Friday, September 30, 2011

On the left, milk.  On the right, colostrum.  A heifer  was born on the farm yesterday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

 Fat Head is cracking me up.   Hum, which sounds right to y'all?  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OOOOoooh.   Oh.

1)  That mattress on our living room floor, covered in ticking?   Why is it called ticking?   Yesterday seed ticks started BOILING out of it.  Do you know what seed ticks are?   They are this big   .   Smaller, actually.

2) Dear husband and I pulled a questionable stunt, financially, to pay off a credit card debt that has been truly embarrassing to me for years.   For the same amount of years our economy has been in free fall.  Which "lends" some validity to the idea that its not all our fault.  But of course, it is still all our fault.  And we fixed it.   Except that...

3) I FINALLY understand something in a new way.  We are out of debt.  We have none.  But I still feel that gut churning quietly shrieking internal concern.  Why?  Because we are in debt to the unhappened.  We are in debt to future brokenness, entropy, and previously unexpected needs of loves.   Until you cover future need (and I do mean NEED), you are still in debt.   That shit is scary.

4) Dear Girl started reading the Oxford English Dictionary for fun.  I love the dictionary reading phase of unschooling. Yesterday she discovered fascinating things about the word jackass.   Things one can not learn online.  The plenitude of information online obscures its profound limitation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Yes, my Dear Husband already knows I have a crush on Sir Ken Robinson. Here's his latest.

We were walking alone, Dear Husband and I, when I noticed a frog crossing the dirt road ahead of us.   We courted outside, lived for three years in a plywood tool shed barely removed from outside, and are at our best together outside.   But we don't get out alone together all that often these days.  We're very busy people.  And he has an hour commute to and from work.  Two hours driving off your day may be common. Nevertheless, it's a lot.  He's shopping for a new job, which will likely mean moving to a new city in a new house hopefully much closer to work.  And I'm all for it, but moving is very stressful.  Just thinking about moving is stressful.  We are edgy, filled with mundane grownup concerns.  So we made time to go for a walk together down a wooded dirt farm road.

As the frog hopped across, I noticed a snake was chasing it.   Which is rare enough to see that it felt nearly supernatural.  When you are shown a thing like that in nature, its a time stopping event.  Kind of like the moment of an accident but purely wondrous and happy.  When have you ever seen a frog crossing a road with a snake in pursuit?   For a second, its almost as if you are alive in a fairy tale, seeing a thing like that.

Once I took a toddler down to the river.  I was his nanny and we were out cruising around exploring the world rather aimlessly.   We were in a secluded spot, a place I'd never been, a place I wasn't in a hurry to stay alone with a toddler.   I felt a bit too isolated.  We puddled around a few minutes then turned to get back in the car.  And I saw an osprey rise from the little sandy round clearing we were sharing.  I hadn't noticed it before.  Our space was probably only thirty yards round.  I stood there holding the hand of a small child watching an enormous and powerful opsrey rise nearly in front of my face and it was holding a fish in its "hands."  I could clearly see its talons dug deeply into the sushi flesh of what might have been a small mouth bass.  The fish was moist and the sun flashed through it, broadside, bright gold.   Then they were gone.  And I was alone with a small boy in our sandy riverside lot.  A time stopping event.

I ran to the spot I thought I saw the frog leave the road.   And there it was, sitting very still.  A second later I saw the snake.  My husband was over my shoulder asking where where where was the frog?  He saw the snake.  I wondered if we should save the frog.  He was aghast at the idea --poor snake!  The we both saw it all, the snake connected to the frog, its foot in its mouth, then both separated, the frog escaping.  Maybe the snake letting go, now in fear for its own life, its jaw dropped?

We walked home, husband carrying snake and looking for all the world ten years old.  He grew up in New Mexico.  A family of horned toads lived in his front yard.  And he remembers the year he was in third or fourth grade walking to school many mornings with a horned toad in each of his coat pockets.  He must have walked carefully, proudly, a boy with a crowd of a secret in his pockets.

