Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Meditation for Christmastide

Though our secular culture has largely forgotten this, it is actually still Christmas. Christmas begins on December 25 and continues for twelve days (one for each of the tribes of Israel) until Epiphany, January 6, when we remember God's revelation of salvation to the Gentiles through the story of the wise men. So let this be our prayer this Christmas in the midst of our noisy, warring societies, "Da Pacem Domine, Give us peace, Lord."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas at the Hardings

Here are the stockings and gifts, waiting for Christmas morning.

Oooooh goody goody!

I got more goodies than you!

That's okay. Less is more when you're my age.

We love our new digger from Papa, and Mama's upcycled wool sweater accessories keep us fuzzy and warm.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Catching Up

This was the first time we made real gingerbread houses. Last year we did a kit from the store, but the gingerbread tasted like it was made from powdered cardboard. Then the Thursday before last we visited our friends, the Childers, from Old Paths Farms (see link in sidebar) and made these houses together. It was a lot of fun and the kids all really enjoyed themselves. Needless to say, they didn't last too long. The kids kept picking the candy off, and, well, Stacy's gingerbread was just too good to resist!

On Friday, the day after, we had our very first winter storm of the season. Luke got to stay home. When the ice and sleet stopped Saturday morning, the kids went outside for a little while and built this little man. That's the closest we've come to having a white Christmas in the 12 years I've lived here in South Carolina. It's also been the coolest and wettest year I've experienced here. Hope to get some Christmas pics up soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Scrubby Tubby Bunny Buddy

This bunny was sort of an accident today. I was trying to figure out a pattern for something else, but I made it too big and decided to try one of those bunnies in Grace's fantastic book, Creative Play For Your Toddler by Christopher Clouder and Janni Nicol.
The instructions are very simple. The whole bunny, except for the ears, is made from a knitted woolen square, or in my case, a crocheted cotton one. First, the four corners are folded into conical shapes and sewn up into legs. Next, the edge between the front legs is gathered up by weaving the yarn through, pulling gently and securing. Stitching is then continued down the belly. A firm stuffing, especially for the head end, is next in order, after which the bottom edge between the hind legs is stitched shut. To form the head, a piece of yarn is tied tightly where the neck should be. The eyes are made by stitching through both sides of the head and tying firmly to form indentations at the correct spots. For the ears, I did about 4 rows of 2 single crochet, followed by a decrease half double crochet, and one last single crochet at the tip. They are stitched to the head folded in two at their base to give them a little firmness. And lastly, instead of following the directions for a pompom tail, I opted for the same method as the head, weaving yarn in a large circle at the rump end and tying it tightly. I also decided to stuff it with polyester filling instead of wool, partly because the wool I ordered hasn't arrived yet, but mostly because I made it to be used in the tub. I couldn't believe how simple it was, and it was so amazing and fun to see it magically take shape. Try one!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Virginia's Progress Report

Progress Report: Virginia Rose Harding, November, 2009

I am writing the required report early, because the holidays will most likely be filled with far more interesting activities and there will be little time for anything else. And there is so much to include, I am afraid of forgetting some of the many incredible leaps Virginia has made in her development.

As an unschooler, I have taken a very hands off approach, letting Virginia direct most of her own activities, and offering my assistance when she wants it. She keeps Luke and me very busy with the questions she asks, and if she will listen, I will give her the most detailed explanation I can come up with. Papa (Luke) is also a wonderful storyteller, and will recount tales from the Bible, as well as many made up ones, both cute and spooky, to a wide-eyed audience who does not even realize he is teaching them.

At the beginning of the school year, Virginia stated her goals without hesitation. She wanted to learn to cook, to read, to do laundry, learn more math and learn about bugs. In all of these subjects, her interest waxes and wanes, except for learning to cook. And numbers almost always get her excited. Since math skills are involved in cooking, and math is a required subject, I will begin here to chart her progress over the past few months.

Math Skills

Mondays are baking day, usually, and Virginia's job is to make granola. She can now assemble the ingredients, counting and measuring, entirely on her own. She has also learned to cook her favorite breakfast, oatmeal and hot cocoa. And if I tell her the ingredients, she can mix up a batch of cookies. She made oatmeal pancakes from a cookbook we got from the library, and cooked them herself on the griddle. On many occasions I have let her experiment with various ingredients, with some interesting results: She successfully made a cake, including the icing, from scratch, and assembled several fruit salads and bakes. And always, she is enthroned as a little "taste" goddess, distributing bits and bites to her adoring younger siblings.

There are many other ways we experience mathematics together, too numerous to include them all, but here are a few:
1. Playing with money. Virginia can name most of the coins, and knows which are worth more. We have played a game where she pretends to buy items and I give her change, etc.
2. Counting to 100. I printed out a chart and she practiced until she was able to count by 1's and 10's. As a reward, she got to pick out ingredients for ice cream sundaes.
3. Playing with a calculator.
4. Playing with an abacus.
5. Calendar fun. Like, "How may days until Christmas?".
6. Building with Lego. Affords countless problem solving opportunities involving logical deduction, geometry and counting. Virginia surprises us both with some of the models she comes up with.
7. Gardening. Both girls have helped count out seeds, bulbs, etc, and plant them at the proper spacing.

Virginia is able to add and subtract simple problems in her head, involving everyday items she comes across. She enjoys playing with numbers and seems to have effortlessly absorbed the skills she now possesses.

Language Skills

Reading takes a little more effort, but I have been very careful not to force or push since she is so easily discouraged. And patience has paid off! She sat down the other Saturday and did several pages in her phonics workbook that required reading simple words. She still has trouble recognizing some letters in less common fonts, and telling the difference between little b and d, but she has made a lot of progress.

Virginia can now write her own name without help, and several other words she has memorized. She enjoys making grocery lists, asking how to spell her chosen items, though I usually have to take over after 2 or 3. Lately, she has been using her picture/ word books to help her search for images and earn swag bucks for me. Now that's the kind of "school work" I like!

That takes care of the three r's, or at least some of the highlights! On to the sciences, social and otherwise.

Social Studies and Science

The church is the social body wherein our family finds its sole identity. Our gathering for worship and Eucharist with our local congregation, and our gathering with family and Christian friends from other branches of Christ's Church, provides the community within which we learn and grow together. We teach the stories from the Bible with great emphasis on the story part. It is the narrative that shapes our world view and practice. Virginia participates in Sunday School, in the worship and sacraments of our church, and also in our playgroup which evolved from the bimonthly story time at our library. This month, she participated in activities at our library for homeschoolers. Our church is also beginning a Sunday School program based on the Montessori method of teaching, called "Godly Play". And this year, we're helping out by heading up a blanket drive our church is participating in to distribute to the homeless. We got to meet Cheryl and Chris, a wonderful couple who run a food pantry downtown. Virginia also plays with our unchurched friends, whom we treat with equal respect.

Interest in bugs comes and goes. Most observation takes place on an unplanned basis. You never know when you're going to see an interesting one. I printed off a couple pages from one of Donna Young's nature journal templates and Virginia made several drawings. They were all on one page because she made them true to size, or smaller. An ant, a spider, a grasshopper, and a moth with "eyes" on it's wings to scare off predators.

Other inhabitants we have observed in our neck of the woods are:
1.Deer, including a doe with triplet fawns!
2. Chickens and a couple chicks that hatched this summer. We might get some more soon, because our broody black hen is nesting again- on 13 eggs!
3. Squirrels and birds aplenty.
4. Wild turkeys.
5. A baby rabbit Virginia rescued from our dog.

Nutrition is also foremost in our conversations and meal planning. Taming the candy monster hasn't been easy, but Virginia has learned how to identify healthy snacks and meals. We made a nutrition chart, which divides food into three groups- colors (fruits and veggies), whole grains and proteins.

There is a lot to learn and a lot to explore both in the kitchen and on our 17 acres of woods, field, garden and creek. But we also like to get out now and then. Some of the field trips we have taken include:
1. A two mile hike on the nature trail at the historic Cowpens battlefield
2. A visit to Glencora farm
3. A trip to Kidsenses InterActive Museum in Rutherfordton, NC

The most important aspect of our un-school, however, are the activities where progress cannot be easily tracked, but are vital to Virginia's neural, physical and mental development. It is the hours upon hours of unhindered playtime, both indoors and out, that allow her to gain strength of body and clarity of thought as she runs, swings, explores and pedals; confidence tempered with humility as she draws, builds, stirs and learns to deal with her shortcomings; and the ability to express herself in action and word as she pretends with her siblings, dolls and toys.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lowe's Build and Grow

