The Family

The Family

Monday, September 29, 2014

Science Fridays

I felt like I was cramming too much learning into each day. I wanted to take time to explore some topics in-depth.

The idea came to me in three parts.

It dawned on me that at a university most classes don't meet five days a week. Some meet three, others two and most labs meet only one day each week.

Couple that with reading Harry Potter. If you pay close attention to the schedule you'll notice that students have lessons on a particular day of the week for each subject.

Then I thought of the NPR show Science Friday, and voila, our own Science Fridays were born.

It's not something we do every Friday. I tested it out in June before we took a summer break. We just so happened to be reading about cephalopods and there were awesome videos of cephalopods for that week's Science Friday on NPR. I took it as a sign of fate.

We spent the morning watching videos on octopus and one interesting specifies known as the vampire squid - though it's not actually a squid - and then we pulled out the "Planet Earth" dvds and made some of our own creatures out of Play-Doh.

 We've done a few more sessions since, and it's turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

Our quest to find ducks a few weeks back coincided with our Friday theme.

We also uncovered a black-noir video about tar, and ice-age animals that feel prey to it. Again, courtesy of the "real" Science Friday.

One of my favorites so far was what we did this past week. I actually did some advance planning for this one. We read about jellyfish and then watched NPR archived Science Friday videos. Did you know there's a fried egg jellyfish? Well, there is, and its story and life cycle are quite interesting.

One video we came across was about a remote control jellyfish. To be honest, it's one of the most pointless inventions I've ever seen, but the kids loved the video!!

We ended up attaching strips of paper to balloons to make our own version.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Caterpillars and Butterflies

What better way to spend a crisp fall afternoon than outdoors learning about butterfly gardens?

While my children were the youngest ones in attendance by about 65 years, excluding myself of course, it was a delightful presentation about what to plant in order to attract butterflies. There were also some interesting pointers on what not to do.

We were able to observe a chrysalis and then take a stroll through the garden to see eggs forming on plants and a few small caterpillars attached and gnawing away on the leaves.

Did you know lantana is one of the best butterfly attractors?

Even though this last image wasn't part of the presentation, I couldn't resist sharing this massive spider weaving her web.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Strange Lands

Reading is one of our favorite adventures.

It takes us through lands unknown, to places we would never travel otherwise.

Take where we're at now for instance. Somewhere in the mythical land of Prydain between Caer Dallben and Caer Cadarn in pursuit of a black cauldron.

We came across the first of Lloyd Alexander's fantasy novels "The Book of Three" this summer at our library. The book was displayed on a table, and Jack picked it up because he thought the cover was cool.

That was the beginnings of our travels through the Prydain chronicles with an assistant pig-keeper and his lovable and equally annoying sidekicks. We're now on the second in the series, "The Black Cauldron."

I can't quite put my finger on how to describe the series. The best I can offer is that it's a twisted mix between C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" and J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings."

Equally unusual is the land, or should I say time, I found myself traveling through during my own late-night reading adventures.

"A Tale for the Time Being" is about two realistic characters that find themselves somewhere between reality and a mystical world in which time and fate can be altered.

Its central theme, suicide, is not for the faint of heart. Had I known that suicide would be such a prevalent element of the story I might have passed this one by. But the wisdom and pathos woven so beautifully throughout made the tough parts bearable. Especially toward the end.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In Search of Ducks

We got out of the car and they came running.

For a moment it felt like a stampede.

Mattie began screaming. Jack started backing away.

That's when momma pulled out the bread, and all returned to normal.

We were able to watch, observe, draw and follow.

Some weren't even ducks. I'm guessing this one is a turkey.

Though this was weeks ago at an industrial park near our home, the funny thing about looking for something is that before you know it that thing starts showing up everywhere. Like at the National Mall or in Georgetown on the Potomac River.

And a whole lot of places in between.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Day I Became An Aunt

Today I became an aunt.

For the first time.

My children have cousins.

It's plural because they are twin boys. Born early and weighing less than 3 lbs. each, but breathing on their own and needing minimal NICU care.

It's a wonderful day when someone becomes a parent.

It's just as wonderful to welcome new ones into an extended family that loves them and can't wait to meet and hold them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Side Trip To Gettysburg

Last week I was at a conference in Chantilly, Va., and Matt and the children tagged along.

We hit a few Washington DC hotspots, but because I've posted so much in the past about DC I didn't want to include anything here.

The last day of the conference wrapped up early, so that allowed us time to explore uncharted territory. Uncharted for us, at least.

We decided to make the 90-minute drive to Getttysburg, Penn.

The rain held off, which gave us time to walk around the well preserved area.

The wild flowers were probably my favorite part.

This kid and his faces!

Monday, September 8, 2014

On the Day He Turned 7

We were seven years and hundreds of miles away from the place he took his first breath.

