Thursday, December 29, 2011

Little Richard's Christmas -- posted by Richard

This is a card my dad gave my mom and it is very pretty and sparkly. He also gave her nice ear buds that don't break. He also gave her gravel, called crush and run, to put on the driveway because we have big holes that fill with water and she calls them Lakes Allen and she complains about them all the time. The man will come and grade the lane and lay down the gravel. At first I thought Dad was giving Mom a box of coal, but it was a box of gravel to represent having the lane fixed. She loved it! We gave Momma a pocketbook and the older boys gave her a Kindle because she always reads to us and that is a homey tradition.

I love my Nerf guns. Momma and Sarah, my sister, found them just before Christmas and they had been marked way way down from $35 to $5 so they bought four of them. Two of them were large guns and two boxes contained two pistols each so that makes six guns altogether. I also got a basket for my bike so when we go for a ride I can carry the sandwiches for a picnic. The egg bucket fits in it perfectly so I can bring home the eggs from the chicken coop on my bike.

I also got a spy kit from Dollar Tree. It is a decoder that you can disguise a message and put the decoder over it to read it.

You've seen my propeller hat, like Spanky's beanie, and I've been getting compliments on it like you wouldn't believe.

My big present was a heavy duty one. It is a compound bow that can be outfitted to use for bow fishing. I didn't get a bike like everybody else so I got a big present.

I also love a Bingo game from Dollar Tree. Even the older boys played it with me and I loved it because they work a lot and I miss them playing with me. Then we started trading our candy. I'm a wheeler dealer because I don't eat my candy until trading season is over. Will drives a hard bargain.

We got out the I Spy books because that is a tradition to pull them out at Christmas. They are so homey and even Will loves it when we pull them out. That is like the kick-off to Christmas.

Have a Happy New Year and God bless you all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tintin 3D: A Review -- by John, George, and Richard

Here we are in the hats we always wanted, just before leaving to see Tintin 3D.

It was... AWESOME! It was a mix between Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes, because it was seafaring, action-packed with epic John Williams music, and a mystery with great fight-scene choreography.

The detail of the animation, plus the 3D technology, made it feel as real as if you were in it. It felt like you could reach out and touch the characters.

Thomson and Thompson, the two Scotland Yard detectives, are hilarious. Their clumsiness provided a lot of slapstick comedy. Captain Haddock was funny as well with all his sayings and antics.

The movie was just as good as the book, and maybe even better with the added scenes.
The whole family enjoyed it, even Mom who didn't expect to since she's not into all that sort of thing. She was amazed and loved it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Georgi's Christmas -- posted by George

This Christmas was so much fun, and I, too, didn't think I would get any presents for Christmas since I got a bicycle in November.

What I got was a cool set of action figures that I really wanted and a helicopter for them to go in. And I also got a black bowler hat that the family all says I look great in. And the Belgian hot chocolate is the best I've ever had and the Belgian chocolate bar, too.

Mom and Dad announced that we are going to see Tintin in the theater and I jumped for joy! John and I both love Tintin. John read all of the books but I read two. You can say John's "thing" is Tintin and my "thing" is Indiana Jones.

My favorite Indiana Jones is The Last Crusade with Sean Connery. It has a lot of action and it is funny too. And John holds his candy cane in his mouth like a pipe and talks in Sean Connery's accent.

I'm so excited about seeing Tintin in the theater that I can't keep my feet on the ground.

Billy's parents sent us real English Christmas pudding like the Cratchet family had in A Christmas Carol. We had it after our Christmas supper and it was so delicious! The box says, "Perfectly Matured Christmas Pudding-- an exclusive recipe bursting with vine ripe fruits, nuts and brandy, cognac, port and stout, then carefully matured for Christmas Day perfection." And the fruit was plump and juicy. It had the flavor kind of like fruitcake but it was softer and it was very rich with a strong flavor so you wouldn't want to eat too much of it.

The whole family played Richard's Bingo game and it was so much fun. I love it when the whole family plays together.

I'll write a review of the movie after we see it.

Here are some pictures of our packages:

P.S. My bowler hat was wrapped in glittery paper, so now it looks like a disco bowler hat.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Tintin Christmas -- posted by John

We arrived in Florence late afternoon on Christmas Eve to put arrangements on the graves, which has become a tradition handed down from Ma. The congregation had gathered for their Christmas Eve Service of Carols and Candles, and we could see the warm glow from inside the antebellum country church, with the Christmas tree in white lights, and we could hear the organ music and carolers. The contrast from the grey, dreary December day made the toasty sanctuary all the more inviting. In fact, had we known about the service, we would have arrived a little earlier and joined them in worship. We agreed to plan on it next year. (The picture above is from the church website. It was not a sunny day.)

The arrangements for the graves were elegant with pomegranates, pears, apples, and pine cones clustered in greenery and tied with red velvet ribbon. Only Webb's was different this time. When we went to the craft store to buy seventeen identical bouquets, we saw one all in silver with a ball, a drum, and a silver package with a silver bow. It looked just like Webb, especially once Mom made the bow with the blue and silver ribbon.

Sarah and I placed the arrangement on the Confederate soldier's grave, and we brushed off the leaves to tidy it up. Oh, and Ma's arrangement also had a cardinal on it since she loved wild birds so much.

