Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Museum. One House of Worship (Japan Day 1)

That is what my mother told me. She said it many times.

“One museum and one house of worship: that is my limit. After that, the little stone statues become a blur and I can’t remember any of them properly.”

I really wanted to show her whatever she wanted to see. But, I lived in Japan for many years. I really wanted to see my friends, some of whom are practically family. I have seen the famous places.

She would go on.

“I want to see what living in Japan is like. I want to visit your friends. I want to walk around regular places. Do you have any idea how many temples I have seen?”

My mother has traveled a lot. She likes meeting people. I tried to plan accordingly, but there are a few places I couldn’t help but take her. It wouldn’t be a proper tour without seeing a few famous places, right?

My mother only saw the most impressive places in Japan.

Our first full day on the ground was in Kyoto, visiting Kawa-san. After a relaxing Japanese-style breakfast and warming our toes by the hot coals under the table, Mrs. Kawa began to excuse herself to walk their dog.

“Do you mind if we join you?” I asked.

My mother and I had arrived in the dark the night before. She had seen the darkened courtyard of their 18th century home, and the traditional interior (better than any museum, trust me), but the neighborhood had been merely a blur out the car window.

The three of us, and the dog, exited the courtyard and began a tour of the rice paddies. (Kawa-san stayed behind). Kawa-san owns three rice paddies. The neighbors (busy with their farming) were pleased to pose for my mother’s pictures. We asked questions and enjoyed the scenery.

We then took a walk up the hill to the neighborhood temple. This one didn’t count as a ‘house of worship’, of course, because it was really just a simple walk around the neighborhood. We met the family who took care of the temple, and they offered us a bag of ginko nuts. My mother rearranged their two year old’s toy cars as the rest of us chatted. On our way back, we admired another neighbor’s garden and were rewarded with fresh mikans (tangerines). We also coincidentally ran into the Buddhist monk (father to the two year old) returning to the temple in traditional clothing.

We stopped for a picture, of course.

So, having been gone for only a short while to walk the dog, we returned to Kawa-san with an arm full of gifts and a camera full of pictures.

Kawa-san laughed with joy. He told us that having our picture taken with the monk was highly unusual and certainly would bring us good luck. Armed with fresh gingkos and mikans, it was tough to argue that we were lucky.

Our luck had only just begun, because Kawa-san decided that he would show us how to cook them. It is quite exciting to watch gingkos roasting. They pop out of the pan like stone popcorn.

We visited a few other local temples that day too. We played tennis by the river. We went out for a fabulous dinner.

We ended the day with a Japanese bath, warm toes, and a soft futon.

Did we see one museum and one house of worship?

No. We did a lot better than that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A tale of two mothers

please excuse the typing and editing. this japanese computer is tricky to use.

Yesterday, my real mother and I wandered the streets of Kobe with my host mother and her best friend, whom i remember well from high school. they are both about 70 years old and are very difficult to chase. Nakafuji:s pedometer reported that we went about 8 miles. That is only one measure. if you were to measure the level of silliness, we would have been off the charts.

After breakfast, we went to see a Japanese flower garden. It was lovely and we took lots of pictures. We took pictures of the flowers, each other, and the gardener too. My host mother kept taking pictures of me when I wasnt looking. I told her that she could have a picture of my behind if she wanted it. we were silly. It was fun.

After the garden, we enjoyed lunch at kaiten zushi. That is the word for those sushi places that deliver plates on a conveyor belt. This was a special place in as much as my host mother wanted to show us that if you order something special, they will deliver it on a special high speed train track (a second level of conveyors). The food was only okay, but the entertainment was priceless. We were pretty silly. I bought a toy train in the vending machine on our way out.

After lunch, we visited a karaoke bar coffee house where my host mother:s friend works. I remember Tanaka san from high school, and of course she remembered me. We traded gifts appropriately, took pictures with people we didn:t know, received gifts from strangers, and I even sang some Elvis. If you have ever heard me sing, you will understand that the patrons were clapping loudly mostly to drown out my voice. When I was finished, I bowed deeply and used a typical Japanese expression which roughly translates to - that must have been very hard work for you, and you must be so very tired. They clapped louder and laughed heartily. We were silly. It was fun.

After karaoke, we went to Motomachi for shopping. Motomachi is sort of like NY 5th avenue, except there is a lot more shopping, a lot more restaurants, and a lot more people. After wandering through the maze of covered streets, I suggested that we go to Diamaru. Diamaru department store is sort of like Neiman Marcus. They carry Burberry, but mostly we were enjoying the excessively high end shopping - Hermes, Tiffany and the like. My mother and I fell in love with a purse that did not have a price tag, but was matched with some Japanese traditional shoes which were marked at about $1500. To be fair, I never saw any outfit for more than $7000, but I suppose I stopped looking. I think my Japanese mothers enjoyed it too since they probably don:t bother going in there very often. We were pretty silly in there, but I suppose the shop owners didn:t mind too much. It was fun.

After shopping, my Japanese mother decided to take us to the top of a tall building to see Kobe from above at night. Since it had started raining, they decided to keep us under roofs the entire way. That is not an unreasonable goal in Japan, but it is still a little bit tricky. We went on quite the tour. My host mother was very polite as we ran past the security guard at a local company and ran into the building. We moved quickly through various hallways and even through the company cafeteria. We all bowed quickly in everyone:s direction and tried hard to not laugh heartily until we were clear of earshot. It was very rediculous. We had fun.

After our office building tour and view of the city, we returned to the house to talk to my host sister via skype. My japanese mother wanted to introduce her grand daughter and give my sister and i time to talk. So, we did. My Japanese mother does this very frequently and showed us how her granddaughter in Australia likes to watch her grandmother in Japan play with a balloon. It was a very serious use of technology. And, it was nice to see my host sister again, even in that way. She explained that we were story book characters to her daughter, so I insisted that she start considering us movie stars. It was silly. We had fun.

After skype, we went to dinner at a local place. We took pictures of each other and different combinations of everyone in the restaurant. The food was good and the sake was warm. My mother received oranges from the shopkeeper. It was fun.

After dinner, we went to a local karaoke place. After all, we hadn:t sung in at least a few hours. By then I had moved to whiskey and was singing in Japanese. Our proprietors encouraged that heartily and I thus acquiesced to what I told my mother were silly foreigner tricks. But, even so, I did quite well with my oral Japanese character exam and surprised everyone with how much I could read. When asked where I learned Japanese, I explained noisily that I had spent 12 weeks with my host mother and she must be brilliant - much laughter. The proprietor also asked my host mother if it was very difficult for her when I lived in her home not speaking any Japanese and how she managed to feed me American food. My host mother laughed.

