Titanic Exhibit

Yesterday, the kids and I went to the Titanic Exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The Golfer had never heard of Titanic, and The Naturalist had a general idea that it was a ship that sank. The Sassy Princess didn’t really care what we were doing, as long as it meant she got to run around. So, on the way there, I gave a little overview of the Titanic story…but other than a few books I read when I was 10 and the cryfest that was the Titanic movie, I didn’t know much about it either.

When we arrived at the exhibit, they gave us boarding passes that gave us the name, age, and history of someone who was actually on the Titanic. They explained that at the end, we could compare our ‘names’ with a list of all the passengers to find out what happened to them/us.

The Golfer was a 41 year old man, Claus Peter Hansen, travelling with his wife and brother on his way to Wisconsin from Denmark, where he was visiting his family for the first time in 21 years. He was 3rd class.

The Naturalist was a 48 year old widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Agnes White, who was travelling in 2nd class with her two boys, and infant and a 19 year old. She sold everything she owned to raise money for tickets on the Titanic.

I was Mrs. Jane Richards Quick, a 33 year old travelling in 2nd class with my two daughters, ages 8 & 2.

I was doing fine until I read The Golfer’s ticket, and learned he was in 3rd class with his wife. Being a man in third class probably didn’t give a person good odds of surviving. And then to read how Mrs. White sold everything she had to get her family to the United States…well, the lump in my throat grew bigger. Those boarding passes got all of us emotionally invested before we stepped foot into the exhibit. As we walked through, it was easy to imagine and wonder if ‘we’ had been the owners of the artifacts displayed. Did we wear those glasses? Drink from those cups? And most of all, did we get into any of the lifeboats?


These are the different china patterns used between first, second and third class, just some of the 300 artifacts exhibited. One of the most remarkable things we saw were bottles, still full of champagne or other spirits, recovered from 12,500 feet on the bottom of the ocean.

We were able to walk through a recreated 1st class hallway and marvel at all the detailed wooden molding. Even the kids noticed and were impressed! They had recreated a 1st class cabin, as well.

But our favorite thing was meeting a man in period costume who talked all about his life. He was a 1st class Ostrich Feather importer from NYC, travelling with his wife. He assured The Golfer that even though he was in 3rd class, he was treated better than most 2nd class passengers on other ships. He also told The Golfer that after he came out of quarentine from Ellis Island, that he needed to go out to Coney Island (“Find a train, but not just any train! This one goes underground! An underground train, can you believe it?!!!” he said). “Then,” he added, “you’re going to want some ice cream. And you’re never going to believe this, but they sell ice cream that you can walk around with! They take a scoop of vanilla, and then take a waffle that looks…well, kinda like a cone…and they put the scoop IN the cone!!! And you eat it while walking! Imagine that!” By this time, The Golfer was really into it. “But what you have to make sure you do, is go on their new ride. It’s a big, tall hill…made out of wood! And by tall, I mean, it’s gotta be 60 feet high! And you get into a car, and they pull you to the top of the hill. And at the very top….THEY LET YOU GO!!! And you go screaming down the hill…and back up another one! It’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever do!” It was so funny to hear him describe things that we take for granted!

As we walked further into the exhibit, the lights became dim and the sound of low humming engines filled the air. It was quite eerie. We came to a dark room that had video running of how the Titanic sank, and then a large block of an iceberg created a chill. The kids tried to see who could keep their hands on it the longest–no one managed longer than 8 seconds. Then we read that the freezing sea water was even colder than the fresh iceberg, and that most of the deaths occurred from hypothermia than drowning. We all sat in silence, imagining how cold it must have felt being totally submerged in the cold ice water, not just putting our hands on it.

We then entered a dark room with a single light emphasizing a scale model of the Titanic on the ocean floor. On the walls of the room, pictures were hung of different faces, with their stories told in a paragraph. There was the man who got on a lifeboat and set it loose, even with 1500 people still left on the Titanic. The family of 8 who all perished together. The 12 year old girl, separated from her family, who managed to get on a lifeboat and was reunited with them on the Carpathian. The kids walked around and pointed to what person they wanted to read the story of, and we ended up reading them all.

And then, as if I wasn’t feeling emotional enough, we came to the wall of names. The kids couldn’t wait to hear about if they made it or not. And, by the end of the exhibit, we all really felt like we were the people on our paper.

I found The Naturalist first. She and her infant son survived. Her 19 year old, who was her main support after being widowed, was forbidden to get into the lifeboat with them, and was lost with the ship.

I survived with both my daughters.

The Golfer. Oh, The Golfer. I found his wife on the survivor list, but without his name accompanying it. He was so nervous as I searched and searched. I finally found it, along with his brother’s name, on the “Lost” list. I told him that he had most likely placed his wife on a lifeboat, and then stayed behind so more women and children could be saved. And then I started tearing up. I had no idea it would be so emotional by the end!

As we walked out, we ran back into the Ostrich Importer from New York City. “How’d you all make out? Alright?” The Naturalist and I were quiet, not wanting to be glad we made it because we were still so sad for The Golfer. He piped up and softly said, “I died. My brother and I died. But my wife made it!”. NYC guy said, “My sweetie made it, too. I put her on the lifeboat and watched her lowered down. But hey! I bet you and I”, at this point he put his arm around The Golfer, “I bet you and I sat back on the deck, smoked a few cigars, and waved to our sweeties together.” Then he smiled and walked away.

I swear, had I not promised years ago (after the Titanic movie, actually) that I would NEVER sob uncontrollably in public again, I would have really made a spectacle of myself.

Instead of being so sad, we all talked about the stories we’d heard. The band playing till the ship sank. The men playing poker together while the water crept up. The Golfer waving to his sweetie while smoking a cigar. I said I didn’t think I could be so brave, and would probably be freaking out. The Golfer observed that maybe that’s why the people did what they did…because sometimes if you act brave even when you aren’t, it makes you feel braver than you are. I thought that was quite an observation for an 8 year old.

And so, here we are back at home, all of us very glad we saw the exhibit. If you discover that the Titanic exhibition is coming to a city near you, by all means, go! They have quite a few tours going around at the same time, all of them different. Some have the Grand Staircase recreated, and some have the promenade. It is one of the most moving exibits I’ve been too, probably because they do an amazing job of taking you out of the museum and putting you on the Titanic. And yes, it is sad. But the human element of bravery, compassion, and selflessness is what you really walk away with.

Random Thoughts–Mono anyone?

I’m wondering how many of you out there have had mono? AKA, the kissing disease? You know, it’s something that mostly high school kids get, and they get to take a few weeks/months off of school and totally opt out of gym for the rest of the year?

If so, how long did it affect you? Because it’s almost been a year since I began my delightful walk with mono (which no one else in my family got, and which my husband, who was travelling a lot back then, is suspicious as to how I managed to get it) and I still feel like it’s kicking my butt. The actual fever/sore throat/extreme fatigue lasted around 6 months. The secondary infections–like strep throat, sinus infections, funky skin rash, and ear infections–have kicked it into high gear for the past 6 months. Now, I seem to be in good, uninfected, health, except for the extreme fatigue I’m dealing with. I’m hesitant to go back to my doctor, seeing as I’ve singlehandedly paid for his boat and second home through all my visits this year…so, anyone deal with mono and if so, did it last for over a year? Please, I’m all ears. I’d LOVEto hear all about your personal experiences with this fascinating virus.

And check this out, I’m not the only one who thinks Mono is cute…someone came up with a plush stuffed mono to cuddle during the long, sleepless, aching, feverish nights.

Thank you, Giant Microbes, for being the weirdest webstore on the planet. Next, I’ll get the plush Flesh Eating Bacteria. But I’m staying away from the venereals!

The Great Parachute-a-thon

Last week, after we came back from the Great Fall Shopping event, the kids got together scraps of stuff (or, what I call ‘junk’) and decided to see who could engineer the best parachute for some of The Naturalist’s mini horses.

I’m used to my daughter coming up with experiments like this, but The Golfer had yet to feel comfortable designing something for himself.  He gets very easily frustrated trying to get something from his mind out onto paper, or into words. The Naturalist and Golfer actually make a good team…he gives a ‘big picture’ idea of what’s in his mind, and she implements it…adding her own touches.

But I was surprised to see him really stepping up to this challenge, and designing his own parachute every step of the way. He basically taped two pieces of contruction paper together (but “big paper, Mom, not little regular paper!”) and then taped the horse onto the bottom using some of my yarn*.

The Naturalist initially designed a very NASA looking parachute out of coffee filters and yarn*:

And then wanted to try out another creation using cardboard:

Then they went up to our landing and released them to see which one took longest to fall. That one was deemed the winner. Can you guess which one won?

The Golfer’s!!!

And then, the fun part was all the tinkering around they did afterwards..to make them better, lighter, ‘more aerodynamical’ as they put it. Watching the evolution of the parachutes and the critical thinking skills involved–the link is to the way this might have been taught in a classroom somewhere out there–has been great for me, and helps quell the feelings of  “They aren’t learning unless they fill out this worksheet right now!!!!”. They were having exciting, scientific discussions while in the midst of having a great afternoon of fun.

***my stash of knitting yarn has been commandeered by the kids to be used in ways other than knitting. And so, since I have 938475938475 things on my plate, I’ve given my carefully collected yarn stash over to the cause of unschooling.

Before and After

I had an interesting discussion with The Naturalist today…much like our discussion on alphabetical order. She is a very non-sequential learner–whether this is from dyslexia or being a visual thinker, I don’t know. In either case, anything with a linear order wreaks havoc in her mind.

I’ve had her tell me that in the next year she’d be a teenager. I pointed out that next year she’d be 12, not 13. She looked surprised for a minute and then said, “Oh, I forgot about 12. I was thinking, ’10, 11, 13′. In my head, 12 is somewhere with 94”. So, I already know that both number lines and alphabetical order are not necessarily so orderly for her.

But today, talking about big numbers, I asked her to find the number before the hundreds place. Keep in mind, she’d been going up to the millions place, so the tens place shouldn’t have really been a big deal. She hesitated. I repeated myself. She hemmed and hawed. I remembered my dad sitting down doing math with me, and usually it ended up with him going, “What’s wrong with you? This isn’t that hard!” and then me crying, and then him leaving very annoyed. I related…this time to my Dad. But! I stayed quiet, and she finally looked up and said, “You know, I’ve always had a problem with ‘before’ and ‘after’. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Me: ??? Before and after! You know….like this:

I actually drew it out on some paper. This is time. This is you. This is everything that’s happened before now, and everything that will happen after right now.

Her: ???

Me: “OK, when I say to you, ‘pick up your clothes after you brush your teeth’, what do you think?”
Her: “It makes my head hurt to think what you mean. It could be either way…I get very confused”.
Me: wondering how I could not know that she doesn’t understand ‘before’ and ‘after’ for 11 years, but also knowing that a major frustration is her lack of following directions or scheduling..so, it makes a lot of sense.

We spent a while talking about how she could be misinterpreting linear time, and what her timeline is in her head…like how letters dance around in her head instead of lining up in an order. I really became interested in how time was lining (or not lining) up in there.

It was hard for her to discribe it to me, much like it was hard for me to discribe before and after to her. And then I remembered a Native American Lit. class I took in college. There I was introduced to ‘sacred time’, which is less a timeLINE and more….circular. Like this ouroboros symbol:

I drew a circle on our paper. I asked, “Is it hard to know what comes before and after, because just like in a circle, if the thing that’s before hurries up enough it will eventually come after what it was just in front of?”

That seemed to be the description that came closest to what’s going on in her head. Although I suspect that her blueprint would look something more like this circular electrical wiring scheme:

As we sat talking, I was thinking how similar her view of time correlated with the ‘time as a train track’ chapter in Stephen Hawkings “A Brief History of Time”. It also reminded me of a quote by Albert Einstein:

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

And I felt grateful that she and I were having this discussion at home, in a safe place, away from school where she’d be teased or derided about not knowing what ‘before’ and ‘after’ meant. I felt grateful that she has space to think for herself, in her own way, and develop her unique and totally out of the box thinking patterns without pressure to ‘fit in’ to a classroom environment that is at odds with how she processes information.

I am enthralled by listening to how dyslexic (and visual spatial) kids think. I believe they have a lot to offer the world, if only we could stop classifying them as ‘learning disabled’. After all (and here’s my last Einstein quote for this post, I promise!):

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

If You Were A Chocolate Chip Banana Muffin.

First, you would be whipped up and divided into a muffin tin by The Naturalist.

Then you would be baked until you had a crispy outside with a moist center.

Thirdly, you would be grabbed out of the hot tin and split in two so I could take a picture of your steamy goodness. I would try to do this secretly, since I already take far to many pictures as it is. But, you would hear my kids whispering in the background, “What is she doing?” “She’s doing something with the muffin.” “She’s….she’s….holding up the muffin…” “She’s got the camera…” “Is she? She IS! Mom’s taking a portrait of the Banana muffin!” One more reason for my kids to think I’m a little off. But whatever, how can I not take a picture of you?!

