Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Pictures -- posted by John

Here is the prettiest tree in Columbia that I told you about:



Mom usually makes an elegant bow for the top of our tree but some of us wanted a star like the trees we see on TV so Ma bought us one that lights up.

We took a lot of pictures with us kids around the tree but since Webb had fallen asleep and we had to wake him up, Will had to hold his head up because he kept dozing off. Sometimes Webb doesn't hold up his head for the camera but Will usually remembers to lift it for him. This was the best picture of the bunch. Can you believe that?



We went to my grandmother's house for Christmas Eve and guess what she got me. She got me something that is perfect for me and I love it! A black and white ZOOT SUIT!









It goes perfect with my pocket watch. I just need a longer chain.

Webb got a fish aquarium.



Richard and George hiding their eyes while their electric scooters are brought in:



James got a .22!




We didn't take pictures of what we got at home but maybe I can get Will to take some and I'll write about that later.

It is New Year's Eve and I'm having the most delicious sparkling grape juice. It is much better than my parent's champagne.

I'll finish about Christmas soon and in the meantime I wish you all a very, very, Happy New Year!

P.S. If you missed the UPDATE on my last entry about our surprise in the mail, just scroll down. It's at the bottom of my last post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas, Every One! -- posted by John

We have a tradition of going to the same place every year to get our Christmas tree. It is a fruit and vegetable market in the spring and summertime, pumpkins in the fall, and a tree lot around Christmastime.

Our favorite part of the tradition is that once we pick our tree, we boys get up on the roof of our 15 passenger van, straighten the tarp, and tie down the tree. The feeling on the roof is like you are tall and doing a mature thing. We all looked forward to the day when we were allowed to go up there and this was Richard's first year.

As soon as Thanksgiving rolled around and we began thinking about Christmas, Richard started asking Mom and Dad if he could get on the roof this year. They didn't answer right away because he is only six years old. Richard even reminded Mom that if he didn't get to, then what if Jesus came back suddenly before next Christmas and he missed it forever. She didn't point out that if that happened he would get to fly to meet him in the clouds, she knew that wouldn't help anyway.

A week or so later Mom called us all together to make a suggestion since we are being very careful with money these days. She asked us how we would feel about cutting down a cedar tree on our property this year, instead of buying the traditional Fraser Fir. She said it could go down in our history as the year we had our most warm, wonderful, and loving Christmas with few presents and a crummy old cedar tree. She said it would be fun. When she said this Richard jumped up and darted for his room. She had forgotten about his dream of getting on the roof! She followed him and comforted him and offered to let him just get up on the van anyway. He agreed, but you could tell it wouldn't be the same.

Most of us were okay with Mom's idea since these things usually work out. Spencer suggested we use an artificial tree we have in the attic. He didn't think a cedar tree would "honor Bethhallel Academy" (our homeschool) and would "represent failure and a lack of willingness to work together as a team." He was half joking. He was joking about the reason, but he wasn't joking that he didn't really want a cedar tree. We also wanted to go to the tree lot and give the men the Christmas tip money we give them every year. That is a tradition we really didn't want to part with since they are such a big part of our happy times choosing a tree and tying it down.

Meanwhile, we had waited very late to get a Christmas tree and when Dad went by the lot one of the men that helps us every year thought maybe we had moved and said they were wondering where we were. They were down to just 24 trees left and said we should hurry if we want one. Dad called on his Blackberry for us to get our shoes on because he was coming to get us.

When we got there the guy had tagged a tree to save one for us. Mom explained that we were thinking of going smaller this year to save money. He said that was fine and he wondered what happened to us and said they all missed us. He said they love it when we come by because they enjoy the way our family loves each other.

After we had looked at the tree he tagged, he told us to come around back behind the building because he wanted to show us something. When we got there he held up the most perfect Christmas tree we've ever seen. We've never had such a beautiful tree. He said a man who had first pick had them hold it for him, but he never came for it. He wanted us to buy it. They all wanted us to buy it! Mom said she loved it, but we were trying to do less this year. He said they were knocking $20 off. He then convinced her that the man wasn't coming back because it had been a month, and besides, he hadn't paid for it and they had to sell it to somebody. She and Dad looked at each other and Dad was wanting it. We all agreed.

All that was left was to slice off the bottom of the tree and tie it down. Richard was the happiest kid in the world standing up on the roof! He put his fists on his hips like Superman and took in the view with pride. Oh, and when Dad went to pay for the tree they took off another $6 and gave us a gigantic fresh wreath with a big golden bow! We also left Christmas money for a firefighter that usually helps us but we missed him this year. We were all just blessing each other. We pulled away with great emotion filling us up.

(left to right: Richard, George, me. James still gets up there but he wasn't in the picture. Will and Spencer have outgrown it.)

I saw A Christmas Carol but not the very beginning. It was the one with Patrick Stewart. The Ghost of Christmas Past looked very unmanly and pale. I could easily beat him up.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and I could have guessed with the style clothes and the gloomy, cold, wintry, dark, and dirty England. And don't forget the goodly hearted poor boy that makes you want to be his friend and relieve his poverty.

When Mom and Sarah Grace went shopping last week they got very hungry and even though we decided not to eat out, they pulled in McDonald's drive through because they accidentally skipped breakfast and they needed to eat something. When they pulled up to the window the girl said there was no charge because the man in front of them paid for their meal. Mom asked why and she said it was just a random act of kindness. I'm glad we live in the South.

During Bible time this morning I pulled back an imaginary arrow in an imaginary bow to shoot James because he was making fun of me. Usually he falls over like he's hit. Today when I pulled back the arrow I accidentally bopped myself in my own eye. Hard. Every time Mom remembers it she starts laughing. She was sitting next to me.

UPDATE: Today after I wrote this post we got a Christmas card in the mailbox and it said this: People like you make the season a little nicer... Thanks for being so special! Dear Allen Family- We thank you for making your "family tradition" so wonderful for us! Have a Merry Christmas & a Healthy and Happy New Year! They signed their names and sent us back the check for the most beautiful tree in Columbia! It had Merry Christmas written in red with VOID written across it. The firefighter sent back our cash gift, too!

God bless us, every one.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What a Night for a Daydream -- posted by John

Mom and Sarah Grace picked up a nice package of spekulatius from Aldi. It was so tasty that they bought three more bags on their last trip because we loved them so much and since they are seasonal, they could run out.

Spekulatius reminds me of my father's grandfather, Opa. He was a German baker man from Alsace-Lorraine and he and Oma had a bake shop in New York City! I never met them but I wish I had. He had wooden spekulatius molds and he made the cookies for his family.

Lately I've been reading the Bible a lot and I've been understanding everything I read. I told Mom and she read I Corinthians chapter one where Paul writes that he knows very well how foolish the message of the cross is to those who are on the road to destruction. (I call it Broadway.) God says he will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas. Paul was a very educated man like an intellectual, but he didn't count that for anything. He said the cross of Christ is the very power of God. So, where does that leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and he has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. I know he is showing me his deep secrets and I'm just a kid!

We're visiting another church on Sunday. I hope they are real Christians and not just the churchy type people. This church uses grape juice for communion instead of wine, but they should know that I can hold my liquor! They think it is wrong to drink wine. They are misunderstanding that part. Jesus drank wine and his first miracle was turning water to wine, not wine to water! He said to not get drunk. He didn't say not to drink. I think they are trying to please the Lord by not drinking wine and I'm glad for that.

After all the trouble with Webb having that bad seizure and all, my mom told us a story that I want to tell you. When I told her I wanted to put it in my journal, she warned me that the world won't love it like I loved it but I want to write it anyway.

