Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flying Solo


 It’s been nearly 13 years since I’ve been on a flight alone. It’s a bit of a strange feeling, like I’m missing something, or someone, or several of them. It’s a good feeling, though, this being alone, having time to reflect on the crazy life I’m so caught up in. It’s been years since I’ve given much thought to bringing along things to do on a flight; with children along, there simply isn’t much time for reading, writing, passing the time in mindless games of my own. In-flight hours have been filled with reading to others, keeping little ones entertained, changing blown-out diapers in impossibly small airplane lavatories. (Is there something about the elevation, or the cabin pressure, that causes the contents of little intestines to erupt with such force? I swear we’ve had an inordinate number of blow-outs on airplanes. It’s now a matter of course to pack extra outfits for the littles, along with zip-lock bags and lots and lots of wipes.) 

    But there are no littles on this flight with me, at least none of my own. This last year of parenting has felt like a turning of some proverbial corner, or maybe a gentle curve around a bend. After more than a decade of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and diaper changing, it appears that we have left all of those things in the past. My baby just turned four. It’s been a long while since I’ve purchased diapers. Maternity clothes? They’ve been passed on. Everyone dresses themselves. Half of the kids bathe themselves. The kids do nearly all the laundry and a good portion of the dishes. They cook meals. There is a growing independence, a gradual shift in the emotional needs, and it’s strangely wonderful. It’s also a little bittersweet, this growing up. The conversations I have with Peregrine and Poppy are about different things now; their questions are more challenging, requiring a different sort of mental energy as we wade into new waters. 

    For the first time since I’ve been a mother, I’ve been off on my own for a few days. I felt a bit apprehensive leaving my family early in the morning. I kissed my little ones as they lay sleeping; I snuggled them a bit longer the night before. They’ve been fine, of course, enjoying special time with daddy and lots of fun with Grandparents. As I navigated airports, responsible for no one but myself, I felt strange, like an imposter in a world not quite my own. I realized how I’m accustomed to people seeing my children and how comfortable I’ve been thinking that maybe they don’t see me. I felt like perhaps I’ve managed to fit in with the adults all these years because I’m a mother, but on my own? Surely everyone will see through the facade and realize I’m just pretending to be an adult. It’s not that I’m not confident in my abilities, it’s just that I never quite feel that I fit in. Without my children, I somehow felt unmasked. I realized how much of my life, my identity even, by necessity, has become wrapped up in the nurturing of them. I don’t resent this. This is the life I wanted, and I believe that in the giving of myself I am actually finding who I am created to be. It’s the hard work of shedding oneself that can reveal the beauty hidden within. 

    I’m nearly home now, after having been away for the last four days. I’m excited to be caught up in the whirlwind of hugs and smiles and happy chatter. I know it will, all too quickly, fade into (often overwhelming) loudness, and arguing, and crazy-making wildness. It’s just part of the package. These days away have been refreshing, and I feel inspired and filled with a renewed hope and vision for my family. At the same time I am reminded of who I am apart from motherhood. I wouldn’t trade these years for anything, and I’m reminded of how quickly they really do go by. I know that someday I will have more time for my own pursuits, but this is a season for pouring myself into the lives of others. I hope I can take the things I’ve learned and look at my children with more understanding, more compassion. I hope we can enter this next decade of parenting, having traded diapers for long conversations, with a sense of adventure and expectancy, excited for what is around the bend! 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

USS Intrepid: Guest Post by Peregrine

 The U.S.S. Intrepid fought in World War 2, Vietnam,
 and the Cold War. It also recovered the Space Capsule!
(All captions written and directed by Peregrine G. Esq.)

    One day while we were visiting New York City we decided to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. My Grandpa was a navy pilot, so it was particularly interesting to learn a little more about what life might have been like for him aboard an aircraft carrier. The museum was very well done, with lots to see and do, and plenty of hands on activities for the kids. Peregrine wanted to write again, so here he is to tell you more! 

 The U.S.S. Growler was the first submarine to be equipped
with Nuclear Warheads.

 A nuclear warhead aboard the U.S.S. Growler.
There would be four of them on board, all in storage.

 Warhead storage bay.

 The galley aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid.

 The Intrepid made of lego bricks!!!
It was 21 feet long!!!!

 Can you believe that is made of lego!?!?!? It included over 30
lego planes,  a working aircraft elevator,  a detailed bridge, and over 250,000 pieces!!!!
It was an exact copy of the real thing! It even had the name on the back!

 A  P-38 fighter plane; the wings folded up when it was below deck!

 The cockpit of an 18-0RT INTRUDER.
We hopped inside the cockpit and piloted it!

 Ambulance in the air! We also got to climb in this!

Raphi sending light signals.

   Here I am working  on the simulated bridge!

 Learning to use space gloves!
(And Raphi cheating a bit too!)

 The Blue Angels!
This one's for Auntie Terry!
Love you!

 Me, on the REAL bridge!
Enemy vessel sighted!

New York City

As we've traveled around the United States, we've read aloud several historical fiction books relevant to the areas we've been through. It was neat to come upon this Blackfoot display at the Museum of Natural History, as one of the books we read was about the Blackfoot people. 
I have to admit that the Museum of Natural History was a bit of a disappointment after having watched Night at the Museum! Dumdum... no Gumgum! 
And Rexie! The kids were pretty excited to find this.
The highlight of the museum was the Discovery Room, where there were plenty of hands on activities for the kids. We're used to museums that are a lot more interactive, and the little crowd tired pretty quickly of looking at the dioramas and displays. We were all glad to find this room, and the kids would have been happy to stay there longer. Here they were taking part in an archaeological dig. The bones are set in and a mixture of wax and sand is poured around them, so they actually had to chip away at it to unearth the bones. It was well done, and the kids enjoyed it very much. 
For our second day in New York City we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry across the harbor and do some walking. I have seen the Statue of Liberty before, but this time it felt much more meaningful to me.The older I get and the more I learn about history, the more I appreciate what it means. We've been reading aloud The Landmark History of the American People, which I've found to be very enjoyable and interesting. Instead of a timeline of historical facts, it follows themes and trends and gets more into the why, not just the what, of history.  This trip has helped me feel much more connected to our country's history, as well as the story of my own family within it.
We got off the ferry and were greeted by a nice little Farmer's Market set up in the terminal. The moment we stepped outside, however, I felt very much like I do in a foreign country! It was hot and the air was heavy with the smells of exhaust and urine. We were immediately descended upon by touts selling tours; English was clearly not the first language of most of these men and women. Grabbing children by the hand, we all practiced our firm "no" and made a beeline through the crowd! 
The government shutdown had just begun, and I was disappointed not to have been able to visit Ellis Island. My grandma's parents both came through there when they arrived from Italy.
I found this sculpture, The Immigrants, moving. I cannot imagine what it was like for so many to leave everything behind in the hope of creating a better life.
We spent hours walking and felt like we kept getting foiled at every turn! The kids were tired, and yet we pressed on. Finding this building on Mott Street redeemed the day for me. My grandma was born in this apartment building in 1920. It was at the time in Little Italy, but Chinatown has taken over this part of the city. 
We had some delicious pizza at a small restaurant in Little Italy...
...followed by gelato at Ferrara's. The gelato cost us more than the pizza!

I had fun looking in one of the Italian deli shops. I remember my grandma buying ropes of braided,  fresh mozzarella.

There are the kids sitting outside of Ferarra's, eating gelato. Ferarra's was America's first espresso bar , opened in 1892. They also make delicious Italian pastries. I loved exploring this part of the city and thinking about what it was like for the many immigrants, including my Grandma's family. I'm so glad the kids had gotten to know my grandma during the last year of her life, and they too, are learning to appreciate and connect with their Italian heritage. 
It was a long day, and we decided to catch a bus back to the ferry terminal instead of walking the whole way. We walked to the bus stand, and waited, and waited. Finally one of those double decker tour busses came by, and the tour operator invited us to hop on board, for free! They only had a few more stops and were heading our direction. That may have been the highlight of the day for certain small people among us! 
Lower Manhatten from the ferry, heading back to Staten Island. The tallest building is the new One World Trade Center, which is still being completed.
The next day we drove through Times Square on our way home. Talk about sensory overload! Huge video screens cover almost every square foot of the buildings, each playing advertisements, and people, people everywhere. In the center of the picture is where they drop the ball on New Year's Eve. Driving through was enough for me. I was ready to flee the city and head to the hills! 
Having spent several months in India and Nepal, I have a soft spot for rickshaws, and it always makes me happy to find them in urban centers around the country. Four dollars a minute though, is a bit steep for my budget! 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Boston: USS Constitution

Our second day exploring Boston we ventured to the Charlestown  Navy Yard, which is also part of the Freedom Trail run by the National Park Service. The shipyard was established  in 1800, and actively served the Naval fleet until it was closed in 1974. The kids got to complete a second Junior Ranger program, becoming "Master Junior Rangers" of Boston's Freedom Trail! Peregrine wanted to tell you about it, so I'll hand it over to him! 

The gun deck of the U.S.S. Constitution, which
fought in the war of 1812.
(These were all written and directed by Peregrine G, Esq.)
How'd you like to sleep in one of those?
Dad's at the helm!
Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light...
"Old Ironsides"
This nickname came up during 1812 when cannon
balls seemed to bounce off the ship's sides and an
unknown sailor cried, "Huzzah!
Her sides are made of iron!"
But they are not really made of iron,
just very strong live oak!
Fencing with the U.S. marines!
 Ship's biscuits were no picnic!
Not a doctor  I'd want!
Raphi finally gets to know the meaning of work.
 Hoist the sails!
(I had a lot of fun but it was hard to keep my balance!)
 What is there to tell here?
Firing real muskets!
 We had to plug our ears for this one!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boston: Freedom Trail

We spent a few days exploring Boston, and enjoyed its wealth of living history. There is so much there that we could have done, but we chose to walk The Freedom Trail. A red brick line connects over a dozen places that have been preserved for their significance during the Colonial and Revolutionary period. This trip has brought US history to life for our family, and we're so blessed to be experiencing these places firsthand.

I always enjoy walking through old graveyard and am fascinated by the inscriptions on tombstones. This was an early Puritan graveyard, and many of the headstones featured a simple engraving of a skull with wings. The skull signified mortality, and the wings the promise of immortality beyond the grave. The inscription reads:
Servant to
John Hancock ESQr.
lied interr'd here
who died 23rd Jan

Frank was a slave owned by John Hancock, governor of Massachusetts, whose large monument stands nearby.
MAY 1818
Costumed interpretors gave tours and presentations along the Freedom Trail. It was so fun to see them dressed up in period clothing. I love the styles from this time period.
This pictures captures Boston for me: old and new settled happily together with a whole lot of life swirling around it all. The Old State House in the center of the picture is Boston's oldest standing building, erected in 1712-13. It served as the seat of the Massachusets legislature, and the Boston Massacre took place in front of it. The Declaration of Independence was first read in Boston from the balcony here on July 18, 1776. There's something sobering about seeing places that were so pivotal in the formation of our nation.  
This was Paul Revere's house in Boston's North End, which now appears to be the "Little Italy" judging by its many Italian restaurants and bakeries. It was from this home that Paul Revere set out on his famous ride to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on their way to arrest them, as well as arousing the militia.
We enjoyed watching a printer hard at work at The Printing Office of Edes and Gil. The printer explained to us the origin of upper and lower case letters. Back when typesetting was a painstakingly long process, where each tiny letter had to be placed by hand, capital letters were kept in the upper case, and "small" letters in the lower case! I love learning interesting little things like that.

We got to watch the printing process, which was very interesting. The printer considered himself very fortunate to have come by this press.
And what was he printing? Copies of the Declaration of Independence, and Peregrine was pleased to buy one for himself and for a friend.
This is the famous Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung to signal that the British were coming by over the water. "One if by land, Two if by sea...." 
After all that walking, we treated ourselves to some delicious Italian pastries: cannolis,  tirimisu, and pignoli cookies. When I was a little girl and we would visit my mom's Italian family, pignoli cookies were a special treat, and it was fun to introduce the kids to their yumminess! We used to joke that you'd better not get between the Great Aunts and the pignolis if you knew what was good for you!
Sometimes referred to as "the Cradle of Liberty", Faneuil Hall is an historic meeting hall and marketplace. It was the site of many meetings where people expressed their growing discontent with England and seeds of Independence were watered and grew. A statue of Samuel Adams stands in front, and on top is a famous grasshopper weather vane. During the Revolution, suspected spies were asked what was on top of Faneuil Hall, and if they didn't know they were treated as British infiltrators!