Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brotherly bliss

One of the things I like least about returning from our Christmas vacation in Colorado is saying goodbye to my brother. We live on opposite ends of the country, so we only see each other during those times when we manage to meet in the middle – twice a year at most.

I hadn’t expressed this sadness to Will but I think he may be thinking ahead about how he and Owen’s relationship will change as they grow older.

On the drive back from the library yesterday, Will told me he wanted to marry Owen one day. I told him brothers don’t usually get married, and he seemed a bit worried.

“Will Owen and I get to see each other much when we’re grown up?” he asked.

I told him they might see each other a lot if they lived in the same state, but if they lived far away, like Uncle Graham and I, they might just see each other once or twice a year.

“I want to live right next door to Owen,” Will said. “Or maybe we can live in the same house.”

I guess Will and Owen’s relationship is already like a stormy marriage. They play together most of the day, much of the time happily, but they also have their share of domestic disputes. Lately, at least a couple times a day, Owen will come up to me and say “I no like my brother.” And at least a couple times a day, he will say, “Mama, I like my brother. He nice.” In general, though, when Owen’s not giving me an official report, I’d say liking each other wins. And I’m savoring this relative domestic bliss while it lasts.

Here are the brothers, together on a Beaver Creek gondola, and with Uncle Graham, the brother I haven't lived near in years:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ski report

Yesterday we braved some chilly weather for Will's second and last day on the slopes. This time Owen came along and rode the Gondola up and down with Grammy and expressed his intense desire to ski like Will. Maybe next year, I told him.

Will learned to slow down, stop and turn and then he got pretty keen on flying down the bunny hill by the end of the day, a little too quickly for my nerves, but he learned to make himself fall when all else failed.

He even survived a slow-speed crash with an equally young and equally inexperienced little boy that left neither of them in tears. (This was while Grandpa was with him and Rob and I were off enjoying a run on our own. Will was eager to report the incident to me when we met up at the bottom of the hill: "Two kids crashed," he said, "and one of them was me." On the drive home, Will made Uncle Graham and Rob recount in detail every big skiing crash they'd ever endured.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Missed flights and merry Christmases

Our trip to Colorado began with us missing our connecting flight from Denver to Eagle, the last flight of the day, with some of that East Coast weekend weather to blame. That wound up being a hassle with a silver lining, since we called on my cousin and his wife to put us up for the night at the last minute and our boys got to play with their second cousin for a morning and we got to admire and hold their little baby girl, who at 7 months is bright-eyed and sweet as can be. As the boys played, Rob and I sat on hold trying to figure out rescheduled flights and baggage issues. The phrase “We are experiencing high call volumes. Your expected wait time is 55 minutes” is still ringing in my ears. We made multiple calls, and always the wait time was 55 minutes.

We finally made it to Eagle, where we've been having a really nice visit, complete with sledding, deer-watching, and Scrabble playing. And today Will got his skiing legs under him for the first time since last year. We got a late start and he was so determined to keep skiing past the lift closures at 4 that we hiked up for one last mini-run.

So we are enjoying our white Christmas so far. Merry Christmas to you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There's no place like the potty for the holidays

Just in time for the holidays, we are making our first real sustained attempt at potty training Owen. Probably not so convenient with all our travel plans, but at least I’ll be with Owen throughout the day – and we can help my mom relive the memories of cleaning up occasional accidents on her carpet instead of mine.

What launched the whole endeavor was Owen’s recent interest in wearing Elmo underwear. (I had to bravely skip the drab thick training underwear that worked for Will but is apparently not snazzy enough for his fashion-savvy younger brother.)

Having long ago abandoned sticker charts and other bribery as futile in terms of our long-term potty training efforts, I now focus on talking shamelessly about all things fecal. Will and I talk about how much better we feel after going potty and we examine the shapes of Owen’s poops – are they walruses, caterpillars trees, or bouncy balls? (Today we had a mama hippo with two baby hippos; and a rattlesnake. Just try not to visualize.) I talk with Owen about how he is saving diapers and trees and how I don’t have to use any wipes on him now (he’s not a fan of them).

Often we lure Owen to the potty with the promise of reading a book he picks out as he goes and Will, sitting on a stool next to Owen’s potty seat, typically joins us for a reading session. I'm beginning to wonder if it will be my fault when my boys turn into men who read and general take forever in the bathroom.

We've still got lots of work to do though before it's smooth sailing. When Owen’s immersed in play he’s not too interested in taking care of business, so it should add some insanity to our holiday break.

As always, any tips from potty-seasoned moms are welcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Tis the season to bake some cookies

Will and I have spent several afternoons in the kitchen this month baking up holiday treats to unload on our classmates and co-workers. Owen’s “helped” out some too – although we confine him in to a counter place where his germ-infested cookies will only be eaten by him.

I wrote about the adventure of baking with kids for the holidays for a column in today’s Ledger-Enquirer. There I included a recipe for two of our favorites: Mexican Wedding Cakes and Magic Cookie Bars.

Here’s a link to the Triple Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies recipe we tried after browsing a “25 Days of Christmas Cookies” recipe list at If I make them again I will cut the amount of chocolate chips a bit and increase the cranberries -- either way, though, they're a nice indulgent holiday cookie. (We didn't even bother with the melted chocolate drizzle on top of the cookies -- would have been a nice aesthetic touch, but you don't need more sweetness in these!)

Of course, nothing’s more fun than cutting out and icing sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies – but I figure those are fairly standard recipes so I’m not including them here. I also make an easy fudge – nothing more than melted chocolate chips, sweet condensed milk and vanilla extract – to fill out the platter.

Next year, I imagine we’ll attempt something new. So if you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe to share, please do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hundreds of lights, millions of lights...

Last night we went up to enjoy the Fantasy in Lights show at Callaway Gardens for the first time. We've intended to go in years past and somehow never made it happen. But having experienced the joy of watching our wide-eyed kiddos take in the Christmas lights spectacular, we'll be taking them every year from now on. We bundled up, brought blankets and hot chocolate (so hot in my overly efficient thermos that the boys couldn't drink it) and enjoyed the show from one of the trolleys.
The Christmas caroling we did en route reminded me of riding around carolling on a truck bed in the little Colorado town where I grew up. Outdoor caroling adventures are definitely memories that stick. I kind of wish people still got together and went door to door and sang to their neighbors. Does that ever happen anymore?

The boys stayed wide awake on our 45-minute drive home as we recounted favorite light scenes and sang more Christmas carols together.

I will admit, though, that I was feeling just a smidgen guilty about our complicity in encouraging Callaway Gardens to put on a show using 8 million lights and 3,500 extension cords -- but then I read on The Atlanta Traveler that Callaway offsets 100 percent of its energy use by purchasing wind power credits. So that eases my conscience a bit.

Owen stood up -- awed, bedazzled, and exclaiming -- for the entire hour-long lights tour.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa's astounding memory

We went to the North Columbus Library today to see a Christmas puppet show and have a visit with Santa.

As he stood in line, Owen told me he was going to ask for Play-doh for Christmas, then changed his mind and decided he wanted a bear. But once he saw that the library Santa was handing out books, he decided to ask for a book – and was quite delighted when he immediately got his wish.
Will, for his part, timidly asked Santa for a transformer. I’m not sure that Santa actually heard his request and on the way home, Will, probably worrying that his transformer would be forgotten, asked me, “How does Santa remember what all the children want for Christmas?”

I offered a lame response on the order of: “I’m not sure – they say he really knows a lot about all the children of the world so I guess maybe he’s just a mind that can remember everything about children.” We also decided we'd better finish up our letter to Santa (which we started a week ago and abandoned mid-project) just in case he has any memory lapses.

Lately Will has been posing a lot of probing questions about Santa and his flying reindeer antics. It’s not that he’s a skeptic, necessarily; he just seems to be wondering about the mystery of it all.
So far I’ve been offering, “Well I’m not really sure, but the stories all say…” kinds of answers so that I feel like I’m being partially honest and yet keeping the myth alive for as long as Will seems to want to believe in it.

So for those of you with older and wiser kids, I’d like to know, what prompted you to spill the beans? (And for those of you with younger kids, how do you field the tough questions?)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our tasty Christmas tree

This year we decided to forego the commercial Christmas tree lots and farms, and instead drove over to our friend Jeff’s 19th-century family home near Waverly, Alabama, so that he could help us harvest a cedar on some land he’s planning to clear anyway. We petted a couple goats, then headed down the hill for our tree. Jeff remembers cutting down Christmas trees as a boy on the land that’s belonged to his family for six generations.

There was more tree than we needed so the boys chose a couple branches, which will become “trees” for their bedroom or our dining room. Jeff told us the goats would enjoy eating the base of the tree we were leaving behind.

“They like cedar,” he said.

As if to prove his point, by the time Rob got to the top of the hill, three of Jeff’s goats were following behind, grazing on the tree as they chased it. As Rob hoisted the tree atop the car, one of the goats jumped up on our car, hooves on a side window, mouth seeking tasty tree branches -- until Jeff redirected him. Turns out these goats are agile enough to climb to the roofs of cars and trucks when the mood strikes them.

Will, who’d already developed an attachment to our new Christmas tree, decided to stand guard near our car in case one of the goats tried to pull some more funny stuff. The goats had moved on by that point, but it all made for a memorable Christmas tree hunting adventure.

Our tree, pre-harvest.

Jeff told Will to haul his "tree" up the hill like a mule.

Three-tree parade

Feeding frenzy

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You better watch out

I keep forgetting to pull the Christmas CDs off the shelves at home and put them in the car, so ever since the calendar turned to December a few days ago I’ve been singing off-key a cappella Christmas carols to the boys on our drive to preschool. Will and I sing Jingle Bells together, but I have to go mostly solo for Up on the Housetop, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, The Twelve Days of Christmas and Frosty the Snowman (whose lyrics I generally bungle by the end). This is an all-request show, so I wind up doing the livelier tunes – Away in A Manger and Silent Night just aren’t quite rockin’ enough for Will and Owen’s tastes.

Today, when I was intending to break into Up on the Housetop, I instead found myself singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – as in: “you better watch out, you better not cry….”

I swear I wasn’t trying to pull Santa threats on my kids, unless it was subconsciously?

Because it’s true that Owen has chosen this week to try out crying fits in hopes of getting his way. I’ve been gently escorting him to his room and encouraging him to come out just as soon as feels like being happy with the rest of the family. This has been working fairly well; he lies on the floor in tears for a couple minutes and eventually comes out teary-eyed, sucking air in loudly, but not quite crying and fairly ready to discover a little calm within. We’ve had to do it a few times though, and I think Owen’s aware he’s been crying more than usual.

Tonight as I was putting on his pajamas he asked me to sing “Better Watch Out” two times in a row. He seemed to be contemplating the lyrics, and he asked me, “Who better not cry?”

“It’s just a song,” I said, detecting some concern in his voice. “I guess it’s saying Santa likes to see kids use their words instead of just crying when their mad. Do you think it’s saying you better not cry?”

“No,” said Owen decidedly. “Babies better not cry.” He even named a baby we know, as if to insure that he wasn’t including his big boy self in the “you better not cry” group.
We’ll see if that means he’s resolving to reform or if it means he's not going to "not cry" and is already envisioning another crying fit on the menu tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm only singing that song if it's requested. I don't think I want to turn Santa into a coal-delivering Big Brother in our house. I'd rather just encourage my kids to be good for goodness' sake. It feels more honest.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fun at Fernbank

One highlight of our holiday weekend was a rare 10-hour date for Rob and I that included Christmas shopping in Atlanta, dinner and a movie while Rob's dad and sister played with the boys and put them to bed.

