Thursday, January 31, 2013


Night Shift Girl
It's been a while since I've posted photos of the art work around here, but that doesn't mean it's not happening...Eliza received a big, black sketchbook for Christmas, and it's nearly filled with drawings. These are some of our favorites.

Sometimes the drawings are inspired by the stories we're reading - this huge bat and rider came out of the trance that is the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, all about Gregor the Overlander and his family who happen into the Underland, where humans bond with enormous bats, who become their transport. (Whew - was that too much? It's a great series.)

Othertimes they seem to just drift out of a story Eliza has going in her head. This girl is always writing and drawing stories...

 Ani has been spending a lot of her story listening time playing with Thinking Putty and making friendship bracelets, but tonight she drew a picture straight from our current read-aloud (Dan came home for dinner! And an hour of story! before heading back to campus to work on another job application...), Peter and the Starcatchers.  I may have written about this before, as we spent one long car trip this past year listening to this book on tape, but it is a great book!! It's all about how Peter Pan got his special magic and can fly.  It's totally captivating, takes place mostly on boats (a big plus around here), and is populated by lots of pirates;  Dan does a bang-up job on the voices and has us all in giggles.  Anyway, the picture.  It's awesome:

Look at those waves! And the tippy boat! Ack!!

Ani also found the bottles of glitter glue that I bought while we were in Richmond and intended to crack open for Christmas craziness but never got to it, and she squealed in delight and immediately set up shop making making making - I'm not sure WHAT she's making, but she is all about the glitter glue - she really really really loves it.  

oh, the concentration!!

Tada! A gallery full of glitter...

Ani and I got into more art today - this time involving one of the elements we've been studying - but I'll save it for another post!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

65 degrees...

Oh, it felt like spring. It was spring, and we enjoyed it as if it had come to stay.  Ani and I stayed home from homeschool coop on Tuesday, as she woke up with some coughing and snuffling and everyone is so worried about getting sick right now, but she didn't feel sick, so out we went...

She talked a mile a minute, in her joy, about her joy - she told me she was filled, she had circles of joy all around her, had I ever felt that way before?

It was the unbelievably warm air, it was finding worms, it was how good it felt to be out with so little on, to be out together.

I told her to remember how that feels, that filling and that light, for sad or dark days, when a crumb of that feeling might make all the difference.

She was buoyant.

After our walkabout we launched into a list of things we wanted to do, to "make up" for the fact that we were missing the first day of coop.  Clay class was one thing she was sad about missing, so we dug up some clay from our sad little garden and spent a while in the backyard molding it and squeezing it.

She told me that she thought she was probably having more fun than if she'd gone to coop, to tell the truth. Ah, that was nice to hear.  We've needed a day like that, just for us lovin' on each other.

Then we played some Go Fish! and a game of cribbage and got into making books.

They turned out so sweetly - we used a saddle stitch to bind them, waxing the thread for fun.

Tonight it will snow, but for a day it was spring...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bird Banding - hands-on science!

We headed out to the woods today to hang out with the ornithologist from the local college, and to watch him band birds.   We did this last year and he only "caught" two birds while we were there, so our expectations were not high, but it was unanimous, we wanted to go back.  When we arrived he was freeing a very vocal titmouse from the netting, so we jumped right into it!

We followed him inside to watch as he recorded the band number (this one was already banded from a previous year), measured the tail and wing, looked for body fat, sexed the bird (looking at plumage), and weighed it.  He's been studying the titmouse and chickadee populations to see how long they live.  He said the longest recorded life was 10 years, which was about 8 more than I was guessing.  After this first bird, he put Eliza in charge of recording all the numbers and information, which she loved.

weighing the bird (and peering at it through the magnifying glass!)

Ani's bird of the year is the titmouse, so she had the honor of setting this one free!  (The girls asked Bob if he had a bird of the year and he said "Of course", which was nice 'cause they usually get a blank look in response to that question, but he said he had the first one that he heard - a Carolina Wren - and the first one that he saw - a Cardinal)

After that there was hardly a moment when there wasn't a bird needing to be freed from the net or one of the traps on the ground.  In between the freeing, measuring, recording and releasing, there was so much information coming at me, I don't know that I can remember it all, but did you know that birds have 4 cones in their eyes, where we have 3?  What they can do with that extra cone is see very subtle differences in color - the greys of the titmouse that seems indistinguishable to us come across strongly enough to another titmouse that they indicate the sex of the bird.  It also enables them to see further into the ultra-violet spectrum than we can.

White-breasted nuthatch
Carolina Wren

I was really grateful that Bob let the girls participate as much as they did.  He would just ask - do you want to give this a try? - and they did, so he coached them and stepped aside.  Ani tried her hand at freeing a titmouse from the trap, but it was hard to get a handle on it - and they bite! - and finally it managed to squeeze under the edge and we let it go so it wouldn't get hurt.

attaching a band
Slate-colored Junco

There were so many birds, they even let me get in on the rotation for releasing them! I was a little hesitant about the titmouse; they are such feisty little birds.

And, yeah! I got bit several times while waiting for Eliza to take a picture!!  It was totally worth it; one of them that I held was so still and quiet, and just being able to hold such a wildly alive little creature, feeling its heart beating in my hand, was such a wonderful experience...bite, shmite.

White-breasted nuthatch
measuring wing feathers

Eliza banded one of the nuthatches, which meant she had to add her name to the official register as one of the banders.  Pretty cool.

Nuthatch waiting its turn, with the coats
White-throated sparrow
 We learned something funny about these guys.  The males with the white stripes on their heads usually mate with the females with the tan stripes (and not the females with the white stripes).  Vice versa as well - the males with the tan stripes are preferred by the females with the white stripes.  Apparently the white-striped males are aggressive and dominant and so "win" whomever they want, whereas the white-striped females know the tan-stripes to be much better providers and better mates, so they are content with how that all shakes down.  Huh! So much more complicated than I would have imagined for these little creatures!

Eliza also helped free some of the birds from the fine netting around the yard.  She grew quite confident about this titmouse, and freed it with a little help about the feet. I was really impressed; you can't be wishy-washy or hesitant about this part or the birds can hurt themselves by getting further entangled. 

Female Downy Woodpecker

Eliza guessed this one might peck, so didn't want to be the one to let it go - she was right!

And of course there's a cat around.  That's Jehosaphat there, just biding his time till someone's not watching the door...