This is going to sound a little weird, but sometimes I forget all about this blog for days or even weeks and then someone else will remember, like one of the kids (did you put that on the blog, mommy?) or a friend will send a quick email (you okay, no blogging lately?) and I'll be all, oh yeah, the blog! And then I'll come back to it. I used to be much better at this - it must be my old age.
But today, all the kids remembered the blog because they were so excited that not only did we finally make it to the Water Taxi, but that the Water Taxi was open for business. And they wanted to share their fun.
Our first Water Taxi attempt was made on December 24th, when we were truly shocked to get there and find out that the Water Taxi is closed the day before Christmas. Shocked. Although in retrospect, everything was closed here, so I'm not so sure why we were so shocked. I keep telling the kids, this just ain't New York. When we first moved here, I used to say it ain't Kansas anymore, but I stopped when I realized that actually, I think it is kind of like Kansas.
Anyway, here's some Water Taxi fun. For a mere $24 (and I'm not beings sarcastic - what can a family of six do for $24 anywhere else? Nothing, that's what) we took a pretty serene, if somewhat windy and chilly, ride on a nearly empty water taxi on the beautiful St. John's River. I think it was the St. John's River, but really, we could have been anywhere. I'm so bad at things like that. I could ask Josh but he isn't here and does it really matter? A river is a river is a river and woohoo, we were on a boat!
And the cherry on my ice cream sundae of a day:
Parking downtown. It's practically free. It's almost like they pay you to park there. And wash your car for you. But you know what's even better? We found a spot on the street - and we didn't circle for several hours first, because we've done that in Manhattan. Nope, here we just decided to park on the street and ooh, look, a whole empty block on which to park. On a Sunday afternoon. Downtown. The only question is where the heck was everyone? Was there some amazing festival somewhere that we were missing out on? Because this cannot possibly be the norm. Or maybe it is. Maybe we've found downtown heaven.
Aaand, we're back.
I think I might have just about recovered from winter break. I think.
We had sleepover company and play-date company and random drop-in company and we also ran our own little pretend hotel where we staycationed. Pretty much everyone around us cleared out of town for at least a few days, but we stayed put. We're still pretty new here and haven't really done too many (or any, really) touristy things yet, so this was our chance.
Before winter break even started, I pulled this staycation idea off of Pinterest and made vacation binders for each kid. Each binder contained a daily schedule, a list of breakfast options (although it must be said that I noted on the menu that there was no way all the options would be available every day), a make-the-beds chart (no room-service in this hotel, but we did provide a complimentary Hershey kiss on each pillow in the mornings, which I kind of thought was a nice touch - plus it gave us another reason to have everyone brush teeth again, a whole activity unto itself) and a bunch of car games - and by far, the most successful was the license plate game. It's been two weeks and we have found a good forty states or so, and shockingly both Alaska and Hawaii in one parking lot! How did those two cars even get to Florida?!
The other super-popular car game was more for the girls, our non-readers, ages 5 and 3 - the ABC game. Their job was to look out the car windows, find signs and put stickers on their letter chart whenever they saw a letter. The goal was to fill in the whole chart. Which they did in five minutes. I thought it would take them a week. Oh well. The good news was that I had laminated the charts and was able to peel the stickers off that night so we could play again the next day.
The first Sunday of winter break started us at the MOCA, which is the Museum of Contemporary Art, in case you were wondering. I wasn't. I don't like museums. Neither does Josh and apparently, the oranges don't fall far from the fruit trees because the kids don't either. But we went to the MOCA because they have a great Sunday afternoon art program - every single Sunday, always - which is totally my kind of thing. And it's free. Well, free if you join the museum. And for only $100 for the year, even going half the time makes it worth it. Activities for four kids add up quickly.
And if you take the elevator straight to the 5th floor, you never have to see all those paintings hanging everywhere.
Anyway, last Sunday at the MOCA, we learned about printmaking.
Everyone had a chance to sketch out their drawing, press hard with a pencil as they went over it on a foamy kind of paper and then paint.
Here, I'll show you:
And we got awesome personalized attention because, um, we were the only ones there. I hope we're always the only ones there. I like having all the art supplies to myself. I mean, what I meant to say was, having all the art supplies for my kids. This has nothing to do with me.
Next Up: Day Two.
So here's what's been happening these past few weeks, but in the abridged version:
We moved to Florida. The end.
No, really, there's more but I'm not totally sure it's worthy of the play by play. One thing I do know is that I can't relax. Not even for a second. Not even while sitting on a lounge chair near the pool of the fanciest hotel I have ever stayed in. But first, some background.
We, meaning the six of us, left NY (okay, NJ) this past Monday morning. We packed up the van with more things than we probably should have and headed down to the auto-train out of somewheresville, Virginia.
This was the longest drive we have ever taken, with kids or without. We're just not road trip kind of people. Never have been and after this trip, never will be. We left at 8:08 am and arrived at the auto-train at 3:03, exactly 33 minutes too late to utilize our "preferred car unloading status".
When I first made the auto-train/Amtrak reservation I was told that for a mere fifty dollars extra I could have my van be one of the first 25 cars unloaded off the train. Who wouldn't want they? I was all over it, telling Josh that this was going to be the best $50 we ever spent. And it would have been, had we been told that "preferred loading" must be before 2:30pm. Hmm.
We also weren't told that the latest time to load your car was 3pm. No exceptions. Except for the exception. Like today. Because there was a huge accident on I-95, they held the train for us, because they thought we were on I-95. We didnt admit we were just late, and had been nowhere near i-95, there was no point.
We grabbed our stuff from the car, the kids and headed to the train. We did hear one of the workers behind us say something like, "oh man, how are those people going to get all that stuff onto the train!" but I can only assume he was talking about some other family who had an ever bigger cooler than us and more than seven bags because a big cooler and seven bags is totally normal for an overnight train ride, right?
After much maneuvering, we reached our sardine can, I mean room, on the train and it was at that moment that I understood why Amtrak recommends one small bag per person.
After spending a very very (very) long night on an upper bunk (don't ask), we arrived at the other end of the auto-train tracks, somewheresville, Florida. The big signs outside the train read "Orlando, Fl" but I know for a fact this wasnt Orlando, so I'm guessing this was something like what happened to my sister-in-law when she was in Israel.
The conversation went something like this:
Other guy: where are you guys from?
Other guy: oh! Me too! Where in NY?
Sis-in-law: um, NJ.
So I'm guessing that the people who live near the auto-train kind of wish they live in Orlando.
Anywho, our van was number 273 coming off the train. That, if you're still with me here, is definitely not one of the first 25 cars off the train.
This story is taking super long so I will just say that three hours after we got off the train, we arrived at the fanciest hotel I've ever seen in St. Augustine, Fl.
And that's where this story started, sitting at the pool and watching the kids swim and/or hold on to the walls of the pool. And where I can't relax. Because I have what seems like 4573 boxes to unpack, with no shelves upon which to do so.
If you have been following along for a while now, you will remember how fond I was of the built in shelves in my porch - and which we no longer have now that we have moved down south.
And that's where I am now, kinda standing around with lots of boxes thinking hmmm, I kinda wish I could have taken those built-ins with me. But I guess that's kind of the point of built-ins. You can go ahead and think about that now, I'll wait for you; I spent a lot of time pondering that today.
This moving story is taking quite a while to tell and even longer to type on my iPhone so I'm going to stop here before I need to get myself a pair of reading glasses with the promise to continue then story soon.
Thanks for sticking with me through this.
Be back soon,
Here's the scenario: Your six year old has a bookshare coming up.
The topic? A fable.
And the how-to? Choose to make a diorama or puppets to supplement the oral book report.
If you had the choice to construct a shoebox diorama or a couple of puppets, which would you pick? Personally, I'd go for the diorama. And that was the plan.
My first grader chose Frog and Toad: A List by Arnold Lobel as his fable, a great story about two friends, Frog and Toad. The very short version of the story has Toad making a list of things he'd like to accomplish that day. While Frog and Toad are knocking things off the list, namely going for a walk, the list blows away and panic ensues. Toad cannot remember what else is on his list and so cannot go on - with his walk or with his day. And so Frog and Toad sit in the forest until night falls and then they go to sleep, because Toad suddenly remembers that 'go to sleep' was the last thing on the list.
According to my interpretation, the moral of the story is that it's okay to make a list but its also okay to change the list when things go wrong. According to my first grader, it's important to stay inside with your list on a windy day. Both very important lessons.
We were all set to build a diorama on Sunday. His report was due on Monday and um, we had gone away for the weekend. Upstate. To my brother's house. A house with no art supplies, let alone empty shoe boxes sitting around.
So taking a lesson from Frog and Toad, we changed our plans and went with the puppet option. We used huge red Solo plastic cups as the base and paper plates as the tops. Thank goodness for paper goods.
In an ideal world, we would have googled 'Frog and Toad', printed out pictures of those two guys and glued them onto our puppet bases. But again, along with no art supplies, we had no computer and no printer.
Very carefully, because we also had only a couple of paper plates, I drew outlines of Frog and Toad while looking at their pictures in the Frog and Toad book and the little boy colored them in. He also cut them out and glued them onto straws and then told me that he couldn't believe there was so much work to do for a bookshare. We'd been at it for ten minutes by then - so, you can see, it was going well.
We still needed some way to attach the straws to the cups and the only way I could see was to go through the bottoms of the cups. But, man, those Solo cups, they're made of really good, really hard plastic. Only the best paper goods in my brother's house.
You know what I needed? I needed a scissor. I was going to have all the kids stand back and then stab the scissor through the bottom of the cup to make a hole, except haha! The only scissor in the hole house was a kiddie scissor, so really, no one had to stand back.
