Kid Market was today and they all rocked it. I think it was a sound success.
There were excellent signs advertising the work and goods of excellent children.
Enthusiasm, salesman ship, creativity, and fun abounded.
My girl did a great job working her henna booth. She learned a ton, made some cash, and she found out her work is solidly good enough. I think she has a natural talent for henna and festival work.
There were very earnest young folks working hard all around.
Gauging the market and learning to price yourself correctly were some of the lessons of the day. And there was an interesting variety of things to buy, barter, and sell. Yay for the kids and their market!
This little clip is three years old, the children 8 and 9 at the time. They loved this poem and recited it to delight and torture one another. Until I finally made a video. Curiously, I don't think we've heard it since. I'll copy the lyrics here and a bit of history that we neglected to look up at the time:
The origins and lyrics of 'There was a little guinea-pig' like many old nursery rhymes have secret, hidden, meanings and allude to people and events in history. The references in 'There was a little guinea-pig' are believed to refer to the people in the Plantagenet court of King Richard 111 of England (Immortalised by William Shakespeare in the play Richard III.) To understand the meanings of this Nursery Rhyme we need to refer to the famous satirical rhyme by Colyngbourne:
"The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our Dog,
Rule all England under a Hog"
The Cat was Sir Thomas Catesby. The Rat was Sir William Ratcliffe of Ordsall Hall. The Dog was Francis, Lord Lovell ( Lovell's emblem was a talbot, a now-extinct breed of hunting hound). The Hog was Richard III ( his emblem was a white boar). The couplet refers to the fact that this hated trio of men enjoyed enormous power and influence in the reign of the equally disliked King Richard III. William Shakespeare discredited King Richard even further in his famous play. The nursery rhyme 'There was a little guinea-pig' provides an even more obscure reference to these men. For the most comprehensive information on Shakespeare and his Complete Works refer to the following link:William Shakespeare info
About this restlessness the children occasionally display, each in their own way. Thinking about going off to high school, considering curricula, wondering what they lack, wanting more. All of that is right and good. All of it suggests the need to push and grow themselves out of their current nest. Exactly what we expect to see, really. The urge to run and fly. School should give you that--a thirst for more life, more learning.
Our daughter has recently, and off and on, requested more schooling. But I don't think she knows what it is she wants. She does not want to enroll in school. She thinks she wants more teaching from me. But then not with standard curriculum and not with work books. She wants classes but none that don't interest her specifically. (She's already enrolled in every class she wants.) She wants tradition but not math and never rote. I think she wants her life to sound as dynamic when she describes it, as that of her friends. Of course, her life is as dynamic. Each one of these kids are dynamic and unique. Their lives reflect this. But she has no perspective on herself, what she's learning, how to think about herself in comparison.
She reads and blogs, researches and crafts. I explained to a group of school-homeschooling mothers, I never correct her blog. I never mention spelling or grammar. I never suggest or refine content. All I do is observe and offer positive reinforcement. The school-homeschool mothers were stumped. They asked why I don't correct her. I replied that I'm waiting for her to grow up. Every mistake she makes now will be self corrected as she grows. Fully, 99% of them, in any case.
After all, I never taught her to write. She's had zero writing instruction. None on letter formation, grammar, punctuation, spelling, voice, tone, content, keyboarding---nothing. She writes a lot. She enjoys writing. She writes freely, for fun. Imagine, and all without any sentence diagramming! To her way of thinking, none of this counts as school.
My son briefly thought he wanted to go to high school and that's fine with us. He is allowed. But he changed his mind. Somehow, though he's gone back and forth, I doubt he'll go.
So I've been wondering what I want for the children, what else I feel they should be exposed to before they leave home. I used to think it was some huge project. I see now, I was grasping for a way to talk about their education so that it sounded as dynamic (or just a little bit more dynamic) as any other high school kid. How to think and talk about my children in comparison?
But I've revised my list dramatically. Its down now, simply to math. In the 20 minute car ride to class this morning, I explained to the children I would like them to study math before they leave home. I went off on a full blown commercial for the power and majesty--the Magic--of math. I explained that we didn't invent math, we discover it. Math is a language that defines our physical world, which is pretty cool. I stressed its an art and a tool. I got wound up and went off. No one can deny, its a solid sensible and minimal sort of demand to make. Even the kids can see that. But I was trying to convey some enthusiasm, I spoke of physics and stars and geometry.
They listened respectfully. Then my daughter started laughing and proceeded to spend a few minutes reciting a long passage from "The Bromeliad Trilogy" by Terry Pratchett, about a frog discovering the math of daisies. And there it all was, is, an interdiscipliscious unschooling moment of glory. Quite naturally and spontaneously, unbidden and untested, she demonstrated mastery of our discussion and her reading. Using oral recitation, literary reference, and metaphor, displaying deep comprehension, she enlivened our conversation. From memory, unplanned, as if that's simply who she is now (enlivened, literary, and deep) rather than something she's been schooled to do on a test.
In fact, before I spoke of math requirements in the car, she was laughing. She explained to me and her brother that sometimes when she's talking, as she's saying a word her brain will try to stop her because she does not know how to spell it. And she wonders if she ought to choose a word she knows how to spell. And then she laughs at herself and uses the word anyway. Did we ever do that, she wondered? Self regulation, the hallmark of unschooling.
What more do I want for my children? I want them to dance joyously, even my son. And I don't mean that in a bumper-sticker kind of way. I mean it literally. I want to raise children who enjoy dancing at parties. And recently they've started doing just that. I've planned a party for next month to further our study.
My son has attended a few births, now. He has experienced the tang of emergency and kept a cool level thinking demeanor. Who cares if he's absurdly well read--way more so than me. He dances. He understands the dynamic and drama of birth, knows love is integral to the process. Again, not in a midwifery pamphlet sort of way, but because he's been there and felt the energy.
Honestly, after buying some math workbooks, my teaching job here is about done. I don't care what else these kids do as long as they remember to say: Yes Ma'am, No Sir, Please, and Thank You. Should I crawl all over an 11 year old's blog post correcting "wich"? No Ma'am. I think I'd better put our collective unschooling energy into a lesson we apparently need: learning to stop comparing ourselves against one another. Of course, comparing is most of what they actually do in school. Its an ingrained lesson I'd rather forget.
Today we introduced two new vocabulary words: solidarity and ephemeral.
We will stand in solidarity with all mothers to see that our children and especially our young black men are safe in the streets.
To underscore the lesson, we drove to the gas station and purchased bags of Skittles. Please mail your empty Skittles bags to Police Chief Bill Lee at Sanford Police Station 815 West 13th St Sanford, Fl 32771. For Trayvon Martin, murdered in cold blood and left to die while his killer has gone free despite the overwhelming amount of evidence of his guilt.
I've never eaten a bag of Skittles. It's possibly the foulest candy I've ever tasted; my children love them. We discussed letter writing. But in the end I told them everyone must choose their own actions of civil protest. I told them they would never forget eating these bags of Skittles, that they didn't have to write a letter to send with the empty bag to the Chief of Police in Sanford. I've called the police station in Sanford myself and explained my outrage. I think we've covered the truth, the lesson, and the symbolism.
Candy is ephemeral. Young men are not.
Today our kitten was spayed. And I received my very first cease and desist registered letter from a lawyer. You know what? If you've never received such a letter, perhaps you haven't pushed for the truth hard enough. I am accused of slander and defamation of character. But it ain't slander if its true and, Honey, I'm not ashamed nor afraid.
Tina standing next to her mother, Vanilla. Their size comparison is amazing. Tina is five days old and it looks impossible to me that she came out of her mother. She is moving around in this position, hopping, and walking on her fetlocks. But she is looser, a bit, everyday.
