Cars 2

June 21, 2011

Cars 2. Go.  You won’t be sorry.  We got to go to the preview last Saturday, thanks to Jessica, A Parent in Silver Spring, who gives away tickets to new movies, tells the community about free concerts at Strathmore, and generally keeps us all in the loop about fun activities for kids.  She writes about so many fun things to do — if  you’re local to D.C. or looking for what’s new and exciting in movies and activities, go check it out!

Cars 2 was AWESOME.  Yes, even for the parents. Trust me – if it’s your day to take the kids, take them to the movie when it opens this weekend (don’t worry, your kids know what date).  There’s an awesome James Bond-y feel to it, and it’s a lot of fun!

Caveat: There is a LOT more action in this sequel than the first, toddler-safe, Cars movie.  There are bad guys, and it may be a little intense at the beginning for kids under 4.  When in doubt, check the review on Common Sense Media, written by Sandie Chen.


Ready for Summer!

May 27, 2011

Susan May 2008, post-surgeryHere at the WhyMommy house, we are totes ready for summer!  We have our flip flops, our summer t’s, and our rashguards all out and ready for action — and this weekend we get our first taste of the lazy hazy days of summer.

What’s a rashguard?  I was asked that twice this week, so I want to show you.  You can see the general look in the picture at the left, one of a very few that we took after my double mastectomy, when I was nervous about going to the beach with the beautiful people.  I had lumps and bumps everywhere after surgery — except in the places you’d expect.  But I wasn’t ready to give up on the beach or the pool forever.  In fact, we were headed to the beach to relax and recuperate!  After some conversation on twitter and the blogs, we came up with this solution — and now, I’d recommend it for anyone who’s tired of feeling overexposed at the pool.

A rashguard is like a t-shirt made of swimsuit material.  You can get them fitted to your body for serious swimming or looser (unisex style) for additional coverage of post-baby tummy or post-mastectomy scars.  I *adore* the rashguard look and the ease of which the kids and I can get ready for the pool – there’s no struggles with vast quantities of sunblock on their pale tummies and backs anymore, or worries about missing a spot, because except for their limbs, neck, and face, they’re covered!  We can be ready in a flash — everybody throws on board shorts (the boys) or bikini bottom (ok, that’s me) and their rashguard t, and we’re off to the pool!

Ah, summer.

This post inspired by Curvy Girl Guide’s Project Real – National Swimsuit Confidence Week!  Real women all over the internet are donning swimsuits and showing the world that it’s ok not to be perfect or to look just like the models in the catalogs.  The project is popping up on blogs all over and has even been covered by Marie Claire!  I’m not part of the campaign — I’m just a fan!  Let’s get back in the pool! 

NASA Open House

May 13, 2011

Looking for something to do in the LA or DC areas this weekend?  Check out the NASA Open Houses in at least two areas across the country!  For West Coasters, there’s the JPL Open House in Pasadena, CA.  East Coasters, how about the GSFC Open House in Greenbelt, MD.  Both are free and open to the public — and a fantastic opportunity to get a peek into the nation’s space program!  Live farther away (like Australia or New Zealand)?  You can still take a peek at the latest news about our solar system AND a page of fun for kids at NASA’s Solar System Exploration page (also on Facebook).

Have fun!

Museum Mornings: Meadowside Nature Center

June 24, 2010

This morning we went out with The Moms from our little group. Five of us and our kids met at Meadowside Nature Center for our weekly museum outing, and we had a blast. The kids owned that place, making themselves comfortable in the pioneer home, cuddling up with the quilts, crawling through the kid-sized cave, and paddling along in the hollowed-out canoe, just like the Native Americans used to do. We played in the front room there for nearly two hours, quietly but creatively, and with the spirit of adventure.

I didn’t have to run after them once. This was a very kid-friendly outing, with just the right tools for the kids to use to create house scenes, adventure scenes, pioneer scenes, explore the “wilderness” indoors, and to do it all without a speck of adult intervention. (Minus the one time we had to rescue the pioneer buckets and such from the wilderness cave. I still don’t see the problem, but we do aim to be good neighbors.) The Moms got to sit and talk while the preschoolers played and the two-year-olds explored closer to us. It’s an incredible time for us now — the kids are independent and secure enough to explore nearby, while the moms finally get to sit and share more than a sentence at a time! We even got to hang with friend UrbanMama today — a playdate long in the making!

My mom and dad met us there. I’ve been excited about this trip ever since I talked to them last night and we arranged it (aren’t they wonderful!). It’s so wonderful to see them, even for short periods, and it was special to me that they were willing to meet my friends and see the boys in their native habitat, as it were. After a quick lunch at one of the boys’ favorite places, we were back home for an afternoon of … napping, apparently, as I slept all afternoon for the third fourth fifth day in a row. Sigh. I thought I could make it today, but it was not to be. I was so embarrassed when I woke up at a quarter til five!

But the good thing about family is that they love you anyway. At least, I hope they do!

Radiation Status: Day 26 of 35. My oncologist has stopped my treatment due to severe burns and blistering under my armpit. I’m also under orders to not cover the area, which means sleeveless or cut-away shirts for the next week or two. She is allowing treatment to continue on my mastectomy scar only, a different treatment, using electrons at a significantly higher energy (a more intense treatment than what I described recently). So I’ll get more burned, but over a smaller area. I’m still using the biafine cream three times a day, plus a special healing ointment (like neosporin, but gentler) for the blisters and open wounds in my armpit. It stings, like any burn would, but isn’t at all unmanageable.  My radiation techs (Kim, Kerri, Janice, and Pam) say my skin elsewhere is holding up really, really well.  I’m glad.

This morning my  post at Mamapedia goes live; I’m talking over there about how cancer makes me angry. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve heard the story before. But maybe talking about it over there will reach one mom who has never heard of inflammatory breast cancer, or inspire one more mom to fight.

Museum mornings: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

June 19, 2010

We threw caution to the wind today and spent the morning at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History with some friends. We almost met up with Kristen, but missed each other somewhere in the dinosaur bones.  I’d write a long post about the great time we had, the fun the six kids had as we learned all about the earth, the mammals, the planets, rocks, gems, and of course the giant ‘saurs, but I think you can imagine your own fun that you’ve had with your own kids, and you’re probably already smiling in agreement now.

Super fun.  We’re going to go to museums every week this summer, for as long as I can walk between car and metro and metro and museum.

If you’re a local friend and want to join us, email me or twitter @whymommy and we’ll figure out how to meet up!

Children’s Museums

March 10, 2010

Short talk given to the Junior League of Northern Virginia at an event to raise seed money for their signature project, the Children’s Science Center, Saturday evening, March 6, 2010.

When I was little, I lived in Texas, and then Mississippi.  My parents, like all parents, wanted to give me every advantage as I grew up, but in Texas and Mississippi, there weren’t many.  Still, they took me to every art museum, discovery center, and state fair that there was, and they encouraged me to touch, to listen, to ask questions about what we saw.

When we lived in Houston, there was a special trip to the Johnson Space Center.  JSC was a workplace then, with a few displays in the badging area to mollify visitors.  It was a small space, with pieces parts from various missions.  But when I walked in, I was overwhelmed.  There, where I could touch them, were artifacts from the dawn of the space age.  Protective spacesuits from Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.  And, at the end, a wall of fame of pictures of each of the fifty-some astronauts to go into space.

I held my mother’s hand tightly, then squeezed it to get her attention.

Mommy, I asked her, why aren’t there any women astronauts?

She didn’t know the answer.  My Daddy didn’t either.  But that day they helped me write the question down on a slip of paper and put it in the comment box at the exit.  That day I decided that I would one day be one of them.  I would work for NASA.

I was three years old.

I kept that memory with me, and I worked hard.

After my Ph.D., I went to NASA Headquarters, eventually becoming the Discovery Program Scientist.  I didn’t fly into space myself, but I ran the selections for the next missions to go into space and explore the solar system.  The planets, the asteroids, the comets that no one had ever visited in person could be explored through these new missions, and they were.

After five years, I left Headquarters to do my own research and raise my own children, happy preschoolers now who delight in exploring new places.

Now I take them to children’s museums whereever my work takes me —

  • The Exploratorium in San Francisco;
  • The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia;
  • The Sciencenter in Ithaca; and
  • The Magic House in St. Louis.

They love it, and so do I.  They love exploring these places, touching, trying, and asking questions.  They ask me all the time to go back to the Magic House, but of course, that’s a thousand miles away.

I take them to these museums because I remember how important the museum experience was to me, and I want to see the light of discovery in their eyes.

Visiting Kennedy Space Center

October 30, 2009

My husband and I have always wanted to go to Kennedy Space Center together.

We wanted to go when we were in college.  We wanted to go when we were in graduate school (but by the time we were married and ready to travel, we were writing our dissertations). We wanted to go when we worked for NASA (but we worked for NASA, and were way too busy to vacation. Yes, I know (now) that that’s sad). We wanted to go when we had children (but we had children, and were way too busy still). We wanted to go when a mission I’d worked on launched (but, but, but … and we never went).

A couple of weeks ago, we just went.

Spurred by a question from Ellen, I’m writing up the highlights of our trip, here and on related (linked) posts.

The highlights of our trip to Cocoa Beach in October were many, although not all that varied. We’re space geeks. Period. We love space. And nature. And space again. This trip was a dream come true for us.

The first stop on the Space Coast was the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. The visitor center is actually run by a professional visitor center company, Delaware Parks & Resorts, and it shows. From the highly organized ticket-buying experience to the metal detectors to the visitor center food, it’s definitely done by someone who knows what they’re doing, and who can manage crowds.

Not that there were crowds when we were there. It was October in Florida, after all, which I can tell you is a great time to go. The crowds are thin, the people were relaxed, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. (Although the ocean was cold. Not that we spent much time on the beach.)

We enjoyed the KSC Visitor’s Center immensely, running from the Robotic Exploration exhibit to the Constellation movie to the Rocket Garden, with a stop at the giant playspace full of tunnels, bridges, and slides for the younger set. We took a tour (included with visitor’s admission), filed in to a shuttle mockup for a trip to space (kids under 48″ have to watch from a gallery — but even that was exciting), walked on the gantry that the Apollo astronauts walked, explored a full-size shuttle, and stood solemnly at the Astronaut Memorial. We also touched a celestial sphere with the constellations engraved on it, and marveled as it effortlessly spun in the water base at the gentle push of a toddler’s hand.

One of the best parts of the trip was the KSC Then and Now Space History Tour, a three hour tour (not that kind of three hour tour) that took us onto Kennedy Space Center proper and over to Cape Canaveral, where all the Mercury and Gemini rockets were launched back in the 60’s and the unmanned rockets are still launched today. Highlights for us were a visit to an actual bunkhouse, where we got to see and touch the ancient computers that filled the rooms, sit at a control desk, and stand behind the 12-layered glass where Werner Von Braun once stood. We also went to the Apollo 1 launch pad, and solemnly put our hands on the launch structure where the capsule caught fire, burning Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee alive. This was followed by a quiet ride back to KSC, and a stop at the Saturn V center, where one of the last remaining Saturn V rockets is on display.

Included in our trip to KSC was a stop at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, next to the old Space Camp dorms. The Hall of Fame had quite a few other attractions, including hands-on activities and simulators for the kids (that used to belong to Space Camp). This was a fun stop, and although not a whole day’s destination, it was the perfect way to top off Day #2 at KSC. (KSC offers a second day free at the Visitor Center and/or the Astronaut Hall of Fame simply by validating your ticket on exit.)

After the Hall of Fame, we were starving, and dropped by Kelsey’s for pizza. Yum.

Before we left Florida, we happened on another great place to go, this time in Titusville. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum is for the true history buff and/or space-crazy child or teen. This unassuming little museum is packed tight with real pieces of history, like the charred I-beam used to advocate for necessary funding increases for the space program back in the 1980’s. The ragged door from a Mercury capsule that was lost before the manned program began. Lights, switches, and memorabilia given to retiring astronauts, engineers, and launch directors. Handprints from dozens of astronauts, that you can lay your hands in for the asking. An amazing room-sized model of the shuttle launch pad, gantry, and crawler. Rooms for Mercury, Gemini, Apollo. A room set up like the bunkhouse that we’d just seen on the tour, but even more child friendly. Scrapbooks of photos kept by men who made the space program what it is today.

We were led through the museum by retired shuttle launch director (whose name I’ve misplaced), who worked his way up through the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and shuttle missions, growing right along with the space program, and it was amazing to hear his stories firsthand. This museum is free, and well worth any time you spend there. Go, shake the hands of the men who made it happen.

The Space Walk of Fame itself is a block or two away, by a beautiful stretch of water, and it is a must-visit. Scattered over the two block area of Space View Park are monuments to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo engineers, mechanics, flight directors, and all the people who made it happen. Not just the astronauts. Not the astronauts at all, actually, and that was a refreshing change from the astronaut-worship apparent at the KSC Visitor Center. The Space Walk of Fame celebrates hard work. Impossible work, really, and that was a lovely place for us to end our trip.

After a trip to Scoops, for freshly churned ice cream and milkshakes, we played in a nearby park and returned home, tired but happy, our trip complete.

Had we had more time, we would definitely have visited the Brevard Community College Planetarium, which hosts a rooftop observatory with 12 and 24 inch reflectors, a 6 inch refractor, a planetarium with a dual projection system, a 3 story high screened movie theater, and a space museum. The star show is showing Ring World, a favorite of friends of ours … and each show is just $6. We just ran out of time. We’d also like to see the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which friends of ours have loved on their trips there. The Refuge is near the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center, and we’ll definitely make time for that on our next trip.

We can’t wait to go again!

Disclosure: None of the institutions mentioned or NASA paid for any part of this trip in any way at all, nor are they aware of this post. I used to work for NASA, and my husband still does, but I think you knew that already.