Friday, January 26, 2007

New Chicken Lickin'

We drove through the back roads of Kentucky in the dark, looking for a chicken hatchery in Wincester (probably named after the gun). We'd had a long day at a riding competition, but through an internet search, I found a family that raised Blue Silkies, a bantam breed. Blue Silkie chickens have three colors: blue, a white with gray and tan, and the desired (for us) black.

We were looking for a young chick to tame to replace the beloved Chicken Lickin', murdered before her time by the neighbor's dog. Well, if you look at Wm's face, you can see that the drive was worth it.

We came home with three, the only black one available that was bigger and two whites. I eyed the adorable week-old chicks, more easily tamed but more fragile, as Will pointed directly at the older, bigger black chicken. "I want that one."

When I assured him that the little ones would grow up to be like Chicken Lickin', he said, "But look, this one is ALREADY the right size." So he went home with us. Yes, he. As luck would have it, two of the three are roosters. How do I know? Have you ever seen two goofy boys butting their bellies together? Roosters do that. They prance around, threatening each other. Mostly, they get along, but I think the white one will be looking for a new home.

We are off again tomorrow to a horse competition, and a long day.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The World's Best Horse

My girls laugh at me when I declare "Bay", my Tennessee Walking Horse, as the World's Best Horse. And he me. His value to me is priceless, though anyone else might see an aging, scruffy and sometimes, pushy, horse.

Isn't it true, though that "best" is often a very personal thing? The "best" show horse in the world would be useless to me. A horse that knows me and I, him can't be bought.

Parenting and family issues are a lot like this. What works for one, may not work for another.

Here we are practicing for our next costume party. He's going as a human and I'm going as a horse.

Photo compliments of Christine

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Yesterday, I was running low on laundry detergent, a serious situation, and ran to StuffMart to get more. Of course, I could think of dozens of other things I needed, and $123 dollars later, I returned home to unpack. No laundry detergent - the main reason for the trip. It was not on my receipt, so evidently the man behind me got a surprise purchase!

The girls have discovered a fancy score for "Chopsticks" and I am going insane. Okay, I'm happy that they, two sisters, are sitting together, laughing, working together, that they have this time together - BUT I'M GOING INSANE, PEOPLE!!! Wm, is sitting at my feet, using my meat tenderizer hammer to bust apart his least favorite Hotwheels cars. I'm going upstairs to hide in my room.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Posts Coming

I suppose I'm going to have to take up writing in my sleep, for there isn't enough time during regular business hours. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame says he spends two hours a day on his blog.
I think I spend 15 minutes. How is one to write anything meaningful?

In addition to our regular activities, I attended a homeschooling moms' night out on Thursday, hosted a teen costume party for about 25 teens and maybe 8 adults at our house on Friday; left early the next morning for Lexington and a competition where I was in charge of registration, did some announcing over the microphone, drove from there east to a chicken farm to pick up a new "Chicken Lickin'" and then back home; Sunday morning was Anna's religion class and Church. What a week! It was all fun and well worth it but I'm still recovering.

My mind is full of things to write.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Cherished Moment

Yesterday, I was getting ready to leave for the afternoon. Lauren and Anna were to watch William for me. Generally, I try to be home for them. Book study has a way of not getting done when I'm not around, although if you count reading for pleasure, plenty of that gets done.

This board meeting (I jokingly said they don't call them "bored" meetings for nothing) seemed important to go to. And, William can be quite demanding, though I suppose I could record the time as learning what it's like to parent a four year old. That is, if I kept good records.

So, I was about to leave. Wm sat on the floor playing, fashioning guns out of the expensive connecting learning cubes I bought to unsuccessfully teach him patterns and math ideas. Lauren was playing the piano. Anna sat a few feet behind her, drawing. What a nice moment, I thought, both together, doing the thing that gives them joy. I needed to get out of the way, leave them to this moment.

Here is the drawing Anna made:

She has a real talent, self-taught. I love this drawing because I've seen this very image in real life so many times. Someday, I won't be seeing Lauren sitting there everyday, and photographs, at least snapshots, don't quite catch the moment the way a fine drawing will.

Seeing his sister drawing motivated William to also draw Lauren:

I love how happy she looks, and how she is looking to the side.

