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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Let's talk about chicks, baby

For the first couple of weeks that we had the chickens, I kept glancing out and telling James, "I'm sure it'll get to the point that I take it for granted they're just out there and doing okay unless I have reason to think differently." Well, friends, that time is here.

The past few days, when Mal and I have gotten ready to leave the house, I look out back and don't see the chickens and think, "Great! They're hiding in the shade! Smart birds!"

We're still learning a lot and having fun. We think we have at least one and maybe two roosters, possibly three; hopefully none. If they start crowing, we'll have to figure out what to do next. But for now, the one that seems to be trying is still a quiet li'l gender-non-specific cutie pie, though it is definitely larger than the others.

It's been hot, and the birds seem to be doing their best to stay cool by camping out under the green in the yard, or chilling on the back porch (yay! poop!). I put ice in their water fairly early in the day and then try to take them refrigerated or frozen fruit or vegetables at least once a day to give them something to snack on. They REALLY like snack time.

What's kind of cool is that they've adapted to the pigeon loft a lot better than we expected. Chickens are, as James told me, "floor birds." Given that, even though I'd modified the loft with a couple of ramps (one is 45 degrees, which is supposed to be the max they can comfortably handle; the other is about 47.5 degrees), I didn't have high hopes about their utilizing the flight deck.

But they figured it out!

I'm so happy, as it's a bunch cooler out there with a breeze than it would be inside on the floor (which should be perfect for winter).

They don't seem to have ventured into the nesting boxes, which I am afraid will be much to small for them by the time they're old enough to lay eggs... if we have any hens (fingers crossed!). They're about 13-14 weeks old now, so we still have 7-15 weeks before they're mature enough to start laying. Glad they're not having to work too hard in the heat. Also glad that a "cold front" is coming in next week. Hey, I'll take 92 over 98 all summer, if it wants to do that!

We spent a lot of time the first couple of weeks after we got the birds filling in holes at the bottom of our fencing, and around the sides of the gates, where they might slip through the cracks. For a while, it seemed like they found a new egress every day! Including, at one point, getting into the front yard by flying up onto the porch border, and going through the wrought-iron railings onto the front porch, then down the steps, and into the grass in the driveway. Fixed that by moving the porch couch "bed" over a few feet.

Simple, but thus far effective, work-around. They don't seem comfortable jumping up/flying while also trying to get through the rails.

However, all of this is really for naught because of something I witnessed earlier this week.

What's this? you ask. Well...

So, yes, they can get up onto the top of our back fence and, if they want to, into the back 1/3... but so far, they just hop back down on the inside. At least I'll know where to look for them if they go missing!

Thus far, they have been easier to clean up after and care for than the pigeons. This is due largely, I believe, to the fact that during the day, they are basically self-sustaining. They do their business outside, so there isn't as much to clean inside the loft. They entertain themselves enough that I don't feel badly if we don't interact much with them on any given day... Speaking of which, I read that when it's this hot, it's best not to check on them in person very much during the day because they get excited and, therefore, hotter.

That's probably all of the chicken news for now. Here are a few pictures of the babies.

They were way more interested in the ice-cold water than the corn on the cob!

This one seems to be trying to crow. Did you know some hens crow?

This one has tail feathers that look rooster-ish.

This one looks almost too beautiful to be a hen, but is also the smallest bird we have.

Chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool and all...

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A little assumption to think about...

Today, I got my hair trimmed. While I did, Mal stayed in the foyer area playing with their Lego Duplos and chatted up the two people who were waiting their turns in the barber's seat, specifically a very young adult.

While the lady cut my hair, she made small talk and remarked on Mal's imagination and cleverness. And, of course, his hair. She did call him a girl. A lot. Despite the fact that I said "he/him" and called him "buddy" numerous times. She just didn't pick up on it.

At one point, she asked if he was in school. I said, "Well, his birthday is in late September, so he wouldn't be starting kindergarten until next year, anyway, but we homeschool."

Without any further information, she said, "Oh, I know we like to protect our kids, but they need to get out there and be social with each other."


Many things to unpack here.

The very first is the assumption that we homeschool for protection. That's nowhere on the list. But I'll get back to that.

The other thing was that she was observing in literally the sentence before this that he was so fun and interactive with everyone. And he's never been to school. So wouldn't it make sense that we'd provide alternate opportunities for him to socialize, not only with children his own age, but with a wide variety of human beings and maybe even animals?

Back to why we homeschool.

The reasons are many, but the top two "not on the list" reasons are: protection from the ideas/influence of peers, and the very absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH why we homeschool is that we perceive it to be "better" or to give a leg up academically, or help our kids be "more advanced" than other kids their age, etc.

Today, I got this ad in a break for a game and I thought, "They have no idea with whom they're dealing."

