how the food was raised.  Get to know the person who grew it.  Not only will you feel better about what you are eating, but you will support the farmers in your area.  Then they will be able to afford to be there next year to provide even more of the things you like to eat.

So you don’t have the acreage or inclination to raise your own meat?  You still have choices.  Check the newspaper for classified ads.  Call your county ag extension office and ask for the names of local producers.  Many have programs to certify and further educate the farmers in the area.  (Joe recently completed the Master Beef Producers program- one that he felt was well worth his time and very informative.  We are just beginning our herd so we are not selling meat, but I’d feel good about buying from another person who has also been certified).  Many times you can go in with other people to buy halves or quarters of a steer that you know has been raised in a healthy way to stock your freezer with meat for months.  The arrangement usually includes instructions specified by purchaser about how the meat will be cut and then it is picked up from a USDA inspected packing facility.

Once you’ve become accustomed to real food, fresh picked when ripe and full of all the vitamins and minerals still, you’ll likely be hooked.  And all the healthier for it.