Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goodbye to Play Pals!

Ivey had her last day of school last week, although she has no idea what that means!  She had a great day playing in the water and eating her favorite food of all time... pizza.  We had a great year in Ms. Laura's class, and I look forward to another great year in the older 2's class beginning in the fall!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Already 8!

I can't believe it, but my little boys aren't so little anymore.  It seems that eight entire years have blazed past us, leaving me with two bright, unique, amazing little men in the making.  Eight.  We are half way to driving... and time does nothing but speed up along the way.  On this very happy birthday, I have a birthday wish of my own.  A birthday goal, a promise.  More time.  With all of the craziness and the diapers and the chaos, I will slow down and give more hugs to my big boys.  Slow down and play.  I'm not sure how to make this happen, but it has to.  Time is just too short and these amazing children are just too precious not to soak in every moment while I have the chance.

Happy birthday, boys!  I love you with all of my heart!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Test Taking

Today was the last day of standardized testing!  Although they don't actually have to take a standardized test until 3rd grade, I went ahead and signed them up for the Stanford Test this year.  I wanted them to have practice taking tests, and get an idea of how they fall in a Nationwide test.  So, yesterday and today I picked up Anna and took the three of them to a church in Newnan where they, and 70 or so other homeschoolers, sat with their freshly sharpened pencils and scratch paper.  They were in a classroom with around 15 second graders, with our three sitting together at their own table.  Asa and Anna started out nervous, but as soon as I picked them up from their first day, they all agrees that it was not as bad as they thought it would be.  It will be a couple months before we receive the results, but so far I can already tell that it was money and effort well spent!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do you control fear? If you're Addison, info helps.

"Do you get really sick or anything when a bee stings you, or does it just hurt?"

"It just hurts.  Some kinds of bees or wasps hurt more than others."

"But they don't make you sick?"


"Oh.  Then, I won't be so scared of them. I thought you'd get sick or die or something.  If it just hurts, that would be okay.  I don't want to get bitten, though.  Actually, then it's really not that bad if a baby or little kid is stung, they wouldn't even remember it."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What I Love.

-I love hearing, "I want to hold you."  (uness it's said in a whine!)
-I love that a "warm cup" means a cup of warm milk.  Each morning she "needs a warm cup".
-I love that when she realizes you are mad that she has done something, her response is, "I need you to be happy for me."
-I love when she sits at the breakfast table and says, "I need a calzone."
-I love that she adds the word "anymore" to any sentence to add more drama. She always speaks it in a very deliberate, enunciated, Queen of England type way.  For example, "I don't like dinner, anymore!" or "I don't like to play, anymore!"
-I love that tomato soup is tornado soup.
-I love that Snow White is "The White One".
-I love that Monsters Inc is called, "Mosters and Wink".
-I love that, even without an "I love you" from me, she says to me, "I love you, too, Mommy".
-I love her funny use of "why not", that always baffles me to silence.  For example, Me:  "We have to go to the store."  Ivey:  "Why not?" 
-I love that she says "I want to go home", even when we are home.  It means, "I want to get in the car and go somewhere."
-I love that she sings in the car, loudly, as if we cannot hear her.
-I love how she inserts Olive's name into songs, like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Olive."

-I love the fact that he explained to me 75 times how the Easter Bunny saved us money.
-I love how he is always letting me know when Olive or Ivey might be getting too close to something that may be considered a danger.  Including birthday candles.  On their own cake.
-I love how if I ask if he would like to play a sport, go to a restraunt, eat ice cream, etc., I can count on the fact that he will ask me about the cost in order to weigh it into his decision.
-I love that he can tell me how many pages are in the Hobbit.  And that I've heard it so many times I can remember (317).
-I love that, out of the blue, he will inform me of how many seconds are in 4 hours, or how many feet are in 2.5 miles, or explain to me the long and drawn out way that he can calculate 90 x 617 in his head.  I don't love it as much when it's 6:45am.
-I love that he usually does not ask to do something without explaining to me the educational value of it.
-I love that I cannot tell him "no" or "that is not correct" without him insisting on apologizing for asking or doing it wrong.
-I love that I cannot talk about running errands or starting school at 11:30 without him vocalizing his worry about it interfering with his farm chores.
-I love his concern with if we are using the most affordable insurance company, if the coupons in the magazine he found under the couch are expired, and if we can send in to the drawing on the back of the cereal box.
-I love that he wakes up at 6:30, even though no one else is up until 7:30 or 8:00.
-I love how he takes to the yard, with his Star Wars guns in hand, to battle imaginary foes for hours on end.
-I love how he uses military terms in everyday conversations, such as, "Olive is so ticklish under her chin!"  "It's a good thing it is heavily protected by her enormous head."

