May 30, 2011

Fish Story

Leon had Memorial Day off, so he ran a bunch of errands and took the boys fishing. Kelsea was at Emerald Point with her BFF. I stayed home and slept after a very long 12 hour shift.

Joshua came home, plopped on the couch beside me, and told me very gravely, "Mom, let me tell you the story of how Daddy stole my catfish."

"I threw out Dad's line. I left to get my chair, cause Jeremiah didn't want me sitting in his anymore. When I got back, Dad reeled in my catfish. He stole my fish!"

Haha, apparently there is some feud about just who's catfish it was. Not that it matters. They didn't keep the fish.

But as I was listening to the two of them carry on (good-naturedly) about this occurred to me that this is only just the beginning of all the fish stories to come. I think, with 4 fishermen in the house, I'm in a bit over my head here.

Please send help...or chocolate...preferably chocolate.


May 28, 2011

The History Behind My Homeschool Decision

I was a pretty wild young lady. I was pregnant by the age of 14, and had experienced things most people don't until well into adulthood. I grew up too fast.

When my family found out I was pregnant they were extremely loving and supportive, but I experienced a lot of rejection from other kids at school, strangers, and church members. Many of my friend's parents would not let them associate with me because I was a bad influence.

I was not only pregnant very young, but I committed the crime of having a baby by a black man in the south. I remember walking through my neighborhood with my daughter in her stroller when an old "friend" hurled a very racist insult in my direction.

On the outside I appeared very responsible. I was a good mother. I worked, graduated from high school, and attended community college. My school adviser suggested that my test scores were so high that I should major in pre-science and go on to a medical career. He also suggested I find a 3rd shift job at a hotel, where I could study and earn money at the same time.

Thus started my career in the hotel industry. I loved my job. I met lots of interesting people. One of which was the security guard, a transy named Dee. She was an amazing person and taught me many things about overcoming rejection. We became very good friends. I will never forget her. I met a lot of "party people" through work too.

I was still living a lifestyle that I would later come to regret. I got pregnant (again) at 18. I had to make a change, and I needed to make it quickly. I couldn't live with Mom and Dad and raise 2 children. Leon and I had just begun dating. I had no idea where our relationship was headed. He lived over an hour away, so it was almost a long distance relationship.

I dropped out of community college, and worked at the hotel full-time. Leon and I decided to move in together. Later, we decided to get married and that I should stay home with the kids.

After I gave birth, I had some serious postpartum depression. Leon worked 2 jobs to make ends meet, so I was home alone most of the time. I channeled all of my regrets and loneliness into self loathing.

That fall Leon's son came to live with us full-time. I instantly became the mother of 3 at the age of 19. My stepson started kindergarten at the local school that year. He was a very difficult unhappy kid who didn't want to live with his step-mom. To say he was a handful is an understatement. I loved him and did what I could to show him as much, but I could never replace his mother and that pissed him off. I was overwhelmed.

As my hormones started to balance out, I found redemption from my self-hate in extreme religious conservatism. I felt that if I lived the rest of my life perfectly, I would be worthy of my salvation. I didn't believe that I was buying my way into heaven, but that I was "fixing" my past.

Meanwhile, my stepson was dealing with many emotional issues of his own. He stayed in the public school system for 2 years. He was angry and acted out so much in class that he was not even learning how to read.

I never planned to homeschool. I was very excited about Kelsea's first day of school and all of those other happy school memories that she'd have: field trips, plays, class parties, field days, etc.

However, the school put Kelsea into an English integration class. She was only 1 of 3 kids that spoke English in her classroom. The school reasoned that the English speaking children would help reinforce the language for the Spanish speaking children. Kelsea was doing most of her learning at home.

In fact, I spent so much time going over school work with the both of them, that the thought occurred to me that I could just keep them home and teach them myself. Then, we could have our happy little evenings together again, instead of wasting it on all the schoolwork they weren't getting at school.

Leon and I talked about homeschooling as an option. He was eager to pull them out of the system, I was still very reluctant. We even moved to get into a different school zone; but just after we moved-in, they rezoned the district and put us back at the old school.

My aunt homeschools her children and has a very happy family. I talked with her about homeschool options. She was very supportive and gave me a lot of encouragement and advice.

Eventually, I sent in my "notice of intent" and bought a bunch of school books. I was nervous, but we agreed we would only commit to doing it for one year. Of course, the first year was hard. I bought a "canned-curriculum" and spent every day reading the script that was given in the teacher books.

Two things happened that kept me going the next year. For one, my stepson started doing very well academically. He showed an aptitude for math, started reading on his own, even his handwriting improved dramatically. Second, his behavior took a whole new turn. He was no longer an angry little person. He still longed to live with his mom, but he was a completely different kid.

I did ditch the stuffy curriculum we were using and we moved on to more of an "unschooled" approach that worked well for the next few years. We used a curriculum for math, but I mostly used the library for our resources. We learned through everyday activities.

