Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fort Sumter Family Field Trip

When I first envisioned this sabbatical year, I thought of today's trip.  Not Fort Sumter exactly, but I imagined the opportunity to travel to an actual landmark as we studied the event in our home school history class.

As a veteran teacher, the prospect of frequent field trips has always been the main appeal of home schooling my children.  Our previous years' jaunts were always determined by the school's calendar, not the curriculum.  Sadly, due to slashed budgets, increased liability risks and overstressed teachers, school field trips have become a rarity.

This year I am in charge of our school's agenda.  Currently, we are studying the American Civil War.  We are in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. Obviously, we had to take a family field trip to Fort Sumter where it all began.

Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter National Park lies in the Charleston Harbor about a 35 minute ferry ride from the Aquarium Wharf.  Costing a very reasonable $17 for adults and $10 for children, tickets include the museum at the Wharf, round trip ferry ride, Fort entrance including the site museum and a park ranger guided tour.  The entire trip took around two and a half hours and was the perfect history lesson.

Kids ready for the hunt!
Upon purchasing our tickets, an extremely helpful park ranger engaged our kids in an honorary ranger scavenger hunt.  The hunt was free and included two pages of critical information about Fort Sumter and the Civil War, two brochures about the Fort and the Civil War and a detailed map of the man-made island.  Our kids were thrilled to have a mission and began searching for answers inside the beautiful wharf-side Fort Sumter Museum while we waited to board our ferry.

Thanks to pristine January weather, we sat up top and enjoyed the seventy degree day on our way out to the Fort.  Though I have visited Charleston before, I had never observed her beauty from the water.  What a glorious southern lady!

The recorded narration played during the ferry ride gave the kids many facts about the Civil War specifically that first battle.  They were feverishly filling in answers until the ferry pulled into port.

As we passed through the Sally Port (a fort entrance), a park ranger greeted us with all the essential info about the battles of the fort.


On April 12, 1861, Confederate General Beauregard ordered Union General Anderson, his former friend, to surrender the fort.  At Anderson's refusal, Beauregard ordered the cannons be fired upon the fort.  After 34 hours, with no lives lost, General Anderson surrendered after the officer's quarters caught fire.  Beauregard, ever gallant, allowed his friend Anderson to fire a one hundred cannon salute at the surrender ceremony while lowering the U.S. flag.  Unfortunately, Private Daniel Howe lost his life when a cannon misfired and was the first casualty of the Civil War. 

Fort Sumter remained in Confederate hands until February 1865 and was the location for the longest siege of the war.  For over two years, the Union forces bombarded the fort destroying the top two stories.  The Confederates survived by creating tunnels in the rubble utilizing the first type of trench/tunnel warfare primarily used in World War I.  With Sherman en route from Savannah, the Rebels evacuated Fort Sumter and Charleston, drawing Sherman to Columbia and saving Charleston from his devastation.

One positive effect of this year has been the transformation of our kids into being self-motivated learners.  Greg and I watched them move about the Fort looking for answers to their questions.  I loved seeing Emma waiting patiently for her turn to speak to a park ranger.  Anabel proudly told me that one ranger wouldn't tell her an answer, but showed her where she could find it... and she did!  Wyatt, ever the leader, would find an answer and then, point his sisters in the right direction.

When we returned to the wharf side museum, the park rangers very seriously graded the kids' work and took the time to correct the one or two they missed.  Their deligence paid off and each kid was awarded a Fort Sumter Park Ranger badge and given a sign to hang up in the museum with her or his name on it.

I highly recommend family field trips!  Everyone learns something while visiting a piece of our history together.  Next trip: Savannah's Fort Pulaski, another Civil War historic site.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beaufort, SC- Our New Hometown

I'm sure to be named the next Miss Beaufort after this post... She looks just like me!
Our South Carolina home may be on Fripp Island, but Beaufort is our hometown.  Just 25 minutes from Fripp, we come to town to stroll the streets, talk to folks, shop, dine, pray, and generally catch up with what’s happening in the world.  Rarely have I felt so at home so I thought I would give my readers a little tour of our new hometown.
Beaufort's Waterfront Park
Located directly on the Beaufort River in South Carolina's Low Country, Downtown Beaufort consists of The Old Point and the Shopping District.  

The Castle - One of Beaufort's Finest (For Sale... only 3.9 million!)
The front live oak is estimated at 1000 years old.
The Old Point neighborhood contains many Antebellum homes thanks to the Union choosing to occupy Beaufort instead of destroying it like many other Southern towns during the Civil War.  As a result, Beaufort is one of the few US cities to have its entire downtown area designated as a historic landmark. (See my earlier post on Halloween in the Old Point.)

