Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spencer Cello Recital

For the first time, the advanced strings students were invited to perform individually as part of a recital. Here is Spencer playing the Third Minuet from Bach, enjoy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Boston Trip

The trip started with a long day of travel - up at 4 am, out of the house before 5, 95 minute drive to Lynchburg, Virginia, and catching the 7:38 train. Which unbelievably left at 7:38. It was a first train ride for Grant and I (Spencer had been on some in Germany) and I was probably more excited than anyone. The trip definitely lived up to my expectations of enjoyment and relaxation. We got on at one end of the Northeast line and got off at the other and saw lots of sights along the way. The train had free WiFi and 120V plugs so the kids were happy.

My days started about three hours before the rest of the family as it's hard for me to sleep past 5. So in that time, over the three days, I got in two runs along the Charles River and two strength training workouts in the hotel gym. More about that on the other blog.

Day 1 - "College Day" 
We visited MIT and Harvard because the kids have their eyes on those schools as top future college choices and it just so happens both are in Boston. Normally we would not have been doing college visits in 4th and 6th grade but it just worked out and it was nice to give them this exposure so they can start envisioning themselves there, or just in college in general.

When I knew this trip was in the works, I contacted the director of MIT's Scratch Lab, John Moloney, to see if the kids could meet someone from the lab. Scratch is a kid's programming language that Spencer and Grant use quite a bit to design games. John graciously met us in MIT's Media Building which, I'm not kidding, for these kids IS their "happiest place on Earth." It's a gorgeous glass building and you can see into all of the labs where art meets engineering. If Spencer could have set up a cot in a corner and moved right in, he would have.

Robert and I would say that the highlight of the trip was sitting back and watching the kids have a meeting with John and a colleague, Natalie, to discuss their experiences with Scratch and future directions for the program. It was a genuine exchange of ideas, conducted with utmost professionalism and maturity, that went on for nearly an hour. I've just never seen anything like it. Given the right opportunities, kids have so much more to offer than we even realize.

We hit Harvard too, so our budding entrepreneur could see where he might like to land in 7+ years! We wandered through academic buildings, checked out classrooms, ate in the student center, and just soaked up the atmosphere.

One quick funny story why this "city" trip was good for the kids -- we discovered that Grant didn't know how to use a revolving door. He got squished in one and stopped the whole darn thing! He kept his cool and I pushed him through and it all worked out but a bit of teasing ensued. When we saw other revolving doors we would ask if he wanted to practice ;-)

The kids got experience riding the train, the "T", using shuttle buses, talking to the concierge, and saw how $$ it gets to eat out all the time!!! Lots of good knowledge in all that.

This night we ate at Legal Seafood and all enjoyed oysters, mussels, and chowders. We were just a few blocks from the hotel and the boys walked back ahead of us, finding their way. Nice to know they have not inherited my navigation "skills" or lack thereof.

Taking photos of the Gehry Buildings at MIT


In the Media Building at MIT. Place was amazing

With the Scratch language mascot made of LEGOs

Meeting with Natalie Rusk and John Maloney of the Scratch Lab

Grant at Harvard

MIT Museum

Day 2 - Trolley Tour, Harbor Tour, Aquarium
We got tickets for one of those "trolley" bus tours that takes you to all the major sites and we got off at the Aquarium stop first. The New England Aquarium was well done and I could have spent all day there watching penguins, seals, and fish. It's endlessly fascinating and I think in another life I'd love to work at an aquarium or zoo, feeding and caring for anything that needed fed and caring for. Except anything spider-ish. I draw the line there.

Near the water it was c-o-l-d as we waited to take a short harbor cruise. I discovered a cute tiny vertical wind turbine and from the water we saw a number of large horizontal axis ones. Robert ventured to the exposed top of the boat, taking Grant briefly, but Spencer and I stayed huddled in the less arctic lower level. Brrrr.

We returned to the Trolley ride where Grant enjoyed a short nap.

The kids and I hit the hotel hot tub and sauna to try to thaw out. We checked out the analog in-sauna thermometer with both F and C readings and then the kids collaborated with some guy from Japan to  derive the conversion formula (they got it, not him). I only remembered adding 32 and something with a 9 but was too lazy to work it out. It was pretty funny, their brains just naturally gravitate to numbers.

We ate at Meadhall, where they had 130+ beers on tap!

New sweatshirts!
New England Aquarium
I could watch the penguins all day

Watching the fish feeding from above

We liked the penguins!

Under a tiny wind turbine!!

Grant freezing his butt off on the boat

Tired on the trolley

Meadhall - 130ish beers on tap!

Day 3 - Science Museum and Stair Challenge
Grant and I had been taking the hotel stairs on occasion. It all started on Thursday when we were checking out the drink machine on our floor (the 20th) and didn't like the choices. So we headed down to the 19th only to discover it was identical. So we continued on down, checking out every machine on every floor. Then we timed ourselves heading back up to the 20th floor. On Saturday morning we decided to make a pact to only take the stairs for the rest of the day, which carried on for the rest of the trip. I made 5 trips Saturday, he made 4!

We took a free shuttle to a nearby mall which was a short walk from the Science Museum. It was the nicest science museum I have ever been to. Absolutely phenomenal!!  The kids enjoyed the indoor "lightening show" in particular. We spent hours there before heading back to the mall with one destination in mind: the Apple store. Spencer was determined to see the new iPad 3.

Dinner was at the Cambridge Brewing Company where we enjoyed a local microbrew beer or two (me) or three (Robert).

That's pretty much the trip report! We are back on the train, headed home. We have a two hour stop in New York and should get back to the house at midnight. Good the kids still have tomorrow off!

Note in the stairwell, we sure chose the stairs!!

Morning run!

Grant and his nemesis!

Science Museum

Logic Gates - Same thing Grant did for his Science Fair poster

Lightning show was pretty cool

Day 4 - Headed home
This is what happens when you give the kids $ and tell them to get their own breakfast in the train station!