Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31, 2008

The kids carved pumpkins last night.
Stuart cut open the tops and the kids took it from there using a pumpkin carving knife that we found at the thrift store. Charlie insisted that he wanted his pumpkin to look just like the one on the package that the little knife came in. Lauren spent an hour fulfilling his little heart's desire.

Claire carved her pumpkin with two front teeth as her own mouth is void of any at the moment.

We've run the gamut when it comes to Halloween... from homemade costumes and trick or treating in the fall festivals at church. But these both added up to the same thing. Waaaay too much candy and children who turned into fussy, begging urchins until the sugar finally ran out. It turns out when it comes to creating family traditions that the less is more philosophy works best for us.

We finally hit on the perfect way to make the evening special a few years ago. I pack the kids in the car and meet Stuart for dinner at a local restaurant and then we head to Wal-Mart. We grab a cart and start our first round of Christmas shopping. We start the season off by shopping for Operation Christmas Child. It is so much fun to spend the evening finding things we can put in a shoe box to make one little boy and one older girl happy on Christmas day. Wind-up flashlights, sunglasses, chapstick, marbles, dominoes and Tonka trucks all pass through my children's hands into the hands of another child in another country.

Tonight, a Wal-Mart employee was passing out candy as we were shopping and each child took one piece and said thank you and that was it for our crew this year. Tomorrow I don't have to referee how many Snickers each kid can have before breakfast. Bucking tradition has its advantages.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Applesauce Classroom

We took a few days off from school last week to make applesauce. I'm not much for gardening or canning but I just can't tolerate that watery jarred stuff that passes for applesauce at the store. I was starting to panic because our freezer was almost starving. A couple of bags of frozen kidney beans, a few loaves of bread and the last two quarts of applesauce from our last extravaganza. It looked like we were going to have to drive for hours to find an orchard but I finally found an apple orchard just one short hour's drive on the back country roads. We came home with five bushels and got busy.

Here's a clean pile of Arkansas Black apples. They make a good thick sauce and a pretty decent apple pie as well.

John and Charlie on apple washing duty.
Charlie helped a bit but mostly he assigned himself the job of taste testing.
Lauren was my girl Friday during the four days in the kitchen. Without her help, I'd still have four bushels of apples in my closet waiting for attention.
It looks calm here but the children passed the time by singing a drinking song from Lord of the Rings in many different voices. "Let's try it this time in French Pea..."

You can search far and wide,
You can drink the whole town dry,
But you'll never find a beer so brown,
You'll never find a beer so brown,
As the one we drink in our home town,
As the one we drink in our home town...

"Again! Let's sing it as a funeral dirge."

Adventures in Odyssey finally calmed them down. We chopped and steamed and baked while listening to the story of Horatio Spafford, the author of the hymn "It is Well With My Soul."

The little girls soon abandoned their post at the applesauce grinder and went out into the backyard where they discovered an enormous caterpillar. All work stopped while we researched their find (a tomato hornworm) and made a cozy place for the little critter to reside. Faith went over to our neighbors in search of tomato leaves because apparently that is the catepillar's food of choice. We had to let him go after a few days because he was getting awfully skinny even with a whole bug box full of tomato leaves.

John takes a turn. He's pretending he's a galley slave.
And here he rises above his position as galley slave to take issue with the cook.

In the midst of all this the doorbell rang. The mailman delivered John's new writing curriculum, The One Year Adventure Novel. John promptly put in the first DVD and we all got two or three lessons in creative writing. Then he rushed off to the computer to do the accompanying assignments and called me away from the kitchen to check his progress. (This curriculum will eventually get it's own post but not until we've bonded.)

While the apples steamed and baked we read chapters and chapters of Escape Across the Wide Sea. It's a story of a Huguenot family who escaped from France on a ship and ended up in New Rochelle, New York after a stop in Africa to pick up slaves and another stop in Guadeloupe to sell them to the sugar plantations. Claire loves a good "woe is me" story so this one was right up her alley.

I'd post a picture of our final sixty bags of applesauce but they are frozen in lopsided piles and they don't look at all like a work of art. If you need to see beautiful pictures of other people's winter provisions you can look here, here and here. If you want to join me in the guilt trip while you stare open mouthed at their industry, feel free. And then you can also join me in a little praise to the Jolly Green Giant. Got to love that guy. Even if you only get like six peas in a bag.

So, we're back to our regular school schedule. I wonder if we'll cover as much ground as we did during the applesauce "vacation" ?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Staying Dry

"Tim, stay out of the water. You are down to your last dry outfit."
"I'll just roll up my shorts. That'll keep 'em dry."
"Tim. Stop. I would like you to come up here on the sand."
"I'm fine, Mom. See? The water is only up to my ankles."
"Tim! Your backside is soaked!"
" Only a little. I'm mostly dry. I'm just in up to my knees."
"Wow! Look at this shell! I think I can get it."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Charlie's Surf and Turf

Beach Essentials
7 swimsuits
7 toothbrushes
1 bottle of sunscreen
7 hats
2 swords

Charlie loves his swords.
Charlie met the ocean for the first time, sword in hand. "Hey, sharks! I'm not afraid of you! Prepare for battle!" The boy meets his fears head on.

After Charlie finished his duel with the ocean, he turned his attention to the sand.
He tried to bury himself but it is hard work to bury oneself with little hands.
The big boys were not happy with Charlie's measly progress so they finished the job.
Still not satisfied, they turned him into a teddy graham.

The outdoor shower did a great job rinsing off those sandy boys but it didn't take care of the sand in their pockets. We discovered this when the boys hung their trunks up to dry. It was ok, though. Stuart is handy with a vacuum.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Carolina Sunrise

We just got back from vacation. We spent the last week with Stuart's family on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. October is off season so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There is a lot to do but we didn't. The children preferred the beach and the pool to museums and the local attractions. We played in the ocean and collected buckets of seashells and dug craters in the sand.

Some of the cousins

All of the cousins
The Outer Banks is a long way from Smallville. We've been sandwiched in the car for the last two days. My flock of nightowls left their half-eaten dinners on the table and crawled into bed and were out by 7:30. Stuart and I took over six hundred pictures so there will be more posts to come this week but for now I need to catch up on my sleep.