Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boston, Day One...the Trip and The Museum of Fine Arts

So here I am on the 19th floor of the Copley Square Westin Hotel in Boston. We got up early this morning (for us, anyway!) and were out the door of my parents' house by 9am. We had an uneventful drive, though it rained the entire way, which was annoying, and arrived at about 1:15 pm. We settled into our room, and then decided that since Matt's meeting doesn't start till tomorrow and he had the afternoon free, we should take the opportunity to go to the Museum of Fine Arts. He has wanted to go for years, so this was great. I hadn't been there in about 7 years--Rachel and I went together when Julia was an infant, and she slept through almost the entire trip. But after that, I always had a baby and a toddler and there was no way I was going into an art museum and try to see all that "boring" stuff with them in tow. However, now they are older and since we studied the ancients this fall in history (India, China, Greece, Rome and Egypt) it was the perfect time to bring them to this museum that is chock full of treasures from those periods.

Our adventure began with a ride on the T. Another first for us! Because of having such small kids, I haven't ventured onto the T with them, though I know it fairly well from our days of living here in Boston before kids. We have always taken the car out of the valet parking, driven to where we were going, paid to park and tipped the valets before and after too. So it was nice to be pretty unencumbered and walk over to the Copley Place T station and wait for the train--though if I could do it again I would have asked for no rain! We had to wait a fair bit for the T to arrive, but the museum is only 5 stops from Copley, so it didn't take long to get there. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Julia, Ben and Emma don't have to pay to ride the T, and pleasantly surprised again to find that kids get free admission to the museum on weekends, so it "only" cost $34 to get us inside.

We had a really fun time, although I have to say that it was a bit difficult for the kids to get used to the NO TOUCHING ANYTHING rule...they are used to children's museums, science centers and aquariums, where you can touch almost anything at will. At the Museum of Fine Arts, they panic if you so much as touch a glass case--granted, when you are looking at 3,000 year old artifacts and Van Gogh paintings, I realize they don't want anyone to touch! The mummies were of course a hit. It was neat to see mummified kittens, cats, dogs, baby crocodiles, rams, and people! Ben also liked the sarcophagi, all the examples of hieroglyphs, and the canopic jars....remember how he loved the brains being hooked out through the nose? Well, jars that the Egyptians put organs in before embalming the rest of the body excited him too! Emma loved the jewelry, Rachel had fun taking photos of all she found interesting, and Julia says her favorite was the mummies also....and we all enjoyed talking about how very old this stuff is.

Ancient pottery, coins, statues, jewelry, clothes, was all there and all fascinating. We went into the art galleries and saw the European masters, including my favorites--Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh....I was at first upset that they had none of the ballerina paintings of Degas, but then we found a statue of his of a 14-year-old ballerina and read the plaque, which said that this was his one named and displayed statue. We also went to the Dutch masters gallery, where I'd hoped to see a Vermeer, which I thought I remembered seeing back in 2001 when we went last, but no go. They either didn't have one or it was in one of the galleries being renovated. We did see some Delft china, including a tulip vase, which I'd never seen the likes of--basically a small urn with single stem sized holes at various levels of the vase to hold the tulips in perfect order. We also looked at Elizabethan furniture, silver and knick knacks, briefly at a photography exhibit, and walked past many things that we decided we didn't have enough interest in to spend time on.

When we left it was pouring, which was less than pleasant while we scurried back to the T stop. Luckily we were able to fit with everyone else under the roof of the shelter so we didn't get absolutely drenched, and then we got off at the Prudential Center so that we didn't have to be outside anymore--we ate dinner at California Pizza Kitchen in the Copley Mall, and used the indoor walkways between the malls to make our way back to the hotel. Then Matt took the kids to the pool and I stayed behind to blog, check email and go on Facebook....heaven!

I am hoping for better weather tomorrow, but so far our vacation is wonderful. The kids and I have to decide what we want to do with our day. I will post again tomorrow evening with an update!


Daily Quote

Love isn't what makes the world go round...Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

--Franklin P. Jones

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I am realizing more and more these days how much more fun the holidays are when you're a kid. Of course, this is an obvious thing...when you're a kid you have all the fun and none of the work. That's true of pretty much every aspect of life. But I am honestly getting tired of the holidays, which makes me kind of sad. It just feels like everything is rush, rush, rush and even when I'm trying to enjoy myself, my thinking revolves around work or money: how much is all this costing? What do I have to clean next? What needs to be organized? Cooked? Baked? Shopped for? Wrapped? Mailed? Where's the next place we have to be? Who have I forgotten? Do we even need this at all?

Case in point. When we just had Rachel, Christmas was wonderful because everything was new. Each stage she reached brought new fun, new toys she could master. But now that we have four children--we have every toy we could ever need. I walk through a toy store or page through a catalogue and think: we have that. Or we had it and it was lame. Or it has WAY too many pieces to clean up. Or that will break in ten minutes. Or it only does one thing and for what it costs, it isn't worth it. Or the kids won't want to clean that up in a week. Or we don't have room to store that....on and on and on! My kids have too many clothes. I rarely buy clothes because we have so many. I save Rachel's clothes to go down the line of girls, and my sister has given us so many clothes, both girls' and boys', that we could clothe the children of a developing nation without much of a problem. It is rare for me to have to buy my kids anything besides shoes, socks, tights and underwear--and the rare impulse purchase of something that is just too cute to ignore. We have more books than a library and more crafts supplies than we ever use. We have hundreds of movies and CDs, and we get movies now from Netflix anyway.

A month or so ago, I blew my stack when the kids had made their rooms total disaster areas and told them to forget about Christmas. I said that we weren't going to spend a thousand dollars on more things we don't need to have cluttering our home, things that nobody wanted to clean up anyway. They would be getting enough gifts from grandparents and Santa, and that our family Christmas gifts were just going to be shelved this year. We are going to do something as a family instead. Matt and I talked about going to a Broadway show--but frankly, for all of us to go we'd spend $500 easily, even on discounted tickets, and I just cannot justify that for three hours of fun! Plus it doesn't include anything like dinner out--the "rest of the day" in the city. I don't know what we are going to do, but I am not going to buy and wrap a mess of presents for under the tree that will just turn into a mess in the house a day later.

Scrooge? Yes. But I will be saner for it, so too bad!


Daily Quote

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

--John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 14, 2008

Julia and the Housework

Over the past two days, Julia has created a new game that I's called Inn. She pretends that she is a maid at a hotel, and she cleans. Everything. Dishes, mops floors, cleans the bathroom, rearranges cabinets and drawers, makes beds, runs the vacuum, dusts, picks up toys, neatens bookshelves, takes out recycling, feeds animals, scoops the kitty litter, empties wastebaskets, changes towels and tablecloths, collects laundry...she had Ben and Emma immersed in the game this morning, so much so that they were asking me what other chores needed to be done!

If that is not the best game ever, I don't know what would qualify!

Daily Quote

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

--Rene Descartes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ben's Leveled Up....

Ben has reached a milestone in his school work...he now wants to work alone sometimes. Prior to this I have spent every minute that he's done schoolwork by his side (okay, occasionally I have to answer one of the girls' questions, answer the phone or get a snack. But more or less constantly by his side, keeping him on track, making sure he understood directions, etc.) and even in the first weeks of this year it continued. The best example is history notebooking. We began the year in history with this rotation: I would choose a book on the desired topic that I thought looked very engaging, and then I would read to him. Not because he was incapable of reading, but because the books I get for history are by and large too old for a six year old to absorb everything from. So I would read the most interesting parts, careful to avoid boring details to make the book come alive for him without him fidgeting or glassing over. Then we would discuss what he found most interesting and come up with something to write. He might tell me an idea, but I would form coherent sentences, make the notebook page look neat with my more regular handwriting, dotting words here and there for him to trace. Then he might draw a picture and color it, or we might jazz it up by me helping him to find interesting paper, stickers, doodads to make a cool picture--for instance, when we wrote about the Minotaur we made a Minotaur head from fake fur to glue on his page and he drew on the horns.

Well. He's done with that! Last week he told me he wanted to notebook all by himself, so I allowed it. Figured if he wanted to do it, I shouldn't say no. He read a book about Rome, but when he made his page, it didn't have enough information. This is what he wrote (I wrote it with correct spelling, but in his notebook it is spelled phonetically, like his "19 Battels" book....)

I think that it is amazing how many things a Roman soldier carries. They carry so much I cannot remember!

In six-year-old print, this took up 6 lines on his paper, and while I recognized that it was work to be proud of, I had to explain that the purpose of this history notebook was to let someone who knew nothing about the time period learn a little saying that he couldn't remember wasn't going to be very informative! We revised the end to tell some things that a Roman soldier did actually carry with him: a pack, a sword, a spear, a helmet, leather sandals, a kit with herbs and bandages, food, a tent, a shield and all their armor. He agreed that my way was superior to teach a novice about Ancient Roman soldiers!

So today, when we began the unit on Ancient Egypt, I reminded him that it was fine to do it himself, but he had to remember to put in real information, and that if he couldn't remember something, to look back in the book. Well. He spent almost an hour reading a book on Egypt. I wouldn't say it was the hardest book, but it was meaty, it talked about a lot of subjects, and it was 35 pages long with smallish print. I would say it was at least 3rd grade level reading (not in MY house, but for regular school kids) and he was totally absorbed. He was fascinated when he got to the part about taking a person's brain out through the nose with a long hook....yes, charming. But how very Boy!

Anyway, this is his page: (again, I am giving correct spelling for everything, which is not how he wrote it)

I think that mummies are very scientific. They are wrapped up very tight, and I think that they are works of art! The reason they wrapped them up is cause they thought that they would go to a new life. But first they had to go through the underworld! So they got them ready.

Now, while I can't say that this paragraph would teach much of anybody about mummies, (except perhaps his 4-year-old sister), I was pleased that he tried to put in some facts and the fact that he pored over the book for so long was totally wonderful. I am proud of my boy!


Daily Quote

There's a difference between solitude and loneliness.

-- Tom Hanks

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ben's Book: "The 19 Battles"

Ben wrote a book today. And I thought it was great so I decided to share with you. I am going to type it in verbatim so you can appreciate the phonetic spelling and will then put the English translation in. Enjoy!

The 19 Battels...Book 1

by Ben Eager

Ones apon a time, theyr was a elf and a wizerd and a man. But they new thot they had to defeet evel. So one day they set off to defeet evel!

Chapter 2 the gerny begens!
Now theyr are 19 battels. 18 of them have bin won. 1 remanes.
Now wen they came to the gates of a cave the gates wer glowing. Theyr was a line of stars and theyr was a moon in the mitel.

Chapter 3 Loosing a comrad. The wizerd tride a spell on the gate to make it open, but it wood not werke. But it was elven. So the elf told it to open in elven. It werkt. Wen they enterd the wizerd got shot with a dart. But the men got the orce.

Chapter 4 up to one!
They wer out. One of the men got shot with arows! But then the other man stabt it! Then the man went over to the other man. He was daed!

Now...just in case you don't speak 6-year-old boy, I'm going to put it into English. If you understood everything he said--kudos to you!

The 19 Battles...Book 1

by Ben Eager

Once upon a time there was an elf and a wizard and a man. But they knew that they had to defeat evil. So one day they set off to defeat evil!

Chapter 2 The journey begins!
Now there are 19 battles. 18 of them have been won. One remains.
Now when they came to the gates of a cave the gates were glowing. There was a line of stars and a moon in the middle.

Chapter 3 Losing a comrade.
The wizard tried a spell on the gate to make it open but it would not work. But it was elven. So the elf told it to open in elven. It worked. When they entered the wizard got shot with a dart. But the man got the orc.

Chapter 4 Up to one!
They were out. One of the men got shot with arrows! But the other man stabbed it! Then the man went over to the other man. He was dead!


Of course, you are missing out on the illustrations because I'm not quite sure how to use the scanner. But trust me, he worked for over an hour on this project today. They're pretty good, especially the stabbing the way, I have no idea if this story is original to him or if he stole it from "The Lord of the Rings" or some story like that. I take no responsibility for his crimes if he did something of that sort!


Daily Quote

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

--Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day and Ben's First Tooth

Ben has had a loose tooth for months. I mean months. I could go back through the blog and figure out when exactly I reported it was loose, but frankly I don't have the time. I want to get down to watch Jon Stewart's election coverage on this hopefully most historic day. Well--finally the tooth came out! He is so happy and proud, and he has the tooth under his pillow right now, waiting for the Tooth Fairy to finally visit him. I am so happy for my big boy!

And what would make me even happier? Why, knowing that his first tooth came out on the same day the United States elected an African American President! Because it is about time.

Daily Quote

I heard Dennis Kucinich say in a debate, 'When I'm president... and I just wanted to stop him and say, 'Dude.'

--Jon Stewart

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Photos

As promised...Halloween photos! I will have to add more later because Julia went to her friend Evelyn's for the festivities, and when she came home her face was clean--Amie painted her face (and I know she did a fantastic job!). So when I get Amie's pics I will post them so you can see the whole effect.

Amie made costumes for Julia and Evelyn! It is a long story, but basically, Rachel and Julia were a tiger and a leopard for Halloween back when Julia was 3 years old--and Julia and Evelyn dressed up in those costumes every time they were together from that age till earlier this year! Suffice it to say that those old costumes were falling apart--tails off, holes everywhere and of course got far too small. Amie said she would make them new tiger and leopard ensembles, and they seized on it as Halloween costumes. I nervously cautioned Julia that it was a lot of pressure to ask Amie to sew two costumes for Halloween (plus she made her baby a spider costume!) but the girl came through with gorgeous results. She made two girls I know the happiest trick or treaters around, I think....

Here is our tiny pink poodle....she really loves this costume!

Ben as a Jedi...but of course he wouldn't take the hat off no matter how I explained that nobody in Star Wars wears a baseball cap! He did get a bit tired, lugging his candy bucket and his light saber. We ended up stopping home in the middle for a candy dump.

Rachel and Chloe were an angel and a dark angel....Rachel wanted to color her hair but when we looked at the Halloween hair sprays they cautioned that blond hair could be permanently stained. This led to five different experiments with Kool Aid as hair dye, which for some reason never worked. So they sprayed their hair with glitter instead. Note the white powder all over Rachel's face--in person it was a pretty cool effect.

It was a beautiful day, which was a relief after the weather we had earlier in the week. We went out for a while and Rachel took some photos.

As promised, the jack o'lantern at first lighting...and now without the lights:

Daily Quote

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.

--Anton Chekhov