Thursday, May 28, 2009

Out of Africa -- in Winston, Oregon

(Paul in the tour bus)

On Memorial Day our family joined a bunch of other homeschoolers and toured the Wildlife Safari.

This was a 500 pound Siberian Tiger. The stick in the picture is not poking him. We had an encounter where we watched a park person feed some of the animals raw meat with a shish ka bob skewer. He was surprisingly gentle when taking the food -- almost licked it off the skewer.

We had an elephant car wash. This was the car in front of us. After spraying the car, the elephant would pick up the sponge and soap down the car and spray again. It was quite silly -- the adults I was with seemed to think it was funnier than the kids. (Maybe I'm not as easily impressed?) ;)

This is a mean lookin' cheetah.

Look how intent and ready to pounch on that piece of meat.

Now look at this sweetie. She was purring at us and actually licked the park person's hands through the fence. The difference was this cheetah girl was her upbringing.

It seems that when she was born, she was single born. No other sister or brother kitties in the litter. So mama's milk dried up. The mama actually took her cheetah baby and walked her out of the 'den' and left her, knowing that she wouldn't be able to care for the baby.

So, an Anatolian Shephard mama dog was nursing at the time, and went ahead and fed the cheetah kitten, too! Neat-o, huh? So one of the pups, Ella, and this cheetah baby, Sanurra, were raised as companions. They share a pen at the Wildlife Safari. They are separated during feedings and at night.

Here's Sannura again.

(Aubrey and Paul -- with Robert on top -- resting in the middle of our homeschoolers group)

(Robert and Paul listening to the tour guide)

(nursing bison baby)

("I'm so hungry I could eat a whole zebra!" ~Simba from The Lion King)

And that's all folks.
Lots of fun, and sherbet, ice cream bars and popsicles afterward.
Also, Aubrey went home with a friend and spent the night and Anna and I went to critique group afterwards.

Tuesday was spent recuperating at home and Wednesday was spent running errands and feeling exhausted and depressed about the housework that was looming.

Today was much better. I vented and snuggled with Paul last night and we cleaned today. I even organized the fridge, freezer and pantry and put up LABELS.

Tomorrow we are leaving for a long weekend in Seattle to visit my mom.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did you know that sheep have rectangle pupils?

Our SpiralScouts hearth went on a field trip to Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary last Saturday. We are working towards our "I Make A Difference" award. After the tour by Wayne Geiger (founder of Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary), we volunteered our time to work on the farm.

Our group: mucked out the pig barn; mowed the lawns; weed-eated the walkway between the chicken runs; and dumped out the geese, duck and chickens' water "bowls" (they were blue kiddie swimming pools), scrubbed them out and re-filled them with fresh clean cold water.

The rectangle sheep pupil. Robert discovered it and insisted I photograph it.

Relaxing by the sheep after a hard days work.

On our tour, Wayne, showed us that horses are tatooed inside the lip to proved ownership.

Another branding.

A pony named, Monster.

Aubrey -- 10 1/2 years old.

On Wayne's farm sanctuary, he has rescued or saved:

A bull,

lots of horses,


three donkeys,




a heritage turkey that was about to be a birthday dinner,

and a ton of chickens.

Also many goats.

Here is Wayne holding their oldest rooster.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Swing Set and a Flying Plate

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who wanted to play out in the backyard and swing. So he did just that. Thankfully, his older sister was with him. Though, in retrospect, it mightn't have made a difference.

So, the mama of this little boy was wicked tired after too many nights of staying up too late and a long day of errands, so she asked the papa of this little boy to make dinner. He willingly called for pizza to be delivered. (snort)

So pizza was delivered and the children cheered. They gathered their plates and a couple slices and went outside for a backyard picnic.

The mama of the little boy settled onto the couch in front of a PG (in case the children came back inside) movie and a ginormous bowl of popcorn covered with salt and nutritional yeast. Yum. Mama and Papa were waiting for a gluten-free pizza to be delivered for them. The popcorn was to stave off hunger.

Suddenly, the older sister of the little boy comes in the back door.

"Mom! Robert needs you, he's bleeding."

Mama had already finished her popcorn, so none of it landed on the floor, but everything else did as she leapt up and ran outside. The little boy was wailing and had his hands to his nose. Blood streamed down his arms to his elbows.