One of the cannons that unsuccessfully
defended Beaufort from the yankees.
History Break:  

South Carolina was the first to secede from the United States and the first to fight.  The American Civil War began when the Confederates fired cannons on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina on April 12, 1861.  

After a summer of fighting and significant Confederate victories at the Battle of Bull Run and the First Battle of Lexington, Union forces began their Southern Blockade by capturing Port Royal Island and the City of Beaufort in November of 1861.  With the papers for secession drawn up in Beaufort, the city had always been a top target for the Union, but its location made it a strategically important stronghold for the US Navy's coastal blockade preventing European assistance to the Confederacy.  Luckily, the Union soldiers used the homes of Beaufort as barracks, hospitals and offices, thereby, preserving them for future generations to use, love and enjoy.  

Also during the Civil War, Harriet Tubman ran several spy missions  and risked her life to secure the freedom of many slaves around Beaufort.  The first school for former slaves was established in 1862 at Penn Center on nearby St. Helena's Island. Beaufort born slave, Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate ship in Charleston Harbor and sailed it for the Union for the remainder of the war as Captain.  He returned to Beaufort and was elected to the US Congress for five terms.

Verdier House is the only home open daily for tours.
Today, most of the homes in historic Beaufort are privately owned with the few exceptions of the Rhett House Innthe Cuthbert House Inn and the Verdier House owned and open for tours by the Historic Beaufort Foundation.  

Don't miss the Fall Festival
of Houses and Gardens for
your one chance to see
inside these incredible homes!
Some homes of The Old Point open their doors to visitors during the Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens Tour on the third weekend in October.  This event  offers a rare view of how these historic homes have been preserved and modernized for our lives today.  I also recommend the Carriage Tour for a relaxing yet informative tour of the streets of Beaufort.

Bay Street

Downtown shopping consists of a five block square area offering fine to casual dining, formal to beach clothing, art to antiques home decor, souvenirs, jewelry, banking and my favorite public library.   We prefer the beach life on Fripp Island for overnight stays, but there are many lovely Inns and B & Bs in Downtown Beaufort.

For good food and an incredible view, the Bay Street restaurants are hard to beat.  They have the best of both worlds by fronting the main street and backing up to the beautiful Beaufort River and the newly renovated River Park.  Plums restaurant offers sandwiches with a southern flare, cocktails and sweet tea.  Luther’s Rare and Well Done has burgers and wings that can’t be beat and Q on Bay masters Carolina barbecue.  All three restaurants have indoor dining, but I prefer sitting outside along the river park.  Perfect for families, the deck allows parents to relax and enjoy their meals while the kids (who eat in less than five minutes) can run and frolic in the park to their heart’s content.  We like to follow up our play with a stop at The Lollipop Shop (if the kids have been on their best behavior, of course.)
Emma's favorite spot in town.
For Finer Food, I recommend Saltus on the River with its sublime seafood dishes and fireside dining by Waterfront Park and Emily's on Port Republic for terrific tapas.  The Tooting Egret by the library serves the best lamb burger as one choice on their fixed price Sunday brunch.  You may have to wait for a table, but shopping in their home store while smelling the fresh local food as it cooks is part of the fun.

As for shopping, be sure to check out the local art scene from contemporary to Gullah in the eleven art galleries of Downtown Beaufort.  There is a great arts and crafts community here and extremely helpful folks at Coastal Knitting and Coastal Art Supply for those of us new to the arts and crafts world.  For clothing, I love Bay Street Outfitters and Beaufort Clothing Company.  Both offer genteel clothing for any season.  Also, our family always enjoys strolling through Lulu's eclectic collection of gifts on Bay Street never knowing what we'll find, but usually seeing something that makes us smile.  Whether buying or just looking, I can spend hours wandering the streets of Beaufort.

Last year, Beaufort celebrated its 300th anniversary.  St. Helena's Episcopal Church is celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2012 having been established just months after the founding of the city.  This beautiful church and cemetery is open daily for free tours guided by its members.
St. Helena Episcopal Church established 1712

Hope you enjoyed my wordy stroll through Beaufort.  Come to the Low Country and let it be your new hometown, too!
A Low Country sunset can't be beat!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A New Definition for Company

Who wouldn't enjoy a trip to the beach?
Company: (noun)
1.  a business or business entity.
2.  association with another; companions;          
   visitors, guests. 

Though the official definitions do not include slave labor, being thoughtful hosts, we include it in ours because we want our company to feel at home.

At the Fripp House, we welcome visitors of all sizes and shapes to partake in a variety of activities created just for them.

Here are some of our most recent offerings:

Yes, he IS having fun.
Do you smell what we smell?  No, we do not violate the terms of the Geneva Convention.  We do not "torture" our visitors; However, guests must be ready to participate in "simple" home school science experiments.  Here you see the fun in learning that all matter has identifying qualities such as smell. To prove the experiment, a simple blindfold test must be performed...

Speaking of smells...

Watch the claws...

Crab anyone?
Nothing like fresh clams!
Like working for your supper?  Then, come see us!  Guests may fish, shrimp, clam, or crab to help us maintain the high quality standards of fresh meals served in our home.  Yes, clamming is dirty business, but someone's got to do it and I'd prefer it not be me.  After your day of non-stop casting, throwing, digging or hoeing, you're ready to relax by the glow of the gas burner as the Frogmore Stew simmers. We welcome you to do this as soon as you have cleaned the shrimp, fish, crabs, or clams, shucked the corn, and prepared all the vegetables, potatoes and sausage.

Your reward for hard work:
cold beverage and warm glow.

Work like dogs, but eat like kings!

Are you listening closely?

Are you ready to test your knowledge?  If you plan to visit us, you'd better be.  Along with a series of "games" designed to entertain us, I mean... you, guests will be taken on historic tours of nearby Beaufort, Savannah or Charleston.  After each tour, we will subject, I mean... engage you with various questions about your newly gained knowledge.  We have to make sure you're listening.  Why else take the tour? Right?
Quick!  What famous historic Beaufort home is this?
Too Late.  Points will be deducted.
Know what church this is?
What anniversary is it celebrating this year?

Feeling out of shape?  We happily force our guests to participate in many island sports or activities such as:

Golf (you must walk 18 holes; none of this mamby-pamby golf carting around for us!)
Biking (we'll guide you on a gentle tour of the 8 miles of bike paths.)
Tennis (our guests enjoy four man bracket of 5 set matches; winner gets to cart home, losers walk.)
Beach Combing (Our kids enjoy crafting so visitors are encouraged to gather as many shells and flotsam as each can carry.  Bags are provided.)

If this itinerary doesn't fit your idea of a weekend getaway, alternate activities can easily be arranged.  For the gracious guests who arrive with a host or hostess gift (a little wine, a little bubble bath...) or offer to buy a meal during their three night stay (adhering to Ben Franklin's old adage), we offer strolls by the river, swings with a water view, sunset cocktails, and as much music, laughter and general frivolity as you can stand.

Needless to say, we are looking forward to many more visitors to our Fripp home this spring.  (Reservations recommended.)

I hope everyone knows that my tongue was firmly in cheek for this post!
Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daily Affirmation

Sunrise on the Island
Struggling to get out of bed this morning, I reached for The Book of Awakenings by Mark Nepo for some inspiration. This is what I found:

"The best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle."

 Does this mean I must love writer's block?

 So be it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Free to Be...Finally.

I love libraries.  You discover things you didn't know existed.  You find things you had forgotten.  On a recent visit to the Beaufort Library, I rifled through the children's DVDs while waiting on my kids to choose their books.  They had titles I hadn't seen in years like old episodes of The Muppet Show, The Electric Company and the long forgotten, Free to Be... You and Me.  There it was right in front of me and in DVD format, no less: My Seventies Childhood.

Flashback time... During grades one through three, I don't remember the air time of The Electric Company, but I know we stopped all school work to view it.  My favorites were The Adventures of Letterman and Here's Cooking at You, a send up to Julia Child.  At home, I adored watching The Muppet Show for the pure silliness of it.  Just seeing Kermit the Frog fling his arms about and scream, "Yea!" while introducing a skit made me laugh.  I am not proud to say that I routinely used my Miss Piggy puppet to smack my sister and brother.  Hiii, YAAH!

My memories of Marlo Thomas's Free to Be... You and Me were not so sanguine.  Holding the DVD in my hand, I recalled controversy and subversiveness. Should I show this to my kids?  I really couldn't remember what it was about, but I had some recollection of it promoting radical lifestyles.  Does anyone else share this memory?

Of course, I checked it out.

One morning at home school, Wyatt, Emma and I sat down to watch.  Yes, I was shocked...shocked that I had unsettling feelings of subversiveness surrounding this show.  I was amazed that this was controversial in my childhood.  And then, I realized, maybe it was just controversial in my home.

