Just this weekend marked the official beginning of summer. June is quickly coming to a close and so is the first half of the year. Can you believe it went by that fast? This week was the perfect time to look back at all those goals I set in January, see how far I’ve come, and redefine/hash out the steps to keep on the path to accomplishing them. As anyone who has set goals for themselves can testify, this can be daunting. and boring. and sucky. Yeah, I said it. Sometimes it’s hard to take a look at yourself in the mirror and say “Remember in January when you had such lofty dreams about playing the guitar? What have you been up to, slacker? Because that guitar ain’t gonna play itself.” I mean, what if you really don’t care about playing the guitar anymore. Maybe you really want to play the xylophone. See? These are the tough inner dialogues that we have with ourselves when looking at our goals that sometimes we don’t want to face. And this is the EXACT reason why I don’t do it by myself at all. Every month or so (sometimes the ‘so’ really means 2 months), Kitty, Belle, and I pull out our laptops, log onto Skype, pour ourselves glasses of wine, and meet for our goals regroup session. Doing these sessions via Skype makes things so incredibly convenient and really gives us flexibility that we normally wouldn’t enjoy. I mean, it’s kinda amazing to roll out of the shower at 10pm on a Tuesday night after the kids have gone to bed, with wet hair and no make-up, and show up for your goal planning session. We try to keep the session to an hour or two but it really depends on how much revising we’ve done. We take turns, round robin, listing all our goals, where we are so far with them, if we’ve abandoned them or tweaked them, and then usually we ask for advice or help working a goal out. For me, this is worth every second of the process. Not only do I have 2 cheerleaders telling me I’m amazing and helping me reach my goals but they can give me an outsiders opinion as to how I should be tackling those goals. Sometimes when we work hard on our goals for so long, we tend to have blinders on about them. This past goal reworking session the girls gave me such absolute sage advice about my blog and its future that I walked away from the session feeling revitalized and focused on what needed to be done. My goal reworking was a success and I’m ready and psyched for the second half of the year. The quote above is one of my favorite’s from Anais Nin. I think it’s so remarkably important to go after your dreams, no matter how small or big. Take small steps every day towards it but take steps forward, none the less. If you never put your dreams out there, you never really know what’s even possible. Go. Do it. Make your own goal planning session group. Make July 1st your New Year. Start now. It’s a perfect time to start.
One of my best friends, Jheri, and I rarely get to see each other. It’s actually really sad how many times we’ve tried to get together only to have weather or illness or some other thing intervene and cause us to cancel plans. So last weekend we decided to fix that and made iron clad plans to see each other. Absolutely nothing was going to stop us from seeing each other! Our resolve paid off. Not only did we see each other but we got to shoot together, hike, and most importantly catch up on a million stories. And boy, do we have stories. Duke Farms is a gorgeous 2740 acre nature and wildlife habitat in Hillsborough, NJ that is free and open to the public. There are really a million things to do or see there (visit their website here for details) but the best part is that there are miles and miles of paved paths for those that would like to bike or skate and then trails for those more adventurous. We just wanted to shoot interesting things so we didn’t really consult the map and got lost in the beauty. Here are some of the highlights that Jheri and I captured that day. You know my yoga loving heart can’t resist a good waterfall. Jheri communing with the trees. I love this girl. Isn’t she adorable? I mean, look at those dimples. Come on! This part of the farm freaked me out a bit, I’m not even gonna lie. As a Doctor Who fan, when you see a whole bunch of stone statues convening in an area, you slowly back away. Never turn your eyes away from them, don’t blink. Not even for a second. :) My path to bird of paradise documented here. I’ll get my leg straight someday but for now I am loving the challenge and the journey.
The boys really didn’t want to go anywhere today. It was a very rare slow paced morning, so I let the morning unfold as it should. I did my morning yoga and thought about my intentions for the day. Don’t you know that my little brain thought about dipping toes into icy riverbeds and the revitalizing feeling that only the fine mist fresh from a waterfall can provide? So with a little coaxing (lunch, snacks, AND ice cream were promised) we set off for Buttermilk Falls. I had never been to these falls but had just seen pictures from my friend, Marissa’s adventures there with her kids. It looked so plush and green, I wanted to see them for myself. They did not disappoint. The falls were a bit busier with people than we’re used to but I think that’s because it was a holiday weekend and the fact that you really don’t have to ‘hike’ to get to them. There’s literally a parking lot across the road. You park and right there, 100 feet from your car, is this huge majestic waterfall. So truly this waterfall is great for those with tiny kids who aren’t hikers yet or folks with injuries/disabilities that prevent them from hiking to see some great big falls. I laid eyes on those mossy ledges and I knew I wanted to be up there. The mist, the moss under my feet, the chilly pools of water. It was all so incredibly beautiful. I already told Vader that I intend to come back on a quiet weekday and actually meditate and practice up there. There are some beautiful flat spots up in the waterfall and I just think it would be so amazing to root down and breathe up there. Right along side the falls, is a steep trail that leads up to the Appalachian Trail. We really weren’t that interested in hiking today as much as we were in picnicking and wading in the stream. Here’s a link for more information about Buttermilk Falls and nearby trails from GetOutsideNJ.com. The site’s an excellent resource for things to do in Jersey and a bit beyond too.
It’s getting to be that time of year around here. You know, that time of year when the warm air seeps in under the windows and door frames and with a ‘come hither’ finger curl beckons you outside. It whispers sweet little nothings about laying in the grass under cherry blossom trees or eating your lunch under a tree. It just so happens that when nature calls to me, I don’t just kinda listen to it. I wrap my arms around it and give it a big old bear hug. This is photographic evidence of me and spring k-i-s-s-i-n-g in a tree. We trekked out to Hornbeck’s Creek Falls this weekend to go hiking for the day. It was a bit breezier than the boys would’ve liked but after they got moving everyone warmed up to the idea. This was Finn’s first time hiking all by himself. We didn’t even bring the baby pack. And in case you are wondering, that is not a fly swatter my baby is carrying there. That would be his ‘fern swatter’ or ‘dragon sword.’ Plastic fly swatters are all the rage with montessori, I’m told. Finn only recently discovered the joy of dandelions. Unfortunately, he sometimes enjoys them in his mouth. Selecting rocks is serious business. Throwing them back is almost as serious. Almost. There are amazing mushrooms growing everywhere. I will only share this one photo out of the 100 that I took for the sanity of my readers. So I must tell you that if you plan on making the trip to Hornbeck’s Falls, you should a. be prepared to walk through some knee deep river crossings or b. shimmy across a series of precariously placed logs. Over the winter a bridge washed out and it is no longer a dry journey to get back to the falls. We were going to turn back because we didn’t think we could carry Finn and my camera bag, all while crossing the strong post-storm current but alas, Vader would not hear of it. He-Man went down river, found a remnant of the washed out bridge and hauled it to make an impromptu bridge. Once we got to the center of the river, he then hauled our bridge to the other side so we could cross the last leg of the creek, classic team building style. Perseverance, kids. Perseverance. I’ll just say hardcore parkour. I sat by this mossy tree and worked on lotus for a bit. Lotus is really hard for me since I broke my ankle in a drunken New Year’s eve stupor one year and never got the bone set. Ah, to be 19 and stupid, but I digress. I think the moss really helped. (if only I could line my mat with it at home) When we got back to the falls, I immediately spied a beautiful flat spot in the middle of the creek. Of course it was inaccessible from the path but did that stop my little yogini heart? Absolutely not. Liam, my ever vigilant camera assistant, had my back and endured, only God knows how many, wild injuries walking through pricker bushes, across logs, and rotting driftwood piles. My other boys sat and enjoyed the falls from the comfort of the dry banks. I only just built up enough shoulder strength to do urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose) so I’ve been doing it anywhere people will let me, waterfalls included. My daily yoga practice is such an important part of my life as it provides me with balance, energy, and a vibrance that I haven’t felt, well, ever, nevermind since being diagnosed with lupus. I am so grateful to have been able to get out to that space and just breathe and ground myself to the earth, even if just for a moment or two. We had an absolutely amazing time at the falls, I highly reccommend it. Here’s a link for directions and info.
This photograph is Mother’s Day. It says all the words that I can’t say about this day because I turn into an emotional mess when I start to write about it. It says that on some days I put my camera down and just focus on experiencing every moment with my boys, fully and completely. It says that my boys are conscientious and thoughtful and really good gift givers. Perhaps, most importantly, it says that my kids love me unconditionally and for who I am and that happens to be a complete dork with a penchant for knee socks and time lords. I <3 <3 Mother’s Day.
Sometimes in the big wide world it happens that tiny little babies who were once so small that they could fit in your pocket, grow up and turn one. I know, I was as shocked as you are but it’s true. Sometimes they have grown so big that their fat little legs won’t fit in their overalls. (This happens to be a cute kid problem. Once you’re an adult, not so much.) Sometimes you like to play the bongos and everyone thinks this is adorable. Well because it is. Sometimes your Granny will snuggle up on the couch with you for special birthday hugs. Sometimes when it’s your first birthday your dad gives you chips. Sometimes when you turn one you also happen to be teething and you suddenly like pacifiers. Mustache pacifiers happen to be better because you can twist the ends and look like a dastardly villain but of course, you’re not, you’re only one. Sometimes when it’s your first birthday they let you drive all by yourself. They even let you climb out the window like one of the Dukes of Hazzard. Only you’re one and don’t know who Bo or Luke are. Sometimes they’ll let you sit in the grass and play with bicycle wheels. They are the best thing ever. Sometimes on your birthday you get really amazing gifts like fancy tricycles and everyone wants to take you for a ride in it. Sometimes on your birthday your brother plays in the firetruck tent with you and you have so much fun you knock the whole thing over. Multiple times. Sometimes your birthday is particularly draining and your Aunt will give you a refreshing bottle and let you play with her glasses. She makes you laugh, she’s the best. Sometimes on your birthday your uncle will share his chips with you because you give him your cutest smile. The arm rolls help too. Sometimes on your birthday there are owl shaped cupcakes with star candles in them. The light is so pretty. And sometimes your mom has the great idea to put a hat on you. Hats are terrifying. Sometimes people think that’s funny. You aren’t amused. In the least. And always on your first birthday, your mom hugs you and holds you tight because today is an amazing celebration of life and she keeps saying that you’re such a big boy but then she looks at your face and calls you her baby. Her eyes get sparkly when she does this. You think she’s the prettiest person on the whole planet and it’s the absolute truth.
I’ve been waiting for the USA Science & Engineering Festival since January, when I pre-registered everyone in my family. I put the event into my phone, I circled it on my calendar, and then I loudly announced to everyone who would hear it that we were going to DC in April for the raddest science festival ever! You should probably know that I sometimes get a little inspired with my hyperbole when it comes to science. Science has always been something I thought was interesting but never really thought I was good at…until freshman year of high school when I took biology. Oh, biology was scary at first. It was the biggest textbook I had ever seen and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up since I have this real annoying habit of tuning teachers out when things get a bit complex for me. Nonetheless, a strange thing happened that first month of school. I became fascinated with biology. I loved the hands on experiments. I wanted to breed fruit flies and see what anomalies we could create. I was obsessed with figuring out recessive traits for people. It was like this crazy fun game where I was a fortune teller and I could tell you your future. Do you remember those origami paper fortune teller games that little girls played? You could tell your friends if they were going to get married, live in a house or apt, and how many kids they would have. Well, that’s what science felt like to me. I could unwrap the mysteries of the universe with a grid and some careful thinking. Biology was the best science class I ever had. So here’s the thing, I muddled through science for the next 3 years but never felt the same excitement or success as when I played with those little grids of recessive genes or those petri dishes of agar. I really wish that at some point someone had said to me, “You’re really good at biology, let’s focus on that” or maybe even “There are so many things a person can do when they study science. Here’s a book of all the things you could be. Aren’t they cool?” So go back to January when I got the email that there was a free amazing science festival taking place in Washington DC, that girl from freshman year biology squealed with delight. She looked carefully at the website, decided what talks she would seek out, and then waited. patiently. for 4 months. Ok, it was torture waiting that long but I survived and had the most amazing time. I love that the festival is an opportunity to shows kids every cool science and tech job that there is out there and I especially love that it exposes them to it in a meaningful and engaging way. It’s basically a science carnival complete with games, rides, amazing music (Did I mention that They Might Be Giants played 2 shows there?), and tons of free stuff. So many great colleges and companies were there, playing games, and making STEM fun and accessible to everyone, even little girls with doubt about their ‘science abilities’. I watched as my boys delighted in everything there was in those halls of wonder and I was so pleased because I felt like I was doing my part to make sure they knew how amazing science and tech could be. I can say only super amazing things about the USA Science & Engineering Festival. These pictures are proof of how awesome it was. We had a great time at the festival and Washington DC in general. They have the festival every year. Maybe we’ll see you there next time.
