Monday, May 30, 2011

Things that Make Me Smile Today

Chicken water in a blue glass jar. . . 


Peaceful, happy, FLUFFING chickens.


Some days it's the little things.

My mom and dad spent the day with us. We had a good visit and plenty of food-- though time with them is always overshadowed by the fact that my brother, his wife, and my nephew are NOT HERE with us.

So on Memorial Day we talk of friends and family who have served our country. We wish my brother's service in the Army didn't make him so inaccessible for years at a time.  We make travel plans for Mom and Dad to go see said brother and family. . .

We work on the chicken coop(it now has doors on top that OPEN and CLOSE!). We watch the kids swim.

And we are thankful for the freedom to be home with our own little brood.

~april

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baby Birds

Yesterday afternoon we unexpectedly got to watch closely, first hand some young Orchard Orioles learning to fly. It was breathtaking and harrowing as our CAT--the Queene Anne herself--had discovered one of the little fuzzies(the smallest and fuzziest, to be exact)and was readying to POUNCE when I realized her intentions, scooped her up, and booted her INSIDE.

I had been hearing baby birds outside for a couple of weeks, then I saw the parents busily feeding them in this nest. My mom had a nest of these in her yard last year, so I knew what they were already. They have the signature Oriole "hanging basket" nest. So amazing that a tiny creature could build something so complex.

Here are the two we got to see up close--apparently the youngest ones of this hatching. I nearly stepped on one, and got severely fussed at. Then another time when I got too close, the diligent Daddy bird swooped down at me. He was watching and coaching them from the trees around our yard. I imagine Queene Anne would have had quite the surprise if she HAD decided to pounce! :) Silly cat.

Isn't that fuzzy-headed little thing the CUTEST? I love the splayed-leg stance. He is sitting on the TINIEST little twigs in that picture. These were little BITTY birds!

It was such a joy to see these new little ones learning to use their wings, and I was impressed with the Daddy bird flying in to encourage and feed them as well as watching out for their well-being.

Yet another reminder of God's truth in everyday life!

 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Matthew 6:26




Do you enjoy bird watching?


~april

Crochet Class

For the last six weeks or so we've been meeting on Wednesday afternoons with a group of moms and daughters for a crochet class taught by a sweet friend who my mother-in-law introduced to me. We have had a lovely time!

I thought I'd share some pictures from one of our classes. It has been a sweet time to get together, learn a new skill, and spend time getting to know each other better; it has also given us opportunity to encourage and challenge one another in our faith.


3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,
 4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
 5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  Titus  2:3-5





I find that when we make time to sit together and have busy, productive hands, many conversations take place that simply wouldn't in ordinary comings-and-goings. We are able to talk about food and nutrition and how we strive to meet the needs of our children. We talk about prayer needs and our families and churches. We talk about how we struggle as wives to fill the role that Scripture assigns to us, and we rejoice in the victories that others experience in all these areas.  We take joy in the near-luxury of an hour and a half to FOCUS on learning something new.

We see the children's eyes light up when they "get" how to do a new stitch(and the Mom's eyes too!). We hear words of wisdom from moms and wives who have been in circumstances similar to ours and have seen the Lord be faithful.

Our children get to visit with other girls of varying ages, forging new friendships and appreciating the ones already in place. They get to see the value of family as it is lived out by OTHER families. They learn that faith is not just important TO US, but that it dramatically affects the lives of others around us. They get to listen as moms and children talk of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness in their own lives, and they get to see the broader community of the body of Christ.
It's been so much more than just a craft class!



~april




Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Way Doodle Came Home

As I stated in a former post, we had a sad three days last week when our Doodle bird--a.k.a. Noname  /no-nah-mee/--escaped. She initially flew away Monday afternoon around 4:00, then we found her(thanks to the amazingly good eyesight of two of our older neighbors!), but she had to spend the night 40 feet up our neighbor's tree because she wouldn't even try to fly down to us and would only "talk" to us from her unreachable perch. Tuesday morning she was still there for a couple of hours, but she finally decided to try to fly to us, only to lose her bearings once she took to the air. She landed in another tree in our neighbor's yard, this time at least 60 feet up.
The pine tree in the center is Noname's second perch--Tuesday.

 We spent the afternoon having school under the tree, eating all Doodle's favorite people-snacks, and talking to her in hopes she would fly down. However, it looked hopeless, as if she wanted to but somehow couldn't figure out HOW TO fly down. We decided to try to hang her cage up high so maybe she would see and go to it and be retrievable...

In the attempts to throw a rope to hoist her cage up near where she was sitting, she apparently was frightened and flew again--we were overjoyed, just KNOWING we would get her home that night--but instead of flying DOWN to us, she again gained altitude and flew away. We ran after, calling and looking, but there was no sign of her. The woods grew dark quickly, and even the sighting of an indigo bunting and several odd bugs and plants weren't enough to take the edge off our sadness.  The kids and I all cried ourselves to sleep that night. It really seemed hopeless.

Wednesday morning was somber. Everyone was up and quietly mopey. I was probably the most emotional of all of us that morning, at the thought that she was really gone--the hardest thing for me was not missing the bird herself, but missing her for the children. She and J have such a special bond, and I can't stand it when my kids are hurting, like any good mama. :) I also kept having to reign in my imagination about what could happen to her, or what she could be thinking out there all by herself--did she really know how badly we wanted her home? Was she scared? Had she been attacked by a hawk?  Was she finding any water?

I had walked outside at about ten o'clock to give fresh water to the chickens and I was talking to them in my sing-song "bird" voice when I heard a familiar whistle from--OUR BACKYARD. Oh my goodness! It was Doodle! She had apparently followed the sound of our parakeets who stay on the back porch during the day, and she was at least 75 feet up in a pine tree, but we figured if she had been smart enough to fly that far toward home, she would figure out how to get down that day.
Later in the afternoon she tried to fly to J and was gone again. The girls walked through the back pasture to find her and thought they had spotted her whereabouts, but they only thought they heard her, as they couldn't see her and her favorite call sounds quite a bit like a mockingbird song.
Last stand of trees where they thought they heard her Wednesday.

We went to bed again with heavy hearts that night.

Thursday morning we awoke to the noise of wind in the trees, and the stress was tangible. We were all exhausted, physically and emotionally. Tired of crying, tired of worrying about her, tired of trying to find her only to be disappointed in not being able to help her down. She would "speak" to us and look at us as if asking, "Okay, are we finished playing this silly game now so you can COME GET ME DOWN FROM HERE?" It was a terrible, helpless feeling.

After looking at the weather report and seeing we were due rain and possible thunderstorms Thursday night, I knew in my heart that if we weren't successful in getting her home THAT DAY, it would likely be over. We looked more. The girls and I walked around and called--no answer.  We kept calling off and on throughout the day, and late in the afternoon, around 6:00, we HEARD her again, this time behind our neighbor's house on OUR side of the road.

B and J had to leave for her choir audition, so C and I stationed the Redhead on the back porch calling "Dooo-dlllllle" every count of 40, as she would answer to her name for some reason then. It had grown quiet outside since the weather front was moving through, as if all the wild birds had settled in early for the night. However, a pair of bluejays were raising a true ruckus behind our neighbor's house, so we followed their noise. Being territorial as they are, I guessed that a strange bird was in a tree near theirs. I was right.  We finally found her perched in a young growth sawtooth oak only about 20 feet off the ground, and I left C standing there quietly(we didn't want to make the mistake of getting her excited enough to fly and risk losing her again). I ran home to grab our ladder.

After hauling the ladder across two lots and leaning it against the tree, we realized there was no way C could reach the lowest branch from the top, so we would have to do something else. Then our neighbors, in whose yard the tree is--began walking out to see what in the world these crazy people were doing with a ladder up their tree(lol!). They had guessed we had lost a pet, and he went to get HIS ladder, which reached the lower branch perfectly. C put her fear of heights aside, shimmied up the ladder, belly-crawled out on a limb just about five feet lower than Doodle's perch, and began talking to her.
Noname is in the exact center of this picture, on her way down to see C. BRAVE GIRL!

That was one happy, determined, relieved little cockatiel! After a couple of questioning "peeps?" she immediately began climbing her way toward C, jumped up on her shoulder, and clung tightly as C backed down the tree. As soon as she reached the ground C put a hand over Doodle and ran back to the house with her while I stayed to thank the neighbors for their help.
Come to find out, they once had a cockatiel, so they understood how sad we were at the thought of losing her. They did NOT think we were crazy for attempting to climb neighbors' trees! ;) They were, in fact, rejoicing with us in finding her!

I walked home with our ladder, came inside, and fifteen minutes later the rain began. God is GOOD.

Doodle chowed down on seed, drank some water, and went to bed. She slept and slept and was almost herself again Friday. Saturday we were finally assured she would be okay, as she took up her normal routine of fluffing and preening, and we happily took to cleaning up after her again.
A hungry, hungry birdie!

