Thursday, August 30, 2012

Isaac & Hummingbirds

I love rain. I know Isaac’s impending approach has been a stress for the farmers around here, and our whole family has been praying for his punch to weaken. But I have to admit I’ve really, really been looking forward to the wonderful rain!

We’re only about two hours in, and we expect a lot more rain to fall. But so far so good. No storminess, and for the time being our chances for the bad stuff (tornadoes, specifically) seem relatively low. The wind has been steady, but not too bad, with occasional high gusts. If it continues like this, which seems to be the greatest likelihood, our biggest issue will be the fact that the models call for anywhere from two to thirteen inches of rainfall by tomorrow morning (depending, of course, on who you listen to!). Our roads will probably be flooded almost as much due to farmers trying to keep their fields drained as to the rainfall itself. But hopefully the rice and corn will be able to stay up!

So, I’m going to enjoy this rain!!! And while I do, I’ll share pictures that I forgot to share a few weeks ago.

One beautiful and unseasonably cool Saturday earlier in the month, a church member took us out to a local park where hummingbirds were being caught, weighed, measured, banded, and released. We spent most of our morning learning about hummingbirds, and only toward the end did we actually see them banded. It was absolutely fascinating!

Because the birds are so tiny and so quick, pictures were hard to get. And the pictures I got really don’t show much. But, I’ll share what I have!

First, here is a sample band – just over a millimeter in diameter! Each band holds a number, and that number is used to track the hummingbirds as they migrate and return to former stomping grounds. Through those bands, many people have discovered that the same birds come back to their homes year after year.

HB5

The birds are caught with cages like this one. The doors are placed at the bottom of the cage with the feeders hung in the top. Hummingbirds only fly up. Once they are inside the cage, they will not fly back down to the doors. So, the doors can be left open. Once they are in the cages, they are caught and placed inside mesh bags like the ones this man is holding.

HB1

After a bird is caught, it is checked to see if it’s already banded. If so, it is weighed, measured (tail length, bill length, etc.), the information is recorded, and then it is released again. If it has not been banded yet, the banding comes first. An open band is inserted into these custom-made pliers. The pliers will close the band, but cannot close too tightly.

HB4

The bird is placed inside a nylon stocking, and the handler exposes only the leg to be checked or banded. Once the band is on, the handler makes sure it can rotate freely – yes, that little bitty band rotates freely around that tiny leg!!! Once the banding is done, the bird is weighed, measured, and prepared to be released.

HB3

The little bird is placed gently in an open palm to be released. Occasionally the bird will wait a few moments before taking off, but typically it will speed away as soon as it is released.

HB2

To say we were fascinated is an understatement. Every single tiny feature of these birds boldly declares the awesomeness of our amazing Creator!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, August 27, 2012

In the great outdoors...beautiful, billowy clouds. It’s a warm, muggy day, but those clouds are just breath-taking!

A heart of thanksgiving...for precious friends who pray, even when they don’t know exactly what they’re praying for.

A heart of prayer...for teachers and students, whether public, private, or in the home.

Random observations...Did I really not post at all last week? Not at all? I guess it was a busy week, and I did have some extra school prep that needed to be done. Beside, I got to really dig in and utilize the brand new My Well Planned Day software. Can I just say OH MY GOODNESS!!! It’s amazing! It will take a lot to wrench the My Well Planned Day paper planner from my hands, but once all of the print functions are in place in the software, the software might come close to succeeding. Anyway, no matter how awesome a new system is, whether digital or otherwise, it takes some effort to set it up and personalize it. So, that’s what I spent a good bit of time on last week. And I had so much fun! Yes, so much fun that I didn’t even manage to put a single post on here. That’s what I call fun.

Thoughts from the kitchen...are pretty dull this week. I really need to shake up the menu and infuse some excitement back into it.

On my bookshelf...a very atypical book for me. It’s entitled Peril and is a suspense thriller. Being much more of a romantic historical fiction kind of gal, I’m really surprised by how I just don’t want to put this book down. But my more typical fiction is next in a two-book volume entitled Forever Hilltop.

Projects...same old stuff. I didn’t get any sewing done last week. I have one week left to make Angie’s birthday present!

Sounds of the moment...music. In fact, the Star Wars theme just popped up in iTunes, following a Rob Thomas song with something country before that. Looking ahead, I see Keith Urban, FFH, Watermark, Phil Collins, Third Day, Veggie Tales, Brad Paisley, and Downhere coming up. Wow. Nothing like iTunes to show how bizarre our musical tastes are!

Last week we learned...that we love school, but we also love breaks.

A favorite thing from last week...a sweet note from Angie thanking me for homeschooling her. Smile

The planner...an at-home week, other than the typical church activities – ladies Bible study tomorrow night and church Wednesday night. We’ve enjoyed having an entire month with very few abnormal obligations. Fall is coming, though, and that’s about to change.

Because visuals are fun…a picture I ran across recently. This was nearly five years ago. Time flies!Going for a walk (11-18)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Celebrating Steven

Steven’s birthday was so nice because it was so relaxing! We all really and truly took the day off and had a great one.

Steven’s celebrating actually started the day before. We had to go to Wal-Mart to buy party-related groceries, so he spent his birthday money from Grandma & PopPop on a new Lego set – Star Wars, naturally! He put it together Thursday afternoon.

bday9

His first desire for the big day was pancakes and sausage. But, he didn’t just want to eat them. He wanted to help Daddy cook them!

bday14

They each had a skillet going, and by the third or fourth pancake Steven was able to flip his all by himself. They were pretty and quite delicious, too!

bday13

We walked to the post office mid-morning. Did you catch that? We walked! In August. It was that pretty of a day! Yes, we got a little warm since most of the walk is not shaded, but it was a very pleasant summer walk, even for our hot-natured gang. At the post office, we discovered that Steven’s birthday present from Nanny had arrived, which thrilled him to no end.

bday12

He and his sisters spend the next little while assembling the new airplane.

bday11

His lunch request was quiche. Because the plan was to have a party with friends in the evening, we reserved the cake for the party. But, we enjoyed some homemade ice cream and then went ahead and gave him his gifts.

bday10

We spent the afternoon relaxing, playing, and generally enjoying the day. Finally, party time arrived and we all headed over to the Stones’ pool. While Doug and I set up, the kids jumped on in. They entertained themselves in the shallow with some “water dancing” for a while, but then they decided it was time for the great Olympic sport of synchronized canonballs!

bday6

Steven took a break from the pool long enough for me to snap a few pictures.

bday8

bday7

This cake provided me no end of frustration, but he liked it!

bday15

Friends began to arrive, joining our kids in the pool.

bday4

Is that not a heart-melting grin?

bday3

Sweet Rachel made Steven some red frosted pretzel sticks! He was so excited!

bday5

Of all the food suggestions we made for the birthday party, Steven wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Fine by me - that made for a VERY easy party! I added some chips, tossed in some lunchmeat and cheese for anyone who didn’t want PB&J, chilled lemonade and Hawaiian punch, and it was done. The kids swam until they got hungry, ate their sandwiches, swam a little more, and then got out for cake time.

100_0473

bday2

Every time the kids got out of the pool, they had to bundle up in their towels to keep from getting too chilly. (Fortunately the water temperature itself was perfect – cool, but not cold.) The kids’ chilliness outside the pool was to our advantage, though. Typically the grown-ups have to be in the pool, too, just to keep from dying from heat stroke this time of year. But, we were all able to very comfortably sit out on the patio and visit while the kids played!

bday1

By the time we started rounding everyone and everything up to head home, Steven was absolutely exhausted. But, he declared it a good tired, and said that he’d had a wonderful sixth birthday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, August 13, 2012

In the great outdoors...rain!!!! We awoke to thunder around 5:00, and have been enjoying the rain since then (it’s about 8:45 now and just stopped coming down).
In other “great outdoors” news, we have had absolutely marvelous temperatures! The kids actually were chilly at Steven’s pool party Friday night, and the grownups all stayed out of the pool – we didn’t have to be in the water to comfortably visit because the late afternoon was so pleasant. We’ve had highs in the 80’s and lows in the 60’s since Friday. What delight! We even got to walk to church yesterday. In August!

A heart of thanksgiving...for the break in the heat and for the rain. For our last week of school before a week off – and before the kids “promote” to their new grades. For friends’ good reports from doctors. For a husband who loves being with me as much as I love being with him.

A heart of prayer...for the crops in this morning’s storm – especially the rice. When rice is mature, the heads are very heavy. A wind like we’ve had with this morning’s storm can cause the rice to fall (referred to as “downed” rice). It’s a mess to try to harvest. So, I’m praying for the rice to stay up!

Random observations...I got to pull a blanket around my shoulders this morning while I had my quiet time and watched the rain (well, what I could see of it, anyway, since it stayed so dark outside!). I didn’t have to have it – it wasn’t so much that I was actually cold. It was more that I could have it and enjoy it.

Thoughts from the kitchen...I have no idea. Doug made a yummy breakfast for our rainy morning. Trying to decide what I can do to liven up lunch.

On my bookshelf...some election books for school and still reading The Bible in World History. Starting next week, I’ll be back on a fiction round for a month or so. I know – rough life, being forced to read fiction for “work.” Smile

Projects...Angela’s “cave” curtains and the kids pouches. The curtains will be a breeze. The pouches are a little more intimidating because I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to make them.

Sounds of the moment...the last remnants of thunder. Steven tapping his pencil on the floor, talking to the cat, and giggling. I love that boy.

Last week we learned...about Pharaohs (Angela & Steven) and China (Olivia); fish (A&S) and the ear (O).

A favorite thing from last week...celebrating Steven’s birthday in a very, very relaxed manner. It was so good to just rest on Friday.

The planner...home again this week. August is definitely shaping up to be a good month to just be instead of going like we have had to do several months this year.

Because visuals are fun...nothing today, but later this week I’ll have pictures of Steven’s birthday and of our trip to learn about hummingbirds.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Steven!

How is it that I have a six year old? No, scratch that. How is it that my youngest is a six year old? But oh what a precious six years it has been!

S2

Steven has done a lot of growing up in the past year. He has matured past a few more of his insecurities and struggles, even sleeping through a few thunderstorms this past spring! That’s a huge accomplishment!

S5

A wolf named Wolfie and a polar bear named John have joined Harvey as favorite stuffies. First thing in the morning, he can be seen with his arms full of all three animals, plus all three silkies.

S6

Steven has such a precious heart. His daddy is training him to be a gentleman, of course, but so much of it comes very naturally to him. Genes from Daddy and PopPop run very strongly when it comes to noticing the needs of others!

S7

Of course, those genes run very strongly in other aspects, as well. Every day, Steven seems to become more of a clone of his daddy. His looks, his behaviors, and his personality are so much like Doug. The most precious thing is how much he wants to be like Doug. Every time I tell him that something he says or does is “just like Daddy” he literally beams. I love it!

S9

Now that he’s reading solidly on his own, Steven is devouring books as rapidly as his sisters. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about tackling chapter books at first. But, we started reading them in school, one chapter a day. He enjoyed that. Then his sisters introduced him to Magic Tree House books. He loves them!

S10

He has also read every children’s Bible we own. So, we moved him up to a Bible that breaks excerpts of Scripture down into manageable, daily readings for children. It’s interesting to hear his thoughts from these more challenging daily readings. It’s exciting to think that the maturation of spiritual thoughts is probably right around the corner.

s11

When I teasingly told him he wasn’t allowed to turn six, his response was, “But, Mommy, don’t you want me to grow up so I can learn more about God?” The little stinker does that to me all the time. He knows just what to say to win a teasing argument! (Again, his father’s child!)

s12

Steven loves to be a helper. He wants to learn how to do things and do them well. This is the case whether it be chores, school work, or fun activities. Of course, he’s not always super enthusiastic about the chores and school work, but he still does them!

s13

If the past year is any indication of future growth, whether it be physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional, then I can rest assured that my precious little boy is already well on his way to becoming an amazing young man. It’s hard to say goodbye to life as the mommy of little ones, but I so greatly look forward to the coming years.

s14

Happy birthday, sweet Steven! You are a precious gift from God!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, August 6, 2012

In the great outdoors...the sun has already dried up the quick burst of rain that delighted us not too long ago. But there are still some beautiful clouds out there!

