Friday, August 31, 2012

Breathing - the Secret of Life

Original post written about July 21 - 23, 2012

We had a whirlwind weekend, full of family visitors. We had been away from home for 13 days and the Salad very much missed Grammy and Poppy. They already have a sleepover planned at Aunt Jo and Uncle Pat’s house. We packed 2 days full of the Hope Diamond at the Museum of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum, lunch at Fudruckers, gelato, a metro ride, a walk to the Navy Memorial, another visit to the Old Post Office Pavilion, and the Library of Congress.

And that’s what I want to talk about. My dad wanted to take a tour of the Jefferson Building. The Salad and I had 35-40 minutes to kill. I had done my research and the four of us headed straight for the Youth Reader’s Center. We had been busy showing our many visitors the sights around town for the previous 5 days that this quiet place, filled with books, was a much needed respite. They each picked out a handful of books, found a spot and “read.” Little did I know it was the quiet before the storm.
After 40 minutes, we headed up to meet my parents. M spotted them across the Great Hall, still in the middle of the tour. He wanted to go get Poppy, and when I told him he couldn’t, the crying started. And continued for the next 30 minutes. It was not pleasant for either of us. Thankfully, A and S occupied themselves by taking pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.
Why are problems so easy to solve in retrospect? If I had taken a minute to breathe through the crying, I would have thought to take him outside the building. He could have run up and down the steps and been perfectly content.

Note to self – breathe.

Note to the Library of Congress - shorten up those tours.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleep with because of the Fishes

Original post written about July 19 & 20, 2012

My sister and Ian visited us in Washington. Ian was interested in the Art of the Video Game at the American Art Gallery. It’s half a block away from our apartment, so we all walked to see it. The Salad patiently waited in line to play video games on the big screen. Pac Man was most popular, of course.
After our afternoon swim, we headed out to see some monuments. We walked through the huge stone entrance at the Martin Luther King Memorial and spent a few minutes looking around. The Salad got antsy when I wouldn’t let them parkour the smooth marble walls, benches and metal railings. A summed up what they thought of the site when she said thoughtfully, rubbing her hands together as if searching for just the right words, “I thought this would be a lot more . . . ummmm . . . fun.”
The next morning the Salad, Aunt Jen and Ian headed off to the National Aquarium in DC. It’s definitely the runt of the litter when it comes to the aquariums the Salad has visited. It was tiny. It was dark. And unlike virtually everything else in DC, it was not free. Nonetheless, I am determined to jam in as much of the city in the month we have here. It took under an hour to see each exhibit. On our walk home, I asked M what he thought. “It was alright, Mommy. There were too many fishes though.”

Huh.  Imagine that.  Too many fishes at an aquarium.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Native American

Original post written on July 18, 2012

Have I mentioned that I am absolutely in love with Washington DC? I mean we’ve always loved DC, R and I were engaged here, dontchaknow? But I’m seeing it for the first time through the eyes of a parent of 5 year old, and I love it even more. There is always something going on and it is always free. And clean. And not overly crowded. It’s paradise. With the 100 degree days, like a tropical paradise, of course, but paradise nonetheless.

We have a series of visitors coming in the next few days, so I’m saving some of the more traditional DC attractions to visit with them. Many of the items on my must do list are outdoors and we’ve had to find alternate plans because it’s 100 degrees here. Did I mention it’s 100 degrees here? Again?

That is how we found ourselves at one of the less frequently visited museums in DC, National Museum of American Indians. But man, did we choose a good week to visit. The museum paid for a group of 20 something Hawaiians to spend the week in Washington, teaching classes and putting on shows at the Museum. Not only do they have an incredible building, with rainbows streaming through a crystal wall and a cafĂ© that looks like the fountain outside is streaming towards you, but they have an awesome Children’s area. The kids pick up a “passport” and travel through interactive displays. Once they have completed the assignment (weaving a giant basket or listening to the call of 8 birds) they stamp the passport themselves. The Salad loved each display. All the while, there were men and women playing the ukulele, singing Hawaiian folk songs and Hula dancing. We had signed up for 2 classes. The first was painting with banana trees. There was one “teacher” and one set of “banana brushes” per 5 kids. I was proud of how well the Salad sat and took turns waiting to make their picture of a coconut tree. M liked it well enough to move to the next table and make a second banana tree painting of a crab.
Unfortunately, we had to get back to the van because our meter was about to expire. Sadly, this meant we had to miss the cedar bracelet making class. Poor S was heartbroken. She told me she knew it wasn’t my fault, she was just disappointed because she thought Kaya (her American Girl doll from Aunt Nicky) would really love that bracelet. “Because you know Mommy, Kaya is a Native American.”

