When your son returns to visit his elementary school; Botanic Garden follow-up

Today, Jack had a day off from 5th grade as the middle school teachers wrote report cards. (I have regularly been amazed by the thought that goes into my kids reports and am very appreciative. So even though I could have used today, go forth teachers and write! And thank you!) 

In any case, as Oliver still had school, we all decided to park and do a quick visit as Jack has been back to the lower school just once since graduating from 4th last June. He'd spent six years on that campus and was so excited by the prospect of seeing his former teachers.

Our quick visit turned into the happiest hour-long reunion. I felt so lucky to be there, to see my boy glow with love and memory and appreciation. His comfort was palpable. It's the sort that comes from having been deeply happy and known somewhere. Of having been a real part of a tightly-knit, sincere community. Of having always been appreciated for just who he is. I wish all children had such educational experiences.

In his 3rd grade classroom, he was invited into the gathering circle by his teachers, Elizabeth and Sarah (see middle right and bottom two pics below). Those two could be a wildly successful comedic duo but, fortunately, decided to be educators, and Jack's year with them was stellar.

Also, they're fashionable, and I learned some tips from them. And laughed pretty much every time we crossed paths. I would happily hang with those two on a Friday night. And don't even get me started on 4th grade. It was also insanely stellar. And full(!) of laughter, both in class and when I saw the teachers. So much happiness everywhere at school. Thank god Oliver is still there for 2.5 years (one of his fab teachers is the woman in the top two pics; she and Jack got to know each other last year in Homework Club).

Classes did start and we did need to leave and so we did. Remember the cool Junior Botanist program we did at the US Botanic Garden this past summer? And then remember how Jack sent all of his work in and received a certificate and all kinds of swag and an invitation to visit the Botanic Garden's growing facilities which are otherwise open to the public just one day a year?

I remembered this invitation two days ago and was amazed to find that the botanist we were encouraged to contact, Kyle, was free today. To the greenhouses Jack and I went. And for 2.5 hours we stayed. Kyle was in no rush, and it was such a fantastic and educational experience. Check out a sampling of the pics I snapped. 

Jack tastes a toothache plant. Tingly!

Jack tastes a toothache plant. Tingly!

The nectar is SO sweet.

The nectar is SO sweet.

Cubs, brown butter chicken & rice, Junior Botanist follow-up

Y'all, WHO watched Game Six of the World Series last night? It was so fantastic! I mean, how often do you witness a grand slam? We got the boys out of bed to watch the replays and plan to let them stay up for part of tonight's final match. Go CUBS!!!!!!!!!!

I was chilly all day yesterday and wanted a hearty dinner that would warm and comfort me. I also wanted it to be quick. My Brown Butter Chicken and Rice fit the bill to a tee. And, it's a one-pot dish. All the better!

I adore the interplay of the brown butter and lemon, the tender chicken that results from basically being poached in the oven, and the creamy flavorful rice that serves as the foundation here. I made a kale salad as our side, and we devoured everything. You should make both of these things soon!

Doesn't that look divine?

Doesn't that look divine?

Do y'all remember the U.S. Botanic Garden field trip I took the boys on in late August? A couple weeks afterwards, Jack finished up the last of his Junior Botanist program pack, and we mailed everything in. 

Yesterday, he was thrilled to receive a huge bubble envelope from, you guessed it, the Botanic Society. In it was his official Junior Botanist certificate, an invitation to visit the Society's growing facilities, a clipboard, journal, and cool hand lens. I'm telling y'all, that is one cool DC opportunity for kids!

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.