After we left the cemetery, we went out to eat in Florence. Mom ordered a Christmas sangria and it was so delicious! She let us have a taste because she was so impressed with it. In fact, the chef slipped her the recipe once he learned from our server how much she enjoyed it. It had wild berries, house red wine, simple syrup, orange, lime, Goldschläger (which is Swiss cinnamon schnapps with flakes of gold leaf floating in it), and a large sprig of rosemary planted down in the glass and draped over the edge. Sarah called it Christmas in a glass. When I took a sip, the fragrance made me want to pause and just smell it for awhile.

On the hour and a half drive home, we pretended that every tower with a flashing red light was Rudolph and we'd better beat him to the house and get to sleep before he landed on our roof.

The next morning we came into the den to find nine sleds all propped up on the hearth. Last year we busted up all our sleds with the two snow events, so Mom wanted to make sure we had replacements just in case. Of course it was 76 degrees the week of Christmas so that was funny.

I wasn't expecting anything since I got the bicycle around Thanksgiving, and Mom kept reminding me so I wouldn't be disappointed on Christmas Day. Nevertheless, to my surprise, I had three packages under my stocking!

Since I had read the Tintin series (at Dad's suggestion since he loved it as a boy), I received a newsboy cap I had been wanting for ages. I have a flat cap, but it's worn out, so that was exciting. I also got Republic of Tea Tintin chocolate chai tea. It is a fine black tea with carob, cocoa powder, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, and ginger. They pulled together exotic flavors from the countries of Tintin's different adventures to market a tea for the opening of the movie. I feel like Tintin is kind of "my thing" because I was reading it before they were even making a movie. Dad and I used to cast the movie long before we knew they were making one.

I also got a Tintin mug. I love the creamy base color of it and I also love that the handle doesn't get hot in the microwave. It has a picture of Tintin and Snowy on a globe and on the back it has Tintin zooming on a motorcycle. We all got Belgian chocolate in our stockings (I'm eating a piece now!) and we Young Guns got Belgian hot chocolate which is distinctive and rich. I was also glad to share my Belgian butter wafer cookies which are buttery and crispy. Oh, and Will got a six pack of Belgian beer. Tintin was from Belgium.

After all the packages were unwrapped, Mom announced that our family gift is to go see the Tintin movie together. I'm so excited.

Sarah Grace has taken to wearing Ma!Ma! Sarah's costume jewelry in her hair and it looks so pretty. This is one of Ma! Ma!'s earrings that Sarah made into a hairpin. All through Christmas her hair sparkled while she was working in the kitchen. I think this is my favorite hair style for her.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Week Before Christmas -- posted by Richard

Here is a beautiful picture of the sky James took on his phone. (Thanks Will for rotating it for me.)

We've had some wonderful times lately with all sorts of nice Christmas treats and surprises.

Mom and Sarah Grace go bike riding with us now and it is so much fun! We children gave Mom a bicycle for her birthday. She loved it so much she cried. She was going to use one of our old bikes that is kind of rusty and beat up because she said she didn't mind at all. And she doesn't mind, she is a good sport and wants us to always get the new things, but we wanted to honor her by getting her a nice shiny new one. The older boys paid for it and brought it home and kept it in Will's van until we gave it to her. It is red like a candied apple and it matches her reading glasses perfectly and it has fenders and a basket in front that you can put apples in, and she just looks so cute riding it.

We are still enjoying Rhapsody. Mom played Michael Bublé's Christmas album for us, and there are some songs I really love.

This one is White Christmas with Shania Twain, and she sounds like she is about to start yodeling, and it is wonderful!

I really love the sound of this song. And I like the lyrics too. It is called Cold December Night.

This is Mis Deseos/Feliz Navidad with Michael Bublé and Thalia. It is a duet. I especially like this one because John, George, and I study Spanish together.

Another thing that happened was we were trying to figure out what to give Aunt Mary for Christmas when she said she couldn't find any candied ginger anywhere in her town. She loves to eat candied ginger when she has a hot cup of tea, so Mom and Sarah went to Publix and bought her some but it tasted too chemical-y so Mom and Sarah decided to make her some. They used Alton Brown's recipe. We love Alton Brown because he teaches science with his recipes and he is funny.

They made the ginger and it was hot but not too hot and it exploded with flavor in my mouth. We also sent her two bottles of Martinelli's sparkling apple cider because she wanted it for Christmas and she couldn't find it anywhere near her. She doesn't want any other brand. We also sent her 25 different flavors of tea from our tea collection. She LOVED getting all that, especially the emperor's white tea!

We enjoy tea parties too. We like to have tea on our deck set in our special tea cups. It is fun to pick which tea cup from our cabinet and then Mom brings out the copper tea kettle and we have it with dried mango or cookies or a tiny bite of a slice of dried tangerine peel.

Aunt Mary sent us some blooming tea for our parties. Please click the link because you won't believe this. It blooms in the pot and you can make another pot of tea from it later! She also gave us dried mango and papaya and some nice nuts.

