Saturday, May 31, 2008


Look what we found!

Chuck had set the trash out at night for early morning pickup, which did not happen in the early morning for some reason. When Cullen and I went out to the mailbox, this guy was hiding and sleeping just inside the lid of a cardboard box intended for the trash truck. He did not try to fly away when we moved him, but he did squirt a nasty-looking liquid from his hind parts in an effort to repell us. Well, it was repelling, but we were more persistent. He looked so furry, I wanted to pet him. Cullen was not inclined to touch the moth in any way whatsoever!

He is an Imperial Moth. I think of it as male, though I really don't know. Their adult life span is only a few days - emerge from pupae, find a mate, lay eggs if female, then die. They don't even feed as adults!

We let him crawl down and under the edge of the box to hide, and we left him there. We talked about the possibility that he might be hurt or just old and dying. Cullen said, in that case, maybe it would be best to let a bird come eat him. If his choices were to stay here hurting or go ahead and get eaten by a bird, well, being eaten would be better. "That would be healthier."

Well, maybe healthier for the bird, I told him!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lazy Day Poetry

We've been taking it a little on the easy side today. (Or yesterday - I think it's past midnight.) After Cullen's first Baseball Skills class this morning, where he had more fun goofing off with a new friend than doing anything with ball or bat, we spent the day at home. Neither of us have felt completely well, fighting a cold-type bug, so we just spent time hanging out together. Dad is out of town, so I got all of the cuddling today!

After dinner and a few games - the old standard, Trouble, and our favorite math game, Sum Swamp - Cullen asked me if we could make some poetry together. Totally out of the blue! Well, I absolutely love poetry, serious to silly and all in between, so of course my answer was yes.

Here is one of our collaborative efforts for your enjoyment. He said that making the words fit into a poem was like doing a puzzle. Exactly! Cullen hopes you all find the ending as funny as he intended it. (???) He cracks himself up!

The snake woke up one day
And decided he wanted to play,
But whenever he came near
Everyone ran away in fear,
Until one little boy said,
"Hi, Snake!"

We read a little of Shel Silverstein's funny verse before going to bed. That was really not the best choice for settling down, though. We had to read something next that didn't make us laugh so hard.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Unexpected Inspiration

Several weeks ago, we visited the Atlanta Zoo with my sister-in-law and nephew, Justin. Here is a silly photo - one of the few times they stood still that day! (Yes, I know this is totally out of chronological order, but it's my blog, after all, and I can mix it all up if I want to!)

As expected, Cullen's absolute favorite exhibit area was the Reptile House. Frogs, snakes, lizards, and the like definitely rank at the top of his interest list when it comes to wild creatures.

Every visit, I am captivated by the gorillas.

One mother in particular made a significant impression on me, and if I'm honest with you here, she has been an encouragement and inspiration when I remember her these past few weeks. Seriously!

We watched her seated at the foot of a large boulder with her two very active little ones. I immediately identified with her because as we walked through the zoo that day, it had required tremendous effort and patience to keep up with two bouncing and chattering little boys! One of the young gorillas kept clambering up the boulder behind the mother. She would again and again reach back and grab his little ankle tight. She didn't pull him down; she didn't scold; she didn't even look toward him. With absolute serenity, she just spoiled any chance of fun the little one might have had by immobilizing him. Eventually, he would back down to the area he was allowed to play in. The second little one would sometimes, but not as often, begin to move away from the mother toward another group. She just as calmly would grab its ankle and hold on until it decided to just play where mom allowed.

I have read from several sources the importance of not engaging in emotional battles when enforcing the rules and boundaries with children, and I agree completely that it is the best way to handle a strong-willed little one. But I never in my life expected this to be modeled so perfectly by a primate mother!! She took great care to keep her children safe and was very persistent and consistent in enforcing the boundaries, and she never once let their antics ruffle her enjoyment of the afternoon sun. The gorilla children were doing exactly what children will do - test the limits. This didn't upset her in any way.

