Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Harris Neck

Whoa! Hey, where'd that month go?  I went and told you we were going to our favorite wildlife area and then disappeared from the blogosphere again. 
That wasn't very nice of me, but in my defense, we have been soooo busy.  We visited out-of-state family and friends for Thanksgiving and then came home to jump right back into "real life" which included working like crazy to finish out the semester and passing around a 2-week virus. 
So now that I'm done with my update excuses pity party, let's get back to the trip. 
We were all so exhausted from the activity at Jekyll and St. Simon's the previous day that we were all soundly asleep by 8:30 p.m.  Getting up in time for sunrise was pretty easy.  Hmm, if only I could do that at home!
While still under the cover of darkness, we managed to find Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area, which wasn't easy to do- even with a guide book telling exactly when and where to turn! There were several roads listed in the Birding Georgia book that we missed.  But it turned out okay because when we finally turned down the last possible road, there just happened to be a huge viewing platform beside a large wetland area. SCORE!
As the sun rose over the water, we heard and saw dozens of birds.  There were several species in the wooded area surrounding the platform, too.  Many were new-to-us, and we were so busy identifying that we completely forgot to take a single picture.  We're really sad about that because we added several birds to our life list there.  We could have added more than we did if we were more exprerienced birders with better equipment! 
Once we thought we had identified all we could, we backtracked and turned down the roads we had missed coming in, all of which led to areas which were dried up.  We saw a few sparrows here and there, but not much else.  What we thought was poor navigation on our part turned out to be excellent navigation from the Hand of Providence!
We left the sparrows to drive to our favorite place, Harris Neck.  I love this place so much because the best birding can be done around 2 large ponds which are not far from the road.  They are always full of interesting birds that we don't see in our part of the state: ibis, herons, storks, moorhen, and a variety of ducks.  The ground and paths are level, too, so the little bit of walking that has to be done is easy on my arthritic feet and hip.  :)
This trail runs between the two large ponds.
To the left were dozens of waterfowl.
This is the only place we have ever spotted the White Ibis,
but it was not a new life-lister since we visited HN a few years ago.
We have also seen Glossy Ibis there.
The Tri-colored Heron was a new lifelister.
HN was not the first place on this trip where we spotted one,
but it was the first place that provided a picture oportunity.
We saw dozens of the Pied-billed Grebe at every coastal location we visited.
We have seen these in our area, too, but not as close-up
as HN allowed us to look.
The Black-crowned Night Heron is also one we have seen in our part of the state;
however, the birds are so easy to spot and photograph at HN.
Boat-tailed Grackle and Anhinga were abundant.
We thought these two perched closely in the same tree
were rather funny. 
These Woodstorks help me understand how
some people believe in ghosts!

They were everywhere!
I used to think these critters would eat anything (or one)
they encountered.
Birding has helped to extinguish my irrational fear
of being eaten by an alligator in the middle of the night
when I go to the restroom.
I don't know....
I must have seen some weird movie as a kid or something.

We saw several varieties of dragonflies, too.
I do not know how to identify these guys,
but we saw them in a variety of colors.
So beautiful!!
Well, I'll try not to stay away for a month this time, but.... 

Next time we will visit Skidaway Island State Park, near Savannah, GA.  We met a very interesting bird there. 

Yes, "met."

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Worst Blog Mom of the Year Award

I have created a new blog award and given it to ME!

I ALWAYS post pictures of my boys on their birthdays.  Alas, November came and went way too fast this year, and I missed posting on my November boy's birthday.  I will accept the award graciously; however, I refuse to allow the year to end without having posted his awesome pictures.  They were taken and edited by our dear shutter-bug friend, Chloe of Chloe Virginia Photography.

Love those blue eyes!
He's a cutie!
He's such a happy kid, too. 
I love how this photo captures his big laugh (and braces).
He's a jokester.  So funny!
His latest riddle:
Q: Where do stormtroopers do their Christmas shopping?
A: At the Darth 'Maul'!
My handsome 12-year-old!
Look at how he's grown and changed!
Even though he will always be my baby,
he's not a baby anymore.  :(
*I took this picture.  Chloe was about 4 when this was done.  :)
Thank you for the great pictures, Chloe!

