camp stephanie

[fblike style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”] Motorized Lego Merry-Go-Round

I apologize for the lack of posts; it’s not for lack of life. With the beans out of school, Camp Stephanie has been open. Between attempts at teaching them the story of Passover (Wait, you went to Jewish pre-pre-K and pre-K, and still none of this sounds familiar?), and succumbing to Disney’s the Price of Egypt (thank you Netflix), I’ve been living in scheduled play dates and plans. May I just say, and this surprises me mostly, that I really love time alone with my children. I’ve never been someone who inherently enjoys children, especially babies–I’m still not a fan. But when it’s your own children, of course, it’s some version of narcissism, and you can delight in learning their ways, however different from your own.

Motorized Lego Spin Art with Magic Markers not paint!Magic Marker (not paint!) paper plate creation by way of motorized Lego Spin Art

Yesterday, we visited my favorite place in the world: the library. Any library or book store thrills me–though I’m rarely a fan of the stacks types of libraries, which I consider to be akin to shopping at Filene’s basement. A disorganized free-for-all, which claims to be organized, no. I prefer featured tables and curated selections featuring local writers or books displayed by theme. Our purpose for going to the library was to pick up museum passes to a local art museum in Huntington, where beside many of the paintings are a list of questions aimed toward children. With a focus on theme or style, an easy way of teaching art through discussion vs. lecture. Of course, while we picked up the passes, the beans browsed, which lead to reading and securing more books.

Knowing that I’d be taking them to the MoMa today, to see Jasper Johns and Paul Gauguin, I read them books about each artist’s life, asking them questions about the placement of horizon lines, and how the distance on the page made objects seem nearer or farther away.

Is it a pain in the ass to bring both children to the city, to load up my bag with snacks and waters, and drawing pencils and a pad, to lecture them about manners and how it’s a privilege to be taken to do such things, to find and pay for parking, to figure out lunch in advance (which I’ll never do)? Yes. It’s annoying. But, it’s not the first line I draw. Instead, I print out scavenger hunts of the MoMa and talk to them about how they’ll get to bring their own headphones, how there’s an audio tour. It helps having already talked to them about some of the artists we’ll see today. Reminding them how to read a wall plaque, to see the origin line, the title, the artist, the medium, etc. While I very much enjoy enriching our lives with art, I remind them that it’s not just about the art.

Look at all the jobs at a museum (after you pay attention to all the people working there, I’d like you to share which job you find most exciting). Observe the floors and ceilings, where the benches are placed, the white space between each offering, and look at the windows; how does the light work in a museum? What about the architecture, what about the visitors? How do they behave? What languages do you hear? Is everyone speaking English? Do people spend the same amount of time in front of each piece? Do you enjoy it up close or from across the room? I want them to view the world as observers, to pay attention to the side lines, not just the art behind frames.

Gauguin wasn’t happy until he searched out “the other,” disappointed that the people of Tahiti were mostly French, he wasn’t satisfied with his work until he worked his way into the jungle, creating worlds from his imagination combined with the Tahitian landscape. I think the fault in much of our writing (or even living) is trying to discover something “other,” different enough from our own experiences and familiarities, something new, worthy of commentary. Instead, I think it takes greater discipline to breathe new life into our worn-in patterns, to broaden our view and tell the story we know through eyes that are paying attention to the side lines, not just the big moments worthy of frames.

After the library, we went to a Lego activity center for two hours where they built motorized windmills and merry-go-rounds, creating Lego spin art and racing Lego cars down a ramp. Then, we made our way to the climbing walls at our gym, where they met up with friends and released some energy by literally climbing up the walls. Now, onward, off to the Museum of Modern Art with MoMa Mama and her magical scavenger hunt!


  1. I always love reading your blog, but posts like this really inspire me. My little ones are still babes (3 and 1), and unlike you, I much prefer babies over kids. My biggest fear is that I will have no idea how to engage them as they get older. Now I have a new plan, though. I’m going to move to NY and send them to the museum with you! (Or I guess I could just steal some of your suggestions and apply them in my own town. We will call that “Plan B.”)

  2. Whew! I’m glad you were silent for such a good reason.

    I adore spending time with my children, and I have decided they get more and more enjoyable as they get older, even the child who is now driving (with a licensed adult). Every conversation and experience we share builds on all the others we’ve had.

    I think it’s not unlike building with Lego, in that now that my works are so tall and complex, I cannot imagine being excited by working with a handful of duplos, i.e. back to a baby.

    1. Author

      Yes, and thanks for the nudge! I sometimes forget to post because I write daily in my journal, so I still feel introspective and connected to my writing. I just forget to share the insights and daily happenings, or forget that people care. Thank you for the reminder!

      1. Believe you me, we care! I actually worried a bit. Stephanie Klein going out with a post about CULOTTES? Nonononono.

        I mean if you ever decide to stop blogging, fine, that’s your right, but ending with a post about culottes (culottes!) would be akin to living a life filled with exotic and breathtaking travels and then dying in an Exxon bathroom because you stopped to get gas on your way to somewhere better. (At least make it an Esso, Stephanie.)

        Glad you’re back. :)

  3. I’m delighted to see you back, too, on this, the last day of having a teenage child! Yep – little one turns 20 tomorrow – and she’s far away in South Korea studying abroad. We will Skype her tonight at 6:30 which is around 10:30 on her birthday morning.

    God – seriously? 20 years ago I was just starting labor pains with what would be the sickest, smallest poppet I’d ever laid eyes or hands on. Those first few weeks when she was in the NICU with Helyn-membrane Disorder were among the worst in my life.

    And yet – we all survived. She’s now a confident, beautiful, capable world traveler who is considering where to get her PhD in Asian Studies and where she wants to be a professor. Stunning how fast life goes.

    All the things you’re doing now are deepening the folds in your darlings’ brains, making them thoughtful, insightful thinkers and people. They will be forever changed, for the better. Glad all of our kids will share the world together.

    1. Damn! That is neat and I remember all of your posts about your kids, leaving an awful marriage and raising them alone. So, I feel like it’s full circle. COngrats!

      1. She did leave a marriage but never raised her kids alone. She’s married to Phil. They’re their children. Sorry to be pedantic :)

  4. i love how Lucas dresses like such a little man. And they are so big. I like the honest slice of life posts, and these ‘mom’ posts. You are a great mom to these kids. Even if the rest falls apart in life you are still way ahead. So fun. I got a few ideas with how to approach taking my kids to the museum now.

  5. I like the unusual questions you came up with but with my own child (5 years old) I try to limit my questions so I can see what questions he comes up with and what he notices about his surroundings -I love the surprises and how much I learn about him and how his mind works and what he cares about which, when being more of a “director” I might miss out on (and him as well).

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