Monday, April 30, 2018

Wasted food

How I feed all these people is one of those questions I get asked a lot, right up there with how I manage the laundry. I do not find these two topics all that riveting, but I guess they are, so I like to address the whole food issue every now and then.

Feeding a lot of people, and currently for us that is 12 people three meals a day, every day, has some odd quantities of scale about it. Because I can buy many things in bulk, I usually end up paying less per person than those buying for fewer people. So, while I do spend more to feed 12 people, it is not the budget of a four person family times 3. It just doesn't work that way.

I'm also realizing that I must buy a lot less food per person in general. This is based on a highly unscientific poll in a group I'm in about what types of food is most often thrown away. As I thought about it, I realized I just don't throw out all that much food. Sure we have the occasional left over that went bad because it got lost in the back of the refrigerator, but that is about it. I did throw out a sad and wrinkled very small potato today, but I have a feeling that it never looked too great to begin with, or someone would have cooked and eaten it. With so many people to feed, including three adults and four teens, I just cannot buy a whole lot of extra food. This does mean that Monday lunches can be slim, and people must be fairly creative in what they fix, but no one has starved yet.

I thought it might be interesting to write out my shopping list for the week for comparison purposes. Remember, I don't find this terribly interesting, but maybe somebody does. This is for the whole week, and I'm sharing the specifics. In my actual list making, I'll be more vague in some categories and then buy what's on sale. This list is also a little longer than my typical list, and the price at checkout reflected that. If you know Aldi at all, you can follow along as I mentally look at the aisles as I recreate my shopping list from today.

Milk - 4 gal.
Almond milk - 1/2 gal.
Butter - 1 lb
Eggs - 4 doz.
Orange juice - 6 cans of concentrate
Cheap Aldi pizza - 5 (J. and I are planning on going out to dinner one night this week)
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 bag pre-made meatballs
Bagels - 3 pkg
English muffins -1 pkg
Cream cheese - 4 oz
White flour (not everything turns out well with my 100% whole wheat flour) - 1 bag
Raisins - 1 lg box
Wheat crackers - 1 box
Graham crackers - 1 box
Tortilla chips - 2 bags (will be part of a dinner)
Roasted peanuts - 1 container
Dried cranberries - 2 small packages
Ramen - 1 pkg of 12
Spaghetti - 4 lbs
Macaroni noodles - 2 lbs
Crushed tomotoes - 3 cans
Diced tomatoes - 4 cans
Mandarin oranges - 4 cans
Red kidney beans - 3 cans
Tuna - 4 cans
Tortillas - 1 doz.
Black olives - 1 can
Tomatoes - 8
Celery - 1 head
Iceberg lettuce - 1 head
Potatoes - 10 lbs
Leaf lettuce - 2 heads
Baby spinach - 6 bags
Mushrooms - 1 small box
Cucumber - 1
Green onions - 1 bag
Bananas - 3 large bunches
Oranges - 3 lbs
Apples - 3 lbs
Avocados - 6 (they were really on sale, otherwise I usually have to pass)
Deli style sliced ham - 1 lb
Sharp cheddar - 6 blocks of 8 oz each
Co-Jack cheese - 1 - 8oz block
Blue cheese - 2 containers
Ground turkey - 2 lbs
Sirloin steak - 1.5 lbs

I still need to pick-up some ground pork and some Napa cabbage at H-Mart at some point this week, but this will last about one week. Some ingredients I need for dinners I already have on hand, and there are other staples I buy in bulk, so they don't appear on the list. I don't buy bread because D. makes ours. The fruit will be gone by the weekend, and possibly the celery, tomatoes, and cucumber. The avocados may not even see Friday. Sure food choices as the week progresses become less broad, but there is food, just not the most popular varieties.

I'm curious... do you throw out a lot of food? Why?

Parks, bowling, and birds

I had some very tired children going to bed last night. It was a full, though somewhat exhausting weekend, with a couple of late nights.

On Friday, we checked out a new park near us. It was deemed quite fun, and the clamoring to go back has already begun. (All photo credits go to TM.)

Look at this! R. actually made it up this rope ladder. Not only that, it was her choice to try. It's a lot more volition than we've seen out of this child recently.

Then that evening, our church had a bowling night. 

See me in the back there with a blue-hooded child in my arms? That's how I spent a good chunk of the beginning of the bowling. There was a little bit too much sensory overload going on. She did manage to pull it together and get some bowling in.

H. turned out to be quite a good bowler.

How did I do? Well, R. beat me. In my defense, she was using bumpers and that roller thing where you can aim the ball. And it had been years since I last went. I don't remember doing quite as poorly as I did on Friday, though. Also, it seems we bowl extremely slowly. We only managed to get through about 5 frames before our time ran out.

There was a lot of playing outside at home, of course.

And then Saturday night we all went to Shrek, the Musical at a local high school. A friend of ours was in it, and we thought it would be fun for everyone to get to see the show. It did make for another late night, though.

Sunday was more low key. After church there was relaxing, J. started reading The Two Towers to the Lord of the Rings obsessed G. and L., there was more playing at a park, and then people got to go over and play with help feed our neighbor's bottle baby goat. You know what's coming next, right? Yes, everyone is now utterly convinced that we NEED a baby goat.

I also can't leave you without the newest installment in the chicken and duck barnyard drama. The ducks are still quite the little gang, though they have now kicked it up a notch. It seems the ducks are now more comfortable moving in and out of the coop on the ramp that connects the coop with the pen. This means that sometimes, when some of the chickens have moved inside to hang out in the coop, the duck gang will get it in their ducky heads to go and roust them out. At first I thought it was because the ducks wanted the coop to themselves. First you would see the line of ducks waddling into the coop. There would be a pause for a moment or two, and then all of a sudden there would be quite a bit of quacking followed by a burst of chickens coming out of the coop and down the ramp. But no, the ducks didn't want to stay inside the coop, because they would come waddling out shortly after the chickens. It seems they just don't want the chickens in there unsupervised.

All of the birds have learned after just about a week that at the end of the day it's time for everyone to go inside the coop. For the first several days, we had to actually catch them and put them inside the coop. This was a favorite job of Y. and G. Then about mid-week, we noticed that some of the chickens had already taken themselves inside, but most of the chickens and all of the ducks (who DO NOT like to be caught and picked-up) had to be put inside. Tonight when Y. and G. ran out to put the poultry away, they discovered that all the birds were already inside and happily sorted into sleeping spots. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday bullets, April 27, 2018

It's been a good week. Warm weather, sun, playing outside... ahhhhh.

  • We realized Q.'s birthday was last Wednesday. She is now a year old. We were a little worried about our little quail for a few days this week. She wasn't acting like herself, and was limping a bit. I am relieved to say that she seems much better in the past two days. She is moving better and chirping more. She even started to bark with the dogs this afternoon. I wonder a little bit if she was oppressed by chickens, too.
  • P. and TM have decided to learn Esperanto, so they can have a secret language. For those who don't know, Esperanto is a completely fabricated language which is totally regular. There are none of those pesky exceptions to the rules which so plague English. P. will come down and share little bits of random Esperanto trivia with me now. I can now say 'fork' in Esperanto, though I'm not quite sure about the usefulness of this particular piece of knowledge.
  • D. is working diligently on learning French, and I'm pretty impressed with the amount of vocabulary he has learned already. This, I can help with. 
  • I really, really love our new family practice that I found for our primary care doctors. I love finding a nurse practitioner whom I don't have to educate about trauma.
  • The midweek programs with our church that K., G., L., and Y. were doing ended this week. Y. was a memorizing machine and earned every prize they offered.
  • Our little street gang of ducks continues to maintain separate relations from the chickens. The ducks, unlike the chickens, do everything as a group. If one naps, they all nap. If one drinks, they all drink. They also stay in fairly close proximity to each other. The ducks like the chickens to give them a good foot of buffer, so it's as though the ducks move through the pen as if they are in a bubble. Pity the poor chicken who accidentally finds herself in the middle of the ducks. That chicken will run pretty fast out of the gang's territory. The ducks also don't like it when the chickens squabble, and I've seen a duck waddle over and break up the unhappy chickens. 
  • The chickens, are all very independent and busy. They each do their own thing, running here, running there, going inside the coop, exiting the coop, busy, busy, busy. They also seem to have plans for executing the poultry version of The Great Escape, as there is much digging along the edges of the pen. When we were securing the edges, we were concerned with predators not being able to get in. It didn't occur to us that the chickens might also be trying to get out. They all have to spend several weeks just inside the coop and pen, and then we can start letting them out and allow them to roam about a bit more.
  • I spoke at a local MOPs group last Friday. It went well, and I think everyone enjoyed it. If you need a speaker for your church, moms, or homeschooling group, take a look at my speaker page there at the top of my blog.
  • My seedlings are still alive and growing. This is a personal record for me. Next on the home improvement to-do list is to rototill a garden so I have somewhere to plant all these little plants.
  • Another sign we are not in the big city anymore. Everyone now has some sort of muck or waterproof boot, with rules about where you must wear them (inside the chicken pen) and where you may most certainly not wear them (inside the house).
Enjoy your weekend! 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Excellent adventures in the library

