Friday, August 29, 2014

Don't Wait Until It's Too Late!

I am juggling hats this morning: my parent hat and my teacher hat.

With most of  our kids starting that first day of school at the beginning or the middle of this month, enough time has passed for them to get settled and into a routine.  THIS IS THE TIME to contact your children's teacher, and ask them how your kids are adjusting to this year's subjects and routines.

Many was the time that parents (and I am talking about high school here, but I am sure it applies on down the line) thought all was well at school until the 4 1/2 week progress reports came out!  YIKES!  I think it is so important to check in often at the beginning of a new year or new class, or new teacher, so you can head off any potential problems.

Some of us are able to see our kids' grades on-line through programs like Harmony, and that is great, but it's still important to make contact with these teachers if you have a concern or are even curious.  Teachers welcome help from home, and a lot of arguments/differences of opinion and conflict can be avoided if there is actual face to face conversations between parents and teachers.

This year, I think we are about at the end of our math experience with Tink as she heads into 6th grade math. These kids are learning different ways to do the math we did in school, and I'm pretty sure they are learning the fundamentals of algebra and geometry at a much younger age.  By talking with the teachers, you may be directed to educational sites set up to help emphasize new ideas, problems, formulas, theorems, and 1 x 2 x 3b =  4 X  ACK!

As much as I love social media, it is NOT the place to air grievances with school officials.  There is very little constructive that can be done when a parent or a teacher is verbally and publically criticized.  Those conversations should be private.

I hope every child out there has a great school year.  I also hope that there is a good working relationship between parents and educators.  Students succeed when everyone is talking and open to new ideas.

Here's to an awesome 2014-2015 school year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Help! I Have Naked Landscaping!

I know you are out with your Burpee seed catalogues and torn out Better Homes and Gardens pages.  I've seen your garden gloves, little trowels and rakes and knee pads.  Some of you even have the floppy hat thing going for you.....

Well, that's not quite how I roll, so I am calling on you all to help me figure out what to put in these as-yet-unplanted new spots.

I have new spots because we added on earlier this year.  After getting settled on the inside, we are now trying to plan out how we want to "decorate" the extra space on the north, east and south sides of the house.

We have a start on the west side:

I have a miniature lilac bush that flowers twice a year, my "Truffala tree, a ...uhmmmm....a bush with dark green/burgundy leaves and pink flowers.....Dang what the heck is that plant's name??? Oh, and two huge anchor rocks.

This is the side that faces the road and has a porch.

This side has a little stone path off the porch, and cute little bushes that will have red berries on it through most of the winter.  It also has spring bulbs that include tulips, daffodils, and some crocus.

Between the porch and the road, I also have this garden space:

Here you will find daisies, columbine, corabells, Sweet William, a lilac bush that was a wedding gift, iris, a hydrangea transplant that didn't flower all year :-(, and one lone hollyhock.

These spaces are uncharted landscape islands in need of ideas.  The extra north side:

The east side (behind Sadie) that I don't seem to have a picture of, (and I think I am going to plant hollyhocks all along that side just to give Tall Guy something to grumble about.  He has an unreasonable dislike of these wonderful tall plants!)

the south side, a huge triangle of fun.  ( The propane tank will be moved or painted to look like a cow...I'm kind of serious about that!) This wall at the far left is our sun room, so I would like something colorful, simple, bird and butterfly friendly.

So those of you who love to garden, it is time to give me some ideas as to what I should put in these spaces. We have our eyes on a couple more anchor rocks.  I know I am a huge fan of the flowers that come up every year with some but not much maintenance.  My favorites are iris, lavender, sage, daisies, and Sweet William.  I guess these are kind of heirloom plants? Oldies but goodies anyways.  I also want to transplant the one peony bush I have and add to it.  It is right off the picture by the "l" in farmgirl.

This is the one flower patch on the south side of the house:

Yea, I need to get out there and weed!  You can see the cosmos, Sweet William, and baby's breath.  There are also columbine, iris, sage, and coralbells somewhere in all those weeds. 

Ok, my last reminders are 1.)  The wind blows up here A LOT!  2.)  The only two shady spots already have flowers growing under them. 3.)  I have to say again, I am a low maintenance, big color, long flowering kind of girl.  When I was a little girl, my mom grew petunias.  She loved those darned things, but it seems like I was always having to dead-head them.  Sticky icky things!

That's about it.  You now can start sending me all your great ideas for the empty spaces along my house!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Wisconsin Dells!

A lot of what we did in the Dells was not very camera friendly.  There are a slew of water parks and rides and such to experience, and it was safer to leave the camera in the van rather than risk it being dropped, broken, soaked, or lost/pilfered.  All that being said, we(Bear and I) did manage to capture a bit of nature's beauty.
( I want to warn you; there are a lot of pictures to look at, and I played with many of them in my Lightroom program.  That's why you will see a variety of lighting, shades, and colors.  Enjoy!)

First stop: Deer Park.  Yes, we have tons of them in Indiana, but these cutie-pies were so tame.  The girls loved this place.

We took a horseback ride just above this "Lost Canyon" Dell, then went down to take the horse and wagon tour. It is so much cooler in these places!

Can you see the eagle in the rock formation below?

These next few pics were taken as we rode in a DUCK, one of those land/water transport deals.  Just for the record, we went with the Original Duck rides as opposed to the Army Duck rides.

