Sunday, August 31, 2008

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble

We had a bumper crop of tomatoes today. Romas, beefsteak and cherry tomatoes. Aren't they pretty? I got right to work, first blanching them to get the skin off, then plunging them in cold water to stop the cooking, then peeling and squishing the seeds out. Lastly, it cooks and cooks and cooks. A little garlic, some fresh basil and a smidge of salt. Ahh fresh tomato sauce. I've been waiting for this since I planted the garden. The whole house smells delicious. I love basil-would wear it behind my ears if I could. So good.

My purple cone flowers are starting to fade, it's so sad and signals the end of summer. I've spotted the goldfinches too. A sure sign that cooler weather is right around the corner. My sunflowers heads are beginning to hang too as they become heavy with seed. A few more weeks and I'll have some very large heads for next years planting. The Sunflowers make me think of my Dad. It has been 3 years since he passed away. When my Dad lived with us we would always have a contest to see who could grow the largest sunflower. He always won, we always knew he would but the jabbing at each other was always a lot of fun. Who ever won would get the dinner of their choice. Dad always chose a pot roast and potato dinner. I would buy the pot roast early in the planting season knowing he would win. I was fine with that. Dad so enjoyed a homecooked meal. I took such pleasure in watching him sop up the gravy with bread and totally clean his plate. He'd wander over from the in-law apartment as dinner was cooking and say, "How's that victory dinner coming?"

Dad's sunflowers, at their peak, were about 18 feet tall. I have no idea how he did it. He would go out the garden with his tape measure and stretch it out next to my pathetic sunflower and then stretch and stretch it next to his. He's kind of suck his teeth and say, "Maybe next year Bev." I'd stick my tongue out at him in jest. What fun we had.

When we had our pool installed this year, a wild sunflower bloomed right next to the pool. I knew dad was smiling. He loved our yard with the sweeping, sleepy willow tree and the gardens with the pink and blue flowers. Our tallest sunflower this year was right by the fence that surrounds the pool. When dad was alive he planted rows of sunflowers there-where the vegetable garden was. We didn't plant sunflowers there this year. It just grew there probably a stray seed from years gone by. The sunflower greets me every morning as I look out my kitchen window and pour my coffee. Good Morning Dad-I know you are here.

Years later, when Dad passed away, I wrote his eulogy. It was a loving tribute to his life and mimicked the life of a Sunflower. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done but one that I'll always hold close to my heart.
Dad must be whispering in my ear today as I write. I talk to him a lot.......I know he is listening.

Friday, August 29, 2008

To Hive and Hive Not

I'm down for the count again today. I can barely move due to the joint and muscle pain and the headache is back a bit. At least I was able to get a nap in. The house chores and yard chores got pushed to the side. Maybe the weekend will bring some energy. I'm waiting for my milk thistle to arrive. UPS says it's at the main headquarters here in RI. It's not slated for delivery until Tuesday but I hope it comes tomorrow. I have to go for bloodwork next week and really want to get my liver function tests back on track. I think a lot of my being tired and not having any energy is stemming from that. I'm hoping the milk thistle will give me what I need to get healthy.

My youngest Tae had a bloody nose again today. He gets them often. He was quite cranky today too so I put him down for a nap. At age 4 1/2 he doesn't usually nap anymore but every once in a while he needs one. When he woke up from his nap I was also sleeping and found him out by the chicken coop with his brother. Morgan said to me, "Tae has bug bites". I pretty much ignored the comment. We live in the woods-of course he has bug bites.

I wandered outside to see what the boys were doing. Geee- something looks funny on your face Tae...and on your neck. OMG! He was covered in hives, his eye was swollen, he had huge hives on the back of his neck and on his belly and back. "I itchy momma!" I walked over to the neighbors to get her opinion as she has kids with multiple allergies. We promptly gave him a Benedryl cocktail. Now the task becomes to see what caused the hives. He did have peanut butter for lunch but eats it a lot and has never had a problem. Ramen noodles? Juice. Arrgghh. I have no idea. Kinda scary.
He was better within half an hour of taking the antihistamine but geeez.

I watched the DNC last night. It was very exciting. One thing about being sick and housebound is the fact that I got to watch a lot of the olympics and the DNC. I'm looking forward to the Republican National Convention next week too. It was interesting to watch McCains choice for VP be announced today.
I wonder how this will turn out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Not the End of Summer Bash

I am always amazed at my homeschool group. Each week we have some "regulars" return but always have a few new faces. Today we had 3 new families come. It was our first annual Not the End of Summer Bash. Since I've been housebound and unable to drive, it was a treat for me today to talk with adults.