I had to run by the library last night on my way to my Bible study. It was one of those moments of being told I had a book due, that I was 99.9% sure I had already returned. The librarian was very nice, and found the book on the shelf, so all was good. As riveting as this is, it isn't really what I want to share. Instead, listen in to this conversation I couldn't help overhearing while I waited to see if the librarian could locate the book.

Youth (maybe late middle school or early high school) to another librarian: Do you read? What do you read?
Librarian: Yes, but I don't read Harry Potter, I mainly read from the adult shelves. (Pauses) But I did read a YA novel. It was called Code Breakers, and about the Navajo Indians during World War II.
Youth: Oh, did they break some rules?
Librarian: No, they were speaking Navajo so that the enemy couldn't understand them.
Youth: Was that the time when the Jews went to hide in caves?
Librarian: Noooo. (Changes subject rather abruptly, and frankly I don't remember what she said next as I was still a bit fixated on that previous sentence.)
Youth (not quite so willing to completely change the subject): Is it easier than Harry Potter? Man, that Harry Potter was hard.
Librarian (clutching at any change of subject): Here, I'll show you where you can find it.
Youth (as he follows librarian): Hey, you know my teacher, she said to put a slip of paper in my book. That way I'll know where I am when I stop reading.

At this point they disappeared to another part of the library, and my librarian returned. I'll never know where the conversation turned next. I also swear I am not making any of this up. I mean, how could I? The only thing I can't quite convey in writing it out is the similar vocal characteristics this boy had to Bill and Ted during their Excellent Adventure. (A movie, I kind of love, by the way.)

I wasn't sure then, and I'm still not sure now whether to laugh or cry. I also wanted to shake the librarian a bit, because how often do you get such an opening to do some real education? I know she was uncomfortable, but what a golden opportunity!

It can be so easy to get stuck in the inwardly eye-rolling, "why don't these kids know anything?" mentality, that we can miss our chance to help them actually know things. This kid didn't have to be in the library at all, but there he was asking about books, asking questions, curious. He may be more than a little fuzzy about how much of life works, but everyone has to start somewhere.

I am also kicking myself more than a little bit for not jumping in. It's not as though I don't do this (explain history and stuff) with children all day long. I would have enjoyed having a discussion with him. But there is the real loss in busyness... the missed opportunities because you 'don't have time.' If I had been ten minutes late, what difference would it have really made to me? Not much, truthfully. And it could have made a whole bunch of difference to him.

It would also have meant interrupting a conversation. I don't like to do that, though I have in the past. I kept hoping that the librarian would would actually start to engage this boy in conversation, and by the time I was pretty sure that she wasn't, the opportunity had already passed.

