Saturday, February 28, 2015

Birds, Basketballs, and Books

    It's not fun waking up to a plaintive cry of "I think another one of my fish died last night" first thing on a Saturday morning.  We knew it was a possibility.  We were warned when we took the last batch of dead fish back to the store that we really needed to bring down the ammonia levels in the tank.  We have since cleaned it three times, vacuumed it twice, and added ammonia drops.  For the life of me I can not get the ammonia reading to drop.  We have been cleaning the tank a few times a week for the past few weeks and once a week prior to that.  Short of draining the whole tank and starting over; which we were also told not do, I'm at a loss.  We were warned that the smaller, less hardy fish would be the next to go; in other words his neon tetras.  I got out of bed to help Alec scoop up the dead fish and after breakfast we vacuumed it again.  We also went on-line and ordered more ammonia testing strips, more filters and more fish food.  I had no idea fish were such needy animals!  I realize other pet owners may not think they are as difficult because they'd be willing to replace and/or buy different types of fish.  Alec is very stuck on the small, colorful, pretty fish and he gets attached to them very quickly.  All I kept thinking was what a learning experience owning a fish tank has turned into for the both of us.  I told him we'd check the level again tomorrow and vacuum it again if we needed to... which I'm pretty sure we will need to... again.  
     We headed out to Ian's basketball tournament.  We had to stop and pick up my husband along the way.  While driving we saw a hawk fly over our car and land in a big tree near the edge of the road.  It was across the street from the parking lot so all the boys got to see it sitting up in the tree.  The light brown feathers really worked like camouflage for the bird and we were all a bit awed at the size.  The yard next door had many bright red cardinals and some big blue jays too.  We were having fun watching the birds and I was disappointed that there was still no sign of the bald eagle I had seen a few weeks ago.  Alec had missed it and I really knew he'd love to see a bald eagle out in the wild.  As my husband climbed in the car and started driving I spotted the bald eagle sitting in a tree along the water's edge.  We pulled into the driveway and were able to park the car so all the boys got to see the eagle sitting in the tree.  Even from across the water, yard, and driveway it looked huge!  Seeing the bald eagle brought up the topic of predators and prey.  The size of female and male birds of prey.  Ian assumed since this was the smaller of the two bald eagles spotted lately that it must be the female but Alec told him that the males are smaller in all birds of prey species.  We talked about why that would be when most other animals have larger males and smaller females.  We talked about the diet of the bald eagle, predators to the birds themselves, their eggs and their hatch-lings.  We talked about when the eggs are laid and when the babies hatch.  The boys even reminded us that Ben Franklin had not wanted the eagle as the nation's bird and why.  He had wanted the turkey to which my husband replied "It's a good thing they weren't our nation's bird; they're so tasty!"  It was a great and spontaneous science lesson held right there in the car while driving.
     We arrived at the game and all the teams we saw today had a look of fierce determination.  Ian ended up having a few free throws and while I know he wasn't thrilled to be the one throwing them he looked happy and carefree.  He missed, but at least came close and hit the backboard.  He told me excitedly later that those two shots were the closest he had ever come to making a free throw shot. His team members still shook his hands and encouraged him.  He elected to sit out the end of the game as it got more and more rough.  With two more games on the line and a chance to win a trophy, the game got more and more competitive.  Ian is not much of a competitive player and didn't seem to care if his team won or lost.  I'm still trying to figure out why he wanted to play this year and what changed from last year.  They ended up loosing by 6 points and many of Ian's teammates were very upset.  I was actually relieved that Ian wasn't one of them.  I always felt so bad trying to console him last year when he was so upset that they had lost after playing a grueling game.  I don't love that he's lost his drive for the game but I do love his fun loving attitude toward it.  He's got a huge smile on his face throughout the whole game whenever he plays whether the team is winning or loosing and we can hear him cheering on his team quite loudly when he's sitting and waiting for his turn to play.  He may not have the skills needed to be a basketball player yet, but he sure knows about good sportsmanship.
     We went home for lunch and the boys begged me to read the rest of our chapter in Harry Potter.  I agreed and with a few interruptions here and there we managed to finish it up.  We then piled back into the car and headed back to my husband's shop so we could wash the cars.  With all the cold weather, ice, and snow the cars have needed several washings to rinse all the salt and sand off.  The boys brought along Ian's basketball to play.  Alec practiced dribbling the ball and the boys kept passing it back and forth.  Not having a basketball net to play with they mostly focused on dribbling and passing.  They stopped periodically to help wash the car or vacuum up all the water with the wet/dry vac.  The boys also helped clean up all the wood chips and shavings and checked out how the cabinets are coming along for the basement.  They were shown the various tools and the remaining steps to turn a few pieces of wood into come cabinets.
     We listened to our book on CD in the car on the way home and then all the boys scattered.  Alec went to take a shower, Evan played with his Kindle and Ian started watching season two of the A-Team.  Evan and I did take a look at his plate of super absorbent crystals and found that they had shrunk back down and hardened.  He wasn't surprised to see them tiny and hard again but he was a bit surprised that they were so dark.  We talked about why that was.  I reminded him that they had started out white/clear and hard and tiny.  He told me that after we dropped them in the colored water they got all bright and big and squishy.  I explained that while the water is evaporating out and making them small and hard again the crystals are keeping the dye colors and as they shrink more and more of the color pieces are left behind making them so dark.  I was surprised to think about how much learning and school- type work we were accomplishing on the weekend and without the boys even complaining that it wasn't a school day!
Our before photo

and the after photo 

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