Thursday, June 27, 2013


In summertime there is a new rhythm to my household. Everyone is home, including the skipper. There are more people in my house, more food to cook and lots more fun to be had!

The skipper surprised me for our 22nd anniversary and whisked me away for a few days. Now, anyone would enjoy this, but it is all the more sweet when my "big" kids step up and care for their little sizzler brother. Not an easy task, but they were so willing. What a gift they gave us!

So, off we went! Zipping down country roads til we came to a little town (I mean really small!) we had never been to. What a treat!

I find people very interesting and being in a dinky little town we met several town "characters". If I was a novelist I would have plenty of fodder for my next tale.
Our first order of business was tea time. So we strolled up and down the quaint main street and stopped at the bakery. We grabbed two English breakfast teas and two giant macaroons and sat on the front porch to enjoy our afternoon tea and watch the goings on. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a lady sitting at a table next to us. She had purchased two items. A pie to take home and a pots de creme to eat now. Oh did she ever enjoy her pots de creme. She sat by herself savoring every bite, not feeling a bit guilty about her indulgence. I wonder if she will tell her husband? ;) By the way, if you have never eaten pots de creme, you must, today. You will not believe the goodness, and so easy to make!

                          Oooo la la!

We wandered in a few gifts shops and then popped into a wine tasting room. We were drawn in by the sound of a lively piano. As we walked in the gentleman at the piano stopped, welcomed us and hopped behind the bar. Turns out he is the winemaker and owner of the joint. We sipped his wines and chatted about winemaking, but mostly about education. It seems we can't get away from that subject! Tony was a gentle soul who was very humble about his wines. Funny thing is his last name (and the name of his wine) is Feist. Not the word I would use to describe him. We Happily bought some of his wine.
outside Feist wines

The next character we met was the owner of a burger/ice cream parlor. He was outside taking down his sandwich board as it was closing time. He greeted us and we chatted with him. He was wearing all white except for these bright yellow and reds socks (he was wearing sandals), so I commented on his socks. Oh was he happy I did! He told me all about them and how his friend knit them especially for him. His character was reflected in the name of his business - "Buffalo Chips" where its OK to lick the plate!

The rest of our time was spent wandering the local countryside, tasting more wine, touring cool caves and taking the scenic route. We made a wrong turn and it took us miles out of our way, but we didn't care, it was all about the journey and hanging out with my Skipper!

Where have you wandered lately?

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I think my sizzler feels things more deeply, in fact, I know he does.
This morning he says "What's your most uncomfortable feeling?" Wow. I had to stop and think about that one. First, I was surprised at his question. That's some pretty deep thinking for an 8 year old. Then I wondered what he had been thinking about prior to the question. He had been lost in thought as we drive down the road.
After I thought about it I replied "feeling left out. What's yours ?"
"Being hot" my little guy confesses.
Now that one surprised me. I know he's very sensitive to light and heat but I didn't think he would say that. I thought he might say something about fear or being embarrassed. He was thinking about physical feelings and I was getting all emotional and internal.
So I suggested that when he grows up and choses a place to live it should be someplace that doesn't get hot. So he says "does it get hot at the beach?" And he reminded me that he will be living on his 100 acres by the ocean, so if he gets hot he can take a dip!
Oh yah, I forgot about that. He said the skipper and I could live there too. Can't wait!
What's your most uncomfortable feeling?

Monday, April 22, 2013

How are you smart?

As a classroom teacher I have asked my students many times to explain their thinking. But what I was really asking them to do was write about their thinking. That is hard to do, especially when you're 10.
"Just put your thoughts into words", encouraging teachers say. Nothing. Blank page.
I have learned a few things since my early days of teaching when writing across the curriculum was in style. Some kids have a very hard time explaining their thinking, especially in writing. I know. I have one of those at home.
Now I'm hearing that with the "new" standards in education, Common Core, we are shifting back to writing in every subject. Good grief. Haven't we learned that this kills school for the boys! Have we forgotten about all the brain research and multiple intelligence theory about the way people learn.
In my recent stint in the classroom I spent a lot of time helping kids know how they are smart. One boy had a hard time with academics but he sure could dance. I kept telling him how "body smart" he is. He would grin every time. Or what about the kid who could draw amazing things that others could only imagine? He struggled in math, but you should see his artwork! He's what I call "picture smart". Now the official term for body smart is bodily kinesthetic, and picture smart is visual-spatial. I taught those words as well, but young kids need terms that they understand more easily. These terms come from Harvard's Howard Gardner and the research he has conducted.
Looking at people through the lens of multiple intelligences opens up your eyes. Schools tend to cater to only two of the intelligences; logical-mathematical and linguistic. That's where the three R's come from (reading, writing and arithmetic). Many kids are strong in these areas, but many are not. When our schools tend to focus on a couple of the smarts many don't feel smart at all. Now, I know I'm generalizing and that there are many schools and teachers who strive to make school a place where all feel successful, there are still way too many that do not.
Here's a quick list of the "smarts":

