Friday, April 27, 2012

Lunch on the Lawn

Today, the kids and I met Mim, Papa, Granddaddy, and Daddy for Lunch on the Lawn at the courthouse.  We had live music, good weather, and Chick-Fil-A... a recipe for a fun time!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Learning Lounge

Thanks to a tiny 10 minute grocery store stop by my wonderful husband, the kids and I were able to spend the entire day in our pajamas.  We left the house only to go out to the chickens, goats, and garden. Even that was done in our pajamas.  The boys finished their school work, even completing their posters on an amendment to the Constitution of their choice 3 days early.  The girls went through an entire stack of post-it notes, counting them as they put them into containers... all the way up to twenty-one.  They laid out all of our metal bowls on the kitchen floor, banging on them with spoons.  They had a parade.  They even ran through the house, catching imaginary monkeys and storing them in the pantry.  To an outsider, we probably looked like lazy bums.  But, to me, our day was a day of comfortable, warm, fuzzy, loud, playful learning.

The other day, I actually went into a bookstore.  Walking down the children's fiction isle, I saw a book cover that made me stop.  The gears and cogs all over the black and white dust jacket instantly made me think of Asa.  It looked a little bit like a Tim Burton movie.  Just a little quirky and twisty.  Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms.  Asa's eyes lit up.  He opened it, stayed up late reading it at night, and even brought it in the car on errands!  He even announced at school that he is now a "reader".  Tonight, he came into my room, book in hand, and asked me to find him another good book.  He finished this one in about a week!

Later this week, Ivey informed me that she wanted to do school with Mommy.  She had seen the big shiny red box of phonics curriculum that I bought for her and Olive, and she must have filed it away.  She wanted me to get out her ABC book and do "school" at the table.  And so... that's what we did.  She already knows her letters and has started to learn letter sounds.  So, I cracked open that crisp clean workbook and we went through the first lesson... The Letter A.  She did a great job.  She wasn't wild, crazy, bonkers Ivey, who makes crazy honking noises and crosses her eyes when she's put on the spot.  She was a big girl.  She wanted to draw the letters, and match the sounds.  I opened my eyes and saw my beautiful girl as the big girl that she is.  Sure, I still rock her at night, she still wants me to hold her.  She still whines too much.  But, she has gotten so big... and she embraces it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Plans, Plans.

I have no idea how many house plans the average married couple designs over the course of 12 years of marriage, but I am betting that Jeff and I fall on the high end of that range.  We started drawing out house plans on AutoCAD in about 2000.  I think the first one that we ever played around with was for living in an huge old silo.  From there, we have thought, scratched, stewed, measured, and drawn quite a number of houses.  Our last house, the Bethlehem house, was so unfinished when we bought it, that we were able to plot its transformation out, as well.  With my lack of spacial relations skills, and Jeff's lack of... well... patience with a lack of spacial relations skills, it's amazing we enjoy such a hobby.

I think we are getting close to designing the very last house we will ever do.  All of the sketches and lines and frame diagrams are getting a little old.  For the first time, I get the feeling that we are nearing the final draft.  My job is now to get us on a budget so that we can break ground in about a year.  So, I am going to need to muster up some hearing impaired brain cells, so they can block out the chaos around me and fire financial synapses in the right direction.  I don't know how, but I'll find the ability to make it work.

Jeff and Randy have managed to pull both of the ends of Randy's barn up off of the ground with their pulleys and ropes and tractor.  I am amazed... not that they succeeded, but that no one ended up in the hospital.

The neighbor to our property that we will build on has a tree service.  He has brought surplus trees over to Randy's for us to cut down and use!  Now, that's an awesome situation for someone crazy enough to mill their own lumber to be in.  I am guessing that this lumber will be used to build a solar kiln on the property.  I am interested to see just what that entails... and just how possible it will be for me to one day turn it into a greenhouse!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Trial Run

The thought of us actually enacting our crazy idea and building a house seems so far off... mostly because I stay so busy with the day to day domestic survival that I don't often get to stand back and look at the big picture.  Just the other day, Jeff brought up our "10 year plan".  I sighed and asked when it started.  Much to my surprise, and relief, it was already well underway.  It began when we purchased the property.  We moved out of our home.  We moved in with my parents.  Jeff helped swing hammers to fix up their old house.  We moved into it.  When I stand back and think about it, I know we are already on step 4 or so, but, it's easy for me to lose sight of it as I trudge along. Plus, we just think BIG.

After Easter, Jeff and I sat down in front of AutoCAD and took a hard look at our house plans.  We knocked off the master wing on the main floor.  With a finished attic, we can move up to the second.  A few days later, we knocked off the large utility room off the kitchen.  With a full basement and a laundry room on the second floor, we can live without it.  And, like the master wing, we can add it later.  Our plan is now 1,000 square feet lighter, and getting to feel way more realistic.  Again, the goal here is not to build Barbie's Dream Home.  It's to work out butts off in order to live the life that we envision for our family, on 25 dark, peaceful acres, without taking on another mortgage to get there.  Jeff thinks that, if we can get our budget back on track and save like mad, we could possibly be close to having it built in 2 years.  Even if it's 3 years, I am still impressed.

Last week, I was able to head to the property with Jeff.  Just the two of us.  We took the truck and a couple shovels, and loaded up with some rich, dark mulch that we have in surplus down there.  With no kids in tow, it was easy for us to hike our land... checking out potential house locations.  Out of the two that Jeff was there to look at, I had strong opinions about one of them.  I like it.  I am starting to be able to see it.  With the more streamlined plan, I am beginning to feel like it's possible.

Jeff and Randy have been working on our trial run with timber frame / post and beam construction.  Since September, they have been milling trees from Randy's backyard into the beams needed to build him a tractor barn.  The boys have a tree house over there, and they have done a marvelous job of rummaging through the scrap pieces to side the underpinning.

Jeff and his dad have cut and chiseled the mortes and tenons that will hold the structure together.  There are no nails in Post and Beam structures.  It is held together with pegs.... into peg holes... Amish style.  Jeff had to purchase a boring machine to create the peg holes.  He struggled with just which one to purchase off of Ebay.  For weeks, he eyed the auctions, waiting until he found the one that he wanted, and could justify spending money on.  Finally, he just did it.  He took the leap and bought one.  Just 30 minutes later, while rocking the girls before bed, Ivey asked if she could use his phone as a "flashlight".  45 seconds and $270 later, she had opened the Ebay app, bid, confirmed, bought, and paid for another boring machine.  Great.

Ivey's package came in the mail, late, and smashed to heck.  The machine was totally broken, and unusable.  It even came with a nice stamp from the post office, explaining that they had completely destroyed the package.  Sorry.  Luckily, we worked things out with the seller to have most of our money refunded, but keep it for the bits.  Randy worked on fixing the busted parts... and now, we can bore holes twice as fast.  Plus, we get to use the phrase "Ivey's boring machine", which is just ridiculous.

Jeff recently bought 600 feet of really nice nylon rope to go with the two purple pulleys that he has been so proud of.  Just this week, Jeff and Randy used said rope, pulleys, and a gin pole... and lifted an entire barn wall off the ground.  The wall was set in place, on top of 12" concrete footings.  Tonight, they moved the gin pole to the other end, in anticipation of picking up the other end this weekend.  I must say, I am impressed.  Not only were they able to cut down the trees, mill them, cut them to the right lengths, chisel the ends into mortes and tenons, put them all together, and pour the footings in the right places... they picked up a wall made of nine and a half feet long 8" x 8" posts.  The girt is twelve and a half feet long 6"x10".  The thing is massive.

This structure will be 12' x 16', roughly 1/4 of the size of our frame.  Yes, ours will have a basement, a second floor, and a finished attic... but I am a visual person.  I was able to stand there in the backyard and visualize the size of the living room that we have been staring at, and tweaking, on AutoCAD.  It's becoming more and more of a reality... and I am ready to get to the point where we can break ground.  It's not just the house that I am looking forward to.  It's the land, the creeks, the future garden, the barns we will build, the animals we will raise.  I am ready to be able to come back from visiting one of the farms that we know with a flock of heritage breed turkeys, or to have room for a kidding pen.  It's going to be a lot of hard work, but it will be so worth it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When you grow up....

When I was a child, I remember hearing "When you grow up, YOU can make the rules!", "When you grow up, you can eat cookies for dinner, but for NOW...." and so on, and so on.  Kids want to grow up, and it's a shame, right?  Childhood is so short.  The carefree days of playing in the yard and riding bikes in the driveway do not last long enough.

My personality gives me a slightly different angle on this.

Sure, it would be nice for childhood to last.  But, when the days come where you get to create your own life, make your own choices, eat what you want for dinner, and drive yourself wherever you please.... that is golden.  All of those reasons that kids want to grow up, I love.  I love being able to have a dream and make it happen.  I love being able to leave dishes in the sink until I get around to them.  I love being able to jump into the car (ok, so pile kids into the car) and go somewhere, anytime I please.  I love being able to decide to take the kids to the mountains, or to do schoolwork outside, or move all of the furniture around in my house, or take them to Athens just to ride on the UGA Orbit bus for an hour.   I love being able to teach kids and give them a hug, say the pledge, and talk about God. 

I take my love for independence a step further.

I want to be able to eat meat that we raise ourselves, I want to be able to attempt to make a living from my own yard, I want to be able to purchase/sell raw milk, I want to be able to take my chickens to be processed in Georgia and not have to drive to South Carolina to do it, I want to be able to build any house that I choose, I want to be able to dig a hole over here, build a barn over there, or leave a big broken down tractor in my backyard without a homeowners association knocking on my door.  I want to be able to teach my children what I want to, I want them to be able to sleep in on days they need it, move ahead to the next academic topic when they are ready, and go on vacation whenever we please.  I want to be able to choose my own healthcare, choose to pay it myself, choose how to save for my retirement, and choose to fail and fall flat on my face.

I love choice.  I love freedom.  I love independence.  And, I will make the most of my adulthood.  I do not take these things for granted. They are what make all of the not-so-fun parts of adulthood completely worthwhile.  Independence is what makes being an adult, being a parent, being a couple, work.  I value my freedom and independence more than my comfort.  More than my leisure.  Only my God, my husband, and my children eclipse it.

So, when my children say things like, "Well, when I grow up I will..." or "I can't wait until I grow up so I can..."  I will try not meet it with sarcasm, because the kids actually have it right.  Being a grow up is just plain awesome.  And, sometimes I do eat cookies for dinner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012

My day began with noise from the living room.  The boys had gotten up to see what the Easter Bunny had brought them.  The problem?  It was 3am.  I huffed and puffed and got them back into bed.  At 4:30am, Ivey showed up in my bed... and slept there, kicking me in the neck.

At 7:30am, the boys were back up, waking up Ivey in the process.  By 7:45, I think they had eaten their weight in chocolate... and I didn't have the energy to protest.    Once Olive woke up, Ivey took her by the hand, knelt down, and explained to her in her talking-to-my-baby-sister-very-sweetly voice that the Easter Bunny had come... and whisked her off to show her the basket of goodies.  As I struggled to keep my eyes open, the girls had a Easter grass fight... making it look like Easter had vomited all over my living room!  Although I was beat, the kids had a great Easter morning.

After church, we headed next door for lunch and the egg hunt.  It was one of those awesome, relaxed, fun days... The kids jumped on the trampoline with their cousins, rode the 4 wheeler, and played on the swingset. The crowd didn't disperse until dusk, just as the kids were settling into their spiraling sugar comas.  And, what better way to end Easter than to rock with my little ones as they sang "Jesus Loves Me".

He is risen, indeed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Busy, Busy.

This last month or so has been so crazy.  Although we have had so much fun and so many hilarious, documentable things have happened... I have been stretched too thin to write them down!  Things are so busy because we are gearing up for another year of our hybrid class.  This year as our first in the program, and we had a small class of five.  Next year, our class will be growing to eight or nine students.  It is the beginning of April, and there is only one more spot to fill.  I have even lined up most of the teachers, set the calendar for the year, chosen most of the curriculum, learned to use a spreadsheet to set the budget (thank you, Hal), and created the daily schedules.  Not only that, but... we may be adding a 1st grade class to the mix for next year.  We have five more openings to fill, but the teachers are all lined up, and the vast majority of the planning is completed.  If the need is there, and if students sign up, we will have a one day per week 1st grade hybrid homeschool class, as well.  Oh, and we are adding an optional drama program, beginning suzuki piano class, and 1st grade Spanish.  Let's top it off with adding in an agricultural workshop for the homeschool community at large, that will run for the next four Thursdays.  The class is now full, at 14 students!

It has been busy, and it will stay busy for a while.  But, with all of this planning and with all of my synapses firing at full force, even as four little people run circles around me, comes the excitement of a new group of friends, of parents, and of teachers to share our educational experience with.  My boys are getting exactly what I had hoped for:  friends, support, and a great education.  It is all well worth it!  By the time my girls are in 1st grade, I should have this all down pat, right?

Even though life has been pretty hectic lately, we have still had a great time.  The weather has been beautiful, and we are spending a ton of time out in the yard.  Our gorgeous marans have just started laying eggs (okay, so only one splash maran has caught on so far, but I'm hoping for some peer pressure), the garden is tilled and Mom has planted brussel sprouts, lettuce, green onions, spinach, and sweet peas.  The kids and I put potatoes in the ground... We shall see if anything comes of them!  Only one of our five guinea eggs hatched, leaving us with a very needy guinea keet named "Winnie the Guinea".  We are hoping to get this little girl some friends soon.  Until then, she lives in an aquarium and comes with us, on occasion, to the school house.

Our near the garden, the kids pulled out the big black culvert that Jeff bought to put under our new driveway at the property.  They took the culverts, a water hose, and I gave them a bottle of dish detergent.  The combination has led to hours upon hours of pure fun.  All four of them will go out, together, and play in those culverts... sliding and stomping!  To me, this is one of the most important benefits of homeschooling.  The ability to go out and honestly play... and the fact that these four kids really spend some quality time together.  We only get to do this once.  One childhood.  Asa and Addison are eight now... but not for long.  There are not nearly enough of these precious years that we, as parents, get to spend with our child.  I am glad that I do not lose hours and hours while my kids wait on a bus, wait in line at lunch, wait to use the bathroom... wait... wait... There is plenty of time in adulthood for waiting.  For now, we can ignore the small stuff (like having to change clothes on a daily basis or fix our hair), and we learn hard, we work hard, we sleep hard, we love hard, and we play hard.