On our recent journey to Chicago to help my in-laws in an unfortunate circumstance, we took a couple of days to go out and do something fun. One of our favorite places is the Chicago Botanical Garden. We went last year when we were in Chicago visiting our relatives, and it was nice to go back feeling like we didn’t need to see everything. It’s a huge garden. One of our favorite spots within the garden is the butterfly habitat, and this year, especially, it seemed like a fitting celebratory ending to our experience raising Painted Lady Butterflies this spring. We spent a long, leisurely time in the habitat this year, and I was so excited knowing that my six-year-old fully understood the butterfly life cycle and because of that, it had more meaning for him.
I thought you might enjoy the photos I took of some of the butterflies in the habitat. The photographer in me was so delighted with my subjects.
Unfortunately, the newspaper can’t use my column this week, so I thought I’d share some photos today instead. Some of you might be interested in knowing that the flower I use in my logo is a kind of Columbine. I discovered it in a wildflower seed mix, and I try to collect the seeds every year and replant them. Last year none of them bloomed, but this year I have a few, and they are so pretty.
Happy New Year!
This has been a great year with so many wonderful memories. I put together this slideshow of some of the places we’ve been and our adventures in homeschooling the boys. It may be more interesting to our family members, but I hope you enjoy it.
And WordPress tells me these were my most popular posts in 2012. I thank each and every one of you for stopping by my little corner of cyberspace. You know I’m always here if you have any questions or want to chat about homeschooling!
- In Response to a Teacher’s Questions About Homeschooling February 2012
- Setting Our Homeschool Priorities for Two Boys, ages 5 & 2 January 2012
- On Homeschooling, Socialization and Religion September 2012
- Homeschooling Kindergarten Math March 2012
- GA HB 39: Georgia Homeschooling Law Changes Beginning 2012 / 2013 School Year June 2012
I wish you and your families a fantastic 2013 with hopes that you’ll have lots of fun learning while making wonderful memories!
This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on May 23, 2012. To see a slideshow of photos I took while visiting Amelia Island, click here to go to my photography blog.
In May I had the pleasure of going on vacation to Amelia Island, Florida with my favorite three boys and in-laws. Amelia Island is located in northeast Florida just below Cumberland Island and the Georgia border. It has 13 miles of beaches, lots of attractions, and all the amenities that we’re used to at home, but I’m afraid I can’t speak about many of those because we spent almost all our time on the beach!
We were lucky enough to be able to walk from our accommodation to the beach. I have always been a mountain person, but after visiting the ocean with my boys, I have found a second love at the ocean. What I especially loved about Amelia Island was how quiet it was on the beach. There were very few other people, though I have a feeling part of the reason for that was going in early May. I also noticed that on Saturday there were quite a few more people.
Mid-day was hot and the tide was in, so there was less beach, but in the evening around six o’clock, the tide was low. The beach was wide and full of tidal pools. This is what my boys loved the most – they are still a little wary of going into the ocean waves.
My five-year-old explored the tidal pools and searched for all the treasures to be had there. We saw three large horseshoe crabs – only one was still alive. My son was delighted to find a beautiful purple and orange starfish, and we also found little fish and several kinds of crabs, including hermit crabs. We took pictures of everything we couldn’t keep.
My two-year-old loved sitting in the sand, digging with a small shovel and tossing the sand as far as it could go – something he’s not allowed to do with the dirt in our yard. He also liked for me to pick him up and swing him over the ocean waves. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laughter and expression of pure joy.
The highlights of our beach combing were daddy’s mission to find shark teeth, and together we found over 10 teeth. And on our last day, my five-year-old and I took a long trek down the beach in search of a leatherback sea turtle’s nest, and though I feared my son might crash on such a long walk, we accomplished our mission, saw the protected nest, and made it back.
We explored the quaint downtown area of Fernandina Beach. According to the Nassau County’s visitor’s guide, it’s the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, and the 50-block downtown district is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Fernandina Beach is also the only place in the United States to have been under eight flags starting with the French occupation in 1564, Spanish occupation from 1565-1763, and the British occupation from 1763-1784.
Next came the Patriots flag in 1812. The Patriots consisted of 70 Georgians and 9 Floridians who tried to establish the “Territory of East Florida,” but President James Madison refused to acknowledge their claim. After this, the Green Cross Flag rose briefly in 1817 when American citizens desired the independence of Florida, but after only four months, they were forced to leave. The Mexican Revolutionary Flag was raised right after that, but U.S. troops occupied the island in December 1817 and held it “in trust for Spain.”
In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States of America. From 1861-1862, the National Flag of the Confederacy was raised, but Federal troops regained the island on March 3, 1862 and stayed there for the rest of war.
If you want a place to get away and relax that offers plenty of sights, historical locations, and pristine beaches, I highly recommend Amelia Island. We had a vacation we’ll never forget, and I hope we can return someday.
To see a slideshow of photos I took while visiting Amelia Island, click here to go to my photography blog.
Note: This column was printed in the April 18, 2012 edition of the The Barrow Journal.
Sometimes it pays to have connections. At least, that’s what my boys thought when a friend of mine invited us over to meet her husband, a retired toymaker, and play with his handmade, wooden toys.
Jack Dohany worked in the electronics industry as a field engineer from 1962 to 1970, but after seeing the Vietnam War up close, he became a pacifist and eventually left his job. He met a craftswoman who took him to his first crafts fair, and he noticed that there weren’t many good toys there.
“I was looking for a way to support myself that was fun and peaceful, and it seemed like toymaking might be that way. It was.”
He ran his business from 1970 to 2009, and he called it The Merry Toymaker. It was located in his home or wherever he happened to be living, and he sold his toys chiefly at craft fairs. He did no advertising.
In California, there are huge craft fairs such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in the spring, a fair in Northern California in the fall, and the Dickens Christmas Fair and the KPFA Crafts Fair in Berkeley in December.
After Jack and his wife, Winston Stephens, moved to Georgia in 2001, his business shrank because there are few good craft fairs here. So at that time he sold to stores, and The Idea Factory in New Orleans was his best outlet.
The first toy Mr. Dohany made was of a train engine, and he still owns it. (See photo below.) All of his toys were circus-oriented. He says his favorite is the two-hand top, but the circus train and squeeze acrobat come in close seconds. He has wonderful memories of entertaining children at the craft fairs.
“I’d spin a top on a plate, flip the top high in the air and then catch it still spinning on the plate. Then I’d put the plate on top of my head and do my silly toymaker dance while the top was still spinning. Kids (and their parents) loved it. One of my fondest memories is of a kid here in Georgia who managed to do this trick perfectly on his first try!”
My boys loved playing with the wooden toys. For me, these handmade toys are much more special than the plastic toys the boys receive for their birthdays with all the bells and whistles. I asked Mr. Dohany what he thought about that.
“Handmade wooden toys have some human warmth built into them which is lacking in factory-made toys,” he told me. “They also encourage the development of manual dexterity, and in my humble opinion, they are just more fun to play with than plastic toys are.”
If you want to buy one of Mr. Dohany’s toys, you’re out of luck because he retired in 2009. He gave his entire workshop to John Thomas who was one of his helpers in California and good friend. John stays home with his young children, and he’s planning to sell his toys over the Internet. When it’s complete, the website will be at http://www.merrytoymakers.com/.
Until then, Mr. Dohany likes to tell everyone, “I’m not the only toymaker in the world. If you Google handmade, wooden toys, you’ll find lots and lots.” He also added, “Next to meeting and marrying up with Winston Stephens, toymaking is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
To see more photos of Mr. Dohany and his toys, you can go to my photography blog by clicking here.