Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Feel You Better

The boys have been playing little games that involve health and hygiene, and in general, "feeling you better," which is their take on the sentiment of helping someone feel better. 

The multi-purpose toilet/astronaut helmet
I've been trying half-heartedly to potty train them over the past couple weeks, but they still have not done any of their business in the toilet and they are still terrified to sit on it. But they love to play that they are going to the bathroom. They sit on a container we use for toys and pretend to go potty. Oddly, they use the same container upside-down as an astronaut's helmet when they play space, so that's nice. Today Clark “went potty” in the container on the couch. He waved goodbye to the potty and “flushed it away.” He then requested that I get into the "tub," and motioned to the floor next to the couch. As soon as I sat down, Cal ran to the bathroom to get the stool I sit on when I bathe them. He put the stool up next to me and washed my hair. Clark gave me toys he called bath toys and cleaned them up for me when I was ready to get out. Cal covered me in a pretend lizard towel (his bath towel) and then Clark covered me in a pretend duck towel (his bath towel). Clark pretended to change my diaper while Cal rubbed pretend lotion on his hands and put it on my face. It was quite a refreshing break.

A not-so-refreshing habit that Clark has picked up is attacking boogers in noses with wipes. Now, these are typically imaginary boogers, and the nose is mine or Brian’s or Cal’s and it hurts. He isn’t playing when he does it. He squints his eyes and scrunches his lips together and focuses in on the offending nose. It’s fantastic. So fantastic that even the stinging sensation of inhaling a wipe is worth it just for a second. I wish I had a video camera in my nose (Hmm, never said that before) to capture his intense focus. The other day he grabbed the bridge of Brian’s nose with his other hand for leverage and grunted, “Almost got it,” (relieved sigh), “There we go.”

They’ve also taken to pretending to put in and take out contacts. They first rub their hands with imaginary Purell “like Daddy does!” before they tell me to lay down so they can take my contact out. “Great job, Mommy! You held still!”

The most prevalent game is still the sick game. Often their stuffed animals and toys have inexplicable maladies that must remedied by little tiny doses of medicine with the baby spoons that they take out of the drawer by themselves or medicine droppers. They use their high little baby voices to say things like, “It’s okay, Little Ducky. You’ll be okay. I feel you better.” The injured animal always requires a kiss, medicine, or petting from Brian and me also. Lately they insist that I tell the patient, “Your mommy is coming soon.” 

An entire cast of zoo critters who need medical care via medicine droppers

Today Cal is sick and Clark has been helping "feel him better" all morning. First he wanted to sing a song to him. He sang Jump Up, a Dan Zanes' favorite, only modifying a few of the lyrics, and then said he was going to make up his own song called "Farmer's Market." It was lovely-- all about a shark eating candles. (Duh! What else would a song with that title be about?) I think it actually did helped Cal feel better because he was smiling. Later, after Cal woke up from a nap, Clark propped up his guitar and played it like an upright bass and sang another song. A Jimmy Buffet song, of course. Hopefully Clark's continued nurturing care will help feel Cal better today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

National Walk For Epilepsy

I signed up for the National Walk for Epilepsy again this year. Last year I walked with my brother and ended up with a lot more sponsors than I anticipated, which was cool. It was weird to see so many people in purple shirts (people with epilepsy wore purple at the walk last year) walking around, when I've only ever met a couple other people with epilepsy. So many people have it way worse than my measly average of one or two seizures a year, that I'd like to do a little bit to help fund further research and support for such a baffling condition.

As it turns out, the little bit I can do to help is to walk in a big circle on March 31st. So, if you're around and you want to walk in a two-mile circle around the National Mall with me, join my team or donate online right here.  I think I'll take the boys out on the walk with me this year!

Aaron and me at last year's walk

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dolphins Don't Have Bodies

Listening to the boys talk to each other in their serious voices almost always has me slapping my hand over my mouth to stop from laughing. Their heartfelt observations are often just as funny as their purposefully funny comments. Sometimes we hear them talking about disciplining each other.  “If you do that I will spank, you Talvin,” Clark will somberly tell Calvin, when he is about to do something undesirable. “You won’t,” is usually the measured response.  Frequently a scuffle follows.

Since our aquarium visit last week, the boys have been talking a lot about dolphins—to each other as well as to everyone else. We checked out a couple more library books about ocean life, but apparently the boys seem to understand dolphins without the books, and in the spirit of oral tradition, are passing these truths on to each other and whoever else will listen. As it turns out, there was a lot about the dolphin world that I did not understand until I overheard them talking about it. I took some notes.

Dolphin Basics:
"Dolphins don't have bodies."
"They do. Trainers get inside dolphins' bodies."
"Dolphins' fins are like the sign for yellow."
"They are cute because they don't have hands."

On Our Dolphin Show Experience:
"I didn't like when the dolphin blew out his fin hole. I cried. Nick liked it."
"I don't like the dark water the dolphins got in. I did like the bright water."
"The dolphins didn't want any milk."
"My favorite is the dolphin show and Nick's is the dolphin show and Cal's favorite is the jellyfish show."

Trainers Teach the Dolphins...
to read your face
to read words in a book
to clap
to spin in circles
to dance like a break dance
to say hi to everybody by water that is bright water
how to play a guitar
how to play football
how to play tennis
how to play drums

Clearly, dolphins are even smarter than you and I thought. I dare you to go listen to a toddler conversation and not be amused.
Clark kisses his dolphin puppet, whose name is, incidentally, Clark.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Aquarium Compare-ium

Aquarium 1: 

Clark the Shark at the aquarium last year
Last winter we took our boys, who were almost two at the time, to the National Aquarium in DC. There's an aquarium in DC, you ask? Yep. It's downtown in the basement of the commerce building. Sounds spooky, right? It definitely was a little spooky in the beginning. The elevator was one of those chipped bronze-colored contraptions that moves so slowly that you could have walked down stairs carrying the stroller, then gone back up for each of the kids, and then your diaper bag in less time than it took to stand face-to-face with strangers in a descending box. For the $9.95 adult admission and free children's (3 and under) admission, this aquarium visit was worth every penny. There weren't many people there, which I'm guessing had to do with the fact that it is in the basement of the commerce building, but also that January is the best time in the whole year to go museum-ing around here.

Cool alligators!
The aquarium, due to its basement-ness, has low ceilings and low lighting, but that is really where the spookiness ends. It is the perfect size aquarium for little kids. Everything is low and the tour is easy to take. I think we spent maybe an hour and a half there, maybe even less. We combined it with a visit to the mammal room at the Natural History Museum and it was a perfect morning outing for the nearly two year-olds. The kids can see some cool aquatic life without the hassle of driving to Baltimore or the overwhelming size of that aquarium . I recommend it, as long as you don't think it's going to be amazing or that you won't have to experience slow elevators. Also, the octopus is surprisingly cute.

Aquarium 2: The National Aquarium, Baltimore style was an exciting trip this January for the almost-three-year-old boys. We took them last year too, when they were almost 2, but they didn't care. At that age they cared more about the pretty blue lights and dancing bubble tubes than about the shark and rays and dolphins, which was disappointing for such a long commitment as driving to Baltimore, and the more expensive admission. ($24.95/adult, $19.95/child 3-11) This time it was much more captivating for them. Their favorite part by far was the dolphin show. Spring for this, if it is happening when you go, because it is awesome. Just don't sit in the first four rows unless you want to get wet. We left the NOVA area around 10am and didn't hit traffic. We cruised into Baltimore and parked close to the aquarium off Gay Street in a garage that allows a discount for aquarium-validated tickets. We went with the boys' BFF Nick and his mom Aimee. She prepped us all on the way up with plastic sea creatures, shark books, and fish books. Because she's awesome at baking, she also baked themed cookies for the ride home.
Aimee's cookies

At the aquarium there is a stroller check near the door and lockers for valuables. A weekday in January was a great time to go. There weren't many other visitors, which makes things so much easier with kids. In my experience, summer up there at the aquarium is very crowded. The highlights of the trip were, like I said, the dolphin show, the captivating bubble tubes, the big open tank of rays, shark, and sea turtles that you can see from all levels, the jellyfish exhibit, and the shark walk. As you walk down the coral reef display, the lights get darker and darker as you descend into shark territory. Very cool. There are also blue lights along the floor that are good for counting and touching to make your hands look blue. Along the way there are computers with touchscreens to help you identify what creatures you're looking at. Since we got a late start, we ended up taking a break for lunch and just eating at the cafe. There are restaurants close by on the waterfront that you can eat at if you're ready to leave by lunchtime. Two of the three boys took their naps on the car ride home, and we cruised home around 2:30. All in all, a great trip. (Aimee also blogged about the trip here and took better pictures.)

