Apr 242017
 

persistence watchfulness wood ducks

Last month, we took advantage of the first ever Spring Break George was given at school.  It was a whole week.

It did not include the Easter holiday.

And my husband had vacation days he could use.

We went south. 😉

With the warmer climate and air flow patterns, the plants there were ahead of the ones where we live.  The birds, too, were experiencing “spring”.  I am not sure if it was George and I being in the right place at the right time which allowed us to see this.  Or if it was due to the warmer climate there.  Either way, a slow walk around a pond (storm water detention basin, which was very well designed) resulted in a first hand look at bird behavior.  This was better than any book could have shared.

These wood ducks looked fairly calm and placid, but upon closer observation we determined that a few particular ones in the group were … determined to reach their goal.

The colorful birds are the males, while the dull gray/brown one is the female.  Yes, there is only one female and the rest are males.  Even among the males, though, there is not equality.  If you pay attention you shall see which seem to be in charge of his lackeys.

I was amazed at their determination, at the coolness of the female through the whole thing (she seemed to like doing what she wanted, no matter how much trouble it caused her escorts), and at the sneaky strategy of the intruders.  What a fun thing to watch!

We were able to observe the various body movements of the males, how they flapped their wings (they were not only stretching), how they dipped their heads and swam around.  What awesome, intricate ways to communicate and “strut your stuff”.  Though, at times, I feel we humans do exactly the same thing.

 

Apr 202017
 

Would you do me a favor and test out this video?

I am wanting to know if it played alright, or if there were any issues with it. If all work out, I may have finally found a way to share videos.

Yes, I realize YouTube is not new.  Yes, I have used it before.  So why the delay and using it to share videos?

That is a great question with a not very great answer:  It was yet another item in a long list of items, all of which I had convinced myself was difficult, time consuming, and hard to accomplish.

If it works, I was wrong.

Yet again.

 

Jan 182017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

bird-themed-birthday-party

It was decided – we were going to have a party George’s birthday.  Even though we were in the middle of finishing our home remodel and preparing to move.  It was not like I was doing anything else, or had any other details to plan. (Part 1)

With the theme now decided, party favors found, I moved on to games and decoration.  We were taking a risk by having the party at the local park.  However, it had been a mild autumn so far and I hoped it would continue as such.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I looked around for items we already owned to reuse.  If it had been solely up to George, the whole pavilion would have looked like an aviary, live birds and all.  For decorations, here is what came about instead:

  • Reused a birthday banner , hanging it up high along the side of the pavilion, facing the parking lot. It is similar to the one linked, but not that exact one.  We picked our up from the dollar store a few birthdays ago; this was it last time to be used.
  • Gathered up large limbs, tying them around the support posts.
  • Placed various stuffed plush birds of George’s in the branches of the trees.
  • Used table clothes, previously acquired at an end of holiday sale, and various colors of crepe paper.  This was one of the great benefits of not having a color theme.

As for games and snacks, we began with the game – Hawk and Sparrows, a.k.a. freeze tag.

Then a horrible thing happened – the fox got into the hen house and stole all the eggs.  Each team had to go find their own specific color of eggs, a.k.a. an egg hunt using easter eggs.  The kids were great about finding their eggs, even calling out the colors if they found one that did not belong to them.  In the end, all but one team could not find their last egg.  It turned out that I hid it too well, even I could not remember where they were.  We finally found them, in a circle out in the grass, in plain sight.  The point was not to make it a hard ‘game’, but to make it a fun one.  That being said, as you can see by the pictures below, I had to get a bit creative in ‘hiding’ them around the area of park we were in.

egg-hunt-party-activity

Once all the eggs were found, we gathered the kids together to make bird feeders using peanut butter smeared on cut up paper towel rolls/toilet paper rolls and rolled in bird seed. (note: if are you dealing with peanut butter allergies, shortening could be used as an alternative.)  Each kid had a plate in front of them which began with one roll and a glob of peanut butter.  Once it was smeared on, bird seed was added to the plate, allowing the majority of see to stay contained and making clean up extremely easy.

The kids were not too sure about spreading the peanut butter till I demonstrated that it really was okay to take a bunch on your fingers and smear it around.

A string looped through the rolls meant they would hang it up once they got home.  A paper lunch sack meant transport home would be mess free, which I am sure the other parents were thankful for.

The kids were beginning to wind down, it was time for snacks.  Prior to the party we had made birds nests, a.k.a. haystacks made with chocolate chips but no nuts or marshmallows, leaving them in the muffin tins for transport. Each kid was given their “nests”.  Small bowls of jelly beans were sat out along the table, allowing the kids to choose which eggs they wanted to place in their nests.

The birds’ nests had all been made inside cupcake tins, with paper liners.  This made it very easy to transfer them to the table for each kid, then to a paper lunch sack for the kids to then take home, if they did not eat them at the party first.

