Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I should have know birdwatching would lead to this...

We found a new friend yesterday.

We had fun looking at all the different hawk pictures online and decided that it is either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk. This bird identification stuff is not easy. Dawn, a little help, please?

Apparently the tail is the key to identification. The Cooper's Hawk has a rounded tail and the Sharp-shinned a squarer shaped tail. Sadly, this encounter was a bit too much for my camera. Is this tail round or square?

Speaking of cameras, I've received some lovely compliments on my bird photography lately, and I thank you all for your encouraging words. But if you want to see some real bird photography you should take a look at the photo gallery from the Great Backyard Bird Count.

One thing I've learned from all our nature study this year is how wonderful it is to capture God's beautiful creation in a picture. When I first started this blog, my camera was broken and all I had was the camera function on my camcorder. But when I started researching cameras, I was too intimidated to try an dSLR and instead opted for a bridge camera. At times I have loved it, but in recent months I've been frustrated with its limitations. The main reason my bird pictures turn out as well as they do is due to how our house is situated on our lot. We live on steep hill, achieving a sort of tree house effect. Essentially, I can get relatively close to the birds at tree level. Almost every bird picture I've posted on my blog has been taken from indoors.

So, I am now saving my pennies. I'm not sure when I'll be able to afford a new camera, much less an additional lens, but it's now on the wish list. Do I need a new camera? No. My camera does have a 20x zoom, enabling us to get a glimpse of our hawk in its nest. We can still learn a lot from this picture.

But it's not a picture that inspires. Or really captures the excitement of the moment.

So if you have any camera suggestions, please let me know. I have plenty of time for research!

I found some great articles, not just on cameras, but bird photography in general, here. For the record, birding is not my main motivation for a new camera. But if I can find a camera that will take good pictures of birds, I'm guessing it will work for kids too. : )

Friday, March 26, 2010

a little more school spirit...

I love this headline by The New York Times:

Baylor Celebrates Win, Then Plays Another Half

My Bears are now going to the Elite Eight!!!


Updated to add: The women are in the Elite Eight now too! Crazy!

I promise I will find new blog material soon. Because if you're like me, the only time you pay attention to college basketball is if your alma mater is winning. : )

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Excuses, excuses

Oh dear. Where does the time go? I seem to find less and less time (and energy) to sit down and blog these days. And I don't even have a good excuse anymore.

Unless your count being traumatized by the departure of my oldest child.

photo credit Andrei Dimofte

Anna's birthday present from Grandma was a plane ticket to visit her in Florida. Anna flew by herself and will be gone a whole week! Thank you, Grandma, for taking good care of her and spoiling her rotten, but I'm ready to have my little girl back. It's just not the same without her.


Or maybe I was too busy playing dental assistant.

The teeth were wiggly but not ready to come out, that is until Ryne and Grace got in an argument over the laptop. They each started tugging on it (yes, we had a talk about that), then Ryne decided it wasn't worth breaking the laptop to get a turn, so he let go. Bam! One tooth pops out. The other followed a couple of days later. Are your kids that naughty?!


No, wait! I know why I haven't been blogging. I've been planning for our next homeschool year! I had a used curriculum sale coming up and next month is convention time so I had to figure out what I needed to buy. And here's the really cool part: I emailed a bloggy friend to find out how she liked Exploring Countries and Cultures by My Father's World, and the next thing I knew I found a huge package on my front porch.

I practically squealed with delight! {Okay, I did squeal. I think the neighbors even heard me.}

Dear bloggy-friend (you know who you are),
I cannot thank you enough for loaning me all these fabulous books. You are amazing!!!

Can I just ditch the rest of this school year, and get started on the next? {Kidding, school is actually going pretty well this year.}


Perhaps (have I ever told you perhaps is Ryne's favorite word?), I was just too busy baking my own bread for the first time ever.

Nevermind that I've been wanting to do this for the last three years, but have been too chicken. I finally made my first loaf of bread and it wasn't half bad. Actually, I did make my own gluten-casein-soy-egg-free bread once upon a time, but the only person who would touch it was Ryne, so that doesn't count. He'd eat cardboard if it was shaped like a piece of bread. And that's what it tasted like. But this bread was not hard to make and tasted pretty good. I still have lots of room for improvement, but it's a start. I used this book, written by a homeschool mom, if you're interested. I've been to one of her classes and her bread tastes wonderful, so I know I'm on the right track -- just need some more practice.


It hasn't helped that I've been watching waaaaayyyy too much college basketball lately. Ask me to say three intelligent things about basketball and I'd have trouble, but I do know that until this week it had been 60 years since my Baylor Bears have won in the NCAA tournament. But now they are among the sweet sixteen! Sic 'em Bears!!!!

cell phone pic of Ryne at the Big 12 tournament last week


Okay, the real reason I haven't been blogging is just that I've been in a winter slump. So I figured things should get better today since it's the official first day of spring. It is March 20th, right? I wasn't so sure, because this was on my window this morning.

And this was the scene outside.

We've had about six inches so far, but it seems to be tapering off. Yesterday, we had a high of 62 degrees, and today it's winter again. I love winter, but I think it just makes me sleepy.

So if you don't see me again for a little while, I'm still hibernating.

P.S. For some real spring fun, you might want to visit my post from last year.

Friday, March 5, 2010

One small square

Winter is fading fast. Temperatures reached 60 degrees today! The only snow left is on shady north-facing slopes, and even there it is just in patches. I'm guessing it will all be gone by the end of the weekend. All in all, we had a beautiful day for nature study, but it was very muddy. I have a lot of laundry to catch up on now. And (ugh!) I forgot to have the kids wear boots, so now I have to wash their shoes too.

Our winter series challenge for this week was to measure off a small square of earth to study up close. The goal was to see how many different things we could find in our square. We chose a spot in our backyard.

An initial inspection revealed the following: snow, moss, grass, tiny plant of some sort (had little buds on it), ice, and leaves. The top layer of leaves were all frozen together. Then it was time to dig.

Digging proved to be more difficult than the kids thought it would be since the ground was frozen. The area around the moss was especially tough.

But eventually they made progress and found a few more items. Grace was surprised to find a leaf that wasn't crushed at all.

They found several black walnut shells.

They also found a long, but thin root and lots of little rocks. The kids were disappointed to not find any worms or bugs hibernating. So we decided we will do a little research next week on what happens to worms in the winter.

We also tried using a magnifying glass, but I don't think ours was powerful enough. I'll put a hand lens on the school supply list for next year.

We had to leave for an afternoon appointment, but decided to revisit our square when we returned. It was full of muddy puddles! Removing the layer of snow and frozen leaves caused the ground to thaw in the afternoon sun. A good indication of what we have to look forward to in the coming weeks -- even more laundry. Some of you might remember this picture from last year.

We also got a head start on next week's challenge: looking for signs of animals. My guess is raccoon, but we'll have to look at the resources Barb has recommended.

Happy homeschooling!