Goldfinches Galore

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This spring we have been blessed with goldfinches galore.

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Earlier today my oldest daughter counted 15 goldfinches on the feeders and on the patio below. They were more rampant than dandelions.

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Of course, watching these cheerful little yellow birds come and go really brightens our day.

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As I mentioned a few days ago, tulips also bring us joy. If you walked by our house, our tiny patch of tulips probably wouldn’t catch your eye. We only have a few. But they pose so nicely when I photograph them.

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“Let all things their Creator bless, and worship Him in humbleness. O praise Him! Alleluia!” -Saint Francis of Assisi

Dancing with the Daffodils

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Most of last week I spent chasing after girls as we ran to and from dance lessons, dress rehearsals, and dance concerts. It was all quite lovely, really, but this week we shifted gears and decided to chase a few flowers instead.

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At the Arboretum my camera caught some dancing daffodils fluttering in the breeze of mid May.

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Yes, some years we have daffodils in March, but not so this year.

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Daffodils always remind me of this poem and this daffadowndilly day a few years ago.

After dancing among the daffodils, we tiptoed through the tulips.

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This lonely little tulip was one of our favorites.

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We do indeed have a slight obsession with tulips, which goes back several years.

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The blooming azaleas were simply captivating, too. Azaleas always remind me of my husband’s grandma, who has such a lovely display of azaleas at her house in the spring.

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What’s blooming in your neck of the woods?

Winter’s Last Kiss

It’s “Poetry Day” in our homeschool, and it is snowing. Again. In April.

So here’s the poem I wrote after sipping what I hope will be my last cup of hot cocoa for a long while.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

A Sugar Snow!

It’s April 3 and the thick snow is falling on us like a heavy, wet blanket. Is this a sugar snow? Mr. Masters isn’t here yet, and the first bucket feels empty. Will there be any sap today?

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My oldest, she runs on to another tapped tree and excitedly reports that the bucket there is really, really heavy. Heavy with sap!

Mr. Masters and a few more friends arrive, ready to help.

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He says the sap is running and it’s time to collect it!

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The crew of kids, they all hear him say “sugar” and quickly grab buckets. They follow him closely into the woods.

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Well, most follow him closely.

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At each tapped tree, Mr. Masters removes the bucket lid, and we peer inside to marvel at all the sap. The 5-gallon bucket at this big tree filled up in just 24 hours!

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Next Mr. Masters carefully exchanges the filled bucket with an empty one and moves on to the next tapped tree.

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The crew takes turns pouring sap into the buckets.

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Everyone tastes a bit of the sweet sap. My youngest sips it right out of the tree. And this cute little guy, he gets a taste from his daddy’s finger.

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With full buckets in tow, we hike back through the snowy woods to the parking lot, where Mr. Masters pours all of the sap into a huge tank in the back of his suburban.

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Then we go back into the woods and do it all over again. And again. And again. Altogether, we collect 50 gallons of sap in a little more than an hour.

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Then Mr. Masters goes on to other wooded spots where he has tapped trees. In all he collects 100 gallons today. Miraculous!

 

The Story of Two Little Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

On March 23, 2003, we dedicated to the LORD our firstborn. During the ceremony that Sunday morning, just before her daddy played Jeff Deyo’s song “These Hands” on acoustic guitar, I read a letter to her. Here is part of that letter.

Today is your dedication day, and we praise God for what a blessing you are to our family. You are three months old and just figured out that you have HANDS! You bat them at toys, try to hold your bottle with them, and just love to put them in your mouth and slobber all over them. Most of time, though, you clasp them together and just stare at them as if to say, “What are these for?”

Before too long, these hands of yours will be coloring and tying shoes and learning to do lots of things. But our hope today is that someday your hands will point to God’s greatness and praise Him.

You see, God’s hands created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And not too long ago, His hands created you. God loves you and cares for you and has a specific plan for your life.

We praise God for you. Always remember how much we love you, and that the ultimate purpose of your hands is to praise God.

In the meantime, don’t eat those hands! You’ll need them for later!

Those two little hands, she didn’t eat them after all. And since that day I’ve so often held them in my own. I’ve washed them. I’ve dried them. I’ve clipped the fingernails and polished those all shades of pink. I’ve squeezed one or both into my own warm pocket when little mittens were forgotten. I’ve kissed them. I’ve helped them fold together in prayer. I’ve showed them how to turn book pages gently. I’ve taught them to hold a crayon, a pencil.

I’ve watched them reach way up to pick apples from trees.

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And I’ve watched them reach way down to pick up sand dollars and seashells from Atlantic and Pacific beaches.

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I’ve taught them how to fold towels and t-shirts. I’ve taught them how to button buttons and zip zippers. I’ve seen them work puzzles, dress baby dolls, fill tea cups, and dribble basketballs. I’ve watched them write the alphabet in print. And then I’ve watched them learn the alphabet all over again in cursive. I’ve held the left one delicately as the right was wrapped up tightly in a cast for a broken arm. I’ve watched them paint flowers and stitch doll clothes and knit scarves.

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I’ve watched them kindly hold her little sister’s hand in the backseat of the minivan. I’ve taught them to wash dishes and wipe down countertops. I’ve watched them gently behold the wonders of God’s creation.

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I’ve watched them clasped together and dripping with lake water on baptism day.

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And I’ve watched them gracefully glide across the ivories day after day…

Week after week…

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For more than five years now those hands have made music.

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Oh, those sweet little hands and I have been ever so busy together. And God has lovingly and faithfully held these little hands and mine in His mighty hands. He held each and every moment. He held us by grace.

And yesterday — 11 years and seven days after her dedication day — He called those little hands to bravely do what I never imagined them doing when I wrote that dedication letter so many years ago.

Yesterday those little hands went to church and played “Glorious” right along with the worship band. And then the band left those little hands all alone at the keyboard, left my firstborn perched high on a barstool, like a songbird ready to sing. And those beautiful little hands played “Amazing Grace” for the offertory.

And even when her foot struggled to reach the pedal below and those slender fingers pulsed with frustration and momentarily lost their way across the keyboard. Even that moment was all grace. Those sweet little hands just stopped and played it again from the top — “Amazing Grace.”

How sweet was the sound as the little fingers met the keys, the notes sang out beautifully, and the joyful noise of it all filled the whole room.

An answered prayer, a moment of grace, an offering and a gift.

Oh little hands, may you continue pointing to God’s greatness, may you continue praising the One whose hands made you!

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Maples and Springy-ish-ness

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Last week we spent the first afternoon of spring at the Arboretum, exploring the tapped maple trees there and also looking for signs of spring.

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The Arb uses different equipment for tapping trees — most notable are the bright blue bags, which make it easy to see the sap inside.

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They also run these hoses between taps — and use the law of gravity — to collect sap from multiple trees. The Arb collects a lot of sap. Last year, they made 111 gallons of syrup. And if you figure that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, that means they collected nearly 4,500 gallons of sap last spring. That’s quite impressive!

Another impressive tidbit to share concerns our watch for signs of springy-ish-ness. It’s impressive how much snow has melted since our Arboretum trip two weeks before this. Remember how we couldn’t find a single bench to sit on?

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And remember the magnolia tree with the nearly invisible bench?

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Well, the snow is melting and the girls found multiple places to sit!

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Also, the tips of the magnolia’s branches are {maybe} looking a tad bit fuzzier.

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In closing, I must credit the cranberries for their bold color contributions while we await the arrival of spring flowers and all.

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Thank you, cranberries. And happy spring, y’all!

 

 

 

 

Robin Says, ‘Cheer-Up Y’all!’

Today is the first day of spring, and much to our delight the girls and I saw our first robin in the maple tree out front! The girls saw him first and ran into the house to tell me. I grabbed my camera and followed them to the driveway. At first the robin was a bit shy, almost just a silhouette hiding in the shadows.

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But then he must have realized the honors and title we were bestowing upon him as First Robin 2014. He moved to a closer branch in the sunlight and started to chirp, “Cheer-up Y’all!”

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And then he hopped to an even closer branch, turned his body, and posed for a perfect profile shot. What a dear!

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A robin that perches long enough for me to grab my camera and document the monumental occasion — that’s a winning robin, indeed. I don’t ask much. So this year’s First Robin really set the bar (branch?) high for next year’s contest.

To be clear, we had caught a brief glimpse of a robin high up in a tree in the next-door neighbor’s yard a few days ago. But of course that didn’t count as an official sighting in our tradition. To be official, the First Robin must be in our own yard. We’re rule-followers, you know, and every contest must have its official rules. Once the First Robin appears, we commence the planning of the Annual First Robin Tea Party.

The robin sighting this evening topped off quite a lovely day, part of which was spent at the Arboretum, exploring the tapped maple trees there and soaking up the sunshine ourselves. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, it’s officially spring! And the First Robin 2014 says to tell you, “Cheer-up, y’all!”

Maple Miracles, Part 2

Mr. Masters said the sap was running today! So we just had to go check out the sugar maple trees and see it firsthand, even if it was late in the evening.

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It’s only been a week and a half, but so much snow has melted since our first maple sugaring adventure. The woods feel like a different place already.

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Tonight we moved much faster from tree to tree, and Michael didn’t even wear his snow boots.

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Some of the buckets had no sap, but some had a bit of sap. Maybe Mr. Masters had already emptied and collected some of the sap earlier today.

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As we left, the setting sun glowed across the frozen lake. And we were glowing a bit, too. Tomorrow’s forecast includes 3 to 6 inches of fresh snow. A sugar snow!

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“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20

Maple Miracles

It’s March, and even without their colorful leaves, the maples still look majestic.

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Mr. Masters is tapping the sugar maples this morning, and he invites us to grab a bucket and come along to help with this first step in the maple sugaring process.

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It’s my first time on snowshoes, and the snow in the woods is still so deep I sink down knee-deep. I feel like Big Foot. Hiking through the woods is going to be harder than we imagined.

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We reach the first tree, and Mr. Masters drills the hole and then taps it, connecting the hose to a 5-gallon bucket.

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The sap isn’t running yet.

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But with tomorrow’s high of 41 degrees, we are all hopeful it will be running soon.

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The time to tap more trees is now, and tapping more trees means Mr. Masters needs help drilling and tapping and fetching buckets.

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It’s a beautiful, warm day, and the maple miracles are coming soon.

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So on and on we march through the deep, deep snow — waiting with great hope for all the goodness that is to come.

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“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

-Psalm 27:13-14

The Leaves are Falling Down

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Fridays in the fall are perfect for a field trip/nature walk to the Arboretum.

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The Arb has gourds and pumpkins a-plenty, much to the delight of my own little pumpkin.

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And scarecrows…

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But best of all, the Arb has leaves. Fiery red, golden yellow, orange, green and brown — they are glorious!

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My oldest loved how the raindrops gathered on this leaf to make it shimmer.

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Then she saw this leaf, which was more colorful and shimmered, too.

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My little pumpkin thought for sure a fairy had taken a bath in this oak leaf and had forgotten to drain the water.

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Thank You, Lord, for the glorious leaves!

And happy leaf-looking, everybody!