Monday, November 28, 2016

Decking the halls

Decorating for Christmas was fun this year.  The kids are different every year.  You just never know what they're going to do!  This year they stood several feet away from the tree and flung ornaments at it, and wherever they landed, that's where they stayed, with the exception of a few special ornaments that were carefully placed.
 This year they assembled the trunk of the tree.
 Shadow is always very interested in the decorating.  He was the first one to appear.
 Sarah set up the nativity scene.  Noah came around later and took Jesus out of the manger and put a goat in there.  Mike accused him of desecration, but he said, "No, it's actually consecration, because Jesus is the GOAT--Greatest Of All Time!"
 Shadow looks forward to chewing the branches every year.  He's the true goat.
Sarah putting the star on top.
 You didn't know there was a giant black cat present at the birth of the Savior, did you?
 Noah put up our cross and plugged it in on the porch.
 Shadow was overjoyed to see his mitten.  He actually pulled it out the box of ornaments and started rubbing his face on it. 
 Shadow overseeing the installation of the branches.
 Marty's turn on the mitten.

 While Noah was focused on his phone, Sarah took the opportunity to decorate his antlers.

 He's always excited to see his broken backhoe bucket and fire engine ladder.  This many-year-old tradition has interesting beginnings. If you don't know the story, ask me.

 When Noah got his black belt in Kuk Sool Won in June, I bought him an ornament with his name and date on it.  This is the first time he's hung it on the tree.
 In the tradition of hanging strange things on the tree, a register vent appeared on it.
 Shiloh was too terrified to come out for most of the decorating, but curiosity finally won.

Reading quiz

We read this wonderful story in school. 
One of the questions the kids had to answer after reading the story was: "How many people were in the courtroom that day?"  (I love this question, because it demonstrates the interconnectedness of different subjects in school.  Sometimes you use math in English class.  Real life is not compartmentalized into school subjects.)

Noah did the math and figured out that it was 95 people.  But when he wrote the answer, he wrote 97.  I thought he just copied it incorrectly, but he explained, "I assume the judge/mayor didn't fine himself or the poor grandma 50 cents, but they were still in the courtroom."  Watching my students' brains work is really enjoyable. 

What does an explorer need?

The differences in my kids' personalities continue to manifest themselves in their school work.  I am blessed and fascinated to witness it.  After studying explorers in history, their assignment was to write what an explorer needs in order to be successful. 

Noah's list:
1. A solid mode of transportation
2. a way to communicate with others
3. basic supplies
4. knowledge
5. navigational tools

Sarah wrote:
1. Curiosity.  He/she must have a curious spirit when exploring.
2. Bravery.  He/she must be willing to take the risk of getting lost or even death.
3. Authority.  He/she must be able to have strong actions and commands when instructing a flock of people.


Well, here it is.  I have perfected my healthy oatmeal recipe.  No dairy, no sugar.
 Toast unsweetened coconut flakes, dry oats, and pecan pieces until it smells utterly delicious.
 Add some water.  It's fun to hear it sizzle and watch it bubble.  Then I put in dried cranberries, chopped apple, chopped dried dates, and a dash of salt.  Boil it a few minutes, and then add a little almond extract.
Bowl it up and stir in some almond milk. 


I woke up with no food plan for the day, so I made an early morning trip to Kroger for inspiration.  The markdowns at Kroger always inspire me.
The bananas were marked down to 29 cents/pound.  Those and the spinach will make a good smoothie for breakfast.  Lunch will be that Asian salad.  And dinner will be the Field Roast sausages made from grains, vegetables, and spices (no animals), and I'll make some stuffing with those mushrooms, and saute the rest of the spinach to go with it.  Every year at Thanksgiving, I remember how much I love stuffing and wonder why I don't make it all year long. 

This was a really good meal!  I added mushrooms and apples to the stuffing.  Vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and no butter.  I could eat that every day!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stinky ears and ripoffs

Getting old is rather amusing. Today I got out of shower, dried off, hung up my towel.  While I was taking the cap off my deodorant, I was thinking about the fact that I forgot to dry my ears, and the next thing I knew...I was putting deodorant on my ear! 

Later, I cut a coupon out of a magazine.  I got distracted and did something else before I got back to the magazine.  When I opened it, I said, "What the heck?!  This is a brand new magazine, and there's a coupon already cut out of it!" before I remembered that I had done it myself not five minutes before. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

art opinions

The writing assignment in history class today was to answer this question: Do you think that religious art, such as paintings of Biblical scenes and sculptures of people from the Bible and Christian history, are effective in encouraging people in their faith?

Sarah wrote, "Yes, I do think so. People were excellent at doing it in older times years and years ago.  Because art is almost feelings and beliefs on paper, people will wonder why she/he made it? Then they will probably google it, and it might affect their lives."

Noah wrote, "No. Looking at an old bearded naked man doesn't make me feel like worshiping. Nor does art make me feel anything but sympathetic for the slaves that chiseled the stone.  However, it does remind us of past heroes that led the world and Christianity to what it is today."

Friday, November 18, 2016


Poetry class didn't go well today.  The students were dull and disinterested.  I read this poem:

A centenarian 'mongst men 
Is rare; and if one comes, what then?
The mightiest heroes of the past
Upon the hillside sleep at last.

