Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where to Go with Kids in DC: Museums

When it comes to finding an indoor activity to do with kids, there are many perks to living in Washington, D.C. With the countless museums and the metro accessibility, not only can you find a place to go, but getting there can be a thrill for your child if you take a train or bus. Here are some of my families favorite spots.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is virtually an unbeatable destination. When you enter the museum, you are immediately transported into exhibits as there are planes and rockets hanging from the ceiling and exhibitions throughout the open main floor. While there's so much to see, there's also so much to do. There is the "How Things Fly" designed to teach about the many aspects of air travel through hands-on stations. There are more buttons to push than you can imagine and the stations are engaging for not only the wee ones, but the older kids, too. In this area there's also a real plane where kids can climb into the cockpit to experience what it's like to be a pilot.

(Air and Space Museum's "How Things Fly," Photo Credit Smithsonian Institution)

For older kids and adults there is a flight simulator area where you can really get the adrenaline pumping depending on how adventurous you're feeling. There's also an IMAX theater that shows a variety of films, some of which are kid friendly and some are for an older set. And if you are ok with fast food, you'll be pleased to know there's a food court in the museum that has McDonald's, Boston Market and a pizzeria.

The National Building Museum offers a lot in the way of entertainment. First, there's a huge hall where you can let your little one(s) run free, but more than that, they have activities for families, kid friendly exhibits, a dedicated children's play room and large building blocks for kids to use, along with other rotating family friendly events. In terms of ease of accessibility on a rainy or snowy day, the Museum is across the street from the Judiciary Square metro and only a few blocks from the Gallery Place station.

The National Portrait Gallery is one of my families favorite indoor "playgrounds." I've found that it's easy to make a game of looking at the portraits with kids. From counting the number of boys vs. girls to asking kids to find their favorite portraits, you can actually see the art of the museum with young ones. But if that's not what you had in mind and you just need a destination, this is the spot (sorry art lovers who loathe all the wild kids).

(Portrait Gallery Museum. Photo Credit Smithsonian Institution) 

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard  (photo above) at this museum is amazing. The glass ceiling is incredible on a clear day and also a rainy one and it's an expansive area where kids can run around without causing any trouble. There is a water feature that is a huge hit with kids. Basically a water feature on the floor that enables kids to run, kick, play and slosh around in less than an inch of water and the feature runs almost the entire length of the atrium so there's room for everyone to explore. Bonus is the cafe adjacent to the atrium where you can score a great lunch and also a mini bottle of wine...or coffee....or water.  As for location, it's virtually unbeatable as you are just blocks from the Gallery Place, Metro Center and Judiciary Square metro stations and you're surrounded by the many casual dining options that come with a Gallery Place/Verizon Center location.

The National Museum of Natural History requires no added activities beyond what it has to offer with its exhibitions and discovery stations. This museum has it all in terms of grabbing and keeping the interest of young ones. From the African Elephant in the rotunda to the amazing coral reef, it's hard to move children through the museum because there's so much that captures their attention. For those who want a hands-on experience this museum doesn't disappoint. As with some other Smithsonian institutions, there are discovery stations where you can learn more about what you see in exhibitions and often touch various objects. There is also the Q?rius Discover Room, ".. a hands-on room featuring real Museum objects and artifacts. During Open Hours, visitors explore activities representing exhibitions and behind-the-scenes research at the Museum. Visitors of all ages can look at fossils, skulls, shells and minerals, use a microscope, try on traditional clothing from around the world, and much more!"

The National Museum of American History is an incredible experience as children can take in the magnificent halls of the museum, take a seat on a train car in the America on the Move exhibition, see the U.S. flag constructed out of LEGO® (on exhibit through the end of 2015). For kids ages six to twelve, there is also Spark!Lab. "Spark!Lab is where museum visitors become inventors. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites children between the ages of 6 and 12 to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment, and invent. Activities for children and families incorporate traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with art, museum, and creativity. Spark!Lab activities are designed around common themes that connect to Museum collections and exhibitions. These themes will change on a regular basis, ensuring that regular visitors have something new to explore."

Another great spot is the National Museum of the American Indian. The building itself is gorgeous and something worth seeing in DC, let alone all that the museum has to offer inside.

                                                     (National Museum of the American Indian. Photo credit Smithsonian Institution)

Throughout the museum, like others, you may find learning stations or discovery carts where you have a hands-on experience that's relevant to something you will find or learn about during your visit. In addition, one of the incredible aspects of this museum is the imagiNATIONS Activity Center. "The interactive, family-friendly imagiNATIONS Activity Center provides visitors of all ages with a multitude of unique learning experiences... Visitors to the center can explore some of these ingenious adaptations through a variety of hands-on activities: Weave a giant basket to learn about the various styles of basketry. Explore different modes of transportation like snowshoes and skateboards. Sit inside a full-sized tipi and learn about the buffalo... Additionally, the activity center offers stories about Native cultures or by Native authors, available for reading in the center’s story room. The craft room offers visitors the opportunity to create art projects and take them home..."

Possibly one of the best dining experiences on/around the National Mall is the National Museum of the American Indian's Mitsitam Cafe. The Cafe has several different food stations, each representing Native foods from different regions. It's an incredible dining experience offering visitors the opportunity to taste authentic and contemporary foods from various regions.


If you happen to visit one of the museums located around the National Mall on a day that's not too chilly, you can treat the kids to a ride on the National Carousel post-museum visit. 

(Photo Credit, National Carousel)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Once Upon a Time, When I Didn't Have Kids

Rainy days like today, when the cabin fever induced screams of my children are as overwhelming as complete silence in the playroom, I can't help but to think back to a time when I didn't have children.

In a land far, far, far, far, very far away, I lived with my husband in D.C. We had the right amount of space for the two of us and all of our belongings were contained in closets and on shelves. There weren't any bins or baskets littered throughout the house, overflowing with randomness. On rainy days like today, we would easily sleep in as the sun wouldn't be creeping through the blinds. After a cup or two of coffee, we would make breakfast and read the paper and then spend a lot of time contemplating what movie we would see and at what time. Oh the horrors and stress of those conversations. Do we go to a matinee followed by lunch? No, because we would be full from popcorn and candy. Yes, we definitely didn't want a movie time that would alter our three daily meals or desire to gorge on popcorn and Sno-Caps. But if we were going to Georgetown, the theater would be so crowded and parking would be such a hassle. We would interrupt our movie making plans to make dinner reservations as we wouldn't want to miss a night out. After quickly reaching out to friends - all of whom could make plans at a whim because none of us had kids - we would then work backwards from dinner to lunch to decide on a movie and time. Yes, this was a typical rainy day before kids and the movie conversation felt stressful.

Having just spent two hours at an indoor bouncy house facility that smelled like feet, I can't help but daydream of life before kids and the things I used to do. I'm not sure about you, but here are some things I imagine being able to do again, albeit that with three children under the age of five, it feels like these things will only happen in a land far, far away.

One day I will again be able to buy magazines at the airport - LOTS of them - and read them at my leisure on the plane.

One day I will be able to sit in a lounge chair poolside and close my eyes.  For now, I just stand poolside and barely allow myself to blink for fear of kids around water.

One day I will go on a beach vacation and layout on a blanket. Oh the thrill of laying down by myself on a blanket that's not covered in sand from little feet running across it as if it weren't there at all.

One day I will take a long, lingering shower because I won't fear a child sticking his or her head behind the curtain to play peekaboo.

One day I won't have to announce my every move - like that "mommy needs to go to the potty" - and I'll just be able to go.

One day I won't say the word potty.

One day the only ass I will wipe is my own.

One day I will be able to select 'shuffle' on my iTunes and not have every other song be children's music.

One day I won't need a minivan.

One day I will be able to easily pull into my garage and not have to rearrange strollers, bikes and randomness in order to make room for my car.

One day I will be able to open all of the drawers and cabinets in my house without undoing child safety locks.

One day I will be able to fill a vase with flowers and not worry that it will get broken or that someone will eat the flowers.

One day I will be able to eat without being asked what I'm eating and why.

One day I am sure I will look back and miss all of the above. Or at least some of the above. Or maybe one of the above. Or, maybe not.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Favorite Products: Water Bottles and Sippy Cups

It's amazing to me how products changed in the four years between my first and third child.  From bottles to bouncers, strollers, car seats, toys and more.

After hundreds of orders from places like Buy Buy Baby, BabiesRUs,, Target and Amazon, there are some products I've found that I simply can't - or don't want to - live without. So here's a peak into what's in my Mommy Survival Kit. Please share what items you can't live without!


When it comes to sippy cups, it's taken me years to find ones that truly do not leak, are easy to assemble, easy for my kids to use, and because I'm a germaphobe, keep the straws covered. Here are my top pics:

1. Contigo bottles have never failed me. They are easy to clean, easy to use (one touch and the straw/mouthpiece pops up) and my kids love the designs.

2. The Munchkin Click-Lock Weighted Flexi Straw Cup was the absolute best find when transitioning my daughter to drinking from a straw. Because of the weighted straw, my daughter can hold this cup at any angle and still be able to drink from it. As she always tilts cups, as she sees the way adults use them, any cup that requires she hold it upright in order to get a drink, doesn't work. This cups also comes with any easy to use sliding cover for the straw which is great for keeping it clean and the handles are easy for little ones to carry.

3. Avent Straw Cups are a new find. After filling my daughter's sippy cups and securing the lid, my independent rascal likes to unscrew the lid and put it back on herself. As you can imagine, this leads to countless spills and a lot of frustration of spilled drinks. These nifty cups have lids that secure similarly to medicine bottles. You need to press on the sides of the lid in order to twist it to remove it, so once it's on, I know she can't then get it off and make a mess. Genius. The top does easily twist to cover the straw, but you can't remove the lid without squeezing the two pressure points.

I would love to know what I'm missing out on if you've found a great cup that doesn't leave a puddle of liquid in your diaper bag!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I'm Certain that Ice Cream Truck Drivers Hate Parents

The music is unmistakable and it usually comes right before lunch or right before dinner. It's as if the ice cream truck driver times his or her arrival at playgrounds just to piss parents off as a great morning or afternoon of play instantly evaporates into a crying, screaming, shrieking, tantrum as you inform your child he or she must eat lunch or dinner before having ice cream. Alternately, you might say yes to ice cream, but you know that you're simply delaying a battle of wills that will be waged at home once the sugar rush is gone and you're left with a toddler who has subsided only on sugar for an afternoon and whose face is stained with food coloring from a giant ice something. You'll then tell yourself that the food coloring isn't so bad because you otherwise feed your child organic food. What follows is a wave of guilt over not standing your ground, followed by the reminder that it was just ice cream. You'll only remember the annoyance of it all when you next hear that ice cream truck music.

I have to believe that ice cream truck drivers hate parents. Why else would they pull up to playgrounds right before lunch and right before dinner? We are talking arrivals at playgrounds between 11:15am-12:15pm and 5:00pm-5:30pm. What ever happened to snack time? What about pulling up between 2:00pm-4:00pm? Or do you, dear ice cream truck drivers, know the ins and outs of What to Expect: The Toddler Years and know that our kids are napping until past 3:00pm making an arrival at the playground before 4:00pm unlikely. And it is, after all, the toddlers you are targeting, right? Because those cherubic faces are the ones us parents can't say no to so we are the bulk of your business.

Here's what I think should happen, to the benefit of parents and ice cream truck drivers all across the land...

Roll-up to any playground between 2:00pm-4:00pm with ice cream. Then, roll through my neighborhood delivering wine between the hours of 5:00pm-7:00pm. Then, and only then, will I believe that you don't hate parents.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Secrets Women Keep

There, I said it.  Women keep secrets from each other. There's no malicious intent, just an unspoken, "Trust me, you don't want to know" attitude that women who have been through childbirth have when it comes to talking to first time pregnant friends.

The other side of this is you find that there's absolutely no topic that you won't discuss with other new mothers after going through pregnancy and childbirth. And I mean, there is zero filter. Or at least that's been my experience.

I've never - not for one single moment - thought "who can I talk to about all of these strange and disgusting and surprising things" and perhaps that's because after having a child, I could talk to any other new mother I encountered -- close friend, colleague or complete stranger.

Being asked, "Did you have an episiotomy?" is one of the ways women swing open the door of new mother bonding. Yes, conversations have begun with an inquiry into lady parts. Not your traditional "So, where did you grow up?" means of conversation while getting to know someone. This is the Let's Do This approach new mothers take to bonding with other women. We are sleep deprived, our hormones all over the place (of note, that statement can only be made by self admission), and we are drowning in a deep sea of information and opinions. We are desperate for adult conversation and empathy and have no time for beating around the bush.

"Do you pee a little when you exercise?"

"So, your nipples..."

"Do you think I can convince my doctor to tell my partner that six weeks is too soon?" 

"Have you started your period?"

"Do you think the OB expected that I would have been waxed before I went to the hospital?"

These are just a sampling of the conversations us ladies have post birth. None of these, while openly discussed AD (After Delivery) would be discussed PD (Pre-Delivery) with unknowing friends for two reasons,  1) You don't want to diminish the beauty and excitement of having a baby and 2) You can't possibly stop once you start revealing the things that transpire during labor & delivery and shortly thereafter.

But today, oh today, this is the day when I'm going to shed just a little light on a few of the "mysteries" of post-birth as I'm currently "enjoying" these milestones.