I recommend both aquariums, the DC one for younger kids, and the Baltimore for older ones. Just make sure you know what to expect for each, and you'll have a great trip! Read about our other recent museum-outings here: Natural History and Air and Space.

Hello, Dophins!
Moon jellyfish display
I'm bein' a ray!
Shark attack!
Hard Rock Cafe giant guitar: nearly as cool as the dolphins!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tantrums: A Brief Index

It's been close to a year since I wrote this about an inappropriate comment that an old man made to me in a coffee shop. So, I'm checking in again with some more totes inappropes comments from a stranger, and weighing in on the phenomenon of toddler tantrums. On Saturday Brian and I took the boys over the icy path, along the crunchy snow that the boys wanted to eat, "like the man in the merkercial on TV, Mommy!" (commercial), to the Barnes and Noble across the street. Since the fine Barnes and Noble booksellers now boast "the greatest toy selection in the world!" (?) they added a block table within the expanded toy section that the boys and I played on while Brian went to pick up the book he needed. The boys are much better with Duplo (big Legos) blocks than they used to be, but they still sometimes have a hard time clicking them into place.

We had great fun at first, but soon frustration set in with the boys just as Brian found his book and came over to play too. Cal was emotionally injured by Daddy using some of the blocks he had been using and did some shrieking. I call these the Pre-Tantrum Tremors (PTTs). They are warnings that a meltdown is immanent if nothing is changed quickly. I took him to another toy and he calmed down. Then Clark started getting frustrated over blocks and started shrieking ridiculously loud, his PTTs rapidly escalating to a full-blown Physical Anguish Tantrum (PAT) as he flung blocks around. So Brian took him out the front doors and tried to calm him down. I took Cal, who at this point had calmed down and was perfectly content, outside with Brian and Clark. I stood out with the boys so Brian could go pay for his book before we left. I calmed Clark down from his indignant rage and then took both boys inside to fetch our stroller that was just inside the door, and leave the premises.

When I put Clark in the stroller he started more PTTs and squirmed almost through the bottom of the feet space, so that his feet were on the ground and his head was partially under the little tray on the stroller. His screams were reverberating around the once-pleasant interior of the store and I pulled him up by his coat, which of course only made him scream louder and slide down again, his PAT coming back with full force. He would not be reasoned with. I started pulling the stroller out the door, which made Cal enter PTT mode because he wasn't in the stroller too. By then there were about three people backed up around the door, trying to leave, while my giant stroller and I were taking up the small door space. I couldn't really pull or push it straight because the stroller itself was walking, thanks to Clark's little feet sticking through and his PAT.

I don't understand fits like this--the I'm-in-physical-anguish-and-must-be-heard-by-all tantrum. I really don't. My response is usually incredulity, rather than anger, (Really? You're really screaming hysterically over a block?) and my tactic is usually to remove the child from the scene, while at the same time not overreacting and making it worse-- which is probably what the little fit-pitcher wants. So in the ensuing awkward movements that it took for me to maneuver the walking stroller with the PTT boy and the PAT boy through the door, a random old man helped me. It was nice of him. I didn't need him to open his mouth though, as it turned out. He instructed one of the boys to, "Stop crying! Your mom is probably going to start crying herself."


Weird. I mean, I kind of wanted to pick up Clark by his coat and shake him, and I was a perturbed and flustered to be in the awkward door situation, but I wasn't anywhere near crying and I don't know why he thought I was. So, as if Door Opener Man hadn't said enough, when Brian showed up with his book purchased and helped me get the stroller through the last door DOM opened his mouth again. "Oh, your help disappeared on you. I see," he said, nodding toward Brian. Come on, man. Really? If your door-opening comes with the price of your thoughtless comments, then why don't you just forget it. I'll have my PTT-ing boy try to hold the door open for me.

Anyway, that's my inappropriate comment from the weekend. And the giant meltdown, which was a prototypical PAT, was probably the worst public one ever. Below is a pictorial index of the main tantrum types caught on camera.

PTT's characteristic warming-up of the extremities for the physical display to come

The Physical Anguish Tantrum (PAT), this time over a computer screen
The annoying, but much-preferred in public, Silent Protest

Friday, January 20, 2012

That Accident Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago this month I was in a car accident that should have killed me. I don't want to get all Nietzsche about it, but the experience and its repercussions have shaped me in a way that nothing else has, and made me stronger. On that January morning, my parents got the call from the hospital that must have really sucked. They packed, made arrangements for my other siblings, and drove without knowing much about my condition, six hours to the hospital. I was still in surgery when they arrived. Seven broken bones, two bone grafts, a couple years of physical therapy, a couple hardware removal surgeries, the diagnosis of epilepsy, twenty or so seizures, some in the middle of streets and at bus stops, and here I am. Still alive. Still grateful.

I was weaseling around in my old cards and photos the other day, looking for pictures the boys could cut up for a craft we were doing, when I found the stash of cards I kept from ten years ago. I decided as I was reading through them that I need to write something about all those nice people who were so wonderful during that time in my life. I know I ended up throwing some of the stuff out-- certainly the majority of the large stuffed animals had to eventually find new loving homes, and the cards from eighty-something students I had just finished student teaching, while sweet, I found no reason to keep. Space is all-important here in our cozy little hive. But most of the notes I kept-- I'm a sucker for the written word, after all. I found myself tearing up as I read through them, standing there in my slippers, holding the notes with my dry-from-too-much-washing mom-hands, stupid Jimmy Buffet singing in the background as the boys played their guitars with that cringe-y, out of tune twang. I tried not to let the boys see that I was crying, which wasn’t hard because they quickly switched from a cheeseburger paradise to fighting over drumsticks and space shuttles, as I allowed myself to remember that time.

While I make no claims whatsoever to having It All figured out in life, I think it will be good for me to write a reflection on what I’ve learned from my accident and my ten years of unusual challenges due to having epilepsy. Hopefully it will serve as some semblance of a tribute to so many of you who were selflessly thoughtful and endlessly kind to me specifically during that rough first year of recovery. I know my inner teacher is showing with this, but here are the main things I’ve learned:

Control: I don’t have it and that’s okay. I never thought I was a control-y person before, but my accident and subsequent surgeries and seizures took away much of the control I had over my life, and it has not been easy to part with. When all is said and done, what I have control over is simply my attitude when dealing with my lack of control. I spent months not even being able to shower or get dressed by myself and I couldn’t stand on two feet and walk for six months after my accident. I watched as what should have been the last semester of my college experience passed without me. I watched a replacement roommate take over my bed in the house I lived in with my best friends. I watched those friends graduate. I watched the club softball team I’d helped start go on to play their first season of NCAA Division 2 softball without me. All this happened while I lay on my hospital bed at my parents’ house a couple hundred miles away, the muscles in my legs atrophying away. All I could do about it was get angry, which I definitely did from time to time, or do my best to let it go. It was a struggle then, and it still can be now. I have to rely on everyone around me because driving with my epilepsy doesn’t work. Two times since being diagnosed I’ve gotten my driver’s license back because my doctor and I have thought we’d figured out the formula for my seizures—how much medicine I need, why I have them, how to feel them coming on, but both times we’ve been wrong and the car keys have been taken from me after a year and a half one time, and after just a few months the next time. I have to depend on the buses coming somewhere near on-time and hope that people won’t get sick of me asking them for rides. I used to prize my independence so much that losing control of much of it has taken me ten years to do, and I still struggle with it.

Perspective: A lot of crap doesn’t matter. This goes hand-in-hand with the control thing. So much isn’t worth getting worked up over, all things considered. After I started walking again, everything else seemed insignificant. The car broke down? I failed a quiz? I spilled ketchup on my white shirt? I locked myself out? So what? I can walk. I can move around and do things by myself. It sounds cheesy, but I thought that way a lot the first few months after I started walking again. I swore to myself I would always remember how lucky I am to simply be walking. This ten year crashaversary is a good reminder.

Humor: It makes the world a better place. I like to think I knew this before my accident, but my experience reinforced the fact. Learning to see the funny in situations also helps with the perspective of it all. How else am I supposed to deal with being carried down the aisle in a two giant casts as a bridesmaid and a month later crutching down the aisle as yet another bridesmaid? And depending on my roommates to walk to the back of the grocery store to buy my milk and laundry soap for me because my weak legs couldn’t handle so much walking? The accident and my epilepsy journey have refined my stellar, completely awesome sense of humor that you wish you had.

