All posts by samantha

Destination Imagination

This past weekend, we headed to the University of Tennessee Conference Center in Knoxville to watch three of my nephews participate in events with Destination Imagination. My sister first told me about this organization last year, so this year we went to see what was involved and how it all worked.

At this regional level, there were quite a few different events students could participate in, and the top performers move on to the state contest. My nephews were in a drama contest in which each group had to come up with a mystery skit and props.

Before the competition, the students were given a list of famous detectives to research. Armed with only this information and miscellaneous craft items to make props, they waited for their turn to perform. They were then given the name of one of the detectives they had studied, three different movie genres, and a superstition to investigate; all of these had to be included in the skits. They worked for the next thirty minutes to put it all together into a six-minute play. Then, right before they performed, they were given a surprise element they needed to include as well. The students had one minute to figure out how to include it, and then the play began.

I was impressed with what the kids came up with! Each group had about five to six people who had to work as a team to pull it all together quickly. All of the team members performed a part in the play. And they had to present their skits before an audience and three judges.

There were other challenges as well, and groups from any type of school, whether public, private, or homeschool, could participate. I came home from the trip and searched the website for the Destination Imagination events in our area – I think we’ll get together a group for next year!  (Destination Imagination —

Worm Castings

A friend of mine has a home business I had never heard of before I met her. She and her family sell worm castings. They raise the worms, gather the castings, and package them up for customers.

“Castings” is another name for worm poo. No, worm castings aren’t smelly or icky – they’re actually like rich, dark, soft soil. They act as an organic fertilizer, releasing nutrients and water to the plant only as it needs it. My friend gave me some to try, and the results were amazing.

We have a large field which includes an area we marked off to plant a garden. Each year, my husband plans to plow it up with his dad’s antique John Deer tractor, but every spring he gets too busy. Two summers ago, I decided to just plant a small area instead, one that I could prepare and tend on my own. I already had the castings, so I bought a few cherry tomato plants. Being homeschoolers, we decided to turn our garden project into a science experiement.

We divided the plants into two groups. One group we planted with the castings, adding a large handful into the hole before planting, and then adding a little more around the base of the plant when we were finished. The other group we just set into the soil with no castings at all.

That summer, our area suffered from a terrible drought. Unfortuantely for the plants, I had placed my garden quite far from the house, and I often forgot to water them. In fact, I think I only carried a watering can out twice to the little garden. It’s no wonder the plants without the castings died away.

But to our surprise, the plants we had treated with the worm castings thrived. Not only did they grow, but they grew beyond the supports we had set up. They produced…and produced…and produced! We had tomatoes through September and into October. I even had to pick a few tomatoes before they were ripe because we were beginning to get the first frosts of winter.

I’m convinced. We’re going to try it again this year, and I can’t wait for the results! Maybe we’ll even get that big garden planted.

A Gracious Guest

To add to the fun of Luke’s birthday, my sister, four of her children, and my mom who was visiting them came from Tennessee to spend the day. Towards the end of their visit, my oldest son, John, looked a little distressed; his cousin, who’s the same age, had wandered off by himself, and John couldn’t find him. John was aware that their time together was growing short, and he wanted to make the most of the last thirty minutes or so.

After a couple of minutes calling for him, the cousin emerged from our chicken pen holding one of the chickens. He was close enough that he must have heard John calling for him. My sister scolded him. “John’s looking for you,” she said. “Ask him what he wants to do. Remember, you’re the guest.”

Her comments reminded me of something she had mentioned to me a few years before. As we were growing up, we’d have friends over, and we’d spend the time doing the things they wanted to do. We were taught to be good hostesses, ensuring that our friends had a good time at our house. Now grown, my sister had a new view of the situation. A child, she said, should also be taught to be a gracious guest.

A gracious guest is one that doesn’t demand his own way. He understands that activities with his host don’t have to revolve around him; instead, he finds out what  his host wants to do. He helps out when he can and fits himself into the host’s schedule.

I thought about it again that day, and I believe my sister is right. I, too, want my children to learn to be a blessing, whether they are serving in the position of the host or as an invited guest – a gracious guest.

The Birthday Banner

This past weekend, my youngest, Luke, turned five years old. For the past month, he and his eight-year-old sister Lillie have been planning the party – decorating treat bags, looking through catalogs for favors, deciding on cake decorations. And, of course, bringing out his birthday banner.

Birthday banners have become a favorite tradition in our family. It all began seven years ago when my second child, Cassie, turned three. We were living in what we thought would be just a temporary home – a single wide mobile home on the same property as the house we planned to renovate. Because we were going to be moving again soon (or so I thought – it actually took two years), I didn’t unpack photos or pictures for the walls.

When Cassie’s birthday came around after Christmas, we decorated with streamers and balloons, but there was still one large bare wall where the Christmas tree had been. To fill the space, I pulled out some large pieces of felt my mother had given me and decided to make a banner. I used the large pieces as background colors, then cut flowers, butterflies, and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY CASSIE!” out of the rest. My mother was living nearby at the time, so when I was finished gluing all of the pieces down, she secured them with stitching and added tabs across the top. We hung the banner on that bare wall with a curtain rod and two sticky hooks, and it filled the space perfectly!

Of course, as each of my other children’s birthdays rolled around that year, I had to make a special banner for them too. My mom had moved, so after I created the patterns for the designs, I sent them to her to sew together. She even made banners for my husband and myself. Now we all have our own birthday banner, which we hang in our living room at least two weeks before the big day. It’s one of our favorite family traditions, and one my children can take along with them even after they’re grown.