Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear

Our recent trip to see John, Melissa, and Anna provided the perfect opportunity for us to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. As fans of children's and young adult books as well as their illustrations, we have wanted for several years to visit this homage to Carle's work and that of other illustrators. Now that Duncan is a fan, it seemed the right moment. I loved EVERYTHING about the museum, which is the most kid-friendly site I have visited since...well, since I've had a kid. Although Duncan was less interested in the art, it was all hung low on the wall where little people could view it easily. I loved seeing the Pat the Bunny exhibit, an original Pooh drawing, some illustrations from Peter Pan, and some VERY art deco fairies. The reading library featured an impressive collection of children's books that would make Michelle drool. We tried to take a break there and read Duncan a few stories, but he quickly discovered some fantastic toys, like a Maurice Sendak Wild Thing puppet. For Duncan the highlight of our visit was our time in the studio, where a museum volunteer presents a project that focuses on one aspect of art and provides the materials for kids to go wild. It was one time we could let Duncan experiment with an art project with no thought of planning, avoiding messes, or cleaning them up afterward. We each made a "touch collage," and Duncan chose to give his to Anna. As a Mom, I was particularly pleased with the cafe, which sold kid favorites, such as cheese sticks, yogurt, bagels, egg salad, and fruit salad. Each chocolate chip cookie had a noticeable hole, where the very hungry caterpillar had eaten through on his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly. Polar Bear, Polar Bear what do you hear? I hear children...that's what I hear.

Duncan to Large Body of Water - Check

My niece Anna came for her first solo visit to Grandma and Grandpa's house. We thought it would be fun to take the kids to Lake Taghkanic State Park for the day.  (I did dread learning how to spell it, but here it is).  Once we staked out the perfect picnic spot and the perfect beachfront real estate, we set about the business of building sand castles, burying people's feet, and paddling in the water.  In the morning, both kids were nervous about going in the water and more than a little nervous about the fish.  That Anna was not allowed to wear her floats and Duncan needs a while to adjust to new things made the morning a little slow going.  After a solid lunch, and Duncan's need to be just like the 7 year old boy who kept running down the beach and into the water, Anna and Duncan finally ventured into the water.  They played ring a round the rosie, and Duncan reveled in sitting in the wet sand.  He turned into a daredevil who kept venturing beyond his depth.  It was difficult to corral them back in the car to go home after such a lovely day, but we all returned home with that sweet exhaustion that comes only from a day spent in the outdoors.  

Monday, August 18, 2008

Revenge of the Pumpkins

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I thought I had killed the pumpkins?  Well, not only did I not kill the pumpkins, but they came back even stronger.  Stronger, in fact, to mount their own attack.  We went to Albany last weekend.  Before we left, there was a lot of talk about the need to stake the pumpkins and cucumbers, but we were all talk.  I suspected, however, that the pumpkins were moving in for the kill.  Although their tendrils had wound frighteningly close to the tomatoes, I dismissed my fears as gardener's anxiety and drove away.

When we returned on Sunday, the tomatoes had been dragged to the ground.  Jamie claims that they simply popped out of the tee pees of stakes we set up for them.  I hold firmly to the belief that the pumpkins sneaked their wily hands over and tried to pull the tomatoes under.  I steadfastly believe the cucumbers were implicated.  Today, Jamie staked the tomatoes with tomato towers from Gardeners Supply Company and set out to "weed" the cucumbers.  He vowed to reduce the cucumbers by the half we should have weeded them a month ago.  When I returned home, however, Jamie informed me that he was unable to pull out any cucumbers because they had wound around each other so tightly it was impossible to tell where one ended and another began.  

All fears of horticulturcide aside, I pulled in to the driveway after work to see Duncan gesturing wildly at the garden and trying to tell me something VERY important.  As I got closer, I heard that we have pumpkin babies and at least one tomato baby.  As Jamie tried to explain the futility of "weeding" cucumbers, he discovered that they are also covered with babies.  Duncan's fascination and enthusiasm were the highlight of my gardening summer.  As for the pumpkins, they are SUPPOSED to be small, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The Life Aquatic

Animal, vegetable, mineral...but our summer experiences had had little to do with things aquatic, and Duncan had been talking quite a lot about sea otters, so we headed off to the Maritime Aquarium, in Norwalk, CT.  The New England Aquarium it is not.  Mystic Aquarium it is not. Nevertheless, the Maritime Aquarium is a nice place to spend a few hours with kids. We skipped the IMAX theater on this visit, but it helps make the trip worthwhile since the aquarium is on the small side.  Duncan got to watch his beloved sea otters (really these were river otters, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him until he's 30 and needs therapy to recover from all the lying I exposed him to in his youth).  We watched the seals have lunch.  We gazed at the tiny, colorful, poison dart frogs that resembled toy amphibians.  We ogled the albino alligator.  We feared the touch tank...(Duncan did), but it was too crowded for comfort anyway.  We were fascinated by the jelly fish, awed by the loggerhead turtle, and mesmerized by the sharks.  

