Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Joy in the Ditches

As you might have guessed from my last post, this has not been an easy month at our house. My personality type loves quiet and calm and everyone getting along. None of that has been true this month-- not for one single minute. As a result, I have not been full of Christmas cheer. At one point, in fact, I had to have the entire family get down on our knees and pray that God would give us the ability to be kind to each other. As soon as I said, "Amen!" my daughter said, "Trixie was being annoying."

One day last week,  I was feeling done before I even started. My husband was traveling for work. I had hoped to go with him on his work trip to see the lights in New York City, but it was obvious that the toddlers could not handle the trip, so we had cancelled. I was exhausted and the kids were on overdrive. Finally I decided that I had to get them outside.  The sun was actually shining and it was obvious that they needed to do something with all of their energy. An hour later, I finally had everyone dressed and ready to head out the door. Blessedly, it was a mild enough day that it didn't even matter that the two-year-old was refusing to wear his coat. We set off to walk our dog and were tempted on to a street that we normally bypass because we saw an abominable snowman in someone's yard. When we got closer to the yard, we were delighted to see that they also had a purple hippo, a goose and goslings, a Snoopy and four frogs in Santa hats. 

We walked farther down the street, admiring the Christmas displays as we went, and I saw my daughter pick up a red velvet ribbon. This particular daughter is the ultimate trash-picker. She once convinced her brother and sisters that collecting old avocado pits was the coolest thing ever. She currently has five old tissue-boxes stuffed with odds and ends in her bed. We walked a little farther and my second daughter said, "Can I go back and show Ella something?" They both came running excitedly back to me, "It's a little lace pillow that says Joy." 

Mabel held a white pillow trimmed in eyelet and embroidered with the word JOY. Despite being picked up off the side of the road, it was still remarkably clean. 

My grumpy answer, of course, was "That is not coming into my house!"

But Ella, who always has a solution, yelled, "We need to make a tree for our ornaments! We'll make it on the back porch."

We turned the corner and what did we find? A full barrel of branches someone had cut off of their Christmas tree. "Our tree!" the girls yelled, and ran over and picked out a long branch.

Ella hoisted the tree limb on to her shoulder and we headed home. The girls set up their tree on the back porch and put their two ornaments on it. They added a few found treasures that were destined for the trash at our house and a few homemade paper hearts.

Then the next day we set out on our walk again. 
"Let's go find more ornaments!" the girls exclaimed.
"We're probably not going to find anymore." I muttered.

That day, we came home with an Ariel ornament and a scruffy wooden heart. The kids excitedly showed their dad the tree when he got home.That night when he walked the dog, he headed to the same street and came home with a large glittered ball ornament. 

Today, we set out for a walk again. The girls said, "We have to go back to the treasure street and get more ornaments." I suggested we try a different street, but had no luck, so we headed back to the same spot. I was absolutely positive there was no chance we would find an ornament today, until was the one who saw it: a red polka-dot cat on the side of the road. Then we crossed the street and I saw another, a slightly-busted hand-painted plastic ball ornament. 

Stumbling along in the muddy trenches of motherhood, I couldn't see that there was joy lying right there in a puddle on the side of the road. It took walking through the tough parts of life with my kids to see it there waiting for someone to pick it up.

Our Christmas tree has been decorated and lit for weeks now in our living room, but it's the tree on the back porch with all of its shabby, misfit ornaments where joy lives.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent: An Honest Retelling

Am I the only one who suffers from Advent amnesia each year? Who dreams of children happily making Christmas crafts and cheerfully putting on coats to attend holiday events as the snow drifts slowly down?

Instead we started the first Sunday of Advent: at home with a broken-down car, children hyped up from vacation, a birthday party, and the first snowfall -- and squabbling, non-stop squabbling.The toddlers have been a mess. The volume and energy has been through the roof.

Then a few days in, I heard a crash in the kitchen. The two-year-old had managed to break a large snowglobe and was standing in a sea of water, broken glass, and iridescent glitter. With an order to the older kids to keep the toddlers and the dog out of the room, I started picking up broken glass, mopping up water and trying to find a way to remove the glitter slick that was seeping into the cracks between the tiles.Then the toddler, who was screaming and trying to hurl himself into the room, grew quiet. I did not know at the time that it was because his sister had come up with the ingenious solution of attaching a dog leash to his belt buckle. Then as the steam was about to pour out of my ears, I hear children's voices float in from the hallway, "Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel."

December is a hard time to be a homeschool parent. It's a hard time to be a public school teacher, a day care provider, or a stay at home parent. Being a parent of young children in December makes it abundantly clear how much we need someone to save us!

Maybe that is what we need during Advent. The world that Jesus came to save was not dressed in its season's best. The candles weren't lit. The world was dark, chaotic, and there was an awful lot of squabbling. There were things that were broken, toddlers screaming, and parents who didn't know if they would make it through the season. It was a world that needed to cry out, "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel."

So I have this special prayer for you parents out there this Christmas, (which may or may not be based on my own experiences):

When snowglobes are broken and ornaments break,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When screaming toddlers must be carried out of Hobby Lobby,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When siblings can't get along and no one wants to share,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When much-anticipated Christmas events begin and end with epic tantrums,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When lines are too long and stores are crowded, and everything is just too loud,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When rolling out cookies leads to Mommy meltdowns,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When attitudes are bad and parents are feeling grinchy,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When your lovely educational plans collapse,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When another Christmas movie afternoon is all you can handle,
Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

When you threaten to cancel Christmas yet again,
 Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel

In all the chaos and excitement that is December with children, I pray that you will have quiet moments of restoration too, that you will feel the freedom to let go of anything you just can't handle, even if it seems like a lot of fun. I hope that each week will bring a little more light to disperse the gloomy clouds of night.

Rejoice, Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, Oh Israel!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Favorite Christmas Books

. "In such a house, one did not suddenly stub one's toe on Christmas and frantically rush about preparing for it at the last minute, as if it were a disaster. In such a house, the whole year was tilted toward Christmas..." The Christmas Pony by Helen McCully and Dorothy Crayder

My husband loves Christmas. You might say that his whole year is "tilted toward Christmas." When we got married, I married into a full collection of Christmas books and decorations, and we've only added to it since we've had children. We both enjoy spending the month of December reading our favorite Christmas fiction and celebrating Advent, so it was hard to narrow down our favorite books. These are the ones we return to each year with great pleasure and anticipation.
The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeline L'Engle. This was my husband's favorite book as a child. I am so glad he shared it with me, as this short novel has become a whole family favorite and annual read for us. This book features the Austin family from L'Engle's series Meet the Austins, but can be read as a stand-alone. This is a particularly special book because it's about a family celebrating Advent. On each day of December, they do something special: they take out a special decoration, make their wreaths, sing carols. In the book, seven-year-old Vicky is practicing to be the angel in the Christmas pageant, but her mother is due with a new baby right at Christmas time, and she fears that her mother will miss the pageant, and Christmas will be ruined.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck is the most beautiful Christmas book we own, both the illustrations and the story. It's the story of a son who wants to show his love for his father, but doesn't have any money. The surprise he comes up with for his father is so touching and generous. We love this book, and it doesn't hurt that Pearl Buck was born in the same spot in West Virginia where I grew up.
This is the classic I most remember from my childhood. The Herdmann family threatens to ruin the church Christmas pagaent, but instead they make it one of the most memorable and touching nights of the year. Funny and true to life, this book is a favorite.
It's become part of our annual tradition to listen to this audiobook on the way home from our Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia. Not surprisingly, this book by Dave Barry is really funny, but it also is really touching too. It's the story of a family and a Christmas play, a dying dog named Frank, and how another dog name Walter and a whole lot of frozen bat poop saved Christmas.
This is another audiobook,which we listen to annually. It's the third in the Grandma Dowdel series by Richard Peck. The audio is read by one of our very favorite readers:Ron McLarty, so it is not to be missed. Christmas doesn't come until the very end of this book, but it's worth the wait. If you haven't listened to the whole series starting with A Long Way from Chicago and followed by A Year Down Yonder, you can't miss the first two either.
I am always looking for fun books that feature the nativity. We love this one. It's about a little mouse who decides to move into the nativity scene, but when he hears the story of Christmas, he realizes his mistake. He gets a surprise new home in return. Very cute for younger children.
A Night the Stars Danced for Joy by Bob Hartman is such an interesting book about a family of shepherds who visit the stable where Jesus is born. Each member of the family brings his or  her own wishes and desires for healing from physical and emotional pain, and they find redemption in their visit to Jesus. There's a lot of emotional depth to this beautifully illustrated picture book.
My oldest daughter declared that The Town that Forgot About Christmas by Susan K. Leigh is her favorite Christmas book. It's the story of a man named Matthew who moves to a town that has forgotten about Christmas. Through his healing presence and the carving of a nativity scene, the families in the town learn to connect with each other again and with the story of Christmas.
Song of the Stars is a beautiful picture book by Sally Lloyd-Jones. In this story, all of the animals in the world anticipate the birth of Christ. We love Sally Lloyd-Jones and this picture book is a great addition to the Bible story in the Jesus Storybook Bible also by Lloyd-Jones, which has our favorite reading of the Biblical story of Christmas.
We love The Three Wise Women of Christmas by Dandi Daley MacKall because it highlights the beautiful stories of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. I especially love that they feature Anna, as she is not often featured in picture books. A great addition to Advent if you would like to learn about all of the characters in the nativity story.
Who is Coming to Our House by Joseph Slate. We received this sweet board book from our neighbors when our oldest daughter was born, and it's our favorite  nativity book to share with toddlers. I love the woodcut illustrations and simple, rhythmic text.