A really great gift she gave Mom was beautiful chimes. They are golden dragonflies (Mom loves dragonflies), and she found them at Dollar General marked down to twenty cents! Aunt Mary always finds wonderful things at good prices. When she goes shopping, she asks the Lord to find her a good Jewish deal, and he does! Even though she is poor right now, she gives the best gifts anyway. I usually don't like chimes but these I love. It only takes a little breeze to make them chime. They are hanging in a place under the mantle and when the big boys walk by they chime with a light tinkling sound. Funny, but Billy's parents gave Mom dragonfly chimes also and they are very nice and they are in our kitchen. Imagine two different people giving Mom chimes she loves WITH DRAGONFLIES, when she was never a chimes person! The loud ones and the clanky ones get on her nerves, and I agree, but these have a very sweet sound. Aunt Mary also gave us gospel tracts in English and other languages. She said we could carry them with us to the pub or wherever in case we have a chance to tell about Jesus.

Aunt Mary also sent us tiny candy canes that I love because they are the sweetest of all. She also gave us two CDs she found at the dollar store that have two discs with all sorts of children's songs. Georgi and I listened to the first disc tonight after we had homemade eggnog which was soo yummy. Mom made it from the eggs of our free range chickens. She whipped cream and the egg whites, blended them together with the yolks, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and bourbon for the grownups. It was soo delicious, even the sip I had with the bourbon was so good. Anyway, some of the songs I knew but some I didn't. It brought back a lot of Mom's memories from when she was a little girl. It was so fun.

A few days ago our nice neighbor Mrs. Stafford came by and gave us two big cans of shortbread cookies and a ham and vegetables and all you need for a Christmas dinner except we are going to eat it this week before Christmas because we have a turkey for Christmas. We can eat off the ham and Mom and Sarah won't have to cook so much since they are busy with baking and shopping and decorating so that makes sense. The cookies are extra large and we had them with milk when we watched The Hiding Place which is the movie about Corrie Ten Boom. We ordered it from Netflix after we read the book. I loved it, but it wasn't as good as the book. Corrie wasn't like I expected. I didn't get to see Mrs. Stafford when she was here because I had just come home from doing yard work at Ma's house and I had on a filthy white undershirt and bad clogs and I was embarrassed. I hope I get to see her when we take her our gifts.

I saw a fresh pineapple at Aldi's and asked Mom if we could buy it. She did, and we ate it tonight. The first piece I had was sweet, but the second piece I had was very sweet! Pineapple is so much better fresh.

I love trying new things like foods from around the world like my sister Sarah makes us, and the Lanes gave us Christmas pudding just like Tiny Tim's family had in A Christmas Carol and I can't wait to try it at Christmas. They also gave us candies and cookies and Christmas poppers and wine for my parents. Sarah got other things from them. We also each got a large box of English chocolates that some of my brothers already ate some of but I'm trying to save mine for Christmas. It's not easy. I've had their chocolate before!

The greenery in our house looks very pretty and it gives out the smell of Christmas. My mother dabs clove essential oil on our lightbulbs and it smells really good and Christmas-y.

We are working on a jigsaw puzzle that has fireworks bursting and it is very hard. We finished one last week that was a skyline of NYC and it also slightly glowed in the dark when the lights were out.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Christmas Playlist -- posted by Richard

For Christmas this year we reactivated Rhapsody, which is a great present, and I decided to post some Christmas tunes I like. I may add to this because we keep finding music we never heard before! Maybe you've never heard some of these before too.

This is I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus. I like this one because she's going to give the poor children presents. I always get choked up about poor children, especially around Christmastime.

I like this one because my mom and Sarah sing Richie Baby to me all year long with different lyrics but the same tune because these lyrics are kind of selfish. I also like this one because I like Eartha Kitt's voice a lot. I didn't know she was a black lady until today. For some reason that shocked me.

This is Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawaiian Christmas song, by Bing Crosby. I like this kind of music because it is very happy.

This is Zat You, Santy Claus? by Louis Armstrong. I love Louis Armstrong. He's a good singer with his throaty voice.

This is Nuttin' For Christmas. I like how this boy admitted it. I always wondered if I was bad whether I would get coal or switches for Christmas, but I never thought I'd get nuttin'.

Here's All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones & His City Slickers. John found this on Ma's computer after she died. Her old boyfriend Bill used to send her music from when they were young.

Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney by Ella Fitzgerald

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
by Johnny Mathis. My Aunt Mary prays for him all the time.

This is Will Santa Come to Shanty Town by Eddy Arnold. I just think this is so sad that this little boy doesn't know if he'll get anything for Christmas. Last year we didn't get individual presents because Dad didn't have a job, but we got a group gift, and we had nice fruit, AND we got to play in the snow. But this poor kid didn't even have a chimney, and he was wondering if Santa even knew where he lived! So sad.

This one is even worse. It's by Nat King Cole called The Little Boy That Santa Forgot. When Mom played it Georgi said, "Turn it off!" This one is just too sad.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Full Time Wife And Mother -- posted by Mrs. Allen

Oh how I'm lovin' having adult and almost-adult children! When Sarah Grace whistled for the boys to get on with the thorough cleaning of our family room for Christmas, they girded themselves with a manly can-do attitude and commenced taking control. We have 15 ft. ceilings in our family room and Sarah and I aren't about to climb the big ladder to dust ceiling fans that high up. The boys, relishing our dependence upon them, took their positions. Will, armed with the long wand of Dyson, climbed to the top of the ladder while Spencer was stationed on the bottom rungs for stability. James planted himself next to the ladder and lifted the vacuum so Will could reach the blades of the fans. Sarah and I left the room to avoid the inevitable dust storm. As we puttered around the kitchen we could hear their buoyant banter, and it filled the house with the deep, warm tones and laughter of merry men. I just love men... always have.

