Remembering Molly Hen

A couple weeks ago (Was it last week? Now I can't remember) I found one of our favorite hens huddled up next to the water bucket. The feathers on the top of her head were gone, her crown was bleeding a bit, and she couldn't walk. I took her inside, cleaned her up, and gave her some plain yogurt, fresh water, and apple cider vinegar.

The first 2 days she seemed to be improving but still wouldn't walk. We kept her inside, hand fed her, and changed poopy chicken towels daily. She'd stand for a minute at a time, but that was about it for leg use. The next day it was worse, and the following day she seemed to have had a stroke and the entire left side of her body was paralyzed.

She was a chicken that only had use of 1/4 of her body.

We were faced with a choice of taking her to the vet to be put down or putting her down ourselves. We were also faced with a 3 year old who has taken ownership of the chickens and is far more attached to them than even we, the ones who spent days hand feeding the sweet Rhodie Molly, were.

The next morning Mabel wanted to know why her hen was no longer in the cage in the kitchen. We talked about it and I briefly tried to cover it up by saying she went somewhere nicer and wasn't coming back. M had far too many questions for me to keep up the guise. Instead I decided maybe coloring was the answer. I drew a red hen, Mabel and I colored and talked. We thought about Molly and reflected on what a sweet pet she was. I'm still not sure how to explain that sort of loss to a pre-schooler, but Mabel took it fairly well and we have a sweet way to honor and remember our favorite red hen. 

A few more garden critters

We're finding a lot of critters in the few minutes we spend outside each week. It's so hot I have a hard time motivating Mabel to play out there and should admit that I'm pretty happy to sink into the couch for a while each afternoon, too.

We found another batch of swallowtail caterpillars, both of which are now chrysalis. Saturday night I made a sorrel tart. The sorrel, straight from the garden to the kitchen, had lots and lots of little snails which I collected in a jar. I told M we weren't going to keep them, but they're still in the jar on her work table (aka the den coffee table). I'm thinking we could become Matthews, NC's first escargot farmers.  

The Play Room

After reading Simplicity Parenting (a few thoughts on it here) I went through M's play room (she calls it her downstairs living room) and purged about half her toys. It still looked cluttered, but I reorganized the layout and found a place for everything.  I've tried to teach her how to clean up her toys but those who know me know I have no business teaching anyone anything about cleaning.

Simply getting everything in its place took so long we both ended up frustrated and irritable. Throughout the process M would find a toy she hadn't played with in a while and understandably want to play with it. The first few times I gently asked her to get back on task, then I finally resorted to the ol' standby threat, "Mabel, if you can't take care of your toys we're going to give them to someone who can." I had a box in my hand to really drive the point home.

With that motivation she picked everything up, threw it all in the box threat and asked me who would get the toys and where we were going to take them. She didn't see it as a threat so much as an opportunity to share. Lesson learned.

Since then we've been tidying a little bit every day but the room generally looks like the toy monster vomited a rainbow of plastic all over the floor.

Yesterday I gave it a thorough took a solid 8 hours.  Since it's clean, I took a few quick camera phone pics. I'm not one to miss the rare opportunity to brag about a clean room.

My system? I applied what I know about how Mabel plays:
  • she's more likely to play with her toys when she can see them; 
  • she won't dig through a giant toy box to get out one toy, she likes to peruse the buffet before deciding what looks fun;
  • she simply won't make a choice (i.e. she'll ask to watch TV) if given too many options;
  • she's much more imaginative if she has a place to park her rump and/or move around without obstacles; 
  • given a task she can do herself (e.g. hanging a jacket, putting away shoes) she rises to the challenge; it's a simple way to build her self-confidence and she loves knowing she can do something "by mine own self".

Going through the room, I made a small pile of toys to get rid of. Then I whittled the selection of books, puzzles, and art supplies to about half. Those went into a closet to use as back stock. I bought a few more baskets to organize the cubbies.  I like the clean look of those bins made fit these kinds of shelves and hide the clutter, but picked low-walled baskets so M can easily see what's inside. in loose themes like "things with wheels". At some point in the near future I'll add pictogram labels to each. I  moved a table in from another room, making a corner for crafting. Above the table are some cute little clips for an easily changeable display of her artwork. Just inside the doorway to the room are lots of hooks at her height for hats, necklaces and jackets. Below the hooks to the left is a sizable basket for shoes and slippers. Below the hooks to the right is a picnic basket sturdy enough she can stand on it and play with her nature shelf.

What's nature shelf? They're common to both Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. Generally it's an area dedicated to all the fascinating finds from the great outdoors. I took a wooden box some flash cards came in and made one (errr...asked Charlie to make one) for M. She loves collecting natural objects, examining them, and showing them off when other kids come over. This little area provides the perfect spot for that.

It's back to being a play room meant for play. At least for now.

Pretty powders

Of the gardening (spin-off) activities I can do with Mabel is get her to help me grind dried goods up in the small coffee grinder. To keep her entertained, she needs to see what's happening and to know she's not just doing busy work. Powdering things up is an activity with immediate results, and she gets to do most of the actual work. So far we've done this twice: first pulverizing tomato peels into a seasoning something like tomato-bent paprika, the second was to turn homegrown (and dried) stevia into a powder. All-in-all it's a time consuming tasks and requires an extra bit of patience with the toddler since the powder ends up everywhere, but our time together making things and the pride on M's face when we're done make it that much better. Plus, look how pretty they are together!