NASA Super Balloon

Yesterday evening when I was on my way home with the cow from where she grazes on the roadside during the day, I noticed a bright object in the sky off to the southwest of us. I thought that was an odd shape for a plane, and it didn’t seem to be moving, but I didn’t think much of it and soon forgot it. After I got home, I put the cow in the area where I milk, picked a few things from the garden, and headed for the house. The turkeys started fussing about then and ran for cover under the macrocarpa hedge. They were acting like there was a hawk, so I looked around, and saw a large flock of Canada geese coming toward us. Several of the boys ran out into the paddock to see them, and soon yelled that they saw a planet—maybe Venus or Mercury? I knew it wasn’t Venus, because I’ve been seeing it to the east in the morning shortly before sunrise, so I told them it must be Mercury, but went to see what they were seeing, because it didn’t seem likely that we’d actually see that small planet! They pointed out the same bright object I had seen a little bit earlier, and it was definitely not a planet. It was much brighter and larger than any heavenly body I’ve ever seen, except of course the Sun and the Moon. It was round, or oval, but we couldn’t make out what it was. Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Diligence ran for their binoculars, but that didn’t help much, so Mr. Inventor got the telescope. I went inside to look online and try to figure it out. First I looked  for the International Space Station, but that was obviously not what we were seeing. I tried one or two other fruitless searches, and then thought of the NASA weather balloon we had heard was to be launched several weeks ago. I searched for that, and after one or two more dead ends, found an article that said the balloon had finally been launched today, after seven failed attempts. The accompanying video showed an object exactly like what we were able to see with the telescope!

This picture shows what we were able to see with the naked eye (this is very zoomed in):IMG_2268

This is a screenshot from the video in the article; this is what we could see through the telescope:Fullscreen capture 4252017 81314 PM.bmp

We were pretty excited to get to see this!

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Little Miss and Her Bicycle

Mr. Inventor and Mr. Diligence found a tiny bicycle with training wheels at the dump a few months ago. They brought it home and presented it to their favorite little sister; it was just the right size for her. She was thrilled to be able to ride it. I grabbed the chance to get this video one morning when she slipped out of the house still wearing her nightgown! She moves so fast it’s hard to capture a video like this.

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Our little kittens aren’t so little anymore! They are nearly full-grown now, but we’re enjoying them just as much. One problem they are running into, though, is that they don’t both fit on the same lap at the same time anymore. This morning, I was sitting on the couch reading my Bible, and Princess jumped onto my lap from one side. A second later, Bandit jumped on from the other side. He was on the inside, though, so she had to jump off while he curled up for a cozy sleep! She had to spend a minute washing herself to get over the disappointment.

We find them sleeping in all sorts of funny places; here are just a few pictures from the past couple of months. This first picture was when they could still both fit on my lap.


This was one of the first days this fall that we lit the fire in the coal range. They loved the heat, and spent most of the morning in front of it.


We found Princess asleep on my laptop one evening.


She also loved sleeping on the coal range a few hours after the fire went out, while the cast-iron top was still warm. One day, however, she decided to take a nap there while I had the fire going. I suddenly heard frantic skittering and turned around to see her running away from the stove! She raced into the other room and stood there looking very scared and offended. Her paws were slightly scorched. She has stayed away from that stove ever since!22-IMG_2140

Just a few days ago, we found her here—apparently there wasn’t a human lap around that suited her!


They don’t always sleep, though. Until the past week or so, there would be fierce fights every morning. Bandit got sick last week, though, and for several days didn’t do anything. He wouldn’t even eat for a day or more. We were pretty concerned about him, and prayed for him. Soon, he started eating again, and now he’s back to normal.


This was the first time we saw Princess on top of the garage roof. She couldn’t figure out how to get down. She would look down, scratch her shoulder, run a little way, give herself a few licks, run a little way, lick herself again…. We just cracked up watching her; it looked for all the world like a person scratching his head while he tried to figure out a puzzle! And sure enough, within half an hour she was down.


I had the boys clean out the garage one afternoon. They threw out this pile of boxes to be burned. The cats had great fun stalking each other through the pile before it was loaded up and taken out to the paddock.


We bought a couple of suitcases one day, in preparation for our trip to America. The cats thought we got them just for their benefit!


Little Miss did the same thing!11-20170405_203021

“Aw, I’m too late. The lap is already occupied.” So he started scrubbing his sister.


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I started a batch of salsa a few days ago. I had nearly a bushel of tomatoes that were going bad, so I trimmed them all and ground them with the stick blender. It filled this 20-litre pot about 2/3 full! I boiled it that evening. Yesterday, I got a few peppers chopped and put in, and boiled it again. Tonight, I picked a dishpanful of tomatillos and chopped them and put them in…and brought it to a boil again! Maybe tomorrow I can finish the job. Think the pot is full enough?! I’m planning to divide it into two pots tomorrow before adding more peppers, jalapenos, onions, and some tomato paste. This is the second batch of salsa for the year, but the other wasn’t this big. Yes, we go through a lot of salsa around here.


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Field Trip

One day last week, we had to take a friend to the airport early in the morning, so I decided to take a field trip. We don’t often decide to do something like that, but there was a special exhibit at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch that I wanted to take the children to. Air New Zealand was celebrating their 75th anniversary, so they had a huge exhibit of their history.

The first part of our adventure was finding a place to park. Esther was driving, practicing her skills in the city. She got to drive around the City Centre area for half an hour before we finally tried out a car park in the middle of Hagley Park and found empty spaces! Then, we had to walk quite a ways in the drizzle to the museum. We really didn’t mind the walk, though. It led through the Botanic Garden, which we hadn’t visited for over six years. It was so beautiful! I want to take time again, on a nice day, maybe in spring, to explore the gardens more. We stopped to admire this enormous macrocarpa tree. Left to right are Mr. Diligence, Mr. Inventor, Mr. Intellectual, Mr. Sweetie, Little Miss, Esther, and Mr. Imagination.05-IMG_2153

The flower beds were stunning!


On the way to the airplane exhibit, Mr. Imagination and I got separated from the rest, because he was asking questions about some of the other exhibits. I let him take time to ride the horse in the Christchurch street area.


This spot allowed you to decorate your own airplane. The boys spent a lot of time here. You could email your finished design to yourself; they turned it into a model you can print, cut out, and put together. We only ended up doing that with one, though, Mr. Sweetie’s.



When we left the museum, someone pointed out that the downspouts were decorative! I love late 1800s-early 1900s architecture.


Mr. Diligence made his model plane on a rainy day several days before our field trip; Mr. Sweetie is holding the model he made from his design at the museum.


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Orana Park

We have been going to Christchurch every six weeks or so for the past year and a half, for Mr. Inventor’s orthodontist appointments. Of course, these are always on weekdays, so I just take the children unless Gayle takes a day off work. The most recent one, however, was on a Saturday because the orthodontist was planning to take a few weeks off, so we made it a family trip. It happened to be Mr. Imagination’s 5th birthday, so we decided to celebrate by going to Orana Wildlife Park. What fun! It was a drizzly day, and chilly, so there weren’t as many people as usual, but the animals were more active for the most part, and we really enjoyed the day.

We enjoyed catching a glimpse of the American bison calf having a feed!


It’s always fun to feed the giraffes.


The birthday boy in front of a lion.


People pay a lot for the privilege of riding in this truck while the lions are fed.


We went back a second time to feed the giraffes.


The male rhino had apparently been taking a mud bath.


We got up close to the rhinos after their feeding, too. Little  Miss had fallen down the steps at church the Sunday before this, and hit her forehead on the concrete.


By the time we left, she was tired of being there and wanted to drag her feet on the road when she was in the stroller!


And here are a few photos Mr. Diligence took of the animals.


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Book Review: Shepherd, Potter, Spy—and the Star Namer

A couple of months ago, I received the offer to review the book Shepherd, Potter, Spy—and the Star Namer for Peggy Consolver—author. She had been intrigued by the story of the Gibeonites, found in Joshua 9 and 10, and wanted to write a novel about them. Well, I was immediately intrigued by the idea; I had never come across a story written from that point of view before! So, of course, I signed up for it.

Keshub is the main character; he is a 12-year-old as the story begins. He lives in Gibeon, and is a shepherd for his family. One day, he runs across an Amorite boy on the border between their lands, and is startled to learn that the boy, bin Zedek, a son of Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem, hates his own father. Why? He learns the terrible reason a few months later. As Keshub grows, he graduates to a new job, helping in the family’s pottery business. He especially loves helping his uncle sell their wares in nearby Jerusalem and Jericho, and badly wants to travel outside of Aijalon Valley. But soon, disturbing news reaching the village occupies his mind. A huge group of people, the Hebrews, are camped on the border of Canaan. Some 40 years ago, they came out of Egypt, leaving chaos in their wake—what will happen now? As they come closer to Gibeon, Keshub’s people prepare to defend themselves. Soon, Keshub and his brother are involved with spying on the Hebrews. Their people still haven’t figured out how to save themselves, although Keshub’s father is beginning to think that the Star Namer he has heard of, the God who made the stars and everything else, may be the same God who is allowing the Hebrews to cross the flooded Jordan River on dry ground, and making the walls of Jericho fall outward before his son’s eyes. What will he do with this knowledge?

We enjoyed this story. The terror in the minds of the Canaanites, and the various ways they reacted to the threat of the Hebrews as they approached, was really brought to life. I also appreciated the way the author switched back and forth, mostly telling the story from Keshub’s Canaanite point of view, but at times showing us the life of a boy in the Hebrew camp. I hadn’t thought about it much before how the people would have known that all the men of a certain age and older would be dying before long, before they would enter the Promised Land. That dread is brought out in this story. The family relationships were beautiful, too. We especially liked one line, where Mother said, “Boys, beware when your brother wears that look. He can talk you out of your woolen blanket on the coldest day.” I also felt like we really got a feel for the geography of the area. It was obvious that the author had spent some time there, learning to know what the place was like.

Although we enjoyed the historical aspect of the book, there were a few complaints we had. It seemed like the narration was rather long-winded; we felt like it could be cut down by half or even two-thirds and tell the same story without dragging so much. I had a little trouble with the quality of proofreading, as well; words were not always divided properly at the end of lines, which made it hard to read aloud, and one character’s name was spelled three different ways. We also wondered about the total lack of religion in the lives of the Gibeonites.

All in all, I would recommend this book as a very clean, fairly accurate story of Bible Times. We read it aloud, and all the children were listening in. It is not a story with a lot of tension; I didn’t get many requests for “another chapter.” On the other hand, my 7-year-old wouldn’t mind hearing it again sometime!

The author has created a study guide for the book. I did not purchase it, but did look over the sample. If you wanted to do a unit study on Ancient Israel, this would be a wonderful resource. She has some maps, and many links to help you learn more about various topics mentioned in the book.

For the reviews of 80 other people who read this book, click on the banner below: Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Children—March 2017

I’m not sure what her problem was, but she sure thought it was terrible!03-IMG_2049

I dehydrated some strips of zucchini one day. When I brought the dehydrator in that evening to empty it, the children started eating them—and didn’t stop till they had eaten about half of them!


One afternoon, the hot water heater was boiling, after the fire had been burning most of the day. I said that the little boys ought to have their bath. Later, I went looking for Mr. Imagination, and this is what I found! Obviously, he didn’t catch what I really intended. Of course, Little Miss soon let go of her dress and was soaking. They had fun for awhile.


It rained! The creek had some water in it, and the little children had a lot of fun for a few days. What a mess!


Mr. Inventor’s latest project. An old brother in our church died a little over a year ago, and Mr. Inventor recently asked his widow if he could buy the man’s three old motorbikes. None of them are working, although the motors will turn over on two of them. He’s hoping to put together one that works. They had to dig them out from under several year’s worth of grass and thistles, to load them on the trailer. I managed to grab this shot of the boys riding on them up to the house before we left to bring them home from Kaikoura. All five boys are on board; Mr. Sweetie’s head is just visible behind Mr. Intellectual’s shoulder. There wasn’t time for a better picture before they disembarked.


Mr. Diligence doing school while Princess naps. That cat sleeps in the funniest poses! I have several more picture for another post.


Mr. Imagination was given a huge teddy bear at a secondhand shop we went to on his birthday. Little Miss loved it, so when a friend at whose house we were a few days ago mentioned that she was sending some teddy bears to the op shop, I said Little Miss would like one. Did she want the bears, though? No—she fell in love with this penguin!


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Book Review: Meddlin’ Madeline Book Two—Such a Tease


Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book


Book: Such a Tease
Author: Chautona Havig
Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical/Mystery

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed Sweet on You, the first book in the series about Madeline Brown, but Such a Tease is even better, I think. This was a really fun book to read. I enjoyed seeing how Madeline worked out the details of Vernon’s scheme for electrifying the town—was it a fraud, or wasn’t it? How was the bank involved? And then there is Russell. He really wants her to receive something better than the first offer of marriage she was given—is Henry the one? Russell is only fulfilling his promise to his sister Amy to keep Madeline from being lonely while Amy was in Europe, or so Madeline believes. I loved all the different strands woven together in this book. I also love seeing the way Madeline is developing a deeper walk with God through this story.

The author’s synopsis:

Madeline, with a little assistance, discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! Can she expose him for the fraud she’s sure he is? In book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series, Madeline Brown has a new endeavor to occupy her time. But is it to keep her out of the way or a reward for her work in Sweet on You? With the help of her young friends, Madeline discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! What’s a girl to do? But her new position also gives her opportunities to observe, and what she sees sets more than one new investigation in motion. What does her old suitor, Delbert Jackson, know? Why is Mr. Merton giving important papers to that scoundrel, Vernon Smythe, and whatever happened to poor Abigail Cooper? Add to these intriguing questions Henry Hardwick’s continued attentions, Edith’s newfound devotion to the temperance movement and Madeline’s determination to find her a more reliable suitor, and strange behavior from her Aunt Louisa and things heat up as summer fades from Rockland. Her dear friend, Russell, busy with an important project at work, finds himself unable to help keep her out of trouble and away from danger. Is Madeline going too far? Will her meddling get her in serious trouble this time, will it destroy her reputation irreparably, or will she rid Rockland of a scoundrel once and for all?

About the Author

Author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie, Past Forward, and HearthLand series, Chautona considers herself blessed to live in California’s Mojave Desert with her husband and five of her nine children. When not writing, which she admits isn’t often, Chautona enjoys blogging, paper crafts, sewing, smocking, photo editing, and old (read: before her parents’ time) music.

Guest Blog Post from Chautona

Leon Czolgosz is my new nemesis. He’s dead, but he ruined my book. No, really. The guy totally destroyed the opening pages of Such a Tease. Now, these days, not a whole lot of people remember the name of Leon Cozolgosz. I didn’t. But I’ll never forget him now (although I may never remember how to spell his name). Who is he? Only the guy who shot President McKinley. Why am I annoyed with him over a hundred years later? The idiot did this thing on September 6, 1901. You know, four days after this book opened? Yeah. Couldn’t he have done it on say… January 6, 1901? Even January 6, 1902 would have served my purposes. Look, I’m not as callous as I appear. Truly. But if President McKinley had to die, did his murderer have to do it when it would completely mess up my book?

How did it mess up my book you ask?

I’ll tell you. I left it out—the whole assassination thing. There I was, fixing a wedding date for one of the characters, when a thought occurred to me. She could be married on Flag Day—if Flag Day was a thing then. I didn’t think it was. I really thought Wilson was responsible for that—you know, creating holidays in between his notes to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany or something like that. But I hoped. Somehow—just maybe. I mean we had Labor Day from Cleveland, why not Flag Day from McKinley. But noooooo. He didn’t. What did he do? He got shot. Four days after my book opened. And there wasn’t a single word about it in the story. Like I could ever get away with that. This was news! Big news. And nothing about it in the life of a daughter of a politician? I think not. Not only did this Leon Czolgosz (no, really. It’s spelled correctly) shoot the president on September 6th, but he didn’t do a good job of it! Look, I think I’ve established that I didn’t want President McKinley killed. But if the guy with the unpronounceable last name had to do it, couldn’t he have done a good job of it? Couldn’t he have shot the president in the head? McKinley suffered for eight days before he died. Eight days! They thought he was getting better and then gangrene killed him. It would have been a mercy had Leon just shot McKinley in the head or the heart. Why the abdomen? Cruel, if you ask me, even for an anarchist. And it made adding the whole affair to my book even more problematic. No, really! Think about it. I couldn’t have the newspapers announce the death of President McKinley on September 7th and then have a few mentions of the bank being affected or something. No… no… now I had to have a headline event, give false hope, and then add the death on top of it all. Look, I do an obscene amount of research for my books. No, really. Keen was slang in 1901. Woohoo! Look up “peachy keen”? Yeah. Can’t use it. 1950s. The telephone? Can Madeline expect to use one in a burgeoning city in 1901? Considering there were over 850,000 telephones in use, yes. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a photographer who works for a local paper might have a telephone in order to receive calls requesting him to come photograph some big event—like the Mayor’s speech on the death of President McKinley, perchance? Yep. Somehow, I almost missed one of the biggest events in US history. Research saved the book—and ruined my timeline. All at the same time. Gotta love history. Or not. And Leon Czolgosz? Yeah. Thanks for nothing.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

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To enter the giveaway with which Chautona is celebrating this release, go here.

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Book Review—Bessie’s Pillow

We recently had the opportunity to review Bessie’s Pillow, a new book by Linda Bress Silbert, published by Strong Learning, Inc. I read the book to myself first, after a couple of people in an online forum mentioned some possible concerns with it, but decided that it would be fine to read aloud to my children. I’m glad I did! We really enjoyed this true story. One thing that made it even more meaningful to us is that we have a family living with us at the moment, and the wife came from Latvia; she was born in Lithuania, where Bessie came from! I was glad to be able to ask her how to pronounce a Russian word. 


Boshka Markman was only 18 when her parents managed to save enough money to send her from their village of Glubokoye (Glue-bo-ko-yeh) in Lithuania, to New York City to live with her older sister. Life in Lithuania, the Pale of Settlement, was increasingly dangerous for the Jews, and Boshka’s parents didn’t want her hurt—or worse—in a pogrom. They also didn’t want her to be in danger as she traveled alone across the Atlantic Ocean, so they bought her a first-class ticket. As she was leaving, a woman gave her a beautifully-embroidered pillow, asking Boshka to give it to the woman’s son in New York.

Although Bessie, as she was known after her name was changed at Ellis Island, was able to find her sister in New York City without too much trouble, she was disappointed with what she found there—and very thankful for friends from Glubokoye who were happy to take her in. She was not willing to live off of their generosity for very long, however, and soon learned more about how most Jewish people in New York lived than she had ever wanted to know.

After living in New York City for about a year, Bessie finally brought herself to find the owner of the pillow in New Rochelle. What happened next? Well, let me just say that we’ve read so many books now that my boys can detect a budding romance pretty quickly! The book tells the story of Bessie’s married life, with its joys and tragedies and triumphs, for the next 20 or 30 years. World War I is described from her perspective, as well as the Spanish Influenza and the Great Depression. Something I particularly enjoyed was the mention of homeschooling her children during and after the Influenza. The book states that many people did that at the time, to protect their children from illness.

We greatly enjoyed Bessie’s Pillow. Esther commented that it has a unique perspective on immigration. Most of the stories that are written about European immigrants to America tell about people who traveled in steerage and lived in the tenements. Bessie was more upper-class, however, so the perspective is quite different. Another thing that was different about this book, from most, is that it is written in first-person, present-tense style. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite that way, but it worked well. You are really drawn into Bessie’s life. There are flashbacks here and there, which are clearly marked with italics. When I was reading aloud, I did make sure to mention that this was a flashback so no one got confused.

There is a website that goes with the book, Bessie’s America, which contains a wealth of resources for expanding the study of Bessie’s life and times. You can find links on this website for other books to read, information about food, about the music and the news of the time, and photographs of Bessie’s family, her life, and the places she lived. We haven’t had time to explore this very much, but it looks like you could do a lot with it.

A few things to be aware of when using this book with children: The prologue mentions murder and rape. Chapter 2 does, as well. Chapter 3 describes how the women were forced to undress for a medical examination. Chapter 5 mentions that Jewish boys often maimed themselves so they would be unfit for military service. Chapter 10 has a veiled reference to prostitution. Chapter 15 includes a description of a kiss. None of these were extensive; it was easy to censor as I read aloud. I wouldn’t necessarily want a child younger than teenage to read the book on their own, however.

To read what 90 people have to say about this  book, click here: Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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