Don't get me wrong; I love little boys too! I've had a ball the last couple of days turning mine on to the sounds of Christmas from my childhood. We decided to keep our Christmas simple again this year, and for a holiday treat we reactivated our Rhapsody account. Boy oh boy have we gotten our money's worth already! I pulled up our traditional Christmas favorites by Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny G., Mannheim Steamroller, various big bands, etc. But I also introduced them to some they'd never heard before. [Please pardon the cheesy YouTube slideshows. I didn't feel like spending the day vetting artistic style from The Land of YouTubia (Shout out: Hi Michael!).]

Anyway, Johnny Mathis performs my very favorite version of O Holy Night. We listened to his entire Christmas album and, of course, we couldn't skip Chances Are and some of his other greatest hits.

Here's my favorite version of The Christmas Waltz. I prefer Doris Day's version-- even over Frank Sinatra's-- thanks to Aunt Mary promoting it to me.

I also love love love Amy Grant's Tennessee Christmas.

George Winston's December is another favorite. This is Thanksgiving. The whole album isn't so melancholy, just so you know.

I love it when the house is full of piano music, but only James plays these days. He's recently picked up the guitar, so I fear it might cut into his piano playing that I so enjoy. I'm constantly opening the classroom door to let the house fill with his music.

Another idea we had for Christmas was to take our fleet of old bicycles to the repair shop to see how many we could salvage. We got the idea from Corrie ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place, we've been reading aloud. We were inspired by all the bike riding in Holland in the 1930s and '40s, so we concocted the idea that it would be fun to cycle as a family again, sorta like the Trapp Family Singers! We didn't want to wait until Christmas to enjoy it, as we wouldn't want to waste the nice temperate weather in early December. So, there have been daily jaunts around the property, and once our sore thighs have strengthened, we're hoping to try out some local bike paths. We're also dreaming of camping somewhere that has trails for cycling.

Although we're hardly comparable to the Trapps, we've also considered Christmas caroling again. It's been several years since we've sung publicly and that was something we really enjoyed. I'm not sure we have enough practice time with the boys' work schedule, but it sure would be fun. I was reminded of how much fun the other night when the children (all but Will) went grocery shopping with Sarah and me. While we were headed for the check-out, after humming and whistling to ourselves as we traveled the Super Center, we all spontaneously burst into the last half of the first stanza of this, of all things:

I know those are odd lyrics for our family to be singing on the baking aisle, but honestly, it was so much fun breaking into song with them... sorta like a mini flash mob or at least a spontaneous real life musical theatre number! I love being out and about with my children so much, especially when everyone is in a festive, frolicking mood, albeit a little kooky.

I've been thinking a lot about motherhood these days. I started pondering it intensely after I saw the video of a delightful little girl, Sophia Grace, from the UK. Perhaps you saw her as well. A while back she and her girlfriend Rosie had a wildly popular viral video of them performing Nicki Minaj's Super Bass, and they were invited to appear on Ellen where they met Nicki Minaj. (Oh my days, Ellen is so darling in this interview-- oh how I love that woman!)

I'm sure Sophia Grace's mother loves her, as most mommies love their children, don't you think? But that's not enough. What's missing from our culture is the love of motherhood (and fatherhood especially, but that's a whole 'nother Oprah). Lately I've been focused on motherhood, or the lack thereof, ever since that interview. Even for a secular family, I would expect a mother to protect her little girl from hearing, much less singing, a song like Super Bass, with such lewd lyrics. And is Nicki Minaj the kind of role model they really want their daughters gushing over? I'm not just talking about those who have been born-again, that's a given. I'm talking about plain old secular motherhood in this damned world.

I admit I haven't always loved motherhood like I do now-- that has sprung out of my new heart, bubbling up to my own astonishment and awe at times. The riches in Christ Jesus keep me awestruck! I never knew such treasure existed, much less that I lacked it! Sure, I managed to provide the most important things for my children. I taught them the gospel of Jesus Christ from the get-go, and when they sinned against God, I spanked their fat butts to demonstrate that sin has consequences, and that they better fear God. The word of God has always been read to them and by them, and they've had the benefit of a mommy who has an intimate relationship with the Lord, as opposed to a church lady with a Pharisaical religious spirit, the likes of which abound here in the Bible Belt.

But I didn't always love motherhood as should be expressed in the daily minutia of life. For instance, before the end of the warm weather I was refilling the nectar in the hummingbird feeders attached with suction cups to our windows, and it occurred to me how I was going about that task motivated by the happy image of the kids lounging on the sofa or gazing out the dining room window thoroughly engaged in the beauty of creation. I realized at that moment that serving my children (and my husband) daily in the mundane was my life's work... all day, everyday. How sorry for me if I ever had to divide my attention from the needs of my family to the man's work-a-day world! In the early days of my marriage I was a co-provider with Bill working our network marketing business, and I was totally blind to the importance of being a full time wife and mother! I thought it was enough that I didn't go out to a job daily in light of Paul's instruction in Titus 2 to the elder women to teach the younger women to be "keepers at home." I actually thought my presence in the house everyday was complying with that command, and that somehow efforts to earn money was being the helpmeet I was called to be. But motherhood goes far beyond that understanding. The Greek word for "keeper" can also be rendered as "watch" or "guardian." Let me tell you, it is a full time job requiring undivided attention. I don't care how modern church women have tried to convince themselves otherwise-- they are just plain wrong! And even if this message gets their dander up, I pray they'll settle down, come to agree with the Lord, and become happy mommies at home. The same goes for wives. Of course, I was only married for nine months and six days when Will arrived, but even so, I wasn't planning on working outside the home even as a childless newlywed. Somehow I always knew this truth, and my heart grieves for women who either can't, or don't want to be home all day.

Another phenomenon I've witnessed, but never verbalized, was expressed and exposed well by The Thinking Housewife, a housewife blog I occasionally read (and to my knowledge she's not even born-again yet; I think she's Roman Catholic). Likewise, I've seen the over-the-top affection by some moms, and although my heart recoiled, I just couldn't put my finger on what the problem was. There seems to be an especially loud, in-your-face attempt to display superior affection. It reeks of a cover-up. Here's the link: These moms are full of guilt, and I'm not surprised because in this technological age people often don't even look up from their devices to make eye contact when conversing with others. I see it all the time and I just want to jerk a knot in children who stare at their cell phones while their parents are talking to them, but the parents do it too, as if the whole family is just fine being horribly detached. And then they perform publicly with grand outbursts of verbal affection and over-the-top kissy-face behavior. It all belies an emotional vacuum-- a bizarre penumbra.

Well, I better get back to being a full time wife and mother and save something for another post. Oh, and if you see any of my children hypnotized by technology of any kind, you have my permission to jerk a knot in them.

Also, here are two articles I wanted to share on The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Irving Kirsch Ph.D.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Congratulations Crystal Palace! -- posted by John, George, and Richard

Yesterday we all went to The British Bulldog Pub (all except Dad who was recovering from a cold) to watch Crystal Palace play Manchester United in "football" (what the Brits call soccer). We were pulling for Crystal Palace because that is Billy's family's favorite team. Billy said they weren't likely to win but we prayed they would anyway. Billy lol-ed at that. We don't normally pray to win games, but since this was the first time some of us had ever watched soccer, and since this was a really big game for Crystal Palace, we just told the Lord that we would so love to see a win. And we did! It was thrilling because the game went into extra time (overtime), and Mom and Sarah were squealing and screaming hoping Crystal Palace would hold Manchester from scoring the last 15 minutes of the extra time. And we always thought soccer was such a boring sport with the low scores-- but not this game!

When we got to the pub they put the game on the big screen for us, and every time the camera scanned over to the fans, we looked hard for Mr. Lane and Ped (Billy's brother Peter). We never did see them in the crowd but one time Spencer burst out that he saw Mr. Lane streaking across the field! Haha! We like to do impressions of Mr. Lane. Sometimes he wags his hands like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. He has really great hair. Here is a picture of him on his website. He will flash up on the left in a striped shirt but his hair in real life has a shock of white on the sides that looks really cool. Click here for the slideshow with Mr. Lane.

While we were at the pub we ordered some British food to try and share. First, we tried Scotch eggs (you can click on the picture), which don't look very delicious but they really are! They are hard boiled eggs wrapped in ground sausage, breaded, fried up, and served with spicy whole grain mustard. Then we ordered sausage rolls and they are sausage links wrapped in a pastry with dipping sauce-- sort of like our pigs in a blanket except the sausage links are softer. We also had fish and chips with malt vinegar. It came with regular tartar sauce and a very tasty jalapeno tartar sauce. We got it with a side of mushy peas because Billy brags on them because Mom said they make no sense. She said she can chew her food herself, lol. Some of us liked them and a couple of us didn't. Mom would never admit she liked them just to keep it going with Billy. Mom and Sarah had Magners which is a cider, but not like our cider because it is fermented and you must be 21 to drink it, and Will had Boddingtons. They liked them very much. Mom and Sarah had already tried Magners and brought a six pack home a few days ago and we got to taste a sip of it. We love it! It tastes like beer mixed up with apple juice. At the pub we also had Guinness chocolate cake for dessert. It is chocolate cake made with Guinness and layered in a glass with Bailey's zabaglione. It comes in a glass and the cream cheese icing is on top to look like a beer with a foamy head! And best of all, it doesn't taste like Guinness, because we aren't fond of the flavor of Guinness. Mom says it is like drinking wood. Haha.

Oh it was such a great night! We loved the food and the game and afterwards we walked down to Dick's Sporting Goods and listened to the salesman teach us about compound bows, and then we went to the mall. The older boys had Mom and Sarah help them pick a fragrance at the men's cologne counter, and then we walked through the mall and saw Santa.

What a fun time, and again, Congratulations Crystal Palace!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 -- posted by Richard

I watched this video over my mom's shoulder and I can't believe children can be taken away from their moms and dads so easy! I saw on the news that a girl took a laptop home from school and the people at school watched her on the webcam and listened to her family talking to each other at their home. This makes me feel really scared and sad for them. I'm very glad we homeschool because when I hear of these things and about bullies, I feel safe here with my family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Rolling In The Deep" A Cappella -- posted by Sarah Grace

Have y'all seen Mike Tompkins' a cappella version of Adele's Rolling in the Deep? I've posted Adele's version first, in case, like Dad, you've never heard it. Mike's version is performed with no instruments, only his mouth and hands!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Keep On Growin' Them Greens! (and harvest 'em sustainably!) -- posted by Mom

I was looking for information on how to harvest our greens garden sustainably, when I found this adorable dude. I can't help but wonder what else he's growing... sustainably!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Aunt Mary -- posted by John

My "Aunt" Mary isn't really my aunt; she is my mother's best friend. Unfortunately, we don't have relationships with our real aunts and uncles yet, so I am so thankful the Lord gave us Aunt Mary in the meantime. She's like grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins all rolled into one!

Sadly, Aunt Mary is estranged from many of her loved ones too. She prays for our family, and we pray for her family. We dream of the day when we're all one big happy family together! I've never met Aunt Mary's family, but I feel like "Uncle" Bill and "Uncle" Buddy and all her children and family are ours. And Aunt Mary loves all our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She and Ma became great friends before Ma passed away and they prayed together and reconciled. Aunt Mary says to never give up on relationships because the Lord can heal them in a blink.

I've copied Aunt Mary's birthday note below. She doesn't mind because she always tells us to share her notes with everybody. She usually intermixes English with Spanish because she likes to encourage our Spanish studies. She is fluent in Spanish and she loves the Spanish culture. (She also loves bamboo motif for note cards, so if you know where they sell them, please let me know.)

Aunt Mary is poor but she always sends me a birthday dollar even though I tell her not to. She is always generous even in her lack. I love her birthday dollar! She jokes that we shouldn't spend it all in one place.

For this birthday Aunt Mary sent me a recipe for a cake glaze because I don't like too-sweet icing or frosting. She thinks I will love it on a Bundt spice cake made with a whole box of prunes she chops up in coarse chunks. She laughs that people think they are dates or something and get a month's worth of potassium and are none the wiser! I love prunes, and I know I'll love this cake.

Aunt Mary is a holy woman and her love will never cease. The Lord trusts her with daring missions and she sticks her neck out to serve him. She's like a superhero for the Lord and I think she's awesome.

Aunt Mary also recently turned us on to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. I like this one because it is conducted by André Rieu. I've seen him in concert so that makes his version special. Wow @ 3:13!

Christoph Eschenbach's version is, I think, my favorite. It's longer and on two videos, but watch how he conducts with his face! I like the build up of the longer version.


Now watch how Valery Gergiev conducts the London Symphony Orchestra with a toothpick!

Also, here is a link to my Diaryland journal where I wrote a post and posted more of Aunt Mary's cards:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

She Makes Them Look Like Duds -- posted by John

Mom actually remembers her groovy dance moves from shows like Ed Sullivan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For Billy (And The Rest Of Us) -- posted by Mom

Here's an interesting back story on Dream a Little Dream of Me from SteynOnline's most recent Steyn's Song of the Week.

Oh Mama Cass.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The American Dream Film -- posted by Mom

I wholeheartedly agree with Savvinidis that this film should be shown in every high school in America, especially our homeschool. In fact, John, I want you to view it as well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Assignment: Occupy Wall Street vs. Tea Party -- posted by Mom

While surfing Occupy Wall Street videos, I came across this video of 20-year-old Chris Savvinidis. He confused me because I thought OWS folks were typically entitlement/Marxists types, but I couldn't find anything this young man said in the video with which I disagreed.

Turns out Mr. Savvinidis (who reminds Sarah and me of the revolutionary character Marius Pontmercy from Les Miz) understands the difference between capitalism and crony capitalism! It makes one wonder what a full blown Occupy Wall Street/Tea Party Venn diagram would look like. Many times, as a Christian homeschooling family, we've found ourselves in bed with off-the-grid hippy potheads. (Pause to absorb.) But seriously, once we understand the concept of liberty and justice for all, it must be applied with intellectual honesty and consistency. Ron Paul has utterly awed me with both.

Sarah Grace did a little digging and found Christos Savvinidis' web page: The interview with Peter Schiff explains a bit about the makeup of OWS, and is required for the upperclassmen. I haven't listened to all the interviews yet (some are on his previous pages), although I'm working on the one with Brian Wilson-- so far so good. There are many worthy articles so check them out as well.

Interview with Peter Schiff:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Greater Good

This is an excellent documentary on the vaccine controversy, and it's available for free viewing through November 5 on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

From Planking to Tebowing

Tebowing: (vb) to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Macchiato -- posted by Sarah Grace

This is one of our cats, Macchiato. He got his name from the swirl on his side. In Italian, Macchiato means "marked"... I didn't know this when I named him, the swirl just reminded me of the caramel macchiatos I order at Starbucks.

According to Wikipedia on caffè macchiato: The reason this coffee drink got its name was that the baristas needed to show the serving waiters the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a tiny bit of milk in it; the latter was 'marked'.

So his name is even more perfect than I thought!

Except Billy calls him HypnoCat.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tebow Time -- posted by Momma

We never bothered to reconnect our local stations after we disconnected our satellite TV, so when Will, Sarah Grace, and I wanted to see Tim Tebow start for the Broncos on Sunday, we decided to go to Carolina Ale House.