Seven years of hugs, tears, laughter, sickness, learning - a whole lot of learning for this momma - and we find ourselves still smitten with him. By him. For him.

He's our first born. Our first real taste of what that preacher on Sunday morning often refers to as agape love. Love that is all encompassing. Love that knows no boundary. Love that knows no end.

He is our Lego lover. Our shy talker. Our whole life wrapped up in he and his sister.

He is my travel buddy. My artist. My joy.

And when he turned seven and wanted to spend it in New York, the city I love most on earth, how could I turn him down? How could I say no to a request that meant we got to spend his birthday, his day, amidst toys and food and fun?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

NY Eats

Eating, and eating well, is one of my favorite things about traveling. When in New York there is no lack of choice, but with young children I've learned the key to eating in a city is to find a hotel in a good neighborhood with surrounding restaurants.

We stayed at The Lucerne Hotel. I posted about our time here last summer and this will likely be my go-to place anytime New York is on the radar. It's located on the west side, and there are numerous restaurants, kid friendly at that, just beyond the front stoop.

Here's where we ate this time:
1. Nice Matin - I have no idea how to pronounce it, but this is the restaurant connected to The Lucerne. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we ate all but one breakfast here. While the restaurant is not affiliated with the hotel, the owners of the restaurant allow the hotel to distribute coupons that take 15 percent off breakfast for hotel guests. We ate dinner here the first night as well. I had a Tuscan chicken and my mother-in-law had a rib-stuffed ravioli. Both were so good I was doing the food happy dance.

2. Sarabeth's - There are several Sarabeth's locations throughout Manhattan, and this is a must for breakfast too. We went on a Friday morning because I knew Saturday and Sunday mornings would likely mean a wait. We also ate dinner here one night, not least of which because it's the perfect New York eatery for outdoor dining and people watching.

3. Eataly - This was the only restaurant we visited not located on the west side, which meant we had to take a cab to get to this hotspot. The place was completely overwhelming when we walked through the door. There are five restaurants inside this meat market/ice cream shop/Italian grocer/cheese factory/yada,yada,yada. And when I say restaurant it is not at all what you are picturing. We decided on the pizza/pasta section because I thought it would be the easiest menu to figure out. While I still don't know what half of the things listed were, I left thinking it was the greatest food pleasure spot on earth. The olive oil was so fresh it burnt my throat on the first bite (not a bad thing; just go easy on it to start). The children's buttery noodles almost gave me hallucinations there were so delicious and creamy. And the four cheese pizza we shared was nothing less than divine. There was a salty cheese beneath the other three layers that I was licking off with my fingers. I swear my eyes were rolling back into my head!!!

4. barley & grain - I ate one of the best crab cakes I've had in a long, long time at this place. Matt, Jack and I also split a hamburger. I wish I had more to say about it, but truth be told we were completely distracted. Our hotel, nor anywhere in this particular area that we could find, carried the SEC Network. We were trying to eat in a rush during the rain delay in the Auburn vs. Arkansas game so we could get back to our hotel and listen to the game on the I-pad.

5. Sugar & Plum - We had to celebrate the little man's birthday with sweets. The children, of course, chose cupcakes. I went with a carrot cake. I had no idea the slice was going to be so big. It reminds me of a carrot cake I had years ago at a restaurant in Dallas, Texas while on a work trip. Remember that Cupcakes & Commentary?!?!

6. Pretzel Vendors - Here we are stuffing our faces with a huge pretzel before entering The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We made another stop on the way out for me to grab some nachos and cheese!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Museum Time

When in one of the cultural capitals of the world, this bunch can't resist heading to a museum. We spent time in three on this trip to New York.

I'm starting with our visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), even though it was the last stop on our museum circuit, because it had the most impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts I've had the pleasure to see.

If we saw a fourth of what the museum holds I would be surprised. Here are just a few snippets of the Arms & Armor Wing.

Our first stop was actually to the New York Historical Society, which is located next to the American Museum of Natural History (that one is up next). My guess is a lot of people mistake it for the history museum because we, and the three other people behind us, were asked multiple times if we knew we were buying tickets for the historical society.

I added this stop to our list when I found out there was a special exhibit on the art work of Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the classic children's series "Madeline."

The collection made my day, even though Jack and Mattie whined and complained a good bit during this stop. Good thing there were touchable exhibits in the children's hall.

There were also other interesting elements in this museum; we just had one child extra eager to head next door.

This was our second time at the American Museum of Natural History. Here's a trick about both it and The Met. You have to have tickets for admittance, but it's only a recommended price. We were so confused by this last year that we paid the full price. Then we realized we could get in for free if we wanted. Even so, we paid a small fee for each this time; it somehow felt wrong to pay nothing.