Friday, May 05, 2023

A good day

Benjamin was on fire today!

Not literally, of course, but by 11:00 am he had worked on his programming course (he requested to learn Python and has been doing great so far), revisited any math lesson he only got "two stars" on and earned "three stars" (all without prompting or asking for any assistance), he unloaded the dishwasher (Alexander's job) and took out the kitchen trash and recycling (Miriam's job, but his favourite chore), decided that we should have spaghetti for dinner because we had leftover meatballs from the meatball subs Daddy made for dinner last night, pulled out some noodles and sauce from the storage room and set them on the counter...

And so on.

As I said, the boy was on fire!

The only thing I sort of asked him to do was take out the trash, and I didn't even really do that. I was just throwing something away and sighed, "We've really got to take the trash out..."

And Benjamin said, "Done!"

And started preparing to run it outside to the the rain. No hesitation!

It was wonderful to have such a good helper today! I'm sure this is a sign that Benjamin is maturing.

Here he is with a lovely bouquet of flowers he picked for me at the park this afternoon:

We went for a nice long walk, found an empty bird's nest (that we assume was from last year because it had all but fallen out of its tree, and was barely hanging on by a twig), and enjoyed some time at the park.

We're pretty sure this was a cardinal's nest because of the way it was built. It seems very similar to the nest in our tree, with a jumble of bigger twigs and then a little cup made of pine straw:

Poison ivy has been having a spectacular spring. It's out everywhere all over the park, so we had a good time identifying it all over the place. 

This patch of ivy doesn't have the characteristic mitten shaped leaves, and the flowers look intriguing (the bees were sure enjoying them), but it's 100% poison ivy. It looked like branches coming off the tree, but really the ivy vine had climbed the tree trunk and then sent out little branch-like tendrils of ivy. We could hardly identify the actual species of this tree, but I'm pretty sure it was a beech tree.

In case you're wondering why Rachel screams, "The baby!" in the middle of this video, well, that's because the kids always scream that whenever I let go of the stroller handle because once upon a time we were on a walk and the kids had started a sweetgum fruitball fight—these spiny little seedpods drop to the ground and we like to toss them at each other, pretending they're snowballs or COVID viruses or whatever. 

It doesn't snow here very often, okay? It's not like we can just have a snowball fight whenever we feel like it. And these fruitballs give the kids a great way to get out their I-love-you-so-much-that-I-want-to-throw-stuff-at-you energy. 

All kids have that kind of energy, right? Not just mine, I hope...

Anyway, the kids had started a sweetgum fruitball fight and I came across a nice little arsenal on the road (probably under a sweetgum tree), so I let go of the stroller to quickly replenish my supply, and, like maybe we were on a bit of an incline. And maybe the stroller started rolling down the hill without me. Who's to say, really?

Alexander, that's who.

"The baby!" he wailed (just like Rachel wailed in this video, which, for the record, was filmed on a very flat surface, without the baby rolling away at all).

So, that's why my kids will randomly shriek, "THE BABY!" while we're out and about.

It's fine. It's not like I dumped Phoebe out onto the sidewalk or emptied her onto a busy street in Cairo or anything. She just rolled a few feet away down a hill. And we've been much more diligent about engaging the brake ever since.  

Anyway, we spent a lot of time practicing our poison ivy identification skills.

"Oooh, look! Honeysuckle! That looks good. But wait! What are these other leaves over here? Those don't belong to honeysuckle! Those are poison ivy!"

"Oooh, what a tempting climbing tree. What kind of tree is this? Why, it's a [tulip poplar/maple/bald cypress/loblolly pine/beech] tree. But wait! What are these other leaves? Poison ivy!"

We also practiced spotting regular ol' brambles (leaves of three, but you know they're "safe" because poison ivy doesn't ever have thorns) and virginia creeper (a tricky look-alike with leaves of 5 when mature...but quite often leaves of 3 when young). Poison ivy loves to infiltrate both. It loves to grow along the path. It loves to create a lush ground cover. It loves to climb trees and reach for the sun. 

It likes to grow pretty much anywhere. So we're always on the lookout. 

Not that I'm trying to raise a bunch of anxious people, but, like...if we're going to be tromping around in the woods we may as well not fall victim to one of the woods' classic blunders!

Anyway, we identified a lot of poison ivy, found a dead lizard, and then when it started raining hard we headed back to the park to hang out in the pavilion.

Benjamin played with Phoebe while the rest of us painted. Alexander, Zoë, and I painted bird nests. Here are our pictures (with Alexander's on the left, Zoë 'son the right, and mine in the middle):

I based my picture off of one I snapped of our cardinal's nest a few days ago. You can see we have at least three eggs, maybe even four. We can't get a look anymore because momma has begun incubating.

The nest is in our Japanese Camellia. I painted the nest first and then surrounded it with a...Camellia vibe...

I have no idea what I'm doing, but that's okay. I've been researching graphic novels and the role they play in literacy lately, and how we should really be encouraging students to create visual representations of their ideas more than we do (because that really peters once kids can read). But creating visual representations stimulates the mind in different ways than working with letters on a page does.

Both are important, but they can be used to complement each other well.

So I've been trying to incorporate more visual arts opportunities into our curriculum. It's hard because I don't feel like I know what I'm doing...but also...that's how one learns, right? By experimenting with things, by mimicking others work, and so forth.

Zoë's picture included a cowbird egg (it's darker than the other eggs in the nest), since she thinks cowbirds are interesting villains. 

Here are Rachel and Miriam hard at work:

Miriam wanted to make an old-timey plant sketch of poison ivy:

The serifed font probably took her the longest to paint. She also did a hydrangea. 

And Rachel did a bunch of little doodles.

Here are my three little ones playing on the swings:

When Zoë jumped out of this swing (which might not have been the best idea on her part), it swung back and smacked her in the mouth, knocking looser her already wiggly tooth. 

Daddy pulled that tooth out after dinner, so now Zoë has practically no teeth left in her mouth.

She's had a hard time eating dinners lately.

And here's Phoebe in her second outfit of the day because Benjamin sent her down the wet slide into a puddle and she got completely soaked.

And Alexander tried to climb up a (wet) slide, slipped, and bashed his face, giving himself a lovely goose egg on his forehead.

Sometimes I don't know why I take the kids to the park because every time we come home I'm always like, "Hey, honey.'s the rundown of the injuries we incurred today..."

It's good for the kids, right??


  1. Replies
    1. I forgot to mention that Benjamin also made lunch for everyone—a big pot of Ramen noodles!