Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Settling...back from vacation

We returned last night from our vacation: San Diego, Hawaii (Oahu) and San Francisco Bay Area. The house is a little quiet and we are jet-lagged, cranky, and struggling to reinstate routine. But it does help to look at our photos and remember the good times (and silly ones, too). You can see our whole album of August from here, ending with the photos from our vacation (Baby Aria -- you are here too!) :

In addition, we have three videos of Zoë being Zoë: singing, dancing, and being entertaining.

Today, Zoe made a nice big tower and castle. She built a very thoughtful structure of stairs "so that the Prince could go out... you know, to go to the market to buy food or something." Ah... precious. I find it endearing that in Zoë's imaginary world, the Prince still has to leave (via most fantastic staircases, I might add) to do his shopping. I suppose even the truly exceptional have to return to the mundane sometimes... off to unpacking!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

visit to National Gallery of Art in D.C.

This week's Mom+Zoë fieldtrip was to National Gallery of Art. As last week, the outing was as much a part of the learning experience as the museum -- bus+ metro+ walking (sans stroller this time) in humid hot hot HOT weather. We arrived at the museum soon after they opened (and were still quite empty-- yay!) and headed straight for the potty. I was nervous as Zoë said she needed the potty as we arrived on the metro... finding another potty seemed as lengthy a process as booking it to the museum -- which took begging, bribing, and arm pulling to make in ~15 minutes (not that it was more than 4 blocks away!) Toddlers are fast when it comes to evading grown-ups, but extremely slow when there's a goal destination. Anyway... no accidents! Whew...

Once we got settled, I asked Zoë what she wanted to see. Let's back up a second. So earlier this week, I had already decided on this fieldtrip and was preparing for our visit. I figured even if we got in an hour of random cultural immersion, it would be better than not. But I did research the best way to introduce art to a toddler. There are sites upon sites of activities to do in museums with 5+ but very little suggested for 3 year olds. At that age, art is what they do themselves. But we wanted to go to the museum. So frustrated, I forged on ahead on my own path. We will call it the Basu-Zych technique. I threw whatever art I had on hand at home over the course of the day, tried not to push... but we leafed through some art books that I had on Van Gogh, da Vinci, Frida Kahlo and other women painters, some other special stuff from the internet. A few seemed to make an impression on her:
  • Vermeer's Girl Writing a Letter (shown on left)-- I have a print in my bedroom and she remembered that. So when we saw this one in a book, she ran over to the room to point it out.  
  • Van Gogh's room -- she has this in a children's book that Ninamashi gave her and when she saw in another book, it was a fun matching game. 
  • Mary Cassatt's Children Playing at the Beach (shown at right with Zoë) -- another one in the children's book and also in a book I had of women painters.
  • Frida Kahlo's self portrait (shown on right) with the thorn necklace -- this one fascinated Zoë : "Why does she have a necklace that is cutting her? Who gave it to her? I like the necklace but why is it hurting her? Why did she draw this if it hurts her? "... so we made up some stories and I tried to impress on her that that's the power of art... nobody knows the answers and the viewer can make up her own story! 
So with this preparation, Zoë asked to see Frida Kahlo and the necklace painting. I was really impressed that she remembered this since Tuesday's art lesson. See? Looks like random exposure does work! Sadly, this one isn't at the National Gallery, but may be at another museum (we will try to hunt it down-- future project). We did see lots of sculptures (and paintings) of Degas' ballerinas that Zoë enjoyed posing with.

We also saw the Vermeer Girl's series: Girl Writing a Letter, Girl with Red Hat, Girl with Flute. We also had a lot of fun making faces at Honore Daumier's caricature sculptures (one shown on left)--  "What an ugly nose! Can you look like that guy?" (As a bonus, we got some passersby to laugh... or look at us horrified. I forget. Probably both...), and tried to guess what made Rodin's Age of Bronze sculpture (at right) look so forlorn -- our best guess is that he missed the bus.

Eventually, we headed upstairs for Impressionism (my favorite! It isn't a successful trip to the art museum unless you see Impressionists :) ) I am sad we missed the Van Gogh room. Zoë enjoyed posing with her favorites. We saw Renoir, Monet, Pisarro, Seurat, Cassatt, Childe Hassam,  ... and then hit Zoë's limit at ~45 minutes. Perfect timing for lunch!

Daddy met us at the cafeteria. Food. Home. Sleep. That's what I call a success!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Butterflies, Giraffe Bones, Gems and more!

Wow! We are doing so much and having so much fun, I can't keep up. That's a good thing. So... three years into living in D.C. and we just became members of the Smithsonian. Yay!

Let me back up a bit. Today, we spent the morning at the Natural History Museum. We woke up early and headed out with Daddy, taking the bus and the train. Then Mommy and I waited in the balmy summer heat for the museum to open FOR ONE HOUR (Mommy's face leaked about a gallon of sweat, because it doesn't take much effort to sweat buckets in this weather-- walking several blocks with a stroller was sufficient... anyway...).  We did sit outside in the Butterfly Habitat Garden but alas! It was too hot even for the butterflies. The only ones we saw were those on the signs (sad face). At 10AM on the dot we and 8 other people entered the museum and had the whole place to ourselves!
Look closely on my pants!
My pet butterfly
We bought a membership and then got tickets to the Butterfly Pavilion, where hundreds of butterflies live and explore their guests. You see this one? The Owl butterfly found Mommy's pants irresistible and remained with me our whole time in there (actually, I am pretty sure it wanted to come home with me too, but the nice people in the museum had to gently brush it back into their special room)!

We also checked out the giraffe, gray whale, snake (that was really cool!)  and giant turtle bones (ok, on our way to the bathroom AND BACK! Two times, so that counts!) and the gem exhibit, which included some Earth and Space Science like about earthquakes, volcanoes and plate techtonics -- isn't it cool how science is so interconnected?
 Zoë ran out of patience here (at about 11:30) so we flew through these exhibits at warp speed (stopping only to buy a bag of "tumbled stones". What? No dinosaurs??? Alas, the fear of toddler meltdown precluded that option).

Then, museum food lunch and heading back home in the heat, exhausted. But the best part? Meeting Daddy on the way to the train for a shared cupcake (and coffee for Mommy, boy was that important!) Whew (... leaving out details of missing the bus, escaping exhaustion-late-nap-related tantrum...). This afternoon we have plans to read the book "Feathers" by Lois Ehlert, which includes a recipe (?) for making bird-feeders. It does seem it would be easier to bring the Nature to us *wink*.
From earlier in the week and last week:
  • Video of Zoë climbing the ropes in the park -- we took a nature hike that ended in the park. Zoë's turn to work out, Mom's was pushing the stroller and it's occupants up the hill!
  • Baking Cookies! Yummy...
  • Read a great article about this family that introduced math stories and puzzles in place of bedtime stories. What a cool idea! You can read more here: Bedtime Math -- I joined the email list so we can also try that some of the time. (After all ... books are important too! Just can't break that habit...)