Thoughts on Photographs and the Last Ten Years

Due to several reasons, we had not been getting out for regular day hikes as much as we used to, and this made me sad. But last week we woke up, the weather was good, the time was right, and we decided at the last minute to go to the mountains for the day. (We never plan ahead for these things.) I can’t tell you how good this felt. My soul needs a good dose of nature. So included in this post are some photos from that hike.

Speaking of photos, I was also feeling sad that I have not gotten out to take real photographs in what feels like forever. My photography website has been neglected. My Nikon is collecting dust. Though I always had good intentions about pursuing photography more seriously, the life of a homeschooling mom proved to be a like an ocean wave that swept over all my prior intentions. Suddenly everything I once wanted to do isn’t so important anymore. My heart swells with pleasure at creating lessons, birdwatching, listening to classical music….all those things that my boys have brought to me. I know I will still pursue photography and all those other interests again someday, but for now, I am enjoying riding this wave.

However, I was determined to bring my Nikon with me on our hike the other day, and wouldn’t you know it, we were on the highway before I remembered that I had forgot it! How typical of me in my current state! At least my lovely husband bought me a phone with a decent camera, so I had something to capture our time on the trail.

Recently I also happened to look through some old photographs of my boys when they were babies, and it was a little shocking to me to realize that this was ten years ago for my eldest son. I mean, I know he’s ten years old, but to think that these photographs were taken ten years ago…that’s a decade! And so much has changed! We have different sofas now, but these “new” sofas are already starting to look old. The garden looked so green and fresh then, and we had grass too. Ten years of homeschooling and putting all our resources into our boys have taken their toll, and home improvements have taken a backseat too.

Yes, a lot of changes have occurred in ten years, including the fact that I’ve aged ten years. How young and thin I looked at 35! I was a new mother. A fresh mother. Now…..hmmm…..What will another 10 years do to me? **mockingly bites nails**

I have taken a lot of photographs over the years since I became a mother, and I’m so glad I did. As I scroll through a decade’s worth of photos, I notice how in ten, short years, I have already lived through a few different “stages” of my sons’ childhoods.

There was the infant stage. I remember breastfeeding, napping, breastfeeding, changing diapers, breastfeeding, going to the doctor a lot, napping, and breastfeeding. And we had a lot of visitors that year. (Family don’t visit as often after the “super cute” stage.)

Then there was the “nature stage,” which could also be considered the “science stage.” My memories are filled of visits to the nature center, snakes, making friends, walking on trails, discovering all sorts of critters, and realizing my son had a special interest in nature and science.

Overlapping with that was the “building” stage. He built with paper, cardboard, Legos, clay. He got into robotics. He took pottery classes. Life was rich with nature, science and creating.

None of that has gone away completely. He’s still interested in those things and does them when he has time, but I would definitely say we’ve moved into the “piano stage.” Or the “music stage.” And this is just another form of using his hands to create, right? A lot of time is spent everyday in this pursuit. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Not only does he practice piano, he reads about composers, watches classical music on YouTube, and enjoys attending concerts.

We are also in the midst of the “gaming stage.” Both my boys are deep into it. They play countless digital games and take them very seriously. They also love to watch other people playing games on YouTube. When I listen in on their conversations, it’s usually about a game, or their plans for future games. When they run around outside, I’m pretty sure they are imagining themselves in a game. Games have even increased their interest in history. In addition to this, my seven-year-old and I play board games or card games at least every other day. He’s my little gamer.

My seven-year-old also went through a “drawing stage,” and a “puzzle stage.” Just imagine drawings everywhere — on the walls, on the floors — and big puzzles all over the floor too. These interests still pop up every now and then.

Last but not least, my seven-year-old is still in the “bird stage.” It started long ago, and it’s still going on and on and on and on.

I see all these “stages” in my photographs, and I’m grateful I have a record of them. I am impressed with the longevity of these stages. People always tell me how children will flit from one interest to the next, but my boys have stuck with some of their interests for a good, long while. I know that proper support and tools inspire children to stick with things, but it may just be a coincidence too. Or my boys’ personality. I don’t know why, but I love it.

Notice, however, that I don’t call these moments in time “phases.” Somehow to me a “phase” has a connotation of something trivial that will pass whereas a “stage” is something that is natural and part of one’s development. It may or may not pass, but it’s an integral part of that development.

My husband and I take each of these stages very seriously, and despite criticism we may receive from other people, we know that it’s important to respect our children’s interests and consider each one as more than a “phase.” It’s what they are now, and we want to do whatever we can to help them do their best with it. We know that if they do their best now, they will do their best with anything they pursue in life.

I look forward to the continuation of these stages. I look forward to future stages. Really, it’s just one, big, magical time.

Right Along Here

When I was young and traveling somewhere by car with my dad — and I think my Aunt Carolyn said this once too — I would ask, “Where are we?” and he would answer, “Right along here.”

