Cast on. Cast off.

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First Day.

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Last Day.

 

If you ever have to put a cast on your 3 year old it would be prudent to remember that one day that cast is gonna have to come off.  That day was today.  Our conversation on the way to the doctor:

Me:  Well honey you’re getting your cast off in a few minutes, isn’t that exciting?

3 Year old:  No, I’m going to be so disappointed.

Me:  Why?

3 Year old:  Because I won’t be able to show it to my friends anymore.  Or strangers.

Here is what I learned:

1.  It would have been a good idea to hire a babysitter so that I could have left my 15 month old at home.  There was no reason to traumatize both of them.

2. Kids are positioned on their backs for cast removal.  In order to comfort them you must awkwardly collapse your body on top of theirs while making sure your face can be seen by your baby.   This is of course so that they will see you grinning like a psycho during the sawing and then possibly feel better about the fact that your mother is lying on your sister while a stranger goes at her with a saw.

Summer 2014 0063.  Even though we discussed how the cast would come off with a saw it didn’t really sink in for my daughter until that saw turned ON.

4.  Once the saw (which looked less scary than an amputation saw but more scary than an electric turkey carver) was in motion my heretofore independent child began howling, “Mama!  Don’t leave me!  Cuddle me mom!  Right now!  AAAAHHHHH! Mom mom mom mom mom!  NOOOOOOO!”  Tears poured down her face, and suddenly the novelty of the cast was over.  My heart broke for her and all at once parenting didn’t feel quite so thankless.

5.  When my child finally got the cast off the part of her body that was previously shrouded in Gore-Tex it stunk. I wanted to put my nose somewhere less foul.  Like my own armpit.  I didn’t do this of course but I really, really wanted to.

6.  I saw the cuts the saw left on my daughter’s arm and felt an overwhelming urge to launch myself at the technician and bite them on the face.  Instead I sang, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” to my children until the urge passed.

7.  Just because the cast is off the arm is not back to normal.  She is still holding it up like a bird with a broken wing.  “It’s stiff,” she tells me.  “You’ll have to carry me.  And lift me up to the table, and put me in my car seat.  I can’t do it.”  I wonder how long this phase will last….

The best part of the experience was that there were no ticks hiding inside the cast- only a lone pine needle happy to free once more.

 

 

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Doesn’t It All Go By in a Blink

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Broken arm to start off the hot months.

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Baby’s first haircut. Goodbye curls:(

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.” ― L.M. MontgomeryAnne’s House of Dreams

When every day of summer lasts a million years (this is how it feels anyway) I find myself forgetting that I only really get a handful of summers with my kids.  What I mean of course, is a handful of summers when they are still mine.  Before they’re begging to go over to friend’s houses and to summer camp and into the future without a backward glance.  It isn’t my wish to keep them little forever- little kids are an incredible amount of work.  But I do love the innocence.  I love the soft cheeks, the concept that mom and dad can make everything alright, and the way they sleep without anything weighing them down.

These are a few pictures of our summer so far- a blur of manic energy contained in a few photos.

 

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July garden.

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Calvert Marine Museum, terrapin.

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Indoor Beach Day

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The new balance bike.

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Water table fun and bug catching.

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First full family campout, Elk Neck State Park, MD.

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I capture the castle.

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I’m 3 today!

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Life is good.

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Oh yes we DID bring the clip-on highchair.

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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/Charlottesville, VA with Young Kids Part 2

On Tuesday the kids and I drove west one hour to the fantastic town of Charlottesville, VA.  Fortunately I lived there when I was younger and was able to turn off the GPS and just enjoy myself.  There is an incredible amount to do there with young kids so I had to pick and choose.  Knowing that we’d need to be heading back to Richmond by 1PM (sacred naptime) we only had time for a few activities.  The first stop was to pick up bagels from Bodo’s- a necessity anytime we are in town.

