Fishy Business in Philadelphia…

We took a ride down to visit Aunt Judy and check out a new-to-us spot…the Adventure Aquarium.

Adventure Aquarium is located near Philadelphia in Camden, New Jersey. It’s a fun and interactive aquarium, and the kids almost decided they love it more than Baltimore….ALMOST! Baltimore still seems to win out by just a tiny bit.

Here’s a few shots of the family and Aunt Judy hanging out in in the Aquarium.

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The new Stingray Beach Club exhibit offered folks the opportunity to touch, feed and enjoy the stingrays up close in a really nicely designed habitat. The whole family loved playing with the “puppy dogs of the ocean”.

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Another AWESOME vacation visit with our favorite traveling Auntie…

Wild Times at Disney

We had an amazing trip to Florida! Our stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani was magical and even a bout with strep couldn’t hold us back. Favorite activities continued to be watching Animals on the safari and trails and hanging out by the fire on the savannah at night.

Here are a couple pictures of our wild friends!
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This is the meerkat that Anna fell in love with on this trip. She said she had a long talk with him about how well his cousin Flower was doing at her house in New York. He wanted Flower to come and visit.

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These hippos are what I feel like every time we roll out of another Disney restaurant, especially the buffets. Happy, fat and lazy!

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When we were not admiring the animals, the kids spent time with Aunt Judy talking to characters and exploring EPCOT. Here are a couple shots of them playing the Spy game in the World Showcase and meeting a few new (or old) friends.

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I guess we can count this as another amazing Disney vacation. The sick kids and cranky adults had their rough moments, but overall it was an amazing experience and we can’t wait to do it again in 2013.

A Little Friendly Competition

We spent most of today at the dojo for the annual Autumn Inter-Dojo Tournament. Dave was competing for the first time and Em was competing in Kumite for the 3rd (we think, we’re having trouble remembering) time.

This was a rare opportunity to grab a couple of pictures of Em at the Dojo. Our Sensei is a very, very traditional Master and he has incredibly strict rules that include no photography or video inside the Dojo unless given specific permission.

The rules were still pretty tight. Cameras only allowed during juniors competition, and all photography equipment must be put away as soon as adults stepped into the competition area.

Em, as usual, started the day with a belly-load of trepidation. She’s prone to nerves.

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Then she managed to get in a little stretching to focus and prepare for her Kumite.

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There’s a lot of bowing in the dojo.

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I did not get any photos of the actual match. Sparring for points moves incredibly quickly, and I was really focused on actually WATCHING her without the camera between us.

I grabbed a photo of her afterwards, though, and she was very happy with her 2nd place metal and relieved that it was over for another year.

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Junior competitions were mostly finished by lunch, so the kids were having their lunch and then playing around while the adults went through their competitions.

I caught my kids being NOT FOCUSED ON THE TOURNAMENT. Lego at the Dojo is one of their favorite distractions. They do not have Lego at home, and show no interest in starting a collection, but they love this ragged old bunch of Lego bits and pieces that get to be occasionally pulled out for quiet moments.

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Ok, here’s where I admit that I was sneaky and grabbed a few pictures of Dave in his Gi while it was still allowed. It was certainly in the gray area…he was an adult, which means that photography was less encouraged, but he was not competing and it was still during juniors…~laugh~ I didn’t cheat, I just worked creatively.

And, yes, Em comes by her performance anxiety naturally. Here’s a picture of my husband in full-concentration mode. He’s trying to calm the inner turmoil…~grin~

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Dave also came in Silver during his Kata competition. His was actually the largest single division at the tournament and he had some very tough competition. He did not place in sparring, and is already trying to figure out how to better his standing for the next competition. Sparring is tricky, though, because everything happens so fast and it really is part skill and part lucky timing. Even the best fighter can have a bad match and lose really quickly.

We’re very invested in our Dojo. Somebody’s there 4 nights a week, nearly every week. I have a feeling that Karate is going to be part of our regular schedule for a long time to come.

Oh Baby, it’s Cold Outside..

It’s been super cold this week. The snow just keeps getting a little deeper each day, and the kids get more and more cabin fever symptoms hanging out in the house. I’ve been forcing them out for fresh air on any day in which they’re remotely perky.

Anna is not super excited at the prospect of getting “outside in the cold air”. She spends a lot of time tucked up under the eaves of the house in the only snow-free space.
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The big kids love the snow. They have been trying to roll a record breaking snowball. Thus far, they’re making some decent sized attempts, but no real MASSIVE record breakers have been managed to date.

It’s very early in the winter season, and I’m already beyond tired of the cold. I’m not a lover of the long, cruel winter. I’d love suggestions from folks who have beaten their seasonal depression and developed a love of the cold.

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.

Happy Anniversary, Apollo 11.

Forty (thanks, Alexa) years ago today, Neil Armstrong climbed down from the lunar lander and captivated the world in black-and-white on their tiny televisions.

For my kids, the concept of being able to travel into space is more basic than wondrous. They know that there are researchers living in space, and that it’s quite possible that tourists will regularly fly into Earth orbit or beyond within their lifetimes.

I couldn’t convince the kids to be excited about any of the projects I had planned (a frequent occurrence), but we watched a couple of episodes of Bill Nye (Space Exploration and The Moon) and they worked with model magic while they were listening.

Em sculpting.

Emily decided she would build some Aliens watching over the “teeny-tiny Earthies”. I love her stereotypical green men and their little flying saucer, just hanging out behind our home planet.
Em's creation

Anna Banana wanted nothing to do with “Outside Space”. She decided she was going to build a coral reef and stick her favorite yellow cut-out fish on top. She requested frequent photographs.

Like this one, when she was telling me how she feels about the fact that her coral looks like pre-chewed gum:
Anna Blah!

And this one, of all of her hard work in progress…
Anna Sculpting

Or this picture of her finished, pink and yellow project:
Anna's fish

Oh, and my favorite picture from today. I can’t resist her puppy-dog eyes looking up at me.
Anna Pout

But, you say, I thought you had three children. I thought you had a son. Uhh, yeah, I do. He abstained from all activity today. He has, however, agreed that it’s pretty cool men walked on the moon long ago and has requested that we let him know when it’s his turn to go to Mars.

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.

Keeping a running record…

I borrowed the idea of keeping a running record of our day from Alexa. This is my first attempt at charting the flow of an entire day and then blogging the result. Our lives are a bit more busy and productive than I usually imagine them to be, and it’s helpful to be able to look back and actually see the shape of our day from the notes I took.

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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.