Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why my house is a wreck

Please don't come visit me this week. I mean, I love each and every one of you and I'd love for you to come see me, but my house looks like a tornado hit it. Stuff laying around everywhere, abandoned wherever it happened to fall. It's pathetic.

Sure, I have a million excuses.

- We just got back from a big trip and we've been desperately trying to get back in the school routine.
- I've had tons of papers to grade, lessons to plan, worksheets to create, and records to get up to date.
- We're in the middle of softball season and we've had games or practices most days.
- L had an extra day of dance to make-up for missing 2 classes.
- Mr. at Home has had to work from the office all week as well as a couple of evening commitments.
- When he's home, I've had evening commitments.
- Dentist appointment.
- Science class.
- K's birthday.

You get the picture. Normally, we're pretty laid-back around here, but everything has kinda stacked-up all at once. Not to mention that the weather has been gorgeous and it seems criminal to waste it being inside.

But honestly? Those are just excuses. I mean, it's all true, but I've been a bit preoccupied with other things. The truth is that pumpkin that I posted below and that little house collage that I made at my art club has ignited my crafty flame and I've been ignoring the cleaning so I could do a little experimenting. Between a blog giveaway featuring Etsy shops and another blog showing off some crochet creations, I've seen a few things I was just dying to recreate.


Who doesn't think that's a good excuse to ignore the mundane things like cleaning?

My first creation is a picture frame. Well, it's more of a big block of wood that's been decorated and outfitted with a clip to hold a picture.

I love the way it turned out. Of course, since I had a fall colored frame, I had to have a picture with coordinating fall colors. The girls happened to be dressed (kinda) right today and we drove past a pumpkin "patch", so we stopped and took a picture for my frame.

My second crafty attempt meant that I had to make sure I even remembered how to crochet since I hadn't touched my yarns since early spring. I grabbed my crochet basket as we ran out the door to science class. While K was learning about electricity and L was tracing her letters, I did a few practice stitches and started my project. After science, we went to the park where I kept going round and round, then after church tonight I finished it. It took a few times to unravel and re-knit parts and a couple of kludges at the end to help shape it, but here's my crocheted cupcake.

You could tell it was a cupcake, right? Right?

You want to know what the absolute best thing about both of those projects is? I didn't spend a dime to make them. They were made with stuff I already had in my stash, except the scrapbook paper for the frame. I went to buy that one sheet and got to talking with the owner of the shop. K happened to give her the idea to host a show-and-tell night and the owner liked it so much that she gave us the sheet of paper.

Friday night we're having K's birthday party. She's having a friend spend the night and I'm taking them to Cajun Canvas to paint a picture of a cupcake. Hence the whole reason I just had to make that little crocheted cupcake. The incredibly nice owner even lined up a tea party company to bring in tea and cupcakes. It's open to everyone if you'd like to join us. Just go to and register.

You can see us there. Not here. There. Because I make no promises that I'll have my house presentable by then.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Fall, Y'all

The weather is tempermental around these parts. Hot, sweaty days followed by cloudy, drizzly, cold days, then back to warm again. I'm so very ready for the thermometer to settle into the cool temperatures that mean long sleeves and fuzzy socks and steaming hot soup. The leaves have just barely started to turn here and fall is teasing us with small tastes of sweater days.

Whatever the temperature outside, my calendar says it's officially autumn and I've started pulling out the appropriate seasonal decor. Nothing says autumn like pumpkins on the lamp tables and spicy scented candles spilling their dusky fragrance into the air. I only have one tub of decorations to pull out when I feel fall moving in, but I'm working on that.

One day last week, my mom and I took the girls to Hobby Lobby where we wandered through the aisles of fall decor, exclaiming over everything. It was all "so cute!" "beautiful!" "I love this!" "Wouldn't this look nice _______?!"

I love shopping with my mom.

The thing we both loved best were the amazing variety of decorative pumpkins. They came in all sizes, shapes, and materials. And they were half off! Seeing all the different styles gathered together made us comment that it would make a beautiful display at home. We had each picked out one for ourselves and as we followed K back to the fabric section, I had an idea. A new tradition to start.

