Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nightmare in Cleveland

I rarely discuss current events, but I'm shaken and grieved by a school shooting yesterday in Cleveland, Ohio.  We live 3 hours south so are not near the school where it happened but it is in the same state so I feel like it is somewhat personal.

I am so grieved at the loss of 3 young lives, and the end of any kind of normal life for the 4th -- the shooter.  The lawyer of the suspect said he is horrified and scared.  Amazing and tragic that he could (if the reports are correct) kill 3 people without really having through through the repercussions.

We obviously live in a world where very sad, strange things happen.  How can it happen that a teenager boy would take a gun to school and end lives this way?  In some odd way, I do understand, though. I think desparing, depressed teens are not able to really think through their actions well, and when they are filled with anger they sometimes lash out  Often, they lash out at totally innocent victims.  They just have a desire to make someone pay.

 I am thankful that our children are safe from that particular scenario, a school shooting. Reports of that school say that when the shooting occurred, the children all went into "lock down" as they had been practicing drills for just such a scenario.  Obviously, Mondays events show that those drills were sensible.  But really, what kind of world is this where our young people have to have drills about how to deal with a random gunman?  It is sad that it is necessary.  Of course, things happen in places besides schools, but we've had far too many of these dreadful school shootings in recent years.

Of course, not everyone is led to homeschooling, not everyone can homeschool.  I pray for the sake of our children and teachers and society that we are able to recognize the young ones who are boiling with rage and ready to take lives.  I pray especially for all those hurt physically and emotionally by Monday's shooting. I pray especially for the families of those students who died or are badly hurt.  May God have mercy on them.  May God have mercy on us all.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Illness, More Chick News

I woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday morning feeling mighty peculiar, and by 4 a.m. I was throwing up. Yes, the Mighty Mama has fallen. I too contracted the hideous stomach virus.  I should know better than to get smug about not getting sick.  I've thought before, "I'm not getting this illness!  It must be my wonderful immunity!" and then gotten sick.

So yesterday, I was totally slammed.  I had a very unhappy stomach and was EXTREMELY tired. I don't even remember most of yesterday since I was sleeping through it.  I was extremely grateful that Kevin was home and able to run the household, as I wasn't capable of it.

As I lay miserably on the couch at 8 a.m., Naomi went in to check on the chicks and told me one was dead. And it was.  We are not sure what happened to it. Kevin spent quite a bit of time yesterday working on our "microclimate".  The chicks are extremely susceptible to drafts and temperature fluctuations. We have them in a room where the temps change a few degrees at night when the house gets colder.  Kevin added an electrical heater on a thermostat to that room so it was warmer last night.

There is a good chance there was something just "wrong" with that chick. The others seem fine, and keep growing madly.

Today I have not felt great but certainly  much better than yesterday.  It has been a hard day, but we've gotten through most of it.  The older 3 even did all their school -- with zero help from me.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More Chicks, Plus More Illness

First, let's talk about the chicks!

They are doing very well. We ordered 15 chicks but actually have 16...I suspect the company threw in an extra one in case one died in transit. But they are all alive, cheeping, and apparently healthy.

Today we gave them a little more room to roam. This was their box at the beginning of the day...

...and this is their box now. We put the cardboard pieces in to block off the corners when we first got them. Apparently baby chicks are so lacking in sense that they will sometimes get themselves in a corner away from the heat, and forget how to get back.  And die.  But our chicks have already grown in 2 short days, and they all seem mobile, and we thought it best to give them a little more room.  For one thing, this means when they are too hot that they can move to a cooler place with ease.  The temperature under the lamp is a toasty 95 degrees at the moment.  We will raise the lamp, and thus lower the temperature, in a few days.

In other news, Joseph succumbed to the infamous stomach virus that has been moving SLOWLY through our family. This is, apparently, the same illness that Sarah got 4 and a half long weeks ago.  Lately the children have been catching it with a 1 to 2 week gap.  Joseph woke up at 1:30 a.m. Friday  morning throwing up.  He was sick all day Friday, though the vomiting stopped by early morning and he was merely tired.

