Monday, May 31, 2010

Birthday Wishes: Thirty-Six Amazing Things

After wishing our amazing Papa a joyous thirty-sixth trip around the sun last Tuesday, we loaded up for the weekend and headed north to celebrate in South Georgia. This was Papa's only wish. In his honor, here is the list we came up with on the way home: thirty-six amazing things we did over the long weekend.

1. Received nourishment from Grandma and her garden
2. Watched a mother whipoorwill protect her baby
3. Saw three deer
4. Saw two rabbits

5. Saw one fox squirrel
6. Saw one enormous red-tailed hawk
7. Saw one gopher tortoise

8. Saw one water turtle laying eggs

9. Found two nests with baby birds

10. Fed chickens and saw day-old chicks

11. Saw lots and lots and lots of butterflies
12. Opened our camper door each morning to the sight of Grandma's flowers
13. Took a sunrise walk14. Tried to catch minnows in the pond15. Saw new quilts in progress
16. Shared freshly boiled peanuts in the sunshine
17. Picked blackberries (both in a garden and on a pond bank) and ate them off the vine18. Drew water from a well19. Caught frogs
20. Called to a bob-white bird and were answered
21. Went blueberry picking (and blueberry eating)
22. Played kickball in the rain
23. Got stuck in the mud

24. Gathered wildflowers in the fields

25. Went searching for interesting mushrooms

26. Caught a grasshopper

27. Held baby kittens
28. Welcomed a full moon

29. Stayed up late, roasted s'mores, had sleepovers

30. Went searching for arrowheads and found flint

31. Built fires

32. Revisited a goose nest we discovered on our last visit

33. Went swimming in the Altamaha River

34. Floated a watermelon in the river and ate it while swimming

35. Hiked to rock caves
36. Spent a long weekend with four generations of family

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Day at the Park: Animal Connections

For me, the most rewarding part of our first family trip to Busch Gardens was watching Big B and little b make connections with the animals there. In celebration of World Turtle Day, the park welcomed children to feed and pet a giant tortoise.
There were many other special connections, especially between Big B and the tigers--but my camera was long tucked away by then, and there will be plenty more tiger fun in the weeks to come. But for me, the most powerful moment of animal spirit came at the gorilla exhibit, when we happened upon a mama gorilla nursing her baby. By no means a newborn, this little b sized toddler was almost as big as his beautiful mama. As the babe rolled around playfully with a full tummy, little b made his way to the glass to get a closer look at the pair. He was instantly drawn to them, as he is still a nursling himself.
Coincidentally, Little b and I have recently begun the "big boy" conversations. I think we both know our moons of nursing are coming to an end relatively soon, and it is a bittersweet chapter to close. As if by magic, the mama gorilla just knew. She turned around to face little b, only a thick layer of glass between them, and looked right in his eyes...and smiled.
In one moment, my decision to nurse my babies until we are mutually ready to end the relationship was reaffirmed by this majestic mother. I felt right and true and innately wise for knowing what my babies need: to be held, to be loved, and to roll over with full bellies and play the day away.

A Day at the Park: Master Navigator

This weekend we had the pleasure of taking our first family trip to Tampa's Busch Gardens. We will definitely be visiting the park several more times this summer, taking advantage of annual passes, proximity and a really fun place for everyone. An unexpected perk of the trip for Big B was his natural role as the day's navigator. Armed with a map from the get-go, he made sure we all knew where we were--and where we were going--all afternoon.
His affinity for maps and treasure hunting has inspired me to help him create maps of other places in his world. Here is a HUGE list of mapping and cartography educational sites for kids.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes

A very wise man once said, "There's two things that money can't buy and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes." Now that we are successfully harvesting our first ever home crop of the grape variety, I could not possibly agree more.

Every afternoon after school, before we go and check on our ducklings, we inspect our plants for bright red jewels. Neither Big B nor little b have ever cared much for tomatoes (much to the shock of their Papa and me, as we both devour them) but these little sweets are a different story. And personally, I can't get enough of them. I understand the magic and hope to make this a mainstay of our early summer ritual for years to come.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Introducing: The Arlington Park Ducklings

Well, we've become a bit obsessed with the ducklings we discovered the day after Mothers' Day. We've visited them twice a day since then, and Big B and I started a science observation journal to record our findings. Combine the journal with the bazillion pictures we snap at every visit, and whaddaya got? That's right, another blog. Introducing our summer science project: The Arlington Park Ducklings.

For more on starting your own science journal with your children, visit this post from Makes and Takes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nature's Alphabet

Since becoming a parent in a digital age, I have found myself drawn to photographic essays featuring nature's alphabet. Little b was under the weather today, so on our way to visit the ducklings (for the fourth time) we quieted our pace and searched for letters. Big B and I are excited to collect all 26. Our only two rules: all letters must be made of natural elements, and no rearranging is permitted...only found letters count! Our first five: E (above, and my favorite), Y, V, U, and T. What will we find next?

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Late Mother's Day Gift

A belated Happy Mother's Day to you! Yesterday was spent in the loving company of my family, who treated me like a queen. No time for blogging when there is all of that resting and eating to be done. I did snap the above photo of this statue, my Mother's Day muse, tucked in a sea of similar statues in my grandmother-in-law's mobile home park. I like her. She has Big B and little b sized children.

This morning little b and I experienced a true Mother's Day gift, one day late. We took a walk to our local park with our sweet friends (one amazing mother and one insanely cute little boy). I had just been observing that in the almost six years I had been taking my boys to this park, I had noticed a steady decline in spring ducklings. Just moments later, I heard my friend say, "babies!" and little b and I followed. Doesn't this mama look so proud? She was almost smiling at our praises.We sat and watched this mother and her five fuzzy babies for a good ten minutes. She had led them to the pond bank to show them to dig into the shallow water for food. I was surprised and grateful at how long she let us stay and how close she let us get. We watched her quack away ibis birds and turtles with fierce protection. She did give little b a warning quack after he threw a stick in the water, but I do declare it was a gentler quack, as if she knew he was just a duckling himself.
We will be visiting the pond much more frequently now. We will watch these five grow and learn from their proud and protective mama. We will learn to identify each of them and know who their father is. We will hope they stay strong in number and grow into fine young ducks this fall. As we finally watched the mama lead them away, soundlessly and powerfully, I was reminded that all mothers are united by the same feelings we saw her display: protection, pride, responsibility and love. Some of us may just quack a little louder than others.
Happy Mother's Day!