Friday, September 19, 2014

Snapshot: Mister, inverted

What is he doing?

He's all tucked up in a ball on the couch. What is Little Mister doing?

Reading. Percy Jackson and the Olympians. 

While Riding

Out at the barn, Curly and I work with Hazelnut. She is doing well, and Curly and I love her to pieces. We have more things we want to teach her, and it's always a fun project.

Because Hubby drives, everyone always comes with us. Hubby brings his guitar, and loves the dedicated time to work on his song. Lately, since Abi's eye bleed, he has been bringing the ukelele for her to play with and teaching her some songs on it.

The boys are busy building forts. Using scraps of wood and metal roofing, they have been constructing various structures as well as learning to pound nails and drive screws. I love to give them a chance to play with that kind of thing!

Bean loves the freedom and the outdoors. All the kids do! 

Abi Practicing Reading

Practicing reading with a first grader can be a tedious task, as anyone who has done it will tell you. Still, it's worth it when you see them take those leaps forward.

This month, Abi has taken a big jump forward. Her speed has increased and she has a lot more vocabulary.

We are now working on increasing that vocabulary and also on tracking single-spaced Braille instead of double-spaced.

Here's a little video. She read almost every word on the previous page, and then on this page, when I was recording, she needed a lot of help. Oh well, so it goes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

County Fair

Pictures from this year's fair. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

All The Light

I just finished Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. It's a best seller right now; the internet and critics have been raving about it. Doerr is coming to my town next week to speak about it. 

I'm trying to feel excited. 

Let me attempt to explain. 

One of the main characters in the book goes from visually impaired to totally blind at age six. Sounds just a bit familiar (my six-year-old daughter lost the last of her sight last week). 

The trouble is, the blind girl in the book uses almost all of the usual tropes and stereotypes. She counts steps; she needs a sighted savior to teach her everything and raise her from her depression and despair; she is a docile perfect childlike disabled person who saves the other main character from himself by her purity... You get where I'm going with this?

(The six-year-old blind kid I happen to know went bike riding yesterday, fought with her brother, threw a fit about something, fed the cats, and got bored when Daddy tried to hold and comfort her, insisting she needed to get down and go play video games.)

I read a Twitter conversation before I ever read this book, between several blind people about the blind characters that are generally found in literature (and movies, although I already wrote a separate post about that). The idea of counting steps was discussed, along with the frustration that comes up so often in these conversations, that blind characters are never realistic:

@hehesighties: Authors, if you're going to write blind characters, DON'T have them always counting steps. Dead giveaway that you haven't a clue.

@lillieboo323: @hehesighties @optomouscryme Does anyone even do the whole step counting thing anyway? Wher'd the notion of that even come from.

@simon818: @HeheSighties @Jen1293 Or constantly being guided around by someone because obviously they're incapable of anything on their own.

@jen1293: @Simon818 @HeheSighties I have yet to find a literary portrayal of a blind character that I actually like and that is realistic.

@tuukkao: @Simon818 @HeheSighties Actually, I believe many of us are doing subconsciously just that if we haven't got any other landmarks.

@simon818: @tuukkao @HeheSighties I really don't remember the last time I counted steps anywhere.

@tuukkao: @Simon818 @HeheSighties Neither do I. My point was that it might be happening without us even realising it.

@tuukkao: @Simon818 @HeheSighties I believe it's one of the tiny pieces of information we subconsciously use to find our way around.

@simon818: @tuukkao @HeheSighties It's an approximation at best though. I think the only time that might happen for me is in really huge open spaces.

@FreakyFwoof: @Simon818 @tuukkao @HeheSighties Nope, not my thing. Never do it. I walk differently depending on where I am or how I'm feeling anyway.

@simon818: @FreakyFwoof @tuukkao @HeheSighties I'm pretty tall and usually speedwalking along so fast I don't even have time to count.

@tuukkao: @Simon818 @FreakyFwoof @HeheSighties That's not the point. We're talking conscious counting here, and that's something not many of us do.

@tuukkao: @Simon818 @FreakyFwoof @HeheSighties What I meant was something like an invisible counter clicking with each step you make, similarly to how you notice your surroundings change or 

...react how the surface changes under your feet. It's information related to the distance we've walked, not necessarily the number of steps we've made.


