Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Bowl of Snowcream

The South has been hit hard by winter this year.  Once all that mountain snow melts, we may have a flooding emergency.

Or a super-tubing opportunity for all those who look at things with the half-full glass perspective.


Some relatives and friends who work in local public schools have enjoyed something quite rare around here:


And my children did not. Oh, I'd let them go play for a while in the few snow events we've had in the Tennessee Valley, but then we'd get right back to school. We firmly believe in getting work done so we can have warm and pretty days free. Many of my closest homeschool buddies do the same thing.

But then we had the biggest snow event in 21 years this week ( I should have listened to Grandpa Mose!), and since this was a once-in-a-childhood-event for Southern kids, I gave in: we had a snowday. The whole day.

Our little neck of the woods had almost seven inches of snow this week. Now that's a big deal to an area where a forecast of two inches sends people into snow-induced grocery-panic.

Along with a snow day came the snowball fights, the snow angels, the sliding, and my kids' favorite--


Typical snowcream recipes have a main ingredient of sweetened condensed milk. That's a no-go in our sugar-sensitive household.  So I came up with a diabetic-friendly version that still tastes a lot like Mom's.

In a  1 quart mixing bowl, combine:

2 packages of instant dry milk
2 cups of Splenda
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix your dry ingredients and add enough water to get 2 cups of liquid mixture. It will be thick.

Then add 1 cup of half and half.  Add this to two gallons of fresh clean snow. 

I can barely believe I just typed a recipe that calls for two GALLONS of snow. That's almost unthinkable for this area!

 Stir until combined and serve. And watch your kiddos' hearts melt!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who Are Your People?

My husband began his first pastorate this summer. Already this little church has become like home to us, and we love the people dearly. We expected new experiences, but what we've found so far was totally unexpected.

It's a small church with deep roots in its community. One of the first questions asked was,
"Who are your people?"

It's a quaint reminder of how tight-knit communities used to be, that if they knew your people--your family--they knew you. It opens a door of fellowship with an invitation that is a felt yet unspoken, "You are one of us. We know you. " 

If you've ever seen the movie The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, just change the accents to a Tennessee twang and the scene from a pub to a church parking lot to get a rough idea of this relational welcome. For the record, Hubs hasn't had to fist-fight anyone since taking this pastorate. Just didn't want that Quiet Man comparison to get out of hand!

Of course, knowing one's "people" could be a double-edged sword in some instances, but by and large it isn't meant with disrespect.  It's merely an old-fashioned courtesy and, as my friend Cheryl (also a pastor's wife)  put it, a way of figuring out what you might be like, whether  your values might be similar to theirs. 

It's trying to get at who you are without asking too many questions that might be perceived as being "nosy." For example, to this day, I'm known by some as "Preacher Roy's granddaughter." Because some loved Preacher Roy, they love me, too.

"Who are your people?" questions led to some unexpected results for my husband. He knew he had a relative buried in the church cemetery, but had no idea how deep his roots were in this particular area. As it turns out, he is related to quite a few of this little flock. They have blessed him with their  love for their church and of its history. It has been a peek into the past, and into the hearts of people who deeply desire to share what has mattered to them with another generation. They have literally and figuratively given us a picture of those gone before. 

Such as what the church looked like when his ancestors  attended there. 

 Times of great blessings--a baptism in the late 1910s with over 50 people: 

And a picture of his great-great-grandparents, including this man who was born in 1842 and a veteran of the Civil War.

My husband was stunned. He'd never seen this before. Our children are fascinated with this look at history and unfamiliar family faces.  And we are more than a bit surprised that God called our family to a place so steeped with family history that we never, ever knew. 

Truly, in many ways, these are our people. 

My husband, though, was convinced these were our people before we ever knew of family connections, as interesting as all this history may be. 

For there is a group of people with blood-ties to us that go much farther back than the 1800s. We are family to all those who belong to Christ; we love our brothers and sisters in this fellowship of saints. 

Smaller churches with long histories and shared memories have a rich heritage and are indeed a treasure trove of experience and community that in this digital age can be overlooked by those of us who may view the past as something with little contribution to the now. 

But the challenge of the smaller church is not to become so focused on its own particular history and past that it cannot fulfill a Great Commission ministry today and tomorrow. It is a privilege to be with a group of people who understand that and have a heart for reaching, as Brandon Heath says in his song The Harvester, "those who don't know or just don't know yet."

So who are our people? 

In short, it is everyone we meet and can tell about Jesus. Those with whom we serve, those for whom we serve, and those who love Jesus as Savior and Lord. 

These are our people. 

Author's note: I'd like to thank the Irwin family, specifically Joyce, for these treasured pictures and stories behind them. Also, many thanks to Mrs. Crowder and Mrs. Satterfield who got this ball rolling! Blessings to you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating Christmas

Hands down, Christmastime is our family's favorite time of year. 

It is my husband's habit to take time off around the end of the year to pour time and love into our family and create memories for our children. Oh, I love that man!

