Will She Look in the Oven?

It is a rainy and humid day in Southern Maryland.  So humid that I feel moisture gathering between my toes as I sit here typing this.  I have lost track of the number of recent thunderstorms and every day it feels like we are walking through a thick pea soup.  The snack crackers grow soggy before you can eat them.  My hair is at its curliest this time of year and it seems that my son has inherited my humidometer locks.  This week he is all ringlets.  We have been attempting to air out our sleeping bags from a recent campout but the longer they hang over the upstairs railing the wetter they get.  You get the idea.

Clearly this was not the best day to mop my kitchen floor.  However it was long overdue and it had become so sticky that traveling through the kitchen felt like trying to fight my way out of a glue trap.  I was over it.  I would vanquish the stickiness.  I would beat it into submission.  Prying myself out of the wooden chair I went through the motions of mopping.  Then the water sat there.  For hours.  Not drying.  Perhaps even accumulating more moisture as it sat glistening at me in a mean-spirited kind of way.

Finally I took down the baby gate in order to make lunch.  Instantly one child went down.  Then the second.  Possibly both concussed from the wetness of my disgusting kitchen floor.  The baby gate went back up.  The dog towels came out so I could dry the whole thing by hand and even after all this the floor was somehow stickier than ever.

I opted to take my aggression out on the stove which I have not cleaned in two years of living in this house.  Why clean it now?  Because my mother is coming in 2 days.  My mother who always has a sparkling stove and who lives 3,000 miles away where she cannot regularly check mine.  Chances are that she will not, in her week of visiting, actually open my oven.  However we all  know that the only way to be sure is to clean it.  That’s the rule.

So the oven is clean, the floor is mopped (for all the good it did me), and the outdoor plants have been watered.  That’s the extent of it.  Everything else is grimy, smeary, crusty, and stinky.

Yesterday my daughter wanted to check her reflection as she recently ran through a screen door and landed on some bricks yielding an incredible fat lip that she has been diligently monitoring.  I followed her to the mirror and happened to notice that one of my fingernails, which I had just hurriedly trimmed, had landed in a highly visible spot in my hair.  Fortunately I was able to remove it before we set off for Target.

So it seems that I have landed myself in, “The Grimy Years”.  I get that now.  The area under my son’s clip-on highchair must be scrubbed by hand 3 times a day- 4 if we have a snack.  Oh yes, I could leave it but then he would track it all over my house.  Two nights ago I asked my 3 year old daughter to try to keep her mulberry jam off the white carpet.  She did.  But I forgot to mention that if you need to sneeze when you are chewing up beets be sure to contain the result.  Oh white carpet, why were you ever invented?

My toilet is sweating.  A lot.  The floor is uneven so all the sweat forms a river and the river leads to the low spot right in front of the bathroom sink.  When my daughter travels across the bathroom to get her potty seat (7 times a day?) she must walk right through it.  Sometimes she slips.  I wipe it up several times a day while glaring at the toilet and demanding, “Really?  Do you have to be a jerk?”

Grimy.   Humid.  Gross.  Motherhood.

 

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Vacation Series: Richmond with Young Kids Part 4: James River Park and Deep Run Park

The fun in Richmond seemed never-ending until it ended.  After our morning at the Botanical Gardens we headed for the James River.  The temperature was 90 and muggy and we needed to get wet.  We found ourselves at a section of the James River Park called Pony Pasture which was advertised as being kid-friendly.

Well, the river must have flooded because those kid-friendly play areas could not be found.  We managed to find a shallow creek but the volume of poison ivy was causing such high anxiety I felt an eye twitch coming on. We got back in the car and headed for a flatwater area downriver called The Wetlands which was rumored to have a shallow sandy beach.  There was no beach.  Only mud.  And roots.  And a long walk from the car.  I wore the baby in the Ergo and pulled my daughter along by the hand.  It was the kind of thing that should have been fun but nobody seemed to have received the memo.

Still, we changed our focus from swimming to hiking and with the added intrigue of the floating cottonwood puffballs my daughter became rather enchanted.  I was not but tried to keep my sneezing to myself for the sake of the group.  One day we shall visit these spots again but hopefully during a non-flood period.

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The thing about wearing a baby is that they get to smear you with whatever happens to be on their hands and there is nothing you can do. And they know this.

