Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thinking About Thanksgiving Dinner

For some reason I both love and hate planning holiday meals. I really love cooking and baking. I (often) enjoy doing it with the kids help. I enjoy cooking and baking with my husband. I like dreaming up menu ideas and making what people love to eat. For some reason, though, I find it tedious to go through my menu and make a list of the items and quantities I will need for a large meal. B-O-R-I-N-G.

However, since it is almost time for Thanksgiving, it has come time to start in the planning. So, as I dream about the fantastic turkey we will butcher in a few days, brine, and cook, I will also make a list of everything I need from the store. The biggest change this year is going to be our turkey. This spring we picked up several heritage turkey poults (baby turkeys, day old in our case). We bought Royal Palms and Slates, hoping to have several hens so we could eat most of the toms for the holiday and breed the others. Unfortunately, we ended up with way too many toms and only two hens. So now we have to figure out which toms we keep for breeding, which ones we will eat, and sell the ones that are left over.

Right now, Greg likes the appearance of the Slate Turkeys the best. I'm not attached to one over the other, and I am more than happy to keep looking for another breed we might like better. We are planning to get more poults, hopefully with a greater ratio of hens, this January or so. We want them to be grown enough to be put outside with the adults come spring. Since heritage breeds take longer to mature than the "traditional" breeds used in large farming operations, the birds should be ready to butcher by the holidays again.

As for this weeks event planning, I figure we will do the rest of our shopping tomorrow or Monday so we can avoid the last minute rushes of people. I hate, hate, hate having to shop when there is a mass of other folks at the same time. Makes me feel claustrophobic and twitchy. Then I can start cooking by Tuesday/Wednesday. Fun times ahead.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random Number Generators

When you have more than one child, disputes between them are like the ocean tides. They rise and fall according to the arcane pull of the moon, with the random tsunami generated by subterranean forces. Our family seems to be a fairly active planet in that regard. While some of these arguments are fueled by hunger or an inability to express their emotions (or overexcitabilities, or being tired, or too much sugar), some are simply the push and pull of siblings trying to work out their hierarchy and relationships. I say simply not in any demeaning or offhanded fashion. I have a sibling (older, as it happens) so I understand how intense these fights can seem, especially when you are in the middle of one.

Oftentimes, these arguments appear as the most ridiculous and inane issue to argue about (from the perspective of an adult who is often bone tired of listening to bickering for 3 straight hours). Who gets to sit in the favored spot at the table next to the wall where they can see the TV playing in the other room. Who gets to sit at the faucet end of the bathtub. Who is getting the tape off the shelf, or who is going to grab the oatmeal from the pantry first. Tears usually ensue from the loser of the argument. Sometimes from the winner as well as the loser retaliates.

We finally hit upon a couple of pretty fair ways to resolve these disputes, that the kids have accepted as the final decision makers in many of these situations. First we have the old favorite of rock, paper, scissor. After many "rock" ties, somebody usually slips up and does paper or scissors. Usually by this time the frayed nerves have given way to the thrill of the game so the intensity of the argument is dispelled.

Our other tool has become the random number generator. It can be as simple as a roll of the dice to as complicated as a random number generating app. The kiddos seem to prefer the latter option, as Greg now has TWO of them installed on his phone. It is an awesome thing to see the anger and frustration fade into delight and laughter. I really ought to put one onto my phone as well for the inevitable pull of the tides.

Obviously there can be many more creative solutions to the bickering, but these are two that have consistently worked for us lately. What creative solutions have you come up with? I would love to have more ideas for when I am fresh out of them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yup, I'm Tired

Truly, my eyes at least are tired. They have been hurting all day long, and I have no idea why. I must have scratched my left eye while I slept last night. It was hurting all day, and when I took the littles out to run a few errands, the sunlight nearly blinded me. I am going to read and go to bed soon. I don't feel like writing anything creative tonight. Good night, and maybe tomorrow I will have a creative flash and pen a truly magnificent post. Sleep well in the Blog-O-Sphere.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reading Eggs (A Review)

I thought I would do something a little different tonight. I read (well, scan, since I don't have a lot of time to actually READ, and I can absorb information readily enough by scanning quickly)quite a few homeschooling websites, newsletters, blogs, etc. in an effort to figure out ways I can help my children learn concepts more effectively. I know that they have different learning styles, and I suppose that some of this effort is in trying to figure out HOW they learn, so I can help them learn better. Does that make sense? I hope so.

