Monday, July 22, 2013

Our Little Owl

Those of you who know me and/or have been in my home, know that I like owls.  I think they are adorable little creatures and I like the symbolism that is associated with them. 
In May we had a little encounter with our own little owl, in our own back yard!!!
Isn't he the most adorable thing you ever saw!?!
It had stormed the night before and it looked like he might have had a rough time of it.  Poor thing.
Tilly is actually the one that found this little guy sitting on a log on the ground in our back yard.  Her barking caught the attention of Josh who quickly brought her inside and waved the rest of outside to have a look. 
I quickly grabbed my camera and started taking pictures while Josh called animal control and asked them what we should do.  They told us that it was normal for the mother to push the chick out of the nest to teach it to fly and sometimes it took a few days for the little guys to get the hang of it.   Meanwhile they could be found on the ground and you would likely find the mother nearby keeping watch.  Basically we were told to let it be and all would work out. 
It turns out we think the nest was in our back yard the whole time.  We had been hearing the "whoing" of an owl at night but it never occurred to me that we were harboring a little family in our own yard. 
We did find the mother keeping an eye on us way up at the top of a big tree.  Her markings along with the owl call we have been hearing at night identified her as a Barred Owl.  Too Cool!!!

The chick was certainly the star of the show.  I took several shots of him (have I said I love my camera!) and he was a willing subject.  I'm grateful for my telephoto lens that allowed me to get good shots without getting too close.  Didn't want that mama after me.  I plan to get one (or more) of these shots printed and hang them in my house.  A personal addition to my owl collection.

An hour or so later Josh noticed that the little guy had moved on.  He noticed some movement in the ivy but when he got closer to look the mama swooped closer too.  Josh backed off quickly.  I noticed the mama a few days later and we heard them at night for a few days, but after that the little family must have moved on.  Hopefully she might return next year.  I will certainly have my eyes out.

Virginia Vacation

After school got out we took a short vacation down to Charlottesville, Virginia for the weekend.  Mom and I left earlier in the day with all the young'uns and the other folks followed later in the day (after work and a youth temple trip).  It is supposedly a 2.5-3 hour drive from here and the plan was to get there and tour Montpelier then check in a swim at the hotel, eat, swim and go to bed.  Yeah, didn't work that way.  95 S. was stop and go the whole way.  Eventually we called in a navigator to give us a detour route.  The drive ended up taking us 5.5 hours.  EWW! (not what I signed up for!)  We didn't make it to Montpelier, the other peeps were late too (though smart enough to avoid 95), dinner was late, so we only got an hour of swimming in before the pool closed and we crashed in bed.  All six of us in one room is an adventure!

The next day, after a "good" night's rest, we decided to divide and conquer.  Mom and I went to visit Montpelier, and the rest of the peeps went swimming.

I LOVED Montpelier!  Montpelier is the home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution and 5th president of the United States.  This is the land that his father owned, that James was born on.  His father built the house (the right 2/3 of the center part) when James was a teenager. James added to it throughout his life, and his Mother lived with him (in the right part of the house) until her death, and he died there.  James' wife, Dolly Madison (famous for saving the portrait of George Washington when the British set the White House on fire -before it was the "white" house) was sadly forced to sell the house, land and slaves after James' death due to debt.  It was just recently acquired by a foundation and restored within the last ten years.

Montpelier is actually in Orange, VA (we actually stayed in Orange because it is closer to MD) about 45-60 minutes from Charlottesville where Monticello is.  We went first thing in the morning.  It wasn't too hot or very crowded at that time of the day.  The drive up to the house is stunning! A curvy driveway that goes up to the gate then around the side to the visitors center.  They have a small gallery of items from the Madison family and they show you a brief video before taking you up to the house for the tour.  The tour was beautifully done.  It is interesting to see and imagine what it was like to live there and in the time period of the American Revolution.  In Montpelier, and Monticello, there were large portraits and busts of their friends i.e. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Lafayette, Napoleon, Jefferson.  It's a bit odd.  They also have interesting tastes in wall paper and paint colors.  Bright, vivid colors and patterns were "in."


Original doors with the yellow color

View from the house.  This is the driveway onto the estate.
At the gift shop I picked up a simple book about Madison, The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz. It's a grade level book that I read quickly and have passed on to Elijah, but it gave me a greater glimpse into Madison and his role in American history. 


For lunch we drove down to Charlottesville.  The drive was gorgeous!  Country roads with dozens of signs for farms and estates.  It was fun to notice all the names.  Someday I want a house worthy of a name.

Lunch was an experience.  We went to the Michie Tavern.  It is a tavern established in 1784 that is open for lunch and serves authentic fair from the time period.  We had yummy fried chicken, stewed tomatoes, corn bread, beets, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Oh so good.  Served by people dressed in period attire and eaten on tin plates by "candle" light. So much fun!

