Category Archives: Nature tables

Random Things I Thought I’d Share with You

1) SillyBilly has dived full-bore in to reading. He insisted on getting a chapter book yesterday at the book fair at school. I’ve been steering him toward the simpler, early-reader type books… but no, he wanted a big kid book. He picked a Magic Tree House “Merlin Mission” book, which is a series I know nothing about, other than it appears to be fairly inoffensive compared to much of the dreck publishers seem to think kids want, like books based on Pokemon or Barbie’s adventures in Pinkalotta Land. He’s been reading it (silently to himself, I might add) in pretty much every spare moment.

While I feel deep joy that he loves reading and has willingly embraced it, part of me does not want him to read as much as I did when I was a girl. So, while I will encourage and praise his reading, I will also be booting him outside whenever possible. And he’ll be going to a “Summer Adventure” program four days a week starting in June, which will not involve much indoor activity at all except for the public library once a week. Now I just have to pray that he’s not going to need glasses in addition to hearing aids.

2) SillyBilly is also teaching me a lesson in Not Freaking Out Over Weird Physical Symptoms. When I went to pick him up from school today, I noticed he had a spotty red rash on his face. When it was revealed that he also had it on his arms and torso, we immediately went home for further examination. Turns out he has a spotty red rash pretty much everywhere, but it’s not raised or blistering or itchy, and he doesn’t have a fever or any other symptoms. So I’m chalking it up to him needing to process something out through his skin instead of his usual M.O. of mucus production. He did something very similar when he came home from the hospital as an infant — he was covered with a fine red rash for quite a few weeks as all the various drugs and antibiotics worked their way out. I’m refusing to worry about it unless more symptoms arise. And trying not to be disappointed that it’s not chicken pox, which I’d like both kids to get sooner rather than later.

3) It’s wind season in Southeastern Idaho. We had a few weeks of a nice pattern of rain storms followed by sunny cloud-watching weather. But now it’s all about dry air, sneezing from pollen, listening to the amazing sounds of the pines, and the treat I had this morning of watching a hawk hovering over an empty field, searching intently for his breakfast. It was so windy that for much of the time the hawk was either totally still in the air, letting the wind keep him completely steady without moving his wings at all, or letting himself be carried to another part of the field with a few flaps. At one point I also watched him rise up and repeatedly dodge a smaller bird that was clearly harassing him.

Unfortunately I could not get close enough and the light was not right for me to tell what kind of bird exactly it was, but I know it was a hawk of some kind, possibly a dark morph. I was close enough at one point to clearly see the shape of the bird’s head as it intently peered down to the ground, hoping some field mouse or rabbit would unwisely reveal itself. I couldn’t stay long enough to see if it made a catch or not, but as it’s somewhere I pass by every weekday morning, I’ll be keeping my eye out for sure.

4) Also on the nature study front, in the last few days Napoleona has brought in the shed skin of a snake’s tail section (looks like a rat snake to me) as well as several largish pieces of what appears to be robin’s egg. Time to clear off the nature table for some real treasures!

5) Funniest Quote on What Is Otherwise a Very Serious Subject:

We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects – Hatred – Terror – Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.

– C. S. Lewis, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” God in the Dock.

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Filed under Books, Health, Napoleona, Nature, Nature tables, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

Two Things

The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A made me smile today:

Q. Hello, I saw Barack Obama speak and he seemed to make a grammar error. I was wondering if I was missing something. He said, “President and Mrs. Bush invited Michelle and I to come to the White House.” Another time he said, “It was for Michelle and I.” Shouldn’t it be “Michelle and me”? My husband thinks I’m crazy to spend my time thinking about things like this, but it bothers me.

A. You’re right—I’ve heard Obama say that myself. But you have to feel for the guy. I’d wager my job that he knows the correct grammar. But he knows that hardly anyone uses it and that if he does, he’ll sound either incorrect or “elitist.” What’s a pol to do?

Q. Consider the following situation. A woman is wearing a sweater which has black-and-white stripes, and the underlying color is blue (base color), and a short skirt with a tartan plaid pattern involving the following colors: red, black, white. Is the correct way to describe this person as follows: “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped blue sweater and a short plaid skirt (red, black, and white tartan)”? Or “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped, blue sweater and a short, red-black-and-white-plaid skirt (tartan)”?

A. At last—a serious style question. I would go with version 1, but change the sweater to black cashmere.

Q. I am writing a novel. How do I write a title of a song in the body of the work (caps, bold, underline, italics, etc.)? Example: The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” looped in his head.

A. Noooo! Now that song is looping in my head (“but it’s too late to say you’re sorry . . .”). Use quotation marks. Thanks a lot.

Q. We are editing a scientific book. We have to follow UK spelling. Per the dictionary, sulfur is the US spelling and sulphur is the UK spelling. But in one chapter the author has used sulfur and in another chapter sulphur. Since we are following UK spelling, can we change sulfur to sulphur? Or, per CMOS, since the IUPAC recommended spelling is sulfur irrespective of UK or US spelling, can we change sulphur to sulfur?

A. Good grief. You can’t lose—just pick one.

It’s nice to read that other crazy people grammar police folks out there notice and care about this stuff. And that editing can sort of be funny.

❖❖❖❖❖❖

Is there anything so melancholy as taking down the Christmas tree? After feeling somewhat revived this morning from yesterday’s horrible stomach virus/purgatorial day in bed, I finally got around to packing up all the holiday decorations. What was once festive and sparkling now seemed frowzy. But I still felt a pang of sadness putting everything away.

On the bright side, we can now reclaim our living room, and in place of the nativity, our nature table now features a serene setting of crystals and pine cones. Despite the warmth and joy of the holidays, there something equally nice about clearing it all away and starting afresh with Less Stuff.

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Whirling, Twirling

This time of year, it seems like no matter how much I intend to plan ahead and not procrastinate, I am always in a full dither by the week of Christmas. I think I’m getting a bit better each year, but still — three days to Christmas (and Hannukah starting now) and I’m still making presents! Sheesh.

My thoughts have been like whirling, twirling snowflakes lately too. In no particular order:

  • Snow is charming. The giant clumps of icy mud adhering to everyone’s wheel wells are not. Though, when they fall off in big clumps in the middle of the road, I can amuse myself by imagining what sort of snow horse left those kind of road apples.
  • I just finished reading Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth for the first time. I was shocked by the ending. What an amazing moralist and social observer. Now I’m in the middle of The Custom of the Country.
  • God moves in mysterious ways. I’ve been stressing out lately over the unpredictability of my freelance income. Then I got an email a few days ago from a long-time client of mine, offering me essentially constant work for the next few months and — get this — a weekly paycheck. I’m so grateful.
  • I had the pleasure of hearing Anthropapa sing with the ISU Camerata Singers on Friday, performing Puccini’s Messa as well as a variety of shorter pieces and carols, in the beautiful Stephens Performing Art Center’s Grand Concert Hall. The Puccini was a bit uneven, but not because of the performers — it’s all Puccini’s fault.The Kyrie was oddly light-hearted, considering the text is a plea for mercy, and the Gloria seemed like a choral Gilbert and Sullivan piece. But the Credo and Agnus Dei were amazing. Now I get to plan for April’s performance of one of my favorites, Orff’s Carmina Burana.
  • I made several holiday gifts this year, with crochet, knitting, embroidery, felting, and clay sculpture! The kids helped with the sculpture too. I think I’ll plan to do the same for next year, only I’ll plan a bit farther ahead. Really, I will.
  • I also tried to make a stable for the nativity scene on our nature table. Since I didn’t plan ahead for this either, I had to use what was at hand: cardboard from the recycle bin! It teetered over some time yesterday, and I have not had time to fix it. So we missed this Advent Sunday’s addition of the shepherds, because the whole thing is in such disarray. I’ll fix it in time for Christmas, I swear! Sigh. So much for the wonder and awe of the season.
  • We finally got our Christmas tree yesterday. The kids helped me decorate it, and it looks sweet. We have such a mishmash of ornaments, but most of them have sentimental value. I like that the tree doesn’t look “Decorated” with a capital D.
  • The night I went to Anthropapa’s concert, his co-worker had our kids over for her son’s birthday party. When we arrived to pick the kids up at a late and cold hour, she plied us with hot buttered rum and rum balls. Now that was yummy. And we slept well.

OK, off to bed now. We’re supposed to be getting more snow with wind tomorrow, which should make it oh-so-fun to get groceries and mail gifts like I’d planned. At least I got to get all this random useless crap stuff out of my head!

