Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pre-Party: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade



After hearing a piece on NPR about the inflation event on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, the girls and I decided to give it a try. The kids had a half day at school. They got out at noon and we were on the 12:37 train into NYC. All was grey and overcast and we were trying to be enthusiastic. Once we got to the site, on the streets outside the Museum of Natural History, the sun came out and we were transfixed. So fun! So big! So New York!
There was some reality to the surreal giant balloons and Central Park in its fall glory.  The police presence, heightened of course in light of recent attacks. We followed the crowd to the Museum of Natural History where the balloons would be lined up around the museum. Foot traffic was channeled through a one directional path. We walked with armed police posted every few feet. Sniffer dogs and more police wove throughout the crowd. Additionally, the whole event was moved up a couple hours so it would be done during day light hours. But despite all that, it still felt fun and festive. And every police person wished us a Happy Thanksgiving.
We’ve always been a fan of the balloons, though we have only watched the parade once. Overseas, the parade does not get much coverage but Melissa Sweet’s book Balloons over Broadway got us interested. It is hard to resist the creative follow your dream story of Tony Sarg, the puppeteer behind the Macy’s Parade. I bought a few art supplies and sort of hoped we might follow along with Sweet’s instruction and make our own marionettes at home. We did not but then again the kids are now teens, with much less arts and crafts time. The crayon box is still in our home but only because I can’t quite throw it out.
We wandered around watching the balloons fill up with helium. We recognized a number of the balloon characters but many were new to us. I was surprised at how many we did not know then one of the girls noted a sign in front of each balloon indicating its first flight. These balloons were new to everyone. We knew Charlie Brown and the Pillsbury Dough man but PAWS Patrol and a good dinosaur were new to us. We saw a duck from an insurance commercial that plays during football games and we missed Adam (who stayed at home for basketball).
After a look at balloons, we wandered back to the train through Central Park. The sun was out, the fields were green. The leaves were modestly colorful. The girls had balloons tied to their wrists from the inflation event. Littler kids in the park looked at them with envy. We listened in on a family speaking German. Royce jumped from rock to rock. And I was very happy to have another day of childhood- happy kids, balloons and hot chocolate.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Dig Day




I read an article about a community dig day at Rowan University in South Jersey and wanted to get in on that. Apparently, everyone wants to get in on this. The first year I tried we did not get tickets but this year we did. I waited at the computer and punched in what I needed to. The whole day sells out in minutes. Then it was a matter of keeping that day clear of teenage activities but we mostly did. We, minus Adam who had a football game, recently drove down there to see what it was all about.
Right before we left, we realized we had been to the area before. 22 years ago, Phil and I drove to New Jersey for the official ceremony marking the Ashbrook’s Burial Ground. I still had the brochure and brought it with us. We decided to stop if it was on the way. It was exactly on the way. Both the Ashbrook’s Burial Ground and the Fossil Park are off of Route 55, in an industrial shopping mall kind of place- about five minutes apart.
We stopped and walked around. Phil and I remember there being more of an open field at the burial grounds. No longer. Houses are moving in on the site but it is there. John Ashbrook, an indentured servant who earned his freedom and then bought a plantation in the area, is buried there. He left the land in his 1730 will to be made into a public burial ground, now the oldest known site in Camden County. Oddly, 50 Hessian soldiers are also buried there, retreating from the Battle of Red Bank in 1777. Another Revolutionary War hero is buried there as well making it part of New Jersey’s Revolutionary War history. The kids were amazed that our family had a connection to this place. Phil and I were amazed that we went so long ago, remembered it and went again. It was nice but once every 22 years is probably enough.
Next on the day of old things, the Fossil Park. Really this was a quarry (for marl, some sort of sandy substance used as a fertilizer) behind a Lowe’s. It was recently bought by Rowan University and endowed to be made into a citizen science site run by Dr. Kenneth Lacovia. Dr. Lacovia gave a short talk (and we also heard him on the SciFri podcast!) about how this site was a shallow sea and that fossils of sharks and sea turtles and moasaurs were being found all the time. The large skeletons are intact leading all to think that the creatures here died all at once. Dr. Lacovia spoke of how he is looking for the KT boundary, the iridium rich sediment from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. How this extinction site could be one of its kind in the world for spotlighting the dying off.
 I sort of thought we would have a bunch of AP science type students and we did. But those students were the minority. I had somehow forgotten how much the preschool set loves dinosaurs. Those kids came out in droves. But are big kids were excited and stood by the other high schoolers who were also excited and standing apart from the parents. We dug but didn’t find much. The girls took what we found up to the onsite experts who looked it over. Everything we found was bagged up and named but it wasn’t a fossil and I can’t remember it. What I will remember is all of us driving home on a sunny day singing along with the They Might Be Giants Science Album, which we listened to daily during the Hong Kong years. The girls sang “I am a Paleontologist” with extra feeling and it was all worth it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

All High School All the Time




Everyone around us, including the teens themselves, have accepted the new world order. But the parents are struggling. Yes, this year all three of our kids are high school. While it is nice to have everyone on the same campus again, there is a degree of finesse in getting all three kids out the door at the same time again. It works but mostly because Royce sometimes rides her bike and because Sienna, the dog, now stays home on the high school runs. This used to be the dog’s thing. But she’s been demoted. There is no more space for her with three big kids, their book bags and sports equipment.
The twins have really embraced high school. Both are doing a sport, cross country and football. They go to school and then straight to sports practice and finally come home exhausted. Last year, with no recess at middle school and no sports teams, they were not exhausted. This was not a great set up for a smooth evening. Honestly, they are so tired, they don’t even fight anymore. Yesterday, Royce was on the couch at five reading, fell asleep, woke up at bedtime and just went to bed. It might sound a little dreary around here but we’ve all mostly accepted it and moved on.
Tori is busy with tennis and lots of rigorous classes. She’s starting to meet with college reps that come to the high school. It all seems very real. Real that the whole plan is for her to go away sometime. In the meantime, we have a lot more information on her than ever before. Twins report on when they see her at school, what she was doing and if she seemed happy with it all. Both have joined the club that Tori is president of.
This past Friday the twins both invited friends over for a BBQ. This has long been a standing order but only a few times have kids come over. This time five or six freshman girls came by with just as many freshman boys stopping over. There was talk back and forth between the groups about classes and teachers. Royce and Adam sort of thought their friend groups would stay apart but the mixing has begun. And all of our kids love the mixing of the grades in their classes. They all love having seniors in their classes. We will know they have crossed some great coming of age milestone when they accept having a sibling in their class. Unlikely but one can dream.