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?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup fever

We haven't been watching much world cup since our extreme-basic cable package doesn't even include ESPN. So we were pretty excited to watch the U.S. play Ghana yesterday. About 10 minutes into the game Will ran off to his room and reappeared looking like this. Not much later we had to suit Owen up too.

Maybe it was because the U.S. was down by 1, but Will soon got restless as a cleat-and-shin-guard-wearing spectator, so I spent much of the second half actually playing soccer with Will and Owen outside, which at least made the loss less painful.

After the game we had a brief whole-family soccer game with the sprinklers on and then Rob and Will stayed out for a longer game of one-on-one. I'm thinking Will played as much soccer as the World Cup players yesterday, even with their overtime.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Underwater friendship and a rainbow wish

Today we wrapped up our first week of swim lessons at Psalmond Road pool and this year, for the first time, both kids are loving every minute of it and swimming like fish, rather than crying in fear, refusing to do things like put their heads under water, or demoting themselves to toddler classes because they'd rather swim with their parents.

Will in particular was having a golden sort of day. He learned to do frog kicks and back floats for the first time and had a halfway reasonable looking crawl stroke going even if he hasn’t yet figured out how to breathe between strokes. And after a week of telling me, “there this girl I’d really like to meet,” he finally talked with his swim lesson classmate. I think the allure here may have been that she’s pretty brave in the water, willing to go under – but who knows.

Anyway this is how he described it: “It reminded me of Charlie Brown and the little red-headed girl. The way that I met her is that I went under water when she went under water and I looked at her with my goggles. I didn’t talk to her. She talked to me first… I always sat by her. She also looked like a very kind and sweet lady.”

Then on the way home, Will said in an almost whining voice, “When am I ever going to see a rainbow? When I’m ever going to see a rainbow?”

He’d asked the same question a couple days ago on our way home from swim lessons, and I’d told him then that you don’t see rainbows as often in Georgia as you do in Colorado because there are so many trees all around so it’s hard to see as much of the sky. But this time, less than two seconds after he posed his rainbow question, Rob and I looked to the left and saw a nice big rainbow just waiting to be admired.

Will couldn’t stop smiling and laughing at that little miracle.

"I just can’t believe it," he said. "I just said it, and it happened. It was so silly.”

Then he asked us, “What do you think happened?”

I turned the question back on him, and he said, “It might have been like a wish – like a real wish come true.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More fun with boxes

We may be back from our big trip to Colorado, but the boys continue to travel in house.

Today they rowed in these side-by-side boats for a while and later boarded this “connecting flight” to who knows where.

They carefully selected the luggage they would need for their journey and stowed it in the "overhead bins" on the bed. They also pulled the bed covers to the floor to create a tent-like extra storage compartment.

I remain a sucker for clean-looking boxes that I find on the curbside, mostly because I know that while it may be just a box to you and me, it's a blank slate for creative play for young kids. These I spotted behind the flower shop the other day, and they have bought us hours of happy playtime already.

“Thank you for getting these boxes, mom,” Will told me today. “They are great for making airplanes and boats.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Here's to dads everywhere, especially ours, who is fun to climb on both in and out of the water and who is always so engaged with Will and Owen -- in play, in conversations, in music-making, art projects, and adventure-taking. We're lucky to have him.

We spent our father's day swimming, playing mini golf, riding the train and taking a paddle boat ride at Robin Lake Beach at Callaway. And later we went out to dinner and delivered our homemade cards to Rob. At the end of it all, Will decided that we should have a "Kids Day" too and he's plotting it for "the second day when Uncle Graham is here." Fair enough, I say, so we'll be having an inaugral Kid's Day on July 3. We all have to have fun together, and Will has stipulated that the adults must draw cards for the kids.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tadpole captives

Yesterday, the boys and I explored Flatrock Park, which is becoming one of our favorite close-to-home settings for little adventures. We started the day with our first mini-rock climbing since Arches.Then donned water shoes and waded in the creek, holding hands together on the slippery rock. Along the way, we observed butterflies, dragon-flies, water striders, hundreds of tadpoles, minnows, lizards, finger-nail-sized frogs, a crawdad, and a skink. We spent some time in the playground, then returned to the creekside rocks for a picnic lunch and used our empty sandwich tupperware to capture two tadpoles, which Will named Brittany and Averett.

Here are a few resources I used to sort out how to help our tadpoles survive past their initial capture in a container full of creek water:

Big Brittany and little Averett are now swimming in a larger makeshift fish bowl munching on lettuce. We'd love to see them to froghood and then set them free back at the park, but we're amateur tadpole keepers, so who knows.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rainbow socks

Yesterday I brought Owen a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and told him it was time to get dressed. As he often does, he promptly rejected my offering and went back to his room to design his own fashion ensemble. It looked like this.

When I asked Owen if he'd like to wear two white socks that match, he said he liked red and white better. "Because I like every color," he said.

I don't engage in fashion battles except on special occasions, so we went to the park looking funky. Will started this rainbow-sock trend in our house; he also finds it pleasing to the eye to wear different colors. But I'm sure it doesn't help that I'm frequently throwing lone socks in the boys' dressers when I fail to find the match immediately.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photographing flowers

While we were in Colorado we visited a wholesale nursery, where a friend of my mom's had green houses full of containers just about to be shipped out to the various towns, landscapers and businesses that had ordered them. We gave each of the boys a camera and let them play flower photographers for a while.

Owen took many blurry close-ups of flowers on my mom's camera, while Will collected some crisper shots, like these:

Thank you Louisa!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Colorado in pictures

We're wrapping up our Colorado vacation, where we've enjoyed lots of playing, biking, swimming and hiking and nothing but comfortable sunny days. Here are some highlights:

Owen learns to "swim" at the Glenwood Springs Pool, where the water's so comfortably warm we wound up staying 5 hours.
A concert with Grammy.

Exploring Sweetwater Indian Cave, where some pictographs from Ute Indians who used the cave for storage hundreds of years ago linger, surrounded unfortunately, by plenty of contemporary graffiti.

Owen wasn't sure he wanted to go on a hike until we told him he could bring this flashlight.

Close encounters of the bird kind. This Cassin's finch, which was blind in one eye, got used to us while we were eating dinner outside and gradually Will made his way closer and closer to the bird feeder.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden tour next weekend

Today's Ledger-Enquirer includes a story I wrote previewing the 2010 Keep Columbus Beautiful Tour of Gardens. If you're in town next Saturday or Sunday it should be a nice way to spend a few hours of the day. With all the private gardens located on a relatively short stretch of Broadway in downtown Columbus, it will be a pedestrian-friendly tour this year. And proceeds go to the Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arches in pictures

The boys and I are back from a camping trip with Grammy and Grandpa to Arches National Park in Utah, perhaps my all-time favorite place to go when I was a kid. With climbable rocks in all directions, it is the ultimate natural playground for kids (and adults) -- and it also happens to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

To keep young kids safe, it was definitely good to have three adults since our campground was surrounded by climbable rocks and chaseable lizards that beckoned Will and Owen even as we were trying to set up tents and prepare meals.

But the desert wildflowers were in bloom, the snow was still lingering on the mountain peaks in the distance, and we were all captivated by our surroundings. Will was inspired to hike further than he ever has in his life. We let him guide us and he learned to spot the cairns that marked the trails when they were crossing long expanses of rock. The highlight for Owen, who did his share of mild rock climbing, was rolling and tumbling in the sand at Sand Dune Arch. For Will, it was some big-kids-only rock climbing with Grandpa.

Here are some snapshots of the trip: