Archive for September, 2011

What I’m Known For – Revisited

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! 🙂

What I'm Known For - Take II

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.

September 30, 2011 at 7:53 am Leave a comment

Pawpaw Hunting Addendum

Want to learn more about pawpaws? NPR has got you covered! Just six days after Ryan and I took Sagan Pawpaw Hunting at Fountainhead Regional Park, NPR did a story on “Foraging for America’s Forgotten Fruit“. You can listen to the full story online.

I also recommend watching their Tiny Desk Kitchen video (embedded below). It reveals their harvesting technique is very similiar to Ryan’s approach. They also put up a “Taste a Pawpaw” stand outside of the NPR offices and got people’s reactions.

As for reactions, when I introduced my father to pawpaws, his reaction was this:

“Ew, it’s ugly!”

He also complained about all the seeds and that it didn’t look “worth it.”

Despite all that, he still tasted the fruit…and rather liked it. : )


September 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm Leave a comment

Waka Waka Waka – Fountainhead Regional Park

When we were looking for pawpaw trees at Fountainhead Regional Park, we saw another example of a Pac Man in Nature.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Pac Man Mushroom - Waka Waka Waka
Mushroom Pac Man

September 27, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Take a Child Outside Week – Pawpaw Hunting and Sagan’s First Hike

Saturday was the first day of Take a Child Outside Week!  It was also National Public Lands Day.  And in case we needed another reason to get out, late September – October is also pawpaw fruiting season. 

George Washington was quite a fan of Asimina triloba, North America’s largest indigenous fruit. He declared “chilled pawpaw” to be his favorite dessert. Although I rather enjoy the taste, I wouldn’t quite go that far. It would be hard to top crème brûlée!

Ryan and I have been growing some pawpaw seedlings for a couple of years now.  It’ll be a while before those trees fruit, so we thought we would see if we could locate some more established trees near our new home.  During National Walk in the Woods Day I took a shot of a small pawpaw tree near a creek at Fountainhead Regional Park.  Figuring where there is a small tree, they may be bigger ones, we decided to retrace our steps and see what we can find.

We brought little Sagan along, fulfilling the requirement of taking a child outside.  This journey would be Sagan’s very first hike!  He pretty much slept through the entire thing.  🙂

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Sagan and Trail
Sagan’s First Hike (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Had Sagan been awake (and had fully developed vision), he would have seen a squirrel, a daddy long-legs, a crayfish nest and a heron flying overhead.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Crayfish Nest
Crayfish Burrow

Flora – Pawpaws
It didn’t take us long to get to the creek. We saw plenty of small trees without fruit. It didn’t look too promising until a small grove near the creek shoreline caught my eye. Upon closer examination, we found fruit laying on the ground!

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Vicky and Sagan with Pawpaw Fruit
Vicky and Sagan with Discovered Fruit (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Then we looked up and saw examples of pawpaw fruit still in the trees.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Pawpaw in Tree
Pawpaw Fruit

The non-bug infested fruit wasn’t quite ripe yet, but we still got the thrill of the hunt. It was also nice to establish that the favorite dessert of our nation’s first President was still alive in well in Northern Virginia!

Flora – Fungi
Between Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and various other storms, this area has had more than its fair share of rain. It may have had its miserable moments at the time, but on Saturday we sure profited from the extra moisture. The trail has what Ryan deemed a “mushroom explosion”. We had plenty of neat fungi to marvel at while we walked.

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Mushroom Explosion
Hillside with Scattered Mushrooms

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Coral-like Mushroom
A Coral-Like Mushroom

Take a Child Outside Week - Fountainhead Regional Park - Orange Mushrooms on Log
Bright Orange Mushrooms

Sagan’s first outing was definitely a brief one. I doubt we even traveled a mile round trip. But I find myself very satisfied with everything we saw in that short journey.

More pictures of our hike at Fountainhead Regional Park are on my Flickr site.

Additional Pawpaw Posts
2009 Pawpaw Hunt
My First Pawpaw Tasting

September 26, 2011 at 11:04 am 3 comments

Reminder – Take a Child Outside Week!

This year Take a Child Outside week is September 24th – September 30th, which means it starts THIS Saturday! T.A.C.O. Week is a favorite of mine and I have been observing it since 2007. This year promises to be a little different though. It’s the first year where I don’t have to borrow a child to participate! 🙂

Need ideas? Here are a few from past adventures Ryan and I have shared with children:

Wedding Weekend - Rowing Newport News Park - Ann and Vicky Relay while Penn and Gwyn RowRowing Canoeing Merchant's Millpond - Ryan and Jacal's Boat - Vicky, Tyrek, Ryan in Action
Maple Park - Jacal Signs Log Book
Hunter Street Water Fight - Filling Up
Water Fight!
Hunter Street Badminton - Tykee Watches Dontori
Elizabeth City - Hunter Street- Tykee on Bike
Falls Ridge - Xavier has a Snail
Jet Skiing - Jamonte and Armani on Shore

If you are in the Blacksburg, Virginia area and need some hiking ideas, check out my “Off the Beaten Paths: Hikes for T.A.C.O. Week” post which highlights five child-friendly trails in the area.

Whereever you are, have a great Take a Child Outside Week! Perhaps you’ll luck out and get to see a black bear like five-year old Penn and I did in 2007. If not, don’t forget there is adventure to be found in the little things– as young Xavier demonstrated when he discovered a snail in 2008.

September 22, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Dr. Jane Goodall “A Conversation on Peace” Coverage #janegoodall #askjane

Ryan and I are currently a one car family. BUT we are a two camera and a two blog family.  For the most part our blogs cover different topics, but when we are posting on the same topic I find the redundancy handy… and interesting.

On Sunday, Ryan and I went on what could be called a date! My mother babysat Sagan, while we went up to American University to attend Dr. Jane Goodall’s “A Conversation on Peace”. It was absolutely RIVETING and incredibly inspiring. I have tons of notes, particularly on her many great stories involving trees. Seeing as how Sagan is already 10 weeks old and I still haven’t published my giant Birth Story post (it’s coming!), I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get my many positive thoughts on the event published.

But Ryan already has his  Celebrating the UN’s “International Day of Peace” with Dr. Jane Goodall post up! Reading it over, it is amazing the different details Ryan picked up on from the same speech! His camera with the zoom lens took better photos too.  : ) Check out his post when you get a chance and if you ever see Dr. Jane Goodall appearing in your neck of the woods (Lecture and Event Schedule), I highly, highly recommend attending! It is time very well spent.

Jane Goodall on Ideonexus
Dr. Jane Goodall on

September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm 2 comments

Poot Patsy

With my son’s birth, I expected to have to let go of some of my inhibitions. I was prepared, for example, for people to see my nipple as I tried to feed my child. I soon became prepared for people to hear my off-key “singing” as I tried to comfort my child. But there was one thing, I was not certainly not prepared for.

People would think that I had passed gas when in fact it was the baby!

With musical instruments, often the size of the item dictates its tone. Take for example the xylophone. The longer bars produce the deep, reverberating low-pitched sounds. Meanwhile the smaller bars have the more delicate, high-pitched notes. What is true for xylophones is not true for anuses and butt cheeks!

At nearly 10 weeks of age, my son’s sphincter is just a fraction of the size of an adult. Yet, the sounds he produces are identical in both pitch and volume of an anus well beyond his years.

Xylophone Bars Versus Anuses
Xylophone Bars versus Anuses (Hat Tip, Kurt Vonnegut)

Now, I have spent my adult life trying to minimize the amount of audible flatulence. Granted, this effort got substantially more difficult during pregnancy, but I still managed to skate through with limited incidents.

But babies don’t care who hear! And where are babies frequently located? A parent’s lap! That means the baby’s rear end is just inches away from the parent’s. The baby doesn’t have to master throwing sounds like a ventriloquist. He merely needs to let one rip and just by his placement the origin of the sound is automatically ambiguous.

On more than one occasion in my mommyhood, I have been put in the awkward social situation where it sounds like I’m to blame.  Instinctively, I clarify to anyone in the vicinity. Still, there are skeptics. This conversation occurred over the weekend between my mother and I.

