Friday, May 22, 2015

Graduation Day

Last night, we attended our youngest son's graduation.  He did very well with homeschooling, but wanted to attend the local high school to meet some friends (we had just moved into town) and to do high school sports.  Overall, his experience was positive.  He used his high school years to experiment with new activities and found his voice when challenging authority.  I'm not saying that he was a trouble-maker, because all his teachers loved him.  He brought a totally unique perspective to class discussions and the school newspaper.  Instead, Joe considered his time and talents as valuable as the adults in the school.  When the choir director spent the 80 percent of the class period on the phone, while the students sat waiting for class to actually do something, Joe dropped the class.  The director cornered Joe to find out why he dropped and pushed him for a response.  Joe gave his reasons in a respectful manner, but didn't sugar-coat that he resented sitting around wasting time, while the teacher was on the phone. He also worked industriously to get a fencing club set up at the high school.  Joe didn't succeed with the fencing club, but did make reasoned presentations to the principal and other administrators. 

Academically, the high school was okay.  Most of his advanced classes were internet classes that he did on his own.  The school seems to be making more and more of their classes for college-bound students into on-line learning.  I wasn't impressed with most of the on-line learning.  Grades weren't posted in a timely manner.  The on-line instructor took months to respond to a question from the student.  Basically, Joe was on his own for those classes.  It worked to his advantage that he has been an independent learner for years.


Walking into the gym to Pomp and Circumstance



A little silliness after getting his diploma.


Joe (on tiptoe) and Mike

Joe with Mads, Paige and Allie
Joe with Katie and George

Monday, May 18, 2015

Turning a church Into a House



A few weeks ago, the woman who converted our house from a church dropped by and asked to see what the inside of the house.  She wanted to take photos of the interior to show her family and friends in California, where she had moved.  We had an interesting visit and I learned many things about the house.  The house was planned to be able to be three separate living spaces: a large family house, a studio apartment over the garage and an apartment in the basement.  At the end of our visit, the woman and I exchanged email address and she promised to send me some photos of the house when it was a church.


This is the first photo.  The entry goes into what is now one of our bathrooms.  The window that faces the road is now the entry into our laundry room, which was added on.  Mike and I have enjoyed many conversations as we tried to figure out how the church was set up.  The photos that the woman sent have answered many of our questions.


  We had thought that the church was what is now our family room.  We were wrong.  I think that the entire main floor was the sanctuary of the church.  We installed our fireplace where the altar once stood.


 Our house is the blue and brown one in this photo.  The original structure is the brown, while the addition is the blue.

The woman said that she had to locate some of the other photos that she has packed away.  She's going to try to send me more later.  I am so happy that she remembered to email me the photos.  It's fascinating to see the changes that she made to our home. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring

The apple trees are in full bloom.  Their white flowers bring a welcome feeling that spring has arrived and soon we will be able to grow fresh food in the garden.  Last years apple crop was a failure.  There were lots of blossoms, but a hard freeze killed the apple crop in May.  We're hoping that frost doesn't kill off this years crop. 

Morelle Mushrooms were discovered underneath the apple trees last week.  Mike made omelets with them the following morning.   We'll probably go mushrooming later this week when the temperatures rise.  Paige and Allie love to gather mushrooms.  It's the only time of year that they willingly eat mushrooms.

Mike and the kids have removed all the wood and debris from the trees that were cut down.  It was a huge job, but we no longer need to worry about a tree falling on the house anytime soon.  We've managed to have 5 bonfires already this year and there is enough wood for several each week this summer and fall. 

The garden has been tilled and raked twice.  Saturday, I planted lettuce, spinach and beets.  Green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes, and turnips will be going in sometime in the next week.  The plants will need to wait another couple of weeks, because I don't want to need to cover the up at night.  Our garden is quite large this year.  I'm hoping to get enough food put up to lower our grocery bill next winter.




Mom Update

My mom has had a terrible year health-wise.  At the end of last year, she learned that her cancer is growing at an alarming rate.  The original plan was for radiation treatment in January, but it was changed to a more rigorous chemotherapy than she had had previously.  She had her first session out of four in January.  She became very ill from it and spent most of the month in bed. In February, she caught a bad cold that turned into pneumonia, which pushed her chemotherapy back a month.  March brought her chemo, followed by hospitalization from dehydration and another visit to her pulmonary doctor for her COPD.  In April, her chemotherapy was cancelled because she has shingles (for the second time.)

In January, her doctor discovered that the port my mom has in her shoulder to use instead of an IV in the arm wasn't working properly.  Surgery was scheduled to service or replace the port, but it has been rescheduled 2 times due to illnesses.

My was supposed to have the surgery today, but spent the previous 36 hours vomiting.  She's not sure if the vomiting is from chemotherapy last week or some illness or nerves. She's also discouraged and struggling with depression.  The depression is in large part due to her poor health and the fact that most of her time is spent with doctor appointments, testing, or treatments. 

Now that the warmer weather is here, the 3.3 acre of grass on her property needs to be mowed.  She's worried about keeping the yard in good order.  Mike had I tried to get out to her house twice this week to do yard work, but it rained both days


I hate the feeling of helplessness that arises from not being able to help another person feel healthier, or solve their problems, or make them happier. My mind knows that all of those things are impossible, but my heart still wants to wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Glasses


Our family purchases vision insurance primarily because so many of us wear glasses and my eyes are so bad that I need to get them checked each year to check for retinal detachment because I'm extremely near-sighted.  The last time we all went to the eye doctor, he was extremely condescending to us.  We decided to look for another doctor in our net work, but hadn't found one.  The year was slipping away, so in December I called and made an appointment with the doctor we don't like just to get my benefits for 2014 before they expired.

Once I arrived at the doctor's office, a pleasant surprised awaited.  The previous doctor had retired and sold his practice to a new doctor.  She was thorough and pleasant.  After the exam, I spoke with the office manager and explained that I wanted to order either contacts or glasses with my 2014 benefits and would then return in January to purchase the other with my 2015 benefits.  She made an appointment for January and said that we would order the contacts then, because the doctor wanted to make sure that they were working properly for me.

When I returned in January, I was told that they had filed the claim from my previous visit without placing the order for contacts and I couldn't use my 2014 benefits any longer.  I ordered the contacts with my 2015 benefits, but left without purchasing glasses.  Due to my poor vision and need for bifocals, the lenses for my glasses would have cost me a little over $400 plus frames.

Mike wanted me to replace my glasses because it was difficult for me to read with my old glasses and I get headaches when I wear them for extended periods.  He boss at work regularly ordered glasses from an online company called Zinni Optical.  The site offers tons of frame choices.  The customer uploads a photo of themselves and then enters their measurements and prescription.  The site eliminates frames that aren't suitable for the prescription or measurements.  The customer clicks on various frames and the site loads the frame onto the uploaded photograph.  Mike was thrilled and had a great time picking out two different frames for me.  I ordered both pairs with my strong bifocal prescription, anti-glare coating, and ultra-light lenses for $160!!

It took about two weeks for the glasses to arrive.  The plastic frames fit perfectly.  A small adjustment was necessary for the wire frames, but it was an easy adjustment for me to do.  It's been over three months since they arrived and I will purchase glasses from them in the future.  The frames are slightly less heavy-duty than frames from the eye doctor, but they were also less that 15% of the cost.  My frames were $12 and $10. 

Amy and Katie ordered glasses from Zinni and recently received their orders.  They are pleased with their purchases as well.  I highly recommend them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Projects at Home

Mike took 6 days of vacation this week.  We did a few fun things, like the Butterfly Garden, but it was a week of work.  We had a huge load of stone delivered and got that spread out to expand over parking area.  Parking has become a problem.  We have a two car garage which currently holds supplies for many projects we are in the middle of completing, so everyone parks in the driveway.  There are currently 6 car owners that need spots, plus assorted friends and visiting family members that need occasional spaces.  We spread the stone to create a total of 9 parking spaces.  It's a relief to have adequate parking in our drive,  Parking in the road is frowned upon in our area, except for special events.

We hauled some of the crushed concrete down the hill and spread it out to create a large seating area outside the lower screened porch.  Mike and I purchased and moved stepping stones that were laid to create seating areas for lawn furniture.  The stepping stones make the lawn chairs more stable.  We made one area around the small fire pit and a larger area for the picnic table.  Joe and I are planning on making some padded wooden benches to put up against the retaining walls that form a square corner on one side of the area.

Mike also decided to take out a couple of trees in the backyard.  One maple was rotting from the middle of the tree.  I was a little nervous that it would land on the house, but Mike researched the job and pulled it off.






Joe came home from school early that day.  He helped haul branches with some assistance from Madz, Paige and Alison.  They got all of the small stuff burnt up and then decided to take down the mulberry tree.  We never got any fruit off of the tree and it would drop berries into the pool that Mike also bought this week.

The mulberry tree took out part of an old privacy fence that we had considered using in another area of the yard, but it wasn't too big of a loss.  I am so thankful that both trees are down and there were no major mishaps or injuries.