We stopped in the gift shop on the way out to buy Duncan a souvenir and narrowly skirted a meltdown.  After he had already carried around the stuffed seal for fifteen minutes and fallen deeply in love with her, I feared we might have to leave her in the store.  You see, the second the saleswoman had rung up our purchases, the computer went down, and all the registers were rendered useless.  Several groups of camp kids left exceedingly disappointed because their bus was leaving NOWWWW!, and they could not wait around to purchase their treasures.  I vowed that we had come this far, and I would NOT leave the aquarium without that seal, even if it was nap time.

I thought for a few minutes about asking one of the four young salespeople if there was an adult they could consult (they really were quite young).  Finally, someone wondered aloud why purchases were being processed across the way; it seems a bright young man had decided to keep his line moving by using his math skills to total the purchases and make change and was tracking the purchases on paper to enter into the computer later when it came back on.  The other salespeople thought he was brilliant.  The young man waiting on me said "Yeah, I can't give you a receipt, but I guess if you just want to pay for that, you can."  As it happened, I knew the total from before the computer crashed, and I didn't care less about the change.  I had a kid who had a nice day at the aquarium and a stuffed seal to show for it.  And proof that you just might use those math skills in the real world!

Flash Gordon

Duncan's first airplane trip was blissfully uneventful. We left our house at 6:30 a.m., armed with a bag full of no fewer than seven new books, crayons, stickers, and paper, a Magnadoodle, an Aquadoodle, a DVD player, and a selection of DVDs.  I hadn't been to the Westchester airport in quite some time and imagined it might have grown bigger in the interim.  Really, not.  As I mentioned previously, we checked no bags.  We flew through security (unless you take the time to be concerned about your civil liberties as you remove your shoes to walk through the metal detector- it is a little more difficult when you also have to get a toddler's shoes off and on and try to explain why we're all barefoot) and arrived at the "gate" in plenty of time. 

The plane was probably the second smallest plane in which I have flown (unless my parents say otherwise; it's the second smallest I remember), and I was honestly terrified, but I seemed to cover it well. Westchester is one of those uniquely diminutive airports where you actually walk outside onto the tarmac and board the plane outside. We were in the back row, seats 9 A, B, and C. The plane was so small that Jamie actually suspected for a few frightening moments that it might not have a rest room, but indeed it did. Our flight crew consisted of Pilot Flash and First Officer Gordon, and I am entirely serious.  Someone must have paired them together just for giggles, like the year I tutored two students with Valentine's Day birthdays or the year I assigned Christina Tscharskyj to be tutored by Laura Tkazyik.  Duncan spent the first half of the ride fascinated with the plane, the seat belts, the flight attendant, the snack service, and the other passengers.  We asked him to blow his nose to pop his ears.  We spent a few moments watching Charlie and Lola, read a few books, looked out the window, and landed. It couldn't have been easier.

Our return trip was slightly complicated by a 30 minute delayed departure.  Apparently, the pilot hadn't arrived by the time we were due to depart.  That builds your confidence in air travel.  When we boarded the plane, he was still filling out paper work; he ran across the runway, jumped in his seat, and we were off. We entertained Duncan a little longer (he especially enjoyed the toy plane and Thomas the Tank Engine magnet set that Marylou gave him), and there we were, back in Westchester, where we simply walked out the door with our carry-ons and found the car.  Magic.

Duncan's favorite parts of the experience were watching planes take off in the Cleveland airport and watching planes land in Westchester.  We're thinking we may make another trip to Westchester just to visit the observation deck.  Imagine that...a trip to the airport just for fun? We were thankful that it went so well and that Duncan had such a good time.  We look forward to more air travel in our future, maybe the next time we receive an economic stimulus check (unless we need to spend it on gas)!

Monday, August 11, 2008

And One More Shot

Because I love the ring bearer best of all...

even though the wedding was not about him...

and because I can't pretend that the sight of him poised to walk down the aisle at a wedding didn't bring me to tears...

here's my ring bearer, seriousness and all (before he started stripping:0).

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I love a wedding that makes me want to do it all over again.

There was a lot of good natured joking at the rehearsal dinner about whether the bride and groom would actually kiss during the ceremony.  "They barely hold hands," it was quipped, by many in attendance.  In the end, the simple act of a kiss was irrelevant because the love, respect, and friendship that Jason and Suzanne have for each other was apparent in every detail of the wedding, which celebrated not only their relationship with each other but also their love of nature.  (They did kiss, by the way, for those of you not in attendance.  We have it on film and on video).  

Jason and Suzanne's wedding was held in the backyard of her family home in Orrville, Ohio. The garden was impressive, and Suzanne did most of the landscaping herself.  The minister ministers to a small congregation of about 25 people so the ceremony was personal and meaningful.  Cousins, aunts, uncles, and brothers sang, played music, and read Pooh.  The table flowers, from a family member's garden, were arranged in simple but beautiful Ball jars.  I am told the groom arranged quite a few flowers for the event.  The place cards and table assignments were labeled with birds; the pictures on each table described the characteristics of that table's birds and invited the guest to speculate which qualities s/he shared with the birds. The food was comfort food, summer backyard barbecue food, followed by ice cream and the best pie I have ever eaten. Jason and Suzanne brewed their own beer for the event (as did another couple we all know well...almost 9 years ago), and Suzanne designed eye catching labels for each of the four varieties.  The names and pictures featured Jason and Suzanne's cats, and even the ingredients were meaningful.  Jason proudly told us that the orange came from their backyard in Florida and the honey from OSU's agricultural department.  The details were so well thought and planned that the event appeared not only meaningful, but effortless.

And who could forget the flower girl and the ring bearer.  Anna was diligent and practiced walking the "aisle" over and over.  Her seriousness was compounded by her responsibility for leading the ring bearer d.  It went well during the rehearsal, but during the wedding, Duncan was suddenly fascinated by the string trio, from whom he could not lift his eyes.  Anna practically had to drag him down the walk, but they made it, and they were cute as buttons. Shortly thereafter, Duncan's suit came off piece by piece.  Within minutes of the end of the ceremony, he was in shorts and a t-shirt, but no one cared.

When dinner and dessert wound down, families and friends mingled at tables and in the yard. Children shrieked and chased each other in the twilight; grandmothers shared the hammock with grandchildren; cousins rocked on the swing; children from two to sixty watched fireflies; families caught up with each other; people connected.  The event had all the feel of a backyard barbecue, with a long dress and a few suits thrown in here and there.

For the last week, while I thought about what I wanted to write about this wedding, the word "lovely" kept coming to mind, and the more cognitive part of my brain kept tripping up and trying to censor me by telling me that "lovely" was overused and banal and could not possibly appear in my wedding entry. So I looked it up. Here's what says:

1. charmingly or exquisitely beautiful: a lovely flower.
2. having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face.
3. delightful; highly pleasing: to have a lovely time.
4. of a great moral or spiritual beauty: a lovely character.

"lovely." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 05 Aug. 2008.

I'm glad I trusted my first instinct because lovely is the perfect word.  Congratulations Suzanne and Jason.  It was a beautiful wedding, and we wish you all the love in the world.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oh Yeah

And I meant to apologize for that jackass comment last week. First of all, the language is lazy and unbecoming. Second, in no way did I intend to demean anyone who uses such technology in a more mobile and efficient manner than I. I was in a mood...and desperate for an iPhone...and anticipating just how much of a jackass I could become if I had EVEN MORE ready access to the internet. If I don't fall asleep in the next 30 minutes, I'll commence searching for words more appropriate than jackass.

White Noise

Is there a white noise machine that works for the INSIDE of your head? We got a white noise machine last week because our new downstairs neighbors are night owls, and we are not. The machine works well at blocking out noise, but it doesn't seem to control what's on the inside of my head.

Here's my old friend insomnia again. It's not really insomnia until you lose sleep...hmm...something like three times a week. Last night I couldn't sleep because I was up sick until 1:30, but tonight I can't turn off my brain, this on the heels of a weekend of bad hotel sleep. AGAIN I spent too long on the computer too late at night, but the biggest culprit tonight is this blog. I started to write a post about Jason and Suzanne's wedding, but it's going to take a while to write and will need some solid editing...meanwhile, long after I shut down the computer and attempted to go to sleep, it has continued to write itself inside my head. I guess I should be writing that instead of this just to get it out of my head, but I think I'd be up all night.

And where are my insomniac friends? They're probably all asleep.