We’ve been sick, sick, sick…

You know that awful flu sweeping the nation? Like a new dance sensation, only the sensation is of wanting to crawl into bed and never come out? Yeah, it’s been fun. Fun like only two sick babies and a sick husband can be. I think my favorite was the night I spent half the time with my violently shivering husband and the other half curled up with my thrashing, moaning toddler. It was a long, hard, sleepless, alternately-sweaty-and-freezing night.

Now, though, we are on the mend. They are all better. I am the only one still sick. My cold has turned into something lingering, something with really sore throat and yucky gunk that I won’t describe in too much detail. My doctor, gem that she is, said “try some allergy medicine, they are over-the-counter now.”Gee, thanks. A few days of my husband’s Allegra-D have worked wonders on allowing me to breathe through my nose, but still no relief for the sore throat. Of course, all I probably need is a quiet day, where I drink tea and honey and don’t talk at all.

HA, HA, HA. Oh, I’m wiping away tears–and not all of laughter–now. A quiet day? Here’s my average day (one at home with the kids, that is):

Kerem, don’t push Ceyda, she’s a baby and it hurts her. Ceyda, don’t bite Kerem. NO BITING. Why is the sky blue? The sky is blue because the light from the sun comes through little drops of water in the air. Because mother nature made it that way. Because she likes blue skies. Because blue is her favorite color. Because she likes blue. I don’t know Kerem; have some cheese.

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Did you know that 2008 is a Leap Year? I'm sure you did. I'm sure you are much more aware of these things than I am…on whom it only just dawned that, hey, this Friday is the 29th of February!!

From www.dc-baby.com comes a fun activity for kids at the National Geographic Museum (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/museum/)

"How fun is this? To mark Leap Day 2008, the NGS in DC will host a FREE event for kids of all ages:

Celebrate Leap Day at the National Geographic Museum exhibit "Frogs! A Chorus of Colors" this Friday, February 29. The exhibition features more than 150 live frogs from 15 species, each in custom environments that match their natural habitats.

Show-and-tell presentations at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. with the exhibit's frog handler will allow Leap Day visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the frogs. In between presentations, the museum will screen National Geographic Explorer's "The Last Frog," which delves into the worldwide mystery of why the frog population is declining. Visitors can also conduct a virtual frog dissection using one of the exhibit's many interactives, or win a prize in a special leaping contest."

For more info: www.nationalgeographic.com/museum/exhibitions/chorusofcolors.html

Mystery Flu!

Last week my family was struck with a mystery flu. My husband came home from work, went straight to bed with a fever and terrible, uncontrollable shivers, and didn’t get out of bed for 3 days. The rest of us soon followed, although, having had the flu shot, we didn’t have it quite so bad.

Evidently, we aren’t the only ones to be struck hard! Washington Post flu article ( and here too).

How did everyone else fare in avoiding the epidemic?

All the pretty fishes…

Sunday we visited the Baltimore Aquarium. It was a great trip–the kids loved pretty much every second of it. We saw the dolphin show, zillions of fish (“Ish! Ish!” Baby Bug says), and even a few sharks.

Here’s daddy and baby bug, posing for the camera.

Here’s our big boy, in front of one of the fish tanks. He was too interested in the fish to want to waste time smiling, so this was as well as we could get him to pose!

We also saw the “4D” film they were playing. Not so much a hit with the kids; every time we got sprayed with water, baby bug started crying again. About halfway through, Kerem turned to me and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to watch this anymore” in a very serious, small little voice. Unfortunately we were right in the middle of a very crowded row, so there was really nothing we could do except wait out the last few minutes.

They recovered pretty quickly and were running around and having fun for the rest of the day.

*Edited to re-link photos.

Review of the National Aquarium in Baltimore


This weekend we trekked up to Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium with our almost 3 year old and 15 month old. We had a wonderful, amazing time, and I highly recommend visiting. The building is beautiful, and well laid-out. Everything is extremely kid-friendly, even for very wee ones. Glass walls all the way to the floor enclose many of the tanks, and the smaller exhibits all have a convenient ledge running along the wall in front of them that let even our 15 month old see most everything on her own–a big plus for parents’ backs!

COST:
Prices ranged from $21.95 ($12.95 for kids age 3-11) for admission to the aquarium only, up to $28.95 ($17.95) for admission to the aquarium, the dolphin show, and the “4D Immersion Theatre” show. We splurged (thanks, gramma and grampa!) on the whole shebang. Luckily, kids under 3 get in free!

