Olive Plants

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's time for YBC 2014!

My Dear Readers,

Hi! How are you?

You have probably wondered if I have fallen off the face of the planet. I am still alive and well... doing much better than I was 6 months ago, actually. You can read all about my current lupus progress and chemo treatments over at I'm a Little Lupie.

I have taken a long, much-needed break from blogging, however, to clear my head. The struggles of being sick have been real and intense. I have had to put my full focus on my health and my family and so the blog has suffered. :(

I'm back in the blogosphere today, though, to ask a favor of you.

My sons and their teammates are about to participate in the Youth Birding Competition. This is the next-to-last time they will compete because they are growing up. Only one more competition will be held (we compete every other year) before my Ben graduates!


I am trying really hard to hold it together, but look at these cuties!

Their 2nd year in the competition...
I couldn't find a picture from the 1st year!

These guys have grown up together, blessed to be such good friends as well as teammates. Here they are a couple years later.

in 2012

This year, they will enter the high school division!

What a bunch of sillies!
I hope they remember how to use their binoculars properly
before Friday!
Something they do as part of the competition is fundraise for the American Bird Conservancy. This is a conservation effort that we have chosen, as very conservative families, and feel free to support in good conscience. Check them out, and if you feel similarly and would like to support our team's efforts, please consider sponsoring our team.

You can pledge to donate a fixed amount, as little as $5.

OR what we really like is a per-bird pledge. It really motivates the guys to work hard.

In 2012, they identified 105 species. We hope they will identify 120-ish this year (to give you an idea of what your total pledge would come to if done per-bird).

To sponsor the boys, please email me at homeschooldawn (at) gmail (dot) com. You will need to give me your real name, your pledge amount, and your email address. After the competition, I will let you know how much you will need to send directly to the ABC. You can pay by credit card here.

Thank you so much for following my blog and sharing in and rejoicing over the successes of my kids and their friends over the years. If you can't sponsor the team we'll still love you! ;)

We also ask that you keep us in your prayers as we travel. Pray for safety, lots of birds and good health. This trek will be very taxing on my lupie self, but you know how we moms will do anything for our youngins, right?

Team Birds of a Feather, 2014

Thank you, also, for considering supporting the team and for praying for their efforts.

Edit: We need pledges in by 9 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, April 24, 2014, for them to count toward the team's total. They could win prizes for this fundraising effort. However, if you miss our deadline, you may still make a donation to the ABC. Thank you to the reader who brought this to my attention! :)


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Friday, January 17, 2014

School Pictures 2013-14

Ben (14) and Brian (13)
recently had their school pictures
taken by a local photographer:
Chloe of
Someone had fun in front of the camera!
He is a jokester!
You put my sonic screwdriver WHERE?!

A Dr. Who Aficionado

Is he sneezing or laughing?
Oh, he's laughing!
Ben: And now for your viewing pleasure...
the Amazing Growing Pumpkin.
Brian: Oh, brother.
Ben: Dude, that worked!
Brian: Bro, it's a different pumpkin!
The perfect 13-yo shot!

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Bacon Matter

A friend of mine posted this picture on facebook.

Since "laughter is the best medicine" is currently our motto, Michael and I began to brainstorm... and laugh... and brainstorm... and cackle... and brainstorm... and guffaw until our sides nearly split.

The list got a little, ahem, long.

Too long to post below my friend's status. So we decided to share the laughter here.

In no particular order, here are our top 100 Bacon Titles! (Yes, we had to whittle the list down.)
  1. Saving Private Bacon
  2. X-Bacon
  3. The Desolation of Bacon
  4. Shawshank Bacon
  5. Temple of Bacon
  6. The Good, the Bad, and the Bacon
  7. Schindler’s Bacon
  8. The Return of the Bacon
  9. Back to the Bacon
  10. The Fellowship of the Bacon
  11. The Bacon Strikes Back
  12. Bacon Gump
  13. The Silence of the Bacon
  14. It’s a Wonderful Bacon
  15. The Green Bacon
  16. A Clockwork Bacon
  17. BACON-E
  18. Citizen Bacon
  19. The Bacon King
  20. To Kill a Bacon
  21. The Importance of Being Bacon
  22. Catching Bacon
  23. Singing in the Bacon
  24. Monty Python and the Holy Bacon
  25. Raiders of the Lost Bacon
  26. 2001: A Bacon Odyssey
  27. Mr. Bean’s Bacon
  28. Bacon on the River Kwai
  29. Baconface
  30. The Maltese Bacon
  31. The Man with One Red Bacon
  32. You’ve Got Bacon
  33. A Bacon on a Hot Tin Roof
  34. How to Train Your Bacon
  35. Gone with the Bacon
  36. The Sixth Bacon
  37. Bacon on 34th Street
  38. A Beautiful Bacon
  39. Dial B for Bacon
  40. Bacon-Hur
  41. The Bacon of Oz
  42. The Princess Bacon
  43. The Bourne Bacon
  44. A Series of Bacon Events
  45. The King’s Bacon
  46. Groundhog Bacon
  47. Bacon of the Caribbean
  48. Harry Potter and the Deathly Bacon
  49. Black Bacon
  50. Bacon University
  51. Bacon and the Beast
  52. Bacon Story
  53. The Return of the Bacon
  54. No Bacon for Old Men
  55. Bacon in Love
  56. The Bacon and I
  57. Dances with Bacon
  58. Driving Miss Bacon
  59. Chariots of Bacon
  60. A Christmas Bacon
  61. My Fair Bacon
  62. West Side Bacon
  63. All the King’s Bacon
  64. How Green Was My Bacon
  65. You Can’t Take Bacon with You
  66. Free Bacon
  67. Pretty Bacon
  68. Runaway Bacon
  69. Bacon with the Enemy
  70. Eat, Bacon, Love
  71. Mona Lisa Bacon
  72. The DaVinci Bacon
  73. Bacon Brokovich
  74. My Best Friend’s Bacon
  75. The Pelican Bacon
  76. Steel Bacon
  77. My Big Fat Greek Bacon
  78. Catch Bacon if You Can
  79. Bacon 13
  80. Independence Bacon
  81. Men in Bacon
  82. Joe Verses the Bacon
  83. Bacon and Hootch
  84. Top Bacon
  85. Risky Bacon
  86. Kung Fu Bacon
  87. War of the Bacons
  88. Bacon on the 4th of July
  89. Cowboys and Bacon
  90. Clear and Present Bacon
  91. Close Encounters of the Bacon Kind
  92. Bacon on a Wire
  93. Charlie’s Bacon
  94. Lethal Bacon
  95. Dances with Bacon
  96. Interview with a Bacon
  97. Field of Bacon
  98. Robin Hood: Prince of Bacon
  99. The Lion, the Witch and the Bacon
  100. E.B.: The Extra Bacon
Hope you laughed as much as we did! If so, what's your favorite? Do you have any titles we didn't include?

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year's Resolution

I was starting to feel a tad bit normal again and to plan out my resolutions for the new year when my doctor upped my chemo dosage.

That threw a big ol' wrench in the works. Now I have to adjust to the new level of meds, and as I type this, I have no idea how I will respond to a higher dosage.

Will it make me feel much worse?

Will my Friday and Saturday recovery turn into a Friday-Saturday-Sunday recovery. Or even extend into Monday?

I've been working myself so hard to get 6 days of work done in 4 for the past few months. I'm exhausted. I'm frazzled. I'm weak. I don't think I can push myself any harder.

So, I'm giving myself a break and will not be writing out a list of resolutions as 2013 ends. Grace will be the theme of 2014.

The grace to say, "I'm sick." and that be okay.

The grace to do as much as I can when I can do it and prop up my swollen feet when that is needed instead.

The grace to do school from bed, to eat sandwiches for dinner, to take naps.

The grace not to constantly consider if I should be on this approach to wellness or be on that treatment plan and to filter out unsolicited advice.

The grace to stay off Pinterest, to limit the blogs, and to do what is necessary to keep a realistic perspective.

The grace to ask for help, to delegate, to receive assistance.

The grace to stop worrying, to stop overthinking everything, to stop trying to be perfect.

The grace not to plan a fancy dinner party when I can sit at Jesus's feet instead because He is the only one who possesses the grace I need and He freely gives it to those who ask.

I resolve to continually ask, seek and knock.

Grace and peace in the new year,

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oopsie Joes

So lately I've had trouble using my brain.

I don't know if it's that I turned 40 last April or if it's because I'm on chemo for lupus or if it's that I'm really in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Some days I think it might be all three.

But I have been saying and doing weird things lately. Like the other night, I told Michael his clean socks were at the store. I meant to say in the drier. That makes sense. All our best clothes are in the drier. But I had been thinking about going to the grocery store and so store is what came out.

Well, I actually made it to the store yesterday. Sadly, his socks weren't there. I, however, was having a particularly good day, and while the boys were at art class, I reintroduced myself to my long-lost friend, Kroger.

I walked in uber-prepared. I had a grocery list in hand and even had rebate checks to redeem. As I filled my buggy with everything I needed for the week, I checked that list carefully. Carefully! When the last item was marked off, I checked out (my total was only $21 thanks to those rebates!), drove home, and got it all put away while the boys were still at art class. I even had time to hop online and buy Michael's Christmas present during the Cyber Monday sales.

Homeschool Dawn was back in the saddle, people.

Yee Haw!

Come dinner time, I grabbed the pack of ground beef bought earlier in the day and threw it in the skillet without a second thought. Chili mac was the plan.

But then I remembered something crucial: chili mac requires mac which takes longer to cook than beef. Why had I not started boiling the macaroni already?

I ran (okay, you got me) hobbled to the pantry and dug... and dug... and dug. I pulled every.single.box, container, bag, what-have-you off the shelves, and there was not a scrap of macaroni to be found.

Grumble, grumble, grrrrrr!

I was NOT going back to the store because that "organized" trip may have only cost $21 dollars but it used up 74 whole spoons. And I only get about 50 of those per day. Michael was busy helping Ben understand factoring the something-something when the whatcha-ma-digger is a doohickey. I was not interrupting that magic moment. So I would find a way to fix the problem that did not involve disrupting Algebra class or taking another trip to the store.

(Although maybe if I had made the 2nd trip, I would have found Michael's socks! They weren't in the drier, either.)

I rummaged through the pantry again and found a package of Spanish rice. I was going to cook that up and then mix it with the beef, add in some dehydrated onions and cheese and bake it up... something I used to do all.the.time. when M and I were first married.

Then I discovered that pack of rice had been in the pantry for nearly a decade.

Great, I couldn't even whip up a newly-wed concoction.

The ground beef was getting brown, so I had to think. Thnk. Think. Think.

Tomato sauce!  I had a can right there on the counter because I was going to use it in the chili mac.

Now, for some reason, in my mind, tomato sauce equals sloppy joes. But the thing is... I have never made homemade sloppy joes. EVER! As I stood at the electric can opener, ready to swirl open that garlic-y tomato goodness, I came to my senses as I envisioned a runny mess. How I would I get that sauce to thicken?

Soggy buns. Ick.

I was about to lose hope, freeze the cooked ground beef, and pull out the peanut butter and bread, when the distant dinner bell from a ranch in Oklahoma signaled help was on its way.

The Pioneer Woman!

If anybody would know how to make homemade sloppy joes and help me rescue my meal, it would be P-Dub.

Sure enough, she had a recipe for sloppies, and it did not call for tomato sauce. (Duh) It called for ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, tomato paste (ah-ha, thick, not runny) and chopped veggies. However, at this point, there was no way I was going to chop onions and celery and what-have-you.

Sorry, PW, nothing personal. Usually, I am all about your deliciously fresh, from-scratch, chocked-full-of-goodness recipes. But my spoons were completely gone and at that moment I couldn't have chopped butter.

The ketchup and brown sugar in her "cast of characters" got me to thinking, though. I make a homemade BBQ sauce that is to die for (or so I've been told) and ketchup and brown sugar are two of the base ingredients. I ran to the kitchen (okay, you got me again... still hobbling) and whipped up my sauce. Then I just started adding in whatever spices I thought would work and make it less BBQ-y and more sloppy joe-ish.

I poured the sauce over the browned, strained beef and set it to simmer. I wanted the sauce to get good and warm, but also just about that time, Brian entered the kitchen to let me know he finally knew the capital of Maryland.

We've been working on that for quite awhile so I left the stove to listen to his recitation. It was quite good!

Good job, Bruster. Good job!

When I returned to the kitchen, the sloppy joe meat was starting to look a bit, ahem, Cajun. I quickly turned off the eye. Desperate to feed my family something, I scraped up that blackened, BBQ-turned-who-knows-what-sauced beef and plated up the Joes.

Miracle of all miracles, that stuff was good! Everyone asked me to make it again next week.

And make it I will... if I can remember exactly what I did.

Here is my best attempt at a recipe. Maybe I'll insert pictures another day so you can pin it.

But probably not.

Step One: Carefully make a grocery list for chili mac but forget to buy the macaroni.

Step Two: Brown ground beef. When it's half-way through cooking, realize you don't have the noodles and need to change your meal plan.

Step Three: Desperately try to recreate some weird casserole you concocted when you were in your early twenties and thought cookbooks were for losers. Suddenly realize you seriously need to clean out your pantry.

Step Four: Read the Pioneer Woman blog and hope she can save you. Realize that you are not as good as she is and so you can only pull off half her recipe. Go throw a bunch of dehydrated onions on the meat as it finishes browning because you don't have time or available spoons to chop the real ones.

Step Five: Mix together 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, a BIG squirt of yellow mustard, a tiny dash of ground red pepper, and a couple big dashes of chili powder. Throw in various other spices for good measure. It doesn't really matter what. Just pick stuff.

Step Six (This is very, very important to the overall success of the meal): Leave your meat and sauce cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes too long. It will start to blacken underneath and stick to the pan.

Step Seven: Scrape that stuff up out of the pan and get some of that blackened goodness in there before plating.


We call them Ooopsie Joes.  My family says you should try them sometime.