We had 8 parents today and 20 kids! Really great and have had a lot of interest in the group. I get about 1 new member a week. I'm hoping more parents will become involved and plan some activities for the kids. Maybe story time, build a worm farm, some science experiments, book clubs etc. There are so many possibilites for enriching our kids. Just look at this cutie in the picture. Future homeschooler in the works!

Over the past months I've been contemplating starting my own homeschool consulting business. I'm home most of the time so this would be easy and I just completed a packet for new homeschoolers in Rhode Island. Oprah said to find something you love and that should be your career. Not those exact words but something like that. It's been a long time since I've been able to watch Oprah. It's difficult for me to pick up hours at the hospital. Finding a babysitter for 3 kids while I work and to have to pay them is just so difficult. I need to find something that will allow me to be home and have access to my computer. We'll see. Time will tell.

The chickens need to go to bed, the kids need baths and I'm exhausted. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Part 2

A few more pictures. These are of my chicken coop (the poulet chalet) and the "girls". The chickens are so much fun to watch. I pulled up some corn stalks today and they chickens had them shredded in about an hour.
Lastly, I mentioned before that my youngest son Tae was sick last night. Take a look at my poor baby this afternoon.

Come Spend a Day With Me

People generally mean well but sometimes they just don't get it.

Over the past few weeks a lot of folks have been helping me out-I'm grateful for that. But something that has happened is very strange to me. People assume that if a family member gets sick then the kids need to go back to public school and not be homeschooled. I don't understand what has happened to families these days. Why would I push my children away when I need them the most? Several years ago, my parents moved in with us. Both were frail and sick. All of the kids were involved in their care even up until the very last moments. While dying and sickness are not easy lessons for kids, they are a necessary part of learning and loving. Homeschooling kids during illness is no different than homeschooling them in times of health. Just the lessons are different. A few friends were completely appauled when I told them if we needed to postpone school for a few weeks until I felt better it really wasn't a big deal.

It's so difficult to explain how homeschool works for those that are so used to public school. A fixed start time, moving to class, 35 minutes spent on one subject then move on. We may spend our day engrossed in one book. Maybe it starts out in Ancient China then moves onto construction of the Great Wall of China, then Chinese architecture, then the topography of China, maybe food and local customs, maybe Patrick goes on the internet to find Chinese Recipes and we make egg rolls and lo-mein for lunch. This happens all year long, even during the summer so my kids are fine thank you. We may wake up late, stay in our pajamas and make zuchinni bread instead of sitting at a book. Today's lesson is fractions-how to measure-did you get that 3/4 cup of oil right and what happens if we double the recipe?

If we start on math and the kids are struggling we spend extra time and may not get to phonics. Or maybe we put the math away for another day because the kids aren't ready and it's causing tears. Nothing worth learning is worth crying over. I've spent too many years crying over more important things than wondering whether my kids know how to conjugate a verb. I will admit there are times that I wonder what those kids in PS are doing. Do my kids compare? Are they as smart? Are they getting everything they need? I have no idea. What I do know is that I'm so much closer to my kids since we started homeschooling. I know their quirks and their needs. I know that they now love learning and search out things on their own for their own knowledge. You see as a parent, I don't feel it's our job to teach our kids. It's our job to show them how to learn and let them do it. Yes, I guide them and help them but mostly show them where to find the answers and how to apply what they already know to what they don't know.

I don't know if they are learning the same things as the kids in public school. The general subjects are covered but they work at different grade levels. Patrick does grade level math, one full grade ahead in English and is doing High School Science-specifically Marine Biology. So I guess I just answered my own question. Each child does what they are capable of and life takes care of the rest.

I spent some time outside today taking pictures. My bottleneck gourds are coming along nicely and will be turned into bird houses, maracas and bowls when dried. My pumpkins are starting to ripen but see how the bugs have devoured the leaves? If anyone has a natural remedy with no chemicals let me know.

More pictures in the next entry-won't let me put anymore in.

What Goes Down Must Come Up

10 pm. My youngest wakes up screaming and his brother whom he shares a room with runs out in a panic. Something's wrong with Tae! Yup-there was.......he vomitted all over himself. So gross. He mentioned yesterday afternoon that his belly hurt. I gave him my usual caring response, "Maybe you have to poop."

My other clue should have been that he didn't want to eat dinner last night. This from the child who spends all day on 1 meal, all day long. Hmmm. A yogurt for dinner.

The other two kids have been sick off and on all week. Coughs, goopy eyes. We've taken stock in the Puffs tissues. So I have piles of laundry today that are sitting on my piles of laundry that I haven't been able to get to anyway.