After my mom went through a day with a lot of hard trials and deep cares, she couldn't get to sleep that night. She came out to the den and just laid on her stomach on the sofa with her arms above her head. As she was lying there, she pictured herself with her arms wrapped around Jesus' ankles with her head on the top of his feet. While she was holding on to him and crying her heart, she kept wondering what was over her shoulder, not feeling completely safe. So, after awhile she stood up and backed up against him (he was tall like a giant). It was like you could back up against curtains, and she pulled his robe around her from the right and the left to try to hide herself, but her feet were sticking out and she made a bulge in his robe. Then she remembered how Jesus showed Thomas the slit in his side from the soldiers spear and offered Thomas to stick his fist in to prove he was him. So, Mom found his slit and climbed inside it! It wasn't bloody because all his blood was poured out for us so she said it flapped back in place like a doggy door and she curled up in his side like a squirrel in a nest in a tree and she fell fast asleep. She said she slept her warmest and best sleep ever inside Christ, and it was just the comfort she needed for her broken heart and grief. I loved this story.

A few nights later I had a dream that we were on the road in the field next to our house and it started raining, so I asked Jesus if I could get under his cape. He was sitting down writing a letter. It was in cursive so I couldn't read what it said. (I have trouble reading some cursive writing still.) I crawled under his cape. (He had on a cape like in a movie I saw where he was clearing the temple and he swung his cape.) I didn't fall asleep- I just stayed out of the rain. The next thing I knew our bathroom appeared in the field and the black guy from The Three Musketeers was reading Jesus' note in the bathroom.

My dream was just nuts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Beautiful Brother Webb -- posted by John

Last Saturday my brother Webb had a seizure while he was sitting in the big leather chair during the Gator game. It was the first time I ever saw him have a seizure. He's had four that we know of.

My brother Webb cannot walk or talk and yet he is eleven years old. Webb is what they call developmentally delayed or mentally retarded or mentally handicapped. They have a lot of names for not being able to walk or talk at that age. The Bible calls it crippled or lame or mute or dumb or afflicted. It doesn't matter what name you give it because we lift the name of Jesus above every name. You should have heard us on Saturday!

After he had the seizure he looked like he was dead and we Young Guns were crying our heads off. I cried more than I've ever cried. I cried so hard that the salt from my tears built up on my chin and I couldn't open my mouth because it was like my skin was cemented.

I didn't just cry though. I prayed in the Spirit, and I begged the Lord to help him and I rebuked the devil that was attacking my brother. I tell you now that I am devoted to trusting the Lord with Webb because he is valuable. Our life stops for Webb. We pray and fast and minister to him by laying hands on him and loving him hard. We know there is no web the Lord can't untangle.

It's weird to think of Webb being older than I am. But even though he isn't smart, he has a personality that you can find and treasure him for who he is.

Webb doesn't mind the Lord yet, but I know he is getting closer and closer to becoming a holy boy and getting baptized and getting healed. When he starts talking, I will go with him to tell everyone what God has done and we will be like two peas in a pod and two lumps on a camel that always sway the same way.

One of my problems in life is that I can't ever describe the strong feelings I have well enough for you to know them like they are. My love for Webb is strong and deep and it is a part of who I am. I wouldn't be me without it!

After the crisis was over, we worshiped the Lord and sang songs to the Lord and especially the song Give Thanks like never before because we know Jesus is dealing with our Webb.

I know this is going to be my best Thanksgiving ever!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fervent Brotherly Love -- posted by John

In case you missed the addition to my last entry about my exciting birthday, I'm adding it here before the start of this week's entry:

From 11/02/08

"NEWSFLASH: My birthday was yesterday when I wrote this post and I thought it couldn't get any better but today I got a package from Mrs. Sarah in England! You're not going to believe this but she sent me a package of birthday presents! I didn't even know she knew it was my birthday! She sent me a happy rainbow mini kite in a tiny nylon pack that folds up easily. It doesn't have rods and all and it is like a wind sock sort of. It is perfect for our kite flying outing! She also sent beautiful glossy magazines from her hometown and we have already been looking through them. She sent fine organic chocolate bars and I felt like Charlie Bucket breaking off pieces for my family. It is so smooth and creamy! Next was a package of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream! Isn't that interesting! Where on earth did she get that? She also put birthday balloons and candles that say Happy Birthday and stickers, too! Do you want to know another perfect gift for me? Mrs. Sarah got me an Indian cookbook, too! Do you remember when we made the Jalfrezi recipe she gave us? It was so delicious! I feel so full of emotion that I can't describe it. Thank you so much my dear friends."

Fervent Brotherly Love by Johnny Caker 11/14/08

Last Friday evening my mother and father came in the house quickly with a large black trash bag trash bag and a birthday gift bag. I opened the gift bag first and it had all sorts of camping equipment! It had amazing items that would come in handy like a lantern and a camp shovel and water purifying tablets and an old timey fire starter and all sorts of cool things!

Then I opened the black bag and it had a huge set of camping cookware! It looks like the stars in the sky because it is blue enamel with white speckles! The reason my parents were in such a hurry was because Dad was taking us camping again for my birthday and to try out the new stuff!

Some days have a lot of exclamation points that you can't help even when you try not to overdo them. And last Friday was one of those days!

Mom quickly washed the cookware and Sarah Grace had already started the chili and put it in my new kettle with the lid. We also had popcorn to pop over the campfire in the black popcorn popper that hangs by a nail on our brick fireplace year round. Again we ate roasted marshmallows.

We sang some praise songs before we turned in and I was much better than last time. It was much warmer as it only went down to the mid-fifties. It rained a little during the night but I slept through it. My feet and ankles stayed warm this time.

When we woke up we chopped firewood since the woodpile at the house was getting low. We chopped wood until they called us in for breakfast. We had bacon, eggs, stone ground yellow grits (Great flavor! I hate white grits.), and Sarah's famous whole wheat biscuits.

After Bible time on Sunday we were all talking about fervent love. Mom reminded us boys that we should never become aloof or cool in our relationships with each other and that we should be always happy to give each other big bear hugs when we greet each other. We can squeeze tight and even jiggle each other like we do, but not to let it get painful with hard noogies or collapsing violently, on the floor or chair, into wrestling. We can gently lift Mom and Sarah off their feet a little with exuberant affection but not get rough or have disrespectful manners. It was a great time of stirring up affection in us.

After that, I had fervent love on my mind and I was talking to Webb before he fell asleep because he looked lonely. As I was lying there with my eyes closed, I overheard George and Richard talking about the Lord. Richard would tell George a Bible story he knew and then George would tell Richard what he knew. They took turns telling each other about the goodness of Jesus. I laid there amazed at all they knew, and I felt a nice warmth inside from hearing them.

By the way, gas is down to $1.53 for a gallon here.

Sarah Grace and James started their dance classes and Sarah Grace is going to teach me what they learn. They are learning the East Coast Swing which is similar to the Jitterbug but not as wild.

Our state dance is called The Shag and everybody here knows it. When we have festivals and street dances, grandmothers dance with grandsons, and sisters dance with brothers and dads, and moms dance with sons, and uncles dance with nieces- the whole family gets in on it! I can't wait to learn it all. The Shag is danced to Beach Music which is a kind of music here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Birthday Weekend -- posted by John

Today I turned ten years old. That's good and bad. It's good because I am growing into a godly man and you can never have too many of those. It's bad because I will have more responsibilities and my days as a carefree youngster are coming to a close.

On Friday one of my friends from Diaryland, Miss Maggie Mae, sent me a present. She sent me the best present imaginable because she sent me something really fun and wholesome. It is hard for us to find good presents nowadays because toys in the toy stores give us a bad feeling because a lot of toys are dark. But Miss Maggie Mae bought me a beautiful lime green, and pine green (with a little bit of yellow), stunt kite with a book on kite flying! We know kites, and this is a very nice one and it is HUGE! It is taller than me. My older brother has a nice kite but I'm not allowed to fly it. Now I have my own. Mom suggested we find a nice warm day to drive to the beach to take a picnic and try it out. If we can't make it to the beach before Spring, we will surely have some warm breezy days to take it to a field around here.

Miss Maggie and I met on Diaryland and we ended up caring about each other and I'm so happy she is my friend and I was happy about it before she gave me a kite so don't make any mistake about that! Keep reading and you will see even more evidence of what a fortunate man I am.

Saturday, in the morning, we packed the trailer to take a load of garbage to the dump. That was very interesting because Dad explained to us how the tubes take the gas out of the dump so it doesn't explode.

In the afternoon James, George, Richard and I had a great blessing. Dad took us to the far end of our property near a ravine to camp out! We set up our tents and made a campfire. Then we sent out scouting parties for firewood while Dad got it going. Dad put a hole under the fire to get it lit and keep it going.

We then cut twigs from trees and split them to make forks for roasting our hot dogs over the fire. We roasted them for about ten minutes and unfortunately Richard dropped his in the dirt. He cried a little from disappointment and because he was hungry but Dad put another hot dog on his fork for Richard and he was soon over it. George and Richard and I ate ours in buns but James ate his right off the fork without ketchup or anything like Fagan in Oliver Twist.

After we finished our hot dogs we roasted marshmallows over the fire and ate them off the sticks. Ma said she used to set them on fire, blow them out, peel the black off and then put them back in the fire and roast them again. I burn them and eat the black. It is the burnt flavor of joy.

After the marshmallows we sat around the campfire and sang camp songs like Flea Fly. James said we are all clearly white boys because we couldn't get the beat or the clapping right. Dad said we reminded him of a scene from The Jerk. Row, Row, Row Your Boat was a disaster. We never did get it right.

We also sang praise and worship songs which we handled better, and we played Simon Says. It was so dark we could see millions of stars in the heavens. It was a night of happy childhood!

Finally, we put out the fire to get a little shut-eye. Richard woke up nearly every hour to go to the bathroom. One time he thought he saw a little Indian boy with a pet eagle. He got scared because he figured the boy's father must be near and surely he was a big Indian that might destroy our camp. I don't know what movies he's been watching.... maybe Davy Crocket. He also got scared of bears. One was spotted in Lexington not long ago. If it made it to Lexington, it probably came through here first.

It didn't take long for it to get very cold. Unfortunately I forgot to get my warm socks like Mom said and I was wearing footies throughout the night. I can't describe how cold my ankles and feet got. My ankles were frozen. My feet were frozen. But my body was warm because Georgi and I cuddled up to keep warm. Still, my teeth were chattering on and off throughout the night. It got down to 40 degrees.

One time George woke up crying because he couldn't find the door or zipper to the tent. It was like he was having an awake dream. He thought he was trapped in a nylon cage. Dad tried to comfort him from his tent. George finally cried himself back to sleep.

We didn't take pillows with us because we wanted to rough it. Mom thought that was hilarious when she found out Dad checked out the college football scores for us on his Blackberry.

When we woke up this morning I'd had so much fun that I forgot it was my birthday until George said, "Happy Birthday!" We made another fire to warm up but shortly Mom called us in to a pancake breakfast with bacon. She also had built a big fire and Sarah Grace had made us hot chocolate as we came in the door. She warned us it was hot, but thinking she was just being a girl, we all drank it anyway and we all burnt our mouths. I burnt part of my tongue off.

After breakfast we took our showers and headed out for lunch at The Pancake House and Bible study at Ma's house.

I ordered Chicken Mornay and it was delicious! At the end of the meal, Mark, the owner, and his employees came out with a cake and sang Happy Birthday to me along with the whole restaurant! I've never had a whole restaurant of people (and there were a lot of them) sing to me before. I was stunned and amazed and kind of embarrassed. It was so exciting!

Ma had presents for me, too. The first one was that Ziploc gadget that sucks the air out of the bag so you can freeze leftovers. She acted like that was my only present for a while and then she presented me with another gift bag. I reached in and felt it was kind of heavy and you will never guess what it was! She bought me a silver and golden pocket watch so I don't have to wait for her to die to get one. On the front there is a train engraved on it. The good thing about this is my favorite vehicles are trains and I've always dreamed of having a pocket watch! All night I kept pulling it out of my pocket to see the time.

After lunch we had Bible study and then Ma took us to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. When we took Ma back home, we went in for Sarah and James to perform. Sarah played the guitar and they both sang. They did a great job with songs from Evita.

My birthday was better than any birthday I've ever had and I haven't even gotten my present from my family yet! What a wonderful and unforgettable day.

NEWSFLASH: My birthday was yesterday when I wrote this post and I thought it couldn't get any better but today I got a package from Mrs. Sarah in England! You're not going to believe this but she sent me a package of birthday presents! I didn't even know she knew it was my birthday! She sent me a happy rainbow mini kite in a tiny nylon pack that folds up easily. It doesn't have rods and all and it is like a wind sock sort of. It is perfect for our kite flying outing! She also sent beautiful glossy magazines from her hometown and we have already been looking through them. She sent fine organic chocolate bars and I felt like Charlie Bucket breaking off pieces for my family. It is so smooth and creamy! Next was a package of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream! Isn't that interesting! Where on earth did she get that? She also put birthday balloons and candles that say Happy Birthday and stickers, too! Do you want to know another perfect gift for me? Mrs. Sarah got me an Indian cookbook, too! Do you remember when we made the Jalfrezi recipe she gave us? It was so delicious! I feel so full of emotion that I can't describe it. Thank you so much my dear friends.

(I'll add this portion at the top of my next post for those who already read this entry and missed this part.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Trip to Florida -- posted by John

Here we are at the stadium:


Here are the alligators and turtles we saw at Lake Alice:







Here is the map I got at Corky Bell's so you can see where we went:


On Tuesday I went on one of my dad's business trips to Florida with my dad and Sarah Grace and James.

Our first stop was in Charleston, SC to eat lunch with a client of Dad's at Sunfire Grill. I ordered shrimp and fries because the shrimp and grits were too spicy for me. Shrimp and grits are a specialty here. I had a taste of Sarah's and then I had four large glasses of ice tea before we left. They teased me once we got on the road because I had to keep asking Dad to stop every five minutes, or so it seemed.

Our next stop was at Cracker Barrel in Georgia for supper. Guess what the pretty waitress kept filling my glass with? I couldn't tell her no because I fell in love with her.

I slept through most of Georgia and we got to the Courtyard Marriott at 11PM. We unpacked, brushed our teeth and went right to bed. But first the hotel gave me two toothbrushes and a tiny tube of toothpaste because I left mine at home. I left the can of wrinkle remover, too. And a pair of pants Mom bought me for the trip in the dryer. Every time it was discovered that I left something they would all look down on me and say, "JOOOHHHNNN!" I am a forgetting buffoon.

The next day Dad went about his business and did not tell us he was taking us to.... GAINESVILLE! Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida and our beloved Florida Gators football team. Dad lived in married student housing when he was a little boy while his father was getting his MBA and Ph.D. It was a happy time for my father so we are all Gator fans, too.

While we were there we saw Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin and Urban Meyer practicing. Tim Tebow was a homeschooler like we are and he won the Heisman last year. We are very proud of him.

We ate supper at The Swamp which is a restaurant across the street from the stadium.

We also saw soldiers marching around the stadium with bayonets.

When we were in Jacksonville we saw the Jaguar stadium.

The day we left we ate at a restaurant that serves alligator and it was great. It was a little chewier than the alligator Sarah Grace made but it was still good. They served large portions and we kept eating and eating but the pile would not go down! Next time I will try frog legs.

I noticed on the trip that the bacon was chewy, not crispy like Mom's. I like crispy better.

I got a muffin and fried potatoes and peppers and strawberries at the breakfast buffet. It was really good.

I almost forgot to tell you about Puppy. The Friday before this past Friday, Puppy almost died. Puppy is an affectionate sheep that always comes to us for lovin'. She is like a puppy and we love her so.

When Spence went out to feed Uncle Bob, he found Puppy lying on the ground bloated with her legs kicking. He and Will gave her vegetable oil and massaged her stomachs but Will thought she was a goner. He didn't think she would live 30 minutes. They called Mom and Sarah Grace and James in Lexington and they came home, stood her up, and massaged her and prayed to God to save her. Mom was crying so hard because she loves that girl to bits. And the Lord did save her and we are so thankful.

If a sheep goes down and bloats, it will die if you don't catch it fast, and even then it might still die. She is now in a trailer in the carport while her nerves in her shoulder heal. Dad gave her anti-inflammatory shots in her muscles. She's going to stay up near us while she heals for another week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Riesling Blue -- posted by John

Riesling blue (that's what I call it) is my favorite color. It is the color of the smooth, slender Riesling wine bottle that Mom sometimes buys at Sam's. I wish I could get colored pencils that could color in that color and I wish I could buy clothing in that color but I've only seen it come in glass. It might be that the glass is what makes the color so beautiful. So, I think we should all wear glass shirts and color with glass pencils. As Monk would say, "Lol out loud."

We took sheep to auction on Saturday. As we were taking the sheep to the trailer, Uncle Bob was spitting on us like crazy. He does that if he gets really troubled and thinks we are harming the sheep. One time we were shearing the sheep and he thought we were hurting one because she was squirming around and he came up to me, collected his spit in his mouth, and then blew it in my face. I said, "Bobby, what did you want to do that for?" And then he blew his nose on me! It's like a shotgun spray that spreads out like a shower. So, we got showered with each sheep we loaded up in the trailer on Saturday.

We went to my Ma's house yesterday for supper and Bible study and guess what I saw? In a beautiful glass dome my Ma has a treasured gold pocket watch that belonged to one of our ancestors. It hangs from a hook in the top of the dome. I have always loved looking at that watch. Last night when I went over to look at that watch, I noticed that on the stand that holds up the dome my Ma put the beautiful emerald ring I made her. I told you she loved it! She is keeping it in the place of honor with the golden watch. When I saw it there under the glass dome, my heart burst with pride!

A funny thing happened at supper. My sister makes very delicious healthy food and she makes our salad dressing from scratch. Our favorite is her honey mustard dressing made with yogurt. Mom even told Ma to give it a taste because it is so creamy good. Mom tasted it at the same time and guess what? Sarah Grace had left out the honey! What's really funny is that we boys had it on our salad and didn't even notice! I remember thinking it wasn't as thick as usual and it tasted more mustardy than usual. Thankfully Sarah wasn't too embarrassed and it didn't make her feel bad. She thought it was funny and not surprising because it had been a busy day and Richard woke her up in the middle of the night and she never fell back asleep. Even great cooks can forget things!

I've got to go pack now because I'm going on Dad's business trip to Florida with Sarah Grace and James. We're going to a restaurant that serves alligator and snake and frog legs. I can't wait!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Our Septic Tank -- posted by John

A while ago I was doing schoolwork on my parents bed while my father was making business calls at his desk. Mom was resting while Sarah Grace was tickling her head on the sofa. I typed out my entire post on my computer and the entire thing got deleted. Mom kept trying to find it no matter how hard I tried to convince her it was lost. I was right.

Our septic tank got filled up today so Dad called the septic tank people to come pump it out. We watched a history lecture from The Teaching Company while they pumped it. They had to remove the steps that go from the deck to the pond and then they had to dig down to the lid. Our steps are attached by big bolts, so they are easily removed.

Mom says septic tank people do noble work and I have to agree with her. Septic tank work is something that has to be done by someone, and we should be thankful for him. They have to deal with sewage by pumping it out everyday and then they have to go dump it at the waste water plant. It is not a pleasant job.

I think it would be the perfect job for my dad, if he ever needed to get another one, since some bankers are losing their jobs, and he is a banker. We are in a financial crisis and that is bad because we have eight children and some debt that needs to be paid. It would be perfect for him because while he was using the auger to make sure it wasn't a clog, he couldn't smell it! Some smells my dad can't smell. That's why he is just the one to change diapers, too.

Yesterday and the day before was Richard and my Ma's birthday. I wrapped all the packages and I did a fine job of it. George helped me by handing me the tape while I held the paper nice and tight. He handed me the scissors too.

For my grandmother's present, I made her a beautiful ring and she LOVED it! I bet she is wearing it right now on her middle finger. I found a circular piece of metal that may be a key ring. I took a strip of red duct tape and rolled it around backward on the metal ring. Then I took a nice plastic emerald I found in the craft tower and I stuck it on the tape. I put it in a ring box and wrapped it up and then I put it in a gift bag. Richard gave her a heart he cut out and some red string with it. George boiled her four eggs from our chickens because she loves boiled eggs.

We had a party at Ma's house last night and we played pool upstairs over her garage. Each one of us playing won at least once.

Mrs. Dee was there, too, and she ate with us and had cake and then we had Bible time all together.

Mrs. Dee had to leave first because she stays at night with a lady that is a new widow who can't see well and shouldn't stay alone. Mrs. Dee is a widow too.

One of my mom's favorite things in all her life is when I write my posts. She told me that today when she was searching my computer for my lost entry. I just love that. It made me feel so loved when she said it. She also loves it when I laugh and talk at the same time. She says my eyes twinkle. She told me that today too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Wife Account -- posted by John

Sunday, Dad and Mom and Sarah Grace and I went to Ma's house to study the Bible. I learned a lot of things like David (Dah-Veed) means love, Judas fell headlong and his guts spilled out, on the cross Jesus gave over the care of his mother to his disciple, John, not his own half brothers.

That was probably because his brothers weren't his followers yet. Maybe his mother wasn't either because one time when his brothers and mother should have been sitting at his feet being taught by him, they were on the outside instead of the inside.

Matthew 12:46-50
46While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

I don't know where his sisters were when all this was going on. Later on in Acts his brothers were with the believers and so was his mother so I guess they all eventually got born again. At first they thought he was going to sit on the throne right then and there but then they realized that if he kept his kind of preaching up, he'd get himself killed. They did not understand that was God's plan all along.

We also learned about how some people can get a devil. Sometimes unloved children get a grudge about being unloved and they can eventually become evil. My mother was very troubled about a little boy in the paper who broke into a zoo and went about killing animals with a rock and feeding live animals to a crocodile. They said he had a blank face all the while he was doing it. She wondered if that little boy had been abused or hated at some time.

Osama bin Laden is not the son of his father's most loved wife. He could have a great big grudge, you know. He surely has a devil.

Sometimes people just keep doing sins over and over and over again until they give themselves over to it.

A Ouija board is something no holy person would have. Witchcraft and all that kind of stuff is devilish, so we don't do any of that. We don't even do Halloween. We don't miss it. Some of us don't even know what it is.

Mrs. Browder gave me some clippings of a certain newspaper writer because she thought I would enjoy his writing. I haven't read them all but it made me think that maybe I should consider being a writer. I wouldn't want to be a newspaper writer but maybe a book writer.

I know some people come to read my journal who are people I don't know. They must like it because they keep coming back. I don't know if any men read my journal because only women have said they read my writings. Sometimes my brothers tease me about that. Sometimes I tease my brothers like now when I tease one of them because he is reading Pride and Prejudice.

Maybe if I worked hard I could sell my writings like James might one day sell his paintings and I could put the money in my wife account.

Mom says we boys should work hard and live at home to save money for a wife. We should have enough money for a wedding and a wedding gown and wedding jewelry and the best wine we can afford and also a pretty little first house with cook pots and flowers and lovely things. We should get a wife just as soon as we can and love her and take care of her forever.

I've been reading some Amelia Bedelia books I found around here and she is a mess. She takes things so literally. A lady told her she would like some cereal with her coffee so Amelia served her coffee with cereal in it! A man told her to stamp some envelopes and so she jumped on them. Get it? She stamped on them. The books are very funny except for how all these people reject her in a cruel way. They yell at her and send her away. In the end she turns out okay but on the way she has a tough go of it. She's innocent all along so it will hurt you to see her being treated so mean even though there is a happy ending.

Richard's birthday is tomorrow and he has invited me to bake his cake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bella Notte -- posted by John

We watched The Three Amigos last night and today I can only find my left holster for my revolver. That is making it difficult for me to spin my revolver on my finger. We pulled out our holsters after seeing Tombstone last week. Those are both great movies and they sure put you in a Western mood. After practicing a lot, I was a faster draw than George this morning even though it was left handed. We actually have a black sombrero like the ones in The Three Amigos, that we got in Mexico. Unfortunately we only have one, not three.

Last night I made the recipe Mrs. Sarah gave me for an Indian dish. It is an India Indian dish, not an American Indian dish. I was a little confused on that at first.

The dish is called Jalfrezi and it has spicy spices like chilies and sweet spices like cloves and cinnamon which seemed like it would be weird but it was exceptional! We also made rice with turmeric (which can really stain your clothes so be careful) and sauteed almonds and raisins. We didn't make the Indian sides yet; we just steamed broccoli. It was so good!

Everybody loved the dish and told me to thank Mrs. Sarah for the recipe. Her e-mail to me was named Johnny Caker Curry Maker! That sounds like a nursery rhyme to me.

Will and Spencer and Dad raved over it. Actually, everybody raved over it. Next time we will go a little spicier. We thought it might be too spicy for the little kids but it wasn't really spicy even though it smelled like it would be while it was cooking. We cooked it in the slow cooker and it was so tender and good.

I love spicy food. Sarah Grace made jalapeno poppers all summer because we over-planted jalapeno peppers. I could eat them everyday.

Today is Mom and Dad's anniversary. I can't make a cake because Spencer's birthday was the 22nd and George's is the 28th. That would be three cakes in one week!

George will probably play Bella Notte from Lady and the Tramp on his accordion for Mom and Dad to slow dance. It is a tradition.

Here are the lyrics:

Oh this is the night, it's a beautiful night
And we call it bella notte
Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes
On this lovely bella notte.
Side by side with your loved one,
You'll find enchantment here.
The night will weave its magic spell,
When the one you love is near!
Oh this is the night, and the heavens are right!
On this lovely bella notte!

I used to always get up on a stool in the kitchen and make up love songs while my parents slow danced when Dad got home from work. The lyrics would go like this: My parents love each other, and they love meeee, and our love will never die, and we'll always live in harmonyyyyy. I made up the tune with it. It was all original.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Economy -- posted by John

My Dad has been explaining the economy to us and what has happened on Wall Street. He even wrote a post on our family website! You can see it at [This post is from my journal. See Dad's post below.]

He usually doesn't write much on there but we've been having great conversations and Mom asked him to write some of it down since all of us weren't here for it. I also told him about Mrs. Sarah having to pay over $9/gal for gasoline!

Dad said all politicians will disappoint you, the trick is voting for the politician that you think will disappoint you the least.

It makes me so mad that the Federal government can take money from the productive people and give it to people who are not productive. If you reward people for being unproductive you'll get more of it, and you'll get more people to not be productive. Why would people want to work hard for something they could get for free?

These taxers think we are wealthy people, but we are not. I'm not going to say we are poor, but we are medium. If we get taxed more and more, we won't be able to start our family business that we want.

Mom made Dad some fried eggs for breakfast. Fried eggs look so sunny and happy, just like something a good farmer should eat every morning.

Ma found a farmer who grows Henderson Bush butterbeans. She bought a bushel or more and we had some the other night. They are so delicious. He also pulled up some peanuts and she gave us enough to almost fill our large stock pot. We ate boiled peanuts while watching football games on Saturday. That is so homey.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It is NOT a Failure of Capitalism! -- posted by Daddy

The family has had some particularly great conversations over the past week. Although the children are very aware of the political environment, and how current political debates fit in the stream of history, the recent events in the financial markets prompted some milestone discussions. And these conversations served to underscore our conviction that as a country we are moving further and further away from the moorings of the Constitution, and as we do, we will lose our freedoms, and continue further down what Hayek called the road to serfdom.

Mandy asked me to explain the current situation to the kids. I don’t pretend to be an economist, nor am I versed in the specifics of CDOs, CLOs, credit default swaps and such. But you don’t have to understand these to understand the root of the problem.

All you have to do is ask yourself the following: Exactly what were we thinking having publicly traded companies – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose debt carried the implicit guaranty of the Federal government? Think about it….for- profit companies with the backing of the government.

However laudable the intent behind these innocuous sounding government sponsored entities (GSEs), they were, in fact, massive government intrusions into what is becoming an increasingly less free enterprise system.

This has not been a failure of capitalism! It’s a predictable result of government intrusion in the economy.

The seeds of the current situation were planted when these companies were created. But they lay dormant for the most part, although they became huge contributors to members of Congress, especially those members who were responsible for overseeing them.

But then the seeds began to sprout. The Clinton Administration, wanting to boost home ownership among low income families, used its influence to substantially loosen the underwriting standards previously required by Fannie and Freddie. And all of a sudden, the sub-prime mortgage market began.

And then the fertilizer was added. In response to the recession that was forming as the Bush administration took office, and that became full blown after the September 11 terrorist attack, the Federal Reserve substantially lowered interest rates. This monetary policy, combined with the fiscal policy of the Bush tax cuts, helped bring the economy out of recession. But then, after economic growth had resumed, the rates remained low. This served to leave tremendous liquidity into the economy.

With all of this liquidity in the market, the banking system, both investment and commercial banks, sought opportunities to put this liquidity to work. This created even more demand for the sub-prime mortgages. The cash flows from these unstable mortgages then became the principle ingredient for the exotic cocktails of securities created by Wall Street to boost there own bottom line.

With the combination of lower mortgage underwriting standard promulgated by Fannie and Freddie, virtually free money created by the Fed, and natural profit motive of Wall Street, the perfect storm was created.

Now we are faced with the prospect of even more government intrusion in the market in an attempt to solve the problem that government intrusion created.

Anytime the government gets involved in the free market economy, it ends up failing miserably. It’s a fact. All you have to do is ask yourself what government program works the way it was supposed to. The answer is there isn’t one.

This came up in a subsequent conversation with John, when he told me about how his friend in England, Mrs. Sarah, commented that their gasoline had come down to $9 per gallon. John asked me why their gas was so much more expensive. I told him I don’t know the exact details, but that the governments in Europe have much higher taxes on gasoline.

This led to a brief discussion about socialism. At the outset, I told John that any man made economic system is inherently flawed, and certainly not impressive to God.

But having said that, the free market economy is the one that has proven itself to be the system that produces the most prosperity for the most people, in contrast to socialism, which has historically promised much, and produced very little.

And despite the abundance of evidence about the failures of socialism, there are those in this country that continue to listen to this siren song of collectivism. Take the current debate about health care in this country. The family discussed the socialized medical systems in Europe, which promise health care for everyone. What the promoters of socialized medicine forget to mention is that under these systems health care is rationed. As a consequence, people can’t get treatment when it’s needed, but instead have to wait, often with a dire result.

