Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day at the Museum

This summer, we had the great experience of visiting The Connecticut Science Center. Housed in a beautiful new building in the busy city of Hartford, Connecticut, this place is amazing. We have a pretty terrific science museum and a children's museum here in Boston, but when I read a review in the paper about this place in Hartford, I figured it was worth the 1.5 hour drive. And I was right. (I love it when I'm right.)

The museum, designed by world-renowned architect, Cesar Pelli, sits on the beautiful Connecticut River. Although it is crazy busy outside, once inside the comfortable walls, it feels as though you are suspended above a calm and peaceful turn of the water. Lots of windows to look out - even climb into to get a better view.

Everything about the place was airy and cool. Being a very hot day in August, we welcomed the cooler temperatures indoors. There was a whole exhibit on how they built the museum taking into account green engineering and geothermal energy for cooling.

The exhibits were incredible. Usually, my kids can breeze through a place, pretty much casing the joint for the 'fun-ness' factor. Well... I can tell you that we had to drag them out of there after 5 hours! And only because we were starving, and had a long drive ahead of us. We could have stayed longer, much longer.

Here, my husband is using bursts of air to move a beach ball. The game involved getting the ball through a chute - somewhat trickier than he thought!

Our eldest had pretty good luck. Turns out you needed the smaller ball, using less air momentum, and a whole lot of patience, in order to make it through.

Interactive exhibits where kids actually want to participate with an adult tops my list of fantastic summer finds!

My husband received a tutorial on speed-skiing, video-game style from our youngest. Although he typically does not enjoy video games, he kept trying this out, again and again.

Making music is one of our passions, and this museum did not let us down. Our eldest found the electronic jam room, and tuned up with several other kids.

You can listen to some of what they created here:

Our youngest is the mover and shaker of the family, as you can see here with the jumping exhibit:

And here, our youngest and my husband duel it out mind-blowing style. See the little, tiny ball in the glass tube? And see the headbands on their heads? With alpha waves, they are each moving the ball back and forth. He who gets the ball to the opposite end of the tube first, is the most relaxed. No pressure, folks...

And this is what the graph looks like after the competition. You may have guessed that you want the waves to be down low with few peaks. Looks like Player 2 got it this time!

This exhibit was pretty fun for our youngest. he's such a rock-'em, smash-'em kinda guy that he took to this immediately. The whole point of it was 'why do we need helmets'? You choose a helmet, put it on the 'dummy head' and then pull back the huge mallet and let it go.

The mallet then hits the head simulating a car crash or some other type of head trauma:

I'm pretty sure the point of the exhibit was totally lost on my son. He just enjoyed smashing the head over and over.

Here, you see both my boys actually checking something out together...! I thought they had outgrown playing in the water and sand, but what-do-you-know? Put it out there, and they will get their hands in it!

We had an incredible time. At lunch we traipsed down to the cafe for a meal full of organic and local produce/meats. It was a bit pricey, but when the food is that well-prepared, I don't mind paying a little more.

If anyone ventures out to Connecticut, make a beeline for the Connecticut Science Center. If it can bring my family together for a full day of fun, it must be totally amazing!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hurry-Up Breakfast Smoothie, Or... How to Get Out the Door On Time!

My kids draaaaaaag out the door for school. Who can blame them? The schools in my town open earlier as the kids get older. It would make sense to me that the youngest kids go to school the earliest, and then as the hormones kick in, the start time gets a little later. Ah well. As I always say, "I don't run the zoo".

So to get things going quickly, we have to be pretty creative with breakfast ideas in the morning. My guys leave eating to the last minute after getting ready, so smoothies have become the best belly-filler of all. Here's our favorite with the boys:

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
(goes down nice and fast)

Serves 2 with large glassfuls

2 C milk (or other milk-like beverage (soy/rice, etc)
2 ripe bananas
2 heaping tablespoonfuls of protein powder
1 T agave nectar
2 T peanut butter (can be omitted for allergies)
Large glassful of ice

Add ins (if you desire): chocolate chips, chocolate powder, vanilla extract, peaches, strawberries (or any other fruit), nuts (if no allergy)

Put all in blender and mix until creamy, frothy and thick. So good!

image from

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Parenting 101

Parenting is, at best, rewarding, yet challenging. It has taken many a discussion and many occasions of being ignored for me to just begin to understand what my kids are really saying. During the times when I can take a step back and just breathe, I cherish what my kids are saying underneath it all. It isn't always what I want to hear, but if I pay attention, I can figure out what they need.

What They Say (in black) versus What They Mean (In red)

I didn't do it.

Yes, I did indeed do it, but I'm not going to admit it as I think you'll eventually calm down and not eat me if I just pretend I don't know what you're talking about.

I don't have a girlfriend.

Yes, I do like someone, but I wouldn't DARE express anything but negative emotions in your presence as you might get the idea that I am still a nice, gentle person inside.

I am so bored.

I need to spend more time actually doing things and less time being entertained, although what I am thinking is I need the opposite.

I don't want to walk next to you.

I don't want my friends to see me wanting to spend time with you, and enjoying your company.

I need money.

I need money.

Can I have a sleepover?

Basically, I need your permission to stay up all night, be rowdy with my friends, eat every single thing in the house, then demand that you buy more food, drive the neighbors crazy and sleep all the next day while you have to get up and function on pretty much no sleep.

I don't care.

Of course I care, but if I show you I care, you will then expect me to be all mushy and on top of things all the time. I can tell my friends that I care, but never you.