Doodle is obviously happy to be home, and we learned yet another important lesson about treasuring those we love, even the ones with feathers. Each moment is special!

And even though it was an emotionally draining and physically taxing week, a week when the housework just did NOT get done and meals really didn't get cooked, it was a time of real unity and closeness with my kids. Sometimes we just fall into the rut of "living here" and forget that these people are pretty special. They are all such gifts, and even if Noname hadn't come home, the Lord used the effort of searching for her to knit our hearts a little more tightly to each other.

My kids also learned that the Lord answers prayers--big ones and little ones. When Jesus said the Father knows even if a sparrow falls, they know now that IT IS TRUE. When Jesus said that the heavenly Father feeds them, though they do not plant or gather into barns, my girls now understand just how detailed is His watch care over even the birds of the air.

We have always taught them that Man(as in mankind, not as in just the specific gender!)is the crowning point of God's creation, and that people were put on earth to enjoy it and to have a personal relationship with God, but that Scripture also teaches that we were given the job to watch over God's creation and care for it. However, the results are ultimately up to  Him who holds all things together--who formed all things in the first place--by His mighty Word. We are all the works of His hand. It is so sweet to trust in Jesus, as the old hymn says:

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon the promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord."

Over the weekend at separate times, both of the older girls came to me and said, "Mom, I think I understand the story of The Lost Sheep a lot better now." I smiled as I agreed with them--do you know the story? Jesus told this story in the gospel of Luke, chapter 15:

 4If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won't you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? 5And when you find it, you will be so glad that you will put it on your shoulder 6and carry it home. Then you will call in your friends and neighbors and say, "Let's celebrate! I've found my lost sheep."
    7Jesus said, "In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don't need to."
   


The similarities are striking--we have a whole little flock of birds, but when one wandered off, we left the other five and went to look for the lost one till she was found.  Doodle couldn't help herself; her efforts to get to us ultimately only took her further away from home and safety. When she humbly allowed us to approach her, C placed her on her shoulder(smile)and carried her home--and now I'm rejoicing with YOU, my friends, over this little lost birdie who is now found...
She's a snuggle baby!

I cannot think that it's just a sweet story, friends. Jesus was making a point. You see, each of us--woman or man, child or adult--are born into this world already little lost lambs--we have no good in us because of the sin nature passed down to us by our first parents, Adam and Eve. We need to be rescued from the wilderness of seeking our own desires, our own paths, our own understanding; in fact, because of our own limited understanding, we don't even know what we need! In loving goodness, then, Jesus the Good Shepherd came to earth, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life, free of all evil deeds, motives, or thoughts, and then allowed Himself to be sacrificed in a brutal death so that HE could take on all of the evil EVER in the world, in order that God--the loving, just, righteous, holy Creator of everything--could forgive the sins of mankind and restore individuals into a right, loving relationship with Himself.

We receive the gift of this relationship when we come to Him, admitting we've sought things our way, and believing that He will forgive our sins as He said:

 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1, verses 8-9, NIV)

From Luke 15 again, at the end of the story of the prodigal son, we see the heart of God the Father, rejoicing over the restoration of his son:
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15, verse 32, NIV)

The words of Isaac Watts--
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.

Thru many dangers toils and snares
I have already come
Twas grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

Dear friend, I can think of no more important question for YOU--
have you allowed His grace to lead YOU home?



I pray for you that it is so.

~april



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homeschool Mom's Paycheck

As a mom who teaches her kids at home, often I receive the blunt end of compliments--it's very rare, really, when someone is altogether sincere in stating something positive about our lives. If this lifestyle we've pursued wasn't an inclination toward following God's will for our family, there have been many opportunities to hang up the books and send the kids to school. I could have a lovely, clean home. I could eat lunch with girlfriends without feeding kids first.  I could take a class, walk for fitness, do crafts with MY things and know where MY stuff is. I could read what I WANT to read all afternoon. I could grocery shop without $20+ worth of extra junk in my cart. . . .the list goes on and on. I, I, I, I COULD. . . .

BALONEY.

We actually DID have our girls all in school for one. dreadful. semester. Four years ago. We had just moved into this new house, I was trying to unpack boxes for months. We were trying to keep the two year old OFF the stairs and "do school". I couldn't foresee trying to teach my 5 year old to read while continuing basic skills practice with my VERY active six year old and attempting to challenge my loves-to-read-but-hates-to-write, highly gifted fourth grader....and it was the elementary school my husband attended...he turned out okay. I caved and put them "in."