And the bored meeting was long, but not too bad. It is interesting to see the inside workings of our sports organization.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Carpe Diem

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years.
~Abraham Lincoln
Now that I have teenagers, I am often asked what they are going to study, what they are going to do with their lives as they become adults. Increasingly, I am seeing this as an interesting cultural question - what are they to become. To become, as if they aren't already what they are. As I continue to homeschool, I ponder this reality of our culture.
Children and teens are in a holding pattern, preparing for "real life". Choices are made in late teen years about what to study in preparation for getting a "real job". This way of looking at childhood as only a boot camp to prepare for the working world overshadows the chance to actually live in the moment of the day.
My girls and the way we live are slowly changing the way I look at childhood and education. Anna isn't just intent on becoming a writer, she is one. Each day, she writes and writes. Very private about it, I'll likely not read this writing until I buy the book. She is not, however, going to be a writer - she already is one. Getting published is an eventuality.
When people hear Lauren play the piano, they ask if she'll go on to study it in college. A normal parent, I can't help but hope that she does something with her study of piano and her beautiful playing. Unlike others, I know, however, that her intense study of it is not and will never be wasted. Piano playing is in her very skin. It has already affected who she is, and she has already done something with it. I know she will always play. She is a pianist.
Already, they are gifted horsewomen. Will they become horse trainers, competitive riders? They do, already. Perhaps you'll not hear of them, but they've already accomplished more with their horses than most people dream of.
I think our young people act out often because they aren't recognized for who they already are, what they already are doing, and given the space to be. And often, there aren't the opportunities and the mentors to help them find who they are right now. My girls are gifted with wonderful mentors, adults who share their love of their own specialties. Would that all young people find such adults in their lives and live dreams today.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Big Breasts

Now that I have the attention of all my male readers, I will have to disappoint you with the subject matter: the size of chicken breasts. I write to you now only because I sit waiting for my dinner to finish cooking. Four chicken breasts have been in the oven for well over an hour and they are still pink inside. My family dances in front of the stove. "WHEN? When will dinner be ready?"

Well, how am I supposed to know? Chicken used to take about 45 minutes to cook, but that was in the day before they exposed the chickens to steroids or growth hormones or whatever it is that makes them so big. Resultant mutant chickens are now a good six inches thick and weigh in like turkey breasts. I may have to buy new, larger pans to hold them.

Why do we need Dolly Parton chicken breasts, I ask you? Nutritional guidelines state that we should eat the amount of meat that would correspond to the size of a pack of playing cards or the palm of your hand. Yet, they are growing and cutting meat that each piece would feed a family of four in a third world country. Heck, it would feed a family of four in OUR country.

And in our family of five, that would do it, because William is now a confirmed vegetarian. Recently, he was eating a chicken patty. We had the following conversation:

W: Is this chicken?
M: Yes.
W: What part of the chicken is it?
M: Well, they chop up all the parts to make the patty.
W: Was the chicken dead?
M: Yes, they killed it.
W: How did they kill it?
M: Likely the men in the factory cut off it's head, hung it upside down.....
W: Why did they kill it?
M: So you could eat it.
W: Do chickens have bones?
M: Yes.
W: So if you cut open a chicken, you could see the bones?
M: Yes, you could.

The chicken conversation continued for some time with William conceding that he WAS willing to eat chicken patties, but not chicken, because he didn't like eating animals. By now, all the visualization of the killing of chickens 'bout had me turning vegetarian, but don't you worry. The first smell of a good steak would shake my convictions.

You can see why we don't raise and kill our own chickens. It's hard enough to explain to him why the mom who will tend to most any hurt animal she finds, will set traps and kill mice in our house. Well, I'm going to go stare at the chicken in the oven again and see if I can get it to cook any faster. Maybe I can nuke it.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Did you know this week is de-lurking week? January 8-12

I'm sure most lurkers are just very busy, and though knowing how to comment, are often called at that moment of wanting to comment to wipe Johnny's, uh , nose, or maybe the dog is trying to eat the ham off the counter that you were going to fix for dinner. And, then you get sidetracked and forget to leave a comment and are unintentional lurkers.

For some readers, though I'm sure they're few, they not only don't know how to make a comment, but they also don't know what "lurking" means. It means reading in the shadows, being there unseen. So, who are you out there? I know from my stats you are reading!

Venn Diagrams

Math is intriguing to me because it all fits together so nicely. You don't have to have an opinion. It seems logical - until you apply it to real life. Remember those Venn Diagrams from sixth grade?

If you have three subsets of information on a given subject, the area where they overlap is an area where all three subsets have something in common.

Last week, I took the girls shopping for jeans or pants. One of my girls had but two pairs of pants in total. While shopping, I realized why.

Here is a Venn Diagram of my shopping experience:

Notice there is no overlap, no common area. Pair after pair was tried. Too much decoration, leg too straight, leg too flared, fits too high on hip, fits too low. Too tight in the bum, too tight in the leg, too loose in the waist. And sizes seem to have no meaning these days. A size 4 in one department can be too big, while a size 5 in another can be too small. It's enough to make me hate math! (Not really, but shopping......)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mirror Image Twins

Discussion of cow twins led Lauren to remember seeing a TV show in which "mirror image twins", human twins, were shown. Are there really mirror image twins, she asked? I've Googled it, and yes, there are, which fits in nicely with our Biology discussions of late:

What are mirror image twins?
Mirror image twins are identical twins that result when a fertilized egg splits later in the embryonic stage than usual, typically from day 9 to 12. Mirror image twins tend to exhibit characteristics with reversed asymmetry (e.g., one twin is left-handed and the other is right-handed). If this split happens much later than this, then the twins can be co-joined. A DNA-based zygosity test cannot determine is twins are mirror image twins.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tying It All Together

One reason I suppose I love homeschooling so much is that I have days like today. It wasn't a remarkable day in most respects. It was overcast, feeling colder because of a brisk wind. We tried going to an indoor playground so that William would play with his friend while the girls and I studied together. We didn't accomplish as much as I'd have liked.

So, you might be thinking, what did happen that renews my spirit? The feeling that the way we are conducting our learning ties together, follows interests and is natural in its progression. This is a welcome feeling, after feeling rather alarmed and down-trodden on Monday.

We'd attended the open house of a newly formed cottage school with "Classical Education" offerings. The speaker decried that even most educated people hadn't studied Homer, Socrates, Aristotle. Vaguely, I know who they are, but I'd never studied them despite my years of schooling. Anxiety easily grips the heart of traditionally schooled homeschool mom. Am I covering enough? Are they learning enough? Have I ruined them???

But this week, today in particular, made me feel better despite the fact that Flylady would cry in shame at her student. I'd just recently finished a book Lauren had asked me to read - Annie Between the States by L. M. Elliott - so that we could discuss it. Set in the Civil War, Lauren and I have discussed that the central issue in the war was states' rights, and only later, slavery. I marvelled that we still fight this same issue today - states' rights, something I hear about on National Public Radio or in the paper quite frequently: Does the central government or states have the right to legislate on issues such as abortion and gay marriage? Fortunately, this battle today is fought in courts and not on battle fields.

Speaking of battle fields, the main character of the book, Annie, had a great love for her horse, which she had to allow her brother to ride off to battle. Horses featured greatly in the Civil War. As avid horse lovers, we followed this thread to a DVD called Horses of Gettysburg: Civil War Minutes IV. So far, we've watched half an hour of this documentary about an estimated 72,000 horses and mules which served in the Civil War. Tonight, we learned that Kentucky in particular was noted for the strong, fine mules that it bred.

And speaking of mules, we were studying cellular reproduction in biology when I ran across an interesting item in a 4H publication, Horse Science. (I'd saved it for years, thinking some day, we might use it.) In it, it said that horses crossed with donkeys, producing either a mule or a hinny, are usually sterile. I'd heard this before, but never knew why. This booklet explains that "they have 63 chromosomes, with 32 from the horse and 31 from the donkey parent. the resulting chromosomes are not in pairs and the sex cells usually end up without a complete set. The unbalanced chromosome situation prevents functioning of the sex cells, resulting in sterility." So there you have it, from the horse's mouth!

Sterility. Lauren remembered hearing her relatives, who'd run a dairy farm, that if a cow gave birth to twins, one boy, one girl, that the heifer was often sterile. Why is that, she asked? So we are off on another path, finding answers, learning along the way, tying it all together.

Follow - Up
A heifer born with a male twin is called a free-martin, and they indeed are usually sterile. To learn more, read at that a female calf, twin to a male, is usually sterile, is no myth at the bottom of the page. If you Google it, you will see that, as one website puts it, it happens often enough to have a name.


Janet, a cyberspace friend, sent this to a list of which I am a member:
The speaker is Sir Ken Robinson author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, and a leading expert on innovation and human resources. (Recorded February, 2006 in Monterey, CA.)

It is 20 minutes long, funny and well worth our time. It left me wondering how I could go to this conference that is held every year in California. From the website:

Each year, TED hosts some of the world's most fascinating people: Trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. The talks they deliver have had had such a great impact, we thought they deserved a wider audience. So now - with our sponsor BMW and production partner WNYC/New York Public Radio we're sharing some of the most remarkable TED talks with the world at large. Each week, we'll release a new talk, in audio and video, to download or watch online. For best effect, plan to listen to at least three, start to finish. They have a cumulative effect... "

Happy Listening! (And thanks for the link, Janet!)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Start

It must have been a female mouse, for she underestimated the size of her hips. While replacing games on the shelf of a closet I was cleaning, trying to make room for and organize new toys, I noticed a dark shadow near the back. I got a light, and decided that it was dh's turn to take care of this one. A mouse had tried to squeeze through the bars of the shelving, and gotten stuck by the hips and died. This was a grotesque beginning to my effort to get organized.

As I took out toys and matched pieces, Wm. expressed joy as if with long lost friends. Running away with a handful, my organization spreading to chaos. I push on today, against monumental odds, tossing out the old, in with the new.

After a week away, it's enough to find my shoes in the morning. New school work to do, activites outside the home resuming. I want to pack myself with the now deflated Christmas stockings.

Outside the window, the sun shines and it promises to be almost spring-like. I vacillate between loving the mild winter and feeling terribly guilty because maybe it's because of global warming. Today, I think I'll give myself one day to just enjoy it.


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