Monday, July 31, 2017

A hike in the backyard... or finally, a day of rest

Yesterday we tried another church. This was as different from the first church that we tried as it could be. This one also has real possibilities for our family. More about that later, though. First I want to share our afternoon yesterday.

Yesterday felt like the first Sunday that we moved that was truly restful. We try to keep Sundays low-key and family oriented, but the first few after the move were anything but. There was just so much that had to be done, and the house wasn't in any way terribly relaxing. I think we have turned a corner. Well, as long as I don't look too hard at the back patio, that is. It is still very much a work in progress. 

So today, with the gorgeous weather, we decided to take a little hike. A hike I might add, that did not involve first getting in the car and driving for a while. My sense of being given a vacation house that I do not have to go home from continues. J. and I took all six younger people with us on our little adventure. (D. was resting after having worked a couple of hours next door at the stable, and since A. was at work, was also on Olive-duty.) Kenzie went with us. He is a good hiker.

Before we get to the main part of the hike, I want to share some pictures of the Queen Annes Lace that is growing in our yard (and everywhere else at the moment). What fascinates me the most is the way the flowers bloom. See that funny on the plant below? It suddenly opens and becomes a big white flower.

And yes, this is actually Queen Annes Lace, and not its look-alike, poison hemlock. I checked. Phew.

And now on with our hike. If you cross our land, there is a hay field behind us which belongs to the stable next door. We walk alongside of it to get to the forest preserve behind. You can see some of the forest preserve across the field below.

There is a little path that allows access from the hay field to the forest preserve. Here we go...

You would never know we live just minutes from here, would you?

But if you look closely, you can see the stable back there.

There is a picnic area partway around, where we rested for a bit, filled up water bottles, and some people used the pit toilet.

R. wasn't entirely sure she was having fun.

G. filling up her water bottle.

H. was also hot and tired. 

And then we were off again.

A peek into the forest.

There is eventually a path which lead directly into the woods, instead of just skirting its edges. L. and K. really wanted to continue, everyone else really did not. I volunteered to go ahead, and J. continued home with the more tired people.


K. and L. - You would never know they were doing this voluntarily, would you?

We made it back home, though there was a moment of L. trying to crawl part of the way back because she had decided she was too hot and tired to go on. The promise of a Popsicle at home, got her back on her feet again.

We then just rested and enjoyed the day. Y. did some more practicing on teaching herself to ride a bike. Currently, she is working balancing while she coasts down the drive, which has just enough pitch to be useful. She is getting the hang of balancing, and can even put her feet on the pedals some times. This is the tricky part, because she cannot always get her legs to go the direction that she wants, and they often get tangled up in the pedals. This child is nothing, if not determined, and wouldn't be surprised if she really does figure out how to ride a bike, something that this time last year, I would have said she would never be able to do, based on her mobility. I should know by now to never say never when it comes to my children.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Certain home environments

Sometimes I purposefully read books that I know I'll disagree with. It's good to read other ideas; to hear the other side of things. There are times when doing this will cause me to rethink some of my opinions. There are other times when doing this just makes me want to pull my hair out. It was the latter that occurred today.

I'm reading (if you can call it that, it is going soooo slowly) Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle Over Early Education by Bruce Fuller. It is really a look at the idea of universal preschool, written by a Professor of Education. And it's just so, so educational-ly.

When I am reading a book on education, one of the first things I do is to take a look at the index in back. It can tell you a lot. If I see out-of-the-mainstream ideas or proponents listed, I can assume that the author is open to something outside the status quo. If these terms and names appear no where... I'm can be pretty darn sure that anything outside what is narrowly considered as 'normal' is the name of the game, and that the author probably won't (can't?) take a look at the system he or she is in and think about it critically. This book, not surprisingly, has a very mainstream index.

So it shouldn't surprise me when reading it makes be grate my teeth just a bit. That's OK, I can manage. And I was managing pretty well all the way up to p. 17, when I read this.

"This, despite Asian children's low preschool enrollment rate, illustrating the power of culturally situated forms of parenting and certain home environments."

It's the end of that sentence I want to talk about, but first you need some background. The author is talking here about the rates of preschool enrollment and how well the children do in school, based on ethnicity. Not surprisingly, the data seems to show that early enrollment equals better success in school; that the children from poor and lower middle class families who do not attend preschool, are often the same children who struggle in school. This is the disparity that universal preschool is supposed to eliminate. I don't know enough about statistics to argue with this, but it seems a little overly simplistic.

At least this is the correlation until you get to Asian families. Few Asian families send their children to preschool (based on the data), yet their children do quite well in school; at least as well as Caucasian children who went to high quality preschools. It kind of throws a wrench in the works.

Now, since the author is speaking in generalities, I will, too. It is no secret that most Asian cultures highly value education and learning, and make this a priority in their families, regardless of economic status. As a result, children growing up in such an environment are exposed to all sorts of learning opportunities within their families when young. Any child growing up in such an environment would be primed for school and for learning. It is not the fact of the child's race, but a matter of values and exposure. (Heaven forbid, we fall into the 'model minority' trap, which has the tacit assumption that there is something genetically educationally brighter about being Asian than being another race. It's not true, and it's oppressive, but that's a blog post for another day.)

It seems pretty simple, huh? A child raised in an attentive family environment, with lots of exposure to ideas and experiences is going to be more than well prepared for school. As well prepared as a child who has attended a high quality preschool. There is nothing magical about the preschool, except that it is a venue for being exposed to different concepts and ideas, hopefully in an age-appropriate way.

This is what made me want to scream when I read the sentence I shared with you. It seems obvious to everyone but the professors of education who write books and push for universal preschool. No, we can't have attentive parents doing a good job of raising preschoolers and preparing them for school and for learning, because that would kind of defeat the argument for universal preschool. That argument being that standardized, universal, and governmentally controlled preschool is the best way to prepare young children for school. Anything other than this is questionable and is the cause for the vastly different success rates of children in school.

No, we can't have parents doing a good job. Parents doing a good job has become, a culturally situated form of parenting (at least if you are Asian), and only certain home environments are able to succeed.

I disagree.


I'm sure that doesn't surprise you at all, does it? I don't want to argue for or against preschool... or quality childcare for families who need it... or that some children from less-than-stellar home environments are benefited. That would be stupid and pointless on my part, and pretty much a losing argument. What I want to rail against is the idea that there are not other options other than preschool for families who care to choose it. Parents can raise and educate their own children. Quite well, actually. And it doesn't take an education degree from a university in order to do it. Perhaps a bigger question is, had the widespread usage of preschool created a sense of learned incompetence in families? Once you start to pay someone else to do something for you, it becomes a very small step to thinking that it is not something one can do for oneself. Or is that what the proponents of universal preschool actually want to happen? These, to me, are the more interesting questions, but I fear not the ones which will be addressed in this book. We'll see if I'm able to finish it before my number of library renewals is up.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday bullets - July 28, 2017

Thankfully yesterday was a much less exciting day than the day before. I'm not sure we can manage that level of activity on a regular basis.

  • First, garden pictures... because I promised. These are all of the side garden which I spent all of Wednesday weeding. Ignore the ugly black soaker hose, which will be better when there is more growing to cover it up. I can only buy so many plants at a time.

  • I like to sit out here each morning (in one of those yellow chairs that in the second picture), and eat my breakfast and drink my coffee. It is lovely and quiet and peaceful. Well, at least until the children all slowly wander out to join me. Every morning, I am also joined by quite a host of small dragonflies. The blue ones are my favorites.
  • It has been nearly a week now since I have missed either the turn to our street or the turn to our driveway. I had lobbied to put the golden lion (which moved with us) out where our drive meets the road, but was overwhelmingly voted down. It would have made it easier to find... and to describe to other people. Instead, it is sitting on our front porch.
  • D. finishes up his class today, and he really has enjoyed it. Yesterday they did their presentations to a whole host of VIP's. It seemed to be part of some opening ceremonies for the classroom they are in, which will be host to future classes such as this one. D. was very excited when he got in the van yesterday, and announced, "The mayor [of Aurora] shook my hand, and told me I did a good job!"
  • Tomorrow, TM and P. leave bright and early (A. is driving them) to head to Evanston so they can leave on our church's mission trip. They will be gone a week, and we will miss them. I'm afraid that they will also find Alabama a bit warm.
  • We have started visiting churches. The first one we went to on Sunday was a bit smaller than we are used to. I'm afraid we caused a bit of a splash, even though TM requested that everyone try to be as normal as possible as we were leaving home. Everyone was very nice, and very welcoming, but I think we will also keep doing the visiting rounds. You don't really appreciate not having to explain your unusual family at every turn, until you have to do it all the time.
  • I have started to do some research for our big vegetable month next month. If I plan it right, we might be able to get in ~46 different vegetables during the month.
  • Part of the research was to check out some library books at the library today. I realized that the only picture books we checked out were the ones I picked for R. No one else was interested in them or wanted any. It has been over 20 years of having children who crave picture books. I'm not sure I like this turn of events. At all.
  • I have now had two children announce that they are done with summer and are ready for fall. While I enjoy fall weather, I'm not sure I'm there yet. I think I need another several months of summer to feel as though I have recovered from the spring and am ready to move on. Besides, my [insert TBD name here] room still isn't done, and school cannot start until it is. Heck, planning for school can't even start until it's done.
  • Y. showed me yesterday that a plastic buckle has broken off her AFO's... again. It's the same place, same flaw. It means I need to call our new orthotics place that was recommended to me, and work on getting her in. These things are so crazy expensive, it is more than annoying that they can't hold together for more than a few months at a time.
  • Creating interesting places to read is my current fixation. Look at this one.

Do you see the little green bench there under the maple? It's a lovely place to sit, though if it has rained recently, the mosquitoes can be bad. Applying bug repellent first, is kind of necessary. 
  • Finally, I also have a couple more puppy pictures. Olive is 8 weeks old today.

We think that most of her growth has been in her legs this week. They just look longer to us, though she herself, doesn't look extraordinarily bigger.

And now it's time to be off. Enjoy your Friday.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The 10 1/2 hour orthodontist appointment

Yesterday was a big day. K. had an orthodontist appointment. So as to avoid driving three hours total for a half hour appointment, I thought it would be fun to take people into town and see some friends. And then things kind of spiraled out of control.

We left as scheduled at 9 am. The appointment was for 11:15, and I knew it would take a while with morning rush hour traffic. The traffic as as bad (possibly worse) as I had thought it would be, but we made it to the appointment in good time. We made it in such good time, that I though I would just make a run through the Habitat ReStore which is just around the corner. My newest thought was that our current range is so bad, that it would be worth it to find an inexpensive used range at somewhere like the ReStore, and replace it for the interim before we can do something about the kitchen. Well, I did find something. A Kenmore duel fuel range, with a fifth burner in the center. It is the same size as our other range, and looked in fairly good shape. Certainly a bit better than what we had. And even better, it was only $225. So I put it on hold and went on to the orthodontist appointment.

Now, you have to realize that I was travelling with 8 children. I took G., L., Y., R., H., K., P., and A. who had Olive in tow. These people were hanging outside with the puppy while I did the store run through. So, when I say we went on to the appointment, you have to visually add in 9 people and one puppy re-entering the van, and getting buckled.

The orthodontist was uneventful, if a little longer than I anticipated. A. and P. were outside with Olive, making numerous friends. (There is nothing like having an almost 8 week old puppy in tow to break the social ice.) I had the 5 other littles who waited in the waiting room with me. After getting the news that I now have to find a dentist to get a baby tooth in K.'s mouth removed, we were on our way again.

We drove back to the ReStore. I ran in, bought the stove, and pulled around so it could be loaded in the van. Doesn't everyone pick up a stove when they go to the orthodontist? It is still in the van now. It may be there until the weekend. It may make it a bit tricky to get the groceries home.

Anyway... now it was nearly 12. Because I am the fun mom, I had arranged for playdates with various children's friends. One group was getting dropped off for lunch and an extended playdate, and the other group was coming with me to a park where we were having a picnic and meeting other friends. All this meeting and playing was scheduled to happen about 12:30. That gave me a half an hour to go to our favorite cheap hamburger place, pick-up lunch for the picnickers, drop some children at one place, and take the other people another. Let's just say I didn't get it all done by 12:30. I was finally back at the park and able to eat my lunch about 1:15 or so. At least the picnic people had saved me some fries.

The next hour or so was spent catching up with good friends and relaxing a bit from our morning. It was nice, though if it had been about 10 degrees cooler it would have been even nicer. A. and P. and puppy even walked down to where B. was working so he could meet Olive.

As the afternoon wore on, though, I knew that in order to finish our list of things to do, we had to get going. Our next stop was church, though I'm not sure that counts, as we were right next door. I had some checks to drop off and a friend to briefly visit with. Plus, the part of the party with me enjoyed cooling off a bit. By now it was 3:30. I messaged the mom where G., L., and Y. were to see if they could stay a little longer, which they could, so we piled in the van for our next adventure... driving down into the city a bit to visit a good friend in a hospice care center. Most people chose to stay outside with A. and Olive, but sweet K. decided he wanted to come in and visit. It wasn't a very long visit, but was important.

Now, we could begin to gear up to go home. First step, though, was to get gas, because we were almost on empty. So we did that. Then we were finally able to collect the girls. Of course, that always involves gathering the girls, letting them say good-bye, chatting with the parent, etc. Olive was duly admired and we were off. For Slurpees. Have I mentioned that we still do not have air-conditioning in the van? Or that the blower is still not working so that not only do we not have cold air, we have no air blowing at all? And it was in the mid-80's here today with high humidity? It was really unpleasant inside the van, and we were looking at some miserable traffic heading home. So Slurpees it was, and it seemed to make the difference between between hot and miserable and constant whining, to hot and miserable and fairly contented.

We were finally on our way home. Sort of. We were driving right by the best homemade pita place in town on our way to the expressway, so I had to stop. I bought 6 dozen pitas to throw in my freezer. Do you think that will hold us for 8 weeks until we need to head into town again? I don't know, especially considering that some children were lobbying to break open the bag during the car ride.

So officially at 5 pm, we were finally heading out of town, hitting the road at the height of rush hour. The brake and I become very well acquianted, but we made it home in just 1 1/2 hours, which is not too bad, all things considering.

We had a lovely welcome home by TM and D., with dinner already on the table. I had put chalupa in the crock pot before we left, and TM organized the toppings and getting the table ready. It was lovely to not have to do a thing, but just sit down. It also meant that we could get some very tired children into bed at a decent time. If you haven't tried chalupa, click the link and do. It is a great recipe, if I do say so myself.

I'm afraid that any pictures of the garden are going to have to wait until tomorrow. I was too tired to even think about it when we got home. I'll also post a few more Olive pictures, because they have been requested. Did you know this little, tiny puppy is due to gain between 20-30 pounds in the next month? That seems crazy to me. I have to say, she was a darn good puppy for such a long day. She had no accidents in the car, and was good in the car. In fact, when we got home after our long drive, she hopped out and peed five different times right away. That says that little 8 week old puppy is really figuring out the whole where to pee-thing. A. is doing a great job with her.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fun in the garden

Since we had nothing on the calendar today and since it wasn't going to be blisteringly hot, I decided that doing some weeding in the garden would be a good use of time. Weeding the small vegetable garden went quickly and uneventfully. Then came the long garden which runs along the drive. I had already done some cleaning out the first week we were here, but as time passed, I became more and more aware of exactly how overgrown it was. There was ornamental grass which had run amok everywhere. Other exciting discoveries included some poison ivy in a place where I wasn't expecting it. (I'm now waiting to see if I am reactive to it... so far so good, and it is now out of that garden bed.) I also think I found some small beginnings of an invasive vine, which my best guess is called a mile a minute vine. I think I have pulled all of it out as well. 

It wasn't all flora discoveries today, there was also some fauna. At one point, I was cutting back grass, pull away a huge handle to drop in my growing refuse pile, look down, and discover a chipmunk, just lying there. Now, you know as well as I do, that chipmunks do not just lie there when you discover them, they run. This one was not running. This one was not even breathing. It was dead, though it couldn't have been dead for very long because it looked perfect. Now, I don't know what you do when you discover an intact dead animal, but I message M. M. likes taxidermy and is actually quite good at it. I now have a dead chipmunk inside a plastic bag in my utility room freezer, waiting for M. to pick it up at some point. Because I am the cool mom.

We ran across live fauna as well. Later in the afternoon, as I'm continuing with my weeding, I go to grab some more weeds, and am startled by this not-so-little guy.

I will admit to letting out a little shriek, because he so startled me. Well, that and I very nearly grabbed him instead of the weed. Not five minutes later, K. comes running over with a small cooler that he shoves in my face saying, "Look what I caught!" Here, look what K. caught.

I very briefly considered catching the frog and throwing him in the cooler with the toad so we could have our own version of Frog and Toad are Friends. I'm kind of sad I didn't.

The last thing I want to show you are these white flowers, which my crowd-sourcing tells me are balloon flowers. Aren't they lovely?

You'll have to wait for tomorrow for some pictures of the much tidier garden. I was too intent of finishing up and getting into the shower at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Project Zero... or inheriting other people's problems

This past weekend (why is it always on a weekend), L. happens to mention in passing that there is water dripping from the light fixture in the children's bathroom. What?! She was right. J. went poking around behind the knee wall on the third floor to look at the air conditioning unit, and discovered there was something wrong with the drain. So today, we got to meet a very nice HVAC guy, who came out and fixed it. It was no surprise when he said that all the heating and cooling systems were very old and ineffecient. I fear we are living on borrowed time in that department.

This wasn't exactly news, though. We were told at the inspection that these systems were old, and it was already on our radar. It costs money, but they are relatively easy to fix. The problem that we weren't expecting or anticipating was that we seem to be the source of every Japanese beetle in the country. At least it feels that way. I had noticed these beetles when we first moved in, and thought there seemed to be a lot of them, but secretly hoped they were benign. Then B. saw them and filled me in on how not fine they were. I encouraged the masses to collect them and feed them to Q., who does love them, and went on with my unpacking.

Then, this weekend, when out and about the property, we realized that we have so many Japanese beetles that they are completely decimating some of the fruit trees. I'm not sure one particularly large cherry tree is going to survive their onslaught. The worst moment was this morning, though, when I looked at a small apple tree, and every single apple was completely covered in Japanese beetles. It was pretty disgusting and infuriating all at the same time.

I rousted the children out of the house, gave them instructions, and started hauling buckets of warm, soapy water out to them. This seems to be about the only thing one can do to get rid of them. There were quite a few that ended up in the water, but it was both literally and figuratively a drop in the bucket. We discovered that you really need to get out there when the day is still cool and the sun not on them, because they are slower and stay put. The minute the sun warmed the air and shone on them, they were off. K. and L. have an alarm set for the morning, because they are happy to join my crusade of eradicating our property of this vile infestation. Thus, Project Zero, as in zero Japanese beetles.

We will also be put down a lot of milky spore on the grass come fall and then spring, to kill the grubs, but that isn't going to save the trees right now. I have a feeling that this was one of those things that the previous owners just didn't have it in them to tackle, and instead of killing the grubs when the beetles were first noticed, the population was allowed to flourish.

