Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Birds in their little nest agree...

Birds in their little nest agree; 
and 'Tis a shameful sight, 
when children of one family 
fall out, and chide, and fight.
~Isaac Watts

This was once a moralizing poem that parents used to admonish their children with to keep them from fighting.  Birds in their little nest agree, so why shouldn't we children?  There was a funny little story in the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter which we just finished up about how when the teacher in the class asked the students to recite this poem, the main character, who tells the story, argued with the teacher because she just knew it wasn't true that little birds did not fight in their nests and people should not use this saying to convince children not to fight!  The teacher was quite angry with the girl for disagreeing with the poem and it was quite funny how the story played out.  You have to read it to see what I mean.  This book has to be on my list of top 3 books that I have read with the kids.  I almost wanted to read it straight through again right after we finished the last chapter, it was that good.

I was thinking of that poem though as Grace and I went to check on all "our" baby birds this morning to see how they were coming along.  I'm sorry to say that the baby robins have disappeared.  The robin built her nest in a not-so-safe location and a week after they were hatched they mysteriously vanished, succumbing to a deadly peril likely having to do with the felis silvestris catus species.

Thankfully we still have 3 more nests to watch, which are in much safer locations.  The bluejay has been the most watched since her nest is in a tree that the kids often climb.  She watches her babies very closely, but has not bothered us yet when we go look at the nest.

Aiden took this picture right after the first bird hatched.

A week later and this is what they look like:

 Somehow they look cute in a really ugly pathetic sort of way.  I know you probably don't agree, but you would have to see them in person to understand.  Christian used to not understand people who would ask the business to wait to trim their trees until after the spring when the baby birds had grown up.  He thought they were nuts.   That is until we had "our own" baby birds in our own trees.

The next nest is a nest of sparrows in the bluebird box that Naomi helped Christian build.  We were bummed that a bluebird didn't take up residence, but we are happy that it is at least being used, even though it is by a common sparrow.

 We think these are the cutest so far with their big yellow beaks.  Their nest also looks the most cozy.

The last nest being watched right now is a mockingbird nest in the rose bush.

It has been interesting watching how the different birds mother their babies and how they build their nests and where, and noticing the difference in the eggs and the hatchlings.  So far these little birds in their nests agree, so why shouldn't we??

If only it always looked so peaceful and serene as this.

Now back to telling "someone" to stop yelling at "someone else" to stop singing the same song over a million times and explaining to that "someone else" for the umpteenth time that they should consider doing to others as they would have done unto them. 
Birds in their little nest agree; and 'Tis a shameful sight, when children of one family fall out, and chide, and fight.   - See more at: http://quotationsbook.com/quote/6437/#sthash.ueZ45Mct.dpuf

 Birds in their little nest agree; and 'Tis a shameful sight, when children of one family fall out, and chide, and fight.   - See more at: http://quotationsbook.com/quote/6437/#sthash.ueZ45Mct.dpuf

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


On Monday we had the joy and privilege to head down to center city Philadelphia to witness the naturalization ceremony of our good friend Steve.  Steve was originally from Algeria and came here a few years ago to study.  He lived with us for a few months and has become a great friend of our family. 

Steve is one of those guys who just soaks in knowledge and learning.  He speaks 4 languages fluently, and his English is impeccable.  He  knows more U.S. history than most Americans and loves to have quizzing contests with the kids asking them questions like: who was the 14th president or when was the constitution written etc.?

He said it was always his dream since he was a small boy to become a U.S. citizen, and we were very excited that we could be there with him on his special day.  As we watched the different videos on citizenship I was nearly brought to tears with pride in our country.  Hearing the names of 30+ countries being called, representing people who were becoming citizens on Monday filled me with gratitude that they had a place to come where they could be free to pursue their dreams.

I am reading a book about the constitution to the kids entitled Our Consitution Rocks (silly title I know), and I have grown a much greater appreciation for our country, how it was founded and the opportunities, freedoms and safety it has provided for so many people.  I highly recommend it as an easy to read book that clearly explains what the constitution is about.
Taking the oath

Steve, his wife and us.

They like to joke that they are cousins when they are together and people ask who Steve is and how we know him.  Most of the time people believe them, and they are blown away when they find out that Steve is from Africa.  Not everyone from Africa is black, people!
Is that one happy looking dude or what?

Since it isn't every day that you get to witness a naturalization ceremony we called this a field trip and marked it off as geography, civics and social studies!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Morris Arboretum

The Tables Turned
by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
The state champion Katsura tree (possibly the largest in N. America).
Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife: 
Come, hear the woodland linnet, 
How sweet his music! on my life, 
There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
 One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art; 
Close up those barren leaves; 
Come forth, and bring with you a heart 
That watches and receives.

