Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to School

Today was our first day back to school. Everyone did very well, including Noah. The older boys worked on writing and reading while I worked with the youngers on their stuff. All in all, we actually got enough done to have it count as a school day.

Noah is going to be especially rewarding to work with this year. He has several speech impediments that we have been working on for years. He can't get the "s" sound at the beginning of a word; he uses the "h" sound. It's the same with the "f" sound. His "v" sound is like "b". I am using a mirror so he can look at me and himself at the same time to see what I am doing with my teeth and lips, and hopefully in the future, he will be able to do the same. I am using the "Phonics Pathways" book with him. He can read very well, but I'm more interested in getting the sounds correct at this stage. We also worked on handwriting. He still holds his pencil in a fist grip. I am working on getting him to hold the pencil correctly and to make straight, strong lines up and down. We will then move on the diagonal lines, then circles. Eventually we will get to letters. The other kids didn't need to start at square one, so this is a challenge and a joy.

Because our finances are very tight, I am using spelling lists that I have found online for the kids this year. They are certainly capable of looking up words in the dictionary, writing a paraphrased definition and writing a sentence. They are also going to be doing more independent reading because I don't feel like investing in a reading program that I think looks great, but that they hate. I have found a few resources for book report forms for age appropriate literature, so I think that should prove to our school district that they know how to read, and can interpret what they read. I will have to buy a science book, but that isn't too expensive. Both of the older boys will use the same book this year.

I find it interesting that our homeschooling rules state that all children have to show that they have done 180 days of work in 11 subjects, but the public school doesn't teach most of the subjects at all. Somehow, I have to prove that a learning delayed 8 year old has had meaningful instruction in social studies and science. I talked to a special ed teacher about this, and she said that I should just take him to different stores and places like the post office to see what sorts of different jobs people do. She also suggested that because we live on a farm, our science program was kind of self-explanatory. That made me feel better, and made my life a whole lot easier.

So, we are off to the races for another year. Please keep me and the gang in your prayers!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm a Cleaning Fool

Today, because the mess in our bedroom was getting so out of hand, I decided to clean. I got quite a bit done - I can even see the floor. Now, what I have to do is clean out the front porch storage area so that I can buy a few totes and put the winter stuff away properly, and maybe have all of the clothing put away for once! This is a very strange house. There are no closets (!) so we have to store everything in drawers. We are trying (for the last 10 years) to get the upstairs of the house cleaned out, fixed up, and usable as bedrooms. We have to build closets into to a couple of the rooms just so everyone has a place to put his or her stuff. Anna will have a room to herself, and it is just too small to put a closet in, so she will have to share some space with the boys. I think it is a small concession for her to make.

Our heifer, Esme, may have finally freshened. We aren't sure, but she did go off by herself the other night and was gone for two days. We are just going to watch her out in the field to see if we see a wee one. She is a Milking Devon, and we are hoping that she was bred by our Devon bull and that she has a heifer. That would be the one very bright spot in this not-so-fabulous summer.

I have to go out to see if the ducks made it back into their pen, and then I must knit. It's been a very long day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ugly Homeschoolers

I have to say that today I saw the ugly side of homeschooling. We had a program at the library today for the summer reading program. My kids always look forward to going because they get to get new books, they get to see their friends, and they have fun playing the games. There is a family there, though, that makes it difficult to have a good time. The boy is about 12 or 13, and he is a great big bully. He shoved my #2 son out of the way when he went to pick up a blanket the librarian asked him to get. I looked at the librarian and asked her what that kind of behavior was all about. She said that she has had other problems with that kid and would have to talk to the parents. I said to a girl whose mom I know, "This is why we homeschool." She said, "Oh, they are homeschooled, too." Now I know, for sure, that not all homeschooled kids are sweet and nice. The girl of this family is around 10, and I watched her drag a kid to the ground and skin his knee. That kid actually had the guts to tell the mother that her daughter accidentally pulled him down. I was nursing Henry and I wanted to yell, "It wasn't an accident, and you know it, B!" I am hoping the librarian will tell this family that if they cannot control their kids' behavior in public that they shouldn't come to the reading program.