He was so tired, in fact, that...

he fell asleep on the couch. That is not an amazingly profound thing, but we have trained our kids to sleep in their beds so they RARELY fall asleep on the couch. It was cute and charming, though of course I wish he wasn't sick. He was much better today and though a little fatigued, was able to eat well.  So the question is, will Lydia be the lone holdout?  Or will she too get sick in a week?  Only time will tell...

I have a pretty bad cold, which is making it hard for me to sleep well.  So I'm a tired mama, but that's Ok.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Chicks Are Here!

   I woke up at 6:00 and came downstairs to read the Bible.  At 6:10 a.m., I noticed the phone light flashing though it didn't ring, as we have set it NOT to ring before 7 a.m.   How odd, I thought.

  And then the message light started flashing.  It was the post office, saying our chicks were there!  Wow, the postal workers start work EARLY!

  So I woke up my big girls to say where I was going, and ran off to the post office. By 6:35 a.m., we had our chicks!
Now true confessions, I've been pretty stressed out about these chicks.  Would they eat?  Would they drink?  Human infants (mine anyway) sometimes have a hard time with eating when first born.   I wondered how we would convince to 15 cheeping chicks to eat and drink.

  Ok, NOT a problem.  They have taken to eating and drinking like ducks to water.  And wow, are they CUTE!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's Our "New" Car!

   I'm so excited!  We are the proud new owners of a 2003 Honda Civic!

  Ok, I've always looked at people with "too many cars" with bemusement. Why would ANYONE have more cars than drivers!  They all have to be insured, right?  What a waste of money!

  Well, now we have 3 cars for 2 drivers.  So silly, BUT the other two cars are our minivan (which gets a little more than 20 mpg) and our 15 passenger van (which gets 15 mpg on a good day.)  The Honda should get in the mid 30's.

  So this is partially a gas issue.  Gas is expensive and may be getting more expensive.  Kevin drives the minivan to work.  With the new car, we should save a LOT of money in gas.

  But there is also the convenience issue. I feel very blessed to have the 15 passenger van because when we need to, we can all go somewhere. But it is a behometh.  I really don't like driving it that much, and when I am alone it positively bothers me because of the poor gas mileage.  Now I should have the minivan at home for quick trips.  Also, and this is BIG, our eldest is now old enough to stay home and care for some of the younger children while I run off briefly. So I can go to the library, say, in the minivan instead of hauling everyone to the library.

  The other big convenience is that if something goes wrong, we'll have a 3rd vehicle.  There may be a Murphy's Law thing going on here...our minivan is leaking oil and may need a trip to the auto repair shop soon...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Exploring Creation Through General Science

Ok, so sometimes I make changes in the middle of the school year.

Naomi was doing Apologia Botany for elementary students (Exploring Creation with Botany by Jeannie Fulbright) and said it was too young for her.  My mentor in Michigan concurred.  So I had her finish reading it, rapidly, and now she has started Exploring Creation with General Science.

I haven't read all that far in the book, but so far I like it.  The beginning discusses the history of science.  So far, the 3 experiments have been simple and mostly fun, though Naomi was irritated with the second one becuase she had no doubt about the outcome; that one involved putting food coloring in 2 jars, one with hot water and one with cold.  Of course the food coloring spread more rapidly in the hot water jar.

Experiment #1

I liked this one.  Naomi put water, corn syrup, and oil in a jar.  They separated into 3 very distinct layers with the syrup on the bottom, the water next, and the oil on top. Then she dropped a grape, a rock, an ice cube, and a cork into the jar.  The rock sank to the bottom, the grape sank until it was on top of the syrup, the ice cube sank until it was floating on top of the water layer, and the cork floated on the oil.  I've done density experiments before, but this one was more thorough than most.

Experiment #3

  Oh, I loved this one!  We put vinegar in the jar. We put baking soda in the balloon. We put the balloon over the jar's opening.  We jiggled the balloon until the baking soda fell into the vinegar.  Yes, this is the same wonderful reaction that we've used to make little volcanos, but it was very fun seeing where the carbon dioxide ended up.  It blew the balloon so full that both big girls were concerned it might pop.

  So, so far so good on this book.  I am looking forward to reading more of it (I hope slightly faster than Naomi) so we can discuss some of the scientific issues in detail.  One area of discussion is Old Earth/New Earth.  I'm leaning pretty heavily towards being an Old Earth creationist and Jay Wile is a New Earth creationist. Naomi is inclined towards New Earth creationism, but is still thinking it over.  I anticipate some fun discussions.  Science is fascinating and people of good intent and character sometimes interpret the data differently. One thing I am NOT is an evolutionist...I don't think the data supports macroevolution.  So we can all agree on that!

Commenting on Comments

Sheila, I think that rooster meat can be quite tough. Actually, older hens are tough too.  We butchered our last bunch of hens when they stopped laying, and the only way the meat was tasty was when I cooked it for a LONG time in the crockpot.

These fine fellows (our roosters) are fairly young and may be more tender than the previous batch of hens.  But we'll probably put them in the crockpot too.

This week, our meat chicks will arrive. They are a breed specifically designed to grow fast so they can be butchered between 8 and 11 weeks, and they will probably be a mix of males and females. 

Back to our roosters...we discovered our normal butchering place doesn't process chickens this time of year. So we are hoping to find another place soon. The Rhode Island Red rooster is now crowing a great deal and we are getting tired of him.

Naomi, I THINK it is Rhode Island Red.  I believe the breed was developed, or at least named after, Rhode Island state.  But we can make sure by doing an internet search on chickens. The internet can be a very useful tool in answering esoteric questions!

And She's OFF!!!

  Sarah is walking, funny toe and all!  She's very proud of herself, and rightfully so.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fine Looking FELLOW

It is official, we have a rooster in our midst.  Specifically, this fine looking fellow.  I stepped outside yesterday morning and heard very distinct crowing from the coop. "Cock-a-doodle doo!"

I told Naomi about it and she said she and Lydia heard the same crowing, and actually caught the bird in the act.  It is this Long Island Red.

So, he is probably not long for this world. We don't need a rooster and don't want a rooster.  Maybe when the meat chicks grow up (they are supposed to arrive in a week) we'll ship this rooster off with them to the butcher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Escape!

We had our first chicken escape of the year yesterday.  Lydia didn't latch the coop really well and the door swung open. Kevin was leaving for work when he looked over and saw chickens scattered to the four winds.  Well, it wasn't that bad. They didn't wander too far from the coop but they WERE excited about being free, briefly.

  Naomi, Lydia, and Isaac ran out and quickly captured all the chickens. BUT, Ms. Guinea Fowl was not happy about being captured, so she flew into the unused part of the chicken yard.  She can fly a little, while the hens cannot.
  That part of the chicken yard is currently blocked off. There was no way for us to get in without taking down part of the fencing.

  She spent the day outside.  Occasionally she would hop up onto the coop roof, and once or twice she went into another part of the chicken yard -- but that wasn't accessible either.  I was rather concerned about her as she was cut off from the food and water and it was quite chilly.  There was snow on the ground and some grass seed so she got some moisture and food.

  As the day drew to a close, she jumped out into the area near the accessible door.  The chickens were all roosting, so Naomi and Lydia went outside and ushered her back into the coop.  Ah, a good end to an adventure!

  Interestingly, the chickens had a terrible egg day. We only got 2 eggs, both green (so from Auracanas.)  They never lay as well when they have a disrupted day and I think the combination of the escape, plus losing the guinea hen, affected them. The guinea is the top bird in the pecking order, and she keeps things in order.  I think her loss made them unsettled.

We're hoping for a really good egg day today.  Naomi went out a few minutes ago and 3 chickens were in nesting boxes.

25+ weeks

I thought you might like a picture of me at 25+ weeks gestation...

I know I look kind of small at this point.  I usually do, and I like wearing floppy, comfortable clothes!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This Week in Pictures

   Miriam got sick.  Very sick. Throwing up sick.  Throwing up NINE times sick.  Poor dear.  Naomi, Isaac, and Sarah had a throwing up illness more than 2 weeks ago. Is this the same one?  Or a different one?  How many more people will succumb?  Enquiring moms want to know!

    We also finally got some snow and cold. It has been an exceptionally mild winter so far.  We only got an inch or two this weekend, but temps dropped into the teens.  I sent the older 4 outside (at their request) and while it was VERY cold, they enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

  She's cute, but she's blotchy.  I'm stressing out a bit over Sarah and food again.  Yesterday she apparently broke out again on her face to food that should be OK in that it had no peanuts, milk, or chocolate.  I think there IS something else. She isn't having breathing issues and if they are hives, they are subtle. But this morning, her eczema was worse than it has been.  I wonder if some Corn Chex she's been gobbling have some hidden ingredient. Maybe she is allergic to some preservative?  I will keep working to isolate the problem food(s).

  In other news, Sarah is almost 15 months old and still not walking a lot. She has walked 10 or 12 steps but her balance isn't perfected yet.  She prefers to scoot when she is in a hurry. She does cruise everywhere and stands from a sitting position without help (sometimes.)  It MAY be that her "funny toe" is affecting her walking a bit.  You can see the blurry picture above -- it hard to get her to stand still long to get a good picture.  We have an appointment next month with an orthopedic surgeon who has already looked at her toe 3 times.  He says she has a bone spur that is causing the toe to bend like that, and the spur should be removed sometime.  The initial thought was soon, but we have to decide whether we want to tackle a surgery, even a minor one, when I am 7 months pregnant.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Go Chickens!

I've been whining about our chickens and how they've not been producing many eggs.

Yesterday, they laid NINE eggs.  We'll see if that is just a fluke, but it is definitely encouraging!

We have 16 chickens but suspect 2 or 3 may be roosters.  We're not positive.  They look like roosters, but the difference between male and female chickens is somewhat subtle and we are amateurs at figuring out chicken genders.

So at least 9 of those chickens are laying.

Go chickens!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chick Date

Our meat chicks are scheduled to be shipped out (in a box) on February 22nd.

We live fairly close to a distribution hub, so we should be getting our chicks on February 23rd.

Kevin has already purchased most of the needed items.  Our plan is to raise them for 7 or 8 weeks on good food and then have them butchered.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thinking about High School

I'm sntaching some time these days to read homeschooling books that focus on, or at least mention, homeschooling high school.

First of all, we are planning to do so. I know many families choose to send their kids to a public or private school during high school.  It is obviously an option and the best one for some families.  For us, homeschooling has been a call and unless we hear differently, we are homeschooling them all the way until graduation.

It is intimating, though.  Kevin and I both have PhD's in engineering, so I'm not too worried about the actual subject matter. I can teach a lot of things and I'm confident we can figure out those areas that we don't have much experience in.  (Though I do wonder about foreign language...not sure how we will tackle that.)

I will need to get more organized about designing courses, making sure we write descriptions down, etc.  Because we do want the children to be ABLE to go to college if the Lord leads in that direction.  I'm also pondering how we will go about pursuing high school. I want the children to be able to learn according to their bent, according to their passions.  We'll need to be diligent to pray and talk about what they do find fascinating, and make opportunities for them to learn what they want and need to know.

I think my biggest stressor right now is that as the kids get older, they will probably need more time outside the home. That has always been a hard thing for us as for the last 12 years, we've had little people in the home.  And with Baby #8 on the way, that will not change soon. It is hard to keep the house organized, care for everyone, teach everyone, make sure little ones have naps and nursing sessions -- and be out and about much. Some moms find it far easier than I do, so it is partially personality.

I keep praying for wisdom. God will make a way. 

Chick Alert!

We think we are going to buy some chicks and raise them!

The current thought is to buy meat chicks, care for them for about 7 weeks, then have them butchered to fill our freezer.

We were originally thinking we'd buy laying chicks.  The current batch of chickens has been, as I've said repeatedly, UNSATISFACTORY.  But the current batch keep tantalizing us by laying more.  2 of the last 3 days we got 5 eggs.  So maybe, just maybe, they will recover and lay well -- in which case it would be a pity to raise new chickens.  I mean, new laying hens would be Ok, but we couldn't keep the current batch PLUS 20 more.  There isn't enough room in the coop.  So the current group would have to be butchered.

We're still pondering exactly what we'll do.  Stay tuned...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Funny Sarah

Sarah is 14 months old.

She sleeps very well.  I usually put her to bed around 7:15 p.m., and get her up at 7:30 a.m. She is often asleep at 7:30 so it isn't like I'm just leaving her there!  She also takes at least a 2 hour nap.

Feeding her continues to be challenging but she is eating more foods by hand. 

She isn't walking yet though cruises everywhere.

Ok, let's talk about talking...

She talks quite a bit for her age...

If someone says, "Sarah, what is 1 + 1?" she'll usually say, "2!"  (No, she is not a genius.  She was trained by her sibs to say that.)
Thank you.
Your welcome.

Now, look over that list.  Do you see...that something is missing?

Like, "MAMA!"  Yes, this kid has NEVER EVER said "mama" in her entire life!

In fact, if I try to prompt her, our conversation usually goes like this:

Me:  "Sarah, can you say 'mama'?"
Sarah:  "Da-Da!"

Seriously, this kid seems to think that I'm Da-Da!  And Kevin is Da-Da too.  I guess parental figures are "Da-Da".

Or she is teasing me.  She does have a silly grin on her face when she says it.

P.S.  My two older girls claim that she HAS said, "Mama".  Ok, maybe?  I sure haven't heard it, and I've been listening!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are You a ... Rooster??

Ok, a quick review of our chicken experiences.

We bought 16 chickens from a local homeschool family a few years ago.  They settled in beautifully and were laying at least a dozen eggs a day within a week of our getting them.  3 weeks after they arrived, a determined neighbor dog broke into their chicken yard and killed every last one of them. (I am not a dog lover, and I was less of a dog lover after that incident!)

Kevin kindly ran out and bought some 10 week old pullets the very day of the Great Chicken Massacre.  They didn't lay for a while, but grew up and became wonderful producers. We bought 20, 1 died of natural causes, and the others laid eggs until last fall.

Well, at that point the egg production started dropping.  Our chickens were getting old and since winter was approaching, we suspected their winter production would be poor. So we packed them off to the butcher and soon they were dinner.  (Obviously, we don't allow for much sentimentality here about the chickens. They are not pets.)

For a while, the chicken coop stood empty. But we started yearning for chickens, and found a fairly local seller who had a bunch of breeds and types. So last fall, we bought 24 chickens from him. (We still had our guinea hen from the previous batch.  She had been quite lonely, poor thing.)

All seemed well for a few days. But the new chickens were sick.  Very sick. 

Bluntly, they've been a disappointment.  4 months later we are still getting a MAXIMUM of 5 eggs a day (and that is just once.)  We have 16 or 17 chickens left, as many died of the illness.

Our latest question is whether 2 of the "hens" are actually roosters.  Now, that's not a huge deal and indeed we think it is quite funny.  But really, we think we have a couple of roosters.  Now they are NOT crowing like roosters are supposed to.  But they sure LOOK like roosters.  They are bigger and have different looking tail feathers than the others.  Kevin saw one ... well, it was behaving in a way that lends oneself to think it is a rooster. But maybe it was a hen being dominant. 

Anyhoo, the amusing chicken disaster continues.  I mean, it doesn't matter THAT much, but it is humorous that we may have spent good money on 2 useless roosters.  (Ok, I realize roosters have their place but we don't want broody chickens hatching out eggs, so we don't need roosters.)

We are contemplating starting some chicks this spring. We'll see.  And I keep hoping maybe our chickens will pick up the pace and really start laying eggs.  But if we indeed have roosters than we have a maximum of 14 that can lay.