A Storm and Chicken Story

August 26, 2017

A Storm and Chicken Story

One day we were playing outside and a storm came up.  Not a cute little Pooh bear thundercloud with a few raindrops, but a giant, hurricane-wind, flash-lightning-fireworks-in-the-sky, shake-the-whole-house-thunder, all-people-hide-inside kind of thunderstorm.  (Okay, it was a simple, everyday, Florida thunderstorm.)  The winds were swirling chicken feathers and fluffing them out like towel-dried cats.  Smaller chickens were hop-flying to stabilize themselves as they fought for the safety of the henhouse.

After drying off from the first wave of rain, the girls peeked outside and giggled at the chickens until the raindrops were so large we couldn’t see the henhouse anymore.  The late summer winds blew the tree limbs around like strong autumn breezes scatter just-raked leaf piles.

“Mom, can you tell us a story with a storm?” Asked Rebeccah.

“A Long Tail story!” yipped Kimberly.  She was five, and she loved Long Tail.

So we snuggled on the couch with lightning flashes illuminating the room through the big windows and started what would become “Long Tail and the Big Storm.”

The chickens of the yard were ruled by Long Tail, the great yellow chief, and guarded by Long Tail and Alfredo, the white rooster imported some time ago.  Under this rooster team, the hens and pullets scratched and gossiped and laid eggs all day with no worries.

On one autumn day the bright sky darkened with angry clouds.  The sun hid.  The birds in the woods started crying warnings and flying away.  Two small humans who were playing in the henhouse with the baby biddies, heard a booming crack of thunder and jumped!  They put the baby biddies back in the safe brooder and left the henhouse.

“Look at those little humans!” cawed Alfredo, laughing, “running like rabbits!”

A giant bolt of lightning lit up the sky just behind the woods and a cannon-loud BOOM of thunder shattered the air.  Alfredo scrambled into the henhouse and hid under the brooder.

All the hens laughed at the silly rooster.

Even Red Feathers and Golden Eye, two of the youngest pullets, laughed at him.

Long Tail strutted by, “when the water falls from the sky, we come in.” Long Tail was not afraid.

A big wind shrieked through the henhouse.  It blew the people door open!

Can Long Tail save his flock?  Be sure to check out Long Tail and the Big Storm to see just how this courageous rooster accomplishes this brave feat!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Imagination Playtime

August 8, 2017

Imagination Playtime

This morning was a surprise of miniature proportion.

First off, when I stumbled into the kitchen to start my coffee at 5:20am, my preteen was awake!

Secondly, the playroom was spotless (toyacts was creating a few new videos in the playroom the previous night).

This sparked an idea.

“Let’s play legos, want to build something together?”  My suggestion was met with rocketing jumps where my five foot tall eleven-year-old banged her head on our roof.   “Yippee!  Ouch.”

We discussed all things building; like which pieces came from which sets, which sets were missing pieces (thanks to the vacuum, Sheba’s mouth, or teething younger siblings; Rebeccah is the lego master and knows where everything went – much like me with my childhood bricks), and whose head and hair I had mismatched on my mini-figs.  (Once, I had Elron’s hair with Commissioner Gordon’s head, the result looked like a sweet old lady to me.)

Our building progressed to a tree fort with crazy entrances and exits, three towers, complete with the tallest one having a princess locked inside where her puppy is trying to save her while the Barbarian ax man is considering Chinese food. (See picture, if you can find it!)

The blue magician conjures up a storm and an adventurer seeking the everlasting flame (in the bowl, middle, second tower) will accidentally be shot by a kid bowman’s awry trick shot from the top of the bridge.  We goofed off until it was almost lunchtime.  The girl elf hair ended up paired with a repaired face that looks like it has feathery bangs to make a crossbowman.  (She was going to be an archer – my favorite – but the hair wouldn’t fit with the quiver and I couldn’t have her without ammo!)

I love delving into imagination (last night it was duplos to build tunnels for Lucas’ train and car tracks) and discovering how my kids’ brains see problems.  Building blocks bring that out.  They help teach children to think around their problems (yes, that they created, like “Mommy, I want two cars to go under it!” Jillian, last night.  Or “How are we going to camouflage this huge tree fort effectively?” Rebeccah, today.)