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Homeschool Days

SillyBilly’s school was closed today, yesterday he was off of school for a dentist’s appointment, and he will have the entire next week off too (teacher conferences and inservices). So, I’ve been thinking of this as a temporary homeschooling opportunity.

We’ve been taking walks:

Today was very cold and cloudy. There is a dusting of snow on the mountains to the south. SillyBilly was prospecting for rocks; he’s holding a rock, his toilet-paper-tube binoculars, and a construction paper pouch he made to hold treasures. We brought home several large rocks, which he scrubbed clean in the sink and then investigated thoroughly. I think the boy needs a book about minerals for Christmas!

We’ve been playing with masks:

This one was a cutout from the latest issue of Ladybug magazine, to go with a seasonal story about a snowshoe hare. For some reason, our cats totally freaked out over the kids wearing this mask. Puffy tails, arched backs, even hissing. We think they thought the kids were turning into some sort of large animal, yet still smelled the same, and the cats’ tiny brains just couldn’t handle it.

We’ve been making a new nature table:

SillyBilly did this one all by himself. We found a cool arch of bark on a walk, and he made it into a gnome’s cave, complete with hanging doorbell, mushroom garden, and a mossy bed.

We’ve been cooking:

SillyBilly made lunch for us today. And he did it all: choosing and preparing the food, the beautiful presentation, and setting the table. I especially liked the celery leaf garnish atop the sandwiches. He also helped make apple cranberry crisp for dessert tonight.

We’ve been sewing:

He wanted to make the cats a treat, so we hand sewed  a little square and filled it with catnip. Above you see the cat playing with his new lovey, the catnip pouch. Here’s the cat in his normal state:

And here’s the cat in post-drug use torpor (note the glazed look in his eyes. Of course the cat’s 14 years old, so he often looks like this anyway). SillyBilly also made this little “house” for the cats from a box and some play cloths:

And we’ve been taking pictures (obviously):

I let SillyBilly use my camera as he’s shown that he can be careful with it, and remember how to use it, and because he pesters me often enough. He ran around the house taking shots of random things. I praised him for this one’s nice composition (my nightstand — pardon the mess!) He also took a picture of me knitting, but I can’t share it as I was making a super-secret Christmas present.

We’ve also been reading a lot. Both SillyBilly and Napoleona are on the cusp of reading — sounding out lots of words, figuring out how words are spelled all on their own, and recognizing short words on the page. They’ve also been enjoying spouting math facts: I heard Napoleona say quite loudly “Five and five and one are ELEVEN!” while using the toilet tonight. She’s four years old. I’m scared!

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Filed under Crafting, Family, Food, Kid Talk, Napoleona, Nature tables, Parenting, play, School, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

Have you seen it?

Have you seen the ghost of Tom?


Long white bones with the rest all gone.


Oooooh, ooh ooh oooh ooh ooh….


Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?


Happy Hallowe’en, Dia de los Muertos, Samhain, All Soul’s Day, Toussaint…

Calavera clip art by Lee Hansen Graphics.
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The Mother of Invention

Seems like it’s been a loooooo-oooong week. Anthropapa was out of town for a few days, and then when he returned the kids promptly got sick. SillyBilly’s been on his nebulizer again, and he couldn’t go to his school’s Hallowe’en fair. As a result, I did not make and therefore do not have pictures of the red-tailed hawk costume that he commissioned and I designed in my head.

Now Napoleona is sick, with a wicked cough and, tonight, a fever that sent her to bed at 6 pm.

While SillyBilly had to stay home from school so I could monitor him, he wasn’t so sick that he had to stay in bed. So, what to occupy a six-year-old who can’t go outside to play?

Papercrafts, of course.

First, he declared he wanted to make a book. He’s done a few in the past, but was a bit unclear on the concept: he’d draw some pictures, then staple them together in the middle, making it impossible to see what he’d drawn.

So, this time I convinced him of the need for advance planning. I explained that we could staple the sides of some paper together, or sew them up like a real book. Guess which one he chose?