Back to the blog post. I enjoyed Doerr's novel, to a point. But the fact that he used so many stereotypes for his blind character made me question the authenticity of the rest of his imagery and narrations. 

I feel disappointed, I think. I wanted to like the book. I wanted to buy into the carefully crafted story. I wanted to like the cast of characters. I just couldn't do it. 

I know too much. 

It's too close to home, and too much damage is done when people take those invented mis-facts as truth. If everyone who read the book said to themselves, "This author has no more experience with blindness than I do, and he most likely made up his details after walking around his house blindfolded for a while," I would feel a lot better. I think it's more likely that people will see a book meticulously researched in its war details, and assume that the blindness stuff is accurate too. Ah, well. 

Literature throughout history has painted blind folks as superhuman or subhuman: the seer or the beggar. Never just human.  With that, Doerr is in good company. 

To give him credit, he did try. [spoiler alert] He didn't leave her virginal and dependent. She has a family and career. She does help in the war effort. That's something at least. 

For now, I'll take what I can get. 

Still, did he have to make her always counting steps?

Abi Update

I've updated on Facebook, but not here, and since not all my blog readers are on FB, I realized I need to put something here too. 

It's been a week since Abi's eye bleed happened. The ophthalmologists and we all agreed that the only thing we can do is wait and see if it clears out. 

So far, she reports that bright light looks red (seen through the blood) which indicates that her retina has not detached. That's good. But the blood is blocking her little scrap of sight, so she can really see nothing at all. 

She has adjusted remarkably well. After the first sad day, she has returned to being cheerful and chattery. We do a lot of problem-solving, like labeling her markers in Braille so she can still color pictures. 

She rode her bike, jumped on the trampoline (I know, perfect thing to do when your eye is bleeding), and has run around and done her chores like nothing is amiss. She is a little slower and runs into a few more corners is all. 

Curly and Homeschool

Curly is so extroverted, I worried that she would be miserable doing homeschool. I try to set up social time, but it's usually only weekly. 

We had a long talk at the beginning of the year, and she decided that the benefits of all the free time she'd have homeschooling outweighed the drawbacks. 

So far, she has done really well. 

She knows that the additional time and money that isn't going toward private school can go toward the horse. She loves that!

Yesterday, we had plenty of time to ride our bikes over to the fair to watch the rabbit judging. 

This morning, doing math in her pajamas next to the heater, she told me that she much preferred it to a hard desk! I had to laugh, because I remember similar feelings about the desks at school!

Of course, there are always drawbacks, like a curious puppy that thinks kisses are vastly more important than math...

Friday, September 5, 2014


Pls pray for Abi. Her eye is bleeding inside so she can't see at all and she is scared and sad. That 5% sight was really important to her, and it looks like it's gone. When her other eye did this, it was the end. We and her ophth agree that her eye is too damaged and fragile to attempt surgery. So it's a matter of waiting. 

"Mommy, can you wipe the blood off me?"

"No, honey, it's inside your eye."

"But I wish it was gone."


And Bean needed an "eye bandaid" too. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Horse Girl

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Barn Dweller

Our barn has an occupant!

This isn't the horse we were planning to get; it did not work out with his owner. He was a sweet horse, and I miss him, but it wasn't going to work to own him. 

Instead, we found this darling, dainty quarter horse mare who needed a home. When we looked at her we thought how perfect she'd be as a 4H horse, and we were drawn to her calm, sweet temperament. 

She doesn't have as many hours of riding as I'd like, so before I let Curly ride her, I'm going to have a trainer friend come finish her. 

Still, getting to know her has been delightful. Curly named her Hazelnut. She follows us around like a puppy and I can tell that Curly loves her to pieces. 

Home Ec

Every two weeks, Curly has a homeschool friend over and they cook a meal for the family together. 

Last night, they learned about making a balanced meal that is timed to all get done at the right time to serve. 

I was so proud of these girls! They cooked up a super tasty meal of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, fruit salad and cornbread muffins. 

When I came to college, I was amazed at the number of students that didn't know how to cook a simple, nutritious meal. It's a useful skill for my kids to have whether they marry and start a family or choose to do something else. I'm glad I have a way to teach them that is also fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Work. And Hail.

