Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kids basketball in Greenville

With a season of City of Greenville Parks & Recreation soccer under his belt, Lauris was excited to try out their basketball program. Based in the Park Avenue gym, the kids met weekly for a total of 8 trainings/games.

The program description from the Greenville City website: “This program focuses on instructing 4 and 5 year olds on the fundamentals of basketball. The first four weeks of the program focuses solely on the basic skills, such as passing, dribbling and shooting. During the last four weeks, the participants will play non-competitive games in addition to teaching and practicing basketball fundamentals.”

Lauris acquired terminology and basic skills. The kids learned the concept of defense, practiced passing, got a chance to shoot in a game setting, and actually started playing a little like a team by the end of the season. They used baskets that could be lowered and smaller basketballs so that they could get the satisfaction of seeing their shots go in.

This former high school basketball rock star mvp mom once again had a hard time keeping quiet on the sidelines. I want to find a court and start practicing with the boys for two reasons: 1. I miss basketball and would like to get back on the court and 2. with his height we can totally train Lauris to be a ringer on his team next year…

My favorite aspect of the City of Greenville program was the coaching. Tara and staff were energetic and focused, teaching the kids something while guaranteeing each and every one of them had fun and felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of each session. They remained positive, handled the usual 4/5yo issues that popped up with ease and confidence, and hopefully will return next year. Programs like these owe their success level completely to the coaching staff, and the basketball coaches did a fantastic job getting the kids involved, enthused and playing.

And in the audience was one little brother learning all the moves so that he can show his big brother up in a year or two!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Enchanted Forest

I caught an intriguing glimpse of what seemed to be a coloring book in a blog post by Lauren of CrumbBums last month, and discovered I wasn’t the only one demanding the title when scrolling down to the comments section. It turns out the book is by Johanna Basford and is called “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book.” She later wrote this post on the nature-inspired coloring book, and I have added it to the kids’ (my) wishlist.

Being the tree-oriented gal that I am, I couldn’t resist ordering the newest book by the same author instead, “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book.” I’m not completely ready to let the boys loose on this gorgeous book, so I copied a few pages and brought out the markers on one rainy day last week.

We sat, colored and talked, and after an hour had passed I realized I was enjoying myself, possibly more than the boys. The good news is there are endless pages left to color in addition to the quest of the Enchanted Forest.

Hidden within the pages are forest creatures of all sorts such as hedgehogs, woodpeckers, dragonflies and frogs, and nine symbols carved into square tablets. Once the symbols have been discovered the final door is unlocked, revealing the end of the quest and one final magnificent surprise.


I can’t adequately describe this book; you simply must see it for yourself. It’s possibly my boys are still a little too young to color within the lines, but doesn’t mom need something to color on those rainy days when all the markers and colored pencils have been pulled out?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Greenville zoo in winter

As the snow and sleet once more hit the Upstate, several of our planned playgroups were cancelled and rescheduled. Somewhat desperate to get out of the house last week we headed to the zoo. Many of the animals were hiding indoors from the cold, but a few were enjoying the fresh air and with a stop at concessions for hot chocolate it was a very pleasant afternoon.

The alligators and snapping turtles cuddling in the cold weather

The grand opening of the South American Aviary exhibit was a couple weeks ago, just before the first of the cold hit. On our visit zookeepers were busy trying to catch the sun conures to move them indoors to warmer quarters where the other birds were already waiting. The redesigned exhibit offers a much larger space for the eight different species of birds, and gives visitors a taste of what is to come this year in the South American department.

What was formerly the elephant exhibit will make its debut as the South American mixed-species exhibit this summer. Construction is well underway on the area that will feature giant anteaters, rheas and mara, as well as plants and grasses native to their South American home.

Another recent development is the new Nature’s Nook play area located adjacent to the aviary. What used to be a bear sculpture and a couple of picnic tables is now an unstructured play area for kids. Featuring exploration tables, musical instruments and the building blocks I wrote about a while back, I can imagine this area will be a big hit once the weather warms up. Nature’s Nook was made possible through a grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), who announced last September that Greenville Zoo was granted AZA accreditation.

Many of the animals are used to warmer weather and were hiding indoors, such as the orangutans and most of the other primates. Bob, the baby Bornean orangutan (actually born in 2006) left us in December for his new home at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon as part of the Orangutan Species Survival Program breeding program. We're happy Bob is getting along with his new friend Kumar…

Meanwhile the Amur leopards were loving the cold weather and patchy snow. I have rarely seen them moving around as much as during this colder weather.

Yesterday we woke to an inch of snow, and as the morning zoo trip was cancelled we headed to Falls Park with a sled borrowed from the neighbors. The weather forecast for this evening calls for more snow; I don’t want to jinx it, but we could sure use another few inches… Warm wishes to all of our friends at the zoo, we’ll be back to see you soon!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Bassmaster Classic in Greenville

When we got married a bunch of our friends chipped in and bought us a boat. I’m totally serious, Roberts and I are boat owners. We’ve got one of those floating keyrings and everything. That the fishing boat is currently in Michigan, the Great Lake State is a big fish story for another day, but my point is, our friends knew something about us. And that’s that we love to fish.

A Gaŗezers musky

Of course there’s been less fishing the last years, but that doesn’t diminish the feeling of a tug on the line after a perfect cast. Roberts used to keep a tackle box in the trunk of his car “just in case.” And my best present to him while I was living in Georgia and working for the Fish & Wildlife Service was knowing which local lakes and ponds were likely to be hottest on opening day. For me it was more about the solitude; I loved having an excuse to get out on the lake in the early morning hours with a travel mug of coffee and a cooler, taking advantage of the coolest temperatures of the day and watching the fog rise from the lake. Which is probably a good thing, as I never caught much.

Me with a rare catch - a Piedmont NWR largemouth bass

It’s been a no-brainer to hand a fishing pole to the boys during our summer trips to Gaŗezers, and they’ve already spent hours out on the pier with vecmamma Aija and their cousins, patiently practicing their cast and even catching a few fish. These days Lauris is proudly wearing the kids fishing tournament t-shirt I sent my godson Imants back when I was working for the Fish & Wildlife Service, which has traveled the full circle and now fits him perfectly. I expect that I’ll have another fisherman in Vilis, as he’ll want to join his brothers as soon as he can wobble after them. In fact, I look forward to the days when the boys are old enough (know how to swim and can bait their own hook) to take fishing trips as a family.

So what brings about this trip down memory creek? This weekend bass fishing’s famous Bassmaster Classic was in town! The 2015 Geico Bassmaster Classic (presented by GoPro) started Friday, with a daily launch on Lake Hartwell, the expo at the TD Convention Center and a daily weigh-in at the Bon Secours Wellness Area. The weather made for some interesting fishing, as cold temperatures, rain and sleet delayed start times and provided unusual conditions. After Sunday’s weigh-in Upstate native Casey Ashley emerged victorious with a total weight of 50.1 pounds – four pounds (and $255,000) more than runner-up Bobby Lane.

Casey Ashley at Sunday's weigh-in (source here)

We didn’t make it out to Anderson for the morning launch, but we headed to the expo on Saturday. The place was packed, traffic spilling out onto Pleasantburg Rd. and people lining up for trials and freebies. Honestly, it was pure madness navigating the expo with the boys, but on the other hand they scored some great new gear to try out this summer.

The Bassmaster Classic expo (source here)

We had the best of intentions to attend one of the daily weigh-ins, but skipped it upon seeing the crowds waiting for the doors to open. From the online pictures it looks like the place was packed and we made the right choice. However, the Classic has reminded me how much I miss all of it: being out on the water, the thrill of that first tug, releasing the catch and watching it swim away… As the temperatures warm up I’m already researching a few places to try our luck, and Roberts will soon get the assignment of sorting out the boys’ poles and gear – as I know he’s got his ready to go!

Launch on Lake Hartwell (source here)

For the Greenville Bassmaster Classic website click here
The official 2015 Bassmaster Classic website is here
          (In particular, the photo albums from the action out on the lake like this one)

The boys and Miss SC, Lanie Hudson at the expo

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Upstate encased

With Presidents’ Day on Monday and inclement weather holidays yesterday and today, Greenville kids have gotten a little winter mini-break.

On the other hand, most of our plans this week have been cancelled due to hazardous driving conditions. So hello, stir-crazy.

 Dad waited until the roads were safe to head to work yesterday, and we had a couple of hours to explore the frozen milieu with him in the morning.

Luckily there was little wind in our neck of the woods, and so other than a branch or two our big trees are still intact and power remained on.

My hyacinth came up a little early this year, I don’t think it will make it. And the carrots, radish and salad that have been slowly but surely producing for us all winter are probably goners. But oh, it was gorgeous outside – our own Frozen.

I was amazed at the vibrant colors magnified by the ice.  

Even our lawn had been transformed, with delicate Chihuly sculptures emerging from the ground.

The boys were less enthralled with the world of ice, as what little wasn’t too hard to play with soaked their gloves in an instant. So we took it all in and then headed indoors for hot chocolate.

Because that’s what snow (ice) days are all about, aren’t they? Hot chocolate.

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