A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: May 2013

Pioneerification: DIY Removable Clothesline for Porch Posts

Dear Mother Nature,
I love all the wonderful rain we have received this year and adore the abundance of wildflowers filling the fields. While grateful for those blessings, I am just an itty-bitty-TEENSIEWEENSIE bit tired of the constant hurricane-force wind gusts that blow anything without roots across the county line. My last letter seems to have had made things worse, so in an honest effort to get along, my handy hubby and I have devised a plan that will benefit us both.

 P.S. Feel free to blow until you are blue in the face. 

Bad Hair in North Texas  
DIY Removable Clothesline
Items needed:
1.) (2) 18 inch rebar pieces, spray-painted if you want them to look nicer
2.) clothesline string 
3.) wooden clothesline clips
*Drill holes into porch posts sized to rebar pieces. 
 *Insert rebar and twist. 
*Cut clothesline string to desired length. Tie each end to rebar pieces. Remember to make the line very taught as heavy wet clothing will weigh it down. (We did two lines and clothes dry quickly.)
* Hang freshly washed clothing on line with clothespins and drink some sweet tea while enjoying a lower utility bill. The clothesline can be pulled out and rolled up when company comes.

**We had leftover rebar pieces so this project cost only $5.

No Child of Mine

You can imagine the notes I’ve gotten from kindergarten and first grade teachers over the years while mothering three boys. Let’s face it, no matter how wonderful their teacher may be, public school is not easy on young boys. The sitting and paying attention and being quiet and worse than all those things combined…handwriting.
I suffered through it with Oldest.
I worked through it with Middle Son.
Now, I am once again trying to discover new and creative ways to help Youngest make his letters legible.
We’ve tried shaving cream on a plate, magnetic letters, tracers, fingerpaint, vertical white boards, pencil grips, jumbo pencils, and other things I can’t readily recall.
Youngest has perfect fine-motor skills. He can use a screw-driver to place the smallest of screws, build complicated Lego vehicles, paint, is learning to play piano, but his writing is atrocious.
Recently he brought home a paper that described his family. Not able to read it, I handed it back to him. “Can you read this to me?”
He squinted. “My family is…um. My family is…does that say loud?”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “I don’t know because I can’t read your writing.”
Youngest perched the paper two inches from his face. “Me neither, but I’m pretty sure that word says loud.”
“What about the other words?”
He turned the paper all the way around. “Yeah, I got nothin.”
Do you know how frustrating it is to have a child who can orally recite his spelling words perfectly and then get one wrong on the test because the teacher can’t read it?
So, after trying everything, I’ve gone back to just plain old copy work. I write the spelling words out and he copies them. Last night, I leaned over to check the page he left on the counter and found this:

He had already fixed the paper, but I thought you might have more sympathy for me if you saw it:)

“Youngest! Come here!”
A smirk rounded the corner before of the rest of his body. “Yes?”
I pointed to the paper. “What is this?”
“My spelling words?”
“At the bottom.”
More smirking.
I hat doin this?”
Youngest burst out laughing. “No, I hate doing this.”
“You spelled hate and doing wrong.”
A confused stare.
“Well? Fix them.”
Wide eyed, youngest sat down and fixed the sentence. I checked the work. “Good job, now go play.”
I have to pick my battles people.
If my child is going to rebel, he better darn well do it with good handwriting and great grammar.

Creative Punishment

Nary a week goes by that some person in a checkout line doesn’t exclaim, “Three boys! You must be a strong momma not have a head full of gray hair.”
First, I smile and admit that I dye my hair. Second, I whisper my secret, “Creative punishment.”
Hubby and I have two rules for raising boys:

  1. Make sure they know the rules and always discipline when they break them. 
  2. Never let them guess what the punishment will be.

I’m not talking physical discipline here folks, shake those imaginations out of their sleep mode and teach the little one a lesson all while marking some honey-dos off your list! Any ole’ parent can ground, issue a time-out, or scream. A great parent keeps their children guessing!
Be it a page full of the words I will not leave the garage light on, washing the car, cleaning the stock tank or condemning them to clean the *gasp* toilet, we always strive to make it tough enough to make a lasting impression. Luckily, our farm offers any number of things that little hands can fill buckets with: rocks, pecans, weeds, chicken feathers…
But what do you do when collecting a bucketful of pecans won’t teach the hard lesson? What if the transgression has been dealt with time and again and nothing has changed?
Though all of our boys have hearts as big as Texas, they do occasionally struggle with the inability to keep a thought to themselves rather than saying exactly what they think. Whoever said words can never hurt me was a liar. Words are like arrows, striking the very souls of men.
How do you convince a child that their words have power?
Such an occasion arose last weekend. In a split-second decision, I reached for The Spirit of America by William Bennett rather than release the scolding words that were perched on the tip of my tongue. I laid out a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1750 entitled Rules for Making Oneself a Disagreeable Companion.
Together, the child and I read the letter, stopping frequently to dissect the meaning. Then the boy was asked to write down all the characteristics he shared with the Disagreeable Companion. By the end of the exercise, we both were reminded that even great men must earn their regard both in action and with their words.