Is it any wonder that kids don’t like to read?

Is it any wonder that kids don’t like to read?

I’ve been doing Big Brothers Big Sisters for several months now. My “little” is in 7th grade; she’s told me some things about her school that make my hair stand on end. I won’t even get into the social aspects (like having a gun pointed in her face by a member of the SWAT team). But let me just say that the more I learn about the Seattle public school system, the more appalled I become.

Take this, the 6th grade level expectations for language arts (conveniently posted for ridicule at the Seattle Public Schools web site):

In sixth grade, students are aware of the author’s craft. They are able to adjust their purpose, pace and strategies according to difficulty and/or type of text. Students continue to reflect on their skills and adjust their comprehension and vocabulary strategies to become better readers. Students discuss, reflect, and respond, using evidence from text, to a wide variety of literary genres and informational text. Students read for pleasure and choose books based on personal preference, topic, genre, theme, or author.

Good lord. And the person who wrote this convoluted, awkward piece of crap is tasked with helping kids become better readers and writers?

Hoo boy. The blather continues for 7th grade:

In seventh grade, students are aware of their responsibilty as readers. They continue to reflect on their skills and adjust their comprehension and vocabulary strategies. Students refine their understanding of the author’s craft. Oral and written responses analyze and/or sythesize information from multiple sources to deepen understanding of the content. Studnets [sic] read for pleasure and choose books based on personal preference.

Can someone please tell me what a student’s responsibility as a reader is? And what, precisely, does “reflecting on skills” mean? Because I for one have never put down a book mid-chapter and said, “Let me reflect upon my reading skills now and adjust my comprehension strategies.”

And really, what are comprehension strategies anyway?


Captain Beefcake was probably delicious

Captain Beefcake was probably delicious

Captain Beefcake’s nocturnal crowing was bothering one neighbor. I had found a lovely home for him, complete with five acres and a harem of 10 hens with whom to have his wicked way. Then, my flock was infected with mycoplasma gallisepticum. Not a huge deal in and of itself; MG is endemic and not a risk to humans. But once a bird has had it, it remains a carrier for life. And in all good conscience, I couldn’t give someone with a healthy flock an infected chicken. So I found another person who takes unwanted chickens and slaughters them for food. She picked him up yesterday and put him in the pot last night.

May he rest in peace.

A Post for Lauren

A Post for Lauren

who told me that I really needed to update the blog. So, in no particular order, here’s what’s going on.

1. I love my accountant. The tax season is once again upon those of us who routinely file for an extension. Taxes aren’t fun; my accountant is. She’s also the best darn accountant on the planet as far as I’m concerned. For those of you who freelance and are looking for someone really good–and very affordable–contact me. I want to share the tax love.

2. Learn from my chicken mistakes. Do not buy auction birds. Do not add birds to your flock without quarantining them. And if you do suspect that your birds have Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, do not feel that you should be responsible and take one to a vet in Seattle that specializes in exotic pets unless you want a bill for $230 dollars, enough medication for a single bird when three are showing symptoms, and a vet you can far too easily picture in a basement somewhere playing dungeons and dragons buck naked except for a strategically wrapped snake. No, be irresponsible and go to your local farm supply where you can get tetracycline for a measly five bucks and treat the entire flock.

3. I am a sailing widow. Steve’s sailing around Vancouver Island. He’s been gone for two weeks, will be back in, oh, another two or so. I miss him. His cell phone doesn’t work, so he calls when they dock into a port. I don’t think we’ve ever gone for more than three days without talking before this.

4. First bellydance performance tomorrow night. AHHHHHH

5. Two week trip to California was good. Hung out with Millie, built Mom a chicken coop. She’s getting 8 eggs a day now. I’m bitter.

I think that’s about it.

Vitiligo Update

Vitiligo Update

You wouldn’t believe the sheer number of hits I get on vitiligo every day–particularly on this one post. And I still find it disturbing–though flattering of course–that I’m the first Google result if you search on vitiligo and vitamin d.

Well. It behooves me to give an update, doesn’t it?

Honestly, I just live with it. I’m fortunate–and superstitious enough that I’m knocking on wood. I have a few more tiny spots, but you don’t really see them. It seems that every summer, as I start getting tanner, I start freaking out because my vitiligo is noticeable (if you look) above my eyebrows and on my nose. After a month or so, it evens out. I have a new little spot on my chin, but you can only see it in direct sunlight. I have a spot on my lip, but I don’t care anymore. And the areas that are getting worse are places that I can’t see, and no one else can either. So I don’t care.

And that’s what it all comes down to. All that freaking out, and I don’t think about it very much. In fact, I so actively don’t think about it that I forget to take all my vitamins. And then I try to be good, and am consistent for a few weeks–because they do WORK for me–and then it falls by the wayside again.

But I do have a few observations. First, I believe that four genes are now implicated in vitiligo. I had thought that the vit probably came from my Indian father. Last summer, however, my mother came to visit, and I saw a white patch on her leg. I think she has it, but is so fair that it doesn’t even show up. Add this to the fact that her mother was grey by the time she was my age, and her aunt was completely grey at 18–and well, it makes sense. (People with vitiligo grey prematurely. Sadly. Thank heaven for hair color.)

Second, beware of tyrosine dosages, if you’re taking it. I was having panic attacks earlier this year, and chalked it up to stress, then the pregnancy that turned out to be ectopic. At the time, I was being good about supplements, which included a fairly high dose of tyrosine. I added the tyrosine back in two days ago, and have noticed being nervous again.

As I mentioned, my face was vitty again at the start of the summer. Honestly, I think repigmenting my face is as simple as b12 and folic, combined with sunlight. Again, knock on wood. There have been some studies to show that this combo works. No protopic. No dovenax (not that I ever tried that on my face). Just the supplements and sunlight.

So that’s about it. Please, feel free to comment, and if you’ve posted before, I’d love to hear how things are going.

BTW, has anyone else noticed that ever since Michael Jackson died you don’t have to explain to people what vitiligo is?

Captain Beefcake is a rake.

Captain Beefcake is a rake.

I was wondering if CB is fertile, despite his tender years. So this afternoon–after I went back to the chicken auction and picked up a pretty 4 month old Auracana cross for $5 (yes, I need intervention)–I cracked open the buttercup egg she oh-so-obligingly deposited in her “secret” nest while I was gone.

It was fertile.

(For those of you who are desperately curious about what a fertilized egg looks like, here you go.)

And later this afternoon, I went to check up on the new chickiepoo, and one of the Welsummers was bokbokbokking in the coop, so I hung around. She laid an egg. (Saved from the stewpot!) Just for giggles, I cracked that one open too.

It was fertile, too.

So obviously, CB is living up to his name, and with enthusiasm at that. I just hope he’s leaving his sisters alone. First, that’s incest. Second, it would be statutory rape.

Two eggs today!

Two eggs today!

Behold! Two eggs today! The buttercup’s egg was in her hidden nest; the brown one was in the coop. Those plastic eggs must be working. I have no idea who this is from. The barred rock? A welsummer? But two eggs!

Two eggs

Captain Beefcake gets his groove on

Captain Beefcake gets his groove on

The early bird catches the hen, and boy, Captain Beefcake is on the PROWL.
Captain Beefcake

At 13 weeks, he’s already started (cough, cough) with the hens. Well, not ALL the hens. Mainly my black Australorp, who I bought a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Michelle Obama; her sister’s name was Oprah. “Because they are all black ladies,” explained the woman I bought her from. I don’t know how Michelle Obama would feel about having a chicken named after her, but if you have a chicken with your name, this would be the one to have. She’s a love and will eat berries right out of your hand.
Michelle Obama, the chicken

The violence of chicken love is a little shocking. He grabs the back of Michelle’s neck and smushes her to the ground. Then he has his wicked way. It looks painful; on the other hand, Captain Beefcake also doesn’t have a lot of staying power. It lasts about three seconds.

Three seconds is also about the time it takes the buttercup and the welsummers to put him in his place when he goes after them. He starts doing his little drag wing thing and hop. They affix beady little eyes on him. He tries to get close, at which point they aim a sharp peck at him, and he goes running.

And no one can get close to my new speckled sussex. It’s amazing how different hand-raised and farm-raised chickens are. Captain Beefcake sidled up to her one day and she sprinted across the lawn in sheer fright. To be fair, she does that with everyone.
Mrs. Spotty

On another note, he’s now the only rooster left. Yes, that other blue birchen marans was a rooster; he now has a home on a farm in Monroe, where he is going to have a harem of frizzles.

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

Just one because the large one is too heavy for me to carry, and he still has to pour one over the dishwasher (which requires rebuilding the cabinet).

But seriously, it’s going to be gorgeous. We’re both pleased, and, despite our WANTING concrete, still pretty surprised at how good it looks.

countertop 008

Pouring the concrete countertops

Pouring the concrete countertops

It finally happened.

Here’s the mixer Steve rented from Home Depot:

Mixing the concrete:

Steve built the molds more than a month ago:

The, um, vibrator. After you dump the concrete into the molds, you have to vibrate it to get it rid of all the air bubbles and make it even. This was my job.

Making it all smooth:

Now they have to sit for four days.

Lotion giveaway

Lotion giveaway

I made lotion this morning–a lovely whipped souffle type thing. It’s stuffed with rosewood, katafray, and patchouli essential oils, all of which are supposed to make you look 10 years younger. If you’re in Seattle or environs and want to swing by, I have a few extra jars.*

*Offer extended only to people I know. One would think this is a given, but apparently not.

Captain Beefcake greets the morning

Captain Beefcake greets the morning

Steve elbowed me. “Did you hear that?”

“Mpphhh,” I said, snuggling deeper under the covers and returning to my dreams in which a giant chicken was chasing the mass murderer H.H. Holmes, on whom we had watched (part of) a movie on the night before.

“It was your rooster.”

“No it wasn’t,” I said groggily.

And then, piercing the early morning stillness, came another crow.

“It must be another rooster,” I amended.

But this morning, after I let them out of the coop, and after they went hurtling up the small rise wings aflap (which always gives me a lift), my rooster lifted his beak to the sky and let out a bellow.

Well good morning Captain Beefcake. We salute you too.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

“How many eggs do we have?” Steve asked yesterday.

“One.” I said. “From the buttercup.

“You have useless chickens,” he told me.

And now? Stubbs is molting too.

Stubbs’ Nubs

Stubbs’ Nubs

A while ago, I did something not very nice. Shocker, I know.

I was visiting my mom, and our cousin took us to dinner at his new Italian restaurant. He had invited another couple, to return a dinner invitation. Or rather, he asked the guy, who brought along his latest squeeze. The restaurant was so crowded that we had to sit in the bar, wait times for food were averaging about 45 minutes, and the waitstaff had that frenzied, “Oh my God” look in their eyes. The squeeze couldn’t just order off the menu–oh no, she had to ask for veal piccata, only made with chicken. “I hate animal cruelty,” she explained. “It makes me just sick to think about those poor little calves not being able to move.”

She was driving me a little bonkers anyway, so I went for it. “The chickens can’t move either,” I said, conversationally.

“What do you mean?” she asked, blinking her mascara at me.

“They stuff chickens in boxes so small they can’t move and breed them with breasts so big they couldn’t walk anyway even if they had room. Oh, and they shave off their beaks, too. So really, eating veal is just as humane.”

I know, I know. Not very nice. She was obnoxious, and it was STILL not very nice. But this is the kind of selective thinking that drives me crazy. I am the first to admit that my own meatball dish probably came from factory cows, and they’re not treated that much better–at least in the finishing stages. As a country, we spend five billion dollars a year on our pets, yet the way we treat ALL animals destined for our plates is appalling. It takes a lot of work–and a lot of money–to find sources or truly organic and truly free-range meat. And it’s true that we all make compromises of one sort or another in our quests. But to choose factory chickens over veal for reasons of animal cruelty is just, well, it’s just stupid.

And then, you encounter an example of senseless cruelty. Meet Stubbs, the toeless chicken. Someone just lopped them off. She’s a nice little chicken, and Carrie–who gave her to me–assures me that she lays an egg a day. (I haven’t found her nest yet–it’s time for a Stubbs stakeout.) And while she gets around just fine and her toelessness doesn’t seem to bother HER, I confess that it bothers ME.

Can you blame me?
Stubbs' nubs

Ben and Steve’s Excellent Adventure

Ben and Steve’s Excellent Adventure

Ben, Steve’s nephew came out to visit for a week. Steve took him camping. This is really cheating, because I didn’t go on the trip. Instead, I stayed home and worked. They were gone six days. Not many pictures for six days, but what Steve took is pretty cool. Pam, I’ve burned all the images onto CD for Ben to give to you. But he may lose it, the way he lost his shoes. We still haven’t figured that one out. Steve gave him his Tevas to wear; Ben was not happy. Apparently, Tevas are not cool with the about-to-be sixteen crowd. Who knew?

From rooster to roaster, and back again

From rooster to roaster, and back again

I eat meat; therefore, I think it’s important to be honest about where meat comes from and slaughter a chicken if it’s called for.

Called for it was: I had three extra roosters. My plan for today was to kill and roast them up. But I just couldn’t do it. I had raised the Houdini twins and Madame Bovary (who ended up being Monsieur) from wee baby chickiepoos. They would come running over whenever they saw me, and peck at my hair, thinking it was something toothsome. I would have no problem killing the Welsummers (who, by the way, have now entered a fevered molt now that they are deloused) because I’m not attached. So I sold the three on Craig’s List instead.

And bought a barred rock.

I know WHERE the uncaged hen lays

I know WHERE the uncaged hen lays

I won’t bore you with the details of the stakeout, but it’s pretty exciting: I found two mother lodes–one from the buttercup (seven eggs) and one from Stubbs (only two eggs, so I think she has another stash).

They can free range again.