For the past few weeks we've been delightedly watching a nest of baby robins on our front porch. We noticed a mama robin paying a lot of attention to an old nest up on one of the porch pillars, so one day we climbed up and took a peek inside. There were four little blue eggs in there!

The nest was high enough up that I couldn't actually see in when standing on the porch wall, but I could reach my camera up and snap a picture so the girls and I could see what was going on in there. Thus, we had a collection of pictures that show the development of the babies from hatchlings to fledglings, which I thought would be fun to share.

Day 1 

One morning we walked outside and noticed some broken blue eggshell on the ground. Inside the nest were three very ugly pink birds, newly emerged from their shells. We weren't sure for a while, because the birds were always lying on top of each other in a jumbled heap, but I'm pretty sure the fourth egg never hatched. I'm not sure what happened to it - the nest is empty now. What does happen to eggs in nests that don't hatch? Is this a question that is better not to ask?

Day 2 

The next day the birds could lift their heads up, but the eyes still weren't fully formed and they were still pink and ugly. Actually, they didn't ever get over being ugly, but they're still baby birds, so kind of cute in their ugliness.

Day 4

After a couple more days the birds started getting some feathers and color to them.

Day 4

One of the things that surprised me most, although it shouldn't have if I'd been thinking about it, was how much the mama robin sat on her babies after they hatched. I always thought of needing to keep eggs warm so that they could develop and hatch, but not of keeping them warm after hatching. Of course, it makes perfect sense that they would need protection from the wind since they were so pink and naked when they were born. Still, it got pretty funny as the hatchlings got bigger and bigger and you could see the mama sitting on top of the babies with their heads poking out of the nest.

 Day 4

Here's another picture of the same day. You can see how nicely their feathers are developing, but how scrawny they still are.

Day 5

Our favorite part of having robins on our porch was watching the mama, and occasionally the daddy robin both feeding the babies. The adults were very skittish if we were out there, even if we were at a distance, so we usually watched from the front door windows. It was the cutest thing, to see the tiny heads bob up from the nest, stretching their necks and gaping wide open to get a piece of the worm meal.

Day 8

After a week, they were definitely not little babies any more. Look at them, with all that teenage angst in their eyes. We'd see them peering over the nest all day long, waiting for their next meal and getting bored with the cramped quarters.

 Day 14

Yesterday I noticed one of the robins had hopped out of the nest and was standing on the platform next to the nest. When he saw me, however, he quickly hopped back in. This morning when we were all out working in the garden, however, I looked up and saw there was only one bird left. He filled up almost the entire nest!

While the girls and I were watching, the mama robin flew up and brought this fledgling a worm. It was almost as tall as her, so transferring it into his mouth wasn't quite as easy as when he was a little hatchling. Then, startled by a movement we made while watching, the mama took off. The baby walked hesitantly to the edge of the pillar, made a few false starts, and finally flew quickly the few feet into my hanging basket. It was so exciting to watch that first flight!

At first, he perched on the edge as if he was planning on continuing his flight, possibly into the trees his siblings were likely hiding in. Sometimes he would stretch his body, flap his wings as if working up the courage, look down, and then think better of the scheme.

He's been there for over five hours now, and looking pretty comfortable among the flowers. I wonder if he'll manage to fly further today, or if he'll spend another day or two in the hanging basket.

It is a long way down, but you can do it, little robin!

This post is the twentieth in a series about the alphabet quiet book I'm making with the girls for preschool this year. To read the introduction, click here, and to read the rest of the posts (updated on a weekly basis) click the "Quiet Book" label on the right.

R is for Rainbow 
I might have packed a few too many things into this single quiet book page! Early on, I knew that I'd be making R for Rainbow, and that we'd also be learning some basic color theory along with it. When it came to actually designing the page, at first I had too few ideas, and then after I got working on sketches the ideas just kept coming.

Wouldn't it be fun, I thought, to make the rainbow flowing down onto an artist's palette? And the paint blobs could button on and off the page! And wouldn't it be cool to have bead raindrops coming down from the rainbow's cloud so you could see how the rainbow was created? When it comes to that, wouldn't it be even more amazing to make those raindrops little prisms so that when you shine a light through them, you can make an actual light rainbow? Well, yes, all that would be neat. And somehow it all came together to make this one page!

Inspiration and Page Design
There are a number of rainbow quiet book pages I found that I really liked, especially this one by Tanya with color matching buttons. I also liked the paint palette pages, including the one from Gray's felt book on Life Lesson Plans. Because I wanted my page to be about learning the names and order of the colors of the rainbow, I decided to combine these two ideas into something new.

As part of the basic color theory we're learning, I embroidered the acronym "Roy G. Biv" on each corresponding color of the rainbow. Roy G. Biv, in case you haven't heard it before, stands for "Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet."

Since we were going all out with rainbows on this page, I even appliqued the R and r on with some multi-colored thread I had leftover from another project.

Conveniently, the word Rainbow has as many letters as it has colors! I embroidered the word with red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. I probably made the letters a little too big, since they ran into the edge of the page, but the effect is still extremely cheerful and rainbowy.

For the artist's palette, first I appliqued the felt palette on, and sewed the felt paint blobs. After I laid them all out, I saw where the rainbow stripes would need to go, so then I cut out the rainbow and sewed it on, left to right. Last of all I sewed on the buttons and buttoned on the paints. My colorful button supply was lacking, so I ordered these inexpensive buttons from Ebay. A note of caution - about 15 of the buttons arrived smashed in the mail, and the international shipping was extremely slow. The crystal raindrops also came in a small packet from China, but they arrived weeks before the buttons. But they were still worth the $3 I spent, and the color assortment was lovely.

I made the paint spots by fusing two small pieces of felt together with Wonder Under in between. Then I cut organic shapes, free-handing them with scissors. I sewed the edges and button holes all by hand with embroidery floss, since I didn't want to fuss with such tiny pieces on my sewing machine.

The button holes and paint circles are fairly small for my 2-year-old Laurel's fingers, but my 4-year-old Annie enjoys buttoning and unbuttoning the paints from the page.

I got the idea to make the raindrops from little prisms from watching the morning sunshine make rainbows all over the room through the crystal beads on our dining room chandelier. These raindrops are teardrop crystals that I also ordered from Ebay. I strung them onto crochet thread, tied knots between each bead, and then sewed the ends of the thread into the page. After they were all attached, I sewed on the felt clouds.

Although I knew the girls could probably find a flashlight to shine through the raindrops on their own, I wanted to include one with the page so it would be self-contained. After looking through the dollar store, the smallest light I found was a LED/laser pointer combo. The size was perfect, and the laser pointer made beautiful kaleidoscope patterns as the crystals broke up its beam. As I thought about it overnight, however, I decided I really didn't want my kids to blind each other with the laser pointer, so I reluctantly nixed that idea. Fortunately that very day a friend gave the girls some freebie LED key chain lights without laser pointers as part of a grad school promotion, so our problem was solved!

It's hard to photograph the rainbows we can make with the little light and crystal raindrops, but it definitely works, especially in a dark room.

Preschool goals with the Rainbow page
  • Learn the names and order of the colors of the rainbow. 
  • Learn the acronym "Roy G. Biv". 
  • Learn about mixing primary colors to create secondary colors. 
  • Practice buttoning and unbuttoning. 
  • Learn about how rainbows are made by white light shining through water or prisms.

This post is the nineteenth in a series about the alphabet quiet book I'm making with the girls for preschool this year. To read the introduction, click here, and to read the rest of the posts (updated on a weekly basis) click the "Quiet Book" label on the right.

Q is for Quilt 
I have a lot of favorites among our quiet book pages, but this is definitely one of the top. When I first outlined the alphabet quiet book and our preschool goals for the year, I knew Q would be for quilt, and that we would be learning how to make a bed that week. But when it came to designing the quiet book page, I didn't find any examples that really taught about how to make a bed, so I ended up designing my own. I love the result!

Inspiration and Page Design
I originally started thinking about doing a quilt for the Q page when I saw the cute alphabet quiet book Dacia made on Fluffy Bunny Feet Designs. She used the quilt as a pocket for hiding treats or notes, which is a great idea, but didn't really fit in with my goal of learning how to make a bed. After I finished my quilt page, I also ran across the idea of making an I-Spy quilt using squares with pictures from novelty fabrics. My favorite one of these is on Empty Bobbin Sewing Studios, which features some really beautiful fabrics. But like I said, I ran across that idea after I finished my Q page, and my main goal was designing a bed-making page anyway.

I considered making a mini quilt with a fancy pattern and triangles and everything, but in the end I decided on a simple square patchwork design like this one from Mama Loves Quilts.

To make a 6" square patchwork quilt of 1/2" squares I had to cut 100 1" squares. Look at how much that shrinks once you sew 1/4" seams around them all! Once I'd pieced the center squares all together, I added a 1/2" border around. Then I sewed the backing and quilt top wrong sides together, flipping it right side out and ironing open just like I do with all of the quiet book pages, ending with machine quilting. I skipped using any batting, since it was bulky enough with all those seams inside.

Under the quilt I have a brown fleece blanket. This is just a square of polar fleece that I hemmed up, adding some pretty stitches with my machine to give it a finished look. After I had all the bed linens assembled and in place, I folded the bottom edge of the blanket around the sheets and mattress, and stitched carefully through all the layers to hold them in place. Thus, the sheets and blanket are attached to the mattress at the bottom edge, but not to the page itself. The quilt I hand-stitched to the bottom edge of the blanket so that it wouldn't have to fold much, to cut down on bulk and avoid hiding any of the square quilt under the bed.

The green flat sheet is much the same as the blanket, except I made it a bit longer so it could peek out from under the quilt and tuck neatly under the sisters' chins.

The sister finger puppets all rest on top of the fitted sheet which was sewn, appropriately enough, from an old white sheet I've been cutting into for a long time.

The little pillow cases, made in green to match the flat sheet, are all hand stitched to the fitted sheet, so they won't fall off the page. The tiny white pillows, each stuffed with a cotton ball, are removable but fit snugly in the pillowcases.

This is a close-up look at how the fitted sheet fits all around the mattress, which is attached to the page in the middle.

After making it through all those layers, we finally reached the mattress. I know it's kind of silly, but this is the part I'm proudest of on this page. It looks so much like a real mattress! I had some upholstery fabric for a couch I'm re-covering for our living room that is perfect mattress fabric, so I used a square of that for my mattress. I made some piping with a white shoelace and grosgrain ribbon, and sewed that in as if it were a flat pillow. Between the two layers of upholstery fabric I sewed a rectangle of a felted wool sweater for heavy batting. It gave the mattress the perfect amount of substance. Finally, I machine-quilted the whole thing so it had the texture and stability of a mattress.

Another thing I had to reconcile was the need to have the mattress to stay in place on the page, but also allow the edges to be free so the fitted sheet could be tucked in around. Now that I've done it, the answer seems obvious - sew the center of the mattress to the page - but it took me a long time thinking about it to reach that answer! I stitched right over the inner rectangle of quilting lines, and it works perfectly.

Annie, Jenny, and Laurel, Matryoshka style

My mom made these adorable wool felt finger puppets for the girls' stockings this Christmas, and I knew right away that they'd find a home in our alphabet quiet book. I think they're made from this pattern on The Prudent Homemaker. They really are the icing on the cake of the quilt page - without them, the quilt page would be a little dry and flavorless! Annie and Laurel have the brown hair, and redheaded Jenny has the goldish orange hair. I tried to tuck the in bed in age order, but Annie and Laurel were adamant that Jenny needs to go in the middle. I'm not sure if that's because they really like their little sister or if they're just OCD about symmetry.