Chemo Brain

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Inscribed on My Heart

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

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The Surprise Gift

Twenty years ago, soon after Michael’s and my engagement, I received a phone call from my soon-to-be mother-in-law. She was cooking up a surprise for us, a wedding gift which she hoped would become a family heirloom, and she needed to know if a particular Bible verse was significant to us, to our relationship at the time.

Immediately, I knew the answer I wanted to give but hesitated to share. I had one of those verses in mind. You know, one of the verses that gets so overused that it becomes a Christian cliché.

Phil 4:13.

Even Oprah claims it as her “life verse.” How was I supposed to sound super spiritual and impress my future MIL with a verse embroidered on thousands of throw pillows across America?

Nonetheless, no matter how “overused” it was, I wanted that verse to be the one on our family heirloom. Feeling like I had just picked “C” on a multiple choice exam, I hesitantly told MIL what I wanted. To make sure she understood just how deep and, more importantly, not-cheesy I intended my selection to be, I qualified my answer by explaining the significance of the context.

             I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Phil 4:12

I quoted verse 12 and explained things about the Apostle Paul’s life that I’m certain she already knew. Then I explained how Michael and I wanted a marriage built on the rock who is Jesus Christ. We knew there were good times to come as well as difficult ones. As man and wife, we were sure to experience seasons of being abound and times of being abased. We were entering married life confidently, not because we believed in ourselves or imagined life would be perfectly rosy, but because we were confident in Christ and that come-what-may He would be our strength.

Even though I was probably trying, in part at least, to impress my future MIL with my Biblical prowess, I really did mean what I had said. But, as much as I really and truly believed, I didn’t quite understand what I was saying… not as fully I thought I did at the time.

For nearly twenty years, Michael and I have been constantly learning more on the subject....
Continue reading "Inscribed on My Heart" at my new blog, I'm a Little Lupie.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013


After a rather difficult month or two of starting and then stopping and then starting chemo, I was rather blessed to get an inner-ear infection.

Yes, you read that correctly. BLESSED!

Because I developed infection, the immunosuppressive therapy (chemo) had to halt which allowed me to take the boys on a field trip to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta.

We were greeted in the Great Hall
by Tyrannosaurus Rex.
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Ben and Brian immediately found a good hiding spot!

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Um, just keeping it real.

We do have two teenagers in the house now. ;-)

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To be fair, though,
Brian is not the only one who can be silly.

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Real cool, Brontosaurus Ben.
Reeeal Cool. ;-)

After fighting off the dinos,
the boys, Nohnie, and Papaw,
who graciously agreed to be our chauffer
since I am not able to drive long distances right now,
enjoyed an IMAX movie with images from the Hubble
while I enjoyed some chat time with a friend.

Then we ate a FAB lunch at the cafeteria.
During our lunch break, something VERY interesting happened.

Before you scroll down any farther,

You may find the next image a bit disturbing
as it may cause you to question
everything you have ever believed to be true.


Proceed with caution!!

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It's scarier than the T-Rex, I know.





It defies all logic; however,
there you have it.

Three boys, not all of them related to each other,
sitting in public,
enjoying each others' company,
not practicing spelling words.

I hope it didn't cause any coronary episodes out there.

Okay, thank you for indulging my sarcastic side.
Now let's get back to the museum. :-)

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After lunch, we made our way to the hands-on exhibit
and got all science-y.

Well, the boys and Papaw did.

I kept my distance, wore a germ mask
and bathed in hand sanitizer.

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They enjoyed "playing around" with equipment
which taught them about optics,
sound waves, the weather, and more.

Brian enjoyed being the weatherman.
He's pointing to Atlanta while standing in front of the green screen.

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We found some more dinosaurs,
and even Papaw decided to get a little goofy.

You're welcome, Papaw.
You. are. welcome.

We also went through a wonderful exhibit on the wildlife of Georgia.
Of course, I was too busy identifying the birds on display
to take any pictures.

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Then we made our way to the special exhibit on Marco Polo
where we followed his journey from Venice,
through the Middle East, and on to China.

Side Note: Do those of you who knew Michael when he was a teen agree that Ben looks
just like him at that age!? I see the young man I met 25 years ago in this particular pose.

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The editors in the family found a few, ahem, mistakes
along the way.

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Can you find the mistake, too?

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Okay, so now I'm totally worried that there are glaring errors in this post
and I'm a total hypocrite.

All in fun, fellow editors, all. in. fun.

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Then we found a way to work in Dr. Who
because, well, that stereotype about homeschoolers
just may be true.


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Then everyone learned a valuable lesson about only making silly faces for the camera.

Mom will NOT be deterred from her blogging plans.

The face you offer the camera IS the one that will be published
for the whole world to see.

(Well, at least the 27 people who still read this blog.)

Be warned, teenagers.

Be warned. ;-)

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We did manage to get one nice shot with Nohnie before leaving.

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We also caught up with Ben's new BFF, Marco, who had made his way back home to Venice.


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