Happy late, late, late birthday, Wilbur.  I love you bunches and bunches!

The Worst Bloggy Mommy

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Golden Bird and St. Simon's

Our next stop after Jekyll was a causeway in the Brunswick, GA area.  It was not the prettiest spot, and we had to bird watch from a gravel road that was a good distance from the water. For those reasons, all of my pictures from this spot are grey and fuzzy, so I won't share many. 
However, I have to share one because...
Here is our golden bird!
The American Avocet!
The boys have been wanting
 to spot one of these
since 2009.
(my apologies for the pic quality)

Then we made our way to St. Simon's Island.  It was a very blustery day!  In fact, the boys wondered if a hurricane was coming.  No hurricanes, fortunately, but the winds were so strong that we had difficulty keeping our binoculars and the camera steady.

Despite the weather, there were many birds to see!
Such a beautiful place!
More egrets :)
We took a little time to visit Bloody Marsh,
(homeschoolers are always up for a history lesson)
where the Scotish Highlanders defeated the Spanish,
forcing them from the Georgia colony.
We also birded the causeway to St. Simon's
where we spotted many birds.
This was a new one for our lifelist:
Ruddy Turnstone.

Next time we'll travel a little farther up the coast to one of my favorite places in the state of Georgia: Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge.

Happy birding!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Favorite Pictures from Jekyll

Last month, we visited the Georgia coast.  Which part you ask?  Well, all of it!

We started south and birded the best spots (as listed in Giff Beaton's Birding Georgia) between Jekyll Island and Savannah.  We returned home with lots of sand in our shoes, major sunburns, hundreds of amazing memories, a feeling of refreshment, and well over 600 pictures.

I do not think anyone will stick around for a 600 picture slide show, so I won't share all of them.  I had planned just to share my favorites in one post until I started the process of loading all those photos.

Ahem, I have quite a few favorites! ;)

I decided it would be best to break this into a few posts by locations we visited.  It will be like a mini-version of our vacation.  We will start the tour at Jekyll Island, one of the most beautiful places on the planet!

Enjoy!  I sure did.  :)

Walking to the beach as the sun was rising
The boys and I search for birds.

Great Blue Heron

Snowy Egrets

We visited the Jekyll Island Banding Station. 
One of the volunteers had met us 2 or 3 years ealier when she was birding on our side of the state. 
She recognized us and took us on a net run.  Here, she has just released a Grey Catbird from the nets
and is taking it to be banded and released.

A new life-lister for us: Sanderlings!
Great Egret
We're not just about the birds!
We saw lots of wildlife, including several types of dragonflies.
The bridge leading on to Jekyll is gorgeous!
Getting Creative
Return soon for pictures from a causeway in the Brunswick area, where we added a much-sought-after bird to our list.  We will also visit St. Simons Island.
Happy birding!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Orville turns 13 today.

Recently, we had our school pictures taken
by Chloe

She did a fabulous job capturing each of my boys' personalities...

...and interests.

I think these pictures show just how mature...


.... handsome ;)...

 ... and original my super smart, super funny teenager is becoming.

Happy 13th Birthday, Orville!
We love you just as you are.
Continue to grow in grace
and serve the Lord in all you do.
Mom and Dad
p.s. I will post the pictures of Wilbur next month
when he turns 12!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Most Boring Post Ever Written

Warning: Boring Post AHEAD!  

Do not read unless you are seated comfortably in a place where you can safely fall asleep.

I have been gone from the blogosphere for many moons now- with good reason which, Lord willing, I will tell more about in a future post.  For now, I just want to take care of some OPA business and share what the boys are studying this year.

Yes, I used present progressive in that sentence.  School started last week at OPA, and they ARE currently studying.

