For a Quick Reference

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I forgot to post this earlier--

Grandma Kingsley took the boys along for an evening walk through the snow-covered streets. When they were almost home, she called us and told us to come outside and see them. The boys had fallen asleep in the toboggan!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

One horse open sleigh

For Family Home Evening the Kingsleys took us to a farm in the woods that charters sleigh rides. The weather was too warm for sleighs, so we rode in a hay wagon. We all snuggled into the warm hay and layed quilts on our laps. The horses were decked out with jingle bell harnesses, so the music from the bells filled the air with each step. It was so enjoyable to ride through the quiet woods and laugh together. The children really loved the dalmatian that accompanied our ride. The ride lasted an hour and wove through the property past several Christmas light displays and decorations. It was so breathtaking. Midway through the ride we stopped at a blazing bonfire to roast marshmallows. This was really fun. Daniel loved spearing the marshmallows onto his stick, but the dog would steal it from him each time before Dan could eat it. He ended up just carrying the same marshmallow on hissick for a long time. I helped him roast a few and eat them. Sarah and Matthew were pros by the end. Daniel was heartbroken to leave his stick behind when it was time to board the sleigh again. He thought we'd get to keep our sticks and was so sad to see it stay.

At the end of the ride we played games and enjoyed treats in a large game room. We enjoyed checkers and a really fun round of The Adverb Game. It was hilarious! I always really enjoy playing this with the Kingsleys. It was over much too soon. What a singular night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Parental time-out

Grandma Kingsley offered to watch our children while Nathan and I 'disappeared' for 3 days and explored New England on our own. What fun!

We booked two nights in a bed and breakfast in Concord, Massachusetts. I LOVE THIS TOWN!! I would move here very happily. This little town has so much history it boggles me. The property we stayed in was owned by Louisa May Alcott's family, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was surveyed by Henry David Thoreau twice. We were surrounded by the homes of great historical figures. The house that stages the story "Little Women" is the house that the Alcotts lived in. This was right across the street from us. Nathanial Hawthorne's only house was right out our bedroom window, and Emerson's mansion was on the same street. Henry David Thoreau also lived here. It was amazing so be surrounded by so many homes of intelligent individuals.

The Concord museum had the entire contents of Emerson's study, even the window shutters. It was really neat to see. I didn't know too many details about any of these writers before we came. Now I can't wait to peruse their works. I am particularly impressed with Emerson and Thoreau. Nathan and I both received gift cards to Barnes and Noble for Christmas. We can't wait to go home and buy "Walden" and "Nature". There was a quote by Thoreau that really struck me. I can't remember it exactly, but basically it said that most men aren't really awake in life. Few people really live life with acute awareness of their surroundings. I realized that my own life had a certain element of apathy and therefore complacency. I theorize that this arises from the prevalence of media (whether the television or Internet) that spoon-feeds information to us. People don't think anymore, it's like the humans from the movie Wally. Nathan and I both resolved to be more passionately involved in whatever tasks we had before us. We both want to immerse ourselves in American philosophy more and we both are excited to create art again. We've already been plotting a wood carving on a scriptural scene.

We also visited the Sleep Hollow Cemetery, which was surprisingly beautiful. The cemetery was designed to also serve the community as a park and spiritual green space for contemplation, due largely to the influence of the Transcendentalist movement heralded by Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. I've never encountered such a beautiful cemetery. The unbroken rows of headstones weren't to be found. The landscaping is such that the burial sites flow with the natural forms of the hills and valleys of the cemetery, and the entire site is filled with ancient trees and twisting roads and bridges. I'm sure it's breathtaking in the summer. I don't know how The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow became a horror story. It surely wasn't inspired by the cemetery itself. I saw nothing frightening and would liked to have lingered.

This was the Old North Church, the church where Paul Revere lit the two lanterns in the tower to signal the arrival of British troops by sea. It also contains the first statue ever made of Gearoge Washington and the pew box where Paul Revere's family sat when they attended church. Paul Revere rang the bells here when he was a boy.

We also went to Boston to explore the Freedom Trail. It's a series of historical sites within walking distance of each other. Sites included the home of Paul Revere, the first public school, several cemeteries where famous people are buried, several state houses and churches.