Ah, hindsight. So not helpful.
I have a new article published: How to Help Your Child through RAD. (In full disclosure, I don't title my articles, and I don't particularly like this one.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Well, as wordless as I get. The weather has been very fine, and aside from a brief stint paying bills yesterday, we've all been outside enjoying it. There's only so much I can say about relaxing and playing in lovely weather, so now I'm resorting to photos.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adventures in gardening

Along with all chicken and duck related efforts over the weekend, I've also been doing so serious garden clean-up in the long flower bed along the drive. J. was building the coop. Various children were playing in various places, and I was happily weeding the garden. I pull out something that I thought was a stick, and instead of a stick, I suddenly find myself holding a toad by the back leg. Neither of us were amused. I shrieked rather loudly, the toad said nothing. I didn't shriek because I was holding a toad; I'm rather immune to reptiles and amphibians these days. I shrieked because I truly didn't expect to see a toad dangling from my hand.

The toad is now back in the garden, despite G.'s pleas for keeping him as a pet. I will look a little more carefully at what I am grabbing in the future.

Monday, April 23, 2018


Did you hear the angels singing yesterday? That was to celebrate the relocating of the chickens from the kitchen to the chicken coop. J. worked for nearly the entire weekend non-stop, and just has a little more to do this afternoon. He got enough done that the chickens were evicted. They'll get the run of the run by tomorrow. It's probably just as well they had to chill inside the coop for 24 hours to get settled. They were a little overwhelmed by the experience.

And then the ducks arrived. While all this coop building was going on, the ducks were having a grand time out in the pen with their wading pool. Not much upsets a duck. Well, except it seems, when they are surprised upon returning to their suite after a dip in the pool to find it infested with chickens.

I peeked in the window at one point to see how things were going. It was like the poultry version of West Side Story. Well, with less dancing and a bit more quacking. The chickens, all 21 of them, were squeezed as tightly as they could get into one corner. The ducks were a bit more spread out in the other corner, but walking around and doing a lot of quacking. It as is if there were long ongoing discussions as to how to rid themselves of this nuisance. The chickens on the other hand, just acted as though they had suddenly found themselves in an episode of The Twilight Zone, and had to escape from the zombie ducks from Mars. It was actually a little amusing.

The second time I peeked in, the huddle of chickens had loosened somewhat, but the Jets and the Sharks were still very much circling around each other.

Here is a photo of the outside.

The trenches are dug, wire laid in and covered. A good portion of the wire is up around the outside. The coop has its window, and the roosting bars are up. Tomorrow J. hopes to finish with the wire, add a door into the pen, and cut a hole in the coop for the chickens and ducks to use to go back and forth between the coop and the pen.

But the chickens are out of my kitchen!! I have already taken out the brooder box and done the first of probably many vacuumings of the floor. Today I hope to begin the really deep cleaning that the kitchen needs. I may actually want to spend time in it and cook in a bit!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Creating a high school transcript

It was not so warm and sunny today, so you get a real blog post.

I discovered when someone asked me about making transcripts, that I have never written about how I go about creating one. Since this is a topic that I feel as though I repeat myself over, it is perhaps a good topic for the blog.

First off, transcripts can be organized in different ways and still be valid and communicate the information they are intended to convey. Many high school transcripts are organized chronologically by school year. I don't actually like this method, though, because it is very difficult to fit a non-traditional school experience into a very traditional box. I find it much more useful to organize high school transcripts by subject instead.

Under the headings of various subjects (i.e. Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Art and Music, etc.), I will list the coursework that my student has completed. For a non-traditional student, this format is simpler to use because it requires less explanation. Because we do not follow a traditional high school format, my high schooler's learning does not fit into neat boxes. They may take more than one year to complete a class, or they may double up and do two classes concurrently. (One of my children did Algebra 2 and Geometry in the same year.) Sometimes, on their own, they will have done enough study to equal a class worth of credit over the course of four years. How does one even begin to figure out where to put something like that in a chronological transcript? It doesn't really matter how or when a subject was learned, just that it was learned.

