Posts filed under ‘Neighborhood Kids’
In my May of 2010 post, What I’m Known For I described how my teenage neighbor Khaliya was reminded of me.
… Khaliya said, “I was walking [my dog] and she took a doodie in the street and I cleaned it up…and I thought, ‘This reminds me of Vicky Somma.’”
Yesterday, Khaliya messaged me on Facebook. Something else made her think of me… and this time it wasn’t at all related to dog poop! :)
Awww, running! She thought of me with running!
And for the record, Khaliya’s sentiment is mutual. Ryan and I miss the neighborhood kids terribly.
Tonight, May 13th, Pasquotank and Camden County will be having its Relay for Life at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. As such, this is my annual post to see if anyone wants to make a tax-deductible donation for 2011 to the American Cancer Society. BUT THERE’S A TWIST! This year, if you feel enticed to give, I would like to request that you to donate to one of the neighborhood kids instead of through my personal donation page.
In the past two years, the neighborhood kids have taken quite a liking to Relay. They’ve accompanied us each year and have been active walkers. In 2009, one eleven year old walked a little over six miles with us!
This year, four of the neighborhood kids are official members of our “Hunter Street Hope” team. Before Ryan and I moved to Virginia, the kids were of wonderful help with Relay ranging from working on the Christmas Parade float to making thank you gifts for donations to actually updating the www.RiverCityRelay.com website and registering users. I would love to help them make some progress towards their fundraising goals!
In November, Tyrek learned plastic canvas and helped stitch some Holiday Gobblers as thank you gifts for our November donations. Thanks in part to Tyrek’s efforts, we got three surprise donations from Magic Players at the Earth 383 Comic Book Shop!
Tyrek Working on Holiday Gobbler
Finished Holiday Gobbler
Risha & Vick
Sisters Risha and Vick were both active participants in this year’s Relay for Life float for the Elizabeth City Christmas Parade. They volunteered for duty two nights and helped transform a bunch of plywood into the float that won first place in the Civic Category!
Risha Paints Magnolia Leaves
Vick, Debbie and Deanna Work on Float
Khalif also helped decorate the Christmas Parade float, but his contributions extend much further than that. Before I moved, Khalif served as the assistant to the Online Chair for our event. He attended the Team Captain Meetings (and also helped with the setup and clean up) and put his computer skills to work. He helped update the http://www.RiverCityRelay.com website and took the lead on registering users online during our Kickoff Meeting.
Khalif Prepares Team Packets
Khalif Registers Users Online
Whether you decide to give or not to give, thanks for letting me brag about my neighborhood kids! They’ve made me proud…and I do I miss them terribly now that I’m in Virginia.
Phew! We had a busy week with a few extracurricular activities. Enjoy!
Tuesday – Science Fair
On Tuesday night, Tyrek came over and finished up his report and backboard for the J.C. Sawyer Science Fair.
I was feeling pretty good about Tyrek’s project. Then on Wednesday morning when Ryan and I dropped the project off at J.C. Sawyer Elementary, we got a glimpse of the handiwork of Tyrek’s classmates. Man, all of those kids worked really hard and some of them got super creative with decorating the backboards. Tyrek and the philodendrons have some stiff competition! : )
Thursday – Relay for Life Team Meeting
On Thursday, the Pasquotank/Camden Relay for Life had their Team Captain’s Meeting. Khalif and Terrance came with me. Khalif even got to spin the prize wheel and won a hat. Both boys were very helpful. Khalif got some people registered online, Terrance took some pictures for the recap and both helped the committee members pack up their cars. Since the meeting, Khalif and his grandmother have already raised $35 more dollars for Relay. Go Hunter Street Hope!
Saturday – National Blonde Brownie Day
The Year of Living Unofficially tipped us off that January 23rd was National Blonde Brownie Day. Early in the day, Ryan and I perused and picked out a Blonde Brownie recipe. That afternoon we made ourselves a special treat to enjoy after our supper of turkey chili.
The brownies turned out to be quite serendiptious. At 3 AM, I had to get up for a support call. This exceedingly unappealing activity had a surprising silver lining. I may have had to get out of bed. BUT— I had leftover brownies to assist me!
It’s Science Fair season again! Last year, Ryan and I helped Shadonna with her project– “How Does Humidity Effect Plants?” We took four babies off my spider plant (which was once a baby itself on my paternal grandmother’s plant), grew two in “normal Vicky & Ryan Kitchen Air” and two in humid, ziplock bags. The plants grown in the ziplocks ended up so much greener and happier! That experiment definitely left an impression on me. This summer when I started some new baby spider plants for myself– I started them off in a ziplock bag as well. : )
This year another one of my house plants gets to contribute! 4th grader Tyrek decided to do an experiment on “The Effect of Salt on Plants”. He’s going to give three plants fresh water, three plants brackish water and three plants salt water. This time it’s my Philodendron who’s up to bat. This Philodendron wasn’t originally mine. I inherited it in the late 90’s from the CEO of a company I used to work for! To get the nine plants we planted cuttings off that Philodendron. Here’s Tyrek in action:
It’s been 16 days so far since the cuttings were planted. I haven’t been taking the detailed measurements Tyrek has, but just from what I noticed when I’m waiting for my morning coffee, it does appear that all the fresh water and brackish water plants are doing well, but two of the salt water plants are starting to wilt.
We’ll see how it goes. Either way, I’m thrilled my humble, silent houseplants have managed to participate two years in a row. : )
Saturday night, the Elizabeth City Jaycees hosted their annual Christmas Parade which includes a float competition. I believe there were roughly 90 floats participating, including one sponsored by our Pasquotank/Camden Relay for Life. The week proceeding the parade, our Event Chair organized a series of decorating sessions to get the float ready. The theme this year was “Supporting Our Troops”. So we made our float the “Let Freedom Ring” float. One of those freedoms ringing would be freedom from cancer.
The neighborhood kids proved to be very worthy helpers as Ryan and I prepared for the wedding. I checked and they were more than willing to help with the Relay for Life float as well.
Monday night, Ryan and I were accompanied by Vick and Risha. We had a hearty, but not exactly healthy, supper at Taco Bell then we met up with everyone and worked on the float!
Thursday Ryan had a late conference call, but that didn’t mean I went alone. Khalif, Terrance, Jacal and young Malena all came to help. Our primary focus was lining the bottom of the float with little silver bells to compliment our “Let Freedom Ring” theme. The most difficult part of this operation seemed to be untangling the bells, though reloading the staple gun was a doozie as well.
There was plenty of time for play too. We posed for pictures and the kids had a chance to play some football.
Afterwards I treated everyone to supper at their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Friday, my helpers were Vick and Risha. Only when we showed up, the float was already done! : ) So we decided to go out to eat and then took in Christmas lights before heading home.
The neighborhood kids, Ryan and I were far from the only helpers on the float. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, I thought we ended up with a great float. Despite some very chilly weather, a number of people showed up to ride the float. Two survivors were particularly determined to walk instead of ride, which was super cool because that is what I wanted to do! The people who rode on the float rang purple bells. The walkers (that’s me!) got to hand out candy to bystanders.
The judges apparently liked our float as well. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, including the neighborhood kids, our float won 1st Place in the Civic category!!!
More pictures of our float and the Elizabeth City Christmas Parade are available on my Flickr site.
P.S. Touched by the efforts of neighborhood kids? With 2010 coming to a close, you still have time to make a tax-deductible donation to one of their Relay for Life donation pages:
There’s a common misconception that the American chestnut is extinct. That’s not the case. The large trees may have been decimated by the blight, but you can see plenty of little trees in the Appalachians. Alas, those small trees will eventually succumb to the blight as well before they can reach the large sizes of yesteryear.
