23 March 2009

prize winning pig :)

I got some great news today...I received my first blog award! Sweet LeeAnne bestowed this fine honour on me and I couldn't be more chuffed. So to keep the love going, I will follow the rules and pay it forward. First, I will sharing 7 things I love and then follow up by passing the award to 7 folks whose blog I enjoy reading.

1) My family. Okay, so that seems a given but I this had to be the top of my list. My life has taken some unexpected turns and I have had some rough times along the way but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Though my husband sometimes drives me mad (like when he leaves the lights on all over the house), there is no one on this planet that is better suited for me. He is truly the "yang" to my "yin". Marcus is the most patient and most loving husband and father and I am so thankful for him. I adore my two girls and can't imagine life without them. I love that they are the best (and sometimes worst!) parts of Marcus and myself. Both of them constantly make me laugh, cry, and have every emotion in between. I had always wanted to be a mother but I never imagined it would be this fabulous. I just wish time would go by more slowly so that I could enjoy them even more.

2) Reading. Though it has become harder for me to make time to read since having children, I still enjoy escaping to far off lands, learning about another culture, or growing as a person while reading a good book. I find myself reading more autobiographies and non-fiction these days but every once and a while I will come across some good fiction. Fortunately, Fiona also loves books. We curl up every night as a family (Tilly included) and read at least 4 books to Fiona. If she has an opportunity to have a "treat", she usually picks a book. I even catch her "reading" to her fuzzy friends (stuffed animals) in her room.

3) African culture. I became interested in African art work and culture during my university days studying cultural anthropology. I had several friends who were in the Peace Corps who sent me beautiful batik pieces and jewelry. I love the bright fabrics, the zest for life as displayed through dancing and song, and the diversity of languages and traditions. When I met Marcus and he told me he was born in Nigeria and had lived in several African countries including Ghana and Sierre Leone, I knew we were destined to be together. Our home is a myriad of our two individual collections and includes masks, carvings, and other art work. I love African music also. Marcus and I have gone to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo, one of our favourite "groups" several times. Someday I hope to travel to Africa to see the beauty for myself.

4) Dancing. There is nothing more exhilirating than just letting loose and dancing! I don't care if I am good at it, I just like to do it. It is a great stress reliever and surprisingly good exercise. I am usually one of the first folks on the dance floor at a party. I love dancing around the house with the girls. This apparently is another thing Fiona gets from me as she loves to dance also. I caught her by herself doing the "Alex dance" the other morning while she was watching Madagascar. Yes, she likes to "move it, move it" too!

5) Traveling. Perhaps traveling is "in my blood". I grew up in a military family where we moved around a lot. Until I went to high school, I had not been to the same school twice! I have lived in every part of the United States and have probably traveled to the rest of the states. I also had the fortune to live in Spain and England also. I think traveling is very important for people. It gives you great empathy and insight and helps us understand those who are "different". It is hard to be prejudice when you have seen another person's plight. You also quickly learn that we are more alike than we are not alike. This is another Marcus and I had in common when we met. He grew up moving around also and he shared the opinion that our children should be well traveled. Already Fiona has traveled to Canada and England as well as several other countries during several cruises. She adapts well to her environment and is willing to try new foods. Hopefully, Matilda will be this way as well.

6) Friends. As a military brat, I had always dreamed of having long lasting friendships. I wanted to meet those people that you go on vacations with, that your children grow up with, and with whom you can just be yourself. Unfortunately, where we live the city is very 'insular' - if you aren't born and raised here, it is hard to 'fit in'. A lot of people are also focused on "keeping up with the Joneses" and work hard to impress. While we had met some people, it just never really "clicked". Plus, it is amazing to see that no matter what age you might be, some women have not really grown out of the high school mentality of two is company, three is a crowd. I don't want just one friend, I want a variety of friends from different backgrounds from which I can explore different sides of my personality. After several years, we have finally met some great friends - nice families where the husbands get along, the wives get along, and the children get along smashingly! (I use the plural because yes, more than two can get along without petty jealousy and feeling threatened.) Those kind of people who you can count on in a heartbeat to be there. The kind that can drop in unexpectedly and you don't care if they see the hair tumbleweeds blowing along your floors because you know they won't judge you for it. Friends that you can tell your most initimate secrets to and know they won't repeat it. It is refreshing to have them in our lives.

7) Outdoors. I love the environment. I love sitting on my front step and watching a line of ants crawl up the porch. I love hearing the woodpecker in the tree. I love collecting pine cones and walnuts with Fiona. I love feeling the wind on my face. I love the crispness of the air. It does something for your soul. The most miserable I have ever been in my life was when I had my most recent job. I was stuck in a grey walled cubicle with no windows or access to fresh air. My friends and I would take our lunch outside and soak every ounce up that we could. We even snuck out for walks just to feel alive! We have been given the most beautiful gift of all - this beautiful planet and all the life contained in it. I hope that both of my girls will have the same opportunities I have had to enjoy it.

So now that I have rambled on about my loves...here are the folks to whom I bestowed my Kreative Blogger award.

1) Ann - Ann makes me laugh like no other. We "met" via our common interest in the environment and our live of Barack Obama. She has a gift with her storytelling. When I need some cheering up, I can pop over and see the hilarity of the every day. Plus she throws a mean Virtual Girl's Night Out!

2) Shannon - another "crunchy mom" whom I learn from every day. She is a mom of two who is trying to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle also. Though we haven't met in person, we have a lot in common. She loves books, is a transplanted Southern girl and has even lived in England!

3) Ginspaghetti - one of the neatest women on the planet! I somehow found my way to her site and can't miss a single posting! Not only does she work in non-profit but she is a true activist in her personal life. I have learned about some fantastic charities from her blog. She is a great "mom" to her dogs and to some children in far off lands. I know she will raise the best children when she has her own family some day. I am a better person for knowing her.

4) Jen - where do I begin? Jen is so talented it just isn't fair! Not only does create masterpieces from recycled goods but she has some of the most beautiful photographs you will ever lay your eyes upon. Again, she is a guru when it comes to green living and raising an eco-friendly family. She truly "walks the walk" and I hope that I can be 1/10th the mother she is to her wonderful children.

5) Dawn - such a compassionate soul! She has given me support with her uplifting and encouraging words. Another talented photographer whose pictures transport me to sunny lands far away. I look forward to getting to know her even better!

6) Lucie - Lu is my cousin-in-law of sorts..she has been dating my cousin for several years now and I absolutely love her! Lu was the person that got me into the blogosphere. Lucie is a talented artist and one of the most fascinating young women you will ever meet. She is originally from France and has a zest for life like no other! She has been learning more about compassionate and sustainable living and has even taught this old dog a few new tricks.

7) Lu 'n Am - this fab site is run by Lucie (mentioned above) and Amber. Amber and Lucie have been friends for a while as Amber dates Lucie's brother. I have had the pleasure of meeting Amber in person and she truly lights up the room with her beautiful spirit. Though I am a bit partial to this site since the authors asked me to be a guest writer, the blog dedicated to sustainable, creative, and green living is one of the best out there. These young women work hard to bring their readers information on how to reuse and recyle. They are both so crafty and creative that I often shake my head at their pure genius. I am a forever fan!

If you see your name above and want to play along, please pay it forward. Write a blog entry about seven things you love, and award seven friends whose blogs you love reading. Don't forget to provide links to the blogs!

14 March 2009

Mummy according to Fiona

I have seen this little questionnaire of sorts going around Facebook and the internet so I thought I would interview Fiona. It is so interesting to see how you are through the eyes of your children. Here are her answers - unedited, unfiltered...

Mummy according to Fiona, age 3 3/4 (next month is her birthday!)

1. What is something mummy always says to you? I love you.

2. What makes mummy happy? being kind to the Earth

3. What makes mummy sad? When people say "I don't like you and I don't want to play with you".

4. How does your mummy make you laugh? by tickling me and saying "whoa, Nelly!"

5. What was your mummy like as a child? she used to play with her two dolls (there is a picture of me at age 5 with Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy)

6. How old is your mummy? I don't know

7. How tall is your mummy? I don't know

8. What is her favorite thing to do? drink soda and say "I love you!"

9. What does mummy do when you're not around? she calls me and says I'll be right there in a minute when I get done at the grocery store.

10. If your mummy becomes famous, what will it be for? I don't know..what is famous?

11. What is your mummy really good at? making magic (???)

12. What is your mum not very good at? throwing pretend food up in the air and catching it

13. What does your mummy do for her job? she takes books to school and writes her name in them

14. What is your mummy's favorite food? mac and cheese that she eats with her little girl

15. What makes you proud of your mummy? being nice

16. If your mummy were a cartoon character, who would she be? Robinhood

17. What do you and your mummy do together? play outside, read books

18. How are you and your mummy the same? both have blonde hair and blue eyes (I like her definition of "blonde"!)

19. How are you and your mummy different? we wear different clothes

20. How do you know your mummy loves you? she says "I love you, Fifi" all the time

21. Where is your mummy's favorite place to go? to the ice cream place with Fifi, to Jason's Deli, and to the bookstore

09 March 2009

the zoo dilemma

Fiona bonding with a camel - look at the smile on her face!

The Stapletons are a family of animal lovers. We adore our "furry children" (Lulu dog, Biko and Molly cat, and Kelly the Fighting Fish) and often "rescue" worms after rainstorms, help ducks cross busy roads, etc. As a parent, I am guilty of imposing my values on my children. One of those values is avoiding the exploitation of animals for our entertainment. Right or wrong on my part, Fiona and Matilda will not attend a circus. (Read why here). I prefer to have the girls observe animals in their natural environment. This is why I love Ijams Nature Center. However, what do you I when you want to expose my children to animals that aren't found in East Tennessee?

Like a lot of animal lovers and environmentalists, I have mixed feelings about zoos. There are pros and cons to zoos:

Pros include:
* opportunity for children to see animals that they wouldn't normally get to see
* creates a connection for people with the animal world which helps in conservation
* protects endangered species through captive breeding programs
* educates the public about various species

Cons include:
* animals are taken away from the 'natural environment' - polar bears in warm climates, zebras not given ample room to roam and run
* natural instincts to hunt and gather are eliminated as an "unnatural diet" is fed to them
* shorter life expectancy in captivity
* fewer offspring produced in captivity
* boredom for the animals

After much debating and considering all the pros and cons, we have taken Fiona to the zoo on many occasions. Though the conditions are not ideal at the Knoxville Zoo and there are many exhibits I voluntarily skip - namely the gorillas, chimps, bears, and tigers - due to the number of times that I have witnessed distressed and bored behavior, the Zoo does provide an opportunity for us to learn. For instance, I never knew that rhinos have one "dung pile" that they visit as a community.

Fiona often comes back and wants to learn more about a particular animal she saw during our visit. Yesterday, we went to the zoo with her friend, Anabel. Fiona was fascinated by the behavior of the meerkats. Here they are watching the meerkat groom himself/herself? and then doing their best meerkat imitation. We are learning more about the social lives of meerkats and are looking into getting the series, Meerkat Manor. If it weren't for our outing, Fiona would have never been exposed to these loveable creatures.

We are also planning a trip to Disney in April for Fiona's 4th birthday. Fiona was excited to learn that there was a whole theme park devoted to animals - Animal Kingdom. Again, I have had mixed feelings about this childhood "rite of passage". Yet, I have learned that in this particular area, Disney has really worked hard on behalf of the animals there. While I was reading up on this, I came across The Green Parent blog who has some excellent posts about 'going green at Disney' and 'animal conservation at Disney'.

Maybe I am just trying to justify our visits to these places but I do believe that places like zoos and safari parks have benefits that are worth exploring. Of course, there is nothing like observing animals in their natural environment and hopefully, some day we will be able to take our children to far off lands to see giraffes roaming freely. Until then, we will settle for what we can and will make sure that we educate our girls that these conditions are not ideal for the animals.

What are your thoughts on the subject? I would love to hear from you!

Links to make you think:
Nature Watch's Fact Sheet on Zoos
Disney Animal Kingdom