Nathaniel the reader

Nathaniel’s gotten into reading in recent weeks.  He’d been working his way through picture books all through the fall, but he’s now starting to settle in on his own with a book.  Since many of his up-early-and-busy activities involve either a lot of noise (pouring out the Legos at 6:30am on Saturday) or a sizable mess (an entire table covered in colored paper scraps and glue), this is a really nice addition.  The other day I joined him in the living room and just marveled that he was sitting on the couch, reading, and I was sitting in the chair, reading.  And there was peace and quiet and happiness.

He’s also picked up some of Katherine’s list-making habits:


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Thoughts from ‘thaniel

Sydney suggested yesterday that we record a short clip of the sound of three of us coughing: Katherine, Sydney, and me.  That would explain the silence of the last couple of weeks.  But though that sounds pretty dire, it’s just moderately annoying–and taking up the energy we like to use for more interesting things.

Nathaniel has, however, sailed through without any illness thus far.  And though he’s learning that sick people don’t have much patience for nonsense, I have taken him out for evening walks several times recently, where he’s been able to claim my attention for more wide-ranging discussions.  We both really like those: he can spin an idea out over several miles, I can offer only occasional responses, and we both get exercise and fresh air.  One of his musings went something like this (spread out over a 2-to-3-mile walk around town):

N: “Mom, do you know about those shoes that have those light-up parts at the back?”

Me: as little of a “yes” as I could get away with, so as not to encourage him to think I’ll buy him new shoes any time soon

N: “Well, do they take electricity?  Batteries?  I know we don’t want to do things that take up energy, so I was wondering if I could stick candles to my shoes instead.  We like candles, and they make for a really pretty light–and they wouldn’t cost us electricity or batteries”

[can you tell we’ve had the “turn off the light when you leave the room” talk recently?]

Me: what about shoes lighting on fire??

N: “Well, maybe I can make a special holder for the candle, since it’s still the best thing for not wasting energy.”

Me: Not wanting to discourage him from saving energy, but not wanting him to get the idea that only particular kinds of energy matter, pointed out that candles use energy, too, and reminded him that the whales he’s been learning about in school recently were hunted for material with which people used to make candles [clearly a bad idea to have a mom who teaches Moby-Dick]

N: “Hmm.  It’s a good thing candles aren’t made from that anymore.  Well, I guess we don’t really need flashlights on our flashlight walk around town, do we?  I can just use the streetlights to see, and the stars and moon to see.  So maybe I don’t need lights on my shoes, either.  We’ll go fast in the dark.”



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Fresh Air

Sydney’s brother, Nelson, and Nelson’s wife, Kira, are in town for the week.  Most of that has been spent around home, as we all enjoy a slower pace, with a few mad dashes to various grocery stores by the men-folk so they can do some experimental cooking.  The result has been a lovely slow pace and full tummies.

This morning, though, the last in our long weekend together before work resumes, we drove out to Daniel Boone for two nice hikes.  It was great to enjoy sixty-degree weather in January, and soak in the scale of the peaks in the park.  To orient you, there’s a woman in white shirt and pink sneakers across the gorge in the bottom of the picture below; can you find her?


Nathaniel was feeling pretty perky, granola bar in hand, about 1.5 miles into our hike.  Thankfully, although he got clumsier as he tired later on, he was just as perky at mile 4 and 5.  We were all grateful, though, for great veggie sandwiches after the walk; I saw several avocados meet their demise, and there doesn’t seem to be anything left of the caramel popcorn Kira made yesterday.  I may or may not have seen three adults lingering in the garage after we got home, polishing off the last bits.



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Snow Day Homework Help

The kids were scheduled to start back to school four week-days before classes started up for the adults,  giving us some time to go in to get things ready for the semester.  That was such a lovely thought.  Instead, though, snow days (maximum 3 inches) took up Thursday and Friday, and I got the pleasure of nudging the kids through their snow-day homework packets.  Domino helped, as you can see.