My little redhead marched off in her khaki and navy uniform to that big building of near-anonymity FIVE DAYS before she turned SIX. I cried. That morning and almost every morning afterward that whole year.
It was the worst decision of motherhood I've EVER made, to this day.

What a depressing time. First, we had to get up VERY early. OUT very early. BED very early. Have I mentioned before that our family are NOT "morning people"?  We're not. It was tough. I had to worry with packing lunches. I had to make sure homework was done. It didn't take long to realize we were spending WAY more time(and incidentally, MONEY) on the "free" public school education than we had EVER spent homeschooling. . .but we persisted in the madness. Homework. Grumpies. Sleepies. COLDS, FEVERS. Questions I didn't want to answer from a seven-year-old...word of hours spent playing computer games and watching MOVIES that I would never have approved, always after the fact. Fundraisers. More money for this or that. No family time at all by the time homework and baths(and the perpetual uniform laundry)were done each night.

As if this weren't enough, I continued to blame my roaming through the house, looking in their rooms and crying semi-constantly and my half-day trips to walmart on being "too busy". So we put my oldest into 4th grade in the middle of the year.(Madness, eh?)
She did okay. Made a few "friends". Good grades. Bored. I was apalled at how few BOOKS(and the utter lack of anything I would consider calling "classic") they read...we made up our minds to get through it.

And we did. It was a learning experience for ME. I'm not so sure WHAT they learned that year. :)

Lesson: family time is important. Most parents DO homeschool, only they do it after work when they and their kids are tired AND they do it without the freedom to teach their kids what THEY want them to know. It's called "homework". The content of it is decided largely by the State.

Homeschooling gives us FREEDOM that others don't have. We can go places during the day when stores/parks/streets aren't so crowded. We can take a day trip to enhance the study of something we're reading. We can focus on the positive aspects of things and our kids don't "have to" know all the not-so-desirable things other kids their age "have to" in order to survive the classroom.

I'm so thankful.
But there is almost always that nagging question--the one that sent me on a mission to put my kids in school four years ago. Can they MAKE IT with kids their age. Are they learning what they need to know? AM I DOING A GOOD JOB? All these questions really come down to a need for validation IN MOM'S BRAIN. I desire affirmation like any normal human, and face it, surrounded by piles of laundry and dustbunnies and a perpetually-messy kitchen, it's hard to feel like "this" could ever be the best choice. . .but Holy Scripture comes to whisper in my heart--"make every effort to lead a quiet life and to work with your hands," "charm is deceptive and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised". . .
calling me back to contentment in the lot the Lord has given me. Calling me back to thankfulness for being here, at home, for having a husband who works hard to provide for us, for having eyes to see that we CAN make it, because we WILL, on one income; calling me back to know that the things of this world are passing away so very quickly...calling me to truth, and to my calling. Wife. Mother. Teacher. 

And sometimes, every so often, reward in tangible form comes along, just a sweet reminder of God's goodness and provision in the physical realm. I was blessed with one of those this past weekend.

C. entered three pieces in a writing contest at a local university a couple of months ago. We received word this week that she won 1st place Poetry, 2nd place prose, and had received honorable mention on the third poem she entered. All three pieces received recognition. The ONLY homeschool student who placed at all, by my reading. My girl.

My little fourth grader who would NOT write...my little second grader who struggled so hard learning to read. My girl who drives me crazy with her scatterbrained subject-changing and lack of focus, and yet delights me with her creative ideas that come rapid-fire most often AFTER TEN P.M... My girl. WON.

I'm a proud Mama. Not in the "my kid did better than your kid" sense, but in the sense of joyful victory in Christ Jesus. He who has given us every good thing--to enjoy. He who promised He came that we might have  abundant life ETERNALLY. He who promised to prepare a place for us and to RETURN that we might be where He is.
He is good.
I am thankful.


~april

Linking to L.A.C.E. at Lily-Rose Cottage!



Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy!!!!!!!!!!

Doodle is HOME!
It is quite the story, but for now let it suffice to say she is a happy, sleepy, hungry little bird!

We're all pretty happy too.

Details on her dramatic week out and daring rescue later....

~april

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sad



Our sweet little cockatiel--"Noname" or "Doodle"--is gone. She escaped Monday afternoon when J was trying to close the front door. We spent the day out calling and finally found her in a neighbor's tree where she spent the night. Yesterday she tried to fly to us twice, but got frightened when she tried to fly DOWN, and ended up further away. Late in the evening she took off one more time and we lost her completely.

