Monday, May 21, 2007

Another Garden Update

We are really new gardeners. We just started last year. We're trying new things and adding different things and I just want to chronicle the progress (or lack of) here.

I should have made a picture of the whole strawberry container beds. We had planned to get them in the ground this year but it just didn't happen. I feared that we wouldn't get a single strawberry this year because we had a late freeze (which is almost unheard of in south TN) after they had bloomed. But it seems that we'll get a few after all.

So of course I had to get a rhubarb plant to go with the strawberries. Truthfully, I've never cooked with rhubarb in my entire life. The plant was an impulse buy. I didn't know a thing about it when I bought it. Since then, I've educated myself just a teeny bit. Hopefully we'll have some rhubarb to go with the strawberries next year. And as an aside, how do you not love an edible plant that's a perennial? I mean really. You plant it, leave it alone, and get food for years.

This is curious (to me). If I remember correctly, I grew this sage from a seed pack. I ended up with 3 healthy plants that I grew in a container until the fall of last year and then put them in the ground. Two of the three have these really pretty purple flowers on top. The other one, as you can see vaguely in the background is different. Though they all came from the same seed pack. I've not dried any yet (or used fresh). I'm curious if the taste will be the same.

Here is the wild looking tomato bed (that also has some squash and peppers). It looks so unruly that I'm tempted to tame it a little, but last year we tamed and agreed that this year we'd let it do it's own thing and see which was better. Of course we're still attaching them to the poles. This picture is made less that one week from when the last garden update pictures were made. Six days to be exact.

I made this picture to show how a few of the cucumber plants are starting up the trellis. Last year one cucumber plant survived and it looked unbelievable pitiful. They're not the healthiest looking plants in our little box garden, but they certainly seem to be doing better than last year.

This is my poor little scrawny banana pepper plant. It's only been planted since Mother's Day, so I'm trying to cut it some slack. There are two more just like it.

This is the huge monster zucchini/squash plant(s). I have no idea why this little area has had such prolific growth. And not so much fruit! It's still pretty amazing to watch. Mike made the comment that we could probably sit and watch it grow. I'm curious to see if it will be better fruit that the smaller ones or not. And I wish I could figure out why this one is so much bigger.

This is just the same end shot that I always make. Just for comparison.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Amazing Day

We got home lateish last night and I had a message that one of my great uncles is pretty ill. He's someone that was a huge part of my childhood. My heart is heavy with the news. I wish there were something I could do. To make the hospital stay more tolerable. To make him more comfortable. They've requested no visitors until they figure out what's going on with his heart. He's stressed and they're trying to keep him as calm as possible. I pray that God gives him mercy and strength. And that his family can find some peace and comfort.

A friend of my husbands was just diagnosed with brain cancer. I don't know the details, but they've given him a few months to a year to live. I don't really know him well, but he's come to our church a few times and he's this big bear of a man that seems to have a great heart.

All this sadness, and it's such a beautiful day here today. The temps are mild (70's) and the sun is just beaming. The garden is stretching up to meet the sun. The dogs are lounging. The girls and I just sat on the deck for *way* too long today. What a lovely indulgence.

I wish everyone could have felt the warmth of the sun on their faces as my girls and I did today. All we had to do was walk outside and look up.

I pray that those that are sick are looking to God and that He's shining His warmth down brightly on them today.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Frugal Deals (continued)

OK, this is what I got at CVS yesterday. This weeks "out of pocket" (meaning what I paid cash after the coupons and ecb's) was pretty high. I'm trying to decide if it was a good deal or not.

Starting from the left (kind of):

-5 12pk coke product

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Come on, who really needs coke? In my defense, this is probably the only coke I'll buy all summer.)

(Why was this a good deal? Because it was buy 4 get 1 free so I ended up with 5 12pks for $11. Which seems to be a pretty good price around these parts.)

-2 Revlon blush products and a sharpener

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Because I already have one that I'm using and one in reserve.)

(Why was this a good deal? Because this is the blush I wear, and I wear it almost daily. And the deal was if you spend $20 in Revlon products, you get $10 ecb's. So I got it for practically half-price. Kinda. And it will keep. And I will use it.)

-Huge pack of hairbacks

(Not on sale. $4.99 We needed them. We go through them like water on a hot August day.)

-2 tins of cashews

(Why was this NOT a good deal? The only thing coming to mind is that this isn't the healthiest kind of nut?)

(Why was this a good deal? Because they were on sale for $4.39 AND they were buy 1 get one free! So I got 2 containers for $4.39)

-3 pk of CVS paper towels

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Well, they're not my favorite paper towel. And are paper towels *really* necessary?)

(Why was this a good deal? Because we still DO sometimes use paper towels. And they were $2.49 AND I got back a $1 ecb. Less that 50 cents a roll.)

-Advil PM

(Why was this NOT a good deal? We don't use this kind of thing often?)

(Why was this a good deal? Because when we do need something like this it's usually late at night and it's awfully nice to have it stocked. And it was $2.99 AND I had a $2 coupon. So I got it for less that $1!)

-2 packs of shakeable flashlights

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Can't think of a single reason other than it was an impulse buy which I'd been trying to avoid.)

(Why was this a good deal? We bought one of these packs last Christmas time for $19. We loved them. They were *clearanced* yesterday for... get this ... $2 a pack! I got them both for $4. I'm doing a little happy dance for this particular find. :)

-2 Degree antiperspirant

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Because I picked up the kind that I didn't have the coupon for.)

(Why was this a good deal? It wasn't. It was on sale, but I still paid $1.99 each and I can get it cheaper than that at Sam's typically.)

-2 200pk Splenda

(Why was this NOT a good deal? Can't think of a reason.)

(Why was this a good deal? Because it was 2/$14 and I got back a $5 ecb. That is a really good price here for 400ct Splenda. And I use it. Very sparingly. But I do use it.)


I ended up paying $47 out of pocket. That is a LOT. I try to keep it between $20-$25. I also had $26 in ecb's that I used. And I "only" got back $16 in ecb's. Next week, I'll be much more selective.


I didn't buy one thing that I didn't need or don't normally use or stock. So I suppose I should feel good about that.

So how did you do this week?


Monday, May 14, 2007

Garden Update

I've got to say that I've been amazed at what our little square foot garden is doing so far. Mike had some ideas for changing the soil and drainage system this year and it's been amazing! I feel so blessed that he puts his energy into this kind of thing.

Just last *week* the garden looked like THIS . Literally. One week ago.

This is the tomato bed with a couple of peppers and a squash and zuccini plant (I think, I may have gotten the squash and zuccini confused when I was planting them and I can't tell yet!)

Here is the most dramatic change. This is 3 of the squash/zuccini plants. I can't believe how big they've gotten. And we've even got some teeny squash on some of them!

This is another shot from the onion end.

Mike is even talking of building a couple more boxes for me! I'm sure I could find some things to plant in them!

I ended up filling the last few feet of extra garden space that I had with banana peppers! Mike found some at the local fruit stand and brought them home to me yesterday. I'll try to include them in my next garden update. I also need to do an update on the things growing in the yard.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

S*ubmission to our Husbands

(Those that have read here for a while may remember that I wasn't actually raised by my mother. She was very young when she had me and I lived the most part of my youth with my Great Grandmother (and Great Grandfather until he died when I was 11). Who was a *wonderful* person. But not at ALL a submissive wife. And I was surrounded by my extended family.)

There was a time in my life that I would have scoffed at the idea of being submissive to my husband. Though I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist church, I *never* remember this topic being discussed. This just occurred to me as I was typing and it honestly astounds me a little. Is it such a taboo subject that even the more conservative religious leaders wouldn't touch it 40 years ago?


I was a teenager in the 80's. Seems that the 60's and 70's was all about feminism and equal rights and the 80's was a continuation of that. Women, as a whole, seemed to be taught they didn't need a man. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't take anything off of men!

So while this negativity seemed to be the swirling consensus in the general population, my own family was *much* worse.

My mother was 5 times divorced and married to a man 20 years her junior. He was barely older than me. She was always looking to "trade up". I was force fed her (and her 3 sisters) motto's. I can still hear them ringing in my head today. "It's as easy to love a rich man as a poor man." "Let the man know from the beginning who wears the pants in the family."

I look at these aging women now and it breaks my heart. Each of them lives in her own unique misery. My mother now, long divorced again and alone, sees the error of her ways.

NOW she does.

And we talk about it. I feel almost like I have to parent her in this area. And I just think this is a total shame. What a waste. If God is gracious to her, 2/3 of her life is gone. Why did it take her so long to learn these things?

Why did it take me so long to learn them?

The first ten years of our marriage was so hard. I loved my husband. But I was deeply unhappy. I had no idea why. I blamed him. If he would do X differently, I'd be happy. So I'd nag at him until he did X and then I still wasn't happy. So he must not have done it right! Simply put, he was not able to please me no matter what he did.