As they say in England, the proof is in the pudding. When people in countries with these much ballyhooed socialized medical systems need treatment, they come to the United States.

And now, there are those in this country that want to destroy the finest medical system in the world, and create a socialized system here.

The family has had some great conversations. And although we pray that we will have leaders who abide by what’s left of the Constitution and understand that the size of government is inversely proportional to the amount of freedom of its citizens, we also know that the trend-line of history will continue to be negative until Jesus comes back.

And so, here we are. The road to serfdom has become a slippery slope, and threatens to sweep away our shining city on a hill.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Love Never Fails -- posted by John

I saw Maverick again with James Garner and Mel Gibson and Jody Foster. I think she's pretty the way she tosses her hair and I love her Southern accent! We've been playing cards again since we saw it. It puts us in the mood, but we don't know how to play poker, so we play rummy. Dad said he will teach us sometime but he hasn't yet.

Nothing interesting has happened with me; I'm a book with no pages. Since I've got nothing, I will tell you something interesting about my mother instead.

My dad goes out of town three days of the week and on the days he's gone she reads the Bible to us and teaches us about life and she sometimes gets on a roll. We read the Bible when my father is at home, too, but I think she takes her time when he's gone since when he's here he has to go to work.

Today she decided to teach us about love. She got it on her mind because she heard Dr. Phil was teaching people how to get over people who have hurt them and to move on with their lives. (Although Mom accidentally called him Uncle Phil when she started her story. Lol.) Mom said that what he said is impossible to do for Christians who have a new heart. The new holy heart can't get over people. The new holy heart has love that never fails.

We have had a lot of family and friends who have ditched us and we still love them and pray all the time that God will bring them back to us. And we always will!

My Aunt Mary's husband has been remarried three times and some of her children are on again off again with her. She loves Jesus and she can never give up on them or get over them. She and her husband were married first to each other and God says only death ends a first marriage. Some people don't agree with God on that, but he's right whether they agree or not.

Mom said that we can't help it that we can't get over them and we can't move on. I Corinthians 13 says that "love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

So, Dr. Phil was very wrong to teach people to move on with their lives. It is not wrong to keep a broken heart when the ones you love are missing or don't love you or are evil. Maybe we can't have such a good time when we are missing people or longing for the ones we love, but God didn't put us here for just good times.

Listen, Jesus is coming back suddenly so it is more important to agree with him than anything else in the world. We've been reading The Revelation and if you don't totally belong to Jesus, then your teeth will be chattering when you read about the tribulation in that book. So I beg you to don't put it off.

How would you feel if someone you love said they never wanted to talk to you again? My mother has had that happen and it was her own father! I have grandparents I've never met but I love them all the same and I will always hope that one day they'll love me.

My dad's father told me he wanted to meet me, too, when my sister put me on the phone so I could get to tell him I wanted to meet him, but that was a long time ago and he won't talk to us even though we want to talk to them. I just wish I could sit down to a cup of coffee, in their house, at least, so I could see his face and my grandmother's face and then leave if they don't want to be with me.

I know my parents will always love me and I'm very thankful that I don't have to dread ever breaking up with them, but I can't get over my mom's father not loving my mother and my dad's parents not wanting us.

The Bible says that you can tell the real Christians from the phony Christians by their love, and I know we love people who hate us, and we just want to be reconciled and hold each other.

Anyway, while Sarah Grace was taking her guitar lesson on the webcam, I read The Wind in the Willows to Mom because it is one of her favorite books. Mom and I think it has some of the best sentences in the whole world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mandy's Testimony in Christ (from Facebook "About Me.") Mr. Allen asked me to re-post it here.

The Birth of Snow White ~ by Mandy Franklin Allen

I’m a simple woman. I enjoy serving my husband and children and most especially the Lord Jesus, and the most important thing “about me” is really all about him. He is my magnificent obsession.

In fifth grade I went down for an altar call to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior by praying “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Only, that particular prayer had me invite him into my heart to clean it up, and to get forgiveness. The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked and can’t really be cleaned up. The Apostle Paul laments his former unredeemed condition in Romans chapter 7. Oh sure, we may be able to (by an act of our will) do this or that for good, but our efforts can’t deal with our sin nature. Besides, those efforts are as filthy menstrual rags. Our sin nature must be replaced with a new, holy nature; one that is dead to sin, sins, and sinning- one that is born of God.

Consequently, that “sinner’s prayer” served to deceive me into thinking Jesus came to just forgive my sins, rather than take them away so that I didn’t have to sin them anymore. For many years I labored under the burden of trying to keep myself from sinning, while I still had a nature that was sold under sin.

And then, after years of church-going and Bible reading and struggling with secret sins (with some success but not complete success), the Lord opened my eyes to I John chapter 3, verse 9 in particular: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Immediately, a host of other verses that had been hidden from my understanding were revealed to me, and with a domino effect I understood that this is what it means to be “born again!” And since that moment, over a decade ago, I have not served sin. He made me, Mandy Franklin Allen, a new creation, holy and blameless…. someone that never existed before! He forgave me for all my sins that are past and delivered me from all my future sinning. He keeps me! I’m a kept woman!

And so, I get to spend all eternity praising him and worshipping him and bragging on what he did for the once O-wretched-Man-dy-stained-dark-as-crimson…. now made into fresh and fluffy Snow White! It is his work, it is marvelous, and it is finished!

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Poorly Blanket -- posted by John

My British friend, Mrs. Sarah (I believe you've heard of her in recent posts. I send her my clippings like Eli Cash sent Etheline Tenenbaum his clippings*, lol), told me a wonderful story. She told me about how her granny made a blanket out of scrap pieces of wool and they call it The Poorly Blanket. When her family feels poorly, they curl up under it on the sofa.

When I read that, I really wanted us to have a poorly blanket, too. Since most of us crochet, we could each make a part of it, only we'd have to buy some of the yarn since we don't have enough scraps, but that's okay. Or maybe we could spin the yarn from our own sheep!

One time Dad and Mom took The Big Four to see Les Miserables at The Koger Center. They brought us Young Guns t-shirts and coffee mugs even though Mom and Dad don't like wasting money on souvenirs. I know Mom felt so sad that the whole family couldn't go and she bought us a bunch of stuff.

At the same time that we got the mugs, the whole family got a stomach bug. We drank our herbal tea out of those mugs. That amused us because we were "les miserables!"

I'm remembering this because on Saturday we were planning on going to Hilton Head but a hurricane came plus some of us got a stomach bug again! We get a stomach bug every couple of years, I think. This time I haven't gotten it and I'm not planning to! Last time I thought I was going to die. I thought it was the end for me.

I guess our Les Miserables mugs are like poorly blankets, in a way, but wouldn't it be cool to sip tea in a Les Miz cup while cozying up under a poorly blanket, while watching NCAA football?

*Warning: The Royal Tenenbaums is NOT a children's movie. There are bad parts that I have to turn my head at even with the TV version but I just love that movie even though I hate the ending.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm in Columbia Metropolitan Magazine! -- posted by John

Columbia Metropolitan Magazine did an article on exotic pets, and they have a section on Uncle Bob, our llama! Our part is on pages 46 and 47. They quoted me the most, I think, from my journal. You can see my post here. If you want to see the whole article, you can look at Columbia Metropolitan Magazine's September issue. (Mrs. Sarah, my mom bought a copy for you since you are in England and can't see it yourself!) Maybe if any of my regular readers would like a copy, we might could send you one if you give us your address. Most of my regular readers haven't told me who they are yet. Guestbook is broken but you could send me an email because I know you're excited for me. For all of y'all here, you can pick up a copy at Earthfare, Edventure, Happy Bookseller, the Marriott Hotel gift shop, the St. Andrews Newsstand and any Books a Million.

