Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Something I rarely post about here at Books and Bairns is Jo's little sideline interest of raising and showing rabbits. When we realized that her interest in the veterinary sciences was not a passing fancy a few years back, dh and I began brainstorming ways to help her gain knowledge and be mentored in that area. We stumbled upon our local 4-H club and have been very, very pleased.
Rabbits are an exceedingly easy animal to care for--especially when space is at a premium. Jo's current rabbitry consists of three cages in our gameroom and one hutch in our tiny yard. Hopefully, in a few weeks we will have three hutches in our tiny yard and just one cage in our gameroom, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Rabbits are Jo's thing. They are not mine. While I have a passable knowledge of animal care learned through osmosis from my grandparents and their farm, I have no interest in keeping up a small herd of bunnies at this juncture of my life. I raise people, not rabbits. Heck, I can barely work up enough excitement to wash my beast of a dog at this point. Priorities, priorities.
At any rate, up until a week ago, Jo had only two rabbits--both Mini Rexes-- to call her own. She had attempted to breed her pair, only to be met with two bouts of disaster that left her with no kits. Not quite willing to give up, she started looking for another breed to tinker with while she waited to breed the Mini Rexes again after Fair.
During this same time, dh has been working with Jo to bring into being a feeding program that he has visions for in a tiny Haitian mountain village we work in through our nonprofit. This area has no workable farmland save small, rocky garden patches, and is 4 hours from the nearest markets. Even if food was more readily available for purchase, the cost ($15 US for a single chicken) would be prohibitive for these people. Rabbits--the ultimate breeders--seem like a good fit. Small, easily cared for and self-propagating. Together, Jo and her daddy have researched breeds, cages, uses for the fur, the poop, feeding options, heat resistance ... all the stuff that has to go into a well-executed plan.
These two elements came together two weeks ago when Jo announced that she had found the perfect breed: Creme d'argents. A meat rabbit that kindles large litters and is happy to live on scraps of grass and roots, these large critters are also fairly rare and show very well. A little tinkering with the breed to make it thrive in warmer weather and BINGO! We should have the ideal rabbit for Jo's showing purposes (the straight Creme d'argent) and Haiti (the slightly altered Cremes).
Fine, we said. Let's find some.
The internet searching we did proved one thing: these little rabbits are quite elusive in our area. If you want a Dutch, a Mini Rex or a Lop, you're in luck. But a Creme d'argent? No way. So we hit our local rabbit show (which happened to be that Sat.) and we found a breeder. One. This is a good sign, because it means that Jo will not go up against 75 Creme d'argent's on the show table--which has been the case with her Mini Rexes. Hard odds, those are.
We inspected the pair she had for sale and found them suitable. They were show quality--what we wanted--and $35 each. The ears were a bit long for standard, Jo said, but it was still a good place to start. She checked her account balance with us and saw that she could afford the rabbits. We went home, prayed over it, and called the next day to make the sale.
Jo and her daddy went to pick the new bunnies up last Saturday. They arrived home beaming. O.k., Jo was beaming. Dh looked slightly annoyed, but hey--the man had just driven quite a ways for some rabbits. Understandable. Jo ceremoniously unloaded her two new prizes, introducing us to the beautiful, fat bunnies she had named Michelle and Pascal. Into their new homes they went, where they helped themselves to the hay Jo had provided. After a short while, she couldn't fight the urge any longer and took Michelle out for her first cuddle.
It was then that my daughter realized ....
Michelle has a torn ear.
This is not good news. A torn ear, in rabbit show land, is a DQ--a disqualification. Michelle is, in other words, great for breeding purposes, but not for showing.
Jo was horrified. Already in love with this new rabbit, she started to cry.
And this is when my Momma Bear instinct kicked in. Every part of my heart wanted to jump up and call that breeder and let her know that I sure didn't appreciate my daughter getting a rabbit home and finding out that it was a DQ--especially when we had been very clear that these rabbits were for show purposes. I looked at my husband and saw that he wanted to do the exact same thing.
But we didn't.
Because just then, Jo looked up and said, "I was so worried about just getting them that I didn't even look at them when we got them today, Daddy. I should have inspected them. That's what you're supposed to do when you buy rabbits. I know that! I made a mistake."
I made a mistake.
Not: how are you going to fix this for me? Not: how come you didn't remind me? Not: I can't believe the breeder did this to me!
I made a mistake.
A while back, I read a book that a friend had recommended called "Raising Your Child For True Greatness." In it, the author talks about how we as a society so often rush in to right the wrongs in our children's worlds. We want the best of the best for them. We want them to come out on top. We want the fair shake. We want that playing field even, if not tilted ever-so-slightly in their direction. And this is a good thing. Parents are not meant to let their children be taken advantage of.
But where, in all of that, is the chance for a child to learn? To lean into the Lord? To lose gracefully? To sample the acquired taste that is perseverance? To grow in a knowledge of what you were meant to do? Life is not fair. People are not always looking out for you. And sometimes, you are going to go up against 75 other rabbits every bit as good as your own on that show table. And you will lose.
And that, my dear, is life. Imperfect, messy and bought and paid for by the blood of a Savior who asks so very little of us and gives us so very much. Not always in line with OUR plan, not always what WE want ... but always, always for HIS ultimate glory.
I was amazed that Jo so easily accepted the fact that she skipped an important part of her rabbit buying protocol. I was pleased by her ability to shake it off and say, "Next time, I'll make sure I check my animals out from head to toe!" And I was amazed by her instant realization that perhaps God has a plan in what looks to us like a $35 mistake.
"Who knows? Maybe I would have been so caught up in showing Michelle and Pascal that I wouldn't have worked as hard on the rabbits for Haiti. And those people need food a lot more than I need more ribbons."
Amen, Jo. Amen.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I spent a chunk of this a.m. looking over my SL Core 5 IG and plotting out how to mesh (and balance!) the forces in play this coming school year:
1. Jo will be "junior high" age. This brings with it a certain feeling of responsibility, though I don't quite know why. My goal for my kids in elementary school was to get them on track to being mostly independent learners. Perhaps I feel like this year will be a test of how well I've done in working toward that goal?
2. Atticus is ready to be challenged more in the areas of advanced science and mathematical thought... and I am clueless as to how I should approach this. His areas of strength coincide quite nicely with my areas of weakness. Do I step up and learn alongside him? Do I delegate to dad? Waiting on God's leading on this one ...
3. Logan should probably be doing more at this point. Hear my noncommittal tone there? He should probably be doing more. He's first grade age. When Jo was in first grade, I had an actual plan, and she did very well. It was a year of blossoming for her. Logan is still somewhere in kindergarten territory, and I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to pull him out of it. We subscribed to Headsprout.com as a means of shoring up his phonics skills, but I'm still keenly aware that he is a sight-reader. I'm o.k. with that, but he doesn't read often enough to keep learning new words. Unless his interest picks up, he'll be stalled here for quite a while. But then again, is that a bad thing? I frankly don't know.
4. Oliver is (gulp) walking. Yes, he's more toddler than baby as of this week. That means enforcing more of a rotation schedule with the big kids during school hours and planning in advance for some activities that they can do with him to keep him busy and them from wandering off. Time to pull out my Montessori-inspired playthings: the lacing cards, the small cups for pouring, the trays of rice for digging, the squirt bottles and rags for cleaning the sliding glass door. I think I can get this in order next week. Think being the operative word here.
5. Visitation has resumed. Right now, we're at one day a week. Ever the realist, I am assuming we'll be back to two days within a month. I have set aside one of those days as "research day"--a chance, every Thursday, to go to the library and spend and hour or two combing through books and resources on any topic that the child chooses. Obviously, Logan will need help with this. My idea is to have them share a few things that they've learned with the rest of us. Maybe I'll make this more formal and ask them to write something. Usually, I just let that kind of work flow on its own; I find that what goes in comes out, so I rarely assign stuff of that nature.