  • Musical - music smart
  • Visual-spatial - picture smart
  • Logical-mathematical- number smart
  • Linguistic- word smart
  • Intrapersonal - people smart
  • Interpersonal- self smart
  • Bodily-kinesthetic - body smart
  • Natural - nature smart
My sizzler is highly picture smart. He thinks in pictures. I think in words. Sometimes we clash because we think differently. When he needs to express his thinking he has to do it with pictures. It's what comes naturally to him.
The other day when our ES was here checking in on us and what we're learning, the sizzler was trying to explain a scientific concept he learned in his zoology lessons. As he's talking to her he stops midstream and runs to get paper and pencil. "Here, let me show you" he says to her and begins to draw. This is what he drew:

You probably have no idea what this is so let me explain. This is his illustration of a shark's ampullae of Lorenzini and how it works. Huh? Sharks have a really cool feature that helps them detect their prey. The ampullae of Lorenzini are small holes on their snout with which they sense electrical signals from other animals. They can detect slight moves or even heartbeats from miles away. So now look at the sizzler's picture. Can you see the shark? Notice the electrical waves that the prey animal is "sending" to the shark? And what does the shark do? He attacks!
Allowing a child to express his thinking this way honors him and how he is smart. If my son was asked to write out this scientific concept he wouldn't, because he couldn't. He's not strong enough in his linguistic skills to do that, yet. In order to feel smart he must work in areas where he is strong. He needs to convey his thinking with his pictures. It's how he thinks and I think its pretty wonderful!
How are you smart?

Friday, April 5, 2013

No more chicken nuggets!

The sizzler made a big decision last night at the dinner table. He was sitting with his dad eating some delicious crock pot Mexican chicken, rice and beans. Something about the chicken got him thinking about, well, chickens. Now he does know that chicken comes from the fluffy, pecking birds we have owned. He knows that bacon is from a pig, but, there is a difference being knowing and really understanding. Last night he reached a level of understanding. He declared himself a vegetarian. He did not eat the chicken on his plate, thank you very much, however, he did ask for more rice with cheese on top.
I'm not surprised he has made this decision. He loves animals dearly and never wants to harm them. He has toyed with the idea many times, but then bacon or sausage would be served and he would happily dive in. Bacon is divinity didn't ya know?
Maybe because we have chickens in the house now it pushed him over the edge. I wonder what he will do when we visit In-N-Out burger again. I will let him know that they have other options like grilled cheese or animal fries. I want to honor his decision and help him be successful as a new vegetarian, even if it means more work for me. That's what Mama's do for their kiddos, right?
So today as we approach lunchtime he reminds me not to make him chicken nuggets (which he happily ate yesterday) because he would not be eating them. Sigh. Chicken nuggets are so easy to make! Then he asks what sausage is made of and what about steak. I tell him and he says, well, I can still eat those because 1) I love them too much, and 2) cows are annoying and I don't really like them. Hmmm, interesting. We've never owned a cow but our neighbors have some. One of them is particularly noisy and the sizzler doesn't like noisy things (funny, cuz he's quite noisy ;)
Then he starts to think about dinner. The sizzler really likes to eat. Friday night is taco night at our house so he says that he will have his tacos without the meat. I tell him that he can have beans instead. He likes that idea.
Good thing the boy likes pasta, tea & cookies. I'm going to have to research some good kid friendly vegetarian recipes. Anybody got some good ones?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chickee cuddles