[Baby Sagan passes gas]
Vicky: That wasn’t me!
Mom: Are you sure?
Vicky: YES!
Mom (skeptical): It sounded like you.
Vicky (as Mom walks away): But, it wasn’t me!!!

If I have trouble convincing my own mother, what hope do I have with strangers? 🙂

September 18, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Sagan on The Year of Living Unofficially #makeahatday

Yesterday, The Year of Living Unofficially celebrated Make a Hat Day. If I had free time it would have been a good excuse to crochet Sagan a hat just in time for sock hat season. But I don’t even have time to shower every day! : )

Ryan suggested that we make Sagan a little hat out of newspaper. That I could fit in waiting for my decaf coffee to brew. Afterward, we did a little mini photo shoot of Sagan in his new hat.

Britt and Chris ended up giving a Sagan photo a prominent spot on their Make a Hat Day post. Be sure to check out their full post to read and see the hats they created for the day!

Sagan - Year of Living
Sagan on The Year of Living Unofficially

P.S. More Sagan Make a Hat Day pictures can be found on my Flickr site.

September 16, 2011 at 8:22 am 2 comments

Medela Pump In Style – An ROI

With Sagan being born so early, there were some concerns with whether his latching and suckling would be sufficient to bring in my milk supply. Luckily, I had some lactation counselors that were on the ball and they had me pumping that very first night in the hospital.

Now that Sagan is older and stronger, he does have a few meals here and there directly on the breast, but for the most part, we are “EPing” (Exclusively Pumping). The day we got home from the hospital, Ryan ran out and purchased a Medela Pump in Style from Babies R Us. At first glance, one may think the $299.99 cost is pricey. However, in our case, compared to formula our Medela Pump in Style promises to be a bargain!

Similac Versus Medela

I didn’t start recording volume metrics until Sagan was a week old. From July 20th through September 14th (56 days), we’ve pumped 44,866 milliliters (or 1,517 ounces).

Daily Milk Production – July 20, 2011 – September 14, 2011 (Larger View)

Looking at a six-pack of Similac Expert Care – NeoSure 1-Qt Ready-to-Feed Bottle (good for prematurity and catch up growth) comes in at $44.00. Each individual bottle costs $7.33 and contains a quart (756 milliliters) of formula. That comes out to $0.0077 per milliliter ($0.23 an ounce).

That puts the break-even point at 38,716 milliliters (1,317 ounces). We hit that on 9/8/2011 at 4:11 PM after only 50 days of pumping and a number of those days were still building up to a full milk supply!

As a disclaimer, I expect it would be more economical to purchase powder formula as opposed to the ready-to-drink I’ve priced out above. We have yet to purchase formula for Sagan (w00t!), so I wasn’t sure how many ounces the powder would make.

Finally, a quick aside. If you find yourself in a situation where you will be pumping frequently, I highly recommend the Simple Wishes Hands Free Breastpump Bra. At $31.20 it pays for itself at a mere 4,025.63 milliliters (136 ounces). It allows you to pump and still tackle other tasks, like diaper changes, bug fixes, answering support emails… and writing blog posts about your breast pump. 😉

Related Link
Formula Cost Calculator from kellymom

Appendix – Raw Data

Date Total Milliliters Pumped
7/20/2011 312
7/21/2011 394
7/22/2011 381
7/23/2011 441
7/24/2011 504
7/25/2011 528
7/26/2011 522
7/27/2011 570
7/28/2011 576
7/29/2011 632
7/30/2011 625
7/31/2011 628
8/1/2011 661
8/2/2011 681
8/3/2011 735
8/4/2011 744
8/5/2011 733
8/6/2011 712
8/7/2011 834
8/8/2011 809
8/9/2011 749
8/10/2011 855
8/11/2011 669
8/12/2011 851
8/13/2011 844
8/14/2011 687
8/15/2011 855
8/16/2011 878
8/17/2011 783
8/18/2011 885
8/19/2011 892
8/20/2011 814
8/21/2011 840
8/22/2011 909
8/23/2011 887
8/24/2011 966
8/25/2011 839
8/26/2011 855
8/27/2011 945
8/28/2011 706
8/29/2011 1025
8/30/2011 847
8/31/2011 1030
9/1/2011 787
9/2/2011 1062
9/3/2011 870
9/4/2011 958
9/5/2011 864
9/6/2011 899
9/7/2011 1155
9/8/2011 823
9/9/2011 1009
9/10/2011 912
9/11/2011 998
9/12/2011 841
9/13/2011 1043
9/14/2011 1012

September 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm 1 comment

Grandparent’s Day, Dr. Rachel Caspari and Why You Should Always, Always, Always Strap Your Son in His Stroller

My husband introduced me to a quote by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“I don’t mind paying taxes. They buy me civilization.”