Now that we've looked at all the layers, let's make the bed and tuck the sisters in!

Preschool goals for using the Quilt page
My goals for this page are to teach the girls about the necessary components of a properly made bed (fitted sheet, flat sheet, blanket (give or take depending on the weather), quilt, pillows, and pillowcases. I wanted them to learn the order they go on, and to start to get the hang of tucking and smoothing them out over the bed. In real life, I'm also trying to teach them to make their own beds. It's a work in progress, but they do seem to be getting the idea, and they are already experts at making the bed on the Q is for Quilt page.

This post is the eighteenth in a series about the alphabet quiet book I'm making with the girls for preschool this year. To read the introduction, click here, and to read the rest of the posts (updated on a weekly basis) click the "Quiet Book" label on the right.

P is for Piggy Bank
Finally, a quieter page! P is for piggy bank only has one activity, but it is brilliant in its simplicity.

Inspiration and Page Design
My piggy bank page is directly inspired by the piggy bank quiet book page by Celina on the Shaffer Sisters blog. I love the concept! Juice concentrate lids make perfect "coins" for little hands. And after you push them through the slot on the top of the pig, you turn the page over and...

They've all dropped neatly into a zippered pencil case! My pencil case was almost exactly the same size as my quiet book page, so it was a bit tricky to get everything lined up and to fit the grommets in.

The grommets are closer to the zipper than they should be, so the girls have trouble unzipping the pouch all the way on their own. Fortunately, the "coins" can slip out just fine when only partially unzipped.

Although I loved the plain design of the piggy bank, this page was going to be next to O is for Ocean, so it needed more of a pictorial setting than a basic bank on a solid background. I decided to set the pig on a dresser top, next to a purple table lamp, and against green flowered wallpaper.

The lampshade is made from a leftover scrap of the fabric we made my wedding dress from. I love details like that - it's like memory patchwork quilts where you can point to a square and remember happy times wearing that piece of clothing. To make the lampshade frame, I sewed a round black shoelace in like upholstery welting.

Preschool goals for using the Piggy Bank page
I'm hoping to use the piggy bank page as a jumping-off point for learning about the different kinds of real coins, and about saving, tithing, and spending. But for now, they're just having fun putting the coins into the bank and taking them out, which is just fine by me. I love how, although it's one of the simpler pages in terms of moving parts and number of activities, it's one of the first pages they turn to when playing with the quiet book. That saying about less being more is true, and especially in this quiet book it's necessary to balance to the complicated pages.

This post is the seventeenth in a series about the alphabet quiet book I'm making with the girls for preschool this year. To read the introduction, click here, and to read the rest of the posts (updated on a weekly basis) click the "Quiet Book" label on the right.

O is for Ocean
Oh my goodness, this was a page where once I got started, I had trouble knowing where to stop! Initially I was thinking of doing a very simple fishy page for the ocean, kind of like this one by Lorrie on The Quiet Book Blog. That was a bit too reminiscent of our abacus page, however, and the more I looked at ocean-relate quiet book pages the more I wanted to make them all!

Inspiration and Page Design
One thing I loved about the many ocean-themed pages I saw was how different they all were! I took ideas from many different examples, but one I especially loved was this hungry shark by Irina on Wonders of Felt. A line of strong blue crochet thread leads the fish to swim directly into his hungry stomach. I left too much slack on this string, and it's the one thing I would change if I were going to make the page over again. It allows the fish to move around more freely, but is more difficult for little fingers to manipulate. The fish all have little metal "eyes" from "hook and eye" clasps sewn to their backs, much like the flowers on our mailbox page. This allows them to move along the line without being loose parts that could fall out of the quiet book.

This submarine with all of our faces in it is probably my favorite part of the whole page. I got the idea when I found the submarine on Ekatarina's Transportation Quiet Book. She used clear plastic to make windows over beautiful printed fabric. I didn't have any pretty novelty fabric like that, so I started thinking about printing some onto my own fabric. Then it occurred to me that if I was going to be printing my own fabric, I could print photos of our own family! I found some pictures with our faces clearly displayed, sized them tiny enough to fit in the windows, and ran a piece off interface-backed white sheeting through my inkjet printer. Daddy is piloting the ship, Annie, Laurel, and Jenny are all peering out the portholes, and (although it's hard to tell) I'm navigating by keeping an eye out the periscope.

I've printed with my ink jet printer onto fabric twice now, the first time with my fabric lightly interfaced and backed with freezer paper for stability, and the second time the fabric fused with very stiff interfacing, no freezer paper. The stiffer interfacing was much easier and ran through the printer without any difficulty. The freezer paper backed one took a couple tries to feed into the printer, but took the ink just the same. So in the end, both methods work, but if you have stiff interfacing available, that's the best route.

Even the Oos got an oceanic theme on this page. When I cut out the small "o" it  reminded me so much of a lifebuoy that I started thinking about what I could do with the big O to make them both part of the ocean page. I decided to make the big O like a ship's compass. I printed off the compass face on the same fabric page as the family photos. The compass needle is made from shrink plastic, colored with colored pencils and shrunk to make it stiff and thick. I sewed it on with a bead. I attached a hook and eye to keep the compass closed, and added a jewelry ring clasp at the top to make it look like an antique pocket compass.

This funny little jellyfish is made by attaching a piece of green fabric to the back of a flat glass marble with silicone glue. I had these marbles leftover from making chore magnets for our chore chart (I need to do a post about that, it was a fun and useful project!) in the style of these Marble Magnets from Not Martha. The tentacles are tightly finger crocheted embroidery floss, and the googly eyes are attached with superglue.

Several of the ocean pages I saw had pearl oysters, including this felt door hanger by Angel, and I loved that feature. I had a string of little pink freshwater pearls in my bead box, so I sewed a few of those into the oyster.

My other favorite inspiration picture was the shell I-spy pocket by Jenya on Handmade by Mom. I really wanted to make something like that, but since I haven't been to the beach in years, I didn't have enough little shells to include. Fortunately, my family has been to the beach more recently, so they mailed us a selection of small shells, along with an ocean picture drawn by my 10-year-old brother. Annie and Laurel LOVE getting mail, and it's even more exciting if it's related to what we're learning about in school!

I sewed the little sand dollar (which I coated lightly with polyurethane a long time ago to make it suitable for a necklace) onto the top of the I-spy pocket, since I didn't want to hide it under anything and so that the girls could feel its texture.

Of course, the overall activity of the page is to lace a little Nemo-like clownfish from his home in a sea anemone through the many dangers in the ocean, up to the curious observers in the submarine, and then safely back home again. I got the idea for the swimming fish from Montoya's Meaningful Memories and Musings, and specifically the swimming fish maze from Schaer Talents. Here's a fun collage where you can see the clownfish making his way to the submarine.

Preschool goals for using the Ocean page
During O is for Ocean week, we learned about oceans! As we read books and watched movies and cilps, we designed the different elements for the page and then laid out the whole thing together. We read one of Annie's all-time favorite books, The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor, we watched an episode of Planet Earth from the library (amazing, amazing videography!), and watched Finding Nemo for the first time. We don't watch movies very often, and Finding Nemo terrified Annie. I'd post the very funny picture I took of Annie crying in terror as Nemo got captured, but some things are best left off the public Internet. After it was all over, however, Annie LOVED to remember Nemo, loved to draw clownfish and the other characters any time she had a pencil or piece of chalk in her hands, and still does many weeks later. Oddly enough, the much more realistic portion of the Planet Earth episode of dozens of sea snakes hunting fish from Planet Earth didn't scare either girl at all.

All-in-all, our ocean week and quiet book pages were some of our favorites. Fortunately for my sanity, our next letter was P is for Piggy Bank, and was much simpler and quicker!