When I thought about writing something today this seemed like the perfect title for this post because quite frankly, I don’t have any focus for this blog post. We have finished up our homeschool year, and we’ll be getting to the new one in due time. We just had birthday week, but we all got sick, so it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting (and that’s okay), but it has driven me off the course I was expecting to go. I am not ready for anything. I have nothing checked off my to do list. And now I need to get ready for an upcoming adventure that I will tell you about another day, but none of that has anything to do with planning lessons, keeping house or getting work done. But that’s okay.

We’re right along here.

When I think about our daily life as homeschoolers, I realize that Life can interrupt us quite a bit. We get sick once or twice a year, or if we’re unlucky, more times than that. Some major house repair or a cleaning spree suddenly needs to happen. I realize we need to go shopping for clothes because everything is getting too small!  (Did I mention I have a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old now?! Wow. Just wow.) Or, I get tired, and I need to take a few days off. I need to watch Poldark on Amazon Prime. Life can toss you a wrench in many ways.

In short, Life is our routine with a series of bumps and interruptions that we navigate around and climb over constantly. And while sometimes that can be a little frustrating, it’s also good. It’s Life. Those bumps and interruptions make it more interesting, and we must embrace them.

We’re right along here.

So despite being sick, the boys had pretty good birthdays. My seven-year-old decided to first come down with the virus on his birthday and then give his brother and me the gift of illness. But he wasn’t that sick yet on his birthday, so he enjoyed a day of visitors and spending his birthday money, homemade cake and going out to dinner, etc.

My 10-year-old, however, was just about as sick as he could be on the morning of his birthday, so I did hear him said, “This is the worst birthday ever,” which I had to agree with, but by the evening, things improved. Now we are all recuperating and slowly getting back to normal.

Luckily I wasn’t as sick as I was in June. (Yes, this was my second summer cold. Hmfp.) You know, there are illnesses that make you go flat on your back, and then there are illnesses where you can walk around and do simple things, but please no thinking involved. This is how I felt. So on the first day when I just had a bad sore throat, I was able to at least walk around the yard, and I visited the praying mantis that lives on my son’s carnivorous plants (he’s a smart praying mantis, I think), and I found those beautiful little mushrooms, and I sketched a Carolina Chickadee. I haven’t been very good about sketching every week, but I do try to get the sketchbook out now and then. These down days are perfect for that.

Before we ever got sick and before the birthday week, I happily helped my son begin a new building project. He hasn’t wanted to build anything in a long time, and I think that’s because he’s so focused on piano. But I’m glad to see that when he has time, that urge creeps back up. Unfortunately, he never went back to finish this project, and I doubt he will. But, still, yay for the creative morning.

As I mentioned before, this summer didn’t quite feel like a summer. It was so hot that we didn’t get to venture into nature as much as I would have liked. But we did make it one day to Zoo Atlanta when we were pining to get out of the house. It was deadly hot, but the zoo has a lot of shade, and we were delighted to see that the flamingoes had babies!

It’s time for me to think about some posts describing plans for our 4th grade year and 1st grade year, and I’m sure somewhere on my to do list I have plans for other posts, but like I said…

We’re right along here.

Where are you?

Nature Watch: Oakworm Moth

One morning I went out to water our garden, and I found this beauty on the green bean leaves. Curiously, I had also seen this moth on our porch one evening, but the colors were much more muted. I don’t know if this is a slightly different species or the sunlight was making it shine, but I couldn’t get over the colors in it. And it wasn’t until I viewed my photos later that I noticed the wings are translucent!

This is an oakworm moth, and I think it’s the pink-striped oakworm moth, but it’s very hard to tell it apart from the orange-tipped oakworm moth, so I’m not sure. (If you know, please tell me.)

My son became fascinated with moths a while back, and while it’s not what I’d call an active project (that is, he’s not researching information about them or creating any representations anymore), we still get quite excited when we find a moth we’ve never seen before in the yard. We have been lucky enough to find the Polyphemus Moth, Luna Moth, and the Tulip-tree Silkmoth, and I think we’ve seen the Imperial Moth too, but I don’t have a photo of one. We still haven’t seen a Cecropia Moth in the wild, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed!

As a little bonus, I want to share this photograph I took on one of my summer morning walks. It was a wet and foggy morning because it had stormed the previous day, and the dew made hundreds, maybe thousands, of spider webs visible in the trees. I marveled at how many there were, and luckily I had my phone with me, so I took a photo of this one, which hung on a branch by the road. Spider webs are amazing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed making some nature discoveries lately too, and I hope you’re staying cool throughout this brutal summer!

 

Nature Watch: Canada Geese

One other Nature Watch from our day at Smithgall Woods State Park.

They wouldn’t let us get too close, but you can imagine our delight when we happened upon these beautiful Canada Geese swimming in a boggy area at the park.

As you may know if you read my blog, my six-year-old loves birds, but he doesn’t always like to go hiking or even outdoors. (Sigh.) It’s at these rare sightings that I get to tell him, “See?! You never would have seen those Canada geese, if we hadn’t gone hiking and exploring!” 😉

What happy nature discovery have you made recently?

Summer Day Camps

One morning late in the week I brought my laptop to the garden to get some writing done. I snapped this photo when the kids walked by. My eldest son is in the center, in the red shirt.

Last week my boys participated in a summer day camp at the botanical garden! It was so much fun!

My eldest son has participated in local summer and winter day camps since he was five-years-old. Last year, my six-year-old was five and could finally enroll in one of the summer camps at the botanical garden, which was a week-long half-day camp. He was very nervous about it,  but he ended up loving it. Then he got to attend the three-day spring camp there with his brother this year too.

When my eldest son was five, there were several mini-camps available at the nature center, and I’m sad those don’t seem to be available anymore. He participated in a lot of those, and I feel a little bad that my younger son doesn’t get to participate in as many programs as his older brother did, but I guess it all evens out when you consider all the extra things he does get to do because he has an older brother, and his older brother didn’t have those opportunities.

Getting ready to leave for camp in the a.m.

I think camps are especially useful for homeschoolers because the kids get to interact with regular school kids. There are tons of different summer day camps. Whatever your child is interested in, there is probably a camp for it. You just have to try them out and see what you like best.

My son is a big nature boy, so we tried a week-long camp at the nature center two years ago (which they still offer), but it was not a good fit after all. My son didn’t like it and said he’d never go back. We’ve also done pottery camps (very good!) and a robotics camp (mediocre), but we love the botanical garden camps the best. Usually we let him do two camps each year, but this year we needed to save money, so we let each boy pick one camp each. They wanted to go back to the botanical garden, and they also picked the same week, which helped cut down on driving for us.

My six-year-old performed in a skit with his group at the end of the week for the parents. He’s sitting down in the orange and white striped shirt.

Even though they took the camp together, they were separated into different groups by age, which I’m glad about. Sometimes the boys can use some time away from each other!

This year’s camp was titled Forest Explorers and Early Civilizations. The kids learned about ancient cultures and how they used the forests for survival. I also love the botanical garden camps because my boys get a good dose of nature while they attend, and since the garden limits how many kids can attend, it’s not an overwhelming experience. Plus, I think the garden staff takes care of the kids better than in other programs they’ve attended.

I love the orchids and always take photos of them whenever I’m at the garden.

This was the first time I was going to have a whole week without both boys to take care of, so I was planning to get so. much. done. I was so excited. Unfortunately, I got sick right before the camp, and all I wanted after that was for both boys to stay healthy so that they could complete the camp. So I took great pains to not expose my germs to them. It paid off because they made it through the whole camp. Yay!

But I got very little done. 😦 Oh well. At least I was able to rest, and I can always look forward to next year.

Nature Watch: Cope’s Tree Frog

You’ll never guess where we found this beautiful little frog!

It was in our upstairs bathroom! We have no idea how it got there. This is actually the second time we’ve found a frog inside our house. Both times, we thought perhaps our dog had brought it in and dropped it, but now I’m wondering if somehow they came up through the toilets. That’s the only pipe large enough for them to fit through, and somewhere I heard that can happen. But who knows?

He appeared quite healthy and undamaged but also a little bewildered. We caught him, put him in a little bowl with some water to hydrate him and then released him immediately in our front yard.

I was able to identify this little guy as a Cope’s Tree Frog. The inner thigh is bright yellow or orange, and if you look closely at my photo, you can see a spot of yellow under his hind leg. This frog is small and still growing. Hopefully he found his way up to the top of a tree where they like to live.

Nature Watch: Carolina Chickadee fledges

I think this is what I love about homeschooling the most: my boys are very connected to the wildlife outside our windows because they are home all day, and we are always looking out our windows.

Not the best photography today. I took this photo and short videos with my phone through the window.

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table when something fluttered by outside the window. “Boys!” I called. “I think the chickadees are fledging!”

My boys came, and we carefully stepped toward the window. Sure enough, a tiny little chickadee was on our back porch. Then my husband noticed another one in the yard. Later still, another fledged, and then another! (I caught the last one on video, which you can see below.) There were at least four (maybe five) chicks in that one small birdhouse!

We knew there were chickadees nesting in the birdhouse on our back deck, but we didn’t know if we’d be lucky enough to be present at just the right moment when the babies would decide to leave the nest. Last year, we had Carolina wrens nesting in this box, and we saw one of them fledge. However, we missed the bluebirds fledging on our front porch. They suddenly were gone one day!

So this was such a special morning! We spent a long time watching the chickadees (from a safe distance). The parents were still feeding them, and they couldn’t fly very well. They managed to flutter down to the ground, and they eventually got up into the trees. We could hear their calls for a long time, and we could see a couple of them up in the branches.

This is the last one who took a long time to get up enough courage to leave the nest!

I know they are still out in the trees tonight, and I hope they will be safe and warm. I am glad we were able to give them a safe place to start their journey.