A very small hatching

As we set up our new incubator for hatching chicks a few weeks ago, John told me, “You know the worst thing that could happen is that we only get one chick.”

“And the second worst thing that could happen is we only get two chicks…”

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Tee-hee-hee. So we got two chicks.

I got an incubator used and I found out after I got fertilized eggs that it didn’t work. Side note: We have our own eggs, but we don’t have a rooster, so to hatch chicks, I had to get eggs from someone with a rooster. I was already committed at that point, so I went ahead and purchased a new incubator. The bright side is that I made a better purchasing choice on the new incubator after getting the used one that didn’t work- it made me think more clearly about what sort of incubator would work best for us. And I was able to return the one that didn’t work.

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I started with 7 eggs, but with shuffling them around with the bad incubator and waiting for a new one, one of the eggs got a hairline crack.

Down to 6.

We got the incubator going and everything was humming along. Counting down the 21 days to hatch. With 4 days to go, I went to check the water level in the incubator (the eggs need high humidity). I was in a hurry, and I picked up the egg tray the wrong way.

Two eggs rolled out and went splat on the counter. It was somewhat traumatic for me because these were almost fully grown chicks. I could see them. It wasn’t just a cracked egg. I read quickly about how chicks form and learned that their lungs are the last things to form, so they won’t survive if they hatch early. The kids took it in stride, but seeing those almost formed chicks was tough for me to swallow.

Down to 4.

That night, we candled the eggs to make sure all were viable and one egg was a dud.

Down to 3.

On the day of the hatch, the kids were beside themselves with anticipation. But hatching chicks is an exercise in patience. In fact, patience is the hardest thing about it. The chicks don’t generally just break out of their shells. They pip and stop. Pip and stop. Wait 8 hours. Then there’s a little more action.

One chick took 12 hours to hatch fully. The next one came out from first pip to full hatch within 10 minutes. And we had two chicks.

The first chick to start pipping didn’t do anything more for 24 hours. Then it pipped a little more. At 36 hours, there was a big opening in the egg, but nothing more was happening. The chick was not alive. When we pulled all the shell off, we could see that it had something wrong with its stomach.

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Now we have to figure out what to do with just 2 chicks. The tricky thing with chicks is that different ages must be kept separate until they are fully grown because big chicks will pick on little chicks. Whatever! For now the kids have adopted them as pets anyway! And hatching eggs is a miracle and an awesome thing to watch. Not a waste by any stretch.

A couple days ago, I got 24 fertilized eggs and I’m going to start a big batch. Hopefully we’ll do better this time!

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Christmas in May

It feels so wonderful to accomplish something that’s been on your list for (gulp!) years. Three years ago, when we moved into our current home, I wanted to plant Christmas trees to raise up, and on Mother’s Day, we got it done.

I had been determined to plant trees this year, but I was running into all sorts of road blocks. I wanted to get 50 trees, but the supplier I found wouldn’t allow orders under 150. I was struggling to figure out which exact variety was best for us and how did I want it raised before we got it. There were way more decisions involved than what I felt qualified to make. One morning, while my head was spinning, John stepped in.

Can I make a phone call? he asked. Sure. Within 5 minutes, he called a man he knew locally that raises 1000’s of trees, got the scoop on all the important details, and had trees lined up for me. Talk about amazing. I offered John the rest of my list to make quick work of, but he declined. Hey, I tried!

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So for Mother’s Day, John gifted me with 22 Balsam firs and helped me plant them. In fact, everyone (except the baby) got in on the action of planting them. It was a perfect family project.

It takes 11 years from seed for these to grow into full-sized Christmas trees, and these particular trees are 6 years old. The man we got these from starts the trees from seed and I am totally intrigued with this idea. My thought is that by the time these are old enough to sell, the kids would be old enough to sell them. We can plant some every year and the kids will have the supply they need. If they aren’t interested, well, the trees will look great! In fact, the trees we planted look so good, I’m not sure we’ll want to take them out. 

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In addition, we worked a little bit down by the creek on our property, per our Mother’s Day tradition. The grass we planted last year is growing, along with my daisies, Solomon’s Seal, and lupines. We had a fire, cleaning up the fence line. We cleaned up the entrance to the woods. I piled all the old tires in one area. And I planted Lily of the valley and basket willows along the creek.

This is definitely one of our happy places!

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Hannah made me a Mother’s Day present- made out of a headband “she doesn’t use” and an egg carton she retrieved from the recycling. Is this a girl after my heart or what? She felt so proud of repurposing, and I think it was a rockin’ idea to boot.

What did you do for Mother’s Day?

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Cobbler for breakfast, amber teething necklaces, and new fuel for running

Our recent trip was not only rich in hanging out with people, but also had the unexpected benefit of plenty of new ideas to think on, books that I should read, and thoughts to pursue. I’ve been trying things out little by little- it’s the small things that make everything new.

In the area of food, we’ve been using finishing salt on various items as a flavor enhancer. It’s great on cookies, pudding, ice cream, and cinnamon rolls. I want to try it on salad.

Our new favorite breakfast? Cobbler! Before you say ridiculous, hear me out. I don’t make overly sweet cobbler, and my friend taught me to grind up nuts and oatmeal with butter and maple syrup in the food processor for the topping. It’s super nourishing. Everybody eats it. Put yogurt on top and it’s a complete meal. Genius!

Micah has a terrible time with teething, and one friend suggested using an amber teething necklace. When I read about it, it seemed worth a shot. Supposedly, amber has natural pain relievers that are released with body heat. Micah loves wearing the necklace and I think he looks super handsome. Does it help? I can’t know about the pain relieving but he’s less drooly for sure!

On a long run, my standard fuel is junk food. I know- I am not about junk food at all, but when I first started running ultras, all the aid stations had junk food, so I got used to fueling on M&M’s, chips, coke, and pizza. Everyone else was doing it, and honestly, it does work. I personally can’t do energy bars/gels. One of our friends does long mountain bike races and when we got to talking, he shared the name of the purchased mix he uses for fuel and recovery. I trust him, but buying a purchased mix isn’t my style. I did a little research, and I’m going to try whole chocolate milk for fuel during long runs, with real salt for electrolytes. For recovery, I’ll try the drink I’ve used in childbirth- makes sense, right- of lemon juice, honey and real salt. If it doesn’t work, I can always go back to junk food!

Other things I learned? I am going to grow some tropical plants that I can overwinter in the basement- specifically those I can allow to go dormant- and that I can put outside on our deck in the summer. I am learning about essential oils. I started using transdermal magnesium oil each morning. I got some craft-y inspiration and new recipes. And I hashed out the pros and cons of kid sleepovers with a good friend (I was convinced it was a no beforehand, and now I’m even more convinced.)

A huge inspiration was a fabulously-done family Easter egg hunt that we attended. Even the big kids were involved- you can’t be too old for an Easter egg hunt! First, we searched for eggs with candy. Then in a different area of the farmyard were eggs with money inside. When we shared with another friend about this, she said her family does the same and she was hunting for eggs until she had her own kids…and no one would ever think to miss it. It’s just too fun. I want to start this tradition, our challenge being that there is still snow at Easter. Good thing I have almost a year to ponder this!

Do you use finishing salt on any foods? Does your family do a big Easter egg hunt like this? Do you make cobbler for breakfast? Any fueling ideas for long runs?

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May baskets

Those Canadians are so smart. I find that our Canadian friends have awesome traditions, which we are happy to adopt. Our favorite so far is Boxing Day, a day for visiting and stopping in to see friends just after Christmas. John always takes that day off now and we plan for it….Boxing Day is pure brilliance.

Last week, a Canadian taught me about May baskets and I knew we had to do it.

P1120411With friends, we made up several paper baskets on May 1. We delivered a few to older folks that we didn’t know. Then, we delivered baskets to our neighbors.

It took the entire afternoon into the evening because everywhere we stopped to deliver a basket, we stayed to chat. We obviously live amongst our neighbors but it’s so easy not to catch up with them. This was a perfect excuse to stop in!

One neighbor remembered making them as a girl and taught us another way to make them. She said they would put a basket on the door of a boy, then knock and run; if the boy caught the girl, he could give her a kiss!

The kids and I had the best time and I was thoroughly convinced that we need to do this again. It grew our relationships and opened us more chances for us to hang out. One neighbor invited us to a campfire at their house that night and another invited us up for a campfire the next day. We don’t often hang out with either of them; it was all the result of May baskets!

Have you done May baskets? Is there a good way you’ve found to make neighbor visits happen?

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In April

April goals…

  •  annual Passover Seder
  • annual Earth Day trash pick-up
  • date with John
  • dates with the kids
  • take the kids to the pool, indoor rec center, and library
  • take the kids to the nursing home and food pantry
  • plant Christmas trees on our farm (doing it this week!)
  • make bagels with the kids
  • set up for the kids to measure the weather at our house
  • take the kids stargazing twice
  • boil our own maple syrup (in the end, we tapped a tree and just drank the sap)
  • attend grafting workshop
  • go on a long run
  • monthly family adventure

April highlights: Umm, our massive road trip! I’m still excited about the ideas I came home with (a post in itself) and loved seeing so many people. The kids are excited about running and Hannah and BenBen did a one mile race a couple weeks ago, while I ran a 5K. We have another race next weekend!

It’s campfire season again. We hosted a tea party, we went to a community band concert, and Hannah and I watched a classical piano composer (she came home and started composing music at the piano!). We started incubating some chicken eggs.

We also finished our 100 days of real food. While we were traveling, I wasn’t able to stick with all real food, but I did the best I could. However, since getting home, I jumped right back in. I have lost my taste for chips, at least for the time being, and I’m going to try to stick with real food as much as I can, knowing that summer is tricky with picnics and gatherings with others. I am so happy to have done this!

What is working…

Being away, of course, all my good habits and practices went out the window. I didn’t expect that I would keep up with them on the road, which is good because I didn’t even take vitamins! I have no capacity to accomplish anything away from home. However, being without habits, I can clearly see which ones benefit me and are worth the effort. Working them back into my life is harder!

I came home with lots of garage sale/thrift store finds (hooray!), and last week, I worked at purging an equal volume- success!

From the bookshelf…

  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz (yes, I read it again!)
  • The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature by Mitchell Kalpakgian
  • Better Than Before by Gretchin Rubin

May goals…

  • kayak twice
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • take the kids to the nursing home and the food pantry
  • take the kids to the pool and the library
  • go stargazing twice
  • family bike ride
  • hatch eggs!
  • walk to the playground
  • make whoopie pies with the kids
  • go for a long run
  • build a better laundry line
  • toy room overhaul (which I didn’t do in March)
  • spring clean, plus outside farm clean up
  • monthly family adventure

Are you or your kids running any races this year? Do you do spring cleaning? What’s something fun you’re up to this month?

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It’s only a test

It’s easy to put way too much into our kids’ achievements. There, I said it.

I want to help my kids to be successful and improve their skills and knowledge, and I can’t see any reason why that isn’t a good thing. However, their learning and skills do not make me a better person or parent.

I caught myself in this trap recently as I thought about Hannah taking the annual achievement test required for homeschooling. This will be our first year taking the test and I started to wonder what was on it and how to prep her for it.

When I learned that the math portion covers multiplication, I started to worry. Hannah is two weeks shy of finishing our second grade math curriculum, but our curriculum doesn’t cover multiplication until third grade. She’s never seen a multiplication problem. Part of me wondered if I should delay the test or if I should teach her just a little for the test.

But no! I don’t want to fall into the trap of teaching for a test. At the core, I believe that is wrong. I don’t believe in rushing kids so they can perform the right answers and I know that I didn’t do multiplication in school until third grade. She’s not “behind”. In fact, I don’t even think that tests are a good indicator of what we know and how well we can apply that to life.

But me, I wanted Hannah to rock that test. It doesn’t matter for anything. If she does terribly, it doesn’t matter to the state. Taking the test is purely a formality. In vanity, I wanted her to rock the test. As an affirmation that I am doing well. That I am a good parent and a good teacher. And lots of hogwash like that.

For all that I think what I value is real life experiences and learning in its own time and learning to live in real life rather than focusing on the narrow bands of academics, the rubber met the road and I was surprised how much it bothered me that I was setting her up to do poorly. On a test that doesn’t reflect at all what she knows or who she is as a person.

So we’re just going to take the test and get it over with. I have to live what I believe; that means we do our best and move on. And it doesn’t mean a thing, except I will be healthier in knowing that my kids’ success or lack thereof is not where my value comes from. If they are good at an activity, I can be proud of them- for them. They are their own people.

Really, you can laugh at me! I’m already over it.

Have you ever found yourself in this place with a test or something else your kids have done? What helped you?

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What Micah has taught us

P1120372When I told Hannah this week that Micah was now 11 months old, she started to tear up, “But I love him being a baby!” Although babies have their challenges: sleep deprivation, getting into everything, needing held at inconvenient times, in some ways I agree. It’s nice to have a baby.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think we should have 100! I just like the baby we have. :)

You could make a case that any one member of any family has a special place in it and a family would not be the same without that person. Yet, Micah holds a special place in our family. I can’t explain exactly why or how, but Micah has taught all of us how to love better.

He’s the one who gets special hugs from everyone before bed- on their insistence. He is adored by everyone like no other. Not that we didn’t love on and adore the others as babies, but the older kids have learned more of how to love through him.

Maybe it’s that I’m more harried and needing them to watch after Micah more, so it’s out of necessity? Maybe it’s that he’ll truly let anyone love on him? Or it could just be that with a 7 year old with motherly instincts as the oldest, everyone else is getting their cues from her.

Micah might eat the kids’ legos and destroy their creations constantly, but when they hear that he’s woken up from a nap, they all rush in to get him up. If he’s been sleeping for awhile, they check to see if he’s woken up yet. They know to watch out for him and potential dangers, and they are for the most part gentle in their protection (Sammy is 3- need I say more?). They love to find things to keep him busy. If they get to take him up to their room to play with him there, that is awesome. They love this little guy so much.

Kids are amazing in general in how they see all little people as another person and value them as such. I love watching how Micah has grown that capacity in all of us. He has taught us so much in his 11 months!

What is Micah up to? He’s crawling, he sweeps the floor for any morsels to sample (including under appliances, because that’s where the good stuff is- he knows!), and he’s got the best little thighs around. When we tickle him, he laughs like crazy and his face lights with excitement each morning on waking up.

Micah is a blessing to us for sure! We wouldn’t be the same without him.

Is there someone in your family that has this role?

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