There is a sizable elk and bison preserve in the Land Between the Lakes, which we drove through after our legs called it quits on Saturday evening. We saw lovely animals, after a time or two around the circular drive (it was warm, and they were reluctant to emerge from the cool too early):
We also heard some haunting elk calls ring out as we settled into evening. Wow, those would give you a chill if you were camping at night!
Unfortunately, we also quite a lot of another species: Humans Acting Stupidly. Although the park rules are quite explicit about how to act in order not to harm or threaten the animals, we saw one man emerge from his car. 20 or so vehicles were strung out along the road as we watched an elk in a pool down below. This guy thought it would be a good idea to wade through the grass simply so that he could get close enough to take a picture on his phone. The elk tolerated this for a while, but as the man got closer, the elk turned and leaped quite ably out of the pond and up the hillside. 20 cars full of people lost out and one elk was startled simply because of one idiot. Other strange sightings include a woman running back to her car to get her camera after she got her son into the right pose on top of a rock. Yes: she left her small child alone in the middle of a wildlife preserve full of huge beasts. Sigh. So our kids were treated to wild animals and much lecturing from us about good and bad behavior. A win all around!
We have a rather weedy, not very attractive maple tree in the front yard that I periodically contemplate cutting down. Another one of its many faults is that it seems to be of no interest to most birds. Robins are so desperate for additional nesting sites around here that one pair of them has settled for the maple tree, but that’s about it. I think my fingers would suffice for counting all the bird species I’ve seen on that tree this entire year.
Except for today. When I came home this afternoon, I noticed a warbler on the tree so I grabbed my binoculars and headed to the porch to have a closer look. It wasn’t just the warbler. All of the following birds were on the tree. At the same time. A number of them were clearly migrating birds that I don’t usually see around here.
I still want to replace the maple tree with a more attractive kind of tree, though.
Some rabbit trail or other led to me watching most of the ballet of “Swan Lake” with the kids. Hey, it’s Friday afternoon and 90 degrees outside, so we’re hiding out from the heat. Hilarity ensues:
“Where’s Odette?” [as they watch the entire swan corps dance]
“I don’t know. They all look the same. . . . but they usually put her in the middle eventually.”
* * *
“See, guys, the swans have now been turned back into women. The curse is over.” [they graceful kneel]
“It looks like they’re dying.”
* * *
Nathaniel really didn’t like the sorcerer dancing with the visiting princesses. He tsk-tsked through the entire set. And he had to be reassured several times that, no, the prince couldn’t just hurt him and get rid of him. I enjoyed pointing out, “No, Odette’s smart to intervene. Love can help, but not violence, or the curse will last forever.” He eventually looked convinced. Overall, both kids were surprisingly compelled. They don’t like cartoons (too scary, apparently), but ballet interests them.
“A big part of the reason I married you was so that you could make my phone calls.”
– Sydney, lamenting my growing dislike for calling businesses on his behalf. Well, at least we finally know now where we stand.
“I can be the painter.” (as she does watercolors)
“Nathaniel can be the one who makes everybody smile.”
“You and Dadda can both be the cooks. He can be the gardener. You can be . . . oh, you can be the laundry do-er.”
“I can help with cooking and do the sweeping. There.”
We’re used to doing books in this house. Whether it’s working in libraries or compiling libraries of our own or assigning piles of them to our students, I thought we knew books. But the kids are putting their own spin on things. Katherine asked me to take her to the public library because she’d run out of history books to read, and, wow, there’s no way I could afford to keep her in books on my own. I worried that Nathaniel would not have the same enthusiasm, since he can’t yet read on his own, I don’t sit down with him as much as I should, and Katherine, though willing, can’t always read to him. But after I let him wander around for a bit, he found a book on machines in space, one on Thomas the Tank Engine, and several on spiders, science, and puppies. He’s now just as enthusiastic as she is. The reading time they do in his kindergarten class is helping to reinforce the message.
The public library staff make things easy. When we arrived this afternoon, they encouraged us to join a book group: read at home to your kid, enjoy knowing that hundreds of other families are reading that same book, and get together for a party at the end. They even gave us a copy of the book, Peter Pan, which I haven’t read with the kids. Score! They also had an “I spy” game with bugs and bird nests in one part of the library, and the kids got to bring home Dr. Seuss notebooks after they finished the game. Now I’ve sentenced the kids to two hours of “quiet time” as we transition out of nap time in our house, and both ran off to settle in with books as soon as lunch was over.
Katherine, 2nd grade:
Katherine abandoning the photo session to point out a hummingbird in the front yard:
Nathaniel forgetting all about the school bus (even though he got up at 6, excited to ride it) because of a friendly neighborhood cat:
Our neighbor said she hadn’t seen us outside much in the past couple of weeks. I think she’s gotten used to us working out front at all hours. I explained that we were off plowing up a three-acre plot of land that Sydney is using to start a farm operation, and she looked surprised. So, this is what we’ve been doing:
Sydney plows, occasionally has me spell him, and has me digging out rocks. Meanwhile, the kids have a nice shady spot and a picnic blanket on which they color, read, and play with magnetic sand.
Katherine is headed into second grade halfway between baby teeth and adult teeth:
And Nathaniel, who giggled deliriously when I asked him to look into the sun, has lost his first tooth just before kindergarten:
Two years after moving in, our house is starting to look and feel more like us. Sydney ripped out the yews that covered the windows and put in garden beds early on. I’ve painted the inside walls inside green, blue, and purple, as schedules allowed. This spring, Sydney did something with the flat square of lawn in the middle of our front yard, and throughout July we’ve been tackling the front porch. He’s built, and I’ve painted. It’s feeling much more like us. I’m sure our neighbors are a bit confused by our seemingly random bursts of energy, but they may not be used to people who live by the academic calendar. We have two weeks until school starts, when everything will slow way down.
The house when we bought it:
The front of the house now: