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What's That Bird? Using Science to Decide

Friday, July 31, 2020


Facebook groups. To me, they're like folk festivals: best when they're small. And then they get too big, really fast, and you suddenly realize you can no longer abide them. At least that's how it has always worked for me. There's this sort of tipping point where the people who have no idea what they're talking about (but are loud) outnumber the ones who do (who are quiet) and that's when I vamoose.

I think being in isolation for too long has made me peek in on Facebook groups lately. The ones having to do with natural history ID can frustrate me terribly, because you'll no sooner get somebody's critter identified than you'll be drowned out by ten people, all guessing away but sure they're right, some of them openly and none too politely shouting you down.  That's no milk snake! That's a TIMBER RATTLER!! And I'd wind up wondering why I'd bothered to help.  Who needs to put themselves in a situation like that?

But a funny thing has been happening. There are good people out there with cameras, taking interesting shots, and it's fun again for me, now that I know how to sidestep and laugh off the inevitable keyboard rage that happens in large Facebook groups. So when I stumbled on two photographs submitted by Kimberly Nancarrow to "What's This Bird?" (the American Birding Association's FABULOUS  bird ID page),  I sat up and took notice. Over 48,000 members strong, this page is a potent way to introduce people to the joys of bird identification.

Kimberly had photographed a mystery bird sitting on the back of a whitetail doe, and that got my attention. I love seeing birds and mammals interacting.

The pair was photographed in the middle of a soybean field in Altmont, Michigan, on July 27.

Though the photos were taken at a great distance, I knew immediately what the bird was. 
There was quite a bit of disagreement among the others commenting, and what was interesting to me
was thinking about how I had known what it was right off the bat. Why wasn't it so obvious to the others?

I started thinking about how I'd arrived at my ID. I decided to deconstruct my thought process and see if I could elucidate things. Because even though I knew it instantly, there had to be a series of clues I'd picked up on, and I wanted to know what they were.

 I didn't want to do that analysis on the Facebook page, because I was afraid my effort would go to waste. So I decided to do it here. 

There seemed to be two camps: Team Starling and Team Eastern Phoebe. I was firmly on Team Starling, and here's why.

The first has to do with phenology, my field experience, and situational awareness. It's late summer, the time of year when  starlings perch on large mammals. This I knew, from my photo salon in September 2019 with a little herd of Angus crosses and their starling attendants. 

You see, in late summer the face flies and deer flies build up to plague proportions, and the starlings are happy to get rid of some for the cattle. I wrote the behavior up for my True Nature column in Bird Watcher's Digest Jan/Feb 2020 issue. I called the piece "American Oxpeckers."

So that was the first tool in my belt that perhaps the Team Phoebe folks didn't possess: knowing that starlings sit and forage for flies on large animals. 

I realized from the start that the mystery bird was showing far too much leg, and too robust a set of legs, to be a phoebe. You just don't see, or perceive, flycatcher legs at a distance. I can immediately see a good pair of legs on this bird.  To my eye, it could only be a starling. 

I also perceived that it was much too large to be an eastern phoebe. But I needed to be able to prove that was true. There had to be a way. I wasn't sure how, but I dove in anyway.  First, I traced Kimberly's photo and measured the bird, then the doe's ear. They were almost exactly the same length!

Now I needed to know how big a doe's ear might be in real life. That way, I could extrapolate, and say how big the mystery bird was. How to do that?

I happen to have a number of deer skulls in my studio that I've picked up over the years. I grabbed the biggest doe skull, since the doe in Kimberly's photo looked like a full grown one to me. This is not a skinny yearling.

I traced the skull's outline, then fleshed it out a bit. 

Before adding the ear, I measured the length of my deer's head, then measured the head of the deer in Kimberly's photo.

The deer in the photo had a 41 mm. skull with a 30 mm. ear. My skull measured 305 mm long, so I set up a simple proportion to figure out how long its ear would be.

skull length in photo  41  = 305    skull length in my drawing
ear length in photo      30       x      ear length in my drawing

I multiplied 30 x 305, then divided by 41 to get X, the ear length in my drawing. X turned out to be 8.75"

So I added an 8.75" long ear to my sketch, done from the actual skull. Now I knew how long a real doe's ear is!

Now it was time to hit the books and see how long a phoebe is, relative to a starling. David Sibley says an eastern phoebe is 7" long. I noted with satisfaction how short and delicate its legs were in Sibley's painting.