There was a prerequisite to civilization, however, well before there were taxes. Grandparents, particularly post-menopausal women, a.k.a Grandmas!

Anthropologist Rachel Caspari (along with Sang-Hee Lee), examined 768 ancient skulls. By evaluating dental wear, they got approximate ages of the individuals in various prehistoric populations. Next they looked at the OY ratio– the number of older, grandparent-aged adults compared to the number of young adults.

Grandparents were rare… until about 35,000 years ago.

Around 2 million years ago, only about one in 10 Australopithecines—the modest-brained hominids exemplified by the famous fossil Lucy— who made it to adulthood lived to twice the age of sexual maturity. That number increased to about 1 in 5 when early Homo species appeared a million years ago and increased again to nearly 4 in 10 by the age of the Neanderthals, some 130,000 to 30,000 years ago.

“Then around the 30,000-year mark, all of a sudden you see the reverse, where you have about two older adults for every young adult,” Caspari says

-“Grandma’s Cultural Kick“, October 2004 Issue of Discover Magazine

At the same time grandparents started to be prevalent in the fossil record, so did an explosion of “distinctly modern behaviors”– sophisticated tools, art and symbol-based communication. Once there were grandmothers, it appears culture and civilization could really take root.

Caspari described the presence of grandparent-aged adults as a positive feedback loop. With grandmothers helping take care of their grandchildren, the parents were able to have to more children, increasing the population’s size. In addition, grandparents brought cultural knowledge to the table. By passing along wisdom such as the construction of tools, which plants were dangerous and which plants were good, grandparents helped increase the survivorship of their kin— producing future grandparents!

Yesterday, Ryan and I found tremendous value in the experience, counsel and advice of grandmothers. On our weekly walk to the Farmer’s Market, we had a stroller mishap and Sagan had a fall and hit his head. The accident was 100% preventable– we didn’t have poor Sagan strapped into his stroller. My mother was on the scene almost instantly, calming Sagan and perhaps the tougher job– calming me. Ryan’s mother drew on her many years of nursing experience to assess the situation and advise us.

We had phone calls to pediatricians, an ER visit, various tests, an ambulance transfer to a different hospital, a precautionary saline lock (that Sagan found way worse than the actual hit to his head) and an overnight stay for observation. We certainly expected one day a child of ours would take us to the emergency room, but we didn’t quite anticipate visiting so soon. It was an emotional day, but throughout it all, we had our mothers. They gave us wisdom, they gave us kind words, they gave us stories of the incidents we managed to survive when we were young. How frightening the day would have been without the experience and expertise of grandmothers!

And so I find it particularly fitting that today is Grandparent’s Day. After yesterday, Ryan and I are even more appreciative and grateful for everything grandparents have to offer. We extend a very heartfelt and hearty thank you to both of our mothers.

Sagan - August 27 - With Grandma Sagan - Day Twenty-Eight - Lifts Head with Grandma


It turns out, all is well. Sagan will be making a full recovery and in fact, he would have healed on his own without a hospital visit (but we had no way to know that at the time).

Despite the happy ending, Ryan and I have found one piece of cultural wisdom we will certainly be passing on to our children and grandchildren when the time comes:

Always, Always, ALWAYS Strap Your Son in His Stroller.

More On Caspari’s Research on Grandparents:
“Grandma’s Cultural Kick” from the October 2004 issue of Discover Magazine
“The Evolution of Grandparents” from the August 2011 issue of Scientific American (also available from
“Few Grandparents Until 30,000 Years Ago” from The Telegraph
Dr. Rachel Caspari Interview on The Takeaway

September 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

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