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The smell of the honeysuckle in the humidity was delicious.

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Wait a minute. Escaping baby!

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Intro to trudging.

Summer 2014 047 The next morning was our last in Richmond.  I took the kids to Deep Run Park in the nearby town of Short Pump and I was so glad we had saved it for our last day.  What a wonderful place.  In Southern Maryland where we live there are many nice playgrounds but few of them have any sense of imagination and they are all in full sun.  Deep Run Park is apparently where that imagination ended up.  There is a CASTLE.  A great one.  In the shady woods.  Behind it there is a smaller play area that features a stagecoach with separate rocking horses.  The bathroom is close by and there were no crowds the morning we were there.

 

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Deep Run Park, Short Pump, VA

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Vacation Series: Richmond, VA with Young Kids Part 3: The Zoo and Botanical Gardens

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Feeding the giraffes, a new experience.

Day 3 in Richmond…. what to do?  Time for the Richmond Metro Zoo!

Let me clear, I am not a zoo person.  I find them to be a completely depressing experience and before I ever had kids I wondered if I’d be able to one day bring myself to take them to a zoo.  That day is here.  I now have kids.  I have kids who do not get the opportunity to see many animals in a world where animals are quickly disappearing.  I am a parent and I am also a realist who wonders how much time is left to see these animals before they’re gone.  And so we found ourselves armed with a cup full of giraffe snacks at 9:15 this morning while waiting in the long line of children doing the pee dance until the zoo opened at 9:30.Summer 2014 504As far as zoos go the Richmond Metro zoo is small and manageable.  There is a playground, a jungle carousel, a ski lift (didn’t see it running though) and a zipline for the adventurous.

On Thursday we made it over to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and wow, wow, wow!  We chose a very hot day for this event and could only stay a couple of hours but it was wonderful.  We spent most of our time in the Children’s Garden which has an incredible treehouse, a water play area, a big sandpit in the shade, and a number of small houses the kids can go inside.

Most of the property is quite sunny but there are a few pockets where you can hide in the shade.  The Children’s Garden was one but there were also a couple shady ponds.  If you’ve got young kids though, the earlier you plan to arrive the better. It’s a busy place for playdates and school trips. The Conservatory was gorgeous and filled with small waterfalls and orchids.  There is a butterfly pavillion but as it does not allow strollers (for good reason of course) we weren’t able to visit it this time.

This was a place that felt a little bit like a magical happy land.  Everyone walking around had a smile on their face.  Of course most of them were elderly and likely retired so what’s not to love?  They’re probably that happy wherever they go.  We would go back to this place in a second- I had to drag my daughter out of the mini house exhibit.

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Out of the Fog

Like magic the fog has suddenly cleared.  My baby is old enough to do more than smile, eat, and poop.  He can move.  He can stack rings on a peg, clap his hands, wave goodbye, sign “more”, and when it is time to eat he heads for the table without a word from me.  My daughter can entertain herself for small periods of time.  She has learned how to pretend.  She has a favorite stuffed animal that must sit at the table during meals and is sorely missed whenever we leave the house.  She has become a good big sister.

Just like that.

We find ourselves only  a year ahead of last summer but advanced in so many ways.  WE CAN LEAVE THE HOUSE!  Just this morning I took the kids to buy spring flowers and incredibly no one needed a new diaper, no one had a fit, and we made it home before anyone was “starving”.  This may have been a first.

When we came home my kids played.  Together.  Not independently in the same room, not just with the same toys, but they made up games and enjoyed them together.  They made each other laugh while I made calzone dough.  For a dinner that I had figured out before 4PM!  Then, for the wild turkey, they both napped for the same 2 hour period of time.

I know.  It’s almost too much to believe.

This magical day has come on the heels of our excellent cherry blossom trip to DC and we are looking at the upcoming summer in a whole new way.  We have even planned a trip every month for the next 4 months.