More later-dentist appointment this morning and I'm running behind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a Sign

I've posted previously that I've had difficulty with my Lyme diagnosis and elevated liver enzymes as a result. Over the past 2 days three different people have given me the same advice. Today, my minister called and told me of the same holistic remedy. Then a friend whom I hadn't heard from in 2 years called to say "hi" and we got talking about Lymes. She gave me yet the same advice.

So what is this miracle cure? Apparently milk thistle. Both my minister and friend both gave me the same brand name of tea-Altiva-to drink. From all the reading I've been doing milk thistle is supposed to detox your liver and there are even some articles on it from the Mayo Clinic.

So after getting wonked up along side the head (I get it God ok?) I went online to a place called and ordered the milk thistle extract and tea bags. I have no idea if it works or not or will work. We'll see next week when my liver function tests are repeated. But I've been much more in tune with what the universe is telling me. Be awake, Be aware. I'll let you know how I make out.

My other treat today was renewing my driver's license at the DMV. I'm still feeling very ill and there was no one to drive me and since it's been 3 weeks since I've driven I figured, why not?

I think a prerequisite for working at DMV is a miserable personality. Geez-how could that many unhappy people be in one place? Anyway, I drove. Big mistake. The Lymes Disease is giving me some really funky symptoms. Things like my arms suddenly falling asleep and having no feeling what-so ever in them. Ever try to drive a car with no feeling in your arms. Call me Raggedy Ann. Try driving with your knees. Same thing. I came home in tears. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow that my husband will be driving me to thankfully.

It just feels like a total brain/body disconnect. How weird to be looking at your hands on the steering wheel but not be able to feel the steering wheel. They do what my brain tells them, but when you can't feel, you have no judgement of pressure, distance and force needed to drive. I was all over the road. I'm downright scary on the road right now. I'm a neuro nurse-you think I would get it but when your body betrays you.....

The other weird thing is that I seem to have forgotten how to type. I'm a 75 wpm typist. I have to hunt and peck now and keep choosing the wrong letters and have to go back and retype. My short term memory is shot and my muscles and joints hurt so bad that narcotics are my friend right now. I can barely read-I don't remember what I've read. I miss paragraphs and can't find my place and it's like I'm half zoned out when I read. I don't sleep, so exhaustion isn't helping. My doc pulled me out of work until the end of September because I'm really not functioning well. Sigh. This too shall pass. In the meantime, two more friends were diagnosed with Lymes from this area. Nasty, nasty ticks. I'd get some guinea hens to eat all the ticks if they weren't so noisy and the neighbors would complain. I may still get them and free range them. We'll see.

I spent the afternoon stuffing envelopes for our fundraiser. Tri-fold, stuff, lick, stamp. How mundane but my brain seemed to understand these simple tasks until I realized that I'd forgotten to put most of the stamps on them and I thought I had. Oi.

My new favorite show is "John and Kate Plus 8". Eight kids. It makes me feel good watching them. We have 3 kids and it renews my faith that yes, I am doing a pretty good job with my kids. They are loves. Each with their own personality and quirks but all with loving hearts and full souls. The picture above is of the 3 of them at the Butterfly exhibit. Patrick-the oldest, Morgan-my daughter and Tae (pronounced Ty) my youngest, exuberant child.
Closing out for tonight-it's taken me way to long to type and correct this. More tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Homeschool Gardener

So 3 people have emailed me and wanted to know why the blog is called The Homeschool Gardener. Seriously, I think I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I'm miserable during the winter and thrive in the summer. Gardening is my secret affair. At least my husband doesn't have to worry-he always knows where to find me.

Actually, my giddyness starts in March when the seed catalogs arrive. Burpee, Johnny Seed, Stark Bros. Nothing makes me happier than choosing seeds, tilling the garden, adding the chicken manure, planning out the vegetable beds and getting dirt under my nails. I love the smell of dirt. Yeah, I know-for some it's chocolate chip cookies (ok I love that too) but freshly tilled dirt helps you grow your soul. At least that's what my Dad used to say. I think he was probably referring to the hard work and satisfaction of a great crop.

I found a great new company called Stark Brothers. I just placed my order for 2 apple trees, a cherry tree, and 4 blueberry bushes. I wanted some asian pear trees but money is tight right now and My DH got me a great gift certificate from Starks for my 40th birthday.

Back to the blog name (see how easily I get distracted?)Anyway, it's my two first loves.. homeschooling and gardening. I'm cultivating my garden and my kids education.

My third passion has to be photography. We have seen so many beautiful flowers and scenery throughout our travels I have aquired quite a collection of photographs. I've posted three. Very hard to choose.

So that's all for tonight. Blogging is addictive and cathartic for me. Why didn't I do this sooner?

Make Up Your Mind

It is 10 am. Nothing can make up it's mind today. The weather looks iffy. I need to do errands but don't feel up to it. I've been sick for several weeks and am just starting to feel better and there is so much to be done.

I drove my husband crazy yesterday and after 18 years you'd think we would realize that we can't work together on projects. On Sunday we were working on ticket printing and flyers for the fundraiser we are sponsoring. I was in a panic because they should have been done weeks ago. I have very specific ideas about what I want. He's great on the computer but has no vision for design. I stink at creating things on the computer and have vision. You'd think that would be a great blend. Nope. So now he creates what I'm looking for, send me the draft to proof and I email back the changes. Sigh-whatever works.

My daughter is ill today. I hate when she's sick. Her diva comes out. Not that she's not always the diva but she's one of those kids who has an all around great personality and is well liked by everyone and thus usually gets the royal treatment by friends. She excels at everything. I don't think she knows she's a diva. Then again, maybe you have to know your a diva to be one. I'll have to find the rule book on that one.

The public school kids start back to school this Wednesday. We homeschool and don't start until after labor day. Why do we homeschool? Many years ago my oldest son was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and a seizure disorder. He ended up in Special Education despite an above average IQ. The vocal and motor tics made it difficult for him to complete any work. He was bored to death yet couldn't complete the work. We tried for over 2 years to work with the school dept to help him and it even went to state mediation. Ultimately we decided to homeschool him and even pulled out our daughter. We met so much resistance thru the school that it only made us wonder what was going on in the classroom.

We are entering our third year of homeschooling and I can't imagine sending my kids back to public school. I have friends who send their kids to public school just to get away from them and have some "me" time. Am I anti-public school? Not for others-but it's not the right choice for our family. I see so many others who have struggling kids and hear the comments, "I could never be home with my kids all day", "I could never teach them", "They would never listen to me", "He's happy in public school-he has friends there", "What about socialization?". Ugh -it all makes me cringe. If your kids won't listen to you it has nothing to do with homeschooling-it has to do with discipline and respect. You taught them to walk and talk and potty train-why can't you teach them math and science? Socialization? Last time I checked socializing was discouraged in public school.

I'll do more posting on how we homeschool later. There is so much to talk about. Check out the site to see how real homeschoolers live.

This thursday is our Meetinghouse group. It is our homeschool group that meets at my house in our empty in law apartment. It's been phenomenal. Every week for 2 hours we meet, let the kids play and then have an activity. This week it's our "Not the End of Summer Bash". Potluck, games and lots of fun. Homeschoolers get another full month of summertime fun while others are sitting in public school. Hence the "not the end of summer bash." We still do our work but there is much more time to play and socialize with our group. The kids have made so many friends and the moms get to sit and have coffee and share. Awesome time.
Maybe more later.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A day in the life

I'm finally here. Blogging has been on my to do list for many months. Something always came first. It's been a rough couple of weeks. I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis (another tick illness) and it knocked me flat on my back for several weeks. I am finally on the mend but my garden has taken a toll. My wonderful husband did the best he could for several weeks in caring for both me and the kids.

My poor garden, it hasn't been watered and the tomatoes are just falling off the vine because they are so dry. We planted "lemon cucumbers" this year and I really wouldn't recommend planting them to anyone. Very seedy with only a mild cuke flavor. Even the guinea pigs didn't like them but the chickens went crazy. Guess who got all the cukes this year? On a brighter note, we have several pumpkins and bottle neck gourds that are thriving.

Chickens-that's our other new endevour this year. After viewing a video on we knew we had to do something. It's a graphic video and not one that kids should view so be warned. But it is important for anyone passionate about animal rights. On July 14th 8 baby chicks arrived. One has since died but the others are thriving. We have 2 Easter Eggers (blue and green eggs-can't wait!), 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 2 Buff Orpingtons and one White Silkie. We should have some eggs in the late fall-we hope. We haven't been able to come to terms with raising meat chickens yet (ok the killing of them for meat) so for now we will buy local free range chicken from a neighbor for meat. We built a huge coop for them which was a lot of fun.

The rest of my time today was spent organizing a fundraiser that will take place on October 4th. We are sponsoring a service dog for a local organization. We recently raised enough funding for my husband to obtain his 3 rd hearing dog and response was so overwhelming with extra $$ that we decided to do something for our injured combat vets. Jazz band, dinner, should be a fabulous night that I'm looking forward to.