-I love how, whenever something even slightly surprising happens, he responds with a very comical "What?!"
-I love that he lights up when he hears the words "danger" or "destruction".
-I love how he delights in humor.  With a simple pun, I am the funniest mommy in the world.
-I love how his favorite shows are on Food Network and The Discovery Channel.
-I love how he cracks eggs perfectly, pretty much every time.
-I love the energy he has when he is excited about something (but not necessarily his inability to stop asking about it over and over again!)
-I love his transparency.  If he feels it, you see it.
-His heart:  I love the fact that if I get hurt, he is the first one (usually the only one) to run and give me a hug.
-I love that he is protective of me... even telling Daddy that he needs to be nicer!
-I love how he leaves Thank You notes for Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.
-I love his green thumb, and the fact that when we go to the store, his biggest treat is if I let him pick out some vegetable seeds.
-I love that he cannot see a machine, building, or contraption without trying to figure out how its made, and if he can make one himself.
-I love that I have no idea how on Earth he makes the Lego creations that he does... and that I am totally incapable of helping him fix one when it breaks.

-I love how she scrunches her nose and smiles with all her might.
-I love how she picks up her blanket and asks to go to bed by putting her head on my shoulder.
-I love how she cannot see someone lying on the floor without flopping down on them.
-I love how she says "More" and "Down" so delibrerately, and how proud she gets when she does.
-I love that, every time we go in the yard, she sprints straight for the goats and chickens.
-I love how she does not fear the vacuum, power tools, the garbage disposal, or pretty much anything at all.
-I love how she plays peek-a-boo by covering up her ears.
-I love her strong will, her snuggly nature, and her desire to be the class clown.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Sugarplum Tree

Asa, Addison, and Anna worked on memorizing the poem, "The Sugarplum Tree" a month ago.  After illustrating it and reciting it for me, I finally put it all together.  Great job, kids!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homemade Rooster. From Scratch.

Some days start out with a plan, and those days at least resemble the idea that you had in your mind when you began them.  Some, the plans just fall through or get rearranged.  That leaves a small amount that fall in the last category.  Those days where you begin them as all other days, you have a plan and a general idea of your goings on, and then, all of the sudden, your day has been plucked up and plopped down in the middle of a crazed t.v. show, or an impossible cartoon, or outer space, or you just find yourself somehow, through a series of haphazard events, in a situation that you could have never imagined when you were brushing your teeth that morning.  Today, was one of the latter.

A few days ago, we bought 10 more hens and a rooster.  We needed a rooster to keep our ratio up.  Well, the Rhode Island Red that came to live with us was... borderline evil.  He never attacked us, but he was already pretty beaten up when he came here.  When introduced to another (larger) rooster, this guy went completely out of his mind- hungry for blood.  We;ve had roosters fight.  It's normal.  They fight, assume dominance, and then find a way to get along.  Not with Mr.  Rhode Island Red.  On more than one occasion I had to go save our other rooster from being innahilated.  Poor Andre would have his head shoved into a corner while Mr. Red was on his back, pecking and gnawling to blood.  I have no doubt in my mind that this rooster would kill any other roosters in his path.  We put him in a cage and fed him daily.  Not an ideal situation at all.

The other day, I was outside feeding this guy and complaining about his inability to get along with others when Asa looked up and said, "Well, let's eat 'em!"  I laughed.  But, Asa was serious.  He and Addison both agreed that something had to be done with this rooster.  I suggested letting him out of the fence so he could wander around and fend for himself.  Addison decided there were three options, kill him and eat him, kill him and sell him for someone else to eat, or just sell him.  Asa only had one option.  Dinner.

The rooster had gotten out of his cage and was terrorizing the chicken yard.  While Olive napped, the three of us ran around, sprinted around, the yard trying to catch him.  We tried to corner him, we tried to pounce on him, we tried to run him back into his cage.  At one point, the boys each had big limbs out of the burn pile and were waving them around on each side of themselves to try to help corral the ridiculous bird.  Finally, we got him into the cage.  Just in time to get Ivey from preschool.

I had talked to the boys a lot about how home raised meats are so much healthier for you than the bagged stuff you buy at the grocery store.  They know all of this.  On this day, they were trying to get me to take it to the next level.  As we left the house to pick up Ivey from preschool, I thought about the idea of doing this task.  I didn't know if I could, but I did know that it would be a great lesson in self-sustainability and in the importance of knowing where your food comes from.  Still, I didn't know if I could actually do it.

After we returned home and got Ivey down for a nap, we put Olive in her outdoor play yard and the three of us tried to make a decision.  I kept saying, "Boys, do you think we can do this?".  I said it so many times that Asa grew exasperated with me.  "Why do you keep saying that???  We can do it!!"  The decision was made.  We were going to actually kill this rooster, pluck it, gut it, and put it in a pot.  "Can we really do this?"

I found a traffic cone in the barn, widened the tip of it, and hung it in a tree.  I started a huge pot of boiling water on the outdoor gas range.  I took some rope, and the boys and I went to retrieve the villan.  Again, he bolted out of the cage.  We sprinted and dodged.  We ran and yelled and waved our arms.  We squatted.  We bolted.  At one point, I yelled to Addison, "This is P.E.!".  He yelled back, "This is FUN!".  Finally he was caught.  I think the racing around actually helped set the stage for the task at hand.  By the time we caught him, again, we were ready to kill him.  I just had to convince Addison that we couldn't "stone him to death" or shoot him.

I held the rooster by his feet.  As he hung upside down, he completely gave up any attempt to move.  The boys asked me how I had killed him already.  He did seem dead.  We decided that he knew that he was destined for the pot.  He is a chicken, afterall.  And, not a good one at that.  He never made a noise, never wiggled, he just knew he needed to be soup.  Before we got to any business, we thanked God for giving us the rooster to eat.  I think this was an important thing to do... It felt right.  Plus, I saw it in movies.

We placed the rooster into the upside down traffic cone until his head popped out the end.  Of course, I am an amateur at this killing cone business.  I had to widen the hole twice.  Finally, the head came out the end.  The boys and I had watched a YouTube clip of a man use this killing cone technique and chop off the chicken's head quite easily with hedge clippers.  I had hedge clippers, and an upside down rooster in a traffic cone... this should work!  With the boys standing behind me chanting things like "We eat chicken nuggets every day!" and "Just do it!", I finally snapped the clippers as hard as I could.  But, not hard enough.

It seems my ill prepared rooster killing left me with some fairly dull instruments of destruction.  I had to try again, and again, and again.  The rooster was most definitely dead (complete with the flopping around that you hear about, but in the cone, you don't see any of it except the neck/head), but the head was most definitely still attached.  After I realized that this approach was not working,  Asa found an axe (again, not the sharpest tool in the shed, I'm sure) and I laid the entire cone down, with the neck resting on a wooden block.  It took quite a few hacks (my aim is atrocious by the way), but the head did finally come off.  Any farmer who would have been unlucky enough to see this would have laughed his overalls off.  It was like if Lucille Ball tried to make a horror movie.

We disposed of the head, scalded the rooster, and I let the boys pluck the feathers.  Well, they both started out plucking feathers, but Addison ended up preferring Ivey and Olive duty.  I took over.  One this I noticed was that they came off way easier than you'd think.  The wings seemed like a huge waste of time and effort.  Lots of big feathers... very little meat.  So, I opted for chopping them off.  (Again, people who do this for real obviously have great knives and such!)  Towards the end, I realized that it would be very easy to just skin the thing.  So, I did.  Feet... removed.  Neck... removed.  Vent... Widened.  Innards... removed.  Asa tried to pick out the various organs and they were laid out on the freezer paper lining.  He hosed the bird off, remarking at how it now just looked like the ones at Publix.  We were done.

I cooked up the rooster in a pot with celery and onions, with the goal being to make soup.  However, we were so completely exhausted from the day of chicken chasing aerobics, adrenaline, running around looking for tools, and tending to little ones on the swingset, that it was now 7:30 and we were too tired to finish.  We went out for BBQ, and it was wonderful.

The outcome was not nearly as exciting as we had hoped.  My chopping and hacking job had left us with a 2 year old rooster, who likes to fight, who was not properly bled out.  I was terribly disappointed, but he wasn't really edible.  The good news is that Asa and Addison were very understanding when we explained that we had to have a "practice chicken"... and that a two year old rooster who likes to fight is the perfect practice bird.  Although we did not eat him for dinner, we learned some valuable lessons that will help us as we continue to homestead.... and help us as we are conscious of the connections that we have with our food.

And, the chicken yard is a quieter and more peaceful place...