Sometimes, though, that kind of memory-making gets a bit involved. Once it required driving to the mountains looking for enough snow for a snowball fight. We don't usually have enough where we live, so Hubs piled us all in the car and off we went to the mountains!

Other times we've had 24-hour Christmas movie marathons. This mama always falls asleep first. I still haven't seen a couple movies all the way through, yet. 

One year we went to every local Christmas  parade we could find. The kids' favorite was the one with tractors that pulled a bunch of kids on that favorite of red-neck, homemade sleds: garbage can lids. Some of the entries in that parade were riding lawn mowers, too. The kiddos will never forget that!

Some of our best Christmases have been the ones that didn't look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  My children still remember the year the turkey fryer exploded on their Papaw's porch--which led to my observation, "It isn't really a party unless something catches on fire, breaks down, or involves bandages."  Odd how in retrospect, that sentiment seems to cover a lot of past family get-togethers, but we won't go there today. 

Now that we are a pastor's family, there is more to do. More places to go, more people to see in sickness and shut-ins to visit. More people to meet and tell about Jesus. We try to have fun with our kids, and keep JESUS at the center of it all. 

I think that's why we enjoy Christmas and Easter so much--the gift of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection is worth celebrating. The joy He has brought into my life is real--it's a thrill to share that with my family.

And there's so much left to do!

The ladies from church are coming over for a party soon; the church is renting a bus to go see a local Christmas light-show; we have three family birthdays in the next three weeks; our Christmas play practice is proceeding nicely; and we have two , no, three outings with other families planned. 

Thankfully we finished our first semester of homeschool this week (oh, yeah, play that Hallelujah chorus!), and the paperwork has been sent off. Did I mention I haven't done any shopping yet? Whew!

So life is busy right now, but in a good, "Thank You, Lord!" kind of way. 

I am going to take a short blog-vacation until after Christmas, because my bloggy life is ALWAYS second to life with this crew God has given me.  Merry Christmas and God bless you,  my friends!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Morning Five

Mornings can be a never-ending source of drama.

My older children have gotten beyond the mom-hovers-over-me stage, but I still have to remind them of certain things.And that's where the tension escalates. 

"Did you comb your hair?"

"Did you brush your teeth?"

"Did you feed your pets?"

"Did you make your bed?"

"Did you seriously put that outfit on to wear in public?" (lol)

By the time you ask several children a variety of "Did you..." questions, every one is irritated (including Mom) and no one really feels like Bible time over breakfast.Can you relate? 

There just had to be a simpler way. Here is what worked for us. Our family uses the Morning Five. 

Morning Five is simply five things they need to do in the morning as soon as their feet hit the floor. 

Have little ones trace their hands and write (with help, of course) what they have to do to begin their day. By cutting out their own tracing, they practice motor/cutting skills, too. 

The morning five for the 5-year-old consists of: 

1. Bathroom business
2. Get Dressed
3. Help sister make the bed
4. Eat and brush teeth
5. Bible time and prayer with Mom 

Instead of me having to ask about four or five individual morning routines for EACH child, all I have to say is, "Have you each done your Morning Five?"

Streamlined simplicity. Less hassle. Yippee!

Of course, in the real world no one has only five things to do, but this is merely a starting point of training children in basics. These are just baby steps of developing good habits. We start with the morning five, but then add to their nighttime routine, or increase responsibility with chore duty as they get older.

You wouldn't believe how much more peaceful the morning is when I don't have to remind the children of every little thing. This is their habit, now, not mine.

This little craft helps them visualize what should be done by using their own fingers as (and all you homeschool moms and teacher moms should love this) manipulatives!

Morning Five is our code for what it takes to get ready for the day. So what do you do to ease your children into good habits in the mornings? 

 Sharing at:

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Last of the Mountain Men

This is my Great-Grandfather making molasses at the Cades Cove Visitors Center in the Smoky Mountains back in the 1970s.  Grandpa was all over these mountains most of his life, and if you didn't see him in the park, odds were you'd pass him at a local market on your way there, out with his old pals whittling and reliving old days and  swapping tall tales.

I have wonderful, vivid memories of a great big man with a great big handlebar mustache and a Stetson hat. Overalls were his outfit of choice and he usually accessorized with an old margarine bowl stuffed with paper towels---otherwise known as his tobacco spitbowl. 

What a storyteller! That man could make you believe almost anything. Owen Wister's main character in the novel The Virginian--known for colorful yarns--could have taken lessons from Grandpa.

He made molasses in Cades Cove many times for their Old Timer's Days. One time one of his yarns got him in trouble. 

A woman asked him, "How does the molasses get so brown?"

And my Great-Grandfather took out a large twist of tobacco, put some in his mouth and said, "Sometimes I miss," referring to tobacco juice.

When he retold that episode, he would remark on that lady's "poor language" after his joke.

One of my favorite Grandpa stories is the time he turned the bed covers back in his ramshackle house one night to find company. A blacksnake had decided Grandpa's bed was better than its usual haunts under the house. 

My brother and I asked, wide-eyed, "What did you do, Grandpa?"

He played with his mustache and rolled his shoulders back before answering. 

"Why, childern, I jes said, 'Scoot over sneaky snake, I'm a-jumpin' in too!"

Another of his blacksnake tales went like this:

"Childern, I could stand some company now that Mother's (his wife) gone on to her reward. And a blacksnake beats most. I'm jes havin' trouble figurin' out how to make friends with it." 

Obviously, my brother and I were his favorite (and most gullible) audience. I remember asking, "Grandpa, how in the world do you make friends with a snake?"

How well I remember the intent, thinking-about-it expression on his face while he stroked his mustache!

 "I figured on feedin' it, honey."

"Mice?!" I was horrified.

"Nope, milk. I've set a dish of milk out every night this week to try to draw it out."  

"Did it work?" my brother asked.

"No, I figured I needed to larn how t'call hit."

"Oh, Grandpa, you can't call a snake!"

He looked insulted. "I shore can. Me and him's best pals now."  

A pause. Impatiently we both asked, "How'd you do it?"

"Well, I figured I needed to show 'im thar wadn't no reason to be skeered of me. I put that milk down in the floor by the bed and then I laid right down on the floor and started a wigglin' and hissin' like a snake, too. He knowed right off hit was safe to come out." 

By this point my Mom and Dad couldn't hold it in anymore and my brother and I realized we'd been had. But it was funny picturing Grandpa in the floor pretending to be a snake. 

Grandpa could be ornery,too. 

My brother and I had to walk from our house to his to catch the school bus. In bad weather Mom would drive us to the stop and we'd wait for the bus with her. 

One rainy day we were waiting in the car with Mom when Grandpa came out of his front porch onto the tall--really tall--rickety steps with only one handrail to fetch some fuel from the coal pile in the front yard. 

"Oh, dear, I hope he doesn't...." and Mom never finished the sentence because at that moment, Grandpa fell. Well, perhaps fall isn't the right word. 

Descended in punctuated hops on his bottom is more accurate. 

He got up in a real fury. We couldn't hear exactly what was said, but it sure wasn't grace.  

Up he stomped on the stairs to the house, pounding each step extra hard as if to get revenge on it for making contact with his backside a few seconds previous.

Mom shook her head,"Since he's able to go in by himself, I'll check on him after you two get on the bus." 

That afternoon we got home and wondered how Grandpa was. 

"Ornery. That's how. When I got in the house, he was sitting on the couch unlacing his shoes and he got up and threw them in the coal stove! He says it was the shoes' fault for making him fall."  

Apparently the whole scene amused Great-Granny as Mom later recalled her sitting on the couch shaking with quiet laughter. 

"And do you know something else? The only other pair of shoes he had was a pair of houseshoes that he wore to Sears to buy a new pair of shoes."  

Yep, I'd say ornery was just the right word. 

But he was also a man of faith with a very unusual testimony. He used to ride with us to church and there are several things he told us about his life that stand out to me. One in particular was the  time he told us that he'd been called to preach years before, but he ran from the call. One of my aunts told me that when Grandpa was bad, he was bad. But when he finally "made a change" (what the older folks called accepting Christ as Lord), he was done with the old life. But Grandpa was very honest that he'd always regretted not obeying God by answering the call to preach. Oddly enough, one of his sons did. You can read about that here. 

He was not a caricature of a mountain man--and I hope these recollections haven't made him seem such--he was the real deal.  He was manly, loving, loyal, humorous, skilled in many ways, and complicated with regrets and pains all his own. And I loved that old mountain man very, very much. 

Still do. Today would have been his 114th birthday.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tea Mix Gift Jars

I'm re-posting one of my favorite warm drink recipes from last year. My daughters and I love to make jar mixes for friends, family, and ourselves, too. Some of my church cookbooks that I've collected have similar recipes called Russian tea, friendship tea, or spice tea--but around here we call it gone! 

~~You'll Need~~

a pint jar, 1-2 boxes of red hots, a capful of  Tang, the same amount of instant tea, preferably with lemon, and a special tool


Any recipe that involves the meat mallet is a keeper, I say. 


This is so easy-peasy, that I'm almost embarrassed to have a how-to. Basically you just layer each ingredient in the jar. But the only little trick is to tamp down the powder in the jar between additions to make sure the layers do not mix. 

  Tea first. 

Tamp, tamp, tamp  

Now the Tang. Try to not make as big a mess as I did. 

Tamp it down too. 

Layer in the red hots. 
Notice the health conscious message.  Did that comfort anyone else besides me? 

Then pretty it up and give it away with a tag that includes directions to add the contents of the jar with one gallon of hot water. Blessings!

 Sharing at:   Wholehearted Wednesday   
Jesse Wilcox Smith~ On His Knee