when mother nature says slow down

I had such big plans as 2014 started.  Oh, my list of projects was long.  Rather than being overwhelmed, I was excited to get started.  About halfway through the month, I started getting a little cold — you know the one — a few sniffles here and there, a scratchy throat, a cough or two.  Then I started getting tired.  Like super tired, I don’t want to do anything tired.  If I was a napper, I would have napped a lot.  Unfortunately, naps and I don’t mix even when I’m sick.  If I nap during the day, I can completely forget about sleeping at night.  Normally, I would fight the urge to do nothing, but this time, I embraced it.  I have to admit it was nice.

I kicked all my projects to the curb.  In fact, I kicked everything that wasn’t essential to the curb.  I tidied the house, did school and hung out with the boys, made dinner (sorta), and sat on my duff.   It’s actually quite amazing the things you can check off you to-do list while seemingly doing nothing.

School was a ton more fun without the nagging feeling that I had other stuff that I need to do cluttering up my time with the boys.  We actually did all of the fun science activities that went along with our lessons.  Friday, we made our own volcano complete with the destruction of the dinosaurs per Thomas’ request.

volcano 002Here’s the actual eruption.

Sorry for those that got sea sick.  I really need to work on keeping steady while recording.  Anyway, it was fun.  I also need to be better about just spending time with the boys doing things that they want to do rather than only doing things with them that I think they need to do.

While on my duff, I read.  I forgot how much I enjoy reading.  Life of Pi has been on my reading list for over a decade.  I kid you not.  I finally read it.  I’m still not sure if I liked it or not; however, it has certainly stuck with me.   I even checked out the movie from the library this weekend and made Greg watch it with me hoping that I could find some sort of closure to all my thoughts.  No such luck.  If you’re a deep thinker — you’ll love it.  If you like neat and tidy endings — this book is not for you.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

I also continued my quest to find a learning to read program for Muf.  I tried the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  I liked it’s good solid style, but Muf lasted about five minutes.  Total no go for him.  Next, I tried doing a few things on my own.  Bad idea.  This last week, I checked out Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons from the library.  It’s not my ideal, but I think it will be a good fit for Muf.  We did our first lesson this morning.  When we got to the end, he wanted to do more.  I’m taking that as a good sign, and I ordered the book.  I’ll keep you posted.

I also picked up a copy of the FastDiet from the library.  My sister had just finished reading it and thought I might be interested.  Basically, you fast two days a week (not necessarily back to back and it’s not really a fast — women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories on fast days) and the other five days you eat normally.  The research presented in the book is really impressive.  You lose weight (nice) but there are a bunch of other health benefits linked to fasting including lowering your risks of cancer, diabetes, and even dementia.  I’m giving it a try — what the heck.  So I’m off to sip on some broth and sit on my duff.

Wait, I’m actually feeling better today.  Drat — even though I’m not technically sick anymore, a little downtime during the day is probably not such a bad thing.

our week — 7 october 2013

I love October — crisp mornings, beautiful blue skies.  Here is Arizona, it’s also fall garden time, and we’ve got things coming up all over.

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Our second crop of corn has popped up.

ImageThe zucchini is off to a great start.

ImageGive this a couple of months and it will be a beautiful green salad.

ImageI’m not sure what this is, but I don’t think it’s a weed.  I’m going to let it grow for a little bit longer to see if I can figure it out.  I’m open for suggestions if anyone has one.

It’s been a great week for the animals as well.  Joy’s babies are HUGE, and when I went out this morning, they had finally opened their eyes and have started exploring their basement home.

ImageWe sold eight of our chickens this week.  I love it that they are going to some really nice families.  I feel like we have been super blessed to have these chickens and am thankful we can pass those blessings along.

We kept most of the younger ones for ourselves.  We’re hoping they’ll start to pay rent soon.  We’re close that’s for sure.  Greg found this little starter egg on Saturday.  I used a ping pong ball just to give you an idea of how big it is.  I would have used a standard egg, but Greg ate the last of them for breakfast this morning.  I’ve gotten totally spoiled not having to add eggs to the grocery list.

ImageIsn’t it cute?

We are finally wrapping up our front yard project.  On Saturday, we dug out the last of the grass and tilled the soon to be alfalfa field for the last time.  This morning we dug a trench for the edging we’re putting in to separate the grass from the alfalfa.  We’re so close.  I’m not sure who will be happier when it’s done — us or our neighbors.

ImageOn the home front, we enjoyed our last day of school before fall break.  We celebrated by visiting the Arizona Natural History Museum’s Night of Star Gazing.  Thomas and Muf were in heaven.  Not only were they able to look through several telescopes, but they also faced their fears and walked through the Arizona Territory Jail.  I have to admit, it was a little creepy.