Another was a trip to Fernbank Museum of Natural History, where Will and Owen marveled at everything from stuffed wildlife native to Georgia to huge replicas of dinosaur skeletons -- and some interactive exhibits in the "Sensing Nature" exhibit and in the children's discovery areas. Will and Owen agreed that a trip to Fernbank was even more fun than a trip to the zoo, perhaps because they weren't at all intimitated by the motionless animals (they tend to get spooked by gorillas and tigers and the like). Will said his favorite things in the museum were some model dinosaur babies emerging from large dinosaur eggs and a stuffed barred owl. Then Will reconsidered and said, "Actually Papa was my favorite thing."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remembering on Thanksgiving

It was a bittersweet Thanksgiving for us as we feasted with Rob's family in Marietta for the first time since losing Rob's mother and grandfather. On the way to our Thanksgiving dinner, Will and Owen and Rob and I talked about all the things we are thankful for -- including "Nana and Grandpa in heaven."

Will drew a picture of Nana and Grandpa (really his great grandpa) in flowers in heaven at preschool a couple weeks ago. Grandpa, who was seated in his armchair for most of the times Will saw him, is sitting in his armchair within his flower. Beneath them is someone crying. Will said it could be anyone in our family.

Will and Rob and I recently finished a draft of our Nana Memory Book, which we may continue to add to. For now it is 24 pages of photographs, reflections and memories from family and friends that will help Will and Owen know their Nana as they grow older. We plan to look through it on her birthday each year.

Thank you to everyone who sent us photos and memories.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Listen and be grateful

Happy Thanksgiving.

Here is Will’s depiction of an early Thanksgiving celebrant, with loincloth slightly displaced, using fish to fertilize the soil and preparing to harvest some corn.

As long as you're pausing to feel real gratitude for your loved ones today, why not preserve some of their stories, their voices, their personalities, their quirks this weekend. Tomorrow is the “National Day of Listening,” a StoryCorps project that encourages people across the country to set aside an hour to record a conversation with someone important to them. You can go to the web site to participate officially and get guidance in generating questions if you choose.

So while you’re with friends and family, take a moment to break out a recording device and record some stories from older family members or some singing and talking by the children in the family who will one day marvel at their own little voice from long ago. I'm hoping to capture Owen singing Baby Beluga and Will singing the chorus from "Wagon Wheel," as they are both so often inclined to do. Maybe they'll tell me a story too.

Here's a sweet audio treasure, recorded in advance of the National Day of Listening, by NPR's Scott Simon as he talks with his 6-year-old adopted daughter about the story of her adoption and the making of their family. It's a story they tell together often, he says, and it grows richer as his two adopted daughters grow older.

If you’re reading this late, no matter. Shouldn't every day be a day of listening?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Offering choices

About a month ago, I saw a book, “Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility” by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, on display atop a library shelf and grabbed it impulsively. I think of myself as a love and logic parent, but I’ve never actually read a “love and logic” book on the subject.
And it proved useful to me to pick up some specific strategies for working with Will and Owen, and even with my preschool students. There are many scripted scenarios in the book in which the parents’ actual words strike me as rather corny and contrived and there are plenty of scenarios where I wouldn't choose to impose the same "logical consequences" the book suggests, but many of the book's basic principles make good sense.

I’ve always known that it’s wise to offer young kids, who love to have some power, choices. But I hadn’t really recognized how easy it is to almost always offer children at least two choices you can live with even if the choices you present make the best path pretty obvious for them. Lately instead of barking orders or voicing my frustration when problems or conflicts arise with the boys, I’ve been asking them these kinds of questions:

“Do you think you can play together nicely and gently or do you think you should go to separate rooms?” (They almost always opt to stop hitting, pushing or whatever. I also avoid going into a room and asking this question until things get so heated that I’ve been called to the scene. Even then, I often start with the question: “Do you think you can work this one out for yourselves?” )

“Would you like to walk to the potty or the changing table or do you want me to carry you there?”

“Do you want to wash your hands by yourself or do you want me to help you?”

“Would you like to calm down now and speak nicely or go to your room until you’re feeling calmer and ready to be with us?” (If they don’t answer and keep fussing, they’ve made a choice to settle down in their room. But I give them a choice about leaving the door open or closed and tell them they can come out as soon as they’re feeling calm.)

“Should we clean up now or in 10 minutes?” (The choice is always 10 minutes, so I ask this in advance of the real clean-up time) And then…. “Do you want to clean up the blocks or the Legos first?”

None of these are direct from the book; they’re just my attempts to stay even-keeled and calm as a mom and offer my children choices that get them thinking instead of fighting as we get through everything from their stormiest moments to simply completing mundane chores.

Here a couple quotes on the subject from the book:

“Love and Logic parents avoid the helicopter and drill sergeant mentalities by using a consultant style of parenting as early as possible in the child’s life. They ask their children questions and offer choices. Instead of telling their children what to do, they put the burden of decision making on their kids’ shoulders. They establish options within limits. Thus by the time the children become teens, they are used to making good decisions.”

“…When we issue such commands we are calling our kids to battle, and in many cases these are battles we cannot win. Why not bypass these hassles and make our words ones that cannot be fought? Why not steer away from commands? Limits can be set much more effectively when we’re not fighting with our kids. It has been clinically proven that kids who are thinking cannot fight us at the same time.”

Love and Logic parents make statements with enforceable thinking words telling their kids what we will allow, what we will do. what we will provide (I’ll be glad to read you a story as soon as you finish your bath.) Our kids have little chance to fight these statements. They’re too busy thinking about the choices they have been given and the consequences that may result from their choice.”
For further reading, here’s the Love and Logic website.

What strategies do you use for helping your children through the inevitable little conflicts and power struggles that arise as you navigate family life together? Or what resources have you found useful?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Soup for every meal

Here’s a link to a recipe for an incredibly simple but yummy Southwestern Pumpkin soup appropriate for the season, courtesy of I had been planning to try a curried pumpkin soup, but this one seemed to get better reviews online, so I made it for a potluck yesterday. Will and Owen gobbled it up then and Owen has been wanting it for every meal since (I made him hold out until lunch today when he requested pumpkin soup for breakfast). I doubled the recipe and increased the pumpkin (used 3 cans of it for a doubled recipe) to make the soup thicker, after reading some advice to that effect in the comments. I also made the soup a day ahead to give the flavors time to linger. I'm sure this would be delicious with fresh pumpkin, for those of you more motivated than me.

For yourself, don’t skip the fresh cilantro as garnish (For the boys I just do the cheddar as garnish, since they are not yet cilantro fans). Next time I have a bowl I think I'll also throw in some roasted pumpkin seeds (which we've also discovered make a great salad topper).

Here's the recipe with some minor modifications:

3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (I used 1 1/2 cans -- actually 3 cans since I doubled the recipe)
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar (I used 2 Tablespoons. You might even want less, so add slowly and taste.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring chicken stock and whipping cream to boil in heavy medium pot. Whisk in canned pumpkin, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, coriander and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soup thickens slightly and flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Soup can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cool. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally.) Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with cheddar cheese and cilantro and serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving mantlepieces

We’ve started a little tradition I like to call the “holiday mantle” in our house this year, in which we pin or tape up lots of random pieces of kid-created holiday-themed artwork for the next upcoming holiday. We had a Halloween mantle that looked just as “ghetto” (as Rob likes to point out) as this Thanksgiving mantle.

But I am quite content to have things looking hodge-podge and scribbly if it inspires the kids. For this mantle (I didn’t get the whole view but you get the idea) we’ve got a lot of preschool art projects combined with drawings that Will colored and cut out at home for the express purpose of decorating the mantle: a couple loin-clothed Indians, a pumpkin, an ear of corn, a deer with a huge rack of antlers. Owen did some scribblings and cut them into sections for the mantle, so we call that Thanksgiving art too and give it its rightful place among the masterpieces. I’m not sure if we’ll find room for a Christmas mantle between the stockings – but we’ll find some other place to string up art and then return to the mantle for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the woods

Before we had kids, Rob and I enjoyed backpacking together. But now that we have two young boys, one of whom is still wearing diapers, the prospect of a family backpacking trip has always seemed like a logistical nightmare. So this past weekend, we figured we were being brave enough attempting a car camping trip at FDR State Park with the boys and the dog. When we learned, after a phone call from home, that every site in the campground had been reserved for Friday night, we decided we'd try a half-mile backpack instead.

We looked a little ridiculous with Rob and I trying to cart in all the essentials and non-essentials (we each made one extra trip that wound up being a nice excuse to hike alone), but in the end getting the woods completely to ourself was more than worth it. I'm sold on short-distance backpacking from here forward. (At least until the boys are carrying their weight and we can shift to longer-distance backpacking instead). For this trip we carried Owen in a backpack and Will toted only his carefully selected toys and light-weight books.

The boys had a beautiful time -- we all did, even if I didn't sleep so well once Owen got cold at 4 a.m., asked for his crib and wound up sharing a sleeping bag with me instead. That took the "sleeping" right out of the bag for me.

Here are some highlights from our time in the woods, where Will led the way on many explorations:

tree climbing
brook crossingfire building

fire play

between trees

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Puppy training - and an update on Greg Mortenson

Today's Ledger-Enquirer includes a column I wrote about the experience of taking our hyper puppy Harvey to pet training classes, which became a sort of support group for me as we worked through our many issues with Harvey, whose "graduation" I half-jokingly attribute to social promotion. We love our puppy, but he is a handful and a half.

Also, for those of you who had been planning to hear Greg Mortenson speak, he sent out an e-mail to school and news contacts here explaining what happened. He was hospitalizied with an inflammation of the lining of the heart, which physicians say will take 2 to 8 weeks to heal. He hopes to make it to Columbus in early 2010.

Here is his letter:

To the community of Columbus and surrounding areas,

Today, I was supposed to join your community to meet with students, teachers and the public in a series of talks and events. I had been looking forward to this for weeks, and also eager to meet many of the students who had sent me inspiring letters, and also excited to meet with soldiers from Ft. Benning, who I have had the honor to communicate with recently, and have profound admiration and respect for.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, I was hospitalized in our local hospital with viral cardititis (inflammation of the lining of the heart) with perhaps something I had picked up on my recent trip to Afghanistan, which gives me an oxygen saturation around 85% on room air (most people its around 99%). The physicians told me it would take 2-8 weeks to heal and additional tests are being done.

A few people expressed concern over the explanation of the cancellation of my event due to 'unfore-seen' circumstances, so I want to make sure that you are appraised of the exact circumstances. I am sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused, especially with your children in anticipation of the event. I have two children myself, and I know how devastating it is when something they are looking forward to does not happen, so I especially apologize to them.
We will make up the event as soon as possible, and look forward to seeing you in the near future. My new book, Stones Into Schools (Viking 2009), will be released on December 1st, which discusses Afghanistan in more detail, about the dedication of our military, and also the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the release of the new book puts me on a 21 day in a row book tour, so I may not be able to make it to Columbus by the end of the year, but we will do our best to get there by early 2010.

Thank you to all the students, teachers, civic groups, Ft. Benning soldiers and families, Brookstone School, Columbus State University, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries.GMC Columbus, veterans, places of worship, doctors and nurses, health care professionals, AAUW, local businesses, the Ledger Enquirer, newspaper, radio, TV stations and more.
More information about our nonprofit organization is on, dedicated to support girls education in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan, and our children's program

Thanks for your understanding, and may God's blessings of peace be with you.
Greg Mortenson

PS: We had over 24" of snow yesterday in Bozeman, Montana, in the last day, but we had already made arrangements so I would not be stuck in Montana - and I heard you had a similiar dump of rain in Georgia.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Greg Mortenson talk postponed

In case you were planning to attend the Greg Mortenson talk that I plugged in a post (and in the newspaper) a week and a half ago, hold on to your ticket but make other plans for tonight. I was about to head out to Brookstone School to cover his visit there for the paper, when I got the word that due to "unforeseen circumstances" Mortenson had to postpone his trip to Columbus. Please help spread the word. Four thousand people had picked up free tickets to see Mortenson at CSU's Lumpkin Center tonight, and I'm hoping we can keep as many of them as possible from making a wasted drive.