Mama did not react in a calm way, I am sorry to say.

"Oh my god!" She said as she picked up the little boy. His bloody hands grasped her green sweater, leaving remnants of the emergency room for her to find later that night.

Mama got a cloth napkin from the drawer with the little boy still in her arms. She placed him on the love seat and went to find not ice, but another cloth napkin soaked in cold water. Papa inspected the wound and announced the little boy would need stitches. The cold napkin was applied with pressure to the bridge of the little nose. More wailing ensued.

"I don't want to be sewed up!"

"What happened?" Mama and Papa ask. Between the sobbing, an answer came.

"I was swinging and I fell out of the swing backwards and the plate I was holding hit me in the face!"

Mama couldn't find her bag with the keys in it. Papa went to retrieve the plate to see if it was broken. Mama and Papa both wondered if there was any glass embedded in the wound.

Mama found her bag in the garage next to the box of the day old chicks she had picked up that afternoon. As she picked up her belongings, she noted that the babies were still alive and that the three week old chicks weren't pecking at the newbies. Only sitting on them.

Mama ran around the house, calling six different friends to see if anyone could stay with older sister while Mama and Papa stayed with the little boy in the emergency room. No one answered. So everyone piled in the van and off they drove. (Papa called the pizza place and told them not to deliver until we called back.)

There was -- mercifully -- no one ahead of them in the emergency room. So they were in and out within forty-five minutes. The doctor, Mama and the little boy all decided that the "tape" was better then the sutures, and one "tape" did it.

The nurse gave him apple juice and let him ride the wheelchair out to the van. He wanted his older sister to ride with him and so she did.

The little boy is icing his nose when Mama remembers and giving him arnica tablets. They are keeping watch to see when the swelling goes down enough to see if the little nose is broken. Right now breathing is weird because of the swelling. So on Monday, with the swelling estimated to be gone, if the little nose looks different, the little nose will travel to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to determine if it is broken. (Mama doesn't wish to share with the little boy what will happen to his little nose, if it needs to be re-set.)

The little boy doesn't seem nearly as exhausted as the mama of the little boy.

The End (for now).

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Do you have a Special Needs Child?"

I don't like the term "special needs" when referring to a child.

"Do you have a special needs child?"

Well. Doesn't every parent?

My son doesn't have a label on him. He's not autistic, doesn't have ADHD, he's not explosive or oppositional or defiant. Nor does he wear a Sensory Processing Disorder button on his lapel. Though tee shirts don't come with lapels. But does my son have special needs?

Here's some questions for you:

Do I, as my son's parent, make sure he eats every three hours or so to prevent a whirling dervish in the living room? Or to avoid his little pink toes suctioning to the pillar in the dining room like those sticky lizards you throw at the wall?


Do I utilize certain strategies with my son based on his particular triggers?


I know that he hates to be tickled and will react in violence if you forget this -- and so we have a rule about tickling in our home. I know that he can be impulsive if the energy changes too quickly in the room. So I don't leave him on solo playdates yet.

Picture this: one moment, quiet lego play at Lego Club. Next, it seems -- quite suddenly -- that families are packing up to leave and a boy jumps up to show my son something cool and he grabs the boy's sweatshirt. A big fistful of cotton/poly. Just like that. Like a reflex. No one hurt. No harm, no foul. But come on. How many times do you grab someone's sweatshirt when they want to show you their room?

So I don't leave playdates.

There are certain ways of doing things at my house that help my son accept what goes on around him. When we go to the orthodontist I need to explain everything in explicit detail and in what order it will happen. And also sit next to him to hold his hand.

I know, a lot of the time, what may trigger my son into "inappropriate" behavior. Whatever that is. And so I act pre-emptively in order to prevent melt-downs. I always have something for him to do, I make sure we do several active outings every week and I try and get sand and or water play in as often as I can. The act of his hands sifting through the sand and building trenches for water to go through grounds him, connects him to the earth, and calms him.

My eight year old rarely has these tantrums anymore. Not because he outgrew them, like a magical age he reached or a day on the calendar that passes enabling you to change the way you deal with things and look at your environment. No.

They are more rare now because I have the privilege to stay home with him, where we learn together. I know more about him. I understand that if he acts defiant and I don't engage in his outburst, it goes away.

