Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another unexpected biology lesson

(Warning... this lesson did not have a happy ending. You have been forewarned.)

We are over run with rabbits in our neighborhood. They are everywhere. When I come back home in the early evening, it is not uncommon to find five rabbits sitting in my yard happily eating the hostas. They even have babies in a warren in the middle of my front yard. Nearly every year. The only house on the block that routinely has many children running around it. No one said they were bright.

This year we have had an uncommonly large number of little baby rabbits hopping about. They are cute, but... the children are in love with them. They want to hold them and love them and squeeze them and pat them on their cute little heads. TM really wanted to try to catch on and make it a pet. (Yes, I know that it doesn't work to try to make a pet a of wild bunny, but not everyone wants to hear that.) The bunnies are also very fast. They will let you get within a foot or so of them, and just when you think you could bend down and scoop one up, they are off like a flash. You just can't catch a healthy wild rabbit with your bare hands. Which is why I told TM that if he did catch one we could keep it. 

Yes, I know. Famous last words.

We walked home from church on Sunday and TM had run ahead. When we caught up, he was sitting on the ground with a baby bunny in his lap. My first thought was that this must be a very sick baby bunny to have let itself be caught, and I wasn't far off. M. was with us, and being our resident amateur biologist, she took over. (Hooray!) The little rabbit wasn't sick, but it was injured. It appeared to have severed or damaged (internally) its spinal column because it's back legs didn't seem to function, yet they didn't seem to be broken. The adults in the family all knew this was going to end badly, but with a passel of children standing around we also knew that leaving it to be eaten by a passing fox, raccoon, or falcon wasn't an option. Nor was helping it along its inevitable path. 

M. took one of the dozens of tanks she has stored on our back porch and made a nice little nest for the bunny and did some research on how to care for it. We were careful to smuggle the bunny into the house and put it in a room with a latching door before Gretel became aware of it. (Gretel LOVES rabbits. They are the best plaything ever. We try to keep her away from them.) The first day, it looked as though maybe the pessimists among us would be wrong and M. was suddenly thinking that she would have to design and build a little bunny wheelchair for his back legs. Here is the little bunny on Sunday.

You can see there was something up with his back legs. This is not how rabbits normally sit.

He liked the carrots and greens and eventually ate the whole plate full.

Sunday passed... rabbit lived... Monday morning came... rabbit still alive and we gave him more food and water. Monday afternoon came and little rabbit was starting to breath very shallowly. Uh oh. The adults all knew this was not good. By late afternoon, the little rabbit was on its side, breathing very shallowly. Uh oh, really not good. By evening, M. was telling D. that he could use the leftover alfalfa hay for the gerbil. In my mind, it was a much better end... warm, dry place, good food... than being eaten by any of our resident predators. 

Life is never dull around here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another addition to the 'good books for boys' list

The boys and I finished reading another book last night and everyone loved it. It is Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover. It is sadly out of print, but there are plenty of used copies for sale. (Just to remind everyone, if you buy something through one of my Amazon links, it helps us a little over here.) I happened to come across a description of it in the Rainbow Resources catalogue as I was reading it last month and thought it sounded interesting, and a change from the Three Investigators. (Yes, I read the giant 2000+ page homeschooling catalogue that arrives under my mailbox every year. It's a quirk, but it often pays off.)

What I hadn't realized when we started reading it is that it was a true story about an American who worked for an US oil company in Saudi Arabia in the 70's. In the course of his wanderings around the area where he lived he happened upon a remote village deep in a canyon and befriends the people who live there. They are excellent falconers and the author manages to capture a golden eagle chick to give to a boy in the village. The rest of book is a window into how raptors are trained and the relationship between the eagle and the boy. I wasn't sure I would be terribly interested, but ended up loving it as much as the boys.

Other than just being a good read, it would be great to go along with a study of the Middle East in general or Saudi Arabia in particular or if you were studying raptors. I am now on a search for a falconry demonstration that we can go to because the three of us are quite interested to see some real birds in action. An added benefit is the discussion opportunities that it provides about whether it is better to live in isolation and relative contentedness or to have modern conveniences and health care along with the rest of the angst of the modern world.

It almost makes me want to study raptors this year for school, but since I have the finish line in sight for my school year planning, I'm not going to go back and redo it now. Another year perhaps...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stonehenge in blocks

K. is continuing in his desire to recreate buildings and structures that he sees out of blocks. We have a postcard collection and I try to ask people to bring us a postcard if they think of it, when they go somewhere interesting. A friend of ours recently returned from England and she brought us a postcard of Stonehenge. (Thank you, Patti!) K. has been a wee bit obsessed with this postcard and every time he tried to build Stonehenge yesterday, Godzilla (aka HGbaby) would come along and knock it down. HG is out today so the coast was free and clear to construct Stonehenge.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Child collector

For those of you in the adoption world with more than the appropriate (ie under 6, though that might be a stretch) number of children, you read the title and your hackles are already up. But others of you might have never heard of, or at least thought about the term before. I personally find it vile and demeaning to the utmost.

What is it, you ask? It is a term bandied about that refers to people who adopt (collect) children, often in amounts larger than deemed acceptable. It has overtones of abuse and neglect and is pretty consistently used in regard to cases of adoption, abuse, and neglect. Can we just end the use of the term period, and call it what it is, which would be serial abuse? To call it 'child collecting' is to both minimize the abuse and demean the children involved to the status of thing. This is not the use of the term that has rankled me in recent days, though.

A few days ago I was reading a blog and was reading the comments when I came across a particularly disturbing use of the term. (I love this writer's blog and the comment didn't really have anything to do with her post. I don't want her very well done post to be linked to this whole rant, so I'm going to just leave it anonymous at the moment.) In the comment, the poster accused the parents of a functioning, loving family as being  child collectors pretty much because the family had more than the usual number of children. Once again, through ignorance, all the usual accusations were trotted out. What are they? It is impossible to love and care for more than 10 children. The children are homeschooled and thus are unable to function on their own or with any competency. The older children raise the younger children. And, in this case, it was even patently worse because some of the children (gasp!) had special needs. Rarely have I seen all of these in one place. It was almost as if it was written as satire. But is wasn't.

To beat a dead horse, because evidently there is still much education to be done, here go again. (If you're part of the choir you can move along to the next blog because you've heard all this before.)

Child collecting implies that children are things and not human beings. It says that the parent has no connection with the child. It says that there is some competition to see who ends up with the most children. What all of these assumptions do not take into account is that there is so much more going on than just bringing a child into a home. These children are human beings. They are unique individuals with their own needs and quirks and gifts. There is both work and effort and joy that comes from raising a child and that it true for any number of children you happen to have. No one (if they are mentally sane) brings a child into their home, puts that child up on a shelf, and then goes looking for another child of a type they don't have yet. The process is too costly.

People who have trouble with the number of children a family are showing their own deeply held belief about the nature of love. It seems they come from a place where love is a limited commodity, as if a person is given just a certain amount of love to give out throughout their life and if it is used up... well, too bad for you. With this view, love is something that must be guarded carefully and doled out to only a few. What a sad and stunted way to live. Love doesn't work like that. Love is infinitely available. It can never run out. In fact, I would venture to say the more you use the love you have, the more love you have to give away. A visual idea of how this works is one that is used with adopted children sometimes to explain how they can love more than one set of parents. I also find it a highly useful way to explain how parents can love more than a couple of children. Picture several ( or 20 or more) candles on a table. Take a match a light one candle. How many candles can you then light with the already lit candle? Just a couple... or more? Do you ever 'run out' of fire to light the next candle? No, of course not. You can always light another candle. You can always love another person. Just as the fire is not diminished by lighting another candle, a parent's love is not diminished by loving another child.

But how do you have time to care for all those children? Well, you just do. You prioritize what is important, you make choices, you ask children to help. It works out. Based on the number of parents who have three or less children and have told me that theirs take all their time, it seems that ones children will take all your time regardless of how many you have. More is just a little more efficient.

Instead of going on and on and repeating myself, I'll just take this opportunity to link back to past posts where I say the same things over and over again. At least that's what it feels like.

How Do You Do It?

Small Annoyances

That Will be a Table for 25 Please

The Tale of Three Frying Pans

An Open Letter to President Obama

In Which we go on a Field Trip and I continue to Tilt at Windmills

Circus Side Shows

December Outing -- or doing some large family myth busting

Group Home of Family

Growing from a Small Family to a Large Family

Institutionalization, Large Families, and Expectations

More is Easier

The Joys of a Large Family

Large Families, Older Siblings, and Vocabulary

Thursday, July 24, 2014

O glorious day

Yesterday morning was so beautiful here... deep blue sky, no humidity, temperatures in the upper 70's... that I decided we needed to go somewhere outside. So we made an impromptu picnic (and by we, I mean HG made the sandwiches and I took a shower) and set out for the Chicago Botanic Gardens. It was one of those perfect days where you could walk in the sunshine and not feel too hot, so it was wonderful to be able to walk around the gardens.

Some pictures from our outing:

Water lilies... I love water lilies

Most of the group


The waterfall... the place the children always want to visit and could stay at for hours



TM, D., G., L., K., and HG4

Beautiful day, isn't it?

D., K., and G.

D., TM, and P. (The little people were annoyed I didn't let them go down, too. Funny, I just didn't feel like fishing little people out of the water.)

A view of two of the Japanese island gardens

I've set a bad precedent, though. When today dawned as nice as yesterday, everyone instantly asked me, "What museum are we going to today?" Much to everyone's disappointment, we're staying home. Nice weather or not, I still have some things I need to do around the house.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I've stayed up far too late reading

I just finished reading Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. They are sort of hard to classify as to what kind of books they are. The library classes them as science fiction since time travel plays a part in the plot, but they are also really excellent historical fiction. Hang in there with me if you heard science fiction and are ready to move on. I'll explain. The conceit of both books is that the year is 2060 and time travel has been invented (discovered?). The way time travel works is that anyone travelling back in time can do nothing to change history and the mechanism for time travel will not allow anyone through if there is a chance they could affect history. Thus, historians are the only ones who use the technology so that they can travel to a certain period, blend in with the people and observe history first hand.

In this pair of books, the Blitz in London is the main focus of the historians' study. I found the best part of the book to be the descriptions of what life was like in London during the Blitz. I realize it was an event that I had a vague idea about, but didn't realize the extent of what it was really like. What an astounding and devastating time of history. I also didn't realize that there were V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks over England after the Blitz had ended. What I realized is I didn't know a whole lot about England during WWII... well, other than I knew it was hard, bombs were dropped, people died, and rations were short. These books really filled in some blanks in a very engaging way.

A few notes about reading the books themselves. A friend of mine recommended them to me and told me to be sure that I had the second one in hand before finishing the first. The first book ended rather abruptly and you would really want the second book to keep reading. I thought she was exaggerating a bit, but, wow. No she wasn't. The first book ends as if she had finished a chapter, decided to make one book into two, and began the next chapter as the next book. Nothing tied up in the first and nothing explained in the second. I'm glad I had some warning.

The second thing I need to warn you about is to give them some time if you are going to read them. It took me a long time to finally begin to sort out who everyone was, what time period they were in, how each story was related, and where everything was going. This feeling of being a little off balance lasted for quite a while, but I'm glad I kept at it. Because of these issues, I would consider it a challenging read. It takes a bit of patience to get where you need to be to really understand what's happening. Also, somewhere in the second book, I very nearly gave up on them. The same things seemed to be happening over and over and no progress was being made in the story. I even set it aside a couple of nights while a read a couple of mysteries. Well, it turns out that I set the book aside, right before the chapter when all the loose ends begin to get tied together. The rest of the book was fantastic.

I recommend these books to you, but be a little patient with them as you read. They are definitely worth it. And, you'll never hear the word Blitz in quite the same light again.

If you want to try out the author with a lighter, easier read. She uses the same world in her comedy, To Say Nothing of the Dog. I might actually start with this one if you are new to the author.

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A different biology lesson

I think we have solved at least one of the mysteries I wrote about over the weekend. All morning at Saturday various children kept staring at the monarch caterpillar trying to decide it if was really and truly dead. (It was, but hope springs eternal and no one seemed to believe me.) Thus it was that several children had front row seats to a very different biology lesson than watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Instead they received a lesson on...

Parasites of the Butterfly World.

And it was gross. As they were watching, they saw the back of the caterpillar split open and some sort of larva emerged from the caterpillar. It was light green and almost as big as the caterpillar. There was a general uproar and it took a minute for me to fully understand what many children had run to tell me. Seeing the larva out of the caterpillar was yucky enough, I was glad that I didn't see it emerge. Eeewww!

I did manage to find another monarch caterpillar who was very, very small. I am hopeful that he hadn't been around long enough to get infected. Plus, we are also now washing the milkweed leaves before we feed them to the caterpillar in case there is anything toxic on the leaf. A friend did remind me of the city's mosquito abatement policies.

So we are now on caterpillar number three. Maybe this one will actually become a butterfly. I hope so for H.'s sake. She love butterflies and I really want her to be able to see the progression from caterpillar to butterfly. Third times the charm, right?
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