After many (many) repeated attempts at stabbing the cups, the scissor finally went through and made a hole just large enough to hold the straw in place.
We were good to go.
Now all we had to remember was to bring the project home with us, which really, had we not done one last walk-through of the house before we left, would not have happened. And sadly, these pictures would have been all the little guy had on bookshare day.
Happily though, bookshare day was a great success and the first grade bookshares are officially done! Two kids done with first grade bookshares and two more to go (but I have a year-long break before the next one gets to first grade, so I'm good).
I feel like I should save these puppets for the next kid. Is that wrong?
About a year ago, a new chocolate store called Chocolate Works opened up in the city - and at the same time, began offering chocolate making workshops for kids.
If you know us, you also know that we rarely venture into the city - the driving, the tolls, the paying for parking or, alternatively, the driving around looking for parking, the kids incessantly asking where the driveways are and why we can't park in them. We just don't do it. We briefly entertained the thought of taking the train into the city but the below freezing temperatures combined with the prospect of dragging the double stroller through the train station was just too much for me.
So we drove*. We ventured into the city with all the kids the other day - and it was totally worth it. The chocolate making class at Chocolate Works was the most fun I've had (um, I mean the kids have had) in a while.
Each kid had the opportunity to wear an apron, which for my four year old, was almost too exciting in itself. The child was unable to stop smiling from the moment we entered the store. I couldn't stop smiling either once one of the chocolate ladies came over with a sample tray. Yes, please and thank you very much, I will have another, thanks for asking.
Each kid in the workshop chose a chocolate mold - a huge chocolate mold - and got a turn to use the chocolate hose (I need one of those in my kitchen) to fill their mold. We chose a heart, ballerina shoes, a baseball mitt and a smartphone. Yes, we currently have a half-eaten chocolate smartphone in the house. I don't even have a real smartphone, but we won't go there.
While the chocolate was hardening in the molds, each kid had to make the very difficult decision of whether to choose an Oreo, a salted pretzel or a graham cracker to cover in melted chocolate. It's hard to choose - and my kids had some difficulty understanding why they couldn't have all three, but eventually, we wound up with 3 Oreos and a pretzel. Josh and I had no trouble choosing at all - he went with a graham cracker and I went with a pretzel. Sweet and salty, a no-brainer.
Each chocolate covered treat was placed on a conveyor belt and each kid had the chance to sprinkle their treat with sprinkles, non-pareils and or m&ms. I, for one, could not understand why anyone would choose anything but m&ms but that's just me, and yet so many people went with the non-pareils. Whatever. This is not the place for disparaging remarks.
As the treats came through the other end of the conveyor belt, where I am assuming the chocolate was quick-dried, each kid got the chance to catch their treat on a mini paper plate; my kids thought that was very cool. But even cooler was the chocolate fountain (I need one of those too; just think how nice that would look on the kitchen counter). Each kid in the class received a skewered marshmallow and had a chance to run their marshmallow on a stick through the melted chocolate fountain. Personally, I am not a marshmallow fan, but I honestly had to restrain myself from climbing headfirst into the fountain. Heaven.
For the last part of the class, each kid got to use squeezee bottles of colored melted chocolate to decorate their chocolates that, by then, had been released from their molds. So much fun and the chocolates were so pretty.
Our chocolates and treats were packed up in pretty paper bags and we were on our way.
The classes are a little expensive, but we grabbed a groupon for a class good for four kids. If you see one, grab it, it's so worth it.
*When did parking on the street in the city become so expensive? And where did all the parking meters go? They've all been replaced with muni-meters, which, while a nice and tidy concept which negates the need for many many quarters, also have a down side. Parking meters used to live next to each parking spot. Insert quarters, grab the kids and go.
Now, you park, bundle everyone up with gloves, hats and scarves, get the stroller out, walk everyone all the way down the street, pay at the muni-meter and then walk everyone all the way back to the car to put the tiny little receipt into the car window. All I can say is that it's a process. And an expensive process - when did parking on the upper west side become 50 cents for 10 minutes? Because I have to say, it takes us ten minutes to get out of the car. Muni-meters: possibly not the most family-friendly parking option around. And now I'm done complaining.
This past weekend we went upstate to my brother's house, the same place we spent this past summer. It was just as amazing as last time, except this time, there was the added bonus of snow! Not a lot of snow, but since all we've had so far this winter is a dusting (and I'm not complaining, just making an observation!), the small amount of snow was huge
to my kids.
They played, threw snowballs, made snow angels and pretended to snowboard - there wasn't really enough snow to snowboard but we did have an actual snowboard. We got the last one in Walmart (and most likely the entire upstate NY region) the day we got there. Even the cashier was surprised there were any left.
Thank you again to the best brother, bro-in-law and uncle, all rolled into one.
And the new TV facing the couch doesn't hurt either.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)