Should you be wondering if Kaya is a Native American, rest assured, she is.

• We did get back the next day so that S could make her bracelet for Kaya. She was so appreciative, you might have thought it was a diamond tennis bracelet.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On butterflies, scooters, ice cream and kids

Original post written on July 17, 2012

Tuesdays at the Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian offers free tickets to their incredible Butterfly Exhibit. We were at the Museum when it opened at 10:00, headed up to get our timed ticket and got 10:45. It left us just enough time to find a restroom and water fountain and head back upstairs to read through the outer part of the exhibit. I gave the Salad a camera and told them to take a picture of their favorite butterfly. When we were through in the exhibit, I had printed out a lesson page on how butterflies wings are symmetrical and I asked them to draw the butterfly they had liked the best. While they drew I read them interesting butterfly facts. M really tested the limits of the exhibit’s rule. For example, they asked you not to touch the butterflies. Though they said that they often landed on people as they walked through. So M would see a butterfly sitting on a wall and place his hand a millimeter away and wait for the butterfly to crawl onto him, exclaiming “What?! I didn’t touch it! It just landed on me!” When we were through, we went right into the Insect Zoo and spent another hour checking out the bugs.

After some quiet time that afternoon, the Salad got it in their heads they wanted to scooter. The only problem was that it was 100+ degrees again. I fought the good fight, explaining the heat wouldn’t be good for their health. But they persisted (insisted?) and I finally broke down, because the thought of spending the afternoon listening to them complain about how I hadn’t let them, would have been equally bad for my health. So off we went, armed with plenty of cold water, to scooter in the sweltering hot sun. They hung in there like champs, until at one point, I noticed A’s cheeks were red and her hair was matted down with sweat. I forced them home and into a cool bath.

After dinner, A had set up a family game of Zingo and we still had time to explore a bit more. I had read that the best point to look down on the city was the observation tower at the Old Post Office Pavilion. It’s only 4 blocks from our apartment, so we headed over to check it out. True to all the reviews, the views were amazing. In fact, the building itself is amazing, a cross between Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and Reading Terminal Market. We grabbed Ben & Jerry’s for dessert. As an aside, Ben & Jerry’s is some seriously expensive ice cream! What’s that all about?

On our way home, we stopped at the US Navy Memorial to hear 2 songs by a Navy Band called Country Current. We had seen them setting up earlier and R wondered aloud what time they’d be starting. M heard R wonder and marched right up to a man setting up the stage. “Excuse me? What time does the music start?” No fear. No hesitation. Just incredible. I love kids.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lazy days indeed

Original post written on July 16, 2012

Today we walked 3 blocks to the National Gallery of Art. I had read that they were starting a program called Stories in Art and thought it sounded like something the Salad might enjoy. It's like glorified story time at our local library. Except sitting on the floor of a Gallery, surrounded by Monets, Renoirs, Pissaros. And, like most other things in this amazing capitol city, it was free! So they listened to a story about Paris, a docent taught them how to view a piece of art, and answered questions about Renoir's "Pont Neuf." Then we headed to an atrium with a fountain and a small garden and sat on the floor to paint a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Another mom pulled me aside and said, "I've been watching your kids and they look so . . . friendly. My daughter is 5 and very shy, do you think you could ask them to talk to my daughter?" I called the Salad over and introduced them to our new friend. S took her hand immediately. A and M gathered around her, as if to shelter her. They made me proud. After we finished up our morning at the gallery, I strolled them through the Sculpture Garden and we all dipped our feet in the fountain for 30 minutes before we walked home for lunch.
We watched Sword and the Stone at quiet time. I had forgotten how good that movie is. After the movie we headed down to the pool for our afternoon swim. We met more new friends and barely made it back to the apartment before R got in from work. We changed into nice clothes, called Grammy, practiced some numbers and headed out for some low country BBQ, where we checked off one of the more interesting items on our "Summer of Trying" list - fried pickles. Screw those lazy days of summer. We are jam packing as much living into each summer day as we can.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Night at the Museum

Original post written on July 15, 2012

We began our day early at the Eastern Market. Apparently it’s a Sunday morning must-do in Washington, when in Rome and all. We’re lucky to be here in the height of produce season, fresh fruits and veggies at every turn. And free “stamples” at almost every booth, as the Salad was thrilled to discover. We stopped at each booth and estimate that M ate 3 whole tomatoes and 1 whole peach.

We took a quick afternoon swim and ate an early dinner. R suggested that we take advantage of the American Museum of Natural History's extended summer hours, so we arrived around 6:00PM. We headed to the Hall of Human Evolution. The Salad was fascinated by the busts of Homo sapiens throughout the years. I gave them my camera and let them pass it among the 3 of them when they saw something interesting. Here’s a conversation M and I had:

M: Mommy, can I have the camera?

Me: Sure, buddy. Why? Do you see something you want to take a picture of?

M: Yes. See that statue? I need to take 2 pictures of it.

Me: Two? Why two?

M: Yep. One of the front and the other of the hiney. That’s what I’ve been doing. Taking pictures of all the bottoms.

For your viewing pleasure, may I present “The Homo sapien’s Hiney.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Through the eyes of a 5 year old

Original post written on July 14, 2012

R had Saturday off, so we headed to the National Zoo before the weather soared again later in the week. While we were waiting in a long line of traffic to find a parking spot, a deer ran in front of our car to join 3 does on the other side. The Salad screamed with excitement and we weren't even in the Zoo yet. Interestingly, I had been on the Zoo's website the night before and it had made a point to say that children, for reasons frustrating to parents, often find common things at the Zoo exhilarating and to allow plenty of time to stop and observe ant hills or sparrows eating leftover sandwiches.

R and I were continuously astounded that this, along with so many other amazing things in DC, was free! The bathrooms were clean. The exhibits were lush and green. The animals just different enough from our usual stomping grounds of the Philadelphia Zoo to be exotic. We spent the most time at the alpaca exhibit watching them pee and poop. The Salad (and dare I say R and I) were fascinated by how patiently the 3 stood waiting their turn in line to pee and poop in the same hole. Certainly more patient than the Salad are at waiting their turn on the loo.

We capped off the day with a tapas dinner at a Spanish restaurant. I was proud of the Salad for trying everything - squid, shrimp, lamb chop, asparagus, sangria. Oh, come on now. Just a coffee stirrer full. Geez. If they're willing to try squid, you'd better be dang sure I'm gonna let them chase it with sangria.
If pictures speak 1000 words, then this one is War and Peace

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crisis Averted

Original post written on July 13, 2012

The Salad and I took the Metro to the US Botanical Gardens today. It was humid and 91 degrees, but overcast, so I thought we should hit the outdoor stuff before the temps soared into the high 90s later this week. The day didn't seem to be heading the way I wished. Within minutes of getting to the garden, A complained she was hot and sweaty, S complained she was thirsty and hungry and M became overly obsessed with finding out if the Gardens housed any frogs. Normally that trifecta would have done me in. But I took a minute and regrouped. We walked into the conservatory and I asked the guard where was there air conditioning, where there was a water fountain and where we could eat. On our way to please A and S, I accosted a worker in the Jungle room and asked if there were any frogs in the Gardens. By the grace of God, he said there were several and told us where to look. We drank and snacked in the air and headed out refreshed, equipped with the Botanical Gardens plant scavenger hunt in hand. We ended the trip on a high note, thankfully. Though, we never found M's great white whale, er . . . I mean small green frog.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Building Blocks

Original post written on July 12, 2012

Before breakfast I explained to the Salad what a blue print was and asked them to draw a blueprint of our house. They gladly obliged with rudimentary sketches of an oven to denote the kitchen and smiling faces for each of our bedrooms.

Then, we walked the 4 blocks to the National Building Museum. Every website I’ve read said, stop in just to ogle the building itself. I told the Salad it was built with over 15 million bricks and M noted that was like a really big Lego project. Indeed, little boy.