We finally found a piano tuner and had him come to the house to tune our piano yesterday.  Unfortunately, he had bad news to deliver.  The piano has problems that would make it very expensive to tune and the piano is not worth the necessary money.  I'm disappointed.  We're checking the newspaper and online for another piano to purchase.  I'm not going to consider anything that hasn't been tuned in the last two years.  We don't need to move and dispose of another bad piano.

After the disappointment with the piano, Mike suggested that we go to some of the Amish meat shops that we have heard good recommendations.  We went to Bullseye in Vandalia where we purchased some ground round, dried fruits, rye flour and other yummy things.  Our next stop was Shelton's Farm Market in Niles.  We got a good deal on Rib-eye steaks, some ground beef, vegetables, mushrooms, dried fruits, and a lot of apples. 

Mike was sure that there was a meat market in Buchanan about which he had heard great things, so we googled "Buchanan meat market" and discovered Lowery's Meat Market.  Wow!  It was packed!  There were at least 6 people working behind the counter helping customers stockpile meat.  The prices were amazing.  We bought cheddar brats, jalapeno-cheddar brats, Italian sausage, Polish brats, pork loins, chicken, and breakfast sausage.  On average, the prices were about 1/2 of what I pay at Walmart or Meijers on sale.  I hope it's good meat, because it would be worth driving there to stock up once a month.

Today, Mike took Madz to a cheer competition in Lansing, while I take the girls to 3 hours of dance classes.  It's been great having him home. Major projects were completed, we had some fun, and he helped with running around during his vacation.  Next week when he goes back to work, he can rest a little.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meijer Butterfly Garden

Mike took several days of vacation this week and was able to go to the Butterfly Garden and Sculpture Park with us today.  The weatherman had given a forecast for temperatures in the 60s.  But fell far short of his estimate.  It was 39 degrees.  Madelyn decided that the temperature was mind over matter and wore shorts. She was a little cold, but we all had fun anyway.

Part of my goofy family while we wait for the rest of the group to arrive.

Love the plants.

Paige the butterfly.

Allie the butterfly.

Some of the butterflies.



Looking around fro butterflies,



We see this face sometimes during our school day

Madz catching up with the Meijers.




Huge sculpture of nap time.  I could use one of these.


I love this. 

Allie calls this Two-Face.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maple Syrup Time

It's been several years since we made maple syrup.  So long that Paige and Allie don't remember ever making it.  In our effort to eat more natural and whole foods, we decided to make it this year.  We have about 8 trees that could be tapped, but my schedule is so crazy that we decided to just tap two this year.  I'd hate to have the sap go to waste because I don't have time to cook it down.

Last weekend, Mike and I tapped the trees and began collecting sap.
Drill hole about 2-2.5" deep at an angle.  Use a sharp drill bit to protect the tree and get better sap production.


The sap began running immediately.

We purchased our spile at a local farm store.  Some people make their own from piping.

Hammer into the drilled hole.

The sap should begin flowing down the center of the spile.

We added clear hose, so the children could watch the sap flow and so we could set the buckets on the ground.

We purchased buckets with lids from the Home Depot.  Mike drilled a hole in the top for the hose, then we washed and sanitized the buckets,

The sap collecting is underway.  It flows best when the daytime temperatures are in the 40s and the night time temperatures are in the 20s. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paige's Baking Powder Biscuits

Paige made the best biscuits from scratch yesterday for dinner.  They were light and fluffy, moist, and delicious.  We definitely will be having these again.  Here's the recipe.

Paige's Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl.  Cut in shortening.  Beat egg and milk, stir into dry ingredients, until moistened.

Roll out on lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/2" thickness.  Cut into circles.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degree for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cheer Competitions

Alison, Paige and Madelyn had cheer competitions in January.  Regional competition went very well and all three girls made it to the state competition.  Between regionals and states there were several changes that happened to both teams.  Paige and Allie's team had two girls not show up for the state event.  One of the missing girls was a flier and the other was a front spot.  Allie was thrilled when she was given the opportunity to fly for state.  There were a few stunts that she wasn't able to perform because of the missing front spot, but it was a good experience for her. Although she had a good experience, the team didn't place at state.

Paige and Allie are on the far left.  Paige in the middle;Allie second in the front.  Madelyn helps coach the team and is wearing the green shirt in the back right.
  Madelyn's team had two girls quit 4 weeks before competition to do high school cheer.  One of the girls was kicked off the high school team and wanted to come back 2 weeks before competition.  (She wasn't allowed to return until next semester.)  Mads team came in third at state and qualified for national competition in July, which takes place in Grand Rapids.