Despite how it may have seemed at the time, I didn't start homeschooling for religious reasons. It was more of a practical affair. Had the kids done well in school, I would never have ventured out to teach them on my own.

I do thank God for the turning point in my life. I'm still a conservative person, for the most part. I believe in family values and the fundamentals of my faith, but I'm no longer trying to pay penance for my past.

May 24, 2011


Our very first family camping trip on our own. We are usually so busy camping with scouts that we never have time to camp as a family.We camped once with my parents a long time ago. I think I was pregnant with Joshua.  

It was really a relaxing trip. We played in the sand, swam in the lake, and while the guys fished, Kelsea and I took a nap. :-P

My guys are getting so big!

I'd love to know what these 2 boys were discussing.

Kelsea and I sat down to a mean game of SPIT.

Joshua built and maintained our campfire all by himself. We roasted weenies for dinner and had s'mores for dessert. Jeremiah was camp photographer for a while and took many of these pictures.

And the game went on. It got pretty intense! HA!

That night it stormed. It stormed hard. And it poured down rain. And the frogs! In between storms they sounded like a woman screaming in a horror film. haha! So Jeremiah slept in the tent with his big her request ;-). By morning their tent got flooded and both of them moved to my tent. Crazy night, but man! was it a blast!


May 21, 2011

Bikes and a City Hike

Ishmael and Joshua went off with the Boy Scouts to start on their Bicycling Merit Badge.

So I said to Jeremiah, "How about a city hike?" And he said, "okay."

Downtown Durham is definitely improving. Mostly we stayed in the historic Tobacco District.

This was the fountain that never ends. Jeremiah estimated that they used around $2000 worth of water.

He thought the section in the picture below was nice enough for a wedding. There were a lot of lights strung around and the water flowed right through it. He plans to have his wedding there some day. After the nuptials, he's taking his girl to the ballgame. Lucky girl.


May 17, 2011

Strawberry Time

I love the South. So much green! I also love strawberry fields. They smell so good!

We learned the hard way that the end of the day isn't the best time to pick. Normally we go early-mid morning. The fields had already been mostly picked over. There were still a lot of great berries. It just took a lot longer to fill our baskets.

Strawberries have to be processed right away. Especially if you picked them under the hot southern sun. They retain heat and cook eachother in the basket. If you let them sit, you'll find a whole lot of mushy berries at the bottom.

So right away, as soon as we got home, I started hulling my berries and sorting them. The prettiest berries are going on the cookie sheet. I'll flash freeze them and then fill freezer bags. The not so pretty berries are going in the bowl to be made into jam.

Normally I just make easy freezer jam. This year I wanted to learn how to can preserves. I needed a few supplies. I picked up a canning pot and a utensil kit for around $27. These will come in handy when I tackle pickles and tomatoes this summer.

Confession: This is the first time I've canned preserves. My jam did not set and I had to recook them using these instructions: How to Fix (or Remake) Jam or Jelly. The process worked like a charm and my jam is nice and thick, albeit with less whole berries and a tad more sugar. Ah the joys of the learning process.


May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Mostly I worked over Mother's Day weekend. Leon and the kids conspired to create this beautiful card for me and surprised me with it when I got home that morning.

Leon had the kids each make smaller more personal cards.

I just love all the detail, the personal messages from each of them. It means so much to me. It reminds me of another card they made for me a few years ago.

I'm about to "keep it real". This is what I look like when I get off from an 11 hour shift.

YIKES! Good thing Leon took the kids to church and kept them out of the house most of the day so I could get some MUCH needed sleep. In fact, I slept 10 hours straight.

HA! I bet Leon isn't expecting that I would actually post this picture.


May 3, 2011

Rain Barrels Part 1

Here in "Mayberry" the water is extremely expensive. You see "Mayberry" buys their water from the next town over and then sells it to us. Watering the garden has raised my water bill by about $30 a month in season.

The rain barrel was so easy to make. It took us all of about 20 minutes to clean it out and put it together.

Cast of Characters: 2 3/4" metal conduit adapters, 3/4" hose bib, 1" drill bit, mosquito netting, and rain barrel.

I found my barrels on Craig's List for about $15 each. The guy at the hardware store said he used a large outdoor trash can.

At the bottom of the barrel, we drilled a 1" hole and threaded the female half of the conduit from the inside (Leon had to crawl inside), then screwed the male piece over top on the outside. Then we attached the hose bib to the conduit.

We did the same for the top of the barrel for our overflow. You could stop here and just have one barrel. You would need to cut a small piece of mosquito netting and screw the male side of the conduit over top. I plan to use a second barrel for overflow, to collect as much water as I can.

The last step was to drill holes into the top of the lid and lay on some of the mosquito netting.

I still need to get some cinder blocks to prop my rain barrel up against the house, and I need a few other supplies to connect the two barrels.