I'm going to try to take the kids to this tomorrow. We'll see how it turns out, but I think they will enjoy making some Christmas gifts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seth's New Shoes

Last night, inspired by the moccasins bro-in-law Scott had made for my nephew, Liam (which are waaaay cooler than these), I decided to make some soft soled shoes for Seth out of some suede panels from an old jacket that had a broken zipper. I used this pattern and tutorial , although I had to adapt it a bit to fit his chubby, wide foot. I should have made them even wider because they barely fit. But at least for now, he has something other than socks to keep his little feet warm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teething Doll

Just made this teething doll this afternoon from some organic cotton material I had. The ribbon around the neck is also sewn on. The knots can be soaked in cold water or chamomile tea for baby to chew on.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kid Senses Museum Trip!

We visited Kid Senses InterActive museum in Rutherfordton, NC with Aunt Grace, Uncle Jon, Lacey and Simon. It was a hit!

Lacey and Virginia explore magnetic energy

Miriam inside a giant bubble

Lacey and Simon cook in the Little Pueblitos Cafe

Reuben shares a salad with Uncle Jon

Shopping in the little grocery store

Simon likes his apple

the train table

the art room

Reuben discovers how energy travels through objects...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Swag Bucks

My friend from church told me about swag bucks, at it's actually for real! All you have to do to earn SB's is to search the web through their browser, and you'll steadily rack them up. You can redeem them for things like 45 swag bucks for a $5 amazon gift card, or save up tons of them for a camcorder or ipod. It's completely free! I plan on racking up as many as I can and then using them for the amazon giftcards to make a couple Christmas presents free, or at least cheaper.

There are more ways to earn swagbucks as well (the reason I am writing this ;), such as getting people to sign up under you, reading the swag bucks blog, checking the swidget for special codes that will get you one or 2 instant sb's. When people sign up under you, you get as many swag bucks as they get while searching, up until 100. They don't spam your email at all. So far I've been really satisfied, and it's often fun when they have a scavenger hunt out for codes. :) Give it a try! http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/Arianllyn
If you have any questions just leave a comment on this post and I'll try and get back to you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Horse Drawing Contest

Virginia entered this drawing in a contest held by Tractor Supply Company. I snapped this picture before we mailed it in.

Friday, October 23, 2009

ABC's of me

I got tagged by Sara!

A - Age: 27
B - Bed size: queen, and I wish I had a California king (well, I do, sort of...!)
C - Chore you hate: Sara' right...poopy diapers are nasty, but I really REALLY hate washing lettuce.
D - Dog's name: Liam...oh wait, he's my son
E - Essential start your day item: food
F - Favorite color: green and brown
G - Gold or Silver: silver
H - Height: 5'.6 1/2"
I - I am: adventurous
J - Job: Mom and Wife and apartment homesteader
K - Kids: Liam
L - Living arrangements: Apartment....tiny one, too.
M - Mom's name: Gayl
N - Nicknames: My favorite one is Babe.
O - Overnight hospital stay: When I was born, most likely.
P - Pet Peeve: when people say "their" when they mean "him" or "her"
Q - Quote from a movie: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants and slide on the ice!" (M*A*S*H)
R - Right or left handed: right
S - Siblings: Sara, Jamie, Grace, Stephen, Alan, Robert
T - Time you wake up: Between 8-9
U- Underwear: cotton, sometimes
V - Vegetable you dislike: cabbage
W - Ways you run late: can't decide what to wear, sudden poopy diapers, baby sleeping....
X - X-rays you've had: teeth and spine
Y - Yummy food you make: Curried Lamb, among many others
Z - Zoo favorite: Monkeys!

Now it's your turn!
I'm tagging the other contributors on this blog!

ABC's of me

I got tagged by Kelly from Jelly Beans.