"Oh, I didn:t do that. Are you kidding? I didn:t even really want to have an exchange student at first. I thought it would be a hassle. But, it wasn:t a problem."

"Oh, but I suppose it was probably a problem for her." she finished with a smile.

I replied on cue.

"Yes, can you imagine how horrible it must have been for me! I had to live with this woman who is always speaking in local dialect and making jokes. I couldn:t understand anything and the food was terribly strange! It was so so horrible. Can you imagine?"

"Oh, do you understand our local dialect?" she asked.

And, I answered in the only possible way.

"No, I don:t understand it at all," spoken with great drama, in perfect local dialect.

It was silly. We had fun.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My mother called

My mother called me in the Spring.

“So, Honey, what are your plans for this summer?”

“Well, Mom, we have a lot of travel planned, but we’d really like to see you. Do you have some time to come up to Cleveland?”

“That isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

She was vague. My mother is vague occasionally, like anyone, but I wasn’t following her this time.

“Will you be at home long enough for us to come down?” I offered. “If we’re around, I could probably come to you.”

My parents travel a lot. My dad works out West. My mother works on the East Coast. They travel more than your average grandparents, and are thus rather difficult to visit.

“That would be nice. I would like to see the kids, but that isn’t what I had in mind.”

“What did you have in mind?” I finally asked. My kids were beginning to get restless, in spite of the fact that I had only been on the phone a few minutes.

“I have quite a few frequent flyer miles. You know, your father and I travel quite a bit.”

“Yes, I noticed that. What did you have in mind?” I was trying to think ahead. Maybe she would suggest my sister and I meet her in Vegas. That might be fun. Hmm.

“I was thinking we might go to Japan.”

My reaction was visceral. I started to sweat.

“Japan? Really?”

“Yes. Well, you haven’t been in quite awhile. I thought it would be fun, but maybe you don’t have time.”

“Um, I could probably work that out,” my mind raced, my heart pumped, my body sweated. I started going through the weeks of the summer. They were pretty full. I tried to start switching things around in my head. I started imagining who would watch the kids. What would I do? I couldn’t say ‘no.’ I couldn’t say ‘yes.’

“Maybe in the Fall? Would the Fall work?” my mother asked calmly.

She was serious.

“Um, the Fall?” Yes. My husband had to take a week off every quarter. I might even be able to do the Fall. “Yeah, the Fall. Are some weeks better than others? I’ll call Jay.”

And thus our trip planning began, all those months ago. My head has spun in disbelief ever since. So much has changed since I left in 1999. So many plans must be made before I go. What will we do? What will we bring? Where will we stay? What do you say after all these years?

We are on our way. By Saturday night, I will be bowing in salutation to Kawa-san in Kyoto Station. I will tuck myself into a futon under his roof. I will smell the reedy smell of tatami mats and the smoky, salty grease of tako-yaki at the stand near the Station.

I remember standing at Hiroshima Station in 1994 on the day I moved to Japan.

The smells in the air, the background noise, the high-pitched woman on the train imploring us “wasuremono ga nai you ni go chui kudasai” – “Don’t forget anything.”

In 1994, I remembered Japan as it was in 1987 during my exchange student days in high school. I remembered Japan as it was in 1990 during my days as a college student interning at a Japanese company. The emotions returned, as clear as you would expect if you could travel through time. Standing in the Station in 1994, seven years after my high school exchange experience, I felt the emotions of a high school student, thrust into a country without her parents, barely able to introduce herself – excited and anxious and alone and proud.

I remembered the book I was reading on the plane in high school. I expected to look down and see my old shoes.

And now, in 2009, I remember my going away party in 1999. The most poignant memory of my last days in Japan was that I did not feel like I was going home.

I felt like I was leaving home.

I grew up in the U.S. I spent my childhood in the U.S.

I became an adult in Japan.

If you have ever lived in a foreign country, you know that repatriation is far more difficult than orientation. If you have never lived in a foreign country, I’m not sure I could adequately explain it.

You can’t go home again. It won’t be the same. I’m not the same. But I can’t wait to get there.

Thanks Mom (and Dad)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Survey Says . . .

This morning, in my over-tired, fighting with satin Halloween costumes, getting ready for an important trip, over-committed, bad cold threating to become a sinus-infection sort of way, I decided to make coffee. I drink coffee most mornings. I know, it's a bad habit, but as far as vices go it seems relatively mild. I often think I am addicted to the stuff, but then I get too busy and forget to make it.

I doubt people forget to smoke.

The morning did not go as smoothly as some, so I was brewing coffee as I ran out the door. This seemed like a judicious plan that would prevent me from the $5 coffee at the local drive-thru coffee shop. I imagined a nice cup of coffee when I returned home with only one child in tow.

When I returned home, the coffee maker had been turned off. (My husband is home sick, poor guy).

This leads me to the survey.

Turning off a woman's coffee maker, before she has a cup of coffee should be interpreted as:

a) an honest mistake, to be dismissed with a Christian heart.

b) a prudent reaction to a potential fire hazard.

c) domestic violence.

d) a crime against humanity.

There may be more than one correct answer, but I suspect there is at least one wrong one.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Business Card

I began to wonder how I could possible catch up after having fallen off the face of the blogging earth for nearly three weeks. I stopped wondering. I decided to start in the middle.

I created a business card for myself the other day. You know, those little cards people give to one another in business-like situations? That’s right. I have one.

I returned from MIT a few weeks ago with a long list of ‘things to do.’ I could flip back a few pages in my calendar and even look at my list. I won’t bother you with the details, but let us just recognize that it is long. Most of it is done. Some of it is in progress. The rest will take the rest of my life and become part of my journey.

I make lists like that when I have time, which is why I try not to sit still very long.

In any case, I made myself a business card on the recommendation of several very respectable people who both have my best interest in mind and appeared honestly appalled that I could not produce one upon request. I had the good fortune of collecting a few cards on my trip, one of which turned out to be the inspiration for my card.

A retired man, who happens to be from near my hometown, produced it upon request. It gave me all of the information I needed and made me smile. That seemed like a good format.

So, in roughly 20 minutes, I managed to make myself a business card. A few hours later, I enjoyed great conversation with some very interesting people at a very business-like dinner. We were having great fun discussing some very good (and other not-so-very good) entrepreneurial ideas. Towards the end of dinner, the gentleman next to me offered me his business card.

“Ha!” I thought immediately. “I can play that game!”

