Saturday, November 27, 2010

In no particular order...

Due to more technical difficulties, I can't move the pictures for this blog so you get to view them before the script, which I wrote yesterday. And the photos are out of order and before the explanations, but here it is anyway:

Ah well, apparently it takes 9 days off from school, for me to find time to do a little update on our life. I guess I'm no longer blogging, just recording some little moments for our family. Here are a few highlights in photos. We are at the tail-end of a luxuriously long Thanksgiving break filled with play and friends and family.

We flew out to Colorado to see the CU-Georgia game with Rob's family, and hiked in the flatirons on the side. It was a trip in memory of Rob's mom, a Georgia fan who had always said she wanted us all to go to the game if the two universities faced off in Boulder. (Rob and I were married in Boulder and we both attended CU for our undergrad years and Georgia for our masters.) The game happened on Ann's birthday, and it was a treat to squeeze in a Colorado trip in the fall.

Will lost his first tooth and plotted to stay up and "trap the tooth fairy" so that he could see if Rob or I were really the tooth fairy. Thankfully he succumbed to sleep. So the tooth fairy lives! Luckily Will never asked us point-blank if the tooth fairy was fiction, because I don't think I would have lied about it. Perhaps Will realizes that he may profit by letting this little fairytale survive. (And an update, now that I'm finally posting the blog: Will lost tooth number 2 tonight. So the toothfairy's going to be working late again.)

Rob built an elevated fort for the kids, while they did some side hammer-nail-and-wood projects of their own. We call it the tree house, even though there's no tree attached, and it has brought new life to playtime in our little backyard.

Will is loving kindergarten and has started doing writing workshop on his own time at home. He is working on a book, using invented spelling, about a mouse named East, who is named after the direction and who likes to carve pumpkins. Owen, always inspired by his big brother, has also become a writer of letters -- and he's written two pages of his own book about a mouse named East, who as it happens, also likes to carve pumpkins.

And Owen, in his 3-year-old class at Wynnton, was a proud Indian at his Thanksgiving program and feast. He sings a sweet version of a little song called "I am thankful" that'll melt your heart. (At least if you're his mom.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prescribed fire party!

A month since my last post -- I guess that's testament to the fact that I can't handle teaching four mornings a week and blogging simultaneously. I'm loving my new little gig as a pre-k teacher between that and shuttling Will back and forth to kindergarten each day, I feel busier than ever.

Still I can't bid goodbye to August without marking a couple milestones in photos. (Due to some technical difficulties, you'll be viewing photos out of order and before the rest of the text because old "blogger" is being stubborn for me right now and won't let me move pictures or even cut and paste text.)

First, Will sets out for his first day of kindergarten (where he has settled in happily with a great teacher):
And Will's sixth birthday party. When he told Rob and I that he wanted a "prescribed fire party," we couldn't help but laugh to ourselves. But it turned out to be a pretty cool concept, since Rob happened to have done a prescribed burn a couple days prior to the party and had access to a "fire engine" that normally lives in another part of the state. I held my breath and invited Will's entire kindergarten class, but only one of them came (perhaps because I seemed like some kind of nutcase with our prescribed fire party theme). With a few longtime friends, it made for a perfectly sized party.

When Will wrote his list of party plans, the first item on his agenda was "Bring the team." So luckily Rob's co-worker Trevor came to assist.
First we did a little tour of the wildlife of the Chattahoochee Valley in our living room that included a stuffed wild turkey and red-tailed hawk, a deer skull and a gopher tortoise shell -- plus some photos of fire-dependent species from red-cockaded woodpeckers and fox squirrels to indigo snakes and pitcher plants. Then the party-goers got to watch Rob light some pine straw on fire with a drip torch and douse the flames with a flapper and a backpack sprayer. And the kids took turns spraying water from the fire engine hose. Finally, Rob deployed an expired fire shelter and we played "see how many party guests can fit under a fire shelter meant for one."

Now Owen's already plotting a batman birthday for next July, and, well, that just doesn't sound as fun.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My sabbatical from regular blogging

After three solid years of keeping a semi-regular blog of our life with Will and Owen (attempting at least a few posts a week), I’m going to take a partial sabbatical from blogging.

Next week I start working four mornings a week as a pre-k teacher and I’ve decided to direct most of my energies toward teaching for a while. I’ll still post here and there as inspiration strikes, as a way to keep friends and family updated on the quirks and highlights of our lives and as a way to preserve those memories for our immediate family. Will and Owen’s baby books are mostly empty, thanks to my negligence, so we’re counting on our printed version of the blog to stand in as our personal scrapbook of life with young kids.

The blog will stay connected to the Ledger-Enquirer website, but I’ll feel free to stay silent for days or even weeks at a time. A day may come when I’ll settle into teaching and realize that blogging is an addiction, and resume the regular posts. In the meantime, thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ll continue to check in on us now and then.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Penpal storytelling

Today's Ledger-Enquirer includes a story I wrote about an e-mail story-telling project that my friend Grace and I launched with our oldest kids, Will and Ella after Grace and her girls moved north of Atlanta. For young kids, we found, collaborative e-mail storytelling is a great way to keep a friendship alive and to keep children inspired to create stories in their minds and enjoy the adventure of authorship.

Another great way to inspire children as writers is to help them find contests and publishing opportunities. Here are a few resources:

Scholastic sponsors an annual Kids Are Authors competition for children in grades K–8 to encourage students to use their reading, writing, and artistic skills to create their own books. Grand-prize winning books are published by Scholastic.

Stone Soup is a literary magazine that publishes stories, poems and illustrations by children ages 8-13.

PBS Stations hold local PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contests from January to March each year.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pizza chefs

Whenever I make dinner, assuming there's no raw meat handling involved, the kids are welcome to join me in stirring, chopping, mixing, kneading. Often they're off playing instead, but if they wander into the kitchen with an urge to cook, I try to welcome them.

It works especially well when I happen to be working on a "Friday Night Pizza" recipe, which I've been making here and there -- and not necessarily on Friday nights -- ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" a couple years back. It's a perfect recipe for two young cooks since it makes two pizzas. We split the dough in two and let them do their own kneading, and they each get to roll out their own pizza dough and spread sauce on it. (My short-cut for pizza sauce now is one 15-oz can of plain tomato sauce with a teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano mixed in. It's just enough to cover two pizzas.) We added carmelized red onions, red peppers and fresh basil, oregano and of course cheese to our pies, and Rob later sauteed some chili peppers, garlic and extra onions on the side so that he and I could enjoy the kind of pizza that makes you break a sweat.
Here are a couple pictures from our kneading session. The camera was not cooperating; hence the ghostly chefs.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Sometimes I've just got to quote my little guy. Here's a few from this week.

While trying to get Rob to come over and play with him on the other side of the pool.
"Daddy, I want you! I need you! Give you to me!"

For no particular reason:
"Mommy, I like every people in the world."

"Mommy, when I grow up into an adult I will still be Owen."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The beach in sepia

Yesterday, we returned from a full week at St. Augustine beach, where we had a pretty wonderful time with Papa and Aunt Alicia and friends. It's kind of a tradition for us now to turn the camera settings to sepia and capture the kids on the beach for a while. Here are a few shots, plus a sand burial and a deck dance with Papa in full color.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cannon balls and tortoise fights

We are settling into the rhythm of beach life at St. Augustine quite nicely. It goes something like this: food, beach, pool, food, beach, pool -- with the occasional bike ride, excursion to town or sandy jog with the dog thrown in.

Owen has learned to swim the width of the pool.
Will has mastered his cannon ball.And both boys have been doing some surfing in the shallows, although Owen requires some assistance to balance on an incoming wave. Owen laughs and laughs when he's riding a little wave, and he announced today that he wants to marry his surf board. Meanwhile on our boardwalk journey to and from the beach we often get to watch gopher tortoises, who are flourishing in the dunes here. Yesterday, we watched from the board walk as two male tortoises faced off in a little territorial dispute that reminded me of Will and Owen's wrestling matches. We watched them shove each other back and forth until finally the superior tortoise managed to overturn his opponent, who remained yellow-belly-up with his little legs flailing for a few minutes while the victor stood calmly beside him, apparently relishing his dominance.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

3 weeks old

On Friday, Owen and Will got to meet their newest second-cousin -- and their only cousin in Georgia.

"He has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen," Will said.

"When he older, I let him play with me," said Owen.

And I got teary-eyed just looking at the little guy. Oh, do I love a newborn.

I stole this off Rob's cousin Jessica's facebook page (she is of course Braxton's mama) but a bigger photo will be replacing it when we get home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Post-party balloon games

On Wednesday, Rob and the boys invented this game for balloons retired from birthday decorating. The object of the game is to carry as many balloons as you can from one end of the living room to the other in under one minute. It's okay to drop a balloon or two here and there as long as you pick it back up and finish out your awkward journey before the timer goes off.
They boys played this for about 30 minutes and were reluctant to quit for a bath.

Obviously bigger bodies have the advantage, as our stats bear out. Our records for balloons carried from one end of the room to the other were as follows: Owen, 6; Will, 8; me, 10; Rob, 12.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Battling the worries

Will happily survived a half-week of Vacation Bible School this week before we head to Atlanta and then the beach. He had been struggling a bit with nerves and shyness while attending another summer camp and Vacation Bible School. He's got shy genes from my side of the family, although I don't point this out to him since I don't want to reinforce it. But this summer he would inevitably feel a sore throat or tummy ache or general sense of dread coming on as we drove to the sort of anxiety-inducing situations (for Will at least) where a bunch of kids are thrown together to "have fun" for one week of summer. Some very nice teachers and counselors got him through.

But as we drove to our first day of the Wynnton UMC Vacation Bible School on Monday, Will started complaining of a sore throat.

I told him I was sure he was fine, and then I tried to talk with him really frankly about living in the present. I told him as a new high school teacher I used to get a bit nervous at the thought of trying to teach in front of 30 students, but that once I was in the moment, up there in front of the students talking with them, I loved my job and I loved my interactions with the kids. I realized how important it is to not think ahead too much, to just really enjoy the moment I'm in. I haven't perfected presence by any means, but I talked to Will like an adult and he listened with great interest to my experience and asked me questions about my teaching.

Just look out the window at those beautiful clouds and the blue sky, I said, pointing at some nice wispy white ones. Enjoy what you see right now instead of worrying about what's ahead. And when you're at VBS just enjoy the art project you're doing or the song you're singing right then, in that moment and don't worry about what's going to come next.

It was like Will saw the light. He was suddenly sore-throat free and ready to take on the day.

And he had a good one. "You know why I liked Vacation Bible School?" he asked me that evening. "Because I remembered what you said about not thinking ahead and I didn't think ahead. Plus I had my lucky pennies and that made me feel better."

We are talking about our new philosophy, and at least for now Will "can't wait" for kindergarten.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

3, going on 4

Playing weekend catch-up:

Owen celebrated his birthday Sunday, but he enjoyed a weekend full of parties -- on Saturday, with a few friends, an inflatable slide pool, a giraffe cake and an elephant pinyata

note Will's ferocious determination to give the thing a fatal whack.

The boys woke up early Saturday morning, excited for the party and Rob and I, still in bed, listened to Will talking to Owen in the hallway: "You grew last night," Will said. "You're a whole new 3 size. Yep, your pants aren't quite fitting..." And they went to the growth chart to do some measurements.

On Sunday Owen got his first scooter and his first bike as birthday presents. (We are grateful for the new bike path a block up the street.)
and enjoyed his second opportunity to blow out the number 3 candle.

I think he may have been spoiled by too much birthdaying though, because today he asked me, with a bit of whine in his voice, "Mommy, when am I EVER going to have my four-year-old birthday?"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning languages online

Today’s Ledger-Enquirer includes a story I wrote about my experience using Mango, an online language-learning system that the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries began offering for free to library card holders in the fall. Just go to the library Web site, scroll down and click on the Mango icon on the right.