I want to be more like this mother!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fly Away Home

We've been closely watching a nest of three little mockingbirds in a front-yard holly. Yesterday, they left the nest, though you can tell by this photo that they were still so young! In the afternoon, drawn by a terrible uproar of skwawking by the parents, I stepped outside to check on them again. The little one in the photo was the only one to be found. A scattering of still-downy feathers in the grass and the sudden departure of a large black and white cat did not come together for an encouraging conclusion to what must have just happened. The third little bird is shown here in a huge evergreen shrub that he may still be hiding in - I hope so, at least! Its parents were still nearby last night.

As far as Cullen is concerned, the other two youngsters figured out how to fly and have already flown off to make homes of their own. I just let him come to that conclusion and didn't tell him anything different. Maybe I am missing an opportunity to teach about the food chain and the stark realities of nature... He is probably perfectly able to think and talk about this - he is all boy, after all. Truth is, I'd just rather him have the happy ending for these little ones that he has enjoyed so much as we've watched them grow.

I have a rather bad attitude toward that cat right now, though.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Trophy and A PowWow

Busy weekend for us!! Friday evening, we joined the rest of the One Goal soccer league for a celebration and recognition of the players. Here is a shot with our neighbors, Kennedy and Zion, and Cullen's cousin, Justin, showing off their trophies afterward. Cullen has learned a bit about the game this season, though he'll tell you he is not a professional. Any sport that allows you to run back and forth and back and forth has a lot going for it from the get-go!

Saturday, after an early soccer match, Cullen, big sister, Taylor, who is home for the summer, Dad and I went to a the Cherokee Mother's Day Festival and PowWow not far from our home. The weather was perfect, and the event was spectacular! We saw dancing and regalia from several tribal traditions, listened to drums and music (actually, we could feel the drums!) and had a chance to touch and examine crafts and artifacts of every sort.

Cullen was really fascinated with one of the presenters/re-enacters of Cherokee history. He knows we have a little of this tribe in our family line, but I think the real draw was the fact that the man made fire with no matches! He actually did a great presentation, demonstrating how the early people made fire, then how this changed after the tribes began trading with the Europeans and acquired steel to strike against flint. He talked about other changes that came about through this trade, including firearms. I was amazed that our little fireball of a five-year old stayed so intently focused and still for so long! The highlight of the day for Cullen was the firing of an old musket.

Over the past week, we've begun to learn about Native Americans a little, and we'll continue to learn more over the next week or two. Only now we have tangible understanding of so much that might not be so easy to glean from a book or a cardboard craft. We have seen a tipi of the plains tribes; we know exactly what a lean-to shelter looks like that might have been built by the Southeastern tribes; we have seen and smelled a buffalo; we have tied a leather and bone bead choker around our own necks; we have run our fingers into the fur of a fox pelt and touched the tip of a bone knife; we have heard the plaintive call of a wooden flute; we have actually danced in the grass to the pounding drum and wailing song.

As Cullen sat with his Dad to watch the dancers late in the afternoon, (while big sister shopped the jewelry booths!) he looked up, and with just a little bit of surprise in his voice, he said, "You know... I'm really enjoying myself!"

Learning new things can be incredibly fun!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lead or Follow?

To be honest, there are those days when I feel I am dragging Cullen along, while he constantly tries to turn back to his own agenda for the day. I do believe in allowing him some choices and input in what we do, but he is pretty strong-willed and very persistent! On the other hand, it is not unusual for me to feel like I can barely keep up with him as we work on our "school" part of the day. Occasionally I worry that I try to offer too much, but he often looks at me after we finish up a task or a reading and says, "Is that all?" or "Go on..." or "Keep going!" This makes me think that maybe we CAN help him channel his drive into positive, constructive directions!

Late last night, I wrote out several words on little post-it notes to use for alphabetizing practice today. When I first walked into our school/play room this morning, Cullen was at the computer typing the words from my post-it notes into a Word document, telling me that whatever we were going to do with these words, they would look better this way. Sure enough, when we came to our language arts lessons later in the morning and I reached for those little notes, he popped up from his seat, crawled up to the computer, called up his saved document and indicated that I should take a seat beside him! Bossy? Sure, but I love seeing him take an initiative like this! For the record, we used my little post-its AND we did the exercise again by rearranging the words on his Word doc. He got a free lesson in cut and paste for his future computer work.

Yesterday we got our big box from Sonlight with the bulk of what I plan to use for our first grade year, with plans to begin in late July or early August. I just HAD to get it early to get my own hands in it and begin prereading some things. I am more excited than I really want any of you to know! Cullen is fascinated with some of the books already and wants to begin his first grade now. One of my top priorities in schooling at home is to preserve this natural passion for learning. To see him so eager to dig into history and science and great books and math and music and art... I can't even pull words together to tell you how rewarding this is to me. This homeschooling thing is more personally fullfilling than I ever imagined it would be!

Plus, we got a really great box!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Teenage Mutant Ninja Math

Sometimes we allow a few of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spiderman, and the odd Transformer to join us at math time. If I step away and leave Cullen to a little independent work with these guys at the table, he usually takes the role as teacher, explaining the processes and operations very patiently to each of the characters in turn. Of course, this stretches the allotted time for math out ridiculously, but there is value in allowing him to "teach" in order to anchor what he is learning in his own mind. It is enlightening and entertaining to hear his problem-solving process out loud. An added bonus has been hearing the echo of my own words, speech patterns and inflections when he slips into this mode! Who ever would've guessed he listens that closely?

Fluttery Friends

Did you know that butterflies are sometimes clumsy? We've laughed quite a bit at these little guys bumping into each other, flipping off flower blossoms, etc. Maybe a little more room to fly and a gentle breeze will help them develop a little gracefulness, or at least give the impression!

Here is Cullen serving breakfast to his fluttery charges. I am pleased to report that he refrained from drinking all of the butterflies' sugar-water. Of course, now that I've stepped out of the room...

A couple of weeks ago, Cullen began a page for his notebook illustrating the life cycle and changes of our caterpillars/butterflies. We'll finish that up today with another drawing, a few observations and photos.

I think I've enjoyed this as much as Cullen! Next, we have an earthworm farm to get started. That should be fascinating, as well, but maybe with more "yuck" than "wow" - at least on my part.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


They're here!!! Well, technically, they've been here, but now they are out! All but one, which was the last little caterpillar to settle down into its metamorphosis. We're expecting to see him stretch his wings hopefully tomorrow. The first Painted Lady butterfly appeared late yesterday, then one by one, the others followed. Through the afternoon, Cullen would call out, "Mom, another one just got out!"

He enjoyed reaching into the netting to let a butterfly walk on his hand. This only happened because he just recently learned that they don't have teeth of any kind, only a "curly straw mouth!" (Proboscis is a difficult word to remember.) We placed drops of sugar-water on flower blossoms in the bottom of the habitat and quite a few dropperfuls into Cullen's mouth in the process. He seemed a bit surprised that his taste preferences and the butterflies' are so alike! I'll add photos tomorrow. We plan to let them go after a little more work in our flower beds.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Waiting for Wings

At our house, we've been watching daily our ten little butterfly pupae (cocoons, crysalids) do nothing but hang from the netting of our indoor butterfly habitat. Several days ago, the fat, furry caterpillars all arranged themselves upside down and became very still. Then they began to change.
Now they seemingly do nothing, but I know that in this stillness, in the deep, cellular levels of their existence, there are serious and significant changes taking place. I cannot help but wonder if in their limited little insect brains, they had any understanding that such changes were coming when they felt compelled to hang themselves up and wait. Are they impatient or resigned? Will they be terrified and amazed when they emerge with different selves? Will they feel pain or discomfort? Has there ever been a caterpillar that tried to refuse the process? People certainly try to avoid traumatic change - I am a prime example!
I'm including a poem written a couple of years ago; it is much on my mind as I wait for these butterflies.

cooperates with its
chrysalis according
to the Greater Order
of the universe,
accepting its sentence of
seclusion without struggle
or complaint. It does not
rage against constraint nor
kick and claw at every
change in the season
of its growth. It
harbors no
illusion of
am not