Punkin, a stray cat that we saved, is now an inside cat. His mother abandoned him and his brother so we took them in and fed them bottles, but his brother died. He spent the night in a cage with his dead brother. Dad said that was quite a Dickensian start.

That means a poor and pitiful start like the characters in Charles Dickens' books. I watched Oliver after he said that- another musical!

Punkin is affectionate. Before we let him in, he sat at the doorstep every day waiting for us to come out, and he would follow us at our foot pace to do our chores.

One time Mom took Webb out to the sheep pen in his wheelchair to watch Dad and James shear the sheep. Punkin jumped in his lap and then he climbed onto his shoulders and looped his tail around his neck and then across his eyes and then he laid across his shoulders to snooze.

Dad said he always sat in his lap while he put on his work boots on the stairs. He really loves him. He's always letting him in his lap and petting him. He carries him around all the time. He gets caught up in your feet, too. He tripped me one time and when I fell he came to my face and rubbed his head into my cheek. He loves people! I'm really glad that he has come indoors.

I saw the crochet stuff in the attic today and I'm going to start a new scarf for Autumn.

George's Big Post -- dictated by George

We went to Mrs. Stafford's to give her a magazine.

The Gators won a game this season. Every time they'd have a big run, everyone would jump up screaming with their lungs wiggling.

Punkin was an outside cat but now he is an inside cat. Now, if he's in your house and he's sitting down, and if he gets on the chair, he crawls all around you, around your head and all the way to your feet. Then when he gets off and goes away it is to eat food.

Macy has been here for a very long time, like 1888, and if you put a rope in front of her and move it, she will go furious thinking it is a thing that doesn't belong in the house.

If you know my brother, John, from his posts, you wouldn't believe what friends he is with me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't Cry For Me South Carolina -- posted by John

We watched the making of The Phantom of the Opera last night. They showed the real opera house and that was very interesting. They also showed how they made the sets and that was fascinating. I was amazed to learn that the background of the city in the scene from the roof was a painting! It looked very real.

I watched some of Evita last night but I fell asleep during one of her long song/speeches.

Antonio Banderas's character didn't like Evita but I'm not sure why yet. Mom said that people have different opinions on government and he didn't like hers. Dad will have to explain it to me when he gets home because all she knows is that Eva Peron was much loved and much hated and she was a great dresser. That is all she knows except that maybe Evita was a fascist but she's not sure.

We like republics but God always liked monarchies in the Bible. Mom said they are all faulty and we should just look forward to when Jesus sets up his Kingdom.

C.K. Dexter Haven, our golden retriever, got neutered and I was in charge of his care. He had to wear an Elizabethan collar for 14 days. I had to give him capsules hidden in peanut butter and put on his ointment. It was a much bigger deal than Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob was tranquilized, fixed, and done.

The only TV show we watch is Psych. We record it on Friday night and watch it until the next Friday night.

The main character's name is Shawn and he is so funny and his best friend's name is Burton Guster but he calls him Gus. Each episode he makes a funny nickname for Gus like "Chesterfield McMillan" or "my candystriper, Knick Knack." That show is so funny! You can see it on USA network.

P.S. Mom said I should clarify that Uncle Bob is our llama.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Overheard -- posted by Mom


John the Informant: "Richard has dressed up and is pretending to be a nun!"

Richard, in full habit: "No I not, I a Musketeer in disguise."


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tickle Town -- dictated by Richard

Daddy got hurt when he took me to Tickle Town; I accidentally poked him in the eye.

A long time ago I lost my camera but then I found it and now I lost it again.

Yesterday I got a scratch on my face because Georgi tripped me. I felt like I wasn't human and I had a fection like The Phantom. It got my cookie monster shirt dirty.

Last night I helped make salad with me and John and Georgi. I opened a can of black olives and I got stuff. John was the captain.

We got CATS.... meeeooooow!

We got Kidnapped, the movie, because we read the book-- 'cept I slept through it all-- the book and the movie.

I got a box full of paint because Mommy bought it for me! Yippee!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Overheard -- posted by Mom


Spencer: "Richard, why are you afraid of the Phantom of the Opera; what do you think he'd do to you?"

Richard, deadly serious: "I think he's going to tortunate me and turn me to bones.... or make me into one of those clapping monkeys."


John, lamenting after being stopped from playing a non-sequential run in Rummy: "But they're all in the same coat!"

Dad: "I think you mean 'suit', Son."


Sarah Grace: "The Phantom looks the hottest when he's first taking Christine to his lair."

James: "I can't stand that scene; he's 'blue-steeling' it up the whole time.

Spencer: "James, you'd be 'blue-steeling' it up too if you were working with only half a face."


Dad, after smokin' the Young Guns at Go Fish: "Boys, you've been hustled. You didn't know I played Go Fish on a Mississippi riverboat before I met your mother."

John, breathless with excitement: "You mean you were like James Garner in that movie we saw?" [Maverick]


George, upon tasting Sarah's homemade cream cheese: "So, what makes this cream cheese homemade?"

Richard, oh-so-matter-of-factly: "Because.... she made it.... at home."


Monday, August 4, 2008

The Phantom of the Opera -- posted by John

As we were watching The Phantom of the Opera on Saturday night, a big thunderstorm started brewing. We could easily see the lightning because our den has tall ceilings and huge windows facing the pond and we have a wall of windows on both sides and up above in the loft behind the fireplace. The lightning was lighting up the room and the thunder was booming with the music. It got closer and closer and louder and louder and by the time The Phantom was taking Christine to his secret lair, we heard a loud crash and the power went out. Seriously, it was at the part where she hits a high note while he's pushing the gondola with that long stick.

We quickly found some candles and a lighter and some lanterns and our den ended up looking like the opera house. We waited, hoping the power company would get the power back on so we could see the rest of the movie. It wasn't until 6am the next morning before they got it on.

Thankfully it didn't get knocked off of the DVR. We watched the rest of it the next day, but it didn't have the same feeling.

I love this musical! It is playing on Broadway in New York City and I would love to go see it. Dad has a lot of Marriott reward points and we can get hotel rooms for free. We can't get free show tickets or food or the gas to get up there though. I wish I'd seen it on stage before I saw the movie but, c'est la vie!

I had mixed feelings for The Phantom but Christine was loving and she was gorgeous with great talent.

In Christine's debut performance she has the dress and starbursts in her hair just like a portrait of Empress Sissi of Austria.

Carlotta was very funny but prideful.

I can't get the music out of my mind. I can't get the story out of my mind either.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My July -- posted by John

So, do you like the jazz? I love jazz, especially when the black people do it. I love the jazzy jazz of the saxophone and the clarinet and the trumpet. You should see Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie on YouTube. Their cheeks puff up like shiny eight balls. They can really blow!

I've always wanted to kiss a girl on a boat in the rain, not a thunderstorm though. I saw a movie called The Notebook a long time ago and there was a scene of kissing in the rain that stuck with me.

I met a friend named Ryan at All American Sports Camp and I got a crush on one of my teachers. She played one on one basketball with me twice. I won one and she almost won the other except we had to quit because we ran out of time.

Sarah's graduation was nice. I got to meet Jonathan, Josh, Uncle Bubba, Stuck with the butter colored hair, and Carlton. I met Patrick, the director, and when Mom met him I saw her almost pinch his cheek because she thinks he's cute. I was thinking, "No, Mom, don't pinch his cheek!" She didn't, but I saw her thumb and finger headed to his face. Patrick was neatly shaved.