The 2nd stop was the VA Discovery Museum and it was well worth the drive. Summer 2014 496 Summer 2014 490 Summer 2014 471 Summer 2014 487 Summer 2014 482 Summer 2014 475 Summer 2014 480Everything is relative of course and if you are coming from a big city or if your kids are older than 6 this may not be worth your time.  For us, coming from rural Southern Maryland where there are almost no opportunities for young kids, this was a goldmine.  My almost 3 year old loved everything about this place.  She ran from the art room to the historic cabin replica, to the giant doll house, to the pirate ship.  My 13 month old loved the giant donkey/stable display, the garden (in which you can plant plastic carrots, etc.), and watching all the other children.  Right outside on the downtown mall there is a small merry-g0-round in which every seat is actually a small horse.  It’s free and my daughter was pretty sure she had never found anything better.

It was lovely to reunite with an old friend and take on Christian’s Pizza before our time in C’ville was over.    Here we are strolling along the downtown mall with our potty seat at the ready.

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Vacation Series: Richmond, VA with Young Kids Part 1

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Vacationing with young kids looks like this.

When your children are young the thought of taking them on summer vacation can make you want to run for the hills.  It isn’t just the short attention spans, the thought of carrying a potty seat with you to all destinations, or the fact that staying in a hotel room is not a viable option.

It’s also the realization that young children come with lots of STUFF.  A double stroller, a stool so that the potty in the rental house can be reached, a baby gate (not kidding here people) so that the baby does not find the bright orange Spic N’ Span cleaner under the non-babyproofed kitchen cabinet, and some kind of a portable highchair.  You must realize there will be no room for souvenirs on this vacation or perhaps any other for the next 5 years.  There will be no room for a 5th pair of underwear or the good camera.  By day 5 we will be in dirty underwear taking photos with our phones, and remembering that traveling with kids is a completely unpredictable and exhausting experience.

We potty-trained our daughter 2 weeks ago and although she is doing great, she is not comfortable going in public without her own Sesame Street potty seat which we clip to the stroller whenever we leave the house.  I try not to think about the ramifications of this too much.  I just use my anti-bacterial wipes and hope to avoid roundworms, rotavirus, crabs, and everything else.  When you have a 2 year old, it’s the best you can do.

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Stonewall Jackson Shrine

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Our rental house porch.

Our vacation to Richmond, VA began wonderfully.  We stopped off at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine near Fredericksburg, VA (what, you’ve never heard of it?) which was where he died in 1863.  We spent a few moments feeling thankful for modern medicine before arriving at our rental house which we discovered through AirBnB.

On Monday morning we headed over to the Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park.  The playground was fantastic, there were small plastic vehicles the kids could climb in and pretend to drive including a train and fire truck.  My kids would have happily stayed in those two attractions all day.

In addition there was more of a traditional playground with swings (including baby/toddler swings), slides, and a hand-cranked platform.  Some part of the playground area was in the shade at all times. If you have time for a walk up the hill you can find many animals at the Meadow Farm- admission for admiring the animals is free and they currently have some adorable baby lambs.  My daughter also enjoyed the duck pond that we passed on the way.

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Meadow Farm, Glen Allen, VA

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Wildflowers at Crump Park

When we got back to the rental house it became clear that we wouldn’t be spending much time in it this week.  Although relatively clutter-free, we did not anticipate the rickety lamps and old-lady tables.  Our children discovered these immediately and went in for the kill.  The lamps were put in the closet and the tables were stacked on other furniture.  Although I had contemplated bringing outlet covers from home I decided that was just ridiculous.  Turns out that wasn’t a ridiculous idea at all.  We managed to borrow some from a colleague and they are the only reason I am able to cook food when home alone with my kids.  It’s as if my baby has a death wish.  Electricity?  Yes, please!

 

In a frantic attempt to escape to a more kid-friendly zone we headed off to the Tuckahoe Area Library.  It was a thing of beauty.  Not only was the children’s department as large as my entire library back home but it overlooked a lovely outdoor walking path.  The windows were huge, there was light everywhere, the volume of books put a smile on my face.  We missed storytime but the kids had a great time playing with all the different activities and reading together on the comfortable furniture.

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The entrance to the children’s department. Inside this rocket ship is a starry sky. We blasted off several times.

Vacation is a wonderful thing.  This one is a bit epic and so there will be further installments when I can get to them.  The bottom line though is that Richmond is a fantastic destination with young kids- we are loving it.

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