We don't need our kids to have higher test scores than anyone else. They're not in competition with anyone else: not their siblings, not other homeschooled kids, not private or public schooled kids. It's not a race, where whoever reads best at the age of 5 wins.

Also, specifically, regarding the above ad: Show me that what you're doing makes kids LOVE reading, and maybe I'd be interested. I got high test scores in most things when I was in school. I hated math and history. Test scores were not an arbiter of mastery over time or of interest. So mehh to your advertisement. My kid might be the gray rocket, struggling to achieve escape velocity. That's okay. Most people get there eventually.

It has always bothered me when people tout homeschooling as a "superior" choice to traditional schooling because of how freaking awesome the homeschooled kids turn out. Honestly, most kids turn out pretty cool, and unless you're one of those people for whom a particular schooling method just messes you up, most kids find a way to be excited about and still learn what they truly want to learn, anyway.

So why *do* we homeschool?

I just realized that I can't speak for James. But I don't think he's super vicariously competitive with our kids, either. Anyway, one big reason I started homeschooling D, after considering it for a couple of years, was that D had already mastered everything taught in kindergarten when the time finally came. D's birthday is in November, and at almost six, had already been reading for a good year and a half (we won't be able to say that about Mal, and that's just fine; he can do some math that D could not at this age... again, it's not a competition). It seemed like a waste of D's time, and probably a pain in the teacher's butt, honestly.

Then the more I thought about the time: organizing kids, disciplining a group, getting from point A to point B... just ask a teacher how much actual forward momentum their class has per day, and I'm going to guess they'd say a couple of hours. So it made sense to let D work a couple of hours per day, and then be free to pursue whatever.

The same holds true for Mal.

Maybe most people won't say that time management is the main reason they homeschool, but that's really the number one factor for me. I don't have to drive to/from a school. I don't have to wake up and herd kids at the crack of dawn. My kids don't have to wait for other kids to calm down if they're raring to do something. My kids don't hold anyone else back if they're feeling restless or don't understand something. It's just more efficient. We go on vacation when everyone else is in school, so we don't deal with crowds and lines and headaches like that. I get as much time with my kids as they or I can handle (we all needs breaks, variously). We can move through zoos, aquariums, and museums as slowly or quickly as we want. We can go see a movie when no one else is available. We can stay out late because we don't have to get up at a certain time most mornings. It's all about time.

There are other reasons homeschooling works for our family, but sheltering my kids from outside ideas or people or dangers isn't one of them. Neither is giving them "every advantage." Really, I want them to be happy, peaceful, and fulfilled, as I'm sure most parents want for their kids. That's it.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Getting Old(er), Changing It Up

My body is tired of some stuff, guys, and I'm going to have to do things differently.

Lately, whenever I wear eyeliner, I have to use eyedrops. My eyes itch, they're dry, and I just can't wait to take it off. Yes, all eyeliner. Yes, even THAT eyeliner. I've tried them all. And I LOVE how "awake" I look and how it opens up my eyes when I wear eyeliner. But I think I have to be done with it.

This week, I've just used dark eye shadow at the eyelash line, and, while it's not perfect, it's been fine. At least I won't have to worry about whether it's run or flaked off? Sigh.

Another thing is my hair. It keeps getting so dried out and I will find and use a fairly expensive shampoo/conditioner that I love... for about a year, then I have to move on because my hair goes back to being crunchy hay and it's just no good.

After three years of this cycle, I have actually purchased a product from an MLM, which, if you know me, you know I AVOID. My friend's house-cleaning wipes were a pleasant surprise, so maybe this will be, too.

Beyond that, I might have made a half-decision (like kind of made it, but not overly committed to it yet). After twenty years, I think I might stop coloring my hair. I am sure my hair won't take it forever without just falling right out. It's been a good, LONG, run.

I did take a two-year-break at one point because I was super heavy, and for some reason decided that not having red hair would draw less attention to my fat body? And I also decided that bangs might help me look cuter. IT. WAS. A. MISTAKE. If you're a person who doesn't have bangs, but you're thinking about getting bangs: DO NOT GET BANGS.

Also, "trying to look less fat" is a vapid and needless pursuit, but I won't get on that soapbox at the moment.

Anyhoo, the color wasn't bad, but I ended up going back to red a couple of years later (and after my bangs had grown back out).

The color I have now is fading so subtly, it seems like I *might* be able to just let it grow out? We'll see. It might be more noticeable when the roots are 2 inches instead of 1/4 inch.

Now... another thing. I love where we live. LOVE IT. That said, I don't think I ever want to buy a house again.

Last Friday night, at 6:48 PM, our lawn mower (a human, not the machine) noticed that we had a pinhole leak in the pipe in the ground right behind our water meter. We got it fixed quickly (yay!) but it was $400.

Tonight at 10, we noticed our air conditioner wasn't working. The repair guy came out, but guess what? It's an electric problem, not an a/c problem! The electrician can get here shortly after 10 in the morning, so it won't be *too* hot. But still. Ugh. Oh, and it was $150 for the a/c service call. For nothing. I mean, I guess we did get some information, And I don't begrudge paying the dude for coming out (with his wife in the car; she was his girlfriend last time he made a late-Friday-night call, back in September when we were at Disney World and my parents and D handled it).

In short, being old is kind of awesome, but comes with some "mature" expenses and weird body changes that I'm sure have only barely begun, since I haven't started menopause yet.

Good times.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ethical Ramifications of the "Indian Card"?

James got his Cherokee Tribe cards in the mail last week. They certify that he is 1/64 Cherokee. Since he has his, the next logical step is to get Mal's. Mal would be 1/128 Cherokee, since I have no Native blood.

There was a girl at D's gym who ended up going to college for free in Oklahoma because she had her Indian card. At the time, I thought that was a pretty cool deal.

I am no so sure about that anymore.

My son is white. He is physically white. He is culturally white. He has every conceivable advantage in the USA right out of the gate, including economic security, a stable home life, relative safety, and a level of freedom from suspicion that many people also born and raised around here just do not have. No one will make assumptions about his potential, capabilities, criminal proclivity, predisposition to diabetes or heart disease.

Doors will likely be easy for Mal to open.

I don't think we should "use" the Indian Nation certification for anything but to remind Mal who he is. He doesn't need any extra advantages.

If something happens to James or we end up destitute and in desperate need, I might change my tune and go back to the "grab whatever you can" mentality I have definitely had during leaner times in my life.

In the meantime, especially as we head into July 4th and I've been trying to figure out how to explain the USA to my 4-year-old, I'm going to be thinking a lot about how to contribute TO the tribe from which my husband's ancestors hailed, as well as the Tonkawa Tribe and Comanche Nation, whose land we now live on. (Also, I think about reparations a lot, as my ancestors benefitted from owning slaves. But that's another post.)

If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

I don't want my child growing up with a myth of what our country is. It makes July 4th difficult to "celebrate." I found a years-old article today that explains a portion of why: The Dilemma of the Fourth of July.

I hope Mal will grow up recognizing the inherent value of all people, as well as the ability to listen and do right by others. D did, and did most of that research and emotional labor alone. So there's hope.

Anyway, my point I guess is that we don't have to exploit every available "opportunity" when we have so many thrown at our feet. I want us to pass opportunities on to others who might not be the "default target demographic."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Updates, including the fowl sort

The other morning, James came down the hall to leave for work, freshly-showered and wearing a "public radio nerd" T-shirt. It struck me that, if I were a single woman who knew him as the guy who came into my coffee shop every morning, or who worked with him, when I saw him, I'd think, "Well, of course that guy is married. They're all married." (James added: Or gay. Also true.)

We've been married just over six years, and together about seven. We certainly do things that irritate each other. But the fact is, and I should likely think on it more frequently, that everything I ever found important in a guy -- empathy, humor, brains, fun, stuff I can't write about here -- James has in a big way.

When I told him this, he was suspicious that I'd eaten his ice cream, but it's true. He's the whole package, and I'm married to him. Lucky me.

I don't believe I mentioned it here yet, so: We got chickens! They have been an absolute joy so far. They're still babies (about 9.5 weeks old) and are growing in their combs and tail fans. We have six, hopefully all hens, and it's been such a balm to look out at that loft and know it's not sitting empty, and expensive reminder of carnage.

I do, of course, live in abject fear for their mortality when they're out; I'm still gun-shy about predators. But we further secured the loft, and are home keeping an eye on them when they're free-ranging until they are a little bigger.

D has spent time with them, and they are so much more domesticated than the pigeons. They don't mind human touch, and will even perch on you if you sit still very long. I mean, they also pee and poop then so I don't recommend allowing that to go on for very long. It's cute, though. Birds are so light.

On the one hand, wanting to be around while the birds mature means that we can't do an overnight in San Antonio, like I've been wanting to do, or go visit my parents for the day for a while. On the other hand, hanging out around here, and not being in the car, is great for the summer heat. Also, it will help us save money for a family trip we've been planning for more than TWO YEARS next summer.

We went to the pool for the first time this season this week. Then Mal had a friend come over after swimming, and they had fun together. We might go over to her house tomorrow.

James is actually on his way home to work from here because all of the electricity is out in his building. Yeesh.

That means it's make-up time. Have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

(I suppose we have a collective mouth? That sentence doesn't make sense, but I wrote it like a week ago, so I guess I'll keep it.)

We've been bandying this about for a while, and it seemed time to put up or shut up.

I'll admit that I dragged my feet on the global climate issue for quite some time. But now, we're at a point where it seems like a lot of action needs to be taken (ESPECIALLY by the something like 100 giant companies that produce 71% of our earth's greenhouse gases).

But, honestly, we can all act in small ways that might make a difference. You know, lots of people doing lots of small things can be a big thing.

Anyway, something I didn't even know existed and am, frankly, skeptical about, is that our electric co-op has a renewable energy rider. If you sign up for it, it costs less than $1 a month extra, and they provide your electricity strictly from renewable sources (water, wind, solar, bio fuel). I have a lot of questions about this: Is there an external source monitoring this? Do they guarantee it? Why, when it's so stupidly cheap, doesn't just everyone do it? Why didn't I know about it until I searched for it? Maybe they can't accommodate every single person choosing that? Anyway. Lots of questions. But we did sign up for it, anyway.

And now, we've decided, after ruminating for a bit, to take the plunge and get solar panels. We're aiming to produce about 90% of the electricity we use, so the financing should be about the same price as our electric bills would be during the summer. It'll be a little higher during the milder months, but also hopefully our net metering, wherein we earn credit for excess energy we produce that our electric company buys from us (at half what we pay them for their stuff, but that's business for you), will help make up for that at that time.

Regardless of if we end up paying a bit more out of pocket, James and I have both been trying to figure out ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Hopefully this will help.

Honestly, committing ourself to MORE debt (all we have otherwise is our house and car, but still...) and ANOTHER monthly payment has me all up in "buyer's remorse" territory, even though we still have three days to back out. But, again, the net is negligible. AND this is, for now, anyway, the last year the government will give us a tax credit for 30% of the cost to install. Next year, it goes down to 26%, then in 2021 to 22%... then it goes away. Also, existing and potential tariffs are affecting and threaten to affect pricing. So, again... we're kind of in a sweet spot.

In other notes, we placed one of our apple trees in a bad place, solar-wise, so we'll just have to be sure to top it in a few years, and every year after. James said that no one wants to climb 40 feet to get an apple, anyway, so this is probably just a super practical idea on its own merit.

That's it for now! Keep going, earth!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Observations of Mal

When we were at Jump Street the other day (one of many times; it's one of Mal's favorite places, and I'm trying to burn him out on it before he turns 5 and the price goes up significantly), I noticed something about how Mal plays differently from a lot of other boys.

First of all, you know Mal has a LOT of energy. He hurts himself so much because he's always jumping from one piece of furniture to the next, or running and looking back and slamming into things. He likes to be active and playing and is full throttle... When we go to Jump Street, he'll often run up and down one long trampoline over and over again. He's just always going.

But he's not a rough. I mean, he tramples my feet all of the time, and he'll push himself up by digging his calf bone into my leg, and he's even stepped on my boob more than once (I KNOW). But this is because he's being thoughtless in his play, not because he's purposefully rough-housing.

I watched these two boys run into the area where Mal was playing, and they were hurling dodge balls at each other, and body-slamming mid-jump and doing these brute force air-bound back flips.

Mal doesn't typically play with kids like this. Besides not enjoying being hit really hard by a ball thrown less strategically than by his parents (wherein we attempt to miss his face and/or crotch), Mal also rarely engages in straightforward physical activity.

For most children, jumping on a trampoline is enough, right? But Mal is always pretending. He's Sonic the Hedgehog and I'm his as-yet childless mom, Sonia, wistfully expressing desire to have a baby to take care of. Or I'm Knuckles and we're trying to decide what to do today. Or I'm Amy and I want him to watch a bird for me.

Or else he's Lightning McQueen and I'm Mater and I don't understand where we are. Or he's Robin, trying to lead the Teen Titans even though he doesn't have a super power.

When he plays at McDonald's, the PlayPlace is his lair or his giant robot. Or he wants to play hide and seek with whoever else is there.

-- Later -- Mal woke up and so I played with him in his room... he wanted to read books, but rather than just hand me books to read, he crawled up under his bed (I had the trundle on the floor, but not pushed in) and fed me the books through the crack between the beds. He was a goblin mailman who delivered books, then crawled through the "mail slot" himself for me to read to him.

Every night when it's time to go to bed, he gets excited and says, "Let's chat about our day. How was your day?" After we discuss what we did and how much fun we had, then he starts asking about favorites. "What's your favorite candy? Sonic Dash character? Sonic Boom character? Cars character? Fruit? Thing to eat at McDonald's? Hotel?" Usually, I have to ask him to talk to me while I rest because I wear out long before he does on most days.

He really is a fun, enthusiastic, imaginative, emotional kid. Watching him grow up is immensely interesting.