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Christmas at the Birdsongs’

For Christmas Day at my parents’ house, the kids had an extra-special present: Uncle Adam, who drove two hours from his home in Des Moines to join us for his only day off.  Adam played along, patiently walking Katherine through a new math game and letting Nathaniel talk his ear off.

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Nathaniel had a surprise for us all, though.  He had gotten up at his usual early hour every day we were there (6:30 EST translated to 5:30am Iowa time), and was busy downstairs with his crafts every morning when the rest of us came down.  Well, he’d apparently worked hard to assemble a car and what he explained was a popcorn maker for Grandpa Birdsong, and then hide them for Christmas morning.  I can’t even imagine how many hours he spent on those projects!

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Nathaniel: “What are maids?”

Katherine: “Maids are like slaves except they get paid.”

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Big kids or little kids?

If I look at these pictures, taken one week ago today, I think, “Wow, these are big kids!”  Katherine helped with the advent reading and candle-lighting at church, and both kids managed to look respectable in Sunday clothes.

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But, one week later, as we’re packing for the flight to Iowa tomorrow, I do wonder if we’ll get there without major meltdowns (theirs or mine!).  Sigh.  Here’s hoping they are awed by tomorrow’s flights (the first they will remember taking, apparently, despite their well-worn passports) and begin to listen to their mother.  Sydney will stay home, holding down the fort, keeping the cats happy, and trying to make January writing deadlines, while the Birdsongs reconvene for Christmas.


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Last Day in Prague

We didn’t try to run ourselves ragged on this trip, since we were coming off a hard semester, and my watch tells me we’ve been walking roughly 12 miles a day while we’re here, just getting out and enjoying things.  But on this, our last day in Prague, we visited the library in the Clementinum, a college launched by the Jesuits.  Like many places in the city, they discourage photographs, but this is a picture of the inside:


We would have loved to have had a reading session in there, but we were only allowed to peek in.  We also climbed up the many stairs to the top of the tower, and had a great view around the city.


This evening we attended a concert by the Prague Symphony Orchestra in the Smetana Hall in the Municipal House.  I’m grateful not only for the concert, but also for the chance to enjoy such a beautiful hall.  We got box seats for less than half of what we pay for the cheapest ones back home!  And we realized that we both love Art Nouveau buildings.  We don’t agree on design very often, so this was a real win!

smetana-hallNow, off to bed so I can rejoin my parents and children back in the States, while Sydney continues on to the conference location elsewhere in the Czech Republic.


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Prague, Palace and Old Town

The castle in Prague is a large network of palaces surrounding St. Vitus Cathedral.  Given the height of the entire compound (it’s an uphill walk all the way there), it commands quite a view over the rest of the city, and offers one, too, as the lights of the castle reflect on the water at night.


I’ve really enjoyed simply walking around, enjoying the architecture.


If I read this correctly, this vineyard is said to have once belonged to King Wenceslas (as in, from the Christmas song, also a would-be king in the 10th century), on the hill of the Prague Castle.


The St. Charles Bridge, now pedestrian-only, and filled with walkers (okay, mainly tourists) at all hours of day.

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This one is mainly for our kids.  See all the swans?


And this is us taking a break from outings to spend time in the Prague municipal library (Sydney had a paper to write), which features this tower of books as you enter.


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Favorite Activity in Prague: Walking in Petrin Park

Our hotel, the Best Western at Kinsky Garden, is across the street from Petrin Park, easily my favorite place in the city, and the first place we investigated in our trip.  I’ve taken several walks there, though they might properly be described as hikes; all of the paths zig-zag up a steep hill (roughly 1000 feet of change in elevation), and I’ve frequently been grateful for the stone paths, which help a bit with traction.  prague1

The elevation change gets us some of the best views of the city, particularly St. Vitus Cathedral and the castle.


Sydney is framed by one of the gates through the Hunger Wall, which snakes down the side of Petrin Park.  The Hunger Wall dates from the 14th century, though I would guess the graffiti is more recent.



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