My homeschooling strength has never been science – as a student or a teacher. I buy experiment books and we never open them; we read our science book but never put it into practice; I managed to worm my way out of dissections in both high school and college, whereas by the time my younger brother was in high school, dissected frogs could be regularly found in lunch sacks in the fridge.
When it comes to the Animal Kingdom and our neighborhood, we are keen observers, enjoying the beauty and intricacies of God’s creatures.
Whether it’s Yard Bunnies who allow us to see their beautiful babies, neighborhood cats (and kittens) that adopt us, or Copperheads that I erroneously assume are harmless, we are students.
(Okay. Except for the bats. Never the bats.)
Our latest observations have centered around this nest, lovingly built under the eave of our porch.
We watched the two birds for days as they built the nest, stealing moss from our yard and somehow managing to find bleached out Easter Basket Grass that we’ve never used.
(I do hate that stuff.)
We further observed when the mother began her roost, having successfully chased her man away. Because everyone knows that Bird Husbands are only good for baby-making and homebuilding.
With help from my much more nature-educated mother, we decided that she was a Phoebe Bird, and based on her roosting patterns and a little help from Wikipedia, I knew exactly when her babies would hatch.
Unfortunately, that date was going to occur while we were gone for a weekend trip to the beach.
Even more unfortunately, Fred apparently decided that he needed a supplemental snack while we were gone, despite the fact that our neighbors fed him for us, along with who-knows-how-many-other secret families he has.
When we returned, the mother bird was gone, there was a pile of matching feathers in the yard, and a very satisfied-looking cat.
I texted my mom immediately and asked if she could use her chicken-egg incubator to hatch our babies. She informed me that no, the mother had probably been off of them for too long, and plus none of us were going to want to catch bugs all day and night for those babies.
She wasn’t wrong.
I was matter-of-fact with the kids, reminding myself that children never react to tragedy as strongly as adults assume they will. The Circle of Life is pretty cut and dry before you experience any true pain in life.
We left the eggs alone for a week, anxiously watching for the mother to miraculously return – perhaps she was a prop in a Bird-Watching Expedition or some other such pressing matter! But she didn’t come back, it was a sure thing that our eggs were not going to hatch, and the kids were eager to inspect them.
So I instructed them on how very fragile the eggs were, climbed up on the porch railing, and looked into the nest.
They were exactly as they had when I’d last peeked in (from a distance with a zoom lens) – undisturbed and peacefully resting.
I let the kids each hold one, reminding them yet again to be very, very careful.
(Ali’s taped hands had nothing to do with her caution – that there is magical tape that enables her to do amazing cartwheels. Or not.)
Noah asked questions, Ali inspected, and we talked about the different colors and markings of the eggs.
We rehashed the fact that Fred wasn’t evil for eating their mother – that’s what God programmed him to do. It’s a part of life.
We carefully set all the eggs back down and just looked at them.
…Until Noah couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed the whole bunch, then dropped them in horror when his toddler hands got more than they expected.
THIS. Is the look of guilt. Or aversion to yellow slime. Probably the latter.
Noah was grossed out, Ali was indignant over the beautiful eggs, and I was in a frenzy to sanitize my toddler.
Once I was sure he was free of Salmonella, the eggs once again caught my eye. Although one of the three broken eggs was clearly nothing but yolk, the other two appeared to have more to investigate, so I carefully finished opening them.
Anyone who has a weak stomach needs to tune out now. However, I and the kids found the contents of the eggs captivating, so if you can handle it, click here to continue to page two. If not, feel free to stop.