Yes. Work is being done here. 

Just as we finished, the clouds opened and dumped rain and hail on us. 

The kids, building a fort in a nearby tree, were thrilled. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Snapshot: Jumping and Screaming

Kids on a trampoline on a summer day. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Comment About Depression

Re-posted from my FB feed.

I have one more comment about depression, and in particular the tendency for the Christian community to be dismissive of those who struggle with clinical depression.

One of the major problems we have is a lack of clear language in addressing the problem. As I see it, there are really two separate issues that both get lumped into the category of “depression.”
First, there is what I call “the blues.” Life gets you down. You feel sad. Problems seem heavy. You feel tired. You call yourself depressed. Everyone goes through this from time to time. When life gets better, it fades away again. You can choose to trust God. This state is what Matt Walsh is talking about when he said he has been depressed but chose to be joyful regardless. People may even go to the doctor and get medication for this, and that’s fine. We all go through rough patches.

Then, there is actual clinical depression, or MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). It’s a physical chemical imbalance that results in depressed feeling and hopelessness and fatigue, but the difference is, you can’t think it away. Yes, God can heal it, just as He can heal cancer or diabetes, but just like cancer or diabetes, sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes you have to live with it and manage it. And like cancer or diabetes, just choosing joy isn’t going to help. It sometimes feels like a dark cloud is over you even when doing your favorite activities or when life is going really well. Yes, it can develop as a result of stress or grief, but it doesn’t stay connected to those, because when the stress goes away, the chemical imbalance does not. Medication can help. Therapy can help. Time can help. Healing can help. Like eating a healthy diet helps manage diabetes, thinking in healthy ways helps manage depression, but it doesn’t cure it.

What also doesn’t help is people telling you to buck up and get over it. It’s like telling someone with skin cancer, “yeah, I had a mole, but I just ignored it and it was fine.” Ridiculous, right?

Mental health issues are hard to define, harder to diagnose and harder to communicate about. There is a huge stigma over them. It feels shameful enough to admit that our bodies are broken without having people tell us that it’s our fault. It’s hard enough to feel sick when you’re doing your favorite activities with your family. Having other people say that if you’d just try a little harder, the sickness would simply evaporate makes the burden a little heavier. It puts a heavier burden onto our families who are told that if they just pray better for us, or be good a little more often, we’d be okay. And when we’re not, they think it’s their fault. I grew up with that burden. The teaching can be so subtly destructive. 

I think it’s important to be clear in our definitions. Don’t claim you’re “depressed” if you’re just being a whiny-pants. Leave room for those who really do struggle with the condition of depression to have the respect they need and the support to manage it well and minimize its impact on themselves and their families. Pray for healing, sure, but don’t blame them when God’s answer is “wait.” Realize that perhaps that person is so much better at choosing to be joyful in the midst of trying circumstances than you will ever have to be, because they choose to get up every single morning, and choose to go about their day when that choice alone is more difficult than anything you might ever have to face. Thank God for your health; and then love that other person without criticism and without judgment. They probably don’t need a kick in the butt from you, because they are already ten times stronger than you’ll ever have to know.


Three weeks ago, Bean had a fever. He didn't want a blanket; he wanted a barf bowl. He watched a marathon of Curious George. 

Last week, Little Mister had a fever. He didn't need a barf bowl (thank goodness), but we missed church in favor of playing computer games and intermittently sleeping. 

This week, Curly wound up with temperatures in the 103 range. Little Fritz acted the part of nurse and comforter. Or maybe he just liked the warm place to snuggle. 

Fun With Bees

This is my normal hand. 

This is my hand on histamines. 

Sunday afternoon at the barn, I accidentally nailed an electric fence insulator into a wall that had previously been claimed by a nest of wasps. One of them punished me for it, and I've paid the price all week. 

Benadryl. Ice packs. More Benadryl. Hydrocortisone. More Benadryl. 

I think I only just woke up. 

Little Mister got stung on Tuesday while climbing our big willow tree in the back yard. As a precaution, we went ahead and took him into the ER, although thankfully this time he didn't go into anaphylactic shock. 

Ok, Mommy, your blood pressure can go back down again!

And in a very anti-climactic finish, Bean got stung twice and didn't react at all. 

Thank goodness!

Hubby bought three new bee traps yesterday and hung them up. 

Battle is joined. 

Monday, August 18, 2014


This morning, we dove in and tried the full schoolwork-list method. Several things became apparently obvious. 

1. Curly loves lists. She was happy and humming all morning. 

2. Mister HATED it. He was overwhelmed and whiny. He needs more autonomy. The problem is that Curly cries "unfair" when she has a list and he doesn't. This needs some serious problem-solving. 

3. All the kids working on a list at the same time results in bored Bean (read whiny, mischievous Bean), and too many simultaneous demands on my time and attention. I was trying to help Abi read a new book, treat my bee sting, fend off Bean's many questions, and correct the spelling on Curly's writing all at the same time. It did not work. 

I need to stagger the attention to each kid, and make sure Bean has something to do when his usual playmates are occupied. 

I need to figure out how to give Mister the autonomy he needs without frustrating Curly too much. 

Time to put on my thinking cap! Stay tuned. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I love fixing up this old barn

Lots of barn work today! (happy me) I worked there with only Curly and we installed all the electrical. Then later, Hubby and the kids came and we did some of the heavier stuff. The kids had a ball pounding nails into scrap wood. 

Rabbit holes dug out. 
Electric fence charger installed
Wires run from charger to both fences
Non-sturdy wall reinforced
Hole in the wall fixed
More bee nests killed
Old boards moved 
Old rusty nails picked up
Lots of thistles removed
Roof screwed back down
Door installed next to hay
Electric fence turned on and tested 
Concrete slab cleaned off
Gap in fence jury-rigged solution
More insulators installed where fence touched a tree

I can't explain why I love this old barn so much. It has certainly seen better days. It sort of has memories of its previous owners, who happen to be friends of mine, and that feels a little awkward. But it seems like if this little old barn had a personality, it would be happy to be useful again. In spite of its crooked walls and peeling paint, it has such a delightful way of welcoming me in, making me feel relaxed, as if I just put on an old pair of slippers and relaxed into a favorite chair. 

I am impatient to bring Rogan there. I can imagine him exploring the pasture, enjoying the grazing, playing games with Curly in the round pen, trying to steal a mouthful of hay over the stall door. 

I keep reminding myself that it's only a few more weeks and we'll be ready for him. A few more piles of stuff to move. A few more wheelbarrows of muck to haul. 

Speaking of muck, I finally got through all the layers of chicken yuckiness to the floor of the stall. In one corner. 

It's gonna take a lot of wheelbarrow loads to get all of that out of there. Not that I mind much. Just part of the project. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Schooly Ponderings

Buying math workbooks today, (Curly requested an actual workbook to work through this fall) and convincing my children that they really do want to use a reading list to choose literature. Mister has decided he wants to learn algebra. He spent the whole time during horse chores making up math puzzles, like 45 + X = 50. X = 5.  So I got him a playful "intro to algebra" workbook along with the 5th grade math workbook he can use this fall. At this rate, he'll be into calculus and differential equations before he has two digits in his age! (I'm joking. I hope he takes his time and learns each concept thoroughly. But he LOVES math.) Curly is going to do fifth grade math too, but she is more excited about art and her horse. 

For both of them, we decided together that science was going to be more physics-heavy this year. We did so much biology, anatomy and earth science last year, and I happen to love physics. Simple machines, trajectories, force, motion... It's gonna be fun. :) 

Bean wanted a workbook too, so I got him a "counting to 30" book. I'm curious how this is going to go! So far, he is doing great with Reading Eggs, so he might take off with math too. 

Abi read three little books for me today. Her reading speed has jumped a notch this month. I'm really pleased, because she needs to get more vocabulary, and it wasn't going to happen at the snail's pace that she was reading. 

For her math, we've been doing a lot of money counting, calendars and telling time, but I need to get back onto teaching addition. Note to self. Time to buy a pack of M&Ms and start adding!

I think all the back-to-school buzz has infected our house too. I wonder when our official "first day" will be? The day we're at the swimming pool all day, probably.