We went to dinner at Al's Upstairs and I had filet mignon. For once, the children's menu had more than mac and cheese and chicken fingers! My sides were steamed broccoli and carrots with seasoned mashed potatoes. For dessert I had New York cheesecake.

At the end I got a bad stomachache. I know it was from all the excitement. I felt better before we left though. Our table had a white tablecloth with candles and plates with olive oil for the bread. We blew out the candles because Ma is on oxygen. We wouldn't want her to blow!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Miss Sally Allen's Graduation -- posted by Mom

Sarah Grace's commencement exercise took place Monday night and the announcements were mailed yesterday. So what am I going to do with myself now? Talk about a crash!

I don't know what happened from the last dressy event to this one, but the boys' dress clothes were mysteriously all wrong. You'd think everybody would just move up to their brother's stuff, but for some reason Brother Ahead was a regular and Brother Below is a slim or vice-versa. I foolishly thought having slacks in every normal size would be enough, but now I realize we have a veritable cornucopia of heights and widths. Same goes for shoes. Bill finally found slacks long enough for James while on a business trip to Asheville!

I'd like to have a variety of colors and combinations so it doesn't look like The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is in the house, but it was not to be for this XL non-Mormon family. It was a sea of navy blue sports coats. (By the way, we aren't too proud for hand-me-down donations.)

After dress socks were retrieved from toy boxes and belts were hunted and relieved from duty as homemade rifle straps, it was on to the fun part-- finishing touches for Little Miss Sally Allen.

We found a pretty party dress for Sarah but the shoes we got weren't perfect. We loved the dress-- her first real grown-up party dress-- but the shoes, although gorgeous satin sandals, were slightly heavy for the light chiffon dress. In the eleventh hour we buzzed by Stein Mart in Lexington and, lo and behold, she found the perfect shoes... in a box... not even on display. I kid you not. Afterward I kept hearing her thank the Lord under her breath throughout the day.

Pamela, a fellow culinary student, had announcements printed up for the graduation and they were so elegant that we had some made in a Crane's fold-over and inserted Sarah's graduation photograph inside. Spencer, who had been practicing his hand at calligraphy, addressed them for us to mail the day after.


On Monday morning Sarah and I went to the hairdresser and when we got home we learned Sarah's first ever goat had died. She'd been going down, but I had no idea she would die on Graduation Day, for Pete's sake. Sarah handled it well. Really, with so many pets/livestock, somebody is bound to die on special days. Sugarplum, a cockatiel who was so in love with Sarah that she would get frenetically tweety and flittery whenever Sarah was near, died on Sarah's birthday.... in her hands.

The boys dug the goat's grave right up until time for showers. This goat named Veronica, but nicknamed Big Whitey, was the size of a pony. When the procession took her out of her pen, her daughter moaned for her, but still, Sarah Grace did not cry. The moaning of Ida Claire almost pushed me over the proverbial brink and into abject lachrymosity, but Sarah's perfect shoes beckoned me back.

We then packed up the 15 passenger milk-and-honey-acres mobile and picked up Ma, who thought she'd accidently thrown out her new impeccably matched earrings, and after a night of ear-pinching clip-on misery, wished she had.

The McCutchen House, a lovely antebellum jewel, is home to the culinary school and the location of the commencement exercises. I was delighted to finally meet Sarah's classmates and chefs as I would wait up late-night to hear her tales of fun kitchen banter, Chef Soup-Nazi antics, etc.

David AKA Uncle Bubba looks like an "iron chef" but is really a lovable ol' cream puff. Michael is a sweetheart and did a great job looking out for Sarah Grace, Carlton is a special young man who holds a dear place in my heart, Pamela was a mastermind and worker bee who went from one thoughtful act to another, and Josh and Jonathan were affectionate darlings who delighted my daughter weekly. Kim managed to maintain her jolliness despite a tragic house fire that interrupted her classes. Stuck was very personable and witty. Angie looks like a teenager, but to my great surprise has grown children! Thomas was extremely upbeat and warm. I also enjoyed meeting the striking Brooke and the soft spoken Angela. Hilary made me proud by bragging on Sarah Grace and I was so glad to meet Roger as the family had prayed for him through his knee troubles. Sarah Grace loves these friends to bits and I so hope they'll keep in touch.

As a homeschooler, this was really Sarah Grace's first time out of the box, so to speak. In the beginning, she'd come home with news such as her first big hug from a fella other than a relative (Hi, Josh!), her first Valentine's gift, her first time asked on a date, her first flowers, her first flirt, her first wolf call, her first crush-on-a-man-old-enough-to-be-her-father.... wait a minute.... WAIT A MINUTE!.... at which point we informed her she had used up her quota of "firsts."

While we were waiting for the ceremony to start, in walked Jo our neighbor and great supporter of Sarah's culinary pursuits. I was stunned as I had just spoken to her only a couple of hours earlier while she was in Charleston on business and I had no idea she would make it. Sarah 'bout popped when she saw her!

After the ceremony, Sarah changed into her party dress for dinner at Al's Upstairs and.... Mama Mia! My little Sally has become such beautiful young woman!

Even though the culinary school had provided food galore, Bill wanted to take us all to a nice restaurant to celebrate more intimately. Thankfully, Jo's husband, Tim, was also able to make the dinner, as well as one of Sarah's chefs who has engaged her help in an entrepreneurial venture.

Before dinner Bill made this toast:

To Sarah Grace-

No girl was ever more appropriately named. You have blessed and graced this family from the moment you were born. And with each of your beautiful smiles you make our home a more wonderful place. And so it is with indescribable pride, joy, and love that your mother and I congratulate you tonight and pray that God would bless you above anything we could ever hope or imagine. Hear, hear!

I am so proud of her. I've watched her study nutrition and experiment with converting recipes into whole foods while researching the cooking methods of our ancestors from a variety of cultures. She's got it goin' on!

Also, I'll post her graduation pictures as soon as I get the CD from the photographer!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Could Tell You the Recipe, but Then I'd Have to Kill You (not really)-- posted by Sarah Grace

I can't believe it. I actually finished culinary school!

I have had so much fun that I don't know whether to laugh or cry now that it's over! I was blessed enough to have a great class environment to work in, where pretty much everyone got along with each other and had a great time. I will miss them all terribly.

For our final in Advanced Pastry we had to make four identical desserts for Chef to critique flavor and presentation. I literally lost sleep thinking of what I was going to prepare. I wanted to make something using whole foods, since that's my thing, but because my last attempt at making a whole foods dessert didn't go quite as planned, my anxiety was heightened.

I decided to do it anyway. I converted my grandmother's cream cheese fruit pie recipe to whole foods, and since we had to make two sauces to accompany it, I decided on a lemon sauce and a raspberry coulis. I also chopped some raw macaroon almonds for a crunch factor. Taste-testing at the house went well, but then the trouble came when I thought of how on earth I was going to plate it!

For those of you who don't know me, let me give you some insight as to how artistic I am. A few months ago my grandmother sent us an email that determined artistic strength by the amount of time it takes to find a man's face in a picture of coffee beans. I have yet to find the face.

After a million test-runs and even more prayers, it was time to present it to Chef.... she absolutely loved it! I couldn't believe my ears as I heard her rave about the flavor of the buttery crust (made with freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour) and the great mouth feel it had. She said it was very European in that it was only slightly sweet, and the crust was pleasantly unique from the typical graham cracker or butter crust. She also encouraged me to continue making dishes with whole foods, as she has seen an increased interest in restaurant goers for whole food cuisine.

More exciting news is that one of my chefs has enlisted my help in marketing one of his recipes. I don't want to say too much, but I'm helping him convert his ingredients to "all natural" and we'll be exploring whole foods. We're planning to meet with the packaging company soon after graduation. I'll be sure to let you know where you can buy some of this mystery product!