I decided it would be prudent to follow Worsdworth's advice and quit our books, let nature be our teacher this week and venture down to Morris arboretum again to take advantage of a another beautiful spring day, time with the grandparents, and our membership.  We read this poem the other day and it was a great reminder of what is important, lasting and beneficial to the mind, body and soul.  What better to teach us of truth, goodness and beauty than a stroll through a beautiful garden?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rocks, nest watching, chickens, french horns and sheep

I have no theme for this post, so this is just going to be a photo dump, as my sister likes to say.  :)

A couple weeks ago we went to Ringing Rocks in Bucks County with our Classical Conversations group.  The kids had fun banging on the rocks with their hammers and listening to the mysterious ringing sounds that emitted from them.  They make a sound like the hitting of a coffee mug handle with a knife, and no one is completely sure why they make that sound.  My best guess was that they contain some metal, but apparently it isn't true.  Some geologists believe that it has something to do with the rocks being elastic and vibrating when struck, which creates the ringing sound.  Also something about glaciers and the way the rocks were laid down.  It is all quite complicated, so correct me if I am wrong you geologists out there.  But it was fun no matter what the reason for the ringing.

On the home front we have been diligently keeping watch over 3 nests in our backyard.  The first is a robin's nest in a hemlock tree.
This guy hatched just this evening.  He is so cute, isn't he?  :)

The second is a blue jay in our maple tree.  This bluejay is funny and will sit here even when the kids climb up the ladder to look in the nest.
Nothing has hatched yet here, but soon!

The last nest is a mockingbird nest in a rose bush by the gazebo.  We never would have found this one hidden away if Grace hadn't noticed a mocking bird flying in and out numerous times while she sat out there reading and decided to search out the nest.

The domesticated birds have finally moved to the big chicken coop, but these pictures are from a few days ago.  The little chicks are in this spot now and Claire loves to go out and watch the chickens.  Notice that bucket hanging there?  That is our new chicken watering system.  You attach these nipples to a 5-gallon bucket and the chickens peck at them to get a drink.  Before their water would always be dirty and gross, and I love that this way it stays clean!

And just because she is cute.

Aiden started french horn lessons last week.  Why french horn you ask?  Because for a horn, the french horn has such a nice mellow sound, so listening to beginners practice is not so torturous.  Aiden seemed to have a knack for playing the horn, so we though it would be a good instrument for him.  It can be a tricky instrument to play, but his teacher raved about how well he did on his first lesson and he absolutely loves it.  We will have no trouble getting him to practice.

A few weeks ago Christian took Grace, Asher and Naomi to a sheep shearing day at the Peter Wentz Farmstead.  Aiden wasn't feeling well, so we stayed home.  Grace had signed up to be in their apprentice program this year and this was her first event.  The day turned out to be a disappointment for her because the woman who was supposed to help with her demonstration scherenschnitte (aka fancy paper cutting) was not able to make it and she was left without much instruction in an out of the way room where not many people came.  We are hoping future events will be more fun for her. 

The day itself was fun for the rest of them though.  They saw some sheep shearing of course.
The girls also enjoyed watching the ladies do some rug hooking.  A woman from our church, who is a master rug hooker, happened to be there, so that was fun for them to talk with her about her craft.

There have been more events, but no pictures.  We went to Morris Arboretum last week on what seemed like the most lovely day of the year.  The magnolias, cherry trees and daffodils were all blooming and the kids thought it was like heaven there.  It was breathtakingly lovely.

Grace and Aiden also accomplished the great feat of testing for memory masters with our Classical Conversations group.  It is a lot of work and I wanted to give up at several points, but we are so glad we persevered and stuck with it.  This year they memorized:
-161 events and people in a chronological timeline
-44 U.S. presidents
-24 history sentences from world history
-120 geographic locations and features from around the world
-24 science facts relating to biology and geology
-5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
-24 English grammar facts such as prepositions, helping verbs and linking verbs.
-Math multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, basic geometry formulas and unit conversions

It doesn't seem to look like a lot, but it takes about an hour to recite all the memorized facts at normal speed (30 minutes when going at warp speed).   We celebrated by driving to our favorite (but far away) ice cream place where they each ordered anything they wanted off the menu.  I really meant to take pictures of this momentous event, but I was feeling lazy and didn't bother, so you will just have to imagine the looks on their faces after eating too much ice cream and thinking that maybe one scoop would have sufficed.  :)

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