Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Mary!

I can't believe my first baby girl is 11 today! My how time flies. It seems like just yesterday that I was carrying around that chunky baby! Now she's almost as tall as me and a beautiful young lady.


Unfortunately she's sick today. Emma has passed along her cough and congestion. Hopefully Mary will be feeling better by this afternoon. She's drinking lots of hot tea, taking her vitamin C and resting. I've got a pot of chicken soup simmering for lunch.


We celebrated Mary's birthday on Saturday with another friend who had a birthday yesterday. We had planned to have all their friends meet at the outdoor ice skating rink. When we arrived early Saturday morning, it was 77 degrees (25 degrees C) and so humid you could feel the water dripping from the air! Not exactly perfect conditions for an outdoor rink. Still I was optimistic-that is until I actually saw the rink. There was so much water on it that it was running out the sides onto the sidewalk. The water on the ice was rippling from the breeze. Needless to say, I was in tears! I called as many of Mary's friends as I could to cancel. 2 girls had spent the night with us and we didn't have 2 other girl's phone numbers so we had to wait for them. In the mean time, they opened the rink. I couldn't believe it! We put all the kids in skates and sent them out. They actually made waves as their skates went through the water! LOL! Still they managed to skate for the two hours and actually have fun. Later we had cake and then pizza for lunch. What I thought was going to be a flop of a party actually turned out pretty well.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deck the halls!

One of our Christmas traditions is to go to the same Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving and purchase our tree. This year was no exception. This year the tree farm also had 2 real reindeer! Mark always picks the first tree he comes to while the girls and I wander around forever checking out every angle, every limb, etc. Finally we found the perfect tree.

Mark and I put the lights on the tree. This year I let the girls do almost all the ornaments themselves. Another tradition is reading about and hanging our Adorenaments. These are 12 Christ-centered ornaments that have a picture (for example: baby in a manger), a name of Jesus (Immanuel) and the scripture reference (Matt. 1:23). There's a little book that comes with them that has a mini story to read along with each ornament too. These are by far the most special ornaments we have on our tree. After all the ornaments, Mark held Emma up high and let her put the star on the top of the tree. We think our tree is absolutely gorgeous! Of course we think that every year.
Next I let the girls set up our little village, the nativity scene, the stockings and a special Christmas scene a dear friend gave me several years ago. The girls begged to put lights outside. We gave in and let them wrap clear lights all around the posts and rails on the front porch. Then they put colored lights in 2 of our trees. The only thing left to do was hang the wreaths on the front door, back door and 2 small ones on the mailbox.


I have to say we honestly enjoy our decorations everyday. It's so nice to come home at night and see the lights sparkling outside and the tree glowing in the window. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Merry Christmas!

Purling Pals

Last week we were invited to a dear friend's house to knit. She had invited several other mothers and daughters. Clara is the most talented knitter I've ever met-and the most humble. If you ask her if she sews or knits she'll respond, "a little". In reality she sews beautiful dresses for her daughter, knits bags, hats and intricate sweaters. She was so patient in teaching all the girls to cast on. I know how to knit a little but am anxious to learn more. Plus I enjoy the time set aside with friends to knit and visit at the same time. One of my girls is very new to knitting while the other has knitted small scarfs in the past. Both needed a refresher course and the fire stirred up inside to start knitting again.
Clara gave us all homework-to knit at least 4 inches. Grace and I have accomplished that while Mary has well surpassed the 4 inches. We can't wait to meet with our friends again this week.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dance Skirts Galore!


My girls are getting ready for the Christmas production at church. There will be music, drama and ballet dancers. The childrens director asked me to make the skirts for the 9 ballerinas. Thankfully she also found a super easy pattern that I wanted to share. First of all, here's the link for the pattern: http://www.gophotography.com/tutu/

For the 9 skirts I made I used 20 yds of tulle and several yards of red ribbon. I also made matching hair accessories in the same way as the skirts. Thankfully I had my 2 big girls to help out. I cut and they tied. I hope all the dancers like the skirts.

Ice Skating at the Beach!


Can you believe it? We have a temporary outdoor ice skating rink set up at the beach. We were thrilled when it opened. It's kind of small and the weather has to be just right for good skating, but at least we can skate!

Recently we met our friends at the rink and skated for 2 hours. We had so much fun. The ice was perfect that morning. After going out to lunch we walked back by the rink. By then the temp was about 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). There were already a few puddles starting to form. I'm so glad we went early.
I think the neatest thing is that while your ice skating you can look out over the intercoastal waterway. What a fun day! The only downside is the rink will be gone in January. Guess we'll just have to enjoy it while it's here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Recently a friend shared their tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas Day. I decided to read more about it.



Well, this was a fabulous book-very enlightening. "St. Nicholas was a real person-a fourth century bishop, a defender of the Christian faith, a model for sacrificial giving, a protector of children, and a true churchman."


In the spirit of giving, I decided to let the girls purchase 2 small gifts for their sisters. It was so sweet watching them shop and really reflect on what their siblings liked. I wrapped each of the gifts and kept them hidden. I also bought them a gift-Christmas pajamas. We talked and read about St. Nicholas for a couple of weeks. This morning they could barely wait to see what was in their stocking. Before taking a peek, we took a moment to talk. I asked them to name one thing about their sisters that they were thankful for and liked. The comments flowed smoothly-even from little Emma. Finally they opened their gifts.



Another thing we did was bake. The girls each chose a recipe and made it on her own. We put them in pretty bags and handed them out to the neighbors.



We like the tradion of St. Nicholas day so much-I know we'll celebrate again next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fella

(Levi & me after our 1st hunt in CA this year)

11 years ago we had a litter of 10 lab puppies. My job was to choose one to be our new hunting dog. I picked him out and named him "Levi". Over the next 3 years we had a love/hate relationship. He was so adorable but he loved to bark and chew and dig. Thankfully he finally grew out of most of that and became the dog we dreamed he'd be.

Over the years he's hunted in Texas, Louisiana and numerous times in Canada. This last trip to Manitoba was in October. He had developed cataracts, was becoming hard of hearing and didn't have that same old drive. He went on a few hunts then decided he'd rather hang out at the farm house with the girls-wearing his new Shoal Lake t-shirt and sleeping on Emma's soft pink blanket. Mark said he'd turned into a Moma's boy!

Here at home he "protected" us girls many nights while Mark was out of town. I also never worried about Mark on those long drives to Canada as long as Levi was riding in the back seat. He had his own unique way of keeping Mark awake on those drives. LOL!

I'm sorry to say that Levi, my little Fella, passed away Thanksgiving morning. He's left a huge void in our home, our family and our lives. This Thanksgiving Day I'm thankful for him-for the joy, the laughs and all the memories he's added to our family. He'll be greatly missed.
(Levi & Emma napping at the farm house in CA)

Recent Field Trips

We've been so busy lately with school, holidays and field trips that I haven't had time to blog. First of all we went to a The Wind in the Willows play performed by a local children's theater. It was so cute. I especially like the costumes. Mr. Toad was just adorable!

Secondly we went to pioneer day at Rikard's Mill. This was a water-powered grain mill and museum established in 1845. We were able to buy sacks of cornmeal and grits. There was a man carving bowls from wood, a blacksmith shop, ladies weaving baskets, candle and soap making and a man demonstrating how to make cane syrup from sugar cane. They gave the children pieces of sugar cane to sample. My oldest really liked this. Our favorite spot was with the "spinning lady". She was actually a young lady who was demonstrating spinning natural fiber to make your own yarn. Now we just have to have our own spinning wheel.

I've lived in this area all of my life and never knew about this mill. We'll definitely go back next year.


Then finally we went to a musical about Dr. Seuss-a Seussical performed by a local childrens group. I think Emma enjoyed this production the most. She sat in my lap, perfectly still for the whole hour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My 3 Ballerinas


I've always loved ballet even though I never took lessons. Watching the graceful movements and listening to the beautiful music is one of my favorite things to do. Each of my girls started dance at an early age. I always said that if they decided later that they didn't like it, they could stop. Fortunately they all absolutely love it! This past week was parent's day at dance. We're allowed to come in the class and observe for the hour. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

All Grown Up

(Before)


Ever since Mary and Grace got their hair cut last spring, Emma has wanted hers cut. She's almost 4 and never had it cut. She didn't want to go to the salon. Instead she wanted me to cut it. I have absolutely no experience with this, so I put it off as long as I could. Today I finally cut it. It's not perfect, but she loves it! Here are step by step pictures of Emma's big day.
The first cut
All done

Snowing in the South?

Well, not really snow...but it's as close as we get! The girls and I took some time the other day to play in the cotton. It's so beautiful. It's one of my favorite memories of fall.
Alabama farmers planted nearly 550,000 acres of cotton in 2005. Farmers harvested 545,000 acres with estimated yields of 749 pounds per acre for a total of about 850,000 bales in 2005. Cotton is grown in 59 of Alabama's 67 counties and had cash receipts totaling nearly $205 million in 2004. Alabama rates ninth in the nation for cotton production.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dressing up



My girls never miss an opportunity to dress up. Our church had "Trunk or Treat" last night. Not only did the girls get to dress up, they also got candy played games and rode horses. They had so much fun.

Candy Corn Pots


This is such a cute idea we just had to try it! I saw it at By Sun and Candlelight (on my friend's list). All 3 girls got to paint and fill the pots. They make a beautiful fall center piece (along with the gorgeous roses my husband sent us yesterday), but not for long. All of ours were made for friends and family.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Canadian Memories

For many reasons this trip to Canada was much more memorable than those in the past. First of all was the history of the area and the rich Ukrainian heritage we learned about. Until this trip I knew nothing of the struggles of the first Slavic settlers here. These people pulled themselves out of the depths of despair to leave a strong, proud Ukrainian legacy.

The main thing that touched me this time was the people I met-the Canadian women. Mrs. Marion at the Olha Store who took the time to give us a tour of the Ukrainian church, gave the girls bags of candy and printed out a history of Olha and the surrounding district so that I could get a better understanding of what happened there. Lois at the Co-op who first invited my girls over to play with her daughter, provided them with ice skates and always had time to visit with me when I stopped in. Carla who could not do enough for us. She had us over for dinner and invited lots of friends and neighbors so we could get to know everyone. She took off a day from work to take us shopping in Saskatchewan. She loaned us a car and toys and sent the girls off with candy and souvenirs. She was just so bubbly and welcoming. Then there was Cheryl. She tries to come across as rough and gruff when actually she has the biggest, warmest heart. She came and visited us at the farm house, cooked a huge delicious meal and invited us over, asked my girls to go to school and took me site seeing around the area.

These women know the true meaning of hospitality. They welcomed strangers in with open arms. They left a mark on my memory and my heart that will be there forever.

Pysanky-Ukrainian Easter Eggs

These are a traditional craft in Ukraine, with a history of thousands of years. The method is similar to batik - patterns are drawn on the egg with wax, which then protects the covered areas from the dye that is applied. By repeating this process with different colors of dye, a multi-colored pattern is built up. Finally, the wax is removed to reveal the colors that were covered up at each stage. The symbols and colors used are rich in meaning; many pre-date the arrival of Christianity, and have had Christian interpretations layered on afterward.
The ones above belong to my Canadian friend, Cheryl. Some are real eggs, some wooden. She painted some as a child while others were passed down from her mother. I was able to purchase my own hand painted pysanky while in Shoal Lake, MB.

Back to the Basics


The little farm house we rent while in Canada is kind of, well, primitive. No microwave, dishwasher, washer or dryer, limited TV and one bathroom (with 4 girls!). That's okay. Every once in a while it's nice to see what it might have been like years ago on the prairie. Granted we still had it a lot better than those first settlers. Mary and Grace chose to do the laundry one day instead of wash dishes. They were freezing by the time it was all hung out. LOL! They appreciate our washer and dryer a whole lot more now.

School Days


We homeschool. We've always homeschooled. We visit Canada and our children attended a public school???!!!! That's exactly what happened. A family we be-friended who also has 2 girls invited our girls to "go" to school for the day. The girls spent the whole day there and had a wonderful time! Grace even took a spelling test and came out with homework! LOL! They learned new games, the Canadian anthem and made new friends. Overall it was a very positive experience. We're thankful for our new friends inviting them and the teachers and principal of Shoal Lake School being so hospitable.

Saskatchewan and the Potash "Mountain"


One of our day trips in Canada was to Saskatchewan. As we drove we could see a huge pink "mountain" in the distance. We were very surprised to find out that it was potash. Here's some info for those of you who may be like me and not know much about potash. I found this on the Potash, Corp website.


Potassium Is a Naturally Occurring Plant Food Element

Potassium helps cotton to grow long, strong fibers. Fertilizer K is often referred to as "potash". Early American settlers coined that name. They produced potassium carbonate needed for making soap by evaporating water filtered through wood ashes. The ash-like residue remaining in the large iron pots was called "pot ash". This process is registered as the first US patent.Commercial production of potash in the US began when supplies from Germany were stopped due to military conflicts. Carlsbad, New Mexico, became the hub of US production. Other production from brines was developed in Utah and California. Then, in the early 1960s potash from vast, high quality Canadian reserves became available. As a result, Canada now supplies about three-fourths of the potash used in US crop production.

Nearly every aspect of plant growth is dependent upon an adequate supply of K. Along with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), it is one of the three primary nutrients needed in large amounts. Potassium is a team player and helps to improve a plant’s disease resistance, tolerance to water stress, winter hardiness, tolerance to crop pests, efficient use of N and other nutrients, yield, and quality.

Here's a great site for kid's to learn more about K, N, and P: http://www.potashcorp.com/learn_about_fertilizer/kidsweb/index.zsp

Monday, October 29, 2007

St. Lazare


Everyone knows that the girls and I love anything French. We were excited to find a French village near where we were staying in Canada. It's just a small place, but full of beauty and character. We had lunch at a cafe & boulangerie and visited with one of the local ladies who told us a bit about the area.