TIMING:
Their website offers some helpful hints on when to visit and when to stay away. We were there by 11am on a winter Sunday of a non-holiday weekend, and although most of our visit we got to see everything quickly, by 2pm it was still getting a bit crowded. I wouldn’t even want to try going in the summer or during school holidays; a weekday morning would probably be ideal.

WHAT TO SEE:
The dolphin show! Okay, so it’s really the same corny dolphin show that you could see anywhere. But they are just so darn cute! Plus, it’s indoors, so it was great fun for a winter afternoon, and the views of the dolphins–above and below the water–were spectacular.

The rainforest habitat, complete with birds and monkeys in addition to the fish and turtles, is fun and, um, toasty warm. So dress in layers.

The best part was the simple stuff–the open tanks with sting and manta rays, and one giant sea turtle gliding serenely by. The large shark tanks; I never knew that sharks were so bug-eyed when not in “attack” state. The many countless smaller tanks featuring thousands of varieties of fish and other sea, ocean, river, marsh, and swamp creatures. Really, it was all stunning.

WHAT TO AVOID:
The “4D Immersion Theatre” show. It ended up being about 15-20 minutes taken from the Planet Earth “Shallow Waters” episode. While I whole-heartedly endorse Planet Earth as the awesomest thing I’ve ever seen on television, since I’d already seen all the footage, this show was nothing new. The film is shown in 3D, with the special glasses and all. However (and correct me if I’m wrong on the science) but since it wasn’t originally shot in 3D footage, the 3D-ness of the film was barely noticeable. What was noticeable was the “4D” part: without giving all the secrets away, let me just say that special effects involving water squirting, air blowing, and seats vibrating gave the kids in the audience plenty to scream about. While this might be a hit with your 8 year old, it definitely was not a hit with the little ones! So, be warned, this show’s special effects are S-C-A-R-Y for kids under 8 or so. And I wasn’t so impressed with them myself (how many times can water squirting your face still be considered amusing, really?)

FOOD:
We visited the cafe on the bottom floor, right outside the dolphin show, called Frog Cafe. We sampled their french fries, grilled chicken sandwich and mini cheese pizza. The fries, thick cut and seasoned, were simply outstanding. The grilled chicken was lackluster on a limp, un-toasted bun, and the mini pizza was overpowered by sauce, but was otherwise fine. All told it was fine for speedy food to shore up the waning energy of our toddlers, but there are so many other eating options in the harbor that I’d recommend waiting to eat until after you leave.

(We sprinted in the cold over to the Phillips Seafood Restaurant in the Harborplace Light Street pavillion; the wait there was a too-long 30 minutes, so we opted for crab cake, shrimp, and fish baskets at the Phillips Seafood Express, right next door. It was all cooked fresh, and ranged from $8 to $12 a basket. Delicious! Highly recommend the crab cake sandwich ($12).)

OTHER TIDBITS:
Strollers are not allowed! Somehow our trip planner missed this information on the website, so we arrived with a huge diaper bag and 2 umbrella strollers. We had to check the strollers at the entrance (for free, happily) and also left our coats. They have framed kid backpack carriers and soft front carriers for patron use, which was a nice touch. We opted to let our kids walk, and they did just fine.

Overall, we had a wonderful time, and I’m sure the kids will be talking about it for weeks to come!

Words-a-Million

It’s really amazing how Baby Bug is just on the verge of a vocabulary explosion. This past week she has debuted “frog,” “flower,” “cow,” and others I’ve already forgotten. Her favorite activity is to bring you a book, thrust it at you, grunting, “Buu! Buu!” and lift her arms imploringly. If you hesitate, she throws in a couple tears and some foot stamping to seal the deal. She settles in on your lap and speed-reads through the chosen book. No time for actually reading; she just wants to point out to you the highlights. “Cow,” she says on page one. Flips a couple pages. “Meeow,” on page five. Flips a couple more. “Woof! Woof!” on page eight, shuts the book, throws it to the side, and she’s off again.

