Month: May 2010


My mother was visiting over the weekend and Saturday Jason, Alex, myself, and Mom sat on the deck and had hot dogs and fries from The Dog House.  Saturday was clear and crisp in the morning and by midday things were heating up, but the warmth was nice and not too oppressive with the promise of summer in the gentle breezes ruffling the leaves on the tall pin oaks around the house.

Mom had somehow got onto the subject of summers at her Grandmother Cox’s house in Caldwell Ohio and I was intrigued by stories of an old woman who lived close by named Lonie [like in macaroni].  My mom and her cousins called her ‘crazy Lonie’ but undoubtedly she made a lasting impression because Mom still remembers and relates stories about her.

Sometimes I don’t really listen to my mom when she talks because she talks so much and so I often tune out and on this particular occasion, I tuned back in to hear her say she got into trouble for smashing eggs in Lonie’s apron pockets and laughing as she ate meatloaf that had soaked in dish soap.  So, I asked her to go back and elaborate on these stories and here is what she told us.

Lonie was old– according to Mom– really really old.  She always wore drab dresses covered with an apron, a bonnet, and dark shoes.  Lonie showed up at Grandma Cox’s house on wash days religiously– I think she said that was Fridays– and she brought along her Papa’s clothing to wash.  The only thing was, her Papa had long since been dead.  She would wash and iron and carefully fold these clothes each week and then bring them back  the next week to wash and prepare again.

Lonie was over 90 years old and apparently she was lonely, because she often showed up on the Cox family farm– on wash days, at supper or dessert time, or just any time would do.  She lived not far down the road, but she did sometimes walk to town and when she took to the road, she walked the stripe in the middle slowly and methodically like she was walking a beam.  When a car would come by, she would pause and turn her head to follow their car, glaring at them as if they had interrupted her walk or invaded her space along the middle of the road.

My mom was called “Jo” and she was the namesake of Nancy Jo who she called “Aunt Jo.”  Nancy Jo was my Grandfather’s youngest sister and only 6 years or so older than my mom; so at the time of this event, Aunt Jo would have been a teen of about 16 and my mom, Jo, would have been only about ten years old.  Evidently, the elder Jo tended to get the little Jo into a lot of trouble, because my mom would listen to Aunt Jo and do the bad things she told her to do.

Lonie had come up for wash day and had her apron over her house dress when the two Jo’s saw her take chicken eggs and put them into her apron pocket.  Aunt Jo said to little Jo, “look at her stealing those eggs.  You should go fall into her and smash them in her pockets.”  And little Jo did just that.  She walked up to Lonie, fell into her apron, and smashed the eggs.  This landed her a spanking and a stern lecture from Grandma Cox who said, “do you think I didn’t see her take those eggs.. if she took them she must need them more than we do… don’t you ever let me see you do something like that again.”

Another time, Lonie had come along after supper time and the family had finished a large meatloaf [or several meat loaves].  My grandfather was one of 22 children and by the time my mom would visit only the youngest few lived at home, but there were still lots of mouths to feed and Grandma Cox was used to cooking large.  The meatloaf pans were stuck up with a layer of crusty meatloaf and crumbles where it had burned some along the bottom and was needing a good soak before washing.  The two Jo’s had put it on the table with a shallow layer of soapy water to soak off the burned meatloaf.  Lonie walked up to that table and began picking pieces of the crumbles and crust from the water in the pan and eating them.  The two Jo’s stood nearby doubling over in laughter at the old woman.  When Grandma asked what they were laughing at, little Jo said…”Lonie was eating the meatloaf that was sitting in the soapy water.”  Grandma said, “then why didn’t you stop her?”  Little Jo replied, “because Aunt Jo told me not to.”  Well little Jo got another spanking, and these were the only two that Grandma Cox ever gave her.  Both of them came from making fun of Lonie.

After hearing these stories I was thinking I wish I had known Lonie.  I would have liked to find out why she was washing her dead Papa’s clothes.  I would have liked to ask her questions like “did you ever fall in love “or “are there things about your life you would change?”  I would have also asked her to tell me about her childhood, since she would have been a child just after the Civil War.

As a child, when my mom was visiting the farm, it was the 1950’s, and Alex said he wished he lived then.  We asked him why and he said because he thought things were simpler and purer then.  I said, “well, they didn’t have WOW,” and he went back inside to play some more WOW 🙂

May 12, 1992

Today, my youngest child turns 18 years old.  Legally, he will be an adult.  In fact, at his oral surgeon appointment this week since the day was so close, they made him sign all the consent forms as well as me.  Emotionally, he is far from being an adult and still has pivotal roads to choose and travel.

I remember so clearly the very first moment that I looked into his dark eyes.  He had the most powerful and concentrated stare from birth.  He seemed so serious and seemed to study me so intensely.  He was a force to be reckoned with from birth. The very first night home, he cried nearly the entire night.  I was breastfeeding, so if I did not have him at the breast it seemed he was crying.  He could definitely make his needs be known, and he seemed angry to be a helpless babe.  The crying began to subside as soon as he developed some control over his world and could sit up and interact with smiles and babbling.  He was a beautiful baby and by 5 months had a head full of soft, blond, angel hair.  

With those big brown eyes  that twinkled with mischief and that mop of white blond hair, we did not stand a chance.  He was rotten from toddlerhood.  He made us laugh constantly with his antics and his personality.  If you could fall from it, through it, or in it, he did.  If you could climb it, he would climb it as skillfully as a little monkey and we so we often called him ‘monkey.’  Eventually he became little Al to both Kenney and I and neither of us was very good at resisting his powerful charms.

With Alex, it was either all good or all bad.  He was either having the best moment of his life or the very worst.  He could throw a fit to rival the very best tantrum throwers I have ever seen.  We were not used to this at all.  His older brother, Jason, from birth was soft-hearted, golden, and sweet.  He was easy to please, easy to raise, a joy to parent.  Alex was the challenge that was thrown our way.  He took our world and shook it upside down.  But, we are all the richer for having him in our lives.  These brothers have always had much to teach one another and will continue to complement one another and lend lessons to the other as they navigate manhood.

I am a so grateful to be a mother– to have two sons who are healthy, well, funny, intelligent, and gifted in so many ways.  And so to my Mother’s Day baby, Alexander Scott, I wish you the happiest of birthdays and I pray that your life will be rich and full and that your journey will always be interesting and satisfying.

I love you.

1 & 2 Day Old Chicks

Today is Thursday, May 6th, and the last two days we have just been basking in the warm joy of 16 fluffy chicks to watch and hold and marvel over.  On Wednesday morning we transferred all sixteen to the brooder.  Both Sophia and Tammy were very surprised to find that the brooder is a large blue plastic crate with some wire pulled across the top, some newspaper in the bottom, and a water and food bowl.  I think they were expecting some official sort of brooder… Cathy was like .. I have a brooder at my house too if that is what a brooder is ;).

Seeing the chicks for the first time all fluffed out and in the bottom of the brooder was such a thrill.  They are so colorful and already have personalities.  We immediately began to name certain chicks.  Uno was what I called the firstborn gray Bantam, and Beyonce earned her name because when she was born she had a big backside that caused her to fall over.  Moe immediately named one after himself that he found captivating– one of the chipmunk looking chicks.  We named the another one marked like that with softer lines, Mocha.  Melissa is a black chick with a red head.  Of course Mumble is our special chick.

