Five Minute Friday: Messenger

School is out, and I have homework.  And I’m thrilled.

Our LifeGroup has begun reading The Good and Beautiful God together.  Each chapter is followed by a homework assignment that you are supposed to take all week to do.  Last it week it was sleep.  This week it is to spend 5 minutes alone, in silence, every day.

I’m hooked.  Every mom needs these homework assignments.

So tonight as I sat on my porch that I am oh-so-thankful for, I tried to listen.  Pushing away the thoughts of the dishes in the sink and the laundry waiting to be put away, I looked for those messages sent from the Messenger:

The breeze reminding me that, though I can’t see Him, the Holy Spirit is active.
The fireflies reminding me that God is creative.  Maybe even funny.
The rain, slow at first, and then drenching, reminding me that He provides.
The four tiny, green tomatoes reminding me that the fruit will come.
The huge, amber moon reminding me that He is consistent.


I’m checking my inbox this week for your messages, God.  Keep sending’ em.


It’s been quite a while since I’ve attempted Five Minute Friday.  Feeling thankful for time to write again!

On Turtles: Chica Challenge #2

No rest for the weary over here.

In the past three weeks or so we have gone from dreaming about a new house to putting our house on the market. Today!  Ah!  So I went straight from packing up my school stuff to packing up things here at home to move to storage.  Thanks to the help of our moms, two great friends, and their kids, our house is looking better than it has ever looked.  Bring on the buyers.

House 01 Irvington 09

I’m exhausted….and I know that we are just getting started.  So while I should be folding laundry or straightening cabinets or clearing out that one room that just never got finished, I’m sitting here instead.  Chica is sleeping, Bubba and Jay are watching TV (aka snoozing, probably), and I’m drinking wine, eating too much chocolate, and planning to write about yesterday’s adventures.  I earned the break, right?

By 8:00 a.m. we were out the door headed to Peaks View Park.  We took a short detour to check out the baby birds at Nana’s house because she warned they weren’t fitting in their nest much longer.  You’ll be fascinated to know (maybe) that Mama Bird is still taking care of business, quite literally.  While we were there, we saw one bird take what appeared to be his first trip away from the nest.  So cool!  Nana called us later to say that all four birds had abandoned ship by lunch time.  I guess we came just in time!

After Nana refueled us with goldfish crackers and chex mix, we headed out again to the park.  Let me just say that the overabundance of construction and closed roads in the Hill City does not help a directionally challenged girl like me.  Ugh.  So we ended up parking way far away from the playground, not by choice.  This, however, did make for a nice walk to kill some time and wear out little bodies.


On our walk, a maintenance man we passed handed us a box turtle.  Of course my budding naturalist wasn’t content to just observe and then leave the turtle, so she carted him the rest of the way to the playground.  Chica had two new, instant best friends (’cause who doesn’t love a girl with a turtle?), and they crowded around to wait for their new pet to come out of his shell.  After many reminders that yelling and tapping the shell aren’t the best ways to make a turtle feel safe, he finally emerged.  Within seconds of eyeing the crazy kids waiting for him on the outside, that sucker spotted a hiding spot, the mulch under a playground stair, and he was off.  Can you blame him?

As you can imagine, the questions were flying.  So, for those of you up for day 2 of the Chica Challenge, read the following, make your best guesses, then compare your answers to the best that YouTube has to offer (summarized below).

1. How do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
2. How old is it?
3. What does it eat?
4. Can we take it home as a pet?

IMG_01411.  Chica actually had this one right because of what she had learned from the fine folks at the Nature Zone, but neither of us were 100% sure of her answer.  Turns out that box turtles are the only known turtle species to have different color eyes according to gender.  Our turtle had red eyes, so we knew it was a boy.  Female turtles have dark eyes.  There are other ways to tell, like the shape of the underside of the shell, but the eyes seem to be the most obvious clue.

2.  Much like a tree, you can approximate the age of a turtle by counting the layers on a ring of its shell.  Chica had also heard about this from the Nature Zone, but she mistakenly counted how many different yellow spots he had instead of how many rings in one yellow spot.  I’m no turtle expert like Chica, but I’d say this guy is at least 8 or 9.

IMG_01403.  Chica and her new best friends really wanted the turtle to eat grass.  But despite their persistence, he just didn’t want any.  Turns out that box turtles are pretty much carnivorous and would prefer worms over leafy greens.  The interesting thing that we learned here is that a box turtle’s diet is a common misconception among people who take them home for pets.  They can slowly learn to be more omnivorous when in captivity, but this   causes problems when they are rereleased into the wild.  More on turtles in captivity next.