Fast Turtle was never a reader this young. He wanted blocks, tools, animals. He wanted to build things and knock them over and then run around the fallen toys. Now, he’s learned to turn in circles, spinning until he’s too dizzy to stand anymore. As soon as he starts spinning, Baby Bug runs and hides. She, on the other hand, wants you to read to her. She kisses the backs of your legs as you’re cooking. She kisses her stuffed animals and carries them around, at least for a few minutes. When you first see her after an absence of a few hours, she comes running for a hug, snuggling her head into your neck and tucking her arms in between your body and hers.

When you ask Turtle for a kiss, he cocks his head to the side, looks at you thoughtfully and says in a chirpy voice, “Probably not!”

How do they grow up so fast?

A Lesson Learned…(mommy missed bedtime!)

This article cross-posted on DC Urban Moms.

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I learned an important lesson this week. My husband is a parent too.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. My husband is actually a great parent. A wonderful parent. He adores the kids and they adore him. But, after a year of intensive home renovations, it had gotten to the point where I felt like I was parenting solo. Many nights he would get home from work with a quick kiss for us and then disappear into the construction zone. Sometimes he would come back in for a quick dinner only to disappear again, sometimes he’d just pop his head back in for a goodnight kiss. Now, some of you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Allow me to respond: no daddy from the hours of 5pm to 8pm? Prime dinner, bath, and bed-time? With two toddlers? Do you now have teenagers and just not remember what 7pm is like for a 2 year old?

I know he didn’t enjoy the disappearing act. It’s not like he was off with “the guys.” Poor guy doesn’t even have “guys”! And it was all hard, physical labor that he was doing. But let me tell you, dinnertime, baths, wrestling wriggling babies into pyjamas, and getting them off to bed, well, that’s hard physical labor too. In the end, though, the hardest part was knowing that he was missing out on it. I was the one who knew the songs. I knew the way to rock our son, the way to rub our daughter’s back, how warm the bath needed to be and who got the pink bear and who got the blue bunny to snuggle. And on the rare evenings when daddy was too exhausted to work, the kids wanted their normal routine. They wanted mommy to get their milk, not daddy. Mommy to cut the dinosaur chicken, not daddy. He never has let on if that have bothered them, but I could only imagine how I would feel. But what could we do? The work, once begun, had to be completed. Our unfinished addition weighed heavier and heavier on our minds and finances.

Then, one day, it was done. Finished. After months and months–over a year of actual, ongoing construction–the floors were in and walls were painted and the toilets were flushable. So we moved into our new house, with a little pink bedroom for our girl and a little blue bedroom for our boy, and even, luxury of luxuries, a playroom! (Green.) Even better, the work was done. Free evenings stretched before us, evenings where we could all enjoy dinner together, play together, put the kids to bed together.

We have begun a new routine. After dinner we all head upstairs. We let the babies run around naked in the playroom, finally happy to have a room in our house warm enough to be naked in. I rock and cuddle our baby girl while daddy and our big boy lay on the bed in his new big boy bedroom, looking out the windows at all the neighbors’ houses and making up stories. When I come in the room, I am most often told, “Go away mommy, daddy and I are busy talking!” Music to my ears! So we all lay down and talk a bit, and then eventually I rock our son and he goes happily into his crib.

Still, though, I am the master of the routine. I control the timing, when there’s been enough naked running around, when it really is time to get in bed and say goodnight. Mommy still does the rocking. Until this week, when an evening commitment kept me later than anticipated; despite my promises to be home for bedtime, it was after 8:30 before I was home. In my head, I played out the scene: kids would be wired up from spending the evening with daddy, they wouldn’t be in their pyjamas, they’d probably all be snuggled on the couch having a tickle fight or watching too much TV. And I was fine with that–it was my first evening away since our daughter, now almost one and a half, was born. I was prepared for the chaos. And then, to my surprise, the house was silent. Nary a peep. Figuring they were up in the playroom, and that daddy was just waiting for me to step in and save him, I headed upstairs. Silence. Lights off, doors shut. I checked the bathrooms, thinking that perhaps they were all watching daddy go potty. You know how fascinating that can be, and yet, no one. Then my husband, my dear, sainted husband, comes out of our daughter’s bedroom, empty bottle in hand. Both the little angels were sound asleep. Mommy had entirely missed bedtime.

Mommy missed bedtime.

And, the world didn’t end. No one even fussed very much. There was hardly even a perfunctory “Where’s mommy?” from either of them. Daddy did it all, all by himself. Now, when we woke up the next morning they had the wrong bears and different blankets and not their usual pyjamas, and he hadn’t raised the drop side of our son’s crib. (Seriously, the boy is nearly three; if he had any desire to climb out of the crib, side dropped or no, he’d have done it long ago. He’s never even tried when the side has been down. So I wasn’t too worried.)

