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Jan Brett::The Easter Egg Tour 2010

Ask Steady Eddie, and he’ll tell you that (my) reading has taken him a lot of places he never imagined dreamed he’d go.  Like Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Or DeSmet, S.D.  Or any of the other several obscure places we’ve sought out due to my reading.  Last night, it took us to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Hastings Bookstore  for Jan Brett’s Spring Tour promoting her new book, The Easter Egg.  I first read about the tour in an issue of Family Fun magazine (which was actually promoting her handpainted egg giveaway).  When I saw on her website that she was going to be only a couple of hours from our home, I immediately begin plotting to go.  Nevermind the fact that it was on the eve of one of our busiest weekends of the enter year.  Steady Eddie, being the loving man that he is, agreed to my harebrained scheme. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw the big bus.  That was exciting! 

Of course, I had to pose for a picture with it!  It is beautiful!  🙂

When we entered the store, we saw Jan Brett set up at her table.  There was a long, long line snaking away from the table toward the back of the store.  We simply found what we thought was the end of the line and got in it.  It turns out that this was only a small portion of the line, and the kind ladies at the back of this portion of the line instructed us to go get a ticket.  Ah, a ticket. 

Do you see that tiny little number in the bottom, right-hand corner?  234.  That’s right–we held ticket number 234.  🙂  After conversing with the manager, we decided it might be best to leave, get a bite for supper, and come back.  So we did.

The poor McAlister’s Deli located in the parking lot of the shopping center we were in boasted that Kids Eat FREE on Tuesday and Thursday nights!  I’ll bet they never dreamed how many kids would make their way from Hastings to their besieged restaurant last night.  😉

After enjoying our supper, we returned to Hastings at about 7:00 to resume our place in line.  Steady Eddie and I took turns taking the girls around the store to shop.  They had $5 from their nana to spend, and those bills were burning the proverbial holes in their pockets.  In some of our meanderings about the store, we ran into Hedgie!

Seven p.m. was the time the book signing was supposed to end, but we were still at the very end of a long, long line, and we had been assured that Jan Brett would stay to the very end.

She did.  A little bit before 9:00, we made it to the front of the line.  When we got almost to the table, I noticed this sweet illustration on an easel.  I learned that Jan Brett had demonstrated her drawing skills when the book signing began–at 5:00, before we arrived.  I hated that we missed it, but I was glad to snap this picture.

It turns out that those tickets were for the number of books you had for her to sign–two books per ticket.  I had already purchased The Easter Egg and On Noah’s Ark, but we also brought along our Christmas Treasury and a paperback for her to sign.  The nice folks in front of us had an extra ticket, so Steady Eddie even got in on the action!  🙂 

Jan Brett was very kind and engaging, despite the fact that we were ticket holder number 234.  She had already completed one book signing in Knoxville earlier in the day, but she and her handwriting were just as crisp and beautiful as if they had just begun!

She spent a little bit of time talking with my girls.  They showed her their coloring pages of Berlioz the Bear and some of her other characters. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t get home until midnight last night, I am very glad we went.  It was exciting to meet this real-life, extraordinarily talented, and very famous author and illustrator.  I hope my girls remember this, but if they don’t, we have the books (and the pictures)!

We still haven’t even had a chance to read either of the new books (and truthfully, I bought On Noah’s Ark in board book format for baby brother), but I’m looking forward to sharing them with the girls.

I’m glad we got to take part in Jan Brett’s 2010 Spring Tour!

After all, reading can take you places you’ve never dreamed you’ll go!  🙂


Please excuse this hastily written post, but I wanted to share these pictures and our little adventure before I go on semi-bloggy break for the next couple of weeks.  I’ll still be posting some TOS HomeschoolCrew reviews and Read Aloud Thursday will go on as usual, and I might have a few other pre-scheduled post.  Other than that (!!!), things should be quiet here.  My quilting post I promised earlier in the week will have to wait until after Easter.  By then, I will be posting at my new, self-hosted addressThat blog will go live April 5.

And now, I’m off to prepare for our next adventure!  🙂


Friday Felicities

I started not to write a Friday Felicities post this week, but I missed it last week, and I really like to do these.  I think I’ll like to look back in the future and have a record of some of the good things that happened these dark, cold weeks of winter. 

So, onto the list:

  • We had a great trip last weekend to Atlanta, on which we visited the Georgia Aquarium, IKEA, the Wren’s Nest (link to my post about our visit), the original Chic-Fil-A Dwarf House (and lots of other restaurants, of course), and more bathrooms than I care to count.
  • It only took us one day, really, to recuperate from the trip.  Monday was a pretty hairy day for me, but by Tuesday I felt mostly back to normal.  🙂
  • Monday’s surprise snowstorm made the day a little more tolerable–it was exciting for the girls to go outside and try to build a snowman.    They DID manage to make a couple of snowangels, and even though the snow barely covered the asphalt on the street, I think the girls were bundled up well enough to avoid getting any scrapes.  😉  Within a couple of hours, all the snow was gone, but it was pretty while it lasted.
  • Lulu’s reading has really taken off this week.  She selected Madeline in London as her daily reading selection one day, and although we’re taking it slowly, I can see that she has a real interest in reading for herself now. 
  • Louise has had a grand time playing on an empty box that once held an IKEA bookcase (unassembled).  It’s usually a boat, but sometimes it’s other things (a slide?  something else?  I lose track.). 
  • Chic-Fil-A is once again including “Between the Lions” CDs as the prize in their kids’ meals.  (Looking at the website, I think this must be because they had leftovers or something.  I don’t think it’s the scheduled prize right now.)  Although they’re not different than the ones we got a couple of years ago, most of those have been worn out or lost.  I do have a couple of duplicates, though, so stay tuned–there might be a tiny little giveaway in the future.
  • Have I ever mentioned how much we like Chic-Fil-A?  Maybe I should’ve just called this post “Chic-Fil-A Felicities.”  🙂

I just want to stop and thank God for all the good things in my life.  They’re really too numerous to count.

For more Friday Felicities, head over to Becky’s blog!

The Wren’s Nest::The Joel Chandler Harris Home

This past weekend, we got away to Atlanta for a little mini-vacation.  Our main objective in going there was to visit the Georgia Aquarium for the first time, which we did.  However, in looking for other things to do (on the cheap, at that), Steady Eddie stumbled upon the Wren’s Nest, the home of Joel Chandler Harris, online.  (Bless him, after ten years of marriage, he really speaks my love language!  😉 )  Another one of our objectives in going to Atlanta was to visit that mecca of all things cheap and organizational or decorative, IKEA, which we also did.  However, in order to take advantage of 1:00 storytelling session at the Wren’s Nest on Saturday afternoon, we had to go to IKEA, look around, and make plans for what we would purchase later that afternoon after we returned there after our trip to the Wren’s Nest.  That’s two trips to IKEA in one day, folks, and made by a pregnant lady, her longsuffering husband, and two children under the age of six, at that.  (If you’ve even been there, you know that there is no such thing as a quick, easy trip.)  Now that it’s over, I can say in all honesty that the Wren’s Nest was worth every ache and pain in my legs and back after re-tracing our steps across the very hard concrete IKEA floor to find some things to put the finishing (maybe!  finally!) touches on our school room

When Steady Eddie first brought the possibility of visiting the Joel Chandler Harris home to my attention, all I had was a vague memory/assumption that Joel Chandler Harris is actually a little politically incorrect.  Uncle Remus, Black dialect, a white author writing stories told by slaves–you know.  My only recollection of an Uncle Remus tale is of having a book-and-record set of “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby” when I was a child.  I found an audiobook of More Tales of Uncle Remus at the library, so I naturally added it to our book basket for the trip.  We made it through one of the stories before Louise fell asleep, and I insisted that we listen to four of them before I gave in and let Lulu go back to Josefina.  Even Julius Lester’s superb narration couldn’t capture her attention, most likely because of the heavy dialect.  Steady Eddie and I, though, found it quite entertaining.  (I mainly persevered in our listening because children who have read five of the Uncle Remus tales earn a free t-shirt, so I thought we might as well get in on the act.  Obviously, though, we’ll need to save this little treat  for our next visit.)

First, the storytelling.  It was superb.  We were a little late, but the docent let us into the storytelling room and we joined some half dozen other guests and sat under the spell of Curtis Richardson.  Mr. Richardson was funny and animated and worked hard to get the audience (especially the younger members) involved in the stories.  He emphasized the fact that each storyteller makes the Uncle Remus tales his or her own, so even though we might hear others of the storytellers tell the same story, it wouldn’t really be the same story.  That’s good storytelling.  My favorite was his prequel to “The Three Little Pigs.”  Oh, that and watching Lulu’s face while she watched him. 

Our tour began with some background information on Joel Chandler Harris, presented by our docent, Nannie Thompson.  I’ve been to a lot of museums and enjoyed a lot of historical presentations, but Ms. Thompson everything a docent should be:  knowledgeable, friendly, and obviously passionate about her subject. She painted a very different picture of Joel Chandler Harris:  that of a poor white boy, raised by a single mother, who spent much of his time playing with the children of slaves in their homes on the plantation.  Even after he moved to Atlanta and made it big as the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he was still a very retiring man whom famous figures sought out, but who himself never wanted to be in the spotlight. 

The house itself was amazing, especially considering the fact that Joel Chandler Harris remodeled it from a single-story dwelling to the Victorian showplace you see above while his wife and children were gone north to visit her family.  She came home to an entirely different home.  Wow!  Many of the original furnishings are still in the home, including the rocking chair Harris sat in to do his writing.  (Imagine that!) Ms. Thompson gave such a excellent, detailed tour that I felt like I knew the man and his family when I left.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  As is true in many museums, photography was forbidden in most of the rooms, so I have few pictures to share.  (My dear husband took the ones I do have, even braving a VERY cold day to stand out front of the house and get the shot you see above.)  The best part, though, was hands down the great tour we received.  I could’ve listened to Ms. Thompson all day.  Knowing the controversy which surrounds the author, I was especially interested to hear Ms. Thompson’s tale of how she came to work there.  I won’t share it here, but be sure to ask her about it if you ever visit the Wren’s Nest.

Of course, I couldn’t come away from this place without purchasing something, and what is more appropriate than a book to add to our collection?  I chose a picture book entitled The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit: From the Collected Stories of Joel Chandler Harris, adapted by David Borgenicht.  I’ll let you know what we think after read it.  🙂  It turns out that the executive director of the Wren’s Nest is none other than Joel Chandler Harris’ great-great-great grandson, so when Ms. Thompson suggested that I have him autograph our book, I jumped at the chance.  I’m not sure how much of our visit, beyond the storytelling, that our girls will actually remember, but I think I’ll always remember it.  If you’re in Atlanta on a Saturday and have some free time, check it out!  The staff of the Wren’s Nest also maintains an active and entertaining (and I’m sure, at times, controversial) blog, if you’re interested.

Prince Edward Island Reminiscences

I’ve been meaning to write up this post since last year’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge at Reading to Know, but one thing and another happened, and I haven’t done it.  Part of my holdup has been that all of the pictures I took on the trip are enshrined in a scrapbook (one with green covers, of course), and because I have no scanning skills, I knew I would have to be content to simply photograph my photographs. This year, though, I determined that I was not going to let the challenge end without my sharing at least part of our story here at Hope Is the Word, bad pictures notwithstanding.  😉

I say “our story” because as you’ll soon find out, this story would not be possible at all without my precious husband, known here in blogland as Steady Eddie.  We met one fateful day in the library where I worked–he came in to check out some books (imagine the mileage a “check out” joke can get, folks, and you’ll know how much we’ve heard it in the past 13 years!) and it was love at first sight.  Okay, I don’t really believe in “love at first sight,” but it was definitely “something’s up here, and I think it might be a God thing” at first sight.  😉  (To tell you a little bit about how Steady Eddie was affected by our meeting, which consisted of zero to few words,  he went home and read what I recall being THREE average-sized novels so he could bring them back the next day.  It never occurred to him to bring them back unread.  What a guy!)  We dated for about fifteen months before he proposed, and after leaving him hanging for a few days, I succombed to what I knew by then WAS a God thing and said yes.  Since at the time I was teaching school and he was in graduate school to become a teacher, we decided to get married the following summer. 

As we began to plan our honeymoon, it really did seem that the possibilities were endless–two young, financially unencumbered (relatively speaking) newlyweds–what destination was our heart’s desire?  Of course, since I was about fourteen years old I had been enamored of all things PEI, so it was one of my first choices.  Steady Eddie, being the loving, agreeable fellow that he is, readily said yes. (!!!)  I remember sitting in our local Pizza Hut with an atlas of the United States spread out between us, plotting our course.  We decided on a two week honeymoon in which we would take in some of the sights between Alabama and PEI, Canada, spend about a week on PEI, and then take another route back home.  What a plan!

We had leisurely week-long trip north/northeast, stopping for a few days in one of my favorite places on earth, Washington, D.C.  We even spent an afternoon in Philadelphia.  We got lost in New York City in an attempt to get close enough to the Statue of Liberty to take a good picture.  (We spent that night in Vermont, folks–as far away from NYC as we could get without having to drive into the wee hours.)  We saw some beautiful, picturesque places in Maine that I would love to return to some day. 

But finally we were on PEI.  Can I tell you how thrilling it was to finally be on “the island”?  Our first stop was at the Cavendish visitor’s center, and of course, I had to have my picture made here–this is Avonlea, folks!

After this, one of our first stops, even before we saw our lodging, was at Cavendish beach.  I couldn’t wait to see the famous red cliffs! To my remembrance, this was a Sunday (?), and the beach was rather deserted, although we obviously found a nice passerby to take our picture. 

From here it was on to our lodging, a beautiful inn called Kindred Spirits.  I’m not taking the space to post any of the pictures I took of this beautiful facility, but please, do visit the website and look around.  It is truly a gorgeous place to spend a vacation.  The website even features our very room for the week here and here and here.  One of the best parts of all about this inn is that it is situated right next door to Green Gables!

(As a side note, I almost never crop pictures in silhouettes anymore.  😉  However, for some reason, I still like the effect for this one.  Maybe it’s the quote.)

We stayed at Kindred Spirits for about a week and took in all the Anne-related sights we possibly could.  Some snippets I remember from the trip:

  • thinking this would be a wonderful place for a family vacation since the beaches, even in June, were not very crowded and it wasn’t too hot.
  • the huge amount of Japanese tourists who love Anne. One of the funniest things that happened to use happened at Bright River Restaurant in Cavendish.  A table full of Japanese women had a very difficult time communicating with the waiter.  He couldn’t get the concept of mashed potatoes across to them, and Steady Eddie and I really got a kick out of these refined Japanese tourists ordering “two beer” to share among the lot of them.  🙂
  • as in most tourist traps, everything thereabouts is named after something from the Anne books.  I didn’t mind this time, though.
  • PEI has an amusement park which then boasted a very rickety roller coaster which I rode, even though in general I detest being frightened in the least.  It was either the influence of the honeymoon or the location, or both.  😉
  • life seemed to travel at a much slower pace in general on PEI.

We visited L.M. Montgomery’s gravesite

Silver Bush

At Silver Bush (the home which inspired Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat, I might add), we also saw the inspiration for the “Lake of Shining Waters”

and the cabinet in which Anne found her first friend, Katie Maurice.  (Remember that?)

On our way to Charlottetown to see Anne of Green Gables:  The Musical (fun, but not much like the book, as I remember), we drove across Prince Edward Island National Park and stopped to visit Dalvay-by-the-Sea.  This beautiful resort appeared as the White Sands Hotel in the Anne movies and Road to Avonlea.

Of coure, before we left PEI, we had to make a trek over to L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace

I absolutely loved being able to visit all of the sites related to L.M. Montgomery and Anne. 

We left PEI on Canada Day, but the night before our innkeepers planned a surprise for their guests:  Anne and Diana came for a visit!  This was so much fun, and the girls did a great job of portraying the characters.

I couldn’t have planned a better honeymoon if I had planed it by myself.  😉  Looking back after over ten years, a couple of job changes, two children (and one on the way), and the usual trials and tribulations of life, I can truly say that it was a dream come true and I owe it mostly, if not entirely, to this guy:

Thanks, Steady Eddie!  I love you!

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeCarrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge ends on Sunday, January 31, so there’s still time to share your memories of Anne or PEI.  I’ve really enjoyed this jaunt down memory lane, and I hope the length of this post and the number of photographs weren’t too much for you (or your computers!).



As a part of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of Educaching:  GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers by Jason Hubbard and the Staff of SDG Creations, Ltd.  This 128-page curriculum is divided into five sections:

  • Teachers Training
  • Lesson Plans
  • Field Sheets
  • Acquiring GPS
  • Beyond the Basics

This curriculum is written by a fifth grade teacher who obviously has a good deal of knowledge about GPS units and the concept of geocaching, which he tweaks in this curriculum to make it more “educational.”  Plenty of introductory information about GPS units is provided so that even a novice (like me!) should be able to read the first section of the manual and have a pretty good idea about how to proceed.  The lesson plans are written for general classroom use in grades 4-8, and some of them are basically a technological version of a scavenger hunt.  For example, the curriculum suggests that a very basic “mathematical” educache is one in which math problems are hidden and then found via the GPS unit, solved in the field, and then brought back to the classroom for discussion.  However, some of the lesson plans actually integrate the subject matter and the technology so that the students are actually using the GPS unit as a part of the lesson, not just a fancy toy to get them out of the classroom.  One such lesson plan involves a class game of modified kickball in which the students each kick a ball as far as possible three times, input the location at which the ball lands as a waypoint in the GPS unit, and then return to the classroom and use the data for all sorts of mathematical calculations.  Although this curriculum is heavy on the science and math connection for obvious reasons, efforts are made to integrate all areas of the curriculum and make it a multifaceted approach.  Field sheets for recording data are included for each lesson.  A section for classroom teachers about how to acquire funds for classroom sets of GPS units are included.  The curriculum ends with several pages of ideas of how to take educaching beyond just the lesson plans provided.   

Although my children are young, I was excited to have a chance to review this curriculum because Steady Eddie has participated in geocaching himself and has used it in this job as a science educator and has talked enough about it for me to know it’s something I would enjoy.  However, I did not factor into the equation of receiving this curriculum that we would have the rainiest fall in memory.  We finally had enough of a break in the weather (and enough sense to plan to do it when we had a clear day!) earlier this week.  Because my girls are only 5 and 3, Steady Eddie set us up with a modified version of one of the lesson plans.  He marked four waypoints at various places around our neighborhood block, each one of which was near a tree or bush.  The original idea was to have the students identify the trees and plants.  Instead, Steady Eddie provided us with clues (typewritten AND in rhyme, no less), and I just intructed my girls to gather a leaf from each tree or bush we located.  (It would’ve actually been much harder to get them to NOT collect leaves–Louise, especially, excels at collecting nature specimens, and we have an overflowing nature shelf to prove it.)  I carried the GPS unit and did all of the navigating, but I did show it to the girls, and they were somewhat interested in it.  I am pleased to report that we properly identified three of the four plants.  (The one we missed had more to do with miscommunication between Steady Eddie and me than anything.  Keep in mind that he gave me my little GPS inservice/lesson preparation session just after 6:00 that morning before he left for work!)  The girls definitely enjoyed this activity, although I think it had more to do with the fact that daddy left us a scavenger hunt than the fact that we were “educaching.”  Obviously, my girls are still a little young for this.

Educaching is a neat idea, and I do think this curriculum covers the basics of using a GPS unit in an accessible way.  Although the lessons are geared toward classroom use, most of them are adaptible for homeschool use with fewer students.  However, I’m not sure that every single lesson would have enough educational value to warrant doing it for one or two students.  (Sometimes it’s just easier to solve the math problems and then go outside and enjoy a walk in nature sans technology, in my opinion.)  Educaching would be fun, though, for use in a co-op or some other group setting.  The curriculum itself is well written and it is obvious that a lot of thought, planning, and passion went into its design. 
Educaching is available for a cost of $32 plus shipping, handling and applicable taxes, or to avoid shipping costs, it can also be purchased in electronic format for $32 plus any sales tax.  You can also download sample lesson plans to see if Educaching might be a good fit for your homeschool or your homeschool group.  You can read more Homeschool Crew reviews here.

