First Bird of the Year…

I try to pay attention to the first bird or animal that I see at the start of a new year. I’m just superstitious enough to be interested in what information Nature may want to bring to my attention.

Most years, my first visitor is either a hawk or a squirrel. The last 3 years have been squirrel years, and I imagined that this one would be as well. Lucky me, I was wrong. This year, my first critter visitor was a woodpecker. To be more specific, my first visitors were a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. The pair of noisy, rap-tapping birdies started up very early this morning.

I was busy making breakfast and tending children, so I had Dave grab the camera and snap a quick pick for blogging.

After breakfast, while the kids were doing some individual schoolwork, I dug into some research on traditional symbolic meanings behind woodpeckers and decided that this was a pretty good fit for the way I envision my next year unfolding.

Traditional wisdom says that a visit from a woodpecker means that we should:
* Nurture our ideas in the womb of our core passions.
* Use our heads (intellect) to think up innovative solutions to overcome barriers.
* Communicate our ideas in more creative or non-traditional ways.
* Stop and consider the opportunities available to us at this time.
* Look at projects in unique creative ways to bring new life to a project.
* Listen more clearly to subtle energies, there is a message that only our intuition can interpret.

((Thank you to many websites for the information about totem symbolisms))

I’m prepping myself for a year in which I think clearly in order to act creatively. What was your first animal or bird of the year and where do you see yourself going in 2010?

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:

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!

Muffin Tin Monday- Christmas Stories

I’ve tried for quite a while now to get my kids interested in participating in Muffin Tin Mondays, but they’re resistant to any sort of scheduled “fun”, unless we’re sharing that fun with our friends.  Today’s Muffin Tin Monday topic happened to fit into our schedule anyway, so I let them have their lunch of choice and had Muffin Tin Monday dinner ready before they could begin to complain.

My favorite Christmas book in recent years has been -Amazing Peace- by Maya Angelou.   We have a wonderfully illustrated version of this book that was gifted to me by my mother a few weeks before she passed away, which adds a special bit of sentimentality to my love of the poem.

Amazing Peace

For our interpretation of Muffin Tin Monday based on Amazing Peace, we filled our Christmas shapes with foods representing the letters P.E.A.C. and E. The girls had Pizza Bagel/Pretzels, Easy Cheese, Apples, Caesar Salad, and Extra gum for post-dinner chewing. Nate had Pizza Bagel/Pretzels, Easy Cheese, Apples, Crackers, and Extra Strawberry Banana gum in his tin.
Peace on Earth
Tonight, before bed, we read through the story again and discussed how this story relates to our lives. We’re Baptist and Buddhist, believers and non-believers, and we are a family who strongly believe in making a conscious effort to find peace, grow peace, and be at peace with ourselves and within our greater world.

Nate asked me to post the poem with this blog so that others could read it, too, and find peace.

Continue reading

Boys and their crazy toys…

When Nate got up at 6am to accompany Dave and me over to the Kinnally homestead, he never imagined that he would find himself playing fireman for the morning, complete with high-pressure hose and whirring sirens.

Fire Truck

The Papa Kinnally (named thus by Anna, never just Papa Kinnally…always THE Papa Kinnally) is a volunteer fireman in his town, and does a weekly drive and test of the equipment. While the boys were busy building a bonfire, putting the pig on it’s pit, and messing about in the yard, the Papa Kinnally decided to drive the grass truck down to the farm for some showing off.

Nate smiling in the grass truck

Nate took a spin around the farm. This included some fun off-roading through the woods with the lights and siren roaring. His smile got bigger every minute that he spent in the truck. By the time that the truck stopped, he was bouncing in the seat and giggling wildly. When the door opened, he jumped out and did his Snoopy Dance of Extreme Joy.

Nate's Snoopy Dance

Uncle Ryan helped him wait for the hose to fill….Ryan and Nate

And then…BAMMMM….there was water! Nate and Dave with the firehose

The boys had a great time testing their shiny, big toys. Nate explored the truck, played with the fire brooms, and then got to put out an actual fire.

You know it’s going to be an interesting weekend when you here, “This is the best day of my LIFE!” before 8am on Saturday morning.

Super Duper Rochester Fun…

We went up to Rochester this weekend to visit the GrandChens and do some museum time with Aunt Judy

Our family loves the Strong Museum of Play, and we always try to make at least one trip during each quarter to see the newest traveling exhibit. This quarter’s travel exhibit was a visit to Birdwell Island to see Clifford, Emily Elizabeth and the gang. We also got to see the butterflies, play in the new Berenstein Bears land and make a trip through our old favorite places.

Nate got to feed his love of all things dental in the Berenstein’s dentist office.

Nate Playing Dentist

Dave, Judy, and the girls had a wonderful time being butterfly landing pads.

Anna and Butterfly

Dave and Emily with Butterflies

Judy with butterfly on purse

While we were on Birdwell Island, Nate got caught in Clifford’s food bowl. It was a close call, but he didn’t get eaten!

Nate and the Bones

Overall, we had a great trip and can’t wait to get back.

How about some cuteness?

Christmas came and went in it’s normal whirl of insanity, and I forgot (again!) to get cards ready to send in time for the holiday. I think I’ve made the mistake of trying to do it all myself, from photography to design and printing, for the last time.

The Purple Stork is a great place to get custom designed holiday cards, party invitations and adoption or birth announcements.

Rosemary is creative, affordable, and her work is always professional. Next year, with help from The Purple Stork, I think I’ll have my holiday cards out just after Thanksgiving. It will be a holiday MIRACLE!