Whale of a time

 

When our oldest was one, we began a tradition of taking my mom on a whale watch.  Every year we trek down to Provincetown for the first boat of the day.  There is an amazing Portuguese bakery where we get coffee and croissants and then we are off to visit the whales.

This was our sixth whale watch and each one has been completely different.  Of course the weather varies, but so do the whales.   When I was younger, the humpbacks had pretty much left the area and you were lucky to see a minke whale or maybe a fin back.  This year we saw minke whales on our way out of the harbor.  It wasn’t long until we were surrounded by humpbacks feeding.

The whales were bubble feeding, where they essentially work together, swimming in circles, blowing bubbles and basically trapping the fish.  Then they swim up the center, mouth open to eat the prey.  We had learned about bubble net feeding at the Mystic Aquarium on a family trip.  The kids were so excited to see it in person.  We were literally surrounded by bubble nets.  There were some whales swimming across the surface with their mouths open, drag feeding.  Often when you go on a whale watch, you see the large backs and of course the fluke (tail).  Rarely do you see the head so well.

The kids’ experience has been different every year.  In the beginning they just knew everyone was excited and they could see the whales but didn’t really understand.  Now they have read about whales, seen information in aquariums and local museums.  Our youngest, kept going inside to our stuff to circle the animals we were seeing in the guide they gave us.

It was also the first year that the boys were spotting whales themselves.  Having so many nearby helped, but they were getting good at spotting spouts and fins.  Even the youngest was pointing away.  Watching them put all of their resources together was really fun.  They knew lots of information and they were excited to share.  When they didn’t know something, they asked.  It was a great experience for all of us.

 

Nothing a little fresh air and salt water can’t fix….

I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up on the ocean and to be sharing that experience with my children.  We live in a beautiful part of the country and are only a short drive from a variety of beaches.  Growing up at the beach, I truly believe that salt water cures EVERYTHING.  When we were young, our parents would tell us to soak our bumps and scrapes in the water and they would get better.  As we became young adults, we discovered that salt water can help cure the “tiredness” from the night before.  Now, as a mom, I have discovered that it can fix arguing children.

Our boys are 5 and 7.  We go through phases where they get along and times when they don’t.  Right now, is a time that they aren’t getting along.  It has been weeks of squabbling with each other.  Last weekend, we were lucky enough to sneak in a few hours at the beach as a family.  Pulling in the parking lot, everything changed.  The kids were helpful bringing their stuff down the beach and stopped whining.  After sunscreen, they played in the sand and went swimming.  Not an argument to be heard.  Of course, everything started up again on the ride home, but it was a great two hours.

The boys are well-trained beach bums.  They have been going to the beach since they were born.  We have gone through the not wanting to put our feet in the sand, not liking seaweed, trying to eat rocks and shells and not wanting sunscreen – and it’s all been worth it!  Now, they both know how to swim, are complacent about sunscreen (they know it’s not an option) and truly enjoy everything the beach has to offer.

We are beach minimalists.  Everyone is responsible for their own beach gear.  Generally, we bring boogie boards, lunch, towels and sunscreen.  I carry my chair and sometimes the boys bring their chairs down.  We don’t lug a lot of toys down.  A few shovels and buckets do the trick.  In the heat of the summer, they spend most of their time playing in the water.  During the shoulder seasons, they play in the sand and look for shells.  It is a great environment for them to explore.  They love looking for fish and shells.  Some beaches offer great tidal pools where they look for sand dollars and starfish.  The beach is constantly changing as the tides bring in new treasures.

On the weekends, we spend the entire day on the beach as the family.  These days are a little different because we drive onto the beach and can pack up our car.  This allows us to bring books to read and paper and crayons to color.  I am so lucky to raise boys with sand between their toes and the knowledge that salt water cures everything!!

The art of memories….

Drawing ducks in Central Park

When we decided to bring new sketch books and markers with us, we couldn’t imagine the impact they would have on our trip.  We carried the books and markers with us all over New York City.  The biggest lesson for me was to not influence what they drew.  This lesson came pretty early in the trip when the boys wanted to draw a nuclear power plant that we were driving by.  It seemed to defeat the point to say no, so each of their sketch books begin with a drawing of the gray towers of the power plant.  The next few pages are filled with a variety of cars, trucks, rocks and water towers.  A five-hour car trip is definitely a good portion of the trip so it seems appropriate to document it.

Stopping to draw when inspiration struck helped us to slow down and truly enjoy our surroundings.  When we visited Battery Park, the boys colored the Staten Island Ferry, water taxis, helicopters, flowers and of course the Statue of Liberty. They were having so much fun coloring, we bought bagels and coffee and just relaxed, enjoying the view.  We stopped throughout Central Park and of course the Museum of Natural History.  Before going to the museum, we anticipated the dinosaurs being the big draw; but they really enjoyed drawing the Aztec artifacts.

By leaving the days open to change, we truly wandered and enjoyed the sights. We were a little early to dinner with friends in the Village and the boys played chess in Washington Square.  They couldn’t wait to draw this experience when we got back to the hotel.  They also drew pictures of themselves with the Smurfs in Times Square.  There is a great collection of what they saw in the city.

