Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vision Statements

June 28, 2008

I posted this today on my SmallWorld Reads blog as part of Sunday Scribblings, but it seems quite appropriate to post here, as well, slightly edited for a homeschooling audience. I spent most of today at our local homeschooling convention, so I have this particular type of "vision" in mind.

My family does not have a vision statement. It is something of which I am occasionally made aware, with a twinge of guilt, at this time of year. At the homeschooling conventions which are hed nation-wide in the summer, new homeschoolers often attend workshops called something like, "Getting Started in Homeschooling." And at these "Getting Started" type workshops, parents are often encouraged to write a family vision statement.

There are loads of "Getting Started" advice on websites, too. Like this from Trinity Prep School:

Developing a family vision statement .... or in my case, a paragraph, requires one to reflect on core family values. What is your vision for your family? Think long term .... what legacy do you want your children to pass onto THEIR children? Choosing action verbs in stating core values, creates an overall implementation plan.

And this one from Victory Coaching:

A well written family vision statement will answer life’s great questions: Why am I here (purpose)? Where am I going (vision)? How will I get there (mission)? What's important and right (values)? It is like a compass that guides your course. When referred to regularly, it helps to shape the goals you set and the decisions you make that will lead to your desired destination.

And so here's why we don't have a family vision statement: I think they are silly. For us. We are not the kind of family to create "an overall implementation plan." Oh, I could think of lots of "action verbs" that state our core values: Laugh. Love. Serve. Learn. Enjoy. Climb. Read. Smile. Encourage. Embrace. Believe. Imagine. Create. Breathe.

But a written vision statement? It's just not for us. It's not that we take one day at a time necessarily. We have basic goals. We make schedules. We have dreams and hopes for our children. But somehow the formality of a written vision statement seems too cumbersome and business-like.

Still, every year about this time I wonder: should we write a family vision statement? Nah. I'll stick with my list of action verbs.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Field Trip: Cherokee Caverns

This past week Caroline and I have been fairly consumed with preparing for our Geology Day for American Heritage Girls. This year we were joined by several families from the two Knoxville troops, also. It's exciting to be able to have troops now to do events with here! (Background: our troop was the first in Tennessee five years ago; now there are about 8 including our two sister troops in Knoxville.)

Our day started with a tour of a little known cave in this area, Cherokee Caverns. Once a popular tourist attraction, the caves were heavily vandalized in the 1980s and are only open a few times a year and for special groups tours now. Pretty much no one in our whole group of 60 people had ever heard of Cherokee Caverns, so this was a great discovery (or rather a tip passed on from one of our moms).

It was pure bliss to step out of the hot sun and into the coolness of the cave. And after 2 hours in the cave, we were all rather chilly and happy to come out into the sunshine. For about 4 minutes. The next 2 hours--after lunch--we spent working on the geology badge in the mid-day sun. We were all melting (and so were the Snickers bars that we brought to demonstrate the core of the Earth and plate tectonics). But we all had a great time anyway. I did come home and collapse for awhile, appreciating the luxury of air conditioning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Recipe: Cornell Barbeque Sauce

This is the kind of barbecue that I grew up eating in upstate New York. It's known as Cornell Barbecue because it was developed at Cornell's Farm Extension program in the 1950s. My father was a professor at Cornell University and a scientist at Cornell's Agricultural Research Station in Geneva, NY. We had lots of summer barbecues at the "Station," and once each year we'd head over to Cornell U. for faculty day at the football game. Pretty much the main course was always barbecued chicken with Cornell sauce. When I got married, I had my mother hunt down the recipe and send it to me because I desperately missed it! This is so easy and so amazingly delicious. Please try it.

Cornell Chicken Barbecue Sauce

(This is for 3-4 breasts or you can use thighs, drumsticks, etc. Just double for a crowd.)

1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
1 egg
1 1/2 TB salt
1/2 TB poultry seasoning (I've also used Jerk seasoning)
1/2 tsp. pepper

That's it! Whisk it all together and marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is even better. Grill chicken when you're ready!

I hope you try this incredibly inexpensive and easy sauce! I know it doesn't sound like much, but it is fabulous.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Summer!

It's a perfect summer day here in our own small world. I've been enjoying a unique week of relaxation. My schedule has been tremendously lightened in activities this week, and I've done crazy things like read in the middle of the day and nap.

But I think I might concentrate better when I have a full plate. My senses are more sharpened, and I'm more aware of my calendar.

Which comes in handy. Calendars are for things like appointments, lessons, practices, events, meetings, and birthday parties. Birthday parties? Birthday parties? Yes, so this afternoon, while I was napping like a slug, Jesse took a phone call from my friend asking, "Where is Duncan? Emily's party started at 3:00!"

