Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chickens gone runnin'

Will ran hysterical into the house, "There is a snake in the chicken house!"

My standard plan in case of predator attack on my chickens is to get the shotgun, and hit it with the turkey load. However, our main concern here is chicken hawks... at this point, I had never really considered different plans for different predators.

Feeling quite smug at my confident level-headedness, I grabbed the shotgun, inserted a turkey nitro load, and headed toward the chicken coop.

When I peeked inside, this is the sight that greeted me:

Yikes! My plan was unraveling, and fast! Scott had warned me how powerful this load was. He had told me that I could kill a chicken hawk in the sky from quite a distance. Hmmm... If I were to unload on this snake at close range, I was afraid I would blow the side of the chicken coop off!
Scott's reaction played through my mind, and I knew that I needed to come up with plan B.

In the meantime, what was I supposed to do with my loaded shotgun? Take the shell out, of course! Oh, no.... I didn't remember that part of my chicken predator-killing 101 class! What to do... Everything inside me knew that it would NOT be wise to bring a loaded shotgun back into my bedroom and wait for Scott to arrive. My only option seemed clear:

I shouldered the gun, gripped it tightly, made sure kids and chickens were clear, took it off safety, and let 'er rip.

With shoulder aching and ears ringing, I carried the gun back into the house, still trying to formulate plan B. Scott was at football, so I called our farmer friend, Ron. His response was not what I was expecting...

"Well, you're just gonna have to grab it and get it outta there. It's just a king snake... it's not poisonous... you better kill it, though, or it will keep coming back."

???GRAB IT??? Did he just say GRAB IT???

I replied, "Uh, Ron, you've got to give me another option... I can't grab it!"

After assuring me that his daughter did that sort of thing all the time, etc... He finally gave me another plan. Get something, scare it out of the box, and kill it. (Even though it wasn't poisonous, we did not want it to return and continue feasting on our eggs!)

Plan B was in place. I sent Hannah for the camera, Will for the Axe, and Sarah for the hoe. Josh found a log which he raised above his head, poised to smash it to death (just in case I missed).

Back at the chicken coop, deciding on our exact course of action, I had just about convinced myself that I could indeed conquer my fear and grab this snake. Whoosh... Letting out a deep breath, I moved in a little closer. Knees and hands trembling... not good... I can do this... I reach out to grab the snake.

Irrationally, I begin screaming and doing a little dance. I try again. Same result. I guess my mechanism that prevents me from doing things foolish and dangerous is in good working order.

Grabbing the hoe, I give it a little poke. Maybe I can scare it out of the box. Poke. Poke. Poke. Finally, he slithers off behind one nesting box and into another. This box was actually a real box tipped on its side and filled with hay. It seemed like a good idea to just pick up the box, remove it from the coop, and kill the snake outside.

As I picked the box up, I promise the snake leaped out of the box and began searching for an escape route! Aaahh!!! Screaming the entire time, I grabbed the hoe and pinned it down. The plan was to cut it's head off; however, I only succeeded in making it angry! Now there is a hissing, writhing snake on the ground... Thankful that we were fully armed, I had Will hold the handle of the hoe and pass me the axe. I proceded to start hacking at that poor snake. Any previous pity I had felt had been replaced by an adrenaline filled need to make sure this snake was completely dead!

We made sure that the snake was not going to come back alive and seek revenge. Whew... Glad that was over with!

Cute gifts

I have mentioned the "craftiness" and kindness of my girls' team... I just wanted to show off a couple of gifts that I have recently received....
I love these slippers!!! I am usually knitting slippers for other people, and I have never made a pair for myself! I think I might have to change patterns, b/c these are cute! Thank you, Olivia... they will keep my feet warm on our cold tile this winter!

This is my official Spartan hat! Great for coaching in cool weather, or for wearing when we are hanging around outside by the bonfire! Now my team spirit is complete! Thank you, Julie! I love it and will wear it often!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Got Creamed!

Tuesday we had team pictures. Look at this group of kids!

After pictures and practice, we went to MiPueblo for supper. I am very glad that we had given them a heads up, and that the restaurant was almost empty when we arrived! One mom counted 96 of us!

