Friday, September 29, 2006

Picture(s) of Persistence

Our goats are not allowed in the garden. 

Yes, their manure would make wonderful fertilizer for my plants, and they both poop constantly...but my garden plants aren't going to need any fertilizer if they've been nibbled off at the ground by the goats! So we put up a nice fence designed to keep both goats and deer out of the garden. 

Naturally that fence is seen as just another challenge by my never-say-never goats. 

The other day Betty got lucky and wriggled her way into the garden... and I got lucky and happened to be there to see how she did it (taking pictures the whole time... I know, I need to get a life!). 

Here our girls are nibbling on the lovely green grass closest to the garden (it's so nice and green because it gets watered by the garden sprinkler.) 806-017.jpg 

Betty somehow spots a weak place in the fence...

806-018.jpg 

...and decides to see if her head will fit under. (I read somewhere that goats are almost as smart as dogs... LOL, I think that might be a slight exaggeration!)
806-019.jpg 

Her head did fit under, but then she couldn't pull it back out again! (Those big nubian ears get in the way sometimes!) She was stuck for awhile, and I had visions of having to get the wire cutters to get her head back out of the garden, but eventually....

806-020.jpg 

...she wriggled her way in.

 And what did she eat? The corn? The pumpkins or zucchini? Nope, she went for the weeds... 

I love goats.

806-021.jpg 

The REALLY good pictures would have been the ones of me trying to get her back out of the garden! Luckily there are no pictures of me chasing her, pushing her, pulling her, carrying her and falling over her, getting her out the little garden gate!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy First Day of Fall!

Today is the first day of fall... but judging from the weather, I would have said it started at least a week ago! It's cold outside and has been rainy, cloudy and gray for the past couple of days. (Yesterday we saw the sun for a little while, but then the clouds filled back in again) 

I love the fall though, it's my favorite season. I love the soft warm sweaters and the thick woolen socks... I love how very good the hot shower feels when the house is only 62 degrees, and the way a big fire in the fireplace makes you feel warm both inside and out. I love hearing the leaves crunch under our feet as we walk across the yard, and the way the prairie grasses turn lovely autumn colors just like the leaves. I love watching the goats curled up together for warmth, the deer's fur slowly change from brown to gray, and feeling the horses shaggy coats. (And I LOVE the lack of flies in the barn!) 

We're all waiting for the first snow... The kids can't wait to pull on their coats and boots and go out to play in it, then come inside with frosty, runny, noses for hot chocolate and marshmallows roasted on the fire. 

This is a good time of year... 

 ************************* 
I've been pulling materials together for a solar system unit study for M and R. 

I've been admiring Theresa's lapbooks and thought making lapbooks as we work through our solar system unit study would be a fun way to reinforce the material for the kids, and give them a way to keep their information together and easy to look at again, or share it with others. I'm keeping the unit study fairly short, just a few weeks, and working on keeping from overloading them with information that's interesting to me... but too much for them. 

I've got a bunch of early readers/picture books about the solar system ordered at the library and I'll probably pick just a few to read to them. I've also ordered some videos... but I'm going to preview them first and if they aren't really well done and engaging, we'll skip them. (Some of those "educational" videos are soooooo boring!) 

I found some awesome photos of the planets on the NASA site, and some great coloring pages on the Enchanted Learning site. I'll use the coloring pages to reinforce what we've read. We'll also do at least a couple of hand's on activities... demonstrating the rotation of the earth, for example, and how the earth orbits around the sun. 

We'll also make a model of the solar system. When M studied the solar system several years ago, we made a tabletop model using styrofoam balls... I think we might make a mobile this time and hang it from the classroom ceiling. 

We'll finish up our unit study with a trip to the planetarium. I'm really excited about getting started... I think we're going to have a lot of fun. 

We'll I'm looking out the window and see we have a horse stuck in the fence... time for me to go. 

  Enjoy this lovely fall weekend!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday odds and ends

It's a beautiful fall day here...

   

The air is crisp but not cold, and the leaves on the trees are just starting to change color. 

It must have been cold last night... my big garden froze, but my little kitchen garden is in a protected area close to the house and it seems ok.

We've settled back into our school routine after taking the week after Labor Day off. Our routine seems to be a good one. The kids are working steadily through their math, spelling and language arts....and we have plenty of time for homeschool group activities, read alouds, and all our fun Friday school stuff. (We try to have all or most of our regular work done by Friday. "School" on Friday usually consists of a cooking lesson, working on their poetry books and journals, and art.

I think it's a good schedule and one that's working, but I'm just not sure about math. M is doing ok in his book, but I just don't think R is understanding enough using Math Made Meaningful. She's having to rely on her Touchmath skills, and little tricks that she learned last year while doing Saxon Math. I keep wondering if maybe I should try to get her through another year of Saxon. She hated it last year, complained about it constantly (and school time often becomes a time neither of us look forward to!), but... she learned.

We haven't started Story of the World... and I'm not sure we're going to. The audiobooks I ordered are still back ordered from Amazon (I ordered them in July, but every month or so I get an email from Amazon saying it will be another month before they are shipped!), and the other places I've found that has them in stock wants a lot more money for them. If I knew the kids would like the SOTW curriculum I'd spend the money... but I've got a lot of curriculum materials laying around here that I bought, the kids hated, and are now sitting on a shelf gathering dust!

A friend from my homeschool group is giving me her copies of Beyond Five in a Row, Books 2 and 3. I'm thinking about adding that to our math and language arts and skipping SOTW. Some of the best hands on learning we've done in our homeschool has been while using FIAR or BFIAR. Maybe it's time to go back to it....

I've also got my sister's copy of the "Prairie Primer" unit study, based on the Little House books. I think it will make a nice unit study to put together for this winter... There is nothing like curling up with the kids on a cold winter night and slipping back into the Little House stories. It almost feels like we know Ma and Pa and the girls... we've spent so much time with them over the years.

Time to go, my plan for the day is to get the goat's hooves trimmed... I've only gotten one done so far (the easy one!) so I need to get outside and get busy! I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful fall weekend!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quin

One of the downsides of living where we do is our unpredictable electrical service. Several times a week, for no apparent reason at all, the electricity will go out. It usually comes right back on again... it just goes out long enough to get all the clocks blinking 12:00 and shut the computer down (losing whatever I happen to be working on at the moment... :()

That's what happened yesterday just before I clicked on save here on my "write post" page. Grrr.... It's not like I'd written anything profound, but darn it's frustrating when that screen goes blank in the middle of a sentence! (It tends to make my computer a little cranky too!)

Our little sheltie is settling in very well. He's a sweet little thing and we'd decided to name him Quin (which means intelligent). 



He does seem to be a smart little guy... He sits, lays, and stays on command. I still need to teach him to heel on a leash. He came with a few toys, including a very ugly stuffed fish. The fish is almost as big as he is and it's obviously his favorite toy. If I ask him where his fish is, he'll perk his ears up and immediately start running around the house looking for it. Once he finds it he'll play endless games of fetch and tug of war. 

The kids are having a lot of fun with him. I took both dogs to the vet yesterday, which led to all kinds of excitement. First Quin got off the leash in the parking lot and took off. At the same time my car alarm went off (one of the kids hadn't shut the door tight and that set it off) and Emma got so excited by the noise and commotion that she started in with her big deep barks. M (who was holding Emma's leash) was so upset by Quin getting away that he dropped her leash and so, for awhile, we had two dogs wandering around the vet's parking lot, the car alarm blaring, the kids panicking and me trying to catch little Quin (who wouldn't come near me because Emma was following me around barking!).
 It was total chaos.

Eventually the dogs were caught, the car alarm turned off and we made it (sweaty and a little disheveled) into the vet's office. She said that Quin was healthy but confirmed that he does have some problems with his legs. I have the veterinary terms but it boils down to his back legs being very bowed and having knee caps that don't stay in place. He might also have some problems with one of his hips. She said in a larger dog... one like Emma... this would be devastating. But because Quin is so little it shouldn't cause him too much trouble. (Whew!) We talked goats for awhile (our vet raises dairy goats!) then she gave both dogs their shots and we headed home. 

We weren't home 15 minutes when I noticed Quin's face starting to swell up. He was having an allergic reaction to one of his shots! I called the vet back, gave him a benadryl, and started watching for signs of respiratory distress. Sure enough, before long he started breathing very quickly so I loaded him back into the car and headed back to the vet. She gave him more benadryl (injectable) and a shot of steroids to help with his breathing. She was going to keep him overnight to watch him but I said I'd watch him closely so she let me take him home. 

By that time we'd spend most of the morning at the vet's office (and M had assigned himself the job of "greeter", sitting and visiting with everyone who came in the door!) so she gave the kids a tour of the recovery area and told them about the different animals that were recovering from surgery there. Quin was a sleepy dog for awhile (all that benadryl) but the swelling eventually went down and he seems fine now. *****************************************************************

  Here's a picture of our brave hunter returning victorious with his really ugly stuffed fish

 

.... making sure it's really dead. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

a new (canine) addition to the family... (Quin)

We got another dog today. He's a 2 year old sheltie. Isn't he beautiful?

 

  His previous owners have a new baby, and no yard at all, and just didn't feel like they could take care of him the way he should be taken care of so they very unselfishly gave him to us. 

He's already decided that he likes R a LOT! and rode the whole way home on her lap. Right now he's breaking my heart though... he's laying right by the front door, and his message is clear... he's ready to go home. 

  After he's had a day or two to settle in I'll take him to the vet (he's late on his vaccinations) and have the vet give him a quick check up. (He's got some stiffness in one hind leg, and from what the previous owners told me I'm guessing he's a puppy mill dog) 

  We are changing his name and have started a list of possible names for him. Anybody have any suggestions?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The secret life of ruminants, or....

... don't ever mess with a cranky nanny! 

I often write about all the wildlife we see on our land. It's not unusual to see hawks or even an eagle soaring over our heads, rabbits and voles in the garden, coyotes quickly scurrying across the back pasture, and mule deer does nursing their fawns outside the kitchen window. 

Our goats, Betty (our baby... just 6 months old) and Rose (our "herd queen") don't usually pay too much attention to the wildlife. (Well, except for the coyotes, which leave them absolutely paralyzed with fear) The deer generally stay outside our little goat pasture, and the goats and the deer have seemed very happy to just ignore each other. 

Rose takes her job as herd queen very seriously, and once even took on our golden retriever when she felt threatened by her. She rules over poor Betty (her herd of one!) with an iron fist (um... hoof) never letting Betty forget for a moment who's boss. 

So when a mule deer doe jumped into Rose's territory the other day to graze, I was curious to see what would happen. ~ 

Here's the little doe, getting ready to see if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence...

 

Betty and Rose (who had been laying in their most favorite spot in the world contentedly chewing their cud) didn't pay much attention at first. Betty was very curious, but Rose was busy guarding the prime spot in pasture (the highest level of the play structure) and looking regal.

 

After a few minutes Rose decided it was time to assert her dominance. Notice the body language? Very clear communication between species going on here! 

 

When the doe didn't move quite fast enough for her, Rose decided she needed to be chased out of the pasture. Betty of course, is all eyes... and more than happy to follow Rose in the chase. 

 

Afterwards... again check out the body language. If Rose could speak I could just hear her saying "And stay out!" 

Saturday, September 9, 2006

curiouser and curiouser

I'm starting to feel a little like Alice in wonderland.

I have somehow stumbled into a place where reality doesn't make sense. A place where sometimes trying to make things better ("drink me, the bottle said") makes things worse, or at least more complicated, for a time.

The strange thing about living in Wonderland is that the longer you are here, the easier it is to lose track of how bizarre the reality of this world is... and how different it is from the "real" world.

 Confused yet? (am I starting to sound like the Mad Hatter or the March Hare?)

I guess I'd better back up...

 A few weeks ago I was ranting about the lack of services for M. He's developmentally delayed and seriously mentally ill. He hasn't been receiving DD services because the last time his IQ was tested it was too high. He hasn't been receiving mental health services (through the state) because the hoops they required us to jump through would have been damaging for M. (And it wouldn't be a good fit anyway, because he's not "just" mentally ill...he is also very delayed developmentally!)

 So... I decided to work on getting him eligible for DD services. For that I would need a more current evaluation. The pdoc wanted a neuropsych eval. done, but after spending days calling neuropsychologists and finding 1.) most weren't willing to try to do extensive testing with a psychotic 14 year old and 2.) the ones that were willing to do it we couldn't afford, I decided to settle for just the basics.

I called a developmental neuropsychologist I used to know professionally and asked if she would do me a favor and just do an IQ test and the Vineland (an adaptive behavioral scale) with M. She said yes, she could see him the next day and would even write up a report that I could take home with me. (And it would only set me back a few hundred bucks... a bargain compared to the $3,000. neuropsych eval!) 

In Colorado, to qualify for DD services the person's IQ must be below 70. I thought it was unlikely M's IQ would be that low... before the schizophrenia it had been in the "high average" range. I knew it had dropped during the past 5 years of psychosis, but I guessed only by 10-15 points or so.

 He scored well below 70.

The Vineland scores were even worse (for those of you who may be familiar with the Vineland, the overall behavior composite was 29). 

Talk about not knowing how to feel... Relief on one hand... he should have no trouble qualifying for DD services now. Maybe we'll finally get some support! But deep sadness on the other hand.. that he had lost so much.

 The day after the testing I call our CCB (community centered board, the organization we must go through to receive DD services) to get an intake packet. I spoke to the intake coordinator for a long time, and after hearing M's scores she agreed that he really more support. She said that I'd need to prove that his cognitive delays are connected to his fetal alcohol and not his mental illness. (Hmm... and how do I do that?) I hate to, but I think I'll have to go back to the neuropsychologist who did the testing and see how far out on a limb she's willing to go in her report...

 Once I get the eligibility packet is completed and returned it will go before the eligibility committee who will determine whether or not M qualifies.

 If he qualifies we can start the process to receive services through the CCB... The only catch? The waiting list for any services at all through the CCB is about 5 years.

 Yes, that's right. I spent several weeks figuring out how to get the necessary testing done, and several hundred dollars on the testing itself, just to (hopefully!) get on a waiting list.

 I'm think it's time to start looking for another bottle to drink from, maybe I can change the bizarre reality of this system. The image “http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/alicepic/book1/1book3.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.cu

Friday, September 8, 2006

quiet fall day

Today was our first quiet day this week, and it was wonderful to just have a low-key, stay-at-home kind of day. None of us did very much all day... I was going to make bread, but got lazy and bought some when we were at the store instead. M watched TV, drew, and set up a “game table” for us to play games at when Dad gets home. R played outside and worked on training Betty the goat. (R has decided since we don't have a horse and I won't let her take jumping lessons, that she's going to teach Betty to jump over the horse jumps she makes out of scrap lumber and anything else she can find!) Betty loves to jump and does it for fun all the time, but she's been a little slow at understanding that R expects her to jump on command. (LOL, I'm guessing that why you don't see too many goat jumping events at livestock shows!)

 This afternoon we headed outside to collect pine cones for a friend who lives in Florida. There is a group of big pine trees on the hill at the edge of the goat pasture, so we decided to start our search by looking up there (there are other pine trees on our land, but not as big). I love these old trees... they are home to at least one or two red tail hawks, who we often see lazily circling in the air over the goat pasture. (The hawks are so cool... they are absolutely silent as they glide above the pasture. Sometimes the only way I know they are there is seeing the shadow of their huge wings moving across the pasture.) These trees also make the most wonderful sound when the wind blows through them...they almost seem to talk.

 Here are M and R heading up the hill...

 

We found TONS of pine cones! There were so many it was hard to walk without stepping on them.

Here is M hard at work filling his bag...

I'm not exactly sure was going on in this picture. It looks like we were close to having a pine cone war, but luckily they were distracted by the camera and peace was restored.

Once our bags were full we headed to the front porch to sort the pine cones and get rid of the ones that were too badly nibbled by the deer.



 Here's what we ended up with! They are packed in a box and will be heading to Florida next week.



Kimberly, make sure to post some pictures of your holiday pine cones crafts! It will be fun to see what you decided to do with your authentic, gen-u-ine Colorado pine cones!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The Never-Ending House Chronicles

The past few days have been so busy... I'm really looking forward to things getting closer to "back to normal" around here.

 We've been working outside a lot the past few days, getting things ready for winter (and just enjoying the beautiful weather!). DH is in the process of taking down some of the original fencing that was in front of our house, and the rest of us have been helping as much as we can. When our house was first built, there was a circle driveway lined with lodgepole pine fenceposts strong with wire. The previous owners stopped using half of the driveway (it went through what is now our goat pasture) and the prairie grew back over and erased it almost completely. All that is left of other half of the original driveway are some ruts through the prairie grass and the broken and falling down lodgepole pine fence. So Dh has been taking the wire off each fencepost, and cutting them off at ground level. I've been bundling up and saving the old wire and the wire spacers and hauling the old fenceposts to either the woodpile (if they aren't pressure treated) or the garbage (if they are). We're only about half done, but it looks better already.

 Here is some that still needs to be torn down...

 

 I've also been gathering more estimates for the last bit of work on the house. Last year about this same time, we began the enormous job of getting our house repaired. Since that time virtually the whole exterior has been redone. We've had roofers, handymen, log home restoration experts, stone masons, and a stucco crew working on this house.

 Here are some pics... This is last fall while the deck railing was being rebuilt (before it was rebuilt the sliding glass door in the classroom led to a 10' drop!)

 

 Making progress! New railing, old rotten logs...

 

 Last winter... the logs have been repaired, the chimneys have been rebuilt and the stucco is going on.

 

 Repairs are done, stone is finished, just needs a little paint!

 

 This picture was taken today... the house looks about the same as it did last spring when the stucco and stone guys finished. I was sooooo tired of being a general contractor for month after month that I took the summer off and the trim never got painted...

 

 Well..... summer's over and I have to get the painting done before winter sets in. I would do it myself (those of you who know me know that I love to paint and can even get a little compulsive about it!), but most of the painting that has to be done is very high up (30'+) and there is no way I'm going to climb that high on a ladder to paint!

After calling around, having lots of people come out and give me estimates, and checking references (my least favorite part) I've found what I think is a good reputable company and they are supposed to start painting next week. They'll paint the window frames, soffit, faschia (sp?) and the beams. The very exciting part is that they are also going to paint the barn! The barn is the same pale ugly nasty yellow it was when it was built almost 30 years ago. When the painters are done it will be a nice fresh barn red with white trim.

 Here is what the barn looks like now...

 Hopefully I'll have some "after" pictures for you within the next couple of weeks! ~~

 Just for fun... here's a picture of the barn in about 1980

Friday, September 1, 2006

Oh-oh the Wells Fargo wagon is a comin' down the street

...oh, please let it be for me!
  Oh-oh, the Wells Fargo wagon is a comin' down the street,
  I wish I wish I knew what it could be!

 Am I the only one who loves the old musical "The Music Man"? Remember cute little red-haired Ronnie Howard, playing Shirley Jones' little brother and singing this song?

I think of that song whenever the UPS man drives down our road. If the kids see him coming, they both drop whatever they are doing and watch him... until he either drives down our driveway, or keeps going past the house.

 If he drives down the driveway, they both make a mad dash for the front door... sure he must have brought something wonderful for them. It doesn't matter that they almost never get anything... that most of the stuff he brings is boring "dad" stuff, or homeschool materials.

None of that matters...

They greet the poor UPS guy like a long lost friend, while at the same time fighting over who gets to carry the package up to the house. If you can picture both kids running madly out the front door, with Emma (our 90 lb golden retriever) right behind them "smiling" (looks like a snarl) and sneezing from excitement (the dog, not the kids)... you can probably imagine why the UPS guy sometimes seems a little hesitant to get out of his truck.

 Anyway, yesterday was M and R's lucky day. The package that came was for them! And it was from their Uncle Steve!! (a person whose reputation borders on the legendary at our house...)

 They each got an awesome rugby shirt (and they both fit perfectly, a miracle!!) and I got some wonderful Barry's tea. (Which I'm enjoying tremendously) M also got a personalized birthday card from Steve, which is too cool not to share...

 Here's the card... (edited to remove his name)
 

 If you aren't sure of the significance of the coat, please read this entry...)

 And here are the kids modeling their new shirts:

`  

 Thanks Steve... you made our day.

a new favorite quote~


Out of the clutter, find simplicity.

From discord, find harmony.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.

                                                   
 ~Albert Einstein