Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marshmallow bunnies

Normally we don't snack on marshmallows at our house (unless we're roasting them over a campfire) but I thought I'd break out a couple yesterday and let the kids make edible easter bunny sculptures. I cut the a marshmallow in half for head and body, then dissected another one for limbs and ears and let the kids mold the pieces, stick them together, and dip a toothpick in food coloring to pain on facial features. I got the basic idea here, then simplified.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Go dark for Earth Hour tonight

We plan to celebrate Earth Hour today by turning off all but the boys' essential nightlight and living by candlelight for an hour. In fact we might start early this evening so the boys' can experience a little Earth Hour darkness before bedtime. We'll talk about saving energy and other resources by turning off lights and faucets and conserving and reusing paper throughout the year.

Earth Hour is a global movement, symbolizing the impact people can have by making simple changes to help conserve resources. Earth Hour takes place from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time, wherever you happen to be on the globe. Go here for Earth Hour children's activities and information.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monster dad

Given the choice of playing in the bathtub or playing monster with daddy and taking a lightning-fast shower instead, our boys opt to play monster. Rob dons a blue play tunnel as monster garb and either hides until the boys work up the nerve to find him -- or he walks around the house making monster noises and sticking his arms out of the tunnel in search of little boys to eat.
It's one of those games that produces lots of joyous shrieking and running and laughter -- in addition to the grunts and gobbling noises of the blue monster. I love to listen to it all while I do my post-dinner kitchen cleaning.

Monster catches food.

Monster eats food.

Monster emerges from his blue skin for some grand-finale wrestling.

What raucous games do your kids play with you or your significant other?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Greg Mortenson meets Columbus

Yesterday, I got to spend the afternoon at Brookstone School, where Greg Mortenson, bestselling co-author “Three Cups of Tea” and author of “Stones into Schools” was visiting for the day. Today’s Ledger-Enquirer includes a story about his Brookstone visit.

I also attended Mortenson’s evening talk at the CSU Lumpkin Center, but the highlight of the day for me was getting to see Mortenson inspire and engage the students at Brookstone and getting to meet him in person. He is a warm, humble person whose commitment to serving others and promoting peace is infectious.

As Brookstone senior McKay Sheftall said after Mortenson’s talk, “Dr. Greg” reminds us to “keep others before self.”

“He provides an example of someone who made things happen himself in such a huge way,” Sheftall said. “It emphasizes to me what a huge difference one person can make…To have him here to share his passion and goals has been inspiring and I hope will rub off on us.”

Saad Ahmed, a Brookstone senior of Pakistani descent, said he was glad Mortenson spoke to the upper school students about "the true meaning of what Islam is, because the media depicts Islam as very radical, and we do promote peace, just as every religion does."

The Pennies for Peace program is a powerful, concrete way to introduce students to the idea of service learning and empathy for others on a global scale. Students at Brookstone had created beautiful paper collages depicting scenes from Pennies for Peace as well as a large mural and many Pakistani dolls. They had learned Mortenson’s story by reading “Three Cups of Tea” or his children’s book “Listen to the Wind.” They had learned about the culture, politics and geography of Pakistan and Afghanistan in various classes. They collected enough coins – totaling more than $2,000 – to fund a teacher salary at a CAI school for one year. And the third grade choir performed a rendition of the song “Three Cups of Tea,” which was first performed by Mortenson’s daughter, Amira.

Across town, Columbus High students, who had been assigned “Three Cups of Tea” for summer reading, organized a “Pennies for Peace” drive of their own and collected almost $8,000 from students as well as contributions from the outside community.

Mortenson is a champion of children, and he empowers them. He talks about how his own children’s suggestions have influenced his work: Amira helped him realize the importance of including playgrounds at the schools the Central Asia Institute builds and she is featured in some of the Pennies for Peace web videos; and his 9-year-old son, Khyber, designed part of his power point slide show and has a passion for ridding the world of landmines that he has passed on to his father. Mortenson talks with conviction about the promise he sees in young people and their desire to effect change in the world. He reminds us to listen to them, and to listen more in general.

Mortenson also preaches the importance of listening to our "elders" and taking the time to learn their stories while we have the chance. On Monday I witnessed a nice exchange between Mortenson and an influential Columbus elder (as Mortenson would call him): William "Bill" Turner, past chairman and CEO of the W.C. Bradley Company. Mortenson had been presented with Turner's book, "The Learning of Love: A Journey Toward Servant Leadership" and the two talked together about the roots of Turner's passion for servant leadership. Turner was very influential in the founding of The Brookstone Servant Leadership program in 2006. As a mother, it was a reminder to me that wherever my children go to school, I would like to be a part of helping to coordinate a servant leadership program. At Brookstone, all students take part in the servant leadership program in some capacity.

Go to the Central Asia Institute for more information or to donate. Go to the Pennies for Peace Web site if you’re interested in helping your children learn about the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan and how they can help them, or to learn about how to launch a Pennies for Peace drive at your child’s school.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Things to do in the next few days:

1. Check out the Thunder in the Valley Air Show this weekend. You can buy tickets, face the crowds and see the planes up close, or do some low-key longer distance viewing as you lounge on the grass around the parking lots at CSU’s Cunningham Center. I’m not sure which option we’ll go with this year.

2. Go see Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea” speak about his work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The talk is 7 p.m. Monday night at the CSU Lumpkin Center. If you held onto tickets from his originally scheduled talk in November, arrive between 6 and 6:30 to make sure you get a seat. If you don’t have tickets, you should still be able to get a seat – the Lumpkin Center holds 4,500 people and they’ll start admitting everyone, with or without tickets, at 6:30. The Columbus Public Library Web site has info.

3. Check out this live video of a barn owl nest box. Mama barn owl is sitting on 5 or 6 eggs and they’re due to hatch any day now. We’re checking in on her daily. Thanks to my friend Grace for the tip.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bedtime staller

At 2 and a half, Owen is still taking an afternoon nap. And that means when bedtime rolls around at 8 p.m. he, unlike Will, is not quite totally exhausted. And so Owen has begun to turn into a master staller.

Owen is still sleeping in a crib (on this point Rob and I are the stallers; we are still haunted by memories of Will popping out of bed every 5 seconds as a 2-year-old). In any case, Owen is dependent on us when it comes to sleep procrastination.

For a while he would claim he needed to go potty about 3 minutes after we’d suited him back up in his pajamas after a failed attempt to go. (Until we made the rule “you can only go potty once before you go to sleep” I think he was actually deliberately holding it in on the first attempt in order to get to make a second.)

Once we cut out all but one round of potty shenanigans, he continued to think of lots of pressing questions to ask us before he felt ready for us to leave him in his crib.

“I have to tell you one more thing …” he would say about 15 times in a row as I tried to make a gentle exit.

And his favorite “thing” would be a question, since this typically elicits a more varied response – as opposed to an, “Okay, good night Owen” -- and lays the groundwork for further questions.

Here’s a sampling of the many “one more things” Owen has urgently needed to ask or tell us before we said our final goodnight:

“How does Pooh Bear take a shower?”

“How a train come through gate in our back yard?”

“Why I not get out like you guys?” (As in why are you still imprisioning me in this crib.
A valid question, I admit.)

“My belly hurts. I need some lotion on it.”

“What are these called?” (pointing to crib rails)

"What is that?" (pointing to crib bumper)

“What do elevators look like?”

"I can't sleep this late."

"I can't see anything."

And the list goes on….

Owen and I had ourselves a little meeting several days ago and agreed on our new bedtime rules: only one trip to the potty, only one session of water drinking, and he gets to tell me only “one more thing” to which I will respond simply “okay” even if that thing is a question. Then I say “Goodnight Owen. I’ll see you in the morning.” And the ritual ends.

But he still tries to bend the rules, and I can’t help answering at least one question a night and letting him get away with about three “one more things” before I notice myself racing to the door before he can get the next question in.

What bedtime stalling techniques have your kids devised (or how have you managed them)?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No kisses for this kid’s bride

I’m not sure what got Will thinking about weddings yesterday, but at 5 years old, he is decidedly unromantic.

“What happens if they say you can kiss the bride and someone doesn’t want to kiss the bride?” Will asked me.

“I’ve actually never heard of that happening…” I told him and before I could say more, Will was fretting about his own future wedding.

“I bet I wouldn’t even kiss a bride because I don’t like kissing.”

And he scrunched up his nose and made that universal kid look that says, “eeeewwww, gross!”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unload your hazardous waste

Spring is finally in the air here I think, even if the rain's making things feel less than tropical. So if you're in the Columbus area and need an excuse to launch a spring cleaning campaign, here's one:

The Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission is holding a Household Hazardous Waste Recyling Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at 25 22nd Avenue (across from Dolly Madison on Victory Drive). We're going to unload some old cans of paint and who knows what else. I only wish they were taking expired pharmaceuticals so I could finally safely clear all the expired medicines out of our cabinets.

Anyway, here's what you can unload:

• Paint and Solvents - latex paint, oil-based paint, furniture strippers, paint thinners, etc.
• Lawn Care Chemicals - fertilizers, pesticides, pool chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, etc.
• Cleaning Products - bleach or products containing bleach, ammonia or ammonia-based products, all-purpose cleaners, furniture polish, spot removers, scouring powder, oven cleaner, bathroom cleaner, bug spray, etc.
• Automotive Products - motor oil, oil filters, gasoline, anti-freeze, lubricants, car batteries, brake fluid, transmission fluid, car wax, metal polish, etc.
*Common electronic equipment including computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, and consumer electronics (no televisions).

For more information contact Keep Columbus Beautiful at (706) 653-4008 or

Saturday, March 6, 2010

All for the trophy

Today Will played in the first official soccer game of his life as member of “Team Chaos” a term that well describes the whole concept of soccer playing for 5-year-olds.

The kids played three-on-three with goals relatively closely spaced. At first Will stood around looking a bit dazed and when I met him for his first sideline water break, he smiled and said, “I didn’t realize we were playing the game. I thought we were just practicing.”

He warmed up to it a bit after that and wound up making four or five goals, only one of which was for the opposing team. Our team was generally a little lackluster and amateurish in comparison to our opponents who seemed to have less first-season players and ran the field with much more gusto. I’m pretty sure we must have lost but no one really kept score as far as I know and we didn’t discuss winning or losing at the end of the game.

Will said he had fun, but wondered when he would get a trophy. This is a continuation of a little trophy-obsession for Will, who I try to raise with relatively non-competitive play-for-the-love-of-the-game instincts, but whose preschool pals have managed to build real intrigue for him around the notion of acquiring soccer trophies..

The first time Owen accompanied Will to a soccer practice, Will told his younger brother, “This is where I play soccer. And this is where I’m going to get my trophy.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pig Won’t and Pig Will

Last night, I escaped to my book club and let Rob put the boys to bed. This should be Rob’s post, I guess, but I’ll share it as reported to me.

While I was gone, Owen refused to lay down in his crib and insisted that “mommy” needed to put him to bed, in his most stubborn pig-headed 2-year-old manner.

Rob asked Owen to help him out since he was having to put both Will and Owen down all by himself.

“I don’t care about that!” Owen shouted stubbornly.

And so Rob called upon good ol’ Richard Scarry to help him out. Owen got a little board book as a birthday party favor entitled “Isn’t Pig Won’t Naughty?” The little tale of compliant Pig Will doing everything as his parents ask and stubborn Pig Won’t saying “I won’t” to everything – and catching a cold and missing a birthday party as a result -- delights both Will and Owen probably because they recognize a bit of both the sweet Pig Will and the strong-willed Pig Won’t in themselves. Their young minds pull them willy-nilly in both directions.

In any case, last night Rob told Owen that Will, who was tucked in bed and quietly attempting to sleep, was acting like Pig Will and that Owen was kind of acting like Pig Won’t. Owen thought about this for a moment and quickly decided to become Pig Will for the night. He laid down quietly and put himself to sleep.

I may try calling on Pig Won’t again in a pinch – although this may have been a one-time miracle-worker.

Have you noticed your children’s behavior change in response to a book or story?