Posts Tagged ‘children’


June 27, 2014
Babess nonchalantly eats a strawberry while Captain Hook signs her autograph book

Babess nonchalantly eats a strawberry while Captain Hook signs her autograph book

Breakfast With Minnie was the start to our day, with Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles and made-to-order omelettes while characters dropped in to chat, sign autographs and pose for photos. Peter Pan was heaps of fun – the only character we saw today who talks. I came back from the buffet with my own breakfast to find him perched on my chair chatting to my younger children.  They were all so cute together! Babess had obviously asked him lots of questions, because she was telling me all about where Tinkerbell was and other bits and pieces after he’d gone.

Peter Pan perches with a pen

Peter Pan perches with a pen

We rode some rides – Babess & I enjoyed the famous teacups – and wandered the park. The kids found the cars in Autopia hard to steer, enjoyed the Small World, and loved the Buzz Lightyear shooting game/ride.  Fainjin glowed with delight meeting Thor and Captain America, having dressed especially for the occasion in his Avengers t-shirt (which both of them noticed and commented on).

We returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon for a break. After dinner I asked whether they wanted to go to bed or back to Disneyland. Back to Disneyland! was the cry. We went to Downtown Disney to catch the monorail, but had to stop in the Lego Store and examine the Build-a-Bear outfits first. When we eventually got back to Disneyland it was time to join the crowds in front of the castle for the fireworks. It was dark, and the kids got droopy. Before the show even started Fainjin & Pearl were begging to go home, but we were pretty much trapped by the crowds. Our view of the fireworks was obscured by some trees, but it was still spectacular. As soon as it was over, we made our way back to the hotel again, leaving rides unridden for another day (luckily we do still have a couple).

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

A California Adventure

June 26, 2014

We are nearly home! And what better place to pause and celebrate our amazing trip than Anaheim, California?

Yesterday was a very looooong day.  We flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles via Chicago.  We allowed lots of time to get to the airport and go through security, so we had an early morning.  The first flight went smoothly enough, but we were delayed in Chicago for over an hour, and had to fly around “some weather” so arrived about 90 minutes late.  Babess & Fainjin both fell asleep in the shuttle to our hotel.

This morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (kids eat free! all of them! as long as I order from the menu, which isn’t expensive – breakfast cost me less than ice-creams did later in the day at the theme park) then walked to California Adventure via Downtown Disney.

Almost as soon as we walked into the park we were having our photos taken with Mickey Mouse & Goofy… and the day continued in similar vein.  We rode rides, watched shows, posed with characters, and simmered in the hot sun – 29ºC today, but at least it’s not humid like Maryland.

The kids’ favourite ride… hmmm, it’s hard to pin down.  Perhaps the “floating tire” ride in Cars Land – the giant tires are hovercraft and a bit like bumper cars so great fun.  They also loved the bumper cars in Bug Land, and Ariel’s Grotto (even Fainjin liked it!).

The least favourite is much easier to name: “It’s Tough to be a Bug” was labelled “may frighten small children” and it certainly did. Babess sobbed for a good 5-10 minutes afterwards.  Pearl didn’t like it much either, screaming her head off at the spiders (she was by no means alone in that) but able to laugh about it after the show.  Fainjin thought it was pretty cool though.

We have come back to the hotel after a long day out, eaten, washed and the kids have fallen straight asleep.  I’m planning a less-intense day tomorrow, hopefully with a rest in the middle of it so we can see the fireworks tomorrow night.

There are some photos of today – but both cameras we had with us ran out of juice during the day, so they are charging at the moment & I will upload the photos later.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Ever so clever

June 23, 2014

Babess is six. I have no idea how that happened so quickly.

We had a lovely day. She opened her presents in the morning – a bookmark from Pearl (from Iceland), a big Lego set from our hosts, and a small book from us because we agreed her “big present” from us is more pocket money to spend in California next week.

Then we went to our friends’ wedding which was absolutely lovely.  The bride gave Babess a posy of her own in recognition that it was a big day for both of them, and Babess beamed with joy.

Babess & Fainjin spent the afternoon playing with the new Lego set and entertaining our hosts while Pearl, The Dad and I went to the wedding reception.  When we got home, Babess had had so much fun that she had fallen asleep!  So we woke her up to take her out for dinner, where we were joined by a few friends including Babess’ best young friend from here (whom she first met as a baby three years ago and hasn’t seen since until this week).  The kids had a wonderful time doing puzzles and colouring in and sticking stickers, and then most people came back “home” for cheesecake and tea or coffee.

Babess had originally asked for a home-made cake, which I was happy to provide, but on a trip to the local supermarket we pointed out the bakery cakes – which are very impressive – and she decided she’d have a bought one instead.  We said she could choose whatever she liked, within size limits, prepared to pay to have one decorated if she so chose.  Initially she liked the look of a plain tray of cupcakes, but then she spotted a package of mixed cheesecake slices – four slices each of plain, caramel, chocolate and berry.  Ever practical, she decided that would be perfect because then everyone could choose the flavour they wanted.  Very nice it was too!

It was a cooler evening, so there weren’t many fireflies,  but I think she’d had a pretty good day even so.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


June 21, 2014

Today’s weather was just about perfect. It was sunny with a light breeze, not too humid, and about 28ºC. It was wonderful to be out and about and able to enjoy it!

Yesterday we had visited a bookstore, and seen that they have a summer reading reward programme (or program, I guess). Schoolchildren take a “reading journal” form from the store, fill in the details of 8 books they have read with a recommendation – whom they would recommend the book to as well as why – and then they can claim a free book when they return the form to the store.

So we took three forms, read them carefully and found there was no residency requirement, and gave them to the kids.

This morning blissful peace descended after breakfast as they all worked on listing and recommending books.  They’re such bookworms we had no trouble at all remembering 8 books they had each read recently – a mix of library books, e-books, their own books and borrowed books while travelling. By late morning they were done, so we took them to get their free books.  There was a short list of available books for each age group, but everyone found one they liked. I found it noteworthy that one book in each list was in Spanish – it is very commonly spoken here and elsewhere in the US of course.

Then we took advantage of the lovely weather and spent some time at a local playground. The Dad’s phone pinged a reminder and he laughingly told Fainjin it was time for his Saturday morning music lesson. This sparked a quick discussion of the concept of time zones, which the kids are already fairly familiar with, and suddenly Babess gasped, “It’s already my birthday in New Zealand!”

In recognition of this auspicious occasion (and because it was 28º) we all went and had icecreams before returning home.  And because it was a lovely evening and a Friday, everyone was allowed to stay up a little bit late to watch the fireflies.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Chillin’ (not literally)

June 20, 2014

Yesterday was very very hot again.  We were meant to go berry-picking with friends, but all decided that the weather was not conducive to outdoor activities AT ALL.

Instead we (three families) gathered at one house, the kids played and watched movies and got on very well indeed while the parents chatted and enjoyed each others’ company, then we went to the berry farm’s own restaurant for dinner, which was excellent.  Babess was particularly impressed that “jello” was an option for a side dish (not just on the kids’ menu, either).  She had chicken nuggets and raspberry jelly for dinner, and a cup of fresh-picked strawberries for dessert, and was in her own little heaven.  The restaurant made plain white toast with butter & jam for fusspot Fainjin, so he felt very well catered-for as well, he also got jelly but we called it dessert in his case.  Pearl, having had a grown-up meal, was allowed a small sundae for dessert and was over the moon.  The waitress did very well, keeping track of all sorts of odd orders at random-ish times during the meal and entertaining the six kids and listening to their stories.  It was a lovely relaxed and fun evening.

Today we took the kids to see the house we used to live in, and marvelled at how high the trees have grown.  We’re not really in contact with any of our old neighbours, so it was just a drive-by.  Then we went to a pet shop.  It might sound like an odd tourist attraction, but pet shops in America have the most amazing creatures.  There was a chinchilla, and of course hamsters and guinea pigs (no gerbils at this one though, Stimey!).  But what we really came to see were the snakes and spiders.  We saw a ball python all curled up in… well, a ball, I suppose.  And there were three different sorts of tarantula, which Fainjin found fascinating and Pearl found appalling.  We were amused to see on the information signs that two said “avoid handling” but one said very definitely “do not handle” – I’m guessing that’s the more venomous of the trio!  There was a chameleon, and lots of exotic lizards.  There were also lots of budgies, labelled “parakeets”. Which they are, I guess.

Fainjin loved watching all the fish, especially the teeny-tiny sharks.

Today’s weather has been cooler, thank goodness.  We might be able to go outdoors again tomorrow.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Melting in DC

June 18, 2014

Today we took a drive to Washington DC to see some sights.  I have learnt a thing or two on this trip, and our to-see list only had two things on it: the Air & Space Museum, and the White House. If we had more time and energy than that, we could ad lib.

Babess was very excited by the Air & Space Museum, although she would have liked to have found more information about “air” (ie the atmosphere).  It’s entirely possible we just weren’t looking in the right places – it is a big museum and we certainly didn’t see it all.

It's important to remember to look up, at this museum

It’s important to remember to look up, at this museum

We did see some very early planes and conceptual models (my favourite is La Minerve, a balloon with a ship hanging from it, complete with church on deck, and a cannon for signalling), and walked through the cabin of a 1950s airliner.  Then the kids enjoyed a computer game where they had to make decisions to get a mail plane safely through its route despite bad weather and failing instruments.

All three cooperating to get the mail through

All three cooperating to get the mail through

We saw an exhibition on the Wright brothers’ plane(s), and walked through a SkyLab module.  There was a big room about the lunar landings, including a lunar rover, but the space shuttle gallery was closed.

Fainjin "flies" a simulation of the wings of the Wright brothers' plane (it was broken before he got there, honest)

Fainjin “flies” a simulation of the wings of the Wright brothers’ plane (it was broken before he got there, honest)

Then we headed off for lunch.  The day was very hot and sunny, and the temperature had risen steadily while we were in the museum.  By the time we got to a restaurant we were very hot, and grateful for the air-conditioning and iced water.

After lunch we braved the heat againto see the White House.  We were outside for maybe 20 minutes, perhaps a little less.  We saw the White House (through the fence) briefly and posed for photos, then took refuge in a certain fast-food restaurant for ice-creams. Poor Babess was beet-red, not just her face but her arms and legs too, and we were all drooping and sweating from the heat.

I declared extreme weather conditions, and we took the metro back to where we had parked our car at a friend’s place. Even though the metro was air-conditioned, we all needed more iced water and even ice-blocks to suck on by the time we got there!  It was 35°C and humid, and even the locals were suffering.

If only we could get to the fountain to splash in the water...

If only we could get to the fountain to splash in the water…

We had a long drive back through rush-hour DC-and-surrounds traffic – we’re glad it’s not our daily commute!

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


June 17, 2014

It’s been a bit quiet here on the blog for a couple of days, because we’ve had a comparatively quiet couple of days.

We are staying with friends, and catching up with lots of other friends – including the incomparable Stimey which was fantastic – and the children are enjoying exploring the woods looking for squirrels and deer and groundhogs.

I haven’t even taken any photos in the last two days, which is a bit shocking!

Soon we will be out & about touristing again, but for now we are enjoying a bit of quiet.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Ever onward

June 15, 2014

On our last day in New York City, we packed our bags in the morning and took ourselves down to Penn Station where we left them with Amtrak while we went wandering until our mid-afternoon train.

A short time after that, The Dad suddenly asked, “Fainjin, where are your glasses?”


Fainjin is not very good at wearing his glasses, and is forever leaving them at home.  “I don’t know,” he replied.  We sent a text to our accommodation, asking them to look out for a child’s glasses.  They replied that they had found his swimming bag & goggles (facepalm!) but no glasses.  I have been scouring our photos of NYC since, trying to figure out the last time we had them for certain.  I now have a terrible feeling that he put them in his raincoat pocket on the Highline, and they fell out somewhere after that.

It is possible that the glasses are lurking in one of the bigger backpacks (we’ve thoroughly searched the smaller ones), so we will have to sort through them carefully.

Meanwhile, Fainjin tends to fall up stairs and bump into things every so often.  We have a spare pair of glasses back in NZ so he can have those to go back to school when we get home.

We walked around the Empire State Building area for a while, its top as ever lost in the mist, so we didn’t go up.  Eventually we got sick of touts asking whether we wanted to go up, so we moved further away and went souvenir shopping.  We found an actual coffee shop and had refreshments – The Dad was so grateful to have a non-burned, non-overheated, non-watery latte that he went up and thanked the barista afterward. But the place was no refuge from the noise and bustle outside, with loud music blaring and people rushing in and out relentlessly.  We ended up out on the street again before we got to discuss what to do next.

What to do next turned out to be “explore the area some more while looking for lunch”.  We found ourselves in Greeley Square, which has lots of food stalls which looked very interesting to the grownups but not so much to the kids.  Then The Dad had an idea that he might remember a place in 34th Street, so we headed along there.  The place he was thinking of was no longer there (or perhaps it was somewhere else to begin with), but it was fortuitous because we wound up outside Mendy’s Deli, which was an excellent place to stop for lunch.  I tried Matzoh Ball Soup for the first time in my life, and it was delicious.

From there it was back to Penn Station to wait for our train, then a couple of hours or so to Baltimore to pick up a rental car.  We were incredibly glad and relieved to arrive at our friends’ house, be fed, and crawl into our beds!

We'll take home misty memories of skyscrapers

We’ll take home misty memories of skyscrapers

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


MoMA Mia!

June 14, 2014

The weather in New York wasn’t great during our stay. We didn’t go up the Empire State Building because whenever we looked up at it with the idea we might, we saw this:

Still there were touts at the bottom asking "You going to go up today?"

Still there were touts at the bottom asking “You going to go up today?”

So when an indoor day was called for, we decided to head for MoMA.

You can get a free audio guide from a desk at the museum, and it’s like a mini iPad. You can dial up the artwork you’re looking at (they have numbers next to them for reference) and hear about its history – many of them have special audio for kids as well.  You can take photos, and you can search for particular artworks and find them on a museum map. Then at the end of your visit it can email you all your photographs and a summary of your visit – which galleries you visited, what you saw and so on.  It’s great!

Of course, the children were far more interested in having an audio guide than in actually looking up to see the art on the walls.  I kept begging them to “just look!”.  There are also Art Cards you can collect from the Family Desk which highlight a single piece of art each, with an activity to do either at the museum or at home.  This is great for a big museum; it’s much easier to have a purpose and things to do, than just to walk around aimlessly trying to soak in everything.

We spent a long time on the 5th floor looking at the classics – van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Rousseau…

Babess absorbed in Rousseau's "The Dream"

Babess absorbed in Rousseau’s “The Dream”

… a woman stopped and spoke to me about how amazing it was to see a young child so absorbed in the art, as Babess listened to the kids’ audio.  Then Babess finished listening and carefully explained the artwork to me.  Even more adorable.

Fainjin & Babess work on an Art Card activity & look at the audio guide in MoMA

Fainjin & Babess work on an Art Card activity & look at the audio guide in MoMA

The kids weren’t so interested in the 4th floor of American art, although Fainjin thought the Jackson Pollock works were pretty cool.  We saw the Bell Helicopter on the third floor, then the kids discovered a display on Minecraft and we nearly lost them altogether despite us pointing out that they can watch Minecraft almost anywhere.

So we headed down to the Art Lab, next to the Sculpture Garden.  I would happily pay admission to the museum in future just to go to the Art Lab. It is a bright, welcoming space full of amazing things to do, with quiet places to sit and read and loads of opportunity for creative endeavour. I said, “I’m so glad we have kids with us so we can come here!” and the assistant laughed and assured me there’s no age limit – you don’t need a child with you to go into the Art Lab (although it is very well set up for children).

Pearl spent her whole time making a stop-motion film, which we were then able to share on YouTube (if you know us in real life & want to see, let me know – it’s under her real name).  Fainjin & Babess enjoyed making films too but also explored the rest of the lab, reading books, making mini-sculptures and playing with the toys and activities.  We were in the lab for over an hour and would have stayed longer except it was after 3pm and we hadn’t had lunch!

Babess works on a movie

Babess works on a movie

Film-maker Fainjin

Film-maker Fainjin

Pearl hard at work animating

Pearl hard at work animating

From there it was a short walk to Times Square where we secured tickets to Matilda The Musical for that night.  Then we went for an early dinner at a nearby restaurant and wandered for bit before the show. We ended up having a great chat with a mounted officer of the NYPD, who was very friendly.  He and his partner were clearly on PR duty, chatting with tourists and posing for photos.

Our NYPD friends

Our NYPD friends

The show was great, a very enjoyable performance from a mostly very-young cast.  Babess appears to have learned a couple of the songs just from watching the show, so we have been listening to them over and over…

It was a very late night, but on the way home, we saw not one but two Empire State Buildings…

Empire State Building & reflected glory

Empire State Building & reflected glory

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Dinosaurs to butterflies

June 11, 2014

Today we spent most of our time at the American Museum of Natural History.

To me, it’s the museum where Ross from Friends worked. My children gave me blank stares when I said that, though – to them, it’s the museum which comes alives in Night At The Museum.  Either way, it’s an exciting place to visit.

First, of course, you have to get there…

We are staying near the UN, and were awake reasonably early so wandered over to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Today Show being filmed. It seemed like they had finished all the outdoor segments when we got there, so there wasn’t all that much to see.  We found the metro station and hopped on a train going towards the museum. It promptly sped right past the museum and another 40-odd blocks! A kind New Yorker sitting across from us laughed and said “You need a local train! Everybody does this – it’s a New York ritual.” He helped us find a local train going back in the other direction, and so finally we found the museum.

We decided to get some morning tea before going in, and found some nice cafes in Amsterdam Ave a little north of the museum, before wandering back.

We were exceedingly fortunate to be gifted passes to the museum which allowed us into the exhibitions as well.  We had a very full day indeed!

Look at all those teeth!

Look at all those teeth!

First stop had to be the Dinosaur halls.  It was very exciting to see all the dinosaur bones, but the halls were very very noisy and Babess began to get quite upset.  Fortunately, it was soon time for us to see the Pterosaurs exhibition, which was much quieter.  This was a fascinating exhibition for all ages.  The children particularly enjoyed the interactive stations where they could “fly like a pterosaur”.

Pearl glides like a pterosaur over rivers looking for fish

Pearl glides like a pterosaur over rivers looking for fish.

Fainjin did very well, even managing to catch a fish!

Fainjin did very well, even managing to catch a fish!





We had lunch in the museum foodcourt, which we won’t say too much about.  Then we had tickets to the IMAX show, “Mysteries of the Unseen World“.  It was my first ever IMAX show, and I really enjoyed it, although I had my usual trouble with 3D films and occasionally had to look away or take off the glasses to rest my eyes.  The kids were fascinated and repulsed by turns.  We all agreed the scene where the owl approaches on the hunt was one of the best – we all leaned back in our seats to avoid its talons!  Pearl was especially disgusted to learn of all the “things” floating about in the air we breathe, though – particularly “insect parts” which were graphically illustrated and massively magnified.

In between exhibitions we enjoyed viewing some of the museum’s permanent displays, particularly the dioramas of the larger mammals.

We also went to the planetarium show, but by this stage Babess & Fainjin were tired and they didn’t like the dark theatre and the scary noises & music as the narrator talked about dark energy & dark matter.

For “something completely different” we went to the Butterfly Conservatory and watched beautiful creatures flit around (and on) us.

This one picked The Dad's orange shirt as camouflage!

This one picked The Dad’s orange shirt as camouflage!

Immediately outside the butterfly enclosure, we spotted some familiar shapes… a moa! and a kiwi! and tui! kereru! ruru! piwakawaka! It was a diorama of NZ birds including all our favourites and several we see at home (although not the moa so much, of course).  It was quite cheering to see a piece of home represented in this huge museum nearly halfway across the world.

After a compulsory stop at the museum shop (I think the children believe the sole purpose of this whole trip is for them to buy soft toys, and that my sole job is to thwart them in their desire to bring back several cubic metres each of plush), we headed out into the warm New York afternoon and made our way south through Central Park.

We paused at Strawberry Fields, which is always busy and always has buskers playing Beatles songs.  I tried to get a photo of the kids all together, but Fainjin has decided that he won’t be in any family photos and that he will scowl in any photos I do get of him (unless he forgets, which fortunately is fairly often).  It is most frustrating and disappointing, and I think he will regret it in years to come.  Any time I get a shot lined up, he runs out of it.

Fainjin & Babess run for joy in Central Park

Fainjin & Babess run for joy in Central Park

Another pause came a little later, this one accompanied by icecreams and the chance to watch a man make GIANT bubbles.  When we reached the end of the park, we went into FAO Schwarz (of course) – just looking, you understand… and it was really so overwhelming that the children just wanted everything they could see and decided on nothing, which was fine.

We had considered going to a Broadway show tonight, but we were all worn out from our big day, so we walked down 5th Avenue instead, goggling at Tiffany & Co, Trump Tower et al, and came home for dinner, baths and bed.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

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