This morning I splinted one leg with a finger splint from Walmart. I'm satisfied the splint was well done enough. It wasn't too tight or too loose and a human finger splint is an excellent tool in this situation--padded and connected to velcro. But I'm not convinced splinting is right for exactly these circumstances. I got her hoof pointed more straight, true. But she would only lie there, crying occasionally, even though she could move in the splint. After a couple of hours and a couple of rescuings, it seemed wrong. Not splinting doesn't seem entirely right either.
So, we continue waiting, watching the figs grow, and milking Nutmeg who is shaping up to be a fairly nice milk goat. A few weeks into this lactation she is giving us 3/4 a gallon a day. The flavor was off a bit a first. But that was partly my fault as I was mixing cold and warm milk, topping off jars. And I think her minerals were down, which we've corrected. If we allow $5 a half gallon a day for milk and $1 a day for 6 eggs, our small farm is currently providing at least $180 in food monthly. Which is a conservative estimate as eggs cost more than that on the market and we're getting more milk. We are spending about $30 a week on hay and grain--about $150 monthly. So, the math is working well enough and the food is non-violent, sustainable, moral, and nutritionally dense. Onward into spring with gratitude and love. :o)
The concepts of umbrage, foil, and twee snazzled my imagination this morning. Who do I use as foil, where have I encountered umbrage, am I twee? Its easier to think about such things than type out the saga of dehorning little Tina. urgh
Introducing, Tina Fey Turner, a doe born on our micro farm Thursday. The children and I watched her mother, Vanilla, labor all day. We were ready for this baby. We knew she was on the way. And when her mother started pushing, my son and I were there from the first push waiting with clean towels and a camera. My daughter, deeply conflicted, had gone off to the local homeschooling park day. She's seen a few births and perfect park days aren't all that common. Hoping Vanilla might hold off till evening, my daughter decided to risk some time with her friends. Which turned out all for the best.
The first bubble of amniotic sac was pushed out and it looked off color to me--slightly greenish. Perhaps that's normal? I don't have enough experience to say. But the fluid was cloudy and that bothered me. I asked my son, who is 13, what body part he thought was presenting first. He said a nose. Which I silently denied because he's younger than me and I wanted to hope he was wrong. I said nothing. Then he said, "Yeah, a nose, I saw it twitch." Dangitall--time to pop that sac and find out what else was presenting with a nose. Turns out, nothing else was presenting.
I went in looking for little hooves to align and pull out beside the little head now born, but I found nothing. I'm not completely inexperienced. I've seen this presentation and pulled little hooves before. But this time was different. I moved all the way around the baby's head in as far as my hand and could find nothing to pull. I consulted with a vet on the phone. My son who was remarkably calm, clear thinking, and level through all this, helped me load Vanilla in the car--which was not easy with heads pointing both ways and the mother unwilling. He decided to stay home and mind the phone in case his sister called.
The vet managed to pull Tina but it was rather violent. The only other option would have been emergency c-section. I've seen many births of humans and animals. Birth is intense. This birth was very intense. (I'll just leave it at that.) The clinic was very busy and no one had much time for us. Including a 20 minute drive each way, we were only gone from home an hour. So very quickly I had Tina and Vanilla home in their own pasture. I don't mean to disparage the vet. She did a great job getting us all safely out of a very tight spot in a hurry and I'm grateful. But not her, me, the vet techs, nor another vet ever noticed what my son saw about 90 seconds after we got back home.
This little doe has curled up, I would say tendon bound, front legs. In this next picture you can see I'm putting gentle pressure on them to straighten. This is as far as they can go. She mostly walks on her knees. By the second day, she was walking some on her fetlocks as well, an improvement yet troubling. I've worked with a child who has cerebral palsy. Tina's legs feel very much like that, almost wooden. This is why she didn't present with a normal birth position.
My daughter is holding her off the ground here, this is as far as her legs can reach. She's cute though.
Her prognosis is excellent. I've treated her for White Muscle Disease which, if I understand all this correctly, is the same thing as or caused by some combination of selenium and vitamin E deficiency. My neighbor (who is AWESOME) had selenium/vitamin E gel for goats and some homeopathic remedies she gave us. She also let us fall in a puddle of concern on her kitchen floor and demonstrated how to give a newborn kid a shot. The vet suggested a one time overdose of tetracycline to relax these tendons as another treatment option. Vanilla was bred too young and its possible her uterous was simply too tight to encourage a normal birth presentation. Or it could all be due to bad luck. But according to my other AWESOME goat goddess friend, Tina should be walking normally in a few days. We are watching her closely and offering encouragement, love, massage, and physical therapy several times a day.
After watching Hugo last night we were a bit giddy, I suppose. The movie is visually rich and that's enough for us. I don't know if its because I get dumber as I age, or more tired, or more distracted, but movies don't hold my attention the way they used to. I drift in and out, rarely following one story through. Anyhow, Hugo ended and left us bubbling on a clear warm dark night, in the new moon.
We tumbled out the front door, we spilled out, were like monkeys--chattering and limby, unleashed. I was leading with Dear Boy on my heels and a flashlight in my hand. I'd noticed a web under my car seat earlier in the day and wanted my husband to look at it. It looked widowy to me and I didn't trust either of us to remember to check it in the morning. He protested the idea of checking a web at night with a flashlight yet was first to the car, taking the light from me, our widow authority. It was a wolfie, its gone now either way.
There we were in our suburban driveway surrounded by pine trees and quiet houses. I was outside all of 90 seconds before I said, "The stars are unusual tonight, look at those two, Wow, the stars are unusually bright." And that, even with all the light interference from neighboring porches. Two stars skimming the tops of the pines caught my attention and I was certain I'd never seen them before. But the thing is, the sky overwhelms me at night. I don't study star patterns. I'm awed at the thought of star navigation.
My husband stood up and said, "Oh yeah, those two are not stars. They are planets--Venus and Saturn (maybe it was Jupiter), I think. Bruce told me today, they are closest together and to the earth right now as they ever get." We stood in silence staring a moment. Bruce is his carpooling partner. My husband keeps a set of magnetic space monkeys in his office. Bruce likes to move them around each day.
A Blue doll made of her own fur. Dear Daughter, that was a very nice thing you did. Its also one of your finer works of art, I think. It captures something of Blue and that's not easy to do. You put your heart into this project, a work of love as much as art.
The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's.
I've got a blog crush on a UVA professor who is obviously some lucky unschooler's Dad as well.
"I was talking with a colleague the other day about the way empathy fuels curiosity and may indeed be a necessary part of curiosity. I myself experience curiosity and inquiry generally as a form of yearning that emerges from a deep part of the self. Perhaps that’s why I’m (unusually?) sensitive to the way the monoculture crops of academia strip from the soil a necessary nourishing capacity."
This morning I milked the goat, painted the stanchion, cleaned egg boxes, turned up a double dug raised bed, and planted: chard, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, fennel, and cilantro. I let the goats run in the yard around me as I worked. They pronked, raced, grazed, delighted, and most importantly--came running to me when I called them.
My heart is full. And my shoulders are sore.
This afternoon is the last Gaming level 4 programming class for my son. And I might have enough energy for the evening knitting circle at the library. But...its doubtful. By tonight I suspect my hands will be shaking as I finish the second milking.
My kids are required to monitor their own screen time. I have loosely monitored their monitoring based on these rules:
1) two hour limit no matter what kind of screen
2) unless its very cold, hot, or raining
3) or unless you're having a bad day
4) or are sick
5) or unless you are actively engaged in serious study defined as:
5 a) currently enrolled in computer programming class
5 b) watching instructive youtube videos about your current topic of study
5 c) following google history tip links to satisfy your curiosity about the figure or event of the day
5 d) cross referencing information
5 e) writing on your blog
5 f) reading and writing emails
Its complicated. Too, the children each got their own small laptop for Christmas, so they are recently unleashed. If they wanted, they could presumably spend their entire night or day playing Monkeybutt-O-Rama and I might be fooled into thinking they were learning something important.
But in truth, children are nearly always learning something important. One of the most important lessons they solidify at this age is self regulation. They understand the parameters, Two Hour Screen Time Limit,* and they understand the stakes. At stake are their minds, bodies, and spirits. Too much screen time makes us logy, dim, and irritable. At least, those are the observable results. No one really knows what these screens are doing to our minds and bodies, especially to our youngest users. Which is a wee bit creepy. My children are aware of the unknowns. (Now there is a lovely paradox.) So they are free. And they do a great job with self regulation. Sometimes they are on the computer too much. Often they are not.
Last week my daughter gave up all screens for a few days then modified that plan for a 30 minute email check daily. Over the week that plan softened. All of which is fine. The point being, she is thinking about her time online. She is making responsible choices. She's a smart girl with her own best interests in mind. When she consciously took time offline, she felt the pull to return and she felt the return of other interests such as tin whistle, "paper readers," and Monkybutt-Skateboard-Surfing-On-The-Actual-Road.
I am home alone right now. I have been home alone approximately 3 times in the last 13 years. The silence is purely regenerative. My ears are drinking silence.
There was a lot of bustle while everyone got ready to leave, the children and husband milling around, yelling to each other, planning, walking with their shoes clobbing all over the floor. The kitten was busy attacking a pillow in the commotion.
Everyone left. The kitten fell asleep instantly--mid play. She is lying there now.
I went out to feed the goats this morning and found Nutmeg in labor, water broken, two little hooves presenting in the normal position: feet down, as if it could walk out. I thought birth was eminent. After a few minutes of no progress I dashed inside to call my son to bring coats for us and clean towels for the birth. We watched together quite awhile, maybe 15 minutes with very little progress. We did see a tiny nose and we saw the nose twitch. So we had a normal presentation and a live kid. Very good, yet things were moving slowly. I dashed back inside to wake up my daughter and make a fast bucketful of labor-aid: warm water with salt, molasses, and vinegar. I've never seen a ruminant who wasn't grateful for labor-aid right after birth. We all settled down to wait on the kid. The children were in position to see everything.
No kid. I kept sitting there thinking it was taking too long. But all birth always seems like its taking too long. Because time stops for births. (The angels are holding their breath, I suppose.) I reflected on all my midwifery training. Hands off at delivery. Don't touch. Don't touch. Don't touch. I kept playing games with myself thinking: there is no progress, I'll count and see if progress happens. I'd count, see a millimeter gain of head and wait again. No kid. I'm guessing 30 minutes have gone since I found her, no kid. Worrying, don't touch. Wait.
After maybe 10 more minutes with no progress I decided to pull. I test pulled the little hooves a few times. And got almost no progress. The baby felt tight--even for babies. I gently pulled again and Nutmeg got up and walked away from me. Now I was starting to wonder if we had two kids presenting at once. After several more minutes, she delivered both feet and the head herself. Greatly relieved, I told the children everything would be fine now. I expected the kid within minutes. We waited quite awhile with no more progress. Nutmeg was pushing, labor was active, head and shoulders born. No kid.
Finally I decided too much time was passing. I grabbed a clean washcloth and decided to pull. I pulled and there was almost no progress. I've pulled a baby goat with a complicated presentation. I have a body-memory idea of how hard to pull and how much give to expect. I was getting zero give. I stopped. I went back and pulled more, beginning to feel quite worried. I pulled and got the kid's body half born. Still, No Kid Spilling Out. Jeepers!
I went back, pulled again, Nutmeg started pulling away from me, and finally FINALLY we had a kid on the ground. But he wasn't coming by himself. And all of him had to be pulled. I think because he's do dang big. He's not fat either, he's very large. He nursed by simply looking up (with my help) before he ever stood, if that's any indication. She must have been in active labor nearly an hour. I think an hour is the danger mark when deciding to take drastic action or call for help. So, we did well. She did great. And I got some more experience.
She delivered her placenta (and ate half of it) in the next two hours. I kept watching for another kid. I ran inside and found information from Fiaso Farm about bouncing does to check the uterus for more kids. I bounced her easily, felt no more kids, and feel sure that's done. Well done. The kid is nursing. I checked her teats and they are flowing easily. Whew, she'll be a good milking doe. I've been wondering, of course.
Now we wait for Vanilla to kid. Storms are predicted for the next two days and she seems to be in early labor. Her rump is arched. Her ligaments are gone, and she's pawing the ground. But she's also eating like a pig, cudding, and acting otherwise normal. She's waiting for a downpour in much colder weather in the dark, no doubt. At least everyone is well fed.
Speaking of My Dearest True Love, apparently something happened on the way to work:
A true and cautionary tale, written while carpooling this a.m.
Truck Stop Donuts: A Short Play in One Act.
[Curtain up. It is early morning at the Petromart Truck Stop -- a miniature mall containing a buffet restaurant, a convenience store, an auto parts store, a Dunkin' Donuts shop, and a pair of wooden doors labeled Trucker's Only and advertising hot showers. A man enters the mini mall. In the breezeway, he passes a Lucky Toy Crane Game machine playing ethereal music. The window of the game is packed chest-high with emotive blue unicorns. The startled man proceeds to the Dunkin' Donuts shop and approaches four staff standing behind the counter]
Man: Hi. I'd like a small coffee please with room for cream.
Cashier 1: Ok [uses register], that'll be one seventeen. [Pauses, then laughs] I'm sorry, but can you remind me what kind of coffee that was again?
Man: [laughs] Sure, just a small coffee.
C1: Oh, right. But what flavor?
Me: Oh, I see: none. No flavors, just plain coffee, but with some room for cream.
C1: Whipped cream?
Man: No, just room for regular cream.
Man: When you pour the coffee, please just leave some room in the cup so that I can add some cream.
C1: Oh, ok. How many creams?
C1: [Relays order to cashier 2 next to her.] He wants a small coffee.
C2: What kind?
C2: No flavors?
C2: Just... black coffee?
C1: I guess so.
C2: [Under breath] Eww. Okaaay... [Fills cup to rim]
C1: Thank you!
The phone rang just now as I was wiping W-D40 off my hoof trimming shears. The ring gave me a little shiver of thrill. If I answered, (generally I never answer--generally I keep the ringer off) someone might ask what I was doing. And I would get to answer about W-D40 and use the words hoof trim and maybe throw in a bit about cleaning egg boxes. I've finally committed to daily egg box cleaning. Things get out of hand if I don't. (Dang these box roosting chickens. Why can't they perch like normal ladies?) If I really got rolling and verbose, I might describe the progress I'm making with goat hoof anatomy. Hum, my phone doesn't ring all that often...wonder why? I pondered as I listed to the ringing.
My husband foraged cast off wooden pallets and a sheet of used plywood from a delivery box off craigslist. These he used to make me and the goats a stanchion. Fiasco Farm provides free plans, which are excellent. The whole thing, generally at least $150. to buy, cost us $17 for the fancy bucket and some change for a box of wood screws and a shiny brass hook. Yes, I do have the best husband on earth.
These pictures aren't great. Morning shadows were wrong. And I only got three shots before my batteries died. Be that as it may, I present The Stanchion!
I am learning. Goats are slowly gaining weight. And hoof health is improving. These Mamas are both bagging up now, so I'm finally confident we might have milk this spring. And I found a local source for the most awesome completely organic 16% goat ration. Commercial feed, be it for dogs, chickens, cows, or goats stinks, even before bags are open, in a way that will gag me in the summer unless we ride home from the feed store with all the windows down. I never clued into that. I was buying FOOD. And the smell made me want to vomit. I suppose I just assumed animals are different and they eat food that smells bad to me. This organic ration? It smells like breakfast. Seriously, except for the goat specific added minerals, I would not hesitate to cook it for my family. Its actual food, smells like food, and the goats love it.