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.

 

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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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.

Just Because You Can Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Summer 2013 051     The Farmer’s Market was today.  It was colorful, appetizing, and they were selling 25 pound boxes of tomatoes for $12.  In our neck of the woods that’s a pretty outstanding price.  Momentarily forgetting that I have two children under the age of three I quickly snagged the last box and informed my husband that we’d be canning tomato soup.  Right now.  What could he really do at that point? He pulled the canning supplies out of the cabinet and began washing tomatoes.  What a guy.

Eight hours after the initial tomato purchase we have 10 quarts of tomato soup which we’ll use as our winter stew base.  Tomorrow I might find myself excited about that but not right now.  My husband and I spent most of the afternoon being constantly reminded that we are first and foremost parents.  We have children whose needs do not stop simply because we want to enjoy homemade soup this winter.  Our toddler, who has spent the last month eschewing all food in the way that 2 year olds sometimes do, has suddenly decided to eat like a horse to make up for it.  She made this decision as soon as I came home with 25 pounds of tomatoes.  Simultaneously and unbeknownst to anyone our 4 month old son made a plan to skip all of his naps for the rest of the day.  I get the feeling that this is just the beginning of their plotting.  How many meals did my daughter eat today?  I’ve lost track. How many times did I attempt to nurse my son to sleep only to give up once again?  When they really start communicating with each other we’ll be in trouble.Summer 2013 048

Back in the days before kids lived in our house we were big time canners.  Our cabinets were filled with home canned garlic dill pickle stackers, chili sauce, blackberry jam, and rhubarb pie filling.  We had city garden plots that made it possible to bring home fresh lettuce and kale, green beans and tomatillos, cabbages and squash.  We bought the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard and lived a life full of good food.  We experimented with peach-mint salsa, discovered pineapple-squash relish, and created then devoured quarts of sun-dried tomato chutney.  When some acquaintances gave us all of their concord grapes we made 40 quarts of grape juice using some cheesecloth, a big pot, and a carboy.  The process stained the back patio purple.  We bought vanilla ice cream and made Purple Cows until the juice ran out (just mix the grape juice and the ice cream into a beverage).  When some friends had an unexpectedly large apple yield we took 7 bags of apples home and made 30 quarts of applesauce like it was nothing. Summer 2013 050

Now flash forward to the present.  Our cabinet holds 8 jars of bruschetta salsa that my husband canned last summer when my morning sickness kept me far away from the smell of tomatoes and vinegar.  The salsa is good, it’s just that we never actually had time to eat it over the course of the last year.  We are also currently housing 3 jars of strawberry syrup which is all that is left of our Mother’s Day EXPERIENCE of the pick-your-own-strawberry variety. I spent that trip attempting to learn how to nurse my son in Ergo Infant Insert while sitting on a straw bale as a tractor pulled me to the berry field.  Ah, good times.  The syrup was meant to be jam but I’m sorry to tell you that with a 1 month old in the house we just weren’t up to our usual standards.  This brings me back to the point.  What we learned today in a long, drawn-out, and painful way is that our “usual standards” have changed.  We received our wake-up call and now concede that we are not currently canners extraordinaire.  We are in fact lucky to have made a few jars of soup out of some tomatoes that were grown by someone else.

For now it’s enough.Summer 2013 045