Each fall, my mom and I are going to give each other a pumpkin.

In a few years, we'll have quite a collection to use in our decorating. So we promptly traded pumpkins there in the store and we had our first annual pumpkin exchange. We both each already had one at home, so we're now up to 2.

Aren't they pretty? Don't you love the warm colors? The one made of woven leaves is the one I picked out and Mom bought for me. The wrought iron one is a candle holder I've had for years. We saw a beautiful large one of these filled with beads and leaves at the store and it was hugely expensive. Mom reminded me that I already had the metal frame, so I just picked up a couple of cheap 1/2 price floral picks of fall leaves/fruit/beads and made my own version.

To continue our tour of my new fall decor, here's what's now sitting on my coffee table.

I saw this little house at a shop in Blowing Rock for cheap and it's exactly what I've been looking for for awhile. I bought this really neat battery-operated fake candle and the pedestal holder, then filled in around it with pieces from a dismantled flower arrangement. The beauty of it is that I can redesign it for every season.

Last is this little house I made at my first meeting with the Altered Book Club.

It's supposed to represent the inside of my. home and I love the way it turned out. The front is done in the colors and style that I use to decorate the main living areas of our house - fall colors, classic lines mixed with homemade coziness. It's the look and feel that are my goals.

The back, however, is what it really comes out like - a circuit board because we're such a techie family, pink boa and gems for the little daughter, soft pink bird for the oldest daughter, old and traditional mixed with new and modern. And somehow it all works. This is one piece of decor that won't get put away with the fall stuff, I think.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Helen, The Early Years

When my grandmother was born, she wasn't given a name. She was the first child and her parents couldn't agree on a name, so they brought her home with "Baby Girl" written on the birth certificate. After 6 months, her grandmother insisted they give the poor child a proper name and she was named Helen. Simply Helen, because they couldn't agree on anything for a middle name. It seems odd, but name issues are quite common in my family.

- My grandfather's aunt picked her own name because she was too embarrassed to tell her teacher that her name was "Sis". She picked out "Estaline" and eventually had her birth certificate changed from "Baby Girl", but she was known to the family as Sis or Aunt Sis for the rest of her life.

- My parents had such an problem with naming my older sister that they bought a baby name book when they were expecting me. They started at the beginning of the book. My name is Valerie.

- If you want to have a boy, announce that your girl name is Sarah. It's very effective.

Helen is the oldest child in this picture with her family.

Helen's parents had a farm and she grew up working in the fields. When school started each fall, Helen was kept home until the harvest was in, which meant that she showed up just in time for the first 6-weeks tests. For the rest of the school year, she stayed late every single day to catch up with the rest of her class. Her goal was graduation and she fought fiercely to achieve it. She finally graduated the year she turned 20. A picture of her graduating class sat on top of her stereo and she even named her youngest son after her high school principal. She attended every single one of her grandkids' graduations - high school, college, chiropractic school, medical school, even boot camp - and she kept our graduation pictures on her TV.

Helen is the tall woman at the top right.

After graduation, Helen joined the National Youth Administration (NYA) which was part of the New Deal program during the Great Depression.

I absolutely love this picture of her during her NYA years.

Notice the date on this picture. One day before the entire world changed.

WWII came around and her beau, Henry Patman, enlisted in the army. He came home on leave and married Helen so that she could go with him to his post in Kentucky.

My grandfather had very high cheekbones; he was 1/4 Cherokee.

Henry was eventually deployed and he asked his new wife to live with his mother and little brother as his mother didn't like being alone. There I'm sure is where she learned the incredible story of his mother's life. (Don't worry, some day I'll tell that story.) She felt guilty because she knew that her own parents really needed her help on their farm, but living closer to the big city meant that she could catch the bus into Dallas and work at Sears, earning a paycheck. As the war dragged on, Helen became a "Rosie the Riveter", building bombers.

After Henry was deployed, he wrote a letter to Helen saying that he didn't even have a picture of his wife and would she please have one made to send? Helen went to a portrait studio in Ennis, TX, and had this beautiful photo made.