Monday, November 17, 2014

10 More Audiobooks Your Whole Family Will Enjoy

It's that time of year again. Time for holiday travel, which means lots of audiobooks are needed. It's become a Thanksgiving tradition for  us to revisit some of our favorites like Grandma Dowdel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. Here are some more of our all-time favorites if you need some inspiration for that next long road trip.

Mercy Watson Collection by Kate Dicamillo
Take my favorite author Kate DiCamillo, add in a pig who loves toast with a great deal of butter, plus our favorite audiobook reader of all time: Ron McLarty. You get audiobook magic.There are two different Mercy Watson collections on cd, and all wonderful. Your youngest listeners will especially enjoy these.
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
We love Elizabeth Enright's books so much, and we especially enjoyed the family adventures of the Melendy Family. Each Saturday, one of the four children go on a solo adventure in the city. Be sure to follow-up with the sequels: The Four-Story Mistake, Then There were Five, and A Spiderweb for Two.
Come on Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody!
Even though the grown-ups knew the story from the movie Seabiscuit, we were all still riveted by Ralph Moody's book. Read by Jim Weiss who is one of the masters. Did you know this was one of Lauren Hillenbrandt's  favorite books as a kid and inspired her to write Seabiscuit:An American Legend.
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
This is a classic Newbery Medal-winning book that you may not have encountered. Such a beautiful story of a family healing from the affects of war and the love of neighbors. This is a full cast recording, which always takes some adjustment, but worth a listen.
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Cheaper by the Dozen is one of those audiobooks that the kids will enjoy, but the adults will enjoy on a whole different level. First off, it's very funny, and if you have even a semi-large family, you will definitely appreciate the Gilbreth's family's antics. Wonderful.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm by Betty MacDonald
The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books were some of my absolute favorites as a kid. I have found them just as charming and funny listening to them as an adult, though now I have a greater appreciation for the 1950s descriptions of jello salads.Your younger kids will especially love these, and maybe learn some lessons too. Look for all the sequels too!
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
During our Anne of Green Gables kick, we listened to both the Blackstone audio reading of Anne and the Focus on the Family radio theater version. We enjoyed both, but the kids chose the Blackstone reading by Susan O'Malley as their favorite. I know we'll be listening to these again.
Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell
Our whole family got hooked on the Trixie Belden mysteries. Unfortunately, only the first 4-5 are on audio. We loved the characters and the fact that Trixie and her friends were a little younger, so the mysteries weren't as frightening as some of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Make sure you listen to them in order. Also led to a slight obsession with 1950s era trailers on the kids' part.You can check out other mystery audiobooks we've loved here.
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  by E.L. Konigsburg
I'm a sucker for mysteries set in museums and libraries and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  by E.L. Konigsburg is the classic that started it all. Claudia and her brother James run away and hide in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. While they are there they find themselves in the middle of a mystery.
Charlotte's Web by E.B White
This audiobook is a rare gift. Charlotte's Web read by E.B. White himself. It's so good.