What makes all of this really awful, in my view, is that they are supposedly a deeply religious family. They have a JESUS front plate on their van and everything. I think they should reflect on their behavior, in light of the teachings of Jesus, to see if they really are as Christian as they think they are. Super religious people who act like barbarians drive me crazy. They in no way practice what they preach. For some reason, they think that they have some sort of license to behave any way they want because they pray, or whatever. God is probable rolling his eyes right now.

I did get good news regarding Noah's homeschooling. I can do whatever I want with him, without having to have him evaluated by a school psychologist or a special education teacher. I will make his objectives based on a first grade curriculum and see how far we get. If he completes that by December or January, I will just submit new ones to the school for second grade work. He is doing so well with his reading. We read a book this morning while I was feeding Henry, and he needed very little help. I am just so amazed. I am going to put words on index cards so that he can put sentences together. That will help him learn how to construct a sentence without having to worry about writing it. We will work on writing, of course, but that is going to be a long hard row to hoe.

I must go knit. I have had a very long day, and I need to do some serious unwinding!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Family News

I had a very good time at my family reunion yesterday. As it turns out, my Uncle Dick and Aunt Helen were not there, which was a bummer. However, I did get to see my cousin Andy, whom I have not seen for at least 15 years. He is our family historian, and had some very interesting new information about our relatives in England. As it turns out, our last name was misspelled when the first group came to Philadelphia sometime in the 1800s. He is going to send me the information when he gets back home to Florida. I'm very interested in seeing what he has. There was some bad news, too. My cousin Julie has a tumor on her brain stem. There is no definite news yet as to what the course of treatment will be. She will let me know more after she has some more tests in September. Please keep her in your prayers.

Mostly, my dad's sister was driving me crazy! She kept saying, with pity in her voice, "You have your hands full." I really don't get it. She had five children, too! She didn't have a farm, nor did she homeschool, so I guess she thinks this is just taxing me no end. Let me state loud and clear that I love my life, and I have no regrets about having five kids, living on a farm, or homeschooling! I asked a friend of mine today if I look like I'm miserable. She reassured me that I look fine. Yes, I suppose I'm a little tired, but not raked over the coals by any means.

Lots of people said that they loved talking to my kids because they are smart and polite. I always thank them for the lovely compliments, and I usually credit homeschooling for the fact that they don't behave like animals in public. I think that being at home in a cooperative atmosphere has helped them to know how to behave. They are also expected to be polite at home. They thank me for the meals I prepare and they always add a "please" when they ask for something. I wouldn't take less. I also ask them to do things in a polite way. We all give as good as we get.

I made the most amazing dip today. It's called brocomle. Here's the recipe:

1c. cooked brocolli - whirled in the food processor
1/4c. lowfat sour cream
1/4c. lowfat mayo
1/4t. salt
1/4-1/2t. corriander
2T parmesan cheese
1/4c. grated chedder cheese
onion to taste

Honestly, you would never know it has brocolli in it. We all eat brocolli here, but I have so much out of the garden right now that I was looking for something different to do with it. This is great with crackers or veggies.

Time to get the babies to bed!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eaten Again

I had yet another post eaten by the ether gods, so I am trying again. I have been so busy lately, that this is the first time I've had enough time to get something down. We have finally had some good weather, so I have been mowing the lawn, working in the garden, and just generally trying to get things cleaned up. The lettuce and other greens that I planted last week are coming up, which just makes me smile. Some of the tomatoes have blossoms, and I even saw a cherry tomato the other day. The peppers are a little anemic looking. We've had so much rain that they just look washed out. I'm hesitant to fertilize them because I don't want big plants with no peppers. The rain has done the onions a world of good, though. They are looking really nice.

I decided to definitely delay the start of school. I have too much to do right now to worry about getting schoolwork in on top of everything else. If we aren't finished until the end of April, that's okay. I do have to get the objectives written out for all of the boys by the end of July. Then, we can get started on the 4th of August without a problem.

We took Noah to Rochester for his annual cardiac check up last Monday. His doctor said that he still hears a sound that tells him there is still a little bit of a hole, but it isn't anything serious. He will have an echocardiogram next year to see if the hole is still there, or if it has been enveloped by scar tissue from the device placement. Either way, he won't have to have surgery again. After his appointment, we went to Target where he got a 5-pack of Matchbox cars. That is just the biggest treat in the world to him. Well, that and eating at Burger King. On his doctor days, it's all up to him because he is so well behaved. He's been doing this deal since he was five weeks old, so he knows what to do by now.

I had the grave misfortune of putting my back out yesterday morning. I turned very slightly to put a toy in the toybox, and my back just siezed. I went to the chiropractor and he said that I may have torn a couple of fibers in a disc. It's hard to believe something so small could hurt so much. I got an adjustment, and I have to go back on Monday. Surprisingly, I am feeling much better this morning. I'm hoping lots of rest this weekend will speed the recovery.

Today we are going to my family reunion. It is really a party for my uncle's 80th birthday, and my parent's 60th wedding anniversary. My mother will be a bit miffed that I know this is a party for them and I didn't tell her. She really hates it when anyone fusses over her. She will have fun, but she'll be cranky for a while. I, personally, don't know what the problem is. She will be seeing lots of people that she wants to see. Her brother will be there, and maybe some of their old friends. It should be a great day. I'm hoping to have pictures to post later.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For Real This Time

What on earth happened with that last post? Well, I was typing along, minimized to download some pictures, maximized, got back to work, went to put in some pics, and lost the whole thing. I am so technically disinclined, that I hung up the whole mess and went to bed. So, I am back, and there's lots to tell.

This week was kind of crazy. On Wednesday, I had to get the four older children to my MIL's so that I could take Henry to his four month check up. He is amazingly huge: 16lbs., 7oz. AND, he's 27 inches long! Holy cow! He's already almost as big as his two oldest brothers were at one year. I'm going to be looking up at him when he's 10. He had to get three shots. I've said it before, and I'll say it now, I hate shots. I know they are for the greater good, but, wow, hearing my baby scream like that just goes right through me. He was pretty cranky Wednesday evening, and all of the next day.

I thought that if we took Jim to his appointment at the VA Hospital in Bath, NY, it would give Henry a good chance to sleep in the van. Well, on the way out there (it's about a 90 minute drive), I kept feeling worse and worse. My right breast was really painful, and I thought, "Uh-oh, I'll bet I'm getting mastitis." Yup. By the time Jim was done with his appointment, I was very sick and couldn't drive back home. We were planning on stopping at a friend of his who also keeps bees so that Jim could check on this guy's hives. We still went, but I laid on their couch and slept for most of the time we were there. Thankfully, the children were very well behaved. When we got home, I took my temp, and it was 102.6. I called my midwife and she called in a prescription for me. I was so relieved that I didn't have to go to the ER. Friday, was no picnic, either. My temp went up to 103, and I really felt lousy. However, after a couple of days on the antibiotic and lots of Tylenol and water, I am feeling much better.

We are all singing the "Rain Rain Go Away" song. We still don't have any lettuce, spinach, green beans or summer squash in our garden. I also don't have my herbs planted. This isn't working out quite as well as we were hoping. My MIL said, "It'll really eat into your winter food bill." As if we could help what the weather has been doing for the last three weeks. We haven't had two dry days in a row in ages. Our garden soil is very heavy, so we would be mudding everything in. It works much better when the soil is dry. Hopefully later this week.

I guess we are going to start school again this week. I think we are going to keep it light and simple, though. We can just do some measuring review and money for math, and they are still on a mad hunt for all sorts of bugs to identify for the summer reading program at the library. That will cover science for about a month. July is usually very laid back. I will have all of their materials together to do proper work by the beginning of August. Even taking several days off, we could still be finished by the end of March. I think I'm going to stretch it out a bit more, though and go until at least the middle of April. If we breed our sheep later this year, like we did last year, then I won't have that much work to do until the end of April. Four kids with very little to do when the weather isn't all that nice yet is a recipe for disaster. They behave much better if they know what their schedule is going to be and they aren't left to their own devices all day.