Here's the Columbus Public Library's notification:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, tonight’s appearance by Greg Mortenson has been postponed.We are working with Mr. Mortenson to re-schedule his appearance. If anyone has tickets, they should hold onto them. More information will be posted on the Library website as future details are confirmed.Mr. Mortenson extends his sincerest apologies and he looks forward to coming to Columbus in the near future.Thank you for your help in getting this information out to our volunteers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A forest for dinner

The other day, as I was flipping through Mollie Katzen's "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" cookbook in search of some other recipe, I noticed the recipe for the enchanted forest itself, which I've never actually made. It sounded like a fun project for Will since it involves planting a little edible forest in a bed of brown rice casserole. And Will jumped at the chance to participate.

Until recently, I have armed Will with nothing but safe, and totally ineffective, table knives for any cooking projects and we would chop vegetables side by side, with him sort of playing beside me and accomplishing nothing. But since I've recently begun allowing Will to chop vegetables, under my very close supervision, with a regular steak knife, it's added a new zest to Will's love of cooking.
For this recipe, Will stirred our sauteeing onions and garlic, broke all the broccoli into trees as he saw fit, cracked one of the eggs into a bowl for beating (we had to fish out quite a few little pieces of shell, but oh well) and planted the entire forest himself in the enchanted rice bed. As we were about to put the forest in the oven, he said he didn't want to eat it. "It's too beautiful," he said. In the end, though we all had a hearty serving of enchanted forest -- and we all cleaned our plates. Owen and Will had seconds.

Here's the recipe:

The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest

(From Mollie Katzen’s Cookbook of that name)

serves 6

1 1-lb. bunch of broccoli

2 cups brown rice

3 cups water

1 Tbsp butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ tsp salt

½ tsp dill weed

Lots of black pepper
¼ tsp dried mint

cayenne pepper, to taste

3 eggs

¼ cup freshly minced parsley

1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

1½ cups cheddar or swiss cheese

Lemon butter: Juice from one lemon mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter

Place rice and water in saucepan. Bring to the boil, lower heat and cover. Cook til just done – about 20-30 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Cut bottom several inches off broccoli stalk and cut into spears (these will be the trees). Steam broccoli until bright green and just tender.

Meanwhile sauté onion, garlic, salt, dill weekd, pepper, mint and cayenne pepper in 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat, stirring til onions are soft and translucent (8-10 minutes). Add to rice. Beat together eggs, cheese and parsely and add to rice mixture.

Spread rice mixture into a greased 10 x 6 inch pan and smooth out. Plant broccoli trees upright in rice mixture and drizzle trees with lemon butter.
Cover with foil gently but firmly and bake 30 minutes at 325.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More sleep, less praise -- and air those arguments

Check out this interview with Po Bronson, co-author of “Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children” from NPR’s “Fresh Air.” In the interview Bronson covers three interesting topics, all of which have applications for our house:

The first is his argument that if you begin an argument in front of your kids, the best thing to do is to work toward a resolution while still in their presence. When Rob and I start to bicker about trivial things with the kids looking on, I tend to want to stop in my tracks and say, “Look, we’ll just talk about it later.” Spare the kids the agony of witnessing tension between their parents. Now I like this new challenge: Bicker and get to a peaceful resolution all in front of the children. I think we just might be able to do it (perhaps more quickly than we could without the kids as neutral third-party observers) – and I can definitely see how the kids could learn from our ability to have an authentic disagreement and work toward a peaceful resolution without hitting, pushing or biting. Of course, Bronson doesn’ t suggest that we intentionally do all our arguing in front of our kids – just that we finish what we start if an argument does arise in their presence.

Bronson also talks about the shortcomings of many “progressive dads.” He says “these are the modern fathers who are co-parenting, who can change a diaper one-handed and pop up the port-a-crib in 30 seconds and know how to, you know, feed the baby and put the baby to bed and are very actively involved in their children's lives.” Bronson, who self-identifies as a progressive dad, says progressive dads often experiment with discipline strategies and feel unsure about how to best go about disciplining their kids. I may not be a dad, but I’m guilty of falling into that murky progressive parenting trap where I felt unsure about how to best react to my boys' misbehavior. I’m just now getting comfortable with my approach to discipline as a mom, and for me it hasn’t been about finding a formula and applying it lock-step, it’s been about discovering that place in myself that can shove frustration and emotion aside; remain patient, firm, and consistent; refrain from engaging in futile arguments; and apply fairly logical consequences for my kids’ offensive behaviors. I believe in talking through the whys of discipline – we do this because, this hurts other people’s feelings because, we can’t return to this activity until… But I’ve finally, after four years of not getting it, learned that you cannot “discuss” things with a crying-mad kid. Give it ten minutes, though, and that same kid is ready to offer his own solution.

In the last third of the interview, Bronson discusses research that suggests that even 15 minutes of sleep deprivation can lead to dramatic differences in school performance – more reasons to push that bedtime earlier.

And perhaps most fascinating of all to me, was the excerpt from the first chapter of “Nurture Shock,” which isn’t really touched on in the interview, but which is presented in full on the Fresh Air website. In it, Bronson reviews a bunch of research about the dangers of over-praising kids – especially offering them the kind of empty “You’re so smart” praise that makes them anxious to appear smart without offering them any real tools for increasing their brainpower. When we feel compelled to praise, we should focus on praising effort and specific behaviors, Bronson says. He recounts how more and more studies are showing that kids who’ve been told their smart over and over (or even just once) tend to avoid challenge, underperform on tests etc, etc… There’s too much intricate research to summarize here, but this chapter is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Playdate for a dog

I never fully comprehended when I agreed to bring a puppy into our home this summer, how much it would be like having a third kid. Another body to be potty-trained, disciplined, played with, fed, walked to the park and cleaned up after.

And now I’m arranging play-dates for Harvey, to assuage my guilt about the fact that he spends so much boring solo time in our little backyard since he can't come remotely close to behaving himself indoors. When Will went to his friend Creight’s house for a playdate today, I got greedy and asked if Harvey, Owen and I could come join the fun for the last half hour. Harvey met his barking beagle friends through the fence, submitted to some sniffing and then they chased each other around the yard like mad while I looked on wishing I could arrange a Harvey playdate every day – without necessarily having to strap him into the car to make it happen.

Here’s Harvey riding shotgun to his playdate.