Next up were cupcakes, drinks, and opening gifts.  Once everyone was done, they were off and running, making use of the nearby play equipment and open space.

birthday-theme-bird-cupcake

My lack of photos for this post has nothing to do with me being frugal with my time or pictures.  It has everything to do with my mom taking most of the photos for this day, while I was helping direct the kids.

In the end all had fun helping George celebrate his birthday, which was the point of the whole endeavor.

P.S. I have enjoyed using the remaining erasers we acquired from the party.  Not only are they cute, but they work very well and are of a great size for hands, both large and small.

Jan 062017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

bird-themed-birthday-party

It was decided – we were going to have a party George’s birthday.  Even though we were in the middle of finishing our home remodel and preparing to move.  It was not like I was doing anything else, or had any other details to plan.

After nixing the idea of renting out the school gym, again, we worked our way through ideas.  We lit upon a topic which not only reflected his personality, but which I could come up with themed activities and decorations. That last part was very important, as I also was not looking to spend $50-$100 on decorations and games.

The theme?  Birds.

To figure out where I should focus the limited budget, I asked George what he really wanted at his part.  George requested bird rings for cupcake toppings. His love of giving was showing through. 🙂

Personally, I am not a fan of these rings.  Often they get lost or broken within a day or two.  But that is what the birthday boy requested, so that is where I started.

Unfortunately, the only ones I could find were either Angry Birds, had bad reviews, or reviews said they were sized for adults.  I considered settling for woodland animal rings, but kept looking as they were not exactly matching up with our theme.

Doing some adjusting of search words, I did find some bookmark/photo clips that might have worked, but were not what I was really looking for.

Instead I found bird whistles.  Not exactly an items I would like to have a lot of in my house, but something that the kids would love. Given that the party was to be outdoors, having a loud party favor would not necessarily cause issues.  However, the reviews had me hestitant to order them.  I took way to long going back and forth on this one.

Then I found plastic bird stamps.  Hmmm. No whistling sounds in the car to drive parents crazy, thereby guaranteeing to never talk to me again.  This could work. The downside was the potential for them to be dried out by the time they arrived to me.

By this point I was tired, had spent too many hours searching online, changing search terms and following rabbit trails.  Then came a wonderful thought, “You know, erasers would have no issues of ink potentially being dried out, nor or making eardrum busting noises.” Another bonus was the great reviews.

I was 99% sure this was the route I was going to take.  My tired brain though listened to the doubt … and kept looking.

Plastic toy bird? Ach, but the shipping time is too far out.”

However, I had found a search term which had great results.  I kept looking, finding a set of 7 common birds with great reviews.  The worst reviews had to do with not have certain species or geographical areas represented.

The down side of this as party favors for potentially 20 kids, this would get expensive.

If you are looking to combine the love of birds with the love of legos, here is an ideal kit.

So, what did I go with?  The owl erasers as party favors and the TOOB of Backyard Birds as a birthday gift. Both were a hit.

The erasers were the large kind, making it very easy for kids (and moms) to hold them while actually having room to erase.  There were no worries about them being lost, and the scale on top of the cupcakes was perfect.

The TOOB of backyard birds did not come across as cheap looking, but instead had great detail and weight to them.  These birds are not overly large and were easy for smaller hands to handle and play with.

Now that the party favors were taken care of, I had to decide what to feed the kids and which games to play.

to be continued.birthday-theme-bird-cupcake

May 312016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

nature center tree bird pond

Though it is summer, we are continuing certain parts of our school days.  This includes reading a poem of the day, an aspect whose impact I had underestimated.  I had put off adding this as part of our morning routine for so long, assuming I would have to force the kids to listen to the poems.  As it turns out Jack really loves to hear them, usually.

Recently we finished the The Child’s Garden of Verses and moved onto the Oxford’s Book of Children’s Verse in America.  That is where we came across the following:

Robert Of Lincoln – Poem by William Cullen Bryant
Merrily swinging on briar and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name;
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe in that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln is gayly dressed.
Wearing a bright black wedding-coat;
White are his shoulders and white his crest,
Hear him calling his merry note:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Look, what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln’s Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
Passing at home a quiet life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings:
Bob-o’-l ink, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Brood, kind creatures; you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here.
Chee, chee, chee.
Modest and shy as a nun is she,
One weak chirp is her only note,
Braggart and prince of braggarts is he,
Pouring boasts from his little throat:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Never was I afraid of man;
Catch me, cowardly knaves, if you can.
Chee, chee, chee.
Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
Flecked with purple, a pretty sight!
There as the mother sits all day,
Robert is singing with all his might:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nice good wife, that never goes out,
Keeping house while I frolic about.
Chee, chee, chee.
Soon as the-little ones chip the shell
Six wide mouths are open for food;
Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
Gathering seed for the hungry brood.
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
This new life is likely to be
Hard for a gay young fellow like me.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln at length is made
Sober with work, and silent with care;
Off is his holiday garment laid,
Half forgotten that merry air,
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nobody knows but my mate and I
Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
Chee, chee, chee.
Summer wanes; the children are grown;
Fun and frolic no more he knows;
Robert of Lincoln’s a humdrum crone;
Off he flies, and we sing as he goes:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
When you can pipe that merry old strain,
Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
Chee, chee, chee. 

