Thursday, May 30, 2013

And Then There Were Eight

It has been a sad week on the chicken front.

We bought 21 chickens a few weeks before Daniel was born.  We lost 4 chickens in the last year, 1 to unknown illness, 3 to a predator. So, 17 were left and were laying well and generally making us happy.

3 days ago, we found a dead chicken in the yard, partially eaten.  So, predator!  Kevin strengthened the fencing.

2 days ago, Naomi went out to feed the chickens and found EIGHT dead chickens in our yard.  Obviously, the predator was totally unimpressed with the reinforced fencing.

EIGHT!  Well, NINE, since we lost one the day before.  Nine of our beautiful chickens wiped out in 2 short days.  The sadness, the sadness!  And we were pretty mad too.  It is one thing when a predator kills to eat, but this predator just KILLED.  Well, 3 were partially eaten, but apparently it was killing just for the sheer pleasure of killing.  Or, as Naomi said, maybe it hoped to come back and eat the dead ones later?  That is a possibility.

Of course, the predator was just acting naturally, but it was still distressing and upsetting.

Kevin has a friend at work with a humane trap, and he lent it to us.  Kevin suspected a raccoon, and this friend said raccoons love fried chicken.

So the trap was baited with fried chicken bones and sure enough, yesterday morning we had caught...a raccoon!  Not a skunk.  Thank you, Lord. A skunk would have been...complicated.

So we were happy. Predator gone.  (And for those who are wondering, we shot the raccoon.  It is officially a nuisance animal and we weren't going to relocate it so it could attack someone else's chickens.)

Several people suggested we rebait the trap last night in case there was another one.  That seemed unlikely to me but, why not?

I wandered outside this morning and saw...

another raccoon!  Ok, that was good advice. The Great Chicken Slaughter makes more sense now.  There were at LEAST 2 involved.  We'll bait it again tonight, probably.

So we're gradually making the world safer for our chickens. And yes, the raccoon is cute, and yes, it is a little sad that it has to die, but we are killing this one too.  We're going to protect our sweet, innocent, stupid chickens.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Pool Is Not Open...But It Will Be Soon

We are blessed to have a big inground pool, 40 feet by 20 feet.

This spring we had quite a bit of water, and this is the glorious view of the pool as of 2 days ago.

Yuck!  There is a pool cover over the pool and PRESUMABLY, the water UNDER the cover is crystal clear and beautiful. We've not seen it yet.  But the water ON the cover...oh, green!  Green and...

full of tadpoles!

Yes, we have a (loud) frog out back who apparently decided the pool was a great place to lay her eggs.

So Sunday afternoon we had an impromptu science lesson.  At least one tadpole was already metamorphosing and had legs.

Then Kevin drained the green water.  I presume the tadpoles didn't survive that, though the area where the water was drained is probably still quite wet.  We also got a lot of rain yesterday so ... maybe...there are happy tadpoles out in the back yard.

Kevin hopes to get the cover off in the next couple of days.  Maybe by next week we'll be swimming in (cold) water.  (I should say, the kids may be swimming in cold water.  I'm a total wimp and want warm water before I swim.)

Good Investment

Our play equipment was expensive but we have gotten every penny's worth back.  The children spend so much time on it.  I'm thankful our children enjoy being outside playing so much.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Random Mutterings

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the robin's nest fell to something, probably one of our cats.  We found the nest on another branch (a lower branch) and the eggs were broken on the ground.

Kevin and I watched Batman Begins a couple of days ago.  I quite liked it.  Most of the "good guys" were genuinely good.  There were some interesting moral questions with some good answers.  It was quite violent, so the children aren't ready for it yet.  I'm a big fan of Focus on the Family's website where they provide extensive reviews of movies.  The next 2 Batman movies are apparently much grimmer and I'm extremely sensitive to unpleasant movies, so I don't think I'll be watching them.

We were really busy this week after our week in Orlando.  Those few days of lazing around were nice, though I missed the kids LIKE CRAZY by the time we got back.  I am aware that 8 children are a lot of work, especially the little ones.  Actually, I'd be really exhausted if we didn't have older kids to help.  I've been following a blog of parents with quintuplets (and one older son) and wow, that sounds so tiring!

The 2 older girls are starting a "careers" unit.  They will be investigating various careers, and looking into what jobs are available, what training is required, etc.  One career both will study is being a mother.  There is a lot to being a mother, definitely!  It'll be fun exploring that with the girls. 

Daniel is 1 year old this week!  Wow, our baby is growing up.

I started potty training Sarah this week.  She hasn't really "taken" to it so I may quit and try again in a month or so. I really think she could be trained, but she is very negative and argumentative right now and I don't have the time to keep incredibly close track of her.  She at least has the idea of sitting on the potty and has used it a few times, so that is a step in the right direction.  She also made numerous puddles on the floor, but at least it was always an area that could be cleaned up easily :-).

Weather has been hot, but we are in the middle of a cooler spell. I've been weeding our front flower bed and am proud at how much better it looks.

Kevin hopes to plant tomatoes and sweet potatoes this weekend.

Happy Memorial Day to you all!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Robin's Nest

We have only one large tree near our house, and Lydia spotted a robin's nest in it yesterday!  When she saw it the first time, she climbed (carefully) up and found one blue egg. Today there were 2 blue eggs, so obviously Mama Robin is still laying eggs.

The good news is that the nest seems sturdy and is built carefully at the fork of 3 branches.

The bad news is that we have 6 outdoor cats and some of them climb that tree on occasion.  Usually it is only when they are running from a dog, so we'll hope for the best that they don't go up the tree in the next month. 

In the meantime, it is exciting to have a nest in our tree and we'll pray all goes well with the babies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Daniel and his Glasses

  Really now, isn't he just cuteness personified?

 So that's the good news, he's very cute. Bad news is he doesn't like his glasses at all.  So far it has been a battle to get them on him for 5 minutes.

We've been through this before with Sarah, so I'm mellow. The opthalmologist has no expectation that he'll wear them all the time.  If we can get him used to a couple of hours a day, that will give his eyes SOME time when he is focusing correctly.  That should ward off problems with his eyes crossing and amblyopia.

  So, let the battle begin. The battle to convince Daniel to leave his glasses on for more than 5 seconds.  The battle to FIND the glasses when he hurls them indignantly under a couch or behind a chair.

 Lord, grant us patience :-). And Lord, thank you for opthalmologists, and money enough to pay for vision insurance so we can care well for our little man's eyes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Back from Orlando!

I know I've been super quiet.  That's because we were ON VACATION!

8 days ago, Kevin and I took our kids to visit my parents for more than a week!  That was an adventurous day. We woke up, loaded the kids and all their paraphernalia up, then discovered a baby skunk in our coop.  Um, not good.  Well, Kevin removed it to a better spot in the back yard, and we drove to Michigan.  We spent a few hours there with my parents and my brother getting the kids settled in, then drove back.  Kevin found 5 more baby skunks wandering around the coop or outside the coop.  Our best guess is that a mama skunk settled in under our shed (right next to the coop) and then died.  The baby skunks then started wandering about.  K. took them into our back 3 acres but...we're sure they all died.  They were too small to make it on their own. Kind of sad, but we really don't need a herd (pod?  pack?) of skunks settling into our area.  Skunks love both chickens and eggs.

6 days ago, Kevin and I flew to Orlando to celebrate our 15th anniversary, just the two of us.  Wow, what a treat!  We adore our kids and they are such a blessing, but they do take much energy and time (especially the babies).  For us to have days of peaceful talking and adventurous visits was terrific.

I don't have time to post a ton of pictures, but here are just a few highlights of our week in Orlando.

Mother's Day we went to the Leu Gardens.  This is a 50 acre botanical garden with a host of exotic and beautiful plants.  It was awesome.  We particularly enjoyed the desert section.  It is odd to think of a desert garden in Orlando (which gets lots of rain) but they use well drained soil and sure enough, there were cacti and other low moisture plants. 

The next day we went to Gatorland.  Another awesome place.  There are, of course, alligators.  There are also crocs, emus, pythons, weird Floridian cattle, and a large variety of birds.  Oh, it was fun.

Pretty birds.

We carefully timed our visit to Disney's Epcot.  There are online calendars suggesting days that will be less busy.  Wednesday was supposed to be good, and indeed it was. There were an incredible number of people there, but its a big place.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the buildings for different nations. We liked our boat tours through Mexico, Norway, and a gardening building.  Spaceship Earth was neat.  We liked the Chinese acrobats and the Japanese drummers.  Epcot is painfully expensive and we wouldn't want to go often, but we had a lovely day together so it was worth it.  (For the 2 of us.  We can't wrap our minds around paying for the entire family to go. )

We stayed 'til almost closing time (9 p.m.) and watched the 9 p.m. fireworks from the parking lot.  Thus ended a tiring but good day.

Last night we flew home.  A man dropped over from a heart attack (or some other terrible problem) while we were waiting for our baggage.  It was scary and unsettling.  We don't know if he lived or not.  Paramedics were on the scene in a very few minutes, and an ambulance arrived soon afterwards.

Today we drove halfway to my parents, met them and the kids at a Wendy's, ate together, then brought everyone home.  We had a nice vacation, but are very glad to be all under our own roof again.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rejoicing With Those Who Rejoice, Mourning With Those Who Mourn

I heard a great piece of news yesterday.  Kevin and I have a friend from our Michigan days who attended the same church as ours.  We've not kept in contact much, but Kevin is a Facebook friend with our friend.

3 years ago, this friend and his wife lost their first child at 27 weeks gestation.  They were serving as missionaries in a moderately primitive area, and the mom had a crisis and the baby was born very early. She only lived 2 hours.

A few days ago, their 2nd child was born healthy and hearty.  How we praise God for this precious gift of another little girl. They will never forget their sweet Esther, but now rejoice in taking Rebekah home with them.

A few days ago, another friend wrote on her Caring Bridge blog that her husband has chosen to stop cancer treatments.  He has been battling a virulent, malignant cancer of the mouth and the time has come for him to go home to Jesus.  That's barring a miracle, of course.  The Lord can heal and may choose to, but barring intervention, M. is going to die.

I'm removed from both situations by distance and we're not close to either friend.  So all we can do is write encouraging messages.  I was thinking, though, that the Lord calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.  It is is hard to be a comfort to those who mourn. Sometimes we can do nothing more than assure others of our love and prayers.  But it helps so much when friends don't pull away in crisis.  I am thankful to read that many family members and friends are visiting and encouraging this couple.

So today, my prayers are with S. and A., parents to Rebekah, and with M. and M., waiting for a separation as M. slips over the threshold and is carried to Heaven.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Snakes and Frogs and Leeches, OH MY!

Kevin and I took the children to visit my parents yesterday.  My parents have a (thankfully) large home and a STREAM out back.  Most of us headed out back and enjoyed throwing sticks into the stream and, after a while, 5 out of the 6 older kids went wading.

We observed a charming, green frog near the edge of the stream. He was quite big!

Lydia was still up on land when she observed a snake.  I wasn't there, but Kevin tells me she said, "Look, a SNAKE!"  And promptly grabbed its tail!!  Kevin yelled, "Lydia, no!"  He didn't know what kind of snake it was, and grabbing a random reptile seemed like a dangerous idea :-).

But as he said, we are rather proud of our intrepid girl who is calm about snakes and frogs. Actually, this is the same child who picked up a wild mouse many years ago and got bitten by it.

