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.


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”.



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!

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.


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


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.


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.


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


There’s a lot of bowing in the dojo.


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.


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.


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~


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.

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?

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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