And, so, I provided him my very hastily made business card. He nodded, smiled, and seemed genuinely pleased to have met me. In fact, he enjoyed the card so much that the woman sitting across from me wanted to play too.

So, I gave her a card. (She didn’t have one – shame on her!)

She looked at it. She read it. She finally looked up.

“You seem to do quite a few things. Is there anything else I should know about you?”

“I’m an anonymous blogger,” I offered with a smile.

“I suppose you can’t really put that on a business card,” the man next to me said, as soon as we all regained composure.

So, Mr. Man-sitting-next-to-me who was discussing the entrepreneurial ideas. I finally have it!

I need a self-destructing business card.

(Or, perhaps more likely, a less dubious profession, but what’s the fun in that?).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Week in Review

Can you guess which of these did NOT happen this week? I only did 10 of them, I promise.

1. Organized new after school activity for Andrew, with 5 other children his age.

2. Led successful volunteer meeting.

3. Contracted bizarre virus that caused me to miss preschool pick-up and sleep for 20 out of 24 hours. (Who really needs Thursday anyhow?)

4. Sent ridiculous but original lymric to member of the Dreaded Poet Society.

5. Had my ribs x-rayed.

6. Got caught up on laundry.

7. Caught error in a politician’s note regarding property ownership in our neighborhood, saving time for neighborhood volunteer.

8. Witnessed a grizzly bear receive a root canal within a few yards of the surgery.

9. Enjoyed small talk with an astronaut.

10. Conducted annual maintenance on my dryer and reassembled it.

11. Ran through the pouring rain with a toddler.

You guessed it. I have a lot of laundry to do today.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Writing on the Wall

You might wonder what two geeky mommy bloggers would do if given a few hours on the campus of their alma mater. Or, maybe you wouldn’t, but I have decided to tell you anyway.

We had lunch at Legal Seafood in Kendall Square - a predictable conclusion.

We then wandered over to the new building 20. I should mention that everything at MIT has an affectionate numerical identification. I have heard people, particularly in course 15 (management), complain that even the people at MIT are reduced to numbers. And, the fact that my freshman dorm room number and course 2 were more meaningful in my introducing myself as a freshman than my own name, might lead you to the same unfortunate conclusion.

An MIT conversation might sound like this:

“So, where is the freshman in 501?”

“The one in course 2?”


“She’s in 26-100, but I’m meeting her in lobby 10 at 2 after 8.01.”

“Great. 2.70 isn’t until 3.”

At MIT, people are not reduced to numbers, but elevated by them. Let me offer that the preciseness of numbers offers a common understanding on a campus otherwise so diverse and so unique that, well, understanding may even be beyond the grasp of those in course 16 (that would be rocket science).
I am sure you are terribly impressed.

And so we toured the new building 20, built in the place of the beloved old building 20 (creative, no?) that had seen the birth of radar, and so many other revolutionary technologies. Old building 20 had shaky walls and an excessively warped floor and an incredible history. In its place is a fascinating and unique building built by the very same architect who built the Peter B. Lewis building in Cleveland. This new building is named after someone too, but being an MIT alumn I have already forgotten (proof left to the student), preferring to call it building 20 anyhow.

Building 20 sports a great number of blackboards. Feeling creative, we decided to write our names on the wall. And then, we had a much, much better idea.

Unlike the 8.01 (physics) problem sets of yesteryear, the next step was in fact obvious: 26-100.

And so, we did, we wandered over to our beloved freshman lecture hall, where every MIT student for decades has studied freshman physics, among the core freshman requirements of physics, calculus, and chemistry. We call the room 26-100.

Like so many alumni and students before us, we wrote on the wall.

And, unlike 8.01, it was really, really fun.

Thank you Mommy bytes! I had a great time – and appreciate the ride to the airport.

This is probably not the greatest picture, but had to post it for Jess. If you ever walked along the Charles in the morning, (or ran, as I often did) you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MIT Mommy goes to MIT

This must be the year of revisiting memories. I will call it that because I would hate to think that it is simply age – that I have finally taken enough of the journey that one can’t help but repeat a few scenes.

No, that certainly isn’t the case here.

Due to my career choice , I haven’t had many occasions to travel alone in recent years – the past decade, for example. But, I’m finding that decades are sort of quick nowadays and even that seems a small matter.

Anyway, it is not the same. The places may be the same, but I am not. The coveted ten dollars that I owed my girlfriend today – that I made a special trip to the bank to get – would have been lost on the bottom of my purse years ago. Ironically, I cared more about money in those years. Life is funny.

And, I have to laugh. My packing skills have deteriorated. My ability to extricate myself from the daily routine could be likened only to removing overcooked rice from a shag carpet. There is always another little something – the right shirt for spirit day tomorrow, extra diapers, a snack for soccer, an overdue letter.

As if the children could nary survive without homemade banana muffins.

They’ll be fine. They need me differently now, and that will be different again next year too.

Yesterday, I had a morning conversation with my husband in the driveway. Just a minute really, just about the normal stuff, the daily grind. The minute turned into five and looked up to see the neighbor kids assembled at the bus stop. I had left my children a sticky mess at the breakfast table. We would never make it.

I flew into the house to find Andrew and Gladys dressed, ready, and putting on their shoes on in the front hall.

Don’t they need me to cajole them, harp on them, push them forward?

They need me in different ways.

They are not all grown up. I still kiss their boo boos and scare away the monsters and make them do it one more time, correctly, because I know they can do better.

But, MIT Mommy ought to remember how to pack a bag. I am a better person than I was ten years ago, but a few dusty traits ought to be re-polished to shine again. They need me to be a good example in that way too.

As I entered airport security, my cell phone rang. I assumed it must be about the kids. I checked the message immediately after security.

“I just dropped you off. You forgot to give me the money you owed me.”

My friend’s message went on.

“I just wanted to let you know that you shouldn’t fret about it. I mean, I thought you might because I know you were so specific about paying me back. But, I need you to do me a favor. I want you to take that little bit of money and as soon as you get this message go buy yourself a glass of cabernet. You do that as a favor for me. Have fun. Everyone is good here. I’ll see you when you get back.”

Yes, I got the message.

It is wonderful to visit MIT, especially knowing I am so blessed at home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Day with Andrew

Andrew and I spent the day together today. My husband took the littler two with him to a family event. Andrew wanted to stay home to go to soccer practice, so we made the most of our day together. Besides oodles of projects, including cleaning out Jessie (the trailer), the pantry, and the bathroom, we made lasagna and went to an Italian restaurant together for an al fresco lunch. This conversation happened on the way to lunch.

“Mom, I’ve decided what to do when I grow up.”

“Oh? Terrific. What have you decided on?” I replied, willing to take almost any answer since he had pretty much decided on a ‘truck driver’ this summer.

“I’ve decided that when I’m old enough to buy a car, I’m going to buy one and, well, I’ll buy two because I’ll need one for my wife, and then I’ll take one of them and hide it until it is a classic car.”

“That is a very cool idea. What kind of car are you going to buy?” I ask, wondering off-handedly about the whole wife-thing, but deciding to leave it alone.

“A Ford Mustang.”

Later, getting ready for bed, he was reading a Classic Car magazine.

“Did you have a good day, Honey?”

“Yeah, I hope we have a lot like this one.”

“Yeah, me too,” I smiled, deeply. “Come on, up to bed, especially if you want to bake bread before school.”

“So, Mom, I found a classic car that I think we could fix up and it’s not even that expensive, at least not for an actual car.”

“How much is it?”


“Oh, well, that is quite a bit of money still. But, you have lots of time really. You won’t be 16 for nine years. So, that’s like $400 per year or $100 every three months or about $1 per day. Do you think you can save a $1 per day every day until you are sixteen?”


Yeah, maybe he could.

As I turned off his light, I realized that 3500 days just doesn’t seem like a long time. I wish I could make them all perfect, but I can’t.

They will be just like today, at least I hope so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

George's Glory

It is SO hard being the littlest one some days. The big kids get to do this and that and go to school and come home and, and, and . . . . sigh.

Yesterday, George, who has barely cried more than a half-minute in his whole life, pitched a colossal fit. After having done a very big-boy job at preschool orientation, we dropped off his sister, and HE had to stay with Mom.

Insult to injury, I am sure that is how he felt.

Being a third child myself, I had a plan in place. Of course, I have explained to him that he will attend only every OTHER day, Wednesday and Friday, but that is a tricky concept at two. (Although he mentioned on Monday that we only go to gymnastics on Tuesday, which is correct, so who really knows?)

When we returned to the car yesterday, George and I had a conversation.

“George, you do start school tomorrow. I think you need your very own backpack.”

George nodded, but didn’t look up.

“Let’s go shopping now for a backpack, okay George?”

“A packpack AND a lunchbox.”

Two year olds are rather good negotiators.

“Of course, a lunchbox too, that is a great idea, George.”

So, this morning, George was more than ready to go to school. We did buy him a backpack, but could not find a suitable lunchbox. In mid-September, all that is left are Power Rangers and Barbie. I very rarely buy anything syndicated, even the “Thomas the Train” shirts we have were purchased by Grandma. So, with great fortune, Gladys offered up her favorite lunchbox (which is plain blue) and used her other one (which has Rosie the Riveter on it).

George happily put on a collared shirt and proper shorts and a belt. I even gelled his hair, just like his I do for his big brother before school. He is a very big boy on his first day of school.

“I ride the bus,” he said clearly from the front porch.

“No, not the bus, Gladys doesn’t ride the bus either.”

“I ride the red minivan.”

“That’s right.”

On the way to school, Gladys asked where we are going. She always does that.

“Preeeeschool!!” George replied, “I go to PREEEEEschool!”

“Yes, we are going to preschool.”

Gladys carried George’s backpack (he carried the lunchbox) and helped him find his classroom. She delighted in ‘showing him the ropes’ so much she was late to her own beloved classroom.

It was when he put his lunchbox up on the cart that he saw it.

“I have Lightning McQueen snack!”

“No, George, that belongs to another boy in your class. You have a blue snack.”

“I want Lightning McQueen snack,” he said it clearly, with passion, but no tears.

“We didn’t get a lunchbox yet. Should we find a Lightning McQueen lunchbox?”

“Yes, Lightning McQueen!” He said emphatically, of course, but without crying.

“Okay, we buy one,” I replied.

George took off his shoes, put them neatly next to each other, and ran into the gym.

“Preschool house you wear shoes?”

“Yes, George, you wear shoes in preschool.”

He put them back on.

“Love you, George. See you later, Buddy.”

As I headed for the door, one of his teachers touched my shoulder.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?”

“Oh, yeah, he’ll be fine, at least until I come to pick him up.”

And, I’ll be fine too, once I find a Lightning McQueen lunchbox.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It Takes a Village

I wake up in the morning knowing that I am in charge of my world. I am an island. I do not need any help.

I woke up this morning feeling that way.

I woke Andrew up at 6am to finish his homework. No problem.

At the bus stop, I met my friends Annie and Becky who brought two 3 year olds with them to my house to celebrate ‘D’ day. This is ‘D’ week for us. I planned to make homemade donuts. We made donuts. No problem.

During that time, my friend Cathy dropped off her 3 year old son for me to baby sit. He would enjoy ‘D’ day with us too. Five kids are at my house. And, though the fact that donut starts with ‘d’ might not stick with them, the pink frosting certainly would. No problem.

Annie and Becky left with their kids. Later, Cathy picked up her son and left with some donuts.

Diane dropped by unexpectedly to invite us to a birthday party. I gave her a donut too. This day was easy.

We had lunch. Played. And, then the bus came. After piano practice and reading, Annie and Becky came back, this time with two 8 year olds, a 7 year old and two three year olds to play in the backyard. No problem.

They offered to keep Gladys and George while I took Andrew to a parent-child meeting at church. Things were even looking up. I put my chicken dinner in the oven on a timer to start a little later, so it would be ready when we return.

And, feeling rather confident in my ability to tackle the day, I agreed to ride bikes to church with Andrew. We ride most days. No problem.

About half way to church, I was riding on rims. No problem.

I see Erica and Francis standing in Erica’s driveway. I ask to borrow her pump. It doesn’t work, so I switch my bike for Erica’s, and we are on our way again – now 20 minutes late for church.

I walk into the very nice mass for first communion kids and settle in sweaty and quietly in the back. I manage to sing songs while reading the religion class parent’s handbook. I wonder how I’m going to make it back to my house in time for everyone at my house to go home and my chicken to not burn. I wonder how, if I ride Erica’s bike all the way home, I will manage to collect my bike on just rims, which I carelessly left unlocked in Erica’s yard.

As I wonder this (and, of course, listen very carefully to whatever is being said) I realize that I could get a ride home and get my van with my bike rack and shuttle the bikes back in my van. I always keep my bike rack on my van in the summertime. If I wasn’t sitting in mass, I could walk home in 30 minutes. If I knew the combination to the bike lock that my son used, I could ride Erica’s bike home in 20 minutes.

If I can somehow catch the eye of my friend Georgia in the second row, I could get a ride home in her car.

And, just then, Georgia made a move for the door. I followed her. I accidentally brought the church songbook along with my son’s folder.

Georgia was able to give me the ride I needed. I returned in my van and re-entered the church meeting, grabbing a cup of coffee in the back to look natural, returning the songbook (and, I’m sure making a rather fine impression on the leader of this very nice church meeting). No problem.

All my problems are solved. In 15 minutes, I’ll get Andrew, load everything on the van, drop off Erica’s bike, pick up mine, and be home in plenty of time to relieve Annie and Becky and pull out the chicken. No problem.

Except, of course, potential new friend Hannah talks to me in the back of Andrew’s classroom, wanting to know more about the religion classes (which I know because I read the handbook while singing). And, my friend Isaac stops me in the parking lot to ask me more questions (because he thinks I actually went to that whole meeting). And, I might need his help next week for carpooling, who knows?

So, now I’m a little teensy weensy bit late, which is fine, until I realize that Erica’s bike does not fit on my bike rack.

Andrew and I abandon the van and ride his bike and Erica’s bike all the way to our house. Now, we are 40 minutes late. (Fortunately, Jay returned home before I did and not only checked on the chicken and the children, but was making fresh onion rings).

Somehow, without driving more than a mile the entire day, I manage to talk to nine friends. And, somehow, while eating dinner that night, I wondered how I could collect my flat tire bicycle from Erica’s, return her bike, and collect my van.

Although I do have many friends ‘Z’ who, like Cat in the Hat, keep ‘Voom’ at hand to clean up the mess I often make of my day, I couldn’t possibly have implicated friend #10. And, although I could ride my other bike with the bike trailer and pick up the van tomorrow, I didn’t want to leave my bike in Erica’s yard all night (or bother her further).

So, at 7:40 pm, I set off on Erica’s bike. I dropped it off, walked to the church, picked up my van, drove back to Erica’s house, paused to chat with Erica, picked up my bike and made it home after 10pm.

I will wake up tomorrow knowing that even though my 'problems' are truly 'no problem', I have help anyway.

That is my village.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Rocky Trip down Memory Lane

August 15th, 2009 - Diamond Creek Road, Yavapai Reservation, Arizona

One day, in Arizona, a type-A city girl careened down a dusty canyon in an F-150 to the Colorado River – to the base of the Grand Canyon. A young man sat at her side in white-knuckle anticipation. They were in love. She only broke the truck a little.

He fixed it without hesitation, somewhere outside of Peach Springs, Arizona.

They were in love.

Fifteen years later, a 40-something man drove sensibly down a dusty canyon in an F-150 to the Colorado River – to the base of the Grand Canyon. A young-at-heart woman sat at his side. The three children enjoyed the off-road adventure from the back of the white truck with mild anticipation.

“So, this was the road we were on fifteen years ago?”

“Oh, yes, this is the only road and I remember the turn off at Peach Springs vividly,” my husband replied. “This is the only road down here. I’m not surprised it is still unpaved. My first time down here was with you that night.”

I laughed to myself. I remember him being my ‘tour guide,’ an expert in the local area.
“Really? I thought you were just showing me places you had been before. I just remember you being quite nervous when I drove.”

“I let you drive?”

My laughter was no longer just to myself.

We drove down the canyon taking in the scenery. We stopped to show the kids different desert plants. We tried to remember what it had looked like, but it had been dark and dusty and I don’t remember noticing the desert plants fifteen years ago. The engineers were too busy noticing each other.

Our kids seem to notice everything. They see the different plants. They notice the change in rock color. Andrew hears the change in rpm when we ascend a hill. Gladys reminds her dad to put the truck in low gear to ease it down the other side. In a few short months George changed from simply clapping his hands and gleefully singing ‘Off-road Daddy!’ to pointing out specific birds.

We drove to the edge of the Colorado River and looked up the steep canyon walls. Although small compared to the grandeur further upstream, our children had not yet seen the canyon from the rim. My children reacted in their typical fashion.

Andrew stomped into the river with his boots on. After all, a cub scout wears full shoes to protect his feet.

Our attempts to ‘baptize’ George in the river will ill-received, although I did get his feet wet a little.

Gladys went swimming in her panties.

After we had all enjoyed the Colorado River in our own way, we headed back towards Peach Springs.

And, once again, a 40-something man drove sensibly down a dusty canyon in an F-150. A young-at-heart woman sat at his side. The three children enjoyed the off-road adventure from the back of the white truck with mild anticipation.

Until, of course, that sensible 40-something man got stuck behind a very slow moving F-750 loaded down with kayaks coming from the Colorado River. At that time, he decided to very sensibly (anyone would have done the same actually) pass them at the widest part of the dusty, rocky road. Before that young-at-heart woman could even think about white knuckles, they were beyond the kayak-bearing trucks and once again driving sensibly down a dusty canyon.

Until, of course, the very useful light on the dashboard went on - the very useful light that tells you about low tire pressure. As soon as the truck stopped, the very loud hissing sound coming from the back tire dispelled any notion of just a little ‘low pressure.’

Nope. That tire is busted.

And, once again, that man was fixing an F-150 on the dusty road outside of Peach Springs, Arizona. He only broke the truck a little.

And, anyway, they were still in love.

It might say 'flats fixed' but ours was not to be salvaged. We left it in the pile there behind Gladys.

Take only pictures. Leave only tires.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer's Last Rites

It is a rite of passage.

There is a moment in time when a child realizes that he is, without argument, taller than 48 inches.

He has grown. He is a BIG kid. The amusement park might as well have been designed for him and him alone.

Well, it certainly wasn’t designed for me exactly, or at least no one mentioned to me that you had to be 48 inches tall and younger than 38 years, give or take (at least for a few of those rides).

It started innocently enough. The park opened in the 1800s and many of the rides are quite old in design. The roller coaster debuted in 1938, at a time when people were not necessarily used to five-point harnesses and break-neck speeds.

The Merry-go-Round was beautiful. The Ferris Wheel was delightful. The bumper cars were Andrew’s dream come true. Crashing into Dad made his day.

George liked the airplanes and balloon ride and the train too. Gladys’ favorite was the Ferris Wheel, no the roller coaster, and the . . . “Can I give you my top five?”

While Jay enjoyed the under 48 inch rides with George and Gladys, I took Andrew to the other side so he could ‘introduce me’ to the bumper cars. After all, every seven-year-old ought to have the opportunity to crash into his mother. And, we decided to find the roller coaster too.