Secondly, I tend to make transcripts a little backwards. Instead of starting with what classes my students will take, I wait to see what they have done before putting a class down on the transcript. This is why I have my high schoolers keep fairly detailed records during their high school careers. I give them a large binder, and they keep track of things they've studied, read, watched, done, listened to, participated in, etc. We then go back and look to see what classes we can make with all that experience. Now, of course, for some classes... algebra, biology... those required types that colleges like to see, and for which we usually use a text book, we already know they have completed those. If a text book was completed, then they get the credit. But not every class that goes down on a transcript was text book based. I have written about non-traditional high school classes, which you will find by clicking the link.

The other thing that everyone always wants to know about is grades. I make no secret of the fact that we don't grade or do testing. (And the world keeps spinning and children get into and succeed in college. Really.) We base grades on a combination of mastery and effort. Because we will keep working on a class (usually) until there has been some level of mastery, it is not surprising that there are a lot of A's on my children's transcripts. The few B's and very occasional C's come when a class is generally required for consideration by colleges, so must be done, but is less than enthusiastically received by the students. For the most part though, a class that we decided would earn the grade of C or lower wouldn't even count towards the transcript. I also tend to ask my children what grade they would give themselves and take that into consideration when completing the transcript. They have tended to be much harder graders than I am.

There is also a rather unique problem that I've encountered as I've gone through my children's high school record books to figure out what classes they have done. Sometimes I have to decide to leave some credits off the transcript because they have enough, and to add everything would begin to look a wee bit suspicious. This is a side effect of letting children explore their interests... they do. You can squeeze a lot of learning into four years when you have a lot of free time. It's been interesting to see my children pass through various phases of interests. But since it would be one of those things which would be difficult to explain on a transcript, we choose to take our children's learning and make it look as traditional as we can.

So there you go. Transcripts in a very brief nutshell. What questions do you have that I missed?

Friday, April 20, 2018


I did not write a blog post today.

I sat and dozed in the warm sun.

I read a book in the warm sun.

I watched the ducks swim in the wading pool in the warm sun.

I watched my children play baseball in the warm sun.

I watched J. put in posts for the outdoor run of the chicken coop in the warm sun.

There is supposed to be more warm sun tomorrow. You may or may not get a blog post then, either. It's difficult to see computer screens in the warm sun.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Eschewing the limelight

I am not actually a fan of attention being focused on me. I know that might seem a little odd, given that I write a blog talking about my family and do some public speaking. But the former is because it's therapeutic, a way to keep track of what my family has been doing, and (I hope) can help other people not make the same mistakes I have. This is also why I speak to groups. If I can make use of the things I've learned over the years and perhaps help other people along the way, then I'm happy to do that.

So when a friend approached me asking if she could do a documentary on our family, I was torn. We are really not ideal documentary subjects. (I think our friend would concur... I think we have been a trial to her over the past five or six years.) My children don't care for cameras, and I can be, um, crotchety and uncooperative. As she has heard me say over and over and over, we are not really anything so special. We do not have super powers. Truly, anyone could do what we do, they just haven't taken the plunge into chaos.

And there is my dilemma, I want to show people that we what we do is not anything special. It's just living life, and learning that "normal", whatever that is, isn't all that it is cracked up to be. I want people to realize that they can do so much more.

I also have the perpetual tug between advocacy and privacy. When we first started, I talked with H. She wanted to help other children find families. When she first came home, H. was amazed that there were so many mommies and daddies out there. In her previous world, parents were a rather limited commodity. She spent her first year home astounded that there were so many children who did have families. H. was willing to help others find permanent families by sharing part of her story.

The reason why I'm sharing all this is because this documentary has reached a new point in its existence... the fund raising stage. As a result, I'm starting to see a little more traffic to my blog, and felt a brief explanation was needed. It's a peculiar tension to both want to see something do well, but wishing I could pretend it was about someone else. I'd feel so much less odd about sharing this if it really were about someone else. I can think of quite a few other families I'd love to see a movie made about, and I'm quite sure they would be far better subjects than me and my crew.

This is probably not the best way to do my part in the 'helping with fundraising' category. (See? I'm a difficult documentary subject.) It just all feels so very awkward. So without further ado... or anymore vaguely squirming uncomfortableness, if you feel so inclined, take a look at the Hayden and Her Family Production Fund Kickstarter campaign. But only if you want to. And if you know me in real life, you will probably never hear a word about it coming out of my mouth.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Equal time

After I posted L.'s poems yesterday, G. reminded me that she wanted to be an artist, and decided it would be best if I put a picture that she drew up on the blog next. So that is what I'm doing.