I can now see how we will spend the rest of our summer. Q. is valiantly doing his part, but one quail cannot possibly eat as many beetles as we have. Heck, I'm not even sure a whole covey of quail could eat as many beetles as we have.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some things just aren't funny, even if you call them a joke

I discovered over the weekend that earlier in the summer, a person who doesn't really know my family or children well was talking to one of my children, and 'joked' [I use this term very loosely] that this child's parents must not have been very happy with them, since they went back and got another one.

Just sit with that for a moment.

It is a very, very good thing that I am just now registering this, because had I discovered this in the moment, I would have done a full-on Maya DiMeo. If you have seen an episode of Speechless, then you will get the reference. If you haven't... well... Amazon may still have the pilot for free. You should watch it.) Pretty much, it would not have been a pretty sight. J. has told me that sometimes I wield words more like a weapon than is necessary (those are the posts which do not get published), and a weapon is pretty much what I feel like using. People do not hurt my children and not hear from me.

And my main point would be, some things just are not funny, no matter how often a person insists that they are. There is nothing funny, ever, about implying that a person is somehow a disappointment to their parents; that they did not measure up in such a significant way that the parents felt the need to start over and try again. There is nothing funny about such a pathetic joke even to the most secure, biological child, because at our cores, aren't each of us just a little unsure about our place in the universe? Don't we all secretly feel as though we don't measure up in some way? That we must disappoint people because we are not perfect? Even if a person is unwilling to admit to these deep fears, I'm pretty sure they are there. Where else does competitive parenting come from? Sibling rivalry? Keeping up with the Joneses? We all battle our fears that we are not enough.

So if children who have not lost their first families are prone to these fears, how much more so a child who has had the very worst happen to them? The stories and fairy tales of losing parents are not just fables to these children. They are their reality. Some children have indeed lost parents to horrific and tragic circumstances. Some children have experienced being left behind by the people who were supposed to take care of them and love them the best. Some children have even experienced this devastating level of loss more than once.

These children battle the worries of not being good enough as a chronic state. You can tell a child a million times that they were not the cause of their first parents leaving them, but knowing it in your head and knowing it in your heart are two very different things. The insecurity is always there. The worry that maybe this home and these parents aren't all that permanent, either. What if someone better comes along? What if I mess up one too many times? What if I'm not pretty enough or smart enough or pleasant enough? What if I make these parents abandon me, too?

As a parent, I know that I love my children no matter their outward appearance, or their behavior, or their successes and failures. I tell my children this. A lot. But, the only thing that will convince their hearts is time and an outpouring of love, even when my child is trying to bring about what he or she sees as the inevitable sooner, just to get it over with. That's a lot of love in the face of a lot of pain. It is our usual existence.

So Ms. Funny Pants, tell me exactly how your little 'joke' is helping my child heal in anyway what so ever? To get your jollies, you have now pushed us back more than a few steps, by naming and making light of some very deep seated and real fears. Tell me exactly what is so very funny about making light of someone's pain? Tell me just where is the hilarity in confirming the erroneous assumption of my child's that they are somehow imperfect... undesirable... damaged.

You may call it a joke. I call it something else. Something that I won't write out because I may get a non-family friendly rating from Blogger. This is a problem these days, tendency of people needlessly cause someone else pain, and then adding to that pain by making light of it. "Oh, I was only joking!" Really, all that you are saying is that your emotional comfort is just so much more important than someone else's. Heaven forbid, that person actually say something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry. That was insensitive. I hadn't thought through how that might sound to someone else. Please forgive me." No one is perfect. I'm not expecting perfection, just humility; a willingness to put yourself in someone else's shoes, if even for a moment. It's not political correctness, it's just accepting one another's humanity as being as important as our own.

Oh, and before I'm done, let's just clear up another little item stuck in my craw. As the parent, I don't go shopping for children, hoping to find the best deal, or looking for better ones because I'm unhappy with the ones I have. My children are each precious and beloved. J. and I see each and every one of them as blessings bestowed upon us by a loving God. Blessings, I might add, whom He loves even more than I do, and who are each created in His image. Don't mess with them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Meet Olive

I know you were all thinking, "Boy, now that the move is over and everything is unpacked, things must be pretty dull in the Big Ugly Barn." Never fear. We don't really do dull around here, and always seem to have some little bit of craziness going on to keep all of you entertained. A. is responsible for this new little bit of excitement. She had been trolling Great Dane breeders for months, and eventually won over her father and me to getting one. Yesterday was the big pick-up day, so A. and P. drove to Indiana to bring home a puppy.

Meet Olive.

I'm kind of liking this way of having a puppy around. Olive is so cute and so little and so cuddly... and I don't have to do anything except enjoy her puppiness. A., on the other hand, was up the entire night because it seems that Olive is not yet terribly happy about her crate. J. and I slept very well.

Here are some more pictures from yesterday.

Considering her parents are both about 100 pounds, she is a tiny little thing.

This is the game we call, Pass the Puppy. Everyone loves Olive. Well, everyone except Nefertiti, but she isn't terribly thrilled about most people and animals. Poor Olive has already gotten her nose batted. Nefertiti is quite a big bigger than Olive... now.

We were even able to go out and see the show and not have to stay home to watch the puppy. The show was great, and we enjoyed it. Here are some pictures from afterwards. Some of the characters were posing with audience members afterwards.

TM noted that in our family, it would seem that only the Asian children enjoy having their picture taken; the white ones huddled far, far away to avoid the whole thing.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday bullets, July 21, 2017

Here we are at Friday again.

  • We've had quite a few thunderstorms pass through this week. Poor Kenzie is missing his basement and pantry. He seems to have decided the first floor bathroom is the safest place in the house during storms, so that's where he huddles and shivers. No amount of coaxing can get him to leave. This means that some people are forced to share the bathroom with him when nature calls, and some people are none too thrilled about that.
  • The 'broil' function on this rotten range we inherited does not seem to work. Does this surprise anyone? I'm not sure I will make it to the time we actually do the kitchen remodel with this [insert pejorative of choice here] piece of equipment. You truly cannot cook anything on it. I nearly ruined rice on it the other day. Rice is very, very difficult to ruin.
  • D. has become rather proficient on using the riding mower.
  • D. and TM informed me that if when we get horses, they are NOT mucking out the stalls. P. and I will have to take care of that. I guess it was a little hot and sticky in the stable next door yesterday as they were mucking out 20.
  • Oh my goodness. The stable where P. rode yesterday is more than a little swanky. It looks like a movie stable. You know, the kind I had convinced myself as a child only existed in movies because it was too unbearable to think someone, somewhere had a stable like that. I will admit to a rather strong bout of extreme envy there for a bit.
  • We still really like our new bed.
  • I think J. and I will be spending some significant time tomorrow hanging shelves, hooks, and pictures. I can tell you, J. is so excited he can barely contain himself.
  • Does anyone have any really good advice about getting rid of poison ivy? We have a couple of sections of yard that is full of the stuff. Do goats eat poison ivy? It might be worth getting a goat. 
  • Tonight some of us are going to a local community theater production of Beauty and the Beast. Most of us are going for fun, D. is doing reconnaissance to see if it is a theater he would like to audition for.
  • I've done pretty well finding a home for everything. Well, everything except the printer. I hate seeing electronics like that just sitting out, so am trying to find a more hidden spot for it. But a hidden spot where it is still accessible. This is not an easy task. But it is kind of a moot problem for the moment, since I still cannot find the cords that go with it. This is a little concerning since we have very few unpacked boxes these days.
  • I'm about to head for the grocery store, with Fridays becoming my shopping day. If anything has convinced me of the wisdom of doing weekly planning and shopping, this past month or so has. Our food costs have been out the roof, and it's not because there has been a significant change in food costs. It's been because I pared down the pantry a bit, so had to do some restocking, but more because I would only plan a meal or two at a time, and was always going to the store. This is a recipe for high grocery bills. I'm hoping to rein these back in with an actual schedule.
  • There is so much summer produce available now, I was thinking it might be fun to play a game in August. What would you think of seeing how many different fruits and vegetables we can eat in a month? I could keep track and also share some recipes if I happen to find good ones for some odder vegetables. I've seen 30 vegetables in 30 days challenges, but could we go higher? I have no idea what do you think? You know, if you hit that little 'comment' button on the bottom of the post, you could share your thoughts. Hint. Hint.
And with that, I really do need to go to the store. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Working towards automatic

My piano is now tuned. Even better, my new piano tuner was able to find and fix the squeak in the damper pedal. It had been annoying me for months. In theory, I could begin teaching again... if I had students. I have been diligent in passing out business cards and putting them on any bulletin boards I come across. It has been so long since I have been brand new in an area, I forget how many things we take for granted are dependent upon social capital. It just takes time. The piano tuner was one little step forward.

Another little step was getting P. riding again. She liked the trainer she rode with today, and the trainer was impressed with her skills, and had her jumping fences by the end of the lesson. (She has been jumping for quite some time, but I wasn't sure a new trainer would be having her do that right away.) It seems as though this could be a good fit.

But there are still so many other things that we realize we have to actually stop and figure out. Where do you take bags of donations? Where do you get your hair cut? Where is the nearest Secretary of State's office so we can get our driver's licenses and car registrations changed?

Life inside our house is feeling a little more automatic. Automatic meaning that we know where things are, we know which way to turn at the bottom or top of the stairs to get to the room we want, we don't have to think about which drawer the toothpaste is in. That kind of thing. It is life outside the house, and that would include the yard, which still feels not quite so hand-in-glove. We have to think about them. It can feel a little tiring.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tree climbers

Today L. and K. discovered that we have trees they can climb. There are dozens of trees in our yard, yet it has taken them nearly four weeks to feel comfortable enough to really start to explore. It's as if they didn't quite believe that all this land was really and truly ours, and that they could explore and play at will. 

So as I sipped coffee and ate my breakfast on the side porch, I had a little show of watching these two monkeys discover trees they could climb.

L. is in red at the top, and K. is in yellow coming up behind. They both went up and down multiple times. They are a little difficult to see, so here is a close-up.

I worked more in the room with no name, but am now at a point where I need more shelves before I can continue. J. stopped and got some shelves which can be mounted on the wall, so perhaps I will be back in business tomorrow. Tomorrow is also a big day, because I finally talked to a live person at one of the stables near us, and P. has a trial riding lesson tomorrow. It feels a bit like a riding audition. There are stables everywhere out here, but it seems finding a spot for lessons is trickier than I imagined it to be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Big Wean... plus some marshmallows

We spent the day travelling to and from the neurologist. If you are wondering why I would continue to go to a neurologist that take nearly two hours to get to, I'll tell you. I love having a doctor who listens to me and takes me seriously. I told her about my hypothosis that R.'s seizures were not true seizures, but were psychogenic. Psychogenic being a fancy word for seizures brought on by mental stress and anxiety, not by a physical cause. As a result, we are going to continue to work on making R. feel safe, and at the same time, begin the wean off all the medicine she is currently taking. I am really, really hoping that being off so much seizure medicine will help her to function better cognitively. Really hoping.

The neurologist continues to be amazed by H. and R. Based on their EEG's and MRI's, they should be be having at minimum, daily seizures, and little strength or facility on their right sides. This is not the case for either of them. H. has such good function on her right side now that the neurologist couldn't even really discern a difference.

We'll start the wean tomorrow.

But let's talk about something a little more fun. Yesterday, the masses decided that they needed to collect firewood, in order to make s'mores. This meant that I needed to add s'more making supplies to my grocery list, but it was a beautiful evening...



Y., with K. in the background

K., L., and G.

The sun was setting as we were finishing up.

There are a lot of wildflowers around the fire pit.




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