Mango is offered at many libraries across the country, so if you’re not a local reader, check your own library Web site to see if it's available.

For a few weeks I was diligently doing a Spanish lesson or two a night as a way to begin to fulfill a long-held desire to finally learn Spanish without having to commit to taking a class. I’ve fallen off the horse as I got busy preparing for Owen’s birthday, but I plan to return to the interactive lessons, which you can do from home, in my own lackluster, haphazard way whenever I have time.

Once I get some elementary proficiency (perhaps years from now?), I need to find a Spanish-speaking conversation partner. There are plenty of online resources beyond Mango that can help you learn languages from French to Arabic:

My Language Exchange allows you to form e-mail, penpal or voice chat partnerships with people who speak the language you are learning. The site is grounded in the Cormier method of language exchange, in which small mixed groups of native speakers of two languages spend half the time speaking in one language and half the time in the other language. also helps you find a pen-pal for language learning.

And sites like offer online lessons, as well as word-of-the-day e-mail options, and more to members. (Membership is free but I haven’t joined, so I can’t vouch for the usefulness of the site.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Zoo birthday prep

Owen turns 3 on Sunday, but we'll have a little "zoo animal" party for him here tomorrow, so we spent much of today preparing. I decided to go the sort-of-lazy route, this year and just make cupcakes from a box with store-bought icing. Not as healthy, but it was nice and easy. So much so that they boys were able to help bake and decorate the cake. I held my breath as I let them ice the cupcakes alongside me (I did some follow up detail and repair work to make our giraffe recognizable if somewhat funky.)

We also assembled an even funkier elephant pinyata, which we've been making in stages over the past week. The boys named him "Cutie" and took turns photographing him perched on our dining room table.

Then they went off to gather any stuffed zoo animals they could find in their bedroom to place strategically around the house as 3-d decorations. I heartily recommend zoo animal birthdays. You've already got all your party supplies just lying around in the toy chest.

Here's one Web site I consulted for pinyata-making advice: "How to Paper Mache"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kids weekend

We are back from a long and lovely weekend at Lake Rabun with Uncle Graham, whose visit the boys had been anticipating continuously for weeks on end. On Saturday, we followed through with Will's suggestion and celebrated "Kids Day." Rob and I drew cards for the boys, Graham presented them with World Cup jerseys as early birthday presents, and we all played nonstop at the lake. We ate blueberry pancakes for breakfast and for dinner, we took a boat ride to the lakeside pizza joint where Rob worked one summer in college.

I made a point of talking with Will and Owen in the morning about the fact that when you have a day in your honor, it's not an opportunity to act entitled and spoiled but a chance to show your love for each other and your family and to enjoy your place of honor. And since Will and Owen are both kids, they immediately started celebrating each other.

As I made breakfast, Will and Owen sat next to each other on the kitchen floor and Will told Owen, "I'm so glad I have a brother like you. Your my best person in the whole family." They gave each other a hug and then took turns kissing each other on the cheek. Two times each.

But really the whole weekend was kid's weekend, since Uncle Graham was at Will and Owen's permanent disposal to play Uno, Monopoly, and ping pong, to wrestle and play "tickle monster," to swim and read with and tell stories to. If Graham ever tried to relax for a minute, Will was sure to climb on top of him and at least get some cuddle time in.

To top it all off, Papa had gotten an inflatable ski trainer for Will. So now when he says he's been "water skiing," it doesn't just mean he's been intertubing on his belly behind the boat but actually standing up and crusing, sometimes one-handed, like this.

Will skiied a couple times a day and never fell off, although he did take one tumble in the lake with Uncle Graham at the tail end of a joint intertube ride, as did Owen and I.

Owen seemed surprisingly brave during our little meeting with the lake, but he was quick to tell everyone matter-of-factly once we were back on the boat, "I almost died." Then when I attempted to water ski a couple days later and crashed again, he told Rob, "Go back and get her before she dies." Luckily none of these little spills were actually near-death experiences. But Owen quickly discovered that his favorite place during water skiing outings is on the boat, watching his big brother like this:
He also liked to let me pull him between the docks on the water ski so he could imitate his big brother in slow motion while Harvey splashed around behind.

On Sunday, we joined a whole bunch of other boats at the end of the lake for the fire works show. I think that gathering of lighted boats in the dark is more beautiful than the show itself. And Owen, who had never before stayed up to witness a fireworks show, declared it "very bootiful." Will meanwhile, survived his first full show rather than insisting on being taken home. But he trembled a bit in my arms and worried about whether the fireworks might fall on our head. He looked over at awe-struck Owen and said, "Mom, how come Owen's only 2 and he's not even scared of fire works?" In the end, I think it may have been his little brother's bravery that helped Will appreciate the show. On the way back home, Will learned to find scorpio and the big dipper, and he counted 124 stars in the sky. But he said he knew there were really "a hundred million billion thousand" stars. Or something along those lines.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swimming graduates

One reason I like to go to Psalmond Road Pool for swim lessons is that graduation day, the eighth and final day of class, consists of about 5 minutes of a swim lesson and 45 minutes of partying on the water slides. Small kids normally can't go down the slides but for swim lesson graduation they put a small army of lifeguards at the bottom of one slide and let you have fun. Hard not to love swim lessons when you get to do this

The easy-does-it pace of the Red-Cross-certified swim lessons seems to suit our sometimes sensitive children. And by the end of two weeks, Will was accomplishing a crude crawl, attempting side breathing and all. Here, Owen and I marvel at big brother's swimming.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Library picks

We maxed out our library allowance with our visit last week and checked out 20 items. I feel guilty that the librarians have to reshelve our books, but we honestly read them all and then reread our favorites many times over. And I have a hard time saying no when Will or Owen is holding up a perfectly interesting looking library book and saying “Let’s get this one!”
This time around we checked out a few different books on tadpoles and frogs, only to watch our own poor tadpoles die a few days after their capture. We’re not sure what we did wrong, and now we’re feeling bad that we removed them from their creek without giving them the chance to return there as newly matured frogs. But it helped to read that one mama frog can lay up to 5,000 eggs, so we figure ours likely wouldn’t have made it to maturity anyway. (If any of you have words of wisdom about mistakes to avoid when raising tadpoles, please share. We’d like to try it again if we could avoid feeling like tadpole killers twice over.)

Our favorite frog book, by far, is “A Frog Thing,” by Eric Drachman. It tells the story of Frank, the frog, who is determined to fly even though his parents try to tell him that flying is just not “a frog thing.” A couple of birds help him achieve his dream.—sort of – as repayment for his rescue of one of the bird’s drowning fledglings. By the end though, Frank realizes he’s better off aspiring to be a great swimmer. Owen asks for the story every night.

One of Will’s favorites, meanwhile, is “The Bunyans,” by Audrey Wood, which tells of Paul Bunyan and his gigantic family as their various adventures lead them to carve out or otherwise create everything from Mammoth Cave and Niagra Falls to Big Sur, Bryce Canyon, the Great Sand Dunes and the “Martian Face.” We’ve read it several times over, most recently sitting by the computer with a globe so we could google images of the various national (and extraterrestrial) landmarks and also find them on the map.

In the car (and at home too) Will has been listening to some African folktales on Ashely Bryan's "Beautiful Blackbird and other Folktales" audio CD. I think he's listened to all 6 stories -- 80 minutes worth in total -- a few times over, sometimes in the car and sometimes just sitting on the couch. Bryan does a pretty lively telling of each story. Will especially loves the tale "Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together." Bryan's storytelling makes me chuckle too.
Will was also enthralled with a picture book version of “The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe,” based on the original book by C.S. Lewis and illustrated by Tudor Humphries. Now we're reading the chapter book, which Will finds equally captivating. It helps that he's attending a Narnia-inspired vacation bible school at St. Thomas Episcopal Church this week. Tonight we read a chapter of the book while Will checked a map of Narnia that he brought home from VBS to locate where the characters were in the story. I meanwhile, am reliving my childhood love for this story.

What are some of your children’s favorite reads this summer?