Progress

About a year ago I posted about Jesse and I and our respective lessons from Jesse’s martial arts classes.  And boy has a lot changed!

Jesse still struggles with focus on and off during the classes.  In the intervening time we’ve had him diagnosed with ADD, and have started trying to find solutions for some of his focusing issues.  At the same time though when I read about the things he was struggling with a year ago and I think about the additional parts that went unwritten – the progress is incredible.

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Jesse’s progress isn’t the only one on this front though – in May I joined the school and started taking martial arts too, and Beebs joined up at the beginning of August.  By the end of August Beth was also taking lessons – making it a full family affair!

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We all have our individual struggles – but we’ve also all seen incredible progress, and enjoy our time at the gym quite a bit.  It’s taken some adjustments to our personal lives to be able to fit in the kids and adult lessons, and a lot of tolerance on the part of the kids while Beth and I are in class – but overall we’re loving the experience.

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About 2 weeks ago we had a grading, and Jesse celebrated a milestone.  After more than a year of working not just on his martial arts, but on his focus in class, after hours of mat time and months of training he was promoted to orange belt!

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We’re all extremely excited for Jesse.  He still has a lot of work to do in order to continue to grow into his belt, but he has shown that he’s able to stick with something, even when it’s not always his favorite thing to do – and he shows steady improvement.  I’d take the Jesse in this picture over the Jesse in the last blog post any day 😉

Jesse wasn’t the only one who got recognized though.  The rest of our family each got a stripe at the grading (Beth got 2!).

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Beebs is very happy to be in the class and working alongside her brother.  She’s showing some incredible progress too – it won’t be long before he has his hands full with her 😉

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I’m enjoying it a lot too – finally realizing a dream I’ve had, and doing it with my whole family – it’s quite a thrill!  I end up exhausted many evenings, and have had to put a lot of projects on the back burner, but at the same time there are huge upsides too.

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This is an event we’re truly doing as a family.  We’re the only family in the school where every member is taking classes and working on martial arts.  It’s good exercise, a lot of fun – and also very useful.  The world is becoming more and more of a dangerous place, and investing in skills that allow our family to protect ourselves is a worthwhile endeavor.  I take comfort in knowing that if push comes to shove our whole family is learning how to handle ourselves.

And the fact that it’s a huge amount of fun too really helps!

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Rightsizing the farm

My company has been having some trouble recently, which we all have been praying is going to resolve quickly through market improvements or increased business… but that process has taught me a new term – rightsizing.

That term is a pretty good fit for what we’ve been up to with the farm this fall. Over our summer we made a big push to try to see if we could make a CSA work on our property.  It turns out the answer is ‘yes’, but the trade-offs are more than we’re willing to do with at this stage in our life.

For the last few years our answer to most of our questions has been ‘yes’. Do we want to take on another type of livestock?  Yes.  Do we want to go on a longer family vacation?  Yes.  Do we want to try to start a home-based business?  Yes.  Do we want to spend our weekends in the summer doing family things?  Yes.

Unfortunately a lot of our Yes answers were mutually exclusive. You can’t start a home-based business when you’re planning to spend weekends doing family events and take significant vacations with the family.  You also can’t take on more and more livestock if you plan to be away from the farm for multiple weeks over the summer… we were making things work – but it wasn’t working well.  Due to our time away the garden needed extra care (since the weeds got established), the animals were eating food without being optimally productive (since we can’t breed the rabbits when we’re going to be away, and we often give away our eggs to whoever is tending the chickens, etc).  Each of the kids also have unique needs that need our individual attention, we have church responsibilities, the list goes on. Ultimately we had to make a decision.

We looked at our current situation with our family, or land, our goals and dreams, and decided that for now we would rightsize the farm and garden. As the kids get older or our situation changes we may reevaluate this, but with all of our family living a distance away, with additional opportunities to spend time at camps or cottages during the summer it just seemed right to us to reduce our situation here for the time being.

As such we’ve made quite a few changes. The chickens were all sold or added to the freezer, as were the ducks.  The rabbits were all sold but one – Jesse’s ‘Cutie’ was moved into the house as a pet.  We bred her before we sold our buck though, and when she kindles Jesse will tend to the bunnies until they’re old enough to sell and will then get half of the money (since the mother was his pet).  The garden will be reduced significantly in footprint next year, and over the winter we’ll likely do some yard changes that have more to do with landscaping than with farm optimization.

There is a lot more to do, we need to take down the chicken yard fence, clean out the barn and rabbit hutch, start to store or sell our various animal husbandry tools – but overall I think we’re content about this change. We will be saving money on feed each week, and we will still have access to home-grown eggs from our family friends who sell them just down the road.

We will keep our orchard and our berry patches, and still have our barn cats and the half-feral guineas – but those are a lot less of an impact if we need to leave, As they don’t need regular attention in order to survive.  There are still things that seem a little overwhelming about our setup right now, but I think we’re making good steps to get things more manageable for this stage in our family life – and a lot of the infrastructure will remain… so if our situation changes later we’ll be good to go.

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The 10 acre corn maze, and a fun afternoon

This past Sunday afternoon we changed out of our church clothes, and went to a local farm for some agri-tourism.

We got the kids picture last year in front of this poster as well. I’ve included both – it’s cool to see the change over just one year.  Of course there was a lot of shoving in front of the sign this year too – so obviously some things haven’t changed.

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After the measurement (and paying our fees) we went in to the farm proper. They had a lot of great things, from animals to pet and feed (goats, cows, pigs, rabbits, turkeys and chickens), water pump races, a cornhole setup, hay bay sculptures and much more – and that was just at the entrance!  But the big thing for me was the corn maze.

We’ve done the corn maze each time we’ve been here (this was our third year) but we’re still struggling to find the best method for the optimal family experience. We generally let the kids lead us, and switch them off from time to time, but this time Jesse wasn’t interested in cooperating, so Beebs led us through the whole thing.

It was funny to see the differences in their approach. Neither of our kids has the best sense of direction just yet – but Jesse has a better memory than Beebs does.  We’d often come to intersections we’d seen before and Beebs would start to consider.  Jesse would get frustrated and bossily point out which branch we hadn’t yet taken – so Beebs would immediately pick the other way.  It got so that we started recording how many times we passed certain landmarks (the entrance, the first mailbox, a coffee cup on the ground, an irrigation pipe, etc) and had a list with some pretty full counters before we were even done the first section!  In her defense, we were in the maze late in the season, and there were some additional ‘paths’ through the corn that had been made by others that tended to make things even more confusing.  Sometimes it was impossible to tell if they were official paths or not.  It was a wonderful time regardless, and Beebs loved being the leader, skipping ahead of us and humming like a woodland sprite in the corn.

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Ultimately we traveled 2.85 km in 1 hr and 18 minutes before we were able to get ourselves out of the maze. I tracked it in runkeeper and had hoped the map would give us a good idea of some of our loops and turns (and repeats), but it turns out that the sensitivity of the GPS mapping wasn’t made with a corn maze in mind.  Oh well.

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The maze was pretty cool though, it was in 4 different sections. There was a bridge crossing a creek between the first and second section, and another bridge crossing another creek between the second and third.  Then between the third and fourth section there was a large over-land bridge, which gave you a birds eye view of the parts of the maze, and overlooked the pumpkin cannon which was being fired at the time.

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Once we completed the maze we were deposited into a large area that included the pumpkin cannon – a huge hay hill structure (with slides and things going down the sides) and a monstrous hay bale maze. Beebs and I played a bit of hide and seek in there, and she was very patient while I worked my way through the maze for 10 or 15 minutes, before finding her in a dead-end about 20 feet from the entrance 😉  Jesse and Beth went in there too, and got lost (although Jesse won’t admit to it), but ultimately found their way out.

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Overall it was a great day. We finished it off by taking a wagon ride to a pumpkin patch, and picking out our pumpkin for this year.  The kids did a great job in working together and finding a great pumpkin – in fact my lecture on working together took longer than the actual pumpkin search 😀

I love this type of good wholesome fun that we can do as a family, and this is the perfect age for it. Another few years and the hay playground may lose some of its appeal – so right now we’re packing as much time in it as we can.

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Ducks on the move

We’ve discovered that one of the new ducks is very likely a giant pekin – a meat duck that Beth says is equivalent to a Cornish cross chicken.  At 3 weeks it’s already favoring sitting over standing, and seems pretty ungainly on its feet.  It also seems significantly larger than Ducky Duddle (who we think is a regular  pekin).

We’ve spoken to Jesse about this and told him we’ll have to butcher this one at 8 weeks.  He was pretty upset and initially wanted to sell the duck to someone else who would kill it, rather than us killing it ourselves as he’s really bonded with all of the ducks.  Ultimately he decided it would be ok if we go somewhere else while Beth does the butchering.  I told him that he didn’t have to eat it when it got to the table, but he surprised me by saying that he thought he’d like to, as he doesn’t know what duck tastes like.

Overall that’s a lot of maturity for a seven year old who really just wanted to have some pet ducks around.  We’ll be getting another duckling in a couple weeks so that our duck flock will stay at 5 – our biggest concern is that Ducky Duddle may turn out to be a giant pekin too.  Ducky Duddle is both of the kids’ favorite duck, and the only one named so far… so that could be a lot harder to deal with than any of the others.

Yesterday Beth spent some time working on housing for the ducks, and last night we got them moved to their new shelter.  It’s not in the permanent location (we still need to level the area and get it set up nicely), but at least they’re out of the house.  The smell was getting worse in there, and I think we’re all relieved to have them out… well all except Jasmine.  She loved watching the ducks (although they didn’t love seeing her watching them) and now will have to do it from a much larger distance.

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Ducks

I was going to do a log post about how we gave Beth ducklings for her birthday (a couple months early), and how it was Jesse’s idea so we could have 5 ducks (just like his “5 ducks company”).  I was going to tell the story of how we bought them in stages, about how Jesse made them an adorable sign that he wanted to put on their brooder area and about the disastrous attempt to thrill Jesse by letting them swim around the bath tub while he was in it, but I just don’t have the time or mental space to do any of those things justice.  I’m on the road for business again, and am working long hours with less sleep than I’d like.  Instead I’ll just post this blurb, and some of the pictures I’ve been holding on to for this.

I hope you are all having a great spring.

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Monster trucks!

A few weeks back we went up North for a weekend.  Jesse and I were heading to the Moster Jam with Grandpa, Uncle Big and Justice, and Beebs and Beth were heading for a fun evening with Grandma.

Beebs had a great time swimming, watching a movie, and having a meal out with grandma, but we don’t have any pictures of that event – what I do have pictures of is the Monster Jam!

2015-03-07 17.42.58We all brought ear protection, because we knew it would get loud – and were we ever right!  We had seats that were very close to the floor, so we were nice and close to the action – and the noise!

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Jesse and I had a great time watching the monster trucks race and do all sorts of freestyle tricks.  Up until about a week and a half before we went Jesse didn’t even know there were such things as monster trucks, and I didn’t know much about them at all either.  In preparation for the event we went onto youtube and found an excellent video that explained some of the science behind the modern monster truck (Jesse feels a lot happier when he understands how things work when he’s watching them).  I’d highly recommend the video – it’s here if anyone’s interested.

I was telling Beth on the way home, with a hockey game or a fight night you could have a great time, but there are also low scoring games or really strategic fights that are great from a heavy fan perspective – but just don’t do it for a kid… while monster trucks deliver every single night in a way that both kids and adults can enjoy.

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This is a picture of “Thunder 4×4” doing a jump towards the end of a race.  Jesse had bought the hotwheel version of this truck the same morning (in anticipation of seeing it at the show) and I think it’s his new favorite monster truck.  He also bought a monster truck for Justice (which just happened to be the truck that won the whole thing!).

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Thanks Grandpa for for taking us!

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Sometimes words aren’t even necessary

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