Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In the great outdoors...cloudy and humid. Lots of rain over the past couple of days and more expected this week. Windows are still open this morning because the temps are comfortable, but it’s very sticky.

Within our four walls...getting back into routine after a long weekend. Everyone is quietly and diligently working on their own tasks.

A heart of thanksgiving...for sweet visits over the weekend with my parents and with dear friends.

A heart of prayer...for believers across our nation to learn what it really means to live their faith, and for our churches to become effective as a result.

Random observations...I thought I had a “before” picture from last fall, but I guess I don’t. So, you just get the afters.

I was so excited to find hydrangeas when we moved in last summer. While I’m not a flower person (I like fruiting plants, but I usually tend to kill everything else), there are two flowers I’ve always loved: black irises and hydrangeas. So, I’ve long wanted to at least try to grow hydrangeas in my yard.

Anyway, when we moved in, I thought there were two bushes, but they were so overgrown and covered in weeds and vines that it was hard to tell what was what. Back in October or November, we chopped the bushes down to almost nothing just to get them under control. As we chopped, we discovered that there were actually four bushes, just that two of them had been pretty much drowned by their neighbors.

The biggest one was so full of dead branches that it was downright ugly. Although it didn’t flower this year, it definitely is thriving now that the dead branches are gone! This fall I’ll be able to properly trim it, and it should flower beautifully next year.

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The one right beside it was practically invisible last year. Because it was so small already, dwarfed by its neighbor, it didn’t have to be chopped quite as much. But that still didn’t leave much after I was done. But look at it now! This year, now that they each have their own spots, this one is as big as the neighbor that enveloped it last year. And look at all of those flowers! I’m just amazed at how this once tiny bush is now thriving.

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The other two were accidentally partially sprayed with Round-Up this year when they were mistaken for some of the neighboring weeds. So, they aren’t growing quite as well. But, they were also chopped even more than these two because they had vines growing all up through them. I look forward to seeing them next year!

So many thoughts are running through my brain as I contemplate this. There’s a lot to learn from this whole experience.

My silly children...are struggling with focus as they get back to routine today, especially knowing there are just three days left. But, they’re handling it SO well! Even as they get silly and distracted, they are easily reigned back in. I’m proud of the way they’ve all three trained themselves to identify the days of struggle and understand the best ways to help themselves refocus without constant nagging from Mom. Not to say I don’t have to remind them at times, but it’s definitely not a constant battle.

Thoughts from the kitchen...lots of leftovers this week. As we sat down to work on the June menu plan last weekend, we realized just how many frozen meals we had in the deep freezer. We frequently eat half of a recipe, so the second half gets frozen. If we’re not intentional to eat the frozen meals, they add up. So, this week will be an attempt to eat at least a few of them before going grocery shopping this weekend to start on our new month’s meal plan!

On my bookshelf...still reading That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis. Also reading Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd.

Projects...placing orders for the upcoming school year so I can start planning; working out a schedule and plan of attack for our summer. 

Sounds of the moment...Olivia working through her last German lesson for this school year. Someone on the piano. The tunes I’m hearing indicate it’s probably Angela.

From Hibbard Academy...our last week! Some things are already finished. Angie and Steven have finished history, readers, and read-alouds. Olivia has finished literature and pretty much finished speech (she still has to give her last speech, but the final draft is done, so it’s just a matter of making sure she has it ready to present). I honestly didn’t believe we’d make it, especially so early in June. I’m proud of my kiddos and their hard work!

A favorite thing from last week...a smooth transition from vacation back to routine, but also celebrating my sweet fifteen-year-old. We’re not a big party kind of family, so we rarely have “real” birthday parties. But, we do enjoy celebrating together.

The planner...finishing school, normal church activities, graduation ceremony for the local homeschool group, and probably mowing the yard if we can get it dried out enough.

Because visuals are fun...James the Big Cow was excited to get a bit of fresh air while we were on the road yesterday.2016-05-30 15.29.28

Friday, May 27, 2016

Random Thoughts About Pickiness

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to revamp the blog a bit. The problem is, I’m picky. It needed a facelift, but now I don’t know that I like the facelift I gave it! Ha!

That’s the cool thing about a digital “diary,” though. I’m not stuck with it. Changing it around doesn’t cause me to lose content, nor do I have to leave it like it is now. I can play and change and tinker to my heart’s content. Well, as much as I have time for anyway.

So, the look of this blog might change several times over the course of the summer until I find what I like. Then it will probably stay the same way for a loooooong time. Because that’s how I roll.

I’m realizing something as I tinker, though – the kind of realization I usually reserve for my other blog, but it just seems to fit here this time around. Part of the reason the blog design hasn’t changed in so long is because I knew it would take time to get it just right – it would take tinkering to find what I wanted. So, I put it off to keep from taking that time.

And I do that in “real life” too. I put things off because I don’t want to take the time to get them just right.

It’s not always a bad thing to be picky. It drives us to do well. But, it can also stop us from diving in and taking a risk. Changing up my blogs (I’m doing it on annhibbard.com, too) is not that big of a deal. But, a willingness to dive in and do just might drive me to dive in and do in bigger things, even if they do take me a while because of my pickiness.

Here’s to changes and tinkering and even a little bit of pickiness.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Happy 15th, Olivia!

Some days parenting just takes my breath away. It’s not because they grow up so quickly (which they do) or even because it’s hard (even though sometimes it is). It’s more the realization of who these precious children are becoming. And, each year as I take birthday pictures, I see it clearly.

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It’s not so much that I see it in the pictures themselves. I see what’s behind the pictures. I see what each expression, look, and smile represents. I see what we’ve experienced and what maturity has come over the course of the year. And I feel overwhelmed because I see what God has entrusted to Doug and me. It’s amazing! And beautiful! And, yes, breath-taking.

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Today, we get to celebrate everything about this beautiful fifteen-year-old. She was born at a rather busy time of the year. It always seems like we’re in the middle of something each time her birthday rolls around!

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Last year it was an emotional move. And while there are times she wants to pack up and move back out to farm country, the things she’s learned over the past year because of that move have been tremendous. The uprooting and replanting has matured her spiritually in phenomenal ways. I love watching her dig into Scripture, sensing her brain process truths, and seeing how each new discovery impacts her blossoming and personal relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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She loves Scripture. She loves digging. And I love the passion in her voice and the light on her face when she talks about the things of God.

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This year as her birthday rolls around, we’re in “get back to work” mode after spending a week away as a family. So, when asked what she wanted to do, she just said she wanted to keep everything low key. Nice, quiet family time. She might regret that, though, if her brother and sister keep coming up with goofy ways to “celebrate” her!

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She takes it all in stride, though. She’s pretty fond of her siblings, even when they drive her crazy. And in all honesty, not much phases this creative, laid back, hard-to-ruffle teenager! She just goes with the flow.

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Although she still loves the violin, she’s decided that she really wants to put most of her energy into the piano. Piano playing is her relaxation. We are determined to get her into piano lessons this year, and she will continue to pass what she learns onto her siblings.

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She’s also making progress on her novel, although she gets distracted by little side stories. I finally got to read chapter one! It’s going to be good, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!

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I love that she is developing that bit of a romantic side that comes with growing up, but she’s interested in honoring God with her relationships first and foremost. With her nerdy and somewhat introverted personality, she doesn’t always know quite how to merge in with her more athletic friends, but she does love them. I love how she is proud and free to be her nerdy self – she likes being Olivia!

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Sometimes she’s not quite sure she’s ready to grow up. But, she’s doing a great job of it! I know we’ll have our ups and downs, and we’ll experience some of those standard teenage tiffs. But, I’m looking forward to this new year. I’m excited to see how God grows and matures her even more. And I’m so incredibly proud to be the one she calls “Mom.”

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Happy birthday, sweet Olivia! We love you and are proud of you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 2016 Vacation, Part 1

Toward the end of April, a note was written on our refrigerator white board. It was a countdown…

19 Days Until Vacation!

I took a picture, or so I thought, but now I can’t find it. But, yes, it was there. Then, on departure day, the countdown was replaced with “Bye-Bye! (Poor little Smokey Cat).”2016-05-24 20.05.36

Can you tell there was a wee bit of excitement about this trip?

The first bit of the journey was, well, not exceedingly scenic. There’s not much 2016-05-17 10.57.442016-05-17 10.57.49excitement between Little Rock and Memphis. So, it didn’t take long for the stuffies and Kindles to come out. Once we got past Memphis, though, and were heading across northern Mississippi, it was a different story. There was something about those rolling hills and the farmland that immediately started bringing the refreshment so greatly needed on a trip like this. It was delightfully perfect. The Kindles did come and go throughout the drive, but it was such a beautiful morning to be on the road.

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Our first stop of the trip was Shiloh National Military Park in southern Tennessee. Because we’re nerds. And we like history. And that’s just cool stuff! We started at the visitor center, and of course we HAD to 2016-05-17 13.58.26visit the bookstore as well. Then we started the driving tour of the battlefield. I didn’t take very many pictures because we were truly taking it all in.

