Saturday, February 26, 2011

tragic farewell

A winter tragedy struck our farm yesterday. Annie, our sweet nearly 20 year old Morgan mare, took a bad fall on the ice in her paddock. I found her struggling to get up when I got out of bed, and helped her get to her feet and back down to the barn. But while I communicated back and forth with the Veterinarian, she laid down in her stall and passed away. As we later found out, the trauma of the fall had caused a great deal of damage to her lung and vast internal bleeding -- there was nothing anybody could have done for her.

The Map Man rounded up a couple of other hearty men today to give him a hand dealing with having to remove something that large from the barn. I won't go into details, it wasn't pretty (as anyone who has ever had to deal with this situation can attest to), and I very much appreciate them having given the time (not to mention the effort and inner fortitude) to help us in our time of need.

I find it horribly ironic that we had recently come to the decision to find a new home for Annie, and had just found what I thought was the right place for her a few days earlier. They were in the process of making transportation arrangements when the accident happened. The day before she died, I told a friend that I really wished they would have come to get her that day, as the weather was being cooperative (it started raining in torents that night) and I just had a gut feeling that she needed to leave right then. Twelve hours later it was too late.

It's just one of those things, a complete accident, a mistep of her foot on the perpetually icy surface, made extra slick by the rian. But I of course feel miserable about it. It's awful to see a beautiful life cut short by a small twist of fate.

illness in the land of jewel

This week we were working with place value again. We started with the Enki math story "Illness in the Land of Jewel," which is based around the same characters from our first place value story. This time, the King is sick and as Tricky Mischief canvasses the town to find a cure, she discovers that many of the townspeople are sick also. A little boy, climbing back up the cliffs from sea (as shown in both J's drawing, above, and Zoo Boy's drawing, below), has the cure, but the King won't take it until they've found enough cure for the entire kingdom. (A fun note, when I read the title of the this story, the boys both gasped and said "oh no!" They were very excited to revisit the Kingdom of Jewel again, and at the end of the story, Zoo Boy said "I can't wait to count the sea purses!")

Our "magic sea purses," the cure for the illness. (Ok, so really they are beans, and my kids know that, but they were more than happy to pretend that they are magic sea purses -- in fact, they didn't even question it at the time, although Zoo Boy did ask later what a magic sea purse would actually look like.)
But did we have enough for all of the sick people in the Kingdom?

So we pulled out our counting boxes and counted up the number of sea purses we'd collected. And here's our result, which the boys then wrote down on a piece of paper I'd prepared in advance:

The following day, I told them that Tricky Mischief had also counted sea purses, and came up with 3,573 of them. Giving them another prepared sheet of paper, the boys added Tricky's total to their total to get a grand total of 4,986 sea purses. Which just so happens to be exactly the number of sea purses the villagers collected in our story.

We'll be working more with place value and adding large numbers in the coming week, and will do some subtracting as well. But for right now, there will be no carrying or borrowing -- that will come the next time we approach the topic, and there's another story to help that process along.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Benito Juarez, chapter 6

In our final action-packed chapter of the Benito Juarez story, Benito becomes a judge, passes an important law bringing justice for all, marries Margarita Maza, has a bunch of kids with her, is elected President of Mexico, leads his people in a war, sends his family away for their safety, wins the war, helps rebuild the country, and eventually is reunited with his family. Whew! That's a lot for one chapter!

Above is J's depiction of the start of the war -- with soldiers arriving by boat and fighting to take over Mexico. That's Benito on the left, thinking of his early days and realizing that he is going to need to send his "flock" (his family) away for their own safety. Below is Zoo Boy's drawing of Benito in his Presidential office, working on an important paper at his desk. He said that the sombrero on the right hand corner of the desk represents the memory of his childhood.

J's chapter summary above, Zoo Boy's below.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Benito Juarez, chapter 5

I'm just loving the boys' work these past couple of days! (See the post before this one, too.) Here are their Chapter 5 drawings of an old man visiting Benito (who was a lawyer at the time) looking for justice for his adopted son, who had been beaten by his landlord. Sadly, the landlord was an employee of the church and at the time, the laws were such that members of the church were exempt from them. This was an incident that confirmed Benito's desire to become a judge and change the law so that all people would be held accountable for their actions, and all people could receive justice for wrongs done against them. (J's drawing above, Zoo Boy's below.)

J's chapter summary above, Zoo Boy's below. We wrap up the work with this story tomorrow.

Benito Juarez, chapter 4

In chapter 4 of our Benito Juarez story, Benito enrolls in school and discovers prejudice against the fact that he's a pure-blooded Zapotec Indian. Above is J's drawing of Friar Antonio enrolling Benito with the Principal of the school. (I love the Mexican flag in the background!) Below is Zoo Boy's drawing of Benito in class (he's the boy with the darker skin and the star next to him). I'm really impressed that the boys managed to depict the ethnicity of the characters in their drawings despite it having been handled with such a light touch in the story. They are really pulling out the central part of the story (Benito being of native descent, the others being of Spanish descent, and how Benito eventually goes on to fight for civil rights for all).

J's chapter summary above, Zoo Boy's below.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

harry potter party

Hold onto your sorting hats! My amazing, brilliant, beautiful, creative, innovative, unendingly energetic friend Kyra outdid herself yet again in throwing her son a bring-the-roof-down fun birthday party. (Seriously, these parties have become the annual highlight for us party goers! They are THE event of the year!)

This year's theme was -- yes, you guess it -- Harry Potter. Kyra had quite the adventure planned for party guests. We of course started with the Sorting Ceremony. Here's Zoo Boy being told by the Sorting Hat that he's been put into Gryffindor House.

(A quick note: my boys are entirely unfamiliar with Harry Potter. But that didn't diminish their fun one iota -- if anything, I think they had more fun because they really had no idea what was awaiting them around each corner of this adventure.)

The headmaster told us that before they could be welcomed properly into Hogwarts, they needed to help solve a mystery first. It seems a baby basilisk was loose in the castle and had kidnapped Severus Snape. He had last been seen in the Charms classroom, so off they went, warned first by Professor McGonagal that they needed to wear ear protection so that the cries of the Mandrake plant didn't kill them. They searched the classroom with cotton balls stuffed in their ears, and found pieces to a puzzle that they then assembled and discovered they needed to prepare a restorative before facing the basilisk.

So off to the Potions Laboratory in the dungeon, where they mixed their potions and discovered the rest of the puzzle pieces to find out how to defeat a basilisk:

But uh oh, they hadn't received their magic wands yet! It was off to Divination in the attic, where they gazed into the crystal ball (which was too crowded to get a photo of, unfortunately) and discovered that their wands were in the Forbidden Forest, guarded by giant spiders. Bummer!

That's OK, our students are brave! So off to the forbidden forest where they needed to work patiently together to untangle the spider's web (without breaking any threads, which would have awakened the giant spider and brought him down upon them). When they got to the end of their threads, there was their very own wand, made for them specially by Olivander!

Now they were ready to face the Basilisk and save Professor Snape! They rechecked their solved puzzle for the proper spell and practiced incanting "Draco Timoris!" Then it was off to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom! Wands raised, they entered the smoke-filled room, shouted their spell, and killed the basilisk! Then they gave the restorative potion to Snape and he recovered instantly. Success!!

In a ceremony formally welcoming the new 1st year students to Hogwarts, they were each given a Book of Spells and a Quill. (Here's a delighted J receiving his.) They then all dashed off to jot the basilisk-killing spell in their books before they forgot it!

Zoo Boy practicing spells.

Then it was time for a clever, active game of Quidditch until their welcoming banquet was ready to be served.

After several rounds, it was off to the Great Hall!

Kyra didn't miss a single detail, including the enchanted ceiling.
(Seriously, Kyra, you are a MARVEL!!!)

And of course no Harry Potter party would be complete without a Hogwarts cake.

My kids have talked of nothing else since, and are absolutely treasuring their wands, spell books, and quill pens.

I don't see how Kyra is going to top this one. But she will. She always does. She's Kyra!


Our Science Fridays group this past week, exploring crystal structures and how they grow.

Sugar crystals -- we set up experiment to go home with each child so everyone can grow sugar crystals at home. Next time we get together, we'll compare our crystals. And then eat them. (It's rock candy, you know!)

Borax crystals cleverly grown on chenille sticks (pipe cleaners) to create a "snowflake".

Alum crystals.

A larger Alum crystal (grown from tying a piece of fishing line to one of the above "seed" crystals and suspending in the alum solution for a week). This one shows the hexagonal structure really well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Benito Juarez, chapter 3

In chapter 3, Benito finally arrives in Oaxaca, after a harrowing trip on foot that took days and days. After feeling lost in the new city, he locates his sister, and she helps find him a placement. He goes on to learn and grow in Oaxaca living with Friar Antonio, who teaches him to read. Above is J's drawing of Benito seeing his sister for the first time in Oaxaca. Below is the same scene, as imagined by Zoo Boy. (Benito is outside the door and sees Josefa through the window -- he very specifically described the outfits they were wearing to me, and pointed out that Benito's clothes are torn from his journey.)
Now THAT's the effort I'm looking for! That tells me he's grounded and experiencing the story on a deep, integrated level. No worries here!!

Above is J's full chapter summary, below is Zoo Boy's more abbreviated version.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

cute photos, random updates

I have a bunch of little updates that didn't really deserve their own posts, so I figured I'd combine them all and throw up some cute pictures from the past couple of days while I'm at it.

I thought it only fair that I start with "Music," since he got left out of my farm updates the other day. Nothing personal, he's just black and black critters don't photograph as well as other colors. (See Kiri's picture at the bottom of the page as further proof.)

Anyway, on to the updates!

J began his Social Coaching group therapy program today. He is paired up with my friend Kyra's son -- they have the advantage of thinking of each other as friends, so we feel like there's already a big step in the right direction there. Seems like everyone had a great time (and I had an absolutely GLORIOUS time catching up with Kyra while they were in group!). And I spent the rest of the afternoon wrestling with the insurance company to get them to cover it. Ugh. This is where I miss our old therapists, who did all the insurance wrangling for me. Oh well, I think it will be worth all the hassle!

(The boys snuggled in, watching a movie -- I grabbed the camera because there had been a cat snuggled in with them, but she jumped off before I could get there. I took the picture anyway, cuz they're cute even without a cat!)

Zoo Boy has his first Speech Therapy session with the new therapist next week (while J and his friend are in their group session). I have my fingers crossed that he'll get along with the therapist, it's not the same person they originally told me it would be. He knows that he's got an out -- we can always take him to the other office (on a different day, obviously) to work with the woman who did his evaluation, whom he really liked. Just hope we don't have to do that, as that will throw a monkey wrench into my schedule. But oh well, we do what we have to do! He reminded me that she said that he only needs "a little" Speech Therapy. I agreed and said if we work really hard on all the homework she gives us, I bet we'll be done by Summer. He was a big disgruntled -- not about working hard, but because he was hoping he could be done before then. I told him the harder we work, the sooner he'll be done, and he seemed to think working hard was a good idea. So hopefully we'll have motivation on our side this time around. That would be a nice change.

(April in "jail" -- she figured out that the fences can't hold her in anymore and was out wandering the neighborhood for the better part of the day today. I finally caught her this afternoon, and now she'll have to stay locked in until the snow melts back significantly. Inconvenient, as she's SUPPOSED to be out protecting the sheep.)

I started a grant-sponsored Nutrition and Weight Management class through our regional health center. I'm pretty happy with it so far -- it's for 6 weeks, and includes a 1-hr private consultation with the Nutritionist that is teaching it, and a "field trip" to a grocery store to put choosing healthy foods into practice. And the price was right (free!). My goal is to find the motivation somewhere to actually cook healthy meals. (And of course, to lose some weight.)