(source: poemhunter.com)

I loved the mental imagery, as well as the inclusion of the various calls of the bobolink bird.  Learning bird calls makes knowing which birds are around a lot easier, as often they are hidden from sight or too far away to see clearly.  The children have learned a few birds, but there are many more to go.  Even I do not know as many as I should.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great site to hear the different calls of the Bobolink. They contain samples from the east, central, and west birds, as well as the ‘pink’, ‘buzz’, ‘see-yoo’, ‘zeep’, ‘quip’, and ‘chunk’ sounds.  They also have a flight song and a complex countersinging round.

Librivox’s recording of Chapter 25 of Through Fairy Halls of My Bookhouse also contains the first two stanzas of the much longer poem.

 

May 242016
 

Hark, Hark! the Lark may be a great poem. We read it for our Poem of the Day earlier this week.  It is definitely better than Screech, Screech! the European Starling that is happening right now in our attic.

These wonderfully annoying, invasive birds found a hole (made by a squirrel?) in our soffet, pulled out newly installed insulation, and built a nest. Isn’t nature wonderful?

The baby birds are bigger now and louder.  At this moment they are adamantly demanding food.

Due to where they are, their calls are echoing down our stairway.

*************

Turns out, it was so loud because a young bird was sitting at the top of the stairway. Let it not be said that my kids have had a boring childhood. A game of “Catch the bird without scaring it; we do not need bird poop on the new carpet” is a rousing way to spend your morning.

Sorry, no photos. Maybe next time. After all, there are more young ones in the nest still.

The next adventure awaits my husband – climbing up and over the roof to cover the hole.  If I tried it, I am pretty sure Jack would try to follow me. It would result in this conversation:

“Yes, Doctor, my 7 year old was on top of a two story roof and thought the valley between the roofs would make a wonderful slide down into the sandbox. No, I did not tell him he could follow me up there. Yes, I told him to stay off the ladder. No, he did not know think about the 13’+ dropped before landing 5′ shy of the sandbox.”

Feb 202016
 

Spring_Sparrow

Another week has come and gone.  Spring is one week closer, as are fresh tomatoes for our salads.

As this list is begun, light snow flurries are blowing past the windows.  I was talking with my neighbor-friend last night, both of us realizing it is time to be starting our seeds yet not ready to admit that much time has passed in this new year.

Here are a few links from around the web that I have read this week in relation to gardening or garden themed crafts.

  • Shari, at Faith Filled Food For Moms, wrote a post filled with some unique ideas for kids – 15 Simple and Creative Tips For Teaching Kids To Garden.
  • This looks like a great craft to do while waiting for your actual flowers to appear – Curly Paper Flowers.
  • Fresh strawberries sound really good with breakfast right now.  Though it feels like spring outside, it truely is only the middle of February.  Spring is still a ways off, as are fresh strawberries from the garden.  Last fall, the first cold snap caught me off guard.  I think I was in the middle of finding an doctor for one of my kids, arranging braces, finding a few remaining contractors for the house, etc.  Either way, I did not get the strawberries covered.  Oops.  To make it even worse, last spring I had forgotten to take the straw mulch off soon enough and lost several plants.  They needed thinned anyway, so it was not such a bad thing, though I would have preferred a more organized approach.  To help prepare myself for addressing any issues I find when I go look at them soon, I needed to review the steps on strawberry plant care.  I would like to reach a point where the beds are divided ino 4 sections, each representing a year in the process of keeping the bed in good health.  Any suggestions for markers so I do not lose track of which is in which stage?
  • If you have not yet ordered seeds, it is not too late.  Take a look at our recently updated Garden Catalogs page to get some ideas of where to look.

Links to other things out-doors that I have taken a look at:

  • After seeing a flock of Canadian Geese in a local field with white birds mixed in, we became curious as to the their name.  Turns out they are Snow Geese and we are within the range of their migratory path from winter to summer grounds.
  • After noticing ducks and geese in local field puddles in early February, I wondered if birds were migrating early due to the warmer than normal spells we have been having.  Riddle of Early Bird Migration Cracked by Tim Wall, written in 2013 and found at Discovery.com, suggests it is not necessarily due to the weather changes, but to when the first eggs are hatched.
Jan 162016
 

bird seed snowflake children craft

Cardinal Cottage has some great photos if, what else, cardinals.  There are a few craft ideas and paintings as well.