Tonight I thought I would put up a review of a program we are trying out. I received an offer from one of my many resources to try out the Reading Eggs curriculum, an online program designed to support a child's learning to read. I had looked at this program several weeks ago, but wasn't sure if it would be the right kind of program for my 3 and 5 year old kids. Plus, I was not sure that with a two-week trial period I would get a good feel for whether the program would actually help them in learning to read or not. They love several online reading programs already, but they tend to use one for a few weeks, then another, so I never get a good feel for how much the curriculum is actually helping them out. We also do some book-based reading fundamentals (phonics, vocabulary, phoneme awareness, etc.), but their response is rather tepid so far. So I figured that with a longer trial period (in exchange for a review, which did not have to be positive, mind you, just honest), it was worth a try to see if it actually helped them in the process of learning to read or not.

I have to say that after they have been using the program for 4 days, I am very happy with it. My kids love the program, and my daughter (5.5 years old) is *whizzing* through the lessons and loving it! She could easily spend hours in front of the computer with little to no help in the program. She has also already written her first story (I spelled the words she wanted to use, while she typed it all in), and she seems to be gaining the confidence and familiarity with the various concepts presented in the program faster than some other programs we have used. I don't know that it is necessarily the program itself, or if enough information has soaked into her brain that it is all coalescing into a better grasp of reading by using this program. Either way, she is learning a lot and enjoying the lessons.

My son loves it too, but he definitely needs a little more guidance to go through the lessons, since he seems to get a little more frustrated with some of the repetition. He can spend a lot of time in the "playroom" though, so I feel that the program is benefiting him at least as much as some of the other online programs do.

At this point, I like that my oldest child can navigate the program herself, and it seems fairly intuitive for her to follow. I also like that I can keep track of her progress easily, and she needs very little input from me to help her use the site.

From what I understand, the part of the site for older readers (in the 7-13 year old range) is very different. Since I have not accessed that section I really cannot comment as to whether it is useful or not. I can say that the "early reader" area is great for my kids, and might be useful for children who need a little extra review or a slightly different approach than more formal schooling takes.

My only complaint at this point is the pages of "golden eggs" that are seen when the main lesson pages are loading. They flit by so fast (often in less than a second) that she can barely see them go by, much less actually try to play them to gain more "eggs" to redeem. It would also be nice if the stories/books they create could be printed once they have been saved. You are given one chance to print them out (which I didn't see until too late), and there were no other obvious opportunities to print them. Other than those relatively minor problems, I like the program, and I hope that my kids will continue to enjoy and learn from it over the next several months. If they continue to use it through the trial period and it is still a benefit, I will seriously consider getting a subscription for at least my daughter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Mesmerizing

Tonight I think I am going to keep it short. The kids are in bed, and I am tired. I ran across this completely stunning video and wanted to share it here. It is so mesmerizing, and for some reason makes me feel rather sad. Maybe because of its breathtaking beauty despite the not-so-subtle evidence of our planets huge population. Either way, the detail it stunning. It is pretty amazing to watch, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.

If the embedded video doesn't work for you, here is a link to the original video.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bibliophilia

It is obvious in our household that we love books. Bookshelves line most walls in almost every room of the house. I draw the line at the bathroom, though. Paper and water mix too well to allow their presence in such a moist environment. Family photographs often have our heads cut through by the shelves that border our living spaces. We have several thousand, collected between us through a lifetime, yet it is still not enough. I have a huge "wish list" of books I would love to have someday. Not just books that I want to read, but old books that I grew up with. Like the set of hardbound "OZ" books I used to thumb through to stare at the pictures within. Or that old collection of "A Thousand and One Nights," or or a thousand other wonderful tomes I can think of.

Some of my earliest memories are of books. Our house was a close second to the local branch of our public library. So many books lined the walls that I am fairly certain they are sinking my parents old American Craftsman-style house into the ground. I have fond memories of reading comic books in the bathtub, and science fiction while hanging over the ends of the couch. I don't know if I was an early reader or not (my mother has forgotten my true childhood and replaced it with a more "perfect" one), but even my earliest memories are filled with books. The smell of the old pages fills my blood, and the feel of ancient cracked leather and dusty pages I can sense when I close my eyes. Some of my fondest places to visit have always been used bookstores (and hardware stores and art stores, oh and fabric stores, but those are different stories). I could sit on the floor for hours lost in another world, turning pages and oblivious to the rest of the world going by.

For all my love of books, in the last several years I haven't been able to read a tenth of the books I would like to for research much less for pleasure. It is a sad state of being, but I am slowly trying to remedy that. I have a few eBooks I am slowly reading through, as well as some "real" books and magazines I try to read a little bit of every now and then. I have tried to dutifully catalog all our books at LibraryThing, but I know I have probably missed a hundred or so. Every time we buy new books (or I receive them through PaperbackSwap, another awesome site,) I often forget to log them in. Someday I will get them all listed, and maybe some day I will have more of the books of my hearts desire. And maybe even someday I will have the leisure time to read to my hearts' content. Now, tell me about *your* earliest book memories, I would love to hear them....

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can I Meet A Normal 5-Year Old, Please? Anyone?

One of the problems of having children who might be considered "gifted" (a term I am not terribly comfortable with using, but seems to be an accurate description) is the disparity between a child's physical and intellectual growth and their emotional and social development. Termed "asynchrony" it pretty much sums up what I bang my head against all day long. Kids that are really smart, well beyond their physical years, having massive tantrums that are totally appropriate for a much younger child because they did not get to have something "right now".

I am copying this brief quote from the Hoagies' Gifted Education page, because it is just so...my children. I should note, this description fit myself and my husband as well when we were children. Educators and Parents had other, less pleasant words for it: difficult, anti-social, disruptive, non-conformist, Bah! Too many negative words, that I heard all to often. I don't want to put those words on my children, yet they can both be so frustrating to deal with at times, that I fear I may use them anyways.

"The Gifted Child.  No individual can be more exhilarating, or more frustrating. The parents and teachers who deal with these wonderful children can often be described in a single word: Exhausted. The gifted child can speak as an adult one minute, comparing the emotional relationships in Les Mis with relationships in her own life, or discussing potential conflicts between evolution and the bible, and in the next minute throw an impressive tantrum because she didn't get what she wanted... right now! She can have you in awe of her theories on accelerated space travel, or pulling your hair out in frustration over her argumentative refusal to do her part in everyday chores. "

I have very few "normal" three or five-year olds to compare them to. I suppose if they were in formal public schooling we would be able to see the differences more clearly. However, these are the two best examples that we have! It is also more frustrating remembering my own childhood and where my parents made choices that were not the most helpful for me in the long run. That is one of the reasons we chose to homeschool - I think they will have a better and stronger learning experience with us. I feel that public school would completely kill their natural curiosity and desire to learn like it has with so many other children.

Yet I don't feel I really need the comparison except when I start feeling depressed or stressed about their behavior or what they are learning (or not). I know they are intelligent people, that they have feelings that can easily be trod upon, and that there is a core of determination that I want to encourage even when it is the same quality that drives me mad because she won't go to the bedroom because her behavior is currently unacceptable to be around other feeling, sentient humans.

It is a frustrating world indeed, and I hope I can help them learn to navigate it a little better than I have.