The Children’s Museum at Saratoga

I visited The Children’s Museum at Saratoga last week to see a couple of brand-new exhibitions and a bit of rearranging that they’ve been doing lately, opening up the space to make it brighter and tinkering with what’s available.

First, there’s the Pet Vet Exhibit, designed to teach about animals and let kids pretend that they’re a veteran or a visitor bringing in their ailing furry friend.


One of my favorite parts is that the stuffed dog has one of those goofy cone-like devices that they sometimes put on animals so that they don’t nibble at a wound. But it’s also got a little exam space, a “waiting room” chair, and a little animal library.


The Pet Vet located where kids used to have building space, but apparently it wasn’t particularly well-utilized, so they consolidated a bit and created a new Build It Center Exhibit. This area is smaller, simpler, and a bit streamlined, and it’s offers up a bit more focus in the activities, with specific building challenges:


One thing I didn’t see at the moment was the fire pole. It’s been removed temporarily, and it’s going to go back in a bit closer to the fire truck. What I heard was that a bunch of kids would start climbing and get stuck, and then they’d yell for help while their adult was juggling another child and would have to sort of run an obstacle course to get to the climber. So it will be shorter and more closely tied to the fire exhibit to try to prevent that scenario.

They’re also doing a capital campaign, with the plan to expand upward and create two new rooms, for program space and exhibit space. Another plan is to work on making the bank space more fun and interactive.

I was glad that I visited the museum, because honestly? It’s been awhile. This museum is terrific for birth to ages 7 or 8, but my kids have clearly aged out of that range. We put in a lot of visits back when the kids were little. In fact, one visit that stands out is the time I was going for an official moms’ group outing, and M decided that she was done with diapers forever. Which, okay, that’s terrific, but did she have to choose the day that we were taking a long-ish car ride to a museum? It was not ideal. I remember packing several spare pairs, just in case, and I’m sure that I spent the entire visit hovering and asking if she’d like to visit the potty. Back then, the museum was looking a little worn out and threadbare, and that’s the image that’s stayed in my mind, so I was pleasantly surprised. Exhibits were clean and well-kept and fun. So if you’ve never visited, or if it’s been a while, here are a few more photos for you. On the first floor, I remembered the tree fort that’s part of a Congress Park replica and the Saratoga Trolley, but I’d forgotten about the pond life, and I loved that there were piped-in pond sounds, too:


Another exhibition element that was new to me was the Airflow Hover Table that’s part of the science area. It was super-fun experimenting with getting the ping pong balls to hover over the air current.


I’d remembered Lillian’s Andrews Attic, too, but I don’t think that I’d really explored it before, probably because during normal hours I would have had to show little kids out of my way.


I love that it’s such a quirky collection of stuff, and it’s fun to open the little drawers and trunks to find surprises, like the tea sets in one drawer.

DSC00121Back upstairs, I got reacquainted with some of the “greatest hits” exhibits for pretend play, like Happy’s Diner


and the School House. The School House has changing themes, and after a summer of dinosaurs, they’re doing community helpers in the classroom now.


I was really glad that I went for a visit. I feel more enthusiastic about the place now that it’s looking so much brighter and better-maintained than in the (my) Olden Days. It’s also much easier to appreciate the details when you’re not actively monitoring your child for fear that they’ll pee on something!


I Am Pretty Much the Nicest Mom Ever

Yesterday was my birthday. It was not one of my top birthdays ever. I had a really bad cold, Cute W was out of town, and I’d gotten my birthday present early (I’d been in dire need of a laptop after my last one died, literally with a quiet puff of smoke). So I basically ran errands.

One errand was taking J to the doctor. She’d had a bad cold for weeks, and I finally decided that she needed professional attention. This is because every time one of my daughters has a lingering cold it morphs into an ear infection. In yesterday’s case, the pediatrician took a look and actually said, “Wow.” Apparently there was bulging and copious yellow pus. So that’s awesome. This seemed particularly comical because she’d sworn that her ear didn’t hurt her at all, and yet she hadn’t been hearing us too well. After we were done with our appointment, we hung out in the exam room so that J could do some (more) homework before I dropped her off at her 3-hour-plus gymnastics practice. Because rest is for the week. I waved good-bye and sang out, again, that she shouldn’t take it too hard if she fell off the beam more than usual.

Wait, I was going to talk about how nice I am! I’m getting off-track.

The point is, that yesterday, J was pining for the latest Rick Riordan. She’d just finished The Martian (yes, Cute W totally forgot how much swearing was in it when he recommended it to her, but then she was hooked. And yes, we’re totally going to see the movie), and her big plan was to get to school extra-early (okay, she does that every day) and go directly to the library, because the school librarian planned to buy it over the weekend. Then the librarian was at a meeting in the morning, and when I picked up J to head to the doctor she begged to stop by the library, and it turns out that our librarian had forgotten to buy the book over the weekend (hmph! trying to have a personal life over a holiday weekend! the nerve!) and so now J was in a fix, completely bookless and without access to her book.

Well do I know the sorrow of Booklessness, and, when coupled with Book Pining, it is a true tragedy. I decided that surprising her with the book after gymnastics would be a perfect birthday pick-me-up. M, hearing that her Sugar Mama was heading to the book section of Target, tagged along and was overjoyed to discover The Heir, the latest novel in The Selection series. Two children super-excited about their new books is a fabulous birthday gift, indeed. It was only after I reported my Birthday Triumph to Cute W that he said, “And. . . did you buy yourself a book?” The truth is that it hadn’t occurred to me at the time, but I’m well set-up, because my Mom had given me an Amazon gift card. Ah, the Mother-Daughter Book Joy abounds.

I am also an extraordinarily nice mom because today I dropped everything and ran out to get M some ice cream. We had had some mint chocolate chip ice cream in the house, but due to the exceptionally rare confluence of both a landmark birthday and PMS (I told you it wasn’t one of my top birthdays ever), our supplies ran out unexpectedly quickly. M lost a soccer game, studied for a science test, and labored over math homework. And then she shut her math book with a decisive thud and said, “I’m going to have some ice cream!” And I just looked at her, stricken, and she may or may not have burst into tears (although, when ice cream is at stake, she’s an excellent faker). I hustled out and got a new half-gallon. Hell, that girl totally deserved ice cream. But for my own protection, I got the cookie crumble variety that I do not prefer.

Complaints List

First, look at these flowers. What’s particularly amazing about them is that Cute W got them for me before he went on his business trip last week, so when I took this photograph, this bouquet from ShopRite had been sitting in our house for eight days. That’s pretty crazy, right?


Okay, I’ve actually been pretty gloomy, and I started a post that turned into a rather long-winded rant, but I’m scrapping it. Instead, here’s a list of what’s pissing me off right now:


  • House of Pestilence: J is blowing her nose constantly and then leaving her used tissues on random surfaces in spite of my repeated exhortations not to do this and the fact that I’m basically following her around with a waste basket. Also,  I am waking up every morning with a killer sore throat caused by post-nasal drip. I’m honestly not sure I can go on like this much longer.
  • Cool for the Summer:” I really hate this song because it’s got that purring tone that seems like the woman is singing specifically to get boys to masturbate to their music, which pisses me off so much that I have created a name for this kind of music: jerk jams. But then I thought that I was being terribly sexist for targeting women like that, but come to think of it, almost everything Jason Derulo sings could qualify as a jerk jam, so maybe I don’t have to feel bad about that, after all. But dang, that song is on all the time, and now sometimes the girls will beg to leave it on just because they know it drives me crazy. I especially hate the juxtaposition of “die for each other” and “cool for the summer”: I mean, which is it, a casual hot-weather fling, or a life-and-death forever romance? I’m so confused. Also, the worst, worst, worst part: “Don’t tell your mother.” Eeeeewwwwww, who tells their mother about this stuff? This has totally become a joke with the girls. M texted me “Don’t tell your mother” while I was driving so that my car’s system would read out, “Don’t. tell. your. mother.” But then she forgot it was a robotic voice, and she tried to make Siri fix it, but the result was that the car just read out in its clipped little robot voice, “Whisper. Seductively. Don’t. tell. your. mother.” So it’s been a running joke for weeks, except that now it turns out Demi Lovato has lupus, so I feel bad for hating on her song so much. But I do.


  • Asphalt Crumbles: They’ve been digging up sections in around our neighborhood for weeks now to replace the underground gas lines. At first we thought that we’d score some new sidewalks out of deal, but no. Instead we have chunks of sidewalk gouged out and then replaced with mismatched asphalt along with all of the paint lines that were a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  It looks terrible, but I could deal with that if the asphalt weren’t so freaking shoddy. Little crumbles are getting lodged into the treads of everyone’s shoes, and then next thing you know we have sticky black gravel in my rugs. Gross.
  • The iPhone: It sucks. Back when M was begging, begging, begging for a phone, only an Apple product would do. I don’t know why. We told her that they were much more expensive than the phones her Dad and I had and they weren’t worth it, but it was an Apple phone or nothing. The Easter Bunny was only willing to cough up enough cash for a cheaper phone, so M chipped in her own money to make up the difference between a phone that we and the Easter Bunny thought was reasonable and the phone that she wanted. Well, guess what: the phone is a piece of crap. It cracked, like, almost immediately, and then someone helped us replace the screen and suggested an ultra-tough OtterBox case (hello? why didn’t someone suggest this before the phone broke?). Then something else happened to the phone and when we took it to the Apple store they were basically like, someone else replaced your screen for $20 instead of the $150 we would have charged you, so now we don’t have to help you and we won’t help you even if you pay us, just buy a new phone, which had M and I about ready to throw ourselves off of a highway overpass until Cute W swooped in with his tweezers and combo head flashlight-magnifying glass and saved the day. And now something else is wrong with the stupid phone and the battery is drained, like, constantly, and we’ve trouble-shot the thing to hell and back and the trouble that can’t be shot is that the thing is an overpriced, trendy piece of crap. Cute W and I should be receiving trophies daily for not saying “I told you so” to M.
  • Homework: I strongly believe that items labeled “enrichment” should not be mandatory. And I would really love it if J’s teachers would just quit any reading logs or reading-related homework and especially the awful, hideously boring test-prep-style questions about articles that make her crazy. I just feel like it would be both easier and more beneficial for everyone if they could just give her free time in a room full of books and magazines. Also, is there a list that the elementary school teachers pass around about the pain-in-the-ass parents, and am I on it? Because I’ve already written two emails (one citing a single night of 2 hours and 20 minutes of homework and the other in which the word fun in quotation marks was my euphemism for “cried for half an hour,” and I have no idea if the teacher knows this, because I’m trying not to be a pain in the ass). I feel like I’ve shown considerable restraint, but I have no idea what the other parents are doing/saying.

Okay, yes, I’m going to stop there. I’m really not my best self. Blame the mucus. Look, see: my life is good. I have pretty flowers! The sun is shining.  I swear I’ll be more cheerful for the next post. I’d better be.

How I Learned To FarmOn! (And You Can Too)

[This is a guest post by Tessa Edick, author of Hudson Valley Food & Farming: Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That?  FarmOn! will be having a Harvest Festival on Halloween Saturday, October 31st.]

My food legacy: Born and raised in Upstate New York, I fled farming life for a city mentality, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, success and glamour. I traveled around the world in search of education, a career and like- minded people. Funny thing about traveling in search of something is that everything you need is always within you, never where you are going. Ironically, I ended up back in an agricultural community—the kind of community that made me so happy in my youth.

Having traveled the world, I’ve experienced farming in many forms, but the commonality is the connection to your food. Somewhere along our food ways, we lost our way with food. We swap convenience for nutrition. We demand cheap food, and instead of giving value to our family, community and farmer, we let our ever-packed “to-do” list sideline family dinners for “activities.” But being cheap with our food means we’re cheap with our health—something we rarely value until it is too late.

Living in Europe convinced me that the age-old tradition of eating what’s in season and what comes from the local terroir is sustainable and the only way to live. Eat strawberries or corn until there is no more left to pick and eat. Then switch to what’s available next. There is no other way. to get all of the nutrition your body craves and needs to optimize health and, ultimately our common goal, to look and feel great. You eat in moderation and in the rhythm of the seasons based on climate and yield, culture and availability. It’s what all-natural eating should represent but has come to be meaningless on our over-processed, heavily distributed packaged food system.

Stand up for your farming community and local food choices and sources.

When you eat today, thank a farmer. He works hard to feed you well. He just needs more of us to buy from him directly. That small choice three times daily to eat quality fresh food is vital to our health, the health of our children and our communities and our welfare. Wouldn’t you want to stand up for your farming community and food choices if you knew the upside? Ask: what is my criteria for buying food? How do my choices impact the family farm? Who do they benefit? How do I help preserve farming in America?

I want you to think about what you eat not based solely on taste and convenience but also why we must eat and base it on these three easy-to-remember thoughts:

Responsibility: who made it?

Quality: where did it come from?

Nutrition: how was it made?

New York farmers are reestablishing a foundation of values and wellness that are pure goodness and make me inspired to bridge rural-to-urban marketplaces and inspire a re-education in food and eating that starts in public schools and with our children into what the “mother” of American food, Alice Waters, calls an “edible education.” We can all re-create this model in our own communities.

One of the best ways to celebrate our farmers is to eat their food! I helped Jean-Georges Vongerichten build out a citified CSA at his renowned Manhattan restaurant, ABC Kitchen. Every week, subscribers to the ABCSA get armfuls of freshly picked produce from our favorite New York State star-mers (as I like to call them). His Kale Salad, below, is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the beautiful bounty (it also happens to be one of first lady Michelle Obama’s favorite recipes too):

Farm On Kale Photo


Kale Salad with Lemon, Serranos and Mint (serves 4)

By Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Adapted for from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

For the dressing:
7 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1⁄2 piece of garlic, germ removed
1⁄2 piece Serrano chili
5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Pinch black pepper, finely milled
11⁄2 cups sunflower oil
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method for the dressing:
In a blender, combine red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, Serrano chili, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper together. Combine first set in vita prep and puree. Slowly add the oils together until emuslified.

For the croutons:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sourdough-like bread, crust trimmed off, 1⁄8-inch cubes (slightly frozen, sliced on slicer)
kosher salt & 
black pepper, freshly milled

Method for the croutons:
Liberally coat the bottom of a sauté pan with oil and heat until smoking. Add bread and sauté until all sides of the croutons are golden. Place croutons on paper towels, and season gently with salt and pepper.

For the pickup:
1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed and dried, ribbons
1⁄2 cup dressing
16 leaves mint, medium-sized, ribbons
3 serrano chili slices, rounds sliced extremely thin
24 pieces croutons
Lemon, to zest
black pepper, freshly milled

Method for the pickup:
In a bowl, mix the kale with dressing and mix well.
Evenly place the salad on a plate and top with mint, Serrano slices and croutons.
Finish with lemon zest and freshly cracked black pepper.

The above excerpt and recipe is from my book, Hudson Valley Food & Farming: Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That? It’s a love-letter to farmers and part of my broader mission to change the way America eats, shops and farms.

FarmOn! Foundation established a working farm in 2014 in New York’s Hudson Valley dedicated to educating the next generation in the business of food about the art of sustainable farming. Young people are more and more aware of the importance of their food choices, which has reignited an interest in farming. In order to maintain that interest, these young entrepreneurs need to understand how they can make a living in agriculture. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, students at SUNY Cobleskill, Morrisville State College and the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be able to live and work at the Foundation’s working farm– FarmOn! at Empire Farm in Columbia County in New York State gaining real life experiences in the food production field. Learning will range from seed and soil crop planning to growing food, harvesting it, producing, and cooking food in a commercial teaching kitchen and extend all the way to custom growing for New York’s institutions, caterers, retailers and chefs.

Want to support local farming in America? Buy my book! All proceeds benefit FarmOn! Foundation… Or come visit us at the farm! Address: FarmOn! Empire Farm 556 Empire Road Copake, NY, 12516, Columbia County NY Phone number: (518) 329-FARM. Check out our list of upcoming family-friendly farm events.

Chef Jean-Georges’s family-style kale salad at the FarmOn! annual Hootenanny! Benefit Dinner 2014. Courtesy Cayla Zahoran.

A Game of Clue for the Clueless Second-Time Mama

Recently I wrote about how my kids almost died at a Vermont swimming hole. Or, it felt like they almost died. In the course of the story, I’d said, “At that point it felt perilous to yell at them to stop.” And as I wrote that line, I went looking for a post about one of my favorite J-as-a-baby stories, except I realized that I’d never told the story. So here it is.

When M was an infant, I felt like I was a completely incompetent mother who was pretty much failing the whole taking-care-of-my-child thing. I was wrong.

Then, when J was an infant, I felt like I was a fairly competent, experienced mother who babyhood all figured out. Hmm. . . wrong again.

With M, just the idea of leaving the house was so intimidating that it took me quite a while to muster up the energy and courage to go anywhere. A couple years later I believed strongly that I could handle outings, and I took teensy baby J out and about with me everywhere. Next thing you know she was exposed to a virus and admitted to the hospital for a high fever, effectively shutting down my overconfident wanderings.

M had been a pretty challenging, high-maintenance baby. She’d wanted to be held all the time, she was colicky, she screamed whenever she was strapped into a car seat, and she was a terrible, horrible sleeper (speaking of which, I recently heard from some new parents who were raving that Newton’s Colic Drops were life-changing for them) . When J came along, we figured that she’d have to be more easy-going (hooray! she was) and a better sleeper (actually, she was far worse). But there were all sorts of other issues that hadn’t ever occurred to us.

It reminds me of a story that I believe came from Mr. Attachment Dr. Sears. He said that they’d spent their first several children congratulating themselves on never having an issue with children scribbling crayon on the walls, and they attributed it to their good parenting. Later they realized that they just hadn’t given birth to an artist yet.

With J, I gave birth to a climber.

I hadn’t really noticed that M wasn’t a climber, but in her 2+ years of life prior to J’s arrival, I’d been able to take it for granted that no child-proofing was necessary for anything above M’s head. My kitchen counters looked very much like the counters of someone who didn’t have children. And didn’t always tidy up promptly.

One day, I was typing away on the computer, just outside of our kitchen. It was near Easter, and a (not necessarily watching) grandparent was nearby, too, as she roamed around the open living room and kitchen area. I figured that between one somewhat-attentive grown-up in the room and me roughly 12 feet away, 18-month-old J was unlikely to get into too much mischief. I glanced over at one point and noticed that she”d pulled a chair over to the counter, and I was impressed by her industriousness. Two more minutes, and she was standing on the chair, and I realized the attraction: there was a whole pile of brightly-colored plastic eggs to examine. Man, she was cute! I mused as I turned back to the computer. Two more minutes, and what was that she had in her hand?!?

It was J. . . in the kitchen. . . with a knife.

She a big chef’s knife in one hand and a tomato in the other hand. And, yes, she was completely absorbed in cutting the tomato with the chef’s knife.

Imagine, if you will, my terror.  The knife was roughly the size of her forearm. She was actively poking and sawing away at the tomato.

She could cut off a finger tip or pierce that meaty part at the base of her thumb or drop the damn thing so that it landed point down in her foot.

But I also didn’t want to startle her, so yelling or gasping or even loudly approaching her seemed potentially perilous. I tiptoed up to her, a feat made easier by how engrossed she was in her work. Before she even realized I was there I was grabbing each hand and taking control of the knife.

But of course, she was completely fine.

I didn’t know it yet, but J wasn’t just a climber. She was also a chef.

J that same week, engaging in less hazardous cooking activities with two beautiful, fully-intact little hands.
J that same week, engaging in less hazardous cooking activities with two beautiful, fully-intact little hands.




