Showing posts from September, 2011

Human Evolution, the Learning Brain, and Mac and Cheese.

Barbara Kingsolver has a great gardening analogy: feeding a garden only a steady diet of NPK fertilizer is like aliens trying to raise human children on a diet of only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I laughed when I read that, but also squirmed a bit. I can dump a ton of woodchips on my garden, import handfulls of whippy worms and turn in lovely half-rotted leaf mulch and the garden won't protest.

What do you do with a kid who won't eat anything but peanut butter and jelly? Or, in my case, Mac and Cheese, quesadillas, or milk?

Years ago I read about a lovely study done in 1939 by Dr. Clara Davis (this page  and this article give a tidy summary) about giving a group of orphans free food choice and tranforming them into healthy little specimens. The take home message is: give kids a wide range of healthy choices, and they will select the foods most necessary for their particular little bodies, at that time. I found it a wonderfully comforting guiding principle. So I've …

The County Fair Comes But Once a Year.

Hip hop tots in spandex and kiawe smoked chicken, teenagers screaming, wilting baked goods on the prize table, cankled hogs in the 4-h tent, hello kitty themed quilts and prize winning jackfruit... it can only be the county fair.

The county fair turns familiar Kauai into a stranger, like drag queen make up and stage lighting. Throngs of people who are otherwise in different orbits-- middle schoolers and fashionable 20 years old parents-- show up to pat the duckies and piglets and ride the ferris wheel and buy Hawaiian T-shirts with bleeding skulls and shark teeth logos.

Old ladies coddle their fussy little orchids and arrange them behind miniature white picket fences snuggled with dusty teddy bears, uncles bring in their pampered roma tomatoes and gawping achiote pods, kids haul out their mini-lego worlds. The 4-h kids feed their steers and hogs and shear their lambs and spritz their goats, tuck in their shirts behind their gleaming metal belt buckles and carefully batton their hair i…


It's September. This morning I I flipped the page on the calendar over and shouted to my four year old, "hey! It's a new month! It's September!" This seemed important enough to interrupt her drawing time (detailed vignettes of fancy girls in triangular dresses, backdropped by loop-dee-loop clouds). "Summer is over, now it's Fall." She gasped: "Oh no! So we can't go anywhere?!" I was puzzled. She broke it down for me: "Because it will be cold now?" She ran to the door to look for a library book scene of corn-stalks and pumpkins and scarecrows and maple leaves.

Nope, not cold. Light green kukui nut leaves, pale yellow cascades of starfruit like pinatas, hard green mini grapefruits on the trees, bittermelon vines choking the compost bins. But still, Fall. The beginning of the new school year -- that rhythm that pulses throughout a post-school (or pre-school) life. The storing away of summer, reporting on my summer vacation, cons…