Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia–Experience Adventure 37 of 100

The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia delivers one of the most interesting, thought-provoking and unusual museum experiences in the United States.  Housed within a beautiful, national historic landmark, the Mutter Museum showcases the evolution of medical practices and the historical significance of techniques and practitioner procedures.

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It offers a wildly odd, yet universally intriguing, collection of antique medical devices, wax models, vintage drawings, anatomical and pathological specimens, and human oddities–all respectfully and beautifully preserved and displayed.  **No photography is allowed in the main galleries.

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Visitors walk through a nineteenth-century, Victorian collection-like setting full of mysterious medical specimens and the history of diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.

Things you do not want to miss during your visit:

The Hyrtl Skull collection offers viewers the opportunity to stand before 139 human skull specimens, all labeled with the individual’s name, origin, age and means of death (if available).  It is an interesting and moving experience.

My daughter’s favorite exhibit at the Mutter presents several slides with specimens of Albert Einstein’s brain, which can only be viewed in two places in the entire world–one being the Mutter Museum.

2,374 foreign objects that were removed from human airways by Dr. Chevalier Jackson, an otolaryngologist, are on display in large, pull-out drawers.  People swallow weird stuff!

A 360-degree view is available of a life-size cast of the bodies of conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker.

The peaceful Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden features a beautiful collection of plants, flowers and berries, as well as outdoor seating in a relaxing courtyard.

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We visited the Mutter Museum in March of 2018, and found ourselves completely fascinated by the current, but not permanent, exhibit called Woven Strands.  This unusual display invites visitors to enter the eccentric world of the art of human hair work, something new and foreign to me and my daughters.

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The Mutter Museum’s collection offers visitors a chance to view intimate medical curiosities, while encouraging an understanding of the human experience.

It is certainly one of our favorites.

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The Mutter Museum is located at 19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103.  Fore more information, visit www.muttermuseum.org or call 215-560-8564.

The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

**Save $2 on tickets for visits on Monday and Tuesday, if you buy tickets online in advance.

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Other things to do in Philadelphia:

The Barnes Foundation

The Rodin Museum

For more science related educational adventures, we recommend:

The Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

 

 

 

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The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia–Experience Adventure 36 of 100

Auguste Rodin, born in Paris, in the year 1840, and arguably one of the world’s most famous artists, created thousands of sculptures over a 50+ year span.  Over 7,000 drawings, prints, oils and watercolors are contributed to the master sculptor of marble and bronze casting.

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Focusing on the true human experience and human emotion, Rodin’s work moved away from the Greek tradition of an idealized human figure–full of mythology and folklore–and artistically arrived at a captivating realism, expressing inner turmoil, joy, love and human connection through the language and movements of the human body.

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Jules E. Mastbaum, a philanthropist and Philadelphia native, gifted his extensive, personal collection of Rodin statues and the museum showcase to the city.  The Rodin Museum opened to the public on November 29, 1929, with over 150 Auguste Rodin objects in the collection, three years after Mastbaum’s death.

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For our 36th experience, my daughters and I visited the Rodin Museum in early March of 2018.

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The museum consists of a Beaux-Arts architectural building, which displays the main collection, and the Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden, which showcases 8 Rodin works in an outdoor, formal French-style sculpture garden.

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Visitors view works such as The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and The Three Shades while strolling outside in the garden.

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Inside the museum, visitors find sculptures of The Kiss, Shame, Meditation, Crying Woman, Despair, Eternal Springtime, I Am Beautiful and many, many more.  A very peaceful and reflective space, the main gallery bathes Rodin’s work with natural light.

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A more intimate, quiet space sits off to the side, where visitors are encouraged to sketch using inspiration from Rodin’s sculptures, his books, and the provided drawing supplies.  My youngest daughter wanted to stay until the museum closed.

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The Rodin Museum is located at 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19130.  For more information, visit www.rodinmuseum.org or call 215-763-8100.

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The museum is open Wednesday-Monday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and is closed on Tuesday.

Admission to the Rodin Museum is “pay what you wish”.

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We also recommend:

The Barnes Foundation (Art museum in Philadelphia)

The State Museum of Pennsylvania

8 Fun Food Adventures to Discover in Pennsylvania

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida 

The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia

 

 

 


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The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia–Experience Adventure 35 of 100

My daughters and I took our very first trip to Philadelphia in early March of 2018.  The city offers a plethora of outstanding educational opportunities for a homeschooling family–for ANY family–to learn about American history,  government, science, the natural world, and art.

We decided to start our visit with art.

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A day at the unbelievable Barnes Foundation brought our 35th experience adventure.

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The Barnes Foundation is an unusual and extraordinary collection of over 4,000 objects, including over 900 impressionist, post-impressionist and modern European paintings.  Founded by Albert C. Barnes in 1922, and assembled between 1912 and 1951, the extensive collection of art is estimated to be worth at least $25 billion dollars.

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Barnes organized this collection based on visual similarities and created what he called “ensembles” with areas of art never before displayed together.  For example, a visitor might find a painting by Matisse, hanging above a piece of Pennsylvania German furniture displaying Native American pottery, next to a collection of iron work crosses.

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Most rooms or “galleries” at the Barnes portray a personal collection of art and treasured, global trinkets displayed in a home-like setting with chairs, tables, textiles, and ordinary objects.

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Works by famous artists, such as Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, and Picasso fill the collection, with no “official” artist plates or identification.

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For visitors use, each room offers a laminated guide with a diagram of the art displayed, as well as artists’ names, title of works, the year and the medium.

 

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The Barnes Foundation collection presents art in an innovative and creative way–breaking the mold of traditional arrangement found in most art museums.  Not only were we inspired by the works created by master artists, we also found ourselves challenged to understand and grasp the connections between seemingly unrelated objects.

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Visit the Barnes Foundation for a truly unique and original art viewing experience.

The Barnes Foundation is located at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19130.  For more information, visit www.barnesfoundation.org or call 215-278-7000.

Interested in art?  Read about these museums, too!

The Dali Musuem

The Chihuly Collection

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 


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Fossil Pit Hunt At Montour Preserve–Experience Adventure 34 of 100

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After a super fun morning enjoying all things maple-y sweet at the FREE maple sugaring family program at the beautiful Montour Preserve, my family and I headed over to the fossil pit.

 

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Visitors must park their car and then walk down this beautiful path that leads to the fossil pit.

 

I decided to break our trip to the Montour Preserve into two different adventures because both could easily stand alone and fill a family day full of fun and excitement.

So, for our 34th experience, we spent several hours searching for fossils at the Montour Preserve Fossil Pit.

 

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The Montour Preserve Fossil Pit

 

This hillside fossil “pit” found on the grounds of the Montour Preserve showcases exposed shale and siltstone of the Mahantango Formation.  The fossils found here lived in the Kaskaskia Sea, a warm, shallow body of water, during the Devonian Period, between 400 and 350 million years ago.

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Most fossils found in the pit need to be unearthed by gentle taps with a geologist’s hammer.  **Bring safety goggles.  My daughters also enjoyed looking for treasures on the surface, which resulted in a few finds.

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Brachiopods make up two-thirds of all fossils found at the pit.  The Montour Preserve provides a free fossil hunter’s field guide if you stop at the visitor’s and education center first.  **Use the bathroom there before you head to the pit.

Cehpalopods, corals, gastropods, pelecypods, brachiopods and trilobites are all found on the guide, which features detailed drawings to help with identification.  **The guide is very helpful, but we never found the elusive trilobite.  (BUMMER!)

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We also read the very informative sign which marks the entrance to the pit.

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**There is little to no shade at the pit (no trees and no man made structures.  There are also no restroom facilities at the pit–you must use the restroom found in the visitor’s center.

We recommend wearing closed-toe shoes, with a thick sole, preferably rubber boots.  The ground is made of shale, sharp edges and rocks.

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Helpful items for your fossil hunt:

Sunscreen, lots of water, small hammer, goggles for eye protection, a small, soft brush, bucket, containers and baggies, newspaper or foil to wrap treasures, closed-toe shoes, long pants so you can sit down on the rocky shale semi-comfortably and the field guide–study it before you start hunting.  🙂

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The fossil pit can be found on the grounds of the Montour Preserve located at 374 Preserve Road, Danville, Pennsylvania, 17821.  For more information, visit www.MontourPreserve.org or call 507-336-2060.

To read about our morning adventures at the Montour Preserve maple program, read this!

Are you fossil fanatic like me?  Here is a post all about my favorite spot to find fossilized shark’s teeth!  Read it here!


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Montour Preserve Maple Sugaring–Experience Adventure 33 of 100

As soon as I learned of our Pennsylvania-6-month-sabbatical opportunity, one of the first thoughts that popped into my hands-on-learning, homeschooling-momma brain was MAPLE SUGARING!

MAPLE FARMS, MAPLE TREES, MAPLE SUGAR, MAPLE CANDY, MAPLE, MAPLE, MAPLE!!! 🙂

Obviously, I like maple syrup.

I find it so fascinating that sweet, edible magic comes from these trees that do not produce fruit.  As a vegetarian, eating an almost entirely plant-based diet, I use maple syrup A LOT for baking and to sweeten up my goodies.  Maple is good stuff. 🙂

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So, it was a no-brainer that one of our awesome experience adventures would certainly occur during the small window of time that is the maple collection season in Pennsylvania.

For our 33rd of 100 experience adventures, we visited the Montour Preserve during a maple sugaring open house and program day!

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Set among a beautiful and natural setting, the Montour Preserve offers visitors a host of family-friendly activities, more than 10 miles of trials, fishing, boating, an environmental study pond, fossil pit, children’s play areas and environmental education opportunities within a wonderful visitors’ center.

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Open year- round to the public (and FREE), visitors experience all kinds of events and activities at the Montour Preserve–all centered around the beautiful 165 acre Lake Chillisquaque.

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On-site historical buildings and a museum-like visitor center full of displays and informative presentations offer families a chance to learn about the area and the history of the preserved land.

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The breathtaking environment is reason enough to spend the day exploring and enjoying the natural setting.

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My family visited the Montour Preserve during one of the early March, weekend maple sugaring programs offered for free and open to the public.

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The family day began with a very informative lecture and movie about the maple sugaring process.  Outdoor programs featured maple sap collection and hands-on activities, maple sugaring demonstrations and the opportunity to watch the process in action.

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Of course, we taste-tested everything to make sure we properly understood the process.  LOL 🙂

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A little village-like setting, with maple goodie selling vendors, rounded out the maple experience.  We bought super yummy maple sugar candy and fresh maple cream!  DELICIOUS!

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We all learned a great deal about the process of collecting, processing and creating maple syrup and maple products.

Visit the Montour Preserve during one of their maple weekends to learn all about (and taste!) the delicious syrup we all take for granted… AND visit to enjoy the beautiful, natural setting any day of the year!  It is a delightful Pennsylvania treasure!

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OH!  One last exciting find:  The Montour Preserve offers a wonderfully inclusive Braille Trail, with a rope lead and stations featuring Braille and three-dimensional shapes to feel and trace.  Excellent job, Montour!

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The Montour Preserve is open and free to the public.  It is open from sunrise to sunset and the visitor’s center is open Monday-Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and closed on Saturday and Sunday during the winter months.

For more information, visit www.MontourPreserve.org or call 570-336-2060.

Montour Preserve, 700 Preserve Road, Danville, Pennsylvania, 17821

Get out there and explore!

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For another fun, outdoor adventure in Pennsylvania, read my post about day hiking the Appalachian Trail here.

Are you a museum lover like us?

Visit these awesome museums in Pennsylvania:

The National Watch and Clock Museum

The State Museum of Pennsylvania

If you like cheese, you gotta read all about our super cool, cheese experience #32!  Click here!

 


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Cheese Making Tour & Tasting At Caputo Brothers Creamery–Experience Adventure 32 of 100

One of my favorite means of finding educational adventures for my daughters comes from good ol’ Groupon.  When I am not glued to the all-mighty Google search, I frequently type in different neighboring cities on the Groupon site and wait to see what the internet fairy brings.  Often, the results showcase unique experiences at a reasonable price.  Yes, please!  Sign me up!  🙂

I accidentally found our 32nd experience adventure on Groupon–a cheese making tour and tasting at the amazing Caputo Brothers Creamery–And we enjoyed this educational journey so much that we plan to return for a second time before we leave Pennsylvania.

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The story of the Caputo Brothers Creamery began when owners David and Rynn Caputo decided to quit their corporate jobs to attend culinary school in Italy–a bold and exciting decision made while on their honeymoon!

After 6 months in Italy, the couple returned to the United States with a love for authentic Italian cheeses.  In 2011, David and Rynn opened Caputo Brothers Creamery, which is named after their sons, Giovanni and Matteo.

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Through exceptionally hard work and dedication to traditional Italian recipes, the Caputo family’s passion continues to evolve and develop into one incredibly successful and DELICIOUS American dream (creamery) story.

Caputo cheese making is legit–This family uses the knowledge learned while in the south of Italy to create a one-of-a-kind product.  The milk comes from local farmers who follow strict animal welfare practices, which include non-GMO, grass feed for the cows.  The cheese making facility is a spectacular and interesting aging cave, modeled after Italian caseificios–right in the heart of Pennsylvania!

**FUN FACT:  Real cheese is lactose free!

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Our 32nd of 100 experiences began with an engaging company synopsis and a super yummy cheese tasting lead by Rynn herself.  She explained the different cheeses, the cheese making process and happily answered all of the questions from the audience.

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We sampled a variety of 6 unique and satisfying cheeses, fresh and aged, including a smoked mozzarella, which is smoked over dry hay in a cold smoker for 30 minutes.

**FUN FACT:  Provolone means “big aged mozzarella”.  Provolone is stretched before salted.  To make mozzarella, add salt before stretching.

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Ricotta Salata Vecchio triumphed as my favorite.  In fact, my mouth is actively watering asI type and I think about that distinctively salty cheese!

Caputo Brothers Creamery produces the only fermented cheese curds that can be stretched into fresh mozzarella in the United States.  What?!?  Yep, it’s true.  And Rynn stretched a huge batch right in front of us!  Then, she poured some extra virgin olive oil over the chunks and encouraged us to eat it straight off the platter with some toothpicks.

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Ladies and gentlemen, never in my 45 years have I ever tasted cheese as mouth-watering, delicious and creamy–REAL cheese tastes heavenly!

After all of the tasty snacking, David Caputo conducted a full tour of the cheese making facility, including the enormous milk storage tanks.  Rynn concluded the tour by sharing a glimpse into the aging cave and answering any lingering questions.  We were all given an ample, free sample to take home.

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The entire experience took about 2 hours, but honestly, I could have stayed all day.  Both Rynn and David are personable and very inviting, as well as unbelievably knowledgeable and über interesting.  As an educational activity, this engaging tour ranks right up there with some of the best.

**FUN FACT:  Rynn Caputo graduated from Texas Tech University!

Even if you choose to forgo the Groupon tour (a decision you will regret, I promise), visit the Caputo Brothers Creamery retail shop which carries all kinds of fresh, enticing cheeses, Italian goodies, beautiful kitchen wares, unique accompaniments, olive oils and specialty items.   The retail shop is open Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

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Check out the Caputo Brothers Creamery website at www.caputobrotherscreamery.com to order cheese goodies online (YES!  They ship!) and take a minute to look through the super cool classes offered for us regular folks.  They even offer culinary tours to Italy!

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**FUN FACT:  We have found Caputo cheese on 3 different Pennsylvania restaurant menus–all by happy accident!  In fact, our 28th experience adventure was a candlelight dinner at the Accomac, which proudly serves Caputo cheese!  Read all about that experience here!

Caputo Brothers Creamery is located at 245 North Main Street in Spring Gove, Pennsylvania, 17362.  For more information, call 717-739-1091 or visit the website www.caputobrotherscreamery.com where you will find their online shop and interesting cheese making demo videos!

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For some other unique culinary experiences in Pennsylvania, I recommend:

Click on these links for more info!

Lancaster Central Market

The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe and Stroppie Co.

Beiler’s Doughnuts

Cinnaholic

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and Tour


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Thoughts On Turning 45

Yesterday was my 45th birthday.  The number “45” does not cause alarm until I think about the 5 short years until I turn 50.  And…THAT number seems ridiculous.   🙂

Like most people, I assume, the arrival of my yearly birthday prompts a slurry of reflective thoughts and winding questions of direction–Where have I been and where do I want to go?

Looking back, my previous life events took some very interesting turns (to say the least), which I honestly–always and continuously–view as gifts and opportunities to evolve.  Like the vinyl stickers on one of the walls in our classroom states, “If it does not challenge you, it does not change you.”

So, for the past few days, I found myself thinking a lot about my unusual path and the significant events I used to form myself into the woman I am today at age 45.

 

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Pic of me, riding in an Amish carriage, on April 26, 2018–my 45th birthday

 

I was raised in a patriarchal dominated home, where individuality, progressive thoughts, and conflicting opinions were not tolerated, often resulted in severe punishment, and significantly stifled free-thinking, creativity and uniqueness–a pit of suffocating quicksand that I would spend 25+ years clawing my way out of to find, uncover and explore my original identity on unbiased solid ground.

A surprise pregnancy at the age of 19 started the growth and evolution.

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The life-altering minute I became responsible for another human being created the defining moment I chose to forge my own, unique path.

As a single mom, I completed college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Studio Art and added an all-level, K-12 teaching certificate.  Studying and learning did not come naturally.  My son, on the other hand, taught himself to read at age 3 and understood simple algebra by age 5.

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I raised my son alone, except for three, not-so-awesome years when I accidentally married a drug addict.  I wish I could write a paragraph to explain those years…oh the enormous mountain of red flags and stupidity I ignored!  It is utterly embarrassing and I am literally shaking my head as I type these words.  Excuse the acronym, but seriously, WTF?

Honestly, I *think* I married him because he formed such a strong bond with my son, who desperately desired a male role model in the absence of his father (whose visits were sporadic and yearly, at best)  I also divorced him because of my son– I REFUSED to subject him to an unstable and unhealthy environment.

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The wedding was March 11, 2000.  By August, I learned about a hidden addiction and immediately went into action, contacting family members, staging an intervention, begging, pleading, blah, blah, blah…  I filed for divorce on October 17, 2002, which was ultimately finalized on April 1, 2003.  Good times, ladies and gentlemen…good times…

During those explosive days, I became the Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire school district–a title never before awarded to a fine arts teacher.  One guarantee in my public school classroom–individuality was encouraged and celebrated, as was free-thinking and original thought, interpretation and expression.

And that was that.  Bam.  I was a single mom again.  Artist.  Teacher of the year.

 

Eventually, I plan to write an entire post all about my epic love story, but for today, a quick summary will have to pacify you.  🙂

I met my amazing (and current, LOL) husband in 2nd grade.  We were seven years old.  We rode the same school bus and we enjoyed the same awesome teacher that year, 1980. (She had a carpeted bathtub in her classroom for a reading nook!  Seriously, how cool is  that?!?)

We were interested in each other from the very beginning and all through elementary school, but his family moved away at the end of 8th grade.

Our paths crossed uncountable times over the next 16+ years, which resulted in several missed opportunities, a cherished photograph of him holding my 6 week old son and ironically, an encounter with my drug-addicted-then-fiance.

Life is funny sometimes.

Long story short, we finally married on August 29, 2003.  Reminder:  Divorce freed me from a life of heartache and addiction-induced instability on April 1, 2003.  Yes, I am aware that is an alarmingly short amount of time between the end of one marriage and the beginning of a new marriage, but honestly I should have married this man 25 years ago.  I never questioned the time line.

 

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Our wedding day

 

I will share this fun, little tidbit that will certainly be mentioned in my longer love story post:  Ironically, our first daughter was born on April 1, 2004–exactly 1 year after my divorce was finalized.  Internally and quietly, I celebrate that day each year as another significant, life evolving-freedom-granting event–AND I usually get to eat cake and ice cream!  HELLO!  Who gets to celebrate an escape from a suffocating marriage like that every year!?!  ME!  Pretty awesome, right?  🙂

 

If you are familiar with my blog, you know all about my extraordinary family.  But, for the new comers, I will share a few details and will attach some links at the bottom of this rambling if you find yourself interested with nothing else to do today.  LOL

My children are profoundly gifted–All three of them, though my son was never professionally tested.  He began college level classes at the age of 15 through the public school, dual-credit system and he is a mathematical genius and forward-thinker.  My daughters began taking college classes at the local community college at age 10 and 12.

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One daughter is fluent in French, is a 2nd degree black belt and runs her own charity.  Her passions include human rights and marine biology.  Our other daughter is fluent in American Sign Language and has completed 25 college hours. (She is 12.)  She plans to become an OB/GYN for Deaf and hearing women.

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We started a homeschooling journey almost 7 years ago to accommodate the need for our daughters’ extreme academic accelerations.  My son was already in college by the time our family initiated this evolution.

Sometimes people ask me about the origin of all of this intelligence.  The short answer is I have no idea.  The funny answer is that it skipped a generation, mainly me. LOL.  My husband likes to take all of the credit, but I like to remind him that does not explain my son.  🙂

So…the truth–if I am 100% honest–obviously the mega-brain power originated with some deeply buried DNA trait, which resides dormant inside of MY genetic make up.

And here is where my 45th birthday becomes a swirling, inner reflection, self-evaluating event.

I am surrounded by brilliant people.

My dad was a very successful attorney.  My niece is about to earn her master’s degree and she is married to an attorney.  My son’s girlfriend is an attorney. (There seems to be  a trend here.)  My sister has a master’s degree in special education and my husband will graduate in June with his graduate degree–having earned his undergrad from West Point.  My brother-in-law is an orthopaedic surgeon.  My daughters are geniuses and my intelligent, mature son was progressive in his bravity to walk away from a suffocating corprotate job to seek happiness over wealth.

Seriously.

That’s a tough crowd to compare yourself to.

I can’t help but wonder, at the ripe age of 45,  if I somehow missed the academic boat–am I just some sort of super under-achiever?

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My thoughts keep going back and forth, an internal conversation I regularly have with myself, but my annual birthday tends to highlight the significance.

Could I be more?  Should I be more?  What really is “more”?

I don’t have regrets.  I really don’t.  Even the botched marriage taught me life lessons that allow me to be a better wife to my wonderful husband.  Do I wish I could have learned those lessons a different way?  Sure.  Do I wish I was raised in a different kind of household?  Yes.  If my surprise pregnancy never happened, would my life have taken a different path?  Maybe.  Probably.  I don’t know.

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It really doesn’t matter.  I would not change it.

All of these significant events created the Jen I present to the world each and every day.  I am the glue that holds my family together when my military husband deploys and the fierce momma-bear that fights an age discriminating college system for my girls.

When my adult son needs something, I am his person.  When my husband’s work pulls him away, he never, EVER wonders or worries about how I will handle things.  My daughters both know that I will do whatever it takes to help them succeed–THEIR definition of success, not my own.

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I constantly seek a better way.  A better path.  A better understanding.  A better acceptance.

An evolution into better.

I **think** that is what 45 looks like for me.

 

 

Want to read some more random writings about my unique family?

Read this!

And this.

And this.

And this.

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