(Ugh, she's talking grammar.  This IS a boring blog....) 

Hey, I warned you.

Also, for the sake of time, I am not going to include any pictures,

(What?!? NO pictures?!? On a blog?!?)

no links,

(Are you kidding me!?!?)

and no Amazon picture-linky-things. 

(She IS boring! I'm clicking over to The Pioneer Woman!!)

What can I say?  I have a lot going on right now.  Maybe this will help you understand....

13 years old (almost) and in 8th grade

Bible:  He will read the Bible daily (2 OT chapters and 1 NT chapter) and complete his memorization of the Shorter Catechism.  That may not seem like much, but I am only detailing what is officially part of the school day.  His church studies, our family worship and additional readings (not school-specific) will bulk up this most-important study.

Literature:  Excellence in Literature, Year One.  I realized through two years of Omnibus study that before a child can rightfully tackle literary analysis, he needs to be shown how TO DO said analysis.  It does not happen via osmosis.  EiL provides that instruction.  It is developed as an independent study, but I will be guiding Orville through it because I am folding in a few other resources and activities.  Developing his analytical abilities is a top priority this school year.

Composition: The Elegant Essay (IEW)  He has taken to IEW like a duck to water

(There she goes... talking about birds.  She does that A LOT!)

and is starting to write like a pro.  Through this course, I hope to refine and expand his abilities and prepare him for a lot of writing during his high school years.  Also, I am teaching this as a course for other homeschoolers, and he has 3 wonderful classmates.  We had our first class meeting this week.  I LOVE that he will benefit from a positive social environment as an added bonus.

Grammar:  Analytical Grammar (for high school) O finished the 8th grade DGP book last year.  We have always loved Daily Grammar Practice (DGP) and plan to start the 9th grade book later this year or next year when he finishes AG.  I like AG's approach to teaching all the components of diagramming.  He was picking up all the grammar rules through DGP's "a little at a time" approach, but I needed something to prep him for more difficult diagramming because I have forgotten some of the more complicated structures and need a refresher myself.

Speech:  The essay class will wrap up at Christmas break, and I will teach the same group speech in the spring.  I am currently watching IEW's Speech Boot Camp and intend to use their program as a spine for this course.  Because I was a competitive orator and had a speech published many years ago, I plan to borrow from my experience and fold in those activities which were most helpful to me.

(Oh no, she's braggy, too.  Competitive orator... published speech... blah, blah, blah....)

Math:  Videotext Algebra  He completed Module A last spring and will complete Modules B-D this year for Algebra I credit.  The visual nature of this program works well for him; however, I am having to watch and relearn something I haven't studied in 25 years in order to be ready to help when needed.

(Wow! How old IS she?!?)

Science:  He is taking a PAID CLASS!!!!  Ah, sweet relief.  Science is hereby out of my hands for the remainder of his and his brother's education.

History/Geography:  Notgrass Georgia Studies.  Simple.  Fun.  A reason to take a bunch of field trips.  Need I say more?

Foreign Language:  He will complete two courses in this area: Span II with Michael (his dad and my husband!) as his teacher and Japanese I through the Virtual Homeschool Group.

(Hey! She said she wasn't going to do any linkies!!)

Okay, you got me.  I put in one link after all.  Well, I have to give credit where credit is due.  This group is comprised of excellent instructors who teach classes online for FREE!  His Japanese teacher was born and raised in Japan.  I cannot wait to see what happens in these two classes!  God has truly blessed us in this area!!  Thanks, Dad!  Thank you, VHG!

Extra-curricular:  He will study piano and logic as "extras" this year.  You can read more about what we will use for logic in Wilbur's studies.

Speaking of whom....

11 years old (turning 12 soon) and in 6th grade

Bible: Same as Orville.

(That's unoriginal.)

Reading/Literature:  During the 1st semester he will finish Rod and Staff's Pathway Reader, Level 6.  I intend to use IEW's newest publication, Following Narnia, as a literature study in the spring.  Yes, it focuses on writing, but I intend to use the writing assignments to gauge his mastery of the lit content and to do some basic lit analysis work with him.