There is chicken poop on my kitchen floor. I mention this to the sizzler and he says he dropped it there, by accident. So I say "well, if you dropped it there, why didn't you clean it up?"
His response: "I didn't know I dropped it there."
Now, before you go judging me and my unclean house you must know that we have a new batch of baby chickens. Yep. We do. Five lovely little cheepers who eat and poop, a lot.
The fun part about getting our new babies is naming them. Our chickens are not for eating so they have to have a name! There's five in our family so we each got to name one. My sweet son named his little Araucana, Rosalina. I think that is a spectacular name for a chicken, don't you? El named hers Alice, Big Bubba named his Jed Dowell (after his friend, weird, I know, but it's better than the last time he named his Burnt Fries), the Skipper couldn't make up his mind but I think he's settled on Mr. Winkles. I named my precious baby, Lucille.
So, the other morning the sizzler and I were cuddling on the couch with our fuzzy friends and he had a great suggestion. He says "let's read some chicken stories!" Now those are lovely words to a bibliophile mama!
Yes! Go look for Chicken Sisters. Off he goes. Then I had a real proud mama moment. He brought back several stories along the theme of chickens, farms, etc. Oh, how I love it when things are thematic! And here's my boy picking out stories from our library on a theme. Sigh. Grin.
We took turns reading our chicken themed stories to our babies. The chicks were cuddled up in towels as we pet their heads. The sizzler and I snuggled under a cozy blanket. Pure bliss.

So how did the chicken poop get on my kitchen floor? Well, after this mornings chickee cuddle the sizzler went to dump the turd in the towel into the trash. I guess he missed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fish are friends

In the sizzler's world every living creature is a potential friend. A moth that slipped inside at night becomes his friend "mothy". The earthworm stuck on the sidewalk in a rainstorm becomes "wormy" and gets saved by the sizzler. I know they have become friends because the critter has a name. If it has a name then it's "somebody". Just like Dory in Finding Nemo when she finds her new "friend", squishy. Well, until it stings her, then it becomes "bad squishy".
I find it quite amusing that kids love to name things with the ending "ee". And usually the name describes who they are or what they look like. A brown dog becomes "browny" and a white rat becomes "Snowball".
So, I would like to introduce our two new fish friends, Rainbow and Redface.
I'm totally shocked that one of them is not named fishey. I guess it's a sign of maturity. I'll take it!
However, their names totally describe how they look. Rainbow is black, orange and white (not quite the colors of the rainbow, but...) and Redface has a big orange splotch on his head (awesome! I love redheads ;)
Now the thought that pops into my silly brain right now is "I'm so glad our parents don't use this naming process when we are born!" My girl would have been named "cone head", big bubba would have been "bruiser" (he seriously looked like he just came out of the boxing ring) and the sizzler, well, maybe "bloody mess" or "hungry"! I'm sure my mother would have named me "peaceful" or "angel face" ;)
Back to our fish friends, or, should I say, fish family members. I blame it all on homeschooling. In our Zoology book we are learning about swimming creatures and just finished the chapter on fish. At the end of each chapter there is an experiment. This one called for a goldfish. Goody. Another mouth to feed. So we got two! Hey, they were only 10 cents each. Except they needed a bowl, colored pebbles, decorations, food, drops for the water........ So 20 cents worth of fish cost me about 10 bucks. Not too bad.
Guess how long it took the sizzler to name 'em?
Yep, about 10 seconds. He looked at them pronounced them Rainbow (because he has lots of colors) and Redface, well, you know. I love that he has to give the justification for the names.
As soon as they had names he begins the conversation. That's what you do when you have a new friend, right? He talks to them all the way home from the feed store (that's about 30 minutes). He's telling them all about life at Appleby Farm. He thinks they will like it. These fish sure got lucky!
I did warn him that goldfish don't always live that long. Then he told me where we would bury them. Poor kid. He has said goodbye to a few animal friends. He suggested we bury them next to Penelope the rat. I told him we need 't make burial arrangements yet. He obviously hasn't heard about burial at sea.
Yesterday we let them settle into their new home and waited until today to perform the experiment. The sizzler loved watching them swim around. "Mom, look, they're by the finger sponges!" "Look, now they're pooping." Who needs TV!
The experiment was to hypothesize (yes, we use that word, we are scientists after all!) about how the behavior of the fish might change if the water temperature was warmer or colder. Poor Rainbow got selected to be in the experiment. We had learned that there is less oxygen in warm water so the little guy had to resort to some serious breathing in order to get enough oxygen in 80 degree water.

Writing his hypothesis
Reading to Redface while Rainbow is under the heat lamp
Taking the temperature reading

Then we had to plunge the water temperature down to 50 degrees. Now our little friend could breathe easier! It was quite a difference. In the warm water his respiration was about 210/minute then when the temperature dropped he was breathing about 108/ minute. It's pretty tricky counting the breaths of a goldfish!
I would have to say Rainbow has earned a new name, "good sport". Even though he didn't really have a choice in the matter he did perform like a trooper.
Now we just have to introduce sissy to our fish friends. She comes home for spring break today. I think she will love her new "brothers".

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Love my girl

I call her sunshine girl, snug bug and Ellie bellie. Never mind that she is in college now. A mama has a right to call her child anything she wants no matter how old they are, Right? Plus, she's my only girl.
This child is the one skipper and I call "the easy one". As a child she was creative, curious and easy going. She loved to play with her brother (15 months apart). They were best buddies growing up. They would play imaginative games for hours on end. Those were good times.
Throughout most of elementary school she was homeschooled. I just wanted to be with my kiddos and learn along with them. They did fine in school but we felt they needed "more". My girl used this freedom to pursue her interests of horses, reading, drawing (lots of horses) and writing. She wanted to be so many things and I wanted to help her.
At 9 she was in full blown horse crazy mode. She had a goofy pony named Sargent and she loved to ride him every day. She read every horse story there was. One of her favorites was Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague. She learned everything she could about Chincoteague ponies and she really wanted to go see them and experience pony penning day. Lucky for her she has a grandma that loves to send her grandchildren on trips, and since she was only nine, I had to go with her!
It was a girl's dream come true. We were in the water when the ponies swam across the channel. I cried. I couldn't believe we were there. To read these stories to your kids and then get to experience it first hand is just amazing.
She was so enamored with the Chincoteague ponies she wanted to buy one. Where would she get the money? She started a business. Yep, she did. Well, I helped her. It was called el's munchie crunchies. She baked and sold goodies at the local farmers market (back then you could do that without a commercial kitchen). She bought all the ingredients, baked up a storm and sold lots of her munchie crunchies. I had her keep all accounting records (that's real life math there!) She made $200 in four Saturdays. Not quite enough to buy a pony, but, she already had Sarg. She was content.
My girl loved to write. She would spend hours writing elaborate fantasy stories with elves and horses, of course. One day she decided to start a "newspaper". She called it Adventure News. She wrote about all kinds of things going on in our area and put in word searches and other fun stuff. The first issue was all hand done. Then she learned how to set it up with the computer. She gave copies to friends and our local librarian put Adventure News on display in the library (we have very cool rural librarians!). Her creative brain was always thinking up someone new!
At 10, the sizzler was born and my girl took on a surrogate mama role. She was my right hand gal. I don't know what I would have done without her. She was so loving and helpful with her little brother. She learned many lessons such as how much work it is to take care of a baby and how selfless you have to be.
When she was 11 she started a working student position at a local horse riding facility. She worked several hours a week grooming, exercising and helping with the horses and students who came for lessons. In exchange she received riding instruction. This was an amazing opportunity for her. The owner of the riding stable was hesitant to give her the opportunity because of her age. She soon learned that this girl was handy with horses and could work hard! She continued in this "job" until she was 15. The lessons she learned at that barn could not have been learned in a classroom. Real life. Raw. Smelly. Sweaty. She learned the meaning of work.
As a teen she went back to public school but kept up her creative pursuits and her riding. Soon, though, her love for the horses would take a back seat and music would fill her days. She taught herself to play guitar and sing. She joined the choir at school and the worship team at church. She stepped out of her comfort zone and sang and played guitar in front of an audience. I wish I was that brave. Just before she left for college she sang a JJ Heller song in church called When I Leave. I cried, of course.
Now she is finishing up her first year in college and has returned to one of her first loves; Art. She is painting, drawing and designing. She declared herself an art major with an emphasis on education/teaching. I am so thrilled that she has found her niche and is exercising her God given talents and passions. Love my girl.
My girl has always been creative. Whether it's the outfit she puts on, the way she decorates her room or the art she is dreaming up. She has ideas that want to come out!
I can't wait to see what she does next!