A heart of thanksgiving...for flexibility and routine. Contrasting thanksgivings, I know, but both are so wonderful!

A heart of prayer...for various friends and loved ones awaiting doctor’s appointments or information to come back from the doctor.

Random observations...I do so much better when I actually use my to-do list. I haven’t been using it lately.

Thoughts from the kitchen...lunch was leftovers. Not very appetizing leftovers, at that. Proud of us for eating them anyway.

On my bookshelf...The Bible in World History by Stephen Leston. I’m just getting into it, but it’s an interesting approach to history and the beautiful full-color illustrations make it ascetically pleasing as well. Yes, I’m a nerd and proud of it, thank you very much!

Projects...pouches for the kids’ school crates. The pouches will hold their pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, etc. Just another effort at keeping those things organized! I hope to get them made before our school promotion party – I have three weeks and lots of writing to get done in that time frame as well. We’ll see!

Sounds of the moment...music, fans, email notifications, distant rumbles of thunder, kids jabbering.

Ooooh – and the email notifications were exciting! The Home Educating Family review site has been under reconstruction for several weeks and the email was about our most recent progress! We’re almost there! I love my “job!”

Last week we learned...that laziness causes lots of trouble! Okay, so we learned academic lessons as well, but a lesson in diligence is a bigger deal, I think. I got behind on some grading, and the girls consequently got lazy in their work. When I sat down to grade, they both got several LOW grades because they missed some things and just chose not to do others – very atypical for them! Hopefully we’ll be back to diligence this week (Mommy included!).

A favorite thing from last week...discovering a cake I enjoyed! I’m not a big cake person. I do love Italian cream cake, and I like a good ooey gooey cake that has to practically be spooned out of the pan. But, most cakes I can turn down. I needed to make a cake for a dinner last week, so I chose a new recipe – a poke cake with a pudding icing. We all have really enjoyed the leftovers (maybe a little too much!).

The planner...Steven’s birthday THIS WEEK!!!!! Where has the summer gone?

Because visuals are fun...Last time we were in Little Rock we browsed through the mall just for the fun of it. Actually, we did it because we needed to kill a few minutes and the kids felt like riding on escalators. Smile Anyway, we walked by the Build-a-Bear store and saw their newest addition – Hello Kitty. Lots and lots and lots of Hello Kitty! Wonder what Angie’s going to be saving up for next…

HK2

Yes, all of these accessories have something to do with Hello Kitty.  And that wasn’t even all of it. Wow.

HK1

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympics!

I love how things just “happen” to fall together.

I had no idea that we would be starting Olivia’s China unit about the time that the Olympics began. Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have really made any mental connection. But, connection existed.

Part of our history study for the China unit is a biography of Eric Liddell. His fame as an Olympian who refused to run on Sunday is portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire. But his heart was given to service as a second generation missionary to China. We read the first few chapters of his biography, including the story of his 1924 Olympic challenges and victories, as the current Olympics were about to begin. Naturally, Olivia’s already existent curiosity about the Olympics quadrupled as we read Eric Liddell’s story!

So, Friday night we gathered to watch the Opening Ceremony.

We started with a picnic supper of pizza and popcorn.

Olympics5Olympics3Olympics4

Then the kids decorated dessert – a giant iced sugar cookie. I traced the Olympic rings onto the icing and set a picture up so the kids could see which colors went where.

Olympics2

Then they used M&M’s to create the rings.

Olympics1

DSCF1215

They tired out long before USA paraded in, thanks to the lengthy opening show. But, we all enjoyed a couple of hours of Olympic fun – and will continue to do so throughout the games. Olivia’s anxious to watch some track & field, even though the event has changed greatly since Eric Liddell ran 86 years ago!