Find the White Horse by Dick King-Smith
We love Dick King-Smith's books, and though I won't call this a classic, we were entertained by the big white dog Lubber and friends as they try to make it home to the two old ladies he lives with. The ladies were especially funny!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Discount Guide to a Great Dress-up Bin

Our kids love dress-up clothes. Like many young girls, it all started with Disney princesses. Even though we had not seen any of the movies, one day we walked down an aisle in Target, and my four-year-old suddenly became completely obsessed with owning a mermaid tail. They have all gone through a major sparkle phase, but now they prefer old-fashioned dresses, sunbonnets, and aprons to itchy polyesther.

In one of my favorite books, Educating the Whole-hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, the Clarksons first introduced me to the idea of making your entire home into a place that inspires love of learning. They do this through discovery corners, such as an audio corner for listening to books, a craft table with supplies, a selection of musical instruments, or a writing desk with fancy paper in another. One of the things they suggested was adding a historic dress-up bin to your home. I have found that dress-up clothes can be a wonderful way to bring books to life in your home. Our kids have been Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sarah Nobel, Madeline, and even Mrs. Rachel Lynde. I know that a book has really captured their heart when it enters into their free play.  So, over the past few years, I've been adding new dress-up clothes to our bin to inspire the kids to interact with different eras of history, cultures, and classic books.

In the process, I have discovered some great ways to put together a Literary/ Historic dress-up bin for not a lot of money.   Since I have spent an inordinate amount of hours thinking about dress-up clothes, I'll share my best tips with you so you can save yourself the effort. (I'm sorry, but most of these are geared toward girls, but if you have boys and do a dress-up bin, please chime in in the comments.)

1) After Halloween Sales: One Christmas when my girls were really into the more commercial character costumes, I happened across a 75%off rack of costumes at Target after Halloween. I was able to get Tinkerbell costumes, Renaissance Princesses, and Angel costumes for $3-$7. The costumes were similar in quality to the dresses available in the toy department at a fraction of the cost. We wrapped them all up for Christmas presents and the girls loved them. I've noticed that Target is moving their holiday sale items through faster each year, but keep your eyes open in the next week or two and you might hit it big. Besides the character costumes, they often have more generic costumes like knights, doctors, explorers that you can find for a great price.

2)Thrift stores: If you use your imagination, thrift stores are full of great costumes. When we were doing our Around the World tea parties, I was able to put together outfits inspired by different countries by shopping at the Goodwill. If you find a small-size woman's dress, it can be a perfect long dress on your daughter. By adjusting the straps and adding a seam or two, they work great. I have been able to find Chinese dresses, boldly-printed sundresses for African dresses, and turn women's wrap-style shirts into Kimonos. I also found a great Laura Ashley red calico dress from the 1980s that made a perfect Laura Ingalls dress. Though I don't have as much experience with boy costumes, in the Civil War Unit Study int he free resources at Schoolhouse in the Woods, they have instructions for making Civil War coats out of thrift store jackets.  They are really brilliant.

3) Etsy: is the best place to find beautiful, handmade historic costumes from Little House on the Prairie to Anne of Green Gables. We purchased several sunbonnets from etsy stores for the same price as the factory-made ones at Old Sturbridge Village. You can also buy matching doll costumes for American Girl dolls. However, there is another way to shop on Etsy that can also save you money. Search for vintage prairie clothes from the 1970s and 1980s. I found an adorable dress for Trixie by searching for "pinafore." The seller guessed that it was made in 1976 for the bicentennial celebration. It was the perfect Carrie Ingalls dress for $12.

4)Ebay: We have also bought costumes from Ebay. We found handmade colonial style dresses with aprons and mobcaps for about half the price of Etsy. The fabrics were definitely cheaper, but suitable for our purposes. You can also look for vintage or handmade clothes on ebay. Try searching for "girls prairie dress," "girls dress pinafore," or "modest girls dress," or strangely enough "Amish dress." Yes, they sell Amish dresses on Ebay. Who knew?

5) Hand-me-downs: A great place to look for dress-up clothes is in your parents' closets. My mom has passed down lots of my old clothes that she still had and the girls have loved having them for dress-up: everything from old prom dresses, simple dresses my Mom sewed me to knit shawls. I also mentioned at church that I was sorely lacking in dress-up clothes for boys and two friends with older boys passed down their costumes to me. So now we have cowboy, knight, and animal costumes for the little guy.
6) Unexpected Places: Last year, I really wanted to find the kids fleece cloaks. We had just read The Courage of Sarah Nobel and the girls loved her red cloak. As a mom in New England, I saw the benefit of having warm dress-up clothes. My kids have no trouble running around the house on a frigid day in tutu, but it makes me cold to look at them. I found a toddler cloak on sale at The Capery on Etsy, but I couldn't afford the bigger girl sizes.Then I found the perfect fleece cloaks at an unexpected place: Cracker Barrel. They sell women's fleece capes for $20. We found a red one and purple one, which worked perfectly. For our son, we were able to sew a simple cloak just by cutting a rectangle of fleece, folding over the top a few inches for a collar and adding velcro and a decorative button.

Bonus: If you are going to buy any dress-up full price, these flutter wings are worth every penny. After fighting with wings with wires in them and destroying several pairs, we put these on the Christmas list. They have two straps which go over the shoulders and finger loops, which help them to flutter when you run or flap.The kids love them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First Chapter Book Read-Alouds

A common question I hear from parents is: when do I start reading chapter books out loud to my kids and what books should I read?

First, I have to encourage you not to give up on picture books too early. Even older kids can get so much out of the art in picture books. They often contain more sophisticated stories and themes than when you move up to early chapter books, which  are written more simply for new readers.

However, if you  are eager to start reading chapter books, then the best books to start with have short chapters and illustrations on almost every page. It also helps if the books are part of  a series, since my daughter's first question is always, "Are there more of these?"

Here are some treasures that we have found that will appeal to all ages.
Several of our friends were raving about these books and they were so right. Anna Hibiscus is a little girl living in Africa in a compound with her large African family. The stories are funny and full of gentle lessons about compassion, traditions, and family love.We are looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors. She has several Easy Reader series that are wonderful: Mr. Putter and Tabby, Poppleton, Henry and Mudge. The Cobble Street Cousins features three cousins who are staying with their aunt while their parents perform in ballets. They have lots of little-kid adventures: baking, making a newspaper, going shopping for gifts. Sweet and just right for young readers.
Kate DiCamillo brings us  a pig who loves toast with a great deal of butter. What is there not to love? These stories are funny and full of a great cast of characters. The vivid color illustrations by Chris Van Dusen are amazing! This is a series not to be missed. The audio books are some of our favorites too.
I discovered Dick King-Smith's books through a wonderful list of 50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers compiled by What Do We Do All Day? Dick King-Smith was a British failed-farmer-turned-author, and he loves pigs.You may recognize his most famous work: Babe: The Gallant Pig or at least the famous line, "That'll do, pig."  I have a daughter who loves pigs so we have read many of his books and loved them. The Lady Lollipop books are our particular favorites though because it features a princess and a pig.
I discovered The Racketty- Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett last year and it was a big hit with my girls. When a new, fancy dollhouse arrives, the well-loved and shabby Racketty-Packetty House is shoved in a corner, but nothing can dampen the spirits of the dolls that live there. We really loved this version with illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin.
Kenny and the Dragon is a retelling of The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. Tony DiTerlizzi's gorgeous illustrations add so much life to the story of a poetry-loving, dessert-eating dragon who befriends a young rabbit who then must save the dragon from the frightened townsfolk. The kids had me start over at the beginning as soon as we were through.
Another wonderful series by Cynthia Rylant with lovely illustrations. A cat named Pandora lives a lonely life as a lighthouse keeper when some improbable companions wash up on her shore and change her life.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Appalachian Week: Down, Down the Mountain

We spent a fun week with Down, Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle, another Appalachian book I had never heard of until using Five in a Row. It was written in 1934 by a teacher in the North Carolina mountains who wanted to see the lives of the children around her reflected in books. It's a lovely little story about Hetty and Hank, siblings who want to buy shoes, but there family is too poor. Their granny encourages them to plant turnips and take them to sell in the town to buy their shoes. They work all summer to grow turnips, but as they head down, down the mountain to sell them, they encounter many different people who need their turnips, and they end up giving them all away.When they get to town, they find that it's the county fair and their one turnip wins a big prize and they get their shoes after all.