But here’s the thing about the American chestnut. It’s incredibly optimistic. The American chestnut is not afraid to try again. The blight will take its the branches. The blight will take its trunk, but when the tree “dies”, the roots send up another shoot to give life another whirl. It’s almost as if the tree shrugs and thinks, “Well, that sucked.” and then moves on.
The weeks following our wedding was an exciting time in the chestnut arena. We got to watch as our seeds germinated. I was amazed at how from the get-go the tiniest baby leaf already looked like an American chestnut. It had itty bitty curved teeth!
We slowly exposed our baby trees to full sun and full wind. We watched them peek out of the top of their pots and continue to grow. I remember how giddy I was when I realized I could clearly make out the chestnuts when we drove down Dawson Street before we reached our road! In June, we celebrated one of the chestnuts reaching 12″ tall.
Leaving for a trip, I gave the trees extra water. It turned out to be an unnecessary gesture. It rained the whole time we were gone. Worse– the holes in the bottom of our pots were obstructed so all that water queued up. This was not good– American chestnuts are sensitive to overwatering. When we returned home, our formerly happy chestnuts were far from happy. And just like that, they died.
I felt… horrible! The American Chestnut Foundation had put so much work and research into those nuts and I turned around and killed them. I literally lost sleep over it, a fact I couldn’t hide from my mother thanks to Mark Zuckerberg (“Why were you on Facebook at 4 AM?!?”).
After a few days, I realized there was only one thing I could do to feel better. I needed to confess! I called up The American Chestnut Foundation and apologized to the poor employee who happened to answer the phone. She had a scientist call me back to gather up some data about my potting mix, my fertilizer and pot sizes. All I wanted from the conversation was a means to appease my guilt. I ended up with a lot more. At the end of our phone call, the scientist surprised me, an established tree killer, by offering me more seed.
And here’s another confession. I’m not as brave as the American chestnuts in the Appalachians. I didn’t want to try again. I was timid and scared and had to be talked into it! Luckily, I gave in and in mid-June Ryan and I received another package marked “Refrigerate Upon Opening”
Our second wave of chestnuts aren’t from the “Restoration generation” (B3F3). They are still 15/16 American, but are members of the earlier B2F3 generation.
Ryan and I didn’t have enough pots to accomodate all of our newcomers, so we bought cheapy biodegradable peat moss pots to get some of the seedlings started. They were shorter than the recommended size, but they did have a surprise side benefit. Those pots dried out super fast, helping me avoid the overwatering mistake from my past. Later in the summer we invested in real pots for all the seedlings! This time, we verified each and every hole in the bottom and in a couple of cases, poked extra holes. : )
On the surface, it looked like the small peat moss pots did the trick, but I will note that all of our tallest seedlings were ones that were planted in the bigger pots from Day One.
With the help of Jacal, we planted 48 nuts. Some of them had crazy long radicals. We cut the radical down to 1/2″ for 11 of the nuts. The remaining seed we left the radicals completely in tact. Two nuts were moldy and didn’t have radicals. One nut’s radical broke. Out of those 48 nuts, we had 45 germinate. Yup– the moldy nuts and the one with the broken radical were the ones that did not make an appearence.
Our soil mixture was the recommended 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 vermiculite. Jacal helped me mix it up.
Germination was substantially faster this time. In March, it took our seeds roughly 13 days to poke up out of the soil. The June wave, took just 4 days before baby chestnuts made their above soil debut.
Chestnuts like slightly acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 to 6.5. For fertilization, I used MiracleGro for Azaleas, Camellia, Rhododendron (it’s geared for “All Acid-Loving Plants”). It was recommended that I fertilize them every other week. Once the hurricanes and tropical storms started coming our way and the plants were getting watered frequently from nature, they were only fertilized once a month (the fertilizer was mixed in water and I was fearful of overwatering).
Pest Control (Or lack thereof)
I did not use any kind of pesticide this summer, but it probably would have been welcomed by the chestnuts. A couple of them were deemed tasty by insects and I did find two cankerworm squatters.
Of the twenty-two chestnuts I kept here in Elizabeth City, I did have three casualties. Of the survivors, some have done better than others. My tallest right now was planted on June 17, 2010 and on November 29th, it was 29″ tall.
|Planting Date||Size on 11/29/2010|
|June 17, 2010*||24″|
|June 17, 2010*||29″|
|June 17, 2010*||15″|
|June 17, 2010*||11″|
|June 17, 2010*||24″|
|June 17, 2010*||16″|
|June 18, 2010||9″|
|June 18, 2010||10″|
|June 18, 2010||6″|
|June 18, 2010||12″|
|June 18, 2010||7″|
|June 18, 2010||12″|
|June 18, 2010||6 1/2″|
|June 18, 2010||12″|
|June 18, 2010||18″|
|June 18, 2010||11″|
|June 18, 2010||9″|
|June 18, 2010||10″|
|June 18, 2010||7 1/2″|
*Originally Planted in Larger Pots
I may have planted these guys late, but apparently they got to grow a little longer here in warm North Carolina. On Facebook, I saw someone’s Restoration chestnuts in Traverse City, Michigan yellowing in early October. Our chestnuts didn’t start to yellow until nearly a month later. I first spotted changing leaves on November 17th.
The chestnuts got their first glimpse of snow of December 5, 2010. As you can see, some of them are STILL sporting green leaves!
The Neighborhood Kids
As with many of our endeavors, the neighborhood kids were involved. Above you saw that Jacal helped with the soil mixing and the planting. When Ryan and I traveled to Cape Cod this summer, the chestnuts stayed healthy under the watchful eye of Dada, Vick and Risha. But here is my favorite American Chestnut/Neighborhood Kid story (so far):
Over the summer, 4th grader Tyrek came over for a visit. We talked on the back deck surrounded by all the little baby chestnuts and all the little baby pawpaws. Tyrek was telling me a story when he suddenly stopped in mid-sentence. He looked at his surroundings and said, “Vicky, these trees make me happy!”
My reply— “They make me happy too.” : )
And there you go! Sometimes trying again can be terrifying. Sometimes trying again seems hopeless. But sometimes… sometimes trying again will bring you something to smile about.
Please note– this post is just a discussion of my experience and I am far, far, far from an expert and am still learning myself. If you are interested in growing American chestnuts, I recommend the following references:
TACF Fact Sheet – How To Grow Your Chestnuts
Growing Chestnuts From Seed – Long Instructions from Meadowview Research Farm
Growing Chestnuts From Seed – Quick Instructions from Meadowview Research Farm
The Chestnut Growers Mailing List (Great resource for questions and answers)
For more information of donating to or becoming a member of The American Chestnut Foundation, visit:
Last Saturday was “turkey day”. The neighborhood kids came over. Some of them used the computers and some learned how to make the Holiday Gobblers for our Relay for Life Team. I was pretty busy helping them through the process and rethreading yarn, but I did take a few shots:
And here are some of Saturday’s efforts:
Do you covet a cute little turkey of your own? Simply make a November donation to our Hunter Street Hope Relay for Life Team.
For roughly five years, Ryan has been helping out at Earth 383 Comics and Games. The neighborhood kids and I started to tag along on Friday nights when Ryan manages the WotC Friday Night Magic games. At first, the kids and I showed up for endeavors other than Magic. I rather liked the shop as a place to catch up on programming tasks. Meanwhile the kids were drawn in by the XBox and Rock Band.
Over the summer, our motives for showing up Friday nights have changed. Ryan taught the boys Magic… and they LOVE it. They play amongst themselves, come over for card interpretations, save up for card sleeves and dice, and text me each Friday afternoon to see what time they can come to Earth 383. As I tried to be supportive of their first WotC draft and helped the younger ones with their matches, I found myself captivated as well. There are still Friday nights where I use the time to program… but now there are also Friday nights where after a long week, I look forward to shutting the laptop down and playing Magic with Ryan and the kids.