Biking and the Hudson-Mohawk Bike-Hike Trail

I’ve long felt that the fact that neither of our kids are enthusiastic bikers is one of our Great Parental Failings. Both Cute W and I really like to bike. We brought the kids along early with a trailer and later the Trail-gator.

I think that part of the problem is that kids just bike less in general these days. I was thinking about a couple of my own most vivid biking-as-a-kid memories. The first was when I lived in Texas, so I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, and I was playing at my friend Haley’s house about a mile away until we had a fight, and I left her without telling anyone I was leaving. The second was one of my favorite past-times once we’d moved to New York, where we lived on a huge hill. I mean, the hill could serve as a blue trail at most Northeastern ski resorts, and I loved to barrel straight down it without a helmet. It occurred to me that if either of these happened today, I can imagine CPS getting involved.

We also live on a busy street. We have a sidewalk, but it’s cracked and bumpy, and then there’s a lovely smooth street with slightly too many cars going too fast on it. So the kids never really warmed up to biking.

Over the summer, J was bored-bored-bored on numerous occasions, and I made a list of things for her to do. One of them was just to bike more so that she’d feel more comfortable. And miraculously, it worked. She started tooling around the neighborhood, twisting and turning unnecessarily, and experimenting with lifting one hand off the handlebars. She was actually liking it! Hoorary. So I was feeling pretty triumphant about the whole thing and I planned to write a post about it. And in the interval in which I didn’t get around to writing the post, she’s decided that her bike is too small and M’s bike is too large and she’s going to boycott the whole process until Goldilocks or Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny delivers a bike that is just exactly right. Sigh. But it was a great couple of weeks, anyway.

Toward the end of summer we managed to fit in a last-minute art class for J with Maureen Sausa at Lions Park in Niskayuna.


The little train station building now houses a small art gallery, and apparently there will be more art classes coming–you can check Maureen’s Facebook page for updates. J and her new friends loved painting en plein air.


Reporting to the art class reminded me of the existence of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail (I linked to the Facebook page because it seems more updated than the main site, but here’s a helpful list of access points to the trail from that site). I went there often when the kiddos were little. I remember that one of my first outings as a new mama was to meet a nursing group there, and I managed to get terribly lost and arrived 45 minutes late and sobbing. Ah. Good times.


In any case, I was excited to rediscover the bike-hike trail, because it really is lovely. Cute W, J, and I did a couple of biking excursions (M somehow always had some other social engagement). We liked jumping off the bikes and rambling into the twisty little trails as well, crossing over Balltown Road on that overpass before the Rexford Bridge (how had we lived here so long without ever having done that?), and biking to downtown Schenectady for the greenmarket. Hopefully we’ll do more biking whenever the Bike Fairy delivers A 24″ bike.


KEVA Queen

I’m not actually a KEVA Queen. I’m merely a runner-up.

What did you do for your work today? Maybe changed diapers, went to an office, taught some kids, cleaned a house? I played with blocks.

Except that since we are grown-ups, we called it designing and constructing with KEVA planks at miSci.


No, you guys. I didn’t make any of these. Those were samples on exhibit, to inspire us all to creative genius. But the most inspiring thing is that there are lots and lots of blocks planks. Like, thousands, available in big ol’ bins.


Let me back up a bit. Delightful Susan called me from miSci (and I say that Susan is delightful because she’s one of the few people who consistently reads through the KidsOutAndAbout newsletter and thanks me when I give miSci a plug, which is often, because I like thank-you emails). She called to invite me to a Media Challenge. This sort of thing always makes me a little wary, actually, because at these media events, I end up with local celebrities (like Bob Kovachick, today) as well as small groups of people who work together constantly and appear to be BFFs. . . and then there is me, lonely little me, the chick who has quickly changed out of her pajama bottoms but not actually showered because she was just alone at home typing on the computer about five minutes before leaving the house. It can be a little intimidating. But I’m a Schenectady booster and a fan of miSci and, most compelling, they were offering to drop off a set of KEVA planks for training purposes. Free stuff? Yes, please!

So the KEVA planks arrived and the girls had a great time playing around with them, but I hadn’t actually touched them. Cute W noticed this and said, “Aren’t you going to try?” I mumbled something about it all just being for fun, and he chided, “If you’re not in it to win it, why are you even going?” I laughed at him, but when my computer froze up this morning in sheer exhaustion from putting together the newsletter, I decided to take a 15-minute break to mess around with the planks while continuing to binge watch The Fosters (some of that newsletter prep is mindless, people, so stop judging!). I came up with a plan and then, because I am just this much of a freak, I packed up the planks on the off chance that someone would demand their return.

When I arrived, the media folks and miSci staff were milling about, and I was assigned a space on the floor and a bin of blocks. Susan offered to hook me up with a partner because I was the only person alone, but I said no thank you. Really I was thinking that I had my strategy and I didn’t want to negotiate or make small talk, but I put on a show that my victory would be all the more remarkable when I did it without any help.

We had ten minutes to build the tallest tower possible. Right from the beginning I had photographers snapping pictures like crazy. I realized later that it was because newspaper folks didn’t want to take pictures of themselves or their chief rivals, so apparently they looked around and said, “Who looks like the most regular, non-media person here?” and then they all swarmed. Or so it felt. I wasn’t entirely sure because I was in the Plank Zone.

At the halfway point, I was way, way ahead. Like, shockingly ahead. I’m not sure why, because I was too busy laying planks. When they announced that I was ahead I shouted out that I was all alone, because I am not above trying to maintain my underdog status. A minute or two later a very nice older man started handing me planks so that I wouldn’t have to move from bin to tower-top. At this point, the tower was at least chest high, and it was starting to get a bit rickety. “Add some cross planks,” the nice older man advised. “A little extra weight will help with stability.” It sounded like good advice, and so I did what he said. He wandered away, and a few moments later, I had a small collapse, but luckily the tower remained intact from that stabilizing level on down. “Thank you, sir, for the advice!” I called out, without any clear notion of where the man was (again, I was in the Plank Zone). “Who was he?” I asked out loud. “Neil Golub,” someone answered. Of course he was. He was an able assistant and advisor, and I’d be happy to play with blocks with him any day. Incidentally, he and his lovely wife Jane brought the exhibition to miSci.

At this point, it was a race to the finish. Several towers had tumbled with dramatic wooden clatters. I had gone from being way ahead of everyone to being just a little bit ahead of one team, from the Daily Gazette. And they were a three-person team, gaining on me fast, but time was running out. “Just stop there, you’ve got it,” folks advised. But did I listen? Nooooooo. Instead, in the final countdown, I tried to place one plank vertically to ensure my lead, and the upper section of the tower collapsed in the final seconds.

Oh, the heartbreak, especially when I saw the fabulous KEVA plank trophy hoisted up by the winning team.

Still, it’s not a bad day of work.

Katie with Keva Plank Tower-001

You can go and build like crazy, too. And for more motivation, see my Review of “EARTH EXPOSED: Discover Our Planet’s Hidden Secrets” at miSci. This exhibits still running, so you can build and destroy a skyscraper and disrupt a tornado in the same visit. How’s that for powerful??

Settling In, In Spite of The Nefarious Forces That Thwart Me

Man, I can be so productive when the kids are in school. It’s amazing!

On the other hand, it appears that there is a Force In The Universe that wants to thwart all of my attempts to be productive.

When I need to get in touch with someone, the FITU ensures that that person will not answer their phone, and further, that the person’s voicemail box will be full.

When someone needs to get in touch with me, the FITU hops onto that person’s keyboard so that their email to me goes somewhere else entirely, leaving me to stalk them incessantly because they never got back to me with the answer to my pressing question, even though they think that they got back to me and are therefore, who are we kidding, probably screening my calls at this point.

When they hand out uniforms at M’s soccer team, the FITU channels the grossest possible jersey in her direction so that I will feel compelled to wash the garment four times in a row, each time with a different chemical cocktail designed to make the stains slightly less horrible than they looked after the last wash. Incidentally, what the hell is the deal with clothing 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old girls in white shorts, anyway? I mean, aren’t we all adults around here? Don’t we understand that this is a recipe for disaster? Is this part of the FITU’s efforts to make middle school as unpleasant as possible?

I think that I have The Force on my mind because Cute W and J are already chomping at the bit to see Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Why yes, merchandise has already been acquired. My enthusiasm is so low for the franchise that I had to be reminded about who they were talking about when a twin reference was made, but I’m pretty sure that’s a good Force, right? Not FITU. This back-to-school FITU is purely malignance.

For example, when I decided to try to tidy up the sloppy mess hanging above our file cabinet (I’ve got a magnetic white board that had all manner of outdated junk hanging from it), the FITU decided to use that little bit of a lean from me to tip the entire filing cabinet over so that it 1) landed on me 2) broken and 3) spilled out the many, many files.

Also, between you and me, I’m pretty sure that the FITU is behind people’s perverse requests for folks to “Reply All” when they send out a mass email. I mean, there’s no logical explanation for crap like that. It’s ridiculous.

But, I’m battling on. Courageously. Okay, perhaps courageously is a strong word.

We bought a new filing cabinet and I finally threw out many, many old files that I hadn’t needed for years. I managed to eliminate, oh, at least five different stains from the jersey. Progress is being made.

School’s going fairly well for the girls. M’s enthusiasm was low at the beginning of the school year, but she’s slowly picking up steam. J has been super-motivated lately: she’s getting her homework done like a champ, which in not always easy with her gymnastics schedule; she spent the day off of Rosh Hashana learning how to knit, which required slightly more patience than I had that day, but I still appreciated her motivation; she’s been practicing the ukulele; and most recently, she’s begun the trumpet. At the moment she is extraordinarily enthusiastic about the trumpet, but check back with me in a couple of weeks. Last year at this time, it was the cello, but we probably weren’t even a month into cello lessons when I scrapped it because there was simply too much sobbing. She insists that the trumpet is an entirely different situation and, well, I can only hope that she’s right.