Action shot – chase around the jungle gym.

Kid and dog play merges – and Harvey takes a breather.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Building schools, building peace

A couple weeks ago I spent more than an hour talking on the phone with Greg Mortenson, 2009 Nobel Peace prize nominee and co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute, which builds schools, primarily for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson is co-author of the bestselling book “Three Cups of Tea,” which chronicles his journey from mountaineer, trying and just failing to summit K2 in Pakistan, to humanitarian, working to build schools and peace. The Central Asia Institute has to date built 131 secular schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan where physical isolation and religious extremism left populations illiterate and uneducated before. I wrote a feature in today’s Ledger-Enquirer about Mortenson and his school and peace-building mission, including his recent efforts as an outside advisor to military leaders. He will come to Columbus to share his story on Nov. 12.

One quote got cut from that story for lack of space. But I wanted to include it here -- in part because I know was curious about Mortenson's take on the McChrystal report. It came at the end of the piece when Mortenson was talking about how impressed he's been with the military's efforts over the past couple years to understand and work with the people of Afghanistan as they carry out their mission:

“General (Stanley) McChrystal and General (David) McKiernan before him, have met with dozens -- probably hundreds now – of tribal elders from pretty remote communities. The military’s actually sitting down and listening to them… The McChrystal report that was sent to Obama and Congress contains a lot of the learning that they’ve done from listening to the elders.”

As I listen each day to the news from Afghanistan and Pakistan, I think about Mortenson’s work. He believes that by educating children, and especially girls, the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan can begin to build a peaceful nation from the ground up. With the Taliban targeting illiterate, uneducated children in their recruiting efforts -- and with mothers acting as gatekeepers to terrorism (it is customary for boys to seek their mother’s permission before going on violent jihad, and educated mothers are far less likely to give their approval), educating the future mothers of both countries seems essential to building lasting peace.

Having read his story and spoken with Mortenson at length, this is one of those moments where I’ll take what I’ve learned as a journalist and apply it to my life as a mom and teacher too. Mortenson is also founder of a Pennies for Peace program, designed to help kids in the developed world learn about Pakistan and Afghanistan and support the education of children there. Cindy Sparks, the servant leadership director at Brookstone School who helped bring Mortenson to Columbus, sent me a copy of “Listen to The Wind” – the story of Three Cups of Tea retold through beautiful collage illustrations for children, with photographs to bring it all to life at the end. Will is fascinated by the book and we are going to begin collecting Pennies for Peace in our home and perhaps at our preschool. Check out the Pennies for Peace program if you are a mom or teacher, and consider buying a copy of “Listen to the Wind” or the young reader’s edition of “Three Cups of Tea” for your kids.
Mortenson points out that a penny, which buys nothing in the U.S. these days, will buy a pencil in Afghanistan – and that young Americans, by collecting even the smallest of sums, will begin to develop a mind for thinking globally and a heart for serving others. The Pennies for Peace Web site also offers in-depth, grade-appropriate curriculum so that children of all ages can learn more about Afghanistan and Pakistan and about their own place in the world. The Web site features videos you can download that help kids see what life is like for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with subjects ranging from food, religion, and geography, to home life, school and play.

If you live nearby and want to hear Greg Mortenson speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the CSU Lumpkin Center, be sure to pick up a free ticket at one of the one of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries branches soon. Organizers have already given away more than 2,000 of 4,000 available tickets -- and they may run out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tricks for those treats

The other day I stumbled upon this mamapedia site with suggestions for how to handle the haul of candy that your children bring in on Halloween night. I half considered letting them pick out several pieces to keep and eat through the week, and then letting them trade the rest in for a little book or toy of their choosing. (Some moms had instituted a tradition of letting their kids leave the candy for “the Great Pumpkin” in exchange for a toy or money.)

But yesterday, the day after Halloween, with their Jac-o-lanterns’ perched up on a cabinet, they never thought to ask for their candy, so we just had a candy-free day. When they do ask, I’ll probably suggest that we count and organize the treats, pick out seven favorites and save the rest for our road trip treat stash or for decorating a holiday gingerbread house.

Am I Halloween grinch? Do you let your kids indulge in heaps of candy – or do you have tricks for happily limiting sweet consumption too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The kid gets the knife

Pumpkin design -- with poor crated puppy as onlooker (he couldn't stop barking outside).

Carving solo. (I decided, after cutting the upper lid off the pumpkin myself, to let 5-year-old Will do everything else himself -- gutting, face design, and yes, carving, but with one of those relatively harmless pumpkin kit carvers.) We wound up with a giant-eyed, teeny-mouthed pumpkin, but Will loved being in charge and I was quite satisfied with my role as pumpkin seed roaster.
When mom won't let you carve the pumpkin, at least you can play in the guts.
After-dinner guitar lineup.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Digging through the dress-up drawer

Will has donned his Spiderman costume so many times over the past year that for a moment, as he was pronouncing that he was going to be Spiderman for Halloween this year, I was almost certain that he’d gone as Spidey last year too. But no, he was a knight -- a costume that required only a tiny bit of effort to compile with some dollar store acquisitions.
Each year, I get less motivated on the homemade costume front, so when Will opted for a costume already in his dress-up drawer, I admit I was happy to consent.

Then we dug up a homemade tiger costume worn by Will a couple years ago and Owen was excited to go as Tiger. So, no work for me this year.

We got dressed up early for a Halloween playdate yesterday, and Spiderman developed an instant affinity for Tiger’s tail.

Here are the Spider-Tiger duo in action with Spiderman flexing muscles and casting his webs and Tiger practicing his deafening roar.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here come the terrible twos

Today in preschool Owen earned his first two “time-outs” of the year after refusing to come to his teachers for a diaper change. (He preferred to play and was loud and liberal with his use of the word “NO!”.)

I realized I haven’t been coaching Owen well for this moment since I generally tend to respond to Owen’s “no’s” in these sorts of situations with a matter-of-fact “Yep, it’s time to change your diaper” as I sweep him off his feet and offer him a book to look at while we both endure the chore. I don’t make him walk to me on his own.