The neat thing about Shiloh is that it has naturally maintained what some parks are trying to return to. It has remained much like it was when the battle occurred. Forests, clearings, and fields are in pretty much the same place. The log cabins and such are gone (except for the tiny log church for which the battle was named – I missed getting a picture of that, too), but even the roads we drove on were paved right over the wagon trails that existed 150 years ago. Smoother travel, but right in the same place.

So, while my silly kids could safely perch on the replica cannons without worry of being caught up in battle, it 2016-05-17 13.54.21was easy to picture troops being surprised by a cannon as they emerged from the woods into a clearing, or soldiers having to fight their way across a ravine or through underbrush just to make progress. Even the peach orchard destroyed by the battle way back then is still a peach orchard today. It was sobering to think of such devastation in such a beautiful place.

As we drove along, we saw a fun sign indicating a bald eagle nesting site! Sure enough, we quickly found the nest. In the clump of trees behind the kids, the enormous nest is directly above Angie’s head. We didn’t see the birds themselves – I assume they were out hunting at the time. But we did find a feather that was clearly an eagle feather. The shaft was quite huge, and even the downy portion at the base of the feather outsized many small bird feathers. 

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By the time we finally pulled out of the battlefield park, it was well past lunch time. Doug had scouted eating locations a couple of weeks before, and he found a place called Hagy’s Catfish Hotel just outside the park.2016-05-17 14.32.01 Now, you have to keep in mind that when we left Almyra, we left the catfish masters. We weren’t even big fans of catfish until our years there. And, while other places and people can definitely put on a decent fish fry, it takes a lot – an awful lot – to match the Yoder Ruritan fish fry masters. That’s not a criticism of other places and people. That’s just an indication that the Almyra crew is that good.

But, all indications pointed to the Catfish Hotel being a top-notch fish source. So, we thought we’d give this historic establishment a try. Steven’s grin is a little hard to see because there were spots on my lens and he was sitting by the window. But, that’s a very, very, very happy smile on that boy’s face. A VERY happy smile. It only took a bite to prove that the Catfish Hotel’s long-standing reputation was legitimately earned.

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Full and happy, we left the Shiloh area and headed on toward our final destination – a cabin on Tims Ford Lake in south central Tennessee. But I’ll save that for Part 2.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Community Band Fun

Before I start posting vacation pictures, I thought I’d give a little peek into the Friday before vacation…

Summer is rolling back around, and it’s time for the North Little Rock Community Band’s outdoor concerts to start back up again!

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And, of course, since Mom is in the band, the whole extended gang joins in the concerts these days! Alli was down from NW Arkansas for a visit, so even she got to join us this time.

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I didn’t even get the whole crew. A couple I didn’t know showed up and sat by Dad and “Aunt” Joyce (a long-time Browning family friend), and my Aunt Janet (mom’s sister) & Uncle Dave showed up a little while later, as well.

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But, you know I can’t resist shots of my own cuties.

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Or my beautiful nieces (these two picked up a friend for a few minutes).

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Yep, that niece, too! Hibbards and Brownings all in one big cheering section.

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But Nora is the one who stole the show.

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Is she not the cutest thing in the world?!?!

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Okay, so maybe the cutest little thing in the world. These two are still my favorite girlies.

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It was a beautiful evening and all-around fun concert. The band played a variety of marches – delightful music to kick off the summer. Then we enjoyed a trip to Wendy’s for a little bit of visit time before heading home. On those days when we miss life out in the country, we remind ourselves that, by living in the Little Rock area, these fun little events are much easier to enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, May 23, 2016

In the great outdoors...partly cloudy skies and temperatures hovering in the low seventies. I’ll take it as long as I can get it! Meanwhile, the trees and vines are growing nicely, but we’ll probably have to water soon if we don’t get rain this week. (The strawberry plants, meanwhile, are growing well, but the birds are eating all of the berries. Netting will be added soon!) We were supposed to get rain last week, but I’m glad we didn’t. If it had rained, we would have had to mow as soon as we got back from vacation, and I REALLY did not look forward to that. I suppose that will need to go on the to-do list for this coming weekend, though.

Within our four walls...fresh air coming in through open windows – but probably not for much longer. It’s supposed to get warm this week.

A heart of thanksgiving...for a great and much-needed week away with the family last week. Oh, and e-mail from Joanna this morning! The Choates had been without connectivity – even their local radio communication – for a little over a week. They got new equipment yesterday, and it was delightful to have an inbox full of e-mails and blog posts from Joanna this morning!

A heart of prayer...for our family as we get back into normal routine; for multiple people we know who are dealing with terminal illnesses.

Random observations...I like it when we feel like home is truly home after being away. Several places we’ve lived have not really been “home.” They’ve just been current residences. And, in all honesty, it has taken a while for Little Rock and this house to feel like home – possibly because Almyra had the strongest home feeling of any place we’d ever lived and still holds a special spot in our hearts. No matter how confident we were that it was obedient to leave, it was still hard to make the transition.

But, when we returned here after a week away, we walked in and truly felt like we were home. It was the affirmation we needed as we close out our first year here.

My silly children...all had very specific things they were glad to return to after our vacation. Steven went straight to his Legos, Angie to her quiet place with knitting and reading (she had her books and knitting on vacation, but not her solitary spot), and Olivia to her writing. I love their individual personalities!

Thoughts from the kitchen...time for the post-vacation cleanse! Although, I must say, we didn’t eat too badly while we were away. We had a cabin, and unless we were out and about during mealtime, we cooked there in the cabin kitchen. That was nice.

On my bookshelf...finally getting around to reading That Hideous Strength, book 3 in CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy. I started the series years ago and enjoyed the first book, but the second one was rather bizarre for my brain (although it is Olivia’s favorite of the series). So, I never came back to the third one, despite Doug’s assurances that I would like it. I’m determined to remedy that over the next couple of weeks before my next review book comes in. It has taken me a little while to get back into Lewis’ writing style for this series, but I’m enjoying the book so far.

Projects...I think I’m ready to do a little “rebranding” (for lack of a better term) on annhibbard.com. The design has definitely been in need of a rework, and I’d like the whole blog to be a little more coherent. So, that’s one of my summer projects. Well, in between all of the other summer busyness facing us with trips, camps, church plans, and prep for the new school year! I did a little design tweaking yesterday, but I hope to really flesh it all out over the summer. Meanwhile, I’ll freshen up this blog a bit as well. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything with the design on here, too. Ah, how things change. I used to update the design every season!

Meanwhile, I have sewing projects and planning for the new school year. I’ll definitely stay busy this summer!

Sounds of the moment...Angie practicing piano. She’s doing well for having been away from it for a week.

From Hibbard Academy...after a week off, we’re ready for our nice, “long,” three-day week! Ha! Olivia’s birthday is on Thursday, so with Memorial Day next Monday, we’ll end up with a really long weekend. Then, three more days next week to wrap up the school year (although Olivia will have a bit more to finish up). In all honesty, I much prefer a year-round schedule with more breaks scattered throughout the year. But, the past few summers have just not lended themselves to that. So, we’ll enjoy a two-month break – at least a break from the school work. It will still be a packed schedule!

A favorite thing from last week...the cabin. Oh my, the cabin. It was our back-up plan, in all honesty. A few other plans fell through, and it looked like our vacation was going to be chopped to almost nothing. Then, we found the cabin that would allow more nights at the same price. Once we got there, we realized that, while it might have been our backup, it was God’s number one plan. It was exactly what we needed, and it provided a perfectly relaxed framework for our activities. And yes, I have pictures transferred to the computer and selected for posts. Blogging about the week WILL happen!

The planner...mostly normal this week, except for Olivia’s birthday! Yay for birthdays!

Because visuals are fun...what does the Hibbard family do to finish out a vacation week? Stop at a bookstore, of course!2016-05-22 11.27.002016-05-22 11.27.16

Friday, May 13, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Friday, May 13, 2016 – a little late, but I was determined to blog here this week!

In the great outdoors...beautiful sunshine and relatively low humidity, allowing us to keep windows open. 

Within our four walls...fresh air; each family member going about his or her own tasks rather quietly

A heart of thanksgiving...for a little bit of rain for the Choates, creative children, technology, and the approach of the end of the school year

A heart of prayer...more rain for the Choates – enough to fill those rain tanks!

Random observations…On Monday, I felt rotten enough to go to the doctor. That’s my first sick visit since Olivia was a baby – that’s how bad it felt. Sure enough, ear infection! I never had them as a child, except for swimmer’s ear once when I was fourteen or fifteen. But, I definitely understand why children are so miserable when they get them!

My silly children...were laughing rather frighteningly during “piano lessons.” I don’t even want to know.

Thoughts from the kitchen...there have been a few new hits this month so far, but today we enjoyed some delicious burgers. Nothing like the hubby firing up the grill.

On my bookshelf...just finished The End of Law. That was a heavy one, and I did not specifically enjoy reading it because of its darkness. But, I’d still recommend it.