SillyBilly chose a bunch of construction paper colors, and I showed him how to measure along the side and make pencil marks so that the holes would line up. This proved beyond him, so I did the marks and he punched the holes. We did the sewing together. Then the book needed a spine. Out came the ruler again, and he cut out the appropriate shape and we taped it on:

Then I advised him that it might be good to plan out where the words and pictures will go, and to make a light mark to divide the pages. I showed him the various illustrations in our Complete Beatrix Potter book, where some have square borders while others blend into rounded shapes with no lines. Also we looked at the different layouts: half image, half text; several small images here and there; and so on.

He decided this will be an “encyclopedia of cars” and began doing some drawings, but then he pooped out. We’ll see where he goes from here.

Later that day we decided our house needed some holiday sprucing up. So, out came the construction paper yet again.

SillyBilly and his sister have been drawing lots of spooky scenes lately, positively littered with ghosts, mummies, and haunted houses. We don’t especially emphasize the scary part of this holiday, but they seem to have a natural fascination.

And I mentioned to him that every Hallowe’en, Nana still hangs up a spider ornament I made when I was a girl. Since we didn’t have the materials to make that craft (though we do now — don’t worry Nana, I’ll be sure to post pictures!), we decided to make flat paper spiders. It snowballed from there:

SillyBilly made the spiders and ghosts, I made the jack-o-lanterns and the haunted house.

The ghosts bear some resemblance to one Muppet or another:

While the spiders are just happy to be here:

What’s next? Well, we were talking about Dia de los Muertos, so I think we’ll be making some tissue paper marigolds and possibly some paper calaca masks or clay calaveras. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of honoring our ancestors on this day, something shared by both the Mexican culture and the pagan/Wiccan religion (where it is known as samhain). I may just clear away our autumn nature table and put up some pictures of loved ones instead.

And maybe I’ll get around to that red-tailed hawk costume, too.

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Say What?

It’s October, right?

Inside the house, it’s all squash pancakes, applesauce, and this:

But this morning, outside it’s like this:

And so the kids had to go outside and get up to no good:

Mr. Tumnus will be with us shortly, I think.

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Autumn Craftiness and Nature

It seems like just at the beginning of September I am bitten by the craftiness bug. I start dreaming of all those beautiful things I could make for my family, if only I could have a room devoted to crafts and all the time in the world! In the past have made blankets, sweaters, hats, dolls, slippers and socks out of yummy soft wool.

Then there is wool felting, which this year I started to do with the kids. They really enjoyed working with soft wool in warm soapy water! Napoleona especially was into the tactile sensations; I would look over at her and see her gently stroking her little wad of wool.


Here are some of our recent creations:


SillyBilly made a butterfly! OK, I helped a bit so that it didn’t fall apart.


SillyBilly made a bird sitting on its nest on a branch. Squint a little, you’ll see it…yellow bird, red beak, green nest.


Napoleona made a red bird flying through clouds under a yellow sun. Again, squint a bit.


Napoleona handed this to me and said, “Mama, this is for your blog.” How could I resist a blog blob?

Now for the Mama section:

The kids like me to draw seasonal pictures for them to decorate their room. This is my latest autumn scene.

This is a picture of our nature table. Complete with gnomes, gourds, squirrels, plus acorns, grasses and pine cones we picked up on our walks. I made the green and yellow gnome from felt and raw wool, and the squirrel from a kit.

SillyBilly proudly displaying the crocheted gnome I made for him. Made from a pattern in Knitting for Children.

A bit about the nature table:

Young children do not grasp nature intellectually, but unconsciously accept its laws. When we bring the external world indoors, creating a seasonal table in colours and in tableaux without the use of words, children become aware of nature at work in their surroundings.
The Nature Corner, M. van Leeuwen & J. Moeskops

We are so lucky to live amidst a beautiful forest where we can take daily nature walks. We see wildlife–Will we see Chippy chipmunk on that rock again today?–and beautiful plants–Look at those red leaves in the sun!–and experience the textures of nature–Let’s dig in the sand by the brook, throw a stone, break a stick in two!

SillyBilly and Napoleona beg to go outside and play or take walks. When we do, we find many treasures that make their way home in our pockets to be placed beautifully in the nature corner. We just today watched from the kids’ room as a gray squirrel found the perfect place in our backyard to bury an acorn.

Right now, the corner is on a shelf so that the children cannot easily reach it, but can see it. Soon they will be old enough to carefully add and subtract things on their own. But for now, sometimes Mama arranges things, and sometimes little gnomes come and do it when the children are elsewhere!

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