Pelicans, anniversaries and blessings

 pelicans.jpg

This is the time of year when the pelicans return to our part of the country. Yes, we’re landlocked with corn fields all around, but there are also lots of lakes and wetlands and those bring pelicans for a good part of the year.

I love pelicans. I would love them just for their lovely mixture of goofiness and beauty, but they are special to me too because of what they represent.

Almost 12 years ago, I was riding in the car on the way to the doctor to deal with my twelvth miscarriage. That was the pregnancy that was going to be different, the one the doctor assured me was fine despite all my worries. In my fourth month, the bleeding began and my worries were confirmed.

I remember looking out the window at the empty lakes, missing the pelicans. They had already moved on because of fall. I remember thinking that winter was coming, again. Loss and cold was coming, again. And I remember thinking that something must inevitably change. I didn’t know which way, only that things couldn’t go on like that forever.

That miscarriage led to complications and surgery and more complications and lots of physical and emotional pain. It started in September and ended with emergency surgery in January. The lakes were frozen. There was no life anywhere. It seemed like forever.

That was the last miscarriage where a doctor didn’t take me seriously. After that, I was sent to specialists and millions of tests were run (amazing how good medical insurance opens up doors like that).

When I got pregnant a year later, I didn’t dare hope. I had weekly shots that made me massively ill and pills to take daily. They told me there was a good chance it would keep me from miscarrying but I was numb until the third trimester.

On May 1, 1998, 10 years ago today, Victoria was born. She was the first of 4 miracle babies, after so much grief and longing.

I never forget how much I missed these kids before I got to have them.

I don’t homeschool because of inferior schools or what they do or do not teach in them. I homeschool because I love these wonderful little people and I’m still elated that I get to keep them. How could I send them away to a box all day when I could be learning, painting, growing, reading, exploring, teaching, talking, experimenting, helping and being with them?

We go driving now and the van is full of noise and chaos. Anna is singing, Jack is playing Pixter, Alex is babbling, Daddy is telling stories and Victoria is asking questions and telling everybody to hush up. And I look out the window at the silent groups of those quirky, graceful pelicans and feel so blessed.

One birthday down, two to go…

Jack had a really good birthday today.  He got some neat gifts, saw some neat people and did some neat things!  There was lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, playing in the park with friends, a cake made to his specs (a green cake with his name and a little version of him on it!) and a park-hopping jaunt with Daddy and his sisters at the end of the day.

Tomorrow is Victoria’s birthday and she has a busy day planned.  We are hitting libraries in two towns, homeschool swimming, a scrapbooking store, a park and a Mexican restaurant.   Oh yes, and starting the day making crowns for everybody.

It should be a sweet (and busy) day.

The birthdays have begun

I decorated the downstairs for the week last night. With all of the birthdays in a row, I’ll just leave it decorated until Sunday. Yellow crepe paper streamers are hung throughout the kitchen, dining room and living room with lots of balloons and a Happy Birthday banner.

Jack came downstairs this morning and his eyes were as wide as saucers. He looked enchanted and so happy.

jack.jpg

He opened some family birthday presents, including a really cool pirate hand hook that’s a metal detector.

The cake is in the oven and I need to get ready and make frosting. We’re meeting Grandma and Grandpa in a nearby town for lunch at the drive in, and then a couple of friends at the park for a small celebration.

My baby Jack is 5! Time goes so fast.

3-2.jpg

Busy week ahead

We’re about to get really busy!

Tomorrow, Jack turns 5.  We’re having a little celebration with cake.

The next day, Victoria turns 10.  We’re having a larger celebration with cake.

The next day, we’re having a giant party at a nature center for all of our birthday kids with friends.

The next day, Alex turns 1!  The same day, the kids are taking part in the swan release project and they have play auditions.

I need to bake cakes for 3 individual birthdays and one giant party.  I always do them from scratch and they want themes.  I’m an idiot.  😉

It should be a fun (and tiring) week!

Anna’s Horse Lapbook!

Anna did a horse lapbook the other night, all in one night. She really had fun and we both learned a lot.

p1010010.JPGp1010004.JPGI printed out various things that I found online doing google searches for horse images and horse facts for kids. I found some really neat stuff that Anna didn’t want to use, like a chart of horse skeleton evolution over the years (they were originally very small and were eventually bred to be bigger and stronger over the years by man). She proclaimed that sheet “disgusting” because it was bones. LOL This from a little girl who proudly bagged up the deer skull she found in the wetlands!

p1010005.JPGp1010006.JPG Some of the parts of the lapbook include a page where she labeled all the parts of a horse, a page showing all the face markings and what they are called and one with leg markings, lift the flap trivia questions, a coloring page, information like the horse family (equus) and how much they sleep (2 1/2 – 3 hours a day, more in summer than winter), a photo of the world’s smallest horse (Thumbelina), an explanation of the three types of horses (ponies, light and draft), stapled lists for each group of the breeds and characteristics, and a little blurb about Mr. Ed.p1010007.JPGp1010008.JPG

It was interesting seeing how differently my girls approach lapbooks. Victoria takes eons to finish hers, making sure everything is perfectly planned and absolutely centered and perfect. Annalee has no time for such nonsense. LOL She zipped through everything and was done. It was hard for me to take off my teacher hat and not correct her (Don’t you want to slow down and write more clearly? You’re going to run out of room if you write that big…). I want her to continue to enjoy the process, though, and have ownership over her lapbooks. I have always hated to see parents who micromanage their children’s art or school or sports, taking over and bossing and nitpicking. I’m so glad I shut up and let her do her own thing! She loves it and is proud of it, and I really am too. 🙂

Magical morning

birds3.jpg

Daryl took the kids to run errands this morning and a few minutes later Anna came back in the house to inform me that there was something magical and I had to come! As much as I like putzing online and doing laundry, that sounded even better so off we all went.

We drove a few miles out of town to a nearby set of lakes and pulled over. There is a little pond connected to a larger lake right by the highway and it was teeming with tree swallows. They were swooping down to the water in search of bugs.

birds2.jpg

 

Victoria told me “They don’t even care if a noisy child is sitting amongst them!” and told me to come see. I grabbed the baby from his seat and dutifully followed.

Sure enough, these frantic little birds swooped and fluttered all around us with no concern at all about 3 rather yappy humans in their midst. They often came within feet of us, and completely surrounded us.

Swallow above Victoria’s head

Some of the swallows were ordinary brown, but about half of them had the most beautiful irridescent blue backs. The bird book says they must be tree swallows, but those have green backs and are not nearly as beautiful as these little guys. Victoria assures me that we probably have not discovered a new species of birds and the color is just off. Of course, they are very small and very fast so they are not good at all at posing for pictures! Still, you can make one out above Victoria’s head in the picture above. 🙂

While we were sitting there, a kingfisher noisily arrived and chattered at everybody while swooping over the water. Kingfishers have a machine gun of a song and they are large, pretty and funny looking. It was neat to watch him.

Then, while we were sitting and watching the swallows swooping ever closer, we noticed a bald eagle gracefully soaring above us!

We also saw a huge heron standing by the water when we arrived, who let us come very close before lazily flying off. Later we saw pelicans (yes, we have pelicans in the midwest!), coots and other cool birds.

All total we saw 16 birds, including: red winged blackbirds, coots, cormorants, pelicans, grackles, robins, mourning doves, yellow rumped warblers, tree swallows, rough winged swallows, northern shovelers, gulls, chipping sparrows, a heron, a kingfisher and a bald eagle.

When Daryl announced that he was taking on this bird watching project (100 species spotted by the end of the season) I thought it could be neat for the kids but wasn’t that interested. I have to say that it’s led to some pretty magical moments. It’s amazing what you see if you slow down and look.

 

Sneaky homeschool

Annalee is my little fairy child. She flits about, writing songs, drawing pictures, singing, dancing, pretending. She loves to do math only because her big sister hates to do math and she can do it better.  🙂  Otherwise, she’s pretty much against anything that looks, tastes or smells like school. Luckily, she’s smart as a whip and hasn’t figured out that she’s learning all day anyway.

As much as Annalee hates school, she hates sleep more. She has a full blown phobia about being alone at night so Daryl and I take turns keeping her company at bedtime while she falls asleep. She enjoys that one-on-one time with us and will fight to stay awake with everything her little body has.

Enter the sneaky homeschooling. A few months ago I decided that if I had to sit and sing, read and otherwise lull this child to sleep (which can take a very long time), I could make it productive sometimes too. I started reciting the times tables to her! I spent 3 days straight just on the sixes, all in a row, one after another.

At worst, it bores her sleep faster than a really interesting bedtime story (and yes, she still gets plenty of those). At best, I figure it might painlessly help her learn more of her math facts.

A few nights ago I started reading about the presidents for her bedtime story. Unfortunately, it was way too interesting and we decided to read that one during the day. Still, I think I’m onto something. She tries so hard to pay attention and stay awake! It’s the only time I get her undivided attention all day.

We’ve been spending more and more of her bedtimes reading classical poetry, historical fiction and even character building stories that deal with ethics and morals. She really enjoys this stuff, too, mostly because it’s something she’s doing with just me or just Daddy, but also because it generally is interesting stuff if you slow down and really take it in.

And yes, she’ll always get plenty of lullabies and fairy tales. They just may be followed by the Gettysburgh address. 😉