6. I want to use our car time more wisely. With visitation transit eating up about 4 hours a week (yes, 4 hours) I really need to use that time. Last year, we enjoyed books on CD that we would normally not have gotten around to during the trips. This year, I'm hoping to borrow a rotating library of music appreciation CDs to include in our listening time. We already listen to a fairly wide range of musical genres, but I figure you can't go wrong including more. I'm also transferring our collection of Wee-Sing and Sing the Word CDs to the truck, where they'll do us the most good.
7. We have an almost unfortunate number of activities planned for the fall. Somehow, our communication failed quite horribly this summer, and both dh and I wound up committing ourselves and the children to things without checking with one another. The end result is a calendar of activities that looks nothing like what I want that calendar to look like! We are trying our best to honor these commitments and to still salvage the intent of the season. One pleasant side note is that since I'll be out and about driving children so many weeknights, we're investing in a YMCA membership. After dropping off the kids at things like AWANA, Youth Group, Soccer or Archery, Oliver and I will head to the Y. I'm praying this is ample motivation to help me shed the 20 lbs. that I really need to leave behind.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The clothes have been easily put away in bins as they were outgrown. But the toys? Not so easily set aside.
Oliver likes his toys. Therefore, I can not justify hauling them into a Rubbermaid bin and snapping the lid shut on his enthusiasm ... not matter how much I long to do so. It would be wrong. Somehow, it feels far more wrong than the undesirable but well-intentioned gifts I have spirited away before my bio kids could get overly fond of them. Maybe I'm over thinking this (which I have certainly been known to do) but the fact is, these toys--no matter how much I loathe them--are the few things in the world that Oliver has from BEFORE. Everything else is AFTER. And AFTER, I can tell him about down the road. The blanks in BEFORE, however, are likely to stay blanks.
But I still hate those toys. I hate them so much that I have put together a visual catalog for you, chronicling exactly why I despise them ... in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will sympathize with me.
This toy ranks very high on my irritation factor list. Why? Oh, the reasons are so numerous. First and foremost is the SOUND. I admit it. I am a purist. I do not want toys talking to my children. Why? Because I talk to my children. Siblings talk to my children. Friends talk to my children. Why on earth do we need TOYS to talk?!?
This little winner makes some of the most obnoxious onomatopoeia-like sounds that one can imagine. Sproing. Biong. Doing. Woing. Yes, if it rhymes with -oing, this truck says it. What ever happened to "vroom"?
But wait, there's more! This truck can move!
No, your child doesn't have to be inconvenienced by that strenuous pushing movement you endured in childhood. This truck does it on its own! How about dumping? No, don't move a finger! This truck does that for you, too.
As a matter of fact, the only thing that you can actually DO with this truck is maneuver the cheap, hollow plastic shapes into the sides of the dumper. Please note that unless the truck is on a elevated table, your child will have to tip the truck over to get to the shape sorting area. Clearly, that function was an after-thought.
"Crud, Bill. We forget to add an educational component."
"Oh, man! Wait, how about singing the ABCs ... in Spanish?"
"No room for a voice box in this one."
"I've got it? Do we have any of those sorting shapes left over?"
"Slap those on the side!"
"Great idea, Bill!"
After getting frustrated by trying to manipulate shapes unfriendly to child-sized hands into impossibly angled holes, your child can wear themselves out pushing down on the bobbly head of the little man up front. Due to the mechanism that allows the thing to run solo, pushing it or dumping it manually is not possible. So, bobble man it is. How creative!
My favorite things your child will learn and discover about driving etiquette through using this toy. Yes, these are direct quotes:
"Out of my way!'
"Slow down, little fella!"
It's like Cops ... for your toddler.
First of all, this thing is huge. Really, it's a pretty sizable toy for a baby or a toddler. A sitting baby could not possibly handle operating this toy because of perhaps its most frustrating component: those balls you feed into the giraffe's mouth? They shoot down the run and then randomly appear in an exit dish. No rhyme, no reason. Just at the age when you're supposed to be setting up logical patterns to help along those processing skills ... this toy decides to go for the surprise! factor that has left every child who has visited my home and played with it clearly befuddled. And, hey, let me brag--these are some smart kids. All of them are from homeschooling families, and all of them are clearly already ticking off items on the "What Your Kindergartener Needs To Know" curve. But this toy ... nada. Once the "well, there it is!" wears off (usually two or three goes) the kids move on. As well they should.
This toy, too, is equipped with noise. Music, sound effects and, the coup de gråce--lights. That, I supposed, makes up for any real fun the child should have had in engaging with this plastic giraffe.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
We said yes. A social worker said no.
After a dizzying blitz of info and action, we were told Friday that Baby Girl was ours. We'd be picking her up Monday or possibly Tuesday from the treatment center she's been in since birth. I made calls and pulled in favors. You said you had a crib to loan ...? Did you get rid of that swing yet ...? I also made a stop at a consignment shop and picked up a fabulously cute, tags-still-on-it Janie and Jack dress for just $4.99. In my book, every little one deserves an extra-special coming home outfit.
As I stood pondering the double stroller options in a local baby shop, my cell phone rang. Turns out that the new worker Baby Girl was assigned to agreed that we were a great fit for a home. Loved that we were willing to transport. Adored our adoption-ready status. And hated our location. So she found another home.
Yes, that's right. Location, it seems, is everything after all.
The joke here is that this worker would have come to our house every six months. Everything else--all of the other visits, all of the paper work, the bio visitation--would have been handled by our agency. She would have saved herself loads of work at the cost of just two trips a year.
Our agency learned that Baby Girl has been placed in a short-term home headed by a working single mother. My understanding is that this is not a home that will benefit Baby Girl; I won't say anymore about the situation because there's enough bashing of foster homes out there already. Suffice it to say, no one believes that this is a long-term resource for Baby Girl; she will no doubt be moved again in four to six months. But hey, the social worker may be off the case by then, and it won't be any skin off of her back.
I sound cynical and hard, and I admit that I am ashamed to be so cold in my soul regarding this situation. I am hurt--not just for me and the loss and betrayal I feel, but for one tiny Baby Girl who has no voice in the system that is effectively warehousing her for their own convenience. Why would you force a child into a situation that guarantees transitions and loss? Why?
Friday, July 18, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Why did you start homeschooling in the first place?
Good question. While I had toyed with the idea of homeschooling before I even had children (I didn't have a fabulous school experience myself, so I didn't expect my children to, either) I put that notion on a shelf when I married a man who is the product of a long line of classroom teachers. We didn't revisit that idea until Jo was in preschool. We dutifully signed her up at age 3--just like all of our friends and neighbors. However, when she came home with construction paper covered with N-N-Noodles, I couldn't help but wonder if we were wasting our hard-earned cash.
Jo was pulled from preschool mid-way through her 4-K year. The intention was still to pursue a kindergarten program. I began researching options in our area and was not impressed. When my husband and I realized that our only options were public school (not a good choice in our area) or homeschooling, dh reluctantly agreed that I would most likely not be able to "ruin" Jo in her first year of "school."
Within a year, he was a convert. Now, it's dh that is far more likely to look at people cross-eyed when they say they don't support homeschooling.
Do you do phonics?
Yes and no. Each of my children has had a blend of different approaches--customized on an as-needed basis-- for reading instruction. That's the beauty of homeschooling. If you need to build up one area, you work on it. If you need less in another, you fly past it.
My favorite reading instruction resources are Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (great for those who only have a few minutes a day as well as those who have children who are anxious to get going on "real" stories) and Headsprout. Headsprout is on the pricey side, but is interactive and is great for reviewing what you've already taught.
How do you choose extracurriculars?
Our children lead the way when it comes to outside activities. So far, we've followed an interest-led approach that has meandered from gymnastics to 4-H rabbits to foreign languages to politics. I am very reluctant to offer my kids activity options. I'd rather it be their idea.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Every year, my kiddos look forward to VBS. And every year, we forget the very valuable lesson we learned the year previous: like many homeschoolers, we have a very difficult time getting up and out of our house first thing in the morning.
It's a bit comical, really. Or rather, it would be--if I didn't always end up feeling like somewhat of a failure as a mother. I think I understand the awe that homeschooling inspires on the part of institutional schoolers because I can't possibly do what they do every day.
Monday morning is always the best. Motivation is high. Anticipation is crackling in the air. The children scoot from their beds and throw on ratty clothes (the result of yet another lesson we've learned: never wear clothes you would like to keep in good condition to VBS). Chore time is fast and furious, and breakfast is gulped in record time. Teeth are brushed. Faces washed. Hair groomed (even Logan, though you can never tell thanks to a fascinating series of cowlicks in the back of his head that resemble something akin to crop circles). A few minutes to dawdle around. Then whooosh! We're out the door and running.
This enthusiasm is hard to maintain, however. The exhaustion of all that fun takes a toll, not to mention the newfound lack of novelty in leaving the house during what is normally some of the best playtime of the day.
By Wednesday, I am cajoling kids through breakfast. Let me be clear: I hate cajoling kids through anything. I can slip quite quickly into a tone that is remarkably like the one Charlie Brown's mother and teacher used on him.
"Eat your bagel. No, Logan, eat your bagel. Yes, now. You can show me that later. We've got five minutes here, guys. Atticus, it's cool now. Really. Yes, cool enough. Trust me. Honey, just eat your bagel. Four minutes, kids. Logan, I said eat your breakfast. Jo, get back in your seat. I know he needs juice, but I'll get it. No, you need to eat. Eat. C'mon, guys. Eat. Three minutes and we're out the door."
The soundtrack of our VBS morning!
All of this reminds me of two key things every year:
1. A family of early risers does not necessarily translate into a family of early out-and-abouters.
2. Somewhere on that list of 197,234,987,324,872 reasons why we homeschool is the fact that MG's family could not possibly do this every day of the school year. No way.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Logan: "Mom ... you know that big box of books we got from Sonlight?"
Logan: "Well, are we going to use those or what?"
Think he's ready for school?
Me: "I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, just so you know."
Jo: "For you or for Oliver?"
Me: "For me."
Jo: "Are you sick?"
Me: "No, it's a check up."
Jo: "Good. Because when you get sick, God has to have Miss J. and other people bring us food, otherwise we'd eat black beans and rice every day. I think that's all Dad can make."
Umm...no. He can actually cook quite well when not juggling four little people.
On the way to VBS
M (friend J's 4 yo son): "Mommy said you listen to your teacher."
Me: "Absolutely. Good idea, M."
M: "And if other people are doing something bad, you don't do it."
Me: "That's right."
M: "'Cuz if you do (pointing finger and wrinkling brow) ... that's SIN, Miss MG."
Yes, folks. It really can be that simple.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world endsfrom "The Hollow Men" by TS Eliot
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Bio Mom has lost her visitation. After being somewhat aggressive ("It's not my fault! It's Bio Dad's fault!"), rather whiny ("I want to see Oliver more. I know I've missed a lot of visits. But this isn't fair!") and altogether insistent ("I don't want him to be adopted!") at Oliver's most recent court date 3 weeks ago, she gave 2 hours notice--again--and is now unable to see the child she carried in her body for 35 weeks. This is her third missed visit in as many weeks, guys. Sad. Oh, so sad.
Our summer is now suddenly wide open. No more twice-a-week treks to the Big City. I'm really not sure what to do with myself.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Oliver's Bio Dad has lost his visitation for the time being, which is rather sad. Bio Mom is going to lose hers if she doesn't come up with a doctor's note corroborating her whereabouts at the most recent no-show visit (last Wednesday). I am vacillating between utter sadness over this development (the state of human beings) and utter joy (the nearness of Oliver's TPR). I've said it before and I'll say it again ... what a ride this adoption business is.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Today, I'd like to address a handful of questions I receive repeatedly in my booksandbairns gmail box. Scroll through and see if any of them are yours!
You write a lot about math and always say you've tried a bunch of programs. Can you tell me which ones you've used?
Sure. We started with Calvert math in 2002. Jo was K age, and we had decided to buy in to the whole kit and kaboodle with Calvert. The program--as it was written at the time--was very straight-forward and schoolish. I understand, however, that it's been revamped.
Next came MCP math. Again, it was just Jo using this particular math program. And again, it was very institutionally-oriented. My husband says he thinks this was the program his Catholic grade school used in the 1970s and 80s.
Then we sampled Miquon ... and my brain exploded.
We jaunted over to Math-U-See just long enough to realize that Jo was lost, utterly.
By this point, Atticus was ready for some mathematical instruction. Having tried two new-to-me approaches, I ran back to the established, tried-and-true textbook route. We spent two years with Horizons.
And then we realized that Jo needed to start over, completely and totally. So we went back to ground zero with Math-U-See. And that's where we've stayed.
What do you do with Oliver when you are homeschooling the older kids?
So far, it hasn't been a big deal. Oliver is not mobile, and he's happy to rotate through some one-on-one time with his older siblings. He takes a nice, long nap that allows us some reading time, too.
I know that this stage won't last long, though. My arsenal of distractions when Logan was a toddler included my infamous, Montessori-inspired pans of rice and small digger trucks, tubs of water and bubbles and more art supplies than you can shake a stick at. I also invested in some of the Rod and Staff preschool workbooks, since Logan was so interested in seatwork.
Will you be able to homeschool Oliver even though he's a foster child?
While Oliver has not been adopted yet, he is in the pre-adopt stages. In other words, at some point, Oliver will legally be our son. When that happens, yes, we can homeschool him. Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. :-)
Is Whole Foods really that bad?
No, I don't think Whole Foods is really that bad. I've actually asked someone that I know who works for them if their corporate policy is anti-family and she was adamant that it is not. Whole Foods is no more responsible for the attitudes of those who shop there than I am.
I have more questions that I'll get to tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Everyone knows about new car smell. You know--that smell that hits you as you slide your bottom into the generous, plush driver's seat of a car that's sporting less than oh, 100 miles on it? A car that has never once felt the insane crush of a well-installed child's car seat on its rear bench. A car that bears no tell-tale coffee stains on the carpet. A car that has never called anyone else master.
I had one of those cars once. It was a 1996 Saturn SL2. Dh and I were newly married, flush with the income of two jobs and more than eager to start living the adult life everyone told us we were entitled to. That car was more than just a way to get from point A to point B. It was a symbol--a symbol of all the good things to come in our new life together.
I loved that car.
Of course, a year later I was unable to drive that car. It was a manual transmission ... and I was hugely pregnant with the 10 lb., 2 oz whopper that was our firstborn. But I digress ...
For the first time ever, I have sitting in front of me a complete, brand-new Sonlight Core. Core 5 to be exact. The books have intact bindings. The pages are not marred by other people's lunches. The pieces are all there.
It is a giddy feeling, I tell you.
I am far too intelligent to deny that a year from now, the consumables will have been uh, consumed, and the books will have suffered the wear and tear of many a night in a bed belonging to a child who could not, would not put it down.
This is a temporary satisfaction, but a satisfaction nonetheless.
I'm excited for the new year. Blown away by the thoroughness and imagination that seems to have gone into the Eastern Hemisphere Explorer. Salivating over some of the story lines--most of which I have never before read. Eying the timeline figures and wondering who in the heck some of these folks are.
It's going to be a good year. I can smell it.