Friday, May 23, 2008

Fishing with Dad

Yet another benefit to unemployment—fishing. John’s been itching to go fishing for quite awhile now and, although, trout season opened months ago, it’s been hard to imagine fishing in the cold weather we’ve had until recently. But since we have been having more mild temperatures more consistently, John was ready to get started. Since it was going to be just him with the boys he decided to go to a park close by that has a nice size lake (fortunately for us, there are several of those near us). That way, if the going got rough, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to come home. Both John and Aidan were successful but August, not so much. When I asked John why he thought August didn’t catch anything, especially since he had told me about all the fish that people around them were catching, John’s response was, “Well, you have to keep the hook in the water long enough to catch something.” Fair enough. Evidently, August was more interested in catching the baby ducklings that were waddling all around rather than in fishing. Each to his own, I suppose.

The bird that you see pictured is a black crowned night heron that stayed perched above the boys as they fished. Kind of a haunting figure, to say the least.

And the egg next to Aidan’s hand is one, of many duck eggs that were littered all around the edge of the lake. Evidently, it’s the birthing season for the mallards.


I’m beginning to find that, as much as I enjoy birdwatching throughout the entire year, the migratory periods are incredibly thrilling. The surprise of seeing a bird that you almost never get to see is just so much fun. We have had two of these recently here in Missouri. The first was a few mornings ago when my dad sent Aidan in to get me with the message that there was a bird outside that my dad had never seen before. That was enough to get me moving because there are few birds in the world that my dad has never seen before. Out in front of the house a small bird had mistakenly flown smack into the window and was sitting stunned on the sidewalk. When Aidan and I joined dad outside, the small bird actually let my dad pick him up and hold him in his hand. We were able to get right up to him and examine him at close range. We knew instantly that this was something out of the ordinary because he looked so different from any other bird that we were accustomed to. About a minute after my dad picked him up, the bird flew to a little tree right next to the house and just sat there on a limb, obviously gaining back some strength but also not ready for any extended flying. It was then that I ran in and grabbed my camera. I was able to get some fairly decent pictures of him but they don’t do his beautiful colors justice. He was the sweetest little bird. His size was a little larger than a wren, but not much. He ended up hanging out on that tree limb for about 30 minutes or so and then he finally flew away. Before we started looking in the bird books my dad and I both ventured a guess as to what he was. We both, probably not surprisingly, guessed that he was either some sort of a warbler (because they are common migrators) or a vireo. It was helpful having the picture of him to compare with the drawings in the bird book. I am very proud to share that we were right in our educated guess. What you see above is a common yellow throat warbler.

Our other migratory spotting has been a clan of rose breasted grosbeaks (we’ve now counted three pairs, male and female) that have essentially hunkered down in the backyard and proceeded to eat continually of our bountiful supply of safflower seed for the last three days. They must have one long leg of their journey left that they are beefing up for. That’s fine with us because they are beautiful to watch.


We recently made the rounds to some garage sales. Now, we are not “regulars” in the garage sale world but that might just have to change. We set out with the intention of finding the boys some warm weather clothes since all of our non-winter clothes are in the back of our storage unit, completely unreachable. (Yes, I was being very optimistic about how long we would be in our temporary living arrangement and thus I didn’t think through the fact that we would need to have access to our stored clothes) Anyway, we set out with that goal however we were quickly derailed. First of all, August has been begging for a soccer ball and we have said off and on that we would get him one “very soon.” Well, soon turned into later and he was not letting us forget it. So, we picked up a real leather soccer ball for 75¢. But then we stumbled across a microscope set that came with all but two or three pieces of the very extensive accoutrements. It was $4. Trying to take on the attitude of a veteran bargain shopper (since I’m still practicing) I quickly determined that $4 was most definitely too much to pay for a garage sale microscope. For crying out loud, weren’t people trying to get rid of this stuff? They should be giving it away! I put it down and walked away. But as I walked around looking at the endless piles of crap, I never really took my eyes off of the microscope. If I momentarily got distracted by a macramé plant holder or a 1970’s magazine collection and I saw anything that resembled movement in the direction of the microscope, I found my heart rate increasing and my palms sweaty and I would find an excuse to get closer to the “too expensive” microscope. At one point, when I tried to let go of the whole idea of the thing and I imagined someone else taking it home, I almost let out a yelp of heartbreak. This was getting ridiculous. I marched over, picked up the microscope triumphantly and announced to Aidan that we were about to purchase our first piece of science equipment. “Cool!” he said. My earlier feelings of triumph escalated to a full blown coup when, later in the day, while looking through one of his catalogs, Aidan found the exact microscope that we had purchased price listed at $70! The exact microscope! Yea for me!

As you can see from the pictures, both of the boys were very excited to get busy with the equipment. Aidan made it very clear to August that this was his “chemistry set” and that he had to be very careful if he was going to use it. “In fact, I will tell you what you can and can’t play with. There are some very fragile things in here and I don’t want you to break any of it, “ saith the new science nerd, Aidan.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blog Problems

For some reason I am not able to upload pictures to my blog. And since all of my blog entries that I've been working on depend on a picture, I'm going to wait to upload the rest of my entries until this problem is resolved. Thanks for your patience.

Early morning reading

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite sights these days. Many a morning, usually right after breakfast and while I’m drinking my second cup of coffee, the boys will slip out of the kitchen and busy themselves with a quiet activity of some sort. I might peek my head around the doorway and find them looking at their wildlife cards or setting up a game of checkers. But more often than not, I find them looking at books. And usually, they are sharing a book and Aidan is “reading” the story to August or, as is the case with his nature magazines, explaining the pictures and concepts to him. It’s wonderful to see Aidan reinforcing what he has learned by turning around and sharing that information with August. There is something about this time of day, too, that just lends itself to this gentle and patient interaction between the two boys. Almost a “golden hour” of sorts.

And I am so thankful.

Thankful for the gift of being able to ease into our days with routines that are quiet and calm, not hectic and frenzied. Thankful for the gift of time that allows us the opportunity to determine what we do next rather than being directed by another’s imposed schedule.

Such is the gift of unemployment, I suppose. And, believe me, I am daily looking for the gifts that lie hidden within this time of waiting and watching. Since the boys and I have had the pleasure of John’s presence for the last four months we have also had the unique opportunity to weave the patterns of our days together. I’m growing awfully fond of having John with us and it will be a huge adjustment when he is away from the house for large chunks of time during the day. It has caused me to think about how this time of transition is having a big impact on my understanding of our family’s approach to homeschooling. Although the plan has been for John to be the primary wage earner while I take on the bulk of the homeschooling responsibilities, our experience of being together a lot has caused me to stop looking at it as so cut and dry. As our days play out I find that it’s not always that I will be this pivotal figure that will make things happen. When we are simply living, things are happening. Our choice to homeschool is really becoming a lifestyle choice. The incredible truth is this: the four of us really enjoy being together and in that togetherness, we also manage to engage in both individual and communal activities. So we find ourselves, more often than not, trying to figure out how to fashion our days so that we can be together as much as possible.

One would think that all this togetherness would be enough to drive a person crazy. And there are moments when that is true. But most moments find me incredibly grateful for all that I have been given. May it only continue to be so.