I am not a roller coaster fanatic, but I really enjoyed the roller coaster at Idlewild. It was that right mix of fast and curvy without shaking apart my joints. And, although it wasn’t break-neck speeds, there wasn’t any restraint per se, which left it appropriately exciting.

But, then my dear husband called me on the walkie-talkie to let me know that the little ones were having SO much fun that he would need some extra time. And, so, Andrew and I decided to go on a few extra rides.

I should have known better. The balloon ride had made me mildly dizzy. I had to find a stationary focal point while on the teacups. I went on the Spider anyway. Somehow, for some reason, our car decided to spin out of control.

I could no longer see. Everything moved so fast. My world became a blur.

We went aroundandaroundandaroundandaroundandaround. And. Stop.

Oh, my, my my my my pleeeeeasse stop. They let out the other riders soooo slowly.

I staggered off the ride like the town drunk.

“Let’s go find your father,” I said calmly.

“We have plenty of time, Mom. Let’s go on another ride.”

I looked around frantically for somewhere to sit. Every ride I saw seemed to spin.

“Let’s go find your father,” I heard myself say again. But, I knew he wouldn’t be ready yet and probably wouldn’t hear me where he was.

“Mom, how about the bumper cars?”

The bumper cars did not spin. I could drive myself. That would be fine. We stood in line. I held myself up on the railing, hoping the nausea would subside – wondering when I had ever felt so sick. The flu? The food poisoning in Greece? That unfortunate night with those Australians? Was it that bad?

I could barely stand.

I began to wonder if my face had actually turned green.

After buckling myself into the bumper car next to Andrew, I noticed that the building had begun spinning. I only had a few seconds before the operator would check our belts.

“Andrew, I might hurl. You go ahead. I’ll watch from the side.”

I carefully got up from my car and headed out of the bumper pavilion. I had made it. I leaned up against the soda machine, assuming that I would lose my lunch at any moment. I thanked myself for refraining from any funnel cakes. I had had a good lunch.

I might even be fine. Maybe.

And, sure enough, I was fine, (although it would take nearly two hours and lots of water before I could even go on the Ferris Wheel). Andrew jumped happily off the bumper cars and we went, slowly and deliberately, to find Jay.

It was only later, during the late-night departure from the park, that I realized my son had experienced another rite of passage. He learned a new word. And, I am so proud that he learned it from his mother.

“So, Mom, what does ‘hurl’ mean?”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fabricating Dreams could be a Reality

I have a proposal. Pull out your cocktail napkins for a moment and follow along.


The local school district might be losing a big chunk of funding due to changes in Ohio policy, and might be looking for ways to maintain their cutting edge education.

The local schools are among the top ranked in the state and especially proud of their science program (and academics in general).

A large portion of people in the community would gladly tell you that they moved to the area for the schools.

The individual schools only do a small amount of fundraising to cover their basic expenses including things like assemblies, the annual family picnic, etc.

Are you still with me?

The whole community, including the elementary schools, comes together for a very large and successful fundraiser that makes over $30K. (The money goes to $1000 scholarships to graduating seniors).

There is a very active, and amazing group of people in the PTA who volunteer a lot of time and money (and care a trememdous amount about education).

There are more amazing people in the community who might just volunteer more time and money if there was a project that sparked their interest – particularly one that would further their child’s education in a concrete way.

There are even more engineering and manufacturing firms in the community who might rally around a concrete education initiative focused on science and engineering.

Still have that cocktail napkin handy?


MIT had specifications for a FAB Lab to allow students to fabricate almost anything they could design on a computer – everything from ultra thin computers to furniture to toys to whatever.

The basic equipment for such a lab cost $60K (okay, plus a little more to make the space ready somewhere in the community).

Training and technical support exists through MIT and also the FAB Lab network of users throughout the world.

Two such labs already exist successfully in the Cleveland area and might even be open for a tour if someone were to ask.


The PTA and the school system and some local businesses were to work together to establish such a lab in the school system.

High school students could be using high tech equipment to create, well, almost anything. Maybe they could even create science experiments for the elementary schools to use for education? Or, maybe they could do some research for those local businesses? Maybe.

My cocktail napkin says that it is worth taking a closer look.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dreams of the Open Road

I wake slowly from my long summer dreams,
My thoughts still wand’ring down the open road,
Merely two weeks since our return it seems,
Two thousand mornings since those red rocks glowed.
My mem’ries collect into this small ode.

Twelve thousand miles on an edu-vacation,
Our family adopted the traveling mode,
We stopped at every Ranger Station,
Hot springs and canyons our children we showed,
No hesitation to go off the road.

Our journeys took us to locations where,
We saw the mem’ries of where water flowed,
And when the rain threatened us to fill the air,
The beautiful desert became land forbode,
We scurried quickly to that well-paved road.

We drove through vibrant towns left in despair,
Empty shells of cars, last century towed,
Left outside to rust no one seemed to care,
I cared often to find a clean commode.
We found Route 66 – the Mother Road.

We send our kids off now to school with walls,
They must learn to read and write and follow code,
But as they follow those straight, narrow halls,
They dream of mountain meadows never mowed,
Their mind’s eyes made rich from the open road.

Hold close your babies, let the big ones free,
Imagine rain puddle tadpoles grown into toads.
They must get dirty before we can see
One day we reap from what we sowed,
The dreams made real along life’s open road.

I welcome September, knowing that not a single moment of summer with my children (and husband too) was squandered. And yet, while one might say that the children need to read and write - I have found that reading and writing is a very basic need in my life as well.

I am glad to be back.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No batteries required

I've been friends with MIT Mommy since we were just teenagers, living in the same dorm and doing our homework (and getting into trouble) together.

I'm a toy designer (technically, director of engineering for a small toy company). Many of our toys are technology-based, which means that the games do cool things using sounds and interactivity, or that they include lights and speakers and cameras and other cool techie features. I'm proud of the work I do, and when we get it right, the toys are cool and very fun. When we really get it right, they enhance that imaginary world that children inhabit.

Now I have my own toy tester (J) at home. He's almost three, and it's interesting to see how he interacts with the things we create. Over the past few months, he's tested a lot of toys for me. He really liked the zoo animals and the construction trucks, and he loves anything that lights up.
Nothing has given him as much joy as this pair of rain boots.

J goes to preschool just a half-block away from our house. I walk him to school in the morning on my way to catch the train to SF, and I pick him up again after work. During the rainy season, the gutter fills with water runing down our hill, and the resulting river is too tempting for all the little ones leaving school. One day, J already had his boots on, so he started splashing.
Another child joined him. One slightly germ phobic 4-year-old anxiously warned us about the "anebas that will get in your brain." The next day, there were more. By the end of the week, I was met at the front door by a barrage of kids asking if they could come splash in the puddles with J.