I asked them to use their knowledge of root words, as well as the context of the poem, to figure out what a "centenarian" might be.  Sarah's guesses included such things as "a monster who eats 100 people?" and "someone who kills 100 people?" (to which Noah replied, "That would be a serial killer.").  I asked them what the word "sleep" often signifies in poetic language, and their guesses were "rest?" and "battle?".  So their perception of the meaning of the poem was that a monster killed 100 people who were taking a rest on a hill.   After explaining that one, I moved on to one that I thought would be easier to comprehend:

The tide in the river beginning to rise,
Near the sad hour of parting, brings tears to our eyes;
Alas that these furlongs of willow-strings gay
Cannot hold fast the boat that will soon be away!

They had absolutely no clue what that poem was about either.  One of them suggested crop failure and the other thought maybe war.  I told them it's just a straightforward poem about a boat that is leaving.  I asked them how the author felt about it, and praise God they recognized sadness as the emotion.  I said, "What do you think 'these furlongs of willow-strings gay' are?  Blank stares, and finally a tentative guess: "some sort of homosexual tree?"  Sigh. After much prodding and many hints, someone finally realized they were ropes.  In exasperation, they said, "Why doesn't it just say, 'I'm sad that the boat's about to leave, and they're going to take off the ropes'?"  They don't see the beauty of poetic language.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Back down to Earth

Sarah was dreaming big and she quoted her favorite saying from Gym Corner: "Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
Noah said, "Yeah, and there won't be enough oxygen there to survive."
Sarah retorted, "Stop bringing me down with your logic."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Inca poetry

The history assignment was to write a poem about the Inca civilization. Here is Noah's:

The Incas were builders,
even the childers.
Named the buildings after pokemon,
even the temple...
til it got popped like a pimple.
No steels, no wheels, no running water.
Some say the Incas were genius, others say mysterious.
I just say the Incers
were stinkers!


The Inca was a noble family
who spread their empire as far as eyes can see.
They spread over Colombia and Chile,
and they had an amazing empire, as you see.
The Inca capital was Cusco,
which became wealthy, as you know.
There were sculptures and roads
and temples made of gold.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sarah's poem

    by Sarah Janes

    We were made to enjoy
    and run around like a youthful boy.
    We should enjoy the sand between our toes,
    not run around pulling flowers with hoes.
    We should run around on the sandy beach
    and soak up beauty like a hungry leech.
    We shouldn't be making paper to help the masses
    or cutting down beautiful trees with axes.
    So please don't take Earth's beauty for granted,
    and all the trees and flowers He planted.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pumpkin waffle crisps

A friend sent me a recipe for pumpkin pancakes.  I whipped up the batter this morning, but didn't want to deal with pancakes, so poured it into the waffle iron. They stuck and refused to release, so I had to scrape them out.

 I served them up as "pumpkin waffle crisps" (as opposed to overcooked, scraped-off crumbs)

Noah loved them and ate a whole plateful with applesauce. He said they were better than regular waffles!
I put the rest of the batter into muffin cups, which worked out much better.

Washing windows

We washed the windows today. They were so dirty, and the weather was perfect. 
Noah scrubbed all the screens and put them away for winter.  
 Sarah washed the grime off.  Her face perfectly captures how we all feel about this job!
I did the final polishing.  It was a big project, but I'm glad we did it. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hike to Rocky Glen

The perfect hiking weather just goes on and on this year!  Today it was 65 degrees, and we took a hike to Rocky Glen with a guide and a group.  Someday there will be signs and trails, but right now it's just woods and a creek that we had to cross several times.  It was pretty tough hiking, because we had to climb over fallen trees and slosh through mud and slippery wet leaves that were hiding tree roots sticking up out the ground.  Fortunately, I found a pretty good hiking stick early on and relied on it pretty heavily the whole way.
 A selfie from Mike's phone (minus his left eye)
 My friend Marcia
 Our transportation from the parking lot to the trail was "The Pony Express".  That was an unpleasant experience.  It was stinky, hot, crowded, loud, and very bumpy.  But it was free, and it got us there.
 I found this very interesting.  It's the site of an old homestead.  You can see an evergreen tree (the only one in the area, so it's assumed it was planted there by the homeowner), a couple wooden rails from an old fence, and a patch of concrete.
Cute little mushrooms
 Another fascinating find: an old coal mine.
 Inside the mine shaft.
 My handsome hiking partner.
 Our guide, Cheryl, is a geology professor at ICC, so she taught us lots of interesting things about the layers of rocks. She was passionate about her subject, which made her fun to listen to.
 We were happy that Mike's dad went with us too.
 I wouldn't have noticed this if our guide hadn't pointed it out, but it looks like a giant hand holding a stamp with some letters on it.  It is believed that it was related to the mining company.
 Doesn't even feel like Illinois!
Mike was standing on this rocky cliff that dropped off very steeply just a few inches from his right foot.  He slipped a little, and the older lady with us(I nicknamed her Grandma Opal) scolded him and told him to get down.

 I left some graffiti with shale.
 Inside the curved rock formation. Water was dripping in front of me, and it felt like a cave.
 Some large mushroom that I wanted to eat, but I don't know enough about them.  I wish I knew more about mushrooms and which ones are edible.
I do know this one though, because I just learned it last week when Noah and I hiked the River Bluff Trail with a naturalist, who told us it's called a turkey tail mushroom.  It is a beautiful fungus.  (The black thing is a chunk of shale that I brought home for Sarah to use as sidewalk chalk).