Olive Items

Olive Items

One of the things we’re learning about this week is…olives! Actually the olive tree and the products that come from it. We have learned some new things, and have all enjoyed this week’s tree study.

Noah sent out a dove from the ark, and as you know, she (eventually) brought back an olive branch. Ever since that time, the olive leaf has been associated with peace and goodwill. In fact, the olive branch is known as an almost universal peace symbol, carried over from the Greeks in ancient times.

We don’t hand each other olive branches as peace offerings here, since olive trees don’t really thrive in East Tennessee, but our family does certainly enjoy the fruits of this remarkable tree. This week, we have enjoyed eating olives and olive oil many times. We routinely eat olive oil on our popcorn, and as I’ve mentioned before, we consume quite a hefty quantity of popcorn weekly. But, when we read that the people in the Mediterranean cultures used to pity people who had to use butter on their food instead of olive oil, we thought we’d try it on our bread too. Olive oil is very yummy on crusty bread, and if you add a few sun-dried tomatoes, it’s almost like pizza! We tried olive oil on our corn bread, and although it wasn’t bad, I don’t think anyone here is ready to switch from Earth Balance. 🙂 But…on potatoes, extra virgin olive oil can’t be beat! And on pasta with garlic, on salad, and in lots of foods, olive oil can be used instead of more harmful fats.

We really enjoy eating the olives themselves too! You never really need an excuse to eat olives–they can be eaten at every meal!

As I was writing this little summary, I saw a few things around our house that are made from the wood of the olive tree. One item is an olive server made in one of the Mediterranean countries and brought to us by my husband’s family. It is pretty cool–pokes one olive at a time perfectly! The Bible in the photo is the gift that my husband gave me on our engagement, made from olive wood from Jerusalem. And the candlesticks are from Bethlehem, and carved from olive wood. I gave them to my husband as a birthday gift before we were married.




Here’s the outstanding facts from the mouths of the Little A’s of what we’ve learned so far about the olive tree:

Action A: ” You can harvest 50 gallons of oil from one tree!” (We all thought that we would do well to own an olive tree.)

Little Acorn: ” You can make so many things from the olive tree–leaf, wood, oil, olives.”

Little Ambulance Man: ” The olives taste so good, and you can eat them!”

That pretty much sums it up! I have to say, that I agree with Ambulance Man! I hope that you can enjoy some olives with your family soon, too!




Oh, I almost forgot! Here’s a fun link about olives for kids.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that for anyone who gets/reads the Frontiers magazine, by AFM, in the 11.2012 edition, there is a great article for children written by Mr. Olive Picker. We thoroughly enjoyed reading about how he and his family enjoy olives.




Spring cleaning with the Little A’s and their friends

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What an interesting Sunday!

First of all, I’d like to introduce you to some visitors who frequent our house. Yes, the bluebirds are back, and they are going through the nest selection process, but they’re not who I was referring to.

These visitors show up rather unexpectedly (and I don’t want to appear rude, but they’re kind of difficult to deal with sometimes). They’re not very old, in fact they’re really the same ages as our boys. The problem is, that when they show up, our boys seem to disappear. I guess they just don’t get along, which leaves me to try to come up with a way to keep these visiting boys content, while I wonder when our boys will come back out of hiding…These three boys have kind of rough names, but I’ve found that names sometimes do reveal quite a lot about a person. The eldest is named Big Chief Crammit, the next one, Brave IHidIt, and the little guy is Little Papoose IStowit.

I’m afraid that sometimes I don’t even notice when these guys slip in–they wear our boys’ clothes, and look quite a bit like our kids. That’s probably why I don’t catch them until they’ve done their damage. I guess they’re not really sinister, just eager to go out and play, and they NEVER seem to have the time to clean their rooms. But, they have this way of making the rooms appear like they’re clean. They are very adept at finding nooks and crannies that I’d never have dreamed of, and stuffing something in.