Projects...I just realized I completely forgot to work on the project I had planned for the kids! Hmmm…

Sounds of the moment...birds tweeting, and now I believe the kids are outside, so I hear their cheerful voices.

From Hibbard Academy...almost done! Because of the schedule, we still have three calendar weeks left of school (will end June 2), but we only have six work days. Yay! Then I get to place orders and start planning for the new year! Yes, I’m one of those crazies who can’t wait to get done with one year just because I want to plan for the next. That’s the way I roll.

A favorite thing from last week...no evening church on Mother’s Day. It was a glorious, restful afternoon!

The planner...let’s see…this week Doug has had several out-of-the-ordinary things, but the rest of us have had a pretty normal schedule. My sister Alli will be heading our way sometime this afternoon, then we’ll all head to North Little Rock this evening to watch Mom play in her first outdoor summer community band concert. Should be a beautiful evening for it!

Because visuals are fun...Olivia always has a “helper” for school.2016-05-10 15.13.25

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In the great outdoors...very chilly for the first week of May. We were supposed to get up to 74° today. I don’t think we made it out of the 60s.

Within our four walls...fresh air clearing out the stale – even if that does mean needing to pull a sweatshirt out as the sun goes down! I love this long spring.

A heart of thanksgiving...for Choffy. Yep, I’m simple-minded at the moment.

Okay, so it goes a little deeper than that. I’m thankful for easy access to the Word of God. SUCH easy access. I take it for granted so often. But, the truth is that I can’t imagine not having it at my fingertips. Someday I might not – I want to get it into my heart and head now, before that day comes.

A heart of prayer...lots of people traveling in the coming weeks; and lots of people hurting.

Thoughts from the kitchen...another new recipe today – fajita southwest dinner. Essentially, a bean and rice crockpot dish. Once again, we added meat. But, it was another winner! Amazing what slightly different flavors can do to a menu plan. We only got four or five new “winner” recipes from last month’s plan, but one was an oriental dish. That’s worth its weight in gold at our house! Then, of course, there was the hot and sour broth that we can no longer buy. We’ll see what we get this month.

On my bookshelf...a review book I didn’t recall requesting, but it looks intriguing. The End of Law by Therese Down – a WWII novel. I’m about to go grab a blanket and curl up in the bean bag to get it started.

Projects...I finally thought of something to sew for the kids, so I’m going to try to get that done in the next couple of weeks. But, since the kids might see this post, I can’t say what it is yet.

Sounds of the moment...crickets and sirens. There are SO many sirens here!

From Hibbard Academy...Steven and I just finished reading All Sail Set together. The girls and I didn’t even finish it when they went through this core. Too much sailor jargon. Steven, on the other hand, ate it up!!! Right up his alley. He’s been reading Hornblower books lately, as we can get them from the library. Those are now on his list of books he wants to own.

Other than that, Steven and I are learning about birds in science, while Angie’s exploring basic anatomy. Olivia is continuing to push her way through physical science, and is currently finishing up a unit on sound waves.

In history Steven is learning about the pre-Civil War tensions, Angela is in ancient Greece, and Olivia’s finishing up World War II. Once upon a time, I kept them all pretty much together. But, they have such varied approaches to learning that it’s actually easier right now to let them go their own directions. When we first divided the three kiddos up into different cores, I wasn’t sure how well it would work. But, it’s been relatively easy and has proven to be a good choice.

What’s most exciting, though, is that we have an end in sight! I’d originally hoped to be done by the end of next week, but that’s not going to happen. We’ll have about a week and a half of no school between the 16th and the end of the month, then we’ll be pretty much done by June 2. Olivia will still have some science and math to finish, but that’s about it. Yay!

A favorite thing from last week...a Saturday at home. We had plans, but bad weather changed those plans. Even though everything had cleared up by Saturday, the high water left behind changed things up.

The planner...a normal week, for the most part, except for a Saturday field trip.

Because visuals are fun...birds are apparently fond of our porches. The girls found this nest with three or four little eggs in mid-April, then noticed about two weeks ago that the eggs had hatched. 2016-04-21 17.04.47

The nest is located just above the light on our front porch. So, we have a TON of bird droppings all over the front entryway.

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But, the baby birdies have grown a lot in the last two weeks, and I expect they will outgrow the next very, very soon. We still can’t tell if there are only three or if there’s a fourth in the back.

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Meanwhile, there’s another nest on our back porch – right in the middle of all of our cans of insect spray and WD-40, of all places!

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None of us have seen the birds yet, but Steven has heard them almost daily.

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