The coolest house I've ever seen

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was our destination for the day. We spent an entire afternoon perusing the collections. I enjoyed it so deeply, I'm afraid Nathan grew tired of my constant adulation towards the art.

To save time describing the unique history behind the museum, here's an address instead:

Copy that to a new tab and explore a bit. In a very small nutshell (think sunflower seed), she made a museum that would in itself be a work of art. This was also her home. She made three levels of galleries and lived on the fourth floor. This was her life's work.

The personality and eclectic nature of the collections can't be described, you'll just have to visit someday. This was my first time in a real art museum. I was so eager to admire these masterpieces that I grew impatient with the tour and would often sneak away from the talkative group to look at other paintings while I listened. This was my first time seeing works by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Titian, Whistler and Vermeer. I was in heaven.

The architecture itself is noteworthy. The entire home was built to include her collection of architectural elements from medieval and Renaissance-era European churches and castles. She literally bought entire walls of churches and shipped them to her home in Boston. There's a large open courtyard in the middle of the home and each pillar surrounding the yard is from a different building. In her will, she said nothing could be rearranged in her collection, so everything is exactly the way she left it. It's delightfully eccentric. Here's an example: she imported a Roman tile mosaic for her garden. It has the head of Medusa in the middle of the mosaic. Naturally she surrounded the Medusa with a collection of stone statues. Fantastic! She also brought stained-glass windows from churches and built them into her studio. It's so amazing to see how she incorporated all these contrasting elements into one delightfully fun place. If you have time to see one thing in Boston, make it this museum. It's the most-visited museum in the entire area.

We spent 3 or 4 hours there. It really made me want to fill our home with art and not worry about whether it's conventional to blend different styles in the same room. I can't afford to collect great art, but I can work on creating some pieces myself. I'm really looking forward to working on a few pieces this summer when life calms down a bit. we'll see if that actually happens. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Winter fun

This was the first time for Daniel and Matthew to experience snow, and Sarah doesn't remember playing in the snow when she was one year old. They were so gleeful to run outside, the first time they went they had on only mittens and a hat-- no coat, snow pants, scarf, sometimes no shoes. They were so excited they didn't notice the cold. Gleefully Sarah and Matthew ran outside to make snow angels and build a snowman. They had told me for a month that these were the first things they wanted to do in the snow. The snow was so heavy that they could only make a small snowman, but they were so delighted with it. Matthew ran inside to get a carrot for the nose.

We took the children sledding for the first time. I forgot what an ordeal it is just to get dressed for playing in the snow. I felt like it would never end! There are so many layers I never even think about in Texas! It literally takes me 30 minutes to dress all three children, but it was very worth it.

The sled hill here is colossal. I've never seen a sled hill like it. It's so tall and slopes so gently at the end that the sledders would glide across the top of a frozen pond into the grassy bank on the other side. I've never seen Sarah so enthusiastic about an activity before. She absolutely loved it and was pretty daring. She loved going downhill on Uncle Andy's sled. Matthew caught a face full of snow after a big crash into a snowbank, so he invented a face protector by putting his hat on over his face, obstructing all view, but keeping out the snow. He was so proud of it! He was so delighted whenever we crashed into the bank and his face was still dry and warm. We all had a great time. I'm so thankful we had the opportunity to sled and share that joy with the children. After we came home, Nathan asked Matthew what his favorite part was. Matt replied without hesitation, "Going down!"

The ice on the pond was pretty rough on the sleds, so several sleds broke into pieces. Betsy, Sam, and Nathan all used the sled pieces to slide down and really had fun.

The weather had warmed up a bit, so the snow was melting one day. Matthew was so sad at the thought of the snow disappearing, so he took a hand shovel and filled several buckets with snow. He hid these under the BBQ grill cover so the sun couldn't shine on them, confident that these buckets would preserve the snow for another day. It was so cute!

Grandma Kingsley took all the children for a walk in the woods to see a frozen lake. They had lots of fun and the scenery was beautiful.