I can recall with terrible clarity the only trip we managed to go on last summer.  There are no photos of that adventure which is really for the best. It was supposed to be an overnight Father’s Day campout.  We drove a long way (2 hours), it was hot and muggy, the baby couldn’t fall asleep, the dog was hellbent on finding each patch of poison ivy, the 2 year old followed suit, a dunking in the pool at the campground traumatized our daughter so much that she still hates pools and thus detests her Saturday swim lessons.  As I walked the screaming baby around the campground (after about 7 hours of trying to enjoy ourselves) I chanced to look back at the rest of my family.  The dog, the husband, and the toddler were all shut in the screenhouse we’d brought while the mosquitoes did laps around the outside of it.  20140422-164240.jpgMy husband was frantically frying sausages (I recall large flames) on our Coleman two-burner while the dog sniffed at them intently and the toddler lifted up the side of the screenhouse and slithered out into the brush which I knew even from that distance must be more poison ivy.  I looked at the baby, I looked at my poor husband (on Father’s Day), and I took inventory.  We buckled the kids in the van and turned the fans on.  I fed the toddler dinner while she was confined in her carseat and could not escape me.  My husband loaded everything (screenhouse included) into the van in less than 20 minutes.  We began the 2 hour drive home.  The kids slept while we adults ate sausage with our fingers, and I read a few chapters out of a Sherlock Holmes book to my husband to keep him awake as he drove. We transferred the children to their beds and washed greasy sausage dishes in our sink.  We moved all the food from the cooler back into our fridge.  We stripped down to our underwear before finally breaking down and turning the AC on around midnight. We lay on our backs on the living room carpet while waiting for it to cool off.  We laughed til we clutched our sides.  We said, “Oh my God.”  We wiped sweat off our brows.  We said, “Maybe next year.”

That was then.  This is now.  Now is looking really, really good.

Cherry Blossoms in the Capital

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Washington Monument, April

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If you decide to go see the cherry blossoms in DC next April you’ll want to take your children.  If you take your children you’ll need to pack lunch, extra outfits, a gallon of water, sunscreen, hats, spare hats, more hats, entertainment such as bubbles (trees don’t really do it for toddlers and babies), your good camera, a stroller, possibly a wearable baby carrier, and a hip flask.  If you take a hip flask you won’t get off at the right Metro stop so skip that last one.

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Jefferson Memorial

If you join the hoards of blossom-happy individuals swarming Tidewater Basin it will occur to you that sitting on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial (visible across the water) might have been the best way to go.  You will really think so when your double stroller prevents you from crossing streets anywhere that does not have cement cut-outs in the sidewalk.  Still, the stroller will save you from having to physically carry both children so it will be worth the trouble.

If you walk down the mall during your visit your children will see the carousel.  It will call to them from the moment it appears on the horizon visible only as a small green blob.  You will not be able to cover it up and your attempts at distraction will only embarrass yourself.  Therefore, embrace the carousel.  Take the time to ride it with your kids.  If you’re first in line you may get to sit on the coveted sea horse.  Incidentally, this was the fastest carousel I’ve ever been on.

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DC carousel.

If your cherry blossom experience leads you through the sculpture garden near the National Archives your children will want to splash in the large fountain.  This seems to be allowed although wading is not.  On the day we went it was pushing 80 degrees and after the long winter everyone was soaking their feet.  If you let your small children soak their feet it will only be a matter of seconds before they are entirely soaked.  This will make them extremely happy.  It will make you extremely happy to watch them.

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DC fountain in the Sculpture Garden.

You will make your way back to the Metro station feeling like travel with young children is not only possible, it is enjoyable.

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When it was all over.

If you find your way home again you will eventually have to start your work week. On Monday people will ask you if the blossoms were beautiful.  You will honestly reply that you can’t quite recall.  They may have been lovely.  They may have been past peak.  They may not have even been there at all.

You can’t be sure because you weren’t really looking at the trees.  Your eyes were on something else.  Someone else.   Two someones that called to you from the time they were just small blobs on the horizon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When Your Kids Are Older (Like 8)

Take a minute to consider how far your family has come.  Are you able to successfully transfer your laundry from the washer to the dryer in three minutes of uninterrupted bliss?  If there is anyone in the house under 4 years of age then chances are good that some kind of screaming/crying/pottying on oneself/falling down the stairs/stubbing a toe/tantrum ensues whenever you attempt this.  If you remember these times but no longer have to deal with them you should give yourself a point for progress.

When you hand your child a crayon and some paper do they color?  For more than 2 minutes?  Success again!  A point for you.