Take the closet, for instance. See if you can guess which of the fellows tried this trick: make the closet look very decorated by placing blankets all over the floor, with a nice chair for the stuffed animals to sit on, draped by another small blanket. Everything looks fairly neat and tidy. Until the day Mom lifts the corner of the blanket to find piles of neatly-folded laundry jammed underneath instead of having been put away in drawers. Hmmm…sounds like the work of Brave IHidIt.

Big Chief Crammit has dozens of corners that he uses to their maximum capacity. I find socks used for chinking between the dresser and wall, Legos in every imaginable cannister, box, or container, most of which are not the Lego box–instead we have many treasure troves of Lego collections that have been selected from the big box with plans to build that amazing space ship, boat, or truck. The only problem is, that when the time comes to have the room checked before breakfast, all of these containers have to go somewhere–better crammit! And then the Lego projects somehow get “lost” too, since Big Chief has about as good a memory for crammed items as a nut-stowing-squirrel has for his treasures. I will say that Big Chief does seem to be the one making the most strides at overcoming his cramming ways. I found considerably less stowed items this time than many. And that brings more peace for everyone, because my Action A returns much more quickly when Chief Crammit leaves.

Little Papoose IStowIt’s main trademark is his papers. He has a massive collection of school papers, birthday cards, and Legos stowed away in odd places like his underwear drawer. I think he might be afraid that his older brothers might take them over, so he keeps them in hiding.

But, IHidIt, I’m afraid, seems to take the cake on collections. More birthday cards and letters than anyone, drawings, sentimental rocks, sticks from trees with the galls attached, any little gift however small (or broken, I might add) is a treasure. He is the true romantic. I actually found a chipped-up old flower pot of his the other day and slipped it into the trash without his notice. Wouldn’t you know that when I returned from a little town trip 2 hours later, I found the pot in the house! He simply couldn’t bear to part with it. So, his section was very tricky to tackle. Everything is a treasure to him, and nothing really likes to find its way to a proper place! But he’s so blissfully happy about it anyway! What to do?

I had reached my limit when I found so many collections in hiding, so I declared a cleaning day, and Mom WOuLD help! The boys got a head start, and made some good progress, but then it all came to a stand-still. I entered, and we worked for a LONG time, sorting, tossing, sorting, tossing, putting away, and NOT CRAMMING, HIDING, or STOWING! Well, maybe a little stowing. We cleaned out every drawer, the boys mostly sorted their own papers, and I helped organize the drawers of clothes, closets, and toy bins. Can you believe that IHidIt had no Sabbath clothes hanging in his closet when we started? I really scratched my head over that one, until he hit the jackpot and “discovered” the secret stash of dress clothes stuffed into his jeans drawer. No wonder that drawer would never shut!

I sorted through every Lincoln Log and Lego set, and made sure that they found their proper bin, as well as the cars, tools, and puzzles. We found pieces we’d lost long ago, and great joy was expressed over Legos they’d almost forgotten about. I will say that I also tackled what was under the sofa cushions too, and you would not believe how many crayons, pencils, erasers, magnets, papers, cars, and Legos that had been eaten up by our hungry sofas. I ran out of time, but tomorrow, I guess I’ll slide the sofas over and see how much is stuffed, lost or otherwise deposited under them.

We literally worked most of the day on our projects. But, we accomplished so much, even though you maybe would never notice it. It is such a nice feeling, at least for me, to open any drawer in the boys’ rooms, and see exactly what should be inside it. I don’t know why I care. I know that it’s not likely to last for all that long, at least judging from our past experiences, but I still have hope that this time will be better, and the boys will love being able to find just what they are looking for! We will see! We still have lots of work to do (We–not only they). But, I am happy to say, that for tonight, Big Chief Crammit, Brave IHidIt, and Little Papoose IStowIt have taken a journey back to their own village, and my boys have returned, and are asleep in their own (clean) rooms!

