The Sun Sets on Summer

IMG_0420.jpg

It's that time of year again where a great moan can be heard across our great land as kids are pushed out of bed and shoved onto a bus and taken back to the place where joy is surgically removed from their being. For parents on the other hand it is the one time of year that we feel really good about paying our property taxes. Some parents are so happy to get their kids out of their hair for a while that you could probably get them to pay a little extra.  

Yes, the kids are back in School. Both Russell and Mary are working, which is an oddity. It is actually the first time that Mary and I have been fully employed at the same time since we were married. Our first full paychecks come next week. It will be nice to shovel money into the hole instead of shoveling it out. One difficulty that my new job has for us is that I am in Maryland for training until Thanksgiving! I'll post some photos of Fredrick, Maryland when I get the chance. 

Our final weeks before school started were mostly lazy. They involved playing with the puppy, soccer games and a visit to the zoo. Check out photos of it all here.  

 

A little catching up

IMG_3989 - Version 2.jpg

Wow, it has been over a month since my last blog post! I have been filling all of my free time mostly looking through a microscope trying to identify various and sundry little plants that most folks would call weeds. I'll do a blog post about all that later.  

For now, I'll give you an update on everything else. For the kids, the last day of school will be next Monday, June 17th. For them, there is nothing else. Next year, Emily will be in 10th grade, William in 7th and Paddy in 3rd. 

Paddy is looking forward to spending the weekend with Uncle Kevin and Uncle Rico. This is actually a birthday present from last year! Kevin was so busy with nursing school last year that he hasn't been able to take him until now. We know he will have lots of fun up in the big apple! 

Around the first week in July, we will all be going down to see Grandma and Grandpa in North Carolina. Emily, Mary and I will be there for about a week then we will return and leave the boys there. Then cousin Ian will come out from Washington State and all three grandson's will be at Grandma and Grandpa's house for a week or so.  

When the boys get back from North Carolina, we will go spend a couple of weeks at the Delaware coast with Pop-pop. Then back to West Chester for the start of the new school year. It seems to short all ready!

We have also had lots of stuff going on over the past month. Paddy played soccer this spring. A few weeks ago he asked if the Philadelphia Union had players that were teenagers. I told him that yes, they do have a few teenagers. He then said that he was going to be on the Union team when he becomes a teenager. I told him he better get practicing if that is going to happen. So, very day, he works on his soccer skills. 

William and I went on a school trip to the Baltimore Aquarium yesterday. Needless to day William was very excited! It was the first time that either of us have seen it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the exhibits from the Pacific Northwest as I was the person that issued the shellfish transfer permits that allowed them to take them out of Washington State. I was glad to see they made the trip across the continent okay. 

Check out photos of it all here.  

Russell

 

The Stroud Preserve, 28 April 2013

IMG_3783.jpg

I normally don’t visit the preserve in the weekends but my son William loves water critters and wanted to go wade around the Brandywine. I figured it was just warm enough not to get hypothermia incase he fell in, so off we went.

We went down stream where it was more wooded. I let William have at it and I kept an eye out for birds and plants. I did pick up two new first of the year birds, Eastern Kingbird and Black-and-white Warbler. Again, the most common bird in the trees was Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of which I found two more nearly completed nests. I also found a couple of pairs of Rough-winged Swallow with burrows in a cut bank of the creek. Most exciting was a borrow of a Belted Kingfisher. This was just barely within the preserve boundary. I was glad to add that to my list of nesting birds.

I still looked very hard for Louisiana Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warbler. This area should be ideal habitat for these species. This habitat would also be good for Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers, which are also absent from the preserve list. I’ll continue to check the area over the coming months. Hopefully, one of the four species will make an appearance. The only new plant that I came across was a species of pondweed called curly pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) which native to Europe. I only saw a three or four plants along the half mile or so of stream bed that we walked along. So it wasn’t that common.

William had a great time. And as I predicted, he fell in the water up to his neck when he tried to walk across a log that broke in half when he was completely over the water, and as I predicted, he did not go hypothermic. He did find a baby snapping turtle. They sure are cute when they are the size of a silver dollar. I told William to make nice with it now because the next time he comes across it he may not have such a pleasant disposition!

Check out photos of our walk in the mud here.

Start time: 11:30

End time: 1:300

Temp: 63-68°

Wind: 5-7 mph from the south

Skies: clear

Species Total: 39

  • Black Vulture – 4
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 10
  • Canada Goose – 2
  • Mallard – 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • Mourning Dove – 4
  • Chimney Swift – approximately 20
  • Belted Kingfisher - nest in creek bank
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 3
  • Downy Woodpecker – 2
  • Northern Flicker – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 4
  • Eastern Kingbird –2, FOY
  • Warbling Vireo – 2
  • Blue Jay – approximately 10
  • American Crow – 2
  • Tree Swallow – approximately 50
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow – approximately 20, nesting in burrows in the creek bank. 
  • Barn Swallow – approximately 10
  • Carolina Chickadee – approximately 10
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 10
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 5
  • House Wren – 1
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – approximately 15
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 5
  • American Robin – approximately 10
  • European Starling – approximately 20
  • Yellow Warbler – approximately 10
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1
  • Black-and-white Warbler – 2, FOY
  • Common Yellowthroat – approximately 10
  • Eastern Towhee – 3
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 10
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 10
  • Red-winged Blackbird – approximately 25
  • Common Grackle – 2
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – approximately 10
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 20

Spring time on Fisher Branch

IMG_3103.jpg

Actually, the title is a misnomer as spring was pretty much MIA on our trip to visit Grandpa Gene and Grandma Linda this past weekend. We drove down on Thursday in hopes that a 580 mile drive in a southerly direction would hold some warmer weather than we have been having here in West Chester. However, the day before we left the mountains got 5 or 6 inches of fresh snow! Fortunately, a quick look at the weather forecast showed that things should turn around fairly quick, and it did. A little. By Friday most of the snow was melted, and we had a mix of cool rainy and luke warm sunshine through Monday.  

The tardy nature of Spring 2013 is not just a figment of my imagination. Last year we came down for a visit at the same time last year. Spring seemed a good two weeks ahead of this year. Check out the photos from last year here.

Whatever the weather, or whether spring is early or late, it is always good to get together with your family. We even got to see Aunt Teri for a day. Grandma and Grandpa are doing good and Lilly and Max still bark at everything. One thing that is a little different on the ole farm is that Circe and Aster have become escape artist and seem to find their way to the blueberry patch every morning.

Check out photos from our trip here

Russell, Mary, Emily, William, and Paddy. 

Life with the Boys

IMG_2651 - Version 2.jpg

Paddy, William, Steve and I have been living it up lately. This past weekend,  Steve and I were especially excited because it was the start of the MLS season! We also have new seats where we are actually allowed to sit down (we use to be in the supporters section where you had to stand the entire game and shout obscenities at the opposing team, and sometimes we shouted obscenities at he home team. It is Philly after all). The first game of the year was with Sporting KC (Kansas City). We started off great with a goal in the 17th minute from recently reacquired Sebastian Le Toux. Then memories of the last season came flooding back with Sporting KC made three unanswered goals. Oh well, the boys in blue will do better next time. Check out photos of us all here

The Chrysler Building

IMG_2775.jpg

William has completed yet another paper architecture project. This one is the Chrysler Building in NYC. William wrote this short note about it.  

This Chrysler Building is the first successful paper model I have made that required a lot of glue. The White House and the US Capitol required some glue, but only four pieces total for both. The Chrysler Building required almost 208 pieces that needed glue. 

What his is not telling you is that this is his second attempt at making this building. The first tempt was back in the fall and it didn't go so well. Most of the projects from his paper building book are glueless, but this one and a few others have a number of steps that require glue. William is great with his X-acto knife, but glueing things is a tough task for him. I worked with him on some ways to improve his glueing technique. What we came up with was putting the Elmer's glue in a can and then brushing it where  needed with a small brush. This improved things greatly. He is especially excited as to the height of this project, 26 inches tall!

I put photos of this project in the same gallery as the other paper buildings. Scroll to the bottom to see the Chrysler Building. See them here

Are you wondering what the next project will be? It will look something like this.

Amberlee

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William lost a special friend today. For the past several months he has been walking Amberlee for our neighbor Dot. Amberlee had a disease of her endocrine system that finally caught up with her today. We don't know how old she was but it was between 12 and 15 years. Pretty good for a beagle. Here is the note that William wanted posted;  

Amberlee was a special dog. She was so cute and old. I loved her so much. But it was best to put her down as she was in pain.

Our heart goes out to Dot. 

Westminster Palace

IMG_2450 - Version 2.jpg

William finished his latest paper architecture project today, Westminster Palace, complete with Big Ben and all. William loves doing stuff like this. When he gets home from school he runs down to the basement and sits at his little stretch of bench space that I have given him and will work for hours on end cutting paper. He started this one on the day after Christmas. We didn't keep track of the total hours he spent on it but it was a lot, especially for a 12 year old. 

He goes through zillions of x-acto knife blades. So much so that it is more economical if I sharpen the them with a wet stone than to buy new ones. He is pretty particular about the blades however. If I don't get the points sharpen just right he will send them back to me. I have to do the sharpening under my microscope to make sure I get the tips of the blades just right. Other than sharpening the blades, I do nothing on these projects. William prints the plans, cuts out the pecies and then figures out how it all fits together. The projects are fairly complecated but he does the entire thing on his own. 

Its nice having him down in the basement (aka the ManCave) with me. Most evenings he will be working on his paper stuff while I work on my paintings. He has decided to give this one to Lucky Aunt Teri. If anyone else want one of his works just ask nicely and he may grant your wish. See more photos of Westninster Palace here

Kid Cookery

IMG_1719.jpg

For some reason, all of the kids have taken an interest in doing more of the cooking around here. Emily and William take basic cooking classes in school. When I say basic, I mean basic. Emily said that one day the made Top Ramen. Yum!

I asked Emily if they have covered taking care of their mise en place and she said that they were no where close to such concepts. Humm...what is a dad, who is a longtime student of French cooking, to do? Looks like it is time for some home schooling. 

One dish that the kids like, looks fancy, and if pretty easy is pull off is fish in papillote. This is simply cooking fish in a parchment paper envelope. the basic principle to keep in mind here is that things need to cook quickly in a hot oven (425 degrees), so the veggies need to be cut small and and the same size. The only other tricky part of the disk is cutting the heart shaped paper big enough and in the right shape, to hold your dish. Emily did a great job and got an A+ in her home school cooking class. She even let me take a few pictures of her at work. 

Paddy got the job of putting cookie dough on the cookie sheet. He did this well and didn't eat too much of the uncooked cookies. The only problem was that we couldn't account for all the cooked cookies once he was done. Humm?

William hasn't done much cooking in the past couple of weeks because he has been busy working on another major paper house project. Last year he completed a model of the Westminster Abby. This year, he wanted to make Grandma Linda and Grandpa Gene a model of the White House for their Christmas pressent. After many, many hours of painstaking X-acto knife cutting of tiny windows, he completed it and it looks great. See photos of both of these project here

Happy Holidays!

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy

William’s 12th Birthday!

IMG_1681 - Version 2.jpg

Twelve years ago today William came into the world in dramatic fashion. As many of you probably know, he was a wee bit early because a complication with Mary’s pregnancy (plecenta previa). His first couple of weeks were rough but he pulled through and is doing just great today, howerver he is still one of the smallest kids in his class. Friday we had a small birthday celebration for him with pizza and cake. Check out photos of his birthday party and a few from the past twelve years here.

Happy Birthday William!

Le Toux on Le Blog

IMG_1578 - Version 2.jpg

About a year ago The Philadelphia Union traded one of their star players, Sebastian Le Toux, to the Vancouver Whitecaps. They then held a going away party for him at Kildare’s Irish Pub in West Chester, just a few blocks from our house. Since it was walking distance, I went, had a beer, and met Seba. He spent half the season playing for Vancouver then got traded to the New York Red Bulls where he finished out the season. The last game of the year, we all got to see him play before his real home crowd at PPL Park.

When the season was over, we were all surprised the hear that he had been traded back to Philly! Again, they held his welcome home party at Kildare’s last night starting at 6:30. Which was very convenient for me, as the boys religious education classes are just a block down the street at St. Agnes. I dropped the boys off at church then, like a good Irish dad, I headed to the pub. Again, I got to shake his hand and get a photo with him. After which I headed back over to church and picked up the boys.

As you probably know from reading Le Blog, Paddy likes soccer and has gone to many games with me. I asked him when he got out of religious ed if he would like to meet a famous soccer player. “Sure! I’d love to!” He asked “When we could do that”  and I said “hummm…how about now?” He said “what? You can just do that?”

So, we walked the short walk back to he pub and went in. Any kids that came to the pub to meet Seba were ushered up to the front of the line and were given the royal treatment. Paddy, who happen to be wearing his Union hat, was over joyed. William on the other hand, could have cared less and asked if he could get something to eat.

Nonetheless, it was a big thrill for Paddy and a lesser thrill for William. Seab bent down and talked to Paddy. He asked if he liked soccer and if he could expect to see Paddy in the stands at PPL Park next season. Paddy skipped all the way home. Check out photos of the evening here along with a few other recent family photos as well. 

William's New Smile

IMG_1074 - Version 2.jpg

Today was a big day. First off all three kids had an orthodontist appointments in succession this morning. The only one of the three who was really excited to be there was William, and it was all because his braces were coming off! Emily was there just to have hers tightened and Paddy was there to get sized up.

On the day that the braces come off, they give the kids a big back of candy that they were not allowed to have while they were wearing them. William got home from school and immediately ran over to the bag and started munching. A few minutes later he came over holding out his hand in it was a small white lump that looked like it was covered in blood.

“What’s that?” I asked. He points to his mouth and opens it. There’s blood everywhere. I said “Is that your tooth!” He nods his head yes. “William! We just went through all those braces and you break off your tooth with in the first 8 hours of having them off!” I look at it and think that it kind of looks like a molar baby tooth. I called the orthodontist and asked. They said “oh yeah, he still has his baby teeth back there. Woo. That was a relief!

William’s smile looks great. Paddy’s, however, is going to need some attention. He has a real issue as one of his front incisors is coming in behind his lower incisor. As I told Dr. Burkland, I’m not dentist, but that just doesn’t seem right. Dr. Burkland told me that I had great instincts for dentistry.

Check out other photos of our day in orthodontics here.

Russell

The Stroud Preserve, 14 October 2012

IMG_0970 - Version 2.jpg

Today William and I decided to take an afternoon walk down at the Preserve. It was unseasonably warm above 70! Also a bit windy. We saw many caterpillars of many varies. William picked all of them up. See photos here. All in all it was pretty slow. No warblers around at all.

Stat time: 1:00
End time: 3:00
Temp: 70
Wind: moderate to strong from the southwest.
Skies: high clouds
Species Total: 34
Black Vulture – 1
Turkey Vulture – as usual, 20-30 over head with a few roosting on the power lines
Canada Goose – approx. 200 flew up from the Bobolink fields
Osprey – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 6
Red-tailed Hawk – 4
Rock Dove – 10
Morning Dove – approx. 10
Red-bellied Woodpecker – approx. 5
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Northern Flicker – 1
Eastern Phoebe – 1, they seem to be thinning out
Blue Jay – approx. 50
American Crow – approx. 50
Tree Swallow – 200, these were the only bird that seemed to be on the move
Carolina Chickadee – approx. 5
Tufted Titmouse – approx. 5
White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Carolina Wren – 1, heard only
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 2
Eastern Bluebird – approx. 10
American Robin - approx. 100
Gray Catbird - approx. 1
European Starling – approx. 10
Cedar Waxwings – approx. 10
Eastern Towhee – 2
Song Sparrow – approx. 10
Swamp Sparrow – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 2
Northern Cardinal – 2
Red-winged Blackbird – approx. 10
House Finch – approx. 10
Purple Finch – approx. 10
American Goldfinch – approx. 15

A Week At The Beach

IMG_0392.jpg

Last week we finally got our act together and went on a long over due family vacation! We dusted off all the camping gear and headed to the Delaware Seashore State Park. Our activities were completely predictable. Mary and the kids swam at the beach. Russell rode on his bike. The gnats bit hard. We went to the boardwalk at Rehobeth Beach. Ate ice cream. Swam on the beach some more. See photos here

The Boys Go Camping

IMG_0185.jpg

Ever since school got out, William has been asking to go camping. The only problem with this request was one of shelter. We have two tents. A giant 6 person tent that requires two adults to pitch, and a small one person tent that I use for bicycle trips. Oh, we also have two old tents (over 15 years old) that leak lots of water in the event of rain. Since Mary wouldn't be joining us on the camping trip, the 6 person tent was out. What to do?

Then I remembered that we still had about $80 on our REI rebate! So, one day William and I went to the local REI and found a two person tent for about $100, which with our rebate, only cost $20. Not a bad deal! Now we had enought water tight shelter for all the Rogers boys to go on a camping trip! 

We chose to go to Hibernia County Park, which was only about 30 minutes away and had a primitive camp ground. Perfect. We also chose to go during the week in hopes of less people to deal with. We packed up are gear and headed out. We got the campsite and set up camp. It was a very nice camp site which we had all to ourselves! Even more perfect!

We then had lunch of standard camping fair (hog dogs) and then I headed over the to park office to pay for our site. At that point I learned why we had the campsite all to ourselves as it was only open on weekends. Total bummer! 

We headed back to the camp ground and took down our tents and packed the car. A quick search on my iPhone showed that there was a commercial campsite just a few miles away. It was considerably more expensive, but it had pool which which was a big bonus for the boys. We swam at the pool, had dinner of standard camping fair (more hot dogs) and s'mores by the campfire. 

The next morning I was glad that I went and bought the new tent as it rained cats and dogs! We had hoped to spend much of the day by the pool. Instead, we packed up the car, and drove over to Lancaster and found a dinner and got hot chocolates and sticky buns. 

Check out photos of our adventure here.

School's Out!

IMG_0068.jpg

With out doubt, the biggest event in our household is that school has ended, well, at least for the kids. Mary is done at the end of this week. All in all, this past school year was good for all the kids. They all made great strides academically and socially. Emily wrapped up middle school and will be a freshman at Henderson High next year. Like most teenagers, we have great difficulty working any kind of emotional response out of her, but we have managed to discover two things that she is happy about; 1) Henderson High is only two blocks away so she will never have to ride a bus to school ever again, and 2) one of her electives next year is photography, which she is very excited about. Emily’s main summer will be a science-fiction writing camp that is held over at West Chester University. Emily still likes writing a lot and is looking forward to exploring some ideas that she has floating around in her head.

William wrapped up elementary school and will head off to middle school next year. Of our three kids, William probably had the most personal growth. He did great academically. His only downfall was a brief period of not following through with homework assignments. But the motivation of a trip to the beach and camping this summer, helped turn that around. Next year William will be in 6th grade at Peirce Middle School. William’s big plan for the summer is a marine biology camp, which is also held at West Chester University. He is very excided about this camp because they will get to study live squids and other marine creatures.

Paddy finished up first grade. His big achievement for the year is that he reads like a champ! At the beginning of the year, he could read almost nothing. Now he picks up books like Diary of a Whippy Kid and plows through it. We aren’t sure what Paddy is going to do this summer. We have not committed him to a summer camp yet. He may go to an intensive swimming lesson session for a couple of weeks so he can get his “green” armband for the pool. If he gets that he can go down the big slide at the pool, which would be the most awesome thing in the world.

Me and the boys also plan to go visit Grandpa and Grandma in North Carolina for a couple of weeks as well. See some photos from the last couple of weeks here.

Russell

The Kids

Emmy's new head

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on what the kids have been up to so I thought I’d do that now.

First and foremost, they are very, very, very excited that there is only one full week of school left. Next week is the full week, then the last week in May they have one day off for an in-service day for the teachers, then the first week of June they have two full days, and three half days. The last day of school is June 8th! They don’t know it yet, but after school lets out they go to work at the North Franklin Street work camp for the rest of the summer.

In the last post about the kids, Paddy was playing basketball and taking swimming lessons. Basketball season is over and he has now moved on to baseball. He is still doing swimming. He doesn’t seem to care much about which sport he is doing at any given time, just as long as he is doing it. The one constant is that he talks trash at all of them. Next week he is going on a class field trip to the Herr’s potato chip factory. He is very excited about that.

William, on the other hand avoids sports at all cost, especially if it requires communication with another human. His primary mission in life is to collect every fact about every animal that has ever lived on planet Earth, and remember it. At the rate that he is going he will done with that project by the start of the next school year. Yesterday (May 17) his school went on an all day field trip to Washington DC. When we arrived we mapped out the most direct route from the bus to the Museum of Natural History. We’d have William tell you about it but his head exploded. He was doing pretty good until he came upon the exhibit with a real giant squids (there were two, a male and a female!). Lets just say he is a pretty happy boy today. See photos from our trip here.

Emily is also pretty happy, for two reasons. First, we finally hooked up her hand-me-down iPhone. She now has a gizmo with a phone, email, text message, and internet that she can carry around with her. Second, and probably, the main reason she is so happy, we let her dye her hair. It is now black and purple. These were not freebies for her. To get them we asked her to pull up her grades, which she did. Next year, at Henderson High School she will be in all honor’s classes. We are very proud of her. She is also doing well in fencing. She will be moving up to the intermediate class soon and will be learning to fence with an epee (a type of sword).

See more photos of the kids over the last month or so here.

Happy Spring time!

Russell

The Rest of the Trip

I ended my last post on the Family Blog with " The day was put to rest with a yummy dinner of home made pulled pork BBQ, coleslaw, and hush puppies. The boys made it an authentic southern meal by washing it all down with a coke-cola." Well later that night Paddy got to experience it all again as he started throwing up around 2:00 AM. Actually Grandma did as well as he was sleeping in her bed! Ugh. His illness was short lived and by the middle of the following day he was all better, as you can see by this photograph. 

Paddy Disapproves

Most of the rest of the visit was nice and relaxing. The kids stayed up late watching TV and playing computer games. I got up early and went bird-watching. By the time I got back they were up and feed. Afterwards it was play in the creek or computer, watch TV or just lay around time. By mid day, I would take off for a bicycle ride. Then, when I got back it was dinner time. Afterwards the kids would stay up late, and we would begin the process over again.

One rainy day Grandma took the kids to see a movie, "Mirror-Mirror." Grandma, William and Paddy gave it three thumbs up. Emily gave it two thumbs down. But she is a teenager and simply hasn't figured out how to operate her thumbs in that manor just yet.

William and Paddy did get to ride the horses one day. That was pretty exciting. They also got to help brush their hair and give the a wash down as well. Not something we get to do here in West Chester very often despite the fact that this is horse country. 

On Saturday we got an early start and headed back to West Chester. Again, we had absolutely no issues along the way. It was a nice drive back in fact. By 5:00 PM we were back home and happy to see Mary.

It was a fun trip and we are happy that we now live close enough to make move visits! We are certain to head back again soon.

Check out photos of the rest of the trip here. Also, a side not about the photos. Up till now, I've been loading photos much to large for the website and have been trying to readjust them. Some of the last photos are a little different. Let me know if you have any trouble viewing the photos or have any other issues with the site. I'll try to correct it.

Russell