We headed straight for the traveling Lego exhibit, with some of the world’s more famous buildings built entirely out of Legos. Then we found our Holy Grail. A room with small chairs and low tables outlining every wall. And Legos. Millions and millions of Legos, all at our disposal. Washington does things right, I tell you. This place was clean, organized perfectly (a difficult task for sure when contending with gobzillions of tiny bricks) and spacious enough that even though there were at least 50 kids plus their adults all rummaging for this color or that size, we never once felt crowded. There weren’t overbearing guards waiting for a little body to climb on a table. There weren’t any broken pieces. There wasn’t anyone rushing us away from our masterpieces. We spent an hour playing, breaking only because we had timed tickets to another building area of the museum. The Salad liked that area as well, but M kept asking to go back to the Legos. “I’m hoping the Titanic I’m working on is still there.” Sure enough, his project was there, waiting to be finished. It was interesting to watch those 3. My girls can usually sit at a task for a good long while and most often finish that task. M, on the other hand, needs to be moving, whether his body or on to another task. He just moves. But here, the girls were up and searching, starting one project after another. And all the while, M diligently sat at his “Titanic.” 2 hours and 8 minutes in total.
That, my friends, is a new record.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Honesty – is it REALLY always the best policy?

Confession time.  We just got back from a month long vacation.  30 days!  R took a temporary assignment in Washington DC so that the Salad and I could go with him and tool around the city while he worked.  It was incredible.  The Salad and I are blessed.  We had very sketchy Internet access, so though I wrote about where we went each day, I didn't blog.  This means the next 20 or so blog entries (as well as the previous entry about the Hirshhorn) took place in DC.

Original post written on July 11, 2012

S is recovering from an ear infection so we played our 4th full day in Washington easy. We walked to the movie theater up the street from our apartment for the 11:50 AM showing of "Brave." Or as A calls the movie every time we mention it, “Disney Pixar’s Brave,” as in “Mommy, thanks for taking us to see Disney Pixar’s Brave!”

11:50 AM is such a strange time for an hour and forty minute long movie. Right smack in the middle of lunch. And you’d really have to twist my arm to make me pay movie theater snack prices. So I snuck in some turkey pepperoni, cheese sticks, freeze dried mangoes and skittles. S is terrified of breaking rules. She refused to eat any of the food, because we hadn’t purchased it there. Every time someone walked into the theater, she would panic and scramble to hide the cheese stick in A’s hand. She was a nervous wreck, poor thing.
Her anxiety peaked this evening as a very kind Metro worker, who was fascinated with the Salad being triplets, escorted them through the turnstiles, rather than R and I buying 3 additional Metro fare cards. I’m talking streaming tears.

I’m walking a fine line between breaking the rules and bending the rules.

This is gonna be a hard lesson to teach . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Art you can touch.

Original post written on July 9, 2012

After our morning swim, we set off to find the Hirshhorn Museum. You may question taking 3 - 5 year olds to an art museum and I would scream a resounding “Hell yes!”  Besides all of the obvious - teach them how to behave in public and teach them a lifelong love of art, it is the most super cool art museum ever. Right now, they have an exhibit called Suprasensorial, which actively invites visitors to participate in the art. Like tunneling through 10’ strands of rubber hanging from the ceiling, walking through white rooms lit with colored fluorescent bulbs or laying on mattresses and pillows to watch a video.
We had friends who visited earlier in the year and they suggested taking fluorescent markers to experiment with in the room with the free standing fluorescent “sculpture.” I brought black paper so they could see the yellow highlighter in the room and watch it disappear into the black paper when seen in regular light. It was so cool, that it drew the attention of at least 7 other kids who came to see the “magic.” Thanks for the suggestion, Ms. Amy!

These same friends told us about a large sculpture of a naked man huddled in the corner of a room. When we happened upon it, M covered his mouth and giggled, “Peter was right! He does have a big penis!”

I wandered about the museum, thinking that museums and galleries really put a lot of faith in humanity. Allowing 5 year olds to come within inches of a Brancusi sculpture? Crazy. Letting curious viewers almost touch noses with a Mondrian? Unbelievable. I kept imagining A tripping over her own feet (as she is prone to do) and smashing hands first into a pedestal housing some metal sculpture which would echo as it hit the marble floors. Thankfully, the Salad was on their best behavior, especially since moments after we got there, a slightly older boy touched a glass bottle sculpture and a LOUD alarm sounded.

I think it scared the good behavior into them.