Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

This year, Mercer chose what he wanted to dress up for Halloween: a red car. He was not just any ol' red car -- he was Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie. Well, Mercer "gets" trick-or-treating now. After a neighborhood party that we had, Todd took him to some houses along the street. I'm happy to report that when he got to our house & I held out the bowl of candy, pencils, and raisins... he grabbed a box of raisins. ("Good Choice" I told him -- but he had a lot of candy already, so I don't know that the one box of raisins will counter-act the other sugary treats.) Oh well!

These pictures are actually from the week before Halloween. We went to our church's "trunk or treat" event. Mercer tried out the costume for the first time here. He had to take it off to participate in the bouncy-houses & slides, though. (Yes - he's going head first). He got to wear his costume for a few minutes at school at their fall festival. (I took it up to his school during the event, but his teacher asked me to take it off of because he couldn't sit on the floor with the rest of the kids. Oh well!)

He seemed pretty proud of his costume, though. ~Whew~ it took awhile to make, so glad he likes it! And - now that Halloween is over, I hope he plays in it a lot.

Mercer and I decorated a pumpkin with Mr. Potato Head sort of attachments. (He picked out the pieces that he wanted to use & I helped shoving them into the flesh of the pumpkin - so it really was his creativity that pulled it together.) Todd went old-school and carved a pumpkin for a competition at his office. Happy to say that he won. But - we were even happier that Mercer drew Todd's pumpkin (from memory) the next day at school. I'm sure that when Mercer told his teachers that he was drawing a pumpkin & it only had one eye, they were probably thinking, "um... kid... jack-o-lanterns have two eyes." But - Todd & I both were REALLY impressed. Brilliant!

Have to close with this photo. We were snapping a bunch of photos to get some good ones of him & his costume. Maybe we caught him mid-stream doing something?? (or - he was posing) It's definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple picking in the mountains

We went apple picking last weekend. This year, we went to a town called Blue Ridge (about 1/2 an hour north of where we went before in Ellijay). Previously, we went to a small orchard that had a few varieties of apples available for picking. This year, our visit to Mercier Orchards was quite a bit different -- good and bad.

- good: lots of apples to choose from + beautiful grounds + extensive store with apple-related products, toys, and kitchen accessories.
- bad: inside the store, it felt as if 1,000 people were bustling through there -- it was hectic and crazy.

Here's a "souvenir photo" of the visit with our friends Mike, Sara, Aaron, and Alex. Alex is 4 and any time we hang out with these friends, Mercer talks about Alex for days and days.

The variety of apples was broad. We rode in a trailer pulled by a tractor through the orchard and they talk about the varieties of fruit that they have and the various seasons in which you can pick strawberries or blueberries. They also described the different flavors and varieties of apples that are were currently in season. The farm is large (200 acres) and boasts to have 100,000 trees. There were probably a dozen different varieties available for the picking while we were there. Each family picked a couple of different types that we were interested in and set out for lots of tasting and picking. Mercer - in seeing others pick from the tops of trees - wanted to try to climb on Todd's shoulders and pick the apples high on the branches.

We had hoped to spend more time in the north Georgia mountains this year - but after apple picking and grabbing lunch in the cafe on site was about the limit with a 3 year old (and for us as well).

Mercer is saying a lot of things now like "excuse me" when he interrupts mine / Todd's conversations. Of course - we have to stop! He says "bless you" when we sneeze. He does that thing where he repeats what you say right after you say it so that he's sort of talking over you. He gargles now and will talk or sing while doing it. So far, he's learned to swallow what he's gargling when he bursts out laughing (thankfully) but I'm sure the day will come when he can't control his laughter and he'll send the liquid spewing! He also thinks it's funny to burp (but thankfully he'll say "excuse me" afterwards).

He's becoming a big, big boy...
.... riding his tricycle all by himself
.... dressing himself (when he wants to)
.... and even starting to entertain himself by pulling out his toys and playing or even coloring pictures on his own.

We'll end the post on a funny note (sort of). About a year ago we posted a picture of Mercer "sneaking" a juice box and crawling under a table to drink it. He's doing this again with some regularity now -- so we'll have to watch it!

He sneaks his potty treats / fruit snacks (which we've pretty much stopped giving him as he's growing out of it). He has also snuck some candy from a bag that he got at a recent church event. He hides under a different table now while he's savoring his "forbidden" treat. Sometimes we think he wants to get caught... he'll come into the room, cock his head to one side and look at us with a big grin on his face. We ask - what he's doing and he says "nuff-ing" and runs away with his hands behind his back. Most of the time it's something random that he's picked up - but sometimes it's something that he knows he's not supposed to have. This changes some things... can't just leave stuff laying around the house & "trust" that he won't get it without our help. He's figured out how to get what he wants (within reason) by himself~

This is going to be an intersesting phase!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oh Canada!

I had to travel to Canada for work this past week. A few of my co-workers and I were kicking off a green building project in Toronto + we were attending a large green building conference in the same city (along with about 60 other people from my newly acquired / merged company). It was really pretty crazy as the new company - SCIenergy - was having events a couple of the evenings + there was event that the conference had one evening - a series o speakers followed by a concert in the Air Canada hockey arena. Between the events, the conference, juggling the site visits and kick-off meetings....all told - for 6 days of travel, we had about 4 hours of "free time" so we made the most of it~

There is a system of underground tunnels that connect buildings in Toronto because of the extreme weather in the winter. There is also a network of above-ground enclosed walkways and glass structures between buildings. We stumbled across a structure designed by my favorite architect: Santiago Calatrava. He specializes in bridges, public infrastructure projects, and buildings that have some sort of kinetic (movable) feature to them. He is a very talented architect / engineer. His structures comprise of sinuous lines and are all very elegant. It was refreshing to walk through this project of his! This one in particular connected a couple of more modern buildings as well as one historic building. The differences between the historic and the crisp, clean white metal and glass structure is really quite nice~

Afterwards, we rented bicycles from a bike-share program that has 1000 bikes "locked up" at 80 different stations throughout Toronto. You pay at a kiosk & it unlocks the bike. You ride around however long you want then you return at any of the stations. It made our sight-seeing go much quicker and more fun than hopping on a cable car or open-air bus to get around.

In downtown, there is a mix of modern buildings and preservation of historic structures. The variety makes sight-seeing interesting. We went to an area to the east of the downtown business district was very hip: the Distillery District. This area was comprised of brick warehouse structures that have been converted into a village of trendy restaurants, shops, and galleries. The streets are blocked off from automobiles, they are lined with cobblestones, and public sculpture is scattered throughout -- making it ideal for public gathering and socializing. We spent the majority of our time there rather than the touristy area around the CN tower (which has an observation deck near the top of a spire) in which to see the city from above. That's the first image shown on this blog post - for it's iconic of Toronto.

Toronto is an interesting city -- clean, good infrastructure, diverse & international population, and seems progressive in a number of ways. I liked it as a city. I wish that there was more down-time on the trip in which to have explored more. But it was also great coming home!

This was the first work trip I have taken in close to half a year. I used to take a lot of short 1 - 2 - 3 day trips to places within a drive of Atlanta for my previous job. At this new job (5+ months), the travels are going to be much less frequent but they will all be far away. This is definitely a better arrangement for our little family unit~

When arriving home on Saturday night, Mercer was actually excited to see me. In the past, it doesn't seem that he would care so much - but as he's getting older - he recognizes our absence when we're gone -- even a short absence such as Todd going into work early -- Mercer will inquire about where he is.

There is an entire blog worth of things to write about that Mercer is saying and doing now. That will come shortly. 'Til then, here's some pictures of Mercer at one of our favorite places to hike: Sope Creek and the paper mill ruins that straddle both sides. We took this hike and had a little picnic on the rocks the day before I had to go out of town for the week. It was a beautiful day and it was also the first time that Mercer did this mile +/- hike down to the water all by himself (we helped him navigate over the rocks in the creek - of course). Todd ended up carrying Mercer for only a couple of minutes as we were walking back to the car -- but this is a vast improvement over previous hikes.

Oh, there's nothing "baby" about Mercer anymore! I've had a bit of a hard time this season while changing out summer clothes for bigger fall/winter clothes. Each season is tough, but this season, we put away everything that also deals with potty-training, diapers, etc. It is a great milestone, but also makes us realize that he's not even a toddler anymore. He's a little boy now (or in his firey words - I'm a "big" boy).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Edisto 2011 (Part 2)

We took a different "day trip" this year from Edisto. Last year, we went to Charleston for the day. This year, we stuck to experiencing nature - going on an ecological journey through the ACE Basin. (ACE stands or Ashepoo, Combahee, Edisto Rivers) The ACE Basin is the largest estuary on the east coast - where fresh and salt water come together - supporting a variety of wildlife in a unique habitat.

The boat tour dock was outside of Beaufort, SC and "claims to fame" by being the Bubba Gump Shrimp dock in the movie Forrest Gump. Sorry - we didn't take any pictures of the dock - but we did take a lot of pictures of the various birds that we saw. We saw orange-billed oyster catchers, yellow leg gulls, herons, egrets, ibis, and a pair of mating _____ (something) that we forgot the name of - but was somewhat rare to see. Unfortunately, Mercer started to throw a fit on the boat / screamed / and they flew away. We caught a glimpse of one of those rare birds after it landed just around the bend in the river... thankfully for the others on the boat tour.

We had dolphins playing in front of us and swimming up to meet the boat. Mercer was interested in seeing the dolphins the first few times (but about after seeing them a dozen or more times the excitement faded). He was interested in eating lunch on the boat. He was interested in the (gross) little potty on the boat. He was interested in my hat. The birds - not so much. Oh well. The fresh air was great for all of us.

The next stop that day was to some nearby ruins that Todd and I have been to before of the Old Sheldon Church. Mercer wasn't as impressed as we are by them, but he seemed to have a good time running through the remains of the structure and trying to swing on the tree that was low to the ground.

Another place that we went that was "further afield" from our post at the beach is called Bottany Bay. I blogged about it last year. I went by myself because Mercer was sick & had fallen asleep on Todd's lap on our last day at the beach on our trip in 2010. This year - happy to say - no one fell ill.... so we went out to this former 4000+ acre plantation. The state of SC manages the property now and it is free to visit. There is a variety of wildlife here as well. The marsh didn't seem as fascinating this year as last -- but probably b/c we were immersed in it during our boat tour. The highlight of the visit was the naturalized beach and the shore full of shells.

There's a strange tradition there of placing the conch shells found on the trees. You are not allowed to take shells from the property, so perhaps people wanted to display their finds? Mercer caught right on and joined in with the same tradition.

We decided that next year, we will take a picnic lunch and spend more time on that beach.
Yes - we decided that we would like to go back again. There's not a great deal of things to do there, but that's the allure. And - 'til we have exhausted all interested in this place - we may be calling this "our" beach spot.