Here's the play that caused me to scream in the ale house:

Unfortunately, we had to leave before we could see the last amen win he managed to pull off (which was probably a blessing in disguise after my initial public outburst). As you can imagine, it was good for us Gator fans to see him in action again.

Today was the first I'd seen this Jimmy Kimmel interview:

The Super Bowl ad that was such a big whopping controversy:

And the rest of the story with Timmy's folks:

Mostly For Billy -- posted by SM (Mom)

Since we live in the country and don't really have much light pollution, I've always made it a point to keep up with night sky-watching events like meteor showers or when certain planets are more visible or unusually aligned, etc. Most events happen in cold weather so we bundle up under a mountain of blankets and quilts with coffee and hot cocoa and count the "shooting stars" in the same way we play cow poker or the ABC game on road trips. Sometimes displays happen in the summer and we spread out on blankets with mosquito repellent, and doze and giggle dreamily while we gaze.

For the sake of having a secular so-called "education," we learn what the world's scholars teach about astronomy, but far more interesting (and, well, true) is what the Bible says about the cosmos. I've always loved these times with the children, even when I've wondered how much time I had before frostbite might set in!

I'll admit we must be somewhat spoiled, as over the last few years the older children's interest has waned and they have opted to skip viewing certain events since they've seen it so many times before... until, lo and behold, Billy Boy came on the scene. You see, all the heavy population and the lights of London and surrounding areas prevent our Mr. Billy from seeing these events. In fact, the poor bloke has only seen one shooting star! Count 'em... one.

So, needless to say, we can't wait to schedule all-nighters and camping trips during peak events for the city boy.

We missed the auroras in the video above (I don't think they were visible this far south although they could be seen as far south as Arkansas), but it would be fun to show up for something like that!

Also, Click Here For 2011 Slideshow.

*Shout Out*

Billy, I'm thrilled you have your nose in the Word of God like never before. However, I hope while you're at Rudge Farm this weekend you'll take a moment to peek up and maybe catch "Shooting Star" Numero Dos. You may also want to check out in Genesis how God created the light on Day One, but didn't bother to create the sun until Day Four! He even created the Earth with grass and herb yielding seed, and the tree yielding fruit on the third day and still no sun!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Corrie Ten Boom Testimony -- posted by Mom

I remember when I saw the full Pat Robertson interview with Corrie Ten Boom back in the '70s. (I love how she kind of rebukes him and reminds us that we shouldn't be too surprised by the miracles of God!) It was her testimony about how her father read the word of God to their family every day, and also how they gathered around the supper table to talk and pray, that inspired me to do the same with my future family... AND I WASN'T EVEN BORN AGAIN YET.

Years ago I read her book, The Hiding Place, to The Big Four. It details the true story of her militant heroics in the anti-Nazi underground, and subsequent arrest and imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.

Anyway, I'm planning to read it to the little boys, and when I found her testimony on YouTube, I had to share it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SC State Fair -- posted by Richard

John, George, Dad and I went to the fair. It all started off that the Big Four and Jamie Lee, and Caleb, and Lee went to the fair. The day they went, we were reading Farmer Boy out loud. Then, we got a phone call, and the next thing you know, we were going to the fair, too! Mr. Cantey gave Dad free tickets! We went the next day and we didn't waste money on the gambling, but we road the rides and it was the most fun!

We went on a ride where you go upside-down. It was the most fun and scary, but George seemed to like it because he was laughing the whole ride. Then we road on a sleigh ride called The Polar Express. There was a bad thing about it. On the big picture in front, the boys had on ski clothes, and the girls were forced to wear bikinis! They must have been freezing!

George and I had corn dogs and chocolate dipped ice cream. The ice cream was soft on the inside with a hard shell. That was the greatest thing about it because it couldn't fall off.

When we were on the cable car, we could see the roofs of the buildings and it felt like we were going to fall off.

Then we were in teacups on steroids. They went super fast! We all got to sit together, and that was the most fun. While we were rolling, I got to see a machine spider. We went on it next. When we were on it, John thought it was going to be stupid, but it was so fast that I couldn't believe I didn't throw up. It stops at the very top and then goes faster and faster and faster on the way down. After being there all day and night, and since it was getting cold, we decided to get Mom some cotton candy and a candy apple, and we got Sarah a burger. Then we hopped in the car and drove away.

We also got to ride an elephant, and so did Will, Sarah Grace, and Spencer! Lee and Jamie Lee took pictures. Spencer held out his arms and pronounced himself, "Prince Ali Baba!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn with Billy -- posted by John

We just enjoyed another week with Billy. We got to hang out with his parents too, but they stayed in Charleston (which recently came in at number 3 of the world's best cities, by the way). We took them to a real Southern BBQ restaurant called Shealy's, and they took us to one of their favorite restaurants in Charleston called Poogan's Porch. That was one of Ma's favorite restaurants as well. I ordered the shrimp and grits (It's pictured first on the link.). It was extra spicy to me. It had spicy sausage and they added spices, so with every bite that had sausage, I had a sip of my water. Nevertheless, it was excellent... and I know shrimp and grits.

We all had dessert as well because the Lanes are generous that way, and I think Mr. Lane likes "pudding lists" which is what they call dessert menus in England. They let us little kids have coffee with our dessert because we wanted to do an all-nighter to stay up and play with Billy, but we fell asleep despite the caffeine. Oh well, the coffee tasted so good anyway.