Friday Night Magic has become such a mainstay of our week that when Earth 383 had a party celebrating its 8th Anniversary, it was a no brainer! We had to go! So Saturday, October 16th we headed down to Earth 383 for the celebration. There were people in costumes, delicious food to eat and lots of games– Yu-gi-oh!, Dominion, RoboRally and of course, Magic.
The comic book shop has been such a great community for us and has brought along so many great memories and experiences. I hope there are many more anniversaries to come!
Ever since the first cartoon pig banner showed up in Elizabeth City, the neighborhood kids have been talking about the Chowan County Fair. It would be difficult to resist such enthusiasm. For the second year in a row, Ryan and I agreed to drive. On Friday October 1, with part of our yard still underwater, we left Elizabeth City behind and headed to Edenton, North Carolina for an evening of fun!
It’s safe to say that Ryan and the kids are more enthusiastic about the rides than I. I am a fan of “The Drop” (perk: it is over almost immediately), but this year I opted to steer clear of the rides that have a significant amount of spinning, particularly that nasty Fireball I ventured on last year. On the upside, this gave me more quality time with my camera!
On Friday nights, I tend to use up the quarters I have on hand at the Hot Tamale machine at Earth 383 Comic and Games. This particular Friday night, we were far from the Hot Tamale machine, but I did find a use for the week’s quarter stockpile. The petting zoo had little dispensers of food! We purposely fed some ducks and the longhorn bull. I not so purposely fed a goat.
Last year, Ryan and I were surprised by the exhibitions, particularly the diversity in poultry (more on them in a different post). This year we both brought our cameras specifically to take pictures of some of the entries. The Chowan County Fair has over $12,000 in cash prizes for handiwork. The amount of categories is amazing. In all age groups you can enter crafts, cooking, fruits, vegetables, dried food, you name it. They even had a category for chestnuts!
Some of the items I thought would be tricky to judge. I took the following picture of the blueberries because to my untrained eyes they didn’t seem any different. I wondered how one plate of blueberries were conclusively deemed better than the other. But when I showed the pictures at home, the answer was obvious to Tyrek. “The one of the left,” he said with authority, “They are bluer.”
I love that there are so many categories and so many opportunities to be recognized. It rewards local talent… and promotes growing your own food as well. I’m somewhat tempted to try to enter something next year. : )
Hiking Knowledge in Action
A hike leader from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club once told me about a hard lesson he learned on one of his group hikes. In the middle of the hot, humid summer season, he led a lengthy day hike with a formidable ascent. He didn’t realize it until they were well within the hike– one of the hikers in the group didn’t bring ANY water with him at all. After that, the hike leader told me, he always checked everyone’s supplies before they left the trailhead. I exercised a similiar practice for the fair. The fair is one of few adventure days Ryan and I don’t fully fund, so I made sure all the kids had enough money for the entrance fee before we left Elizabeth City. I may live far from the mountains, but I still find a way to apply the knowledge I’ve learned from the hiking community! : )
For the second year in a row, we all had a fabulous time at the Chowan County Fair. I have already heard murmurs about our trip next year. Only 348 more days to go!
More pictures of the Chowan County Fair can be found on my Flickr site.
This morning, fourteen year old Khaliya came over to get driving directions. I decided to print from the new laptop, so first I had to install the necessary printer drivers. As we waited, she told me about the new puppies her dog, Cinnamon, had recently.
Suddenly Khaliya gasped and said, “OH! Vicky! I forgot to tell you! I pulled a ‘you stunt’!”
“Really?” I asked and my mind raced. What “you stunt” could she be referring to?
“Yeah!” Khaliya said, “I was walking Cinnamon and she took a doodie in the street and I cleaned it up…and I thought, ‘This reminds me of Vicky Somma.'”
So cleaning up dog poop. That’s how I will be remembered on Hunter Street. :)