Fourthly, The Golfer would take you to the table with a side of milk. He then would gently dip you down till you were fully submerged…

And then he would take a nibble…

Before finally scarfing you down in one bite.

The last thing you’d hear, as you descended into a small boy’s stomach, would be him saying, “Mom, you should enter in one of those cooking contests. Really, you should. You would totally win!”

You, like all the other muffins around here, would have a short life…but one full of love and glory.

________________________________
This Chocolate Chip Banana Muffin story is sponsored by Better Homes and Gardens Banana Bread recipe. I’ve been using this recipe for as long as I’ve been married–I recieved the cookbook as a wedding present…and haven’t found anything better.

Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Grease bottom and half-inch up sides of one 9 x 5 x 3-inch or two 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2-inch loaf pans; set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes for 3-inch-deep pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 2-inch-deep pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

*As with the Chocolate Orange muffins, I take this recipe and add in a couple handfulls of chocolate chips. MMMMMMmmmmmm!

Spot the Mom.

My friend and I took our kids to the zoo, and while watching them run around like urchins, we came up with a game called “Spot the Mom”. It goes a little something like this:

Obviously, this poor, exhausted rhino is a mom. She probably spent all day getting her brood fed, washed, groomed, fed again, and finally out the door to play with some neighborhood hippo’s.

Most likely she was halfway to the water pit to get caught up on her washing when she thought to herself, “I’ll just sit down here a spell and relax for a bit before I tackle the laundry” and before she knew it, she was passed out…tongue against the wall and head awkwardly resting on a rock. We’ve all been there, eh?

This arctic fox was trickier to peg as a mom. I mean, she’s looking good and relaxed laying there in the sun!

The only give away was that I’d seen her the year before, when she’d had time to get her hair done by a professional and cover all the gray:

But our most favorite ‘spot the mom’ was at the camel pen. Obviously, one of these camels isn’t like the others.

The humps take the most abuse in motherhood…they’re just never the same after. Unless you do what her camel friend next to her did, and get a hump augmentation. I heard she went to a fancy doctor at the San Diego Zoo to have the work done.

A Boy and A Dog

We do not have any pets at our house. Not including the 2 Firebelly Toads in a terrarium…but they aren’t furry, cuddly, or trainable…so, I’m not including them in my tally.

You see, I am horribly allergic to animals of all kind. Cats are the worst (has anyone actually had their eyeball swell up? It’s not pretty), followed by horses and then dogs. I’m also allergic to chocolate, but somehow have worked my way around that. In any case, pets have been verboten here. The kids keep begging for a dog, but usually it’s right after I’ve popped out another kid, so I look around bewildered…like, ‘hey! Here’s your pet right here! It’s called ‘your brother/your sister!’ No one is fooled by this.

All things considered, a lovable, energetic dog is probably just what I need to harness the high energy level of my kids. I can see it now: The Sassy Princess would follow the dog around all day, instead of me. I bet he would be a better listener…I mean, I really try, but after 9 hours of constant jabber, I get a little tired. The Golfer would have someone to play ball with all day long. Again…the dog would be better at this than I am…because after 9 hours of constant sports requests…I get a little tired! The Naturalist would love to have a companion to go with her down to the creek, or to the park, or around the block on her bike. Because you know what? After about 9 hours of going going going constantly with her….I get a little tired! Hubby would probably enjoy having something around to cuddle up with after a hard day’s work, because after 9 hours times 3 kids, I’m not very snuggly. I’m more ‘very cranky’. I’m not proud of that, but there you have it.

Now that I’m pretty sure no more babies are going to be bounding out of my womb, maybe it’s time to seriously consider a pet dog. One mixed with poodle so my allergies aren’t totally crazy. I think I’m seriously considering this after our trip to Minnesota, where my friend brought her dog, Happy.

The Golfer liked to throw the ball.

Happy liked to retrieve the ball.

The Golfer liked to throw the ball.

Happy liked to retrieve the ball.

Throw, retrieve, throw, retrieve, throw, retrieve…all day long.

Now that I see the absolute staying power of playing catch for both the Golfer and dogs, I see that I will never EVER be able to outlast either of them. Maybe there is something to little boys being raised by wolves.

In either case, it really strengthened the argument for getting a dog.