I think it's neat that our family stayed in the same general area of small-town east Texas for so long. I attended the same school as my dad and my grandmother, then I graduated from the same school as my mother. Heck, we even had the same science teacher. We bought our school clothes at the Sears where my grandmother had worked so long ago. The settings of the stories and pictures are all familiar to me because they were part of my childhood. I remember the day we ran from a corn snake we found in my great-grandmother's barn. I have a mental image of my other great-grandmother standing on her front porch and the brass spittoon she kept in her living room. We had picnics near the place where my mother grew up and sometimes visited the tiny church where she and my dad were married and where my grandmother attended until her death. I try to take my children back often so that they will, too, know where our family came from. Some day they'll be able to look at an old photo and say, "Oh! I know exactly where that's at!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We're finally home!

I went to sleep at my parent's house Monday night with every intention of getting up very early and heading back to NC. Halfway through the night, though, L came in saying she was scared and I ended up sleeping in the dark bedroom with her for the rest of the night.

I didn't wake up quite as early as I wanted.

We got on the road about 7 and headed east with every intention of driving straight through. About Birmingham, my dad called to check on us and to let me know that the news had just been covering a lot of flooding in Atlanta. I figured it might slow us down some and just to be on the ultra-safe side, I stopped at a travel center for gas and a potty break after we crossed the Georgia border.

Then we got closer to Atlanta and all traffic stopped. S T O P P E D. Orange striped barrels funneled I-20 down to one lane, then it guided us OFF THE INTERSTATE.

Everyone had to exit onto a small road headed south. Which meant that we moved an inch then stopped for 5 minutes, then another inch. Rinse and repeat for *5 HOURS*.

At one point I got off the detour route and started searching for something anything that would get me north or east. Every single road I tried was barricaded because of the flooding, which made me a little more appreciative of the monster that the transportation officials were up against. They were doing their best in working with what they had, but it was still hugely frustrating to sit through. Thankfully, it was late and the girls slept through most of it. L had a hard time getting to sleep and at one point announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. I could *see* a gas station ahead, but I wasn't getting there anytime soon. Within minutes, though, she was snoring away, so that was one emergency averted.

Mr. at Home was his usual incredible self and sat on the phone with me several times, looking up information about the rerouting. The most frustrating thing about the whole night was that after awhile, the detour signs disappeared. Traffic started filtering off in different directions so there was no clear indication as to which way would get us back to the interstate. I tried the road that was originally part of the detour, but it was now blocked as well. At that point, the fact that it was dark, I was way off course, I was driving around unfamiliar backroads somewhere south of Atlanta, it was the wee hours of the morning, and I had no idea where I needed to go next got to me. I hung up on Will because I was at the point where I was going to either curse or cry and I needed to just get hold of myself. I went through a McD drive-thru for a large iced tea and stopped at a gas station where I woke up the girls and we all went to the bathroom, and then I felt better.

The traffic had cleared and I got back on the last road that I knew was part of the detour and we continued working our way east until we got to the loop. Thankfully, the loop had just opened back up and we made it all the way around to the north side of Atlanta where we went searching for a hotel. It was 2am and there was no way I could drive all the way to Charlotte.

I found an exit with lots of hotels listed and saw that a crash had just happened seconds before we got there. There were at least two cars involved and another stopped. Thank you, God, for delaying us just a few more seconds! We found a cheap motel in a seemingly nice part of town and slept.

We got out of Atlanta after 10 then we *finally* made it home Wednesday afternoon. Just in time for a shower, a short time to rest, then it was back in the car for church since I had to teach last night. My wonderful Mr. at Home had unloaded everything and even had most of it put away. I can't even begin to say how wonderful that was.

Today we are settling back into our routine of school and dance and softball. I have my first meeting with a local art club tonight and there's a camping trip for Mr. at Home and Kate tomorrow night with our homeschool group, then Saturday is Kate's birthday. It's like jumping into the deep end of the pool, but it's a lot of fun!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Unexpected Treasure

Since my Grandmother's passing, we've been spending time searching through old trunks and photo albums. Everyone has pulled out their favorite pictures of her and stories have been told and retold. I promise to tell some of them here and share some of my favorite photos, but for now I want to go back a little further in time to my great-grandmother, a woman I knew as Mama Harris.

Buried in the photos my mother had brought back to her house was a tiny notebook, about 2"x4". It was a journal of sorts written by my great-grandmother. It is full of names and dates, addresses and small tidbits that she didn't want to forget. The names and birth dates of her four children appear several times, including the day and hour of each birth. She was definitely proud to be their mother. Some entries are funny, some heart-wrenching. Many births and deaths are recorded. Many names of boys going off to war. Her son Raymond was in the army and she wrote of the letters she received and the times she sat waiting to hear from him.

This is a photo of her family taken in 1945. In the back row, from left, are her children - Helen (my grandmother, wasn't she beautiful?), Manuel, Raymond, and Nell (Nellie Ruth).

Here are a few of her writings.

Helen and Henry Patman married April 1, 1944 at Kaufman. Manuel and Nellie Ruth and I was present. A Baptist preacher married them in his home.

Helen and Henry wedding. The preacher talked about God in the home and said life begin there. And referred to marriage as to streams of water finally coming together.

For lockjaw heat a half of spoon of turpentine and pour on the place that caused the trouble.

I obeyed the gospel on July 14, 1940.
Raymond obeyed the gospel Aug 13 1942. Young George Baley helt the meeting and did the baptizing at night.

Jan 22 1945
Helen got word at 10 oclock that Henry had been wounded Jan 4th in action and is in a Belgian hospital.

I set here on June 8 just wonder where my boys are at today. Raymond in army some where. Maybe still at Ft Mead. Manuel up _________ working on rail road I guess. Oh if I could only have them back with me.

A. Harris killed by train at Garrett on the 15 of Sept 1925. Grandpa Harris got killed being 97 years old, buried 16 at Bristol Texas. We all lost a dear and beloved friend.

Today is 14 of Nov 1940. Albert has gone to help kill hog for Walker. Was to be back by dinner go to Kaufman with Jickard (?) but here it 2 oclock not back yet. Helen will be 20 years old tomorrow.

Dec 13 1944
Yesterday was the saddest day I ever spent. Raymond left for army. Oh it was like tearing my hart out. I could not hardly stand to put away his things. May God keep him is my prayer. Mother

Don't worry; God indeed answered her prayer. My Uncle Raymond returned from the war and lived a long, full life.

This last entry is my favorite. The advice Mama Harris wanted to give her children back in 1944 is just as applicable today as it was back then.

Jan 22, 1944

As I sit here and my mind wanders back over the years, nearly 45 of them, I have seen many changes in things, and people change as much as anything. I have 4 grown children. I know it won’t be long before they will be out and gone from home. One has left already. The utmost thing in my heart and mind is for them to think of God first and last and always. And to live a clean and honest life. And when in trouble, surrounded by evil, if they will trust in God, they will come through with flying colors. Always shun evil and temptation, always tell the truth, shun evil companions, go to church and Sunday School, and read your bible.

Love, Mother

Helen Patman, November 15, 1920 - September 14, 2009

Early Monday morning, surrounded by her children, Helen Patman went to be with her Lord. Born on Nov. 15, 1920, to Albert and Sarah Lucy Moorehead Harris, Helen grew up in Scurry, Texas, and graduated from Scurry-Rosser High School in 1940. Helen married Henry Patman on April 1, 1944. They lived with their six children first in the Ables Spring community before moving to Terrell. She retired from Vistawall after almost 30 years and will be greatly missed by her Vistawall family.

Helen was preceded in death by her husband, parents, her brothers Raymond and Manuel Harris, and her sister Nell Chandler. She is survived by her children: Phil Patman and wife Shirley of Sulphur Springs, James Patman and wife Lavina of Ennis, Nellois Upchurch and husband Roy of Terrell, Deborah Phillips and husband Charles of Jacksonville, Fla., Teresa McAnally and husband Jimmy of Terrell, and Royce Patman and wife Kelly of Terrell. She also has 10 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many beloved nieces and nephews.

Helen led a long, rich life. A faithful member of the Ables Spring Church of Christ, she led by example. She taught her children to be strong, to value the importance of faith, family, and education as the greatest things in life. She took advantage of every opportunity to travel and see God’s handiwork around our great nation. Her home is crowded with pictures of her large, close-knit family. She told stories of family members long gone, determined that we would never forget where we came from. Stories that we faithfully tell our children so that they will never be forgotten.

Helen Patman was a beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and aunt. She will be missed, but we know that we will be reunited in Heaven.

Her funeral service, under the direction of Goggans Funeral Home, will be at 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17 in Goggans Funeral Home chapel with Todd Peavy officiating. Her burial will follow the service in the Ables Springs Cemetery. Visitation with the family will be from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday at the funeral home. Her grandsons will be her pallbearers.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Goggans Funeral Home in Terrell.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

5Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Thursday afternoon as I was sitting in the dentist's chair waiting for some cement to harden, I pulled out my phone and saw that I had a new voicemail from my mother. I listened to it and knew that something was wrong. When they finally released me, I called her back and she told me.

My grandmother had a massive stroke.

The doctors gave little hope for recovery and the family was gathering from across the country. I took L to her first dance class and the car to get an oil change and a new battery. We went home, quickly threw some clothes and schoolbooks in the car, and the girls and I left for Texas. We drove late into the night, stopped for a few hours halfway to sleep, then came on the rest of the way, going straight to the hospital.

The hospital waiting area was crowded with family members. Friday night, all day Saturday. People who were directly and indirectly related. People who were related to people who had married into our family. A close-knit community of small-town life and generations who have stayed nearby. Everyone came to say good-bye.

We waited Friday night as more tests were given. We grieved Saturday morning when we were told that my grandmother's brain had been completely disabled. That the knowledge and memories that made her her were gone. We cried and told stories during the day as we waited just 24 hours more to make sure.

This morning, we gathered once again at her bedside. The machines were disconnected, she was moved to a private room, and we each said our good-byes waiting for the end. Without the tubes and the ventilator, she simply lay in her bed asleep. Snoring, which made me smile. Grandmother always snored.

K understood what was happening, though she this is her first real experience watching death. She is quiet and introspective. This morning, L broke from her play long enough to see the tears around her. She climbed up in my lap and asked many questions. What was happening to Grandmother? What happens when she dies? How will she get to heaven? How long will she stay? What will she eat?

We talked at length about how sad it makes us to see her die and how much we will miss her, but Grandmother knows and loves Jesus. Her soul will go to heaven and there she will be happy and healthy. She will see her mother and her brother, but most importantly she will see Jesus face-to-face. There will be a huge welcome home party where all of her old friends and family who also trusted Jesus will be waiting to celebrate with her. Grandmother will walk the streets of gold. She'll eat fruit from the trees beside the river. Her house on earth is old and falling apart, but in heaven she has a beautiful big mansion waiting.

At that, L stared at me and asked, "So God said her mansion is ready?"

That's right, honey, her mansion is ready and God is calling her, saying it is time.

Right now, we still wait. My grandmother was a strong lady and her body is fighting death, but her heart is slowing and her breathing becomes more shallow. It is hard, this death vigil, however I know that God has a purpose for it. Perhaps a heart is changing, a perspective is shifting.

Perhaps there's one more piece of silver that must be installed in her mansion.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Busy days

One of my absolute favorite things about homeschooling is that we get to sleep. There are no alarms going off at 6am, no routing small children out of bed so they can rub their eyes and shuffle off to the bathroom still yawning, no scramble to make sure breakfast is eaten and lunches are packed and papers are signed and put in backpacks so the little ones are on time to school.

Nope. I sleep until 8:30. Because I can.

Mr. at Home hates it because his "office" is in the bedroom and while he's tapping out emails or code, I'm blissfully snoozing behind him. BUT I have found that my arthritis is much better if I sleep more and sleep later. I haven't had to take any medication for it since I became a stay-at-home mom. There are also many times that I'm up late or up in the middle of the night waiting for my allergy medicine to kick in. Sleeping later helps make up for that lost sleep at other times.

Of course, when my day does start, it hits the ground running. It's a balancing act, an exercise in multi-tasking and patience as everything has to be done at once. Like today...

Get dressed in cleaning clothes.
Get the girls dressed and make sure they've eaten.
Have them pick up their bathroom.
Make sure K brought down her uniform to wash.
Start a load of laundry.
Time K in her speed drill.
Start L's school.
Fold laundry.
Chop veggies.
Get everything in the crockpot for ham and bean soup.
Start a blog post.
Assure L that she *can* follow the teacher's directions and draw a clown.
Write some more on the blog post.
Help L with the clown's mouth.
Write a little more on the blog post.
Rotate laundry.
Fold a load of laundry.
Write another few sentences on this blog post.
Assure L that it's just a tiny red mark and she's not bleeding to death.
Realize it's too late for me to eat breakfast.
Do part of my Bible study homework.
Review social studies chapter 3 with K (NC habitats and natural resources).
Check L's handwriting work, putting hearts around the best ones.
Start lunch - taco ring (the ground beef can't wait any longer).
Write another few sentences on the blog.
Continue cooking lunch.
Threaten L that if she gets up one more time....
Fold another load of laundry.
Add a couple of things to this list.
Clean off the table.
Set the table with the help of L.
Eat lunch.
Clean off the table with everyone's help.
Clean the kitchen with K, who unloaded and loaded the dishwasher.
Rotate the laundry.
Finish cleaning the kitchen.
Help L figure out how to work around the "system error" message that keeps popping up in the middle of her on-line class.
Scrub the cooktop.
Sing the "Kindergarten's Over" song.
Wipe off the table.
Polish the table.
Sweep and mop under the table.
Fold another load of laundry.
Sweep and mop dining room and kitchen.
Make a pitcher of tea.
Write a few more things on this blog post.
Throw the last load of laundry in the washer.

Did you get tired just reading the list? I do admit it was a little busier than normal. Keeping a log of what I accomplished was rather motivating.

Now, I'm going to pour myself a glass of tea and sit a spell before the craziness starts again just in time to get a shower, dinner, and everyone out the door for church or softball practice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My latest crafty attempt: A dance bag

L is starting dance classes next week, which I think I've mentioned. She's done two years of ballet and tap and she's really, really happy to be doing acro and cheer dance this time around. We spent Wednesday running around looking for shoes and dance clothes, which after much searching we finally found. I love that our dance studio stresses modesty and that midriffs and thigh must be covered at all times, but we had a hard time finding a "biketard" (a leotard with legs that come down like bike shorts). We also drooled over the various dance bags. Her old one is in bad shape, but I was not going to spend the small fortune they cost.

So I decided to make one myself.

I pulled out a pattern I've had for awhile and all the scraps from past projects - fabric, thread, buttons, even all the boring stuff like interfacing, bias tape, and heat n' bond. I took the basic structure of the bag from the pattern, but I pretty much made stuff up as I went. This is what we ended up with.

Isn't it awesome? It's a great size to carry the few things she needs to keep in there. I made the bag with a heavy interfacing to keep it's shape. I used some scraps of pink and yellow fabric because L asked for "something cute, like flowers". I ironed the heat n' bond to the fabric, traced some flower shapes and cut them out, then ironed the flowers to the bag. Then came the painful work of edging those flowers with a blanket stitch. It turned out really cute, but it was the first time I had ever done applique, so I had to go really slow. I added the buttons, then sewed in a pink lining for the bag. I used some wide bias tape to cover the raw edge around the top, sewed on the straps, and added the ruffle and it was done. Then I cut a piece of stiff plastic the shape of the bottom to help the bag keep it's shape even better. Because it's so hard to know when you're "done".

The second best part is that the bag was absolutely FREE. Everything I used was from my stash of left-overs. The very best part is that L was very, very pleased with her new bag and every other girl who's seen it has asked me to make her one. Here's K who graciously offered to model the bag for me since L was in the bath. She wants one.