So tonight at dinner we talked about why it’s important to listen to your teachers, who ALWAYS get to set the rules (more than moms, in my book), and who have to deal with 12 kids in one room who all need diapering in Owen’s case. Owen practiced saying “Okay, Miss Caroline, you can change my diaper” in a cheery voice and he sounded quite polite.

Will and I talked during Owen’s nap about how we can both model being polite and not shouting “No” around Owen at home. And at dinnertime Will started gloating about the fact that he hadn’t ever been put in timeout in preschool (I remember one less than glorious moment when he got that punishment for a far more heinous crime than Owen committed when he was also a strong-willed boy in a 2-year-old class, but I decided not to bring it up). Then looking into Harvey’s crate, which sits beneath our kitchen table, Will said, “I’m always good. I’m a lot better than Harvey.”

And it’s true. With his jumping and mouthing and generally destructive puppy habits, Harvey earns time-outs in his crate or outside about 15 times a day. They're survival time-outs for me; Harvey rarely learns from them.

Hopefully Owen will fare better.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Remembering Nana

We are up in Toccoa this weekend to attend the wedding of one of Rob’s oldest childhood friends. Today after the boys took a journey with Papa to goats on the roof for some goat-and-chicken-on-roof viewing and ice cream consuming, we visited Rob’s mother’s grave.
Today while Rob and his dad walked down to the cemetery office to discuss questions about the grave marker we are ordering for Nana (it has taken a while for us to feel ready to deal with these sorts of important details), I stayed near the grave site with the boys.
Will and Owen collected fall leaves from a nearby tree, searching for reds, oranges and yellows that they thought were especially beautiful and placing them carefully in the floral arrangement at Nana gravesite.
“Would you like to say anything to Nana?” I asked them.
“I two,” Owen said, holding up two fingers.
“I love you, Nana,” Will said and blew her a kiss.
“I love you, Nana,” Owen said.
Then Will ran off to collect more leaves and asked me to start reading the names on other grave markers nearby. We calculated the ages of each person when he or she had died and Will left a few individual fall leaves for people he’d never known.
Not long after we’d looked at the grave marker of a woman who had died at age 98, Will told me, “I want to live until I’m one hundred and two.”
Later he asked me if I still remembered Nana. I told him I remembered her well.
“Do you remember Nana?” I asked him.
And without a pause he answered, “I remember Nana. I’m going to remember her until I’m one hundred and two.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seatbelt for the dog

One of the conditions upon which I agreed to bring a puppy into our house is that we would not have to get a great big car just to accomodate our new dog. So when Harvey outgrew his small crate that barely fit in our passenger seat, we decided not to go out and buy a stationwagon and just graduated him to a doggy seatbelt instead. He is unusually well-behaved in this thing, for the 15 minute test drive we took in it en route back from PetSmart. In fact it's the best method yet for letting Owen actually hang out with the puppy we got for his birthday without getting knocked over in the process.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fashion schmashion

On Wednesday, one day after I realized that Owen had completely outgrown his old tennis shoes, I took Owen on a rare non-grocery store shopping trip and we bought these slightly brighter, slightly bigger shoes on the right to replace their worn-out twins on the left. It wasn’t that I planned to buy poor Owen, who only owns one pair of tennis shoes at a time, the exact same pair of shoes. But he was really excited to see his own shoes on the shelf and they happened to fit him best.

In general though, I’m glad to have a couple boys who at least for now, are willing to put up with the wardrobes I create for them with my occasional consignment store shopping – with the rare shoe store trip thrown in since I figure it’s best for their feet not to wear used shoes. I never find time to shop, and I don’t have to worry about lots of sparkly pink and purple flip-flops and polka-dotted hair bows with matching socks that all you moms of girls seem to keep a handle on so well. My boys generally have one pair of tennis shoes, one pair of sandals, and one pair of dress shoes at a time, and they never think to complain. And they have drawers full of second-hand pants and shirts, which I let them coordinate to their liking. This is why Owen can often be seen in his fading Cat-in-the-Hat shirt with shorts that may or may not match well. Occasionally I try to coach against a truly horrendous outfit combo, but most of the time my 2-year-old gets to dress himself.

And I like it that way. One less power struggle for all of us to endure. And you can’t quite say his mother dresses him funny. Or maybe you can.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Playing with girls

As it happens, most of my friends with children Will's age have sons. And most of the time when Will buddies up with someone at school, it's a boy. So for quite a while now, we've been having almost exclusively male playdates -- the kind where just one kid gets dropped off by his mom so I can get some chores done undisturbed while Will and his buddy run around in their spiderman costumes or some similar garb pretend fighting and saving the world. Sure they also pretend that they're dogs, go on fantasy camping trips, or build stuff with legos, or construct forts with sheets -- but we rarely break out the tea set and we don't even own a doll house.

We need some more girl influence in our house. So this week we invited one of Will's female classmates, Lucy, over for a playdate after we'd run into her family at the park and realized how much Will and Lucy enjoyed playing together. When Lucy first arrived at our house, Will seemed a tad jittery. He went straight for his ball basket and started tossing the football back and forth to himself as he made proclamations about his love for football.

"I don't like football," Lucy said, with a scrunched up nose.

"Hmm. I guess we don't have much girl stuff," Will said, looking at me and shrugging his shoulders, unsure of his next move.

That's when I jumped in with an offering of Play-Doh, butter knives and rolling pins to get things started. And from there on out, Will more readily accepted suggestions from me for play activites than he ever does. He and Lucy did easel painting, put on puppet shows and built forts with sheets. But Will also convinced her to play football for just a little bit, since Lucy admitted that she did like to be an Auburn cheerleader.

Long after she'd left, Will told Rob he'd like to get some Barbies for Christmas.

Here are a few quotes from our multi-gender playdate:

"The cheerleaders set the balls down, right?"

"I am NOT playing football."

"But it's 6:00. It's time to start the game. She can be a fan!"

"A girl is not a boy."

"And a boy is not a girl. And a boot is a boot."

