Sunday, October 31, 2010


Ol' Henry
Princess Linee
Baby boy

Frank and Lucy
Tiny Mermaid Bugg
Fluttering Buttercup
Mr. Blue Eyes
Teenage Mutant Ninja Bean

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Absence of "NO!"

A sun kissed autumn afternoon drew us into its warmth from the frosty chill of Friday morning. Fall break, and a much needed one, was upon me. I took the opportunity to spend some time in Bean's first grade classroom, then I broke him out and ran. First, an appointment, then swiftly to swoop Missy Bugg and him off into the sunshine for a day of, "Whatcha' wanta' do?"
The answer was lunch at Old McDonald's and a day at the Falls of the Ohio-ah, bliss.

Not quite over the river, but definitely, "through the woods," to the Falls we go. Bugg exclaimed, "Oh, it's a bridge. I love bridges."

I place the blame on being near the caboose of seven in the family line-up, but I have a tendency to always think, "The more the merrier!" This thinking has many roots.

1. I have little time for such adventures and I don't want anyone left out.
2. If I don't make plans for folks I want, or want the littles to spend time with, they don't often get made by anyone else-just sayin'.
3. Since my full time job is wee folk, I like some adult company sometimes.
4. I like having lots of folk who be linked to me by blood or heart or both, to be around.

Not this Blue Sky Smiling at me Day, just Bean and Bugg and me!
I realized something today I had not thought long on before now. With just two, so close in age and ability, it was a total, "Yes you can," kind a day. A true Gramerly's heart day. Nary a, "Hurry," "Come on," "Not now," or "No!" We'd left that thinking miles behind, locked up tightly in a classroom cupboard. There wasn't an older one to get bored, or a younger one to need a nap, go slower, or unable to move quick enough.

Yes, you can use that stick as a weapon and swing it all you want.
Certainly, you can pick seed pods and blow them in the wind.
I will be happy to snap that cutest picture of your choosing.
Sure you can climb on that rock.
You are right. Under your shirt is a fine place to hide your treasures, especially hedge apples.
Seriously, this is a great place for arm pit farting.
Definitely, throw every rock that looks tempting.
Are there really trolls? What do you think? Looks like a troll nose to me.

True, that would make an awesome fairy house.
We can go in the museum.
I think the playroom is a fine idea.
Agreed, an ice cream would be the perfect way to end the afternoon.

I need a special place to put this memory. I feel the need, before the craziness of the holidays rolls over me, to fold this deep into my mind, all those wonderful adventures to say, "Yes," to and the warmth and the smiles. When it's cold and hectic and I'm feeling cramped, I'll flip through to my YES file and feel the love. It will be so fine!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Life and Death at Cluckingham

Did I say I love chicken farming? If I said that, I meant it, mostly. There are however parts that are quite distasteful. There's all the poop (not that I ever tried to taste any, don't misunderstand), and the smell, which is all I ever heard about when I brought up the subject of chickens. None of that really bothers me. I hang the herbs I grow in the palace, we use a fan all summer, and I scrap all the poo off and turn it over every week. I actually like that job a lot. So it doesn't get too stinky. I love that my gramerlings will know how all this works. I love sharing eggs with people and never ever having to run to the store for some. I like the difference in the plants grown in that brown gold I haul out of the palace. But it's the end of animal life that is very distressful to me.
Pap's girl, pictured above, is the second chicken to develop a problem of some sort. With the first chicken, Jetta, also an Andelusian, the problem she developed was an eighty pound white fur ball puppy named Arwen, who mistook her for his squeak toy. Arwen has since chosen to get treats and toys from all the neighbors in a 2 mile radius and no longer bothers chickens, unless they try to eat her food. She will chase them and pull out a tail feather as a warning. I digress.
She is called Pap's Girl, because she has always only had eyes for Handy Man Pappy. What you see in the picture is typical behavior since we got her. She always comes right to him, coos and clucks softly and wants him to hold her. Though we held and messed with those chickie girl princesses all the time, she's the one and only one to do this, and it's only Handy Man.
Well, she's ailing. She obviously has nothing that can be found on anything I've searched because it's gone on for a month and everything I read said she'd be long gone already.
She stopped laying eggs in the spring. Then she started walking a little off balance, then so off balance she couldn't walk. We brought her in and nursed her and in a couple of days she was fine. We let her out, same thing again.
So, she's been in a cage by herself for two weeks and doesn't try to move that we can tell.
Why the cage? Well, in addition to just her being sick in general, nature will take its course if we left her with the girls. If she fell and wasn't able to move, they would peck her to death. Ugly barnyard truth. Also, if a predator happened by and Arwen was busy being stuffed with snacks at the neighbors, she wouldn't be able to flee and there would be no fierce dog to protect her.
So, the conundrum- I didn't name or take as a pet the recent rooster of Sunday's post, yet I cannot leave Pap's Girl to a getting pecked to death fate. This is the part of farming I don't like.

Though I must say, on the other hand, watching my sons and grandson with that rooster situation was most endearing and entertaining.
1st Lt. had read and copied in color the exact steps you take to make the rooster's end as painless and non-traumatic as possible. Bean wanted to experience the whole process, which all of us wondered about. Drummer Boy wanted to help.
No matter how old I grow, I can say for a certainty that my greatest joy in life still is watching my children enjoy themselves. So, hope I don't disappoint you too much when I say I had to suspend the reality of the rooster, and laugh at the antics of my grown children.
In order to carry out this near painless demise, one has to catch the rooster.
My sweet boys make plans on the fly- all the time. Plans that include my house, or dinner or an evening, or Handy Man's tools or presence, without filling us in on all the details. I was not warned of the BIG EVENT until I'd let the girl's out of the palace for the day.
Two grown men running round and round my house and chicken yard chasing a rooster was hysterical. I am so sad I didn't video it. Then their cry of triumph when they captured the two pound critter, amusing to say the least.
I had asked Handy Man to please take care of business way away from the palace, so it didn't attract any unwanted guests.
I waited at the bottom of the hill with Bugg and Buttercup for a bit, then walked them up the the site. It hadn't been long and it was all over and all boys were beaming at the success of the plan.
Last night, their efforts fed them.
If we're going to eat chicken, as most of us do, then I think you oughta know how it all works. I don't want my gramerlings thinking that fluffy white all breast of chicken finger just falls from the sky. I want them to ask why it's a bit tougher and not so much white meat when it comes from Gramerly's. I want them to ask how those chickens are raised.
So, all that to say, Pap's Girl and Sunday Dinner, were much enjoyed and well cared for in the time we've had them. And we'll stick with Pap's Girl, as long as she wants to hang around.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Too Much Testosterone at the Palace

Well, it look's like it's arrived. Time to bid a sad farewell to the rooster population now inhabiting Cluckingham Palace.
One of the spring chicks is a rooster and all three summer babies are fighting and sprouting stunningly jewel tone feathers-roosters all.
I passed the word around, but couldn't get any takers. It isn't fair to the chickie girls to have to deal with so many roosters chasing them.
If 1st Lt. and Drummer Boy can catch them, they'll be someone's chicken dinner before the week is out.
Sorry, I don't do photos of rooster killings.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


A scene from Little House on the Prairie?
Do Si Do
I've sent this article to practically every person I know. It is so interesting that it appeared on a blog I read just this week. Why is that interesting you might ask, or not, but I'm going to tell you anyway.
I teach. I've taught lots of ages, from tiny to elderly, but my full time job of the last seven years has been fourth grade. I take teaching very seriously, sometimes too seriously. I feel very committed to children leaving me better than they came. I want to cultivate a love of learning. And, as a friend's son admonished her, I Do NOT want to become their frontal lobe. I want them to be independent thinkers. This is easier said than done. Easier is to stand in front a room of nice little neat rows of students, lecture on a subject, then give a fill in the blank or multiple choice test at the end.
Occasionally, I run into a student with a mind like a steel trap. Most students however will hold what is memorized from a lecture in their memory just long enough to pass the test, then dump it. That's how the brain works. So, basically, it's been a colossal waste of a good mind and some good history, science, etc. If this weren't true, why would we have tons of kids scoring so low on tests and paying for remedial classes in college before they can take one for credit.
In my classroom, if we can come up with a way to smell it, feel, taste, hear it, practice it, read something authentic about it, then that's what we do.
Recently, I combined all of our 3-6th grades for an Interact simulation game called Pioneers. The kids formed eight wagon trains with 7 or 8 kids in each group, took the identity of a pioneer family, chose what to take in their wagons, made decisions along the trail, kept a dairy and faced fates much like early American pioneers. In each room, students were doing additional work. In third they were reading Little House in the Big Woods, in my room, Sarah Plain and Tall. In 5th and 6th students were studying and working on presentations of pioneers in science, exploration, peace, etc, which they presented to the 3rd and 4th grade. My students were weaving and making rag dolls.Lastly, we all dressed up yesterday in our pioneer best and headed to a local one room school house for a day of pioneer activities and fun with a chicken dinner (and pies we made) to wrap up a fun day. Each wagon train spent time that day with eleven different adults, in mixed age groups, kind of like the real world.
The bus driver was so impressed that she told me if the current budget crunch made transportation unaffordable next year, to call her and she'd figure something out.
Anyway, that is one example of how I teach.
I 've long read lots of research on best practice in the classroom. Everything I've read declares that if you encourage children to be observers and thinkers, the standardized tests will not be a problem. Well, that is music to my ears, but if you looked hard enough you could likely find some research on anything you wished to try and prove. Which brings us back to the interesting thing and the article. My principal recently attended a big conference with the head of curriculum. They were reviewing ISTEP scores and have some way they measure growth and value added each year. Our school's scores are always high. Since we only have one teacher per classroom, they also reflect teacher performance in their eyes. So, naturally, our teacher's scores are high. Apparently mine were really high. Enough so that they wanted me to present at the state conference and share my secrets. Then, I read the above article.
I've gotten some flack for my Bohemian teaching ways through the years and I've gotten accolades. Though the negative things like, " She's creative, but she doesn't follow standards" and, "They just play in her room all day," and, "I don't like your room arrangement or the way you teach," (from a parent who is also a teacher), tend to reverberate in my brain. My principals though have always supported and encouraged me, along with two dear retired teacher friends, but I guess I feel validated by those scores.
So the lessons to be learned here- Creativity in the classroom pays off in the short run and the long run for students (read article and pass on) and when you work hard and try hard you get to work harder and try harder by having to make lesson plans, worry over who's watching your class, and try to come with something to present to strangers that they would care about-yee haw!