Life documented

Winter is making one last hurrah tomorrow with temps down to 28 here. So, the tomato seedlings were brought in tonight and are snuggled up all cozy in the foyer; the baby chicks are a balmy 98 degrees under their heat lamp in the garage; and, after we finish up school tomorrow morning, I’ll be snuggled up with my sewing machine and a warm cup of coffee in the craft room. I’ll more than likely be in snuggly pajamas all day.

We’re homebodies. We just look for a reason to stay home. 28 degrees outside sounds like a good enough reason to me. And, after hosting out-of-state company every other weekend for several weeks we need to get back on track and clear out the to-do list.

I started this little number in between hosting guests and never got around to sewing it. So, tomorrow I’ll start piecing it together at the machine. Hopefully it will be done before the next guests arrive and I can show you a final product.

IMG_1037In the meantime, here’s a little photo dump to document daily life:

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The end of the book and the beginning of spring

Spring has sprung. Never mind the snow that fell yesterday or the biting wind. It’s here.

It’s here whether I’m ready for it or not.

And I’m not.

I still need to finish my book review that I started back in 1910. Geez. How long does it take a girl to write a book review?! If I’m your girl, then a long time. Between hosting visiting family, weekend sickness, pinewood derby car races, hockey lessons, and feverishly trying to prepare a new garden before spring passes me by, I just haven’t made time.

Leason learned.

And, to add to the list of things I MUST do, I just received the call from the apiary that our bees will be ready to pick up exactly ONE week from today. And the chicks will arrive two days after the bees.

So, while I want to finish strong with a “formal” review of the last three parts of Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World(because it was the best book I’ve read so far this year), I’m going to give myself some grace and simply leave you with my favorite excerpts from those sections. The things I must do are outnumbering the things I only want to do. Chicks and bees are on the ‘must list’. Book reviews are on the non-essential list.

Plus, I know you are all eager for me to get back to posting pictures of farm animals and gardens.

Part V: Travel

 

“Many Americans are unaware of the significance of Turkish geography, the country itself a literal bridge between the Western world and the Middle East. They also don’t know why Kosovo is such a fought-over slice of land in the former Yugoslavia, or why Lesotho is smack-dab in the middle of South Africa. and they can’t tell you the difference between Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, or that La Rinconada, Peru, is the highest city in the world, nestled in the mountains at close to seventeen thousand feet. I didn’t learn any of this in my schooling.

And I’m guessing my kids won’t either, unless we teach them world geography at home. I don’t indict the schools, really, because as I’ve already said, I believe educating my kids is my job, so if I want my kids to know more about the world beyond the names of the seven continents, we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. I believe they’ll care more about the crises in Africa when they know the capitals of each of the countries there, and they’ll better understand why it’s such a big deal that China won’t let go of Tibet when they’re aware of its topography. Perhaps, one day, this map on our wall will be the impetus that propels them into the deep rain forests of Guatemala or to help with the water crisis in the Sahara.”

“Geographical awareness produces more than correct answers on Jeopardy! People who know the earth are people who better care for the earth and its people. They better steward their everyday habits because they understand how our choices here in North America can affect places like Burma or Nicaragua. They realize that our planet is divvied up between a lot of people.

I want my kids to be the sharing kind of people.”

 

Part VI: Entertainment

 

“If boredom is simply a lack of stimulation and the unpleasant feelings that go with it, then the antidote is not finding a source of entertainment — it’s finding motivation to brush away those unpleasant feelings. If I quickly solve my kids’ boredom problem with movies in the car, the next great video game, a slew of extracurricular activities, or even lying on the floor with them to serve as a playmate because no other kids are around, we’re short-circuiting what could ultimately be a beautiful thing. History has shown that boredom is the impetus to creativity.

Psychology Today says, “The antidote to boredom is to provide children with an environment that lets them experience autonomy (the ability to work a little on their own), control (the right to have a say over what they do), challenge (a small push beyond their comfort zone), and intrinsic motivation (the motivation that comes from inside them).” If my home is already relatively equipped to handle boredom, just as it’s equipped to handle the autonomous educational exploration mentioned in chapter 27, I’m able to freely say, as a parent, “Go find something to do.”

 

Part VII: Revival

 

“It’s all well and good to want to live more intentionally, but nothing will happen unless there’s a blah. this is the first of these truths, no matter who you are or where you live: living with intention requires a blueprint.