When the guides asked how his evening went, Thomas replied, “tremendous.”  Yeah, he’s five going on sixty.

Speaking of Thomas, he also took his first solo bike ride on the street.  He’s pretty proud of himself and rightly so.

Nice good week, I must say.

 

 

it’s been a while

We’ve had a lot going on here at the homestead over the last couple of weeks — a huge mix of good and not so good and fun and not so fun.  It’s been the not so good and not so fun that have kept me from doing any writing.  Even now, I still don’t feel quite up to it, but I know that if I don’t, I probably never will, so here goes. 

As you know about six weeks ago, we were contacted by the woman from whom we bought our goats.  One of her goats had been diagnosed with scrapie, a contagious neurological disease found in goats and sheep.  It is extremely rare — in fact, hers was the first case in a goat in Arizona history.  A few days after that, we were contacted by the USDA letting us know that they were rounding up all the goats that had come from that herd or had had contact with that herd over the last five years.  Boo.  Our goats were tagged and without any other real options, we turned ownership of our goats over the to federal government (although they continued to be housed on our property at our expense).  A few weeks later, the Arizona Department of Agriculture paid us a visit and place this lovely quarantine sign on our gate.  Little did we know that problems it would cause. 

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Scrapie is not transmittable to humans nor any animals other than goats and sheep.  Sadly we had a neighbor, many houses away, who felt the need to call the city rather than to talk to us directly.  It did not go well, but it is what it is.  On a positive note, the man from the city who came and spoke with us was very nice and while our conversation was not always pleasant, we parted cordially both expressing our desires that we never meet again. 

The next day, the state came and picked up the goats.  I had talked to the boys the day before reminding them that our goats were going to be leaving.  Thomas responded with, “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to handle it.”  Handle it he did.  I was the one standing in the middle of the road holding back the tears. 

And so, that part of our story comes to a close, and soon a new story will begin.  I hope this next story has a slightly happier ending.

Speaking of happy, our sweet rabbit Joy popped some babies last week.  She’s a little stingy with her babies, only five this time, but they are big, and getting bigger every day.

ImageHopefully, Eve will deliver sometime this week — fingers crossed. 

On the garden front, we were so excited to harvest our sweet potatoes we could hardly contain ourselves.  They had practically taken over a quarter of our garden. 

Here’s what we got —

ImageSad, huh.  Greg has sworn we will never grow sweet potatoes again.  Bummer.  Oh well, the goats and chickens were happy.

ImageHere’s the garden today, minus the sweet potatoes. 

ImageWe added three more rows of corn, two rows of lettuce (we’re big salad eaters around here), tomatoes, peppers, beets, zucchini, carrots, swiss chard and green onions.  The beans and peas will go in this coming weekend along with some medicinal herbs.  Let the praying begin.

On the homeschooling front, we keep moving right along.  I made some changes with Muffa’s reading program, and I’m really looking forward to implementing it over the next few weeks.  Thomas is becoming quite the speller.  He’s read for years, but couldn’t spell the word cat if his life depended on it.  He can spell cat and many other words now, no problem. 

Science continues to be the favorite subject around here.  We’ve moved onto studying the planets.  After reading about Venus, we did a little hands on activity to reinforce what we learned about atmospheres using a towel, a hair dryer and an ice cube.

ImageI cannot say enough good things about our science curriculum, God’s Design for Science.  Love, love, love it. 

We headed back to the Arizona Natural History Museum this past week and did a little panning for gold.  I’m happy to report, we’re officially rich.  Well, not really, but it was fun just the same.

ImageImageImageOn the family front, we’ve enjoyed football games, birthdays (Hailey hit 12 and I made it to 29 again) and just being together.  I think that’s about it. 

our week — 9 september 2013

Have you ever had one of those really good weeks — nothing big — but you just look back and go wow, what a nice week.  That was our week last week, at least for me.  We were super busy, we still had the goat thing hanging over our heads, and the rabbits were not responding at all to our don’t poop near your food training, but it was just a really good week.  The last month or so I have gotten way too caught up in the day to day grind and have failed to truly appreciate how wonderful life really is.   Somehow I forgot that happiness is not a matter of circumstance.  It is a matter of choice.  Anyway, enough with my philosophical blathering. 

ImageI’m not sure if you can tell from the picture or not, but it’s been raining here all morning.  In many parts of the country, that’s nothing to shout about but here in Arizona, it’s huge — a whole morning of rain.  It’s been wonderful.  It’s even brought in some cooler temperatures, but it’s humid as all get out, and just a little too sticky to be outside enjoying watching the rain from the porch. 

We skipped field trips this week and decided to focus on getting caught up with school.  (We’re almost there — how did we get behind so quickly, oh well).  Science continues to be the favorite subject.  We learned about asteroids, meteors, and comets this week.  We even made some comet models using a styrofoam ball, glue, and glitter.  It doesn’t take much to get a four and five year old excited.  Seriously, I think this was the highlight of their week.

ImageSpeaking of highlights — Hailey was able to attend her first Young Women’s activity.  She doesn’t turn 12 until later this month, but all the girls who will be turning twelve this year were invited to attend.  She was thrilled.  Hayden had another game this weekend in which he ran in two touchdowns helping Heritage win 40-14.  And Taryn, Tayrn was asked to homecoming. 

Where I grew up, if a guy wanted to ask you to homecoming, he just walked up to you and said, “You want to go to homecoming with me?”  Not here — here it’s a big deal with all kinds of fanfare.  Taryn spent all day collecting moustaches from various and sundry people at school and performing all kinds of tricks before finally being asked.  Here’s a picture of the poster that started the whole thing and one of Thomas modeling the moustaches.

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Of course, a simple yes would never suffice so here’s her response which will be posted today on the school’s main bulletin board. 

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See, wasn’t that a great week.  I hope yours was nice as well.

our week — 3 sep 2013

September is here, and fall has unofficially arrived — well, in some parts of the country.  Here is the desert, we are still hot as hot can be.  The forecast calls for 90s next week, I don’t believe it though.  I’m not sure it will ever cool off.  Anyway.  Life on the homestead keeps moving along.  We spent much of last week figuring out what to do with our goat situation.  We drove a bazillion miles, perused a ton of websites, and looked at oh so many goats.  I have to admit, it was a little easier before we knew what we were doing.  I’m hoping to have things wrapped up by the end of the week.  It’s a weird place to be — excited about our new prospects while at the same time so sad with the reality of our current circumstance. 

Since we’re talking homestead, remember those pumpkin plants we were so proud of?  Here they are this morning.

ImageWe’re pretty sure we over watered them.  Now, their nothing more than a compost pile.  So sad.  I guess our pumpkin/apple cider stand will have to wait until next year.

ImageOne good thing did come from pulling up the dead pumpkin, a boatload of marigolds were revealed.  Thomas, Muf and Greg harvested seeds from our marigolds in the spring and scattered them all over the garden.  They have finally popped up just in time for fall planting.  They’ll add a lovely bit of color in a couple of weeks.

ImageStill no babies for Eve.  Greg is hopeful, but I think it’s a case of pseudocyesis, false pregnancy.  You see, there’s always been a love triangle between Adam, Eve and Joy.  Looking back, we probably should have named them Jacob, Rachel and Leah.  Joy is our Leah.  I think Eve was jealous of the attention Joy was getting with her babies so she made up her own pregnancy, but perhaps I’m reading more into it than I should.

Surprise, surprise we are behind in homeschooling, but that didn’t stop us from taking a trip to the Arizona Science Center to see the Sesame Street Human Body Exhibit.   It’s definitely geared to toddlers and preschoolers.   Although Thomas enjoyed some of it as well.

ImageImageImageImageHere’s my review for what it’s worth, just in case it comes to a science center near you.  If your kids really, really love Sesame Street — do it.  If not, don’t go out of your way to catch it. 

On the family front, we had our second weekly mandatory game night.  Highly recommend that one.  We played Uno.  Everyone played by themselves even Thomas and Muf.  Thomas was simply giddy that he won the very first time he played.

Speaking of games, Hayden had his first football game of the year.  The pregame show included a beautiful rainbow.  Well, it was beautiful in person, you’ll have to trust me.

ImageHayden is starting quarterback on the varsity team.  Heritage has taken state for the last three years, but this year, they have a very young team.  For many of the players this is their first time ever playing football, and it was a tough first.  The team they played was really good — they trounced the last team they played.  Although Heritage lost, it was a respectable loss and the boys played well.  In the end, I think everyone was pleased with their performance including Hayden. 

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I think that’s about it.  I hope your last week was as enjoyable as ours.

our week — 26 aug

It’s been a week of ups and downs.  Well, actually, just one down, but it’s a big one.  I’ll start with the ups.

On the homeschool front, things are going great.  I hate to say it, but we’re already a little behind.  I was just a tad over zealous with our curriculum, and I need to reel it in just a bit.  I’m realizing having school completely over by noon, may not be the best way to go.  Little breaks throughout the day and field trips mid morning seem to keep the “I don’t want to do school” whines at bay. 

This week we took a trip to the Arizona Museum of Natural History.  It’s all of five minutes from our house and is chuck full of dinosaur bones and activities for the little ones.  The staff is super friendly.  Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about it.

ImageImageImageImageImageWe’re still kind of in a holding pattern with respect to our garden.  We should be ready to plant in the next few weeks.  Our sweet potatoes are continuing to grow like gangbusters and the corn is really taking off.  We’re very excited.

ImageStill no babies for Eve.  I’m starting to think that perhaps she is just faking us out in order to avoid a date with Adam. 

This is my favorite picture of the week.  Perhaps it’s time to add another roost for our chickens.

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Now for the down part of the week.  We got an email from the Beth over at Fairywood. Beth is affectionately known as the goat lady at our house.  We bought Cyclone and Nightingale from her about a year ago.  She was fabulous, answered all our questions, and made us feel like we could totally handle goats.  Well, in her email, she let us know that one of her goats had been found positive for scrapie.  Scrapie is very rare and usually found only in sheep.  I guess we’re just lucky.

Shortly thereafter, we were contacted by a representative of the USDA who informed us that our only viable option is to have our goats put down.  I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  In the grand scheme of life, it’s not a huge deal, but it stinks.  Both of the girls were due to deliver in October.  So not only are we loosing the girls, we’re loosing all their kids as well.  Animals at our house aren’t pets — we have them to help us provide for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them and don’t become attached to them.  To add to it, the feds aren’t picking them up until the middle of September.  There’s a tug at my heart each time I go out to feed them.  Explaining all this to Thomas and Muf hasn’t been all that fun either.  I don’t know what to say other than boo. 

the fourth of july, kids, and education

After hopping down from my soapbox yesterday, I started wondering what my kids would say if they were asked asked why do we celebrate the Fourth of July.  I have to admit I was a little nervous.  Muf got a pass on this one.  He can recognize the American flag, and I’m good with that for now.  Hailey knew it was to celebrate our independence from England.  Although she was off just a bit on the year, I was impressed.  Thomas was clueless until I told him we used to belong to England and then he said “oh yeah — no more kings.”   I had no idea what he was talking about until he started to sing.  Oh how I love School House Rock.

And, I really like youtube.  It’s been a great resource for homeschooling.  Thomas knows all fifty states thanks to this little ditty.

We’re working on the capitals as well.  I think I may like this one even more than Thomas.

Since we’re on the fifty states, I was so excited to find this awesome state bingo game the other day at Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.  I love this.  I’ve got it all printed out.  All I need to do is cut it out and laminate.  It will be a great addition to our Fourth celebration.  It’s based on one of our favorite books and games — The Scrambled States of America.

So, pulling it all together — there are plenty of opportunities for us to teach our children regardless of whether we homeschool or not.  Fourth of July or an just an ordinary day, it doesn’t matter.  Life is one giant educational opportunity.  The key is getting our kids engaged — whatever it take — games, music, hands on stuff.  Have fun and enjoy the journey together.

another week down

I’m not sure what happened to Thomas this week, but he was on his game — even phonics went smoothly.  In fact, I sneaked (yup that’s the official past tense of sneak, I looked it up) a few extra pages in so we could wrap it up early this year.  Of course, when I asked Thomas what was the best part of his week, he said science.  Our human body encyclopedia is very well loved.  I hope it survives long enough that Muffa can use it in a couple of years. 

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For Muf, the highlight was using his new magnetic letters to match up big and little letters.  The first night we got them, he asked if he could take them to bed. 

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He also worked on recreating patterns with his build a flower set.  I mark it down as a success if I can get him to actually work on things for about a half an hour.  Mind you, that’s definitely not all at once.  Like most three year olds, he has the attention span of a kidney bean and that’s okay.

For me, the highlight was going to the Arizona Science Center.  We bought an annual membership through Living Social.  It was a super sweet deal.  While it wasn’t the museum I thought it was (I’m an idiot), I loved it.  We spent a couple of hours there on Thursday afternoon and only made it about halfway through the exhibit on the human body.  In fact, I was so captivated with everything that was going on, I forgot to take pictures.  Woops. 

Most favorite — the wheelchair race simulator.  Thomas could have done that all day.

Least favorite — it’s a toss up between the three foot nose and the ginormous model of the digestive system.  For Thomas, it was the nose.  We tossed foam balls up into the nostril representing germs and dust particles.  It seemed like a fun game until the giant nose sneezed them back at us.  I was totally not expecting it and screamed.  I thought it was funny, Thomas, not so much.  For Muf, it was the digestive system.  They were walking around inside and going toward the slide that represented waste coming out of the anus when a huge toot (we don’t say fart at our house, well, not without getting a look from mom) sound echoed throughout exhibit.  Muf came running out crying and wouldn’t let go of my legs for a couple of minutes.  Funny, potty humor is usually a big hit at our house. 

So that was our week.  I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.