Composition:  IEW's Rockets, Radar & Robotics:  I am also teaching this to a class of 8 middle schoolers.  We started last week, and so far, Wilbur is as happy as a lark.

(There she goes about birds again!)

He gets to sit between two of his best buds while another is directly across the table from him.  And he gets to talk about things like photovoltaic layers.  And electrons.  And other stuff that goes way over my head.  But the boys all think it is cool and they can write about it, so....

Grammar:  DGP- I plan to take him through the 8th grade book, just like I have done with Orville.  Then we'll switch over to AG for a year or two and then back to DGP to finish out high school.  He is in the 6th book right now and may start the 7th before the end of the year.

Word Study:  AAS, levels 6 and 7-  It's my favorite curriculum ever.  Just poke around this blog for a little while and you'll find out why.

(She really does like AAS.  She talks about it ALL the TIME!  When she's not talking about birds, that is.)

Singapore Math:  He should finish the primary levels this year.

(What is it with these people and Asia!?)

Science:  He's taking the same paid class his brother is taking!!!!!!

If you are new to this blog, you must know that I LOATHE TEACHING SCIENCE!  Removing science from my plate is making me the happiest mother around.

History/Geography:  He is completing Notgrass Georgia Studies with Orville.  We're also playing GA Bingo and a Jeopardy game I created.  At the end of each unit and after each field trip they will create a page for a GA scrapbook.

CHECK OUT THIS SITE THAT ALLOWS YOU TO PRINT WALL-SIZED OUTLINE MAPS FOR FREE!  I printed and assembled a 4x4 of GA, and we are drawing pictures of things we learn and are labeling places we visit on the big map.  VSL loves it!

(Wait a minute... she just did another link.  Maybe she's not THAT boring, but she SURE IS forgetful!)

Foreign Language:  Middle school Spanish, taught by Michael!  Wilbur had so much fun in this class last year because his dad is one funny man and great teacher!!

(There she goes bragging again....)

Yes, I'm biased, but I just can't help myself.  I love that Spanish teacher!!

Extra-curricular:  Wilbur will complete Art of Argument with Orville and is taking art lessons at a local studio 2 times per month.

Also, for those of you who read regularly and had the stamina to make it to the end of this post, vision therapy has worked wonders for Wilbur!  He still has a little work to do this year, but the improvement is amazing!  We praise God for blessing him through this trial and answering our prayers so positively.  What a wonderful mercy!

And remember, all plans listed on this blog assume "Lord willing."

Well, I don't know when I will be back to this bloggy place again.  In the meantime, have a blessed school year and feel free to read through my older posts.  They're WAY more interesting than this one and won't put you to sleep.  I promise!

(I don't know about that!  I think I'll go read The Pioneer Woman instead.)


Disclaimer:  I don't really talk to myself.  I just thought I would try to make a boring post a little livelier without having to get out the camera or search for links.

(She really talks to herself.  Go!  Read Pioneer Woman instead!  Run!  Now!!)

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Or go read the Not-Back-to-School-Blog-Hop
at iHomeschool Network
where I have linked this post
beside some much worthier work!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hey, guess what?

I like birds!

But, you knew that already,
didn't you?

Happy birding!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken Popeyes

When the boys were itty bitty, they loved to eat chicken pot pie.  I think I fixed it at least once per week just so I could experience that warm, fuzzy feeling brought on by their cheers. "Yay! Chicken Popeyes, Mommy! We love chicken Popeyes!"

Time marched on, as it tends to do.  Two little boys transformed into two big boys, and they decided that chicken pot pies were not so yummy after all.  Perhaps, ahem, I fixed it a little too often....

Back during the "Chicken Popeyes" years, I also created a recipe which Michael and my parents LOVED.  Mom and Dad would request it every time they would come to my house for dinner.  I prepared a homemade loaf of Italian bread, only I did not bake it as loaf.  Instead, I rolled it out, spread a chicken-spinach mixture along the middle, and sliced and braided the edges before baking.  Yummy-rific!  For some odd reason, I stopped making it, too.