People: Nice people make life richer. I have been blessed with so many amazing people in my life that it’s almost ridiculous, many of whom shined that first year following the accident. First and foremost were my parents and my little brother and sister, who were still at home. My sister and mom did most of the difficult work—showering me and dressing me, rubbing my feet to cheer me up, holding me when I cried in pain after the surgeries and therapy and general frustration, feeding me, entertaining me, taking me to physical therapy three days a week. And other people came out of the woodwork to help me. People I had fallen out of touch with for years sent cards and people I wasn’t sure even knew I existed came to visit me in the hospital. They prayed for me. The English department, my fellow English Ed majors, and my friends helped me deal with being out of school and rejoiced in my small steps of recovery, usually through email. One professor aided in getting me to meet and talk to the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, about whom I was doing my senior project. What did we talk about? Mostly the fact that I had two casts on my legs and was pushing a walker at age 21, because he was in a similar situation after being hit by a car years before. Friends took me bowling in my wheelchair. Friends of my parents brought me a little television for my room and drove me places. My accident helped heal one friendship in my past that I am so thankful to have back.

As I look back over all the cards people sent and remember the nice things people did for me, I am astounded and I aspire to be someone as nice as those family and friends who did and still do so much for me. After I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder I narrowed down my search for jobs to places with good public transportation and that is how I ended up in the DC area. Here I met and married Brian, who drives me everywhere and does all our shopping, as well as provides love, care, and support for our growing family. I have twin boys, a condo in a perfect place for walking, and more amazing friends. I honestly don’t know what more I could ask for, except maybe a smidge more space. I even got those Russian nesting doll plates from World Market that I was drooling over because another amazing friend read my blog entry about shopping!

And that is my ten years ago story and reflection on all it has meant to me—on how it has shaped my character and my life. I hope most people who touched my life in those first months have a chance to read this and know that I have not forgotten their kindness.  

The day after the accident...for some reason I can't rotate this.

Visiting part of my softball team

Watching my best friends graduate

Being carried down the aisle as a bridesmaid

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Thesicle

Interactive computer screens about sharks are cooler than a real shark two feet from your face.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pretending Beats Realing and TV

The other day Calvin assured me, as he soothed his make-believe, invisible baby chicken who was recovering from a make-believe injury, "I'm just pretending, Mommy. I'm not realing." Because, you know, I was extremely concerned that he had an actual chicken hiding in his hand right under my nose. Wait. No, I wasn't worried. But I love the made-up word! It makes total sense, right? Realing is the opposite of pretending. So great.

The boys have entered a whole new realm with their pretending. It's even more imaginative than when I wrote this a couple months ago. Lately a big thing has been that every toy gets an owie or gets sick and needs medicine and to be petted (“I feel you better, little kitty cat.”) gently by each of them and all present parents. Sometimes they even need band-aids. This scenario is not restricted to toy animals and people, either, though those are the more frequent patients. I’ve been told that trucks and guitars are injured and need medicine as well. Another scene they love to play out is that of a musician coming on stage to a screaming crowd. “MOMMY! I’m Jimmy Buffet! All the people are so happy to see me sing! Come! You clap for me.” Which is when I become the rowdy, one-person fan mob you always wished you could be, as Cal comes jogging out onto the living room stage with his guitar strapped on, waving to the furniture.

We went to the dentist on Friday. I thank the boys' first and only-ever full length movie they've watched for causing them to freak out before we left the house. Finding Nemo has some startling and scary scenes in which the dentist causes his patients pain. It's nothing intentional, it's simply things, like if I remember right, a seagull flies into the office and the dentist leaves a needle in a patient's gum and the chair spins around or something of an equally startling nature. And while I'm harshing on Nemo, let me just say: watch a movie, regardless of how harmless it may seem, before you let your kids see it. We got a car DVD player for Christmas and put in Finding Nemo on our way to the lake house over New Year's. A couple minutes down the road we realized (because we couldn't SEE it) that we were introducing our children to death. Nemo's mom dies in the very beginning. So the boys kept asking, "Where's Coral? What happened to Coral?" And we were a little caught off guard and said something about how sometimes people go away and don’t come back and then felt like bad parents for not checking the movie.