Now it's Bear's turn with the camera to capture some of the flora and fauna around our cabin.....

And at the Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, WI

LOVED the close-up bee pic.  All I did was zoom in on it!  This one might make next year's photo board for her 4-H photography project.

Hope your Wednesday is a great one!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Answer Is: Gluten!

Oh let's see.....Where should I begin?

For the last year, Little Bear has had an ongoing battle with waking up.  More often than not, she would go to bed fine but wake up feeling terrible pains in her tummy.

I have to tell you, as a high school English teacher, I've heard about every excuse in the book as to why a student might be feeling ill, but I really disliked the dreaded "tummy" issues.  You can document a fever, there are usually very obvious signs of the flue, but tummy aches are a mystery to me, and one that I tend to be most sceptical about.

To get to the root of Bear's problems, we took her off of acidic foods, milk, bread, greasy foods, and any other food one might believe causes an allergic reaction (Not all at one time mind you).  There have also been several x rays to look for blockages, and one scope down her throat into her tummy to look for adhesions, ulcers, and anything else amiss.  We have visited her pediatrician, doctors at Riley, and doctors at Peyton Manning.  We have heard everything from "nervous stomach," to dyspepsia, regurg, and a few other ideas.  We even had her talk with a counselor to see if stress was the culprit.  NOTHING!

In the midst of all these tests, I asked for her to be checked for Celiac Disease, and that test came back negative.

Meanwhile mornings at our house were getting very stressful, as you might imagine.  Several of the doctors told us that if she didn't have a fever and she did not exhibit one or more of the basic flu signs, we should make her go to school.  I get this, and I have done this, but we were to the point that she would get extremely upset which, of course, did nothing to make her feel better.  Last year she missed over 25 days of school!  ACK!

The last doctor we saw practices at Peyton Manning, and she thought she had it nailed ; Bear was dyspeptic, and she gave us a medicine to try.  It didn't work, and school was approaching fast.  Right during our county fair, the office called to check on Bear, and I told them the medicine was not helping at all.  After consulting with the doctor, we got a call back asking us to take gluten away from Bear's diet.  Ok, We were in the middle of our fair, and we did the best we could.  She was eating meat without the bun, but then I would see her running around with her friends eating an ice cream cone!  ARG!

After the fair finished, we finally started to take all gluten from her diet, and IT WORKED!  We have had a few set backs, Who knew Quick had gluten in it?, but we are avid label readers now, "May have wheat" means don't eat!, and have started to restock our shelves with GF baking mixes, flours, pastas, and snacks.

I have started to share her situation with the outside world, and I cannot begin to tell you how touched I was when a mother of one of her classmates texted me to see what Bear could eat because she was bringing in a birthday treat the first Friday of school.  Bear said when she found out that her friend's mom had gone to the trouble of making gluten-free cupcakes, she gave her a big hug because she was so happy that she could eat with the rest of her class.  sniff sniff....

As you can imagine, I am now on a huge search for GF recipes and replacement foods.  I also have three Gooseberry Patch Cookbooks sitting here waiting for me to cook and share ..Hmmm.... I think I am going to try and start substituting rice and other flours for all purpose wheat flour to see how they hold up in taste and quality.  I also know that Bisquick Pancake and Baking Mix, Gluten-Free, 16-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 3) makes a GF version, and the pancakes are a huge hit here.

Also on the shelf is a package compliments of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix, 16 Oz.  You can make a pizza crust out of this AND/OR cinnamon rolls!  Thanks Bob!

Dear readers, I know some of you out there are also gluten-free eaters.  I've passed a lot of recipes along to my friends who are gluten intolerant, but if you have any recipes or sites that are your "go to" for ideas, I would love to check them out.  I think this whole family will gradually go GF or as close as we can, just to make life a bit easier for Bear.

Thanks a bunch!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I Can and Cannot Live Without......

What a great week we had last week!  We went up to the Wisconsin Dells for some much deserved rest and relaxation, but it could have gone much differently.  It all comes back to the lovely concept of ......


1.  I can live with a cottage smaller than what we were expecting.
2.  I can live with being "unplugged" for a week (Well I did have my cell, but the computer stayed off, and the iPad, after the power cord tore, stayed off too!)
3.  I cannot live without a vacation that takes us away from the farm for a week.  Ok, I could, but this was the best vacay in a while.  We came back rested, and we didn't have to drive all day to get there.
4.  I can live without seeing the ocean for a year......but I missed it.
5.  I cannot live without playing cards!  We had some great Skip-Bo, Phase 10, and Golf games of an evening.
6.  I can live with going out in public wearing a bathing suit because I cannot miss going on all the water park slides with Bear.
7.  I can live without documenting every moment with a picture.  Sometimes, we just need to take a picture with our eyes and minds.  I was really glad I left my big camera in the van when we went horseback riding!
8.  I cannot live without hearing the laughter of my family.
9.  I can live with staying close to the crazy, not in the middle of it. (Have you been to The Dells lately?)
10. I cannot live without seeing our family make good, long cherished memories.

We start up with school on Wednesday, and it will be Tink's last year at our wonderful little school.  Bear is headed to 4th grade; our girls are growing up!  It's now time to start balancing practice schedules with meetings and games.  I'm sure I will blink, and it will be time to head back into the combine for harvest.  

Have a great week!  I'm going to go through what pictures I did take, and the ones Bear took, and we will share them soon.