Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Belvedere Blogger: Enjoy!

Read Another Belvederean's Blog about her life and love in Belvedere.

Cranio Sacral Therapy with Kate White

Here is Jacob getting cranio sacral therapy from Kate White of Belvedere Integrated Healing Arts.

Jacob started having a strange clicking when nursing at 7 weeks. At about the same time he changed from being our amazingly calm baby to crying for about 2 hours every night. As with may things about Jacob you could almost set a clock to these crying spells. I assumed he would outgrow the crying and didn't really worry about it. I was, however, worried about the clicking, pulling away, frustration and discomfort Jacob was displaying during nursing. I had already consulted with numerous lactation consultants in his first weeks who helped us successfully address a variety of problems. When the clicking started I worked and worked on correcting the latch, but to no avail. I was actually considering quitting breastfeeding when I mentioned my troubles to Kate, our next door neighbor.

Kate kindly offered to observe us and see if she could make any recommendations. It took only a few minutes before Kate noticed that Jacob's head was slightly deformed. I had noticed that he always slept with his head cocked to one side, but didn't realize that he was getting a flat spot there. Kate worked with Jacob a few times. The evening after the first cranio sacral session Jacob id not go on his usual crying jag. For us, that was like a miracle. I now believe that the same discomfort that was causing the nursing issues was also causing him to cry so much.

Next, Kate recommended that we consult with Dr. Karen Steele, an osteopath in Lewisburg, WV. It was a 2 hour drive each way, but we made the trip. Since then we have continued to work the Kate and Dr. Steele together and after just 2 visits with Dr. Steele Jacob's plagiocephaly is noticeably diminishing.

I feel so lucky to have been neighbors with Kate. Jacob and I are cruising ahead with the nursing, clicking eliminated! Since not every new mother will be moving next door to her I want to spread the word far and wide about her gift working with babies. For more information on her work go to http://belvederearts.com/. Please share this with new parents you know!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Coming Up on the 2 Year Mark

This August will make two years since we moved into Belvedere. It is hard to believe. Two years ago, we were sitting in the lawyer's office with eyes as big as the proverbial deer-in-the-headlight with the lawyer telling us we had 19 liens on the property, the most ever he had every seen in Cville or Albemarle County. I remember feeling scared and staring at Jim Duncan, who tried his best to calm the nerves of this intense real estate deal. I remember when we first heard about Belvedere, the "green" community, with sidewalks and people and health at its root. That latter bit is what drew me. Health. Connection, especially the connection between nature and people and people and people. Then, the economy tanked and everything slowed down. Now, we have 47 homes inhabited, sold or underconstruction, and spec homes going up everywhere. There are 5 builders in Belvedere, and Bob Hauser's "street of dreams" for the parade of homes is going up quickly. Still, Belvedere feels a little amorphous. Several pioneers are moving on. Yes, we are still here!

Sometimes, I get nostalgic for that first year when it was just three inhabited homes, including us. It was quiet. I would often just sit in the center of the neighborhood and gaze at the mountains. It was fun being at the beginning of something and watching it grow. I focused on learning permaculture for my yard and building my business. Belvedere Integrated Healing Arts has been open a year and half now, and I am slowing building partnerships and seeking ways to connect with Charlottesville. Folks have a hard time finding me though. We still aren't on google maps.

And yes, I am still tracking and still having adventures out on the land. Why just the other day I snuck up on a groundhog thinking I would slap it on the butt (they just look so oblivious), but once I got right next to it, I was afraid it would bite me, so I just whispered to it! I still see magnificent wonderful things: fox dens, mating turtles, lunar moths, bald eagles, bobcat tracks. And Stonehaus cleaned up parts of the land! It has just been hard to get to the blog, running a business and supporting my family. Here is the 2nd year update from my perspective:

Homes: There is now an amazing array of homes here in Belvedere. I want to have one of each. We are all in love with the new red house next to the Village Green. In fact, we all want more colorful houses in general. Too many green houses in the green neighborhood! I have enjoyed watching every one of the homes go up. The builders are Gibson, Southern Development, Stonehaus, Piedmont and Eagle. The downside is that buyers now have so many choices, it gets confusing. I suggest buyers come around to some of our gatherings and ask questions. That might help you sort out what you want. I am getting ideas all the time for what might be the start of dream house design in my head. Gone are the days when we had to pick from a production development line. Hear ye! Hear ye! You can get anything you want here at Belvedere (so it seems). The ARB has gotten more relaxed than those strict early days. I can't wait to see the three story carriage house (and to have that family move in! Hurry Up!)

Parks and Design: I am all about the nature connection piece but this is part of the amorphous milieu I alluded to before. Progress was made on the Bowling Cemetery, but only because the County required it before construction around it could begin. The Village Green needs redesign, and we want to have an unusual and attractive playground. We have started with just a playset and play at your own risk, and residents want to work with the nature connection piece. It has been super to have a community supportive of children's play. We invited and supported landscape architect and educator Robin Moore and the Natural Learning Initiative who toured Belvedere, the trails, and the proposed greenway. His excitement about our design is reflected in his desire to offer to help with design pro bono. I contacted his recommendation Chris Counts, award winning landscape architect here in Cville for help, too. Belvedere's potential to support the nature connection piece is exciting, and how wonderful it would be to start a pattern of New Urban design with Nature Connection and Play with Mentoring for Nature Connection. My teacher, Jon Young, used to say his goal was a nature mentor in every neighborhood.

STILL, Stonehaus remains slippery regarding the redesign of the Village Green. Once upon a time, it was supposed to be done this past spring, now it is this fall. At first, Albemarle County needed the redesign done as soon as possible, now not so much. Again, that amorphous theme emerges: things change all time and this resident wonders, what is the truth? The bottom line is all about how much money the development company has. Still, the median was planted with trees and native grasses. My current understanding is that the initial landscaping for the Village Green redesign and the Town Center will take place this Fall, but of course, that might change. Sigh. This is not to mention the need for work on the Pocket Parks, the Storm Water Park, the Dog Park. I wish things were further along.

Living in a Construction Zone: Yes, we are living in a construction zone. Yes, it is fatiguing. Yes, it is also exciting. New things are happening all the time. There are corners of the neighborhood more affected by others, and it is troubling to hear how yards are churned up, sometimes damage is done. It is hard when the cement truck washes out its cement in plain view.

Fiber Optic: This is the biggest source of unseen contention ever. I don't have the latest on the matter since I don't watch television, but the neighbors seem better with the service offered by Connexion. Telephone goes up and down. Internet, too. I don't understand all the hardware involved. Maybe another resident can write up something here.

Amenities: The trail system still rocks, and while we don't have the Organic Farm (that is still slated only very expensive) or other programed pieces, we do have a ton of community spirit. We often have gatherings, happy hours, and alley parties. We are enjoying belonging to Fairview Swim Club. The Swim Team is the best in the area, and the tennis clinics are awesome and free with your membership. The other day, the club ran a race through the neighborhood and I loved watching the folks run around our houses and parks. It is a good healthy vibe. The Town Center is still slated to go in, only different now that Stonehaus wants businesses to buy the land and build. Since there is a lot of retail already in Cville, this is a hard selling point. I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.

That is my update for now. Belvedere is better than ever, just slower to develop than originally thought. So, stay tuned for more. I hope to get back to writing about my adventures in the forest, and to detail the beginning of Belvedere Nature Awareness program. I think about it all the time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Promise of Belvedere

We are hitting bumps in the road. Our community is fed by a fiber-optic system for the internet and television. It apparently is an optimal way to receive digital information. I am not really sure how to describe it since I don't watch television regularly. I do, however, use the internet and have left the hardware parts up to my savvy husband (that guy is amazing.). Anyway, the television system has been inconsistent. It keeps going down. The residents are frustrated and everyone is meeting this week to work it out. There are several pieces of it that aren't communicating well with other pieces of it. We hope to work it out this week.

One of the letters that was posted on our community internet board really touched me. The resident said that the promise of Belvedere was (maybe is!) is that it offered a high tech community with connection to people and nature. That comment kind of stunned me for awhile. I am trained to connect children to nature. I have offered programs for years and most people who have participated or who are drawn to nature have opinions about technology. Some of them are downright negative, on how technology, especially television and computers are evil, but most folks have tried hard to put firm boundaries on this kind of media so that it doesn't dominate the lives of the children. Here is a development company trying to offer a package with both nature and technology.

Regardless of the snafu with the television, which I am sure will get worked out because the residents won't put up with anything less, I do think it is hard to offer both at the same time. In the past, in the communities I have circled around in (nature-based, alternative education), these two are like pushing magnets together that naturally repel. So I sit back on my heels a second and wonder, is the company who designed this aware that these can be opposites? And, we are going to do this, this combination of technology and nature-connection, and isn't that cool?

And it's hard.

For a long time, we have lived very separate from nature as a culture. In fact, nature was something the dominate and subdue. So, our adventure continues. We now have 30 homes and are about to redesign the parks. I hope I can stay with this process.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Inspired by crafts seen at the annual Monocan Powwow I was asked by my son to help make him a tomahawk. So on Sunday Kate and I took him, his best friend and his brother, and Eleanor down to the river to find materials. We found suitable sticks along the way (with frogs, toads, ticks and a cool Gar in the river) and rocks by the river's edge. One of the boys decided on a spear so we looked for spear fixin's also.

Then we trooped back to see what we could do about turning these raw materials into tomahawks. A little sawing, fitting, artificial sinew and decorations and the kids had something to really show off!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Designing for Health: Creativity and Tension

In the workshop on Designing Natural Play Spaces for Healthy Children and Planet, a few Belvedere folks and I redesigned the village green. It is the oval green-filled shape in the middle of the Belvedere base plan seen below.

We saw several presentations about play spaces and what they mean. Robin Moore gave a complete overview with lists of what is possible. You can see a presentation about designing for health planet, healthy children at NLI's website, a powerpoint Robin gave at the 2007 Design Institute.

Then we had to identify the users for our parks. For Belvedere, they are not just families, but all kinds of people: families with small children, what Robin called "middle age children" from 6 years old to 9 or 10. Then Tweens and Teens. We also have an active adult population, single folks, dog walkers, and then older people who are empty nesters, retired people. So you can see, we have a lot of different populations. The list is on the purple stickies.

Then we identified the kinds of activities we wanted in the parks: sitting, picnicking, walking, jogging, playing, exploring, etc. Those were the yellow stickies in this picture.

Then, we had to identify settings for these activities: sitting settings, hide-n-seek settings, watching and picnicking settings, play settings, etc. That list is in the pink. From there, we launched into a design that started with a water setting (fountain) in blue on the map below, then a fire ring for gatherings. We thought this design might be more formal to fit with the neighborhood construction, then a ball playing field. After that, a gazebo in the middle of the village green (in orange), then an area of play and chase, with bushes, hillocks, trees, and a sand/dirt pit. One of our group, a maverick named William who is a new naturopath to our area (Quadranthealth.com) added a great rope climbing structure here. On the far end of the Village Green, we are trying to keep the rocks and pipe in the hill, leveling out the rest of the current spiral a bit (not all) and putting a smallish play structure there. There are paths that connect each section. It was harder than I thought it would be. You can see about the process in this video made by NLI and posted on their website: Design Practice

Frank Stoner says this design is about $500,000.

Buzz kill.

Robin Moore cautioned not to get too caught up in how much things cost. But that really kills creativity and ideas.

I hope that our community can continue to work on the design of our parks together now that some of us know the process. Robin says it is critical that the landscape architect work with the residents and not just think they know what is best. Involve the residents. Ask the residents. We have such a great opportunity to design these parks together.

More later.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Belvedere to Help Co-sponsor Workshop and Public Talk: “Design for Health” With Nature and Play

Is it important for children to play unsupervised in nature?

Can we design play spaces that encourage freedom to roam in residential neighborhoods, community parks, schools, and childcare centers?

What are the child health and developmental costs of not doing this?

How can nature play contribute to learning, community identity, and growth of social capital?

Come find out at a public talk and workshop by landscape architect and nature-based educator Robin Moore and other staff of the Natural Learning Initiative.

Designing Natural Play Spaces for Healthy Children and Planet, Saturday, April 24, 2010 will teach about approaches to better children’s health through designing natural play spaces.

Moore’s public talk, Free Range Nature Play: Designing for Healthy Development of Children and Planet is scheduled for Friday, April 23, 2010. Both events are being held at the Mountaintop Montessori School, 305 Rolkin Rd., Charlottesville, VA 29911.

Play and learning in natural settings stimulates all aspects and stages of child development. Moore’s research shows that play in nature:

· encourages imagination and creativity,

· fosters language and collaborative skills,

· reduces or eliminates bullying,

· stimulates social interaction between children, and

· children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.

Study after study about the impact of play in nature show significant increases in:

· problem-solving, science and math skills,

· standardized test scores and ecological awareness,

· self-esteem and motivation,

· concentration, delay in gratification and more.

Moore’s approach is interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional, inviting people of all ages to be in nature, especially children. His 40 years of experience has benefited childcare centers, schools, residential neighborhoods, and community facilities such as parks, museums, zoos and botanical gardens.