TOS HS CREW long banner
This curriculum was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

Friday Felicities


A few of this week’s blessings:

  1. A fun trip down south and a safe trip home
  2. Audiobooks to keep the girls (mostly) occupied for the 14+ hours we spent in the van
  3. Only one nonstop laundry day to get us caught back up
  4. One good school day to get us back into the groove (sometimes I think a break does wonders on the brain’s ability to perform news skills!)
  5. A busy weekend of soccer, birthday parties (one for a 3 year old; one for a 100 year old!) and supper out with my oldest friends
  6. A name we recognize in the news
  7. New to me  (and free, too,  until I decide I need the upgrade 😉 ) photoediting software 


For more Friday Felicities, visit Joyful Mother!

Read Aloud Thursday


We spent most of the days between last Read Aloud Thursday and this one on a little mini vacation to the beach.  We stayed at a beautiful resort thanks to a deep discount, but even such gorgeous accommodations (which include everything from croquet to fishing, bike riding to beach combing) lose their glow when it’s perpetually gloomy and drizzly.

So what do you do on a vacation to the beach that is derailed by rain?  I’ll admit we did spend a ridiculously expensive afternoon at the movie theater (the girls’ inaugural trip) watching a Toy Story and Toy Story 2 double feature in 3-D, only to find out later that the resort does indeed have an indoor pool.  🙂 

However, I was more resourceful at other times than I was that desperate Sunday afternoon.  We went to the library, of course!  We trekked into the picturesque little town of Fairhope and visited the public library, a beautiful and imposing edifice on the edge of town.  I could tell by the outside that this one should be something to see on the inside, as well.  I was right.  Boy, was I right.  Please allow me to share a few pictures here with you, and then we’ll be on to the matter at hand.

 This is the main room of the library.  Isn’t it beautiful?  It reminds me of a university library, with everything out in the open and the lighted tables.

main room of library

Of course, the girls and I spent most of our time in the “young children’s room.”  It was gorgeous!


artwork hanging from ceiling

This lovely room was a gift to the library from the Beard family.  Isn’t it amazing what one family’s generosity can do?

I loved the abundance of artwork that was everywhere in this room.  Do you recognize this piece?

Watty Piper artwork

When we first walked in, I began to detect a theme. . .

rainbow on wall

Of course, smart librarians have a few tricks up their sleeves. . .

rainy day picture

The girls and I spent a while in the lovely children’s reading room, doing a little bit of this. . .


and a whole lot of this. . .

Madeleine on lap 

By the time we left, we had shared a nice little stack of books. . .

 shelving cart

I was delighted to find James and the Rain by Karla Kuskin spread-eagle atop a bookcase, ready for the taking.  (Those librarians really do  know their tricks!)  I don’t know if it was the fortuitious atmospheric conditions or what, but I loved this book.  (For the record, the girls got a kick out of it, too.) It’s the story of a little boy named James who happily goes out for a walk in the rain, cozily wrapped in his yellow raincoat and carrying his umbrella.  While walking, he meets animals in incrementally increasing numbers, and each time he asks them, “Do you have any excellent rainy day games?”  Of course, they do, and the procession of animals grows and grows until they meet ten cats who like nothing better on a rainy day than to sit by a roaring fire.  And so they all do, and the story ends.  I left out one important bit of information:  this story is told entirely in rhyme!  If rollicking good sing-songy stories are your children’s thing, this one should really be a hit!  Reg Cartwright’s oil paintings provide beautiful, folksy, color-saturated illustrations that really enhance this fun story.  Highly recommended!

We read a few other keepers that I’d love to highlight here, but unfortunately, my memory only goes so far.  (Truthfully, I took notes on the above story!)  We wandered around the library for a bit, snapping pictures, and then we went out into town.  One highlight for me was visiting this fabulous bookstore, where I was sorely tempted to purchase the hot-off-the-press Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, the first authorized sequel to the A.A. Milne tales (read my thoughts about the originals here).  I stayed strong, though, and thought about my library.  😉

So what have you and yours been reading lately?  Please share it with us, either by creating your own blog post and linking it here or by simply leaving a comment.  You must click on the MckLinky link below to link up your blog post or to view the list of links!

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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!

Rock Spring Nature Walk

crossing the creek


September is hummingbird migration time, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird travels through our neck of the woods in large numbers.  In fact, you might remember several weeks ago that my girls had the unique experience of holding one!  One of the hummingbirds’ favorite spots is a place on the Natchez Trace Parkway that is just a little drive from our home.  The spot is called Rock Spring, and jewelweed grows profusely along the water there.  Hummingbirds love jewelweed! 

A couple of weeks ago, we drove down to Rock Spring on a Friday evening to see if we could observe some of the little birds in action.  It was already getting dusky-dark by the time we got there, and we have figured out after going late in the evening two years in a row that evening is not the best time to see hummingbirds.  Although we saw a few hummers, we didn’t see nearly the number we expected.

However, we did see a few other things that made the drive worthwhile!

We saw fog, which was perfect since we had just read Hide and Seek Fog (my thoughts here).


We saw jewelweed, of course, which is a very interesting looking plant.


jewelweed, closeup

We even saw an large, older beaver dam which we remembered from our trip last year.

beaver dam, large

We were surprised, however, to see a smaller beaver dam this year!  These fellows have been hard at work!  I love how the spring is already diverting around the dam.

beaver dam, small

By the time we got to the end of the trail, night had come to the woods and it was too dark for me to get any good pictures of the girls throwing rocks into the spring.  It was a good evening of family togetherness and being out in  God’s beautiful creation, even if we didn’t see many hummingbirds!

jewelweed and beaver dam

Next year we’ll have to remember to make this a day trip!

Storm in the Night Go-Alongs

Our first FIAR selection of the year, Storm in the Night, spawned a study of clouds, thanks to one of the science lessons presented in Five in a Row volume one and a few things I saw on Homeschool Share.  By the time we finished our readings and activities, Lulu (and sometimes Louise, too) could converse freely about types of clouds and offer our opinion about whether a cloud is cumulus, stratus, or cirrus.  As a family, we also discussed nimbus clouds and even dabbled a little bit in the more complex cloud types:  nimbostratus (or is it stratonimbus?), cumulonimbus, altostratus, etc. 

To introduce the idea of clouds and to expose my girls more to reading nonfiction (we have the fiction part down), I borrowed from the library a number of weather-related and cloud-related nonfiction selections.  Most of them were series books, and really, most of them were just okay, nothing terribly inspiring.  I will mention one here, though, just because I happen to really like the author.  🙂  Tomie DePaola’s The Cloud Book is a fun resource for cloud study because it contains more than just the rudimentary information on types of clouds, etc.  It delves a little into the history and mythology associated with clouds, as well as weather forecasting based on clouds.  Although it contains more details than my girls really need to know at their ages, Lulu will always remember that cirrus clouds look like “mare’s tails.”   😉  With DePaola’s trademark illustrations, this one is a great volume for a study of clouds.

Really, though, nothing beats just going out and looking up, right?  We did a lot of that, too. 



nonfiction_mondayThanks to Sherry, I’ve found a new carnival to participate in!  😉  I’m linking this post over at Bookends Blog for this week’s Nonfiction Monday.

Hum & Flutter

We had the unique experience on Saturday of attending a hummingbird banding.  A biology professor at a nearby university participates in a study in which hummingbirds are measured, weighed, and banded each year.  Data is collected to determine whether the migrating Ruby Throated Hummingbirds return to the same place each year.  The highlight of the experience was that the girls each got to hold a hummingbird after its data  had been catalogued.  The hummers took off so quickly that I didn’t get a shot of Lulu’s, and I barely got this one of Louise’s:
Louise holding butterfly

After the girls released their birds, the scientists involved took a break, and we wandered over to the cages to watch the professor demonstrate how to catch and hold a hummer:

how to hold a hummingbird
The hostess for this study is the president of our local wildflower society, and her yard and surrounding property show it. She puts a lot of effort into attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to her yard. Every time I visit some place like this, I start dreaming about what we can do in our yard to approximate a city version of such an environment. (Does anyone else suffer with the affliction of “I’m interested in too many different things”?) My favorite shots of the day (aside from some fun ones of the girls around her ponds and in front of her flowers) are of this beautiful butterfly:

 butterfly 1

butterfly 2

butterfly 3

butterfly 4

The zinnias and their visitors were gorgoeus–truly breathtaking! I think this one is a Monarch, at least based upon my quick perusal of National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies .  Steady Eddie’s years of undergraduate biology study are coming in handy for me, finally.