Lexington and Concord

I love this place! Dad took us all to the North Bridge in Lexington, the site of the first battle of the revolution. It was such a beautiful place (I know I keep saying that in every post, but it's true). The bridge is a replica of what it was in the 1700's. I can't imagine an army trying to cross something so narrow in comparison to a garrison of troops. It was my first time ever on a historic battleground. The snow made it quiet and scenic. It was interestingly humbling, mixed with a sense of loss and grief. I have a hard time with conflicts, and war is so taxing on both sides. It made me contemplate my freedoms and the price paid for it. I think it's something we take for granted often since we know nothing different. I've always been a fan of American history, particularly the time periods surrounding the Revolution. Being here and seeing the locations is so exhilarating. I am so ecstatic just to walk the roads where historical giants have lived. I get jittery just remembering the places now as I type. There is a certain spirit here. I love it. I've decided we have to come back again in the summer (probably in two years or so) and explore more. I could live here for years and still be excited to learn more of its history.

Trip to the sea

Today we bundled everyone up and headed to Maine. We enjoyed a lovely drive...I LOVE just looking out the windows, observing the beautiful forests and houses. We caravanned up in 3 cars...we had Grandma and Grandpa LeCheminant, Andy, Grandma and Grandpa Kingsley, our family, and all the Kingsley siblings. First we went to a lobster restaurant right on the coast. They actually had a boat dock attached to the building for mariners to drive up and order from the boat! All the restaurants here claim to serve seafood caught that morning. I enjoyed the best bowl of clam chowder in my life and Nathan had a mix of lobster, fish, and scallops. It was the best seafood I've had. I suppose Texas can't really compete for freshness. :) Daniel really loved my clam chowder so we shared the bowl quite happily.

After lunch we drove to a breathtaking spot on the coast with a lighthouse. It really looked like a postcard. The wind was very gusty and it was very cold, but we braved the cold to climb down the rocks to the ocean. It was so much fun! Sarah and Matthew loved scrambling over the boulders and looking into the tide pools. They enjoyed leaping across the chasms between the rocks. Almost every picture looked perfect with such a beautiful setting. I couldn't believe the lighthouse itself. It was so made me want to do a painting of it. I hope to use one of our snapshots as a guide for a future painting when I'm not in school. The hard part will be just picking which picture to use! When we returned to the car, our faces were numb from the icy wind, but it was definitely worth it. I"ll remember that spot forever.

On the way home we stopped at an old church building in Portsmouth, NH that Nathan's ancestors helped build. It was so beautiful. The congregation was organized in 1677 and church members included President George Washington! It was so fun to see such beautiful architecture and know a teeny bit of the history behind the building. It was located in a beautiful town square. We explored a couple shops, my favorite was a toy store named 'G. Willikers'. How fun!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We found some incredibly cheap airline tickets so we went to New Hampshire for the holidays this year. Nathan's family was extremely accommodating and went out of their way to make us fell welcome. This was the children's first time on an airplane, so getting there was an adventure in itself. They were so excited at the idea of flying. The airline charges for all checked bags, so we packed teeny backpacks for each child. They each carried their entire wardrobe as a carry-on and they did so splendidly, pulling their luggage behind them at each stop. Our first flight was delayed for an hour (and we had arrived three hours early), so we spent our morning playing with play dough, making shapes in pipe cleaners, making music, and reading stories in the terminal. We were schocked that we arrived so early. We had anticipated bad traffic and long lines, but there were literally no lines anywhere. We had lots of fun spending time together watching the planes all land and take off outside our window. They also found a bird living in the terminal. The children all handled the loading and take off really well and loved looking out the windows as the city shrunk beneath us.

We brought Christmas cards and candy canes to give out to each passenger on our plane. We signed all the cards and placed a pass-along card in each envelope. Halfway through the flight the children and I passed them out and wished each person a Merry Christmas. The flight attendant was particularly shocked that we had brought enough cards and candy for every passenger. He really enjoyed watching us pass them out. When we reached the front of the plane, he gave the kids chocolates and apple sauce cups from the first class meals. He also drew a little Christmas card for the kids to keep. It was really fun for them. At the end of the flight, he came on the PA system and said, "We'd like to thank the Kingsley family for their Christmas cards and candy canes and we'd like to wish them a Merry Christmas, especially their children Matthew, Sarah, and Daniel." The passengers on the plane applauded after the announcement. That was really neat! I'm glad the gifts were well-received. Sarah and I had prayed prior to handing them out, asking that people would receive the gifts with open hearts and understand the love behind the gesture.

All told, we traveled from 7:00 am until 9:30 pm. We were really relived so see Grandpa Kingsley at the terminal waiting for us.