Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning curve

So these as-yet-to-be-actual-quail-chicks are keeping us on our toes. I sent J. to the feed store near his work on Friday, and it turns out that people don't generally hatch just four or five game birds at a time. How do I know this? Well, it's because of the size the brooder supplies come in. take a look.

That bag on the left is the food which is fifty pounds. FIFTY pounds! How many people can say that they own fifty pounds of game bird chow? So, if anyone needs some, I'm pretty sure we have some to spare. That bag on the right is the shavings for the bottom of the brooder box. It's not quite fifty pounds, but it is not light, either. We also have a heat lamp and a thermometer and grit. The thing we do not have at the moment is a brooder box.

At first I thought I would just clean out one of the many glass tanks that M. has stored on our back porch. I even brought one into the house to clean it. And then I thought, hmmm, maybe I should check on this. Well, so much for Plan A. It seems that unless the tank is very large, it is neither big enough or well-ventilated enough to house young birds. Well... what do people use? (Yes, I realize that this was probably a question better asked a week or so ago and not the day before the chicks could possibly hatch.) It seems there are several choices. Cardboard boxes are popular, as are large dog crates and large plastic bins. We have a large dog crate, but somehow I don't think Kenzie would appreciate having it taken over by small birds. I am also currently awash in cardboard boxes, so that could be a possibility, but we will have to figure out how to secure something over the top to keep the chicks safe. I do not trust any of the predators (or even some of the children) in my house to leave the chicks alone. They need some sort of lid. We do have some chicken wire on the back porch, so perhaps we (and by we, I mean someone else, most likely J., unless M. happens to stop by) could figure out something with that.

So, tomorrow morning chick watch officially begins, and if anyone close to me happens to have a large dog crate which doesn't have a large dog currently living in it, well, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday bullets, April 21, 2017

Another week done, and I haven't packed a single box during that time. I suppose I really need to start thinking about that. I'm in denial. Though we haven't been packing, other things have gone on.

  • We had the first brisket last night, and it was fabulous, if I do say so myself. The caramelized sweet onions that cooked underneath the brisket made a really terrific sauce.
  • For teatime, we have started reading the Swallows and Amazons series. I know I write about these books fairly frequently, but they really are just that good. So good that D. and TM, who have heard them already, are excited about hearing them again. The younger group has heard about them a lot, and are excited to finally get to listen to them themselves.
  • The move is unsettling a lot of people, in different ways. It is particularly affecting those children who have a history of loosing everything important to them. They know what that feels like and are afraid this move will feel like that all over again. This is understandable, but is hard to navigate. 
  • I just love it when a child is ready for the next level of math book (which I don't own) two months before the homeschool conference. There is that brief moment of pondering whether giving the child a two month math break is better than paying shipping. Don't worry, I'm ordering the books today, if only to save my sanity from being badgered by said child. Yes, he likes math.
  • There is nothing like finding the best place to buy homemade samosas just blocks from one's house, weeks before one is to move. We had some yesterday. They were good and spicy... a little too spicy for some of my crew, but those of us who enjoy sinus-clearing heat enjoyed them. We'll just have to get them fairly frequently before the move to make up for both lost time and lack in the future.
  • The weather is generally warmer and sunnier and it is wonderful. I feel my annual need to do some gardening coming on. The trouble is, we can't really put in a garden just yet and need to wait to move. I hope my gardening itch lasts until we move. 
  • Yes, everything in life feels as though it is centered around the move. That's a lot of brain real estate that is being taken up in my head. 
  • The quail eggs are currently on lock-down. This means that I have added extra water to the Chick-bator to raise the humidity, I stop turning them, and we keep the cover on. Pretty much we just sit and watch from this point out. They are due to start hatching anywhere from the 23rd to the 25th. Some of the eggs feel much heavier than the others... perhaps about four? I'm hopeful this means that there is an actual chick inside waiting to come out. If you start to think about it too hard, the whole thing is just bizarre.
  • Because we might actually end up with a live chick or two or four, I'm sending J. to the feed store near his work today to pick-up supplies. Does it surprise you that pet stores near us don't carry game bird feed or brooder supplies? (I did go and ask.)
  • Once again, my need to be prepared is in conflict with my innate cheapness. I don't want to buy supplies if we don't actually end up with chicks, but also don't want to be scrambling when confronted with an actual live chick. I suppose this means we will have to do this again, just to use up the supplies we have.
  • Finally, for those of you who are local friends, block out the late afternoon and evening of June 4 on your calendars. Another friend has graciously asked to host a going away party and this is the date that we've set. I'll get more details to you later. But don't plan anything on that date!!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Education ramblings

I'm still here and things are fine. Sometimes blogging just doesn't rise to the top of the list what with the dog throwing up (more than once) because someone keeps dropping jelly beans which the dog then eats, having to be out of the house so the buyers can come through with their architect, driving to appointments, and just general life.

I have been reading, though. Reading is always at the top of the list and helps keep me sane. I came across a passage that I wanted to share with you in a book I'm currently reading, Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby. It chronicles four different children, each labelled a 'trouble maker' in their classrooms, with the author thinking about the whys that drive each child's behavior. In the passage I'm going to share, the story is about a little boy (6 years old).

"This most basic requirement of school - trading your own desires for the requirements of the teacher - may be part of a 'hidden curriculum,' but Lucas makes it quite visible in his transgressions and often displays his hurt through anger and frustration.

Similarly, Jackson [Phillip Jackson who wrote Life in Classrooms in 1968] provides a theoretical understanding of Lucas's difficulty sharing space. He names four key features of school life: delay, denial, interruption, and social distraction. And he writes, 'Each is produced, in part, by the crowded conditions of the classroom.' These four features require that children - even very young children, whom we know to be active and impatient - wait a whole lot, get denied the choice of their own work, get interrupted from their own play, and become distracted by the requirement to be with others socially only at 'appropriate' and designated times. These are all normalized school demands and they are largely considered unproblematic, even as we make such demands of five- and six-year-olds, whom we know to be naturally unsuited to them. The fact that the demands are considered normal makes them hidden, part of a neutral and unproblematic school culture. This invisibility draws us to the conclusion that classroom life is regular and children who don't comply with it are irregular. Thus we rely on changing children rather than changing classroom demands.

Children like Lucas, with their exasperation and perseverating insistence on their own desires, their angry red faces and blowups, remind us that our demands are not neutral but, rather, quite challenging and potentially even toxic to the ability of young children to be themselves. ... children today are still being evaluated based on how well they meet the standardized requirements of classroom life." pp. 68-69

Hang in there, I have one more excerpt to share with you, this time about a little boy names, Sean, about the same age.

"In Sean's experience we see a problematic and unending cycle in which a child uses disruption to try to belong and be seen, and rather than recognize that basic human need, the common school response is to exclude him further - to send him away from the group repeatedly. The response is not particular to this school; I see the practice of exclusion and the withholding of attention in every school I visit.

The justification for such exclusion is that teachers do not want a child's disruptions to 'distract' other children. In the individualistic culture of American schooling, it offends our sensibility to imagine that one child's disruption should be addressed as a problem of community rather than a problem in and of the individual. It seems inappropriate, of course, to allow Sean to impact the experience of his classmates. But Sean's willful disruption is a community problem because it is a response to community conditions. Feeling sad and left out, hurt and lonely, is a social problem that requires a social response, and then emulated by the children, who come to believe that Sean deserves to be left out. After all, they repeatedly witness his being sent away.

Instead of rearranging the culture of the community, the response is to isolate the problem in Sean. His shortcomings are cited and measured, beginning the process of urging his mother toward a medical evaluation. But, frankly, Sean misses a lot of academic instruction in the day-to-day. He often returns from taking a break confused about the task at hand and having missed the content required to successfully engage academic tasks. ....

His social problems and physical altercations are cited and measured too, further pushing his mother toward considering a medical diagnosis. But, again, Sean does not have much opportunity to learn the skills of social relationship. The school day is highly structured and intensive, leaving children little time for play, for free conversation, and for unstructured interaction." pp. 112-113

What's interesting is that this is written by a person well-established in traditional schooling, with a biography listing Rutgers, Harvard, Brown, and Wellesley's schools of education. Homeschooling is never mentioned. In this book the option doesn't even seem to exist. The closest the author comes to acknowledging homeschooling or alternative education is a brief mention of two books by Paulo Freire in the recommended reading section.

So why do I bring this up? I guess because it's nice to see someone from within the school world notice that there must be better ways to educate our children. As a homeschooler, it won't surprise you that I believe homeschooling offers a truly viable option to provide children with both an education and a voice in that education. Ms. Shalaby is coming at it from a viewpoint of reforming from within the system. Her path seems so much more impossible to me.

After a little writing break, I have a new article published which I co-wrote with a friend. Meeting Your Child

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The day of brisket

This moving business affects areas of life that you wouldn't think of at first. It's because we're moving that I have spent all afternoon dealing with a giant beef brisket. Why? Well, it's because of a little mistake a made a while back. When you buy a side of beef, you then must have a conversation with the butcher as to how the beef will be cut and wrapped. The butcher we used for the last batch asked me a question I had never been asked before, which is my defense as to how I have ended up in this situation. The question was, "Would you like your brisket cut in half?"

Now, we have quite a few mouths to feed, and as I thought about all the briskets I'd received in the past, I thought, no, I don't want one of those cut in half. It wouldn't feed all of us. So, I said to leave it whole. You can imagine my surprise when we picked-up the beef to discover this.

This whole brisket spans nearly the entire length of my six burner stove. It is big. This also explains why it has been languishing in the bottom of my freezer for a long time. Because it's big, I wanted to cut it in two and have two briskets. But then I have two thawed briskets because oddly enough I don't have a kitchen chainsaw to cut the brisket frozen. And two thawed briskets was always one more than I really wanted to deal with, so the whole big thing sat in the freezer.

As I think about moving, I'm realizing that the smaller amount of freezer food I have the better. We are on the last bits of our last side of beef, but there was this brisket still hanging about. I decided that since we didn't have anything going on this afternoon, and since we were yet to be deep in the throws of panicked packing, that today would be a good day to deal with the brisket. On Saturday, I took it out of the freezer and put it in the downstairs refrigerator to thaw.

I've seen turkeys thaw faster.

It's a good thing B. was around to act as butcher for me, because I'm not sure I would have been able to hack through the still pretty well frozen brisket. Yeah for strong 21 year old sons.

One half of the brisket is currently baking on a bed of caramelized sweet onions with a sauce composed of chicken broth, dark beer, and chili sauce. It smells pretty wonderful. We'll have this Thursday night since the whole brisket-shtick is that it needs to be cooled, sliced, and reheated.

The other half is currently brining in a pickling mixture in the downstairs refrigerator to be made into corned beef. For the next five days, I have to remember to go down and turn the brisket twice a day. That's OK, the quail eggs are about to go into lock down and I won't have to mess with them anymore until the hatch. I'll just switch my twice daily turning ritual to brisket instead.

It should be done on Monday, and then we'll have Reuben sandwiches. Ironically, no brisket will be eaten tonight. Instead I threw some chicken in the crock pot and we'll have that over noodles.

So, I can now check 'deal with brisket' off the moving list. The other beef left still are several filet steaks. I see no problem with using those up. In fact, I have been hoarding them just a bit to make them last. By the time mid-June rolls around, the freezers should be mighty empty.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

I can tell I have other things on my mind. In the great scheme of family holidays, this is probably our most low-key. I didn't even get that many photos. We had a lovely day with lovely weather. Here are some of the very few pictures we took.

Things are all topsy-turvy here, so no breakfast in the dining room, just Easter baskets.









J. and B. (no they didn't coordinate ahead of time)


D. carrying around Nefertiti, of course, a box.

Other parts of the holiday involved dying dozens of eggs with friends, and going to J.'s sister's house for Easter dinner.

This morning, I spent the bulk of the day out at the new house doing the house inspection. For the most part, it is a good solid house. Here is a teaser.

I can't wait to be able to show you more. I more can't wait to see my children playing here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday bullets, Good Friday 2017

We are entering into Easter weekend and for once the holiday feels restful after this past week.

  • K., my budding engineer has been busy building bridges using blocks and books in his room. I asked him to take some pictures to share so you could see it.

So far it is sturdy enough to withstand Nefertiti investigating it, though I don't think she has actually tried to walk on the bridge.
  • We made it back to the library on Wednesday, much to the joy of the masses. I think we have now checked-out every origami book ever written. Did you know you can get books explaining how to make origami army vehicles? Well you can, because it is currently in my house. I think H., who is the usually origami book checker-outer might have been influenced by K. in that particular choice.
  • I checked out a bunch of books on house decorating. I like nothing more than a brand-new project.
  • It is very confusing having two houses under contract at the same time, especially when there are two different sets of lawyers and realtors. J. will tell me about a phone call, and I'll realize half-way through the conversation that I was thinking he was talking about the other house.
  • Quail watch will be starting soon. The little quails can begin hatching anytime from the 23rd on, though it seems Bobwhite quail can take up to five days past their designated hatch date to actually hatch. The good news is that I think little quail are growing inside six of the eggs. That poor little egg I cracked, but left inside the incubator just in case, remains cold and light. In comparison, the other six eggs feel heavier and are much warmer when I pick them up to turn them. I suppose I should be starting to look into getting food mix for baby quail.
  • Of course, moving with ten children, two adults, two cats, and one dog is going to made so much easier by adding in six baby quail. 
  • I can feel my stress levels plummet. I slept through the night without waking up for the first time in months. Even moving with all of the above family members feels easier than the not knowing.
  • This morning we went to our church's Good Friday Family Workshop, where there is a short worship service, snacks, and a craft. Here is what we came home with.

That's grass seed all waiting to sprout, and there's a rock to roll away on Sunday morning to show that the tomb is empty. In the meantime we wait. We wait celebrate the Good News of our God conquering death for us. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Doing a little bragging

I don't do much bragging about J. here on the blog, though I certainly could. He takes very good care of me and all the children. For instance, even though he has to leave at the crack of dawn, I still get my morning because he found a plug-in mug warmer for my bedside table. He brings me my cup of coffee when he leaves, says good-bye, I mumble something back and try to wake-up. Inevitably I doze for a little longer, but still have a warm cup of coffee waiting for me.

J. would usually be the one who took care of breakfast for us all as well. (I'm not a waking up person. No matter the hour, it takes a good half hour to an hour for my brain to start fully functioning. Once this has happened, I'm fine, regardless of the time. Making breakfast is not my strong suit as a result.) We've been having a lot more eggs, toast, bagels, and such in the mornings because the masses can get those things on their own. J. enjoys baking, though, so he will still make something every so often.

Not wanting to put something in the oven of a sleeping house, here is what greeted up this morning.

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