Now having said that, he didn't do a lot! And why should he have? He was not happy either. But when I look back on it I see exactly why.

He had a wife that nagged him (many times for absolutely no reason). If there was nothing wrong, I'd *find* something wrong. Or invent something.

He had a wife that turned away from him when he reached for her. Consistently. And I really have no idea why, unless it was some type of control issue?

He had a wife that was overweight much of the time. I was unhappy after all!

He had a wife that was impossible to please. He'd suggest that we do something and I'd find some fault with it. Some reason why he was being selfish.

He had a wife that had no idea how to keep the home. I had never been taught. I had never washed my own clothes. Never cooked my own meals. Never washed a kitchen floor. And what did he know anyway!? He'd been raised with a housekeeper!

He had a wife with a terrible consistent negative attitude. This is something that I still struggle with today. If I'm not diligent, my attitude will start to slip. I have to watch it all the time. Being positive about things is a *choice*.

But probably the biggest point of contention in our marriage was the discipline of our girls. I thought he was too harsh, so I tried to overcompensate. I bucked him at every turn. Before he even opened his mouth, I was ready to correct him. Harshly and in front of the girls.

What this accomplished was the exact opposite of what I wanted. I wanted him to participate in the parenting, but only under my terms. He just mostly withdrew. Which made me angry and bitter.

The one point that he would never concede was that the oldest (the youngers weren't born yet for most of this) not be sobbing when she talked to him about something. No matter how much I told him that was "mean", that she couldn't *help* crying, he simply wouldn't listen to it. She had to go collect herself, then come back and talk to him. I'd stomp my foot and "defend" her and it's the one area that he stood his ground. It was one place that he wouldn't give in.

Now I see how this one little seed he planted in the her has reaped big rewards. My girls are some of the best communicators that I've ever know. They collect themselves before they speak and get their emotions under control. They are able to articulate what they wish to articulate. They don't just screech about this or that to people! They stop and think before they talk. What a *wonderful* gift he has given them.

And I feel great shame at what I may have squashed in my oldest because I was the way I was taught to be. Because I couldn't just shut up and trust my husband.

No, his attitude wasn't good back then. But that was what I'd reaped by being the way I was toward him.

I can't say for certain how he might have been if I'd been different back then. But I can say this with 100% certainty. When he started getting respect and submission from me, he became the man of my dreams. He now realizes how much stock we all put into his words and he chooses them carefully.

It is my passion to let young women in on this "secret".

My prayer is that someone can learn from my lost 10 years. And my mothers lost 40.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Homeschool, the Novel

I'm frequently asked why we home school.

I've home schooled for 11 full years. I obviously think it's a worthy pursuit. I started back when it wasn't such a popular thing to do. Back when there were *very* few curriculum choices.

My first daughter had gone to a private kindergarten and first grade. The curriculum was good and the teachers were good/fair, but the place had this ... I don't even know how to articulate it well ... snotty? feeling? We certainly weren't well off and a lot of these kids were. The moms of these kids were just unbelievable for the most part. Always comparing their new rings and designer clothing. Sometimes telling why they "traded up" on husbands. This, amazingly, didn't seem to bleed down to the kids at this point. But I had no doubt that it would start.

We decided to move to an area that had (for this area) really good public schools. Our thought process was that we could either put the money in her education (that we really weren't thrilled with) OR into a house (that happened to have schools that everyone loved.) Plus, we wanted more children and thought this might be the right economical choice.

Right after she started in this new school, I had my second daughter. So I'm not sure that I was involved enough to make an accurate assessment of second grade. It seemed fine. And my daughter was happy.

Then the next year. Almost as soon as the school year started, we started getting letters about head lice. Not personal "your daughter has a problem" letters, but the kind that said that several kids in the classroom did and to watch our child. After literally months of this, I asked for a conference with the teacher. There had to be a reason for this and some way to stop it, right?

I was a practicing nurse at the time, and naively thought the teacher would be grateful for my help.

As soon as I walked into the classroom, I noticed 4 computers set up complete with headphones. I pointed out to the teacher that this was likely the culprit. Thinking she would be relieved and thank me, you can image my surprise when she seemed defensive. The kids *had* to use headphones so as not to disrupt the rest of the class. I completely understood that, and gently pointed out that it might be a good idea to let parents know that they could reduce the chances of their child getting head lice by simply buying a cheap pair of headphones for their own child. Which I did that very day for my child.

After all, the price of the headphones was MUCH LESS than the price of one lice treatment for a family. So it was a win/win situation, no?

