Universal Mother.

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I was always barefoot as a child. As my thoughts dwelled in the possibilities of the sky above, shoes weighed my feet down. The grass between my toes was the best welcome home. With a leap, I entered my Mom’s well watered flower bed. The squelch and suck of the mud between my toes dared to keep me in one place for just a second longer than I’d like. My toes were never in need of a pedicure, but always embraced a hose. My Mother’s garden was a place to freely explore, imagine and dream. It was because of her that my free spirit soared as she gave me room to take flight—albeit, right in my own backyard. She taught me how to dream by allowing me to discover my own dreams.

Looking up, the clouds formed unicorns, bunnies and even a castle or two. Reaching down to pick a most prized dandelion. I can still hear the echo of my Mother’s voice through the open screen door, “Careful! However many needles (seeds) are still left on that dandelion after you send them sailing in the wind are as many children as you’ll have when you grow-up!” She thought that was funny. I thought I’d be investing in a very large shoe.

I have been blessed with some wonderful Mothers in my life, who like the woman that lived in a big shoe, seemed to effortlessly make room to care for one more. After the passing of my Mom from breast cancer in 1992, I have encountered people that have done my Mother’s work as angels on earth. They never tried to over-step or replace her, but rather they have helped guide, support, shown compassion and love to me. I’m forever thankful for them. They are the essence of what a universal mother is. A child need not have to come from your womb for you to be his or her mother. Many children are born in one’s heart. Yet there are a whole slew of other children that we Mother by being guardians, mentors or teachers.

When you have so much love to give, you have less hate and anger to embrace…

 “The laws of nature do not make exceptions for nice people….That is why good people get sick and get hurt as much as anyone. No matter what stories we were taught about Daniel or Jonah in Sunday school, God does not reach down to interrupt the workings of laws of nature to protect the righteous from harm. I no longer hold God responsible for illness, accident, and natural disasters, because I realize that I gain little and lose so much when I blame God.” (Harold Kushner)

Those words cut deep and the echo of that quote resonates with my soul. Life is not always a walk in the garden. Sometimes we walk in the shadows forgoing the sunlight which only amplifies the realities of dreams deferred, focusing on moments lost or placement of blame. Sometimes, some one extends a hand and tucks someone else’s dream in their heart for safe keeping to remind them of it later on.

No matter our age there are times in our lives when we all need a little mothering. Wherever my children go, a prayer has already been there first sung directly from my heart. They inspire me to make the world a better place. They have taught me how to fearlessly dream again in many regards by simply witnessing them discover their dreams.

It’s in our DNA!

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HANDS ON FUN

Learning through play is something that children naturally do- it’s in their DNA! The Lawrence Hall of Science certainly offers a lot of hands-on opportunities that make learning fun! Overlooking the San Francisco Bay, this science center (and the view!) is quite impressive.

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The Lawrence Hall of Science serves up something different in the sense that it’s target audience is much broader than typical hands-on museums for kids. Whether you have toddlers, preschoolers, Kindergarteners or elementary aged children there is something to engage and pique the curiosity of your child as you partner in play.  This happened instantaneously upon approaching the outside of the hall before we even paid admission. Our children gravitated to the DNA structure and started climbing on “Pheena the Whale.”

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Once we were inside, we were surprised at how big the center actually was. We had only given ourselves 2 1/2 hours to explore, when clearly, we could have spent from the time the centered opened to when it closed. One of the exhibits that caught my eye were the stations for math that had cultural connections.

PLAY11Our children definitely enjoyed testing the laws of physics on these, as they called them, “rollercoasters.” They tried placing the ball at different points to see if that changed the outcome. They even tested out what would happen if they propelled the ball. They questioned what would happen if the ball was heavier, lighter or if two balls went at the same time?

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A huge chunk of our time was spent in the Ingenuity Lab located in the lower level. As stated on the website, this offers children an opportunity to “design, build, and test your own inventions with the help of UC Berkeley students and staff.” Round and round, up and down, our children had so much fun designing their very own project! There were tons of tools and supplies to work with and they got to take their creations home (all included with the entrance fee). We were really thankful that the UC Berkeley students and staff were on hand to help adults troubleshoot any issues we had. As a matter of fact, when 4p.m. approached (closing time), they simply closed the door so others couldn’t enter and didn’t rush those still working out. They said, “For those of you still in here working, you can still continue as we clean up. Let us know if you need any help.” That really helped alleviate any anxiety and pressure from our 6 year old who wanted his project to be complete prior to leaving. (Thank you to the staff!)

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I feel as though we only skimmed the surface of all there is to do at The Lawrence Hall of Science. We’ll definitely have to go back and pay a visit to the Planetarium, 3-D Theatre, Animal Discover Room and Café with a view! Until then we’ll step into the shoes of a scientist and explore the center online. Perhaps you will too!

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Dear Children of 9/11.

I know that 13 years later, you are fully aware that time does not heal all things. No, my sweet children, there are no cliché sayings that will make this wrong right. Though I have not met you, my heart aches for you. My hope, my hope my sweet children is that you feel loved by our entire Nation and beyond– because you are. While this love could never replace or compare to the love your mother or father held for you, know that you are not just thought of on the anniversary of 9/11. There is a spot for you tucked away in this mother’s heart.

On the anniversary of 9/11, when #wewillneverforget is common place among media platforms, I know this much…what is a day of remembrance for us, is a daily occurrence for you. I’m not going to even pretend to know how you feel. I can’t imagine the tears you have shed, the questions that have gone unanswered, the wishes unfulfilled and thoughts of “what could have been?”

Some of you may have never even met your mother or father. Some of you were babies when your parents were taken from you and are now teenagers. Some of you are off to college, married and perhaps have families of your own. Some of you may have been driven to choose a career based off of what happened on 9/11. Some of you may have felt compelled to finish your parent or guardian’s work here on earth. While some of you may have been resilient and found a path that offers happiness, I know that some of you may continue to wrestle with pain and depression.

Just as the moon and stars come in cycles, so does grief. Yes, even 13 years later (said from someone who lost her mother when she was 17, over 20 years ago). With time, we learn to cope better. With time we are able to rebuild and gain strength from others, even when we have to focus just on moving one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.

So today, I’m not going to share with you the details about “where I was” or “what I was doing” on 9/11. Those details are insignificant and not sensitive to the loss you have had to carry through the years. It’s not about me. Dear sweet children of 9/1l, today is a day that we as a nation reflect and embrace you. You are not alone. We stand with you.

You too are not forgotten. xo

Monterey Bay

 
Traditionally, Labor’s Day Weekend marks the end of summer. One last hurrah before the back to school routine set in! As we edge toward living in California for 3 months, we needed time to reflect and celebrate all that we accomplished together as a family. It’s been an amazing adventure thus far!
 
We were bitten by the seaside charm of Monterey Bay about 8 years ago on vacation from Minnesota. We stayed in Monterey Bay at the Portola Hotel and Spa. We like the kid-friendly atmosphere, central location of this hotel, beautifully decorated rooms and courteous staff. We were excited to return with a now 8 year old and 6 year old- as residents of California!
2006- Monterey Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf
With a 2-hour drive from the East Bay, Monterey Bay offered us the opportunity to unplug, reconnect, discover and have fun! In the car, the boys chatted about seeing sharks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and wondered about the special adventure the Portola Hotel and Spa had in store for them!
 
Upon check in, we were greeted with complimentary cookies. Calories do not count when you are on vacation, folks!
 

With live trees, this has to be one of the most beautiful hotel lobbies I have ever seen.

The boys immediately went out to the balcony to check out the scene outside. As you can see, the room was decorated in a nautical theme- which only made it more inviting to our boys.
 
 

I previously read on the Portola Hotel and Spa website that they offered a free Pirate Program for kids. After I enrolled the boys, the front desk handed me two pirate bags (enclosed with an eye patch and gold necklace along with a map for a treasure hunt). This was not only a great way to start our weekend adventure, it was a great way to explore and get to know our surroundings of the hotel. After the boys found everything they needed, they were invited to pick something from the treasure chest!
 
Learning about the ships while on the treasure hunt.

We found a pirate while on hunt for treasure!
Taking a break while hunting for treasure.
Happy to have found the treasure! Thanks, Portola Hotel and Spa!
We parked our car for the long weekend in the garage at the hotel ($17/night) and didn’t see it again until we checked out on Monday. This was one of the boys favorite things about the hotel. They could wander freely without getting loaded back up into the car.
 
Fisherman’s Wharf was literally right outside of our hotel. There was so much to see and so much to taste! Crepes and Sour Dough Bread were the kids favorites, while Ashish and I enjoyed the clam chowder out of a bread bowl.
There was a man on the wharf that had a collection of parrots. He proudly taught both of the boys how to hold a parrot and pet it.
 

 
We took advantage of Peter B’s BrewPub for happy hour and dinner, steps away from our room.
We liked 4 of the 5 brews that came with the beer flight.
There is a free trolley that runs every 10-15 minutes from the Fisherman’s Wharf to The Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, we enjoyed the 1.3 mile walk from our hotel along the bay to Cannery Row. There was so much to see, shop and dine on!

 
We reached the Monterey Bay Aquarium about 20 minutes after it opened. After seeing the award-winning exhibits in the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s easy to understand why the Monterey Bay Aquarium was voted the number 3 top-rated family attraction in the United States.
He had to show his new shark to the sharks.

If you can’t get to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can still get in on part of the action! From the comfort of your home, you can view the following exhibits, complete with feeding times:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers free audio Podcasts on iTunes: “Aquarium of the Air.”

 
Did you know kids 8-13 years old can be Underwater Explorers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium?
 

A few tips to consider:

  1. Purchase your tickets in advance. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a travel and tourism program with local hotels that offer lodging and admission tickets valid for two consecutive days. While the line was down the block to get in (followed by another line once you made it inside), with tickets in hand, we were able to waltz right in and bypass the line. If you aren’t staying at one of the hotels listed, you can purchase tickets online.
  2. Do sign up for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s text alert system. It’s simple! Text the code given and text “STOP” when you no longer want to receive messages. While you are there, you’ll never miss a sighting of dolphins or whales outside on their observatory deck. They even sent invitations for us to join them for feedings. This brought our experience a notch above all other attractions we’ve been to.
  3. If you plan on dining at Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant at the aquarium, you need to make reservations prior to the day of your visit. We were told we would have a two hour wait (bummer!). While there is another café on site, it was very busy. We decided to have our hands stamped for re-entry, walked across the street and ate at Austino’s Patisserie for lunch. Great soup and sandwich options- with a cookie the size of a child’s face!
  4. Do take advantage of the wrist band with your phone number on it that the aquarium offers to place on children in the event that they get separated from you. We have been to a lot of museums in our time– this was the first one to come up with this simple, yet GREAT idea! 
Wrist Band with Parents Phone Number

Until next time, Monterey Bay…thanks for the memories!