You Don't "Bounce Back" After Baby. Not only may it take months to lose the baby weight, it's highly likely that your body will never be the same as it was pre-baby. That's not to say it won't be an awesome new body. The number on the scale may indicate "you're back," but your hips may remain a bit wider, your feet a bit bigger, your ass a lot flatter....

From Playboy to National Geographic. While you may feel like it's impossible to believe that you will go from a B cup to a DD cup to an A cup, that's what is going to happen. Before you can enjoy your huge boobs, you will lose them and they will be replaced with something that more resembles National Geographic photos than ones you'll find in Playboy.

Breast-feeding is a Pain. Breast-feeding hurts. There are the sore nipples -- the blisters,dryness, chaffing and bleeding that can accompany the time when you struggle to "get it right." Then you have the risks of blocked ducts and thrush. But even on a good day, with no other complications, you endure "The 60 Second Sizzle" when your child starts nursing. You're welcome.

Fall Out. Your hair is going to fall out. The thick mop of hair you acquired during pregnancy is going to fall out. Not all of it, but you are going to shed a lot of hair. Possibly handfuls at a time. The solution? Buy some Draino and accept what's coming.  Your hairstylist will also know what's happening, so there's a trusted resource if you're freaking out.

All Banged Up. Speaking of may also learn the answer as to why so many new moms decided to get bangs. It's to cover up the "baby bangs" -- wispy thin strands that grow around your hairline at your forehead post-birth and seemingly take forever to grow out. Katie Holmes sported them at her wedding to Tom Cruise.

Jumpin Jack Flash. You will have hot flashes at night that will make you jump out of bed, convinced something is seriously wrong. Nothing is wrong. You just had a baby and your hormones are going crazy. As if tending to a newborn doesn't leave you sleep deprived enough, you may find yourself waking soaking wet, needing to change PJs and then having the chills while trying to fall back asleep. p.s. - as soon as you do fall asleep the baby will want to eat.

It All Depends. You're going to pee your pants for weeks. And this isn't just for those who suffer from incontinence post delivery (didn't know that was an option?). In general, if you have a vaginal delivery, you're going to pee throughout the day and definitely if you go for a run or try to just enjoy a good laugh with friends. Suddenly the packages of Depends in the feminine hygiene aisle don't seem so ridiculous.

Junior High on Repeat. You're going to get your period with no warning, no notice, no indication that you should be prepared. You're going to be embarrassed, you're going to be at the office or out running errands or with your kids. You're going to wonder if anyone can tell it happened. And you're going to need to ask someone for a tampon. Hopefully a friend. Possibly a colleague. Maybe an equally unsuspecting new mother who just happened to be prepared. Lesson here is to keep a pad or tampon in your diaper bag and work bag. It's like junior high all over again...yeah.

It's possible there are other changes and phases you'll experience after having a baby and for those who have been there, you know some of the ones I've omitted. But the truth of the matter is that the natural high that follows your Super Hero status of having produced a human being carries you through most of the "ick" moments and softens most of the "ugh" moments so that your postpartum time is more "oh, ooh and ah" than anything else. Promise. Well, kind of.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Minivan Etiquette: Giving Up More than Your Cool Status

My son was born on Wednesday, September 23rd. On Friday, September 25th, my husband and I brought our son home, but on our way from the hospital we stopped to buy a minivan.

The jig is up. I'm a Montgomery County suburb dwelling almost 40-years old mother of three. Whatever I think I have to prove, well, I need to let it go. It will be far more embarrassing for me to try and "prove" something than for you to give me a sympathetic nod when I pull up next to you in my minivan.