Here’s a little sample of Little Acorn’s collections from nature. Moss and pine cones that he collected.

Coming up–A Week of Prayer for Homeschoolers!


I wanted to share an opportunity for homeschoolers. Coming up is a week of prayer, just for us! It looks like it will be presented by a man who himself was homeschooled all the way up until college, so I’ll bet he can relate and give some good counsel for all of us!

And I’ll bet if you’re not a homeschooler, but just want to listen in, that’d be okay too!


**I don’t know what happened, but the image is not showing up, so I’m just linking you to the site, where they explain about the week of prayer coming up**

Please go to the site, and I’ll pass along any info I receive.

The Adventist Home Educator

Homeschool Week of Prayer
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We don’t want anyone to miss out on this special event!   Please help us spread the word.    Here’s a 350 x350 image that you are welcome to share on your blog or website.   Just grab the code below the image.

Here is the link to the page that gives more information about our upcoming Week of Prayer:  http://adventisthomeducator.org/upcoming-events/


UPDATE:  here’s a second grab button  for Apple/Mac users who might have had trouble ‘grabbing’ the first button.

Homeschool Week of Prayer
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Tuesday Tidbits

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It’s time to do a little show and tell–kind of a what’s happening post.

When I think about sharing what we’re doing for school, I often don’t know what to share, because much of the time, we just kind of do the normal, everyday “school stuff”, and that’s not terribly remarkable.   I mean, all regular school kids have to do math, spelling, reading, and language, and all  homeschooled kids have to do that stuff too.  And, to be perfectly honest, even though I’d like to give a glowing report of how the Little A’s wake up with shining eyes and eager hands to jump right into our school subjects for the day, I’d be fibbing!  🙂  They’re boys!  They’re normal boys!  They like being schooled at home (when compared to the number of hours they’d be sitting in traditional school), but they don’t exactly adore school!    They love: riding bikes through mud puddles, digging deep holes in the dirt, building stuff like Legos, making forts and loud noises, big machines, running, playing, and getting good and dirty!  School?  It’s something to get done so they can go out to play…

And yet…we have a decent time in school work, most of the time.  Learning can be fun!

We’re all enjoying our “travel” through the fifty states, one by one.  We take two or three per day, and just learn the highlights about each state.  This is not meant to be a full geography project at this point, but a way to get acquainted with the states, their capitals, and some interesting facts about each area.  All of the Little A’s got quite a kick out of our study of the “Bluegrass State”, KY, where my family lived for many years.  It turns out that it’s a law in Lexington, that carrying an ice-cream cone in your pocket is illegal.  Who knew?  Thankfully, no one in our family took that chance!  Another law of KY states that every citizen must take a bath at least once a year!  Hmmm…I’d hate to see the people who made it necessary to write that law.

We learned a bit about Ohio yesterday, and found that they are known for their blown glass creations.  So, while the boys worked on coloring sheets of a glass blower, we found several videos to give us an idea of how glass blowers work, both on a small scale, and in internationally-known crystal manufacturers’ factories.  It was pretty cool!

One new item of curriculum that we are test-driving is a math curriculum, that so far, even for this group of kiddos, has started out as a success!  Yay!  We have tried several different approaches, and so far, this is the only math that has met with smiles instead of groans.  A week is not a very long trial period, but I’ll take anything I can get!   Time will tell, both with the results, as well as the love of  it!

Little Acorn,  our resident Nature Lover, turned eight this past week!  We had fun with another family of three boys who came over for a little celebration (we served none other than healthy banana splits, of course!  Frozen bananas made into ice cream, fresh bananas, topped with nuts, cherries, coconut, pineapple, and carob-peanut butter sauce–all healthy, so I let the boys build their creations high!).   Then we had a get-together later with some of the grandparents and family at our home.   One of his gifts, from his Grandpa, was a full instructional set made to teach concepts of electrical circuits.  He was thrilled with this, and has been happily performing experiments ever since.   Action A suddenly remembered that he also had some of these same type of “toys”, which he promptly hauled out, and they both, side by side, sat working on experiments.  Some produced sound, some turned on lights, and others just wowed the boys with what they had made.  So…I am thinking that this will be a great addition to our lessons.   The only problem is, the experiments are so fun that the boys might forget that they are learning!  That would be a real shame!