Anyway, back to the dentist pretending: It took us repeatedly telling the boys, "Just Mommy and Daddy are going to see the dentist, Cal and Clark get to play in the playroom." Finally they seemed to believe us and allowed themselves to be strapped in the car seats. (Next time they will actually see the dentist for the first time) When we got there they played with blocks for a little while, while Brian got his teeth cleaned, but not really as blocks. Cal had me make a block guitar and Clark was pretending the blocks were food and cups. I completed an architecturally innovative tower using all the blocks in the playroom while the boys watched, unimpressed, feeding the stuffed animals, including The Grinch, pretend milk. When I finished, they launched hardcore into their interactive, third party pretending. Cal went and got me pretend blue lollipops, throwing the pretend wrappers and sticks away after each one. Soon Clark started making pretend "zonya" (lasagna) for not only me and Cal, but for the receptionists and other patients in the waiting room. They all loved playing along and the boys thrived off the enthusiasm. They ran around collecting various colored "cups" of water with ice for the lasagna eaters and putting sauce on it for everyone, while Clark constantly said, “there you go, man (or lady)” in a baby-voice for whatever reason.

I was glad that the boys never once asked me to watch the two TVs that were in the playroom, but instead did all their pretending and not much realing. They lasted the whole time we were there—well over an hour-- even though it was during their normal nap time, and they barely played with any actual toys-- mostly imaginary food and real people. And I love that, since I am still the bed-jumping, mud pie-making Olympic champion and tape recorder radio station/play food restaurant entrepreneur that I was all those years ago somewhere in a quiet Idaho forest. 
and the crowd goes wild!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Creepy Space Robots

The space robot on tv and on display

Today I found that space robots are creepy, especially when they move all herky-jerky with old music playing in the background. And they're actually not space robots, they're space suit androids used to create astronaut suits, since testing the suits out for pressure would be dangerous on actual humans.

The robots were the boys' favorite part of today's trip to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. They didn't find the robots creepy like I did. All Northern Virginia parents should take advantage of this place. It rocks. It's a huge airplane hangar by Dulles Airport, with hundreds of planes and helicopters and missiles and engines and the amazing space shuttle Enterprise. I won't even try to pretend I know the different names and time periods and models of the planes, because not a lot of placard-reading goes on while the little ones dash around. But it's a sweet place to take kids, especially in the winter when there are few visitors (especially on weekdays), and it's spacious so the kids can run around if they're so inclined. We went today so Gammy could do with us, and since it's a holiday, the place was busier than normal, but still very manageable. Since it's a Smithsonian museum, admission is free, but they do charge $15 for parking unless you go at 4pm, after which it is free (The place closes at 5pm). So, pack a couple moms and kids in the minivan on a weekday morning and get your money’s worth.
The placards that I hardly have time to read

There are plenty of interactive things to do also. There are flight simulators and an IMax theater and an observation tower where you can see and do what air traffic controllers do. They have frequent educational programs, including a once-a-month Super Science Saturday where there are a bunch of hands-on activities stationed around the museum for kids of all ages to participate in. One time the boys got to try on astronaut gloves and boots (okay, they were actually afraid of the boots) and I saw a demonstration with sponges and a plastic spinal column that illustrated what happens to spines in space (which sounds painful). They have story times and flight suits that kids can try on. Super cool stuff, and events that the boys will now appreciate more and more as they get older. The past few times we've gone the boys have been fantastic and they've remembered a lot about it, too. The last time they got to go in the cockpit of a little Cessna plane and push buttons and lights and they loved it. They post discovery stations around the museum on a regular basis.

My boys usually last for two hours in the museum and then we're ready to either eat a snack and head home, or take the McDonald's chicken nugget plunge at the gigantic McDonald's cafe inside. It is such a big dining area that bringing your own lunch would be easy to do without feeling rude, though I've never done it. The workers probably wouldn't even notice.

At the nose of the space shuttle
Last night after we told the boys we were going to the museum in the morning, they said they wanted to do a craft! (It was Clark's idea! MAJOR VICTORY!) So I found astronaut coloring sheets online and the boys colored them, I roughly cut them out, and we pasted pictures of their heads in the helmets. Then they used some glitter glue to make stars on a black construction paper where we pasted the scenes. Their interest in astronauts and space has been gaining momentum ever since they got a Little People space shuttle for a couple stomp rockets, a cool astronaut book, and astronaut ice cream for Christmas from some awesome aunts and uncles. We've watched a lot of YouTube space shuttle launches and moonwalks and Brian has been showing them GoogleEarth so they've learned a little about space and what satellites do. So this trip was probably the most meaningful one they've had. Cal also showed an interest in all the engines, which have never captured his attention before.