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Penny spinners look like a great craft for any time you need a fairly quick idea. I am going to file this away for an upcoming holiday shindig with a few other families.

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I love how Two Peas And Their Pod took a simple tomato soup and with the help of a few simple additions too it to a more adult level. I found this right before making tomato soup for supper. I tried the addition of Greek yogurt, but forgot to measure.  While it had to be thinned with some whole milk, this is one addition I am up for keeping up my sleeve.

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In an effort to find information to support a point of mine involving siblings and arguing, I came across the following 3 links. While they all belong to the same website, the first really hitting home. I have been feeling that this is an underlying issue in our home, but have not been able to put it into words. While our kids deal with childhood trauma, developmental delays, speech issues, attention issues (due to trauma?), and other labels, there has been something as of late (building in the last 12 months or so) that has been holding us all back.  I have started seeing it in how the kids treat and talk to each other, especially when they are mad.  I was having trouble pinpointing it. After reading this it felt like someone went into my brain and decoded my feelings.

Out Of Control Child, Stopping The Family Anxiety

Learn To Love Your Difficult Child

Outbursts And Temper Tantrums

Update: I was able to talk with a professional about the first article, and the one from last week.  This is a person who knows our family history and dynamics.  It is always good to get an outside perspective on how things are playing out, especially if you tend to be like me – over analyzing and internalizing everything.  This person said while part of the issues in our home are from Family Anxiety, which honestly is a part of every family and something we all have to learn to live with, that is not the main reason.  Yes, the idea of it had been causing me anxiety.  🙂  

I did use the reminders in the second two articles as encouragement.  When it feels as if we are surrounded by neural-typical kids and trauma-free families, I need the encouragement to keep doing what I am doing.  This is especially true when it feels like what I am doing looks like I am babying my kids or not being stern enough.  This is why I held the hand of my 6 year old all through the second half of our field trip yesterday and let him stand on my feet while I swayed him back and forth and he hung his head and watched reflections in the puddles on the walkways.  It was an action I would have done with a toddler, but it is what he needed (vestibular sensory activity, help with boundaries, staying on track, etc.).  Yes, he wanted to run around with the older boys, exploring the edge of a pond 100’s of yards away from us, opening doors to see what was behind them, touching everything in sight, kicking poles to see what would happen, playing follow the leader through the group of people listening to the presenter … not exactly what you should be doing while visiting a maple syrup business and a commercial green house.  So, as the parent I gave him what he really needed, even if he thought it would be more fun to “see what this does.”  Boy, he does keep you on your toes.

***********

Here are a few pdf’s and links talking about starting transplants at home.  Just like listening to Christmas Carols all through December gets you in the mood for Christmas, reviewing information on growing transplants gets me excited to get started on my own.

Iowa State University Extension “Starting Garden Transplants At Home

Utah State University “Grow Your Own Transplants At Home

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension “Timely Tips on Starting Seedlings At Home

tomato seedlings 2013

Oct 102015
 

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell is unlike any other book of birds I have read.  Reading the descriptions I could almost see and hear the birds, as well as their personalities.

Most of us understand that different dogs have different temperaments and personalities, but have you even thought about that in relation to owls?  Matt Sewell captures these personality difference and uses them in a way which makes learning about the bird seem like meeting someones family.

“Oh, there is old ______ over there.  He might sound harsh, but really is not that scary.  He keeps to himself most of the time and just likes to frighten others away.  Now, the one you do have to watch out for is ________.  He will steal your dessert faster than you can can say “apple pie”, and he is super quiet doing so.”

As I was reading through the books, I realized that this was a book George would love.  He remembers things a lot better if you put them in story form rather than facts, especially dry facts.  I would guess that most of us are like that, really.

The drawings were the things that surprised me the most.  Not only did Matt capture the personalities and characteristics in words, but also in visual form.  The water color pictures of each owl adds another dimension to getting to know these charming birds.

This book is not so much a story as it is a collection of the various owls from around the world.  Each turn of the page reveals a different owl in and its description.  For a bird lover this would be a fun read.  If you are looking for a list of character traits and maps of regions then you are in the wrong place.

I enjoyed reading through Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell and getting to know some of our owl friends better.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Jul 012015
 

nature center bird identification display

It is 4:37 a.m. The first bird started singing.  I really need to figure out which bird this is.  It does not really matter. I feel like we share this special time, while the rest of the world sleeps we welcome in the new day together. Though, it is an hour later than the last time I made note of my feathered  friend’s song. A reminder that the sun will start rising later everyorning from here to the Winter Equinox.