A few months ago, I decided to bring back the braid but I didn't have time to prepare from-scratch bread.  However, thinking about the spinach filling brought Popeye to mind which caused me to recall "chicken Popeyes" which made me think-- maybe, just maybe, I could get the boys to eat pot pie again AND eat spinach if I took the braid recipe and tweaked it a bit.

And that my friends is how I came up with this recipe:

Chicken Popeyes

8 oz precooked, shredded chicken (great way to use leftovers)
1 pack frozen spinach, thaw and squeeze out all the liquid
1/2 can chopped blacked olives
4 oz. shredded pepper jack or mozzarella cheese
2 packages of puff pastry shells 

  1. Preheat oven according to puff pastry package directions.
  2. Place pastries on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While the pastries bake, combine chicken, spinach, and olives.  Use a fork to separate the strands of spinach and chicken to get it mixed together well.
  4. Remove pastries from oven and remove tops.  Fill each crevice with some of the chicken-spinach mixture.
  5. Sprinkle a pinch of cheese shreds over the spinach, replace the pastry tops, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  I highly recommend the pepper jack!
  6. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  Fruit salad makes a great side.
Bake the pastries.

Mix spinach, chicken & olives.
Fill the mostly-baked puffs.
Sprinkle with cheese, close, and bake for 5 more minutes.
Serve fresh from the oven!

You could also include mushrooms, chopped onions, or any thing you like with spinach!  If you want to make the braided version, roll your bread dough out to the length of a typical cookie sheet.  It should be about twice as wide as the baking sheet.  You will need about twice as much filling and cheese as in the Popeyes recipe.  Spread it along the center of the dough, leaving about an inch of uncovered dough at the top and bottom and 2-3 inches on each side.  Using a pizza cutter, slice the sides horizontally into half-3/4" strips that stop just before the filling.  Pull the top left strip over the filling and then the top right.  Continue to alternate sides until all the strips are "braided" over the filling.  Tuck in the top and bottom excess, brush with egg whites, and bake at 400 degrees F until golden brown. 

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Youth Birding Competition 2012

Orville and Wilbur teamed up with two of their best buds, K and C of the Counter-cultural School, to compete in the Georgia Youth Birding Competition on April 27th and 28th.  If you have been reading this blog since its inception, you may remember these little boys.

Left to right: K, Orville, C & Wilbur

They're not so little now and entered the middle school division this year!

Left to right: Orville, K, C & Wilbur
Their birding adventure started on Friday evening.  We were supposed to pick up the CC School guys at 3:30 to give us plenty of time for travel and prep.  They had not been able to practice as a team even once this year, and we thought a few minutes of warm-up would help keep their eyes peeled, ears tuned-in, and voices communicating well.  However, at noon, Clifford the Big Red Van broke down, and we were stuck at the car dealership until 4:45 p.m.!  At 5 p.m. the competition officially began.  We were en route to our first birding spot when the boys identified their first bird.  It was an American Crow sitting on the side of the road!

We finally arrived at the state park at 5:30 p.m., and the boys proved a warm-up was not necessary.  They worked together like seasoned professionals!  I was so pleased and thankful because Molly (Mom of K and C and CCSchool blogger) and I have worked so hard in past years to help such very little boys to focus and communicate effectively.  I could see how these guys are growing in grace and maturity, and I praise God for the work He is accomplishing in them.  We left the state park with a total of 34 birds identified (in 1.5 hours) and then drove to a variety of spots in our hometown.  At 10 p.m., we were done for the day, and they had brought their total to 43.

Birding began before dawn on Saturday at a lake.  As the sun rose, the boys rapidly added to their list, identifying a green heron, bobolinks, killdeer, and a variety of warblers- just to name a few.

