An increasingly tired Mama, the U.S. Botanic Garden

Here we are again. The final week of summer break. The public schools have resumed-some weeks ago- or will tomorrow, and we are limping towards yet another opportunity for vacation and family time: Labor Day. Which is, if you think about it, an exceedingly accurate moniker for what many parents will continue to do over this long weekend: labor.

I, myself, have had approximately no minutes away from my children except for last, glorious Friday, and honestly feel that I could use a few. Or one million. 

I am tired. Pooped. Behind. And not remotely interested in any further discussions of Minecraft, butts, penises, or who prompted the pinching and who deserved the punch. Ya both did and ya probably both do, you hear me you summer-strangled heathens?

On the heels of Sunday's delightful time with Cirque du Soleil, we spent most of Monday at the U.S. Botanic Garden which is roughly kitty-corner to the Capitol. We found easy parking on Pennsylvania Avenue, walked through the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial which is, thankfully, fully wrapped under renovation cloths (it needs work!), and over to the Botanic Garden's entrance on Maryland Ave, SW.

the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

I'd read about the USBG's Junior Botanist program and figured the boys would love it. They did, and for good reason. 

I exchanged my drivers license for a Jr. Botanist backpack filled with all manner of exploration supplies-magnifying glass, ruler, bottles of scents, a spray bottle, fossils-and a packet of thoughtfully designed adventure pamphlets. We grabbed pencils and headed in.

Each pamphlet corresponded to a room in the Garden, and each took twenty or thirty minutes to complete as the kids had to read, explore, draw, sniff, guess, record, and so forth. There were also interactive journals for both inside and outside gardens and rooms. 

We spent nearly five hours, including a brief, delicious lunch break at the American Indian Museum (truly, it was delicious; I had tamales, Jack had buffalo chili, and Ol a bison burger) down the street, completing the program at which point I remembered to get my license back and the boys received the Junior Botanist badges they'd earned.

the American Indian Museum

the American Indian Museum

If they now complete their Botany At Home packet, they can mail in their completed work to receive both a certificate AND an invitation to the USBG's greenhouses which are not open to the public but for a day each year. 

*Clockwise from top left: a Pitcher plant, the Wollemi Pine (first discovered in 1978), two different types of orchid, a golden barrel cactus, and a beautiful plant whose name I haven't the foggiest.

This fun, super-educational, engaging program is FREE as is most everything via the Smithsonian, and I enthusiastically recommend participating.

*Full disclosure: I will say that it may be wise to NOT do both the Jr. Botanist work AND the journals on the same day. By the time we left, Oliver was crying, Jack was sweating and pissy, and I was frantic, had blisters, and my eyes were spinning.

That said, it's a really beautiful place, the staff is amazingly nice and informed, and the programming is terrific. Both kids want to return pronto. 

Cirque du Soleil Kurios

Today I took the boys to Cirque du Soleil's Kurios show which is under a blue- and yellow-striped big top in Tyson's Corner, VA. The tickets seemed a touch pricey, but boy were they worth every penny: I really feel we got more than we paid for.

I haven't enjoyed a performance this much in some time. Frankly, I liked it much better than The Book of Mormon (on Broadway, and relative to those tickets, Cirque was a bargain), and the boys were awestruck.

Trampolines, contortionists, a juggler, incredible sets and props, Olympics-worthy athletes, hella good musicians (seriously, I almost bought the soundtrack), and the most amazing yo-yo guy I've ever seen made for a really fun two hours.

The kids got invited to walk through backstage and then over the bridge on stage before the show started, and because they needed an adult accompaniment, I got to go too!

Everyone associated with the show was a consummate professional and extremely friendly. Truly, it couldn't have been a cooler afternoon. 

Kurios, Cabinet of Curiosities, runs through September 18, and I enthusiastically suggest you get tickets and go if you can. You can even get a fetching pair of aviator goggles if you so desire. Jack and I chose the puzzle, natch.

Hours of cooking, beautiful food, misc

I tell you, spending hours picking fruit will surely keep you accountable in terms of not letting it go to waste! It's a race against time when you have fresh produce ripening in real time, and when you go slightly overboard with poundage schlepped home, well, get your cooking hands ready!

I was too slow for about a sixth of my blackberries, but the rest are safely frozen, jammed, or pied, and today I finished the raspberries. Lots of straight-up raspberry jam and also some raspberry-Grand Marnier. I'll be honest, y'all, while Grand Marnier is a heavenly substance, the plain old raspberry jam just can't be beat. I'm glad I made a majority of that.

I'm about half-through the peaches -which are scrumptious by the way- and have so far brandied seven pints and made a gorgeous pie. I'll deal with the rest tomorrow.

Also, tomatoes. Y'all know how I feel about summer's star. It's true love. This evening I made this caramelized tomato tarte tatin with slow-roasted Romas, caramelized onions, and puff pastry. It's like summer thinking of sliding into fall via cast iron pan. 

Tonight was a tough'ish night of parenting, and I was glad to have two episodes of The Americans to settle into when finally the boys' bedtime came. It is such a good show- Matthew Rhys and Keri Russel have delicious chemistry, and Frank Langella...Oh how I adore him. What an actor. 

Tomorrow I'm taking the boys to see Cirque du Soleil. Have y'all seen one of their performances? I never have and am looking forward to it!