Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lil' Pipsqueaks

For mid-summer's eve this year, the fairies brought our family two Zebra Finches.  As we were transferring them from the fairies' cage to ours, the male escaped.  He enjoyed a few minutes of flight...but quickly grew tired.
They both quickly adjusted to their new surroundings.  And the kids made them a permanent address.
In case you can't read it, it says, "The Robins  733 Branch St.  Nesting Hallow.  While they were creative with the address...they don't seem to be as creative with the names.  They named the male Christopher Robin...Chris for short.  And they named the female Becky after the main girl character in Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  When they name anything, it really depends on what they've read or watched recently.

But James likes to call them both lil' pipsqueaks.  You'll hear why in one of the videos below.  

And yes - having a male and female means that we will soon have eggs in the wicker nest.  That was one reason we allowed the fairies to leave such a gift.  Not only are they entertaining and fairly easy to care for...but it will be educational for the kids seeing eggs in the nest and watching them hatch and then watching the little chicks grow.  We've been told that each clutch will include 2-5 eggs on average.  Oh boy!

We were surprised at how quickly they adjusted to the new nest.  Chris has already begun using the cotton balls and paper confetti that we provided to make a soft bed for the eggs.  This picture is looking into the nest from above:
The picture with the kids was taken specifically for the "fairies" who brought us the finches.  I'm sure with the number of eggs in each clutch, we'll eventually give away a few finches of our own.  
Finches are not song birds.  They sound like squeaky baby toys.  Although, the male does learn his mating "song" from his father and then adds a few sounds of his own.  But the female just squeaks.  It's cute when they play tag and squeak at each other.  And it's really funny when we play a video of finches on the computer...that really gets them going!

This video is the mating song of Chris (he has the orange cheeks...Becky is listening from her window):

This video demonstrates how "squeaky" they can be!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Parenting and Discipline

We would like to think that we are fun parents. We try to enjoy our children. While going through old home videos I found this little bit of fun. I think the "game" was more for Daddy's amusement than anything else, but Mark and Anya did enjoy it when it went right. Enjoy a few laughs on us.

Now to the present. Luke is a charming and somewhat difficult young man. Some things he will simply refuse to do and wig out if forced. Most of the time he is extremely obedient. So when he jumped on Mark's bed and broke something Mark made we asked Luke to apologize for his poor choice. He refused (as usual) so we sent him to stand in the corner of his room. He went and he stood. We continued with the nightly pickup and most of us left the room for a few minutes as we got things all put away. Then James called us all back to see that Luke had changed position.

Lest you think ill of us, we did scoop the little guy up directly after this snippet and put him to bed, where he stayed for the next twelve and half hours. It would appear that the poor guy was just tired:)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

We're Not Campers...Yet

Our family went on our 3rd annual camping trip this weekend.  Each year we have learned from the previous experience.  And they will continue to get better.  We're working towards becoming "professional" campers and looking forward to the day when we camp for two consecutive nights (that's how professional we're willing to get).

This year, we decided to visit the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

I've always wanted to drive across the 17-mile bridge/tunnel that connects the mainland of Virginia to the peninsula...and I wanted to see the sunset over water on the east coast.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (longest bridge/tunnel complex in the world) was everything I had hoped for.  The sunset was a little disappointing due to an overcast.

As we drove through the northern portion of Virginia Beach, the thunder clouds gathered and a severe storm caused several motorists to pull over.  The raindrops were huge and, combined with the wind, it became blinding.  Then the hail began.  We got to the toll booth right in time as we were one of the last cars to get through before they closed the bridge due to 40 mph winds.  But after a few miles, we saw clear skies ahead and the storm didn't follow us across the bay.

As we set up camp, Luke got pretty sick and he actually slept for a couple of hours.  The rest of the kids enjoyed relaxing around the campfire.

The storm clouds didn't stay away very long and there was a steady rain fall for a couple of hours as well.  So everyone retreated to the tent...except for Eliza.  We quickly learned that she had difficulty getting out of the camp chairs.  So if we needed her contained, that's where we put her!  By morning, she learned how to wiggle out of those chairs.

Fortunately, it was only rain - no hail or severe weather.  And by the time it stopped, the kids were ready to head to the beach...even Luke.  There was enough of a break in the clouds that you could see the pink hue as the sun set across the Chesapeake Bay...but it wasn't the kind of shot I was hoping for.  Still, pretty cool, right?  A sunset over the ocean on the east coast?!?  It can play tricks on your mind.

We stayed until dark and then made the short walk back to camp.  Luke fell asleep rather quickly.  And for safe measure, we had him sleep with Mr. Bucket.

Eliza was wide-eyed until 10PM or so.

Anya couldn't get her nose out of a book most of the trip!

Eliza crawled over everyone and finally collapsed at Dad's feet.  But she started to get fussy around 12:30 so Karen took her to the van until she settled down.  At 2AM, James had to go to the bathroom.  But between 2AM and about 5:40AM, Mom and Dad managed to get some sleep.  There was a surge of people (James, Anya, Eliza) waking up just before 6AM and then somehow we all fell asleep again until about 7AM.

Fortunately, the morning brought nothing but sunshine!  We enjoyed a little breakfast and then headed back to the beach.

This was the view of the bay from the was beautiful:

The bay side is much more calm than the seaside.  And low tide was coming in so the kids could walk out 75 feet and I could walk out about 100 feet.  The temperature of the air and water were perfect.

James started collecting rocks and that got me looking for hidden treasures as well.  I had found a few pieces of driftwood...exciting, right?  As the low tide came in, a perfect kiddie-pool formed for Luke and Eliza.
By the way, off the shore there was a line of shipwrecked boats.  That's what you see in some of the photos.  It was pretty cool.  Anyway...back to the hidden treasures.  If you look closely, there is a darker object in the water about 2-3 feet to the left of Karen.  Without thinking it could be anything else, I tried to pick up what I thought was a large piece of driftwood.

When I lifted it up, I thought  I felt legs moving and I saw a long tail "wagging" back and forth.  Startled, I dropped it and the creature burrowed itself back in the sand.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I was determined to learn what I had found.  So I got my flip flops and attempted to pry at the corners.  But no luck.  I did, however, uncover its tail.  And this is what we pulled out of the water:

Do you like my new tattoo?  There was a guy next to us with his family.  They gathered when they saw me trying to get the horseshoe crab out of the water.  As I've grown older, I've become more hesitant to touch a wild animal with my bare hands.  I didn't have the guts to just grab the tail.  Who knew if the tail had spikes or if the crab could curl around and snap at you with it's claws.  But this guy just grabbed the tail, gave a couple of good tugs, and lifted it out of the water.  I guess tattoos make you brave like that!

It was pretty cool.  The kids were fascinated and Karen was a little freaked out that she and Luke and Eliza had been sitting so close to it the whole morning!

After a full morning of fun in the sun, we headed back to camp.

So another camping adventure was coming to a close.  We packed up camp...
...and headed back to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT).  It really is an incredible work of engineering.
There is nothing but ocean all around.  On the man-made island of one of the tunnels, a fishing pier jets out.  On our way home, we pulled off to do a little sight-seeing.  If you look above Anya just to the left, you can see the other end of one of the tunnels.  Each tunnel is a mile long.

Here's a close-up of the other end of the tunnel:
The southbound side of the bridge curves out to the left while the northbound side is directly behind the tower on the island.  It was really fascinating.

Each year we make a list of things we learned so that the next camping trip will be better.  Somehow, the list continues to grow!  But we enjoy the outdoors and we like to pull our family out of the usual routine at home. Plus, we really appreciate the comforts of home each time we return!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Anya and James

Anya participated in the Spring recital with her music school last week.  It's so fun to watch her perform.  Not sure what inspired Mark...but he did a trial run with guitar lessons and enjoyed them.  So he has his own electric guitar now.  Dad might learn to play with him. :)

We always enjoy taking pictures when all six kids are willing to be photographed.  We might not get picture-perfect smiles from all of them at the same time...but that's not real life anyway! :)  So this was our best shot given the minimal attention span of the younger ones.

We finally got around to getting pictures of James since he turned eight a couple months ago.  He's a pretty cute kid.  Here's a sampling:

And here is Anya playing (I think her teacher is smiling because Anya likes to sing when she plays):