In a nut shell, the album, book and subsequent ABC After School Special, was about changing gender stereotypes.  The program contained skits reminiscent of variety comedy shows and educational TV of the seventies.  Opening with Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas as newborn baby puppets discovering their gender for the first time and wondering what each means, the show cut to a young, pre-plastic surgery Michael Jackson singing with Roberta Flack about what they'll be when they grow up with equal career choices voiced for each gender.  Next, there was a delightful song with Marlo Thomas (not the greatest singer) and Harry Belafonte demonstrating that mommies and daddies do many different things.  My favorite was the fairy tale story of Atalanta (actually a Greek myth) who wanted to choose for herself whether or not she married.  In the end, she ran beside a man, equal to each other, and the story ended with them having separate adventures around the world.  Perhaps they'll marry someday, but regardless, they lived happily ever after.

Memories of the show flooded me.   How could I have ever forgotten Rosy Grier singing, "It's alright to cry"?

I watched my kids as they watched the show.  They were mesmerized by the format of short skits no longer than a song.  Wyatt agreed with the kids when they were talking about how hard it is to get along with their brothers and sisters.  Both thought the dancing on "Brothers and Sisters" was groovy and wished I would allow them to dance on the top edge of the playground fort wall.  Emma liked the William's Doll cartoon best.  She hated the kids making fun of him and loved it when the grandmother finally bought him a doll and reminded the dad that men have to take care of babies, too.  Both children liked the circle of friends song with Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.  They didn't see any controversy.  Honestly, I think the only shocking part for them was seeing a young Michael Jackson.

After it ended, I asked each what they thought the show was about.

"Brothers and sisters getting along," said Wyatt. "And parents doing lots of stuff."

"Family and love, " said Emma.

Nothing subversive there.

However, in 1974, in a small town in Georgia, this was radical stuff.  My grandmothers waited on their husbands, hand and foot, even though they both had their own work: one on the farm and one at a hospital.  My mother had temporary jobs at various places, but my father was the known bread winner and ruled the roost.  My sister and I were always second to our little brother at any family gathering.  Boys first, girls second.  At seven, I quickly saw the lay of the land and hated it.

As I grew up, I saw snippets of news pieces with women marching for equal rights.  I watched reruns of All in the Family, That Girl, and Maude.  I saw that there was a big world outside of Small Town Georgia.  I wanted my own voice in my life.  But how was a girl to get this?  In the end, I reflected on the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Golden Rule.  I realized I had the power to control how I treated others and how I asked to be treated.   I tried to treat others, men and women alike, how I wanted to be treated.  If I got to a door first, I opened it for the other.  If I wanted someone to do kind things for me, I tried to do kind things for them.  I respected myself and others.  If I didn't receive respect back from a person, I knew that person wasn't meant to be a big part of my life.  C'est la vie.

There may not be an amendment that demands it, but in our family we have equal rights.  We all try to get along.  We all try to be fair.  We all try to take turns.  Man or woman.  Girl or boy.  We work together for a common family goal and we support each other in our individual goals. I am happy to say that I found a man who runs beside me like Atalanta and John.  I chose to marry him as he chose to marry me.  We are having our adventures together.  And we lived happily ever after.

If you're looking for a groovy flashback, check out Free to Be... You and Me.  Here's Emma's favorite, William Wants a Doll:

Here's my favorite: The Story of Atalanta:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back on Schedule

The clock and I are not friends.  It's usually saying, "You're late!" adding sarcastically under its breath, "Again...," each time I glance its way.  However, living without a schedule for almost six months has me respecting the clock a little more, if not fully liking it yet.

Always enjoying a day without a place to be, I thought a year schedule free would be an ideal living arrangement.  With nobody waiting on us and no where to be unless we were traveling, a typical day of home school went much like this:

Sometime around whatever A.M.....(Daddy/teacher is already up and at 'em, but Mommy/teacher is just facing the day.)

Mommy/teacher:  "When you get up, get dressed and clean your room."
Kids: "Snore."

Five (or so) minutes later...

Mommy/teacher: "Get up.  Get dressed and clean your room."
Kids: "Snore... grunt...Huh?"

Mommy/teacher:  "Get up!  It's time for school.  Get dressed and clean your room."

Kids get up, stumble around, put on clothes that don't match and basically throw the comforter over the top of the bed hiding their pajamas and toys underneath.

Mommy/teacher:  "Breakfast is ready.  Did you brush your teeth?" Continuing as kids walk back towards bathroom,  "We need to get started.  You have a lot of work to do today."

After kids are finally washed and fed they meander to the "classroom" on the dining table.  They are given a meticulous list of assignments for the day. Each can work at his or her own pace with no timetable for each assignment or subject area.  They finally start working around 9:30 A.M. (maybe), but no one's really checking the clock.

Cut to around 6 P.M. (approximately) and kids are still working, having taken breaks whenever they wanted and eating snacks and lunch whenever the fancy struck.  Daddy/teacher, usually losing it by this time, asks the kids why are they NOT finished.  The kids complain that Mommy/teacher has given them way too much work and it is all her fault.... and it is.  It is all her fault for thinking life (especially life with kids) could be lived without a schedule.

my well worn copy
When my first child was born, an old and dear friend gave me the book, Dr. Denmark Said It! by Madia Bowman, as a baby gift.  Being a relatively new mom herself, she claimed it saved her life.  She advised me to follow Dr. Denmark's schedule for babies to the tee.  I smiled and thanked her, but had every intention of deciding for myself what schedule, if any, my baby and I would follow.  After reading Dr. Spock, What to Expect the First Year, the American Academy of Pediatrics baby books and countless internet and magazine articles, I was more confused than ever.  They all differed on scheduling and they all seemed, honestly, a bit wishy-washy about it.  I needed an authoritative voice telling me what to do because I didn't want to screw it up. After five years struggling with infertility and two devastating miscarriages, I was scared.  I needed a grandmother figure whispering in my ear, "Do this and all will be well."

Can you believe
she'll be 114 on
February 1?
I opened the Dr. Denmark book and found my grandmother. (Actually, she could have been my great-grandmother.  Dr. Denmark is a 113 year old pediatrician who was still practicing medicine in Alpharetta, GA when my first two children were born.  I had the great fortune to take both of them to her for her one-of-a-kind check-ups.)

In the book, she outlined every schedule for children beginning at birth and continuing through the school years.  She was a clear and commanding voice much needed by this new mother.  Her schedules* not only saved my life, but they guided my life for eight years.  I was the household drill sergeant and the bedtime bugler playing taps at the same time every night. No quarter and life was good.  I had three happy, healthy babies in less than four years and our marriage was stronger than ever having nightly alone time with each other.  The kids thrived secure in our family schedule.

Unfortunately, as the kids got older, school, sports and other extra curricular activities started dictating our schedule.  I started listening to other voices and tuned out the wisdom of my "grandmother's" ways.  We were running ourselves ragged and violating every one of Dr. Denmark's sage dictums.  Sound familiar?

After the past six months of a willy-nilly lifestyle, I realized how much I missed my Dr. Denmark household.   Of all the items I discarded when packing for Fripp, something made me bring her book.  Looking it over again, I couldn't help but wonder... Would we have needed this sabbatical if we'd stuck to Dr. Denmark's schedules?

And so I am pleased to announce that Mommy the Drill Sergeant is back and things are changing.  Greg, can you play Reveille on the guitar?

*This is a blog with all of her schedules listed.  Parents, I highly recommend checking these out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Pride

"A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men."

                                                 - Willy Wonka

My husband did something completely nonsensical today and I've never been more proud.  Greg, along with over 400 other insane folks, ran into the 56 degree Atlantic Ocean at Hunting Island State Park's 4th Annual Pelican Plunge.  The event officially benefited the Carolina Park System, but it also greatly improved the new year's outlook for a fun local bunch.  And, boy, what a bunch!

Some plungers brought more whimsy than others.  While the kids and I did not embrace the idea of shockingly cold water as Greg did, we enjoyed watching the show.  The dress of choice for many was bathrobes and shower caps with plungers in hand.   Our two favorites stood out in a crowd of nuts (and that's saying something.)  We had to meet Plunger Head Man and Viking Caveman.  It was obvious that these guys had continued their New Year's Eve parties right up until the plunge countdown at 1 p.m.

Hunting Island Park kept the party atmosphere going with a Pelican greeting the kids and a steel drum band attempting to hypnotize those about to freeze into thinking they'll be stepping into Caribbean waters.

The hypnosis didn't work, but Greg didn't care.  He was ready to take the plunge.

With the paramedics nearby and a clear path from the lighthouse to the ocean, the plungers hit the beach running.  After a brief wince, Greg joined in.  I tried to video him as he made it to the water, but I lost sight of him in the crowd.

So was it as cold as he thought?

"It was worse actually," said Greg later.  "I ran out with the first wave of folks and made it to a little over knee deep before I dove.  It was impossible to stay under.  I stayed out for couple of minutes and dove under again, but popped right back up from reflex."

When I found him, Greg was walking back up to the beach with a huge smile on his face.  I smiled back so proud of him for having the wisdom to enjoy something so silly.  He was just smiling because he had done it and, more importantly, he survived it.

I salute all of today's plungers!  I love their "Hey, you only live once!" philosophy for 2012.  If the world is over in a few months, what a great way to ring in the last year!

To read the local paper's take on the event and spot Greg in the stampede,  go to Beaufort Gazette.