It is fun to look through these great keepsakes and see a new city from the perspective of a five and seven-year old.  There are many differences and similarities in their books.  One is much more animal and nature oriented while the other is more interested in the structures.  They have shown their books to friends, family, teachers and classmates.  It is so much fun to hear their animated stories as they explain each picture.  Hopefully, they will continue to enjoy drawing and we can continue to build great memories in our heads as well as in sketch books!!

 

My “Om” moment….

I began yoga as a dancer looking for fitness and over the years, I have begun to appreciate all that it does for me physically, mentally and spiritually.  There was one aspect I still didn’t enjoy – chanting or even an om at the beginning or end of class.  It somehow made me feel as if I were a yogi impostor.  Simply, I didn’t get it.  As I continued to practice and share my practice with others, I avoided the chanting.  I would go along with it in class, but it never had any meaning for me.

The opportunity presented itself to attend a day-long intensive with Shiva Rea and I jumped at it!  I traveled to New York City with my husband and children and set off on an adventure.  I chose the one day intensive so that I could have a great yoga experience, but not miss out on enjoying the city with my family.  This was one of my better ideas.  I woke up early on Friday and made sure the kids and my husband were ready for the day and I walked uptown to the Yoga Journal Conference.  I had no idea what to expect and began to feel a little nervous and anxious on my walk.  I didn’t know a single person going and I had no idea what to expect.  I knew they were adding vegan options to restaurant menus at the conference and I had enjoyed a large cheeseburger the night before.  Was I going to be alone in my love of meat?  Was I going to be the only person who didn’t know the meanings of all the chants?

Turns out it didn’t matter.  No one knew that I had a cheeseburger the night before, it simply didn’t come up.  Luckily for me, Shiva Rea went over all the meanings of our chants at the beginning of our time together and they are beautiful.  After registration, I went and found coffee and met a few people who had traveled in for the day.  They were extremely nice and some were also moms.  We talked until it was time to find our teachers and prepare for the day ahead.

We began our time with Shiva Rea chanting “Om” as one.  It was one of the most amazing experiences!  To feel the large group come together collectively took away any fear or discomfort that I had been feeling.  It was a moment of harmony that stayed with us through the whole day.  Our day included some power point and wonderful explanation from Shiva and we moved collectively through Namaskars.  For the second half of the day, we set up our mats in a mandala (life is wholeness, be and see 360 degrees).  It was extremely powerful to share the practice in this way.  As you were in yourself, you could see the movement and energy ripple across the group.

Moving forward, I hope to practice in this way as often as possible.  Moving as a group with intention and sharing the overall experience is something I will never forget!  It has come with me when I teach classes myself and I am looking forward to sharing a collective experience, beginning with an “Om”!

 

 

Bag of tricks….

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th ...

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We live in Massachusetts and are on April vacation this week.  Unlike February vacation, we went away with the kids this time.  When the boys were very young we traveled all over the world with them and then didn’t travel for a while.  Surprisingly, a lot of the planning is similar.  When preparing for long distance travel it is essential to bring a bag of tricks.  This bag includes new activities and special snacks.  Now that the boys are older, we packed new sketch books and markers so that they can document their trip to New York City.  I didn’t anticipate the desire to draw different cars and sights on the five-hour drive, but it entertained them.  We also bought a new DVD to play in the portable player, but didn’t use it until our second night in the hotel.  We have found that it gives the boys some downtime in the hotel.  We also plan a small budget to pick up a small toy in the new place.  This rewards the good behavior and mixes up the items that you brought.  I also packed snacks that would both fill them and provide some nutritional value.

Another crucial step comes before leaving the house, research.  With two little boys, space to run is very important!  We always look for parks on the map and make sure we leave open time for them to run around and play (this does not work in Paris – you aren’t allowed on the grass).  It is important to pick age appropriate activities.  Remember that you are on a family vacation and that it’s important to pick places that work for everyone.  Don’t expect small children to behave in long lines – they don’t understand what they are waiting for and it can be stressful for you.

Before traveling to New York, we looked up the different museums and the Met http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/ offers a variety of itineraries for different age groups.  It was on this site that I got the idea for the sketch books.  Last year, we brought printer paper stapled together and the boys made a book of our overnight trip.  So this seemed like a natural progression.  They also give suggestions for families with different age children.  We are planning to visit the Museum of Natural History tomorrow – what is better than dinosaurs when you are 5 and 7?  As part of our research, we discovered they have a discovery zone in addition to the general exhibits.  The plan is to complete the museum outing with running around in Central Park.  One of their favorite parts of the trip so far has been walking to Times Square.  You never know what will excite them, but you want to have a variety of options.  We have changed our itinerary everyday to go with the kids moods and level of energy.  We had considered taking them to a show, but they have been falling asleep at dinner (6 PM) so a show seems like it would be a disaster – something to save for another trip.

The key to positive family travel is planning, a few treats and flexibility.  If you are prepared, you can go with the flow!  Enjoy your travels!!!