I had made a deal with the girls before the Saltillo race. If they won, I would "get creamed" at MiPueblo. Obviously, this involves wearing a sombrero and having whipped cream rubbed on your face... The things you do for love! :) I was happy to do it, girls!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spartans Rock the House!

Early Saturday morning, it was still raining! Who knew it could rain for 10 days straight in September! The rain soaked the ground, but it did not dampen the spirits of the runners or the competitive atmosphere of the morning.

By 7:45, the entire front lawn of Saltillo High School was covered with canopy tents and abuzz with parents seeking shelter, runners preparing for races, and coaches giving last minute instructions. As we walked parts of the course, I could see the new runners marveling at the difference between a cross country meet and a local 5K. The most obvious difference at that moment was the course.

Cross country courses are run on trails and grass, through hill and dale. They are also run rain or shine. Wet or dry. Mud or decent footing. The course at Saltillo is difficult, even on a dry day. There is one hill in particular.... what it lacks in length, it makes up for in incline!

We scoped out the course, got our racing tags pinned on shirts, and went back under the tent. Actually, I should mention that there were 3 tents! We have grown over the last few years! Smiling, I quickly made note of the difference in our tent and others... Our girls had knitting needles poking out of their bags rather than I-Pod cords! I love this group of kids!

The coaches gathered for last minute instructions. Coach Covington went over the usual details, "Make sure the pin is not in the hole that says 'do not pin here', tell the runners someone will take the tag off at the finish line, and, oh yes, we will only delay if lightning is striking in the immediate vicinity... but even then we will not stop any races in progress!"

As an aside... The Saltillo cross country coach, Charles Covington has been more than willing to work with home schoolers... Other coaches have been much more accepting because of his example. We are thankful to him for this and for his Christian example in the public school system!

After the coaches meeting, I ran back to the tent to gather the JV girls. We paused for the national anthem, sung by chorus members huddled under an awning, and then we headed down into the mud pit... I mean starting area.

It was time for it all to begin. Coach Covington gave starting instructions to the girls and backed into the field with his arms raised. I noticed that the girls' shoes were already soggy, and their legs brown with mud spatters! The gun went up. (Actually, he didn't use his gun... just raised his arms.) "Runners Set!" Coaches prepared their stopwatches. "Go," as he threw down his arms and hurried out of their way. Crowds gathered along the course began to cheer as the mass of JV girls herded after the lead four wheeler. Coaches scattered around the course to places they had chosen for "encouraging" their runners.

(Some say that my "encouraging" sounds a whole lot like yelling... Maybe so, but they know that I love them! I prefer to think that on race day, I encourage loudly and with vehemence!)

By the time the runners reached the hill, they were covered in mud. Several runners had a difficult time even making it up the hill! One girl from Oxford gave me her mud covered glasses, because she had fallen and could no longer see through them!
Hannah Stegall finishing the first race!

Our JV girls finished well. For many of them, it was their first cross country race... talk about baptism by fire!

JV boys were next. Same routine. Meet at the starting line for instructions... (this time it was a little bit muddier)...they're off! They did a fine job as well. I told all groups not to even look at times, due to the course conditions. This race was to be all about guts and survival...
Landers finishing the JV boys race- Landers is one to watch for next year!

I was pretty pumped up... it was the kind of day that cross country runners live for! At the starting line, you could tell which coaches had been runners in the past... we were the ones LOVING it and wishing we were out there running!
Getting ready to start 1A-3A girls

Following the JV race was the 1A-3A Varsity Girls' race (smaller school division). Inwardly, I rubbed my hands together and gave a "mwahh-haa-ha...." There are a few coaches in this small division who are pretty competitive with each other, and we have been for years! I had been looking forward to this moment all week. These girls have been working SO hard, becoming a team, and setting the standard for all of our younger and new runners. It was time for them to lay it out on the table.

The girls were staying loose, trying to calm their nerves, and waiting on the start. I backed up to wait and noticed that they were all standing ankle deep in mud. AT THE START! There is nothing like running an entire cross country race with soaking wet shoes and socks! Blisters would be a major casualty, I was afraid.