Where is Duncan, indeed. Outside playing at the neighbor's, completely oblivious to the calendar, as was his sleeping mother and reading father. I am mortified. I am pretty sure I've never completely forgotten a party before, and this is one of our closest and oldest friends.

I know she will forgive me, and I know she will understand. But still, I am mortified. No more naps for me.

So anyway, I was taking a nap because I stayed up really late last night waiting for Jesse to get home from a concert. Actually, it was a very cool night for him. Our friend Mike, who heads up Feed Your Faith, was co-sponsoring a This Beautiful Republic concert up in Knoxville. He took Jesse and two of his friends along with him to help set up and tear down for the band, unload and load up equipment, etc. Of course the best part was that they got to hang out with the band and have dinner with them. This is totally Jesse's favorite thing to do, so that was awesome. I did, however, have to stay up until he got home around 1:15 a.m. And of course I had to read before going to sleep, so I was up late. (This is all part of my excuse about why I was taking a nap.)

Normally I wouldn't be the one staying up waiting for our son to get home (not that he's ever come home at 1 a.m. before), but Randy and Laurel were having a wild adventure at the Lost Sea for our American Heritage Girls Father/Daughter overnight. The Lost Sea is an awesome cave with America's largest underground lake, and our dads and daughters did the special overnight adventure.

Here they are as the left for the evening; they were much, much dirtier when they came home!

I have one more thing to say, and then I need to watch Dr. H. cook supper. (I was going to say that I need to fix supper, but it's Saturday night, and that means Dr. H. cooks!) Laurel and I made the easiest and cutest apron today, and a few days ago we made an adorable tote bag. All you need are dish towels, a sewing machine, and a tiny bit of sewing skills. Go check out Laurel's blog for pictures and a link to how to make these!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the Smokies: Selected Reading

We spent much of Sunday in the Smokies—the perfect Father's Day gift for Dr. H. The day was absolutely perfect in every way. Having these beautiful mountains 20-30 minutes away is amazing. I often forget that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S., with 9 million visitors each year. We used to avoid going to the Smokies on weekends from June-October because the traffic can be bumper-to-bumper, and that is not a pleasant way to spend one's day in the mountains. But we know lots of off-the-beaten path places now that are quick to get to and very quiet, and there is just nothing like being in the mountains by the river on a hot summer day.

If you haven't visited the Smokies, please don't let the 9 million tourists scare you off. Only 1 million of them actually do more than drive through; the other 8 million spend most of their time doing stuff in Gatlinburg. If you want a serene mountain experience, you may want to consider avoiding the touristy and heavily trafficked Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There are many other entrances to the park that are quiet and beautiful, including Townsend, the tiny town just south of us.

I'm going to share a few of our favorite books about the Smokies. My favorite kids books are these two written by Lisa Horstman: The Troublesome Cub and The Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball. Another must-have if you are visiting the park is Who Pooped in the Park? (These are available for all the national parks, so be sure to get the Smokies-specific one.) I love this beautiful Appalachian ABCs, and Cynthia Rylant's When I Was Young in the Mountains --the story of a childhood in the mountains--is pure poetry. Speaking of poetry, Nikki Giovanni is from Knoxville, and I love the picture book based on her poem "Knoxville, Tennessee."

For young adults (and adult readers, too), Catherine Marshall's Christy is a classic. This is the story of a privileged young society woman who goes to teach school to the mountain kids in the Smokies. For younger readers, there is a good series of chapter books based on the novel Christy; my 10-year-old loves these books. She also loves the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard, which all take place in and around the Smokies.

I've noticed that the Southern Literature challenge is a popular challenge this summer in the book blog community. I am a huge fan of Southern Lit, both classic and contemporary. A few of contemporary authors whose novels take place in and around the Smokies are Sharyn McCrumb, Adriana Trigiani, and Robert Morgan. In She Walks These Hills, McCrumb weaves a modern-day mystery in with a mountain legend. I'm not crazy about McCrumb's Elizabeth MacPherson mystery books, but I absolutely love her Southern mountain novels. Others include If I Ever Return, Pretty Peggy-O; The Ballad of Frankie Silver; The Songcatcher; The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter; and a couple others. While each novel stands on its own, many of the same characters appear in all the novels.

Adriana Trigiani has a collection of three novels--Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, and Milk Glass Moon--that take place over in Virginia. They're not exactly Smoky Mountain lit, but the characters and dialect would fit right in here. I've just noticed that there is a fourth in the series now, Home to Big Stone Gap, which I'll be adding to my TBR list.

Robert Morgan is one of my favorite Southern writers. He is much more lyrical than Trigiani and McCrumb. I haven't read all his books, including his newest one Boone, but I love what I've read: This Rock, The Truest Pleasure, Gap Creek, and The Hinterlands. His characters, dialect, setting--everything is beautiful and true to the area. You can imagine Morgan as an oral storyteller in each of these books.

