Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beach day already!

     Yesterday was such a busy day.  We cleaned the house for a bit, packed lunches and headed out bright and early.  We had many errands to run and then we planned on meeting up with my sister and nephews for some fun at the park before trampoline.  The boys were all so happy to see one another and played really well.  My mother showed up at trampoline and the boys were overjoyed to show off their skills for her.  By the time trampoline ended the boys were wiped out.  We had listened to two books on CD in the morning so our commute was great.  The boys really enjoyed listening to Freckle Juice and The One in The Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume.  Unfortunately, they are really short books and we soon ran out of things to listen to.  With the bikes in back of the car all three boys were sitting in the middle seat and fighting soon ensued.  The ride home from trampoline was even worse.  They were awful, screaming, hitting & fighting over toys.  We had more errands to run but I decided to just come home and send them all to their rooms for some rest and time apart.  I banned toys from the car and put all the seats back where they belong.  I waited until my husband came home and I went to the grocery store by myself.  What an experience.  I think my boys are pretty darn helpful, but even with all the extra people in the store at night I was able to finish my shopping in half the time!  I came home to find the boys helping their dad clean the kitchen and they all helped bring in groceries. 
        We had another busy day planned today and I was dreading a long car ride with no toys.  I finally told the boys I'd allow them to bring some sort of activity book-- their dot to dot books or color by number or anything "school" like where they didn't have to share, talk to or play with one another.  The two older boys decided on dot to dot books and Evan brought his color by number book with his markers.  We packed up kites, bubbles, trucks, hula hoops and jump ropes and headed to a beautiful park along the shoreline that I hadn't been to since Ian was a baby.  On the way we dropped some books off at the library and then headed out to the beach. 
    It was a fabulous day with sunny skies, a cool breeze, and everyone had a wonderful time.  The boys dug in the sand, flew kites, got wet and dirty.  They ran around the beach, jumped off rock formations and found sand creatures and shells.  We saw tons of birds, dogs and kites (though most of them were stuck in the trees!).  We saw excavators on the beach, fighter planes flying overhead and we ran through the fields and grass.  We walked around the mansion and it's gardens.  They rapped and made music using water bottles and an abandoned dog bowl.  It was a fabulous day!

Alec flies his kite

the mole crabs we found (though we had to look up what they were when we got home!)

the bottom of the mole crab

Throwing rocks in the channel from one side to the other

We watched the ferries and boats pass by all day long.

Some loons we saw

the boys get to work digging in the sand

baby mole crab

Ian flying his kite
boys trying to stop the waves from washing away their dams

Monday, April 29, 2013

Creature Care

       Thinking our day was just about over I sat down to write my blog late yesterday afternoon.  I came back outside to find Alec and Evan excited about a baby painted turtle they found.  Next thing I knew they were building him a home.  They took the dam they had built a few days ago (and where they found the turtle) and filled it a bit more with water, added a large rock for him to sun himself, added some moss and greenery for him to hide in and hopefully eat.  They ended up adding a few small sticks that they put half in the water and half out so he could crawl out when he wanted and also use them for sunning himself.  They filled a smaller hole with water next to the larger hole so they'd have a place to put him out of harms way when working on improving his home.  They wanted me to go in the house and find books on caring for painted turtles so I did one better and brought my laptop outside.  We looked up "what do baby painted turtles eat?"  and found this great resource.   We looked up "how long can a baby painted turtle hold its breath?"  and found another great website run by the Warner Nature Center.  When learning how to care for baby painted turtles we learned that turtles aren't just plant eaters like we thought; they're carnivores when they're young and omnivores as adults.  So the boys went on a bug/worm hunt and were thrilled when they found an ant.  They then tried to feed the ant to the turtle; telling me they were helping him by giving him an easy dinner tonight.  They finally decided to leave the bug on the rock and then he could eat it when he wanted.  Evan kept telling me he loved Turtley and asking me "isn't he cute mom?"  He was really worried that the turtle was lost and wouldn't be able to find his way home.  I explained that hatchlings are on their own from birth.  I was a bit worried about  the poor baby turtle.  The boys were being very gentle and I knew they were learning a lot so I hated to stop them, but I knew if they ended up hurting the turtle they'd feel really bad.  My general rule about nature is to leave it alone and just observe.  I'm always afraid we'll do more damage than good, but I also know people have painted turtles as pets and I just took a deep breath, made myself step back and try to look at the big picture.
       Most turtle eggs and hatchlings are eaten by rodents, canines and snakes so on the bright side I figured the boys were preventing him from being eaten.   I also figured the boys only had an hour or so to make a home and care for the turtle until we went in for dinner and then the baby would most likely crawl away.  I remember playing with worms and other small creatures I found when I was a kid and I think sometimes I have to let them try.  It's a huge learning experience for them to care for another creature and I just didn't have the heart to tell them no.  I searched the Internet for 30 minutes trying to read up about turtles in order to help the boys care for him properly telling them all about everything I was reading.   

Putting a home together for the turtle

    But, I figured wrong.  The boys brought out Alec's animal habitat and set that up as a temporary home for the turtle; promising to set him free after dinner.  They filled the basin with muddy pond water and put the turtle in.  I told Alec to keep an eye on the turtle and to make sure he still looked happy and healthy for the duration.  While painted turtles are very cold hardy I wasn't sure how much warmth a plastic terrarium filled with cold water could be; it's not like he could burrow down into the mud.  Alec wanted to add mud to the terrarium but was afraid it would never wash back out and ruin it so they decided to just use the water, some leaves and tiny twigs.  They walked that turtle all around and even through my house until I calmly explained that if it tipped at all I would have muddy pond water on the rug.  They kept him outside after that but worried that he didn't have mud to bury himself in for sleeping and keeping warm.  They were sad to say good- bye and while I don't mind the thought of them having a painted turtle as a pet, we're not ready for one just yet.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another day at the zoo

   We had a whole family fun day planned that sort of fell apart. OK- if you want to get technical I had a family fun day planned; my husband planned to work on trying to finish up the dirt bike/ four wheeler track we're making in our woods for the boys (and my husband, who will use it more than any one of my boys I'm sure!).  My oldest son really wanted to stay and help his dad.  I couldn't blame him, he got to drive the excavator, ranger, and whatever other assorted equipment they pulled into the job by the end of the day.  We tried to wait around for them to finish but around 9 this morning we decided to go for a walk and see what they had left. We discovered they'd barely started.  So we all decided that I'd take the two younger ones to the zoo and Ian would stay with his dad.
     We headed to Southwick's Zoo today.  We walked all around the zoo checking out the baby animals, taking a train ride through the elk forest, and seeing what was new for this year.  We've been coming to Southwick's Zoo for 8 years and it's amazing to watch how much it grows and transforms from year to year.  New rides, attractions, exhibits and animals.  They're constantly working to make it a better zoo and it shows.  We had a great day and learned even more about the animals.  Alec talked to several zoo keepers set up around the zoo and got to see a gorilla hand, foot and skull up close.  We got to examine a giraffe's skull and compare one of their vertebrae with ours.  It was great.  It was also pretty hot in the sun and it was crowded so by 1 o'clock my boys were ready to call it quits.

 learning about the giraffe

Alec loves the birds

White Rhinoceros

The new baby lions are already very big

We love seeing the peacock in "full bloom"

The hedgehog is awake!
A new baby monkey

The little baby lemur is getting a ride

Baby Jacob's sheep

Learning about the importance of an opposable thumb

Checking out the reptiles

    Once home they played in the yard on the slides, swings, with the fishing net and the lake.   We laid on the dock and closed our eyes to discover what we could hear.  They were muddy, sandy, dirty, and sweaty.  They ate snack after snack (after not eating at all while we were at the zoo!) and commented to me that this was a perfect day.  I had to agree.  It was pretty darn perfect.  Beautiful sunshine, a nice breeze, and fun with my boys.  What more could a mother ask for? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

For the Birds

       Evan was thrilled to once again have soccer practice this morning and I was thrilled to be able to watch him and take pictures.  He worked really hard on his ball handling skills and showed a remarkable amount of concentration. 

         Alec and Ian grumble and complain about coming but they often find things to do to occupy themselves since it's a big field and the team only uses a small portion of it.  The older boys and I were standing around talking and heard a funny whistling sound.  It took us a while to figure it out but we finally saw a boy siting on the rocks blowing through a blade of grass.  The boys wandered off and I returned to watching Evan.  Next time I did my sweep of the field looking for the older boys I saw Alec and Ian talking to the boy on the rock.  Alec, who's never shy and always curious has asked the boy how to do that and was trying very hard to learn.  He even found the boys mother standing next to me on the sideline and asked for her help in figuring out what he was doing wrong.  His hard work really paid off when he finally got the grass to whistle.  He was so proud of himself and couldn't wait to show off his new skill!

      After soccer I took the two younger boys to the Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education center.  I had read about their Earth Day celebration through a homeschooling group e-mail and thought it sounded like something Alec would just love.  We stayed for 3 hours and the place was actually very small but they had so many wonderful programs and people handling the birds so the kids could see them up close.  It was wonderful-- and cheap too!  Once we paid our $9 admission pretty much everything was included (though donations were asked for and in total we spent $20).  The boys got temporary tattoos painted on.  They filled out raffle tickets for prizes, and had tons of snacks, baked goods, and lemonade.  There were owl pellets for the kids to dissect and handouts that they could compare the bones they found with the ones on the page.  They had a great time playing with a birdsong machine learning all the different calls and sounds birds make.  We got to plant seeds into eggs shells and little cartons for taking home.  They got to pet a llama and talk about sheering the animal with the owner.  She showed the boys what types of things they can make with the llama fur once they spin it into thread/yarn.   We walked around and read about all the different birds they have.  We saw peregrine falcons, a barn owl, screech owls, a barred owl, a raven, a crow, a red shouldered hawk, a couple of vultures, two kestrels, and many more.  They listened to a story with the great horned owl.  It was a very fitting story about what to do if you find a baby bird.  All in all is was wonderful day and very informative.  The kids were so excited about everything they got to see and do. 

Evan's dragon tattoo

Alec's tattoo of a flower and some butterflies

using tweezers to pull out bones

Evan further dissecting his owl pellet

Alec plants a seed that we got to take home

Snack time!

presentation about the animals and the center

The male kestrel

Both the little screech owls

The turkey vulture

The boys learning about peregrine falcons

The raven

Alec asking about the red shouldered hawk

Story time

The great horned owl