Monthly Archives: November 2010

thankful . . .

. . . for friends and family, for fresh air and frogs, for cool, foggy mornings on the river and warm, sunny afternoons, for aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and the fact that it really doesn’t matter if you forget to load all your hanging clothes into the car before leaving town.


pre-K Thanksgiving

First there was a little singing and dancing as the kids showed off their nursery rhyme skills. Did you know there is a correlation between early awareness of nursery rhymes and later reading ability? I had no idea – but the kids were awfully cute . . .

Then on to the main event – a Thanksgiving potluck feast! My contribution was the bundt cake shown below. A food photographer I am not, but trust me when I say it was pretty darn yummy. Pumpkin, ginger, apple, cranberry and maple flavors all mingling together in a moist not too too sweet cake. If you want the recipe, it is posted here.

Now we are off to Alabama for more feasting! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

No more training wheels!

For years now, our bicycle fanatic friend has been telling us that it was time to get Fletcher off his training wheels – and not only was it time but it would be easy to do. He had, he claimed, a fool-proof system. Easy for him to say, not so easy for us to believe. We aren’t exactly the most athletic family . . .

But today we finally gave it a shot. The first step is to remove both the training wheels and the pedals. 15 minutes of coasting and learning to balance . . .

Then pedals back on, and viola!

Amazing. I still can’t get over how easy it was! If you are interested, there is more information here.

Rethinking Christmas

I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the baking, the parties, the carols. But I’m starting to rethink the gift giving part of it a bit. The thing is, while my children, like all children, want every toy and game they see . . . they don’t really need any of them. They don’t really need anything, except maybe pajamas and socks that aren’t 2 sizes too small. Most of the time they don’t even actually play with toys. We play board games or card games as a family sometimes. Lola has her doll Loosa that she plays with a lot, and her art supplies. Fletcher has his Legos. And they both have their imaginations.

Do we really need to buy them toys?

Fletcher has been asking for a Nintendo DS so he can get the Pokemon game several of his friends have. We have said no. When school started this year, we instituted at no weekday tv or video game policy – and it has gone shockingly well. Most of the time they don’t even think to ask about screen time on the weekends! So why would we want to mess that up by introducing another screen into the house? I was secretly worried that we would be the only family with a no DS policy, but I’ve talked to several other mothers recently who have made the same decision – I think it is a good one.

Without the screen time, my kids play outside. They make up their own games. They run around and get dirty and use their imaginations and find new ways of entertaining themselves. And when they can’t go out, they have the Legos and the art supplies to make their own games indoors. I honestly can’t figure out anything else they need. And the real question here is, should I really be trying this hard to come up with things to buy for them?

I want them to have packages to open on Christmas morning . . . but we are definitely going to keep it simple. There probably won’t be a “big” gift from Santa this year, unless it is this drum kit Lola and I are coveting . .
I’m not really sure what will be under our tree, but I’m guessing a lot of it, both for the kids and for our friends and family, will be homemade. We are at 34 days and counting, so it’s time to get busy!! Spoiler alert: I’ll do my best to post our homemade gift projects here, so if you think you might be on our Christmas list and you want to be surprised, be careful what you read!


television “magic”

It has been a wild week around here. You might even say extremely wild. You see, the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been filming an episode a mere 2 blocks from our house. We had no idea what we were in for!

If you are not familiar with the show, the premise is that a group of designers comes to the rescue of a needy family living in substandard housing. They “surprise” the family and whisk them off for a vacation while the team goes to work on making over the house. The conclusion of the team is always the same – this house can’t be saved. Let’s knock it down and start over!

The house came down on Saturday. If you listen closely in the video you can hear Fletcher say he feels sorry for the house. I tend to agree with him. It was definitely in need to work . . . but to just tear it down seemed, well, extreme. It makes for good television though, right?

At first I was enjoying the excitement of it all. The whole neighborhood came out to watch.

There were inconveniences, of course. The main thoroughfare through the neighborhood was closed to traffic during construction, sending far too many cars down streets far too small to handle them. Traffic was a nightmare and we saw more accidents and near misses in a week than one would hope to see in a year. And of course there was the noise – with construction progressing 24 hours a day, we didn’t get a lot of quality sleep. The first night was just the faint but almost constant beeping sound of trucks backing up – enough to be annoying but not to fully wake you up. The came the banging and hammering and shouting. But again, we can take it for a good cause, right?

Then people started to talk. And I have to tell you, it wasn’t all very nice. This is television masquerading as charity – but we can’t forget that it is television and it’s all about putting on a good show. The family getting the makeover sound like good people. They have a special needs child, he is a minister, they volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House where they lived for a time while their child was in the hospital. But rumor has it even they said there are families out there who are in more need, could benefit more from this assistance.

A friend who volunteered on the project said that while the original house was in rough shape, they were moving flat screen TVs out before the cameras went in.

Still, trying to look on the bright side . . . the few times I have watched the show I have wondered what happens after the camera crews leave. They always tear down some horrible shack and put up a huge, fancy new house in it’s place. But can the family afford the upkeep on the huge new house? What about taxes? Insurance? Heat and electricity? What happens if they can’t and they want to move? Who wants to buy a huge fancy house in a terrible neighborhood? So at first I was relieved that the house is in my neighborhood. Ardsley Park is a beautiful neighborhood full of big old houses, so as long as they didn’t pop up an ugly “McMansion” we felt sure there would be an ample market when the time came to put the house up for sale.

We didn’t expect this though. Not that it is a bad house, and the size is in keeping with the neighborhood, but a Victorian? And a lime green one at that?? It stands out like a sore thumb around here. A friend who works with the architect said that the show came to him and said they wanted a Victorian house and would not listen to concerns about sticking with the architectural integrity of the historic neighborhood. He tried. Oh well. (If we had an architectural review board, as they do in the actual Victorian District, this wouldn’t have been an issue.)

I’m still trying to keep my enthusiasm up . . . it’s getting harder, but I’m trying.

The big reveal was on Thursday. I took the kids after school and walked over to the site. We met friends, tried to find a good spot to watch the action and shout “Move that bus!” along with the rest of the crowd . . . but instead we were yelled at by not one but two of “Savannah’s finest.” For walking down the sidewalk in our own neighborhood. A police officer screamed at our children – 3 four year olds, a 6 year old and a 7 year old – like they were pointing guns at her. I’m not sure I have ever been spoken to in such a demeaning way. It was shocking and horrible and totally ruined the whole event. How am I supposed to teach my children to have respect for law enforcement when they see an officer acting with such a complete lack of respect for them?

I am totally over this whole experience. The barricades finally came down today, so we have our street back and can start to move on. No one is happy about the house or the way things were handled. I’m sure it will be exciting to see it on television – we have so many friends that were involved with the build in some capacity – but part of me dreads how our city and our neighborhood will be portrayed. I’m feeling very cynical about it all right now. I hope I am proven wrong. I hope the house will come to feel like a part of the neighborhood and that the family who lives there, whom none of us seem to know, will come to be part of the neighborhood as well.  I’m not convinced, but I’m trying to hold onto some hope and sense of charity. I’m really, really trying . . .

practice makes perfect

There were a lot of adjustments we had to make when Lola Gray started pre-K. One of the biggest problems was that school lets out at 3:25 and the 4 year old ballet class begins at 3:30. We tried to make it work, but there was just no way. The only solution was to move her into the older class with the kindergarten students, a choice we were all a little nervous about. There are a lot of physical developments that happen between 4 and 5, and I was worried my sweet girl might not be coordinated enough to keep up with the big girls (she is her mother’s daughter, after all.) But as usual, I needn’t have worried. She is doing great! Her class will be performing in the Nutcracker in just about 3 weeks, so they are practicing hard to perfect their dance. Lola looks so tiny next to some of these girls, but she is keeping up and I’m sure she will be wonderful in the performance!

my boy

Fletcher and I were speaking with his teacher recently, and Fletcher made a comment about how he just had so many ideas in his head his mouth couldn’t always keep up. She smiled and said “I know. And every one of those ideas has an exclamation point after it!”

I like that. I have one incredibly enthusiastic little boy. Everything he thinks and says and does has an exclamation point. And I hope he always stays that way.