My third grade teacher, Sally Carothers, kept a horned toad in an aquarium in the back of our classroom.  I adored that strange gentle oddly soft creature who looked so tough, so able.  I couldn't imagine a land far far away that might hold such magic as this.  It might as well be a fairy tale land, a place of unicorns where a young king might grow up.  Where could such a place really be on this earth, outside, right now?   Sally was all about magic.  She taught magic to her third graders.  For me, it is real.  And it happens outside.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We took some ninjas out for ice cream last night.  Also, we have a big weird mattress on our living room floor right now....its a long story.  But my oh my, the dogs and children are happy about it.
 The ninjas were nervous and excited to be out in plain view, so un ninja like, buying ice cream.
But they maintained their ninja like comportment.  Which did make it kind of hard to eat the ice cream, what with black face masks and all.  But they managed in some mysterious ninja way.  And then they did what ninjas do so well.  They simply disappeared, silently, brilliantly, and extra carefully when crossing the parking lot.  Fortunately, the ice cream shop is in the middle of a cow field.  So there aren't that many cars to worry about.  All in all, an excellent Saturday ninja night.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dear Girl sporting the "Owls" sweater designed by Kate over at Needled, which is my other favorite new blog.   If I'm going to knit for this kid for Christmas, its time to get busy.    But I'll need to find another pattern just as cute.  I mean really, how awesome is this pattern?   Totally awesome!

Friday, September 23, 2011

This blog looks a little Old Ladyish to me.  But I guess that's okay.  Because I'm getting older.  The kids are getting older.  My husband has grey hair.  I have grey hair.  Time is moving on.  I'm okay with some cliches in my life now.  I don't need art to show me pain.  I want to enjoy being middle aged --I want to enjoy softening, greying, easing up, getting a bit mushier, seeing the Lion start to lose his teeth.  I see now, these things are not to be feared.  They are to be relished.  For today, I GET to do these things.  That's good.  I see how time works, there isn't all that much of it.  Waste none on anything but gratitude and love.  All manner of shit will break and go wrong.  Figure out how to enjoy it anyway.

Life comes out of the dirt and never really gets much farther.   We're worms.  Worms who like the sun.  Not much more.  Worms who invented money.  The first creatures to create uselessness plastic and trash, and if we start with monkeys, actual badness.   We all have this badness in us.  No one escapes it.  As Dumbledore tells us time and again, we have to choose goodness.  That's about the best we can do.  Make good choices.

So I chose to steal this broken dirty tacky little bit of yard plastic, a Grimy Happy Angel.   Yep, theft.  I took it.

I had a neighbor who I liked well enough.  I thought.  Except that she was just the most outrageous bitch about my dogs.  She hated my dogs.  She really hated that my dogs would bark at her and her dogs when she came walking past our house.  Even though my dogs almost always stayed in my yard.  My dogs were so well behaved (most of the time) she actually believed they were behind an electric fence.  Even though they don't even wear collars.   That's some fairly steady and reasonable dog behavior, if you ask me.  But she was not asking me.  And she managed to radiate maximum anger and ugliness as she tromped and yanked her dogs past my house everyday.   I think she even shook her fist at me the last time I saw her.

Ya know, which really just pissed me off.  There she was stalking past My House, in her stupid hair scarf, shaking her stupid fist at Me and My Dogs.  Humph!   .....wait a scarf?   Then I didn't see her for a while.  Then I heard she dropped dead.  She was a middle aged mom like me, only she was a single mom who adopted her child.  So she was alone and carrying the burden of responsibility for an adorable little boy by herself.  And then she got sick and died.

Which, since I'm the central theme of this little self absorbed story, shocked me.  And made me feel a bit guilty.  And sick at myself for being short tempered with her.   How did I fail to notice she was sick, tired, alone, scared, and actually dying?!  Well, I didn't know her well.  And we can only see what folks will share of themselves.  Nevertheless, here is a lesson.   Folks are often suffering more than we know.  We can choose kindness whenever possible.

I spent the day with my father in the hospital yesterday.  In for routine pre-op testing.  Not that big a deal.  Except a day in the hospital is always a big deal.  I decided to smile A LOT.  At everyone.  And I did.  It helped me.  I hope it helped anyone else.  Its a trick I learned from my plastic yard angel.

So I walked down to this poor woman's abandoned house.  Its a gorgeous lot, heavily wooded, the best one on our street.  But the house is tacky for my taste, down in the heal,  and neglected.  It will likely sit on the market for.e.v.e.r.   (I sigh, roll my eyes, hope this doesn't reflect poorly on the value of my house -- Wow, the selfish point of view dies hard.)   Then I noticed, nearly buried at the edge of a scraggly hedge, a broken piece of plastic with a message, the angel I decided to steal.  She reminds me: Be kind.  You never know how folks are burdened.  We are all from the dirt and harboring our share of badness.   Choose to be kind.  Remember how lucky you are.  Enjoy your life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For anyone interested in Monsanto and GMOs (and since we are all eating GMOs you should be interested):

The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities   ~Frances Moore Lappé  September 14, 2011

Well, she hated the second Spanish class.  The teaching style doesn't work for her.  So we are negotiating, working out a compromise rather than quitting.   Learning about your own learning style, and how to navigate a class to get the most out of it even when the teaching may not work well for you, these are lessons I value for her waaaaaaaaaaay above simple Spanish.

Later she wondered if our compromise isn't letting her off too easy.  She felt a bit sheepish.  This tells me I'm on the right track.  I want her discovering her boundaries for stick-to-it-tiveness and quitting, defining them for herself.  That lesson is most valuable of all.  It applies later to boyfriends, jobs, bank accounts, and the hugest life decisions.  This lesson can not be learned through force.  If you are not free to choose, you are learning the lessons of oppression.  Lessons which shouldn't be especially pertinent to the average adult living and working in the United States.  Right?  Obvs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

There is a wonderful conversation happening on our local homeschooling loop. A bunch of moms are listing all the educational curricula that can be fulfilled by playing with Legos. Here's a quote that sums up the gist and consensus of our group pretty succinctly:

"Just sayin' - my son is having little or no trouble keeping up with 3 AP courses and 4 other challenging high school courses, and all we ever did with Legos was PLAY. But I amused/comforted myself in those years with lots of theories and discussions (thank you, Sarah and lots of others in our group - it really was helpful!). So for anyone who wants to take comfort from knowing our story: one slack almost-unschooling Mom who did very few structured or academic activities with her son is glad she did it that way. Hooray for loads and loads of play time!"

I love unschooling. My kids love unschooling. And it seems to work really well. Sometimes life is great.

Have so said and in the name of keeping it real, I'm pushing Dear Girl to take this semester's Spanish class. We can't really call that unschooling. (We'll have to call it coercion if we're really keeping it real.) The classes she elects do count as unschooling. The Spanish is more like a favor to me. She's trying it. And she's not loving it. But she is trying.

We'll see how that goes. All the pushing I've ever done in the past has backfired fairly resoundingly. Why is it so difficult for me to learn that this method of teaching --pushing them to do what they have no interest in doing-- usually gives mixed results at best? Maybe because sometimes it can work wonders. But more likely because its very difficult to completely release my old educational indoctrination. Yeah, probably that. I admit to a certain smug feeling when I can reply, "What are we doing this year? Well, studying Spanish for one thing." Studying Spanish just has such a nice academic ring to it, don'tcha think? Wow, how much is done to children in the name of Adult Ego?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Year Book Pictures  (They have no clue what a yearbook is.  ha ha!) Monday classes: drawing and guitar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Merry and tragical, tedious and brief! That is, hot ice and wondrous strange snow."

Tonight we watched A Midsummer Night's Dream (this version).  And the kids hung in there if at first by the skin of their teeth.  But in nonetheless.  I think both of them genuinely enjoyed the story.
 A new thing we like to do, hang out in our favorite coffee shop.  Gaming.  Reading.  Snacking.  Henna-ing. Knitting.  Looking out at the river.  Listening to music.  Messing with the camera.  Enjoying our new more growned-upish life.  
 There is plenty of room, if a Dear Kid wants to hide away upstairs to read alone.   

 After all the dinking around with livestock in the last four years, the chickens still bring me so much quiet joy.  I love to feed them, to hear them, to watch them working the yard.  Not to mention the egglisciousness.   

See that ladder in the background?  Its for reaching figs.   Fig leaves are this big:
 Yes, we did keep a calf in our front yard this summer.  And yes, I did let her out to graze in the neighborhood.  Which worked out better than you might guess.  She had no interest in the road, as nothing green grows there.  If she wandered too far or got scared, she came running back home.  Yes, it was a bit cavalier, letting her go like that.  But she did well, taught me plenty about cow-nature, and it was a temporary and enriching event for everyone on the road.  Who doesn't want to live where the cows come home?  "The kai come heem" as it were.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

As promised, the famous Kitty Teapot.   Dear Girl got this wonderful absurd thing last Christmas.  How can you not love it?   I hear it took Santa eons to find just exactly the right sort of tea pot.   We've taken the dogs out for a walk in the drizzle this afternoon.  Now I think its time for tea.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Frabulous Joy!  Oh how I love fall.  Today we harvested the last of the Kentucky Wonder Beans.   We grew them over bent cattle panels to make a bean tunnel this summer.  And it worked quite well.  The beans were happy.  The bean pickers were delighted, picking in the shade inside the tunnel.

The kids complained as we began to pick.  The beginning of any job is usually the most daunting part.  It looked like A LOT of beans.  In reality, it probably only took us 20 minutes to pick them all. And it was a pleasant job, cool and sweet, so fresh outside in the fall air.

As we worked I explained that Monsanto has been quietly buying up seed companies.  And patenting genetically modified seeds.  So eventually, when they fully own all the seed companies and the seeds which are conveniently modified so as not to reproduce themselves, they can offer only their own seeds for sale.  Knowing farmers, unlike in the olden days when they could buy seed once and then save a bit of the harvest to replant every year, will be dependent on Monsanto year after year.  Which also puts Monsanto in control of our food supply.   Not to mention, growing food that is genetically modified to produce its own internal insecticide and sterile seed Just Might turn out to be insanely stupid and short sighted.  We discussed how plants make flowers that make pollen that travels on the wind and bees to make seeds.  I told them Monsanto has, in FACT, prosecuted (and won judgment against) small farmers when natural bee driven genetic drift (and truck blown seed) have corrupted non GMO seed.  Thus putting small farmers out of business.  I pointed out that Monsanto has carefully placed several of their scientists in key government positions.  Which is how they've pushed laws through to make all this perfectly legal.

This information horrified the children.  (Horrifying children, that moment when you can nearly see their brains clicking, is wonderfully fun.)  Dear Girl reiterated her intention to move "up in the mountains and buy as much land as possible" with new conviction and purpose.  Previously land simply looked like a place to farm and more importantly, to keep the ponies she longs to have.  Now it also looks like a form of safety.  Dear Boy said it might be a good idea to grow up and become President of the United States and put a stop to this madness.   My heart soared like an eagle.  They get it.

I paused picking, held up a fistful of dried beans, and pointed out that what we were doing is an act of rebellion, participation in democracy, forward thinking, independence, and solid good citizenship.  I also reminded them they are lucky to have such a civics/biology course.   I heard zero complaining after that.

When beans were picked kids ran off to pick figs, feed chickens, swing, and search for extra tomatoes.   The air is so especially lovely today, they even volunteered to take the hound for an extra walk.
Cherokee Purple tomatoes, another excellent heirloom seed and super fine slicing fruit.
Yesterday was park day for local homeschoolers. My Friend called and asked to tag along with us. Just because she loves us and misses us and wanted to carve out some time in both of our very busy schedules. So she was there incidentally and for the love of us. She was not there to observe. She was not there clinically.

But my Friend also happens to have a masters degree in education and 20 years of experience teaching including founding a private school. She is now finishing the dissertation for her Phd in education and child development. She teaches teachers how to teach. Also, to be fair, she has not birthed kids of her own. Her perspective is not that of a parent.

We were in the park from 1 till 5:30. Four and half hours mostly spent lolling around on a blanket watching the group amass, mill, feed like baboons, and generally hang around. Its an all ages affair generally attended by anywhere from 10 to 20 families each week. The bigger kids and teens tend to stay well enough out of sight. (They are normal, after all.) The babies hang closer to the circle of moms. The bigger little kids own the middle distance. All of them cycle through for food.

After a couple of hours my Friend said, "Oh wow, this is wild. All the kids are so calm." Later she observed, "If this were a more typical school setting there would be a lot more strife. There is no shouting, no hitting, no grabbing, no crying." I added that no one was yelling at the kids. We sat there a couple more hours. She and I have taught together, worked a playground together. We know how "normal" schooled kids act.

I pointed out, watching a four year old nurse, that almost all the children in our group are attachment parented to some degree. Breast feeding through 4 or 5 years, per kid, is average for this group. These are children who've rarely been more than house distance away from at least one parent--hand raised, one might say. As we were leaving I mentioned that I frequently get in trouble when I say that homeschooled kids are different from schooled kids. That they come from a different culture, have a different kind of socialization. My Friend said, "I'm going to have to back you up on that one. They are way different."

She has often pointed out that my kids are different, calmer, and often appearing older than they are.  Not in a burdened, forced to grow up too soon way.  But in a reasoned, well grown, secure way. While that is surely flattering, I think today she saw what I've been trying to tell her all along. It is not that my kids are different. It is not something special about our family. Our kids have been raised in a different culture. The culture we've chosen, homeschooled attachement parenting, seems to consistently produce calm happy reasonable kids. Kids who aren't used to much fighting, strife, competition, or ugliness. Kids who almost never experience adversarial adults, have never been exposed to arbitrary or institutional authority, and who have never been set apart from an innate sense that their own personal agency is valued, in general.

No culture produces perfect little automatons who never make mistakes or behave imperfectly. And I'm not suggesting that's even a goal. But it might be helpful or interesting to learn that the behavior we've accepted as normal, the "childishness" we all expect from children, is a cultural construct. Brattiness, selfishness, discontent, and defiance are not normal childhood attributes. These behaviors are learned through social construct. Through the years I've been told my kids are an exception, that I'll see their true colors when they hit puberty or become teenagers. It ain't happening. My children have become teens exactly beside their friends becoming teens. They are all generally reasonable, smart, and calm. Reasonable and calm being the two most striking and consistent differences I see in this awesome group of kids. How often are we told that's what we should expect from our teenagers?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apparently, Eckart Tolle says "Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self."

......strengthen a false sense of self......

So I am to understand that these hateful negative stories I tell myself about life and people help define me.  I find that utterly creepy.  Creepy enough to possibly be true.  I don't want to be defined by my anger or by dark stories I tell myself.  

Who doesn't brood on dark inner stories?   Val may be the only person I know who does not.

The kids are taking more classes this fall than ever before.  Girl has art and Spanish.  Boy has guitar, Spanish, and computer programming for games.  Along with our normal Thursdays in the park with other homeschoolers.  Which isn't a class, obvs, but my point is, we're busy.  We have plans almost every day of the week.  For the first time in the kid's lives.  (Je suis pret.)

As noted earlier, we brought Dear BFF home from Spanish class and the girls hung out all afternoon.  She stayed for dinner and a late candle light tea party for two with the famous Kitty Tea Pot.  I took the girls for a long almost Halloween-y night walk down the dark dark farm road.  (Deliciously shivery!)  And while driving BFF home we paused to admire a gorgeous orange full moon over the fields.  

"Booster Pack" spent the evening out, playing his insanely complicated and intricate card game with a group of folks in the gaming store.  We all met back home after 9.

A school night.  Lovely fun, the best china and party lights, out late.   I LOVE that the children's life leaves plenty of time for so much of what matters.  For what's real.
Lower right corner: Sacred Awesome Kitty Tea Pot.  I swear by all that is sacred.  I WILL get some fresh batteries for this blurry assed camera.  Sheesh!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hoy hay un classe de Espanol para los ninos!
Dear Girl was nervous but the teacher, Alicia, was very nice.  It all seemed to go well.  And we brought Dear Girl's BFF home with us, which always makes for a  good day.

Grandmother brought Dear Girl some "lip tattoos" from Las Vegas.  Totally weird!
 They stayed on long enough to snap some pictures.  Then they came right off.  Too weird feeling said the girls.
The men were all business, hard at work while the lip shenanegans were happening.
 J-dog is far too dignified for weird lips.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Booster Pack" aka "The Boy" got a haircut last night.  It was at his shoulders and, he said, getting on his nerves.  So we chopped it off.  He can't quite get over how good it feels to be shorn.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We are river tumbled sun roasted water washed crawdads.  Good heavens, that was a wonderful afternoon at the river.   And we came home exhausted.  Best parts:  floating face down in the waterfall bubbles, water gliding upriver over the submerged largish rocks like a gator might, being outside with my favorite people.
Mornings and evenings are usually the time when Boy and I connect.  And we connect most often silently, next to each other, quietly reading or typing.  Mostly reading.  We call it "reading nexttos".  That kid and I are so different in many ways.

He's into complicated intricate gaming, mostly, a thing I can't play well enough to share with him.  We tried.  We played "Magic The Gathering" last week.  Every turn I had to ask what the card meant, what was the power, what the damage?   Until finally I asked if I was annoying him.  "This is a bit tedious" he  admitted.  Ah, honesty is always refreshing.

If I'm not reading I'm crafting.  He was done with craftiness years ago.  I clean or sew and read.  He plays guitar and reads.  That leaves us reading together.  But the silence and the companionship are lovely.  He is such a kind hearted, wickedly funny, calm, easy-going kid.  I love read nexttos with Dear Boy.
Zombie Fluxx with Dear Girl and Dear Nephew.  The kids spent a lot of time with Dear Nephew this summer.  Life is good.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It was decided today, we no longer meet at the stage in the children's section of Barnes & Noble.   We're too old for that--way.  We made other arrangements.  But even before we came to that agreement, as I shopped I noticed I wasn't fretting where they were.  I was just shopping.  As they were just shopping.   Normal folks doing this normal thing.  Ah, me peerie mootie lammies!

A Shetland Cradle Song:
Da boatie sails an da boatie rowes,
Dey set der sails an dey hail der towes,
Hush-a-baa-baa, my peerie lamb,
Dy faider is comin awa fae fram.

Da sheep dey baa, an da craws dey craw,
Dey flap der wings an dey flee awa,
Hush-a-baa-baa, me peerie flee,
Auld Daa'll be comin wi shalls tae dee.

Da burnie rins an da burnie rowes
Da lambs dey dance ower da haider-towes,
Hush-a-ba-ba, me peerie dear,
Dey'll naebody hurt dee whin Mam is near.

Da laverick lifts an he sings tae aa,
Da winter comes wi da cauld an snaw,
Hush-a-baa-baa, my peerie flooer,
Lang Wullie is löin ahint da door.

Da mares dey böl an da kye come heem,
We lay wis doon i' da Gödie's neem,
Hush-a-ba-ba, ma peerie ting,
He covers wis aw wi His holy wing.


The boat sails and the boat rows
They set their sails and haul their towes (nets or lines)
Hush a ba ba, my little lamb
Your father is coming away from far out at sea.

The sheep they baa and the crows they crow
They flap their wings and fly away
Hush a ba ba my little fly
Old Dad'll be coming with shells for you.

The burn runs and the burn rolls
the lambs they dance over the heather knolls
Hush a ba ba my treasure dear
Nobody will hurt you when Mum is near.

The skylark flies up and he sings to all
The winter comes with the cold and snow
Hush a ba ba my little flower
Long Willie (Winkie) is listening behind the door.

The mares settle to sleep and the cattle come home
We lie down in God's name
Hush a ba ba my little thing
He covers us all with His holy wing.