So what did we do with that giant turnip I mentioned in my post: Serendipity Homeschooling? We had our own county fair. The kids wanted to gather up all of the vegetables in the house. We had turnips, squash, pumpkins, and onions. Thank you farm share! First we weighed them all to see which were the biggest. It was a great lesson in fractions.

Then we measured the circumference. More math!
You can see just how big our turnip is here. Then we picked some more winners and had an awards ceremony. The winners with the vegetables with the largest circumference were the pumpkins. Here are our own Hetty and Hank, barefeet and all, to collect their prize. Five copper pennies!
The next day we cooked an Appalachian meal for dinner. The kids loved learning how to use a vegetable peeler on the turnips and dicing them up. I decided to make the turnips into a casserole with cheese sauce to make them more kid-friendly. Casseroles are a very Appalachian way of cooking. I don't know how many different vegetables I've had cooked up like this. All that was missing was the cream of mushroom soup.

 We also made brown beans and cornbread to go with our turnips. At least one kid actually did like the turnips. She was also the one that decided during cooking that you had to like what you make yourself. Her older sister told her that you can like making it without liking to eat it.
To learn more about Appalachian culture, we colored in the Appalachian Mountains on our map, practiced building log cabins with Lincoln logs, and I played them some recordings of my great-aunts in Kentucky. I spent several years recording oral histories in West Virginia and Kentucky when I was a student and an Americorps VISTA shortly after graduating college. I pulled down an oral history book I had written to show the kids the pictures. They had no idea I had ever written this book, and insisted that I read it out loud, and had lots of questions.

I have been thinking a lot lately about inspiring your kids. It always seems to come back to the fact that if you want your kids to love learning, you actually have to love learning yourself, and you have to share that with them. But it had never occurred to me that the simplest way to do this was to just share my own projects with them. I recommend trying it with your own kids. Show them that sweater you knitted or play them a recording of your choral group in college or read them some writing. You might be surprised at how inspiring you are!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Appalachian Week: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Last year, we studied one of my favorite picture books of all time: When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. The text of this book is so beautiful and evocative of living in the Appalachian mountains and the gentle, watercolor illustrations are just lovely. 

We put together a special meal for this week. Ella had been learning to make hot cocoa from her Betty Crocker for Boys and Girls cookbook. Everyone agreed that she is now the Number 1 Hot Cocoa Maker in the House, and I was dethroned. I was happy to pass the torch. We also made my uncle's recipe for Prize-Winning Biscuits at the County Fair. We ate homemade apple butter and bread and butter pickles. The girls had canned the pickles with their dad earlier in the summer. While we ate, we read the book Appalachia: The Voice of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant with illustrations by Barry Moser.

One of our favorite parts of this week was setting up an old-fashioned general store just like in the book. We made a list of everything they sold and tried to collect it to sell in our store. For Christmas the year before, Brent and I had made the kids an old-fashioned general store as a special present. We found a small counter/ cupboard, painted it, and added a half-barrel planter to the front full of special beanbags we had sewn to look like bags of sugar and flour and fruit and candies. The store also included an old-fashioned metal cash register, plastic cast-iron kettles, tin canisters and amber-colored bottles with old-fashioned labels.
The girls dressed up in costume. One girl would come shopping with a basket and some play  money, make her order, and the other girl would weigh the items and ask for the cash. So much math all integrated into play.
The girls borrowed several of our canisters to make it look more realistic. Here Ella trying to calculate the weight of the popcorn.
A week of food and play and lots of learning about West Virginia. Such fun!