One more fascinating novel that takes place in the Smoky Mountains is Francine Rivers' The Last Sin Eater. The story is about the old folk custom of a community "sin eater," who is said to absolve the residents of their sins by "eating them." I had never heard of this odd custom until reading this book, and I found the concept fascinating.

All of the above reading material provides a great introduction to this unique mountain area. I would be remiss if I didn't recommend a couple of great guides for once you are actually in the Smokies. Dr. H. has two favorites. Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains by Kenneth Wise is his favorite for family-type hikes and excursion. For tougher, more backcountry hikes, he recommends Hiking Trails of the Smokies, which is published by the GSMNP service.

Have I whet your appetite for the Great Smoky Mountains? Even if you can't come for a visit, you can get a taste of the Smokies in these books.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Got Distracted

June 14, 2008

See, here's the problem with summer projects, or projects of any kind, for that matter: I get distracted. These past few days we've actually had some good soaking rains, and I had to get out and work in the flower beds while I could. I have 2 major flower beds at this house, both of which have several sections within them. I also have about three other smaller flower beds, and a vegetable garden. Usually I get distracted and flit from one area to another, but tday I tried to be focused and stick with one flower bed, and I really made some good progress.

I finished planting my favorite little triangle of impatiens.

This area is on the other side of the impatiens bed. I pulled up 2-3 wheelbarrows full of weeds, planted several hostas, Corabells, and lantanas, and mulched about half of this flower bed.

Another project, going on about 4 years: this sign used to be at my in-laws house. When my father-in-law died and my mother-in-law remarried, she gave us this sign. It needs repainting and our house number is not 207, but who really cares? I yanked about 30 yards of poison ivy off of this tree.

So that particular flower bed--the first one you see when you pull in our driveway--is looking much better. I still have a bunch more perennials to plant and more mulch to put down, but it looks like we may have another rain and a couple of days in the 80s coming up soon.

If I work fast, I might be able to get to this next flower bed, which is possibly even more daunting:

Beyond that archway is a mess of weeds and lilies. I have great plans for that area, many of which include Dr. H's help and money. And since tomorrow is Father's Day, I guess I can't really drag him out to help me.

My house is a filthy pit, but I feel satisfied anyway. Painting the kitchen and cleaning can waiting until the long, hot, dry days of summer set in.

(And I'm glad I'm not a manicured-nail kind of girl. I have some seriously scary looking dirt under my nails.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Heart of the Matter Meme: Father's Day Edition

June 13, 2008

Today's meme over at Heart of the Matter asks for: "your favorite picture of your husband and your kids, or your husband and yourself, or just your husband alone."

I don't know that this is necessarily my favorite picture, but this is the most recent one of Dr. H and the kids during our trip to Yorktown/Williamsburg/Jamestown. Favorite pics might be more along the lines of Dr. H. holding each baby for the first time, pushing Duncan on his bike, reading a book to Laurel, on the beach in Hawaii with Jesse... But I am feeling too lazy to hunt down those photos.

And anyway: this is us, now. This is who we are. And in this picture are just a few great things about Dr. H. as a father that I can see, and probably you can't.
• For one, Dr. H. lets our kids be who they are.
* He likes to take off his shoes and wade in the water.
* He climbs on rocks.
* He doesn't have to talk all the time. He appreciates that some moments are bettered savored in silence.
* He is laid back and relaxed, truly maintaining a policy of flexibility. On this afternoon, for example, we had planned to eat dinner at a beach-front restaurant. But the younger kids couldn't resist the draw of the water, and within 5 minutes they were too soaked for a restaurant. Instead, we ordered pizza back at the hotel.
• He grows with our children. His parenting style evolves with their different ages. He is always willing to adapt as their needs change.
* He values us.

And that, my friends, is a very short list based entirely on the photo above. I could list a hundred other qualities that make Dr. H. such an awesome father, but really, he simply is.

Monday, June 9, 2008

To Mexico, At Last

June 9, 2008

These past few days we've been blessed by getting to spend time with our sweet friends, the Hancocks. Casey was our minister for the first five years that we lived here. And beyond that, Casey and Teri were our wonderful friends. We shared a lot of joys and a lot of sorrows together during those five years. When we came to this area, Libby was just 9 months old and Laurel was not quite two-and-a-half. Here they are now, at nine and ten.

Corbin and Duncan were born just 7 weeks apart, and they were inseparable for those first 4 years. Here they are now at 7. I was so afraid that Duncan would be lost without Corbin when they moved away to the midwest two years ago.

The Hancocks just bought a Wii, so there was a lot of Wii playing inside during this steaming hot weekend. I even had my first Wii experience. Predictably, I didn't get it. But everyone else had fun!