So, in summary, NOVA parents, you should take your kids here. You should pack up your astronaut ice cream and your kids' friends and show them everything, but especially the space robot and the video of the dancing space robot that are over by the space shuttle, and come back on a day they have all the science-y hands-on stations (next one is February 11th). 5-4-3-2-1- I'm out.

Astronaut Calvin (in Astronaut Buzz Lightyear shirt)

The space shuttle from a catwalk

I guess this plane is making Cal nervous?

astronaut crafts on the fridge!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breakfast Survey Finale

Me: "What do you want for breakfast?"

Clark "Astronaut food that is kind of like ice cream cones."

Cal "Egg chocolate."

Instead they settled for honey wheat bagels with cream cheese (read: licks of cream cheese with an occasional bite of bagel) and bananas. As they were eating their bananas (like monkeys!) they took out the play food eggs that crack open and pretended there where baby chickens in them but that the chickens got hurt and needed to be held and kissed and to have medicine. I was glad we didn't have eggs today because it could have presented some awkward questions about eggs and chickens and possibly even reproduction that I'm not prepared to answer.

Good breakfast survey week.

Here are some edited pictures because I'm obsessing over photo editing the past couple days.

Cal meets bagel.

Clark illustrates his breakfast terms

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breakfast Survey, Day 4

Me: "What do you want for breakfast today?"

Clark: "I want toast and Cal wants chocolate and astronaut food. And I want toast and eggs."

Cal: "I want uh, uh, sandwiches that astronauts eat."

Shoot. No oatmeal requests today. I bet it will make a comeback tomorrow.

When the animals came out of their cages, they ate eggs and toast and forgot about astronaut ice cream.

Thursday Thesicle

Lizard bath towels rock and roll.

subtitle: I learned how to edit images. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Breakfast Survey, Day 3

To continue my week-long breakfast survey, this morning I asked the boys what they wanted for breakfast, hoping that at least one of them would ask for oatmeal, since their new found love of oatmeal is what started this survey. So I posed the question to my two smiley, striped jammie-clad boys this morning.


Cal: "I want oh-meal and sprinkles of MANY colors and cinnamon on it."

Score another one for oatmeal!

If you missed it, I wrote about our museum trip yesterday over here on the very cool SuperNovaMommy's website.

Completing the breakfast survey
Morning brother hug

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breakfast Survey and Museum Trip

This morning we got up and I tried to get the boys to quickly get ready to catch the bus to go to the Natural History Museum. I recommend never trying to get two year-olds to do anything quickly because in the end all it will make you want to do is punch the wall and maybe bite something. They don't know how and the more aggravated you get the funnier they think you are. Just pour another cup of coffee and get over it. You'll be late.  It's not like the stuffed mammals in the exhibits were going to complain about the time we arrived.

I almost forgot to ask the boys what they wanted for breakfast. I already had two cinnamon raisin bagels ready to hand them since we were "in a hurry." Sprinkles and oatmeal did not fit into my plan for the day.

Me: "What do you want for breakfast this morning?"

Cal: "I want oatmeal, I guess."

Clark: "I want a bagel. A purple bagel!"

Sorry kids. Here are your boring brown bagels. Now hop in the stroller and let's do this thing.

I wrote about our trip with Uncle A to the museum here on a Northern Virginia Moms website, complete with more pictures. Here's a delightful sampling:

Looking for butterflies in the museum's butterfly pavilion

"These caterpillars are huge, Mommy!"
Giant Brown Bear and Giant Uncle A

The boys' favorite mode of transportation: Uncle A's pushin'

Burgers at Ollie's Trolley

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Oatmeal Streak and Breakfast Week Survey

I've written about oatmeal on here before. The boys used to love it. I'd put raisins or peaches or bananas in it and they'd gobble it up and I'd prance around the kitchen feeling like a healthful, successful mother. Since that first entry last winter though, the boys have refused oatmeal. At one point this summer I employed EOD measures (extreme oatmeal discipline) and kind of lost to a teddy graham, but I suppose I also kind of won. You decide. So no oatmeal has been consumed by the stubborn eaters since then.

My friend Aimee had the brilliant idea to put sprinkles in oatmeal. Her son had also had a longtime break from oatmeal, but when she let him put sprinkles in it he gobbled it up. I tried it and it worked! For the past couple weeks the boys have eaten oatmeal quite a few times and cleaned up their entire bowls. Now for the past three days I've asked what they want for breakfast and they've requested oatmeal with sprinkles. Usually they request eggs and toast or pancakes. Sometimes they request odd things like candy or astronaut ice cream, or chicken nuggets or salmon.

Yummy green oatmeal?

So many sprinkle options! 
For your amusement and mine, I've decided to ask both of them what they want for breakfast each morning this week. I'm hoping I'll get some fun answers. Here are this morning's desires:

Clark, grinning: "I want eggs and toast!" Huh. Oatmeal streak is over. How normal of him.

Cal, jumping. "I want blue sauce with green this time and eggs!" Blue sauce is the special Daddy sauce that Brian makes for their chicken nuggets. It consists of Ranch dressing and blue food coloring. They adore it.

Okay, let me go get the eggs out... See you tomorrow.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Stairs or the Fire?

Making decisions has never been something I'm good at. Would I rather have pizza or Chinese food? I either don't care and defer to the company I'm with, or struggle about the merits of both options and torture myself with the what-ifs. I'm rarely good at quickly deciding on anything. 

But becoming a parent has sped up my decision-making process in most areas. Since I have twins, who go through the same stages at the same time, those decisions really sped up when they began walking. It was as if I was being forced in a split second to answer nearly-philosophical questions that deserve pondering and postulating over. For example: one boys toddles off toward the stairs as another nears a blazing fire. Which do I grab first? Is being burned worse than falling? Ready, set, go! Decide! Now! One boy is eating a bug out of the sand, the other is racing toward the water without a life jacket. BAM. Decide! It's seriously something that you might have a group discussion about in a philosophy class. If Hitler were drowning in a river, and you were a lifeguard, would you jump in and save him? That type of thing. Is it worse for Clark to step on and break his guitar or for Calvin to pee all over the floor? It's really a tough call.

Now there are the discipline decisions since both boys are fond of throwing loud obnoxious fits lately. What is the nature and degree of the offense? If one boy won't stop kicking me while I change his diaper, should I kick him back (Which I've gently done while sitting down and it works like a charm, because it offends them. It's like a slow motion pretend kick, but they hate it.), or do I put him in his bed for a time out? Does one boy hitting the other boy in self-defense deserve the same disciplining that an offensive hit warrants? Better decide fast!

I think I'm getting better at the split-second decision-making than I was pre-babies, but I'm still not much good at it. Or am I?

And what should I make for dinner…?

Is this the best way for him to learn not to stick his head in a fountain spout? Maybe.

You Probably Shouldn't Kiss a Turkey

Today the boys tried to kiss a turkey. Really guys? Of all the animals on the farm? The ones with the beaks? Turkeys are nasty looking. Their faces look like they're missing a layer of flesh-- like they're showing off their muscular, nay, even their skeletal systems for the world to see. Good thing they're downright delicious with potatoes and gravy (yes, I said nay).


This week the weather has been frigid. Very January. But not today. No winter coats, no mittens, no hats. Just sweatshirts. We practically needed sunblock. So we headed off to a little farm that's a couple minutes away-- Frying Pan Park. (Plug for Reston: I LOVE LIVING HERE. There are so many different types of things to do in the area.) I think the boys loved it more than they ever have the other times we've gone. We went with friends and no one even fell in manure or pissed off a large cow or asked about exposed reproductive system parts on a horse or anything.

So, I wanted to share a few pictures and revel in the sun and non-January-ness of today and make you jealous if it's cold where you live. To top it off we came home and had a picnic on the balcony without sweatshirts. We did not eat turkey. 

Old McCalvin had a tractor.

So did McClark

For some reason all the kids thought this goat was hilarious. I did not.

Yeah, Cal, go ahead and eat that rusty metal gate. It's cool.

Ava and Cal poke the corn on the cob in the corn crib.
The pigs' heat lamp is like a ceiling fan, Mommy! Um. Sure.

Peacock sighting!

More turkey kisses

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