Super Panda

Let me tell you a bit about Super Panda. In his tool belt, he is armed with (from right to left): Silly Spray which makes people stick to things; a candy that makes him turn so cute that other people freeze; boomerang; more silly string in case he runs out; a hot dog for a snack; another snack; a hook gun which hooks onto things so he can climb them; a baby bottle for his drinks. He's holding a bamboo sword. 

Here is Super Panda next to Pandy, who is never very from from G.

This girl adores pandas, can you tell?
I have another new article published: This is Why Photolistings are Important

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Free verse - A dog triptych

In the midst of All Math, All the Time, L. (age 8 1/2) has decided to write poems. Here are her latest works. (Well, technically, these are the translations of her latest works, her spelling is still on the more inventive side, though she can now read it back consistently.)

The Sunset Dog
One puppy, alone and scared
In the mist, as thick as fur,
And bone that stared with icy eyes
A glimmer in the dark.
And then he strayed
And was never heard
His sharp bark cried out, "I'm done."

Kenzie, the nicest dog
His fur is gold, his head is soft
He really is the best.

Olive the dog
She can run as fast as a fox.
Although her brain is tiny
She really is smart.

And in other animal news, if you are in the horrible never-ending ice age of the north, you might not know that along with your being miserable, small birds are in a critical state. Read about the Bird Emergency and the simple things you can do to help these animals survive until spring actually arrives. The page I've linked to will give instructions as to what food to provide and how to warm any birds suffering from hypothermia which you may find.

Monday, April 16, 2018


February 75th,

Dear Diary,

Every morning I wake up and realize that I am still in this alternate universe. I spend most of my day trying to figure out how I got here, and more importantly how to get back to the place I belong. I have yet to find an answer or solution to my questions.

Vocabulary is currently the trickiest thing to navigate in this particular universe. When I say the word 'spring', I have in my head warming days where I can feel the sunshine. Of course there will be rain, but it is a warmer sort of rain that makes the plants grow. Here, in this universe, 'spring' means something different. Spring seems to be what they say when cold weather isn't in the negative digits. There is still snow and cold, and while I see the sun in the sky, I certainly cannot feel the warmth of it on my skin. I miss that!

So far, in my quest to figure out how to get home, I have tried wishful thinking, clicking my heels together and saying, "There's no place like home," wearing clothing appropriate to my universe's idea of spring weather, and pouting. None of these has returned me to the proper dimension, much less the proper temperature.

I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out. If I could figure out how to send a distress signal, perhaps a rescue team could figure out how to get through the barrier between dimensions and take me back. At the very least, perhaps they could send a supply of new winter clothes and hot cocoa in bulk amounts. I don't know how the residents of this dimension hold out in the face of this grinding and perpetually cold weather.

A frightening idea plagues my thoughts as I try to figure out a means of escape. What if there are not seasons in this universe? What if they just call groups of months by different names for ease of telling the passing of time? What if it never gets warm here? If this is truly the case, I may go truly mad.

Here they tell of mythical lands to the south where the temperatures are high enough that one can go outside without a coat. If I cannot return to my rightful home, perhaps I will venture forth in search of these mythical lands.

I will do my best to hold out for a while longer. Every night when I go to sleep, I comfort myself with the thought that I will somehow be magically transported home during the night, and will wake up to warmth and sunshine and leafy green spring. A soul can only take the crushing reality of this not happening so many times.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, April 14, 2018

An actual phone conversation

J.: Is there anything you need me to pick up from the store on my way home from work?

Me: Spring. Maybe a couple of boxes.

J.: I think the stores are all out of stock. We'll have to wait until they get a new shipment.

Thus, many children (the ones who are not sleeping) are spending their Saturday doing math (their choice) and I'm working on the checkbook and bills. Saturdays don't get much more fun than that, do they?

And the chickens are still inside my house.

I love the photo-bombing chicken in the background.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday bullets, April 12, 2018

Yesterday was beautiful and warm as promised, and we spent nearly every minute of it outside.

  • I spent most of my day trying to free some more of the trees that had become overgrown over the years. Here's a couple transformation photos.
From this...

to this. There really was a tree under there.
I also worked on this one.


  • Why does something that takes hours to do, always look like such little progress when it is all done?
  • Y. adores math, and did over 20 pages on Wednesday.
  • TM needed a photo of himself to go along with his auction basket, so he took this one. Isn't it cute?
  • D., by all accounts, is having a grand time visiting the H-S Family. He has been to the ocean, ridden a ferry, explored Seattle, learned to ride an ATV and a dirt bike, gone hiking, and seen otters playing. Real life is going to come as rather a shock, I'm afraid. He returns very late tonight.
  • I finished the last book in the Invisible Library series. It was a sad moment. Now I can only hope the author writes the next one quickly.
  • A word of warning to everyone. If you plan to be picking up ducks and carrying them about, do not wear nice clothing. I moved the ducks into the baby pen to enjoy some outside time, and when I looked down, I had duck poop down my leg. I was wearing jeans, but it was a good lesson as to what to be aware of when moving ducks.
  • Also, if you are picking up ducks, watch out for those webbies. They may look cute and harmless, but the claws they have at the end of their toes are sharp. I also think duck feet look like dinosaur feet.

Do you have any idea exactly how difficult it is to get a picture of duck feet?
  • Now that the stinky ducks have moved out, I am much more aware of how bad the chickens smell. Their days are numbered. We just need some good weather when J. is not at work to get the coop and pen finished off so we can move them.
  • Olive does not have to wear the cone anymore! Hooray! We are all celebrating. Olive now spends her days attacking the wicked, evil cone that took possession of her.
  • My speaking gig is a week from today. I suppose I should spend a little time working on it.
And that pretty much sums up the week. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


"On that first morning when the sky was blue again Mary wakened very early. The sun was pouring in slanting rays through the blinds and there was something so joyous in the sight of it that she jumped out of bed and ran to the window itself and a great waft of fresh, scented air blew in upon her. The moor was blue and the whole world looked as if something Magic had happened to it. There were tender little fluting sounds here and there and everywhere, as if scores of birds were beginning to tune up for a concert. Mary put her hand out of the window and held it in the sun.

'It's warm -- warm!' she said. 'It will make the green points push up and up and up, and it will make the bulbs and roots work and struggle with all their might under the earth.'" from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Assuming the weather forecast is correct, this will be everyone in the household this morning. Well, minus the moor, of course. You can't have everything. The end of winter, especially one that is an overstaying guest, can be more than a slog, but there is something magical about the first truly warm day. The contrast between the bitter cold and the warm sunshine with birds singing and tress budding out is so great and so wonderful that it is almost worth the wait to get to it. It's easy to take warmth for granted when you live in a place where it is warm nearly all year long, such as where I grew up. But then you don't experience the great and overpowering joy of actually feeling warmth when you step outside.

So today, we will spend out of doors. Some people are happily planning on doing more math outside, while others are happily planning on avoiding it in favor of doing other outdoorsy things. I'm hoping to get in a bit of gardening and maybe clearing out around another of our very overgrown trees.

And as to the forecast for Sunday night...

Well, La la la la la la la... What? I can't hear you... La la la la la la la
I have a new article published: Adoption Parenting and Secondary Trauma

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Artist in Residence

TM is going to Mexico with a group from our church's youth group this summer. In order to help raise money to pay for this, each student is asked to provide a basket to be auctioned at the service auction this Sunday. TM decided to make an art basket and include an original piece of art.

I kind of love it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

All math, all the time

If there is one word that defines my homeschooling journey, it is reactionary. Reactionary in that I am usually focusing on remediating whatever area my over-active imagination has decided to fixate on and worry about. These worries can run the gamut from feeling the need to do daily nature journal entries to deciding I have failed the lot of them if they do not know Latin and everything in between. I do tend to veer wildly in what homeschooling here looks like. Watching my older children be successful adults makes me think perhaps I did okay, but that doesn't stop me from obsessing about the current crew.