Families, community members, teachers, landscape and garden designers, developers and administrators of health and educational programs of all kinds should attend these events. Inspiring presentations in the morning will show activities and designs for children of different ages in different settings. Afternoon activities will teach design principles and their application in a hands-on activity. Several participants are bringing actual park plans to improve their community and schoolyards.

Fees are $10 for the public talk, and $25 for the workshop if you preregister (includes lunch). Call Ryan DeRose for more information, 434-960-4082, or go to http://www.mountaintopseedproject.org. You can also become a sponsor and have a display about your school, business or program. Rates are reasonable!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Belvedere Developer's Report

We recently had a gathering at the Hauser model home where the developers gave residents a round-up of where things stand, and upcoming activities. Here are the highlights:

1) Multi-family Development

The land slated for apartments (the second patch of bare ground as you come into Belvedere on the main drive) will be developed starting later this year. There will be an apartment community built by the Cathcart Group consisting of 294 1-2 bedroom (with some 3-bedroom units) nicely arranged around a central parking area with strip parks. The design looked very nice, with the apartments built to look somewhat like the townhomes in Belvedere - with varying elevations even within the same main building. The apartments will have their own clubhouse and pool, with trails around the development open to the public.

This is big news on its own, but it also makes possible the development of...

2) The Belvedere Town Center

This will occupy the top slice of the land next to the apartments, generally directly in front of you if you come across the Free State Bridge. The developers plan on having the infrastructure ready by the end of the year, and are taking a flexible approach to exactly what will go there. The idea is that there will be individual pads which can be built up (within the architectural guidelines, of course) by the individual builders into 1-2 story retail units, at an affordable price per square foot. Stonehaus is also hoping to attract a "destination restaurant" for somewhere in the Town Center.

What this means is we will have shops (mmmm - coffeeshop anyone?) and hopefully a restaurant within walking distance, supported by the residents of Belvedere proper and the apartment center, as well as the communities near by, like Dunlora.

The Town Center design also includes some townhouse units, and a park. The new location I think is better all around, and I can see it being a meeting place for our community, as well as an opportunity for residents who have small businesses to locate them there.

3) Signage

There will be signs posted in Belvedere soon - "Children at play", etc. These, as well as the general growing density will help keep traffic problems to a minimum. There will also be clearer indicators at the traffic circle to help direct traffic the right way around the circle.

4) Village Green

The Village Green is going to be re-done, with the large berms at either end graded down. These were a nice idea, but the effect was to visually isolate the Green from the rest of the community. The final design of the Green is open and residents were encouraged to provide ideas as to what they would like it to look like.

5) Organic Farm

This has been set back by the economic situation, as grants the farm needed to prepare the land are not available at this time. The location of the Farm on the floodplain, although very good from a soil perspective also presents challenges with access, which translates into somewhat higher startup costs.

6) Community Garden

Stonehaus is supportive of creating a community garden if there is enough interest among the residents. This would be located down near the erosion control ponds so that if it were to get a bit messy (as gardens can be) it would not be something everyone had to see up front and center.

In the meantime we talked about getting an organic farmer to come into the neighborhood on a weekly basis.

7) SOCA (Soccer Association of Charlottesville Albemarle)

SOCA has presented a design for their indoor facility just off the Village Green. Although large, it will present a fairly small elevation at street level, as the land slopes away downhill. The land has been transferred to SOCA, with the stipulation that they need to build within 5 years or it reverts to Belvedere.

The entire final SOCA plan consists of the indoor fields and SOCA offices (to be developed first), a lighted outdoor turf field, which will be open to residents, and a set of fields on the floodplain.

8) Community Building

This will be located next to the SOCA indoor facility. This would house the HOA office and Stonehaus is also hoping to attract a preschool (Montessori?) to anchor the building, and they are committed to building a general-purpose community room that could be used for events like Cub Scout meetings, parties, etc.

9) Landscaping

Stonehaus reiterated its commitment to fulfilling the landscaping outlined in the initial plans. As the community develops and cash flow improves (the banks are still very reserved about lending to developers) the various elements will be done as money and the surrounding areas permit - for instance they cannot finalize the water drainage area near the railroad tracks until the erosion control ponds are filled, and that cannot happen until the plots around them are developed to the point of not needing erosion control...

There were various other issues discussed, and a sales report which I was unable to stay for. But overall, Kate and I are encouraged by the progress and plans - we always know that Belvedere was too good an idea and location to not be finished to some extent, but it was heartening to have these plans presented, and hear the commitment on the part of the developers.

It must be spring...

The hot-air balloons are back!