Tonight I make dinner for my kids and dog. I choose something easy, for my benefit, and vegetarian, also for my benefit. But I consider that the brocolli in it is my son's favorite veggie -- the only one he'll eat right now -- and the olives are my daughter's favorite pizza topping. The noodles are gluten-free for me, but I put real cheese on it, which my daughter quizzed me on before attempting any bites. I had given her mac and chreese (a vegan version) earlier in the day -- which after pushing her fork around in it and gumming three or four bites declared it "not very good."

When I announced dinner was ready, my son ran to the kitchen to examine it.

"Mawwwwmmm! I HATE that!"

I am immediately knee-jerk defensive. "You haven't even tried it!"

"Yes, I have!"

"When? I've never made it before!"

"I did! At Unity. I'm not eating that."

He hasn't been to his old daycare in about two and a half years. And, of course they haven't made this particular meal because I almost made it up myself. (I had cookbook inspiration.)

"This is the only food you are getting until tomorrow morning," I tell him.

His wheels spin. A solution. His voice changes as the caloric muse hits.

"I'll drink the whole jug of milk!" He is triumphant with epiphany.

"You can have one glass."

He is sullen again. He says something menacing at this point, I think. There is kicking of the tent set up in the living room, too, most likely. He counts the plates I am dishing up. Three -- because Paul is still at work.

"I SAID I'M NOT EATING THAT!!!" Think sub-woofer.

"I'm just setting some out. You can eat it or not." I have slipped out of the antagonizer role. I give him the option to sit with us at the table or go to his room by himself. He doesn't answer but he does join us at the table.

I don't manipulate with: "MMM. This is so yummy. You're really missing out." He's not stupid.
I don't highlight that he's not eating or nag him: "Eat your food. Eat your food. Eat your food."
Nor do I irritate him with: "Now remember. NO food for you later. This is it. Eat is now or nothing!"

The three of us engage in pleasant but silly talk during dinner and not so surprising, Robert starts eating. Probably without even knowing it. If I had called attention in some manner to his not eating the food, he would've remembered he wasn't eating it!

So. Does my kid have special needs?


I like to think that every kid has some special needs -- some unique quality that the parents found quite by accident, or maybe they've always known it and the whole family works together seamlessly to create a safe and serene home for the children they have -- a place where everyone's needs are met.

Special or otherwise.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


My step-daughter asked me to drive her to her prom yesterday. It was an honor.
My mom wouldn't let me go to my prom when I was in high-school. She was worried about what the elders in our congregation would think if I went. She knew they would disapprove. I was furious. Mostly because she first said 'yes' and then rescinded.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chick Day

Today is chick day. Paul has finally consented but with a few strings attached. I can handle those strings: they are understandable and just.

And now for a confession that I will speak no where else. I might be rushing this.

After months upon months (geez! It might even be sneaking into a year now!) of convincing, the day is upon me and I am not quite ready. The reason I say this is due to the garage door being broken. It is really cold in the garage now and I'm afraid to put the chicks in there. Even with a heat lamp.

I know, most people put them in the kitchen, or a study or something ... but it touches too close to one of Paul's fears coming home to finding a full-grown chicken in the house flying around.

He did say that it would be much easier for him to be ok with everything if we skipped the chick stage and went straight to point of lay pullets, or even just the outside being in a coop part. And to not due that, and to also keep them in my office ... seems like pushing the limits too much with him.

The garage is supposed to be fixed Wednesday morning (tomorrow), so I could reasonable just wait until the garage door is able to be properly closed so it'll heat up in there more, but I'm afraid the chicks'll be gone by then. When I called the feed store, they had four or five Silkie Bantams left and I want two of them. So if I wait a couple more days, they could be gone.

It's times like these that I just need to stop freaking and panicing, take a deep breath, and remember that if they are gone by the time I get there -- it wasn't meant to be.

So the Silkies are there now (at the feed store), but the Buff Orpingtons won't be there for two weeks (5-20-09). I have been informed of the risk of putting different aged chicks together. The older ones might kill the younger ones, but I'm REAAALLLY hoping that two weeks won't make the difference and I won't have dead chicks on my hands.