A - Age: 33
B - Bed size: full (very full when the kids are in it too)
C - Chore you hate: hate, well that's a little strong, but I don't relish washing out the poopy diapers
D - Dog's name: Sally and Lassie
E - Essential start your day item: a cuppa! (that's hot tea in Brit lingo)
F - Favorite color: Green
G - Gold or Silver: silver
H - Height: 5'.7"
I - I am: Happy!
J - Job: Mom and Wife, gardener
K - Kids: Virginia, Miriam, Reuben and Seth
L - Living arrangements: single wide trailer on 17 acres
M - Mom's name: Gayl
N - Nicknames: uhh, my sisters have called me things like Sissypoo and Pollymolly- (especially when they wanted to annoy me)
O - Overnight hospital stay: none
P - Pet Peeve: whining- I have zero tolerance for whining.
Q - Quote from a movie: "It's but a flesh wound.", "Run away, run away!", "I'm not dead yet!" (what else is there to quote from???)
R - Right or left handed: right
S - Siblings: Jamie, Marianne, Grace, Stephen, Alan, Robert
T - Time you wake up: 7:30
U- Underwear: Yes
V - Vegetable you dislike: eggplant
W - Ways you run late: kids can't find shoes, forgot the cell phone, to name a few
X - X-rays you've had: teeth, chest, knee, head
Y - Yummy food you make: apple pie
Z - Zoo favorite: I really hate seeing animals in cages, but trained sea lions are really cool

Now it's your turn!
I'm tagging the other contributors on this blog!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vitamin C, si - Flu Vaccine, no

Another illuminating article by Sardi. Taking adequate vitamin C is now a matter of life and death, not just for easing colds and allergies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009


One of my favorite online shops is having a giveaway! A 7 piece nursing wardrobe. Check it out! All you have to do is leave a comment on their post about their site.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I told Virginia that when she learned to count to 100 using the number chart, we would have ice cream sundaes and she could pick the toppings. And yesterday she did it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kevin is 1!!!

It's hard to believe that one short year ago Kevin made his entrance into this world. I can remember a lot of it like it was yesterday. Happy Birthday to my sweet little man!!!

We all have colds right now so it was a bit of a challenge to sing the "Happy Birthday" song, but Kaitlin led us valiantly.

A simple slice of cheesecake can bring so much joy! Here's to a great year and some new experiences with solid food!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Princess Birthday Tea

Virginia Rose turned six yesterday. She and Miriam and their two friends, Clara and Lindy, decorated these cupcakes for their tea party.

Make a wish!

Here are the (dainty?) princesses sipping their tea.
Virginia was the perfect hostess. She lay the tea table with a lacy cloth and Mama's china, and some party favors, and even poured the tea for her guests.

Here is one happy princess. Papa picked out the best present!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Little Chef

I asked Virginia what she wanted to learn for school this year, and she said she wanted to learn to read, to cook, do laundry and learn about bugs. Miriam also said she wanted to learn more about ABC's, to cook, and also drive the car! So yesterday we took a family trip (Miriam didn't drive, btw) to the library and found lots of good books. I found a children's cookbook called "Kids in the Kitchen" which featured easy recipes, most of which were very healthy too. Virginia looked at the book and decided she wanted to make oatmeal pancakes for dinner. She did almost everything herself, even poured the batter and flipped the pancakes. They were delicious. We enjoyed them with some colcannon (an Irish potato and cabbage dish) and apple butter we made earlier that morning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Toast Please

On Saturday we all worked together to create this mouthwatering wild muscadine jam. Luke, using a ladder and handmade picker, harvested the grapes from the shrubs at the edge of our meadow. He managed to get a whole gallon. The girls then helped me pull them off the stems. Virginia also helped to stir the pot of strained juice and pulp and sugar, which cooked into jam. Reuben (and everyone else but Seth) taste tested. We had broccoli cheddar omelets and jam with biscuits for dinner! Mmmmm.
If you would like to read more about how to make this scrumptious spread read my latest hub here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Okay, so some people have been after us to post here, so I suppose I'll do so. We've given up toothpaste.

Okay, now the initial gasp is over, I'll explain. We've moved from using toothpaste to using tooth powder. I got the idea from my research into early 20th Century life, but found some
natural recipes. It doesn't have that nasty toothpaste taste and my teeth and mouth feel cleaner than they ever did right after brushing.

After messing about with ratios, I finally hit on 4:1 mixture of baking soda and sea salt with several drops of peppermint oil. I mix the baking soda and salt then drip in the oil. Then I stir it up again and mush up the clumps caused by the oil to get an even distribution. I put it in a container that used to hold breath mints and a mixture with 6 tablespoons of baking soda fills it up and it lasts for several weeks.

To use it, I wet my toothbrush, then give it a good shake. This leaves me with damp bristles which I touch to the tooth powder. You only need a small amount and if you leave the tooth brush in too long, the water seeps into the tooth powder and you're left with clumpy tooth powder.