Monday, October 12, 2009

From lollipops to jail time

A friend sent me a link to this Time article one day after I discovered that an easy way to get Owen to sleep in the car on a road trip (without having to listen to him fuss for 15 minutes first) is to hand him a lollipop around naptime and let him fall asleep with the thing dangling out of his mouth. Remove lollipop and sigh at the miracles of pacifying with candy.

I try to limit our consumption of candy to special occasions and to road trips that exceed an hour or so, when I definitely employ the occasional sweet as pacifier. (Usually it’s just to ward off excessive whining.) Doing it regularly though, is bad news, of course, and now there’s some research that says handing your kids candy on a daily basis is more likely to land them in jail.
The article cites Simon Moore, a senior lecturer in Violence and Society Research at Cardiff University in the U.K., who analyzed a long-term survey of 17,000 people born during a one-week period in April 1970.

Here’s an excerpt:

“That study included periodic evaluations of many different aspects of the growing children's lives, such as what they ate, certain health measures and socioeconomic status. Moore plumbed the data for information on kids' diet and their later behavior: at age 10, the children were asked how much candy they consumed, and at age 34, they were questioned about whether they had been convicted of a crime. Moore's analysis suggests a correlation: 69% of people who had been convicted of a violent act by age 34 reported eating candy almost every day as youngsters; 42% of people who had not been arrested for violent behavior reported the same. ‘Initially we thought this [effect] was probably due to something else,’ says Moore. ‘So we tried to control for parental permissiveness, economic status, whether the kids were urban or rural. But the result remained. We couldn't get rid of it. In other words, regardless of other environmental and lifestyle factors, like family-income level, parenting style or children's level of education, the data suggested it was only the frequency of confectionery consumption in childhood that strongly predicted adult violence. ‘ "

It’s not necessarily the sugar itself that’s eating away at the morality in kids’ minds, though. Moore hypothesizes that while nutritional intake may play some role, kids who get candy on a daily basis may not be learning to delay gratification, which may lead to poor impulse control in adulthood.

So there's a little piece of research to spook you just in time for Halloween.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Help them play

If you like to think about how young kids learn, this New York Times Magazine article (“Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?") is a pretty fascinating read. It examines the research, philosophy, and real-world classroom application of a Colorado-based pre-K and kindergarten teaching program called “Tools of the Mind.” I’d heard a little bit about in an NPR story last February, but this much more in-depth article has done more to impact my thinking as a parent and teacher.

Tools of the Mind advocates point to the fact that one of the most important determinants in a child’s future success in school is something called their “executive function.” As reporter Paul Tough explains, executive function "refers to the ability to think straight: to order your thoughts, to process information in a coherent way, to hold relevant details in your short-term memory, to avoid distractions and mental traps and focus on the task in front of you. And recently, cognitive psychologists have come to believe that executive function, and specifically the skill of self-regulation, might hold the answers to some of the most vexing questions in education today.”

The article points to how leading students toward fairly complex, extended sessions of dramatic play is one of the best ways to improve executive function and self-regulation. Research indicates that other more artificially, teacher-imposed attempts to directly teach or reward self-regulation and self-control prove mostly futile, but children given rich opportunities to engage in dramatic play perform much better on assesments of executive function.

But the thing that’s impacted me most through reading the story, and having just witnessed my mom playing everything from grocery store to boat-safari with Will and Owen last week, is the notion that we as adults can lead our children to play at richer, more complex levels. As teachers and parents, we can push kids to play in more dramatic, rich and sustained ways by modeling play, establishing scenarios when a child seems at a loss for what to do and asking children’s questions about their play that push them to think further about it. (In Tools of the Mind programs, students are asked to write down their plan for play at the outset of the day, bizarre as that might sound.) As a preschool teacher, I am reminded to attend to children’s play and help them plan and extend it a bit more. (I think I may start a play notebook where I begin recording our three-year-olds notions of what kinds of dramatic play they hope to engage in, partly so that I can track how that develops over time and help them think about how to play together in more sustained, collaborative ways.) As a parent, I’m engaging in a bit more story-telling while driving and at-home scenario-suggesting when one or both of the boys seems at a loss for what to do, while still resisting falling back into my long-ago role as perpetual playmate. Once the boys are engaged in play, I let them have at it while I enjoy my role as eavesdropper from the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dinner on the Farm

I’ve been enjoying dinner-making so much more now that we’re subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture group). I let the week’s produce dictate most of my meal-planning and we’ve wound up eating and enjoying more veggies than ever. I also frequently try out recipes recommended by our farmers, Jenny and Chris Jackson. Now I’m looking forward to going to their farm this coming Saturday for a fine dinner from the fields – prepared by folks with far more talent in the art of food preparation than me. Local hog farmers, Mike and Evie, will barbecue two heritage breed pigs while Pine Mountain caterer (and my good friend) Shannon Klein will ignore the fact that she gave birth to her daughter Lila less than a month ago and prepare a feast for lots of local food lovers to enjoy as they sit outdoors at long tables on the farm where the food was produced. There will be a large selection of pies for dessert -- and local artisans will be on hand selling their work too.

We’ll bring the kids and let them run around and gawk at the chickens and crops before sitting down for a fine meal too.

Here’s a few photos from the farm dinner we attended last fall. If you live nearby and don’t have plans for Saturday evening, consider coming out.

Time: 4-8 p.m. Saturday Oct. 10
Location: Jenny-Jack Farm Pine Mountain, 707 White Cemetery Road,

Pine Mountain, GA 31822Price: $45 per person; children 12 and under are free; children over 12 are $20.

For reservations e-mail by Friday.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beach scenes

We spent a long weekend with my parents at Harbor Island, where there's no surf except at high tide and lots of tide pools to play in and shorebirds to watch. But we were drawn there because it's within wading distance (at low tide at least) of Hunting Island, S.C. -- still one of our favorite places to go because it's a state park where forests, dolphins, shorebirds and osprey still prevail over condos and beach-cruising cars.
Here are a few of our favorite things to do at both beaches:
hermit crab catch-and-releasing
wave braving
surfing without the surf
body surfing with grammy
treasure burying

bird and dolphin watching from the pier
And two parting scenes:

gulls in a row

loving chokehold