It has been an odd winter here in Virginia. We have been cycling from freezing to unseasonably warm. It’s confusing and exhausting and it seems to be quite hard on the body to adjust to all these fluctuations. My daffodils have been in bloom since late-February and they were just at peak bloom when the first day of spring and a freak snowstorm arrives!
We could have used this snow earlier on not now while we are used to spring! To add to our misery, we are all sick with various types of colds, bronchitis and flu symptoms. Each member of the family has a slightly different variant.
So, we sat at home, did some math work for the children who were not seriously ill and watched the snow fall and quickly start to melt. We lounged on sofas and conserved our energy to get better.
We celebrated 20 years of marriage with our first ever visit as a family to Virginia Beach!
After a great lunch at a local restaurant, we visited the Mariner’s Museum where we learned many interesting maritime facts. My favorite was the recreation of the ship we most often hear referred to as the Merrimack (in the Merrimack versus the Monitor, the first battle of ironclad ships, during the Civil War). It turns out that the original name of the ship was the Merrimack but during the Civil War, the ship was actually known as the C.S.S. Virginia. The exhibits referred to both names. At one point I turned to my historian husband utterly confused and he explained to me that it was the same ship known by two different names.
The Mariner’s Museum also had wonderful interactive films and my kids favorite, a small playhouse shaped like a ship with clothes to dress in, games to play and hammocks to rest in.
We then arrived at our hotel overlooking the boardwalk on Virginia Beach. This was an amazing room and we were quickly enticed to head down to the beach to play in the waves that evening.
As we were preparing for the trip looking through old wedding photos, my daughters kept asking, “Where were we during your wedding? Why aren’t we in these photos?” They can’t imagine a time that we ever weren’t a family!
To celebrate this important milestone, I wanted to pull out my old wedding dress and shoot a picture with my husband and kids. My husband insisted that he didn’t want to wear a suit or tuxedo. The kids didn’t want to wear hot, fancy clothes either. So we compromised with white shirts for the men and cotton dresses in our wedding colors for the girls. I wanted to shoot in the early morning at Virginia Beach but we all slept in that morning instead. So, we moved to an evening shoot at our next beach.
We spent the day exploring at Kiptopeke State Park. We hiked, had a nice lunch and spent the afternoon on the beach. The waves weren’t nearly as big as Virginia Beach but it was calm and relaxing.
The actual photo shoot preparation took place in the public restroom near the beach. It did not make for the best dressing room but we somehow got hair and makeup done. It took longer to get ready than we anticipated and the sun was going down fast, At first it looked like it could be too dark to take any pictures! Fortunately, we got a few shots in right before dark.
That night, we could not find any restaurants open so we grabbed some food from a local grocery store to eat in the hotel.
The last day we decided to check out Chincoteaque State Park (which we learned is pronounced “Shink-teeg” by the locals). After lunch at a local healthy wraps and sandwiches eatery (which the kids did not like and ate at the Subway across the street!) We took a brief tour of the park’s nature center where we saw a horseshoe crab in a water tank. Then we saw (from a distance) the wild ponies resting in the shade beneath some trees.
We ended the trip with an educational boat cruise from Captain Barry. Our baby was not so sure about this boat and fussed and screamed at first. He soon calmed down when he saw all the fun we were having. The rest of the kids loved it! We sailed to a sandbar where we took our shoes off and dug for snails and caught very tiny fish. We collected shells, visited a fresh oyster field where Matt and I tasted raw oysters! (a first for me!) The kids helped pull in a crab trap and collect duck decoys and best of all, were dancing on the boat to music!
Even though our trip was only three days, it was full of so much fun and memories! We all felt recharged from this vacation!
20 years has gone by so quickly! It seems that we don’t hear very much any more about long-lasting marriages. I am proud we have made it 20 years! I don’t think we have any “secret” to share about what makes a long-lasting marriage but it probably helps that we both seem to keep a long view on our relationship. We have had so many wonderful experiences together and we both seem to see a future that is full of so many more!
