Archive for March, 2010

auf dem bauernhof

A recent preschool field trip brought my city kids (and by this I mean temperament rather than mere geography) to Spence’s Farm, a family farm in Orange County.  Unlike Maple View Farm (the site of a previous field trip) with its kissing llamas and tasty ice cream, this place is small scale and caters to hands on learning experiences.

First stop:  The garden where the kids dug in the compost and performed the duties of “worm savers” who chucked back worms into the compost bin so that they could further perform their duties.

Next, the kids helped weed out the asparagus patch and fed the chickweed to the overeager and very excitable hens.  While I was appalled by all of the fluttering and chattering of the fowl, the kids were largely unruffled.   Little e. just stood in the middle of it like a poultry loving St. Francis of Assisi wannabe. The highlight of the chicken coop, however, was getting to gather the eggs, a task that all the kids performed with surprising care and delicacy.

On to the heartbreaking but sweet portion of the outing:  the pony rides.  After lavishing care and attention on grooming the horses (far more than my kids have ever expended on their own hair or teeth), my son volunteered to be the first to go on a pony ride.  My son!  The one who watches and then flits away to look at something more interesting.  My son who isn’t one to run up in front of a group.  Still, there he was, perched on top of the pony and demonstrating that he could lean this way and then that way and not fall off.  Carefully, gingerly little w. made it down the lane with the patient teacher right next to him.

Quite predictably, little e. wanted desperately to follow in her big brother’s horseshoes.  Calmly and patiently, she waited her turn until all of the older kids had had a go.  Confidently, she swung her little denim clad leg up and over the pony’s back and perched as well as she could on top.  Without a look back, she was led down the lane, too, and returned with a serious yet triumphant look on her face.

As a person who has been horseback maybe only a handful of times (largely thanks to that horse that tried to roll over to scratch an itch while I was still on its back), I am proud of my kids for so eagerly trying something new and exciting.  I have no desire to hang around, look at, or ride a horse, but I am so glad that my kids are curious enough and brave enough and trusting enough to try something new and stretch their city kid boundaries just a little bit.


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it’s officially spring!

According to the calendar and according to the thermometer, it is definitely spring in Durham.  To celebrate the warmth, we headed to Duke Gardens yesterday to enjoy the sun, to admire the blooming saucer magnolias, and to go turtle spotting (we saw seven; four of which were lazing on the rocks).

As always, we spent a lot of time searching for and learning about ducks:

Few ducks, however, were to be found at the Gardens today–just a mallard or two and a pair of muscovy ducks. The new addition in the Asian gardens is finished and open for visitors; the kids thought it was hysterical to take their shoes off to walk in the building with the shoji screens.  The other big change was that the koi pond has been drained to fix some pump and water issues, and the kids were very concerned as to the fate of the fish.  After serious contemplation, they decided that the fish are swimming around in someone’s bathtub.  Uh, ok.

All in all, a lovely morning in the Gardens.

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a different day, a different species

At bedtime at our house, the rhythmic strains of Dr. Seuss have long been replaced by nonfiction explorations. Recent fascinations with parakeets have given way to sharks and then octopuses and flamingos.  While the writing of these nonfiction narratives is less than exemplary, I have learned a great deal about these animals that I have frankly not considered since elementary school.

Tonight’s featured book:  Flamingos by Jean M. Malone.

In preparation for my coming pop quiz, I have learned why flamingos sometimes appear pink and sometimes are white (amount of carotene in the diet) and that their knees really don’t bend backwards (that’s their ankles). Overall, this is a fine nonfiction read–hardly exciting but informative enough and with nice large, bold pictures. The last page or two of the book, however, seem to be inserted from any random book on animals, the environment, Earth Day, good citizenship test, or grandmother lecture:

“Recycling, turning out lights, and not wasting water are all things you can do

to help make sure flamingos are safe.”

Really?  Turning off the tap while I brush my teeth will keep flamingos safe?  Even little e. saw through that logic and she’s not even in school yet.  If turning out the lights keep birds in the Everglades safe, then trimming my fingernails might make tulips in Holland grow.  Hmmmmm….

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it’s like crack, but in a book form

For my bookclub where we aren’t too proud to be caught reading juvenile fiction, this month’s selection is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Normally I’m slow to get started on our reads, but this month I had borrowed the book from a friend and needed to get it back to her.  I cracked it open and vrooom!  I was sucked into this book like I haven’t been sucked into a book since I was a kid and would spend all Saturday lounging awkwardly on a chair in the living room with my nose in a book and my hand in a bowl of chocolate chips that I had stealthily removed from the kitchen.

Where to begin?  The hero of this novel is the spunky Katniss Everdeen who really isn’t so spunky or unique but a survivor which one has to be in the post apocalyptic world of Panem (formerly known as North America).  In order to protect her younger sister, Katniss becomes an unwitting participant in The Capitol’s Hunger Games, a contest/reality show/Theseus myth rip off where 24 teens are put in an arena and have to fight it out to the death.  The remaining kid is crowned a Victor and is set up for life with food, fame, etc.

It’s not just the labyrinthine plot that kept my interest until the wee hours of the morn, but it was the addicting, real characters.  So often in teen lit and teen movies all one gets is the obligatory caricatures (think “The Breakfast Club”), but this novel is chock-full of girls who are independent and tough without making it their calling card, boys who are brave and sincere, and adults who truly have issues.  It is the plot that keeps you engaged, but the characters are what keep you turning the pages well after sensible people are in bed.

After racing through The Hunger Games, I read the second book of the trilogy (Is there a rule that all teen lit has to be a series now?  Go with the money?) in a mere 48 hours.  Catching Fire might even be a more captivating read due to the nascent rebellion that is afoot in the districts and the at times disturbing parallels that one can draw between the world of Collins’s book and our own modern day political and entertainment cultures. Amusingly, Time named Catching Fire #4 on its list of 2009’s top fiction novels.  Much to big W’s consternation, one of his top reads of the past year, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, only clocked in at #5.

Unfortunately, it is going to be a long five months until the final installment of the series comes out in August, so I suppose I’ll have to go back to books more on my own reading level.  What a shame.

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itchy green thumb

Last summer the kids very much enjoyed picking our crop of little tomatoes (yield=23) and harvesting our basil and parsley, so I thought that this year we should go big and actually plant a vegetable garden.

After months of research (ok, reading two books from the library), we picked out some seeds, planted them in our handy indoor greenhouse (plastic containers with lids), and are currently hoping for the best.

Some plants are actually beginning to sprout (go, peppers, go!) and others are apparently taking their sweet time (lazy cilantro).  With a bit of luck, the vermin of the neighborhood should be eating pretty well come summer .

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sincerest form of flattery?

As parents know, kids are prone to imitate.  They copy (and annoy) their older siblings, they duplicate their playmates’ actions on the playground, and they imitate what they see their parents do and often say.

Over here we are getting some clear insight into what our children see us do and what they deem noteworthy or interesting.

Apparently, we like to set fires as evidenced by the tidy little bonfire that little w. recently set in the outfield at Oval Park:

And playing restaurant the other day resulted in this little scene:

The glass of wine and the soup were quite tasty though I’m a little depressed that I had to charge the $3.47 that I couldn’t scrape up in cash.

And then there is little e. who must be channeling her aunt by doing her yoga with Baby and Baby-Baby:

Fires, wine, yoga–it all adds up to a pretty busy weekend.

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brief hiatus

A never ending  craft project and a reading spree have kept me away from blogging, but I’m back!

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