Now for the starling. Oh, look! A starling is 8.5" long! Well, my my my. That's about the same length as a doe's ear! 

Boom. Between its robust, visible legs, its potbellied profile, and its size relative to the doe's ear, this bird can only be a European starling. 

The last cool thing I noticed was the fact that Kimberly's mystery bird was dark overall, with some pale areas around the face. That works for a juvenile starling in late July. Look at these September starlings--juveniles, with just a bit of pale juvenal plumage around the head. 

Meanwhile, back in the group discussion, there were people on Team Starling flatly stating that phoebes don't sit on animals. Well, I have been studying phoebes for years, and have even raised two from babies, and I've never seen them sit on animals.  But I would never flatly state that they never do it. How would anyone know that? It's so important to be kind. It's even more important to avoid asserting something you don't know to be a fact from direct experience or solid research.

Moderator Tim Kalbach (Team Starling, but stirring the pot) contributed this photo by Chuck Holliday, taken July 22, 2019 and found on Flickr:

It's an eastern phoebe sitting on a whitetail, catching deerflies. Cool!!

I love it!! Humans can always be wrong. Birds and animals, not so much. Animals have no egos to get in the way of their truth.

 Look how much bigger the bird below appears relative to the deer, than the phoebe above. Look, too, at how you can see the thighs and legs on the starling below, but not on the phoebe, above. You can barely perceive the phoebe's legs at all, because they're so fine and short. The phoebe's belly practically contacts the deer's rump. And the contrast between dark upperparts and pale underparts is obvious on the phoebe, but totally lacking on the starling. So there's that...

I've had lots of fun proving the veracity of my ID, even if it was only for myself. Perhaps this torrent of fact-based information has won over some Team Phoebe folks, but I don't really mind either way. I like to base my ID's on facts, not opinion. I love to dive inside and see the deductive reasoning contained in a split-second judgement of bird identification. Walking through the facts here seemed like a tiny strike for the scientific process. I look forward to the day that science and fact-based reasoning re-ascend the pedestal.

I'm going to try to make sure I enjoy belonging to social media groups going forward--dip in and out, grab a fly here and there, help when I can, learn something new whenever possible, and fly off when I can't. I wish the same for you.

Thanks to the American Birding Association, page moderater Tim Kalbach, and especially to photographer/birder Kimberly Nancarrow for permitting the use of her photos. Bird on! and keep your eyes open and your camera ready.

My House's Facelift

Monday, July 27, 2020

As noted before, the old garage was looking awfully tatty with its new blue roof--lipstick on a pig! So in came the crew to replace the siding with HardiePlank. Much of the cheap board and batten siding was rotted or hopelessly warped, so they replaced it, largely with plywood they found in the garage. I was glad in this instance that Bill saved so much stuff.

Oh it was wonderful to watch that garage being transformed.

To drive up and see this!

To climb the tower and see this!

and to walk out the meadow, turn around and see this!

A badly needed new door, painted my favorite shade of purply-blue. I couldn't match the roof, so I went for what I loved.

Cedar siding put on in 1999 was hideously rotted on the north side of the house, and peeling and weather-beaten on the south and west sides. Daniel tore it off with his bare hands until I begged him to stop. Never mind--it would all be replaced soon.

I was pretty much done with wood. Bring on the cement composition HardiePlank! 

In mid-February 2020, I went to Ecuador. Remember international travel? I do, dimly. The Amish team timed their work to coincide with my absence, so all the hammering and banging wouldn't disturb me. I can tell you that, in my experience, nobody but the Amish works on outside house renovation in January and February. 
Daniel had purchased the siding in advance and painted it under controlled conditions, as well, which helps a lot!

Upon my return, I beheld a tower transformed, secure.

They were good, they were affordable, and they were fast. Got in, did the work, got out. Boom. Fueled, perhaps in part, by this:

If I drank that I'd be awake for a month.

In this video, Curtis perfectly expresses how it felt to come home after a long trip and find the siding on garage and tower magically finished. I am so grateful to Daniel Yoder and Amish Builders of Patriot, Ohio for their wonderful work; for their speed, professionalism and efficiency. You've spoiled me for good.


Here Come the Amish!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Before September 2019, the only Amish folk who'd ever been here to Indigo Hill had been birders, chasing a waay out of range Pacific Slope flycatcher that spent part of a winter around our compost pit in December 2015. That was unusual, to have vans pull up and quiet black-clad men pour out to look at a fidgety flycatcher in my yard.

Pacific Slope Flycatcher (identified by its responsiveness to playback; it ignored Cordilleran Flycatcher calls)

I loved knowing that this vagrant bird had such a pull on the birding community, especially the Amish birders, that they'd get up in the dark and pile in a van to come see it. Getting up in the dark: nothing new for Amish folk.

I really wish now I'd gone out and mingled more, but it was all a bit much for me, and I stayed out of the way while Bill (second from left in yeti hat)  acted as Ringmaster. I, who was here TCB all day every day, had not wanted to make the bird's presence public, and he, who was rarely home, really super did. He won, as he usually did. It was a thing. I'm glad a lot of people got to see it. But I felt guilty about not letting them in to use the house and facilities and have a looky-loo around, which was a wise choice on my part because I would have been at it all day every day. As it was, I spent the period of invasion hiding like a rabbit.

Back to the house...

Now that it was all gussied up, it was clear that the house was past needing a new roof, and I knew what I wanted. I'd already taken the leap to paint everything barn red in 2014, and never looked back, but the job wasn't done. Uccch that old brown asphalt roof! 

 I wanted a blue metal roof. Really blue, like the bewitching cobalt blue asphalt roof on my uncle Howard's north central Iowa barn, that I loved so when I was a kid visiting in summers from Virginia. I imprinted on the combo of barn red and cobalt blue, and that stayed with me for life, until I finally had a house to adorn the way I wanted to. My friend Marcy, who knows all the good stuff, hooked me up with Amish Builders out of Patriot, Ohio. Those men, young, middle-aged and older, came out and swarmed all over the house like carpenter ants. The younger ones were running the ridgepoles. I could hardly look.

The man in red is "English;" he works, drives and oversees. I just loved watching the crew work. How to get the panels on the high part of the tower addition? Just walk them upright, then hand 'em up. My gosh!! I was flabbergasted at their ingenuity and strength.

I got the feeling I was watching the human body work the way it's supposed to. Man as lever, man as fulcrum.

ooh I love this shot!! Can you imagine standing on a steeply pitched roof, reaching for a giant heavy panel of metal to haul up? No machines, just men! Hallelujah, it wasn't raining men! No Amish were harmed in the making of this photograph.

In 5 1/2 hours, the crew had finished roofing the house and the garage. Arrived in the morning, left in the mid-afternoon. I had been thinking it would take a week or more. Clearly, these gentlemen work on an entirely different level than I was accustomed to witnessing. And I was swiftly hooked by that.

Now, with it all done and resplendent,  I could see that I had a problem. Because now the craptastic cheapo siding on the garage was thrown into stark relief by its gorgeous blue roof. And the peeling, horrifically rotted cedar siding on the tower part desperately needed to be replaced. Company owner Daniel Yoder came over and just started tearing off siding as if it were wet pasteboard, which at this point it was. I grabbed his arm. STOP!! I can't watch! 

Obviously, the next thing to do was get the garage sided--and the tower addition, too, in HardiePlank Fiber Cement Lap Siding to match the main (low) part of the house, which we'd had done in 2014. Who you gonna call? Amish Builders! As he worked up his estimate, owner Daniel Yoder warned me several times that HardiePlank was very expensive. Yes. I know. I also know that, having nobody reliable to fix things, I am done with rotting cedar and cheap board and batten pine siding; I'm done with cedar; and I'm also real done with peeling paint. We're going HardiePlank and metal here, and then we don't have to worry about it any more.

We started in the orchard and ended up on the roof, I am aware, but it's all a continuum, and it'll all make sense in the next post. I was buoyed by the energy and positivity of the Amish Builders, and I wanted to keep this good snowball rolling.

My Work in Progress

Sunday, July 19, 2020

I would like to tell you the story of my big and as yet largely untold life project. I've been thinking about making these posts for months, and I have finally gone back into my archives and fetched some photos so I could tell the story. 

In the last years of our marriage, Bill kind of fell off the land maintenance train. It very quickly became obvious what things he did around here, which was fix every little thing that broke, run the weed whacker, tractor and brush hog, and chainsaw up trees that fell. I did all the house maintenance, gardening, weeding, watering and lawnmowing.  Every few months he'd put in a little work, but by and large things that I couldn't do went undone. Then we had a derecho come through in May 2016, if I remember correctly, that brought down 32 trees on our place. thirrrrty twooooo treees downnnnnn
It was an ungodly mess, more than anyone could deal with alone. And if you've ever maintained a rural property, you know that if there's a tree in front of you and you can't get a tractor through to brush-hog the roads and paths, you aren't going to be able to get ANYTHING through in a year or two.

So the orchard got serious about the business of becoming an impenetrable tangle from the crash of that first bigtooth aspen.

Multiply this mess times 32, and this is what the four orchard roads looked like. See those encroaching walls of multiflora rose? That's what the brush hog is for. But the brush hog can't get through any more. Uh oh. This is going nowhere good, and fast.

There were trees down like jackstraws everywhere. Two enormous black oaks crashed down into the main clearing in the orchard. Bill hacked away at them for a few weekends with our friend and bass player Gibbs, but they didn't really make a dent.

All this ongoing and worsening mess set up a kind of despair in me. I had loved walking the orchard, and I really hated not being able to get through any more. More than that, I hated seeing the Asian multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle winning. Some of it was nice and straightforward--just a tree across a path. Anybody could deal with that.

Well, not me. I had learned enough from my dad and from Bill to want to avoid learning how to operate a chainsaw. I was afraid I'd cut my leg off, and I've never been much for fooling with gasoline engines, either. Chainsaw Operating was firmly on my Nope list. Life's too short for me to want to do something dumb and go around missing a foot or a hand.

Unfortunately, most of the orchard was like this. Just an impenetrable tangle of branches and trunks and rose and honeysuckle. When a tree falls, the multiflora rose and honeysuckle go NUTS, springing up in the branches and clambering over its corpse.  Walking out there depressed the hell out of me. It seemed like too much. Insurmountable. I got so sick of bending and weaving my way through the treetops, of having to re-route for the jungle.

The back of the old orchard is mostly in sugar maple, which is divine. They drop a branch here and there but I can usually deal with that without starting an engine.

This is what bigtooth aspen is good for: Falling down. That, and woodpecker nesting holes. They love these punky trees because they can excavate a cavity in a New York minute. When I hear a crash, I pretty much know another aspen has fallen, and another path will be blocked.

I felt like I was caught in a whirlpool, watching this place go to pot. I didn't see a way out, because I was frankly emotionally paralyzed. Bill got sick in September 2018 and died in March 2019, and I had him buried out in the meadow, which was arguably still a meadow, if a little high and weedy.

Exactly two months later, Bill's mother Elsa died tragically in a house fire, and I realized I had to get my act together fast. She had always told us she wanted to be buried in our orchard, next to Bill's dad, Bill Thompson Jr, who died in 2011.  But thanks to the storm, the orchard was a hellhole, a mess! So the very night she died I started making calls to people to come help me clear the way out to the family plot. And in the space of five days, I had to hire two crews to clear the way out to Bill's dad's gravesite. You do what you have to, when you have to, paralyzed or not.

All we could get done in those mad five days was clear part of one of the orchard's four roads, just as far as the gravesite. The men cut back the black oak tops in the clearing so it didn't feel quite so junky and crowded, and we buried Elsa on June 1, 2019. It wasn't the beautiful place I'd envisioned, but it would have to do for now.

I planted purple coneflowers I'd dug from all around my gardens, and we laid Elsa right next to Bill Jr. This is how the grave looked in April 2020. Like... not much. But I had a vision. It would all be beautiful someday soon. I would make it so.

As I look back on this large and ongoing project to reclaim the old orchard, I realize that Elsa's death, and being suddenly forced to clear the mess as far as the family plot was the keystone. Those hectic and exhausting five spring days, in which I was both foreman and brush-hauling crew as men with chainsaws roared through the portal to the orchard, made me realize-- like nothing else could-- that it was possible--no, vital-- for me to hire out what wasn't getting done. For someone who has never hired out much of anything, that was a revelation. It was freeing.

But in the next months, I had a lot of trouble getting anyone to come work here. People have their own lives, and they get busy, and they promise to show up again and again and then don't. It was very frustrating. Here I was with a little head of steam, and I wanted to keep going. I had to. I wanted to banish the sadness of having everything going to briar and honeysuckle around me.

All that changed when the Amish showed up to put a new roof on my house.

To Be Continued....

Phoebe is 24!

Saturday, July 11, 2020


She's like one of my birds, my ephemeral clients, come to settle in the nest for a summer. It's been a  seemingly endless stream of days that are very much the same. Confined, becalmed, cast out of our former lives into this odd replay of high school summers, we are frozen in time, bewildered but also knowing we are blessed to be together. We are reduced to our elemental selves, back in our old roles. And yet we know it will end; we will all find ways to move back into our old lives. And so it seems to be happening. 

I hear her talking to her laptop, to the people appearing in little squares on its screen, who've hired her to counsel high school students in the mountains of North Carolina. She's found a job--no small feat-- during the pandemic, all those hours of searching finally culminating in this. She's forming bonds, training for her work, expecting to fly the nest next month. We'll have to get her a wardrobe and a car and all the million things it takes to set up a life eight hours from home. It's as sudden as the months since March have been slow, and a bit overwhelming for her mama. In the long view, she is doing what she must as a young adult. She must start her own life, earn her own way, and she's fiercely determined to do it. She was literally kicked off La Gomera in the Canary Islands by her sponsoring organization, Fulbright, when the pandemic hit in mid March. Phoebe had to leave her elementary school students, her fellow teachers, her home, their dog Arafo, and her love, Oscar, with no assurance of when they'd see each other again. But they talk and laugh in the afternoons, so grateful to be connected by the miracle of video calling. Somehow they will be together again, but it's not going to be easy or soon. He waits patiently for that day in the bright Gomeran sun. 

She has handled it all with grace and grit, longing and love. Oscar has responded with incredible strength and positivity. He's back at work and saving money, studying English on DuoLingo and practicing conversation with Phoebe and us every day. I've been awed and humbled by their ability to adjust to their separation. What's their choice? She wants to be happy and independent, to find her own way. So she puts one foot in front of the other, and dreams of somehow getting Oscar over here to start fresh together.  America as we know it now will have to change a lot for that to happen. But it is changing, every day. We are well past ready for that change, for relief, for love and tolerance to conquer chaos, hatred and fear. I don't think we're alone.

Curtis helps. We all fall on him, inhale his woodsy scent, hug him as if our lives depended on it. He has lots of work to do here. He loves being wallered on all day long. He loves his long walks in the orchard and meadow.

Flowers have helped. It's been ages since she's been home for lilac bloom! Oh, to get to experience spring oh so slowly arriving, what a gift that was. Now we pray for the rain that seemed in May as if it would never stop. Prayers were answered today with a torrent! 

The woods have helped. Going into the woods is one of Phoebe's very favorite things to do. As if they knew we needed them, perhaps 50 showy orchis plants threw a party in a little gully in the farthest reaches of our 80 acres back in April.  We hadn't even known they were there, and suddenly they were everywhere.

They came up, among many other places, right in a circle of stones that Bill made back when the kids were little, and we packed up everything it took to cook hamburgers in the snowy woods on the coldest day of the year. He built a fire right there, and cooked our dinner. Oh, what a moment when we found that ring of rocks and realized what it represented: when we'd last been there together.

We turned over the stones, now gone mossy, and remembered. We've been talking about him every single day, keeping him alive in our minds and hearts. Part of being home, of course, is remembering what it was like when he was with us. Phoebe and Liam don't want to forget anything, and neither do I. We miss him, his expert guidance ("Here's what you need to do...") and the rich Thompson family history he could tell. We are a bit adrift without him. But we're finding our way.

She's been tending two new Moultrie game cameras, seeing what walks our paths when we're asleep or otherwise occupied. She looks for the perfect place to situate them, her trusty cur by her side (or ranging far, as he pleases). I love to see her suit up and go off by herself into the woods. She's a Maxi-Me, at 5'9".

There have been many memorable meals, three a day last I counted. We've all done some cooking.

Spinach/feta salmon burgers with asparagus and watermelon on a pretzel bun-- ole!

And on May 9, she brought home a tiny naked song sparrow nestling, found on the side of an asphalt road on a drizzly 37 degree afternoon. It had been discarded by its parents, we think, who couldn't keep it warm or fed, so they took it from the nest and dumped it on the roadside.

Together we raised it up, fed it hundreds of times, saw it grow strong and wild, and then let it go.

  Dustin deserves her own story. What a bird!

From this

to this!! in 45 days!

Phoebe was happy to move her job search outside to better accomodate our recent fledgling's need for food and companionship. Believe it or not, the new WiFi she researched and obtained for us reaches out to the chaise, in the shade of the Japanese maple! (Curtis gets his own chair, though he prefers the chaise and steals it the second Phoebe leaves to get something).

Yes, along with Liam, she's also in-house tech support and advisor. She helped us break free of HughesNet satellite "service," which was a lotta money for practically nothing. I'd been shackled by it for twenty years.  Now, getting Internet through our LTE signal, (Cyberonic Rural Internet Providers) we can do most of the things that normal folks can. Like watch videos, blog,  Facetime and Zoom. Phoebe swooped in just in the nick of time to save us from the Dark Ages. That first couple of months were really tough, when we were all living under one roof just as everything went online. We were still hamstringed by HughesNet and its paltry 15 gig/month "allotment," which invariably ran out within four days. It would take me hours just to upload the photos for a blogpost like this.  Now, it still takes me hours, but not because of a snail-slow connection. :/ Thanks for the rescue, SuperGirl! You've made our lives ever so much easier, faster and better!

Liam says Yay Phoebe! I can stream things now!

We have had some nice walks down Dean's Fork to visit the beavers and hear the wood thrush concerto at dusk. 

One of the unexpected gifts of the summer was all that rain in the spring. It filled up the puddles on the road that leads to our Personal Oil Well. (It's an Appalachian Ohio thing). Phoebe began monitoring them for frog eggs and tadpoles in late May and by the first week of June she was fully engaged, with American toad, mountain chorus frog, spring peeper, and gray tree frogs all going wild out there. When the rains stopped and the broiling heat started, she began toting jugs of rainwater to two puddles. She wasn't going to let a tadpole die on her watch. She enlisted Liam to carry some, and carried lots herself. A pint's a pound the world around; each jug is 5 gallons, so that's a 40-pound load on those shoulders.

By last week, it was getting so dry we were filling one of the puddles twice a day! I drove the tractor and wagon out with four jugs. All told we've probably toted more than 50 gallons of rainwater out to help the tadpoles. We moved those taddies to a more reliable puddle.

It's work, like everything else, to keep puddles full in a bad Ohio drought, but oh, the rewards are so rich. First to grow up and go were the mountain chorus frogs and spring peepers. I'm not pretending to know which one this is. We're just glad it's alive!


Rana, the Frog Princess, keeps everything documented, just like her mama.


 There were other cool things in that puddle. Here's a predaceous diving beetle, Acilius mediatus, next to a maturing gray treefrog taddy. See its little hinders folded up?  We have found this beetle to be no threat to the tadpoles, though perhaps small ones might be at risk.

 Phoebs has discovered that the gray treefrog taddies get pallid and thin right before they frog out.

As well they should; their mouths are changing from a sucker/scraper/radula thing to one more like ours! Probably hard to eat while your mouth is metamorphosing. Liam wondered aloud if it hurts. Dang good question, Science Chimp Jr.

And then, TaDAAA! you're a treefrog! Green for camo to start. Still with the little buttnub of your tail. Oh man. You are CUTE. 

But for Phoebe they wouldn't be on this earth.

All 250 of them would be a sad handful of dried mud. This was taken just a few days ago, when the smaller puddle finally dried up, despite our efforts. We think the deer and turkeys were drinking it down. We panicked, then quickly moved them to a nearby, deeper puddle that's reliable, and now we're augmenting that one. We have two puddles going; one with 170 tadpoles; the other with maybe 80.

And every day we go out at least twice and see who's popped out of the water. Oh, it's sweet. 


 Sweet, like a girl who's turning 24 today.

Who loves her brother, her dog, and her mama

who wears her grandpa Thompson's naughty hat with style

and is growing up just like the child of our red oak grows, straight and tall, strong, slender and true.

Happy birthday, dear Phoebe. Happy birthday to you! This is a little blog to remember your summer by. It has been the greatest gift to have you and Liam here together for the spring and most of the summer. I will never forget it. You are the best, the boldest, the brightest stars in my sky.

If you are thinking of taking Curtis to North Carolina with you, think again. 

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