Our last encounter with the local fauna was in the form of leeches.   Naomi, Lydia, and Joseph came inside after wading for a time, and casually said they had pulled a number of leeches off of them.  I was freaking out about it and they just looked at me with this, "What's the deal, Mom?" expression on their faces.   Oh, I love my brave kids.  Leeches, so what? 

They had a great time. We actually left the kids at my folks for a few days and came home, so the house seems VERY quiet.  I will miss my sweeties, I DO miss my sweeties, but Kevin and I are going to get some one on one time and that is a great thing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eye Updates

For those coming into the blog late, let me back up a bit.  2 years ago, a casual, quick vision test at home revealed that Isaac, now 10 year old, could hardly see anything in his left eye.  We quickly arranged an eye test and we found he had amblyopia. This is a condition where a child has an eye that isn't seeing well, and at some point the brain decides that the data from that eye isn't worth collecting so it stops using the eye.

So Isaac had perfect vision in his right eye, and his left eye was terrible, about 20/200 on the chart.

We saw 2 opthalmologists and settled quickly on a female doctor who works 30 minutes from us. That's a long way, but we really clicked with her so we started seeing her.

At the age of 8, the prognosis was not good for Isaac.  By that time, it was possible we had gone too long for his left eye to improve much, even with treatment.  But we prayed, he got glasses with a strong lens to help his weak eye, and he started PATCHING.

Patching meant that for 8 hours a day, Isaac covered his good eye to force his bad eye to work.  Now, that obviously doesn't sound like a ton of fun because he was forced to do everything with his nearly blind eye.  It would be like going from perfect vision (because the good eye is really good) to being partially blind 8 hours a day.

Anyone who knows our son Isaac will know that he is not the most compliant child in the world. He is strong willed, wonderful, and...sometimes difficult. I was really dreading how patching would go as some kids strongly resist, pull off the patch, and basically don't cooperate.

Well, it went like a dream.  I think he was the world's best amblyopia patient.  He quickly learned to put on his own patch every morning, and he even kept track of exactly how long he needed to wear it. (Wearing the patch 24 hours would be bad as then his GOOD eye might deteriorate.)

And he improved very rapidly.  Over the course of 18 months or so, his bad eye improved from 20/200 to about 20/40 (with glasses.)  That was it, he didn't get any better, but we were very happy to achieve that!

One other big improvement was in his depth perception. When he was first diagnosed, he had a depth perception of zero.  With one blind eye, he wasn't getting 2 slightly different views of the world so he lost all depth perception. Over 18 months of patching, he improved dramatically with his depth perception.  The test they use involves looking at circles with 4 dots at 90 degree intervals on each circle.  On each circle, one dot is out of the page a bit (using a hologram method or something).  The first circle is easy to see, but numbers 7, 8, and 9 are pretty hard to see.  By the end of patching, he was able to detect the 3-D aspect of 1 through 6.

On Monday, we went to the opthalmologist to see how his left eye was holding up as we've not done patching for 6 months.  To the doctor's surprise, and mine, Isaac saw ALL NINE of the raised dots in the depth perception test.  As she said, "How did he DO that."  We are so pleased!  And his left eye is holding steady.

Angela, who is far sighted, maintained a stable prescription so that is good news.

I made a somewhat emergency appointment for Daniel and the doctor checked him as well.  Sarah, our 2 year old, is very farsighted and has been in glasses since she was 10 months old.  I noticed that Daniel is crossing his eyes at times, which I know from my experience with Sarah is a bad sign. The doctor confirmed that our little man is not focusing well and yes, needs to be in glasses.  That's kind of a pain because babies don't like glasses, and he is going to chew on them, throw them, etc.  We'll be hunting for glasses frequently.  But we need to give him at least a few hours a day with good vision to decrease the risk of amblyopia and eye crossing.  And I'm thankfu we caught it, and have vision insurance for glasses.