The other issue is the Silkies aren't sexed. And since we can't have roosters in the city limits, we have to get rid of them and they won't be identifiable for three or four months! I can see getting pretty attached to them by then. :(

Well, the kitchen's clean and all of the pots and pans are washed and draining. I think I'll put away my clean clothes and straighten up the floor in my office and make room for a big chick box. :D I'll put them in the corner and keep the door shut. Maybe Paul won't even know they are here until the garage is fixed and I transfer them out there. (heeheehee)

UPDATE: They're here! I've got them in the garage with the light on, an oil heater on max high next to a plastic rubbermaid tote that they are in. They've got their heat lamp on and I played around it until I got it down to 89 degrees in there (they are a week old tomorrow and was told the first week it is 95 degrees and second week it is 90.)

I got three, knowing that we'd have to get rid of some (hopefully not all). The way Aubrey has wrapped her head around the giving away the chickie thing is this: we are fostering them. When they are four months old, we can adopt the girl chicks and name them. Right now they are "chick chick." But in four months (or whenever we can sex them), we'll have a naming and adoption ceremony after we get rid of the rooster(s).

Plus, on May 20th I get to come and pick up two Buff Orpington chicks. And hope they don't get eaten by the Silkies. Silkies make great mamas and have even been known to foster ducklings before, so hopefully they will just welcome the Buffs in. Plus the Silkies are bantam; the Buff Orpingtons are full size. Maybe the newborn Buffs will look the same size as the three week old Silkies.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"A Fine Mess: Living and Parenting Simpler, Greener, Cheaper, and Wiser"

I was invited to write a review for an upcoming book by fellow blogger, Michelle Kennedy Hogan a while ago. Her title peaked my curiosity, "A Fine Mess: Living and Parenting Simpler, Greener, Cheaper and Wiser," because this is my own mission -- to help my children and me to live simply, albeit the mess maybe. My favorite quote from the book is: "In the effort is the example, I believe." And so I leave this with you as you contemplate Michelle's new book.

She starts out by asking a few questions: What does money mean to my family? And what is our definition of success? Or how does one go from "making a living to making a life?" These are all questions I've already asked myself, but if I am honest haven't really answered. But Michelle does.

A large part of the book speaks to green and inexpensive ways to raise a baby. Even a checklist on how to save money with a newborn and all the stuff they seem to need. At one point I started to get discouraged with all the nurturing, inspirational advice that I wished I'd had when I was pregnant. Where was this book then?! But don't despair if your kids are over five, as mine are, there are other fabulous insights shared on living your core values and raising kids simply, like eating well and instilling work ethic and joy of learning in the children.

There's a wonderful section on self-employment and creating multiple streams of income for yourself. As I read it I had my own list going and I'm happy to report I quickly came up with 20 products or services I could sell at our local Saturday/Farmer's Market.

She neatly parries the thrusts of "But I don't have enough money to start my own business" with multiple examples of small businesses I'd never thought of that could be run on a "shoestring" to start out.

Michelle includes charming anecdotes from her life -- like how she came to not be a cattle rancher, and the first time she tried making maple syrup. These are both enjoyed for their humility and humor, but also for the inside look at what living on a farm would be like (something I secretly crave).

And on days when she feels like hiding under the covers, her simple message still does not change. Instead she remembers why she does it. It is her unswerving belief that learning to live this type of lifestyle and "keeping these skills alive is so important in these times of great uncertainty." That "[surviving and living] without having to depend on Walmart or the grocery store to come to our aid" is the right and true course.

But what I really appreciate about Michelle Hogan's writing style in "A Fine Mess" is there is no heavy-handedness. No judgement. And that while she grows most of her food and raises chickens and sheep for meat and eggs, she's not adverse to fudge-covered Oreos and t.v.!

And she's honest: "So rather than try and be the bastion of simple and ecological living, I try and make the changes where I can and make the effort. In the effort is the example, I believe. By home-schooling, growing our food, cooking from scratch, bringing our own bags to the store, recycling, reusing, not buying what we don't need, buying used, not going into debt and the like I hope to balance out the areas where we are not so green or thrifty." (For her this is driving an SUV -- but what other rig would hold nine people?!)

Read this book. You'll come away with a charged mission and new life goals -- or at the very least the desire to buy (or make!) a baby sling.

Michelle Kennedy Hogan is the mother of six (almost seven) children. She is the author of 14 books including the 2005 bestseller, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Children) in America." Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor,, Redbook, Family Circle and many other publications. She contributes to NPR and frequently speaks to groups on topics like poverty, homelessness, frugality, homeschooling and going "green." She was an organic farmer for many years, but now makes her home in Green Bay, Wisconsin where she is developing an urban homestead.

Look for "A Fine Mess" in June 2009!

Friday, May 1, 2009

On Chickens and Computers.

So, the day starts off innocuously enough. We do home-schooly things: research chicken breeds, go to park day, get my allergy shot. There is a crappy two minutes when Paul and I have a brief conversation about the chickens. He has finally, after months of cajoling, said yes.

"But the first time one gets in the house, we're eating chicken for dinner!" I believe him to be serious in this statement. Though how one could escape the gated run and get into the house is ludicrous and beyond me.

Triumphantly, I beam. "Done! But I need to add an ammendment to that. When they are chicks they have to be inside under a heatlamp, but I'll put them in the garage." And then I see his face. It is grey and sort-of resembles someone who's been sucker-punched. He shakes his head.


I start arguing about it, faintly, in hopes of regaining the "lead" I had and mysteriously lost. Nothing is resolved..

It's getting pretty late (6:30pm) and Paul still hasn't left to pick up his daughter to babysit our littler ones and I still haven't started dinner. So we both scramble to do just that and around 7pm I have everything by the door for our weekly No Shame practice night. My laptop is nestled in my red leather bag, I have my journal for inspiration, my wallet, and have a plate of food ready for Paul to eat in the car while I drive.

I'm fishing the vegannaise out of the refridgerator when I hear a BANG at the overhead garage door. Almost like the bird that flew into the picture window and died when I was little, only louder.

"What was that?" And I promptly try opening the garage door. Mistake. I immediately notice this is the wrong action to take when I hear a sort-of screechy metal on metal sound. I stop the garage door. And then, some remote genius section in my brain prods me to try closing the door, because, you know, the screechy metal thing was so intriguing and I want to hear it again.

It turns out that my step-daughter, bless her, is a brand new driver, with a brand new permit. And that's all there really is to say about that. We're awesome about it.

"At least it wasn't a kid. It's only a door. We can fix it," Paul says. We hug her when she cries. And then we leave.

Or try to anyway.

Paul does some tinkering on the garage door first and snarfs down his dinner and grabs some chips and hummus to go. I set my bags down by the back tire, unlock and open the door and then unlock and open the back door to put my bags inside.

We are running late, understandably, and Paul now needs me to hold everything he brought in his hands so he can get into the car. I'm still stuck on getting my bags in the car and so when he hands the bag of chips to me, I mindlessly toss them into his seat. He squeaks, or snorts, or whatever guys do and hands me back the chips.



He gets in. I bend over to hand him the chips and naturally, since I'm half-way in the car, I get in. I'm also licking chocolate chips off my hand and am putting on my seat belt, starting the car and putting it in gear with one hand.


I think I've driven off the side of the driveway into the flower bed, but I'm not quite off center enough for that.

"What was that?" I ask for the second time tonight.

"I don't know but you're still on top of it."

So I pull forward. I can't see anything out my window so I get out and there's my silly striped bag with my wallet and journal in it. How dumb. I snicker and put it into the car.

And then a horrible realization creeps over me. It starts in my center and then bleeds out to the top of my skull, tickling and quivering -- like when you first put your head under water and you shiver when it enters your ears.

I look under the car and sure enough, there is my red computer bag.

"Fuck," I whisper.

"What?" Paul is munching chips.

I pull out my laptop and see a different sort of munchy. The hinges aren't lining up right and it's sort-of rattley. I toss it in the backseat and we take off, late.

"My laptop."

"Oooh." He regards the moment in silence, momentarily abstaining from eating his hummus-dipped chip. "If it's really broken, you can have mine and I'll get a new one."

"Why do I always get your broken left-overs?!" I'm laughing but this is true. Last week the dog walked over Paul's open laptop lying on the floor and busted off the "P." He was Peeved at that. Pissed, too.

I told him he could get his new laptop if I could get my chickens. He didn't like that.

And so it's still not resolved.

Regarding the chickens OR the computers.