As my husband and I drove home having a circular conversation affirming our "need" for the minivan vs. a SUV, it dawned on me that there is an unwritten minivan code of etiquette I must now adhere to and it includes the below;
  1. When passing another vehicle, I must remember that I'm driving a minivan and therefore forfeit the right to look at the driver I'm passing with detest and judgement that they are a horrible driver. I am, after all, driving a minivan.
  2. Regardless of features and gadgets, under no circumstance may I position my minivan as cool. It falls under the category of sensible purchase. Not cool.
  3. I will not drive with the windows down because that's just never a good look in a minivan. Exception is diaper blowout in which case all windows must be down. Of note, you'll know by looking at my face that I didn't choose to put the windows down.
  4. I will do all valets the favor of using Uber when I go out at night. (Ha, ha, ha! As if I'm ever going out at night with three kids under the age of 5)
  5. When taking the vehicle to the car wash, I will generously tip all those who clean my car as I can only throw snacks to the child in the third row so they inevitably spill, and I never go back to the third row, so it's simply where snacks go to die.
  6. I won't ever offer friends a ride in the minivan. At least not the friends I want to keep.
  7. I will not tailgate with the minivan. Although it has impressive cargo space and would be convenient, I understand that drinking beer and more so serving beer from the vehicle isn't a good look. (See how I kind of violated #2 with my boasting of mini's cargo space? Who would have thought I would want to brag about my mini?!)
  8. Due to the fact that the size of my family and inability to pack efficiently requires that I drive a minivan, I will not add a "Baby on Board" sign or family stick figure stickers to the back of the vehicle.
  9. I will not get a personalized license plate for the minivan. The vehicle is enough of a statement.
  10. I will no longer look at drivers of minivans with sympathy... I will just now give a knowing nod.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Almost Kicked Out of Childbirth Class + Lessons Learned on Packing for the Hospital

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so "prepared" that I put together a 3-ring binder of information and references. I took every class and did every tour recommended. Some were helpful, some...not so much.

During a childbirth education class, there were hours spent when the preggo women in the room were instructed to try out the many different positions that might be recommended during labor.

"Go ahead and try this one...get comfortable...make sure your partner knows his/her role."

That first line of instruction had me staring blankly at my husband. That one line of direction felt too close to a common pregnancy statement that I loathe which is when the non-pregnant person makes the statement "We are pregnant." No, we are most certainly not.

To tell me that I need to find a position that's "comfortable" (relative to pushing a human out of my body) and to make sure my partner has a role. Not happening. Here's my partners role: Worship me, care for me, tolerate me and don't repeat back to me (or anyone...ever) anything I said or did that wasn't AMAZING during labor. That's my partners role.

So everyone is on a ball or on their hands and knees and partners are rubbing shoulders, holding hair, etc. I looked at my husband while I unenthusiastically sat on a yoga ball and said "Don't touch me." The teacher overheard me, as did several nearby participants. Apparently I wasn't being productive.

"We really need you to take this seriously or we'll have to ask you to leave."

"I am taking this seriously. I seriously don't want him to touch me while I'm in labor."

We stared at each other, the teacher knowing better than to mess with a pregnant woman with a strong POV. We broke for lunch. My husband and I didn't return to the class.

With that in mind, it's then no surprise that when I read "What to Pack for the Hospital" on the What to Expect website, that I laughed. And laughed. And laughed a bit more. It's not that it's funny, and in fact I offer my apologies to those offended by my reaction to the list, but if you know'll understand.

  • "Pen and pad for taking notes, or the What to Expect Pregnancy Organizer"
    • No. I'm not taking notes. Someone else can take notes, but what I want to remember is that women who have gone before me swear that I'll forget everything that happens. (exception being the amazing moment when you meet your child) 
  • "Your birth plan (several copies, so all staff, on all shifts, can get one)"
    • Unless you go for a natural, non-medicated birth, isn't the plan DRUGS + evicting "tenant" upon conclusion of his/her 40-week stay?
  • "Stopwatch to time contractions"
    • Aren't you in the hospital? Pretty sure they've got this one covered for you.
  • "Massage oils or lotions"
    • Ah yes, oh how I want to be massaged while in labor. The thought of having my husband gingerly massage me as if to relieve the pain and anxiety that a human is about to walk out of my V...pass. Do. Not. Touch. Me.
  • "A tennis ball or plastic rolling pin — both make excellent back rub tools — or an actual massager."
    • How about "a tennis ball for throwing at everyone who tells you to "bear down" and yet can't actually describe to you what that means.
    • A rolling pin to use as a weapon for anyone who tries to give you a back rub.
  • "Your favorite pillow"
    • This is just mean. Yes, pack your favorite pillow and then leave it at the hospital. You won't be getting any good sleep for weeks.
  • "If you have long hair, a clip or scrunchie to keep it out of your face"
    • If you care about your hair, something is wrong.
  • "Snacks for during labor (your own snacks will be limited, and must be approved by your practitioner; your partner should pack sandwiches and nutritious nibbles so he doesn't have to leave your side to find something to eat)"
    • Oh, that's right. I'll be fasting as part of the "magic" of birthing a baby and with contractions forcing me to double over in pain, I'll make you a sandwich, honey. Yeah, let me get right on that.

On a serious note, there are some great things on the list, so if you are preparing for a trip to the hospital, do check it out. However, as noted above, there's also some sh*t you don't need to bring.

You're welcome.