I did not make the deadline for the afghan. The wedding was last Saturday. Let me say that it was just beautiful. What amazed me is that the young man had only kissed his bride one time (!) before the wedding and that was when he gave her the engagement ring. They courted for about a year and a half. I didn't know anything about courting, so I read a few things. It seems like a very nice way of getting to know a person without having to have "relations". I would think that the physical part of it would work itself out, but really knowing each other's souls should make their marriage very strong. They were renting a cabin in the Adirondaks for a week after the wedding. I told them I hoped they had lousy weather so they didn't have to go out. ;-)

As far as the afghan goes, I started on the last section of the trees pattern today. It will take me the rest of this week to do that part, then I have to do the border and sew it on. I will definitely post a picture of it when it is finished. I want to get it done because I will need something smaller to take to Rochester with me on July 7 when we have to take Noah for his check-up with the cardiologist. More on that another time. For now, I'm going to go knit a couple of rows!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Life in the Lilac Bush

I have a lilac bush outside my kitchen window that is providing me with lots of entertainment this spring. First, there was the cute little family of sparrows. Every morning at about 10:00, the babies would come out on the outer branches and the parents would take turns flying out to get food. They would come back, feed the babies in turn and then go back out for more. What a wonderful treat to see that every morning. Now, we have a family of robins. I'm not sure if the babies have hatched out yet, but Mom and Dad are busy getting ready. Both of them are in and out of the bush several times a day with goodies in their beaks. I'll try to remember to keep track of when I see the little ones.

I had a busy beginning of this week. I had to get the older boys' portfolios done for their homeschool evaluation. Getting the portfolios together was easy. All I had to do was to put their work into the plastic sleeves. Unfortunately, I wasn't so diligent with their calendars. That took some work, but I got it all turned in to the school on Friday. One more year under our belts. Now, I have to get DS #3 ready for registration by taking him to the doctor next week for immunizations and a dental check up. Luckily, in Pennsylvania, the kids don't have to be registered with the school district until they are 8. After they are registered with the school district, they don't have to follow a "grade appropriate" cirriculum. This works so well for us because DS #1 is gifted and has been doing algebra for two years (he's 11 now). DS #3 has some learning delays and is just starting to learn to read at age 8. This is why I love homeschooling. I can tailor the instruction to each child and work with them until they really get it. At evaluation time, all we have to prove is that we have made progress. For example, DS #2 worked on multiplication and division for almost the whole school year. It really took that long to make sure that he had it down and would be able to move on in math. He would happily stay with simple addition forever, but time does march on.

The garden work has stalled a bit. I rained for a few days in a row, and then it got HOT. Jim has been working with the bees, because that isn't too labor intensive, but he is going to try to get the bed ready for the cabbage and cauliflower this afternoon. I will get those popped in by tonight, if it doesn't storm this afternoon. The tomatoes and peppers should be able to go in next week. Then, we'll just bang the rest out with the seeder. I can't wait to look out my front door and see all sorts of things growing! Fresh, organic food will be so awesome.

I am rocking on the Tree of Life afghan. I am on the second panel of trees. Only 13days until the wedding. I think I will have it finished by then. After that, I am going to make the eggplant colored tank top that I want.

The baby is sleeping, so I am going to put in a couple of more rows!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Busy Bees

We have been so busy around here, the days are just flying by. We finally got the brussels sprouts and broccoli in. The patch for the cauliflower and cabbage should be done today if it doesn't rain. We also got the onions in, but we have to dig the furrows to put in the leeks. Slowly but surely, we are getting a garden.

Jim has been busy with the bees. Last Sunday, he split a hive and, so far, both hives are doing well. He got four packages of bees in the mail yesterday and got them hived last night. They seem to be doing all right, too. We are just hoping that they don't swarm!

Our big excitement on Memorial Day was that the old broken down silo finally gave up the ghost. It's been fairly windy here and it was leaning more and more every day. Finally, a gust hit it and down it went. Thankfully, it twisted so it didn't take out the end of the barn. There weren't any animals around it; nothing was hurt. Only the pigeons lost their home.

I've been working on the afghan that I'm giving as a wedding gift in 20 days. I will have to knit like the wind, but it looks pretty good. I'll be having lots of late nights and early mornings to get it done in time.

