Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy 5th birthday, Bean!

Bean invited his brother along to his traditional birthday lunch. I was surprised, since those two don't often get along. Then, I remembered that one of the reasons they don't get along is that Bean adores his big brother with a noisy, overwhelming passion, not always to Mister's taste. I think Bean scored points by inviting him to lunch. 

Curly made Bean's cake. That's Fluttershy the pony on it, which is Bean's current favorite cartoon character. He got to pick the flavors, and he picked strawberry cake with lemon frosting. We were all a bit concerned that it would be a strange combination, but it tasted like strawberry lemonade, and was actually quite good. 

For gifts, Bean got a Thomas train and some track, a balloon animal kit, lots of glow sticks, a few clothes and miscellaneous small things. 

I forgot party hats, so we made balloon party hats!

We got out all of the glow sticks and had a huge glow-party. There was a ring toss, glowing lanterns, and a game involving Mario coins that the boys made up at lunch. I love it when they take care of the party games for me!

Happy birthday, Bean! We love you so much!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Plumber For A Day

We have a toilet in the basement that was leaking nastiness all over. Hubby had fixed it twice, but it never stayed fixed. He was frustrated, and understandably so. 

The problem was that the back-flush toilet (used because of the cement slab underneath) combined with the rigidity of the sewer pipe and wax gasket meant that the gasket was constantly becoming unseated. And leaking. 

We discussed options. Drill out and plumb the cement slab. Ugh. Make a new, super-duper-solid platform for the toilet. Possible but still ugh. And no guarantee of working. 

I looked on Google for a gasket that has a little give in it. I found and ordered the "Sani-Seal" gasket. For good measure, we decided to add a flexible rubber coupling onto the pipe itself, to make it slightly less rigid. 

Today, we installed everything. We're crossing our fingers that there will be no more leaks!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Student of the Month

Proud of you, Abi!

Adapting Lessons

If you're curious, this is how we adapted today's history lessons on mummies and pyramids. 

When we read the book about mummies, Abi had trouble visualizing what the mummies were like, so I wrapped her in toilet paper and made her into a mummy!

Then, when I read about building the pyramids, we made a little model out of play dough of how it worked and what the pyramids looked like. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Abi Quotables

This may *look* like a stylish pink visor. It's actually a front bumper to try to reduce goose eggs on Abi's forehead! Style is a bonus.


Also, Abi has been on a roll lately with the cute things she says. Here are just a few:

Abi: "Daddy, is it dark outside?"
Matt: "Yep. It's almost night."
Abi: "That means the sun is getting ready to visit Ethiopia. It's packing up. Bye sun! Have a good trip and I'll see you tomorrow!"


Me, when studying Braille vocabulary: "What is dot-5-R?"
Abi: "Right! Like when Emily Elizabeth is hiding and Clifford can't find her and she says, 'I'm RIGHT here!' Like that!"
Me: "And 'here' happens to be dot-5-H."
Abi: "Like when Emily Elizabeth and Clifford get to the library or to the school, and then Emily Elizabeth says HERE we are, Clifford! We are HERE now. Like that?"
Me: "Yep."


Me, teaching about states of matter: "If we freeze water, what does it make?"
Abi: "Ice!"
Me: "And if you melt the ice, what does it make?"
Abi: "Water!"
Me: "And if you heat the water more, what does it make?"
Abi: "Food!"
(I love homeschooling.)


And lastly...

Abi: "Mommy, I'm glad Jesus got me such a good family."


Rite of Passage?

Curly got tipped off Hazelnut (horse) into the dirt and fractured her elbow. The good news is that she was wearing her helmet and will be fine in four weeks. 

The bad news is that she continues to have trouble bossing Hazelnut around. Hubby and I are talking about what to do.  

The good news is that Curly isn't scared and she got right back on again. Even with a broken arm. Then she realized how badly it hurt and she got off and we went to the ER.

Never a dull moment. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

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

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!