Sunday, September 27, 2009

rain, rain... go away...

It's rained in Atlanta most every day for the past couple of weeks. It came to a head on Monday. Parts of town (I think) got 20" of rain?! I'll be honest... I wasn't really following stuff on the news, I've just been hearing people talk about it. Our county was one of the hardest hit areas in Metro Atlanta, but several counties around town suffered as well. We live in Cobb County -- and one of the Cobb Co public schools was completely under water.... a total loss. I think it just depends on the topography of your land... the proximity of your property to a body of water (such as Peachtree Creek in-town)... and of course - the specific amount rainfall that hits your property. For the most part, folks in our immediate surrounds were ok. There were flooded basements & crawl-spaces of people on our street. A tree down. A short power outage. A roof leak here and there that we heard of (we had a minor one in one of our spaces that needed to have drywall work re-done anyways). But all-in-all, we were very lucky that the water didn't come into the house in a damaging way.
On Monday I got a call from a neighbor saying that I should come home -- it looked like the water was about to come into the house... that we didn't have a koi pond anymore because the entire back yard was flooded. It was. There was about 6-8" of standing water in the back yard at it's highest point. It was within 1 - 2" of getting into the back door. It was over the top of the koi pond, and if a fish went to the top to eat or breathe - they would be swept away. One of the neighbors 2 doors down found one of our fish on his sidewalk.

This is an image taken once the water had receded.... we baled lots of water from the back yard and pond. Here there was still 3 - 4" of standing water. (The line of buckets is forming a wall at the lowest point around the pond -- the feeding rock -- where the water was apt to rush out. Again, our situation was minor compared to that in which others had to endure. We're thankful that the rain that was predicted that night (8 more inches) missed our part of town. We're grateful that we didn't suffer any "real" damage!

It rained HARD again yesterday (Saturday). We took a trip to Nature's Harmony Farm - which is 2 1/2 hours away. It rained all the way there. It slowed to a light drizzle when we got there and eventually stopped during our tour of the farm. When we drove home, the rain picked back up and by the time we got back to the Atlanta area, it was pouring again.
We couldn't have timed it any better had we tried. It was muddy on the farm, but we were prepared for wet ground and the occasional pile of "stuff" that they warned us about. We wore our waterproof hiking boots. Perfect! Mercer rode in the sling much of the way because there was a lot of walking / there were live fences / it was really messy. He got restless, so we let him walk some along a dirt road and Todd or I carried him a bit. The only animals he got close to was some of the free-range hens. They would approach him and he'd back up / grab my leg. Admittedly, they were 1/2 as tall as he was, so they looked much bigger coming at him than they would to us.
The owners, Tim & Liz, lived in a suburban community not far from where we currently live. He was a business man. She was a teacher. They decided to make a HUGE change of life - without any experience - become farmers! They've read a ton / they've figured other stuff out along the way, but their overall philosophy is about self sustenance and doing things the right way for them and the farm - not altering their ways to increase the overall profitability of the farm. "We can't find non-GMO (genetically-modified organism) feed that's produced locally. We're going to start making our own because that's what we feel is the right thing to do." For keeping the animals, they have a system of portable fences - stakes in the ground, live wires, and a battery pack to keep it charged. Every day - they move the fence and let the animals graze on a piece of adjacent land. This keeps it "fresh" for the animals (as you can see in this picture, the cows and goats (which are kept together) RAN to the next swath of land because the weeds, grasses, and flowers were delectable in the neighboring patch). They said it kept bacteria down because they kept rotating the areas in which the animals poo. They also have roving cages for the chickens, some of the hens, and ducks. Likewise, they mill about for bugs and things in the grass, but also eat feed as well. Other hens are free range - and they walk around the property. There's heirloom turkeys in one area. They had a hatchery in another part of the farm. (Here's a picture of their "Poulet Rouge Naked Neck" Chickens [look close / you'll see why] and a free-range hen.) When they had a disease that took some of their chickens one year, they didn't kill them & start over like the local extension service told them to. They let the disease take those that were weak, and the others built resistance. The next year they didn't have as much of a problem. (I'm not doing it justice, but they way he explained it, it made sense. Their "farm values" are on this page: They have people from other parts of the country who want their products, but they don't want to expend the UPS or FedEX fuel to ship it there. They want to keep it in the local economy. They're hatching their own chickens year after year. They breed the best of their pigs and cows to keep that going as well. They compost everything on their site... as they want to have a closed loop system.

Mercer liked the animals -- and would point at them or wave bye-bye when we would leave a certain area. Once he said "wow" really loud and all of the other visitors laughed. We think it was a good experience for him. (This trip was educational for us.)

Here, he's gazing at the turkeys which are kept behind 2 fences so they don't fly out. Yes - we did immediately wash his hands with a sani-wipe after we set him back down! In hindsight, a 19 month old at the farm -- maybe not the best idea. He should definitely see if again in coming years.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

endearing things....

Todd, Mercer, and I spent some time this morning rolling a fabric ball around the kitchen floor that a neighbor made for him. We did this 'til wearing him out - he'd run between the two of us either chasing the ball or handing it to us. It would roll under his legs and he would giggle. We would play a little bit of keep away and he would giggle. He would climb on us and giggle. It's been raining a lot these past few days and it's nice to know that something so simple with the three of us can be so much fun for him and so endearing for Todd and myself.

Mercer still brings us books and "backs" up to us to sit in our lap as an indication that he wants us to read to him. It's really cute! He's been, perhaps, a little more clingy lately in that he wants to hang out with us more... hugs us more... and grabs my or Todd's hand a lot to drag us somewhere / show us something. Right now, we have a box from a delivery sitting in our dining room floor. The cat likes to sleep in the box, but when it's empty - Mercer likes to stand in the box. Often, he will grab Todd's finger and drag him over to the box; daddy AND Mercer can stand in the box at the same time. (This makes Mercer giggle too.)

Mercer also likes to get into bags. Brown bags. Reusable grocery bags. He thinks it's funny. (Here, as seen in his Flintstone's Bam-Bam shirt, Mercer found juice boxes in the Harry's bag. Scary thing is - he knows how to pull the straw out and tries to jam it into the hole on the box!)

Also, as we've been carrying him under umbrellas, he smiles and gazes upwards. He's definitely becoming aware of the space around him as well as over him.

I really love how he has no inhibitions right now. He hears music and -- it doesn't matter where he is -- he starts dancing. (At the Mets/Braves game earlier this week (the one that we went to that DIDN'T get rained out).... at my company retreat during dinner last weekend.... at our house with dance music playing on the t.v.) He's very entertaining and everyone smiles when he dances - which encourages him more! Plus we love that he actively engages people and makes them smile.

There was even one instance a few weeks ago where we were playing up at the square one night. We heard music so walked towards a restaurant that had an ensemble of banjo players, a violinist, and even ukulele players outside. We asked what they were doing - they were having a bluegrass jam. As it turns out - there are 20 - 30 of them that meet there regularly and just hang out / play / etc. Mercer had his very first serenade on that night! One of them played the Itsy Bitsy Spider for him and another sang / played some sort of nursery rhyme. Other musicians and passer-bys on the sidewalk enjoyed watching Mercer dance and cheering him on. : - ) It was great!

His vocabulary is really growing fast as he repeats us a lot. I know I've put this on the blog, but I can't get enough of this one: He says "cockle" when he sees a motorcycle or bicycle. He has recently added "stack" and "block" and "arch" when playing with his blocks. He just said "purple" today. I have no idea if he has concept of color yet, though. (Does he think the object in the book we were talking about was a "purple" or was it the color "purple?") He says "noise" and "mess" and "dirty" as these are all things we say around him, for sure. It's really quite amazing.

He eating less and less baby foods and more regular foods although we still mix in some "slime" with his vegetables because he likes it like that. Last night, we were at a friend's house & they made custom pizzas (in lieu of a cookout which got rained out). Cut into bite-sized pieces, he ate a full meal of pizza. It's not the healthiest, but good to know that he will it - should we walk up to the square and order a slice in the future.

Also under the "not so healthy" category: last week at my company retreat, someone brought Ritz crackers. Mercer kept walking up to the table and grabbing them one by one. We - of course - did not want him to make a meal of it, so we kept pulling him away. One time he saw me coming towards him and his eyes got big / he shoved a whole Ritz cracker in his mouth before I could get to him. I'm not 100% sure what was going through his head, but he's starting to learn cause and effect. He grabs a cracker, we pull it away from him. He knew that if he shoved it in his mouth, we couldn't take it from him! WOW.

He's really growing up.

Yesterday, I got to do something pretty cool. Todd watched Mercer so that I could take a (free) 3 hour tour around town. It was a tour of a redevelopment project called the Beltline. It took 3 hours because the Beltline project is 22 miles long. It's the largest redevelopment project in the country and is really fascinating. Less than 10 years ago, a Georgia Tech architecture student proposed as his thesis project redeveloping infrastructure along abandoned rail lines throughout the city. There's a lack of (good) public transportation in Atlanta and he identified a line within 3-4 miles of the city in which could support light rail. This line goes through some industrial areas, some "de-invested" areas which are largely abandoned and run down, the beltline goes through some up-and-coming / trendy areas of town, and goes through an upscale residential area too. Valued at 2.8 billion $, the Beltline project provides a solution that addresses traffic relief in certain areas, access to public transportation in other areas, and overall offers connectivity of trails, parks, and transportation to 40 different "neighborhoods." There are even large tracts of land that are going to be turned into greenspace - including a 300 acre park which will include a 2 billion gallon reservoir in part of the park which will serve as a 30-day back-up supply should we need it. (This actually has been in the works for years, but they're going to turn it into an amenity b/c of the beltline.) If in Atlanta -- I'd highly recommend the tour. It's one of the most unique tours I've been on. (You get to see the good and the bad.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A weekend in the woods

Somebody... I won't mention who... is on my case because there have been no new pictures of Mercer for over 10 days.

I worked over 40 hours last week, went to a work retreat over the weekend, and will be pushing 40 hours this week. I was working on a grant proposal. (If this is any indication how life will be when I go back to full-time next month... the blog entries may be father and fewer between, sad to say.) I start my full-time work middle of October.

My company retreat was in the mountains of North Georgia. I worked all day Friday. Todd & Mercer joined me Friday evening and we stayed all weekend at the Cloudland Canyon (a Ga State park) in the upper-most corner of the state.

It's a really nice place. The park is split into two sections by the canyon which slices down the middle. The retreat and the activities were on one side of the canyon. Our cottage was on the other side. As it turns out, our cottage was steps off of the the West Rim Trail. A short stroll down the trail, would take you to an overlook. This first shot is from "our" overlook.
One of our days there, a group of us went for a hike starting at the other side of the park - down into the canyon. There are small waterfalls along the way. The first one had a platform where some of the girls and their parents stopped to have a picnic. Here's a shot of Todd & Mercer with the tiny waterfall trickling in the back. To see the other waterfall, you had to cross a long bridge, then head down a series of steps to go below and see. We hung out there for awhile, then began the LONG ascent back to the top of the canyon. From the platform at the first waterfall, we counted over 530 steps up. There were definitely over 600 steps (if not more than 700?) from the bottom of the 2nd waterfall. Todd carried Mercer up-and-up-and-up-and-up the equivalent of a 30 story building+/- !!

All of that hiking apparently wore Mercer out, as he fell asleep as we were approaching the top (the rim) of the canyon. He couldn't even stay awake for a family photo at the top!
We shared a cottage with one of my co-workers who has two daughters. Here, they were singing the "Monster Mash" while Mercer was dancing. (Kinda funny that Todd caught him in this pose!) Out of all of the kids on the retreat, Mercer was the youngest... and he was the only boy. (6 girls between 3 and 7). Needless to say, they loved him, and he really enjoyed himself! We enjoyed ourselves too.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

one year ago today....

... we finalized Mercer's adoption!

We did a "little" something to celebrate -- but we do want to acknowledge and honor that day each year. We got him a Melissa & Doug puzzle (one of our fav. brands of toys) with vehicles on it that make noises when you get the puzzle piece in the right spot. He also got to eat a little scoop of ice cream after dinner. Todd read him a couple of children's adoption books tonight before putting him to bed as well.

(You may notice a little scratch under his eye. He took a tumble off of our porch late last week.)

Mercer had a pretty good day overall. I took the little guy down to meet some friends at the Decatur Book Festival so Todd could focus on another house project. Mercer was not into the story-time reading at the kid's stage (he's definitely too young for that). He didn't really care to wander around and look at the different booths with book sellers either. He was - however - VERY into the playground that was near the Decatur square. The sign posted at the playground said it was for children 2 - 12 years old, but Mercer was all over it. He had no problem climbing up the stairs, crossing an enclosed bridge, and sliding down a slide that was about 7 - 8' high. YIKES! I was with him every step of the way (holding his hand as he crossed the bridge through the rungs and holding his hand as he slid down the slide), but he did it all on his own over and over and over again. Hence no pictures. I was focused on making sure he didn't fall off of this playground structure at any point! It was a little nerve-racking. Mercer's definitely into "testing" the waters -- to see where his boundaries are. Our friend who we met (with 2 and 5 year old sons) kept calling Mercer a dare-devil. *so true*

There was also a community garden next to the playground that all of the kids ran through. This is where I was relaxed enough to take photos! Afterwards, we all went to a friend-of-a-friend's house for lunch. There was more playing with all 6 kids in their play-room and after lunch -- another "first" for Mercer -- playing in a sandbox. One thing that was funny / cute... the 5 year old boy who's house we were at asked "What's his name?" "Mercer," I replied. "That's a nice name," he said.

Once back home, Mercer got to splash around and play in his frog pool, play with sidewalk chalk, water flowers with a pitcher, play with blocks outside, and dance to music inside. It was good day (no - a great day) indeed! Mercer took a moment to reflect on his day before turning in (rather- passing out) for the night.
ps - I did get to visit one booth that I was interested in while at the book festival. The woman who wrote a book (and developed a tracking system for kids) called "Chickin Feed." It's a Primer for modern families to track nutrition. I purchased the book, but held off on the tracking system b/c Mercer's too young and may try to eat the little chickin magnets at this point! It's a really cute way to get the kids involved in what they eat and help them understand the decisions we make for them on what they eat... help them make decisions (from about 3 - 8 is where it's geared). COol. Check it out: