Archive for October, 2011

Halloween… and Convergent Evolution

Happy Halloween!

For Sagan’s first Halloween, Ryan and I wanted to pick something delightfully geeky. Star Trek was too obvious and “Tetris Piece” looked like it would be uncomfortable for Sagan to wear… or more importantly, uncomfortable for Mommy to put on Sagan.  Every time I have to put something on over his head, I remind him about the birth canal but he seems to find little solace in precedence.

Ryan suggested “Gir” from Invader Zim. Sagan’s Aunt Carolyn is a big Gir fan and even has a handmade Gir hat! I have friends in Washington State who named their dog after Gir. Ryan’s suggestion seemed like it would be an instant score in a niche audience!


So how does one with limited time make a costume for a 16 week old baby? Well, to help answer that question I needed to look no further than Kitty’s Heart of Nature. Last year for her daughter’s first Halloween, Kitty made adorable owl costumes, using brown hoodies as the base.

I ordered a reversible green jacket (with hood!) from Precious Cargo. Take your handy glue gun, a supply of felt and two foam balls and voila– Gir costume.

Sagan - Halloween - Outfit Alone
Gir Costume

And like the “real Gir”, Sagan could be completely in disguise or reveal his inner self.

Sagan - Halloween - Gir (Hood Down) with Mommy
Who’s Gir?

Sagan - Halloween - Riding as Gir
Sagan’s Gir!!!

Even though I copied Kitty’s hoodie technique, I was still feeling pretty creative and unique. That is, until I did a search on “Gir Hoodie”. It turns out, there are quite a few Gir Halloween costumes out there. As I scanned the photos in Google and Flickr, I realized I had taken part in a demonstration of convergent evolution.

Convergent evolution is when unrelated species independently acquire the same biological trait. A good example is wings. Mammals, birds and insects all “invented” the wing and guess what, they were reinventing something the reptiles had done way back in the day of the pterodactyls!

Convergent Evolution
Photos by Michael Pennay, CaptPiper, and tanakawho

Really when you boil it down, convergent evolution is about problem solving. An organism is presented with a challenge in its environment and it comes up with a solution. Sometimes the solution is such a perfect fit to the problem, it is just asking to be discovered again…and again…and again.

Such is the case with the Gir Halloween Costume.

You have a green character whose head can peel back and reveal his robot self.

Uh… green hooded article of clothing. Duh!!!

Convergent Girs
(Photo Credits: DilanofDreams, spookykittencouture, windmillcookie, and ME!)

Sagan’s costume does have one thing going for it. I didn’t find any other babies dressed up as Gir.

“He’s the only Gir that’s about the right size,” Ryan pointed out. 🙂

11/1/2011 Update! – Sagan is NOT the only baby dressed up as Gir. Check out adorable little Paige and her vastly superior Gir costume! (Hat Tip, Scott!)

There are more pictures of Sagan in his Gir costume on Flickr and there are plenty of pictures of other Gir costumes all over the internet.

P.S. If you are interested in purchasing a Gir costume for yourself, SpookyKittenCoutures (pictured above) does do custom orders. You can also find a whole slew of Gir-themed products at HotTopic.

October 30, 2011 at 11:51 pm 2 comments

Connections with Jane Goodall

On September 19th, my mother was armed with a refrigerator full of breast milk and Ryan and I went on a date! We drove up to American University to observe the “International Day of Peace” by listening to Dr. Jane Goodall speak.

Dr. Goodall is famous for her work with chimpanzees, but she also serves as an U.N. Peace Ambassador. Early in her talk, she established how interest in chimpanzees translates to an interest in world peace. She described the harsh living conditions of the humans near the chimps. Most of the trees were gone and the land was infertile. The people were living in terrible poverty and cutting down the very last trees to survive.

“While they were in that situation, how could you even try to save the chimps?” she asked.

To help the chimpanzees, we needed to help the trees. To help the trees, we needed to help the humans and improve their living conditions. The focus on people has helped. Goodall reported where there was barren land seven years ago, now stands thirty foot trees!

An interest in peace gives Goodall cause to galvanize her commitment to the environment. “Peace and stability can only last,” she said, “if the environment [is in tact].”

Her words and anecdotes remind us how interconnected all the members of an ecosystem are. Our memories are interconnected as well. As Goodall spoke, my mind drew some relations of its own.

Learning Outside
Jane Goodall, Plato, Jesus, Buddha, and Martin Luther King Jr.

