Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Busy-ness!

Do you ever dream of all your going to accomplish during the Summer? Only to find yourself incredibly busy; yet, when a friend asks, " What have you been up to?"... You really can't recall anything of substance?

Well, that's the way I feel!

I had grand plans of moving in, getting settled, doing crafts, blogging regularly (we all know how that turned out!), getting the boys back with piano and golf, etc. etc.

Well, only part of this list happened.

We did however, manage to squeeze in a mini- vacation for a few days, to Natchez Mississippi. We had so much fun taking in all the historic homes, history of life on the Mississippi, and of course a quick stop by Duck Commander. {We were luck enough to meet John Godwin, one of the guys on Duck Dynasty...one of our favorite shows. He was so nice! He signed some t-shirts for the boys and even had a quick chat with us. We were flying high the rest of the trip.}

So here are a few pictures of our Summer mini-vacation to Natchez, Mississippi.


My 2 boys with their cousins, ready to make the trip!

Meeting John Godwin at Duck Commander in Monroe, Louisiana.

Then we crossed the Mississippi River into Natchez, Mississippi.

Drive-by photo of the state sign~

Beautiful Catholic Basillica~



All the kids standing by the Mighty Mississippi!

So many historic homes in one place...it was overwhelmingly beautiful!




We even toured around the historic cemetery. It was so peaceful and beautiful!


Looking over the Mississippi River, and what you can't see in the picture, is to the right a row of historic homes looking over the Mississippi...just breathtakingly beautiful views!


Then we came to our final tourist stop, Longwood. An antebellum mansion built in 1858, and it all came to a screeching halt when the war hit. Unfortunately, due to lost fortune and Mr. Nutt's death, it was never finished. The home still has all the original scaffolding, tools, everything is left as if they stopped construction last week.

The family of 10, lived in the walk out basement, of 10K sqft.. The finished home would have been 30K sqft. It was beautiful and yet a bit depressing. Thinking of this woman, getting this property and home as a birthday gift, only to live in the unfinished home until her death. They were actually Northern sympathizers. So the burning of their many cotton plantations was actually against the law and they could have sued the U.S. Government. The home was beautiful, but it left me feeling sad.


The slave quarters~ note: one of the slaves has a beautiful portrait hanging in the main home. They were apparently quite close with their slaves. I think I understood from the tour guide, that many of them stayed on past the wars' end. We were not permitted to take photos in that part of the home.





Handmade bricks, that were made by slaves on the property. Some even bare their fingerprints.


The grounds are just stunningly beautiful.

All of the outside bricks would have been covered in white stucco. Just another feature of the home left unfinished.

Then as we headed back across the Mississippi into Louisiana, with an alternate route home and discovered Frogmore Farm...I was in awe! I couldn't stop taking pictures.

Cotton as far as the eye could see!


Then the party was over...back to reality...

For most Mom's this means laundry!

My husband asked if I was glad to be home...this is a bit difficult to answer when staring at the multiple loads of laundry...Ugh!

But looking out my window and seeing our Mamma horse Sandy and baby Duke grazing, I feel like I'm on vacation anyway. The country life is for me!


Happy Summer, and check out Natchez, Mississippi. It truly was a great place to visit for historical homes, beautiful views and to see how the south really lived in the 1800's. Someday, I would like to go back for a visit, with just my husband. There are many beautiful bed and breakfast inn's all over, it was really a romantic setting...so maybe someday!

Check Back Soon! This time I promise it will be sooner than later!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Inspirational Monday: Guest Post From Nikolas Baron

Break the Rules, Learn a Lesson
I know what you're thinking: Well, the title is a big “of course!” When we break the rules, we learn our lesson. If we steal something, we get caught, and we have to face the consequences. Why should I even pay attention to this guy? Well, random Internet reader, you should pay attention to me because I'm not talking about obvious lessons here. I'm not talking about the consequences for stealing a candy bar or a car. I'm talking about a different lesson, a positive one – one your students will be able to use their entire academic career. Specifically, I'm talking about lessons that teach you to write properly.
Let me drop a hypothetical: One day, I decide to teach sentence fragments to a student. I sit down with a list of sentences, explain how a complete sentence requires both a subject and a verb, and then go over the sentences with the student to find fragments. Oh yeah, and in doing all of this, I also put the student to sleep. Sitting and listening to rules is bad enough, but to then be forced to apply those rules on a series of bland, unrelated sentences? Boring! How, then, should I teach something like sentence fragments without putting my hypothetical student to sleep? I think an easy and fun way to do that is to encourage him or her to break the rules. Encourage writers to write as many fragments as possible and see where it takes their writing.
Now, don't get me wrong. I encourage properly-written English. In my work with Grammarly, I research how people write and what tools they use to become better writers. In fact, over at Grammarly, we created a grammar check that considers over 250 rules for any given piece of text. I love good grammar. Beyond that, I understand its importance outside my job as well. In your student's academic career, she will probably have to write hundreds of things, from resumes to academic papers. Good grammar ensures that what she writes looks competent.
That said, I also understand that it's important to have fun when you write. And what's more fun than breaking the rules? Most first-year college students have a poor opinion of writing, and that's not surprising. All through school, they've been hammered with grammatical rules, such as “a complete sentence needs a subject-verb combo” and “a comma separates a dependent clause from its respective independent clause.” There are so many rules, and they are so complex, students' heads often end up swimming by the time they reach semicolons.
To be fair, you could just send them to Grammarly and let us find the errors for them. We're fine with that. But, wouldn't it be much more fun to teach them these rules from the ground up, so they grow up with a healthy understanding of proper English? That way, they might not feel lost when they get to college and realize that passing English Composition is required, regardless of their program.
How then can we use breaking the rules to our advantage? By not only encouraging them to break the rules but also rewarding them for doing so. Make it a game. In my sentence fragment example above, what if I would have encouraged my hypothetical student to write as many fragments as possible and then evaluated his or her writing based on the number of fragments? From the student's perspective, that would have probably been way more interesting. “You mean, I get to break the rules? And you're not going to fail me for it?” From the teacher's perspective, it gets even better than that. In order to write a fragment, our fictional student would have to know what a fragment sentence is, and if they're engaged in the lesson, they're going to learn. If you had multiple students, you could even turn it into a competition. Have everyone write a story using sentence fragments; the person who uses the most wins!
Now, to be fair, this idea may not work with every grammatical error. That said, if you do some creative adjustment, I think you'll find you can adapt this idea to a lot of different writing lessons. The key is to engage the students in writing and thinking about the rules, so they can learn them... even if in doing so, they break a few rules along the way.
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thistle Hill Ranch

So, why the long wait between posts? Well, we moved to the country!

I can't believe it, but our dream of country living actually came true. We had talked about it off and on for years; but, there was always a road block. Suddenly we were out looking at properties for giggles, and then it happened...the perfect property! It was close enough for my husband to commute to work, in fact, the same distance he was driving before. It had a modest barn, and home that wasn't too fancy, as to drive up the cost. But more importantly, it gave us goosebumps!



The property has trees everywhere, a pond, a spring fed creek winding through, beautiful wildflowers and wildlife. We were sold!

Only one problem, we had to sell our house, pack, and move in less than 2 months. Well, we sold our house in a week, I was packing like a maniac, trying to finish up our homeschooling for the year, all while my husband was being moved to a new community and therefore, couldn't take time off...UGH....double UGH!

But, we made it!

It was bitter sweet leaving our home of over 10 years, but we were ready for our new beginning in the country. I had us moved in on a Saturday, unpacked, pictures hung and settled by that following Tuesday afternoon. But, I couldn't have done it without my sister Heather helping me unpack all day that Sunday, and my boys taking load after load of broken down boxes, and stuff for storage to the barn. We have been here enjoying country life for almost a month.

Yes, Miss Bonnie, (on the left), and Mr. Darby,(on the right), love it as much as we do! Getting used to seeing cows and a donkey...well, that may take time, Ha!

{We have plenty of space in the backyard, but I had to put the chaise and coffee table I built, out front under these two trees. I actually use it a lot. The shade is perfect and being up on the little hill, it gets the most perfect afternoon breezes.}

We bought some Charolais heifers, ie. female cows, and one "Jenny", otherwise known as a female donkey.


I am somewhat new to all these terms. It's funny how quickly it became part of my everyday vernacular.

We named our donkey Daisy, and she watches over the herd and loves my boys...and the treats they give her doesn't hurt the bond between them. We couldn't believe when she got delivered, having been bought sight unseen, that she was white in color like our cows and incidentally our dogs too! Funny how life works out, I have monochromatic animals, with the exception of our cat, Miss Scarlett our tiger cat. My husband jokes that I was trying to decorate the outside too, LOL! We may be crazy, but not nuts, Ha!


Life is more quiet, and moves at a much easier pace. We know it will take lots of work to get this place back up to speed. The property was owned by one family for over 150 years. The family built a "new" house in the 80's. It really is in great shape, and the 90 year old owner had put in granite in the kitchen and master bath to update it. She is just amazing...I'm not convinced it's not something in the water around here...everyone looks and acts MUCH younger than their age. Maybe it's true what they say about country living...or I just need to drink out of the creek... that was my friend Marla's idea!


We are trying to get used to a new way of life, new responsibilities, and the fabulous morning view has been a dream! I will post pictures of our new RANCH soon...I was out voted on using the term "Farm". We drove up to the Ranch after we had purchased it, and the hill was covered in purple thistles, large and small. Glen and I were married at Thistle Hill in Fort Worth...I literally about cried. To me, it was just one more sign that this place was meant to be ours. So we named it Thistle Hill Ranch.


So Welcome to Thistle Hill Ranch! We will be raising Charolais cattle, 2 boys, a donkey, 2 Westies, eventually some horses, and (not necessarily in that order), and hopefully in the next year or so, building our dream farmhouse.

I hope you check back, to see updates on improvements to the ranch, (inside and out), ranch shenanigans, and balancing it all while homeschooling. Our Thistle Hill Ranch website is still in its developmental stage, but there, it will have our cattle information.


Happy 1st Day of Summer and Stop by Thistle Hill Ranch Again Soon!