Change…

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different….” – C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

Often in being a stay at home mother, the statement above is so true.  Especially when you are in the middle of the preschool years.  I mean, of course no day is the same- one day someone flushes the metal model airplanes down the toilet, the next day the child manages to cut holes in the sofa, red fingernail polish is dumped in the carpet, Sharpie pens are used to autograph the coffee table, and the list goes on.  However, the sameness comes from the fact that you have to repeat yourself 452 times a day, answer 1000 questions per day that many would consider useless, and each day you wake up to feed, bathe, dress, change diapers, and clean up countless messes. All seems to be an endless merry go round. But then you look back and everything is different.

As Cheyenne has finished her senior year and is preparing to start college full-time, it has caused me to do a lot of looking back and seeing how everything is different.  Different in a good way.  No child can stay a child forever and I certainly don’t want a 36 year old living in my basement ( I don’t have a basement, but you get the idea) but yet, the family is changing – entering a new era in our journey.

The thing that sticks out to me is this- I have no regrets.  Choosing to stay home was an easy decision, I never wanted to do anything but get married and have babies.  Staying a stay-a-home mom was not easy.  It is hard.  Living on one income is not easy, but God always provided and I am grateful to Tony for allowing me the privilege of being home with our kids.  He worked A LOT of overtime to make that happen.

Not to toot my own horn, but I am an intelligent person.  So, I would find myself doing these same mundane chores that would have to be done the next day like every day thinking “I am smart and could be doing something way more important than cleaning Koo-laid up for the 100th time answering questions like “I spilled milk in the kitchen, do you want me to clean it up?”   I would like to say I was Christ-like in my answer, but I replied, “No don’t worry about it, we have fairies that run around at night cleaning up the house.”  The next thought I had was “Whoever said there was no such thing as stupid questions never had children.” However, looking back those things were the most important things.  It is in the little things each day that we show the love of Christ to our children.  We model God to our kids in the way we live at home when no one is looking.

I stayed the course (not without a lot of encouragement & help from my husband).  Now, 19 years later I look back and I am so glad I did.  I have no regrets.  I was the one at the field days at school, I was there when they said their first words, I saw their first steps, if they were sick at school I was the one who picked them up. I was there.  Thank God, I was there.  When we decided to home-school, I was now there every minute guiding and choosing what my children were taught. I do know how blessed I have been and am to have the opportunity to get to be at home.  I loved waking up in the morning and not having to be anywhere so I got to lay in the bed and look into the face of my baby smiling at me with a toothless grin and lots of slobber.

I couldn’t be more happy and proud of the person that Cheyenne is.  I am glad that for better or for worse (lets face it, it wasn’t all roses)  when she thinks back over her childhood, I was present.  Parenting is a journey, a long journey and if we want our children to have the best start and the skills to be successful, we have to begin with the end in mind.

A Bonifide Bookworm

She didn’t even bother to make her bed before falling asleep  with her books piled all around.

To a stranger it would seem very odd to hear me say, “If you don’t do your chores, I am going to take away your books.”  After all, most parents must threaten punishment to get their kids to read not the reverse. Sierra, however, loves books.  Truly loves books, enough so that gift cards to Half Price Books and Amazon are her favorite things to receive as gifts.  She comes by it honest, I love to read as well.  Her older sister, Savannah, is a passionate bookworm, too.  It was to Savannah that I first made the threat to take away her books and a friend of Cheyenne’s who was visiting, looked over at her and said, “That is just weird.”

Each year during our school days the kids use poetry or famous speeches as copy work.  It is the premise that in copying really good literature, poetry and speeches that a child will  “pick up” good writing, grammar, and speech patterns.  I have seen this to be the case with mine and the kids find this a much more interesting process than workbooks filled with disconnected nouns and parts of speech.  Of course, as a child enters the older grades the study of grammar and speech becomes more focused and advanced.  But I see no good reason to turn children off to language in the written form before they have had a chance to develop a love of good literature.

Last year both Sierra and Jonathan copied from Emily Dickinson.  I have loved Emily Dickinson since I did my senior research paper on her. It felt like visiting and old friend as I read through her poems choosing those that I thought the kids would enjoy. This year, Jonathan is copying poetry having to do with Texas History, mainly the Texas Revolution.  Sierra requested to keep doing Emily Dickinson, it seems she has grown found of her as well.  She told me that Emily had written her favorite poem, funny enough it was entitled “A Book”.  Sierra is also recording her copy work in a spiral with one of her favorite books on the cover: The Hunger Games.

A Book, by Emily Dickinson

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without the oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Can You Feel It In The Air…

Spinach, Chard, and Kale- not only edible but gorgeous!

The mornings of late have been cool and there is a change in the air, fall is just around the corner.  Even if we can’t trust the weather, pre-season football games have begun so really, fall is just around the corner.  With the heat breaking and rains returning, now is the time to prep your fall beds and start planning cool season crops.

First step in preparing the garden beds is to clean up what may be left over from the summer garden.  As I write this the last of the lettuce has gone to seed and looking quiet toasty.  Squash and cucumber plants are also due to be pulled up as they are well past their prime.  Of course, as the veggies fell prey to the Texas heat weeds gladly popped up and grew happily in the heat with very little water- go figure.  So, now is the time to pull weeds, clean up dead plants and feed the soil.

Regardless of the type of gardening you do- raised bed, square foot, or traditional rows- you must return to the soil what you are taking out in the form of nutrients.  The best way to do this is the use of compost.  Twice a year, at the end of summer season and just before spring planting, I take compost and spread about 4 inches on the top of each bed.  I do not worry about tuning this under because as I am planting the seeds or seedlings, enough turning over occurs.  Every time you till the soil, whether by hand or machine, you interrupt the soil biology and slow things down, so the less you disturb it the better your garden will grow.  There are a lot of beneficial bugs in the soil, such as earthworms, that will gladly come up and process the compost for you bringing the nutrients down into the soil making them ready for the roots of your new plants.  Other ways to help feed the soil is to use liberal amounts of mulch and feed your plants with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea during the growing season. For information on compost tea follow this link: http://farmonthehill.blogspot.com/2011/10/compost-tea.html .

Now, its time to plant.  I firmly believe that the easiest gardens to grow in Texas is a fall garden.  There are so many choices.  Carrots are best planted in fall.  Some will be ready by October, definitely by November and the rest will grow happily all winter long just waiting on you to come get them.  Our ground does not freeze, so all root crops keep well for us all winter long in the ground right where you planted them.  So make good use of this and plant plenty of carrots, radishes, turnips, rutabagas and such things.

Nothing beats fresh spinach!

Turnips also fall into the category of greens.  As you wait for the turnips to ripen, you can eat on the greens of the plant ( the leaves above ground) all winter long.  You simply pick and prepare them like you would spinach.  Spinach also being my favorite green to plant in the fall.  Of course, I type that and think, “Oh, but don’t forget about Kale, that is also our favorite”.  It’s true, we love Kale and Swiss Chard and so many other greens that grow great, most not really caring if it freezes a time or two.  Most years, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, and  Turnip Greens grow fabulously all winter.

Lettuce is an awesome crop for fall.  Although it may now tolerate a lot of freezing weather, it will produce really well for several months.  For fall planting, look for the varieties that are known to like the coolest of weather.  Drunken Woman (seriously) is a great variety both pretty and tasty.  Tom Thumb is great and there are many others.  Mescalin Mix is simply a mixture of lettuce, spinach, greens and so forth snipped off with scissors when they are just a few inches tall.  The great thing about this is that they will all grow back.

 Any tomato, pepper, and eggplants that you nursed through the heat of the summer will begin to produce again.  Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, and very short season English peas also make good choices for a fall garden.  As you can see, there is a lot of variety to be had in the winter.  It kind of make up for the fact that our veggies stop producing well at the end of summer unlike our northern neighbors that grow right on through August.  Grow something this fall, you will be glad you did!

Galveston Island State Park & Huntsville State Park- Great Places To Enjoy His Creation

Galveston Island State Park

It was not our plan, but camping at Huntsville State Park was just what the Ross Family needed.  When we set out on Saturday, August 4th we had every intention of camping on the beach at Galveston Island State Park.  Savannah had spent the week at Sea Camp, Texas A&M Galveston.  It made sense then to take the opportunity to spend some time by the sea.

Well, I don’t know if you have been to Galveston since they have recovered from hurricane Ike, but they have not only bounced back but have done so with some gusto.  There was not an open spot to be had at the state park, or any hotel room from League City to Kemah to the coast.  So, it looked like our few days of sunshine and sea were not going to be.  We were disappointed, but so happy for the people of the Island who dug in and rebuilt their homes and businesses.  So, we decided to have one heck of a day and see what came next.

Me & Sierra- hard to believe she is 13!
Tony and Jonathan- he has been eating at Casey’s since he was a baby
The Ross Bunch- lovers of nature and good food.

We certainly had a great day.  After picking up Savannah, we headed to Casey’s for some lunch.  As always, the food was great and we cleaned our plates.  I highly recommend this as a place to hit when in Galveston.  It is a family owned place that has been around for a long time.  This family was instrumental in feeding the workers, crews, and residents that were involved in the clean up after Ike.  We ate there for the first time when Jonathan was 3 weeks old (he is eleven now) and ate there every summer that Sunny lived in Conroe.  I had my first shrimp poorboy there and have been smitten ever since.  This summer I had a poorboy and shrimp gumbo- oh so good.  Fried zucchini is on the menu as an appetizer and it is perfect every time!  Sierra had calamari and a shrimp platter was shared by the big girls.  Jonathan and Tony shared the poorboy and then said that although it was very good, mine was better.  Now, that is a compliment.

My sea creature- Bana

After the yummy lunch it was time for the beach.  We had a blast playing in the water, digging up hermit crabs & clams, and eating watermelon on the sands.  For the first time ever, Sierra and Jonathan got sunburned.  It seems that while Tony and I were sorting out plan B since our stay on the beach wasn’t going to happen, the kids ran off to the beach without putting on sunscreen.  Now, if I had done this I would have been burned to the point of being ill, but given their Turkish genes, they only had a light burn.  Of course, to them who had never been burned, they whined pitifully.  I told them to suck it up, they did not even know what a real burn felt like.  I, on the other hand being a white girl, have had plenty of experience.  I put on sunscreen and still got a bit of a burn, but nothing too bad.  God bless the Aloe Vera plant, it made it all better.

Sierra loves watermelon
You can’t see it, but we caught a tiny little fiddler crab
Cheyenne has the sun in her eyes!

Once we had our fill of the sun and the sea- which was many hours later- we decided to clean up and head to Kemah.  The last time we were at this state park was 2 weeks before Ike blew through.  At that time, there were no outside showers, only a water faucet.  Now there is a great deck with several showers and really large bathrooms to change into your dry clothes.  I cannot say enough how happy I am with the way the state park and the city have come back.  The state park is a great place to visit, you will be glad that you did.

What a lucky man!

After dinner at a great steakhouse called T-Bone Tom’s (see the next post) we had fun on the Kemah Boardwalk.  Savannah, Sierra, Jonathan and I road the roller coaster.  I have determined that these are just not as fun as they once were.  I think that ride will be my last of the intense variety.  The boardwalk is really neat with all the lights and music.  I would not want to make a whole trip of the boardwalk, but it definitely worth seeing.  I then searched again in vain for a local hotel room and when none were found, we headed north.  There were several state parks on the way home and we thought we might give them a try.

It’s not a trip with out a pool!

It was about 1:30 in the morning when we made Huntsville.  They, not being the tourist magnet that Galveston is, had plenty of rooms.  Sierra, Jonathan, and I had a great morning swim in a great pool (the room was not so great but we were so tired we did not care).  Huntsville State Park was just up the highway a bit, so we went there thinking we would spend the day.  Well, we spent two nights and three days.  What a pleasant surprise this state park turned out to be.

Jonathan is mixing meat for burgers

You see, I am not a big fan of lake swimming unless I have a boat and get out to the deep where I never have to touch any vegetation or the mucky bottom of the lake.  However, the lake in this state park is really clear, the swim area was clean, no muck and no weeds.  Couple this with the beautiful views from very pretty campsites and you have one the best state parks we have stayed at- and we have been to many.  Being only two and a half hours away, this would make a good place for a day trip as well.

Never too old to roast marshmallows…

After morning walks with Tony, hours spent hanging out with my kids, playing cards, reading books and eating simply good food, I was completely unwound.  We all relaxed and enjoyed our time away.  We came home refreshed and tanned.  As it is so often with God, we knew what we wanted, but He knew what we needed.  We wanted to stay at the beach, but what we needed was quiet time with Him in His creation.  While the ocean is His creation, Galveston is not a quiet place.  We could not have planned a better trip.  Memories were made and a family was bonded stronger than before.

So, check out the great state parks of our state, God is alive and well there and He will meet with you.  When you study and observe the work of an artist, you will learn something of the artist, it is the same with God and his Creation-his work of art.  We never come away with less when we unplug and take time to spend time with Him.  My children will look back on their childhood and these will be the things they remember.  When I look back on their childhoods, these are the things I remember.

Homeschool Year 2012/13- Here we come!

Huntsville State Park- a really great stay!

You know I am just amazed at the amount of laundry that a camping trip can generate!  That is what I have been doing today, that and washing the dishes out of the camping bin.  For every good time, there is a certain amount of work that goes into it.  As every mother knows, this is why we need a day off when we get back from vacation!  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We have been having a good time around here.  A little traveling, lotta sun, and a whole lotta fun!  I love my bunch and I love traveling and camping with them. After picking Savannah up in Galveston after Sea Camp, we played on the beach and went to Kemah then spent a few days at Huntsville State Park. There was so much done in this one week, that it will take several blogs to do it justice.

Since being home, I have been catching up on house work (see above) and getting ready for school to start.  Homeschooling is a wonderful part of our lives.  I love that fact that I get to choose subjects based on the interests of my kids and then we get to take trips to study what we are studying in person.  So many subjects are brought into play in the study of one subject.  I am really excited about the Texas History Unit this fall.  By picking up books at the library, we are reading.  Reports will be written, using language and wrtiting skills, and documentaries will be ordered from Netflix.  Then we will travel to a state park near San Antonio so we can go see the Alamo.  In planning the trip, the kids will participate using maps (geography) and have to put together a budget for the trip- everyday use of math- all these subjects are pulled in while we study Texas History and this helps all that good information and knowledge stick.  Children were never meant to learn in tiny boxes, the mind was wired to mesh all the information together.

Another year and a lot of good fun is on the way. We kick off “officially” on Monday.  Unofficially, we homeschool 24/7 all year long. It was quite odd, however, printing up the lessons plans and such.  I have for the past years multiplied everything by four, now I am multiplying by three as Cheyenne has graduated.  Wow, that is so strange.  And yet, it is a relief!  It seems so much easier to just have three, then next year I will only plan for two.  Life is changing big time.  These milestones come no matter what, might as will celebrate them!