No, this doesn’t mean you’ve got to sit down monthly and evaluate your family’s health and performance for the past thirty days, and this “planning” business doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. But by definition, intention means an act or plan, so living with intention actually means living with a plan. Making your days, choices, and relationships count toward something ultimately doesn’t matter if you don’t know what that something is.”

I know I’ve been beating a dead horse over the head with how much I’ve talked about this book lately. But, it had such a profound impact on our family that I almost feel like NOT sharing it with you would be a disservice. Now, understand what I’m saying. This book didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. It wasn’t full of new concepts for us or radical new ideas for changing our life. But, reading it was extremely invigorating for me because it confirmed what I already knew I wanted. And, in very reasonable terms, Tsh outlined how to start. How to start down the path, even if you’ve started a hundred times, and actually reach those goals. And guess what? After reading the book, I was encouraged to start down a path that we’ve explored before and, in the past, didn’t make it very far. And you know what happened? We got down the path to where we had  been before and we went a little further. And we’re still on it. Traveling at a steady pace towards our goal. What was a 30 year goal before has now been shaved down to a 5 year goal that we are chipping away at successfully. Notes from a Blue Bike didn’t have all the answers, just like no book of its kind does. But it encouraged me to make a plan for our family instead of wishing for something all the time. It encouraged me that BIG goals take big planning. And that the steps towards those big goals are small and happen in the everyday, seemingly insignificant choices we make. They happen at the grocery store and in our quiet time. The steps toward our goal are in the moments between hockey practice and during our dinner time. They happen while we plant the garden and when we scroll through Facebook. Becoming who we want to be and striving for what we want for our family is daily work. And that daily work pedals us down the path we want to go. Sometimes you hit a bumpy spot in the road and you have to get off and walk your bike through the rough parts.

But walking is still moving.

Just keep moving on towards the goal.

Be intentional.

Part IV: Education

Alright folks. Let’s get back to pedaling our way through Notes from a Blue Bike.

Part IV discusses education, a topic that I feel passionate about. Tsh discusses their decision to homeschool their daughter after attending a private school for kindergarten. She also writes about their decision to return to a local school. And while her stance on homeschool vs. private school vs. public school may seem ambiguous to some, I found it so refreshing and clear.

There is no ONE right way to school. We are all wonderfully different. And we all learn in our own way. And if you are pro-homeschool it does not mean you must be anti-public school. Or anti-private school. Or vice versa.

I have mentioned before that Mr. Thistle and I attended public school from kindergarten through 12th grade. And we both had somewhat positive experiences. We made decent grades, stayed out of trouble for the most part, and we were actively engaged in extracurriculars.

We never really thought we would homeschool our children. It wasn’t something that we had any experience with and we, like Tsh, had a rather biased and distorted view of homeschoolers as a whole.

“A large family with a white cargo van, oddly dressed children with questionable hairstyles, and me, relegated to the proverbial denim jumper. The Bible as our only history text. These were my visions of what homeschooling would be like — except I honestly never pictured myself in that scenario, because of course I’d never homeschool. I grew up with an extreme stereotype of homeschoolers (some of it warranted), so it wasn’t a matter of deciding early on that I would never homeschool. It just never crossed my mind. It wasn’t an option. My future kids would do normal school. “

 

But, after a year of Pre-K at the most wonderful private school I’ve ever known we found ourselves asking some tough questions. Our boys had started some pretty heavy therapy that summer with speech, occupational, and food therapists and we were now staring down the barrel of the decision of whether or not to return to traditional school. Knowing how I had felt about homeschool in the past, I was not unaware of the criticism and speculation that might come from friends and family in regards to our rather “unorthodox” decision. Homeschooling was not something either of our families and really, none of our friends, had ever tackled. But we were doing it anyway. We strapped on our homeschool label and went on our way.

The most important point I think Tsh makes in the education portion of the book is this:

 

“Never say never to any sort of schooling for your kids!”

 

You just never know what will come up in life that might make you eat crow. I never imagined that we would be a homeschooling family. But now that we are, it has often times felt as if we are pigeon-holed into this one category and there is no crossing over. EVER. This was also true for the newlywed twenty something’s who dreamed of our future kids and where we would send them to school. We were public-schoolers then. We would NEVER homeschool. Now we’re homeschoolers and the thinking is that we would NEVER return to “normal” school. That’s a slippery slope. Life happens.

“This is why, I realized, it is important to be intentional with our family’s decisions — because no one but us could decide what was best for our family.

“We had a peace that this was what was best for us, so we bit the bullet and decided we’d rather be alone than pick a default educational method to please other people. We’d just evaluate the best educational route for each of our kids each year, not assuming any path was best simply because it was easiest.”

 

And while Tsh tells their own formal schooling story for their children she also outlines learning for the whole family and how important it is.

I think this is our schooling concept. Wholeness. Educating the whole child. However that may be. And educating the whole adult. And everything in between. If our educational tank is full, I feel we have succeeded. If it is lacking in an area we look for how we can fill it up. Always adjusting. Always evaluating. I think this is where the real issue lies. Not in whether our kids attend public, private, charter, or home-based school, but whether they are whole at the end of the day. And whether we as parents, mentors, and guardians are modeling that wholeness.

“Books, open-ended toys, and access to the outdoors have one thing in common: their goal is self-directed, unrestricted discovery. Most kids don’t need a schedule full of classes or sports — just one at a time is fine.”

“A simple combination of unstructured outdoor time, limited toys, and reading on a regular basis is the recipe to a positive early education.”

“Our home will be the most significant place during our kids’ childhood. I can’t ignore its influence.”

 

There it is. The home as most significant to learning. I think a lot of people might automatically think of this in a homeschooling box. It is absolutely not. And this, I believe, is where we have gone wrong. Parents/guardians, no matter the schooling choice, should still be influencing the child’s education. The home as the most significant learning arena comes in all shapes and sizes and fits in all kinds of boxes. For parents, Tsh says this is accomplished by “tending your own desert”. Making sure that your kids know a world of learning and exploration outside of worksheets, standardized tests, and book reports is imperative whether you homeschool or send them to a school. Modeling lifelong learning by taking time to read a book for your own enjoyment speaks volumes! Getting outside and exploring the world with them grows your education alongside theirs. Viewing the school as a “partner” rather than the sole influence over the child’s education is also important for the parent of public/private school kids.

“The educational goal for our kids when they leave the house is that they’ll love to learn. No one learns everything he or she needs to know by twelfth grade, or even by college graduation. Our intent is that our kids will want to find their own wells and fill up their own buckets.”

 

I read somewhere that Tsh and her husband ultimately decided to return to homeschooling but I haven’t read that straight from her words yet. But the point is, she refused to get caught up in the war between schooling methods. She did not believe in one right educational method for all children. Because there truly isn’t one.

She simply believes in doing what you know to be best for your family at that moment.

Intention.

I love it.

The Fancy Chicken Society

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t forgotten that we’re halfway through a book tour here on the blog. Last week was crazy and it takes me a while to get back to a normal routine. So, we’ve been catching up on school and enjoying the warm weather. I promise we’ll pick up where we left off before the week is over.

But before I get back to the book tour, I have a confession to make.

I didn’t make it through chick season.

It was too hard.

I need chickens in my life.

I’m a farmer without a farm.

While operations won’t grow here at this exact place to what they were back in Georgia, we are doing a little farming. Just a smidge. Garden, honeybees, and baby chicks should all be up and running come April. We have a 5 year plan for the “real” farm but for now we’re just adding these 5 girls to the mix to scratch our farm animal itch.

I’ve learned a lot about chickens the past couple of years so I hand picked these girls based on my experiences and personal preferences.

Let’s meet the girls. (Or what the girls should look like when they grow up.)

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Salmon Faverolles have wonderful beards, muffs, and feathered feet. My three favorite features on a chicken! Chickens with beards and feathered feet are my weak spot. Salmon Faverolles are also very heavy birds. I love a fluffy, full chicken.  And, as an added bonus, they do well in confinement (which will be their life here since we don’t have a proper set-up for them to free range safely). They are also very calm and are generally wonderful with children. Win. Win. Win.

Plus their colors are gorgeous. As with any other bird, the males are much more decorated and showy. We won’t have a rooster here if we can help it but I’ll be sure to add one when we move to a bigger place. The Salmon Faverolles are quiet boys and very pretty.

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While a lot of people (Mr. Thistle included) might think this bird looks a little ridiculous, I think she’s gorgeous. My attitude is that if I’m going to spend a significant amount of time looking at farm animals they might as well be interesting to look at. And the Silver Laced Polish definitely fits in the “interesting” category. Just look at that hat! Chickens with hats? Another weak spot of mine. These girls are also generally very tame and docile. Just what I’m looking for. I’ve never had a mean chicken in my life and I don’t intend to start now if I can help it. It took me 7 years to convince Mr. Thistle to let me have chickens because of a bad encounter with a chicken that terrorized him as a child. Gotta stick with the good girls here.

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Speaking of hats. Check this girl out! This little collection of birds we’re getting reminds me of the ladies in the Red Hat Society or the gals at the Kentucky Derby. All very fancy. I also love that this girl, the Appenzeller Spitzhauben, has spots like a dalmation. So clever looking.

 

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As common as they may be to many chicken owners, I still think the Buff Orpington looks very smart with her full feathers. She may not be the flashiest breed but I still think she’s a beautiful color and I love her full britches. She’s a tried and true breed that doesn’t disappoint in egg laying and friendliness.

 

 

 

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And while the French Black Copper Maran might not look like much to write home about, she lays a GORGEOUS dark chocolate colored egg. Mind you, it doesn’t taste any different. And despite what many may think, the nutritional value of brown eggs (dark or light) compared to white eggs is no different. Now, grocery store egg nutritional value vs backyard egg nutritional value is another argument. It all comes down to feed. If you feed them like the commercial layers have been fed they’ll taste no different. When it comes to taste, it’s 99% feed, 1% breed in my opinion.

The Maran eggs are just pretty to look at. Really, I think all eggs from your own yard are pretty to look at but I’m weird like that.

 

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Just look at those dark eggs! Beautiful!

We hope to add a couple more colored egg layers to our flock that weren’t available at the hatch times of our other girls. We’ll have to do some searching to find them around the same hatch date so that they’re all about the same age. It’s important that they are close in age because it limits issues with older birds picking on younger, smaller chicks. Because, while these might be “sweet” girls to us, a chicken can be extremely cannibalistic and ruthless to members of their flock if conditions aren’t right. They haven’t evolved much really. They’re still dinosaurs if you ask me. Highly un-evolved.

If I play my cards right perhaps adding an Ameraucana or Easter Egger or Cream Legbar will have my egg carton looking something like this by the end of the year:

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So there you have it. We will be home to a fancy chicken society come April. Along with a Queen bee and her 12,000 attendants.

I love being a part of that club.

Mrs. Thistle is BACK!

We are a hockey family

I guess it’s fitting that we started our first hockey lessons the same week as the ice storm.

Brrr. I may never be warm again.

My sweet boy wants to be a hockey player. So we signed him up for an 8 week session that focuses on the skating part. Pretty crucial part of hockey. He loves — LOVES — to watch hockey on TV but getting out there on the cold hard ice and learning to play is a completely different story. I prepared myself for the possibility that we just dropped a not-so-small amount of money on ONE practice. I prepared myself for the “I’m just not good at it” or “it hurts” reasonings that would likely follow a hard fall.

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Folks, the boy did not even hint at the possibility of quitting. He got out there and fell. And fell.

AND FELL.

He hit hard.

A lot.

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And out of the 100 or so pictures I snapped of him, he is smiling in at least 75 of them.

He LOVED it.

I’m not sure he understands how sore he is going to be in the morning but I’m sure he’ll say it was worth it.

He was so tough. My sweet angel is well on his way to becoming a Goon. A bash brother. A toothless wonder.

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He loves the Ottawa Senators and the Anaheim Ducks (no surprise there). And tonight, I truly think he went out there thinking he was as tough as those guys he watches on TV. He wouldn’t slow down for a second. He probably would’ve stayed upright a little longer if he’d only slowed down a little. But the boy was on a mission. He told me he was tough and getting tougher.

I don’t know who this kid is. And I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m torn between not wanting him to get hurt and not wanting him to give up. And the not wanting him to get hurt part is going to be hard to manage because hockey, well it just isn’t likely that you won’t get a bump or a bruise or a break or two. I’m insanely proud and extremely anxious.

Please send wine and chill pills. And maybe oxygen and/or a brown paper bag or two.

We are now a hockey family.

 

 

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