In our town of Charlottesville, Virginia, the parks and recreation department and local merchants host Downtown Halloween where kids trick or treat on the downtown pedestrian mall. This was our dog Ariel’s first year attending with our daughter. Ariel’s costume was a hit. Just goes to show that sometimes a simple accessory says it all.
Earlier this summer, we adopted a lovely shelter dog named Ariel. Like people, dogs often have quirks that only become apparent after spending some time at home together. Watch the video to see one of Ariel’s funnier quirks in action:)
We found this Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) in our yard about a week ago. I created a record for our sighting on the Virginia Herpetological Society’s site.
We have seen this box turtle before, which isn’t surprising because box turtles typically have a home range of 230 m (according to the National Zoo factsheet on Box Turtle). Some other interesting facts: They are omnivorous and eat a varied diet of plants, bugs and small animals. Box Turtles don’t get big, but they can live to be 100 years. We think our box turtle is a girl because she had brownish eyes, instead of the red or orangish eyes of a male, and a flat plastron (bottom part of shell). We hope that we see this girl in our yard for the next 100 years or so.
An interesting radio show about…
Virginia’s Hidden Destinations on the Public Radio show Virginia Conversations.
On the weekend of June 22, my family and I returned to Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia to do a book signing at their Family Summer Fun Day. Park visitors paid reduced admission fees that Saturday and there were a variety of giveaways and a local radio station broadcast from the park. It was a great day to spend at the Fairy Stone Lake beach.Thanks to those who stopped by and played Park Trivia and/or bought a book at our table.
Fairy Stone is a gem of a park with lots to do, especially in the warmer months when you can swim or paddle on the lake. And of course, Fairy Stone has the legendary fairy stones – purported to bring luck to those who carry the cross-shaped staurolite crystals. To get a sense of the park and the fun Lotto and his siblings had there, here is a short excerpt from Lotto’s Super-Awesome Unbelievable Park Adventure’s chapter on Fairy Stone.
While the siblings were hiking, they kept hearing noises behind them like someone was there, but every time they turned around they didn’t see anyone.
Finally, they stopped to take a rest and have a drink of water. Lotto and Armond sat on a rock. When they were sipping from their water bottles, they heard rustling in a nearby bush. Riley bent down and peered into the bush.
“Careful!” Armond warned. “There might be an animal in there. Don’t touch it.”
Riley reached under the bush. “This isn’t an animal,” Riley said. “It’s a fairy.”
Lotto and Armond choked on their water. Riley’s hands were cupped in front of her. Lotto and Armond stood up and looked closely at Riley’s hands.
“Whoa!” said Armond. Riley was holding a tiny girl with a frilly dress and sparkly wings.
“What the heck?” Lotto said trying not to act too frightened of something so tiny.
“But fairies aren’t real,” whispered Armond, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I am too,” said the little fairy. She stood up in Riley’s hand and wagged a teeny finger at Armond. “I am as real as the sun in the sky.” She turned and pointed to the sun shining through the tree leaves at the top of the forest.
“She’s real,” said Riley in defense of her new little friend. She gave the fairy a small, gentle hug.
“What’s your name?” Lotto asked.
“Esperanza” said the fairy. “That means hope in Spanish. I suppose you didn’t know that.”
“Well, no, we didn’t,” replied Armond.
Lotto wished Armond would learn to speak for himself. Lotto got an A in his Spanish class and knew exactly what Esperanza meant. “Where did you come from?” Lotto asked.
“Where did you come from?” Esperanza repeated mockingly. “I live here. We all live here.” She pointed to the bush that Riley found her beneath. Lotto and Armond had missed seeing about twenty other little fairies lounging about on the branches. After Esperanza pointed to them, the fairies took flight.
They darted this way and that in small circles around the kids. As the fairies flew by, they saw that the fairies were a mix of little people, almost like they had interrupted a little fairy bus ride. There were skinny ones, chubby ones, light ones, dark ones, young ones and old ones. Lotto worried that Riley might be scared, but she just smiled. Correction, she beamed. Lotto and Armond were freaked.
Armond took a step back and asked the fairies nervously, “What do you want?” His voice came out all shaky like when Mr. Baxter had told them they had to solve a park challenge.
Esperanza landed on Armond’s nose. “We don’t want anything. We have something for you.” Then she laughed a tiny, bubbly laugh and turned around and faced the group of flying fairies. “All right, everyone. In formation!” she yelled. With that, the fairies dropped to the ground and spelled out the letters ROUY, like the way the band and cheerleaders spelled out REDSKINS the time Ms. Shirley took Lotto and Riley to go see a Redskins game.
“Rouy,” Lotto said. “What’s that? Fairy language?”
“No, silly. It is isn’t a word. It’s letters. You have to unscramble the letters to make a word. Don‘t you remember your challenge?”
“That’s our scrambled word?” asked Armond.
“You got it, smartie,” replied Esperanza. “Now, we must get going.” She put her hand to her mouth and gave a whistle. The fairies rose up again and formed a line in mid-air.
“Wait,” Lotto said. “Do you know Mr. Baxter?”
“Everyone knows Mr. Baxter,” said Esperanza as she joined the front of the fairy line. “I hope you find the giant, soggy forest.”
“What does that mean?” asked Armond. He looked panicked.
“Adios.” said Esperanza. “Hang onto your fairy stones, they will bring you luck, just like the President.”
“President Obama?” asked Armond.
“No, President Teddy Roosevelt, silly. He carried a fairy stone. Adios,” called Esperanza from the air. Then, off they flew. If Lotto, Armond and Riley didn’t look too closely, the fairies looked like tiny hummingbirds darting through the forest.
After speaking with a park naturalist at the Family Fun Day, I found out that Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t the only famous person to carry a fairy stone. Franklin Roosevelt also carried one and gave fairy stones to the Allies in WWII. Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, and Charles Lindbergh also carried fairy stones. See a nice article about fairy stone myth and history here.
We didn’t get any fairy stones on this trip, but we collected several last year when we visited the park. We haven’t become famous since acquiring them, but as always, we feel lucky:)
Hope you are enjoying summer and finding a beach of your own to relax on.
Lotto’s Super-Awesome Unbelievable Park Adventure is featured on Charlottesville Family’s Cool Stuff page this month!
And Lotto’s Adventure is now available at New Dominion Bookshop on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. Thanks to Charlottesville Family and New Dominion Bookshop! It feels great to get local coverage and availability:)