I love you my husband! Here’s to the next 20 years!
June is a month of command performances for us. We capped off our ballet studies this year with a ballet recital. The girls have been practicing every Saturday since last fall for this production and last week had over 8 hours of rehearsal before the performance. The girls always enjoy being in costume on stage.
For me, the biggest stress of the final recital preparations are the hair and makeup! Hair must be slicked back with hair wax or gel and makeup applied (with the strict instructions that it must be subtle). While I feel comfortable working with makeup, it is challenging to put it on another person. In the case of my daughters, they are also a totally different complexion from me so what works for me is too dark and too orangey for them. It has taken some experimenting to figure out what works. For my redhead, using the darkest shade of bronzer (that has a lot of red undertones in it) was the perfect color for her nearly invisible eyebrows. For my blonde with darker eyebrows, a dark brown worked better.
As luck would have it, the day of dress rehearsal, the alternator on our car battery went out. We packed up all the makeup supplies and ended up doing makeup in the car dealer’s waiting room! It was vaguely satisfying to have the service advisor express amazement at my ability to put mascara on my child in these conditions.
The performance went well! The girls costumes were so beautiful, especially the floral headpieces. Many of the dancers had the floral headpieces on and they were all stunning. Some of the older girls wore a similar style but with red roses. This idea would be great for a wedding party.
My favorite moments from the performance were watching one daughter give an unballet-like jiggle as she scared a character, causing the audience to laugh and seeing the feet of another daughter prance and dance with great energy while waiting for the curtain to rise in the third act.
Both of my daughters have improved in their ability to learn and remember choreography this year as well as developing a greater natural sense of what a ballet-like movement looks and feels like.
The art event of the year was the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum. While a few art connoisseurs out there know exactly who this artist is, the rest of us have simply picked up on the buzz about this exhibit from its “Instagram-worthy” reputation to the rapid ticket sales and long lines.
The Washington Post provided a telling article, “How to survive the Yayoi Kusama show at the Hirshhorn Museum” indicating that you must go on a Tuesday or Wednesday when the lines aren’t quite as long. I tried going online for tickets twice. The tickets went on sale at 12:00 p.m. and at 12:05 when I remembered to log in every single one was gone! The next time I logged on right at 12:00. The first screen said that there was one ticket group available. I clicked on it and it said all the tickets were gone! It was 12:01 p.m.! The Hirshhorn published Tweets about when the tickets sold. Here is an example of how quickly they went:
Despite all the warnings about how tickets were not guaranteed, how the lines would be long and that there would be no place to sit down, I packed up my kids early one Tuesday morning and we went to attempt the show anyway!
We left the house around 6:30 a.m. and with slightly heavy traffic into DC that day, we parked and were standing in line about 9:00 a.m. People were chatting that the process for getting tickets to this event was even worse than getting Adele concert tickets! A woman in her 50’s behind us was doing her daily Snapchat in line.
About 9:00 a.m., a school group of elementary aged children pulled up in a school bus and went right inside the museum. Around 9:30 the line started moving. While I waited, the kids played on the grass in the nearby courtyard, checking in to see me whenever the line moved significantly. At one point, the line progressed into a spiral of retractable belt barriers. The kids were then stuck with me in this tight spiral to the ticket line.
The last part of the line winds into two shipping containers (for unknown reasons). There is an electronic screen telling you how many tickets are left and they were disappearing rapidly. By this point, my youngest son was ready to bolt out of the container. We held onto him tightly as losing our place in line at this point would be devastating!
Finally, we made our way into the museum doors. A museum worker was passing out tickets. While we thought you could perhaps choose from the remaining ticket times, instead a harried museum worker was passing them out in a “take this time or forget it” fashion. We happened to snag the last 5 tickets for 1:45.
It was such a relief to finally have these in hand! We briefly admired the orchid exhibit on display then went to sit down for a minute in the lobby. A mother came by with her young toddler….”Do you have any extra tickets? I just missed the line by 3 minutes.” I commiserated but unfortunately had none to share. About 30 minutes after we got our tickets, the event was totally sold out.
At this point, we still had several hours to kill until our exhibit entrance time. We walked back to the car to get the extra camera in case my cell phone battery died in the exhibit (which of course it did!) and got some lunch at the Natural History Museum.
We had just enough time to walk back to the Hirshhorn for our ticket entrance time!
With four children in tow, I had no time to linger over descriptions or introductory material. I had to grab whatever brief information I could as we passed through the exhibit. There was an introductory video featuring Kusama herself. I got to see maybe 20 seconds of it.
The exhibition opened in a black room with a large purple boat in it. The boat was covered with various purple stuffed objects. I learned later that this was her “phallus” phase where she was creating phallus-shaped objects in part as a way to cope with sexual abuse she had experienced as a child.
From what I understood, she began exploring polka dots as a way to contemplate her own position within the universe. The repetitive motion of the dots might have been calming but also a reminder of how small and insignificant any one dot is.
We reached the first of the “Infinity Rooms.” These are white box enclosures that seemed to be about 15 feet by 15 feet by 8 feet tall. There is a really long line to enter each one. The first room was called “Phallus Field” and was her first work in this genre. Initially she had spent about 3 years sewing phallus-shaped objects to distribute over the floor of a large space. Later, she realized that she didn’t have to sew as many if she used mirrors to make the visual repetition for her.
While normally the museum makes you go in 2-3 at a time to the rooms and gives you 30 seconds to appreciate the view and get out, the museum allowed our entire band of 5 into every room but one. “You’re all small.”
Who could not find this a stimulating visual delight! After we had our 30 seconds, I said, “Wasn’t that awesome!” The kids said it was “OK.” When I told them we had to wait in line for more of these, they were so disappointed!
Fortunately, the next room was a mirrored glass box with almost no line! You just quickly stepped up, took a look inside (and a selfie if you wish). The piece reflects your face in the mirrors as well as the face of the other person peeking in the other side.
The next room was full of pink and black polka-dotted orbs.
The final infinity room was the pumpkin one. It was full of small glass polka dot pumpkins. Unfortunately, due to an earlier mishap at the museum, when an overenthusiastic selfie seeker tripped, fell and broke(!) a pumpkin, no one was allowed to take any photos inside this room. This was the only room where they did not allow all 5 of us to enter at once and a museum staffer had to come with us.
Finally, we reached the last room of the exhibit. The room is filled exclusively with white items, white walls, white furniture, a white piano, etc. As you enter the room, you are given polka dot stickers to place anywhere in the room. The room was already fairly thoroughly coated in dots but we managed to squeeze in a few.
The kids were absolutely worn out by this point. They were so glad to get outside and run off some pent up energy. I promised a snack and we found a good one!
Overall, the exhibit was wonderful! It would have been so much better if there weren’t so many lines and standing around but we were glad to be able to experience it regardless. It is a testament to how much my children must love me that they survived this almost 11 hour(!) art experience with relatively little fuss.
I wondered why this particular art exhibit had achieved rock star status when there have been so many great shows before. I think it has to do with the simplicity of Kusama’s work. You don’t have to be an art expert to understand polka dots or be moved by seeing endless reflections in a mirror. There was also a layer of depth within the simplicity. With her dots, Kusama does take the mind on a journey to the stars. Her work has a global poignancy. It is wonderful to see so many people get so excited about art!
I was amazed that my own children were impacted by Kusama’s work. Of the many art exhibits we have been to, this is the first one where they remembered the artist’s name! They have talked about this experience on several occasions since.
My amazing children, I love you more than you will ever know, more than all the polka dots in the Kusama exhibit!