We're heartbroken, but attempting to hold onto hope that she will somehow get back to us.

That's part of why it's been so quiet around here this week.
(and why the chicken coop isn't finished yet either--I have SO MUCH to catch up on)

Thanks for stopping by.

Hopefully I'll have more lovelies for you soon. :)




~april




Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to Build a Portable Chicken Coop: Time-lapse version for the direction-following challenged. Part 1

So, we find ourselves in need of a coop--SOON--for these sweet little chickerses....rather than BUYING or even paying for PLANS(have I mentioned that I do not read directions well?), we decided to MAKE OUR OWN. Haha. English degree NOT necessary for this(though maybe the insanity helps); here goes!

First, decide how large you want your coop to be. This is our "run", and it will be 7ftx4ft. We built a frame this size from pressure-treated 2x4s, joined with drywall screws. (Favorite fasteners! lol!)

Next, we cut 6 uprights to support the screening and the upper frame. Ours are three feet tall, but you could do two feet easily enough and still have plenty of flippity-flap-and-flutter room. Attach the supports to the base frame with plenty of drywall screws again, in the four corners and somewhere NEAR the middle.(English majors don't measure more than they  absolutely MUST.)

Cut pieces for the top frame the same lengths as the bottom frame and attach them to the uprights. We did this one board at a time, starting on the short ends. It really helps to have two holders and one driller for this step. Mark your lines to get the alignment right on the board by holding it at the BOTTOM, then move it up in place, line them up, and DRILL IT! 1,2,3,4 sides. Hmm. Not bad!


Cut pieces of 2x4 to fill in the gap of the frame on the upright supports so the wire will lay flush.  Attach them in place.

Be sure to do the corners as well.

Wrap and staple your hardware cloth to the three sides that will be closed. Our run will butt right into the coop/box at one end(where the Redhead is standing), so we left it open. Till we get that part built, the babies are held in by a baby gate. We also stapled an old bedsheet over the top to shade them until the top gets put on.
They immediately set to enjoying their new space, but won't be allowed to enjoy it unattended until the whole unit is complete.

Check back later for part two!


Linking to Domestically Divine at Far Above Rubies. :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Half a day, half a day, half a day DONE!


A very real-life picture of our dining table on school days.

So this morning we had a GOOD all-together time with school.We started out reading and talking about Psalms 1-4, from my daily reading this morning. I found it interesting that we studied Psalm 1 at church last night!  We reviewed the blessed man and the wicked as laid out in Psalm 1--how God establishes and blesses those who treasure His Word and seek to live by it.  Psalm 2 seems particularly relevant right now too, especially in light of the recent news about Osama bin Laden.  We talked about why the war is going on and why it WILL BE(this is relevant to the kids now because of their uncle's service in the Army). We talked about how God wants all people to come to know Him, but how He is also a just Ruler, and so cannot let sin go unpunished, yet in His loving goodness, He, Himself, made a way by His own Son--because no sacrifice, religion, or good deeds of man could ever, EVER pay the price of breaching God's holy standard. We had to talk about those two together because the question arises on the death of such a dastardly enemy: Should we rejoice?
The answer is yes and no. As Christians we are sobered that bin Laden will spend his eternity in Hell because he obviously rejected the truth that Christ proclaimed about Himself. As Americans, we see justice served, and we feel the very human emotions of relief and even satisfaction that such an evil, life-taking individual has met justice, finally, at the cost of many, many "innocent" lives.  It's one of those opportunities when the strain between being IN this world and yet not aligning oneself with the values and system of this world is keenly felt.


1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

"The way of the wicked will perish" really sums it up. God is the giver of Justice, as well as grace. We cannot give Him counsel, but we can go to Him! 


"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10


One reason we home educate is the freedom of bringing God's Word as a lamp to light the happenings of this world as we study them. No study can be complete without looking through the lens of absolute Truth, found only in the Bible, the inspired, eternal Word of God.

 Soooo, back to our "school" day!

For History right now, we are using Story of the World, and our lesson today was on the Crimean War. It deals with this part of the world:
We read our chapter, then did map work. They worked in teams.


I love that C can help her younger brother with his work, and even more I love that she doesn't (always)mind doing it!
 

When that was finished, they had little chocolate treats. ;-)

 The Boy was inspired to re-create  The Charge of the Light Brigade with Legos. 


 We read and discussed the poem a bit, talked about Florence Nightingale...did math. . . .

It was a pretty good day!


~april

Jump rope



















I love this little guy!

~april