Sunday, July 26, 2009

Butterfly Experiment

Our little scientists had a wonderful time observing the life cycle of five painted lady butterflies. Over the last two weeks we have watched these little larvae caterpillars go from being little critters to more than doubling in size, then forming chrysalises (is that really the plural for that?) and then becoming beautiful butterflies. They seemed rather forlorn in the cage to us, so we released them into our garden. As soon as we took the cage outside, they got very excited (do butterflies get butterflies in their stomachs?). They started fluttering all over and climbing to the top of the cage as if they knew the way out. We reached our hands in the cage in hopes of holding them on our fingers for a bit, but they had bigger plans and took off immediatedly. One of them made straight for the flowers, and so I was able to get some beautiful photos of her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Doing What Comes Naturally

We've been doing Apologia Science this year for school, and have continued into the summer. We've been working through the first book in the Exploring Creation series for elementary students called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. It has awakened in Matty and Molly a love for observing nature, and we have been looking at the world in a whole new way. The kids and I have studied birds and have been keeping a life notebook, recording when interesting creatures come to the back yard. We've also built bird houses to put on the fences, and have had two families of wrens come and nest in them. We've seen the usual varieties of birds that are common for Northern Virginia, and have enjoyed identifying them and observing their behaviors. They go on frequent "critter hunts" and find snakes, turtles, toads, and insects, and bring them home to watch them. We have a rule that they have to return them to their natural habitat after keeping them for a day, which usually means at sunset.

Today we again observed our red-tail hawk that has been visiting our dead tree at the edge of the woods. I was able to get a picture this time around. We also witnessed a most dramatic scene in which a lovely, but disabled moth that Matty found on the deck was rapidly consumed by a wasp. It was wonderful and horrible all at the same time, and we found it fascinating to watch!

Below is a slide show of some of the visitors we've had to our back yard.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Three Cats, Nearly Two!

Despite the title of "Two Cats in the Yard," we actually are a three-cat household. Today, however, we were nearly a two-cat household, when a very substantial red-tailed hawk camped out in our tree and was very clearly eyeballing our young cat, Albert. He has, as a result, been renamed "Hawk-bait." I did not take the picture, but put it in here, because the hawk that was in our tree was very similar in appearance to this one. We have also had visits from Cooper's hawks, which are smaller. I don't suppose they are a threat to the cats, but we've seen evidence of them hunting other birds at the bird-feeder. I suppose I can't be particular about which birds feed at the feeder and on what...nature is that way. I would, however, be a little more contrary if one of these hawks caught any of my cats!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When Siblings are Best Friends

We went white water rafting this weekend. What a blast that was! Our whole family was on one raft with "Uncle Rob" and though the rapids weren't huge, they were perfect for first-timers. We worked together and quickly got the hang of it, and before long we were pros. All I can think is "When can we go again?"

We allowed Matty to stay on an extra night with our friends Rob and Sue and their grandson and another boy. Molly was not happy about this, and when we left him behind she cried and hugged him and said, "I want you to come with us, Matty." He hugged and kissed her and said not to worry--he'd be back the next day, and so we set off.

When he returned the next day, Molly was so happy to see him. For the first time ever, he actually admitted to being homesick and missing us. He asked if Molly cried a lot when we left, and she hadn't really, but he said her crying was the hardest part of his separation from us. That night when we tucked them into bed, I witnessed this scene: Molly snuggled up close to Matty and put her arm across his chest.

"Matty, when you were away did you feel alone?"
"No, I was with two other boys."
"Were you scared?"
"No, I was okay."
"I want to snuggle with you because I missed you so much...I want to be with you, Matty...You're such a nice brother...I love you..."
"I love you too, Molly."
And then they were asleep. All was right in their worlds again.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

July 4 on the National Mall in DC

This year's July 4th was a special one. We were invited to attend the fireworks at the National Mall with some friends who work for the National Park service. Normally we would not consider such an undertaking with a four-year-old who is phobic about porta-potties (which were certain to be horrid). However, they had VIP passes and we were assured that there were facilities, and this made it all worthwhile. There were indeed facilities, and they even had mirrors, soap, flushing toilets and doors that closed securely. Uh, wait...yes, that was impressive, but what was better was the time spent with friends and the AMAZING fireworks display. It was likely the most beautiful I've ever seen. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.