Mr. and Mrs. Lane are so generous to take all of us out to such a nice restaurant and let us have dessert too! It was such a great outing for us since we couldn't go to restaurants while Dad was unemployed for so long. Even so, we don't usually go to such nice restaurants unless it is for the lunch menu.

I know Mr. and Mrs. Lane are givers because I hear of how often they take people out to dinner in England, and they love bringing us gifts! They brought a huge suitcase full of gifts this time too with interesting candies and cookies and cheese biscuits and personalized key chains and various items. It was so exciting as they were passing out all the gift bags and packages.

We didn't busy ourselves too much this visit because we noticed it makes the visit go by too fast. The big event (besides Poogan's Porch) was a trip to the mountains to go hiking to different waterfalls. Unfortunately, Will, George, and Richard slipped on the rocks and fell into the water at the first stop. Fortunately for Will, the only dry place on his pants was the pocket containing his phone. Surprisingly, it didn't spoil the trip. If it had been cold, we would have had to find a laundry or a clothing store. They weren't miserable because after we saw the waterfalls, I gave Richard a pair of my camouflage pants in the van, and George just slipped off his pants and wrapped up in a blanket. No one complained.

After it happened, Billy and Sarah were walking toward the waterfall when a man said, "Be careful, those kids over there almost got themselves killed!" He was talking about us!

Dad was a little disappointed because he thought there would be narrow hiking trails to each waterfall but there were dirt roads that went all the way up to the trails that lead to the waterfalls. Mom joked that she was glad the roads were wide enough for an ambulance when she got winded climbing a steep incline. Mom's a real trooper, though. She loves to go camping and she was planning a camping trip while we were hiking in that area because the trails are accessible to horses. That would be so much fun! As long as Mom has a coffee maker and an inflatable bed, she'll go anywhere.

Also, they were filming a movie at the waterfalls called The Healer. It's a creepy movie, I think, but we enjoyed watching them film.

Before the day was over, we went to Sliding Rock

and the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the views. We saw some awesome views but soon a cloud covered the mountain and we could only see a foot in front of the van. It was 98% exciting and 2% scary... or maybe it was 98% scary and 2% exciting. To add to the adrenaline rush, before we got all the way down the mountain, our brakes went out. Dad was riding the brakes while we were navigating those hairpin turns when we were in the cloud, and the repairman said we wore the brakes all the way down to the blue part beyond the brake pad!

We were disappointed we didn't see a bear in the wild since Billy has never seen one, but I guess we have to save something for later.

He did see Last of the Mohicans with us before the trip so he could get in the mood, and we played the soundtrack as we wound our way through the mountains with the fall foliage. It was another awesome, unforgettable time with Billy, and of course we're looking forward to when we're all together again.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Assignments 10/01/11-- posted by Mom

Try to watch the first documentary as soon as possible even though it's 3 1/2 hours long. That may seem daunting, but once you start it, it will go fast. I'm posting the link that has it divided into 22 parts so you don't have to watch it all in one sitting. Nevertheless, try to watch it between your work shifts so we can discuss it with Dad before all the activity for Billy's upcoming visit.

After the first video ends on YouTube, each subsequent link appears on the sidebar. Watch all 22 parts.

Also, please quickly get over any distracting '90s style offenses so you don't ruin it for yourself.

The following is a Bill Still documentary on monetary reform made in 2009. (What a difference a decade makes aesthetically, eh?) Consider these videos in light of Biblical principles and prophecies we've studied.

And, just so you know, he isn't promoting a gold standard.

Also, Billy, I had never heard of tally sticks until this video.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Overheard -- posted by Sarah Grace

Richard: "I can't WAIT until I get married and have children!"

Mom: "Why the big hurry?"

Richard: "Why, so they can all meet YOU, that's why!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Boogie Billy's Visit -- posted by Mom

I said I would "hopefully" post pictures of Billy's visit from early July.


We're just so busy with harvesting the garden and cooking and putting up the produce that there is little time for the Internet right now.

Suffice it to say, we crammed in fun galore for just one short week. While still limping from our seven months of unemployment, we showed Billy how to have fun on the economy Picnic Plan. One of Bill's customers gave us a condo at the beach to use, and our neighbor Jo unloaded on our driveway a mountain of beach umbrellas and chairs and boogie boards. So we baked cookies, made chicken salad sandwiches, turkey and ham wraps and hit the road!

To our surprise, Billy had never boogie-boarded (aka body-boarding) despite his extensive travel. We were happy to introduce "Boogie Billy" to his new found calling in life. He was awesome -- and, dare I say, fabulous -- as he overcame his British Reserve to indulge his boogie fever.

My only disappointment with the visit was that the sole alligator we saw in the wild was 100ft away. The last time we went to the swamp I had to pin Webb's arms down by practically sitting on him to keep him from reaching over the sides of the boat to pet the alligators. The kids had an awesome time surrounded by them while I was relieved when it was all over. Gators were everywhere! Except for that one at a distance, all we saw with Billy were the tell-tale bubbles coming up from under the boat. That in itself can be unnerving, not knowing when one might suddenly appear. Despite my disappointment, Billy was okay with his first encounter being at a safe distance. Next time, Boog, next time. Oh how The Posse loves introducing the "tea drinker" to danger.