The long and the short of it is that we never got a letter mentioning the headphones (but we kept getting the head lice letters), my daughter was the *only* one that took her own headphones (and this made her feel funny), and it felt that this somehow made the teacher not like me very much. It was just weird and strained after that.

Skip forward a few months and we had an ice storm. My daughter was sledding and caught a mailbox pole in the fleshy part between your thumb and forefinger and shattered the bones across her (dominant) hand. Surgery and casts and all the fun stuff followed. It happened in February and it took till the middle of summer to heal.

When I picked her up the last day of school she was very upset. She had been kept off of honor roll because she got an "N" (needs improvement) in handwriting. She had *always* (before her accident) gotten an "S". She'd worn a *cast* on her hand the whole last grading period. It was just really ridiculous. And I told her right then that she *never* had to go back to school again. And we home schooled her for the next 4 years. (Just to preface a bit, she had worked *really* hard to get honor roll. Doing extra credit work and really putting forth a lot of initiative. It didn't come super easy to her. The teacher knew her struggles and how badly she wanted honor roll.)

Like I mentioned earlier, it was a different time for home schooling. No co-ops. No playgroups to speak of. It was not at all like it is today. So when she wanted to go back in 8th grade, we let her. She knew the "system" so to speak. She knew the good and bad of it. And at times it was *miserable* on her. But always her choice, and she knew that.

She is now a JUNIOR (I can't believe I'm typing that) in college. She just got her grades and has a 3.8.

The same year that DD1 was going back to school, I was deciding on what to do with DD2.

When DD2 was 24 hours old, she stopped breathing in the hospital (when they had taken her out of my room in the middle of the night to be weighed). The "found" her blue. Wasn't sure how long she had been that way. They rushed her to NICU and had to code her (meaning she had no heartbeat and wasn't breathing) for several minutes.

Thank God above, she survived. But the child they brought back to me wasn't the child they had taken from me that night. She was lethargic and not as responsive as before. One of her eyes rolled weirdly in her head. They told me that she may never walk, talk or even sit up by herself. They just didn't know the extent of the brain damage.

You'd have to know me personally to understand how miraculous what I'm about to say is, but this devastating news rolled off me. I *never* believed that nonsense. I'd wanted this child for *so* long. I just, by the grace of God, knew she was going to be OK. I had such peace.

Well, she walked at 7 months. She was doing cartwheels before she was two. But she didn't speak until she was over 2 years old.

And when the time came when DD1 went back to public school, DD2 was still "behind". There was no way I was going to put this child in school and get her labeled. So home school it was. It was very slow going for the first couple of years. She finally learned to read a little when she was 8.

Fast forward 3 years, DD is 11 and in 6th grade. We test (almost) yearly through our umbrella school. The SAT. She scores 9.7th grade in reading. Amazing what can happen in 3 short years with patience and guidance.

She's now finishing 7th grade and an honors co-op, and making *star* roll. My little red head that they told me would probably never be normal.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I had DD3. She's almost 3 years younger than DD2. I suppose working so slowly with DD2 in reading really rubbed off on DD3.

One day when she was 3yo I was getting her set up to listen to a phonics CD so that I could work with DD2 uninterrupted for a while. She'd heard it many, many times before. This time she told me she didn't need to listen to it, that she knew how to read. I smiled my indulgent mommy smile and pulled out a BOB book and asked her to read it to us then.

Can you picture my jaw hitting the floor when she read the book cover to cover? I had *no* idea she could read. I have no idea how long she had been reading.

From that point on, they were home schooled together. I didn't have DD3 do as much work as DD2, but it was so nice to be able to work with them both at the same time.

Almost immediately a great co-op opened for younger kids and my girls both got to go. They still do this co-op now, 6 years later, though they have probably outgrown it a little. They have felt a part of a group and have made many friends.

Just this past year we've added the honors co-op into their schooling. It's been amazing. Both of them excel and flourish, and I get to stand back and watch.

I thank God for leading me in this direction. For convicting my heart to protect my girls even before I knew that was what He was doing. For making us successful in this endeavor.

So how do I answer when people ask us why we home school? Most don't really want to know why. They ask it the same manner you would ask a child why they colored on the wall. With the idea that no matter what the answer, it's going to be nothing more than an indulgent excuse.

So I suppose this is my long winded, indulgent excuse. ;D

**(I always start thinking about our journey this time of year, but particularly this year. Over 3 years ago we applied to a *fabulous* magnet school here. We got an interview a few weeks back and now we're waiting to hear the results. I don't know if we'll go even if we *do* get accepted. I am deep in prayer about this. But this and a few other thoughts on the coming year are certainly for another post.)


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Frugal Confusion?

I've been reading all over the blog world about various savings from CVS. It works something vaguely like this: When you purchase certain things (changes weekly or monthly, depending) you get ECB's (extra care bucks) printed immediately at the end of your receipt. These are supposed to work exactly like cash for other products the next time you shop. And you can buy things "next time" that have ECB's as well. Some things end up being "free". Meaning you buy X for $5 and you get a $5 ECB to use for next time. Other things are more along the lines of "Spend $15 on a certain product and get $10 ECB's".

I've done it for a couple of weeks. After an "initial" investment of $60 or so, It seems to be working for me like this:

I spend about $20 each visit out of pocket (meaning my cash) plus whatever ECB's I have (usually $20-$30), and I get back between $20-$30 ECB's to use next time. Just to clarify, that does NOT make the stuff free. I spend the $20-$30 ECB's AND appr. $20 cash each time. There is lots of information on the web that is *much* better that what I've written, so I encourage you to Google it and not take my (or any ones for that matter) word for it.

This is what I got on one of the trips.

The last two pictures is what I got on another trip.

We have to buy some of this stuff anyway of course. But some of it, I would probably never buy if it wasn't so cheap (or "free). So I'm still in the "undecided" camp. Yes, I got good deals. But what really is "good deals" on stuff that you wouldn't normally buy? I also spend about an hour a week going over the sales papers, matching coupons, and the actual shopping. And I'm in a season of my life where my time is pretty precious.

I plan to keep it up a while longer. I'll post my deals every week or two. If anyone else is doing it I'd *love* to hear your opinions.


Monday, May 07, 2007


I'd meant to make a picture of the little square foot garden when I first planted it, but time got away. So now it's been planted 2 weeks, and this is what it looks like:

This is the tomatoes, 2 peppers and a squash and zucchini plant.

This is the onions with beans sprouting behind them. I never realized how long it took onions to grow! They've been planted almost 2 months now!

A closer look at some squash and zucchini.

This is some squash, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and basil. The cucumbers didn't do so well last year. We changed the soil this year and also added rocks to the bottom of the containers (instead of sand).

This year I actually have about 6 sq. ft. of space left to plant, but it has to be something that doesn't block the back plants sun and something that doesn't need a trellis. I'm stumped.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

And Now it's May

I had a woman friend tell me just yesterday that May was much like December, as far as demands on a mother. I have to agree with her. The years activities are coming to an end and with it, much work and last minute festivities.

Still, of course, that is no excuse for my having been completely absent so long from here. And I am humbled, grateful and touched that so many of you have written to make sure I'm OK. Thank you.

The truth is, I'm not sure how to proceed with this blog. I never really intended for this to be a place that I mainly wrote about my daily activities, and yet that's what it sorta turned into.

The thing is, I have deep, strong convictions. But I don't like controversy. How's that for a contradiction? There have been several posts that I've typed out that are still sitting in my draft box because I knew it would ruffle feathers (no one that I know personally here, but in general).

Also, I'm not the person now that I was years ago. And while I realize that not many of us are, it feels almost hypocritical of me to post strong opinions of basic things that I *didn't* *do* *myself* at one point.

One example is my marriage. It was Rocky for the first 10 or so years. The R in Rocky is capitalized on purpose. I was not the wife I should have been (and neither was Mike the husband he should have been, but this blog is about me :). And I so wish I had had someone with life experience to help me, but I didn't.

Would I have listened? Probably. At least in a way.

Because over the years I've found that, even though the young may argue a point at the time, when they have some time alone to think about why things are going wrong, they hear the voices of those they respect.

In other words, all the times that you've wondered if you're wasting your breath, you weren't.

But to tell my experiences here, to make it real, I have to also tell why I'm convicted of this or that. And the why is usually not so pretty. It's embarrassing to tell about ourselves in a semi-public forum and not spiff it up a bit.

It's easy to say "my marriage wasn't great" but much more vulnerable and scary to tell the details of why. But probably with much more impact.

And let me just say that I'm using marriage as an example. It's certainly not the only area that I've learned from my mistakes.

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I'm just not sure where to go from here. :) I want to still be here and post about this or that daily thing, but I also, not want...but feel convicted to also have the courage to dig up the dirt and lay it all out to dry.

Anyway, that's where my head is at the moment. Well, there and sub-divided into all the end of the year activities.