Friday, February 17, 2017

Washington D.C. with Toddlers

I can't believe it's been almost a year since we left for DC for two months with our 1, 2 and 4 year old kids.  No car but lots of Metro cards, an amazing row home via HomeAway on the Hill, a City Select double stroller, an Ergo baby carrier, optimism, and the kindness of old friends and new ones helped us get by and feel like locals while we were there.

Recently, a friend asked me for some suggestions on kid-friendly places, and after emailing her a robust list of our favorite places, I thought I need to jot this all down!  It might not last another year or so, but for now... here's a comprehensive list of our favorite KID-FRIENDLY things to do in D.C.  I couldn't find anything close to it when I was preparing for our trip, because like I said - stuff changes quickly, so this list might only be useful for another year at most.  And if it changes, it's still a great way to reminisce on our time in the District with three kids 4 and under (Jordan and Bubba both celebrated their birthdays while there.. so more like 1, 3 and 5...)

In order of my kids' preferences, here are the Smithsonian museums we loved the most, and all free, because we are cheapos (I know, I know.. the Spy Museum is sooo cool, but it's not free, now is it?!)

1) Smithsonian's American History Museum -  With so many little kids, this was our favorite because Mom could chill and watch them in an enclosed space and the stuff was toddler friendly enough that my 18 month old enjoyed it also.  The tourist tip we learned was the "express line" for those without bags, not something we could hack most days, but was useful when family visited and we sent in all the adults and kids to explore the non-kid portion of the museum while I waited outside with the stroller and bags.  

2) Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum - We are fascinated with space and all that comes with it, as well as anything that goes in the air, specifically airplanes, so even just walking through and seeing stuff was cool here.  But there's also a fun kid exhibit with hands-on stuff my active little ones could touch and explore, interactive handles, knobs, buttons, etc., and even live demonstrations (more suitable for kids 4 and up, but my oldest loved them!)  There's a McDonald's inside so it's a nice place to venture to with kids for lunch, and it's directly across from the American Indian Museum which is next on our list.  Super duper plus even though everything is relatively close at the Mall.   

3) Smithsonian's American Indian Museum - There is an entire area dedicated to kids' learning and exploring here, and every kid can even get a passport to go around and stamp as they learn (so for my little ones, just stamp...)  There are interactive learning items and my favorite is the canoe balance challenge that I am the bomb diggity at (my core is just so strong from all those years of dancing.. haha!) and even beat my husband (a rare incident).  My kids loved the skateboarding game, the eskimo igloo building and listening to different duck sounds by pressing buttons!
4) Smithsonian's National Zoo - The zoo is one place I do not recommend on your own with three littles, but if you try it like me, you'll have a wonderful work out and lots of tired kiddos.  My tourist tip here is to take the metro stop Cleveland Park and enjoy the short walk downhill to the zoo, go through the entire zoo, and leave from the entrance and turn left towards the Woodley Park Station, because both stops are pretty much equal distance, but but the uphill and downhill make a huge difference.  There's a playground here that parents love to sit at, where kids can mimic gophers, and there are also pay for attractions like the carousel and a train (no, we're cheapos remember?) but the exhibits alone are awesome and will keep your kids entertained.  

5) Smithsonian's Natural History - I think my kids are still too young to truly appreciate the learning that you can gain from a place like this, and without as many hands-on stuff, they quickly bored of just "looking" at neat stuff.  I'd try to read them the information at each exhibit, but besides the animals on land and see (that are stuffed) to look at, they were over it.  The dinosaur stuff was unfortunately closed, but I'm sure they would have loved that.  There is also stuff you can pay for, like the butterfly pavillion, but there's also free demonstrations going on at random times throughout the day.  We touched a weird cockroach while we were there.... I'm still shivering over that one.  

6) Renwick Gallery - So this isn't “kid friendly” per say, there's no playground and you can't even walk around with a stroller, but I like it so much that I had to put it on the list.  I also like the photo opps with your kids, and it's a small enough art gallery that your kids won't get bored walking through it with you.  The stuff is cool, it's already changed since we were there, but it's amazing to see how the different artists utilize the space.  

7) US Postal Museum - This is a great short stop for kids, the museum itself isn't large, and you can get through all of it pretty quickly and it's right next to Union Station.  We spent about 30 minutes doing kid stuff and it's pretty neat to read about how mail came about.  Kids can sort mail packages, learn about mail history with buttons, use scanners (if they worked...) to process mail, walk through a forest and experience the surroundings from mail delivery on a horse from way back when, and sit in a big delivery truck (everyone loved this one).


8) US Botanic Garden - Another short stop, pretty close to the American Indian Museum, and was a short walk to the Department of Labor which is where Andy worked while we were there.  There's a small section for kids, the "kids' garden" where they can water, dig, and mom can relax and enjoy the spray water on a hotter day.

9) Library of Congress - There's a Young Reader's Center that has toys for little kids and all sorts of books that you cannot check out, hence the collection is quite amazing.  There are bean bags everywhere for you to lounge around on and read, or for your 3 year old to sleep in because he fell asleep on the walk over.  Enter with your stroller from the handicap level and then just take a left and go directly down towards the Young Reader's Center.  There's even a legit storytime (with a massive sea of strollers parked during it from all the locals on the Hill) every Friday morning at 10:30 AM (and it gets packed, so get there early and get a fun sticker to keep for a souvenir)  The only downside for me was this place closes at 4:30 PM everyday, so we couldn't just hang here until Dad got out of work at 5, but the Capitol is just across the way, so we could hang out on the grass right in front until then.

If you made it this far, here are my golden nuggets
- get a bike lock if you plan to bring a stroller, so much of DC dining is in a small space and it's way easier to lock your stroller outside
- bring an umbrella and a stroller cover because it does rain periodically
- pocket the mini DC Metro maps you can obtain from any Metro stop cuz you just never know when your phone might not work (I was without a phone for 2 weeks while we were there)
- have good walking shoes, DC is such a fun and great walking area, if you plan to hit up the monuments and museums, it's all relatively close by car, but by foot, it's a ton of walking
- bring snacks and water  - though you can't eat at any of the monuments or museums, most museums have a cafe and once you're out of the museum or monument, you can feed your kids instead of paying monster prices for a tiny bag of chips from the vendors on the streets
- bring hand sanitizer!  yes, they have it at all the museums and the restrooms, but so much of the exhibits are HANDS-ON, so be careful and have it in case you can't make a trip to the restroom before you leave

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Love Is In the Air

Amazing - Got to be a room mom at Jordan's Valentine's Day party at school.  We had four stations - 1) making fluffy slime, 2) decorating sugar cookies, 3) making heart cards, and 4) heart toss.  They were all fun stations but Jordan told me his favorite was the one I was at (the heart cards).  Bubba and Dagny also had Valentine's parties at their pre-schools, and I got them all a mini heart box of chocolates.  Daddy surprised us when we came home from Jordan's music class with mini bundt cakes, a rose, and gifts for all the big kids (no Cooper yet, he's too young).  Dagny got a pink ball, Bubba got golf tees, and Jordan got a golf glove (he's been wanting one since he did golf camp last summer). It was a great Valentine's for all of us!

Awful - We do SO MUCH laundry with Cooper around, but it's mostly towels that we use to arm ourselves from all of his spit up.  

Amusing - I love looking at the photos Bubba and Dagny's teacher posts on her private blog just for us parents to view.  It's so fun to see what they're doing at school.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Want That Mom

A visit to Sprouts with my girl.  She's so fun to go grocery shopping with, because she will talk to me and ask me about the items I'm getting.  Of course, there's also a few "I want that" comments here and there but I can usually persuade her out of it or convince her to get something else.  She also gets a lot of random compliments from strangers about how dang cute she is, but I'm convinced it's because she's so small yet talkative with this tiny little voice that is adorable.

Took a whirl through our January actual expenses and figured even with the increase in income, we're increasing our monthly loan repayments and have quite a bit of fixed expenses.  We did decide to look into bundling our cable and internet because after the contract period, the costs really shot up sky high for DirecTV.  I'm also determined to save on our grocery budget which is all the food we buy but also anything at Costco, Walmart, or Target... so a lot of diaper costs and toiletries go into that monthly cost.  We're pretty good about eating what we buy, but I guess the goal now is not to go crazy when I go to the Chinese super market or Trader Joe's.

I started this recap on Wednesday, but it is now the end of Thursday, and after having spent all day with four kids on my own, without help, I am exhausted.  I have no problem asking for help or paying for help, I am not the mom who does it all on her own, far from that.  But my MIL is out of town and we tried to do everything with just me today.  We did have help with rides for some of my kids, but we made our way to sports classes, gymnastics, and dance.  My kids also spent about 2-3 hours watching TV or playing with the iPad or iPhone.  I'm not sure how life is going to be once it's just me with four kids, but I'm looking forward to the day when Cooper isn't nursing every 2-3 hours.  It's really not so bad when you feed a bunch of kids at the same time, you just make more, but when you have to nurse one and then feed three others, it's a juggling act.  It almost makes me consider pumping and feeding him from a bottle.  Almost.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Laughing Loudly Outside

So Amazing
After a miserable night up with Cooper, one where he not only was awake, but was INCONSOLABLE, screaming at the top of his lungs, as if in extreme pain and danger, he finally slept like a little angel this morning.  It was an excruciating night, but I'm relieved that it ended this morning.

Waking up to a clean house since we hosted Super Bowl at our house with family last night.  Also, what a game last night, eh?

Seeing Bubba's face of surprise and delight when I pick him up from school, even though I told him I was going to come pick him up.  It's always so much joy!

Cooking a successful dinner by accident.  Talking on the phone with BFF and telling her I was starting my crock pot of chicken thighs late, advised by BFF to bake it instead... so threw a mixture of chicken thighs, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, orange marmalade, red onions and celery into a baking pan for half an hour.  Paired it with some rice.. delicious!

Remembering last night.

Getting spit on by Cooper.  All. The. Time. 24/7.

Took a quick trip with Dagny to City Creek after dropping Bubba off at school, but she fell asleep.  Reconnected with an old friend after hearing an old song from Wolf Parade in my car (from my phone), reminiscing about how hard "adulting" is, how far we've come in 10 years, how we used to be silly 24 year old senior associates, and all while I laughed outloud at her texts while pushing the stroller with a sleeping Dagny using my post partum stomach (at least there's some use of that leftover pouch).  Good old friends are the best, and I'm glad, despite how busy we are (she's a working mom with 2 kids and a new home that she is renovating) and I am a stay at home mom with a newborn and three other kids... she lives in LA, I live in SLC, so obviously.. we rarely get to connect, that a text conversation can bring me so much joy.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Let's Just Nap

How much momentum and ambition we can have, and how quickly we can lose it when we're tired.  On today's list: Jordan's last Junior Jazz game, a wedding reception, a trip to Ikea, dinner out.  What we had wanted to also do: go skiing, make a trip to City Creek.  What we ended up doing instead: napping, or trying to with four kids.

Bubba pretends to be tired when he doesn't want to help clean up.  So Jordan cleaned up and had a lollipop he has been waiting for, for days.  Bubba saw said lollipop and wanted one too, so he offered to help clean up.  I told him he was not allowed to mess up and then clean up, so he waited patiently and offered his sister an opportunity to mess up the dinosaur box.  After she did, he pounced on cleaning it up.  Then, he came and told me about his job well done and asked for a lollipop.  Having to enforce that he has lost the chance for a lollipop... no fun.

Dagny asking for a nap at 6 PM...

Telling Bubba that he can have a lollipop if he can keep his sister awake until the grandparents arrive and we head out to dinner.

It worked.  It was hilarious.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Too Many TJMaxx Trips

Jordan and his buddy Seth bringing in the trash cans for the neighbor.

Bubba getting himself dressed and coming out in a t-shirt and shorts.  When asked why he wasn't wearing a long sleeved shirt or long pants, he said, "I don't have school today Mom, so it's okay."

Dagny asking to wear pants, of course pink ones and only after she had already been wearing two other dresses earlier in the day.

Cooper sleeping 5 hours last night (to be honest, it may have been 4 hours, but I was too groggy if I did feed him to notice)

Taking away the iPhone or iPhone away from Dagny and listening to her screams of disdain.

Bubba's new tantrums every time he doesn't get something he wants.  We ignore him and it doesn't seem to be an issue for long, but it is no fun.

The 15 minutes I spent browsing TJMaxx alone.  I usually am on the phone with my BFF while browsing, multitasking at its best, and I often tell Grace, you know, before I had kids, I might think - seriously, can't this girl put down the phone and just shop uninterrupted?  But now that I have kids, this is my only time to talk on the phone without kids yelling at me.  Heck yes, I'm going to be multitasking!  I am going to be THAT girl!

Also, eating out with your family when your kids color quietly while waiting for Dad to get the food and then all the kids eating like little angels and conversing like little adults.

Fluffy Slime and Classes

Bubba and Dagny helping me make fluffy slime, making a grand mess, but then squealing with excitement for an hour at the texture.

Bubba wanted me to stay and watch his entire sports class, he looked distraught when he thought I was leaving to buy some salt, so I of course stayed. Jordan was sad that we had to drop him off at gymnastics instead of going in with him to watch him. He reluctantly went in by himself... Dagny had a make-up dance class that she was so excited for, but when ee got there... The other kids weren't coming do the class had unexpectedly been cancelled, Dagny was not pleased to say the least.

Lately, I've been trying to spend more time with my kids when given the option to just let my sometimes OCD anal side slide. I know I can organize or clean with them or when they're asleep, and there are basic home tasks we do everyday, but I've been putting aside unnecessary projects and just living in the moment of my kids.  I'm already a bit sullen thinking I'll one day have a model home while my kids are gone.... Silly but true.