Umm, what else? We went shopping at Target in Niskayuna the other day, and I felt compelled to take a couple of photos. First, I thought that those of you with little children would be interested to see this:


It’s a Carter’s store! M was not interested at all. She was, like, Mom, why do you have to take out your camera? I need shorts. Black only, because I am not crazy like all those people who plan our uniforms. Let’s go.

And then, inside the store, look what’s apparently totally back in!


Legwarmers!! Oh my gosh, you guys! I used to love legwarmers. Seriously. I was a 90s girl who did ballet and gymnastics, so HELL YEAH. I stockpiled these things. I had that famous Harvey Edwards Legwarmers poster on my wall. When it came to legwarmers, I was all in. And so I stopped next to this display and I wanted four different pairs. And while I actually still own a Capezio bodywarmer thing  from my ballet days that I wear on especially cold winter nights, I understand that I am a 40-something woman and wearing these things is ridiculous enough when you’re a teenager. And so instead I petted them and sighed over them and took a photo.

Fashion is so weird. This reminds me that M and I went through a struggle because she owned what I considered to be perfectly adequate blue jeans, but she declared that they were too awful and hideous and wide-legged. I finally understood that, in her opinion, only the skinniest jeggings were worthy of gracing her legs. Will she ever wear actual blue jeans again, or will she come around in a couple of decades? Clearly she will not be adopting this ankle-thickening legwarmer trend.

A Quick Fall Fun Round-Up


So, last night I visited with a bunch of moms in Saratoga, many of whom are pretty new to the area, and I put together a fall fun list for them. I was trying to focus a little more north than I usually do, and I skipped some things as too obvious (if you have little kids and live in Saratoga, I assume you’ve already made it to The Children’s Museum). I also included a couple of folks, either because they’re pretty big or pretty convenient, even though I’d normally skip them (ie., Saratoga Apple, which makes you pay per person to pick, & Liberty Ridge, whom I still shun for being unwelcoming to gay folks), just because grown-ups can make up their own minds about where to go.

Anyway, I spent way more time than I meant to do gathering the information, so much so that I looked up and realized that I had to run and meet a friend for lunch, un-showered and with breakfast dishes still scattered all over my kitchen. I’d also put together my outline with links even though I was handing out pieces of paper. Pure force of habit. So I figured I’d put the list here to share it with the rest of you and to save the ladies I met last night some Googling. Keep in mind that I also have my fall page, which you can find again under the More Fun link at the top, labeled Seasonal. And because it’s September 11th, here’s an old post on September 11th.

Apple Picking

Saratoga Apple: Apples and gifts, cider donuts, must pay to pick.  Apple cider donuts are made daily all year round. 15 minutes east in Schuylerville.

Bowman Orchards: Pick your own apples, berry picking in the summer, pumpkins, a petting zoo, a playground, hay rides, pony rides. Gets really busy. 25 or 30 minutes south in Rexford

Lindsey’s Idyllwood Orchard: Pick your own apples, quieter and mellow with cool ladders, small store and pumpkins. 25 minutes south in Clifton Park

Riverview Orchard: Apples picking (hayride to apple picking on weekends), bakery & store that make their donuts, bees. 30 minutes south in Rexford.

Indian Ladder Farm: Pick your own apples (berries in summer), super-fun playground, animals and a few trails, very cool shop and a cafe, definitely a huge destination, Baby Animal Days in the spring. 45 minutes south in Altamont.

Pumpkin Patch/General Fall Activities

Sunnyside Gardens: Pumpkin patch, hay ride, little train, donuts, in Saratoga Springs

Schuyler Farms: Corn maze (Alice in Wonderland), hay rides, fossil mining, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, rope maze, and scary Halloween stuff at night, Schuylerville, 15 or 20 minutes east

Double M’s Hayride & Corn Maze: Really known for their haunted night-time hay rides. In the past they’ve had mellower stuff for kids during the day. 10 or 15 minutes south in Malta.

Ellms Family Farm: Pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn maze, jumping pillow, huge slides. . . lovely, laid-back fun. 25 minutes south in Ballston Spa

Engelke Farm: Pumpkin patch, hayride, zip line, corn maze, haunted hay rides and maze at night . Half an hour away in Troy.

Liberty Ridge Farm: Corn maze, pumpkin patch, farm-themed playground, group reservations for campfires, scary Halloween stuff. Maybe half an hour southeast in Schaghticoke

More Fun Outside:
Moreau Lake State Park: beach trails, activities, camping, rent snowshoes or fishing gear. 15 minutes north
Playgrounds That Are Worth a Trip
Capital District Family-Friendly Hikes
Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail
Geocaching, Renting kayaks (state parks, nature centers), ice skating

Other Places to Go, Inside:
Wonder Room: indoor play, drop-in and school, messy cooking, toy library, 20 minutes south in Ballston Lake
World Awareness Children’s Museum: small but interesting and friendly, half an hour north in Glens Falls
New York State Museum: big, fun, free, a must-do. 40 minutes south in downtown Albany.

Super-Amazing Deals:
Museum Passes from your library. Go to your library catalog at and do a keyword search for “Museum Pass” in the title.
Every Kid in a Park: If you have a child in the 4th grade, you can get a free family pass to national parks.
ISKINY: Kids in 3rd & 4th grade can ski or snowboard free with a paying adult at selected NY ski areas.
SkiVermont 5th Grade Passport: Kids in 5th grade can ski or ride for free at selected Vermont ski areas.
Museum Memberships: ASTC Passport gives you reciprocal perks for your museum membership, Empire State Reciprocal Membership Program gives you perks for other local museums.

A Few Festivals Coming Up:
9/19: Halfmoon Celebrations, LarkFEST, Adirondack Balloon
9/26: Thacher Fall Fest
10/3: Ticonderoga Harvest/Horse
10/10: Maple Ski Ridge Crafts/Cars/Tractors
10/11: Carrot Festival

Links to KidsOutAndAbout Fall Pages:

Corn Mazes in the Capital Region of New York
Fun on the Farm in the Summer and Fall – Capital Region
Apple Picking in the Capital District

To Reach Me:

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Like the KidsOutAndAbout Facebook page
Like the Capital District Fun Facebook page
Contact me at or


Vermont Swimming Hole

On one of our weekend visits to family in Vermont, we decided to do a little side trip and check out a swimming hole. Did you know that there’s a website that lists swimming holes?  Of course there is: it’s! That’s how Cute W found Hamilton Falls, which was a bit under two hours away from our house. It was a lovely spot,but we clearly weren’t the only people who checked out the website, because on a summer Saturday, it was downright crowded.

Vermont Swimming Hole overview

Okay, okay, it doesn’t look all that crowded, but trust me, there were many, many people. In fact it was pretty comical, because driving there, it really started to feel like the middle of nowhere. In between bouts of one of our favorite family roadtrip games, That’s Your House, Cute W and I kept humming the Deliverance song. And then it suddenly we were surrounded by picnickers, dogs, and kids.

I hadn’t read the description of the swimming hole ahead of time, which was too bad, because some caution was in order. Basically, there were four different little pools along these falls: two at the bottom which you see in this first picture, with our girls perched on the rock between them. At the very top of the falls there was another pool with a gigantic sign warning people not to swim there. Between the top pool and the two bottom pools, there was another pool part of the way up.

When we first arrived, the girls ran at the first trail they saw, which took them to the top pool. In spite of the tremendously huge sign stating that swimming there was exceedingly dangerous and that, in fact, at least 12 people had died at the swimming hole, a rowdy group was swimming away. No. I said. No way. M looked at the many, many people having a lovely time and went into Pissed 13-Year-Old Mode. An awesome start. We hiked around to the lower portion of the falls and the girls headed in. The pool on the right is especially fun because there’s enough of a rock overhang to make you feel like you’re in a cave, which is completely wonderful if you are a kid and makes you ponder just when, exactly, the overhang might collapse if you are a mother.

What followed was some massive parental miscommunication. I had slowly, gently inched my way into the water while Cute W stayed dry to take photographs. At one point, M seemed interested in trying to climb up to the middle pool. It seemed a bit ambitious to me, but I told her that she could if she wanted to try. She’s naturally a bit of a scaredy-cat about things like that. During our trip out west, Cute W would walk within four feet of a canyon’s edge and she’d start yelling, “Dad! Come back! You have a family!”  Philosophically, I hate it when parents call out to their children on playgrounds, “Don’t climb on that! You’ll fall!” It irritates me. I think that kids who are given freedom generally find their own limits pretty well. Plus, it was a difficult climb. Between the difficulty and her general demeanor–well, this sounds lame now, but when I said that she was allowed to do it, I didn’t expect her to actually do it.

I’d also really been focused on saying no to pool that was up high, next to the big danger sign. It was nice to say yes to something that felt like it was pushing a limit without being a complete depth trap. Or, at least, this was my line of thinking as I consulted with Cute W. Except he was pretty sure that the middle pool was a death trap, too. And it was about when we were discussing this that we realized that the girls were making the climb, and that another swimming hole visitor had attached a rope that kids were using to help them ascend. At that point it felt perilous to yell at them to stop. I felt like I didn’t want to distract them, just go into support mode. So I started scrambling up the rock, thinking that hopefully I could catch a kid if she came tumbling down.

Vermont Swimming Hole scary climg

This picture must have been just after we realized that they were going for it, and I was probably sloshing along the lower pool to follow them.

Anyway, they made it up to the higher pool, although I believe we were all terrified, although only the grown-ups will admit it. We only lingered for a few minutes because the guy with the rope had to go, and without it, I think we would have been trapped there. It was even scarier coming down. The whole venture was absolutely a parenting mistake on my part. You know, some days you really nail this parenting gig, and other days, you just have to be grateful that you haven’t accidentally killed anybody!

After cheating death, we ate a picnic lunch and explored the lovely creek for a bit before heading on our way.

Vermont Swimming Hole lower area