One highlight from today comes from our down time in the afternoon.  I was feeling kind of aimless between afternoon activities and the evening routine, so, while the Little A’s played outside, I decided to just go out with them to see what they were up to.  Turns out it was making a fort.  Aunt A., in her wonderfully creative way, gifted the boys with a lot of material for constructing a jungle safari tent.  So, the picture with the cloth draped all around is their most recent fort.  I love creativity!

Shortly after snapping the fort picture, our evening activity rolled into the driveway.  Some friends with a load of bananas!  They came to the right house!  We don’t refer to Daddy around here as ‘The Banana Man” for nothing!  We do eat bananas.  (The people from our local grocery story know him by name–not by his first name, but as in “Hi, Banana Man”)  They offered us a big box full of fully-ripe, if not over-ripe bananas.  “That’s a lot of smoothies”, I was thinking.  But then our friend reminded us that we can dry them, and make, well, dried bananas.  Excellent idea, and that’s what we did.  The boys took turns peeling while I sliced, and in less than an hour, we had that whole big box of bananas in the dehydrator!  So, now the house smells like a tropical getaway, and as we sniff we anticipate the sweet treat that we will feast on when they’re finished drying!  Yum!

Home dried bananas are so sweet, almost like candy!  They are usually leathery, not like the deep-fried ones you will find in the store.  Once you try them, you will definitely want to make some yourself!  And, by the way, if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can slow-bake/dry them in a low oven, or even on screens in the sun (if you live somewhere a LOT warmer than here).  It just may take a little while, and you have to watch out for bugs that might like to eat them before you get a chance to try them!    Seriously, I have heard of people who utilize their car’s heat on a sunny day to dehydrate all kinds of things.  That would be safer, in my opinion, than leaving fruit out in the sun, and it would be fast!

In addition to the three little ground monkeys running around here, you might find a bigger monkey climbing trees, as Banana Man has been taking  to the trees lately.  He’s been learning the ropes, figuratively and literally, of arborist work.   This has naturally sparked much chatter and interest from the A Team as they watch Daddy climb.  It’s not really that hard at this age to impress the boys.  I hope that reality lasts for a long time!

Well, as usual, I have rambled on.  But that’s a slice of the pie of our life for the last little while.   Our life may be ordinary, but it’s rarely dull.

World Changers

Do you enjoy challenges?

I do, sometimes, and sometimes, not so much.  Like most people, I guess.

But, as parents, we have a huge challenge to raise our children for usefulness in this life, and as Christian parents, we have an even broader challenge–to somehow raise our children so that they voluntarily choose, not only to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation for themselves, but then to make a difference for eternity.  Not that all will automatically choose to serve as visible missionaries or pastors, but we are all given the commission to “go” and serve others.   Why?  Because we have freely received, so we can freely give what we have found.

In our home, we enjoy reading stories of great people.  For me, greatness is measured by how much individuals have allowed God to work in their lives.   We are studying, this semester, and probably into next year, countries and cultures.  We are using My Father’s World curriculum outline as a kind of framework for our study, but we’re mostly going at our own pace.  Our focus is to see how God has worked through past and more recent history through men and women who have been called to serve God in each of the different countries that we study.   So far, we’re really just barely getting into our first country, which is the United States, but we have already been blessed to read about people such as Harriet Tubman, Ben Carson, Sacajawea, and others.  We have skipped ahead and read about Bruchko, and we’re currently reading about Cameron Townsend, as well as Brother Andrew.  We don’t always exactly stick to the particular country we’re in, because when a good book comes, we don’t like to wait!

But, perhaps the most “living”  histories that we can read are the ones that are being written as we speak.  In many countries, sprinkled across the globe, there are heroes who right now are sacrificing to try to share the good news of salvation with others who have never heard.  A highlight of our home for many years has been to read the stories of the current missionaries who are working abroad.   Our favorite magazine is the AFM magazine, the publication of our church’s Frontier Missionaries.   We have some good friends who currently work in the field, as well as several families whom we’ve never met, but in reading their stories from month, we feel like we’ve come to know.

(by the way, this is a free magazine that you may request here:  http://www.afmonline.org/frontiers/index.php?PHPSESSID=f23910cfa93ede70df5763b4bf060dd5)

When I heard about a book that a current missionary that we follow wrote, I was interested.  When I read what the book was about, I decided that this was a book that this mom needed.  So, I used my Christmas money and purchased myself a copy.


(and you can get your copy here:


or here:


When I received my book, I immediately sat down to read it.  But then I decided that I did not want to just breeze through the book without really taking the time to digest each concept thoroughly.   I have prayerfully read the first five chapters so far, and I’ll tell you that so far I have indeed had my point of view challenged.  In a good way.

I will admit that much of the time prior to reading the introduction to this book, I thought that my job as a parent was essentially to prepare my children for a life of service here, while we are ultimately working along with God to refine our characters for eternal life in heaven.  And I believe that is our goal.  But, while ensuring the salvation of our children is our goal, it is not the only aim that God has for us, or for our children.  Jesus wanted His disciples to be saved, and He worked hard so that they could understand the plan of salvation.  But, that wasn’t His only goal for them either.  For The disciples, as well as for us, Jesus says “Go Ye.”   Go find someone that doesn’t know Jesus, or doesn’t know how to come to Him, and share with them.  This is a bit uncomfortable for any of us who live in our own little predictable worlds, wherever they are.  It means that we don’t continue to play church and feel good.  It might mean getting our hands dirty.

I wrote to the author, whose pen name is Barnabas Hope, and requested his permission to share what I learned from his book on my blog.  He was very gracious and granted me permission, with the hopes that others will catch the vision as well.  I want to go chapter by chapter and share just a few tidbits of what has stood out to me as important.    If you are in any way curious as to what Barnabas has to share, I really encourage you to look into reading his book.  He, by the way, goes by a pen name, because his family is currently living in a dark country where using his real name to share religious matter would be dangerous.

Since this post is really an introduction to the book, I think that it would be appropriate to share a little from the introduction to the book, so that you know the crux of why Barnabas wrote a book of this nature.    From the introduction, page 10, he writes,

“This book is birthed of passion.  It comes born of my own discovery that a Spirit-filled individual can change the world.  I believe a personal Holy Spirit yearns to take a surrendered young person and gift them and challenge them and use them to wildly delight the angels and cast down demonic strongholds.  As God spoke to Jeremiah as a boy, as God made promises to Samuel as a boy, David as a boy, and Naaman’s young servant girl, so too today, He is seeking the response of the young.  A child needn’t wait for degrees or titles to change the world.  However, they must learn to listen, to love what is innocent, to hate that which is evil.

“But not all youth, not even all Christian youth will grow up to make a significant contribution to the kingdom of Christ.  It’s a pity, but many, if not most, will lead mundane lives on nominal help to others.   Why?  What is the difference between those who become World Changers and those who don’t?  Simply put, for many the vision is never cast.  I believe a youth can only become a world changing believer if and only IF she has a determined mind to become one.  So where does a young person get that “mind to”? How do they embrace that vision?  That is the subject you are interested in and the theme of these pages.”

I hope that you will enjoy the tidbits that I share in subsequent blogposts, and that you, too will be challenged to plant the seed that can sprout and grow into one or more World Changers in your own garden.