I don't want to go with you.

I am asserting my independence, and even though I typically want to go with you, I am opting out this time, so you know I am becoming my own person.

I love you.

I do love you very much, no matter how I am acting.

I wouldn't ever change my parenting job. I wish it was a little easier sometimes, especially when I am tired or over-stressed. It is true that teenagers are a whole different breed from toddlers... but it's good to keep growing and learning (as a parent, I mean)... right?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reflections of Summer

Yesterday, I returned to work. After 5 1/2 weeks of no work, I have returned to my job, along with 700 other fellow employees. This week, as with all first weeks in years past, we go through orientation, various training and inservices, and get ready for our students to arrive next week. These are the days we all look at each other and wonder, "Where did the summer go?".
I look back at the things I said I would do this summer, and laugh at my absurdity. Work out one hour a day!?!?!? Who was I kidding? I did, however, learn to like walking, and found that I could happily walk myself into town to run some errands. I also like getting up out of my very uncomfortable beach chair to wander down to the ocean and walk in the waves.

We did not get to Vermont or to Maryland to visit loved ones. We did get to drive up and down the coast of Maine, reconnecting with our boys and our love of the wild terrain that state has to offer.

I read some great books - The Time Traveler's Wife, The Schwarzbein Principle (for the 4th time), Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet, and some of Suze Orman's books on finances.

We took apart the bathroom, pulling out the really disgustingly colored blue tile and replacing it with lovely white tile. The room is not finished, but at least it's been started. Perhaps we'll wait until next summer to get the rest finished (gulp).

I made some great meals - when I wasn't complaining about the rain, or the intense heat and humidity. I learned how to satisfy my savory cravings with fresh latin food.

I learned how to block out constant chaos and pounding as the house next door began it's transformation. I tell you - it takes all my strength not to holler, "Be Quiet!!!" at their incessant hammering, sawing and yelling. But hey - they tell me it will be beautiful. I think it's different when the contractor tells you that so you'll be more patient - when it's your own house that they are making the noise on. When it's someone else's house - WHY SHOULD I CARE IF IT'S GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL??? It's still terribly disruptive.

Ah. But back to summer ending. What will Fall hold? I happen to adore Fall. Every little thing about it just tickles my fancy. I love the leaves turning, the crisp sound of them crunching underfoot as you walk through the park. I love the chilling of the air - gone are the thoughts of humid sunrises where breathing was challenging. Here come the slow-cooked meals, long-simmered soups and casseroles. Mulled cider and wine have my name all over them.

How about you? What do you look forward to as summer comes to a close and Fall comes down the road? Will you miss the summer, or look forward to the next adventures to come?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looking Out For Lisa - 2 Months To Go!

It's been just over a month since I posted here about Looking Out For Lisa, sharing our efforts to raise funds for her cancer care.

I am so happy to report that just through contacting our online friends, we have raised $3410.00! We are looking into a couple of outside events in our towns to further support this drive, in order to complete our goal of $30,000. Alone, this feels like a mountain to move. But I know that by working together as a community, as a supportive and tremendously creative group of individuals, we can make this happen. I've seen this happen, and feel no reason to think it can't happen here.

Just as Lisa goes into another surgery this week, I would love to ask the question -

"Would you help a stranger?"

To what lengths would you go to support that person? I ask myself this question often, living outside of Boston, crossing paths with individuals needing housing, food, companionship. How far will we allow ourselves to reach out in kindness and love to someone we do not know?

Do you have $5, $10, $20 to support this effort? Do you have web space to refer visitors to this post? Do you have interest in blogging about it on your own?

What if we all carried each other through the tough times? Our health care will never be what we need it to be - or at least I don't see a perfect health care system in my near future. Can we carry each other through to the other side of well-being and financial grounding? I believe we can. And it really only takes a few bucks.

If you are able to participate, please click on the Looking Out For Lisa ChipIn above. If you need button html, please email me.

Thank you so much for your kindness and consideration! Let's see how far we get this month!

Blogger Showcase!

Why does it seen like I turn around and it's Tuesday again!?!?!?

This week, I want to showcase someone my mother just turned me on to. As you know, I looooove to cook. Love it. Love. It. As the weather cools (can't believe I just typed that), I turn to my slow cooker to get things ready while I am working and being taxi-mom all day. I have some pretty good slow cooking cookbooks, however, all but one uses copious amounts of cream of mushroom soup - which I'm not even sure belongs in any food group.

Just so happened my mom drops the name of this blog during a conversation, and I am totally hooked. The site I'm talking about is... (here goes the drumroll...)

At A Year Of Slow Cooking, Stephanie has taken, as the title announces, a year to use her slow cooker every single day. For those of you familiar with books and movies, Julie and Julia has done a similar project, as the author cooked through Julia Child's cookbook in a year and blogged about it. Stephanie has blogged through her escapades, has published a cookbook, and though her year has ended, still shows up to post every now and then.

What I really like about this blog is how she pictures her ingredients, gives clear instructions on how to fill the pot, then returns after the meal to describe how it went - how it looked, tasted, and what the kids thought.

Of course, the best part for me, is Stephanie's family is gluten-free just as mine is. It is really hard to find gluten free folks making waves in the culinary world, and doing a good job of it, so I appreciate the added resource.

Some examples of what she cooks up:
Mmmm. Can't wait to pull my pot our and dust it off after a hot summer. I'm not too sure what I'll make first, but I'll be sure to let you know.

Definitely stop by A Year of Slow Cooking. If you make something, tell me about it!