Today I am searching for the plastic sleeves that I know I have so that I can get the boys' portfolios ready for our homeschool evaluation on Tuesday. It will be the third time we've been evaluated, so I'm not so nervous anymore. If I could just remember where those pesky sleeves are...Grrr!!

Okay, I have to be political for a moment. What is going on with this mess with Florida and Michigan?!? How stupid was it for the Democratic party officials in Florida and Michigan to change the dates of their primaries, be told their delegations would not be seated, and then cry about what happened? As a parent, I know that what I say has to count, so I try not to say stupid things that I know will come back to haunt me. The consequences were put forward and should be enforced. It is, in my opinion, wrong because the people in those states who wanted to vote a certain way didn't get the chance. This is a democratic society. We are all supposed to have a vote. All this stupid bickering isn't good for anyone. Note, I am not even for Senator Clinton, Senator Obama or Senator McCain. This election cycle isn't floating my boat at all. Ron Paul for president!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's still cold and yucky, but we are promised better weather for the weekend. I'll be very glad to see some sun and feel some warmth. DH got me a Boston Red Sox ball cap to wear out in the sun. I used to like getting a tan. Now, I'm not liking the wrinkles that I am getting around my eyes and mouth. Since there's no way I would ever get Botox, a hat is the answer.

We have a boxful of peeping chicks in the dining room. These are the boys we are raising to go into the freezer this fall. Noah asked what we should name them, and DH said that we shouldn't name them anything. We try not to name our food. I thought we were supposed to get turkeys today, too. Perhaps they will come tomorrow. At any rate, it's good to know that we will have hormone and antibiotic free food for the winter.

Oops! The garbage truck just went up the road. I'd better go get the trash put out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cold and Crabby

It has been crazy, wicked cold and rainy here for the last several days. It has led to a back up of laundry and some cranky children. Today, we are getting a wee bit of a break. It is already about 50 degrees, which is six degrees warmer than anytime yesterday. I did three loads of laundry, hoping to get it dry before it rains. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Not too much is going on in the garden. We have asparagus, onions, potatoes, cabbage, etc. that needs to go in the ground. We are hoping that it will dry out this weekend so that we can get all of it planted. We got a seeder yesterday which will make planting the peas, beans, and corn so much easier. Last year it took DS #1and I three days to put in the peas. Getting it done in a couple of hours will be a huge time savings. If we can get the whole garden planted in a few days, we will be way ahead of the game. I figure if I am planting hills of zucchini and squash while DH is running the seeder, we can make quick work of the whole thing.

Maybe it's the weather, but I am feeling really out of sorts lately. I weighed myself at my MIL's the other day, and that was a big mistake. I thought I had lost most of my baby weight. WRONG!! I know I'm never going to weigh what I did when I was 30, but I'd love not to weigh what I did during the mid-point of my pregnancy! I know I have to be patient, but I feel like a blob. Perhaps I should go for a walk while Henry is sleeping. Or I could knit.

That's the other thing that has me disconcerted. I was making a sweater, and the front turned out to be much longer than the back. So, I had to rip the whole thing out. I am going to make it again, but I'm going to do it all in one piece. I will have to do one and a half inches of seed stitch over 180 stitches, which will make me want to put my head in the oven, but at least it will come out like it should. I am working on an afghan to give some friends as a wedding present, and it's not going as well as I would like. If it looks really crappy when I'm done, I will get them something else. I would be embarassed to give something ugly away.

Okay, enough complaining. I'm going for a walk before it rains.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Days Are Just Packed

Since we have been having such nice weather, we have all been busy little bees. The garden is getting lots of attention. Jim has been rototilling the spot where we had potatoes last year. A cover crop is going in there to help feed the bees. He is expecting his packages of bees to arrive any day now. We should have three or four hives by the end of the summer. He finds beekeeping to be a most relaxing hobby. I am willing to help, but I am still a bit nervous. Bee stings aren't high on my list of fun things to do.

I have been weeding out the strawberry patch. The rows that I have done already are growing beautifully. Hopefully, they will hold off on blossoming for another week or so to avoid being killed by frost. I am looking forward to nice fresh strawberries. We should be putting in the cabbage, cauliflower, brocolli and brussels sprouts next week. The seeds we ordered are coming in by the day. I think we should be able to direct sow some lettuce and spinach shortly. I can't wait to eat fresh food!

The ewes are starting to have their lambs, and thankfully, there haven't been any problems (except for the lambs we lost to the coyotes). It is so great to see them running around the pasture. It's amazing how much energy they have just a day after they are born. Sooo cute!

We had to take the dog to the vet yesterday because he has been feeling rather poorly. It turns out he has a classic case of tapeworm from his fondness of chasing and eating rabbits. I got some medicine and he should be back to his old perky self in a couple of days.

Well, another lovely day beckons. The ducklings are supposed to come tomorrow. I can't wait to see them. We've never had ducks before. Another beautiful day in paradise.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

I got so much sleep last night, I (almost) don't know what to do with myself. I finally managed to put away several loads of laundry and get the trash put out for pick up today. I might even vacuum and dust - all in the same day! The best part of it is that I know what we're having for supper. If I know what I'm cooking., I can make sure we eat early enough that I can get the kitchen cleaned before bedtime. That makes the next day go much better, and so on. I hate getting up to yesterday's mess.

We decided to use our economic stimulus money to buy plants and seeds for the garden. We weren't going to use it, but we figure if we buy all sorts of stuff that will give us lots of food in the near future, we wouldn't have to stimulate the economy this fall. In addition to the seeds, etc., we ordered new chickens and turkeys. We will butcher the turkeys in the fall and probably do the chickens in early winter. It will be so exciting to have lots of turkey in the freezer. The only time we ever have turkey now is at Thanksgiving when they are cheap. I would never just buy one to have if it weren't on sale. We can have turkey twice a month if we get enough males!

We accidentally forgot to bring in the brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower plants that we bought the other day. It got down to 18 degrees last night. DH spritzed them with water and I put them in the basement before the sun came up. I haven't had the heart to go see if they are okay. I hope they are; it'll be a serious bummer if they all died.

We don't have to buy any seed potatoes because we have enough left over from last year that are all sprouty. We'll be able to put those in the ground next week. I am also going to get my herbs planted. It doesn't have to be super warm to plant parsley and basil. I have to keep working in the strawberry patch so that the plants aren't all choked with weeds. It's so exciting to be gardening again!

I do have some bad news to report. The five lambs that were born last week have been lost to a predator - most likely a coyote. DH is going to electrify the fence and the ewes will be locked in the barn at night. Also, any coyotes will be shot on site. We can't tolerate our money "crop" being eaten.

Pictures will be coming. DH needs to show me how to download them from the digital camera. I can take it from there.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

There's a first time for everything

Okay, this is it, my first entry in a blog. I never thought I would do this; I mean who cares about what I have to say? Well, care or not, here it is.

I am trying to lose some weight after the arrival of the new critter. I have lost 15 pounds that I gained, but I have 10 to go. I am trying not to lose my mind about this. It took nine months for the weight to go on, and I suppose it will take that long to come off. I'm walking nearly everyday and I have managed to lose 1 1/4 inches off my hips. I got my regular jeans on for the first time this morning. I think I'm moving in the right direction!

I had to go to the dentist today. I have a cavity. Darn it! I'll be getting that fixed in a couple of weeks. I wish I had lovely, perfect teeth like people on TV, but that is just not the case. I suppose I could go through a great deal of cosmetic dentistry, but I don't fancy that much pain. I guess this isn't the end of the world.

What's on the needles right now? Well, I have the back and half of a front piece done for the cardigan that I am making. It is a great yarn from Knit Picks called Crayon. The color is sea glass - a lovely ocean-y color. The sweater is going pretty quickly, so I'm hoping to be wearing it by the middle of May. I am also working on the Central Park Hoodie, and am about half done with the back. I hope to get that one finished by the beginning of fall. Then, it's time to start knitting for Christmas. Socks for everyone!

So, now you see that I am really boring. If you are an insomniac, just come here to be put to sleep!