Teri and I enjoyed a weekend catching up and talking about their future, because that's what this trip is all about. Three years ago Casey and Teri began making plans to begin mission work in Mexico, and now they are at last headed to begin this next phase of their ministry. For the past couple of years, they've been raising support and partnering with a church in Cincinnati. I remember my father saying to me many years ago, when Casey was in his second or third year of ministry at our church: "They won't be here long; I bet they'll be on the mission field within five years." As always, my father knows best.

It is hard to be sad when God's work in the Hancock's lives is so evident. Still, I can't help but get weepy thinking that the next time we see them--when they are on furlough in 4 years--that Libby will be 13, Corbin 11, and baby Ian, who we've only just met, will be nearly 5. But greater than the sadness is the joy in knowing that, at last, they will cross the border into their new lives.

I'm seeing a short-term mission trip coming up in the next couple of years...

Post A Comment!.....


Monday, June 9, 2008 - Happy/Sad with you

Posted by Jennifer in OR (

What a bittersweet moment with your friends! I'm glad you had this time with them.

Permanent Link Edit Delete

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - Don't forget...

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

there are short-term mission opportunities in PNG, too!

Permanent Link Edit Delete

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

I'm so glad to read this! :) I'll give the link to Tina, too. I can't believe the kids are that big; I remember when they were born.

Permanent Link Edit Delete

Thursday, June 12, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Jess (

Hi there. I have been reading your blog for a bit now, and feel compelled to reply to this post. I'm a military wife, so I know all too well the pain of saying 'good bye.' I could have written your post many times over, only changing the names, reasons, and locations.

I just wanted to offer hugs and prayers of support.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spicy Pork Cutlets

Food boredom sets in around here every year or so, and Dr. H. and I get serious and begin trying out new meals. Dr. H. found this one and I did some adjustments to our taste, which runs along the more-spicy lines. We thought the result was fantastic. A dinner guest (OK, he's not really a guest as he frequents our house much too often to be given this designation) said, "I don't really like pork, but this is amazing." Or something like that. So, I present....

Spicy Pork Cutlets

1 (1-lb) pork tenderloin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. rosemary (cut up)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
2 tsp. olive oil
2-3 gloves garlic, minced

Mix all the ingredients except the pork in a small bowl. Slice pork into 12 medallions. Place each pork slice between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten with your hand to about 1/4-inch thick. Rub the spicy mixture over both sides of every slice. Spray your broiler rack with cooking spray and place pork on rack. Put in broiler pan and broil at the top rack, as close as possible to the heat, for about 4 minutes on each side. This timing worked perfectly, but our oven tends to run a bit hot. You may want to keep your oven door open while you broil to make sure you don't scorch your delicious supper.

We served this with Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes, which were just okay. I think a perfect accompaniment, if I were the kind of person who made side dishes with any kind of regularity, would be mashed potatoes, green beans, and cantaloupe (to cut the spiciness).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Summer Projects

June 1, 2008

We officially ended our school year on Friday, so I'm ready to face the summer projects. I'm trying to be a realist this year. I have just a few projects planned that absolutely must get done:

1) First and foremost, paint the kitchen.

It's been about 10 months since I peeled most of the wallpaper off; you can see one of the last remnants there in the corner, where I can't reach (a-hem, Dr. H.). That is absolutely the first project of the summer, and if it's the only one that gets done, I'll take that.

2) Next, the sunporch must be straightened and made clutter-free.

This is a project that I do every summer because during the winter, the sunporch becomes the junk room. Every single thing, large and small, that does not have a home, finds one in the sunporch. So this extremely cute room (which is currently a craft room, but someday may be my writing nook) with loads of potential charm is a disaster area by spring. Every year. But this time I am vowing to keep the sunroom clean and well-used. And that leads into #3...

3) Figure out how to use my new space.

So, a little background for those of you who aren't avid, dedicated, obsessed readers of my blog: we bought this house because it has a 1-bedroom apartment attached to it (separate entrance) so that my parents could live here in the winter, as they've done for 7 years. But this year my parents up and bought a house a half-mile down the road. And so here we are with an extra bedroom, bath, kitchen, and living room! And another closet and even some storage! I haven't really absorbed this yet, but once we clear out my parents' furniture and what-not, we need to figure out how we're going to use this extra space. I'm thinking that this living room might become the library/game room. I'm picturing the walls lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a couple of comfy sofas. And of course all the junk from the sunporch, neatly organized. But I'm still processing.

So those are the projects. This week I have two goals. First, I'm going to get the keys to my parents' new house (they are still in New York working toward putting their house their on the market) and take a couple of loads over there. And second, I'm going to finish getting the last chunks of wallpaper off. (And as a separate goal, I'm going to get this year's school books and such put away!)

So tell me about your summer projects!