Why do we like birding so much? This picture says it all.
When we left the lake at 8 a.m. their total had risen to 62 birds- almost as many birds as they had identified in the entire 24-hour period in previous years!  We were pumped!  The boys had mentioned earlier in the week that they would like to break 100 this year.  I felt unsure about encouraging them in such a lofty goal.  Most teams who accomplish such a feat are in high school and begin their birding quest on Georgia's coast. 100 birds did not seem possible for a group of 10-12 year-olds who would be restricted to forests, lakes and reservoirs; however, with nine hours remaining and only 38 birds to go... MAYBE!

Our next stop would be a wetlands area, another lake, and a water-treatment facility- all in central Georgia.  They quickly hit 70... and then 80... and then 89!  As we were walking to our car to leave the wetlands area, they heard a brown-headed cowbird.  We left this area with 90 birds on the list!  They now refer to the cowbird as the number 90 bird.  :)

One of their favorite spots of the day was this Canada goose and goslings.  My boys had visited this spot over spring break with their grandparents and had seen the goose building her nest that day.  It was exciting to see the newly-hatched babies.

The boys identified these birds while at the water treatment facility.

At this point, it was getting hot and the birds were becoming scarce.  We moved on to another wildlife refuge in central Georgia in hopes of finding 10 more birdies.  We were running short on time though and needed to leave for the finish line just as they identified number 99, a Kentucky Warbler.

We took the above picture as we were prepping to leave the wildlife refuge.  Moments later, a red-cockaded woodpecker (a rare bird which can only be found in 2 locations in Georgia) sang.  The boys had bird number 100!  We were overjoyed!!   

Michael gives the boys a last-minute pep talk near the finish line!
We took off for the finish line, feeling the satisfaction of a job well-done.  However, we wanted to keep birding and get that total as high as possible!  Amazingly, while riding in the back seat with the window cracked open, K heard the faint song of a bird and asked me to pull over.  He thought it was a rose-breasted grosbeak- a bird reported to be at feeders in the area.  I pulled over, he played a sound recording of the grosbeak's song, we stepped out of the car, and sure enough...  it was the rose-breasted grosbeak.  I have learned over the years not to doubt any of these boys because they have all made amazing identifications.

Coach Michael says, "Everybody look to the left!"

Now Coach Michael says, "Everybody look to the right!"

At the finish line, they identified five more birds, bringing their final total to 105!  The last bird heard that day was a Blackburnian Warbler.  If you would like to see the full list of birds they identified, click here to be redirected to my birding blog.

"Now... everybody look silly!"
At the banquet, we waited with baited breath for the results.  Their total had blown our minds, and we thought they just might be contenders to win in their age division again.  We were I was a nervous wreck!  Thankfully, watching the birds of prey show helped us me to relax... a little.

The bald eagle was the highlight of the show.

The winners were finally announced!  The boys were blessed to experience a win in fundraising.  They earned more money than any other team in the competition.

C, Giff Beaton (birding record holder in GA), K, Orville, Tim Keyes (YBC Coordinator), & Wilbur awarding and receiving prizes for a record-setting fundraising total: $625!
Sadly, they faced the agony of defeat for bird totals in their age division.  The 3rd place team in the middle school division had found 110 birds!  The boys were a bit disappointed.  I felt sad for them.  However, it was our time to praise God in defeat, and He gave us the grace to do so.  What a good lesson and experience for our kids!  Real life is full of blessings and disappointments.  The mark of a mature Christian is living both abased and abound with thanksgiving and knowing that we can face all situations through Christ Jesus who is our strength.  We do not enter our kids in this competition just so they can learn about birds and win prizes.  Ultimately, it is one of many ways we strive to teach our children to run their races to win while rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks to God in all circumstances.  (Phil 4:12-13, 1 Cor 9:24 & 1 Thes 5:!6-18)

I am thankful for these guys!
God blessed them with an amazing weekend, an amazing total, and His amazing grace!  Could we ask for anything better?

Praising God, from whom all blessings flow,