IMG_01474.  So though I listed this question last, this was of course her very first question.  I don’t do animals.  I mean, I love watching them in the wild, but I am so over having to remember to feed one more mouth that can’t remind me that it needs to eat.  And don’t get me started on the cleaning up part.  So I thought of lots of reasons why it was a bad idea….we don’t know what to feed it, we don’t have anything with which to carry it in the car, and most especially, where the heck are we going to put a turtle while we try to show our house?  But then one tiny part of me remembers my mom letting us keep baby turtles that we found in our neighborhood lake and how much fun we had.  So I was noncommittal and told her I’d decide when we got back to the car.  Thankfully, she decided about halfway back that she was tired of carrying his squirmy self, and she said goodbye next to the baseball field with a tear or two.  Phew.

Turns out the turtle documentary we watched supports my anti-wild-animals-at-home stance.  Box turtles are becoming an endangered species for several reasons:  habitat loss, being hit by cars, and–get this–unprepared people taking them home to keep as pets!  When they are kept in captivity, they can lose their ability to hunt, they can’t reproduce, and they can contract diseases that transmit to other turtles if taken back into the wild.  What good news for this momma.  Not such good news for the turtle protectors in the video we watched, but at least I’m helping them get their message out.  You’re welcome.

So….how’d you do on this edition of Chica’s Challenge?  If by some chance you got them all right (or even if not), then I present to you the Bonus Question…an actual question posed by Chica on our evening walk:

Is the love of your shadow the root of all evilness?

Yeah…answer that one.

Chica Challenge

IMG_0104Today was the first real day of summer vacation.  It was quite glorious.  All day I had planned to write about our adventure to the Blackwater Creek Athletic Area and how much fun we had once I got over myself and let everyone trudge through the puddles. But this evening our get-out-of-the-house-so-daddy-can-work walk gave me a new idea.

If you spend any time at all with Chica these days, you’ll quickly learn that the questions are  never ending.  Many times I find myself serving as her walking dictionary.  Take, for example, this exchange, after a motorcycle sped past us….

Me:  Man….did you see how fast he was going?
Chica:  Why was he going so fast?
Me:  He was trying to show off.
Chica:  What does show off mean?
Me:  When you do something just to impress someone.
Chica:  What does impress mean?
Me:  When you do something just to get someone to think how special you are.

Sometimes the questions are fun like, “What does that tree look like to you?”  It was covered in kudzu.  I said a dragon tonight, but she always thinks camel.  Other times the questions are just completely random.  “What’s the difference between your heart and your spirit.”  Really!?!  I gave it my best shot, then told her to ask her Nana later.

But tonight we ended our walk with three different questions that she wanted me to look up on the Internet.  She’s never quite satisfied with, “I don’t know,” and she won’t let you forget that you didn’t know either.  So while she took her shower, I scoured Wikipedia and other semi-reliable sources to get her answers.

(Can I just digress for one tiny second and point out that I have a kid old enough to finally bathe herself with no help except turning on the water and opening the shampoo bottle?  This is fantastic.  Ok. I’m done.)

If you’ve made it this far, I’m hoping you’ll humor me and take the Chica Challenge.  Just check out the questions below, and then think of how you would have answered her BEFORE you read my answers.  I’ll give you a score at the end.

1.  Is this spit or eggs?

Spit or eggs?

2.  What’s that green stuff growing on the rock wall?


3.  What part of a honeysuckle flower can you eat?


Ok….have your answers ready?  Good!  Read on…

1. She was sure it was spit, and I was sure it was eggs.  Turns out she was closer to the right answer than me. The froghopper, also appropriately called the spittlebug, is a bug that coats itself in a foam made from “frothed-up plant sap” when it’s in the nymph stage.  This covering hides it from predators, helps regulate temperature, and keeps it moist.  Tonight we did poke one of the spit piles with a stick to see what would happen, but we weren’t expecting to find a bug inside.  Maybe we’ll go back again tomorrow to see if we can find one.  They are apparently amazing jumpers who can jump 100 times their length.  Cool!

2.  My best guess (lichen) actually turned out to be the right answer, but I had no other information to give her.  I learned that lichen is actually two organisms working symbiotically–a fungus and an alga.  The alga produces the food through photosynthesis, and the fungus feeds off of the alga.  Chica had guessed that the green stuff was algae, but it turns out the alga is actually more like bacteria than algae.

3.  On our first walk today I pointed out honeysuckle to Chica and let her smell it.  I have strong memories of being just about her age and walking by a wall of honeysuckle on my way to our neighborhood pool in the summer.  I mentioned to her that there was some part of the flower that you could taste, but I had never tried it.  We read this together tonight, so you can bet we’ll be stopping at every honeysuckle bush we pass tomorrow.

So…how many of Chica’s Challenges did you know?
Zero–You are Chica Challenged.  You should probably go watch some Wild Kratts.
One–You are a Chica Charmer.  Don’t worry, this was my score too!
Two–You are a Chica Chief.  Was it the spittlebugs that got you?
Three–You are a Chica Champion!  I’m coming to you with tomorrow’s questions.

How about you?  Did you learn anything thanks to your kids today?  I’d love to hear it….leave me a comment!

Spittlebug froth  © nordique  | Flickr Creative Commons
Lichen on rocks, Wayside, E of Prineville, OR  © Martin LaBar  | Flickr Creative Com.
Honeysuckle © Nicholas Roche | Flickr Creative Commons

Poop or Puke?

Turns out it’s poop.

Today is one of those days that I try to remember what we ever did before Google.  I seem to remember that if the set of 25 year old encyclopedias on the shelf in the den didn’t have what you were looking for, then you were out of luck.  I’m pretty sure I would have never found today’s question in the 1962 edition of the Golden Book Encyclopedia.  (And you better bet my momma’s pulling those bad boys out now, trying to prove me wrong.  Let me know what you find, Mom.)


This afternoon I sat perched in Nana’s living room watching a family of robins.  Chica and Nana had done the same for about an hour earlier today, so Bubba and I had to check out what was so intriguing too.

Just as expected, Mama Bird brings a mouthful of juicy worms to the nest.  Next, the tiny, fuzzy (ugly!) heads emerge, mouths wide open and searching.  Mama picks a lucky winner, and the meal is gobbled up in seconds.

But then something happened that I had never seen before….Mama Bird grabbed something white from the nest, and she proceeded to eat it.  The first time I observed the mysterious white blob, I guessed it was maybe a grub that she had brought earlier and the babies had rejected.  I know all about picky eaters!  As I watched longer, though, and saw her pick up something from the nest every time she returned, I knew this white blob had to be something else.

“Poop or puke?” I wondered.

I’ve heard of animal mommies chewing up their food for babies, but the order of things just didn’t seem right as I watched the robins today.  Actually, I seem to remember reading an article about some celebrity who did the same for her baby.  (I just Googled that too….Alicia Silverstone.  Ok, I digressed.)  So if it wasn’t some form of premastication or regurgitation, then it had to be poop, right?

Right.  I found my answer here.

So you think your infant goes through a bunch of dirty diapers?  Turns out the baby robin poops every time it eats something.  Every. Single. Time.  And almost right away, too.  The cool part is (or maybe gross…it’s all about perspective) that when they are just a few days old, their poop comes enclosed in a neat package made from mucous, and it doesn’t contain bacteria at first.  So Momma Bird and Daddy Bird grab the package (called a fecal sac) right off the baby’s rear end and eat it.  It’s actually mostly undigested food, so this keeps them from eating all of the food they should be bringing to their hungry babies.  After a while their digestive system becomes more developed, and the poop starts to have bacteria.  When this happens, the parents stop eating the fecal sac, but they continue to cart it away from the nest to help keep things clean.  Once the babies finally leave the nest, their bodies stop making the sac…just regular poop from there on out.  Wow.

In case you care to watch…

So why am I telling you this?  (I almost wrote, “Why should you give a crap?” but that was just too obvious.)

I’m telling you this because in less than one week, it will be summer.  Glorious summer.  And one of the things I am looking forward to the most is time to just sit, observe, and be.  Even better than that, I can’t wait to observe and be and learn WITH my kids.  Today was like a tiny little taste of that.

After watching the birds’ business, we also hunted for live cicadas and made a collection of a dozen of them in Nana’s big blue pail.  FYI—no top needed.  Apparently they are too dumb or lazy or just incompetent to get out.

Kew!” Bubba said repeatedly.  I agree, Bubba.  Kew.

Come summer.

Image:  LILLY  © shudrbug  | Flickr Creative Commons