Thursday, April 30, 2009

poem in my pocket

Today wraps up April, which was National Poetry Month, and today is "National Poem in Your Pocket" day. Amy over at Live, Learn, Knit has been posting a poem a day (and I've been absolutely eating them up! Thanks Amy!) I wanted to share one of my favotite poems, which is in my pocket to share on this day:

The Calf Path
by S.W. Foss

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;

But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.

But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way.

And then a wise bell-wether sheep,
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep;

And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o'er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,

And dodged, and turned, and bent about;

And uttered words of righteous wrath,

Because 'twas such a crooked path.

But still they followed - do not laugh -
The first migrations of that calf.

And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
that bent, and turned, and turned again.

This crooked lane became a road,

Where many a poor horse with his load,

Toiled on beneath the burning sun,

And traveled some three miles in one.

And thus a century and a half,
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;

And this, before men were aware,

A city's crowded thoroughfare;

And soon the central street was this,
Of a renowned metropolis;

And men two centuries and a half,
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout,
Followed the zigzag calf about;

And o'er his crooked journey went,
The traffic of a continent.

A Hundred thousand men were led,

By one calf near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way,

And lost one hundred years a day;

For thus such reverence is lent,
To well established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;

For men are prone to go it blind,

Along the calf-paths of the mind;

And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,

And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,

To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred grove,
Along which all their lives they move.

But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!

Ah! many things this tale might teach -
But I am not ordained to preach.

What poem is in YOUR pocket today??

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

pond fun

Yesterday was our last day of outrageous heat (94 degrees F -- of course, tonight they are predicting frost....gotta love New England weather!). We celebrated the end of our Summer Preview with an impromptu stop at a State Park with a swimming pond on our way home from Zoo Boy's therapy sessions. Fortunately, I had stashed some extra shorts and a towel in the car, just in case this sort of fun broke out somewhere, so we were prepared for getting wet.

So the kids played in the sand,...

...ate their snack at a shady picnic table,...

...played in the water,...

(it was COLD!)

And overall had a great time! The boys didn't even mind having to share a towel.

I even thought to call some friends to join us, so I had a great time too, visiting with my friend Th and her son B (in the background of this photo).

Back to reality today -- in the 60s, right where it should be in late April. And much, MUCH more my preference. As for the kids, well, they'd be just as happy for an excuse to go swimming (and eat ice cream) every day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

sudden warmth

Alright, so in the past couple of days we've managed to go from winter to summer. (Seriously, it was sleeting here this past Monday, today it was in the upper 80s.)

What's a family that is totally unaccustomed to warm weather to do?

Well, play in the sprinkler.

Hang around barely dressed.

Play baseball. (ooh, look, J got a hit!)

Take a leisurely ride or two on an ox cart at a local sheep and wool festival. (Look for the green John Deere hats at the back of the cart.)

And eat ice cream.

Lots and LOTS of ice cream....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

max multiply

So we started on multiplication with our buddy, Max Multiply. Here's J's drawing of the joyful, cartwheeling fellow. We recited Max's verses, and drew him holding handfuls of Minnie Minus's gifts. J chose for Max to hold two gifts in each hand, for a total of four gifts. (Because, after all, 2 x 2 = 4.)

Zoo Boy drew Max with glasses, and with one gift in each hand. ('Cuz, you know, 1 x 2 = 2.)

As with addition and subtraction, I followed up the drawing with a few word problems, such as "One sunny day, Max was cartwheeling through the forest, when he came upon little piles of gifts left by Minnie Minus. He began collecting them as fast as he could. He opened his hand and scooped up 3 gifts, and put them in his pocket. He scooped up another 3 gifts, and put them in his other pocket. He scooped up another 3 gifts and held them in his left hand. He scooped up yet another 3 gifts, and held them in his right hand. How many times did he pick up 3 gifts? How many gifts did he have?" The boys answered my questions, then called out cheerfully, "3 times 4 is 12!" After doing several word problems, Zoo Boy thanked me for playing "the math game" with them.

My drawing of Max. I gave him a purple afro (I dunno, I thought it looked jaunty on him), and he held 3 gifts in each hand (because, you know where this is going, 3 x 2 = 6).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

spring comes creeping in

Our Forsythia is at long last in bloom, seen here in the background behind my fence-climbing children and their feline companion, Cosmo (old yet still nimble).

Is it just me, or does Spring seem to be taking a particularly long time getting here this year? I remember in past years being astounded by the sudden explosion of color, so I don't know if I'm more anxious than usual, or perhaps just paying more attention to the slow and steady change this year. Whatever the case, the seasonal shift has been subtle this year, and I've found myself growing impatient with it. I want warmth and color, already! (Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty happy to just not have bitter cold and ice. I don't want to be TOO greedy!)

Our Daffodils bloomed this week. Our Crocuses and Tulips didn't fare as well -- none of last year's bloomers survived the winter. I'm undecided as to whether it was the weather conditions or hungry mouths that got them. (I know that Tulip bulbs in particular are a favorite of underground burrowers.) Regardless, I've firmly decided to plant a greater variety of Daffodils this fall to increase the color in the garden next spring.

If we look closely on our morning walks, we can find plenty of more subtle spring color in the catkins and buds of the aspen, alder, and willows along our way.

To our great delight, we found a periwinkle treasure here amongst the protective roots of an ancient maple, some early blooming Vinca.

And another sure sign that it's warming up -- this small Brown Snake basking on the warmth of the road. After the photo we helped him find the shoulder so that a passing car wouldn't turn his sunbath into a bloodbath.

Spring is here. It's just taking it's time convincing us that it's going to stick around for a bit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

paddy plus

How nice to gather two or three.
Someone has left them here for me.
So round, so soft, so good to see,
I'll add them up, so happily.

-from "The Four Friends", an Enki Education 1st Grade Math story

It's school vacation here, which means the local children's museum is open to the public, and we can't hold our Homeschool Classes today. Which means we were free to pursue our own curriculum instead. So it seemed like a good day to "formally" start working on addition. Hence, we recited Paddy Plus's verse from "The Four Friends" story, and did a led-drawing of Paddy, gathering up Minnie's packages one by one. (This first drawing is J's.)

Zoo Boy's drawing. He was super excited when I posted Paddy's verses -- he read through them aloud, then brightly announced to J, "We're going to talk about Paddy Plus today!" He immediately asked me if we were going to play the same "games" -- the word problems for them to work out with the stones from their counting bags -- and I assured them that yes, we would do some of those. He was whooping and hollering in anticipation.

So we did -- I told them some short story problems, like "Paddy went out one sunny morning and discovered some gifts, and began collecting them. First he picked up 2 from under some bushes. Then he found 3 behind a tree. He found one more at the entrance to a burrow. He sat down with the gifts he gathered to have a picnic -- how many did he have?" What I find the most interesting is that J is now waiting to let Zoo Boy figure out the answers -- obviously J knows, but he sits by with a knowing smile on his face waiting for Zoo Boy to come up with it on his own. I had been worrying about the fact that J tends to shout out answer without giving Zoo Boy a chance (although The Boy always figured it on his own anyway, just to make sure J was right), but I never said anything to J about giving his brother a chance, as I wasn't sure how I wanted to broach the topic to avoid curbing his own enthusiasm. Yet, he seems to have worked that out all on his own. In fact, he seems to get almost as much pleasure at watching his brother come up with the answer as he does presenting it on his own. It's an amazing thing for me to behold. He's going to be just incredible with his own kids some day.

Of course, if you read my previous posts on the topic, I'd only be kidding myself if I thought for a moment I was presenting new information to them. Because stuff like this -- a piece of scrap paper I found amongst J's origami projects yesterday -- is going on on a daily basis around here.

Here's a magnadoodle example of the same sort of thing, from this morning. And the answers are not always written in J's handwriting. Zoo Boy is definitely "in" on it too.

My Paddy Plus drawing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

farm exploration

Yesterday we took a family trip to a friend's farm so that my friend and I could work dogs. While I was busy doing that, The Map Man and the boys were busy exploring:

the barn

the hay loft

the woods

the fields, the stream

the trees

and the stone walls.

Needless to say,
they had fun.

greenhouse images

The boys insisted on visiting this greenhouse when we stopped at the garden center for ice cream. I thought you all might enjoy a little infusion of color while we continue to wait for our local color to start blooming:

friday hike

We joined some homeschool friends for a short hike at a local wildlife sanctuary after baseball on Friday. This was an area that The Map Man and I used to hike in when we were dating. It was disappointing to see how much it had grown up -- there used to be some really cool old fields and a wide variety of songbirds. Not so anymore, the remaining fields were completely mowed, and the old fields had grown into woods (I supposed inevitable unless they'd been managed to keep them as old field -- which obviously they weren't -- I mean, it HAS been over 20 years!).

Hiking at Zoo Boy pace. Not only does he sit down a lot to explore the tiny details of nature (or to remove twigs and rocks from his shoes), but he also likes to meander more than make forward progress. He reminds me a bit of his Uncle Big J in that way. Only without all the whining Big J used to (and may very well still) do.

The other three boys exploring up ahead of us.

The four boys at the top of a large, mowed hill. No really, they are there. See those black dots in the middle of the field. That's them.

(On a different note, why isn't "mown" accepted by spell-check? Is that not a valid word? Is it only us in New England who would refer to this field as "mown" rather than mowed??)

J in the foreground, Zoo boy back aways. (Look between the two trees to the right of J.)

It was a nice day to be out walking!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


J's new session of homeschool sports began yesterday, with baseball being the topic!

They practiced fielding (J is on the far right)...

...and batting...

...and then split up into teams and played a game -- that's J playing 1st base.

At the end of every class, the kids all huddle up with the coaches for a cheer. I love that part of class!

It's a big group of kids, I was a bit worried for J -- he's not had much baseball experience and he's in with kids up to 10 years of age, some of whom can actually play. But the vast majority of the kids are like him -- not particularly skilled, but all willing to go out there and give it a try and have some fun. And the coaches the YMCA provides for us are just terrific. The kids are having a blast, and it's SOOOOO NICE to be outdoors at last!!

duck eggs

Here's the start of our latest project -- four dozen fertilized duck eggs.

J and I set up the incubator...

...while Zoo Boy counted to make sure all 48 eggs are there. (We actually discovered one had a small crack in it, so we are setting 47 eggs.)

Once the incubator got up to temperature (99.5 deg F for setting duck eggs), we loaded it up with the eggs.

And now three times a day we're turning them to make sure they are warmed on all sides and able to develop properly. The kids do the turning before breakfast and when getting home from our afternoon adventures, I do the last turn for the night before going to bed. We also check frequently to make sure the temperature is just right, adjusting up or down slightly as needed, and make sure that the water reservoir in the incubator is at the right level, so that the humidity is correct.

Assuming all goes well, we'll be hatching ducklings in mid-May!