Monday, May 31, 2010

Look mom, no training wheels

Yesterday, while I had my back turned, Will learned to ride a bike.

It's a bike that's too small for him, but mom thought that would be perfect for learning since Will could just put his feet down rather than falling as he got the hang of things. So I took the boys over to the school parking lot across the street from our house. Will went to work trying to scoot himself along on the bike until he was ready to put his feet up on the pedals. I gave him a couple pointers on steering and getting up enough speed to make balancing easier.

Then Owen called to me to come over to where he was pushing around a stroller, and as I was walking away from Will, he was shouting in excitement, "Mom, I'm riding my bike!" And sure enough, he was.

I'd always pictured pushing him along and then letting him go, but this was much simpler. And he made the big bike leap just a few hundred yards from the enormous basketball court and concrete playground where I learned to ride my own bike about 29 years ago. If we had this learning-to-bike paradise near us in Columbus, Will probably would have mastered a year or two ago.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Car rides with Grammy

Will and Owen and I made it to Colorado after an hour and a half flight delay that made me grateful I had packed the card game Uno. Will and Owen befriended another 5-year-old in the Atlanta airport and we taught him the game and they played a few rounds together. We also enjoyed some extensive airplane maintenance and loading observation time.

I'm feeling relieved that we opted for the quick flight this year rather than the marathon road trip, especially since lately, when we are making the 8-minute trip from our house to downtown Columbus, Owen has been moaning the question: "When are we going to get there???" Three days in a car seat would apparently be an eternity to him.

And Will is thrilled that we will be able to spend an entire two weeks in Colorado. He's made his calculations and is constantly exclaiming, "I can't believe we get to stay 14 days!" (Rob is still at home for now, but he'll join us next week.)

After our arrival in Denver, I offered the back seat to my mom so she could entertain the boys while I relaxed in the passenger seat for the two-hour trip to Eagle. They played a game in which she wrote down interesting sights they passed on the trip over the mountains and they organized it all by category -- everything from horses and waterfalls to bikes, cliffs and caves. She told them to keep their eyes peeled for mountain goats and coyotes and the like -- but no luck. When they finally tired of that game they started sharing stories with each other. Mom's included tales of mountain lion and bear sightings that got Owen seeing animals on the hillsides. Will's included a detailed account of each hole on the mini golf course at Panama City.

Owen was inspired to drink so much in the arid Colorado air, that we had to make two emergency roadside pit stops. At the first, as Owen peed on some grass, he looked up and said: "That's a bear rock; I see a bear coming from the bear rock." At pit stop number two, he looked up at the hillside and said, "Better watch out. There might be a mountain lion goat up there."

Now if I can just ride shot gun on the five-hour trip to Arches National Park, where we plan to camp on Monday and Tuesday, we will all be happy travelers. I'd install Grammy instead of an in-car DVD player any day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bargain summer activities

Today I signed the boys up for swim lessons through the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. The low-key classes, in which red-cross certified instructors follow the comfort level of the kids, make learning to swim a sometimes longer process than the sink-or-swim lessons with private instructors that many parents opt for. But the rec department lessons seems to suit my tentative kids, and this year Will is truly excited to swim. Since we don't have a pool in our backyard I've felt okay about going the patient route. And it's definitely cheap. For $30 per child you get eight nearly hour-long lessons.

We're also going to let Will try a week of CSU's "Summer Spectacular" program, which at $25 per week, is also a great deal. I have a friend whose son has loved the program, which is geared for 4- to 11-year-olds and which provides an opportunity for teacher candidates to get experience working with kids. (The low fees are just enough to cover snacks and materials). This year's theme is "Structures: Ancient and Modern Wonders of the World". Go here for more information.

We'll also do a week of Vacation Bible School, and I'm calling it quits at that. I want the boys to enjoy some leisurely days filled with play before we ship Will off to all-day kindergarten.

What are some of your favorite summer programs for kids?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Birthday pup and the graduate

Today Will graduated from pre-k and Harvey graduated from puppyhood. I'm not saying he's grown out of all his crazy puppy behaviors, but he is exactly one year old and he has matured way more than I ever imagined he could even four months ago -- and we are all loving our sweet dog.

And I'm not saying Will's outgrown all his crazy little kid antics, but he's getting gentler, more thoughtful, more reflective in his old age too. He had a case of the nerves combined with the beginning of a cold that had him too out of sorts to brave the stage for a medley of pre-k year-in-review songs. But he got his diploma and, having evaded the daunting task of speaking his line "In August, we made new friends" into the microphone, he was content to celebrate with his friends. (Will inherited my little-kid-shy genes although I never point this out to him since I don't want to define him as shy or make him feel otherwise doomed to follow in my quaking-with-fear footsteps.)
Here's the graduate delivering pseudo doggy birthday cake (or more accurately, dog food iced with shredded chicken) to the birthday pup.

A portrait in birthday hats. (We were going to let Will and Owen blow out the candle but Harvey snuffed it out first.)

And the dog digs into his gifts (wrapped by Will in newspaper).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quotes of the Day

From Will, who has recently been asking why we can't get another dog:

"When I grow up I'm going to have five dogs, five cats, one parrot, three guppies, two turtles, two hermit crabs, and three spotted lizards."

From Owen, while experiencing some bathtime flatulence:

"I can make bubbles with my bottom!"