I imagined the other parents seething as they poured water out of boots and loaded cold, wet children into their car seats.

Then I got out my camera and started taking pictures.

As a parent, I sometimes get too worried about the wet and the cold and the "anebas." As toy designers, we try to ask ourselves, "is it fun?" The photos tell the truth. This is just plain, boot-stomping fun.

No batteries required.

A note from MIT Mommy:

I should be back from my trip today. I want to thank everyone who has blogged for me. I am writing this the day before I leave and I'm already anxious to see what is on my blog!

When I received the above post from my 'MIT buddy' I just about fell out of my chair laughing. She is an amazing designer, and who better to realize that sometimes the best designs are no designs at all. How beautifully ironic that her son would be enamoured by a pair of boots!

She also is the creative genius behind the gear kids at the top of this blog. And, if you would like to see more of her ongoing work, she and her colleague have a eco-friendly design blog out in SF.

Thanks again to all of you who blogged, and all of you who read and commented on their labors.
I'll have a lot of catching up to do!
MIT Mommy

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Oh, for the love of Freedom

This is my last post until September. I haven't found a corporate sponsor to pay for housekeeping. I tried to enslave my mother in law, but soon realized such activity would ruin any future shot at public office, and anyway she wriggled out. So, I am taking a break to dive into a local project. It won't change the world, but will have a positive effect on my corner of it (and maybe improve a few personal skills for future endeavors). I'll be back.

And, if I'm well-rested, watch out.

What is it about having two friends outstretching their hands? You might as well hold all 24 of those birthday candles up against my bare backside.

I often write about finding silver linings. The more frustrated I become, the angrier I am, the more I rely on this forum to find the humor, to laugh at myself, and to remember why those I love are, in fact, those I love so very much.

When I see glue on my floor, I take pictures and laugh.

When I see apathy, I dig deep in my memory for all of those people who are NOT apathetic.

Last Thursday, I wrote about apathy. In my camera are pictures of my son’s absolutely wonderful seventh birthday party, trips to the park, silly games played under my laundry basket. I haven’t been able to write about any of it. It isn’t that it wasn’t wonderful and I can’t put together a lovely essay. I could, I suppose. I could. I just don’t want to.

I find it difficult to sip my coffee dantily when I am watching a train wreck.

I’m a little hot under the collar.

But, that piece about apathy was about me in a way. (I don’t really have an apathetic bone in my body – call it a fault – but I don’t, really, call it aggressive avoidance).

Although it would be highly self-centered to assume that I was the intended audience for either Pauline or Brigette’s blogs, they spoke to me as if I were. Isn’t that why we read?

I have been intending to write about all of the various issues of the day, to add my two cents like I did last Fall, but I have been cleverly delaying it.
I was having an otherwise fine day hatching an excellent plan to further technology and education in the Cleveland area. I am very happy with my fine, new project and even mentioned to my husband last week that I might stop blogging, at least for awhile.

So. There.

But, that isn't the end of it, is it? We need our voices to be heard. We also need to balance our lives, and we all know that is as rediculous as some current policies (I'll avoid the cheap shot that I wanted to include here).

I am concerned about our schools losing millions dollars over the next couple of years. It makes me want to scream. My staying at home is not compatible with my kids going to an expensive private school. I must be the only one who cannot afford it.

I am concerned about health care. I’ve been in a dirty hospital overseas. I have had a doctor tell me that if my knees are hurting me, I should just stop running. I was told I don’t need a vaccine, but if I get that disease, don’t come back to their office.

I am concerned about the economy. I have made a lifetime worth of decisions based on the fact that my children can go to school and make as much money as their achievements are worth. They can shoot for the moon, even if their peers are apathetic.

I think ‘cash for clunkers’ is ridiculous.

I do think an awful lot of people spend too much time on absolutely nothing. The apathy incenses me. Instead of blogging last night, I sat next to my husband and actually watched part of a show about ‘celebrity plastic surgery.’ My husband switched to it every time the History Channel show about Zeus went to commercial.

Was someone actually watching that on purpose?? Have we nothing better to do?

Maybe that is what freedom is all about. We have the freedom to be stupid if we wish. I recall talking to someone who had met a WWII veteran and asked that veteran if he was upset that ‘kids these days don’t care about the sacrifices he made.’ You know what he said? He said that he was happy that kids these days don’t worry about it, because that is exactly what he was fighting for. Yeah. Really?

Perhaps, but I do believe that our ‘freedom’ is simply based on how we define our relationship with others. Our system of government is the structure within which we have those relationships. It is like a marriage, a friendship, or any other relationship.
Relationships are based on mutual respect. And, frankly, take a little bit of maintenance.

Our freedom requires constant maintenance. It takes work. It is not an unchallengeable god-given fact that we can make our own decisions.

I’m no good sitting idly by and watching a train wreck any more than I can watch celebrity TV.

Pauline and Brigette, I probably don’t need you to hold my hand. A little fire under my bare backside will do the trick just fine. But, now that I have received that gift, I would be honored to stand and hold hands with you – and everyone else too.

In September.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thank you Someone

I detest apathy.

You know, the kind that lets the grass go to seed and the merry-go-round slow sadly to a halt. It is that kind of apathy that sits idly by as the weeds grow, only to let out a whimpering bark, no bite, when the merry- go-round finally recedes from view into the brush.

I do. I detest apathy, which is why I am so happy in Cleveland.

Someone mowed that grass. Someone painted that playground. Someone else planted flowers by the sign in the middle of the night. No one saw him, but someone cares.

You know who you are. You might be the one who runs the organization, or ties the bows on the baked goods, or arranges the chairs and puts the coffee on before the other ‘someone’s arrive. You might have stuffed envelopes, or made phonecalls. You are the PTA and the PTO and the HOA and the boosters and the classroom coordinators and co-chairs of thisandsuch – that little thing you do that you probably wouldn’t even put on your resume.

“Oh, yes, and I do a little volunteering when I can.”

That is what they say, those ‘someones.’

And, now it is Fall again. The grass is starting to grow and the paint might be chipping and all those organizations shift into gear - meeting in dining rooms and libraries and coffee houses.

Maybe you are the type of person who looks at the picture and sees opportunity. You want to mow the grass, play with the child, start a grass-roots organization to save the art of playtime for all children in America. Is that you?

Maybe your calendar seems full and your heart seems full and you would rush by with no time to spare. Is that you?

This Fall, open that lovingly-stuffed envelope. Go to the meeting. When you walk by that little girl in the park, give her just the slightest push on that merry-go-round.

If her smile is not enough, print this out. Let me thank you. You know who you are.

Thank you.

Here is a 'thank you' bouquet. I should also be thankful that we had a little time to pick the flowers before the mower came.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Exotic Rituals (Pig Roast #9)

Consider it a cultural event.

Our family has a pig roast every year. Or, at least, we have had a pig roast every year for the past nine years, which I think makes it an official annual event.

As a child, I enjoyed our local county fair. I thought of it as a rather ‘big deal’ until I became an older teen/ young adult and decided that such things were rather ‘small townish’ – pedestrian at best, horrifyingly hillbilly-ish at their worst.

And then I left my small town and traveled abroad, and fell in love with the history and culture and ‘exotic rituals’ of so many small festivals. I bounced on a rock suspended by bamboo poles at the ‘Inoko Festival.’ I swam through the streets of Jakarta, buoyed along by the waves of reeds celebrating fertility. I sat on a stone wall on top of a mesa at 4:30am to watch a tribe welcome the sunrise - following a tip by a local tribesperson who really should not have told us at all. We hid respectfully in the shadows, behind the mesmerized children.

I digress. A pig roasted by suburbanites could not possibly compare to events of such intense historical significance.

Our pig roast shadows a long forgotten, anthropologically insignificant event. The ones that leave a little trace and no higher story. The evidence leaves historians puzzled. They wonder why that artifact existed, seemingly used only occasionally. It doesn’t fit the greater myth.

We don’t know why they did that.

Maybe those ancient elders were not so unlike us at all. Perhaps sometimes they did things simply because they needed a reason to do something. Perhaps they knew that cousins exist through shared bloodline, but ‘cousins’ become meaningful through shared experience.

Some rituals are meant to leave more of an impression on the attendees than on history.

When I saw my husband and his brothers lift their roasted pig high above their heads to clear the back fence, I wondered if so many rituals begin that way. Long after the fence were to fall away, the youngsters watching continue to raise the pig high in the air – and only later special meaning becomes attached to the motion.


To my children, nine years might as well be nine hundred. The event holds significance beyond a simple backyard bbq, and they follow their elders with great interest, memorizing the patterns to repeat them as lore, tell them as myth, if only in their hearts.

As I travel with my children, I love to see their eyes devour the details of different cultures, ancient traditions, and exotic rituals. I also wonder if those ancient elders weren’t just a teensy weensy bit happy when those wide-eyed progeny finally curled up to sleep.

With great relief, we put away our exotic rituals for another year.

Pictures from this year might be available eventually, when my husband's computer recovers from the malady by which it is afflicted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Blog

Dear MIT Mommy,

Kawa was very surprised by your dynamic journey to the Wyoming on your blog between June 11th and July 6th.. I guess It will be neccesarry for you to prepare for winning succsession of your family's every summer(?) plan.

Your regular canon camera gave us not only very beautiful and strange views ,but waked up my precise memory in the more than fifty years ago.

When Kawa was in the ages as like as Andrew, a large part of Japanese just became to be able to buy a TV and watch several contents made in USA as a symbol of free and open and prgressed culture.

There was a prgram of TV broadcasted weekly "The Wild K.ingdom" produced by Walt Disney himself .

It was long term program as one of the above mentioned very interesting animal life .movies just in the national park,Wyoming.The program gave very large influence to our Japanese.

Thank you for my time trip to fifty years ago !!??


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 8 - A Mammoth Walk with Silly Kids

The biggest mistake you can make when attempting to take pictures of your children is to tell them that it is 'very important.'

I foolishly encouraged my husband to attempt a picture of all three of them. I am not sure what we were thinking. Here, Gladys runs away from him down the boardwalk.

I am not sure how they came up with three seperate and rediculous faces without coordination.
They just know.

For some reason, we spent an unusual amount of effort at Mammoth Springs attempting to take the perfect picture of the kids. Our darling children were not too accomodating of this idea.

They mostly wanted to run down the boardwalk like children. You would think they had been cooped up in the truck for thousands of miles (oh, right, they were).

George couldn't keep up even going down. Going back up was slightly more challenging, but we managed to walk every inch of the boardwalk.
This bird posed for us very nicely.

The children only stopped to check out some scat (a fancy Ranger-word for poop).

Eventually, we got lucky. This shot was taken later in the day (they must have forgotten we wanted the picture). We were on our way back from a quick trip into Gardner, MT.

In the evening, we enjoyed our best sight of the day - Grandpa! My father joined us at the campsite in time for dinner and a goodnight story.
Thanks Grandpa!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 7 - Welcome to Yellowstone

We pulled into the Old Faithful area parking lot with George and Gladys snoozing in the back. Jay and I looked for a place to turn around, as we had missed the turn to our campsite inspite of our high-tech navigation system. Jay and I focused on the signs and traffic.

"Mom! Dad! Is that a geyser??"

"Yeah, Honey, I think you just found Old Faithful," I said flatly, "I guess we've seen it. Let's go home."

"Noooooooo!!!" he replied immediately, knowing well I was teasing him.

Of course, we wouldn't go straight home. We are proper tourists. After checking into our campsite and a morning tour of West Thumb Geyser basin, we returned to Old Faithful.

We did what we were supposed to do.

We waited - faithfully, of course (for over an hour). And, as expected, we took the classic picture of 'Old Faithful' above.

What we have learned as experienced National Park tourists, is to always check out the Junior Ranger program. At Yellowstone, they also have an absolutely awesome 'Young Scientist' program. The ranger provides a backpack with tools (such as an infra-red temperature gauge that allows you to take the temperature of the hot springs from the board walk - so cool!!) The kids really enjoyed it, and my husband and I fought over the geeky toys.

The program takes 4 - 6 hours to complete, which seems like a lot, but the kids left understanding more about the Yellowstone caldera than I probably learned in geology class in the 5th grade. Even George can happily point out a 'geyser.' And, truly, it was SO FUN.

The hottest hot spring we measured was 181 F. The Yellowstone River ran around 56 F.

Andrew and Jay are on the right side enjoying their science lesson.

While our kids were enjoying the science games, we accidentally wandered by Beehive geyser just in time to see it erupt (which it only does once a day, and not on a very regular schedule).
We decided that it may not be very faithful, but it was very, very impressive.

This is the silent cone after its impressive eruption.

We left 'Old Faithful' around 7pm and headed back to our campsite at Fishing Bridge via Firehole Canyon.