It is completely appropriate that we ended up with at least one special chick.  As we were trying to hand feed Mumble the first time and talking about his ‘disability,’ Moe Moe commented; “we can get a check for that one.”  We lost it completely.  These kids are so funny.  Today right before lunch Mumble began to make this high-pitched plaintive chirp that got my attention.  I wondered if he was just beginning to have some hunger pains, so we held him over the table on a paper towel and began to feed him and offer him water with a plastic spoon.  His bottom beak is exposed and like a narrow bowl and when you drop some mash into it he can rake it into his mouth with his long tongue.  He lapped up the food and the water until he was full enough to stop all that loud peeping.  We fed him several times more today, but we are trying to teach him how to do this himself.  He is not going to be able to peck at his food.  He will basically need to use his beak as a shovel and then use his tongue to get it the rest of the way into his gullet.  He seems to have an easier time getting water.  Our other school nurse, Lindsay, fed him a couple of times today but she gets so sad over him.  He doesn’t make me sad.  I just hope he can learn to eat in a way that will allow him to thrive.  

Our room has frequent visitors in and out all day long.  Everyone wants to see and hold the chicks.  The regular education kids are hilarious as well with their comments and questions.  One girl this afternoon asked me if they were ‘going to get to be big chickens?’  I am really not sure what she even meant by that.  Half of them want to take one home and keep it in their bedroom.  I remind them that in less than 5 months they will be great big hens and roosters and much less adorable.  In fact, I just kept marveling yesterday that they were the cutest they were ever going to be.  Today you can already see some feathers emerging on the wings and they seem bigger in one short day.

Birth Day

I was too tired to blog yesterday since I stayed at school until midnight the night before birthing babies. By the time I got home last night there were 16 chicks and that is the final total out of 23 eggs.  That is a 70% return and I am over the top excited, surprised, grateful for that number.  They are such a beautiful, diverse, little flock and we even got a special chick in the bunch.  But, let’s go back so I can get all this in.

Yesterday, when I arrived to school, three more chicks had been born in the night bringing the total of chicks to 5 at 7:30 am on May 4th.  At about 8 am we had another birth and by midday we had 9 chicks.  Our classroom was like a zoo with people coming and going all day to see the chicks being born.  Students could not stay in their seats and went back and forth all day to the incubator to watch for new hatchings.

The chick pips a single hole in the shell and then breathes air for the first time. After resting and acclimatizing, the chick will begin to use the egg tooth to zip open the egg in a circular fashion then they begin to stretch and kick.  Eventually, the egg begins to move and roll back and forth as the chick rocks its way out.  Finally, near the end of this process in a matter of moments the chick makes a few final big moves and slips from the shell.  After this, the wet and tired chick will sort of lie in a heap until it regains enough energy to try its legs at walking.

Each time a baby chick was born we would remove the eggshell from the incubator and sometimes it had a bit of afterbirth in it.  During one birth mid-afternoon, a chick was born who had its yolk sac still attached to its umbilicus and there was some blood.   The sac is supposed to be sucked up into the chick through the umbilicus right before hatching and this is what sustains the chick during the first two days of life.  This little bloody chick was freaking me and Sophia out enough, but on top of that the other chicks were pecking at the sac like they were eating it and so I ran for the school nurse [who is also our chicken expert and the egg donor]. She picked it up and sort of detached the sac gently and we put the little bloody chick into a paper towel lined plastic container so that it was separated from the others.  I was really worried about this chick, but he was right as rain by this morning and joined the others.  I actually knew he was okay when he stopped bleeding, fluffed up, and was trying to jump out of the cup and join his siblings.

I came back to school after supper and a couple more chicks had been born, when I noticed that one of the chicks had a deformed beak– the bottom of the beak points one direction and the top beak points in another direction entirely.  I quickly googled this condition and found that it is a caused by a genetic fault and chicks born like this are commonly called crossbeaks.  The color of this chick is unique as well.  He has a dark underfluff with yellow on top of that so that it makes him look sort of evergreen or green-gray sometimes.  In the morning, Ms Burton recalled the chick that was different in Happy Feet named Mumble and so we named him Mumble.  I stayed at school that night [Tuesday] until 11:30 witnessing what turned out to be the last chick birth.

late night chicken update

This just in:  2 chicks born before midnight on May 3rd…

I am just getting home from school for the umpteenth time today and it is 2 minutes until midnight.  When I arrived at school this morning, I had every intention of removing the turning mechanism and putting in some wet paper towels to get ready for the hatching which was due on Wednesday!!  However, when I looked into the incubator I was surprised to find the chicks were already pipping.  I think that is correct phrasing… the chicks pip not the eggs.  I believe the chicks pip the eggs.  Anyhow, there were 8 or 9 eggs with pipped holes in them and I could hear peeping and chirping.  Well, I immediately sprang to life and action getting the warm water and paper towels and rallying the children like we were going to actually birth some babies.  All this excitement gradually gave way to anxious waiting as the day went on.  I was busy googling whenever I could trying to make sure our chicks had not pipped and died. I discovered that after pipping, they typically rest for 3 to 8 hours since the actual breaking of the initial hole in the egg is so incredibly exhausting.  So, I guess during the school day, we were observing the rest phase.  Sophia did not want to get on her bus and I did not want to leave after school.  The peeping was getting louder and some of the eggs were beginning to move, so I just stayed at school until 7:30 or so.  About 7 pm I was able to film the first chick hatching, which was absolutely awe-inspiring.  I was mesmerized and delighted.  I came back to school at 8:30 and then again at 11 and then again at 11:30 and when I came back at 11 another chick was born.  I have been trying to upload a video to this page for the last 15 minutes and no luck.  I will try tomorrow since I am too tired to reason.

Chick Update

So, if I am not mistaken, it is day 17 of chick gestation and things seem to be going well.  The temperature has gone a little sketchy only a couple of times [last weekend being one of those] and the humidity has been sometimes difficult to keep above 55%, but the proof will be in the pudding and we should be serving that up on Wednesday of this week!!!!!  Cinco de Mayo is their scheduled B-day, so I have lots to do this week to get ready.  I need to:

  • buy some baby chick feed
  • create some sort of brooder
  • create a water station they won’t drown themselves in
  • get a light set up that won’t cook them
  • order their coop

When we go back to school on Monday , we will need to begin steadily raising the humidity, because everything I have read says it needs to be high for them to hatch.  On Monday or Tuesday we will need to take out the egg turning mechanism and replace it with lots of wet paper towels in case they hatch during the night.  Once they begin hatching, we have to leave them alone until they all hatch.  We can’t help them, because it is part of their developmental process to get out of that egg.  They can stay in the incubator after hatching for up to 48 hours with no introduction of food or water, but they won’t need to stay that long.  I will be taking pictures, so that is something else I need to do this weekend:  charge my camera battery.

I am clearly more excited than most of my students, but that is okay… this is more than a lesson, it is one of those things I have always wanted to do :).

We candled the eggs with a flashlight and a cone of cardboard in the supply closet about a week ago, but it is an inexact science at best.   We could see a big blob in about 50-60% of them, and some we weren’t so sure what we were seeing, but in one we actually could see a heartbeat and the outline of the chick [which is actually scary to me since maybe we should have been seeing that in all of them and maybe only a handful or, God forbid, one is developing].  Since we are dealing with four different kinds of chicken eggs with differing shell opacity, weight, and color, it definitely affects how much you can see.  Our flashlight also left a lot to be desired in brightness and focus, so it was not as definitive an exercise as I had anticipated.

This photo is lifted from the Internet as we did not take pictures of our candling.  I am not sure what kind of light this is, but if we had put our eggs onto the flashlight we had, we would not have seen this.  We had to go into a completely dark supply closet one or two students at a time and check one or two eggs at a time until we did all 23.

I am hoping we get at least 12 chicks out of this, that is my goal, but I would be happy to witness just one hatching.  It is all a learning experience, and anticipation, like always, is half the fun.