Have you been able to take the child locks off your kitchen cabinets?  Do you find yourself without a changing table in your home?  Has it been a while since you said, “Good grief, where did all these boogers come from?”  Does your bathroom smell like poop less than 100% of the time?

Have you stopped finding microscopic socks in the crannies of your washer?  Do you no longer find surprise items in your purse or pockets?  Here’s a big one:  Is your car without car seats?  Are all members of the family able to sit unassisted in the chairs that came with the kitchen table?  Has it been a while since you’ve seen Duplo blocks, Mega blocks, Little People, Sesame Street anyting, stacking cups, sippy cups, and compartmentalized kid plates?

Have you moved beyond footie pajamas?

Does your child still kiss you on the lips?

Do they still revel in their nakedness?

Do they still think you’re perfect?

When you become a parent no one tells you that you’ve just entered a new realm of complete vulnerability.  Or that you will feel things 5x more than you ever did before.  Or that when you hear about a school shooting you will instantly become choked with fear and agony and despair- for all the children whose chances just ended but more for their parents whose pain you can imagine across a multitude of miles.

They never tell you that although you may have loved you have never loved like this.

So you decide to roll with the large shiny blob of snot on your shoulder and you scoop your preschooler up off the floor in between washing the slimy dishes and baking another loaf of bread.  You cover her with kisses and then you go rub your cheek on your baby’s soft hair while listening to him coo like a dove.

One day the child locks will be gone and we will all ride in the car with regular seatbelts. We will cook one dinner (instead of 3 different ones) and my kids will cut up their own food and put it in their own mouths.  We will stay outside for more than 15 minutes on cold winter days and I will eventually forget the words to Rainbow Connection.  We will be able to do things as a family that I’ve never even imagined (because who has time?) like bake together and play board games.  We will write plays and have puppet shows and race our sleds in the winter.  We will have inside family jokes, our kids will help set up the tent when we camp, and one day we will watch them participate in things such as spelling bees and jogathons.

I’ll be ready for all that when it comes.  I certainly will not lament the loss of the poop sprayer attached to the back of my toilet.  I will pass my stack of cloth diapers on to the next person quite cheerfully and without any sense of loss.  My sippy cups?  When the time comes they can be yours if you’d like them.

But the moment right before her bath when my daughter unabashedly shakes her naked butt for every person in the house, and the sound of infectious baby laughter when I tickle the bottom of my son’s feet-  I can’t imagine not having those.

One day I’ll pull the final sodden baby sock out of the washer.  Thank goodness it will be impossible for me to realize it is the last time.

Winter Came

Winter 2013 145We all said, “Winter is coming,” but soon we will say, “Winter came.”

When spring comes I hope I’ll be able to look back with gratitude at this period of hibernation.  Winter can be a hard time with small children.  Every time you want to leave the house you must locate the leg warmers, coats, shoes, diapers, snacks, hats, gloves, and most importantly, the children themselves.  Then you must stuff them into their carseats, pile books and toys into their laps, and turn on The Cat in the Hat audio book which you’d really like to watch go up in a big explosion.  When all this gets accomplished it is likely that you are so worn out that leaving the house no longer seems like a good idea.  Maybe it would be better to just go back inside?  If you choose instead to go forth with your plan of “leaving the house” it is likely that you will need to sing “Go to Sleep Little Baby” in order to soothe your little one,  pull over to nurse in a parking lot (in your winter coat), and ask your toddler to lower her voice repeatedly all before arriving at your destination.  Even if that destination is the Lexington Park library down the street.

Winter 2013 125Still, winter isn’t all bad.

Yes there was snow, there was sickness, but there was also time to slow down and watch my children grow.   There was a respite from the biting insects.  There were all the delicious holidays.  There were days (moments) of wearing warm hats and sledding.  Winter 2013 029There was the day we made a table fort and the acquisition of a well loved sand table.

We finished off all the tomato soup and strawberry jam we made last summer and now our mason jars stand empty awaiting the next canning project.  In this, we did our job.  We ate, we played, we read, and we survived the winter.  We made lists, we crossed things off, and we made them again.  And every day we raised our kids.

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And if winter hadn’t come I wouldn’t be able to experience the joy of seeing the daffodil bulbs push up from the earth.  They’re ready for spring- are you?