My boys have been playing Minecraft since it was in beta, so it’s been a fixture in our house for a while. I fully embraced the game because I really just love how unique an experience it can be for every person. Seamus loves to build intricate buildings, set booby traps for people, and hoard crazy supplies in his house. I guess he takes more of a doomsday prepper approach to his gameplay. Liam, on the otherhand, plays in tournament style competitive play with other gamers in factions. Game play is constantly evolving and he’s constantly trying to improve his skills. I love that they are essentially playing the same game but doing it in their own style. The Minecraft community is pretty amazing considering the game is so flexible and adaptable. Creatives can add their talents to the game by either coding mods, designing skins or maps or entire worlds for that matter, but my all time favorite showcase of skills are the Minecraft songs. There are some pretty amazing Minecrafters on YouTube who can show you how to build/make/kill anything (Liam included. Gratuitous link: http://www.youtube.com/user/LeemonadePVP/videos) but my personal favorites are those who share the gift of song along with some animation. You guys, these songs are hysterical. Some of them are honest to goodness songs that people have spent a shitload of time putting together, whether they’re editing, mixing, or autotuning but seriously I love each and every effort. As new songs come out of the rotation, favorites gets switched up but I swear by the list below as tried and true ALL TIME HITS. That’s right I used capitals. By no means is it all encompassing of all the amazing Minecraft songs out there, these are just our family’s favorites.
1. Finn’s all time favorite. (I know he’s little but the kid’s got good taste and he already knows what the ‘w’ button does.) A remake of Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow: Mining Diamonds by hojjoshMC. I warn you, it’s catchy. Clearly he’s no Wiz Khalifa but seriously, I find myself singing the words all. the. time.
2. Vader’s favorite. A remake of Cee-Lo Green’s Forget You: I Banned You by Minecraft4Meh. The kid who made this was so young when he made this but seriously, I think that lends to the appeal for me.
3. Seamus’ favorite. A remake of Robbie Williams’ Candy: Griefer by Einshine. Ok, so I think this one’s kind of annoying but I’m not the Minecraft parody police. Seamus loves it.
4. Liam’s favorite. A remake of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite: TNT by Captain Sparklez. This is an oldie but goodie. I mean, they used noteblocks from in game and used it in the song! Amazing.
5. Tanya’s favorite. I actually have a lot of favorites but I can’t remember them all. A remake of Usher’s DJ got us falling in love: Revenge by Captain Sparklez. Let me say that Captain Sparklez is at the top of his game. He used noteblocks to create part of the song for this one too.
Do you have a favorite one? Or better yet are you a YouTuber who has made a song? (I seriously think about making my own.) Please share it in the comments below. We really could some more songs in the rotation.
When Liam expressed interest in enrolling in an enrichment program at MIT, my little nerdy heart just about burst at the seams. I had never been to MIT’s campus and was so excited to explore the campus and surrounding neighborhood. Typically when we plan on visiting a new place, we research and research all the interesting things to do so we get maximum vacation enjoyment. This time was different though. It felt odd dropping Liam off and just walking away. It felt a little too much like dropping him off for college. (I still have 4 years left, who hit the fast forward button?) So without much planning at all, we allowed ourselves the room and space to just wander around just near Cambridge. We ventured into every building at MIT (what beautiful buildings, the light that comes through those tall windows was wondrous), ate at restaurants that looked interesting just from the window, and did an informal survey to determine the area’s best hot chocolate. Here are some photos from that weekend.
First it must be said that every good vacation must start off with some mandatory dancing on the bed. Finn takes this part quite to heart. My beautiful boys. Finn playing hide and seek in Killian Court(quite loudly, mind you. He’s great at the seeker part). Any restaurant that displays its menu in the shape of the period table is stellar in my book. Miracle of Science was an oasis for this new vegan in a sea of bacon. We even made time to visit one of Vader’s high school friends who now resides in Boston. While we bowled they talked, retold stories, and laughed. It’s so good to see friends.