From Will, after an evening wrestling match with dad and Owen:

"I love life."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rocket ships and river picnics

Yesterday Owen and I accompanied Will’s pre-k class to the Coca Cola Space Science Center, where Will enjoyed flying in space shuttle simulators and learning about the solar system at the Omnisphere theater. (He’s still talking about “rocky midgets” and “gassy giants” today, and he and Owen have been designing rocket ships in the living room.)

After the field trip, just the three of us went down to the river for a quiet picnic. There was a light breeze, perfectly warm weather and nothing to do but follow the boys’ whims as they ran up and down grassy hills, pitched rocks in the river and pretended to fish with sticks. There’s not much better, I think, than a riverside picnic with no agenda attached.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Art lines

I stole this idea from my friend, who is an artist and potter, and who strung up her 2-year-old daughter's finger paintings with clothespins in front of their kitchen window. We made our own art line, using twine and paper clips, because we happened to have them on hand, for the boys' bedroom. Will and Owen love to look up at it and admire their work.

A couple times I've noticed Will gazing at one of the hanging pictures and then running to the kitchen for crayons and paper so he can sit down to work on another masterpiece. Kids, of course, get real satisfaction in displaying their work.

We may just have to put up another art line on the opposite wall.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A kohlrabi treat

It’s CSA season in Columbus. When I got our half of the first produce bag last weekend, I felt slightly daunted by the prospect of preparing the contents for kid consumption. Will and Owen both seem to have grown a bit pickier over the past few months, and I was wondering whether I’d be able to sell them on kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, cilantro and kale. I knew they’d go for a spinach manicotti, but the rest of the veggies seemed less promising. But I take it as a personal challenge to consume or freeze all our produce before it goes bad, so Will and I set to work together, blanching and sauteeing kale and turnip greens according to Rob’s invented recipe (applied here to collards) and following this recipe for roasted kohlrabi that our farmers shared with us in their weekly e-newsletter:

Roasted Kohlrabi with garlic and parmesan

4 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Cut the kohlrabi into 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut each of the slices in half. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss kohlrabi slices in the olive oil mixture to coat. Spread kohlrabi in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until browned, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally in order to brown evenly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven to allow the Parmesan cheese to brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Will declared the kohlrabi “very, very good” and even went so far as to call it one of his two favorite foods. (Tortellini was the other favorite -- at least in that fleeting moment).

And that is why I love belonging to a CSA. It makes us so much more adventurous when it comes to eating fresh healthy food.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Razor blades at the park

Unsettling, to say the least, to hear that razor blades were found taped to the playground equipment at Lakebottom Park. I got a phone message from the city on the subject this afternoon. If you're a Columbus parent, and haven't heard the news, check out the story here. And be vigilant.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's day at the beach

I think I may have enjoyed my favorite mother's day weekend to date -- at the beach with the boys this weekend.

Normally Rob and I seek out state park beaches that are undeveloped and teeming with wildlife. But Rob had a meeting Friday relatively close to Panama City so we decided to make that our beach destination.
Turns out the Redneck Riviera is a pretty great place to take kids, and a super affordable place to get a beachfront hotel on an off weekend. And those obnoxious mini-golf courses that line the strip as you drive in were a hit with Will and Owen.

We spent most of our time on the beach digging giant holes and making "volcanoes,"

burying Will in the sand

and watching dolphins, among other things:

We made daily trips to the heated pool, where by day 2, our once water-timid Will finally learned how to swim, albeit not so gracefully,

Owen averaged about 35 hits per hole on the goofy golf course, but always managed to get his ball in the hole

and Will and Owen had the first ferris wheel ride of their lives.

I tried to tell Will repeatedly that we were not in "Hanama City" but "Panama City" but it just wouldn't sink in. Finally, he admitted, "I really like Hannah Monatana." He got in a few "Panama City" pronunciations yesterday, but today as he was making all kinds of plans for his future, he slipped again.
"I want to have a small house when I grow up but I want to build it myself so I can have it just how I like it. I want to be a palentologist and live in Hanama City."

"Me too," said Owen, who desperately wished that we didn't have to come home yesterday.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Feeding frenzy

I’m finally posting weird animal photos from what seems to be becoming an annual trip with Papa to the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari. The boys went last year, but it was my first Georgia safari. There was something a little eerie about this collection of bold animals and their over-grazed landscape, but it was a grand old hoot for the boys to feed the animals and watch them slobber. Their favorite animals were some tiny two-week-old pigs and this llama, which Will named Wilts.
The highlight of our weekend was a Dinner on the Farm at the Jenny Jack Sun Farm. We forgot our camera. Otherwise, you'd be looking at lovely photos of children running in chest-high grasses, petting baby chicks, and digging for worms in the big worm compost bin.
How about this giraffe head with sky instead???

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Talking with kids about race

Today’s Ledger-Enquirer includes a story I wrote about how to talk with kids about issues of race and ethnicity – and why it’s important to start at an early age, even if it feels like awkward territory. I was inspired to find some local experts on the subject after reading this “See Baby Discriminate” Newsweek article back in September. The article is an excerpt from the book “NurtureShock” by By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

In today’s story, Victoria Plaut, professor of social and cultural psychology at the University of Georgia, and Clubview Elementary fifth-grade teacher Charlene Coleman, offer many insights about the nuances of talking with children about race and the importance of having honest dialogue with children about difference rather than just hoping they’ll grow up “color-blind.”

For further information on the subject try these Web sites: (Follow the “For Kids” link for activities designed to help kids ages 10-13 think more deeply about race and racism) (offers some links to books on race for various ages) (offers examples of how to answer difficult questions form kids)