Then we were off to Monticello, just down the road.  Monticello was drastically different than my experience at Montpelier.  It was a much bigger deal.  Huge gift shop, huge museum, theater, and estate.  You were bussed up to the house.  Monticello actually means "Little Mountain".  Jefferson designed the house on top of a "mountain" with a stunning view.

Jefferson was a tinkerer and it shows throughout his house.  There is a compass attached to the roof of his portico that is attached to the weathervane on top of the house.  Jefferson could tell which way the wind was blowing without going outside.   There were also clocks throughout his house.  He was very particular about time and using it wisely.  There was a big clock in his entry way (with a face also on the outside of his house) that had weights that needed to be reset once a week and depending on where they were along the wall could tell you the day of the week.   His entry included displays of artifacts from the Louis and Clark expedition as well as fossils. 
Front door of Monticello with glass doors, clock, compass on portico.
My favorite rooms in the house were Jefferson's library/book room and his cabinet room where he had a swivel chair and a polygraph copying machine.  You can explore the floor plan of his house and see pictures of his rooms here.  Like I mentioned, he too had many busts and portraits of his friends throughout his house.  Sadly, Jefferson too lost his estate after his death due to debt.  Happily it has been restored and still has so much history to tell.
view from estate

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this cool tree located in front of the house.

back side of the house

Me playing around with my camera. 

Sadly it turned out to be a very hot afternoon.  Mom and I about died and ended up going back down to the museum for a bit before our tour time.  The boys got to experiment with quill pens and learned about slavery at Monticello.
Ben being cute.  Of course he was fascinated with all the gravel paths.

Sam is always a goof

Elsa was an angel, as always.  Just going along for the ride.

Elijah infront of the view of Charlottesville in the distance.  Jefferson helped found the University of Virginia which you can see from his estate. 

Ben sharing his gummy worms.

The drive back was happily uneventful. It was a great little vacation.  I wouldn't mind repeating it sometime.  We didn't have time to see all the area had to offer including Ash Lawn-Highland the home of James Monroe which is also in Charlottesville. 

Visiting these homes gave me a greater appreciation for these two great men, with their strengths and weaknesses, and the contributions they made for our great country.

Baltimore Aquarium

We went to a member's only night at the Baltimore Aquarium as a family and had a great time.  We learned that member nights are great.  It wasn't very crowded and as part of the evening we were able to see the 4D shows for no additional cost. 
I had fun experimenting with my camera.  Still not very good, but I had a lot of fun. 
We love the Jellyfish, especially when it isn't crowded.  Ben was particularly excited about them.

Ben is pointing out all the tiny babies in the upside down jellyfish tank

Love this picture of Elsa.  She also enjoyed the jellies.

Another view of the upside down jellies.  The white specks in the water are tiny jelly fish.

Ben was also very excited about the sharks.  He latched onto papa and together they followed a couple sharks around the tank

This is for Bekah.  Part of the aquarium is under construction.  They had these blue lights in that area as we left the sharks.  Bekah looks pretty good blue, don't you think?

Thumb Sucker

My little lady loves her [left] thumb.  And I will admit I'm rather fond of it too.  Ever since she found it at 4 months she has slept through the night!  Plus she is an easy baby to put down to sleep.

She also loves her pink bunny and her swaddle blankets (though she never really liked being swaddled).  LOVE those little lips!

Kindergarten Graduation

Sam had is Kindergarten Graduation on June 6th.  I can't believe that my little man has completed kindergarten and will soon be a 1st grader.  Looking back at his preschool pictures, he has really grown so much in this last year.  He loved his teacher, Mrs. Lesinski, and his classmates and will miss them over the summer.
Sam was so proud of his program.  He was practicing the songs around the house for weeks.  He also was one of six or so speaking parts.  My Sam (who last year refused to read a scripture in primary) stood in front of all the kindergarten and all their parents and said a line into a microphone.  WOW! Proud mama moment.
Sam filed into his spot waiting for everyone to get on stage. 

Not of Sam, but can't resist cute Elsa waiting for the show to start

Sam found us in the full cafeteria. He waved and made funny faces at us through out the program.
And got waves back

Ben especially was excited to see Sam up on stage.
Sam exiting stage with his friend from preschool, Adrian C.  Sam picked out his clothes himself.  He wanted to look nice.

Isn't he a handsome big boy!  So proud of him!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

To nap or not to nap...

Little Ben has reached the age where we are phasing out is naps.  If he gets a nap he's up til 10 o'clock or later, if he doesn't get one he is CRABBY.  Well frankly, he is crabby either way but if he naps during the day I get a breather but then Josh is laying down with him for an hour or so.  One or the other of us looses either way.  Sam went through this same thing (I don't remember Elijah doing it).  I think it's just something we have to wait out...  (sigh)

Oh, but do I love that little man.