Now, did he love it? Well, he maybe doesn’t want to make it the new routine, but he honestly didn’t seemed too phased by the whole process. Although, secretly I think that he prefers that I be the director of bedtime. Still, it is a huge relief for me to know that he can handle the kids all on his own. (You may think I’m exaggerating again, but let me just tell you about a little incident when we were going to visit a family member in the hospital and I was struck with, shall we say, stomach problems. The kids were all ready to go, and I’m camping out in the bathroom, and he asks, “Should I take one of the kids with me?” Meaning, honey, you can’t even get off the toilet, but can I leave both the kids with you? I told him that they all needed to go, and his horrified look was priceless. Well, priceless now. Then, doing some bodily harm was really the focus of my concentration.)

So, what did I learn? Come home late and see what has transpired? No, wait…force your husband to do more around the house, the lazy sot? No, not that either…ah, yes. Let your partner do it their way. As in everything else, if you want it done right, do it yourself; if you just want it done, gosh darn it, so you can sit down and read the paper from last week with a microwaved cup of coffee and a leftover vanilla wafer you dug out from inside the couch, let them do it however they want.

The author, did, in fact, enjoy her microwaved coffee, but swears that the leftover vanilla wafer was merely artistic license. She further categorically denies eating anything found in her couch.

Our First Pee!

Yes, it’s true. For the first time, our little boy used the potty for what Fisher-Price intended.  I was so excited, I called daddy in to see. (He was rather more blasé about it.) I’m crossing my fingers that this could be the beginning of the end of diapers. It’s been increasingly more on my mind as his 3rd birthday approaches. Okay, it’s not till April. That’s approaching! Thus far he’s shown, shall we say, a decided lack of interest in the potty. Offers of “Would you like to sit on the potty?” are usually met with a firm no. “Would you like to wear big boy underpants?” sure, he’s all for that. As long as there’s no potty-sitting involved. We’ve been pretty laid-back about it, noting to ourselves that no one goes to kindergarten still in diapers. (Or is it, no one goes to college still in diapers?) This week, however, I attended the information night for a local preschool program, Montessori, which I’m incredibly excited about. The literature they passed out notes that all children must be potty-trained. Eeek.

Now, really, we have a full 6 months before school starts. By then he’ll be over 3 years old, surely he’ll show interest in using the potty by then. Nonetheless, I was determined to step up the training. And by “step up,” I mean actually start. So, last night we sat on the potty and read a book, nothing happened, but he was agreeable about the whole procedure, so I thought that was a good step in the right direction. Tonight we sit again, and we talked, and I didn’t think anything had happened, but lo and behold when he stands up, his little potty has a little deposit! Success!  Hallelujah! Our son won’t go to college in diapers!

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes…

Election 2008

Without dipping into partisan prose, I think that parents of all political stripes can agree that a presidential election is a pretty important time for a country. I hope that you all are engaged in many (friendly) debates about where the country is, where we are headed, and who is best to take us where we want to go.

At the bottom of this page you’ll find an interesting little widget, courtesy of the Washington Post, which lists all the candidates (even ones who have left the race, oddly) and links to coverage on various issues.

I actually like the functionality here better, but that doesn’t seem to be the version they are letting me post here…naturally! Anyway, enjoy, and happy debating (and voting!)

A budding artist

Lately Fast Turtle has gotten very into using our cameras. He’s always loved being allowed to play with them, but now he’s very aware of the picture-taking process, and has turned out some, frankly, rather artistic photos. And also a lot of mommy’s rear end. But, skipping those, here’s one of his most recent ones:

What I love about his photographs is that they are all on his level, so I’m getting to see our house really from his 2 foot high perspective; he often will select one toy sitting on the table and do a nice close-up shot. Like above, a close look at a Statue of Liberty snow globe that Aunt Tee gave gramma for Christmas.

Of course, he also will agree to sometimes be the subject of our photos, here with Baby Bug:

As our pediatrician says, tongue-in-cheek, every time we come in for a visit: “It’s really too bad that there isn’t a family resemblance!”

I particularly like Baby Bug’s flying nun hairstyle (a little hard to see in the pictures) that she has been sporting lately.