The race began, and my girls were looking strong as they went into the woods. Danielle slipped on the hill, and Julie moved ahead. Olivia, Catherine, and Martha were fairly close together. Mary, Courtney, and Emilee were hanging in there, "movin' on up!"
Look at Emilee's hand and knee! That's workin hard, for ya!

At the finish, it was all clear. The girls had done their best and would be rewarded for their hard work. Five Spartans finished in the top 11!! The team had worked together as a pack and done FABULOUS! If we could have counted as a team (MHSAA guidelines prevent us from doing so), we would have won the meet, 34 to 61. In addition, if the girls had entered the large school division, we would have placed second behind Pontotoc! (Pontotoc is the NE MS powerhouse... they have shirts that say, "We run this town!")
Varsity girls- Champions!

The 4A-6A girls ran, and then it was time for 1A-3A varsity boys. By this time, the course could hardly be called that. No exaggerating... you really couldn't see the exact starting line or starting boxes anymore. People were losing shoes just walking across the field! The varsity boys were off... They did a great job as well. Everyone made the same type remark: "I felt like I was trying, but my legs just weren't going anywhere!" The boys had a very respectable finish, and I expect that they will continue to improve through the season.
Start of Varsity boys and Marshall finishing the race

During the course of the morning, people wanted to know, "Who are the Spartans?" and "You aren't running at state, are you?" It got to be pretty funny! There is definitely strength in numbers!
Muddy varsity girl legs!

I think that there are now many new fans of cross country. Many didn't realize how much "team" comes into play in the sport of running. It is primarily an individual sport, but "WE can achieve more than ME," or so the t-shirt says! There is also something to be said for a sport where everyone cheers for everyone... even rivals, and where athletes become friends across team boundaries! There is one common foe to be defeated: not necessarily another team, but the course and previous personal time records. This bond brings runners together and gives them a connection that is lacking in other team sports.
varsity boys at the awards ceremony

Ok, I am getting cheesy now... time to quit.... I am so proud of the Spartans... GREAT JOB, EVERYONE! Thanks for working hard, and thanks for being such a wonderful group of kids!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Morning reminder

"Our feelings can sometimes be tyrants... We need to listen to God and stop listening to ourselves!"

Mrs. Pam Davies has spoken to the ladies at our church the last two evenings, and these were some of her closing words last night. This is a wonderful reminder to me!

I have been reading the book, Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. I am only about 1/3 of the way through, but I have noticed something. Each time my objections to being a servant well up, it is usually because I am allowing my tyrannical feelings to overcome me! I have to stop myself and listen to God, rather than myself!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mom's dress

Are you a sentimental person? Have you ever caught a whiff of something and had a flood of memories rush upon you? An old perfume, perhaps? I recently smelled some tick/chigger yard spray, and I immediately thought of spending time with my grandfather each summer!

When I think about my mother during my younger years, I remember her in this dress.
Mom, me, Hillary, dad

My grandmother made this dress for my mom, and she wore it as her "house dress." Whenever it was cleaning day, my mom was sure to be in her blue anchor dress with hair pulled back in a bandanna. Mom wore this dress a lot, and I always thought she looked so beautiful in it. The way it just slipped on and wrapped around seemed so intriguing and fashionable! The fabric was worn and soft; such a comfort to a shy little girl!

I found a picture of her wearing it at my sister's first birthday party! (Mom did explain that this was taken after an all- day garage sale! Rather funny, if you know my mom, to think of her wearing a house dress to a birthday party! It gives me hope!)

Years ago, I spied the dress hanging in the very, very back of my mom's closet! I took it home, determined to make a house dress for myself. This was about the time I started wearing aprons, and I wanted a comfortable dress that would make my aprons look cuter! Sounds silly, I know, but an apron over jeans and a t-shirt just isn't the same as an apron over a cute dress!

One problem: I had never just made a dress without a pattern, and this had darts! It has been in my stack of projects for a long, long time. I had talked about it to many people, and I finally decided just to go for it.

I took apart the top, traced a pattern off each piece, and sewed it back together. It is now hanging in my sewing room! I made a practice dress out of scrap fabric (bombed the first try...), got it right, and then made a real one! I made the bodice too short, so I had to improvise a waist band. I can fix it for next time, though. It turned out pretty well, and it is very comfortable! Ta Da!