As I was thinking about the spring and the time we've lost watching, caring for, and cleaning up after our household barnyard animals, I decided yesterday morning that too many times math had fallen by the wayside. I made the decision to call in the big guns.


Hey, it does have its place. Here was my offer. Every child who could complete the math book they were currently working in by the end of the spring, would get a trip to the bookstore where I would buy them whichever book they wanted. Heck, I'd do math for that offer.

It seems to have worked. I think Y. had the high end of nearly ten pages of math completed yesterday. But she really likes math. It did motivate the couple of children who don't really care for it, and they focused on math far longer than they would have had it just been a regular school morning.

Here's what I've noticed. First, I will be paying for this twice, in time and money. When a child does ten pages of math, someone needs to check it to be sure things are being done correctly. I tried to rope A. into the correcting fun, but she was having no part of it. I'll be correcting a lot of math for the near future.

Secondly, the math skills which I was despairing about inside my head yesterday morning, are not nearly as dire as I had thought. In fact, nearly everyone is doing things that I didn't know they could do. Even though we had not been moving quickly through our math books, I had been diligent in making sure that the things we had done were extremely well understood before moving on. I am currently the queen of elementary math manipulatives. There is something to be said for a really strong foundation of how the concept of numbers work.

We will still keep on with our 'Round the World Tour, but we will also spend a good chunk of our school time this spring with those math books. Summer will provide us with time to sit and read books together to solidify the reading habit. I personally find this method of focusing on one thing at a time to be my chosen method for learning something. Then that topic can rest a bit, and the brain can sort and store all the information while moving onto another, often very different subject.

I will say, though, that after correcting so many math pages over the years, my knowledge of addition and multiplication facts have never been secure.
I have a new article published. How Adoption From China Works

Monday, April 09, 2018

I am thrilled to announce that....

the ducks have left the building. Our house, that is. They are now safely ensconced in the new chicken coop. The coop is not fully complete and ready for chickens, but it is finished enough to house the ducks. Given that I found a duck walking around the house a couple of times today, it was none too soon, either.

The first step to move them out was to get them out of their wading pool. We decided that since their water needed to be inside the coop until the outside pen is done, that we needed to do everything possible to keep the inevitable splashing to a minimum. The best way to do this would be to put the food and water inside the wading pool inside the coop. They'd already proven they could get in and out of the pool, so reaching the food and water wasn't going to be an issue.

But how to contain the ducks without their wading pool while we set it up in the coop?

Enter... the baby pen!  That would be the baby pen which I bought for G. and L.  [I couldn't find a picture of it, but in this post, you can see a corner of it] when they were toddlers. They spent a lot of time in that pen, and I certainly got my money's worth. I wasn't sad to pack it up and not have it take up half of my kitchen, though. Since then, we have used it for any number of things, included a few dogs. Well, who knew that it would also be put to use as a duck pen?

I am terribly amused at seeing G. (front) and L. (back) in the pen with the ducks, given how much of their toddler years were spent in it.

The ducks were not entirely sure about this whole thing, and clustered together for quite a while.

Eventually they got a little more comfortable and discovered they liked grass.

With the wading pool washed out and new food and water containers found, it was time to put the ducks in their new home.

We took the larger plate heater away from the chicks who didn't need it anymore, so that the ducks could all get under it if it got too cold.

Once again, they spent a lot of time clustered together in a corner at first.

They eventually started moving around and investigating their new surroundings. We hadn't yet seen them get in the wading pool to eat and drink when we closed the door, though.

Both J. and I have made several trips out to the coop to check on them. They seem to be doing fine, and though we have to actually see them in the wading pool, its messiness leads us to believe that they have been there. 

The next couple of weekends will be spent with the ducks in the pen in the yard while J. adds roosts, a window, some ventilation, a door to the outside pen, and an outside pen. Once that happens, then these chickens will get to move out as well!

Today, I will be deep cleaning the TV lounge, though it may take it a while to truly air out.
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