Oh, and don’t forget the sharks patrolling the island fort (notice the blue water on the plates?) as Rebeccah claims the most important part of any lego set are the critters included.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

She’s On a Mission

July 21, 2017

She’s On a Mission

Sometimes God leads people into your life to bless you and everyone around you.  Sometimes you don’t get to see them all the time (Actually, you see them very rarely!), but you feel such a strong connection.  Sometimes those people are in your life to encourage you and to be positive influences in your children’s lives.

One such blessing in our lives is an awesome friend, Stacy.  (My girls all call her “Aunt Stacy.”)  She has been a friend of our family for over eight years.  She was at our house (and the only one with a camera) when Jillian was born, so she is the reason we have birth pictures of Jillian!  (She’s a photographer so not only did we have pictures, but they were awesome pictures.) Stacy is a missionary.  She has a blog where she writes a lot of interesting single-woman-missionary-related thoughts.  These are so insightful and spot on.  Christina started following her Aunt Stacy’s blog when she was about 10.  Every day Stacy was in Zambia in 2014, Christina would ask, “Has Aunt Stacy written some more?”  She updated everyone on her mission travels daily. (Or as she got internet connectivity) We’d read and Christina would journal about the verses Stacy referenced.

Stacy is a beautiful young woman.  I’ve watched her confidence and strength grow as now she’s inspiring and mentoring my teen and preteens.  Stacy has mentored other girls in person; she’s open, fun, and connects with them in a special way.  (Rebeccah says “it’s because she’s real, her love shines.”) Recently, Christina said “look!  Her quote is one of my favorites!”  In the last blog, “Jesus is not my Boyfriend,” Stacy quoted C.S. Lewis saying “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.”  (This is one I’ve repeated many times in raising my young women – it’s also a favorite of mine.)

Even though we don’t get to visit in person as often as we’d like to, this wonderful young woman, a strong warrior of God, a vibrant passionate lover of Jesus, my sister-in-Christ, is such a blessing to our family.  She is leading, encouraging, and sharing from her heart.

That is how we teach people.  They say the best sermons you ever preach are the ones that are seen.  We show people who we are, what we are passionate about, and who we love, by the actions they see.  Online, you can’t really “see” people, but you can see the actions of what they are doing through the pictures and stories they show.  (It helps if they are “real” to you; someone you’ve actually met, but that’s not necessary.)  My children watch what I do.  I can talk patience all day, but if I get irritated because the line at the grocery store is too long, all that talk just disappeared because obviously, I don’t “walk the talk.”  When they see someone who has a huge heart for helping others and spreading God’s word and get to “follow” what she’s actually doing and read what she’s saying, it shows them that this person does “walk her talk” too.

I pray constantly to be the kind of person who “walks” my “talk.”  I want to be someone others can look up to and be inspired by.  This is why I write: writing is my passion, my love, my art.  God gives us talents and gifts.  He wants us to use them to encourage, inspire, teach, and love others.  This is my goal.

I am so grateful for those in my family’s life who provide positive inspiration for us – some may not even know how deep of an impact they have on our lives – but if I can, I want to tell them!  Stacy is such a blessing for us – it’s an honor to say she’s my friend.

Stacy writes about singleness, being “on a mission,” loving God, and everyday-Christian-woman challenges in her blog: www.thelivingone.blog.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Squirrel Book!

July 17, 2017

Furry Squirrels Lighting the Way

One day we were driving home and a squirrel jumped out in front of the van.  Amid squeals and screams from “Don’t hit it!” and “Mommy! A squirrel!” to “Yummy! Squirrel stew!” I managed to avoid it.

We were on our way to church.  Our church family calls themselves the squirrels.  Instantly, the girls were coming up with nutty squirrel names and reasons for why this “teenage boy squirrel” was out in the road. (I have no idea how it became a teenage boy squirrel, we certainly didn’t catch it and examine it!)

They suggested I write a bunch of stories with these cute little squirrels.  We jotted down names, ages, and built squirrel families in the “Landmark Tribe” in the “wooded lands.”  This was complete with the Beaver Clan and the masked robber family (raccoons).  Several of our chicken names were drafted for Landmark Tribe’s squirrels.  They even sketched out character traits!  Granny Pecan was the first character made.  Her heavenly hazelnut pie was perfected.  They drew pictures and giggled about the squirrels’ stories.

The first story to be published is just out!  Busting Berry Bath is a humorous tale told by Chip, one of the Crunchies of the Landmark Tribe.  (Adults are “elders,” babies are “squawlers,” and teenagers are “crunchies.”)  Each story is a squirrel-style fable; special messages of good character are hidden within. (Can you find the message?)  In their own quirky, squirrely way, these squirrels are lighting the way for all good creatures.

We hope you enjoy this story and the many more to follow!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Question For Inspiration

June 17, 2017

Question for Inspiration

We were all snuggled up, sprawled across the big fluffy bed in our pajamas, about to start reading the third bedtime story on the cool winter night.

“What will it be?” Begs Jaquline for the umpteenth time.

“Patience!” Sighs Kimberly.

“Curiosity killed the cat, you know,” Christina laughed, repeating something her grandmothers and some aunts had occasionally said.

“Why?” Jaquline asked.

Everything stopped.

“Why do you say curiosity killed the cat?” Jaquline clarified.

“Mom, why do you and grandma say that?” Rebeccah asked.

I was stopped on the bed.  I had a storybook in my hand.  This time, I didn’t know why.  I’d never heard of any fable, story, or family tale which had that saying, even as a line somewhere.   So, I invented one.  I told them why the birds say, “Curiosity Killed the Cat.”  They liked it!  The girls insisted I write it into a real story. (Type it, actually) Christina drew the illustration and colored it.

This fable-style story owes its existence to a question asked by a little girl.  For me, inspiration often comes from the simplest of things!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Cousin Train

June 15, 2017

Cousin Train

Some days you just need to laugh!  When cousins are over, that laughter is always bouncing off the walls.

The big girls raced by each pushing a tomato box across the wooden floor.  Mandy squealed from Jaquline’s box (“faster!”).  Isaac peered up from behind his pacifier, eyes pleading with me to save him from Kimberly’s driving (but he wouldn’t get out).  Lucas grinned, (he was in the “real car” – a toy bin) “Rrrrr”ing as Jillian puffed behind him, racing to keep up with her longer-legged sisters.

“Mom!  We’re a train!”  Yelled Kimberly.

“A cousin train!” Jaquline squealed.

This was followed by two or three ear-shattering “WOO WOO” howls (impersonations of imaginary trains).

Then they lined up one box behind the other and wanted a “cousin train” picture.  Kimberly and Jillian kept running in and out of the picture (if we could bottle their energy, we could make a mint) but we captured everyone else!

Our tomato boxes end up being shelves, clothes sorting bins, storage units, temporary nest boxes, or toys.  Once, they became a chalk-covered space ship to Aunt Katy’s house!  Another time, they became lifeboats tied together in an ocean.  This fun day, they were racecars that morphed into a cousin train (which ended up with six cars and one Christina-and-Rebeccah engine!)

I love their imagination! It makes me smile and opens doors for teaching moments.  It also inspires many characters in my books like Jilly and Luke in The Skating Pony.

The cousins love playing together.  Mandy is crafty and creative like her Mommy (hmm, crafty…) so the girls always find something fun to do.  Lucas and Isaac are only separated by 9 days, so many people have asked if they are twins.  They love playing with anything that has wheels.

I wonder where the cousin train will take them next.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Eggs of Giants

June 13, 2017

Eggs of Giants

One cool thing about keeping a flock of chickens (aside from the 5am alarms) is that they pop eggs out!

Before we had chickens, I thought all eggs were white and exactly the same size and shape.  With the first time our Buff Orpington hen announced to the world that she plopped a smooth, clean, egg in the nest box, my preconceived notions about eggs were shattered.

It was BROWN!

It was TINY!

This giant, beautiful 6 pound hen had laid an egg that may have weighed 3 grams (okay, maybe a little bigger than that).  It didn’t have a yolk!  Maybe our chickens were broken.  Of course, they weren’t broken.  Most heavy breeds lay brown eggs.  Buff Orpingtons are heavy breeds.  Most first eggs are small and even the most proficient layers occasionally have an egg without a yolk.  They never did lay what I previously thought of as “normal” eggs, instead they were huge eggs (extra-large) with the occasional super-giant egg containing two yolks.

Currently, we have a rainbow of large chickens in our flock.  Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Barred Rocks lay various shades of brown eggs (actually, pale apricot to medium walnut brown) and some have speckles!  Our Easter Eggers lay green, pale pink, and occasionally spotted eggs.  We also ended up with some White Leghorns, who are smaller than the others, but lay extra-large white eggs.  Our Golden Phoenix (who is a mottled English walnut color with a ring of golden feathers around her neck and scattered about her dark head) lays a torpedo-shaped almost pink egg 6 of the 7 days in a week.  Just like each of us are unique, each hen lays an egg with her own distinct size, shape, and color!

Young pullets (a female chicken is a pullet until she starts steadily laying eggs) will sometimes start out producing small eggs for the first week or so.  In the picture, we had a new layer’s tiny, a “regular” sized, and a double-yolker from our White Leghorn.

Another fun thing about having chickens is observing the variety of egg colors and shades when packing our eggs in their cartons.  We have at least one white and one green in each dozen but most of our hens lay an assortment of pink-brown shades called “brown” eggs.  They say you can tell what color a chicken will lay by the bottoms of their feet! (In our experience, not exactly, but pretty close)  In our last batch of biddies, we had three with blackish green “soles” of their feet. The girls are hoping to find a dark olive egg or maybe even a purple egg!

Yes, the girls name our chickens.  These names (usually for attributes or specific colors) usually find themselves playing hens or pullets in the Adventures of Long Tail.  Sometimes their creative names end up inspiring an actual story character (like Jasmine Rose in The Devonians).

The girls’ favorite part of chickens is the raising challenge.  They enjoy plotting color mixes as they separate them for breeding, watching the incubator for 21 days and squealing “babies are coming soon,” tending new hatchlings, encouraging them to explore, helping them grow, and seeing their breeding experiment results as they become pullets and cockerels.  Then they usually say goodbye to newly laying pullets about 18 – 26 weeks or promising-looking cockerels about 10 – 14 weeks as they prefer to sell them when they are “past the danger stage.” (aka too big for most hawks and no longer needing brooder care)

I love their learning adventure (as Rebeccah says, breeding in chickens is more colorful than Mendel’s peas) and we all enjoy the rainbow of eggs in various sizes the happy hens provide.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Funny Sisters

May 23, 2017

Funny Sisters

“That never happens in real life.”  Have you ever thought that watching a movie?  The girls always say that when we watch certain movies.

Then we had a day that wouldn’t have been believed without recording. (Still, people would have said “it’s been altered.”)

But it wasn’t!  This particular day and a half of painting the house, so many funny things happened trying to slow us down. The girls kept saying “no one would believe this.” One of them says, “Mom, you have to write this story down so we can remember it.”  Another chirps, “but not with our real names!”  And the baby yips “yeah! A story about us!”

The Five Alive: Stories of the Funny Sisters series was born with “Chase in the Echoing House.”

The description claims the stories are “exaggerated situations based on real life.”  (Honestly, some are toned down and some are exaggerated!) A shopping trip became “The Big Shopping Adventure.”  “Christmas Decorating Challenge” was an adventure among light bulbs.  Currently, three more stories round out the group: “Becky’s Crazy Day,” “Tina’s Too-Embarrassing Day,” and “The Great Poker Tournament.”

The girls love these stories.  For the series, they will always just be five sisters (no baby brother yet!) and live in a house that isn’t there anymore with pets who’ve passed on.  They read them to each other. They have illustrated the covers themselves.  These are tiny “exaggerated” memory boxes to open and laugh at.  We published them so you can share their escapades.  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart