Old Friends, New Year

We were lucky enough to get to spend the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 in the company of friends and adopted family.

Our Goerlich friends came down from Rochester on Wednesday and spent two night with us, hanging out and playing games, before leaving on Friday afternoon. There was lots of Nerf battling, plenty of board game awesomeness, and some goofing off in the snow. We had a wonderful time playing with Steve, Heather, Tyler, and Emma. Poor Emma was out of her element, though, and spent a great deal of her sleepover refusing to sleep and voicing her displeasure.

Emma perked up on Friday and everybody got to play out in the snow for a while. I was so happy to get to shoot pictures of the Goerlichs out in the winter wonderland that is our yard.

Here’s Steve getting ready to launch a snowball:
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Emma wasn’t sure whether or not she was having fun outside in the cold, but she looked incredibly cute toddling around in the snowy yard.

Tyler built an interesting snow wall with an old flower pot as his “bucket” for making blocks. He also got a couple turns on the sled, and threw a few snowballs. He did not, however, wish to have his picture taken.

It had been a long time (including the birth of two kids for the Goerlich family) since Steve and Heather had a chance to come visit at our house. We get to visit them every couple of months or so when we’re hanging at the GrandChen’s place, but it was fun having them in our space.

I’m hoping we will get to do it again in the spring when the weather is more cooperative.

Like the seeds dreaming beneath the snow…

Like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, OUR hearts dream of Spring.
-Gibran (paraphrased, thanks Khalil!)

It’s become tradition to spend a bit of our Christmas holiday outside. Typically with the traditional burning of pillows of sugar on the ends of sticks over a bonfire and sledding down snow-covered hills. This year, though, we decided we’d switch it up a bit and do some hiking and communing with nature.

Our first stop was a Mendon Ponds park, where we offered up a Christmas time feast to the local feathered friends. Birds at Mendon Ponds enjoy company.

Uncle Ryan and the kids started out cautiously kneeling on the ground outside the woods, trying to look non-threatening.
Kneeling Chens

It quickly became apparent, however, that the birds were not threatened.
Em and chickadee

Emily loved the little Chickadees who perched so lightly on her fingers or palm.
Chickadees

Anna was also a bird whisperer…she was thrilled with all the tiny feathered friends eating from her hands.
Anna and Chickadee

Some of them were happy to just sit around for a moment and enjoy the sunflower seed bounty in her tiny cupped hands.
Chickadee closeup

Our boy Nate, honestly, is not into Nature. He reluctantly agreed to feed the birds for a bit before declaring himself, “bored, cold and, oh, did I mention…bored?”.
Nate and bird

We walked the paths in the Wood for a bit, and found this absolutely lovely bench tucked deep into a cove next to a small stream.
Bench

It was a fitting place for a group portrait.
Group Shot

We walked back to the van after our group picture. There was a bit more bird feeding. We said goodbye to the chickadees, the cardinals, the titmouses, and the bluejays.

Our next stop took us from flying creatures to swimming creatures. We were off to Powder Mills park to feed the fish at the trout hatchery.

There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of trout in all sizes at the hatchery. They were divided by age and ranged from tiny to impressively huge. We talked about how lovely they’d be…IN OUR FRYING PANS!!! It was only pipe-dreaming, though, since you can’t fish at the hatchery for obvious reasons.

Nate Hatchery

Fish food pellets were available for a quarter per small handful at machines around the outer rim of the hatchery. The fish would jump up out of the water when you tossed in the food pellets.
Em Hatchery

When I got too cold to stand outside holding the camera, we piled into the van and headed back to the Kinnally homestead to warm our noses and toes while drinking hot cocoa and snacking on S’mores in front of the fireplace. It was a gorgeous, relaxing, and beautiful way to connect with each other and the promise of a coming Spring.

First Friday: Growing Up Artsy…

((*apologies in advance for the rough photography taken via Em’s p-n-s with one hand, while the other hand juggled bags and babes))

Taking five children under age 10 on a historic trolley tour and a gallery walk on a busy Friday night means that you’re either brave or crazy…or just homeschoolers who love to try something different on a regular basis.

Tonight’s adventure with the folks over at Mind Games involved taking advantage of our city’s First Friday activities, many of which were themed for the holidays this month.

Our first activity was a guided history and architecture tour of the city aboard a lovely old-fashioned trolley.
Trolley Pic

The tour guide, a member of the local Preservation Society, was gracious and full of information. Some of us learned how many bridges are in our city (8 major ones), what the almost-triangular architecture on the doors and windows of a church was called (gothic), and the names of the different kinds of Greek columns used in building design (the ones we enjoyed most were Ionic or, if you’re Nate…IRONIC).

Others of us were…less involved.
Sleepy Jos

After the trolley tour, we decided to grab dinner at a local cafe that was featuring a live jazz band. Dining out with gluten-free Anna requires some care and planning, but the Lost Dog Cafe has a great gluten-free menu, not to mention some excellent cafe atmosphere.

We had a bit of a wait for our table, so we grabbed seats next to the band to enjoy their set.

After our buzzer did it’s thing, we moved off to our table to enjoy dinner. Waiting for a restaurant meal with 5 kids involves a bit of creative thinking if you don’t want a hungry riot on your hands. In our case, there were thumb wars, a game of trivia for Smarties candies (one handed out to each child, in turn, for answering a question correctly), and some passing around of the camera at the table for creative photo taking.

Handing the camera to the kids gives you some of this:

And a little of this:

And maybe a little of this:
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Then the food came, and there was a little bit of this:

When we had finished eating, we decided to explore a couple of galleries. First stop was at Orazio Salati Gallery, where Anna signed the guestbook (half a page high, in all caps) to “let the artists know I came to see their work”.

Then KarateKids made his Mama sniffle by using all of his saved up money to buy her a fancy pottery piece from Fern Lynn. He was so very grown-up throughout the transaction. Finding the right person to approach about the piece, conversing with the adults along the way as we slipped off (he wasn’t carrying his money around tonight, so I “helped” a bit on the financial end so his Mama wouldn’t have to be involved in the buying) to make the purchase, and then presenting the gift to his mom with such innocent grace that we all wanted to squeeze him senseless.

We made a quick, end of the night stop at Cooperative Gallery and Anna decided to make her first independent gallery purchase.

Em bought a small pottery vase for herself, but she’s made art purchases before so she requested that I not photograph her transaction. She’s hitting the “no photographs please” stage of development.

We trekked back to our car, stopping briefly here and there along the way to talk about various buildings or store windows or interesting things we passed. One of the most fun windows of the night was filled with trains.

The business was closing, the sign had just been turned off, but the proprietor saw me taking a picture and pulled me inside because she thought I should take a picture of the kids looking INTO the store.

She stopped me as I was leaving the building to tell me how absolutely precious our children were…how beautiful they were standing there together in the night.

As we walked away, I got a giggle from hearing an older artsy man comment that “they look like a little, walking Benetton ad”. That’s us…a wee little United Nations.

We hopped into our car, came home to our menfolk, and then divided up to head to our respective resting places. My kids crashed immediately after teeth were brushed and now I’ve blogged. Mission Complete. It was a beautiful, beautiful night!

Even the Sun was Gold’n’Delicious….

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Today’s Muffin Tin Monday theme was apples. We live in apple country, and the kids are always up for a field trip, so PisecoMom and I loaded up our herd of happy apple pickers and moved our way out to the local You-Pick farm.

We started out picking in the rows of filled-to-overflowing trees. My kids were very anti-tart apples, and Pisecomom and her crew liked them on the sour side. Mostly, though, ALL of the kids liked running around the orchard and trying to avoid the camera. But, hey, I’m sneaky and I caught them all at least once!

Emily:
Emily in Orchard
Nathaniel:
Nate in Orchard
JediBoy:
Jediboy in Orchard
Anna:
Anna in Orchard
BabyGirl:
Babygirl in Orchard

I even caught the PisecoMama snacking while we filled our bags.
Pisecomom in orchard

After we paid for our harvest, we lunched on our Muffin Tins full of apple slices, lots of dipping options, and crushed walnuts for sprinkling. Thank goodness that PisecoMom was in charge of the apple dippers, since I managed to run out of the house with the wrong bad, so I had disposable bowls, forks, napkins, and some coughdrops instead of the gluten-free pretzels, cheesesticks, and juice bags I’d meant to bring along.

Nate was brave enough to try the Ginger Gold apples again…and they were STILL too sour for him.

Sour Apple Face

When they were finished eating, the kids spent some time looking at dragonflies and trying to find more wildlife down by the irrigation pond (squishy, slimy green pond!).

Kids by Pond

After eating, we hung out with the farm animals for a while. Lex and I mostly just relaxed. She used my camera for some pics while I was making multiple trips to the potty with various combinations of children.

Since I put a picture of her at the top, I’m going to be brave and crazy enough to post one of myself. A completely unflattering one, but I have to say I was having SO much fun that I don’t really mind. I really was as happy as I look in the picture!

Leigh and Jos feed animals.

We managed to leave the orchard before anyone melted down. BabyGirl crashed in the car, and we hopped out at home to send the PisecoPals back to their house for some rest before Karate and Gymnastics.

It was a great day. The very best kind of sunny, funny, best-friends-and-best-fun type of day.

Who needs the beach?

My kids were in the mood for some time outside, and Dave was conveniently participating in an office tennis tourney at the court across from our house, so we loaded up bags and neighbors and bicycles and headed off to the park.

I was attempting to scout some new portrait shots for an upcoming Not-Back-To-School mini-session event while also chasing kids and (sort-of) watching Dave play tennis. Because I wasn’t focusing on ANYTHING, I walked into the trunk of a massive willow tree with the camera up to my face. I heard my toe crack and knew it was not going to be a good thing. Yep, less than 10 minutes into the playing saw me limping and crying through the anguish of a newly broken toe.

But I’m the Mama, so I sucked up and kept shooting pictures. While I had been whimpering into my water bottle, the kids decided that the best place in the whole park today was the sand volleyball court. I got to shoot all kinds of “beach” pictures as they built and then destroyed a sandy version of the city of Atlantis, complete with King Triton’s castle.
Sandy Bottoms
Nate Playing Sand-Mover.
Anna in Sand.

The big girls (Kathy and Emily) grabbed some ice cream and got in some serious “no little kids allowed” girl-talk on the swings and in their own corner of the sandbox.

Beautiful Kathy
Em on the Swing

I got enough shots of the little folks in the potential snap spot that I determined it would be great for what I need. Of course, my kids were only partially cooperative, so the pictures I got of them are full of their personality.

Here we have a prime example of Nate’s “let’s get this done and move on” face.
Nate on Bridge
He totally has the same look on his face that Dave gets when he is humoring me but thinks I’m being silly.

Princess Anna had some trouble standing still.
Pretty baby girl.

Eventually, she managed to calm her body, but her eyes kept dancing.
Anna on Bridge.
Why, yes, she DID cut her own hair a couple of months ago and leave us to deal with “growing out the bang syndrome” again. She’s cute even when she’s got one of the world’s worst hairstyles. Of course, it looks fine when she wears clips, but clips never survive a trip to the park.

My favorite shot of today is this quick snap of Allie G., whose smile absolutely screams “I’m 7…and mostly toothless!”. She’s so full of joy, this picture just makes me grin every time I look at it.

Allie Urban Fence

I hobbled home tired, sand-covered, and completely happy even though the pain is excruciating. On the upside, having too much pain to sleep comfortably means that I had time to blog tonight instead of waiting for some unknown future moment of peace.

Off-Kilter and Out of Synch…

It’s been a strange, but very interesting, week around Casa Chen. Aunt Judy came down to spend a week with us before she heads to her next job up in Maine, and this weekend honorary Uncle Ryan came to hang out for a couple of days and take Dave down to the ‘Gunks (Shawnagunk Mtns.) for some climbing.

Our regularly scheduled activites and business fell by the wayside as we made trips to Chuck E. Cheese, lots of shopping for arts and crafts and fun activities, and plenty of hanging out and eating yummy things.

On Saturday, we had our normal morning swim lessons at the YMCA. Then we did the regular Saturday shopping trip at Wegmans, except we had a much bigger than normal list since we were prepping for a grill out with Judy, Ryan, and our friend Davey.

Dave, Judy, and Em dropped me and the little kids off at the grocery while they went to the mall. Nate and Anna were excited because we had enough shopping time (usually grocery is a ‘hurry up and get done’ activity) that they got to be the corn shuckers for this trip. It was their first time husking and de-silking the corn, and they were serious and thrilled in equal parts.
Anna with her corn.
Nate shucking his corn.

Today found us heading off to 5 Guys for burgers and fries, and then Coldstone for dessert. I snapped a few pictures with Em’s camera, and Anna made sure I got a picture of her with her daddy. She’s very much Daddy’s Girl, and loves him quite loudly and enthusiastically.

Anna and her Daddy.
Everybody loves Ice Cream.

Tomorrow starts another crazy week, with Em attending YMCA Camp Arrowhead and Dave and Ryan heading out for their climbing trip. Aunt Judy will head back to Rochester for a few days before coming back on Friday to hang out again on her way to her new temporary home in Maine.

I’ll try to blog more regularly again as things calm down. I’ve got great plans to post pictures of our newly reorganized school room, which I hope will happen soon.

Until then, it’s work and sleep for me.

Summer Time, and the Living is Easy!

Our friend Heather was kind enough to invite our family and the Piseco/Jedi Family out to her home in the country to enjoy some lunch, playing, and a splash in her pool.

Some of the kids had fun making their own pizzas.
Jamie making Pizza
Jossy making pizza.
Annie making pizza.
Ben making pizza.

And at least one of the kids just enjoyed eating it.
Nate having Pizza

After pizza, the kids hit the pool. The big kids spent their time in the Howell’s awesome big pool, and the little girls were in a baby pool on the deck.

Ethan spent some time lounging like a lizard on the deck.
Ethan resting

Em didn’t leave the pool till we practically dragged her out.
Emily on raft.

There was lots of watermelon eating, and plenty of sticky faces and fingers.
Campbell eating watermelon.Ben eating watermelon.

Wee baby Jillian sat for ages in her little pool, splashing happily and soaking up the sun.
Jill in the water.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon full of fun, friendship, and a whole lot of love.
Girls hugging.

That’s Entertainment!

We spent today hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese while the painters continued to work on getting the outside of the house finished. After several hours of electronic fun at the House of the Lesser Mouse (because no mouse is more mouse than Mickey, of course), Dave picked us up to head to our classes of the night!

The kids had gymnastics while Dave was at the dojo. The Jediclan (are we still using fake names?) were 3/4 present at the dojo since Jediboy studies Karate almost every weeknight, so I picked up Baby Girl to keep me company while I waited at the air conditioned gym for our class to be over.

We spent our time talking, giggling, and sharing snacks at the “Gym of More Food”. I decided to do a little work on the laptop, so she decided to watch some Strawberry Shortcake on the Ipod. I was very amused to hear her little voice pop up next to my ear and say, “Leigh, take a picture of me.”

Baby Girl with an Ipod

This was the first time she’s ever asked me to take a pic, so I indulged a bit and shot several of her doing what she does best…eating and entertaining, all at the same time.
Babygirl with an Ipod

It’s a Technicolor World, so enjoy it!

We got a big box of surprises in the mail today from Steve Spangler Science. The kids were eager to jump right in to playing with their new baby soda bottles and test tube racks. We decided to work with two projects today. The first, and the one that kept them occupied for the longest time, was a good old color-mixing experiment.

The kids started off with empty test tubes, a large beaker flask of water, a pipette, and three fizzy color tabs. They turned the fizzy tabs and water into three tubes of liquid- red, yellow, blue. Then they used those colors and their pipettes to experiment with secondary color combinations in the empty tubes.

After the color experiment, we used some Magic Sand to study the concepts of hydrophilia and hydrophobia.

I think we’re going to love our newly restructured screen-porch Science Lab!

We’ve already started making another order at Steve Spangler. We’re a little obsessed with their Test Tube Experiment Kits. They’re incredibly kid-friendly. Simple enough that the kids can go it alone with minimal adult supervision.

Breaking in the Dining Room Table

I had such high hopes of being able to blog almost daily now that we’re in the big town, but I was thwarted by a week full of sick kids, a sick husband, and some pretty nasty headaches and fevers of my own.

Thankfully, the worst seems to be over and we ended our first week in White Plains with a visit from some hometown friends.  J. and R. (Emily suggested that I blog-name them Rock Star and Cat Woman-henceforth, it shall be so) were in the area visiting family and friends and tying up some post-wedding details.  We convinced them to drive in to see our new “deluxe apartment in the skkkkyyyyyyy”.

The kids attacked them before they could even get into the building.  By the time we’d made it upstairs, the gender split had been made and CatWoman was wrapped up in cat fur and little girls. 

CatWoman and Wee Girlies

Dave and Mr. Rock Star immediately sank into fantasy-gaming land, and we lost them for quite a while. Since they were well occupied, CatWoman (I crack up and think of black latex every time I type this, by the way) and I walked the kids down to B&N and were pleasantly surprised when an employee told us there was something special to see in the back of the store and lead us directly to ….this guy….

Hatted Cat

The kids rounded up armloads of new reading material (Teacher Appreciation Week- 25% off nearly everthing) and we ventured back up to the 32nd floor. After depositing the kids with the guys (who were still chatting D&D) and making plans to break out Colosseum, we adult ladies made a snack run to Target and left the boys to set up the boardgame.

A very tense and boat-less game of Colosseum later, Dave was declared winner, with the other three of us very closely positioned quite a few steps behind him on the score track.

Colosseum

After the game, R. and J. had to head back to dinner with R.’s family, and I ran out to pick up dinner for the 5 starving Chens. There were baths, late night stories, and a very early bedtime for the kids. Overall, it was a wonderful Sunday.