Sherman Days

Well, it turns out that our spaghetti supper did the trick... most of our runners had a GREAT race yesterday morning. All variables were in our favor: not only had we all eaten pasta and heard an incredibly motivating speech... (obviously joking... Scott told me that squeaky-voiced people should not try to motivate large crowds!) BUT ALSO, it was cool, overcast, and the course was flat!

By the time all of the Spartans had arrived, I am sure that the non-spartan runners were wishing they had gotten the memo and worn a green shirt! :)

Here we are at the start... preparing to flip our switches and turn into animals!

Uh oh... Here comes big mama... almost done! I ran a 21:03, which is the fastest I have done in a few years. The best part about it was that I am not injured today! :)

Julie is finishing with another runner (Kirsten?). The runners are all very kind about cheering for each other. Usually, when a spartan finishes, she will jog back and pick someone to run in with.... "No man gets left behind!" Julie and Danielle were FLYING... They both almost ran under 20:00!!!

Here comes Hannah! Hannah ran her best time, which was 31:21! Way to go, Hannah!

Sarah did a great job, too. She ran 27:??, and she got first in her age group!

Here we are for a nice family photo... All 50 of my children!

Hannah, Sarah, and I after the awards ceremony. I am so glad that we have an activity that we all enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Barn Party!

Friday night we had a Spartan pasta dinner! It was the night before our first official race of the season, so we got together for a little carb-loading, pep talk, and some capture the flag!

I set up 15 tables and 100 chairs under the pole barn... there were NOT many empty seats!! Wow, have we grown over the last 3 years! As I realized how many people were coming, I got nervous about not having enough food. Like any good southern lady, I doubled the amount of pasta I was planning to make and recruited a few more moms than I had planned... What could be worse than running out of food? :)

Guess what's for dinner for the next two weeks? Spaghetti. Ha ha... I put it in freezer bags, and we can have it once a week or so for the next 2 months!

Some of our boys' team

Marshmallow throwing girls!

Thanks to all of the Spartan parents for bringing food, getting kids to practice each week, and even running with them!

Wow- this was my view when I stood up to give our pre-race "pep talk." That's a lot of Spartans! After playing games for a while, everyone called it a fairly early night. We had to get a good night's rest for our first 5K the next morning!

Happy Birthday, Evelyn!

We spent Labor Day in Memphis with my parents and sister's family. My niece, Evelyn, is turning 3 this week! We had a nice day, celebrated Evelyn's birthday, and the kids went swimming in the pond with my dad.

Cross country

The freedom of Cross Country is so primitive. It's woman vs. nature.
- Lynn Jennings, 3x world xc champ

Simplify. Aaaah.... What an inviting term! I have been stressing out, trying to get us all out of the house and to cross country practice or the healthplex early enough for me to get in a run.

Then, I had an "aha" moment... we need a treadmill! We can keep it in the shop, and I can run at my convienence... and also have the kids take turns during the school day. Then, after cross country season, we can STAY HOME!!!

Well, DUH!!! We don't need a treadmill (not until winter rains begin, anyhow!)... We have a cross country course in our backyard! My trails had gotten a little rough and unkempt, and so I had quit running on them. As I was thinking about the treadmill, etc... I remembered that trails or not, my dirt road is a half mile long, and my driveway is a quarter mile long. That's a mile and a half loop (of hill work!)

When I mentioned to Scott that I was saving him a few thousand dollars by running on my dirt road, he promptly spent a few hours bush hogging my trails! They are still a little rough and steep, but hey, I've got the ankles of a mountain goat!

As I have started running at home during lunch break, I have remembered why I do this... I actually really enjoy running! It is a time of rest for me, reflection, and even fun. I will sometimes run with my random mix of music.... Casting Crowns, Johnny Lee, "The Jeffersons" TV theme song... and sometimes I just enjoy the sounds of nature. (that can be heard over my huffing and puffing!)

Continuing on the subject of running...
Last week, we made our first dry run on the Tallahatchie Riverfest course. We started at the coffee shop and ran the 5K together. After the course, the girls went in the coffee shop and got a smoothie, and I ran another round. It was a fun day! The Gunnells and McCallums ran with us. Here are Hannah, Ben, and Sarah.