That particular afternoon, we had stunning autumn weather and this event took full advantage. It was held outside in the amphitheatre. As we waited for our speaker to hit the stage, I looked around at the formidable audience, inhaled fresh air and felt a strong connection to the students of the past three centuries. 

Plato taught in a garden near Athens. The famous Sermon on the Mount took place outside. Buddha taught “the five” under a tree in Deer Park. In contemporary times, inspirational game changers such as Martin Luther King Jr. taught their philosophies outside. A number of great teachers, it seems, teach outside.

Great Teachers Teach Outside
Plato’s Academy, Sermon on the Mount, Buddha in Deer Park, Martin Luther King on the National Mall

Here I was, outside and eager to learn, just as many students throughout history had done before me and 50% of the world’s students continue to do today.

The Power of Storytelling
Jane Goodall, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Ira Glass

Another topic Goodall discussed was how to communicate your points and opinions, particularly to those who are resistant to your ideas. “Never adopt the attitude of ‘I’m right’ and ‘You’re wrong’ because they stop listening.” Instead she recommended to tell stories.

“The best way to reach the heart,” she said, “is through stories.”

Although the stories Goodall was referring to are far from the stories one would find between the covers of Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five, I was reminded of a passage by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. In Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons, he wrote about the power of Fiction over New Journalism, declaring fiction to be “a much more truthful way of telling the truth.” He believed “the New Journalist isn’t free to tell nearly as much as a fiction writer, to *show* as much. There are many places he can’t take his reader, whereas the fiction writer can take the reader anywhere, including the planet Jupiter” to make his point.

On October 23rd, Ryan and I attended “Reinventing Radio: An Evening with Ira Glass” where the This American Life host spent a good ninety minutes on the power of narrative story telling over traditional journalism. During his first three years of “This American Life” Glass thought that he was an innovator and had developed the perfect formula for telling a story. When he went home for the High Holidays, however, he attended a sermon and noticed the same pattern. It was then he realized his technique of story telling was far from new.

“I invented something that was old when Jesus did it!” he lamented.

But it may be that thousands of years of experience that gives storytelling its power. Glass spoke on a story’s ability to invoke empathy and to help even political adversaries to see each other in a different light.

“There is something in how we are built as people to interact with a story.” he said.

The best way to the heart, indeed.

Power Of Stories
Jane Goodall by the World Bank Photo Collection, Kurt Vonnegut by Rashawerakh, Ira Glass by kuer90.1

Surprises in Favorite Accomplishments
Jane Goodall and Thomas Jefferson

Of all the possible accomplishments in this world, I would expect “President of the United States of America” to be one of the more noteworthy endeavors to include on one’s tombstone. That inscription, however, is missing from the grave of our nation’s third President. Thomas Jefferson picked three accomplishments he wanted to preserve.

Jefferson’s Tombstone (Photo by jplouis)

The last item on the list was “Father of the University of Virginia”. Jefferson took more pride in UVA than he did of being President. The Louisiana Purchase was under his tenure, doubling our nation’s size! But that paled in comparison to establishing the nation’s first nonsectarian university and educating the minds of the future.

During the Question and Answer session, Jane Goodall was asked, “What’s the best thing you’ve done?” Her answer was “giving young people opportunity to understand you can make a difference every single day” through her organization “Roots and Shoots“. Roots and Shoots focuses on involving youth in service projects around the world. Right now, there are Roots and Shoots programs in 126 countries and counting!

Like Jefferson, she didn’t choose one of the more obvious accomplishments. Like Jefferson, her heart was with her impact on young minds.

UVA and Roots And Shoots
Two Favorite Accomplishments – Jefferson’s UVA and Goodall’s Roots and Shoots

Wonderful Mommies
Jane Goodall’s Mom…and my Mom

One final connection.  Early in her talk, Jane Goodall talked about how they did not want to allow a young European woman to be alone in the jungle without a chaperone.  As a result, Goodall’s mother came and lived with her in the jungle for four months!  Ryan and I found our afternoon way to be particularly thought-provoking and inspiring.  Just as Jane’s research was supported by her mother, our afternoon was empowered by my own mother.  When the talk concluded, two first-time parents headed home to relieve their “babysitter”. 🙂

Other Recaps of Jane Goodall: A Conversation on Peace
Celebrating the UN’s “International Day of Peace” with Dr. Jane Goodall by ideonexus.
Dr. Jane Goodall’s Townhall Meeting: A Conversation on Peace By AU Ambassadors
What I Learned From Jane Goodall by BushWarriors
Presenting Dr. Jane Goodall by AAANimals

October 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm 1 comment

Mindful Momma: Maple Syrup Tasting

Over the weekend, my mother-in-law recommended the blog “Mindful Momma“. I pulled it up and right there on the first page was a post of interest:

Maple Syrup Tasting!

The author’s family did a Maple Syrup Tasting! MAPLE SYRUP!

A number of years ago, I attended the All Things Olive Festival at Villa Appalachia. There, I got to participate in a series of four tastings – wines, olive oils, olives and a balsamic vinegars. As delicious as those items were, I have a feeling I would fancy a “Maple Syrup Tasting” most of all. What a neat idea to accompany autumn!

Check out Mindful Momma’s full A Maple Syrup Tasting post to read about the syrups they tasted and their findings.

October 24, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Pawpaw Alert – Falls Ridge

Blacksburg, Virginia Pawpaw Enthusiasts – When we were at Falls Ridge with Sagan, we saw some pawpaws by the creek above the falls. If you yearn to see a pawpaw fruiting in the wild, that may be a spot worth your attention next fall.

Please note- you’ll want to research The Nature Conservancy’s rules regarding eating them.

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Pawpaw Leaves and Trunks
Pawpaw Trees

This pawpaw sighting has been added to

October 21, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Falls Ridge Preserve with Sagan, 14 Weeks

This week, Ryan and I had a business meeting in beautiful, gorgeous, splendidly stunning Southwest Virginia. Our boss could not have scheduled a better time! We were visiting right in the midst of the changing autumn leaves.

Blacksburg - Fall Colors in Ellett Valley
The View From Where We Were Staying

Although the primary purpose of the trip was business, we had to sneak in a hike with Sagan as well. One afternoon when Sagan was awake, we drove over to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Preserve.

When I lived in Blacksburg, I used to take my friend’s son, Penn, out hiking. Over the years, I managed to get a picture of my young hiking buddy in the same spot at Falls Ridge at two years old, five years old and nine years old.

Falls Ridge: Two Year Old Penn at Falls
Falls Ridge: Five Year Old Penn at Falls
Falls Ridge - Penn at Age 8
Penn at Falls Ridge Through the Years

This week, the tradition started again. Ryan and I got a picture of Sagan at the same spot. He needed a little help posing.

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Sagan Stands on the Falls Ridge Stump 1

Some other shots I’m fond of:

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Sagan and Ryan At Falls 1
Ryan and Sagan at Falls

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky Smiles as Sagan Stands on Stump (Close)
Helping Sagan Pose

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Changing Maple Leaves
Changing Maple Leaves

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky and Sagan on Trail
Sagan and I on the Trail

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Creek
Creek Below the Falls

Sagan was awake for most of our hike which was exciting. Of course in the end, he did what he usually does during outings with the Moby Wrap… he fell asleep. : )

Falls Ridge - October 2011 - Vicky and Sleeping Sagan
Sleeping Sagan

October 20, 2011 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Bath Compare

Speaking of baths…. I noticed the photos of Sagan getting a bath demonstrate the growth he has been up to!

Sagan - Day Sixteen - Grandma Gives Him A Bath
July 28th

Sagan - October 15th - Grandma Giving Him a Bath
October 15th

October 20, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Those Dreaded Wednesdays and Saturdays

I noticed NOFX is going to be playing in Norfolk, Virginia this weekend. I won’t be making the show, but that doesn’t mean motherhood keeps me from thinking of my favorite band. In fact, I think about them at least twice a week!

Our pediatrician recommended that Sagan get a bath two days a week. I picked “Wednesdays” and “Saturdays”. Sagan is still not a fan of baths, so I have a nice side perk from our selected days… every time Mom and I are preparing the bath I get to belt out a modified chorus of NOFX’s “Shower Days”.

“Those dreaded Wednesdays and Saturdays, also know as [Baaaath] DaaaaAAAAAAYYYYYS! … I hate them!”

Sagan - October 15th - Still Hates Baths
“I Hate Them!”

I had expected my mother to tire of my rendition eventually, but she shows no signs so far. And I have even heard her use the phrase “dreaded Wednesdays and Saturdays” to her little grandson. 🙂

NOFX’s Original Version

October 19, 2011 at 4:28 am 2 comments

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