Cheer, official Cutest Collie in the Backyard. (Don't tell Joy I said that!!! Or just tell her she's the Cutest Collie in the House.)

Speaking of weight loss, I've lost 6 lbs so far (since starting my quest to run a 5K). Which is nice, but not as much as I would have liked to have lost by now. However, since I've only upped my exercise, and even that's been limited to walking 4 miles once a week and taking a once a week dance exercise class, because it's just not been possible to walk outside here, I'll take what I can get. I'll be doubling my exercise in the coming weeks though, once J starts swimming at the same facility where we take the sports class (I can go walk on the track while he swims), and once we move his guitar/piano lessons to the same day as therapy, my friend E (his teacher) and I will walk while her eldest son watches the kids. E is also trying to lose 30 lbs, it's nice to have a buddy to compare notes with. (She too has lost 6 lbs, so so far we're right on track with each other.) I'm hoping she'll run the 5K with me in June. (I have several friends I'm hoping will run with me!)

(Grace, speeding along.)

I ran for the first time on Friday. Only 1/4 mile, in 4 separate little spurts (I also walked 4 miles). It felt really good while I was running, but my knee bothered me afterwards (arthritis from a torn meniscus I never had repaired). So I wore a brace to dance exercise on Sunday. And then my hip bothered me after that (bursitis). So it's a process figuring out what I need to do to keep from feeling painful and still get the exercise I need/want. I feel like running a 5k in June is a VERY ambitious goal for me. But things will get easier as I drop more weight. And realistically, I'll be OK with doing more of a walk/run thing if I need to. So I have no doubt I'll make it 5K, just doubt my time will be anything to write home about.


They canceled community access to the school pool we were swimming in on Thursdays, so we'll have to switch to a different pool. The one at the athletic center does a homeschool swim on Wednesdays, so that makes the most sense, although Zoo Boy won't be able to swim (I would need to be in the pool with him because he's still in a float vest, and that is NOT going to happen!). But he can come walk/run with me at the track.

Not sure if I already mentioned this, but J decided to drop the boys' Hip Hop class he planned on taking this semester. After attending the first week, he told me that he feels like he's more of a "ballet and contemporary" sort of guy. Ok by me, better he starts to figure out some of that stuff now!

We were supposed to grow crystals this week for Science Fridays. We didn't. I don't think we'll get in trouble with the teacher, tho, since it's supposed to be me....

We've got icicles in the house again. Bathroom window, and now kitchen window. Guess I'd better stop and pick up some more stockings (we burned through our supply putting calcium chloride sausages up on my in laws' roof) and send The Map Man back up the big ladder out in the back of our house again. You know, after he's done re-constructing an April-proof pen.

The Map Man is a new owner of a Smart Phone, forced upon him by his employers. So if you're trying to call him and he hangs up on you, I'm sure he didn't mean to, he's just trying to figure out how to find the actual PHONE function on the darned thing.

And I think that's it for my bits and pieces of news! No storms on the horizon for the next several days, good news for our barn roof and snow levels in general. Now if we can just get some good melting going on! (AFTER we put ice-melt sausages back up on the roof!)

Benito Juarez, chapter 2

Here's the boys' work from our 2nd chapter of our Benito Juarez sage story, where his sister, Josefa, leaves for Oaxaca, and Benito eventually follows after her. Above is J's story drawing of Benito talking with Jose Fernandez, who was traveling with some mule traders. He had just come from Oaxaca and saw Josefa there. (I particularly love the mule drivers and mules, and Benito's sheep.) Below is Zoo Boy's drawing (an overhead perspective) of Benito running away to Oaxaca.

J's full chapter summary above, Zoo Boy's abbreviated version below.

While reading the 3rd chapter today, Zoo Boy commented, "I hope Benito goes on to have a happy life."