Saturday, May 19, 2018

Two blue ribbons

P. competed in her first schooling show at the stable she has been riding at. She had done other schooling shows before we moved, but this was her first one here. Since I usually drop her at the stable, go do the grocery shopping, and then come back to pick her up, I don't usually see her ride. Boy, she has improved a lot over the past year. She deserved the two blue ribbons she one. One ribbon was for over fences, and the other was for equitation on the flat.


J. took videos of a couple of her rides, and as soon as we figure out how to upload them, I will share them with you. (Dratted lack of WiFi is sometimes a pain.)

G. and L., saying hi to some of the horses. It's a rather swanky stable.

(I warned you I would hound...) Since I'm talking about P., don't forget her Go Fund Me page. And a huge thank you to everyone who has donated and shared the page!




Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday bullets, May 18, 2018

You know I write these posts the night before and schedule them for the next morning, right? If any of you think I am up and functioning enough to write a post and publish it by 7 am... well, when I stop laughing, I'll explain I'm not really a morning person. All this to say, this might be a short post because I am very tired.

  • I am tired because I spent the entire day outside, planting things in the new vegetable garden. When I got up yesterday morning, I blithely thought that by spending the entire day doing this, I would be able to plant everything vegetable-wise that I wanted to get planted, and even had plans for what I would do the rest of the day once I was done. Ha! If only... after all day on my hands and knees in the garden, I am not quite half done. Starting a garden from scratch is no joke. Planting was the easy part. It was the chopping, turning, sifting, business that I had to do in order to plant that was the time consuming bit. I just keep telling myself that next year it will be so much easier. 
  • Poor Nefertiti. She would so much love to be an indoor-outdoor cat. She sits in the window, staring out of the screen, and mews the most pathetic mews. She will also dash outdoors at every chance she gets. When she does get outside, she doesn't go far, but I just can't let her be an indoor-outdoor cat. First, her previous owners declawed her front feet, so while she has a terrific hiss, her actual defenses are somewhat compromised. The real reason, though, is the coyotes. We have a lot of coyotes around here, and living so close to a large forest preserve means we have more than most people. Our next door neighbors have lost innumerable outdoor cats as well as chickens to the dratted things; sometimes even in the middle of the day. (Often we will be awakened in the middle of the night by them, they are so loud.) While I am resigned to the eventual loss of a chicken to predators, I just can't let that happen to Nefertiti. And so she mews and mews and mews, poor thing.
  • We have a few eggs to eat, thanks to our neighbor. See?

Those are a combination of turkey, duck, and chicken eggs. Everyone is very anxious to conduct extensive taste tests this morning to see if there is a discernible difference between the three. (For those who are curious, the turkey eggs are the longer, speckled ones; the duck eggs are the larger, rather pearlescent ones, and well, you know chicken eggs.)
  • I've downloaded Duo Lingo onto my phone. I find it feeds my competitive, compulsive nature. Is it over the top that I'm working on four languages at once? They are all languages that I've studied at one time or another... French, Mandarin, Italian, and Vietnamese. The first three are pretty much just a review at the moment, and none of them is moving fast enough to even reach the level of challenging, but Vietnamese? Yikes! That is beyond challenging and hovering on the edge of baffling. I'm continuing to to plug away, though, waiting for it to suddenly start to make sense.
  • There was a moment yesterday morning when I was talking with A. about a wedding we are all going to next month, that we are all going to this wedding. This means that I need to think about what people are going to wear. For some, this is easy, they will pick something out of their closet and wear that. For others, who either don't have any nice clothes that fit or have nice clothes that they are willing to wear, I will have to actually be proactive and go shopping. When I was younger I didn't mind shopping... I even enjoyed it. Now? There is nothing about it that I enjoy. 
  • The evening poultry follies continue. A couple of chickens seem to have figured out that yummy treats await them when I call and shake the bag, but the vast majority don't seem to care. We are getting faster at herding the chickens into the pen, and the more people we have participating in the poultry follies the easier it is. Even me reminding them that there are marauding coyotes out there does not seem to make a difference to them. The ducks we have stopped trying to herd, and instead just resort to grabbing and putting them in. Though, two ducks last night did go in of their own accord. 
  • L. has started to make birthday wish lists. Some of the thinks on her list I have never heard her mention as being something that she wanted. This makes me wonder if the wish list is more a 'random things that popped into my head' list.
  • K. had an orthodontist appointment this week. On Orthodontist appointment days, I like to visit my old grocery store that I still miss on these days, and stock up on items I just cannot find out here. It's a good thing I had other plans for the trip, because the appointment took five minutes. FIVE. A five minute appointment for over two hours of driving time. Was I happy? No, I was not. 
  • I have a new article published: Why Should I Adopt Internationally When There Are So Many Children in the US Who Need Homes? As usual, feel free to click and share.
  • Finally, a heart felt thank you to those who have contributed to P.'s Go Fund Me page. We are extremely grateful! I may be a bit of a pest about this for the next few weeks. I don't like to draw attention to or ask for things for myself, but when it is for one of my children, I don't seem to have the same issues. So brace yourselves. If you haven't already, take a look at Phoebe Curry's Go Fund Me page and consider contributing a little something. Thank you!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Doing some mom bragging and begging

Take a look at this picture.


This is P. when she was about 2 1/2. It is one of my absolutely favorite pictures of her. We had gone with the H-S Family and the P. Family to see the tall ships which had come into the Kenosha Harbor. We had a lovely day of touring the ships, having a picnic, and enjoying the company of each other. Well, except when I was changing D.'s diapers or trying to find a comfortable place to nurse him. D. was only a month or so old. I do remember wondering at times why I thought that outing was a good idea. But I did end up with this picture of P. on one of the tall ships.

Now this child is nearly all grown up and will be graduating from high school. When you have a graduation coming up, the all-consuming question becomes, "What are you going to do next?" For P., this was not an obvious answer. She wasn't sure college right away was what she wanted, but she didn't quite know what the other options were. And then she found a program out of Canada called Class Afloat. Essentially, it is a gap year program where ~60 students help to crew a three-masted ship, sail around the world, and take classes at the same time. This was what P. wanted to do it turns out.

She has been working for several months now to get everything ready to apply to the program. She needed a pretty extensive swim test, medical exam, transcript, and interviews as part of the application process. With very little help from her parents, she sorted out how to do all of these things and got them done. I was extremely proud of her diligence and effort.

Earlier this week, we received an email that she was accepted into the program. I am thrilled. I am thrilled even if one year the ship sank. (All the students and crew made it onto life boats and survived. But still... ) And I am proud of her.

I wish I could just say: And so she'll leave on ____ for her new adventure. I'm afraid things are a little more complicated than that. It seems that American financial aid does not cross borders. Go figure. This makes the rather high price tag for the program far more difficult to manage. It also means that somehow she needs to come up with a staggering figure to secure her spot in the next month. J. and I can help a little bit, but we just cannot manage the whole thing.

P. has done a couple of things in light of this. First, she has decided that going for one semester instead of two makes for good financial sense. It's not quite half the cost, but it is less. Second, she has spent nearly every waking moment (when she is not mucking stalls to earn money) looking for scholarships to apply for. She's found quite a few, including one which required her to read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and write an essay on it. (That's dedication to the cause.) Even if she was to receive the scholarships she has applied for, she still would not have the money she needs next month. So, she has created a Go Fund Me page.

Here's the begging part of the post. Would you be willing to look at her page and donate a little something to help her along? If everyone donated just a little bit, it would all add up to quite a lot. If you just cannot send anything, then please, please share her page. I want this so badly for her, and it kills me just a little bit that I cannot make it happen. I would so appreciate any help you can offer.

Phoebe Curry Go Fund Me Page

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Amazing

The trouble with having children who make progress at such a slow rate is that you can go for weeks and weeks and feel as though nothing is happening. This is where we have been with R. for much of the spring. It is a little dispiriting to feel as though nothing has changed, especially when you deal with the same behaviors over and over and over. I spend a lot of time telling myself it is really OK if this is where she stays. We knew she would be with us for the long term from the start, and are committed to her regardless. But it is not really about me and J. that makes me sad, but about her. I want so much more for her. I want her to be able to do things, to participate in her own life, to have an inner life, to find interest in things. Some days I'm nearly driven wild with the desire to be able to reach into her head and unlock the door she has hidden herself behind. But that door is so well-hidden and so well locked, some days I despair that we will ever be able to do that. As you can tell, we have seen precious little progress recently. She is just so content to sit and not be present.

And then every so often, I will see a small glimmer that gives me hope.

Two days ago, everyone was diligently doing math, so I got out the pattern blocks for R. to work on. As part of the set, I have cards which are different pictures which can be filled in with the blocks. Some have the colors and shapes on them, others are just outlines of the shapes, and still others are just an outline to be filled in however the child can make it work. R. had been able to do the pictures with the colors, though wasn't always able to get the blocks always lined up with the shape on the card. The black-and-white outlines, which you match the shape of the block to, were incomprehensible to her. She could not put a shape inside the outline on the card. It was utterly baffling to her.

So, when I started her on this the other day, we stared with the colored cards. R. did these pretty easily, and actually lined up the blocks with the shapes on the cards pretty darn well. So I took a deep breath, and gave her another card, this time with the colored shapes on one side of the card and a mirror outline on the other. You know what? She did them both. Both as in the side with the colored outlines and the side which required the child to create the mirrored image without benefit of colored outlines. I could barely believe it. I must have been in a state of shock, because I DIDN'T TAKE A PICTURE!

Believe me when I say I will hang on to this particular bit of hope for a good long while. It's enough to keep me trying to reach her.

On the other hand, H. continues to amaze me with what she can do. I can remember all too clearly when I was in the same spot with her that I currently am with R. at the moment. On the same day as R.'s pattern block triumph, H. had a section of her math book which required her to read numbers that were written out in words and then right the same number in numeral form. I gave her the instruction and once again held my breath. When I came back to check, she had done them all correctly. These were not easy numbers, but numbers such as eighty-nine and seventy-three and forty-five. Five years ago, she could not recognize any number higher than five, and now not only can she recognize them and count up to them, she can also read the words and match them to the number. All without help. Amazing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Duck herding

Just in case you might have forgotten that my life is a good part farce, I will share this afternoon's adventures. As you read yesterday, we are now starting to let the chickens and ducks out of their pen in order to meander around the yard in order to eat dandelions and bugs. The chickens, once we herded them out the first time, quickly caught on, and enjoyed their freedom immensely. The ducks on the other hand, couldn't figure out what was going on. The first day, B. went in the pen and encouraged them to move towards the door. Actually, only one was encouraged to exit, the others required being picked up and put out of the pen. Once outside, the little amoeba of ducks happily quacked and waddled and nibbled their way around the yard. Then it was time to put everyone back in. I bought a bag of cracked corn and dried meal worms to encourage the fowl to come home. On Sunday, this was not quite successful. It took a multi-person effort to heard all the animals back into the pen.

Today when I opened the pen door, the chickens knew immediately what was happening, and were quick to flutter out and enjoy the yard. The ducks... not so much. I decided to just let the ducks be and see what they would do under their own power. Well, that looked like all the chickens outside the pen and all the ducks inside. The ducks would see the chickens on the other side of the wire and quack loudly. Eventually TM could not take it anymore and herded the ducks outside. He even filled up their wading pool, which filled their little ducky hearts with joy.

And then it poured.

The chickens all retreated into the coop where it was dry. The ducks? Well, they don't seem to mind the rain. It doesn't seem to matter where the water comes from, they like it. After the rain stopped, the chickens were more than happy to resume their wanderings. This is where the true hilarity begins.

It was just about time to begin making dinner, and I thought it would be good to get in the habit of putting the birds away in their home at this time so they weren't out at dusk. Even though it took several days of chicken and duck herding for them to figure out to go inside their coop at night, I kind of hoped that with the addition of treats, they would have the return home-thing figured out on the second day.

They didn't.

Well, most of them didn't. Some of the chickens upon hearing me call and shake their bag of treats came wandering over and happily started eating. Other chickens just continued to mill around. The ducks were oblivious. In the end, if any of our neighbors happened to be watching, this is what they would have seen.

After it was evident that just calling and putting treats inside the coop wasn't going to be 100% successful, I realized it was time to take action. A had been outside walking Olive, and was watching my attempts of chicken and duck corralling. She took Olive and started to walk around, herding the poultry towards the pen. Olive thought this was great fun. The chickens did not, and it was quite effective for most of the hens. The amoeba of ducks was not paying any attention at all, so A. and Olive went to herd them next. They would come waddling towards the pen, and then take a sharp turn and be heading away from the pen at the last moment. Over and over.

Eventually, with Y. at the pen door to push in any bird which came near and to keep the ones inside from exiting, I started herding birds in tandem with A. Olive got a little too excited at one point, and thought the better way to herd the birds would be to pick them up in her mouth. She managed to grab a duck, who understandably quacked loudly, causing Olive to drop her. In Olive's excitement to continue the duck chase, she lost her footing and ended up sitting on the duck, who managed to get away and went waddling in the other direction as fast as she could. So, just imagine, me running around and around the coop, trying to herd the loose birds towards the door. I didn't expect to be doing this, so I wasn't wearing the most appropriate footwear. It has also rained a lot over the past two days, so everything is more than a little muddy. When you are wearing definitely-not-mud-shoes while chasing birds, you have to be a little careful about where you put your feet. I'm sure I looked ridiculous. With the efforts of three people and one dog, all birds were eventually shut back in the pen.

Since we are all just making this up as we go along, I am pretty convinced that experienced poultry owners are more than a little amused at our efforts. Oh well... it's how you learn, right? Hints for calling them home and having them pay attention are welcome, though.

I will also add that the sound of duck feet on wet pavement as they waddle along is hilarious.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What I got for Mother's Day

I had nearly everyone home. A. had to work, and we missed her. We pretty much spent the afternoon playing and working outside. So along with just enjoying my family and a chocolate bar from Y., I got...

A new vegetable garden


The zip line put up



To watch the chickens and ducks explore the yard for the first time






But the best part was just to be with my family and enjoy their company. 


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Impermanence

Every so often, after we've been happily going along, I discover that one of my children missed something somewhere along the line. This usually happens when a new concept is introduced, and suddenly that child doesn't seem to be able to manage it. Or the child just melts down repeatedly when we pull out that particular book. That second choice more often is accurate. So, I spend  more time than I should cajoling that child into doing that work. Eventually, when even cajoling doesn't seem to work, a light bulb dimly starts to glow in the recesses of my brain, and I start to wonder if something else isn't going on. It's a little embarrassing how long this realization can take, especially given how long I've been doing this.

For the child in question, I have now pulled out a different math book. This book is a little bit less advanced than where we were in the other book, but this way I can try to figure out where exactly the child got lost. And sometimes it isn't even that a concept was missed, but that a child's number sense is just taking a little longer to kick in, and going over things one more time in a different format can help them make more sense.

The trouble is, I'm often so slow in figuring out we need to do this, that the child and I are already in a bit of trouble in regards to whatever subject is the issue. This means that not only am I having to back up in terms of learning, we need to regroup in terms of attitude as well. Because I missed the confusion, a child can be extremely unsure of how to do what is asked.

Enter the white board.

You know, the kind where you write with a dry erase marker and everything is easily erased. I did not have these early on in my homeschooling career, and I'm not sure how I managed without them. They are so useful for so many things.

I've discovered that sometimes things are easier to do if they are written on a white board. With a piece of paper, any work done on it seems more permanent. Even if written in pencil, the act of erasing is never quite invisible, and we all know what happens to paper if you erase too much in one spot. When you erase a dry erase marker on a white board, it vanishes completely and with very little effort. If you make a mistake, it can be made to vanish as though it never happened.

This particular child felt more comfortable trying different math problems on the white board rather than writing in the book. Once we had warmed up with the white board, it was much easier to transfer to the actual book, and there was no problem after that.

I hadn't really been able to put this idea into words before. As I moved onto working with other children this past week, I tried out my hypothesis. When a child would have difficulty, I would grab the white board and we would do it there first. Suddenly, with the freedom that white board afforded, the fear of failure disappeared a bit and allowed room in their brains for better thinking. Doing things with the white board first had multiple successes during the course of the morning.

I can remember when we were being taught to read in first grade. There was a series of graded readers with comprehension questions at the end which needed answering. We were allowed to work at our own pace, as the workbooks were self-graded. What I loved most was that we used plastic overlays and grease pencils. I adored answering the questions, checking the answers, and then rubbing it all off to begin again.

If you are fearful of making mistakes, it can be paralyzing. By offering a way to try different answers out which can be easily erased as if those mistakes never happened, we can offer a sense of freedom to be willing to try something even if it won't be perfect.
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