Meet Poppy


Poppy smiling


It’s time that the world outside of our home meets one of our lesser-known family members:  Poppy.

Ms. Poppy came to us quite unexpectedly a couple of months ago, at church, of all places.  We just happen to be friends with a lady who operates a business that was my secret high school dream occupation:  an orphanage for kitties.  At my age and level of innocence while a senior in high school, I could see no obstacles to operating such a place, and really did hope that I would someday live surrounded by scores of feline friends.   Time and experience tends to make all of these kinds of dreams meet up with the more practical realities of life, such as, how could any one person have enough time (or money) to care for a houseful of hungry cats, not to mention, where do you find a spouse who will put up with such an eccentric life?  My dream died, but our friend, Mary somehow manages to run such a place, and my kudos go out to her!  She routinely rescues kitties from shelters, then gives them a temporary home, where she actively tries to help them meet up with future owners.    We have visited her little cat stand that she sets up outside of a store in a nearby city. Our boys love to watch the cats play, and “window shopping” in this way is a fun way to enjoy the kitties with no particular pressure to take one home.

But, to our surprise, our friend offered for us to take the little grey kitty that she called Fanny home to try to help bring her out of her shell, or back to the shelter she would have to go.  Yes, she apparently realized that we have a houseful of boys, yet that did not deter her.  She wanted Fanny to find a home where people lived, so she could gradually get used to people noises and ways.  Well, I wasn’t too sure how gentle and gradual her training would be around our active domain, but we did agree to give it a try.

Fanny came.  And she lived under the bed in our room for the first week.  We’d hardly ever see her, she was so scared.    But, when we talked, we could hear her purring under our bed, so we had hope that she could be tamed.   With time, she began to let my husband and I pet her, but never pick her up.  Now, she even sometimes lets us do that for a few seconds before she bolts.  But she now comes out of our bedroom.  And it’s largely because of POPCORN!

We discovered the key to her heart and her tummy when we had to chase her off of the table from stealing popcorn.  And we noticed  that little Kitty would show up when the family had mealtimes (and we eat a LOT of popcorn).    So, her name became Poppy Popcorn, but mostly, just Poppy.  We try now to bribe her to eat it from our hands, but so far, not very successfully.

Little Miss Poppy is still a recluse.   She spends her days in our bedroom still, but now it’s less and less time under the bed.  She still hisses loudly at the boys when she feels cornered, but it seems to have a bit less steam these days.  Poppy demands that I come to bed on time, and if I stay up late, she comes to find me and scolds me.   All in all, Poppy is warming up to our family, and has shown herself to have a very sweet, albeit quirky personality.

And if you come to our house at mealtimes, no doubt you will have the privilege of meeting our little popcorn thief/beggar as she shows up to check out who at the table will have pity on her and her hopeless popcorn addiction.

Xylem tubes, revisited

When we did our recent celery/xylem tube experiment, we learned a bit about capillary action and the function of the xylem tubes in trees/plants. This is what we set out to learn, and we enjoyed our experiment.

It was, however, very basic. We rather crudely removed what portion of the xylem tube would affect our project, and didn’t worry too much about the top portion that would be above the water level. At the age of our boys (elementary), this was a pretty appropriate amount of investigation.

However, for anyone wondering about the “proper”, or more advanced way to go about doing this experiment (see my post entitled “How Does a plant Drink”), please read on.

This is from a friend of ours who actually does these kind of experiments for more advanced scientific purposes than we do. I think you’ll appreciate his advice.

Years ago I taught a few semesters of tissue culturing and I used your project as a demonstration…

You are correct the tubes go all the way up the rib to the branches…You are also correct in saying to take out enough of the tubes to create a void, unless it’s a very hot humid day which the water can evaporate and possibly travel up the void by the process of transpiration…

To make it easier to remove the tubes without using a scalpel tell your husband to get you a piece of thin wall, small diameter (about 125 thousands) brass tubing…I bet he has a piece or two in one of his tool boxes…

Make sure the brass tube is large enough to encompass the whole Xylem cavity…

Cut the wide white part of the celery off until you get the nice green bottom…Place the brass tube perpendicular with the Xylem cavity and push it up the celery stalk while spinning the tube around…With this method you can get it all the way to the top if need be without cutting the outside of the stalk but not necessary to go that far…Calculate the distance the brass tube traveled then pull back 500 thousands and put a thin slit in the celery stalk with a scalpel or a home X-acto knife which will detach the pulp from the canal…Remove the brass tube then grab the pulp with a pair of forceps or a pair of tweezers and the pulp should come out in one piece…A lot of times it will come out with the brass tube with no need to use the forceps…

What you end up with is perfect canals all being the same diameter as well as being very neat…When looking at the outside of the stalk you can’t tell surgery was ever performed…Hope this helps…I think you did a excellent job for the first time with no training and basic tools

Now, you can do it RIGHT!

A Day for the Birds

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We had a day when we couldn’t go anywhere because our van was up on risers, and the starter was removed, and on order.   Normally, this wouldn’t have been a disappointment, since we don’t go somewhere every day, but this day, we were supposed to go with Grandpa to help, so this was certainly turning out to be a day for the birds!

Why not make it really for the birds?

We did!

We took a nature day, like we used to do every Tuesday.   We found a recipe for how to make bird suet-like stuff.

It’s a simple mix of :

One part peanut butter

One part shortening

Two parts corn meal

We added:  bird seed and cat food (we actually did find information suggesting that birds like dry cat food)

We made this mixture and formed it into balls.  Some we put into our seed cake boxes, and the rest we put into old citrus bags and hung up on a pole.  The birds really like it!

We also made popcorn strings to hang in the trees for the birds.  That was fun!  I should have checked the weather, though, because a wind storm later that night kind of undid our work, and the rain and snow took care of the rest, but we had fun in the process of trying to give the birds a treat!

The boys later (this day was like seventy degrees) decided that a good work project would be mulching!  This they did with enthusiasm, and they worked together so well you would have thought that they were brothers!  Or not!  Either way, they had such a good time, and worked so faithfully, that when Daddy got home, they all enjoyed the special ride on the mower with him even more than usual.  It was a great treat for a job well done!

Great work, boys!


Boy Stuff

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I have often contemplated the fact that our family was blessed with a houseful of boys.   I never would have dreamed that someday I’d be the mother of three lively sons–it certainly does make life an adventure!  But, often, I feel inadequate to provide for my boys what they really need to become real men.  Like how to change the oil, how to build stuff, and just how to relate to them in the way that they need.  Granted, I know how to swing a hammer, and we have figured out how to build a few things out of wood, but those skills do not come naturally to me, and when it comes to changing the oil, it’s a completely different world!   We do try, however, and I am learning that  trying some skills that are not in my comfort zone is good for me. But, still, it takes much longer than it would for someone who already knows how… I like to liken it to the fact that my husband could make a casserole to take to potluck, and he could probably do a very good job at it, but it would probably take him a lot longer than it might for me to do it, and it would involve a lot more learning.

With that in mind, we try to look for “chances” for the boys to see what Daddy is up to.   Watching and helping Daddy is great fun.  One particular day recently, we had several opportunities to learn with Daddy.   *Note:  Working with Daddy almost always involves a lot more dirt and grease–in other words, FUN–than working with Mommy*

Daddy went out to crawl under the van on the snowy, soggy ground.  His purpose was to replace the starter in our van.  I quickly alerted the boys to an “opportunity” for them.  They sprang into action and quickly did their inside jobs in record time!   Next thing I knew, it was Daddy under the van with three little assistant mechanics and two doggy mechanics too, although they did more licking than helping…Soon, I realized the folly of my failing to suggest that the boys lay down on a tarp or cardboard, because in short time, three mud-striped boys appeared.   I will try to remember that next time to save some laundry.   But, they did get the starter in, and I think it was good to get their hands dirty and see one part of how a vehicle runs.

Another fun and educational project that Action A and Daddy are working on together is a model engine that Grandpa got for them to build.   That has been a good way for them to spend time together and learn.  This is a challenging project, and they are taking their time with it to learn and do it right.   But, not only Action A and Daddy get to help.  Little Acorn almost always comes to see what they’re doing, and he is good at predicting what they will need next.  When the engine is finished, it will show the workings of how an actual engine operates, but this one will operate by a hand crank.

The same day that we had the started changed out, the boys and Daddy also had an impromptu bike workshop.  It seems to me that with three boys who love to ride bikes, we always have one bike in need of some kind of maintenance.  Action A asked Daddy if he would help to change his inner tube.  Daddy looked at him and replied, “By the time I was your age, I was changing my own bike tires!”  And he was!  However, it was like a light went on and Daddy decided that this would be a good time to train Action A to do this, and then he could take over with the responsibility.  Great idea!   So, the bike workshop involved Action A gathering all of his tools, and all of the boys carting their bikes over too, and soon Daddy had three bikes to repair.  But, the fun of seeing all of them working together was priceless, and also the joy of seeing the boys ride away with working bikes was also satisfying to everyone.   Boys love bikes, and boys need bikes, so the bike workshop worked out well for everyone!  I can’t be sure that from now on the boys will take over the maintenance of their bikes, but they are on their way to being good little bike mechanics!

Guy stuff–it works much better with Dad!

How does a plant drink?

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What’s a xylem?

How does the liquid from the ground travel to the top of the tree or plant?

We read a bit about trees and plants, but a visual demonstration makes a more lasting impression, and it’s also fun and interesting to find out how things work.

Trees have two sets of tubes, or pipelines, which carry water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves, and back down the tree. Much like the circulatory system in our body. However, plants have no heart to pump the liquid along their pipelines. Even so, they do have an impressive method of transporting the liquid in a tree. To learn more about xylem and phloem, there’s a nice illustration of it with explanation here: http://asbiology101.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/2-10-xylem-and-phloem.pdf

For our experiment in observing the function of the xylem, we took three healthy ribs of celery. Two we simply detached from the bunch and sliced the bottoms straight across. The first (control) stalk, we placed in plain water. The second piece, we actually sliced the celery and removed the xylem tubes, found on the back-side of the celery. This was a little difficult to do without them breaking. The third stalk of celery, we placed in water and red food coloring.

After just two hours, the middle piece of celery had already started to feel more spongy than the other two. And the third rib had red spots at the tips of each leaf.

By six hours, we had significant sponginess in the middle rib, while the other two remained crisp and firm. We could see obvious red streaking up the stalk of the third piece by then too.

The morning after, the middle piece had given up altogether. It simply hung limply, while the other two were just as crisp as when we placed them into the water. The third stem had significant reddening, and the leaves looked red also.

We just left them in the jars over the Sabbath, and by Sunday morning, the first rib looked just like it had when we had placed it in the water, the second piece had no life left in it, and the third still stood up proud and tall as well.

This was a very good, simple illustration of how important an intact xylem is to the plant or tree.

The boys drew before and after pictures to place in their nature journals.

It’s fun to experiment!

As a side note, by the second day, the celery stalk which was soaking in the red food coloring started to show crinkling of its leaves. By three days since the start, the leaves are completely crinkly/crispy and dry, even though the stalk is still firm. The control, after the three days in water, looked as healthy as it did the first day, with supple leaves and vibrant color. Make your own conclusions, but to us, the red celery does not look as healthy, considering the dry leaves. I personally do not believe that red dye is any more healthy for a living child than it is for a celery stalk; although it had some of the characteristics of health, it also showed damage. The pure foods and water that God gave us will nourish us in a superior way than any of the world’s colorful substitutes.